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June 9, 2014, 10:36 AM

I need this...


Make a list of things you "need."  This could be a fun mental activity, or a potentially devastating moment that exposes our deep-seeded insecurities.  (Boy, that got heavy really quick, didn't it?!).  I start out that way because I just caught myself explaining to an 8 year old why I NEEDED to finish reading an article about the NFL and the football season that is still 3 months away from beginning.  If you're not into sports, or sports analogies, you understand her confusion and insistence for dismissing the content of the article.  If you're a parent you understand that I was distracted from meeting the needs of a child.  If you're into cynicism and reality, you'll see that she just wanted attention for what she thought was important in that moment.  But what I really needed was to finish that compelling article.  

I think its rather apparent how quickly a conversation about "need" can dive into a heart and soul matter.  There are so many voices these days telling us exactly what we need, what we're missing, and what will make us really, really happy.  Commercials are prolific at pointing out those areas in our lives that are lacking.  It only takes 30 seconds for me to be shown just how much my social life is missing while I abstain from social drinking.  Cartoon Network has the privilege of exposing all of the missing links to happiness in our children by using advertising for toys and video games.  Daytime television (talk shows and game shows) are rich with commercials hitting that target audience and pulling at the strings of retirement benefits and health risks.  Spend some time with the Food Network and HGTV and you'll see all the other areas we're missing out on culturally.  

Even when we push media and advertising out of the picture, there are other voices telling us exactly what we need. I remember these sentences and the weight of the "needs" placed on me:  "You need to get a job."  "You need to get better grades so you can get scholarships to go to more school and get more grades so you can get a job."  "You need to avoid these foods."   No, I'm not equating those societal expectations with the drivel of advertising.  But understand that everyone has a picture of exactly what you "need."  There are articles beating down our doors (and news feeds) about things like vaccines, GMO's, the latest and greatest tech advances, the most recent grievances of the government, and so on and so forth.  

Everyone has an idea of what we need and the problem is that we believe them.  All of them.  Well, most of them.  I have trouble balancing my spiritual needs list with my physical needs list.  Everything on my physical needs list equates to making life simpler, convenient, and comfortable.  When I'm addressing those, I'm happy and have everything I need.  But when the Jesus-Informercial comes on (sermon, blog, etc...) I am immediately skeptical about just how much I need what is being peddled.  I treat the latest manual for identifying Christ in my life just like I do those commercials about the stuff that will "instantly transform any surface on your car to BRAND NEW!!!"  Maturity?  That's just a ploy to get me to give more.  Integrity?  That is merely a commercial for honesty and admitting guilt.  Generosity?  You just want me to give something to the poor, right?  I don't need those things... They make life uncomfortable and work in direct opposition to my idea of what life is supposed to be about.

I can't help but see the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 - 7 as Jesus' "Needs List for Believers."  He speaks very plainly about the need for maturity and integrity.  "Let your Yes be Yes..."  He tells us about needing transformed hearts, and investing in things where rust, moth, and thief are impotent.  All are in direct opposition to what I think I need.   How can we balance Jesus' needs list with our own?  Simple, we cant. The two cannot coexist.  Within that concept and truth Consumer Christianity and the Prosperity Gospel are exposed to their roots.  Our faith journey has tried to balance itself with the world's imagery of contentment and acceptance.  Remember how quickly The Prayer of Jabez swept through the Christian culture?  It was a wildfire.  All from one obscure line and prayer in the Bible.  It caught fire because it spoke to the need for contentment and comfort in all of us.  It was the spark that has grown into the new-gospel: "God wants you to be happy and blessed and most likely rich."  If those things aren't happening for you, just pray harder, faith more, and believe better which will effectively convince God just how much you NEED that stuff.  

You know what I need?  I need to remember how to trust, despite my cynicism and doubt.  I need to remember how to share.  I need to remember how to pour out integrity and compassion........right after I finish reading that article.  


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