The wealth of contentment

Ich habe genug.  Bach’s cantata by this title says in Recitative B:

“I have enough.  My comfort is this alone, that Jesus might be mine and I His own. . . Ah!  Were only my departure here, with joy I would say, world, to you:  I have enough.”

Central in accepting that we have enough is in trusting that God is good, that He loves us, and that He knows what’s best for us.  We often cannot distinguish between our wants and our needs.  He is not confused by that.

Eve offers a negative example to us in Eden.  She buys the lie of Satan — that God is really not good, that He is actually hold back from her something that is truly desirable and good, and that, for selfish reasons, He does not want her to know all that He knows.  In the desert, despite being miraculously provided with water, manna, and quail (and clothes that would not wear out), Israel grumbled about not having more.

We’re the same way.  We think that we need more sex, more attention, a lake house like our neighbors have, a promotion at work, more money, or more exotic travel.

The wise writer of Ecclesiastes says, “All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them.  I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor.  Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.”            Ecclesiastes 2:10-11

The apostle Paul offers wise advice:

poor but contentNot that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”                                                              Philippians 4:11-13

.girl chillin', looking over cityBut godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”                   1 Timothy 6:6-10

Lord, protect me from the damaging snare of always wanting more than You give me, as though I know best.  Help me to trust You, thanking You with a grateful heart for providing generously all that You want me to have — acknowledging that this is all that I need.

 

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The cleansing power of seeing the Unseen

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  For by it the men of old gained approval.”                                                                  Hebrews 11:1-2

 These died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”                                                                                                    Hebrews 11:13

The author of today’s encouragement comes from Thomas Manton (1620-1677), an English Puritan pastor, was also chaplain to Oliver Cromwell.  This is from Manton’s By Faith, Sermons on Hebrews 11.

We should have such a faith to substantiate our hopes and to check sensuality, for we find the corrupt heart of man is all for present satisfaction. Though the pleasures of sin are short and inconsiderable, yet, because they are near at hand, they have more influence than the joys of heaven, which are future and absent. We wonder at the folly of Esau to sell his birthright for a morsel of meat (Heb. 12:16). When lust is up and eager for fulfilment, all considerations of eternal glory and blessedness are laid aside to give it satisfaction. Many part with the joys of Christianity for the vilest price. A little pleasure, a little gain, a little happiness in the world, will make men part with all that is honest and sacred. A man would wonder at their folly, but the great reason is, they live by sense: ‘For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me’ (2 Tim. 4:10). Here lies the bait, these things are present; we can taste the delights of the world, and feel the pleasures of the flesh, but the happiness of the world to come is unseen and unknown. ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die’ (1 Cor. 15:32). This is the language of every carnal heart. Present advantages and vanities, though they are small and but trifles, have more power to pervert us than good things at a distance, and the promises of God, even, to allure and draw our hearts to God. Here lies the root and strength of all temptations; the inconveniences of strictness in religion are present, and they may have present distaste and present trouble to the flesh, and our rewards are yet future. So, how can we check this living by sense? Why, faith, substantiating our hopes, provides a remedy. Faith makes things to become as real as if they were already enjoyed. Where faith is alive and strong, and is ‘the conviction of things not seen’, it baffles and defeats all temptations.

Edited by Richard Rushing, p. 23 of “Voices from the Past.”

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Bold Ambassador

As God adopts us as His own children (as flabbergasting as that is!), He puts us to work in the family business, as agents of reconciliation.

man speaking to ladyNow all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”                     2 Corinthians 5:18-20

Of course, we do not feel adequate to perform this function, not least because of our acute awareness of our bad record of holy living and obedience.  It seems unlikely that we could influence anybody to consider repentance and being restored back into a close walk with the Sovereign they have offended.  But this is what He charges us to do.  He does not appeal to our ability to accept this job description, but to our availability.

Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.”                                                         2 Corinthians 3:5

christ helping relationshipAnd Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the   age.”                                     Matthew 28:18-20

Our confidence and effectiveness will not be in our own cleverness and eloquence, but in the miraculous, supernatural power of God’s presence and direction in our lives.

“. . . but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”                             Acts 1:8

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”                      Romans 1:16

Lord, help me to humbly and confidently accept the job You gave me to do in Your family business, that of being a cheerful and enthusiastic ambassador for Your kingdom, inviting others to consider joining Your family and taking their place beside us in Your team of reconciliation.

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Our Scapegoat

Today, a guest editorial!

Scapegoat is a familiar term used in our culture for someone who bears the brunt of accusations of guilt against another party.  Its origin dates back 3500 years to the sacrificial system established by Moses.  This prescribed sacrifice occurred in the Jewish calendar on Atonement Day, or Yom Kippur, which is soon to be upon us.

scapegoat 1When he finishes atoning for the holy place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall offer the live goat. Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.”                    Leviticus 16:20-22              

scapegoat 2The scapegoat prophetically previewed the role of the coming Servant Messiah described in Isaiah’s prophecy 2200 years later:

All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has laid the iniquity of us all
On Him.
”                                Isaiah 53:6

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!                  John 1:29

Hear the eloquent and encouraging words of John Flavel from the mid 1600’s.  Flavel was an Anglican Puritan pastor, the son of a pastor, who was trained at Oxford.

“When Christ became our sacrifice, he bore away our sins. The word ‘to bear’ is a full and emphatic word, signifying not only to bear, but to bear away. This is a real purging of sin. How great a mercy is this! ‘Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered’ (Psa. 32:1). Who can express the happi­ness of such a state as this? Pardoned reader, let me beg you, look over the cancelled bonds, and see what a vast sum has been remitted to you. Remember your natural state, and yet pardoned. Fully, finally, and freely pardoned! What can you do less than fall down at the feet of free grace that moved so freely towards so vile a sinner? Not long ago your iniquities were upon you. Now they are as far as the east is from the west (Psa. 103:11-12). O the unspeakable effectiveness of Christ’s sacrifice; it extends to all sins (1 John 1:7): past, present, without exception, and all sins to come! God ‘did not spare his own Son’. Sparing mercy was denied to Christ. Not a moment of time was lessened for the suffering and wrath that was appointed for him. Justice will not bend in the least. What a sad case for your soul, O reader, if you have no interest in this sacrifice! Consider how you can support the infinite wrath that Christ bore in the place of God’s elect. Woe and alas for evermore to that man who meets a just God without a mediator! I beseech you, by the mercies of God, in the light of all the love you have for your own soul, do not neglect this opportunity. Get an interest in this sacrifice quickly. What will your state be when vast eternity opens to swallow you up? Happy is that man who can say in a dying hour: ‘This is my comfort—“Forgiven!”’ Remember, no sin can stand before the effectiveness of his blood (1 John 1:7).”
JOHN FLAVEL (1628-1691), Works, I:161-164”

Excerpt From “Voices from the Past.” : editor Richard Rushing.

 

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What holds life together?

atom diagramThe nucleus of an atom is made up of a tiny cluster of positive and neutral charges.  In nature, like charges repel one another, especially strongly so closely packed together.  Long-standing perplexity as to why these nuclear protons do not fly apart from one another has led scientists to merely name this unknown phenomenon the strong force.

solar systemAnother force that holds things together in our universe is the force of gravity.  The mass of an object creates a “pull” on other objects around it.  Without gravity, life as we know it could not exist.  Gravity holds our earth in orbit around the sun at the precise distance that allows our temperature to sustain life.  Without it, our solar system would fly apart immediately into infinite space.  rough seaGravity holds our atmosphere against the earth, providing a shield from the incoming rays of the sun and provides air for us to breathe.  Gravity holds the seas, rivers, and lakes in place on our globe, providing for us water to drink and to irrigate plant life for food production.

The Bible reveals that God’s agent in the creation of the universe was God the Son, Jesus, also identified by John as the Word.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”        John 1:1-5

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”                                          Colossians 1:15-17

Could Jesus, the eternally existent Communicator of the Trinity and the Creator of all things that exist, be the strong force that holds the very atoms of all substances together?  And is He the invisible force of gravity that holds our universe together?

Has God blessed you with eyes to see the invisible reality behind the created universe we live in?  Have you taken time to humble yourself and honor Jesus as God In the Flesh, acknowledging Him as rightful King in your life and your only hope of forgiveness and eternal life?

He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”            John 1:11-12

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Solidly anchored

ship stayed at dockThou dost keep him in perfect peace,
whose mind is stayed on thee,
because he trusts in
thee.”                                            Isaiah 26:3  RSV

In the restless sea of life, our troubled hearts are tossed about like a toy in the waves.  We long for stability and security.  We are deceived and disappointed by our many attempts to find safe harbor.  More money, more vacations, more friends do not seem to plug the hole in our hearts and do not provide for us solid anchoring.  The Bible tells us we will never find security and peace and steady foundation, except in the hands of the God who made us.  These hands beckon us to come to Him for anchoring.

anchored“. . we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf”         Hebrews 6:18-20  RSV

Trusting in God, our Father, is the most secure anchor we can have.  Only He who made us can see us through the storms of life with confidence.  Lord, help me to cling to You tooth-and-nail, for my life depends on it.  Do not let me go.  I cannot get along without You.

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.
Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips will praise You.
So I will bless You as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.

clinging little boyWhen I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches,
For You have been my help,
And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to You;
Your right hand upholds me.                Psalm 63:1-8   NASB

You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.”                   Deuteronomy 13:4

NEVER LET GO!

 

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Lack confidence?

Do you, in your inner spirit, cringe in guilt and shame before God?  Do you see your past record of rebellion and failures as a ball-and-chain, holding you back from the comfortable walk with God you desire?  Do you, like those Hebrews addressed, tend to lapse back into feeling you need to perform for God’s forgiveness and adoption as sons?  The writer of Hebrews begs his readers to enter into that rest God has provided when He punished Jesus in our place, giving Him the punishment that we deserve.  Instead of approaching God timidly with our life record in our hands, we can approach Him as our welcoming Father, boldly empty-handed, offering Him only the thankfulness of one rescued from the dead, passionately serious about obeying the One we love.

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”                 Hebrews 4:16 NIV

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus.”                                                                                                  Hebrews 10:19

Confidence with God breeds confidence with men.  Knowing we are accepted by the only One whose opinion matters sets us free from any burden to perform for and conform with fellow men.  The disciples were liberated from fear and felt free to speak the Truth to any who would listen.  This confidence was noticed.

Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.”                                                                              Acts 4:13

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”                  2 Timothy 1:7

Lord, open my eyes to the reality and implications of Your undeserved forgiveness.  Thank you for the confidence that gives me, as I rest in the knowledge that You love me as Your adopted son.  Let me not be timid before men, but speak Your Truth with confidence, as Your ambassador to a lost world.

 

 

 

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