Monthly Archives: May 2019

In Search of Contentment, Pt. 3

Materialism is one of the new-era gods of the Western culture. The website becomingminimalist.com reports from various sources the following staggering statistics:

  • “There are 300,000 items in the average American home (LA Times).
  • The average size of the American home has nearly tripled in size over the past 50 years (NPR).
  • And still, 1 out of every 10 Americans rent offsite storage—the fastest growing segment of the commercial real estate industry over the past four decades. (New York Times Magazine).
  • While 25% of people with two-car garages don’t have room to park cars inside them and 32% only have room for one vehicle. (S. Department of Energy).
  • The United States has upward of 50,000 storage facilities, more than five times the number of Starbucks. Currently, there is 7.3 square feet of self storage space for every man, woman and child in the nation. Thus, it is physically possible that every American could stand—all at the same time—under the total canopy of self storage roofing (SSA).
  • British research found that the average 10-year-old owns 238 toys but plays with just 12 daily (The Telegraph).
  • 1% of the world’s children live in America, but they own 40% of the toys consumed globally (UCLA).
  • The average American woman owns 30 outfits—one for every day of the month. In 1930, that figure was nine (Forbes).
  • The average American family spends $1,700 on clothes annually (Forbes).
  • While the average American throws away 65 pounds of clothing per year (Huffington Post).
  • Nearly half of American households don’t save any money (Business Insider).
  • But our homes have more television sets than people. And those television sets are turned on for more than a third of the day—eight hours, 14 minutes (USA Today).
  • Some reports indicate we consume twice as many material goods today as we did 50 years ago (The Story of Stuff).

Apparently if you are not content, you are in company with most other Americans.  Could it be said that greed, commercialism, and materialism are some of the biggest sins in America?  Perhaps.  Wanting more is advertised on a daily basis.  Coveting is preached in the public square.  Just glance at any commercial or ad.

The broad way of discontentment seems kind of crowded.  The Lord has the “straight and narrow way” for the Christian to walk in life.  It is not crowded.  Very few people have walked it.  Paul walked it.  Peter, James, John, and Timothy did, too.  The way of contentment is not traveled by many, but every Christian should set the course of his life on this route (Matthew 7:13-14).

If we could find that Jesus is sufficient, it would surely help us to have a spirit of contentment.  Christ alone is sufficient for salvation.  Jesus said in John 6:51: I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

Satisfaction is also found in Christ alone.  Psalm 91:16 declares, With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.  Since the Christian has eternal life, I think that qualifies for a long life!  Because of the life we have in Jesus, we can be satisfied in and by Jesus.

From A to Z – what more do we really need?

We are affirmed in Christ.

We are becoming like Christ.

We are called in Christ.

We are delighted by Christ.

We are edified in Christ.

We are full in Christ.

We are growing in Christ.

We are holy in Christ.

We are immortal in Christ.

We are justified in Christ.

We are kept by Christ.

We are loved by Christ.

We are married to Christ.

We are new in Christ.

We are one in Christ.

We are perfected by Christ.

We are quickened in Christ.

We are redeemed by Christ.

We saved, safe, and secure in Christ.

We are taught by Christ.

We are useful to Christ.

We are valued by Christ.

We are whole in Christ.

We are exonerated by Christ.

We are yoked with Christ.

We are zealous in Christ.

 

Please read on to PART 4…

In Search of Contentment, Pt. 2

The Apostle Paul was used of God to write down the Philippians 4:11-19 passage.  Included in this letter is part of the experience of Paul’s life.  Paul was a missionary during the early church years following the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Paul endured tremendous pressure to denounce Christ.  He was faced with criticism and intense persecution on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

Ironically, Paul, previously known as Saul, was present at the execution of the first Christian martyr, Stephen in Acts 6. From that moment, Saul became a persecutor of “The Way.”  His story is found in Acts and also in his New Testament letters.  Part of his story is in our text.

As a persecuted missionary traveling the world over, Paul endures great troubles – shipwrecks, beatings, imprisonment, public riots, angry courtrooms, and more.

From his example we can learn about contentment.

If this is where to find contentment in the Bible, then where can I find contentment in my daily life?   Are there practical steps to take that can lead to a life of contentment?

Yes!  Here they are:

  1. Find the Sufficiency of Jesus in You. (vs. 11-12)

Jesus is all we really need for life.  Outside of the true necessities for staying alive, what do we really need to grow, thrive, and go through life?

As Paul describes himself, notice the contrasts.

11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

12  I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

  • Abased and Abound
  • Full and Hungry
  • Abound and Suffer Need

Paul goes as far as to say that “everywhere in everything” (all things) he chose to be content.  For a man rushed upon in riots, beaten, shipwrecked, and frequently jailed, that is an amazing statement.

Abasement and Abounding.

Abase means “to depress, humiliate, or bring low.” Paul knew the pain of being pressed down by the evil people of his day.  Nearly the entire society was against his teachings and way of life.  Sure, there were converts, and the world was “turned upside down” during the time of the Apostles but 10 Roman government waves of persecution against Christianity began soon after the Resurrection of Jesus.

Beginning with Nero (whom Paul witnessed to) and ending with Diocletian, millions of Christians, over a period of two centuries, were killed in unconscionable ways.

John Fox, in Fox’s Book of Martyrs, tells the story of Nero best:  “The first persecution of the Church took place in the year 67, under Nero, the sixth emperor of Rome. This monarch reigned for the space of five years, with tolerable credit to himself, but then gave way to the greatest extravagancy of temper, and to the most atrocious barbarities. Among other diabolical whims, he ordered that the city of Rome should be set on fire, which order was executed by his officers, guards, and servants. While the imperial city was in flames, he went up to the tower of Macaenas, played upon his harp, sung the song of the burning of Troy, and openly declared that ‘he wished the ruin of all things before his death.’ Besides the noble pile, called the Circus, many other palaces and houses were consumed; several thousands perished in the flames, were smothered in the smoke, or buried beneath the ruins.”  He continues:

“This dreadful conflagration continued nine days; when Nero, finding that his conduct was greatly blamed, and a severe odium cast upon him, determined to lay the whole upon the Christians, at once to excuse himself, and have an opportunity of glutting his sight with new cruelties. This was the occasion of the first persecution; and the barbarities exercised on the Christians were such as even excited the commiseration of the Romans themselves. Nero even refined upon cruelty, and contrived all manner of punishments for the Christians that the most infernal imagination could design. In particular, he had some sewed up in skins of wild beasts, and then worried by dogs until they expired; and others dressed in shirts made stiff with wax, fixed to axletrees, and set on fire in his gardens, in order to illuminate them. This persecution was general throughout the whole Roman Empire; but it rather increased than diminished the spirit of Christianity. In the course of it, St. Paul and St. Peter were martyred.”

With this as the back drop, Paul says Christians can be content.  Paul new what it was to be pressed against.  Every Christian who was persecuted in the first and second century learned about being abased the hard way.  With personal experience.

Abounding is the contrast to abasing.  Abounding means to “super abound, be in excess, overflow.”  In spite of the deflating pressure of persecution, Paul said he could abound.  He could still have a “good day” in the “worst of days.”  How is this possible?  It all goes back to the sufficiency of Christ.  Paul relied on Jesus alone to meet his material, physical, relational, and spiritual needs.

Full and Hungry.

Is it possible for a person to be physically hungry and yet content?  Many people get angry when they are hungry.  There is a new term for this: “Hangry!”  I have been hangry at times.  How about you? There were times when Paul, with limited resources and not much food, was hungry yet content with all the rest that God gave to him.

Abound and Suffer Need.

A man with one set of clothes, a single coat he left in prison one time, some parchments to write on, and a few books does not have that much.  In spite of the “lack of things,” Paul saw himself as having everything he needed for life.

Have you ever complained about not having “enough?”  Not enough money.  Not enough room.  Not enough things to do. Not enough. I have said things like that.  Be honest.  Did you say something to that effect in the last 7 days?

 

Please continue in the next posting, PART 3…

In Search of Contentment, Pt. 1

Not far from Wilton is a yearly event held unlike anything I ever saw growing up in Southern Ohio.  The spinning of car tires, squealing of train wheels against steel track, horn of tug boats, and paddle churning of riverboats, now that, I am familiar with, but this was a very new experience for me.  Every year in the fall, the Hot Air Balloon Festival descends upon our region.  For miles and miles balloons can be seen in the beautiful Hudson River Valley in the Adirondacks.

Looking to the sky as these large balloons take shape and lift into the air is a majestic scene indeed.  The hot air generated by the flame is thousands of degrees in temperature, and the great force unleashed at the pull of a switch or push of a button is incredible to see. The sound, heat, and lift from the fire is wonderful to watch.

As the balloons begin to ascend, a peaceful, serene emotion overcomes me.  The balloon is content to follow the manipulation of the balloon pilot in the wind. The balloon has no objective of its own.  If ascends high into the sky, or if it remains grounded due to high winds, the balloon is content. Whether it is a Snoopy balloon, a turtle, a butterfly in shape and appearance, or simply the classic balloon style, it is content.  If it is folded up and kept in a trailer or is traveling hundreds of miles, it is content.  Balloons appear to me to be very peaceful.

Balloons high in the sky also offer a unique perspective.  The pilot and riders get a “bird’s eye view” of the region below.  The higher the balloon goes, the larger the perspective of the pilot and passengers.

When it comes to our personal contentment, the hot air balloon gives us a good parallel to consider.  The balloons are peaceful.  The balloons offer a greater perspective.  In the same way, contentment provides an inner peace and offers a Godly perspective on life and daily matters.

Coveting is something everyone deals with from time to time.  Being jealous of others is another common sin.  Sometimes our thoughts and emotions betray us to one of these sins even before our mouths express these sins.  For example, sometimes, without saying anything, there is already a jealous spirit in a person.  In other times, the heart is already coveting another’s position, privilege, or place in life.  It may not even be expressed out loud.  But it is in the heart.

Some men covet the jobs and paychecks of other men.  Some women covet the family life of other women.  Some men would love to trade places with another man and his place in life.  Some women would trade places with another woman if they could.  Working mothers in the workforce may long to be able to stay at home.  Mothers working at home may have a desire for a different career outside the home.

Students in school may covet the grades of others.  Some even cheat to “get ahead” in school.

At the time of this writing, a billion-dollar college entrance scheme has hit the news.  Exams were forged.  Skills, abilities, and grades were changed.  Payments were made.  The ultra-wealthy and a whole list of Hollywood stars are caught up in this scandal.  All of this is an effort rooted in covetousness, jealousy, and greed.

What does the Bible say about contentment?  Plenty.  Philippians 4:11-19 is a primary passage that emphasizes contentment.  If you are searching for contentment – here is where to find it in the Bible.

11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

12  I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.

15 Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.

16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.

17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.

18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.

 19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

 

Please look for the next posting for PART 2…

First Impressions That Impress

Jacob said, Lo, it is yet high day, neither is it time that the cattle should be gathered together: water ye the sheep, and go and feed them. And they said, We cannot, until all the flocks be gathered together, and till they roll the stone from the well’s mouth; then we water the sheep. And while he yet spake with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep: for she kept them. And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother.  Genesis 29:7-9

Jacob has left his hometown to return to his grandfather’s home in Harran.  Rebekah convinces Isaac to send Jacob away in order for Jacob to find a wife with a similar faith background.  Marrying someone that has the same spiritual belief is such an important concept to guide you when seeking a spouse.  Another reason to send Jacob away is so that he is not murdered by his brother Esau.  The deceit, craftiness, and stealing of the birthright and blessing has torn this family apart further.  So Jacob travels.

When he sees these shepherds he realizes that he is nearly to his destination.  When they say Rachel, a young woman is coming soon to water her sheep, perhaps his mind begins to race.  He has not seen her before.  In fact, is it possible that when she emerges from the distance and he sees her that there is a “love at first sight” that is ignited?  Possibly.

The shepherds were waiting for a few others to show up before the removed the lid from the top of the well.  I have been around several open wells like this in farm settings.  When they are fenced off or covered over it is generally for safety.  Children and stray animals could fall in an be injured or die, so the liability is decreased by putting a lid or covering over the well.  These men did not want to lift more than “their fair share” or they were waiting for someone with initiative to give directions to lift the lid.  Yes, many hands make light work.

In this first encounter with Rachel, Jacob walks right over and takes the lid off all by himself.  He is attempting to make a good first impression.  I’m sure he impressed the shepherds and others standing around.  It seems that Rachel is also impressed by Jacob for several reasons.  From Jacob in this story, we can learn several good qualities that are attractive to others and that will impress them.

Keep in mind that we do not have a goal of impressing people for our own sake.  The impression that we give to others really can impact what another person will think about our God.  If we are selfish, demanding and arrogant and offer and impression of “holier than thou” – then we are giving a bad impression of God to others.

Impression Avenues include the following:

  1. Serving Others.  Jacob immediately serves Rachel by drawing water up and watering the sheep that she had with her.  He does not act with any self serving interest.  In fact, Jacob goes on to marry Rachel.  He works for seven years time.  During those seven years of work, he knows he will marry her, and yet he does not take what does not belong to him.  He does not act selfishly and have pre-marital sex.  He is demonstrating a selfless love with his service and devotion.  Laban deceives him, he marries Leah, the sister and then commits to work another 7 years for Rachel.  That is a selfless devotion of serving others!
  2. Sharing with Others.  As the narrative continues we find that Jacob has a good work ethic.  He works for a month with no pay for Rachel’s father, Laban.  He works a total of seven years in order to marry the love of his life, Rachel.
  3. Showing Up.  Jacob has a “Can Do” attitude.  When the men said: “We can’t water the sheep until…”  Jacob sees no reason to not water them.  He does not wait for others to get the lid off.  When others said” “We can’t” – he said” “I can.”

You can give first impressions that impress too!  When we show consideration to others first, everyone is impressed and God is glorified in and through your life.

 

Remembering God While Young

Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them… Ecclesiastes 12:1

Meeting God in your youth is a great way to deal with the problems that come with aging: Relationship distress, disease, disappointment, and eventually death.  The greatest moment in anyone’s life is when they come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Savoir.  This is wonderful, not matter the age or life stage of the person coming to faith in Jesus.  No matter your age today, you will be younger today than you are tomorrow.  So this is good teaching for everyone – especially the youngest among us.

Having Jesus in your heart and life can impact the handling of the disappointments of life.  Life happens to everyone.  Christians are not exempt to problems. What Solomon, the Preacher-King is saying in this passage is that when we remember God in when we are young, it sets us up for a more fulfilled, and more Biblically framed life.  Remember God in your youth means that the decision making, thought process and more are all going to be informed by the Lord and His Word.

When we have our decisions and choices informed by God, and follow His commands, we are more likely to fulfill God’s plan for our life and to achieve His perfect will for our individual lives.

A young person who does nor remember God in his youth is more likely to make bad choices and to create self-inflicted problems that will plague him for the rest of his life.  Drugs, living together before marriage, disease acquirement, job loss, injuries, relationship struggles, family problems are potential issues, just to name a few.

Know God while you are young.  Teach your kids NOW.  Then as you and your kids remember God while you are young (or younger today than you will be tomorrow) you can live a life that is blessed by God.

Bad things will still come up, but you have the Lord, His comfort, and His mind on how to handle your specific situation.