Fireworks and Service

When lighting the fire for a bonfire or cookout, as the night sky is lit up tonight with fireworks, or as your kids whirl a sparkler, think about the service that affords us the freedom you are enjoying today.  Someone served to enable today’s celebration.

Jesus, speaking in John 15:13 said, Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  Of course, Jesus is the ultimate example of servant-hood.

Jesus served the will of God the Father.  In John 6:38 Jesus declared: For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.  If you are a Christian, a follower of Jesus, you too are called to serve God the Father.  Do His will for and in your life.  Find His plan, then do it.

Jesus also served men.  His purpose for dying on the Cross was to save us from our sin.  His mission was a rescue mission.  Our sin separated us from God, and the blood of Jesus was shed to cleans us and cover us of our sin.   When God sees a Christian, He does not see the sin of that person, He sees the righteousness of Jesus!  Amen for that.  Jesus served the interested of mankind in making salvation possible.

We too can serve other people.  The Apostle Paul knew what it was to serve the Lord and serve other people.  He said in Galatians 5:13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

By Love.  It was because of the love of God for man that God sent Jesus.  It was because of love that Jesus died on the cross in our place.  We deserved that death.  It was because of love.  Love is the motivator for any service to either God or other people.  Service conducted with love is service that God accepts and that pleases Him.

As we celebrate freedom, take a moment to thank the Lord for His service to you in the Lord Jesus.  Then look for ways that you can serve other people too!

We are the most like Jesus, when we are serving others!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Draymond Was Right

Draymond was Right

Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.  Ephesians 3:7

After Golden State basketball superstar Kevin Durant was injured in the NBA Finals, fans in Toronto were cheering.  Actually cheering.  Their team had a better chance to win now that Kevin was out.  I hope his injury is recoverable.

Speaking about the sensitivity of fans, Draymond Green, a Durant teammate and fellow NBA All-Star said some truthful statements about the perception he feels fans place on him and others in pro sports.

In effect he said: “Fans expect their pro players to never fail or get injured or sick, but they are people too. They don’t care what happens outside the lines. They expect us to be unreal.”

His words are accurate.  Fans do tend to think of their stars as “more than regular people.”  The expectations and assumptions placed on starts by fans are not healthy.   Not healthy for the stars – or the fans.  Like a referee, his call of “Foul!” is warranted.

In the spiritual realm in which we live, how many people perceive and project expectations and assumptions onto people in ministry? How about what we perceive and project onto other church members?

What Draymond said was right, and his insights also apply to how many people see their pastor in their church.

Here are 3 areas to avoid getting a “Foul” called against you.

  • Unrealistic expectations. Projecting impossibilities is a foul against the pastor and against the one with the impossible expectations.  The pastor cannot be everywhere at the same time.  He is unable to visit everyone who misses a service.  It is difficult for him to preach and take attendance at the same time.  Toss into the basket the fact that some parishioners are only in attendance in one service a week, the pastor is less likely to notice they are missing.  For example, if someone that normally attends Sunday morning, Sunday Evening and the Midweek service is missing – the pastor is more likely to see they are not there – because of the frequency of their attendance.  Sometimes the pastor wants to- but can’t.  There are times when I am too sick to make a hospital visit.  We want others to go when that happens, but to have one man visit every person of 200, 100, or 50 people is not very realistic.   Expecting something that is not possible hurts the person doing the “expecting!”  The pastor has a life, family, health needs, and emotional encouragement needs too.
  • Unreasonable assumptions. This is when we assume the worst about people or situations.  Human nature is to assume things are worse off than they really are.  This is the “making a mountain out of a mole-hill syndrome.”  Many good people get caught up in false assumptions.  “He does not like me.”  “She does not care.”  “They like them better than us.”  These are dangerous thought patterns rooted in pride and ego.   This type of thinking is what Paul is warning Titus about in Titus 1:15 Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.  Choose to have healthy and hopeful thoughts about others.  Avoid assuming the worst.  It hurts your impression of others when you project unreasonable assumptions on others. Not everything will go the way you hope it will but compounding every relationship struggle is -assumption.
  • Unhealthy attitudes. The attitude truly determines your altitude.  If you have a healthy, winning attitude, you are more likely to succeed in whatever you are striving for.  In relationships, if you have a healthy attitude toward your pastor, it will help you be an encouragement.  It will cause you to be less critical.  It will create in you’re a desire to help and to serve.  When people serve with their pastor, they are helping advance the Gospel and the kingdom of God through the local church.

Basketball fans, and church members – don’t get a “Foul!” called on you.  Choose to have realistic thoughts about other church members and about your pastor.

He is a real person who cares much, feels deeply, and hopes unceasingly.

Yes, Draymond was right.  Stars are just people too.  Remember this truth the next time you watch a game.

 

In Search of Contentment, Pt. 6

Continuing the thought of things that can only come from Jesus:

The Present of Today. 

One clever thinker got it right: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift––that is why it is called the present.”  Proverbs 27:1 teaches: Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.

The fact is, we cannot buy another day on earth.  It is Jesus who supplies the breath and heartbeat for another day.  Life is a gift only Jesus can give.

The Provision of God. 

God will supply all the things you really need in life.  The content person who is giving to the cause of God and His Gospel has the backing of Jesus Himself on his life.

Sometimes banks will convey how many assets they have to draw on.  A bank could have $57,000,000,000 in cash, silver, gold, property, and holdings.  That is a lot of money!  Jesus has the “Riches of Glory.”  Think of all the wealth of Heaven, streets of gold, and gates of pearl.  Jesus owns all of that.  In addition, Heaven has no health issues, no jails for criminals, and no funeral homes or graves for death.  In the perfect economy of Heaven, Jesus owns it all.

Christian, you can “go to the bank” of Jesus and see God supply all the things in life you really need.  The “First Bank of Heaven” is always open and will never go out of business. Be sure to understand the differences between your “wants” and “true needs.”  Natalie, my wife and best friend, says that people have big “Wanters.”  My “Wanter” is tested from time to time as well.  You and I must come back to this verse often and choose contentment and trust Jesus to supply what we really need in life.

Jacob, in Genesis 25, is a “grabber.”  He grabs his brother’s heel and grabs his brothers’ stuff (birthright and blessing).  As times goes on, Jacob grabs onto God in a wrestling match, as we see in Genesis 32.  This encounter with God totally changes his life.  He starts to value things of God instead of the things of the earth.

Colossians 3:2 admonishes, Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. This is how Jacob begins to live his life.  His priority change is a good example for us today.  He found contentment in God.

The things worth loving in life are not things.  Jesus told us to love two things: God and then people.  This is the first and second command.  Matthew 22:37-39 elaborates, Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment.  39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Focus your life on the things that God values, and He will supply all you really need in life.  The answer is contentment.

Concluding Thoughts…

  • When you find yourself complaining – choose contentment.
  • When you hear yourself being critical – choose contentment.
  • When you see yourself comparing to others – choose contentment.
  • When you feel yourself coveting another person’s life, position, relationship, job, upbringing, or life-stage – choose contentment.

Like the hot air balloon, this old preacher’s story captures the idea of our search for contentment.  “The story is told about a pilot who always looked down intently on a certain valley in the Appalachians when the plane passed overhead. One day his co-pilot asked, ‘What’s so interesting about that spot?’ The pilot replied, ‘See that stream? Well, when I was a kid I used to sit down there on a log and fish. Every time an airplane flew over, I would look up and wish I were flying… Now I look down and wish I were fishing.’”

Are you content today?  The only place to find true, lasting contentment is in Jesus Christ.  Perhaps a Christian friend reading this has a covetous heart.  Confess that as sin to God and in Jesus’ name choose contentment today – and every day.

Perhaps another reader is not sure they are a Christian.  Even if you were born into a religious home, it does not automatically make you a Christian.  Have you trusted in the GOSPEL – the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus?  Has there been a moment when you expressed faith in Jesus to God through prayer?  Why not trust and believe in Jesus right now?

Pray this way: “God in Heaven, I realize I am a sinner and need Jesus as my Savior.  I confess my sin to you.  Please forgive me of my sin in Jesus’ name.  I believe in the Gospel.  Jesus shed His blood for my sin, died on the cross taking my punishment, and rose again the third day.  I believe in Jesus.  Please save me from my sin and give me a home in Heaven.  Thank you for saving me.”

If you prayed for salvation, please let me know.  I would like to share Bible verses with you to help you in your new faith in Jesus.  Please call 518.583.2736, or email me at: pastor@wiltonbaptistchurch.com

 

 

 

In Search of Contentment, Pt. 5

Find the Supply of Jesus for You. (Vs. 19)

In the context of this passage, Paul was commending the Philippian church members, because they were faithful to send Missionary Paul money to help him further the Gospel and plant new churches.  Paul is the New Testament missionary that most missionaries pattern their ministry after – even today.   Jesus gives a promise to those Christians who are faithful to give to missions work specifically – “God will supply all your need.”

These church folks were content with what money and things they had – so much so that they gave above their regular tithes and offerings to God through their church and gave extra to help Paul and other missionaries.  These people had great faith in God and were not consumed with material gain.  God has said – “I promise that I will give the selfless everything they need in life.”  Do you believe this promise?  Would you give more to missions if God asked you to?

A content person is willing to give more, and because of that willingness, God actually gives him more – to give in return!  It all starts with contentment.

There are several things in life that cannot be bought.  Like the old Mastercard commercials said: “Some things money can’t buy, for everything else, there’s Mastercard!”

  • Good health has no price tag.
  • Good friends cannot be bought.
  • Great marriages are priceless.
  • Great kids are worth every investment you put into them (and more).

Here are some things that only Jesus can supply.

The Peace of Mind. 

Jesus said in John 14:27, Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Years ago, Ray Cazis summarized a Duke University study on ‘peace of mind.’ Factors found to contribute greatly to emotional and mental stability are:

  1. “The absence of suspicion and resentment. Nursing a grudge was a major factor in unhappiness.
  2. Not living in the past. An unwholesome preoccupation with old mistakes and failures leads to depression.
  3. Not wasting time and energy fighting conditions you cannot change. Cooperate with life, instead of trying to run away from it.
  4. Force yourself to stay involved with the living world. Resist the temptation to withdraw and become reclusive during periods of emotional stress.
  5. Refuse to indulge in self-pity when life hands you a raw deal. Accept the fact that nobody gets through life without some sorrow and misfortune.
  6. Cultivate the old-fashioned virtues—love, humor, compassion and loyalty.
  7. Do not expect too much of yourself. When there is too wide a gap between self-expectation and your ability to meet the goals you have set, feelings of inadequacy are inevitable.
  8. Find something bigger than yourself to believe in. Self-centered egotistical people score lowest on any test for measuring happiness.”

That is a good summary with many biblical applications for our daily life.  Are you living with peace in your life, or is your heart and mind full of anxiety today?  Most of what we worry about will never happen anyway.  Many times, it is the stuff we hope to have or patterns of life we resort to that are contributing to the lack of peace we may experience.

 

 

Please read on the the conclusion of In Search of Contentment, PART 6…

The Value Vs. Cost of A Christian School Education

For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?  Luke 14:28

While you may not be building a tower, every parent is building a child!  The principle of counting the cost definitely applies to how we manage the upbringing and education of our children.  To the Christian parent with conviction for Christian education, there is no monetary value that they would place on a Christian school opportunity for their children. To them it is priceless.

The value of the Christian school far outweighs any monetary cost. The parent with conviction for Christian schooling will find any and every way possible to pay tuition, look for financial assistance, and even change money spending patterns – in order to put or keep their kids in the Christian school.

Everything worth something does cost.  It could cost time, money, energy, and most definitely – commitment.  Schooling always will cost something. Even if a government school education does not cost money, it does cost something.   Not everything is measured by dollars and cents.

So many are the benefits of a Christian school:

  • The reinforcement of Christian values the parents are currently teaching at home.
  • Math, science, literature, and history all taught from an absolute truth perspective.
  • Weekly chapels and daily bible classes to encourage spiritual growth and frame advanced spiritual formation in the heart and mind of the student.
  • A safe place to practice Christianity on a daily basis.
  • Not only is there the potential for spiritual formation, but also social formation. Students can practice their Christianity and relational skills in a formal setting.
  • An atmosphere that reduces, not totally eliminates, a worldly mindset. Kids are kids (still sinners) in any environment.
  • The areas of academic rigor, social interaction, and personal discipline each have high expectations for each student.
  • Teachers who value and love each student, taking the time necessary to engage them daily, pray with them, and encourage good academics while fostering a good attitude.
  • A curriculum developed from a non-secular Christian world view.

These benefits are either practical, philosophical, or spiritual.  None of these benefits are economical.   With benefits like this, you see why parents with a Christian school conviction value the school opportunity so much!  The economic cost is not much compared to the spiritual, social, and philosophical benefits.

It is simply worth it to them. Here are several areas a Christian school convicted parent may change in their life in order to be able to “afford” the Christian school.

  1. They may buy store brand items instead of brand name items.
  2. They may buy food in bulk instead of prepackaged individual servings.
  3. They may go without soda pop or other high-priced beverages. Some people even resort to being so health conscience and financially savvy, they only drink water.
  4. Some resort to buying what is on sale at the grocery store, even clipping coupons, or scanning receipts for refunds on an app.
  5. Some teach their older kids how to mow lawns and the students save up for school the previous summer. Other seasonal work can assist in this too.
  6. They sell high ticket items such as an extra car, boat, ATV, snowmobile, or camper.
  7. They may cut back on unnecessary things in life such as cable, Internet, newspaper / magazine subscriptions, or cell phone services.  Children and teens have no real need for big cell phone plans. Non-smart phones can cost as little as $10 a month and even then – that is a luxury.  One phone to share is sufficient and not only will cut spending but will also ensure morality and create accountability for their phone usage.
  8. They may take less trips. Less spontaneous trips to the store due to poor planning. Even 2-3 days less on some vacations (in some cases) could pay the entire year’s tuition for one student!

Cost Versus Value.  They do not always match.  Explore your options.  How much of a value is a Christian School Education as opposed to not having one?  What is the true cost?

Any other cost cutting ideas to help pay tuition for a Christian school education???

Please post them in the comments below.

In Search of Contentment, Pt. 4

Find the Strength of Jesus in You. (vs.13)

What an incredible statement: “I can do all things through Christ…” This well-known verse is many times taken out of context or stretched to imply things that it is not truly dealing with.

The doing of “all things” is not accomplished by your own power, intellect, ability, or willpower.  It is accomplished by the power of God.

Being content is a choice founded upon the strength of Jesus.  Many people are in search of contentment but may not even see that the underlying drive in their life is the need for contentment.  They may turn to a relationship in search of being content or satisfied.  They may turn to drugs, vaping, alcohol, pornography, or some other addiction in search of fulfillment.

What happens is the relationship, the addiction, or the perceived “need” then becomes a controlling factor in their life.  Instead of finding contentment, they find themselves enslaved to the “need” for more of their “medicine” or, in reality, poison.

Christianity Today, in their March 2019 magazine, featured the testimony of a former NFL player named Miles McPherson who played for the San Diego Chargers from 1982-1985.  As he tells his story, he had everything a person could want: a well-paying job, a dream come true to play professional sports, the high life of an elite few in the world, playing in the NFL.  But something was still missing in his life.

At a party with many veteran players, the men he looked up to as a child, he was offered drugs.  He said about that experience: “The cocaine that I consumed that night took me by the lapels and forced me into submission.  Soon enough I was completely under it’s control.”

Miles knew several Christians on the team, and they were vocal about their faith and about the power of Jesus to set people free from their sin and addictions.  One morning, after a day and night of drugs, no sleep, and a complete inability to say “no” of his own power to the drugs, he realized that it was Jesus Who had the power for the “no.”  That morning, in desperation he prayed to Jesus for salvation and asked God to deliver him from the power of the drugs.  And God did.

Something changed in him that day.  From that point on, he did not take any more cocaine or other drugs.  God changed him.  In the power of Jesus’ name, the addiction was gone.  Powerful story.

Instead of searching for contentment in drugs, relationships, the workplace, or some other aspect of life, it is possible to find contentment in Jesus.

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”  All things include contentment.  It includes the power to overcome addictions and to see life in a new “God Dimension.”   Instead of relying on your own power to be a winner, rely on the Lord Jesus.

The Apostle Paul had God’s power in his life to find contentment: in the court house, in the jail house, in a crowded ship, in a church, and in a home.  He found contentment when he was hungry and thirsty as well as when he was full and well-hydrated.  In poor health and in good health, he was happy in Jesus.  With no money or some money, he was content in the name of Jesus.

Ask the Lord for His power to help you find contentment in the midst of your present situation.  With His power, you can have the same life but see it in a whole new way.   God’s power can give a “God Dimension” to you.

 

Please read on to PART 5 of In Search of Contentment

 

 

 

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.