Posts Tagged “Philippians”

Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartThis week Phil and I are celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary.

It coincides with the 25th anniversary of our business.

We have a lot to celebrate!

Yet it would be very easy to let the occasions go by with barely a nod to their significance. It seems that there’s always more “important” things to do or to spend money on. I’m reminded of a Proverb:

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.
Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25 (NIV)

It may seem right to spend our time and money on things that are more important (and I’m not advocating squandering either), but that would lead to death. Celebration is important. Celebration remembers and Scripture is full of injunctions to remember. Here’s just one of them – God is giving instructions to celebrate the day He brought them out of Egypt:

14“This is a day to remember. Each year, from generation to generation, you must celebrate it as a special festival to the LORD. This is a law for all time…17“Celebrate this Festival of Unleavened Bread, for it will remind you that I brought your forces out of the land of Egypt on this very day. This festival will be a permanent law for you; celebrate this day from generation to generation.
Exodus 12:14-17 (NLT)

Remember the day, celebrate it with a festival. They are instructions that interrupt our “life as usual” living – instructions that cause us to pause and change our focus for a short time.

So this week we are remembering and celebrating – focusing on the goodness of God, remembering both the good and the bad because through it all, God has proven Himself to be good to us. When remembering the bad, we don’t focus on how horrible it was at the time, but on how God faithfully pulled us through it. We focus on how blessed we are to receive whatever it was that came from those horrible experiences. And when remembering the good – well, I confess to being as tearful in the good memories as in the bad – because I didn’t do anything to deserve all this good that has come my way.

It’s not that my life has been so much better than yours. We’ve experienced (and in some cases are currently experiencing) lack of finances, failure, depression, loss of parents, caring for elderly and disabled parents, loss of job, major health crises, betrayal, and disappointment. There are probably other things I could throw into that list, but I’m happy to stop there. 🙂 You get the idea. Despite it all – or more appropriately said “through it all” – I choose to see God’s goodness, even when I’m seeing it only through a cloud darkly.

After all, that’s how God sees me – my “goodness,” that is, not through a cloud darkly. He has no trouble with His vision – he sees me more clearly than I see myself. He knows there is sin in my heart. He knows my faults and weaknesses. He sees that there is no true, unselfish goodness in me. Yet He loves me and He sees me through the blood of Christ – “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:11a, NIV).

And He celebrates me! “He delights in me” Psalm 18:19 says. He takes pleasure in me.

Friends, take time out of your busy lives to remember those special days – birthdays and anniversaries. Don’t let your celebrations become such a hassle that you lose the time to remember and celebrate. Remember God’s goodness, His faithfulness, and the pleasure He takes in you. And enjoy life. We’re not able to live a life of celebration, why would others be attracted to our God?

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Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013

Make God’s Word the cornerstone of your summer reading schedule. Join us as we read through a few chapters of the Bible each day. Use our Resting at the River’s Edge schedules to stay on track with us. If you fall behind – don’t worry about it! Just keep reading. I am praying that God will reveal Himself to you as you read each chapter. Ask Him to and He will.

Click on one of the following buttons to open a PDF file of the July/August bookmark or all bookmarks. After the file has opened, you can print it or save it to your hard drive from your browser’s file menu.

Click here for the July/August 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

The July Reading Schedule also appears at the end of this blog.

Here’s how the Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedules are organized:

  • The first two columns of the schedule allow you to read through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice over a two-year period. You will typically read about three chapters a day if you follow this reading plan.
  • The “Additional Readings” column put you on a plan to read through the entire Bible in one year. You will read between four and five chapters a day if you follow this plan.

I hope you’ll join us! I love the way God’s Word seems to speak to my specific situations as I read through His Word. I know He’ll do that for you, too. I’d love to hear about it. Email me, leave a message on our Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for July is below.

July 2013 RARE Reading Schedule JPG

 

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There are many illustrations in the Bible about how we are soldiers for the Lord, a part of His army. And while it’s true that our battle isn’t against flesh and blood, but against powers of darkness, there are lessons we can learn from earthly battlefields. A friend recently pointed me toward a Facebook page for the military unit her son is a part of.

The world is a different place these days. I didn’t know that military units have their own Facebook pages! I was quite surprised to learn that, but in today’s world, Facebook is the way the world communicates and it can be a wonderful tool for staying in touch. In a recent post, the captain of the unit included as part of his update information about what’s called an “After Action Report” or AAR. “If done properly,” the Captain wrote, “the After Action Reports are not for the thin-skinned, but it is a big part of how we get better, and why our Army is so strong.” He then shared some of the points from a recent evaluation. As I read the update, I was struck at the value the process and his advice has for us as Christians seeking to serve our King. Hence, our lessons from the battlefield.

Let me say here that I am NOT in any way meaning to devalue what the men and women in our military are doing. Their battlefield is much more stressful and much more dangerous than any I’m in. Rather, it’s my desire to honor them as I take from their lessons and seek to learn from them.

Lesson 1: Evaluate to Improve

Our first lesson comes from the activity itself – we can’t improve what we don’t evaluate. In the Facebook post, the Captain wrote this: “days seem to be endless, yet gone in a flash….It’s been a slow blur.”

Well, I’m not on the battlefield, but I know sometimes – lots of times, actually – my life feels like that. Will this day never end? And then “How can it possibly be Friday again?” Days seem endless, yet they’re gone in a flash.

If we don’t purposefully step back and evaluate our lives, we’ll find that more and more days have gone by without making steps toward improvement, steps toward growth, steps toward becoming the person God wants us to be.

One of the times we do that is during communion. Paul wrote this about communion:

27Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.
1 Corinthians 11:27-29 (NIV)

God wants us to examine ourselves, to watch our behavior, to not take what Jesus did for us lightly.

King David knew that it’s not only self-examination that’s needed. We too easily deceive ourselves. King David asked the Lord to examine him:

23Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)

If we’re to become more like Christ, we must examine ourselves and ask God to examine us.

Lesson 2: Stay Sharp

The Captain wrote this in his After Action Report: “How do we keep Soldiers and Leaders focused? How do we keep them from becoming complacent? Although we haven’t been doing this a long time, Soldiers get tired.  How do we prevent the “Groundhog Day” mentality from setting in, where every day or mission looks like the one before?  Or the dangerous mindset that occurs prior to a mission when Soldiers think that nothing has happened, so therefore nothing will happen.  This is when I worry about Soldiers taking shortcuts and being complacent.  Complacency kills, bottom line.”

It’s not so different in our spiritual life. No matter how long we’ve been a Christian, we can still fall. Scripture warns us:

8Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8 (NLT)

We’re to stay alert. Satan prowls around looking for who is most vulnerable, easiest to attack and kill. Even Jesus wasn’t immune to attacks by Satan. In the desert, satan tempted Him three times. Jesus successfully defeated satan each time, and then Scripture says this:

When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
Luke 4:13 (NIV)

Satan is looking for an opportune time to attack us. Our responsibility is to stay sharp.

Lesson 3: Exceed the Expectations of Your Commander

Our military isn’t focused on just doing their job. They’re focused on exceeding the expectations of their commanding officers.

Do we have the same commitment to our Commanding Officer? Do we have the same commitment to our King?

Paul encouraged the Ephesians:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
Ephesians 4:1

And to the Philippians he wrote:

Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. 
Philippians 1:27

Is our focus on living a life worthy of the One who gave His life for us? Is our focus on living a life that is worthy of the One who created the universe? Is our focus on living a life that is worthy of the One who lives us so, the One who is jealous for us and whose love is fierce and strong?

Lesson 4: Allocate Resources Properly

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12 (NIV)

Numbering our days aright means first remembering each morning that our time belongs to God. To squander it is to squander God’s resources. At breakfast last week my husband said “everything we have is stewardship” Are we using what we have in the way God wants us to use it? Phil was talking about cars and money. It also applies to time. Time, money, cars, talent, our home and food – they’re all included as part of the resources we’re to allocate properly. Lord, help us get better at it!

Four Lessons from the battlefield:

Lesson 1: Evaluate to Improve
Lesson 2: Stay Sharp
Lesson 3: Exceed the Expectations of Your Commander
Lesson 4: Allocate Resources Properly

They’re lessons meant to keep our troops sharp, focused, the best. They’re lessons we would do well to implement in our lives and our walk with the Lord.

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

FUD. I thought it was a word that Phil and I had made up, but I did my due diligence by looking it up on Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary…and found it’s both a word and an acronym – which is exactly how we’ve used it.

  • A fud is a fuddy-duddy – a person who is stuck on old ideas and old ways.
  • FUD is also an acronym describing Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt – three qualities that the world breeds. Three qualities that lead us to becoming stuck on old ideas and old ways.

Fear, uncertainty and doubt paralyze us. They make us anxious. I’m developing a new marketing project at work. This blog is one I need to hear because I’ve been paralyzed by indecision on this project. As I write this, I recognize that the indecision is based on the FUD factors.

  • Fear that I’ll fail – How foolish is that? So what if I fail? I’ll learn from it and just try again. This is not a life or death project. So what if others see me obtain poor results.
  • Uncertain that I’ll make wrong decisions – Again, so what? These are short-term decisions. It’s just that they’re in a new area and I want to get it right the first time. I think I need to get over myself. Yes, I’ll get it wrong sometimes. (Note to Self: Quit relying on self and rely on God!)
  • Doubt in myself and my ability to be successful – Have I learned nothing from my long walk with the Lord? Without Him, I am nothing. My trust must be in His abilities, not my own. Pleasing Him is my success, not making right decisions about marketing issues.

If I let myself, I can go down a long, dark road associated with making the wrong decisions on this project – but it’s all associated with FUD factors. It all boils down to being afraid I’ll make wrong choices and I’ll lose all my clients.

Yes, this world breeds FUD – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt! But Jesus said “Be counterculture! Trust in God, and trust also in me.” (John 14:1)

You see, fear, uncertainty and doubt are satan’s substitutes for faith. If he can get us focused on those qualities instead of faith, he can paralyze us – keep us from making the decisions needed to move forward.

Christ said “Go!” (Matthew 28:19) Satan says “well, if you go, you might get hurt, you might go the wrong direction, you might fall in a pit.” Christ said “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) Oh, and He began that command and assurance by reminding the disciples who was in charge: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 18:18)

  • There is no need to fear – All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus.
  • There is no need for uncertainty – All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus.
  • There is no need to doubt – All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)  is a familiar verse to many:

6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

Which takes us back to our “Living God’s Heart” topic from last month – giving thanks. It builds our faith. It brings us peace. It removes our anxiety. It wipes away the FUD factors.

When the FUD factors have been demolished, when God’s peace fills our heart, faith and confidence grows.

Is indecision paralyzing you? It’s probably because you’ve lost a bit of confidence in God. Thank Him, ask Him for wisdom, remind yourself that He is with you and that He has all authority. Let faith grow in your heart. He’ll fill your heart with faith. I need some of that to make the decisions I need to make this week. I think I’ll go take my own advice! How about you? Do you need to spend a little time with God? Enjoy it!

Lord, forgive me when my focus gets out of whack and the enemy creeps in with FUD. Thank You for allowing me to “go” in Your name – to be Your representative here on earth! What an awesome privilege and responsibility. Help me represent you well. Lead me in the decisions I have to make along the journey. Satan – get your lies and temptations away from me. I choose to trust God. Because all authority has been given to Him. He has won. And I serve the winner.

Lord, lead me. I’ll follow.

Ya’ll can’t see it, but I’m smiling. Praying does that for a person.

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

1It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praises to the Most High.
2It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning,
your faithfulness in the evening.
Psalm 92:1-2 (NLT)

Your assignment during this focus on thanksgiving has been to memorize these two verses. How’s it going? I have them down, and I attribute it to quoting them first thing most mornings and last thing most evenings…and then any time throughout the day when I am tempted to complain about things.

What I’ve become convinced of is that giving thanks is a strong aggressive and preemptive play against the enemy. He wants to neutralize our witness for Christ. Giving thanks and proclaiming God’s unfailing love in the morning and His faithfulness in the evening puts us in the position of standing against satan before, during and after any and all attempts he makes to derail us. Here’s how:

Morning thanksgiving sets the stage for the day – and it establishes that we’re playing on God’s stage, not satan’s stage. It says “OK, satan – this is the field we’re playing on today.” It starts the game each morning with the home field advantage.

What’s the impact of starting every day by proclaiming boldly and declaring with enthusiasm that God’s love is unfailing; that His loving kindness is constant and that His mercies are new every morning? How will the first hour of my morning be different if I proclaim God’s unfailing love while I get ready for work instead of going over my to do list for the day or a taking stock of my aches and pains or rehashing the argument I had with someone the day before? It will be night and day different! These actions allow us to take control of our thoughts first thing in the day, setting the pattern for the rest of the day.

It also puts on my shield of faith. As I remind myself of God’s unfailing love my faith rises to meet the day’s challenges. It puts me more in the mindset of being on the offensive instead of playing defense.

Continuing to give thanks throughout the day puts me in a position of obedience because it is impossible to be actively praising God and actively complaining at the same time. “Stop complaining” Jesus told the crowds in John 6. The Apostle Paul wrote telling us to “Do everything without complaining or arguing” in Philippians 2:14. As I wrote in this blog – let’s be counter-culture and stop the complaining and grumbling.

Not only does being an aggressive giver of thanks put me in a position of obedience throughout the day, it repeatedly changes my focus from this world to the Kingdom of heaven; from bricks and mortar to gold and glory; from sinful, fallen attitudes and behaviors to righteousness and holiness and loving kindness. That’s being on offense.

And becoming more obedient in my thanksgiving and changing my focus to the Kingdom of God, has another huge impact – it repeatedly puts me in the presence of God. Psalm 100 says:

Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and praise his name.

Psalm 100:4 (NLT)

Thanksgiving and praise bring us into the presence of God. And that’s where my victory comes from; that’s where my joy in life’s challenges is found.

Not only are we to proclaim God’s unfailing love in the morning, we’re to proclaim His faithfulness in the evening. “Lord, You are a faithful God and I thank you for it.” How different will our sleep be when the last thing we do is remember – declare and give thanks for – God’s faithfulness?

I love the bookending of praising God morning and night: “It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening.”  To me the psalmist is saying “Sandy, frame your life within the structure or boundaries of thanksgiving and praise. Morning and night, remember God’s goodness and thank Him for it.”

I’m working on my frame, how about you?

Lagniappe (a term used in southern Louisiana and southeast Texas, it means “a little something extra”)

Here’s a kind of cool thing about the word  translated “good” In this passage,  – “It is good to give thanks…” and “It is good to proclaim…”: It’s the same word that is used in Genesis when God declared that what He had made was “good!” God created the light and saw that the light was good. He caused the waters to be collected and the dry ground to appear creating the land and the seas and He saw that it was good. He created all the plants and animals and He saw that they were good. He created the sun, the moon and stars and saw that they were good. All of God’s creation was declared to be “good.”

And in the psalms, David writes that our thanksgiving and praise is likewise, “good.”

I think that’s pretty cool!

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

8Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9and become one with him.
Philippians 3:8-9a (NLT)

The Apostle Paul puts everything in perspective in these two sentences – when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ everything else is worthless, and as such, seeking Him wholeheartedly is the only appropriate response. Paul says that he has discarded everything so that he might gain Christ – that he might become one with Him.

That’s what a seeking heart looks like.

It is the heart that lays aside everything else to pursue what is most important. Earlier in the chapter Paul exhorts the Philippians to “put no confidence in human effort” but to rely wholly on Jesus. Paul had plenty of human effort he could put confidence in – he was born into the right family, went to the best schools, got the best grades, lived the most righteous life, and was more zealous than all – but he had come to understand that all those thing which he formerly considered of utmost importance were rubbish when compared to knowing Christ.

The things were not bad in and of themselves. They were just worthless in obtaining salvation and rubbish compared to knowing Christ. There’s nothing wrong with being from a “good family,” going to good schools, studying to get good grades, living a holy life and/or being zealous. I have a masters’ degree in Christian ministries. That’s a good thing. I value it. But I don’t put confidence in it to earn my salvation and compared to knowing Christ – it’s nothing – it’s a representation of human effort and knowing Christ is a spiritual journey.

Paul continues in the chapter that he wants to know Christ in all ways –

10I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
Philippians 3:10-11 (NLT)

Paul wants to experience the mighty power that raised Christ from the dead – that’s the mountain top experience. He also wants to suffer with Christ, sharing in His death – that’s the valley experience. Paul wants to experience – to be as one with – Christ. He wants to know Him.

I do too.

Paul goes on to tell how he pursues God:

12I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Philippians 3:12-14

Do you feel the intensity in Paul’s efforts? “I press on.” “I focus on one thing.” “Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” “I press on.” Paul is pushing forward full speed ahead. Paul’s letter agrees with the letter written to Hebrews:

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith [that is, all the saints who have gone before us], let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT)

Again there is a palpable sense of intensity to the words: “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down.” “Run with endurance.”

That’s wholehearted seeking that honors God.

That’s wholehearted seeking that God honors.

Next week we’ll look at how our heart changes when we wholehearted seek God. This week, let’s pray and pursue God wholeheartedly – with the intensity of Paul and the writer of Hebrews. Let’s “press on.”

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Looking toward 2013 – Fear isn’t Part of God’s Plan, Don’t Make it Part of Yours

24Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, “Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.”
Matthew 25:24-25 (NLT)

In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:11-27), the third servant did not use the talent given to him because he was afraid (Matthew 25:25, Luke 19:21). I wonder how often we let fear cripple or hinder us? Or how often is it an excuse for laziness? The master responded to the servant by calling him lazy (Matthew 25:26, Luke 19:22).

As we look toward 2013, I don’t want us to lose out on God’s tremendous plans for our lives because we are afraid. Afraid of success, afraid of failure or afraid of plain old hard work. I want to approach the new year with an attitude that says “Yes!” to whatever God has in mind. I suspect that will mean looking fear square in the face sometimes…

If that’s the case, perhaps it will help to remind myself what else Scripture has to say about fear. Here are a couple of verses:

God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love and sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

For the Spirit that God has given us does not make you a slave and cause you to be afraid; instead, the Spirit makes you God=s sons and by the Spirit=s power we cry to God, “Father! My Father!”
Romans 8:15 (TEV) (or “Abba! Father!”)

What a picture of God’s love! Think of the small child who is frightened – he runs to his papa, throws his arms up and cries “Father! Father! Protect me!”

And He will! We’re also told in John 16:33 “These things I [Jesus] have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

There are 2 parts to this verse:

Part 1: Jesus promises us peace
Philippians 4:7 says that His peace, which passes all understanding, keeps our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. When will this happen? Philippians 4:6 says it will happen when we reach up to Jesus, crying “Father, Father! Protect me!”

Part 2: Jesus tells us to take courage – He has overcome the world.
1 John 5:4 says “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.” (See Romans 8:14, 1 John 5:6 for more.)

If fear is not of God, what is its source. Its source is satan. Satan has a very poor substitute for everything God has – his substitute for faith is fear! Fear is really faith that satan will win instead of God! But God tells us that the victory that has overcome the world is our faith – our faith in Jesus Christ and God the Father to do what He promises to do:

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
1 John 4:4

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:37-39

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:13

In light of all this:

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:57-58

Whew! Lots of Scripture in this blog! Meditate on them if you feel yourself being pulled toward fear. Don’t go there and don’t let satan take you there!

Friends, let’s look toward 2013 with a “yes” in our heart to the things of God. Don’t let fear cause you to lose the tremendous blessings He has for you.

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By guest blogger Pastor Dan Caudill

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.
(Philippians 4:12)

We live in a world of “more.” Pick any topic you want and the general consensus is bigger, faster, higher, just….more.” From TV shows to sports to our looks to our jobs to how much money we make to our possessions, we have this sense that somehow we have to out-do what we did yesterday, last month, last year – that if we have more, get more do more, see more , say more, are more, life would be better somehow. As a whole, we are in a state of discontent, dangling the proverbial carrot in front of ourselves with the thought, “I would be happier if… (Fill in the blank).” And because we often try to fill the voids in our lives with the wrong “filler” (that’s where the godliness needs to come in), when the newness of what we acquired or accomplished wears off we find ourselves wanting….well, “more.”

The Bible says “contentment with Godliness is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6). The Apostle Paul wrote, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” (Philippians 4:12)

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying we shouldn’t want to be happy. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t want to have a better world or a better life, or that we shouldn’t work toward improving ourselves and the situations around us. And I’m not saying that it is wrong to have possessions. As I once heard someone say, “It’s not wrong to have things as long as things don’t have us.” I also read somewhere “if you aren’t happy with what you have, you won’t be happy with what you get.”

What I am saying is that I believe it is possible in God’s economy to be seeking, hoping, wanting and working toward that “better tomorrow” and yet be perfectly content with today. In other words, we can be content with where we are and where we are headed at the same time. Each day is a gift. The Psalmist writes, “This is the day the Lord has made and we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)  Also, as the saying goes, sometimes “The joy is in the journey.” I am sure we have all set out for a specific destination (both literally and figuratively), only to find upon arrival that it wasn’t nearly as spectacular as we had imagined. But oh the things that happened along the way, the lives we touched and the ones that touched ours. The “getting there” far outweighed the importance and impact of the arrival.

I guess if we insist on wanting “more”, why not go for more contentment and go for it today (kind of defeats the idea if we put it off until tomorrow or next week). I would like to offer some “helps” that aid us in our quest for contentment.

  1. Take God at His Word. Scripture says He knows our needs even before we ask. (Matthew 6:8)
  2. God promises that He has “given us everything we need for life and for godliness.” (2 Peter 1:3)
  3. Scripture says that the blameless will “lack no good thing.” (Psalm  84:11)
  4. If God is for us, who or what can be against us.
  5. With God, all things are possible (Mark 10:27)
  6. We, like Paul, can do all things through Christ who gives us Strength. (Philippians 4:13)
  7. A man plans his course, but God orders his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
  8. God has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. (Joshua 1:5)
  9. Jesus himself said the Father holds his children in the palm of His hand and nothing can snatch us out. (John 10:28)

Well, if you are like me, you have tasted slices of contentment here and there, but haven’t enjoyed that sweet taste on a regular basis. I think I’m ready to go for the whole “pie.” Holy Spirit teach me as I head back to school to “learn the secret of being content in any and every situation.” Let it come to pass Lord.

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Seeing Through a LensI woke up today thinking about lenses! I guess that makes sense:

  • I need to have my eyes checked. It seems I have been consistently making text on my screen larger over the past few months and everything looks a bit fuzzier than it used to.
  • A friend of mine has started taking photography classes and it is changing the way she see things.
  • Yesterday I started reading a book about confidence in God. It’s a lot about the way we view life.

I’m reminded this morning that you can only see the shadow when you turn away from the light. Standing facing the sun I am unaware of the long shadow it creates behind me.

Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.
James 1:17 (NLT)

He created the lights in the heavens. Doesn’t it make sense to keep our eyes on Him to light our path?

Some manuscripts have the second half of this verse differently. They read “He never changes as a shifting shadow does.” (NLT footnote)

The One who created the lights in the heavens and causes them to move to His consistent rhythm, remains unchanging. “There is no shadow of turning with thee.” Can there be a better lens from which to view our lives?

As I’ve thought about this, the question that comes to me again and again is this: “What lens are you looking through?” Two that seem likely candidates are these:

Self – my abilities – Am I looking at my life, my circumstances, challenges and opportunities through the lens of my own abilities? If so, I can tell you that I will be overwhelmed with my inadequacies for dealing with the circumstances, challenges and opportunities. At my very best, I’m not enough – not good enough, not smart enough, not energetic enough, not creative enough, not wise enough, not compassionate enough, etc. The list goes on and on. But God is enough. We could find Scripture for each of the “not enoughs” in my list, but let me just share two all-encompassing verses that promise God’s provision

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.
2 Peter 1:3 (NLT)

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19 (NASB)

Other people’s opinions – Am I looking at my life, my circumstances, challenges and opportunities through the lens of what other people think? Danger, danger, danger. People are fickle. Our opinions change from moment to moment. Look at the crucifixion of Jesus – one moment the people are worshiping Him as the coming King “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” and they next they are shouting “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” (Matthew 26 and 27). When the opinion of others affects the way I approach my life, how can I be anything but like a child “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming”? (Ephesians 4:14, NASB).

Viewing life through either lens leads to a pretty miserable life. With the former, I am overwhelmed and defeated. With the latter, I am thrown this way and that – and again overwhelmed and defeated.

There is a third and better option: Viewing life through the lens of faith – Trusting in His faithfulness and ability to meet all my needs. We have a choice. It doesn’t always seem like it, but we do. In the physical realm, I can choose to put my glasses on so I can read the text in front of me more clearly or I can continue to squint and read fuzzy words. I can turn on a light or sit in a dark room. I can turn toward the sun or stare at the long shadows that hint of dark forces.

If I stay in the world of fuzzy words, dark rooms and long shadows my life suffers. My emotional stability suffers. My ability to live for God’s Kingdom suffers.

If I turn to the world in which God is sovereign, in control and loves me unconditionally my life prospers. My emotional stability remains strong and sure (because it is held together by the One who holds the universe together). And living for (and in) God’s Kingdom is a reality.

Why would I choose any lens other than God’s? Why would you?

An afterthought: Are you looking at the doors God has closed or the ones you don’t see yet – remember, we walk by faith not by sight. (But that’s fodder for another blog.)

For fun:

Old Woman or Young Woman?

Do you see a young woman or and old woman?

  • If you see a young woman, and wish to see the old woman, imagine the ear as an eye, the necklace as a mouth and the chin as a nose.
  • If you see an old woman, and wish to see the young woman, imagine the eye as an ear, the mouth as a necklace and the nose as a chin.
  • Your brain wants to flip to either one or the other image but if you study it long enough you might see both images at once. Can you do it?

From: http://www.nobeliefs.com/puzzles/illusions.htm#checker

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Resting at the River’s Edge provides an opportunity to participate in reading through the Bible in a systematic way. Here’s more details about the plan and our schedules.

Track your reading along with us using the table below, the downloadable half-page PDF or the July/August bookmark.

Share with others what God is teaching you. E-mail me, leave a message on the Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Enjoy God as you begin to enjoy summer!
Sandy

Download All 2012 Bookmarks Here

Download only the July/August 2012 Bookmark Here

Download a Half-Page PDF of the August Reading Plan Here

Here’s the August reading plan:

Aug 2012 Resting at the River's Edge Reading Plan JPG

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