This World’s Greatest Problem

Carbon EmissionsBill Gates recently gave out his annual letter in which he and his wife focus on the superpowers they would like to have. Bill would like the power to grant the world more energy, and Melinda would like to grant the world more time.

Quotes Bill:

If I could have just one wish to help the poorest people, it would be to find a cheap, clean source of energy to power our world.

I actually love most of what he writes in this letter; it certainly touches my heart as he describes poverty-stricken countries. But something about the letter leaves me with an empty feeling–maybe it’s just me? As I read through, a gaping hole presents itself.

How does Mr. Gates solve problems? He explains:

Whenever I’m confronted with a big problem I turn to my favorite subject: math. It’s one subject that always came naturally to me, even in middle school when my grades weren’t that great. Math cuts out the noise and helps me distill a problem down to its basic elements.

Earth SunsetThe problem is here exposed: the Achilles heel of our modern-day, solutions-oriented scientist. He leaves a major factor out of the equation because it’s a factor which math cannot contain or describe. He leaves out the infinite power and creative ability of the Creator and God who continues to work with this planet and its pathetic people!

God, the designer of mathematics and order, has the unique ability to turn mathematics on its head, which, perhaps, explains why many “reasonable” people refuse to accept Him. He exists outside the bounds of our test tubes and micrometers and advanced calculus. And He can change things!

Gates insists “we need an energy miracle” and

When I say “miracle,” I don’t mean something that’s impossible. I’ve seen miracles happen before. The personal computer. The Internet. The polio vaccine.

There is such a thing as a miracle, but none of those things is it!

The great moral question of our day seems to address how we eradicate poverty. Tellingly, God never poses that question to us. He presents, as the world’s most destructive and pressing problem, man’s sinful heart. “Follow Me,” God says, “and I will bless you. Follow your own paths, and I will curse you.” The world will not burn up because we made poor energy choices. The world is damned because we refuse to acknowledge the Creator of all things!

Earth from SpaceGod gave us dominion over this earth, but we must recognize Him as the Creator of all things! This is His world; we are but stewards, trustees.

Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1.29)

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.

You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen—
Even the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air,
And the fish of the sea
That pass through the paths of the seas.

O LORD, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth!
(Psalm 8.3-9)

Let us exercise our dominion appropriately, and let us not forget the God who gave us dominion in the first place! Praise the Creator, for He is awesome and good! Only then we will be blessed indeed.

Jeremy and Judy: A Parable

Kitchen RemodelJeremy has a strong desire to please Judy, his young wife. From time to time Judy lets Jeremy know there is something he can do for her which would make her happy. Or, more often than not, she let’s him know what is making her unhappy, and he then feels an obligation to fix it for her. Jeremy believes his job as husband is to make his wife happy, and when she’s upset he feels failure.

When Judy complained about her kitchen (“it looks drab…this refrigerator is such a beast…don’t you wish we had more updated cabinets?”), Jeremy drew up a plan to fix it for her. He went out on a financial limb to purchase a sweet new refrigerator on a new Lowe’s credit card. He bought the materials to reface the cabinets with sanding, painting, and new hardware. For over a month now he’s been working nights and weekends to make her kitchen something she can be proud of.

This evening Judy comes home, a downcast expression on her face.

“What’s wrong?” Jeremy inquires. Clearly his wife is not happy; what can he do for her?

sadwoman-164299_640“I don’t know,” she replies. “I was just over at our neighbor’s house, and you should have seen her kitchen! Why can we never afford anything like that? They have this refrigerator that looks like it came out of a science fiction movie, stone countertops, dutch oven, shiny chrome everywhere. Everything is so…big and perfect. I just wish sometimes we could have something that nice.”

Jeremy stands before her, his hands still raw from hours of sanding cabinets. Something inside him deflates; a light dims in his eyes; a fire smolders. In silence he thinks of the toil, sweat, blood, and money he has been pouring into this kitchen. For Judy. Perhaps he has been naive, thinking his hard work could make her happy. Five minutes ago he was anticipating Judy’s delight and praise at the progress he’s been making. Now he doesn’t feel like even looking at his handiwork, let alone continuing his labor. He feels failure because he doesn’t make enough money to give Judy what she wants.

As I think about Jeremy and Judy, I wonder how God hears our complaining. We sometimes sulk, “Lord, Bob has such a great life, a new car every couple of years, a gorgeous house. How come You haven’t blessed me like him?” We even compare our husbands, wives, kids, and parents to other families!

ComplainingWhat does complaining do? It destroys! It crushes spirits. It spreads discontent and reveals a complete lack of appreciation for what God has given. Never does complaining accomplish anything positive. This is, I expect, why God inspired Paul to write the following:

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” (Philippians 2.14-15)

Israel complained about their lack of water, their lack of food, their lack of nice food as they followed God’s leading in the wilderness. God eventually killed many of them because of their complaining (1 Cor. 10.6-11). In essence, they were telling God, “We don’t like the way you provide for us. We don’t appreciate Your leadership.”

There is power in complaining–power to destroy. What has God given you? Is it not enough? Do you deserve any of it, anyway? Why should we expect God to give us exactly the same things as another has? “It’s not fair!” we challenge. Does that not call God’s integrity into question? In fact, He has been more than fair with every one of us. Relish what you have, and don’t sweat what you don’t. If you don’t have it, you don’t need it. What you need is Jesus Christ beside you–and that is all.

Do You Choose to Be Blessed or Happy?

Happy KidsDo you live in a first-world country? If so, you probably have been spoon-fed a definition of success and happiness that not only is anti-biblical but is outright destructive to your real happiness!

What is the American dream? Don’t we all just want the freedom to do what we want when we want, to indulge in our favorite entertainment, to land the perfect high-paying job, to drink our coffee on the back porch in peace, to enjoy the hobbies closest to our hearts, to marry whom we wish, to retire at a young enough age that we can spend the last half of our lives relaxing and playing? Does that sound about right?

How self-centered, sad, and short-sighted!

Exactly who sells this dream? Doesn’t the government, promising to give whatever we desire, guaranteeing our health, granting security in our old age, making sure food is on our table, etc.? Why do we buy in to this dream? Obviously we have fallen to the notion that government can actually accomplish what God has promised to do–fulfill our every need.

Poor FeetBut they can’t take care of every need. In fact, the government really comprises a frenzied mob of sinful, fallible, power-hungry individuals who are just as in the dark as their constituents. Yes, God ordained government for a purpose (Romans 13.1ff), but providing all our needs is not its purpose! Government is not God.

Government’s definition of “blessed” is not God’s definition, either. For the world, “blessed” means having lots of stuff or at least enough stuff to make you happy. The world equates being blessed with being happy.

God, on the other hand, divorces the concepts of blessed and happy, rather telling us to consider ourselves blessed even when we are not happy! Blessed are the poor, the hungry, those who weep, those who are persecuted for Jesus’ sake. True, Jesus told His disciples to “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy” when they were hated, excluded, reviled, and had their name cast out (Luke 6.22-23), but this kind of rejoicing can only come when the disciple completely trusts God’s promises of future blessing. We don’t feel like rejoicing when we are persecuted, when family turns against us, when neighbors mock us, when friends laugh at our convictions, when we are thrown in prison for Jesus’ name’s sake.

We don’t feel happy, but we know we are blessed–because Jesus said so, and we trust Him.

Imperfect BeautyDo you want to be blessed with your hope set on awesome promises of future glory? Or do you want to just be happy now? If you choose immediate happiness, you walk among a large crowd, because the majority seek immediate gratification. But Jesus clearly pronounced “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep” (Luke 6.25). In fact, even if you pursue immediate happiness, you will not attain it. It’s a pipe dream, a carrot the devil dangles before the face of every stupid ox of a man, and we follow as if going to the slaughter, lowing as we go.

God designed us to be happy, but not by following the devil’s carrot. Everlasting happiness is a proper goal, and we can have it if we agree with God as to how to attain it–by faithfully walking with Him through this messed-up life.

Forsake worldly happiness, for it will only bring ruin. Choose rather to be blessed, and eternal happiness will come!