Contentment January 16, 2017

contentment

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 the Apostle Paul writes; “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Paul is encouraging the young church to be continually grateful for the blessings of God. Thanksgiving is not simply a weekend once a year, it is meant to be part of our lives on a daily basis as we see the hand of God at work for our daily provision.

Looking at another of Paul’s letters we read in Philippians 4:12;  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

This past Monday during our staff meeting we discussed the topic of contentment. I asked the staff to imagine their own scene of contentment. Most of the team responded with images of picturesque landscapes, warm sunshine and restful armchairs. This is the response and image most of us have when we imagine contentment.

But is it possible to be grateful and yet not content? The answer to that question is yes, we can be grateful for a gift from someone, but yet that gift does not completely fulfill a specific need that we might have. However, in our daily lives as Christians, we are challenged by Paul to be content in every situation. As we pray for God to give us our daily bread, not only do we need to live in gratitude but in order to be content we need to have faith. Faith that what God provides for us is perfect for us and that he will provide for us tomorrow as well.

In James chapter 1, James writes about perseverance under trials and persecutions, but before he concludes this section of the letter we read verse 17; “ Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

James reminds his readers that in the midst of challenging and life threatening situations, we can be content because our Heavenly Father will take care of us.

What are you grateful for today? As we think about the many things and people we are grateful for, we must remember that there is only one thing that we will be eternally grateful for and that is our salvation because of the Gospel message. Everything else is temporary, all our personal possessions are secondary and are fleeting in their joy. In our current situation, we may not have all we want, but in Christ we have exactly what we need.

We develop contentment as we relinquish control of our lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

So, what is contentment? Is it sitting overlooking a beautiful valley, drinking a cup of tea, in the comfort of a rocking chair? Even though this is a good image of contentment, it has one flaw. Contentment is not passive, contentment is engaged in life and actively moving forward in God’s will and plan for our lives.  Contentment is walking in faith, knowing that all of our tomorrow’s are already in His mighty hand.

Thank God daily, and ask him to cultivate your contentment. Remember what Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:6; “But godliness with contentment is great gain. “

The Power of Forgiveness.

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While Jesus was teaching in Matthew 18, Peter came to Jesus and asked him the following question; “…Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Jesus went on to tell the parable of the unmerciful servant in verses 23 to 34. We sometimes read only as far as verse 34 and neglect to read what Jesus said in verse 35; ““This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” What a remarkable cautionary word from Jesus. We have been forgiven so much because of what Jesus did for us on the cross and yet we are often reluctant to forgive those who wrong us.

But not only are we told to forgive each other, Jesus said that we must forgive from the heart. Our forgiveness must be complete which includes letting go of the offense. The offense of sin hurts, and sometimes the scars run deep, but when someone sins against us, we are called to forgive.

Boyd Bailey puts it this way; “When their sin assaults your character, you are to forgive them. When

their sin berates your work, you are to forgive them. When their sin violates your trust, you are to forgive them. When their sin steals your joy, you are to forgive them. When someone’s sin crushes your dreams, you are to forgive them. When their sin steals from you, you are to forgive them. This level of

forgiveness is counterintuitive and countercultural, but it is the way of Christ. Forgiveness is God’s game plan. You will lose if you don’t forgive. Un-forgiveness is torturous to the soul. It is unhealthy for the

body and emotions. Un-forgiveness fills prescriptions and leaves hollow lives in its wake.”

Forgiveness is a precious gift that only has value when you give it away. Forgiveness that is not granted is un-forgiveness, and it will become a festering wound in your heart.

Most of us have had the experience of being hurt or offended by someone who has no idea that they have wronged us, perhaps they were unthinking, perhaps they were uncaring. We lie awake at night with thoughts running through our mind of an imaginary conflict that we will have when we confront them. We are the ones suffering while the other person is probably sleeping soundly. By choosing to forgive, we set ourselves free. We are to forgive those who do not even ask for forgiveness. We are called to forgive those who intentionally hurt us and offend us.

Jesus teaching on prayer and faith said this; “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25. Our standing before God, is tied to our forgiveness of others. A Christian who has accepted God’s forgiveness is expected to forgive others just as God has forgiven us. If we don’t forgive others, we forfeit God’s forgiveness in our daily lives.

Let us be a people who forgive often and forgive quickly. As a result we will experience peace and freedom in our own lives.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32.

The Armor of God June 15, 2016

EGITTO_(F)_0818_-_Leggi_antiterrorismoEven a brief glance at the evening news or the front page of a newspaper and one is drawn to fear and uncertainty. The world seems to be spiraling out of control and evil is on the rise.

The recent terrorist attack in Orlando is another example of the ruthless enemy that the world is facing. Paris, Brussels, Istanbul, Nairobi… the list goes on of cities that have experienced the horrors of a different kind of war in their streets and public places. It seems that the leaders of the nations are struggling to know how to respond each time another suicide mission is launched. Our own country is embroiled in a bitter presidential campaign that seems to leave the wellbeing man in the street out of the discussion. Uncertainty is everywhere, and it is true to say that we have never experienced days like these before.

King David had uncertain days, his own family turned against him and yet he trusted in the strong arm of the Lord, look at what he wrote in Psalm 62;

5Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.

As Christians we know that God is working out all of history for the Day of the Lord, when Jesus will come again in victory as the mighty warrior King. Until that time we must hold fast, trusting the Lord and not giving in to fear and uncertainty. Just like Peter as he walked on the water, we will sink if we take our eyes of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul writing to the Ephesian church reminds us that the struggle we endure is not against flesh and blood but rather there is a darker and more sinister evil at work. Ephesians 6:10-12; “10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

If you don’t know Jesus as your personal Lord and savior, you cannot put on the armor of God, you will be exposed and subject to all the forces of the evil one. But as Christians, we can “suit up” in prayer, being ready for what lies ahead, moving forward in faith rather than fear.

As a church we have the Gospel, the Good News, the only news that is able to save. This is the news that the world around us desperately needs and people are looking for as they see the evil all around. We must boldly proclaim the Gospel, counting the cost, but unashamedly fulfilling the calling that God has for us as a church.

The Summer of Missions is not simply a nice cliché or a fun activity to keep our young people busy, it is a rescue mission.

The Sanctity of Human Life.

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A few weeks ago many churches around the country remembered the Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. This tradition started On January 13, 1984 when President Ronald Reagan issued a proclamation designating January 22 as the first National Sanctity of Human Life Day. On this day we remember the tragedy that took place on January 22, 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion-on-demand in all 50 states. Churches around the United States use the day to celebrate God’s gift of life, commemorate the many lives lost to abortion, and commit themselves to protecting human life at every stage. While the number of legal abortions per year has declined steadily over the last twenty years, there were still 977,000 legal abortions in the USA in 2014 according to the Guttmacher Institute (AGI)

In recent months the media has been exposing some of the horrendous practices of the abortion industry, and the selling of human body parts for profit. Although this is shocking and unthinkable to most people, it is the logical destination of the path that our nation is on once abortion was legalized. The good news out of this is that it has turned the spotlight on the horrors of abortion and the popular opinion is changing. The focus of the mainstream media has always been on the inconvenience that an unwanted pregnancy causes for the mother, whereas now we are seeing more and more people beginning to talk about the innocent lives that are being slaughtered and then traded to the highest bidder.

But the one key fact that is neglected in the discussion is the potential of the human person that has been killed. From the moment of conception a human person begins to live, that life is an eternal being and has unlimited potential. Potential to bring joy to a family, Potential to change the course of nations, potential to fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus.

With all the discussion surrounding abortion focusing on the temporal, let us remember what the Bible says about human beings. The Bible is clear that every human is created in the image of God, (Genesis 1:26) and that all life is precious in the Lord’s design. The Psalmist writes in Psalm 127:3; “Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him.” David also wrote in Psalm 139:16; “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Let us continue to pray and fight for the unborn, speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves, praying that God would intervene and raise up leaders in our nation with the courage to stand against this scourge of our generation.