How to Be Content

How do I become content? It’s a question that is constantly in the back of my mind. You see, I was raised in a family that seemed to be content with little. We didn’t have much and weren’t able to do much. I didn’t like growing up that way and as a result, I have never stayed still. I’ve come to look at everything in the world as a steppingstone. How do I get to the next level? What can I do better to achieve maximum success and efficiency? I have never sat back and realized what I have now is enough because I’m not a man that practices being content.

Philippians 4:10-13: “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

To achieve contentment, we have to prioritize our needs. “What has God blessed me with?” and not “What am I doing without?” Second, follow the Holy Spirit. The Spirit speaks to us and leads us through life, telling us God’s will for us, if we listen and follow. Finally, trust that God is faithful. God is with us in every step of our lives, whether we choose to see Him or not. In ups or downs, God promises that there is something more to come and a faithful Christian relies on that promise to get through discontentment.

Being content is a practice. Paul writes that the secret to being content is to live in (practice) a state of mind where God is sufficient for us no matter what the situation is. This is true contentment!

It's Coming

The time of year has arrived that we have come to know and prepare for all too well. The threat of nature’s fury by way of thunderstorms and tornadoes has conditioned us in this area to be aware of the possible destruction that can happen. At last, this year brings something different. The imminent threat of the covid-19 virus, sweeps around the world and has made its way into our area. This raises concern for our aged saints whom we love dearly that find themselves at the greatest risk. 

We as a country have already taken protective measures never seen before and in turn the body here at Choctaw has followed suit. It’s coming and we find ourselves partaking in the same realization that Jesus found himself as He and His apostles made their way to Jerusalem. Jesus impending death is clearly stated in the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, that it would rival today’s media coverage. 

Read Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19, Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:32-34, Luke 9:22; 9:44; 18:31-33, meditate on significance of the timing, bring yourself to understand the presence of that moment. I’m certain for the first time, the body at Choctaw will not gather at the building to bring forth our praise and worship unto our Father in heaven and to His glory. None the less the Church at Choctaw will assemble as one body and one Spirit in the one hope of our calling unto one Lord, one faith, (Ephesians 4:4-5). The body will offer up humbled hearts, render unto God, a thankful heart for what Jesus has done. 

Our Savior did indeed endure being mocked, spit upon, scourged, and led to be raised up on a cross until His death. My beloved brothers and sisters, we know that He arose on the third day and after a time was raised to the right hand of God. Jesus assures us in Revelation 1:17-18 “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.” Now, we must accept the gravity of what is going on today with the covid-19 virus because it’s coming. As we track its progress around the world, something far more certain is coming that will reach every corner of this world. When He comes “EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” Philippians 2:10-11. It’s coming, the day of our Lord.

The Anvil & The Hammers

This poem, attributed to John Clifford, has long served as an encouraging word to me. I hope you find it does the same for you.

Last eve I paused beside the blacksmith’s door,

and heard the anvil ring the vesper chime;

Then looking in, I saw upon the floor,

old hammers, worn with beating years of time

“How many anvils have you had,” said I,

“To wear and batter all these hammers so?”

“Just one,” said he, and then with twinkling eye,

“The anvil wears the hammers out, you know.”

And so, I thought, the anvil of God’s Word

For ages skeptic’s blows have beat upon;

Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,

The anvil’s unharmed, the hammers, gone.

Funny, huh?

Funny, huh?

I found these in my archives:

> Funny How $100 "looks" so big when taken to church, but so small when taken to the mall.

> Funny how long it takes to serve God for an hour, but how quickly a team plays 60 minutes of basketball.

> Funny how long a couple of hours spent at church are, but how short they are when watching a movie.

> Funny how people get thrilled when a football game goes into overtime, but complain when a sermon is longer than the regular time.

> Funny how people want to get a front seat at a concert or game, but scramble to get a back seat at church services.

> Funny how people believe whatever the media says, but question what the Bible says.

> Funny how hard it is to sit down and read the Bible, but how easy it is to sit for hours watching TV.

> Funny how people can send a thousand jokes through Facebook and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing.

> Funny how everyone wants to go to heaven provided they don't have to believe, or to think, or to say, or do anything.

> Funny, huh?

Disturbing Trends

Worldly folks doing worldly stuff, is expected. But when those who name Jesus as their Lord begin listening to the world instead of him, they trouble the church.

One trend I will briefly address here, is male leadership in the kingdom. Anyone with the eyes to see it will note that a lion’s share of kingdom work is done by our ladies. God has made sure that their influence and works were recorded in his book for all to see until He returns. All I am saying is that something else He recorded in His book is that He wants His sons, rather than his daughters, to step up to the plate and lead.

Have you ever noticed in God’s record:

¨ God refers to Himself as male, as well as His Spirit and Son

¨ God fashioned man first, and woman to be His helper; both, in His image

¨ All angels, appear as male & those named have male names

¨ Patriarchs, rather than Matriarchs – Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob,

12 male tribal heads then Moses & Joshua

¨ Lineage traced through fathers rather than mothers

¨ Wives are identified by their husbands (“Deborah, wife of Lapidoth”, “Her of Uriah” [Bathsheba], “church of Christ”)

¨ All priests were men

¨ Levitical service was by men

¨ Nearly all Judges (Deborah being the singular exception)

¨ Most prophets were male (exceptions being Miriam, Deborah, Huldah,

Isaiah’s wife & Anna)

¨ Kings, rather than Queens

¨ Jesus initially chose men to be his apostles

¨ Matthias later takes Judas’ place, and Jesus added yet another man, Paul

¨ Church leadership, Shepherds, Deacons, Evangelists – all men

¨ All Biblical writings were inspired by God’s Holy Spirit through men

None of this was to suppress or to oppress God’s crowning creations, but rather to empower His men to do what He designed them to do – lead!.... with the help of Godly women.

Sadly, even in the church, some folks twist the Biblical text to try and make it say what it doesn’t about the role of women in God’s kingdom. Regardless of specific passages, however, it is unmistakable from the list above, that God has consistently chosen men to lead His people. We controvert His teachings and example to our peril.

Scary Thought, That

For God so loved the world”, is a line Jesus himself spoke and preambles the statement that because of that love God offered his only son to give us eternal life (John’s gospel 3:16).

Jesus also said with that, “… whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. (Matthew 18:6)

Wow! Better to die in the cold, crushing, black depths of the sea than to face Jesus having led one of his children astray? That’s what He says. Is it any wonder? Consider the agony He endured to save them. Think of what it must be like for Jesus to save them, and then lose them to someone who twisted His word into a lie.

Every day there is news of some who say they are Christians, but embrace, endorse and encourage behaviors that God has clearly warned us about. Please don’t be a part of that.

The depths of the sea inspire fear; but the one who created them is much more to be feared if you hurt his family.

What Determines Who You Are?

Consider some of the influences that impact the formative years of your

life and how little (?) control you have in each of them:

· Your parents (the good, the bad, the ugly)

· Your DNA (looks, athleticism, health, height, weight, sex, skin color)

· Your siblings (birth order, brothers or sisters, difference in age or lack thereof)

· Your extended family (grandparents, aunts & uncles, cousins, in-laws, step-laws)

· Your friends

· Economic status of your family

· Schooling

· Personal interests (reading, sports, music, outdoors, mechanics, etc.)

· Geographic location (city/rural, local values, population density, climate)

· Family’s relationship to God

· WHAT YOU DECIDE?????

In how much of the above did you have a say as you were growing up? Of course you had some freedom in choosing friends & personal interests, but even there you had limitations. “WHAT YOU DECIDE” is really the only one over which you have control.

I cannot make myself taller, smarter, faster, talented, healthier or popular by deciding to be any of those things. To be sure, I can work towards some of that, but in any case, some of the particulars of my life are pretty much locked into place.

There is nothing God asks or wants of me that I cannot accomplish, depending on WHAT I DECIDE! Faith, hope, love, joy, kindness, gentleness, peace, patience & self-control and all that comes with them are all mine for the taking.

Regardless of the things in the first list over which I have no control, the behaviors I choose for myself is who I’ll be in the final analysis.

For this, we should thank God profusely.

Living Dogs or Dead Lions?

Solomon said we are all crazy.

“This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that there is one fate for all men. Furthermore, the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil, and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives. Afterwards they go to the dead. For whoever is joined with the living, there is hope; surely a live dog is better than a dead lion.” Ecclesiastes 9:3-4

He was talking about you and me, and from what I’ve seen, I have to agree with the man. God is the center, but I am always straying (like a dog) from center. I often fail to think like a man centered on God. I often fail to speak and behave like a man centered on God.

Why did David commit adultery, try to cover the resulting pregnancy and finally have a man murdered to “free” himself? Insane, right? How do you come back from that? David swallowed his pride, brought his broken heart to God and deliberately made Him his center again.

Why did Peter deny Jesus after witnessing His divine character daily for three years? How do you come back from the insanity of denying your truest friend? Peter, like David, humbled himself and sought Jesus again. Yes, Jesus centered Peter again. That’s what He does. That’s why He came. He didn’t come to help the good folks. There aren’t any. He said so.

What’s my point? I believe David & Peter became the dogs of which Solomon spoke.

If you are a dog, don’t despair, since you are better than a lion, if that lion is dead. As Solomon said, “for whoever is joined with the living, there is hope.”

God, who brings us all to center, is the one who had Solomon write about living dogs and dead lions. Please listen. A dead lion? It will just fill our nostrils with a horrible smell, and so we will bury it and walk away. Nothing more can be done.

But everyone loves a dog, even if he’s crazy.

Standards

Everyone has a standard by which they gauge right and wrong. Their standard may be as simple as their own opinion, or it could be popular opinion, their parents or some named ideology, but everyone has a standard.

When someone tells you not to “impose your religion” on them, they are judging by their standard that it is wrong for you to try to influence their thinking with your own.

Imagine, however, the hypocrisy of the statement: They attempt to convince you that it is wrong to impose your will, by imposing their will on you.

It was Jesus who taught us to preach His gospel to the whole world. Never be ashamed at any honest attempt to influence someone with the message of Jesus. Is it ever wrong to “impose” the truth on another’s thinking?

Jesus’ apostle Paul wrote that he was not ashamed of the gospel. Why? Because the gospel is the only thing with the power to save us from being punished for our sin.

I am convinced that everyone who ends up in torment like the man in Luke 16, will regret not allowing someone to “impose” the gospel on them. He begged Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead to warn his five brothers. I find it interesting that Abraham said that if his brothers would not listen to Moses and the prophets, that they would not believe even if someone rose from the dead.

Abraham was right. We can know he was right, because someone did rise from the dead, and folks still won’t believe. That is how much they love their own standards. So many have fashioned their standard so as to approve of their behavior and condemn any attempt to change their minds.

But you believed. I believed. We changed, and were changed. There are others who would also believe if they heard. How will they hear if not by you and me?

If Jesus is our standard, we will tell them.

A Concern About What Paul Said

Paul stated that he had given us an example of what to do, and we should be imitators of him (c. Phil. 4:9; 1 Cor.11:1). That is a bit difficult in regard to some things Paul wrote. For example, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:15, “I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the understanding also.” To sing with “the spirit” (Gk. Pneumati of pneuma) is a special Greek term with extensive meaning, including “the power of perceiving and grasping divine and eternal things…possessed of the power of knowing, desiring, deciding, and acting...univ. The disposition or influence which fills and governs the soul of anyone; the efficient source of any power, affection, emotion, desire, etc.” (J.H. Thayer, Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament, pp.520-23). Add to that to sing with the “understanding,” (Gk. Noie of nues), which means “the faculties of perceiving and understanding...of feelings, judging, determining in the spirit intensely roused and completely absorbed in divine things...1Cor. 14 sq.19...the power of considering and judging soberly, calmly and impartially” (J.H. Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, p.429).

To sing as Paul did is a real challenge, especially when related to a new song! Several factors relate to that challenge: 1. Limited instruction is given before we start the new song. 2. What brief instruction is given seems to relate to mechanics of music rather than the message of the song. 3. Results? Too often I am busy trying to follow the melody, and I am not in touch with the message of the song. I am only “mouthing the words” too much, and certainly not singing with “the spirit” or “understanding.” Paul surely would not give me any commendation for following his example in such singing!!

Secondly, Paul was quite blunt when writing certain brethren at Corinth, affirming that the way they responded, it was not possible for them to partake of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:20). He even added that many of them were weak, sickly, and not a few sleep (1 Cor. 11:30). One basic fault mentioned was their sporadic, scattered out pattern of assembling together. Now make an application of that problem: Consider our Bible classes. They are scheduled to begin at a certain time, clearly stated and repeatedly advertised. Yet, the facts are some brethren consistently drift into class some 5 to 15 minutes late, resulting in many 45 minute Bible classes starting 5 to 10 minutes late. Understand that this doesn’t relate to “the car wouldn’t start,” or the picking up of someone injured by the roadside (cf. Lk. 10:30-37); nor a “late telephone call that came their way.” These words relate to some members, who in some cases should already be teachers, but whose sloven, lackadaisical, indifferent study patterns (related to God’s Word), has left them in “need again that someone would teach you the rudiments of the first principals of the oracles of God (Heb. 5:11-14). Are such member listening to Paul, when he stated, “Study” (KJV); “Be diligent” (AS); “Do your best” (NIV) to present yourselves approved unto God as workmen who need not be ashamed, handling accurately the word of Truth” (2 Tim. 2:15)? Sorry, Paul such members at the _________congregation are not following very well your example of Bible study!

Have you in anyway found yourself in the foregoing survey? Could you fill in the blank the name of the congregation where you attend? While Paul’s example is a challenge, it is a good challenge!