I was having a hard time deciding what to write about this week. Nothing was coming to me—no ideas, no inspiration. I was starting to think another week would go by without a blog post from JaneTruth. Then it hit me. Just like that. I teared up while singing a line from an old, familiar hymn. “All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.”
Without realizing it, I was stressing about not having “enough”—enough time to do all the things I wanted to do, enough support for the writing project I’ve been working on, enough wisdom to guide me, enough ability, enough energy, enough attention to go around. Then, in one unexpected moment, the Holy Spirit reminded me that I always have “enough” when I trust my Heavenly Father to provide.
This is one of the big areas where Christians can, and should, differ from non-Christians. I recently ran across this quote that perfectly describes the non-Christian view of reality:
As Jean-Paul Sartre expressed it, the essence of reality is scarcity, a universal and eternal lacking. There isn’t enough of anything to go around. Not enough food, not enough love, not enough justice, and never enough time. Time, as Heidegger observed is the basic category of existence. We live in its ever-shrinking shadow, and if we are to achieve anything in our brief being that lets us dies without feeling we’ve wasted our time, we will have to go into heady conflict with the forces of scarcity that deny our desires.
But this isn’t the Christian view—or, it shouldn’t be. One of the many names of God is YAHWEH-JIREH: "The Lord Will Provide." The Psalmist praised a God “provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever” (Psalm 111:5); Timothy wrote of a God “who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17); and nearly 100 years ago, another author reminded us of a God who is ever faithful and will always provide.
“All I have needed God’s hand has provided.” That’s the joyful assertion of the faithful follower of Christ. If you are feeling today that you don’t have “enough” of something, sing along with this song and lift a prayer that God will provide all you need. Then trust that what you have received from God IS what you need, and nothing else.
 McKee, Robert. Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting. Harper Collins, 1997, p. 211.
I read an alarming statistic this morning. In a 2012 survey, only 19% of 17 year-olds said they read for fun every day, down from 31% in 1984. Almost half of the 17 year-olds surveyed (45%) said they read for pleasure no more than once or twice a year. Another 22% said they never or hardly ever read for fun. With the increase of social media outlets and the pressure to be online all the time, I’m sure those numbers are even worse today.
There’s a growing effort to combat this decline in reading, including special days to focus on books. August 9 was National Book Lovers Day. July 30 was Paperback Book Day. April 23 was World Book Day. And many people celebrate the birthday of Dr. Seuss on March 2 by reading to children. But still, the decline in reading continues while young people spend more and more time staring at a screen.
Which screens are they staring at? Mostly, their phones. Students today tend to prefer short YouTube videos over traditional television shows. They’re going to movies less often, too, with “loss of youth” being the number one concern for European film owners in a survey last year. Considering the glut of violent, crass, immoral, and just plain stupid shows on TV and movie screens, the move away from such “entertainment” may seem like a good idea. But I’m afraid our young people are losing something very important as they trade in books, movies, and TV shows for 5 minute videos, 30 second SnapChats, and long feeds of photos and tweets pretending to represent real life.
I believe we have a need for stories in our lives—fictional stories about make-believe people and places or fictionalized biographies of real people dealing with real-life situations. We read stories to learn about other cultures and peoples and to explore the deeper themes of life and living. We use stories to entertain, but also to teach and impart wisdom. Jesus loved stories, using dozens of short parables to teach moral and spiritual lessons.
In a world of random, relentless sensory input, stories help us find connections, see order, and wait expectantly for what’s still to come.
The great thing about stories is that they have an author, someone who has given time and attention to creating the perfect setting and bringing together the right mix of characters who each have a part to play as the story unfolds. The King James Version of the Bible calls Jesus “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). And the Psalmist sang to God, “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139.16).
In a book, everything is connected and purposeful. In a good story, all the action moves toward a fitting ending. There is hope in every story that all will work out well in the end, even if not all stories end well. We need that hope in our real lives as well. We need to recognize that we are part of a bigger story and there is so much still to come!
So read! Read to your children. Watch movies together. Discuss the story line and the characters and the choices the author made. Don’t wait for a special day to dive into a new story. Do it today!
If you would like to learn more about how stories help us understand what God is doing in our world, sign up for my email list to get updates on my next book, Finding Your Place in God’s Master Story. You can also visit my Facebook page and share what story you’ve been reading or watching lately that you would like to recommend -- https://www.facebook.com/janetruthbooks/
I’ve been wondering a lot lately about the work of God in our world today. We see so much violence, hatred, selfishness, and fear in our world, and we long to see God deal with those things and set the world right. Like the Psalmist, it’s easy to cry out, “How long will the enemy mock you, God? Will the foe revile your name forever?” (Psalm 74:10).
Belief in God is waning throughout western civilization. The Fear of God has almost been forgotten. The righteous seem to suffer, while the wicked live full lives (Ecclesiastes 7:15). Where is justice? Where can we find proof that God still cares for this fallen world?
In the 3rd chapter of John, we like to skip to the 16th verse: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” But it’s important to not skip over the first part of the chapter where Nicodemus comes to Jesus to find out more about what he’s been preaching. Why did Nicodemus, a Pharisee and someone who could have been considered an enemy to Jesus’ teaching, come to learn more about those teachings? Why did he trust Jesus enough to come to him for truth?
Nicodemus said to Jesus, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him” (John 3:2).
Wow! What brought Nicodemus, and so many others, to Jesus was the “signs” he was doing—the work he was doing in the world in God’s name. What’s interesting is that Jesus wasn’t fighting the pagan Roman government, he wasn’t campaigning against unjust or even ungodly laws, he wasn’t engaging in an ugly war of words with every person who didn’t agree with his teachings. He was going out into the communities around him and meeting people one-on-one, healing their hurts, providing food, showing mercy. These “signs” were not meant to save people’s souls, and they did little in themselves to change the world, but they got people to listen. And what Jesus had to say did have the power to change the world—one person at a time.
When we think of all the things Jesus did while walking in our world, and all the things he could have done but didn’t, perhaps we should rethink the things we, as Christians, are doing in the world today in his name.
It seems that one of the greatest arguments against believing in the God of Christianity is the people who call themselves Christian but who act no better (and often worse) than the non-Christian people around them. Instead of shining as a light to the world, pointing the way to a loving and merciful—yet powerful and holy—God, Christians are accused of self-interest, hypocrisy, and judgmentalism. Instead of meeting people in their needs and offering them love and mercy, we use the teachings of Jesus to beat others over the head and justify our hatred. Instead of continuing the work of Jesus in the world, we sit back and wait for God to rain down fire and brimstone on the ungodly. And then we wonder why we don’t see God working in the world today.
Perhaps we should try something different.
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
What is my mission as an author? It's a tough question, but I believe the goal dearest to my heart is to help Christians think about what they really believe and then to act as if they really believe it. It all begins with understanding what it means to be a Christian. Then we have to learn to live like a Christian.