Monday, March 31, 2014

Contentment is a Choice

Chuckle:  "So, if your house is a mess and there's no one there to see it, is it still messy?"

Quote: "Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty." --Socrates


    "But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that" (I Timothy 6:6-8 NIV).

In Philippians 4:11, Paul tells us that, over time, he had learned to be content.  Have we?  Or do we show evidence of our discontent?  Some believe that changing their circumstances or the acquisition of material things will bring them contentment.  But trying to obtain contentment from possessions is like trying to carry water in a sieve -- it just "doesn't hold water."  Potential reactions to life's difficult circumstances include bitterness, depression, selfishness, and finally, contentment.  Which reaction is most prevalent in your life?

Contentment comes from trusting God's sufficiency, rather than our own.  The scripture speaks of many things which rob us of contentment and tells us what our response should be.  Luke 3:14 NIV: ". . .be content with your pay (wages)." I Timothy 6:8 NIV: "But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that." Hebrews 13:5 NIV: "Be content with such things as you have..."  Without Christ, the inward source of contentment, you will never find it in people, places, or things.  God was Paul's source of contentment everywhere and in all things.  How was this possible?

Paul accepted and was content in all circumstances. ". . . whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want" (Philippians 4:12 NIV).  I read somewhere that we should never pull tomorrow's clouds over today's sunshine.  Never cross a bridge until you come to it.  Always take life one day at a time.  Today is all you have.  We must get over our past failures, those who have failed us, and unpleasant circumstances.  Receive God's forgiveness and joyfully share His love with others.

Paul knew God would provide him strength to do all God wanted him to do.    "I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13 NIV).  Literally, Paul says, "I can do all things God asks me to do with the help of Christ who gives me the strength."  This attitude is based on the foundation of our Christian faith -- the all-sufficient Christ. 

Paul was satisfied with his provisions.  "I am amply supplied" (Philippians 4:18 NIV), and this is assured by the fact that "My God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19 NIV).  He did not require more than God had given him to be content.  How content are you? Are you at peace with yourself, with others, and with your Lord?
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, March 28, 2014

Crutch For The Weak

Chuckle:  "Have you ever wondered why Goofy stands erect while Pluto remains on all fours?  They're both dogs!" 
Quote:  "Jesus will not overlook your shortcomings or simply encourage you to do better the next time. He will give you victory in the midst of your failure."  --Henry Blackaby
    "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. . . . For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:9b, 10b NIV).
I once read about a controversial celebrity who said that religion/Christianity was only a "crutch" for the weak.  He meant this statement to be a put-down of Christians whom he saw as only a bunch of insecure people who cling to religion out of desperation -- too weak to stand on their own.  Without realizing it, he had expressed an eternal truth about the relationship of Christians to their Lord.  He was exactly right about our dependence upon God, but our Lord is so much more than a crutch.  He is:
Our Savior because we cannot save ourselves; 
Our lifeboat in a sea of despair; 
Our shield protecting us from the evil one; 
Our strength in our times of greatest weakness
Our companion when we are lonely;
Our comfort when we are grieving;
Our peace in the storms of life;
Our "Crutch" to help us walk with Him;
Our . . . . . . . You fill in the blank. 
So, it is perfectly accurate to say Christianity is a crutch for the weak.  "Crutch" is not the best word, but it communicates our need for God.  The problem with most of us is that our pride will not allow us to see ourselves as weak and in need of a God's help.  We must learn to see ourselves as God sees us.  He recognizes our weaknesses and our desperate need for His strength every day.
I once knew a youth minister who signed all his correspondence with, "Striving to be weak."  This young man had come to understand that God is His strongest when we are our weakest -- that in our weakness, God's power is made manifest through us.  It is a sign of courage and humility when a person comes to realize his dependence upon God.  He recognizes that his strength is totally inadequate to solve the problems facing him. 
When we consider that God's power is displayed in proportion to our weakness, we should be encouraged and our hope should be increased.  The critical factor in this equation is whether or not we recognize our weaknesses and limitations.  It's only when we acknowledge our weaknesses that we will learn to depend upon God instead of our own abilities, strength, and energy.  When we affirm God's strength and our weakness, He will develop our character and deepen our worship.

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Contentment in All Circumstances

Chuckle:  "Most people gain weight by having intimate dinners for two -- alone." 

Quote:  "Sweet are the thoughts that savour of content; The quiet mind is richer than a crown."  --Robert Greene


     ". . . . for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. . . . I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength"  (Philippians 4:11-12 NIV).

Two little teardrops were floating down the river of life.  One asked the other, "Who are you?"  "I'm a teardrop from a girl who loved a man and lost him.  But who are you?"  The first teardrop replied, "I'm a teardrop from the girl who got him!"  Life is like that.  We cry for things we can't have, but we might cry twice as hard if we had received them.  Jesus spoke often of qualities that produce contentment and peace.  Are you content with your life?  Do others think of you when they name contented people? 

I am convinced that it is a greater challenge to be content while having much and using it properly with a Christ-like spirit, than it is while having little.  Often it seems that the more we have, the more we want -- never quite satisfied or content.  Notice that Paul said, "I have learned the secret of being content."  Contentment is not a trait that comes to us naturally -- it is a supernatural condition available to the Christian who has learned its secret. 

Learning to be content is a process which takes time.  You can't expect to master skiing or golf the first time you try.  You must learn.  Paul said he had learned to be content even while in prison chains.  His  contentment did not depend on external circumstances.  In 2 Corinthians 11:24-27, he noted the terrible circumstances in which he learned how to be content.  His tutor was the "God of peace."

Contentment doesn't mean you necessarily like your circumstances -- it means you have confidence that God is involved with you in them.  It's the surrender of yourself  into his care.  We have to accept the fact that God is in control not us.  We must move from "my timing, my way, my outcome" to "God's timing, God's way, God's  outcome."  It's all about Christ.  With Christ we can learn to say, "I can do everything (including being content) through Christ who gives me strength."  It is Christ's power that lets us to rise above our worrisome, frustrating circumstances and say, "It is well with my soul."

"A story is told of a king who was suffering from a mysterious ailment and was advised by his astrologer that he would be cured if the shirt of a contented man was brought for him to wear.  People went out to all parts of the kingdom looking for such a person, and after a long search they found a man who was really happy.  But he did not have a shirt." 

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, March 14, 2014

Daily Dependence Upon God

Note: The next post  will be Monday, March 24.            

Chuckle:  "What'll you do when you are as big as your father?"  "Diet," replied the young boy.

Quote:  "Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake." --Victor Hugo


    "Arise, O LORD!  Deliver me, O my God!"  (Psalm 3:7a NIV).  "So be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord!" (Psalm 31:24 NIV).

Each of us can draw a valuable lesson from the experiences and words of King David.  As David awoke from his peaceful sleep (verse 5), he asked God to guide his every move throughout the day and rescue him from his enemies.  David's enemies were the advancing armies of his rebellious son, Absalom, but we face our own enemies every day.  Peter warns us, "Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour"  (1 Peter 5:8 NIV).  

If we are to live the victorious life, we too must learn to call on the Lord for guidance and deliverance day by day.  "From the LORD comes deliverance"  (Psalm 3:8a).  We must learn to trust in Him for the victory each day that He alone can win for us.  Every day we need God's power to help us defend ourselves from the wiles of Satan and the evil accomplices he has working for him. 

This attitude of dependence on God is sometimes difficult for us, because, after all, "I'm pretty good at taking care of my self."  For this attitude of dependence to take root in our lives, we must humble ourselves to the point that we realize that without God we can do nothing that really matters (John 15:5b NIV).

A good habit that can help us stay dependent upon our Lord, is the use of "breath prayers."  This is a habit which takes time to develop, but the ultimate outcome should be a brief, one breath, prayer before we make each daily decision facing us whether minor or major.  "Lord help me make the right decision in this matter."  

Paul tells us to "let this attitude (mind) be in you that is also in Christ Jesus"  (Philippians 2:5).  It is God's desire to make us more like Jesus every day.  If He is to do this, we must make ourselves shapeable in His hands like clay is to the potter.  As we depend upon Him for strength and allow ourselves to be molded into the likeness of Jesus, then our minds/attitudes will become more and more like His.

Let's learn from David.  Each morning when you awaken, take a moment to express your dependence on God and ask for His guidance and deliverance from evil influences during the day.  Then follow this up during the day with breath prayers as you seek God's help in dealing with each issue you face.  Ask God to give you the strength to walk in victory every moment of every day.

Love, Jerry & Dotse                    

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

In Whom Do You Trust?

Chuckle:  "I eat out occasionally, but I never go to the same restaurant twice," a man remarked.  To which his friend replied, "I don't leave a tip either!"   
Quote:  "When you cannot trust God, you cannot trust anything; and when you cannot trust anything you get the condition of the world as it is today." --Basil King
    "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God" (Psalm 20:7 NIV).  "The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress" (Psalm 46:11 NIV). 
The United States is perhaps the greatest military power the world has ever known.  The destructive force available to us as a nation is almost beyond comprehension.  However, history is replete with accounts of powerful nations who were brought to their knees not by superior military power but by moral corruption and decay from within.  As a "super power," it's tempting to see ourselves as invincible and place our trust in the power we have created rather than in the One who is the Super Power.
In the Old Testament, there are many accounts of Israel flourishing as a nation and then, because of their sin and disobedience to God, declining into a weak nation of helpless people dominated and enslaved by more powerful and evil nations.  What makes us Americans think we are any different?  What makes us think nothing or anyone can bring us down?  If my sense of the mood in this country is correct, we may not be nearly as cocky and certain of our invincibility as we once were.  Could God be placing these doubts in our minds to make us renew our individual and national dependence upon Him instead of our military and economic power?  In what or whom do you trust?
Down through history, nations have risen to great power and boasted about their armies and weapons only to see that power crumble and vanish in the dust.  In our passage, David was concerned about this very thing.  He knew that the true greatness of a nation was measured not by the power of its weaponry, but by the quality of its worship -- trusting in God's power rather than military power. 
If you share King David's concern as it relates to our beloved country, perhaps you and each of us should be asking, what can I do to help ensure the greatness of our nation is preserved?  I know you are familiar with 2 Chronicles 7:14, but it bears repeating here.  "If my people (that's you and me), who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
Wouldn't it be wonderful if every Christian in America would model his/her life after this passage?  If we did so and once more placed our trust in God rather than ourselves, we would be opening the door for Him to do miraculous things.  Maybe our humble and repentant hearts would convince God that it would be worth His while to heal and restore America to its former God-given greatness.

Love, Jerry & Dotse      

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Listening For God's Voice

Chuckle:  "The toughest part of a diet isn't watching what you eat.  It's watching what other people eat."

Quote:  “I think that if ever a mortal heard the voice of God it would be in a garden at the cool of the day.”  --F. Frankfort Moore


    "When he (shepherd) has brought out all his own (sheep), he goes ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice" (John 10:4 NIV). 

Many have a problem with the concept of hearing the voice of God.  One can be branded as strange if he claims to have heard God's voice.  I heard a pastor present a wonderful message on this subject, and I will share some of his thoughts, as well as my own, to hopefully shed some light on the subject. 

First:  It is possible to hear God's voice.  In our first passage, Jesus uses the analogy of a shepherd and his sheep to make a point about our relationship to Him, the Good Shepherd.  His sheep (followers) know Him and they recognize His voice. "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me" (vs. 27).  Some lyrics from the old hymn, "In The Garden," come to mind.  ". . . and he walks with me and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own.  And the voice I hear falling on my ear none other has ever known."  Yes, it is possible to hear God's voice.  And we should keep in mind that God speaks to us in various ways: His Word, prayer, life's circumstances, and other people. 

Second:  It is normal to hear God's voice.  In John 15:15 NIV, Jesus refers to His followers as "friends." "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything I have learned from my Father I have made known to you."  What is more normal than a conversation with friends and family -- to let them hear your voice?  As believers, we are the "children of God" (John 1:12), and "members of God's household" (Ephesians 2:19).  The Old Testament is replete with reference to God's people listening for and hearing His voice.  It was a perfectly normal part of their relationship with God.  This should be true for us today.   

Third:  It is expected that we hear God's voice.  "If only you listen obediently to the voice of the LORD your God, . . ." (Deuteronomy 15:5).  "Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20 NIV).  God wants and expects us to listen intently for His voice; but often we are not listening because our hearts are turned away from Him -- perhaps because we fear He may ask us to do something we don't want to do.  Or, He might say something we don't want to hear.  Then, God could be screaming at us, but we don't hear.  "But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shall be drawn away to worship other gods and serve them . . ." (Deut. 30:17 KJV).

If we want to hear God's voice, we must listen intently.  We should always be leaning forward toward God in anticipation while "cupping" our spiritual ears, so to speak, for fear that we might miss something God wants to say to us.

Love, Jerry & Dotse