Monday, October 31, 2011

What do we do with Halloween?

I'll admit, I don't like Halloween.

It's not that I am against dressing up, gathering with friends, or even eating candy for that matter. I've just never "done" Halloween. When we were growing up, my dad would tell us that Halloween was "Satan's birthday" - and honestly, that was enough explanation for us. Although we dressed up for our class parties at school, that was it. And to be honest, I don't ever remember feeling left out or like part of my childhood was being denied me.

During my high school youth group days, we watched a video on the pagan roots of Halloween and how many of some of those practices continue today. I wish I could remember the name of the video, but alas, my memory fails me. You can check out this website for some of that background, as well as some of the current practices that still happen among Satanists and witchcraft followers today: I recognize that many of the sources quoted by this pastor are other Christian resources; and it doesn't seem like the non-Christian world has much to say regarding the current "occult practices".

Regardless, I can't deny that Halloween started primarily as a pagan holiday. As I write this, I'm listening to the Bismarck radio station and the DJ is commenting on creepy, mysterious, explainable things that happen on Halloween in various North Dakota locations. And I do believe that Satan and his demons are indeed real.

So when I read this verse in 1 Thessalonians, I struggle with what to do about Halloween:
"Abstain from every form [or appearance] of evil" - 1 Thessalonians 5:22 
Should we as believers have absolutely nothing to do with Halloween because of its roots? Is that what Paul is calling us to in that verse? Or is there a way that we can redeem Halloween - say, for example, by passing out gospel tracts or wordless book bracelets to trick-or-treaters?  I've heard that some of Christmas traditions have their roots in pagan things as well - so do we abandon those practices too? Is this another way that we can fulfill the exhortation: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. . ." (Romans 12:2)

Honestly, I don't know what to do about Halloween. Do I lean to one extreme and have nothing to do with it - and is that Biblical? Or do I use this opportunity to reach a group of people I might not usually encounter and have the chance to introduce to Jesus? I pray for the Lord's leading, guidance and wisdom: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him." (James 1:5)

What do you think? What do we do with Halloween?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Call Me Martha

Sometimes, I just feel like a Martha. Do you ever get that way? No, I'm not talking about Martha Stewart. I'm talking about Mary and Martha from Luke 10. Let's take a look!

"Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:38-42 ESV

When I was younger, I used to think that Jesus was being a little rude here. After all, Martha just wanted to serve her Master, and there can't be anything wrong in that, right? She was just showing her love in a different manner than Mary was. However, in taking a closer look at the text, I find it's more of a matter of the heart here. Martha wanted to serve-- to feel like she was doing something for the Lord. Meanwhile, her sister Mary sat in awe of her Lord.

Clarification-- there is nothing wrong with serving. In fact, we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, which in turn means that we would serve. I am by no means trying to imply that we don't need to serve. James 1 says, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." But sometimes, and I'm speaking to myself here, we get so busy serving that we forget to take time to sit in awe and just listen to Jesus. To spend time with Him.

Jesus desires such an intimate relationship with us, not of a servant/master, but as a friend. "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you." (John 15:15)

But isn't it easier to serve? To feel like you're doing something in return for all that He's done for us? It's in our human nature-- everything in this world has a price, so we tend to feel guilty when we receive a gift if we don't have one to present in return. But God doesn't work that way. He doesn't require our good works, our service-- no matter how charitable, godly, or whatever else you want to justify it with-- it is. He just wants us to come, to sit at His feet, and be in awe.

In the midst of all the crazy, busyness of life, in all the different ways that we serve each week (Sunday school, praise team, kids club, youth group, volunteering, the list could go on for quite a while!) remember one thing: God longs to spend time with you. He wants that close, intimate relationship. When was the last time you just sat at the feet of Jesus and listened?

This week, I challenge you to stop. To stop trying to give so much, stop trying to pour yourself out into everyone else. Just breathe, and listen to God. Stand in awe of God.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Incredible Worry - Incredible Peace

Worry. It's one of those things that perpetually plague believers. Whether it be finances, health issues, looming exams or travel conditions - we worry. Well, at least I know I do. And I sure wish I didn't.

This afternoon, I was quickly consumed with worry. Panic took over my heart. Shortly afterwards, I turned to the Lord in prayer. As I cut my apple, folded clothes and prepared for work, I prayed. During my 14 mile drive to work, I prayed. On Highway 200, the Lord reminded me of a verse I had read just this weekend:
"'Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.' The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold." - Psalm 46:10-11
And as I drove an incredible peace flooded my worried heart. All of a sudden, instead of an anxious heart, the Lord gave me a heart filled with a peace that passes understanding.

I was reminded that the LORD is in control of my every circumstance. The fear of my heart is near to His. During my times of panic, worry and fear, the LORD is not just near - He is with me. He gives me strength and peace. And no matter what happens, He is in control - He will be exalted.

I pray that you too will find comfort in these great promises of the LORD. Don't let fear and worry grip your heart when you have the God of the universe ready to take that worry upon Himself and give you incredible peace.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lift Your Voice!

Have you heard the song "The Days of Elijah" before? I'm assuming this is a resounding yes all across the board-- most people have. But in case you're in the sad minority that hasn't, I'll give you the chorus:

"Behold He comes, riding on the clouds, shining like the stars, at the trumpets call! Lift your voice, it's the year of Jubilee, out of Zion's hill Salvation comes"

I have sang this song for years, and never really thought twice about what "jubilee" means. However, in my class with Pastor Haugen (yes, I adore Haugen and quote from him multiple times a day) this week we have been learning about the Year of Jubilee. Let me begin with Luke 4:18-19

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (emphasis added)

Verse 18 is full of wonderful promises-- that He came for the poor (in spirit, the lowly of heart, those who know they're in need of a Savior--Matthew 5:3), those held captive to sin, blind to the true light. He came for freedom! Then verse 19 comes-- whoa! "To proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." According to Pastor Haugen, this is referring to the Year of Jubilee! Now, onto the meat of this post.

The Year of Jubilee was the 50th year (after seven years of seven...49...50!) for the Israelites. At this time they were required to release their slaves, forgive debts, and return inheritances. It was a year of celebrating, a year of freedom, a year of liberty-- which is what the word "jubilee" actually means.

So, in thinking of this, now jump back to Luke with me. It said that Christ came to "proclaim the year of the Lord's favor". In His life, death, and resurrection Christ fulfilled the year of Jubilee. Did you catch that? Do you understand what that means for you and me? The New Testament describes us as slaves to sin, in bondage to our sin, or something to that effect. For example:

"Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness."
--Romans 6:16-18

We were slaves. But through Christ's atoning sacrifice, He has brought to us the Year of Jubilee. He has brought us freedom. We are no longer slaves!

Friends, no matter where you are, no matter what you're struggling with at the moment, you are free. Christ has set you free, all you have to do is gladly receive that free gift. How foolish would it have been for a slave to come to the year of Jubilee and say, "Ehh, no thanks." or "Hmm, maybe I'll wait until the next time". They wouldn't do that! Would you? Are you?

Lift your voice, it's the year of jubilee, out of Zion's hill salvation comes!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Contentment - Part Three

Part 3: Thankfulness
Contentment cannot come without a grateful spirit. 
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."
1 Timothy 6:6-10 "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."
1 Thessalonians 5:18 "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."
Lately I have really been struck with how much I have. A year and a half ago when I moved I consolidated my belongings down to a car load and a car lop carrier. It's amazing how many things I was able to determine I did not "need" when I couldn't take them with me. Contentment is never about having what we want, but rather being grateful with what we have. Even when at times we may have nothing. 
Hebrews 13:5 speaks to this, "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
Of all the things we have in this life we have the most important thing, Christ. 

Thankfulness is key to learning contentment.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Moments of Quiet and Boredom

Do you ever feel boring? Like nothing exciting ever happens to you? 

I remember a conversation I had with my good friend Rachel a few months after the two of us had been married. We commented on how, when you're engaged - you're exciting. Everyone - even those obscure relatives of your mom's you who've never actually talked to before let alone met - want to know how you are doing, how the wedding planning is going, and what plans are post-wedding day. And then, suddenly, after the wedding, it's like you fall off the face of the planet. No more wedding planning = no more excitement.

Until you have a baby. Or spend the summer in Africa on a missions trip. Or spend a semester studying overseas. Or graduate from college. Or something exciting.

But, what about those of us who nothing exciting never happens to? Those of us who move to western North Dakota, where the most exciting things seem to happen to those in the oil industry? Sometimes, it can be disheartening when nothing exciting happens. But this week, as I was listening to Adventures in Odyssey, I was struck by this truth spoken to a similarly discouraged Connie Kendall by the wise Jack Allen:
"Life moves in rhythms and cycles and we all go through periods when it seems like nothing is happening. But things are happening - all the time. We just have to stay in tune enough to see what they are, how they fit together. So even in times of quiet and boredom, God's handiwork is shown to us. That's the real adventure - learning to look and listen to our lives so we'll understand what God is doing." 
As believers in Jesus and servants for His kingdom, our lives are exciting! I think we sometimes just get caught up in the big things, like doing ministry in Africa or Haiti rather than in rural North Dakota. Each day, as we spend time with the Lord in His Word and in prayer, He is teaching us. He is molding us after His image. The change comes slowly, but it comes if we're willing to let Him work. I think our feelings of boring-ness come when we make our walk with the Lord about us rather than about Him. We have been created to do things for Him, not Him for us (Ephesians 2:10).

Next time you feel boring and like nothing exciting ever happens to you, take a step back. See how the Lord is using you in your unique place and position. Maybe it's showing love to the unlovable, or spending time at a homeless shelter, or telling your co-workers about the wondrous love of Jesus. We also need to examine what He has been teaching us in His Word and how He is using those lessons to make us more like Jesus. In those times of quiet and boredom, remember to look for God's handiwork in your life.And always, no matter what: 
"Seek the LORD and His strength; seek His face continually." - 1 Chronicles 16:11
(The quote from Adventures in Odyssey came from album 26: Back on the Air; episode entitled "Love is in the Air". Check out the entire adventure at

Saturday, October 15, 2011


“Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, but who can find a trustworthy man?” Proverbs 20:6

A friend made the following statement on Facebook this week: “On flakiness--If I commit to you and then bail, my word can't be trusted. If I say, "Yes, I'll be there," and then don't show, what does that say about your value to me?
I think it says you're a commodity meant for my entertainment, not a valuable human being. When something more entertaining comes along, I toss you aside.”

The 16-comment thread that ensued was interesting to follow. The conversation spoke to personal selfishness the Spirit recently revealed to me (through an honest friend). I have difficulty committing. It’s so much easier (and self-serving) to offer a fluid “I’ll see” reply to invitations. When really, the only valid excuse for my vacillating is to stay open in case a better offer comes along. My focus is on self and personal pleasure rather than valuing a friend. Ouch.

Last night, a friend who mentioned he’d been offered Texas Ranger tickets for tonight’s game, but he wasn’t going because of a prior commitment to attend a party with a friend. I was shocked. My attempts to dissuade him from the party only left me embarrassed. His noble response seemed more like something from Pride and Prejudice than a modern-day man. He corrected me, “I value my friend and my commitment to her. I don’t feel like it would be right to go back on my word because I received a more attractive offer.”

The truth is, When you dishonor agreements, vows or promises in order to gain some advantage, you become the real loser, because whatever may have been gained will never replace your lost integrity.”(1)

I wonder, if I treat my friends this way, am I also flaky in my relationship with God? Do I bail on spending time with Him when something more attractive arises? Do I frequently reschedule our ‘dates’? Am I even wishy-washy in setting a specific quiet time because I’m afraid my commitment might get in the way? Do my decisions speak of a self-serving, or Christ-loving devotion to God?

Convicted, I’ve asked several friends to keep me accountable to making/keeping commitments. May the Lord help each of us become trustworthy, men and women of integrity in both our relationships with God and others.

Crown Financial Ministries, Keeping One’s Word

Thursday, October 13, 2011

To Be Bought Back, Forever.

"But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God." -- Hebrews 9:11-14

I wish I had time to do an intensive study on this passage, as it is one of my favorites at the moment. But alas, the internet shuts down shortly here at the good ol' Bible School.

This portion of Scripture was displayed on the screen at a Vespers service I attended on Sunday night, and the words "eternal redemption" caught my attention. First, let me describe the situation for you:

As most of you know, in the Old Testament days, priests would offer an animal sacrifice for the atonement of the sins of the people. The high priest (there was only one until his death) would enter the holy place and burn incense. This was a big deal, and it could only be done by a priest. (Take a look at what happened to King Uzziah when he tried to get smart! (2 Chronicles 26) The blood of "goats and bulls" was used as a symbol of the need for sacrifice, but ultimately the blood of such animals meant nothing. It was by looking forward to the Cross that the men and women received forgiveness.

Fast forward a few hundred years, and we find Christ on a tree. It was this act of sacrifice that provides atonement for sins: past, present, and FUTURE. It is here and here alone that we find forgiveness.

Now onto the two words that I wanted to stress. The Greek words that are used here are "aionios" (eternal--agelong, everlasting) and "lutrosis" (redemption-- liberation, deliverance, the ransom price).

Does this mean anything to you? Are you grasping what this is really saying? In the OT times, the word "lutrosis" would be used to the ransom used for an imprisonment or debt. When this word is used for us, it describes the imprisonment to sin and debt to the Law that we have on our record. However, Christ has paid the ransom-- He has redeemed us! There's nothing we can do, nothing we have to do! And "aionios", meaning forever, signifies that once we have been bought, that price does not need to be paid again. We are eternally (something our mind cannot understand-- shall we say forever?) His. He has bought us out of our imprisonment and debt, and He longs for us to live with Him in that freedom.

What an encouragement to my soul tonight. As I think of the sin in my life, sometimes it's easy to think that I need to be redeemed again, to own up for my own sin somehow. However, that price was paid in full at the Cross. All I have to do is rest in the assurance that I was forgiven there, on that tree, over 2000 years ago. It was there that the veil was torn between the Holy Places and Holy of Holies. It was there that my Savior's blood was shed, much better than that of goats and bulls. It was there that I was forgiven. And it's here, now, that I stand righteous (the declaration of holiness, not something that I can earn).

I pray this is your testimony as well!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Contentment - Part Two

Part Two: Perseverance (and Endurance)

2 Timothy 2:7-10 "Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this. Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory."

A) Suffering: Paul endured seriously tough times, but he recognized that contentment is not the product of ease. He endured being chained not because he liked it, not because it made him happy, not because it was what he wanted, but because it pointed others to salvation.

James 1:12 "Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him."

B) Under Trial: Paul saw the end goal. He saw what perseverance leads to. Paul always had an eternal perspective in his ministry. Knowing that what he worked for here on earth led to the crown of life and eternity with Christ in heaven allowed him contentment especially in times of trial.

Romans 5:3-8. "And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

3) In our Tribulations: As Paul faced multiple tribulations in his life he recognized that perseverance refines us and shapes our character. Yet again with the purpose to point out the Gospel of God's love for us and Christ's sacrificial death for us.

Suffering, Trial and Tribulations bring us perseverance. That perseverance is key to learning contentment.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Psalm 22

I think one of the things I like best about the book of Psalm is that it's so real. It's isn't a collection of "happy go lucky" songs that seem to deny the realities of life. The psalmists, as they composed their songs, were emptying out the cries of their heart before the Lord. They told Him of the struggles they were facing. They asked Him where He was in the midst of their suffering. And they praised Him.

I have been struck with this truth as I've started reading through the Psalms again this past week. But it hit me especially hard this morning as I ate my Honey Nut Cheerios and read these words:

"My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning. O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; and by night, but I have no rest.
Yet, You are holy, O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel. In You our fathers trusted; they trusted and You delivered them. To You they cried out and were delivered; in You they trusted and were not disappointed." (Psalm 22:1-5, emphasis added)
If you feel as though the Lord is far from you; that the cries you are offering up to Him aren't being heard; if you fear that His deliverance won't reach in time . . . Remember. Remember who God is: Yahweh - I AM. The One who carried our sorrows and bore our griefs. The One who experienced every temptation that you face and endured. The One who does indeed hear your cries and does indeed answer in His time.

Remember. Remember the countless times that the Lord has shown you His faithfulness in times past. Remember the countless times that the Lord has shown His faithfulness to your family members, your friends. Remember that He is Holy and completely in control.

And in the shadow of His wings, take refuge.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Falling in Love with Fall

I've been getting into a routine lately.

Twice a week, I look at the world before the sun has that chance. In my groggy, lethargic preparations for the day, I read a chapter in Psalms.

As the coffee hits my lips, the word of God welcomes me to the new day. The writings of the psalmist set the tone in my head and my heart as I walk through life with the Lord by my side. More often than not, I am reminded that my Savior is with me; He hears my cries; and He is my refuge in times of trouble.

Sometimes I am intrigued by the explanation of creation and as I drive East, I see my Creator's face coming over the horizon. With the colors of fall in full force here in Minnesota, the daylight brings with it a special brilliance only seen for a few weeks each year. This time of transition makes me think of the change that God is continuously wanting to work in my life. 

Each day brings with it new sights to see, new people to meet, and new life to live.

How will God be making you someone new today?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Redemptive Distress

I recently ran across sermon notes I'd jotted on the back of a bulletin during a Lent service this year. Rereading the thoughts challenged and encouraged me. May you find similar strengthening in these truths.
  • Jonah's distress was the fruit of his disobedience--but God mercifully redeemed his life and gave him a second change. If sin in the cause of your distress/burden--confess.
  • Jonah recognized it was ultimately God who threw him in the water (not the men who actually did it.) God purpose for adversity is never simply to "punish," but for redemptive purposes. Trust Him.
  • Jonah has the boldness to ask, the very One who caused his punishment, for deliverance. God graciously rescues Jonah for redemptive purposes. Petition the Lord.
  • Jonah's salvation (redemption) came through a whale--ours comes through the cross. Look to Christ.
  • Salvation belongs to the Lord--it is His to do with as He wills and it is His delight to give it to us. Thank the Lord for His salvation.
Adapted from notes taken during a sermon heard at Our Redeemer, Dallas, TX

Friday, October 7, 2011

be lovable

I took a pill the other day that said "Be lovable." Well, not literally. At one of my bridal showers, the ladies each wrote marital advice on a piece of paper and rolled it up so it looked like a pill and put it in a prescription bottle. The advice to "be lovable" was intended to be directed towards my husband, but God didn't want me to only apply it to him.

The Bible tells us in several places to love each other, to put others before ourselves, to live selfless lives. Though we hear it continually, it is something that we as Christians continue to struggle with. I know lately God has been trying to teach me about loving others, and sacrificing my wants and preferences to put others before myself. It is a process.

But by the advice the other morning, God turned my thoughts from these commands to the other side. God commands us to love others and sometimes it is hard because people aren't very lovable, or we are just being stubborn. But my thoughts were turned to, "Am I, in loving others, allowing myself to be lovable?"

Lovable defined is of such nature to attract love. God continued to question "in your struggles with loving others, are you being lovable as part of your attempts to love them?" We can try to love people, but when we make life miserable for them in our unloveliness, is that really love?

The challenge that God has placed on my heart for this next week is as I continue to learn to love others, is to be intentional about making it easier for others to love me as much as possible by being lovable. Maybe that is something we all need to focus on as Christians as we, by God's grace, love others.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Never Once

Have you ever felt alone? That's a silly question; I think everyone would answer with an absolute "yes". This song by Matt Redman (click on the title of this post!) has been such a powerful reminder to me this week that God is always with me. Even when I feel utterly alone, God is with me.

In my class with Pastor Haugen at the Bible School, we were talking about the description in Luke 2 of the birth of Christ. Pastor Haugen spoke of how the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to write of this account in such a simple tone, basically stating that it happened. Pastor Haugen said, "We like fireworks. We would prefer parades with pomp and blare bands playing. But God often comes to us in a whisper, in the quietness of our hearts."

God doesn't always make His presence known in our lives, but He is always with us. If you're like me, you'd rather have Him physically here, guiding each step that I take. However, that's where faith comes in. Over and over again in Scripture, we're given the promise that God will never leave us.

"Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you." --Deuteronomy 31:6

One of my favorite passages about God's faithfulness in keeping His presence with us comes from Joshua 1:5. In this chapter, God is commissioning Joshua to lead His people after Moses has now died. Can you imagine the fear Joshua must have felt? Moses saw the Lord-- in the burning bush and also on the mountain. God was with Moses every step of the way, even when Israel's faith was lacking. Would He continue to lead Israel now that Moses was gone? God makes such a beautiful promise to Joshua here, and I think it is a sweet truth to take with us even this day, "Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you."

Know that wherever you are, on the mountain top or the battle ground, God is with you. You will never be alone, because God is faithful.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Contentment - Part One

Am I content? Am I content with where I am? Am I content with what I have? There are two areas for us to find contentment in. The first area is finding contentment in where in life we are. The second area is finding contentment with the things we have.

We should be content, but how do we arrive at contentment? Paul in Philippians 4:11 says, "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances."

Contentment is learned.
How is it learned? 

Part One: Joy.
Contentment is found in having joy in all circumstances.
Philippians1:18-20 "But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death."
Paul's purpose was to preach Christ and that surpassed everything else in his life. That brought him joy. Joyful contentment.
Philipians 4:4-7 "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Paul recognized the importance of rejoicing and giving thanks no matter the circumstance (situation).

I've always loved these verses in James 1:2-4 that say "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

Sometimes the place we find ourselves in is great and sometimes it's tough. We know it's easy to be positive when things are going well. The above verses encourage us to rejoice in all things whatever our circumstance may be. In all things we have the Joy of the Lord to abide in and exhibit as we face all of the different circumstances, situations and trials we will face in this life. That joy is key to learning contentment.

Tune back in next Wednesday for Part Two.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Lessons from Amos

My novel of choice over the past several weeks has been a collection of novellas by Francine Rivers entitled Sons of Encouragement. Rivers recounts the stories of five Biblical men who stood firm in the LORD despite the risks: Aaron, Caleb, Jonathan, Amos, and Silas. This weekend, I finished the story of Amos – a shepherd whom the LORD called from his simple contented life in Judah to bring a message of destruction to the nation of Israel.

Amos first brings to Israel a message of destruction to their neighboring nations: Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, and Moab (Amos 1-2:3). With this message, I am sure the people rejoiced! Miley Cyrus would probably have made a song about a “Party in Is-ra-el!” However, the Israelites rejoicing would soon turn to scoffing and contempt as Amos brings the message of destruction and God’s justice to Judah and to Israel (Amos 2:4-16). They overlooked the rampant sins of their own while condemning those of their neighbors. Though they longed for the day of the LORD, they did not understand that they, too, had greatly sinned in God’s sight.

“'Alas, you who are longing for the day of the LORD, for what purpose will the day of the LORD be for you? It will be darkness and not light; as when a man flees from a lion and a bear meets him, or goes home, leans his hand against the wall and a snake bites him. Will not the day of the LORD be darkness instead of light, even gloom with no brightness in it?

‘I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; and I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.’” (Amos 5:18-24)

I want Jesus’ return to come quickly. I might not be so ready for the LORD to judge the people as the Israelites were, but I am ready for Him to put Satan in his final place, to have the final victory. But as I read the story of Amos and reviewed some of the prophecies the LORD spoke through him, I couldn’t help but wonder: Sarah, where is your heart? What sin of yours are you overlooking as you look into the sins of the world? Are you blaming the world more for its current state of sinfulness more than yourself?

May the prayer of my heart and the action of my life always be: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me . . . Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:10-12)

Saturday, October 1, 2011


“Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” (emphasis added) I Peter 4:19

6:00 am—Lyndi was already dressed and in the kitchen scooping hot, sticky oatmeal into bowls. Her face told of another pain-filled, sleepless night. A wee whine from the back of the house cried out something unintelligible, something about shoes. Dependent on crutches, Lyndi hobbled toward the voice. Unaccustomed to such early morning energy, I rubbed my sleepy eyes. Lyndi’s mother took over in the kitchen and rounded up the three superheroes from outside. Every school morning Lyndi’s mom drives the short, dark miles between their houses to help dress four young children and drive them to school.

3:00 pm—Grocery filled arms, I close the door with my foot. Paper sacks tearing under the weight of milk, eggs, fruit, and bread. A plastic sack dangles off my pinkie: pink ballet shoes and leotards. The noise in the house is louder than usual. Lyndi brought home two Korean children, giving their young parents time to grapple with that day’s news of a tumor and liver cancer.

5:00 pm—Flour dusted counters, batter filled bowls, sizzling griddle, preheating oven, and empty foil pans waiting to be filled. Banana bread, protein pancakes, breakfast muffins, and chicken casserole. My week with Lyndi was soon ending; freezer meals would be an ongoing support.

6:00 pm—The doorbell rings. Lyndi painstakingly makes her way over. She smiles at a Korean woman, cheeks glistening with fresh tears. Before allowing her to pick up her children, Lyndi ushers this new friend to her room—an intimate gesture of friendship. Barely able to communicate the same language, Lyndi assures the woman they are now family and will walk through this cancer battle together. They pray—the Holy Spirit speaks every language.

The front door once again opens. Lyndi’s mother enters, bearing a Crock Pot of pot-roast and vegetables. I wipe my hands on my apron and stack pancakes on a plate to send home with the Korean family. Young black hands, eager to help, add one to the stack and one in the mouth.

Suddenly, like a flash of lightening, the beauty of this moment strikes me. I look around at faces—two blonde children, chocolate-skinned adopted twins, two sharp-eyed Korean children and a weeping mother, my friend on crutches, her widowed mother, me from 350 miles away and brokenhearted.

My vision clouds with tears. My spirit is overcome with emotions. Service. The outpouring of love amidst pain. This is Christ, at work, in and through His bride. I can feel, see, hear, and touch His presence. I am paralyzed.

Joseph, even in prison, faithfully served guards and fellow inmates. Moses, weary and exhausted from journey, continued to lead God’s people in the desert. The poor widow and her son gave of their last resources in hospitality to God’s servant Elijah. David continued to play harp for his king, though Saul sought his life. Paul, despite his ‘thorn in the flesh,’ continued to tirelessly serve the church. The apostles, though threatened with persecution and death, continued to spread the gospel. We could go on with Biblical examples of service in the face of suffering, couldn’t we?

"Love suffers long and is kind." I Cor. 13

Somehow, in my serving that week, I’d quite forgotten about the cracks in my own heart. Instead of dwelling on my own pain, I was thinking of how I could lift Lyndi’s. That heavy burden, which seemed unbearable last week, lost its weight. My circumstances didn’t change, but my vision had. It’s a mystery. A beautiful mystery.

Do you find yourself in pain today? Physical, spiritual, or emotional pain? Reach out. Pour into others. Serve. Love. "Let those who suffer... [do good]." I Peter. 4:19