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Contentment and Confidence

October 18th, 2018

The important things in life are not things.  

“My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 NKJV

My thoughts and comments today are about, “Contentment and  Confidence.”

Contentment is not found in how much you have, nor in how much of a surplus you enjoy. However much you have will never be enough, apart from God’s generous provision. Contentment is found in your full confidence that God is your ample provider, Jehovah Jireh. The Apostle Paul was assuring, “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 NKJV.

Years ago, I was challenged by a quote attributed to Epicurus, an ancient Greek philosopher. Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.” How much must a person have to be content? That is a sufficiently important question that every person needs to answer honestly and accurately. When is enough enough? Usually, the answer is,  just a little more. Answered correctly, your answer can counteract a latent insecurity and subtle greed that conflicts with your desire for contentment. Insecurity whispers to all of us that we need enough, and then defines enough as more than what is truly adequate.

And even when you acquire what you think are necessary resources and gather more than enough stuff, greed still suggests that you require a little more while falsely reassuring that you deserve the extra you desire. So, a never-ending cycle is created, wanting more while trying to have enough. You work to feel secure, then reward yourself with more than you need. And, the result is a futile search, a never-ending quest for more.

Otherwise, your quest reduces your joy and pleasure for what you have and dampens your gratitude for what you have already received. Striving to accumulate and store more, becomes an insufficient goal for life, ultimately exhausting to the human spirit. Such a limited, material goal misdirects your heart from seeking true wealth which is always spiritual not material. Jesus said, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also..” Matthew 6:20-21 NKJV.

It is better to have the best of what lasts, than simply more of what is only good for the moment.  More is never enough! My wise and dear friend, Campbell, advised me years ago, The heart cannot desire what the eye has not seen.” Be selective about what holds your gaze too long, lest it fills your vision and captures your desires.

God’s Word is clear, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” Hebrews 13:5-6 NIV. What God provides will always be enough. And what is the personal reward of having enough? Gratitude. Contentment. Sufficiency. Satisfaction. Freedom from the tyranny for more. Appreciating things that money cannot buy.

“Godliness with contentment is a great gain.” Read 1 Timothy 6: 6-11.  I read a sign today that said, “The most important things in life are not things.” That is good to remember. God offers you a greater return, and much more enduring, than the biggest bull market on Wall Street.

“For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content – through Him Who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13. It is never your wealth or possessions that provide true security and contentment. Those are found only in God.

Today I pray for you to trust God, reassured that He is your source of sufficiency.

Christian Communications 2018

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Lifestyle Issues

March 11th, 2015

“We urge you to live in a way that pleases God.” 1 Thessalonians 4:1 NLT.

Trying to please everyone is as futile as trying to never offend anyone.

My thoughts and comments today are about “lifestyle issues.”

EDL pix walking with God

If you try to please everyone, you will ultimately please no one and make yourself miserable in the process. Trying to please everyone is as futile as trying to never offend anyone. Neither is practical or achievable. Life is simpler when you finally decide who you are going to please. And the worst possible alternative is to live to please no one but yourself. The Bible warns, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you should. Instead be modest in your thinking.” Romans 12:3 TEV.

Many things pressure you to conform to others’ demands and expectations. Resist the temptation of doing so. The Apostle Paul offers a practical self-inventory, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10 NIV. Obviously, Paul recognized a previous time when he was “still trying to please men,” and the inconsistency that resulted.

The proper conclusion is this: when you can serve both God and man, do so. When you cannot, serve and please God above all others. “Our aim is to please Him always . . for we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done.” 2 Corinthians 5:9-10 NLT. Never forget the One to whom you owe first allegiance.

The surrounding culture may press you to conform your attitudes, values, and conduct in less than exemplary ways; live as unto the Lord. See Romans 12:1-2 NIV. Current circumstances might seem to impose an urgency of attention they may not warrant; live above your present circumstance. An unhealthy family history may have enslaved you in habitual behaviors, struggling to please people who simply refuse to be pleased; live free of unjust expectations. Some have had the unfortunate experience of working for a boss you could not please, a relative from whom you never gained their approval, or a parent or spouse who never affirms you. That is sad, but not uncommon. Such experiences present lifestyle issues.

Ultimately, the only hope of pleasing others is to confidently know that you have first pleased God. Here is the Bible’s definitive guideline: “Finally, we urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to live in a way that pleases God, as we have taught you. You are doing this already, and we encourage you to do so more and more.” Read 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:1 NLT. After struggling unsuccessfully to please others, maybe your question would be, “How then can I please God?” Pleasing people is complicated; pleasing God is not. “Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Hebrews 13:16 NIV. See Romans 14:17-18 NIV.

The task is not yours alone; God gives you all that is required; you supply obedience. “May God equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ.” Hebrews 13:21 NIV. Paul’s answer was this, “. . we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way . .” Colossians 1:9-10 NIV. Paul then elaborates on what pleases God, “. . bearing fruit, growing in knowledge, strengthened with power, having endurance and patience, joyfully giving thanks, brought into the Kingdom, and having redemption and the forgiveness of sins.” Read Colossians 1:11-14 NIV.

I love the simplicity with which the Bible described ancient Enoch, a man that walked with God, “Enoch had this testimony, that he pleased God.” Read Hebrews 11:5-6 (See Genesis 5:21-24).

Today, my prayer for you is that at life’s end, His testimony and yours will be that you pleased God.

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A Thanksgiving Dinner

November 25th, 2014

“[God] prepares a banquet for me . . and fills my cup to the brim.” Psalm 23:5 TEV.

In no situation is God unwilling or unable to provide abundantly.

My thoughts and comments today are about “a thanksgiving dinner.”

I love this time of year. Autumn brings a change of season introducing Thanksgiving Day and leading to the joy-filled celebration of our Savior on Christmas Day. Thanksgiving Day is celebrated with family traditions and traditional foods – roast turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce, giblet gravy, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, candied yams, warm dinner rolls, and of course, pecan and pumpkin pie, all enjoyed at a seasonally decorated and well-appointed table. But first, each family expresses thankfulness to God for His provision and for one another.

David, the Psalmist, enjoyed “a thanksgiving dinner” of sorts, which he describes in the most familiar and beloved of his psalms, Psalm 23. Giving thanks to God, David wrote, “You prepare a banquet for me . .  You welcome me as an honored guest and fill my cup to the brim.” Psalm 23:5 TEV. In unexpected times and places, God prepares and provides for him. David dines with a heart of thanksgiving for the ample provision of God in every situation and circumstance. In no situation is God unwilling or unable to provide abundantly. Our God “. . is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” Ephesians 3:20 NIV.

From the life of Elijah, let me share three examples of “a thanksgiving dinner.” In a severe drought and resulting famine, God sent Elijah where He alone could provide for him. Read 1 Kings 17:1- 7 NKJV. “Hide by the Brook Cherith . . you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded ravens to feed you there.” God provided “a banquet” by natural means delivered in unexplainable ways; scavenger birds brought bread and meat morning and evening. Unusual circumstances don’t matter, when God “prepares a banquet . . and welcomes you as an honored guest.”

In a worsening drought for three years, God redirects Elijah to a widow in Zarephath. Read 1 Kings 17:8-16. Her meager resources exhausted by the famine, she shared with Elijah what little remained, which was then miraculously replenished daily as long as the drought endured. I believe Elijah gave thanks. God provided “a banquet” by a miraculous multiplication of her meager resource. Insufficient resources are irrelevant, when God “prepares a banquet . . and welcomes you as an honored guest.”

And lastly, from an angry queen seeking his death, Elijah “arose and ran for his life.” Read 1 Kings 19:1-8. Running scared and disheartened, Elijah collapses in exhausted sleep until awakened by an angel with fresh bread and water prepared, and “Elijah went in the strength of that food forty days and nights, as far as the mountain of God.” God provided “a banquet” by supernatural provision in desperate circumstances. Debilitating fear and despair disappear, when God “prepares a banquet . . and welcomes you as an honored guest.”

With the Psalmist, I have found this true, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.” Psalm 37:23-26 NIV. At this Thanksgiving season, I am grateful that Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” – a prayer He never fails to hear. Whatever the challenge or need of your present situation, you have ample reason to trust God and give Him thanks for His faithful and sufficient provision, today and always.

Today, my prayer for you is that you find reason every day for thanksgiving to God.

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Irrepressible Joy

July 8th, 2013

“I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles, my joy knows no [boundaries].” 2 Corinthians 7:4 NIV

When you reside secure in Christ, His joy becomes resident in you.

My thoughts and comments today are about “irrepressible joy.”

Without some redeeming measure of joy, daily life can be drudgery. Life can be soul-wearying if circumstances are allowed to preempt joy. I think the problem is a misunderstanding of joy, settling for similar emotions that offer some respite from life’s burdens but fall short of joy. Joy abides; emotional substitutes don’t. God’s intent for you is bigger and better. “I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles, my joy knows no [boundaries].” 2 Corinthians 7:4 NIV.

How would your life be different if you had a joy that was undiscourageable? “You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.” Psalm 16:11 NIV. Jesus wants real joy to be your experience permanently not periodically. But how is that possible and practical? Jesus said, “If you obey My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have obeyed My Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:10-11 NIV. Jesus explained from His personal experience and example, “. . just as I have obeyed and remain in His love.”

The Bible consistently connects joy with love, and love with obedience. Jesus sets the order this way: obedience evidences love; love establishes the source and substance of joy. Joy resides naturally in Christ. When you reside secure and continually in Christ, His joy becomes resident in you. John understood Jesus to promise, “. . that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” Imagine! His joy becomes your joy, full and complete, indescribable and irrepressible. “You believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” 1 Peter 1:8 NIV. What the Bible calls “inexpressible,” I call “irrepressible joy” – joy you cannot keep to yourself.

Happiness is wonderful, but do not confuse its fickle emotion with joy. The derivation of the word, “happiness,” relates to “happening, circumstance, or happenstance – a chance occurrence.” Joy has little to do with chance or circumstance. Those things vary from moment to moment and situation to situation, as will your happiness. Joy is directly related to your security in Christ – unshakable and unchangeable. Joy does not come because good things are happening, nor leave when difficult things happen. Read Romans 8:37-39 NIV. Your mood and emotions may suppress joyful feelings for a moment, but joy resides in the heart occupied with Jesus, whatever its present surroundings or circumstance.

The Apostle Paul’s life was neither predictable nor trouble-free. See 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 NKJV. To the Christ-followers in Philippi who were suffering persecution, Paul wrote a letter that is all about inexpressible joy that is found in Christ. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! . . Be joyful always.” Philippians 4:4-8 NIV/1 Thessalonians 5:16 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you live with irrepressible and inexpressible joy.

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Meanwhile

August 15th, 2012

“If [where you are] prospers, you too will prosper.” Jeremiah 29:7 NIV

God will both direct and use circumstances to mold your heart and will to His own.

My thoughts and comments today are about “meanwhile.”

A few days ago, I said a tearful farewell to Don, a life-long friend. He walked with grace and courage through four of the toughest years imaginable. Multiple times doctors said he would not live; multiple times God sustained him in ways not explainable. It was not where he wanted to be, but being there, he walked with God with a dignity and trust that was exemplary. Meanwhile, he learned to live fully, worshipping and serving God in spite of his suffering and physical limits. Alongside him, I learned about God’s will and true courage, about being your best in the worst of times. I love what a friend wrote upon hearing of his death, “He fought a battle with cancer; he finally won!” Indeed he did.

Life, even for the best of people, is not always simple and easy. Life is not one grand sweep of blissful time; it consists of a myriad of moments which are working together in the purpose and providence of God to conform you to the image of Christ. See Romans 8:28-29 NKJV. God will both direct and use circumstances to mold your heart and will to His own. There are occasions when you are in times and places by the will of God that you would not choose. What you do in those times shapes who you are and the extent to which the purposes of God can be worked out in your life. Your comfort is not first priority. In those moments, you might ask God for deliverance that may not come when you want, nor as you like. At those times, it is critical that you know God well and trust Him and His ways absolutely. Read Philippians 4:11-13 NIV.

Israel found themselves in Babylon as captives. All they wanted was to return to Jerusalem, the sooner the better. In their distress, they preferred prophets with reassuring words. You can always find people to say what you want to hear. Through Jeremiah, God told Israel, “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce . . seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you . . pray to the Lord for it, because if [where you are] prospers, you too will prosper . . therefore, build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.” Jeremiah 29:6- 7/28 NIV. In confusing times, you need people who will tell you what you need to hear, and you need to hear what God says. You can blame or build; you can pout or prosper; you can wait or work. Meanwhile does not feel like a good time, but in the will of God it is the best of times.

That is not what they wanted to hear, but it was what they needed to hear. God was working on their behalf and for their good, even if they could not see that yet. See Jeremiah 29:11 NLT. God is as committed to your well-being in difficult circumstances as in the best of times. Read those verses again, slowly and carefully. You won’t escape every unpleasant circumstance on your preferred schedule, but you can make your situation, and yourself, better in the meanwhile. God has not forgotten you, nor will His love fail you. God always answers prayer; His answer may not be the answer you were wanting. Meanwhile, what you do makes all the difference in who you become.

My prayer for you today is that you live every moment to the fullest measure.

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