Today the message in my church had a great deal to say about being content. The Bible advises Christians to be thankful in all circumstances. To me that is one way of saying be content. For those who claim to be followers of Christ, being content and thankful cannot be avoided in all honesty. Having had the penalty for our sins paid for by the sacrificial blood of Jesus as an expression of His love should bring life to the concept of thankfulness and contentment. He has given us something that cannot be equated. If we have a loving relationship with Him, grumbling for more worldly things goes out of the picture. Nothing should mean more to us than His love. Jesus promised that if we would seek His kingdom and His righteousness he would provide everything else that we need. Need, not want! Unfortunately, getting older makes one think more along these lines. I can testify to that. I’ve got more clothes in my closet than I’ll ever wear in the few remaining years (or days) of my life. That is just one example. I confess that I am guilty of thinking how good it would be if I could just have this or that thing–things that I don’t need. I’m supposed to be reflecting the light of Christ in a dark world, not wanting more of this and that. When non-believers observe Christ followers they should see people who are thankful for the blessings that God had poured on them, people who are content with their lives, dependent on God, not on the stuff at the Mall. In addition to that, a lack of content can bring trouble. For example, getting into debt. I’ve been there and done that. Looking back, I know it didn’t make my life any better. Be thankful; be content. I would be more content if I could sell more copies of the book I wrote (more money), but if someone is helped by what I wrote, I am more than satisfied and very thankful.
Yesterday I heard something that really struck me as being the key to the Christian life. It not only confirms the truth, but challenges us to live as Jesus said. We were created in God’s image and lost it, but God’s desire is to restore us to that position.
A little girl went to Sunday school. The teacher taught that God is bigger than we are. After Sunday school was over she went to the church service with her parents. Included in the pastor’s teaching was the statement that God lives in us. The little girl was confused and when they got home she asked her mother how God can be bigger than we are and at the same time live in us. Before her mother could answer her she said, “If God lives in us and is bigger than we are, then people should see Him.” How much more is there to say?
My father was a farmer. It was what he grew up wanting to be and what he did all his life. He produced good crops through hard work and wise methods. Two things come to mind when I think about him. They can be considered as humorous but they were also serious. Crop rows had to be straight, and he hated weeds, especially Morning Glories. This was back in the days when weeds were hoed by hand, but he had a device that directed a poisonous chemical to the roots of the Morning glories, but they they always came back. I inherited his hatred for Morning Glories. They are everywhere and, amazingly, are just ignored by many. They have beautiful flower blossoms, but they take over where they grow. Pulling the weed or cutting it off only encourages it to grow up again–fast. Spraying them works, but they come up again because of seeds stored in the soil. It it said that the seeds can take up to fifty years to get into action, so there’s never an end to the fight. The same goes with sin, especially pride. It sneaks in so subtly that we don’t realize it’s there until it takes over. Like with Morning Glories, we need to be on the watch and ready to fight back. Morning Glories creep up the stems and branches of other plants, winding around them and squeezing the life of them, so to speak. Pride does the same. It squeezes the life of Christ out of us. Paul said in Philippians 2:5-8 that we need to be like Jesus, living a life of humility. It takes desire and determination. Pride hides like the seeds of the Morning Glory, ready to pop out at any time, especially when we least expect it. I’m glad my dad left me with that thought. It’s a never ending fight, but we can win. 2,4D and Roundup will take care of the weed, but we need the power of the Holy Spirit to fight our battle. We can win.
As time goes by we hear or read about how certain things we eat or that compose a part of what we eat affect our health. One example is coffee. There have been times when we are told that coffee is not good for us. Then we are told that nutritionists have found that it is good for us. The latest is sugar. I have read that sugar is the major cause of cancer. It certainly is a problem for diabetics, of which I am one. I have to be very careful to limit carbohydrates, including sugar, to prevent all the horrible results of diabetes. Another problem is salt. I could go on and on. Too much is bad stuff.
On the other hand, there are two things–not food–that cause serious physical problems: a lack of forgiveness and a lack of thankfulness. Books have been written describing how physical illnesses are very often caused by emotion, worry, fear, etc. If you are a believer in what the Bible has to say about these two issues, you will agree. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances.” Why? Because it is God’s will. One reason is that in spite of the fact that we live in a dark and evil world God is at work. Today the culture calls evil good and good evil, but the Bible says that God takes evil and uses it for good. We don’t always know why or how, but if we know God at all, we know it’s true. He took the evil desire of the Jewish leaders to be rid of Jesus and used it to complete His purpose of providing salvation for all who believe. Thankfulness is a connection to the One who loves us. This leads to forgiveness. Do you find it difficult to forgive someone who has mistreated or insulted you? Do you ever think about what Jesus did for us on the cross? He gave His life as the penalty for our sin. He forgave us. Why? Because He loves us and wants all people to be a part of His family. Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Jesus said as He was dying in unbelievable suffering on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Amazing, but true. Can we do any better?
I have heard or read about anxiety being just a normal thing we have to put up with now and then. According to the Bible it is not normal. At least, it shouldn’t be. Anxiety for many reasons breaks into our thinking often, I agree, but it doesn’t have to rule over us. My book, Transformation The Servant’s Heart–A Life of Faith speaks to this problem. A lesson I prepared for my cell group lead me to write the book. It begins with the solution for anxiety, fear and worry. The key is belief and trust in God. That might worry some, but it shouldn’t. Philippians 4:6, 7 tells us not to worry about anything–that’s right–not anything! There is an alternative. In every situation that may cause worry, we are to turn to God in prayer and supplication. That requires a relationship, one that is open to anyone who desires it. God invites us to bring the problem to Him. There is another key word. Come to Him with thanksgiving. In other words, come to Him in trust. Believe He will do what He says and thank Him for it. The result is peace of heart. This may sound strange, but God’s peace is described as being beyond our comprehension. A lot of God does is beyond our understanding, but He is trustworthy. The part of Transformation that talks about this subject goes deeper, laying a foundation for a knowing God and knowing Him better. God bless.
I started turning wood a few years ago when my son offered me a lathe at a very reasonable price. About two years ago I got serious about learning to do a good job at it. Like anything, practice makes perfect. Well, hardly perfect, but with much improvement in the quality of my creations. Turning wood is kind of like the Christian life. Study and practice is important in both. To turn a chunk of wood into a beautiful bowl or a vase requires following certain procedures. Living for Christ requires knowing through His Word and practicing His desire and will. It results in a beautiful relationship. It turns darkness into light. Yesterday I was nearly finished with a bowl that was different than any I had ever made. The reason was that I had some new scrapers that made it possible to do something different. Suddenly I had a “catch.” A catch occurs when the gouge or chisel catches on the spinning wood and you lose control of it. The result can be disastrous. At the very least, the smooth cuts you are making on the wood are scratched, torn, even ruined. It happens because you aren’t making the proper contact with wood. My wood was not harmed, but the base of the tool rest broke off, making the lathe useless. I was doing it my way and not following the procedure that prevents such errors. Kind of like our Christian life when we do things on our own self sufficiency or trusting ourselves. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that God has prepared the work for us to do. Amazingly, when He calls us to do something, He enables and prepares us to do it right–as He wants the work done. As far as my problem with the lathe, I prayed that God would help me fix the problem. Guess what? I got online and found on eBay the tool rest base, the exact one for that model of lathe. The amazing thing is that my lathe is very old and replacement parts are not available–except on eBay. When we need what we don’t have spiritually, don’t turn to eBay, but to the Creator and Sustainer of all things. All things are possible with Him.
Years ago I worked in a mine in Northern Idaho. One day I was working alone and the thought came to me: What would it be like if I didn’t have light. The only light I had was a head lamp. I switched it off. The darkness was like a gigantic black weight falling on me. I waited for my eyes to adjust. It suddenly dawned on me that there was nothing to adjust to. There was no light to adjust to.
The day I made the choice of accepting Jesus as my Savior was the day I moved from darkness into light. My life changed immediately. I had no more desire for alcohol. I began to think differently. My life is still changing and will continue to do so. There is no end to learning from the Word of God. I find something new repeatedly. One of the things I realized long ago is that Jesus not only becomes my Savior, but must become my Lord. That is a difficult thing for many, including myself at times. We are so self important, so self sufficient, so prideful. We don’t need any help. We belong to Jesus. We were bought with a price, His death on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, which are many. Can you imagine a holy, sinless God sacrificing Himself for the sins of people who don’t deserve what He did? Some think that we must do good things to earn our salvation. Think about it. How could we give or do anything that would excel what God has done. It’s impossible. Jesus said, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and don’t do what I commanded you?” A good and serious question. His command is to love Him, that is God, and to love our neighbors. Not only that, we are to love those who persecute us or are our enemies.
Some would reject the idea of becoming the servant of God, but Jesus laid aside His Glory and came to earth to die for us. He came in an attitude of humility, doing nothing except what His Father told him to do. In the end He was exalted and we are promised the same. God doesn’t make promises that He doesn’t fulfill. Jesus is the light of life and promises eternal life, beginning now and going on forever in the perfect way that He originally created to be. Think about it.
I have found that writing a book, getting it published and marketing it is very challenging. However it is also very rewarding when readers tell me that they benefited from from what they read. Since a third of my book, Transformation The Servants Heart–A Life of Faith is about pride, I have to be careful about how I relate that people were benefited. I am very grateful that that is the case for some. However, I have learned also that if I were to rewrite the book I would make some drastic changes, not because there was anything wrong about the subjects, but that there would be so much more to be added that would strengthen these subjects. I am humbled as I read the Bible and discover more and different scriptures that would have added new meaning to each of the issues, Anxiety, Hypocritical love and Humility. I’m sure that everyone who reads this has heard the statement that the more we think we know, the less we actually know; the more there is to learn. That applies not only to writers, but to almost everyone who’s involved in anything: politics, business, teaching, etc. I am presently involved in Bible Study Fellowship. We are studying the Gospel of John. If you are familiar with the method of study in BSF, you know that we study each lesson in four different ways. In the study of John, I’ve felt there is so much more to learn than appears on the service. As I was having difficulty answering the lesson questions, I discovered a statement about the book of John by J. Sidlow Baxter, who wrote in his Explore the Book that there is no end to the learning in that scripture. I felt better, knowing that a scholar like Baxter felt the same. So, I can say then, if you read my book I hope it will lead you to a more profound and deep study of the Word of God, the Bible. God is good.
“Breathes there a man with soul so dead, who never to himself hath said, ‘This is my own, my native land.'” I don’t know if you have to be as old as I am to remember this poetic beginning. At my age I find myself having trouble remembering things, but this first liner I have never forgotten. In this age of confusion, contradiction and division it is something that everyone should cling to. It should be the foundation of how we feel about America. In spite of the endless trouble it is still our own, our native land. The meaning of the sentence is vital. Are we so dead that we have given up the positive possibilities? We may feel like we are standing on the edge of a rocky cliff, but is it more difficult to believe that we are on the edge of many good things that are happening everywhere? If you can’t think of anything else, pay attention to the generosity of the people who live in Magic Valley and in the rest of the State of Idaho too. Food by the tons are donated for families that are in dire need. Many organizations collect presents for children who otherwise might receive even one gift. The numbers are many. Give thanks, not just on the yearly holiday, but for the gifts we all receive in one way or another. The Bible says to give thanks in all circumstances. Some might wonder how that is to be accepted, but there is a God who cares about every human being on this planet and gave the greatest gift of all to any one who will accept it. Gifts aren’t worked for, and this one is far beyond any labor that could be added. Thank you.
The book, Transformation The Servant’s Heart–A Life of Faith is the first step to a higher level. It speaks of three issues that every person in the world faces at least part of the time. Christians are included, and that is who the focus is pointed toward. Why? Because believers in Christ have no excuse for living with these issues in their lives. The three are Anxiety, Insincere Love, and Pride. All three are expressions of sin. For a non-believer to acknowledge this is the first step toward salvation. For the believer they are the first step toward a realistic relationship with God. The higher level I mentioned is God’s Word. In no way does Transformation compare to the Word of God, but it is an effort for the reader to realize his or her need for dealing with the three issues. All three issues are crucial to a good relationship with God or any relationship at all. Anxiety is a block against trusting God. Insincere love is a violation of the greatest commandment as identified by Jesus: Loving God with all our heart, soul and mind, and loving our neighbors, including our enemies. Pride is probably the greatest barrier to any relationship with God there is. Self importance denies the sovereignty of the Lord. Transformation is only a starting point, on the edge. God’s Word, the Bible is the fulfillment of truth. God comes first–always. I encourage anyone to read Transformation and to think seriously about what it says and how it refers to attitudes that maim and destroy. Christmas is coming. Think about this book as a useful and enjoyable present. Many readers have said this book has changed their lives. For that I am grateful. My hope is that many more will have the same experience. Thanks be to God.