Psalm 26:7--That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fill Me with Your Passions

Fill Me with Your Passions

Fill me with Your passions, Lord,
with all Your tender love.
Send down Your Holy Spirit now
as gentle as a dove.

Let all my life be sold to You
and none of self remain.
Forsake I now all earthly calls
and go in Jesus’ name.

No power and no pleasure
can compare to knowing Christ,
and not a thought of earthly gain
can hold my heart enticed.

Christ is now my only prize.
His equal nothing is.
I hold Him as my highest goal
and pray my heart be His.

So keep me as Your dearest child,
and guide me, loving God,
that neither foot would slip a step
wherever I may trod.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Keystones of Contentment

Proverbs 15:15-17--All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast. Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.

Contentment seems to be a missing concept in today's society. Nobody is ever happy or satisfied with what they have; they always want more money, more friends, more success, more power, more clothes, more water in that glass--you name it, people want more of it. It seems contentment is the only thing people don't want more of! But we know contentment is a virtue that God greatly desires us to have. In fact, 1 Timothy 6:6 says, "But godliness with contentment is great gain."

So how can we be content in a society constantly wanting more? How can we be satisfied in a world consumed with greed and covetousness? How can we be like Paul, who, in Philippians 4:11, said, "For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content"?

This is exactly what Solomon addresses in Proverbs 15:15-17, and Paul may have used these same verses to develop his own attitude of contentment. So let's take a look at them and see what the Holy Spirit, through Solomon, had to say.

Solomon begins, in essence, by describing what we have already stated above. All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast. The merry heart is the contentment. The person with a merry or content heart will see everything as a feast, even if it's just stale bread and half a glass of water. Solomon starts with this description of a contented life to intrigue the reader. Having a continual, happy feast all the days of your life sounds pretty good, doesn't it? This is Solomon's hook, his attention-getter. The audience will hear or read that and think and ask, much like we did above, "Wow! That sounds great! How can I have that? How can I be like that?" Then Solomon gives the two-fold answer.

Before that, however, let me say something about the structure of Solomon's introduction. He uses a contrasting statement, illustrating two opposing ideas in the same sentence. This is to show that contentment is a black-and-white issue. There is no gray area, no fence-straddling. Either you're content, or you're not. If you're "kind of happy" or "almost satisfied", you're really neither because there is something preventing you from being truly happy, satisfied, and content. Even if there's just one tiny thing you're not satisfied with, it means you're not truly content because you'll always be trying to improve that one thing. Always remember, contentment is a choice. You either choose to be content with all, or you're not content at all.

Now for the two keystones of contentment. Solomon uses two illustrations, once again utilizing contrasting statements, to share these building blocks of satisfaction.The first one he points out is fear of the Lord.

Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith. Solomon claims it's better to be poor with God than to have the riches of the world and the troubles of not having Him. As Jesus asked in Mark 8:36, "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" I believe the point here is very clear: if you do not know God as Lord and Savior, nothing you have on earth will help you, be profitable for you, or give you contentment. This is the first thing you absolutely must have settled before anything else. It is the most important matter you will ever face. Do you know with one hundred percent certainty that you are saved by God's grace?

The fear of the Lord also deals with more than salvation, though that is the most crucial aspect. Sadly, there are many Christians, true born-again believers, not living in the fear of the Lord. They walk contrary to His commandments and His will, and this certainly leads to trouble. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7). This fear isn't a cowering terror felt toward God, however. It is a reverential awe and respect at His holiness and greatness that makes us bow at His feet and surrender our lives to Him. Basically, it is loving Him with all your heart. As Jesus said in John 14:15, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." If we truly love God, we will respect Him and want to please Him, which entails obeying and worshiping Him. That is the fear of the Lord: reverencing Him, respecting Him, obeying Him, and, most of all, loving Him so that you surrender everything in your life to Him, simply because He is Who He is, and He is worth it.

So how does this play into being content? Well, once you realize that the Almighty God Who breathed the heavens into existence loves you and desires a relationship with you, it will be more than enough to make you content with whatever earthly things you have. Once you realize that you are simply a worthless sinner that the King of glory loved enough to die for, nothing else will seem as important. And once you see that everything you have, even every breath you breathe, is a gift from a holy and righteous Lord, you will be grateful for whatever He has seen fit to bless you with. However, this cannot work unless you've been saved. Once you've been saved, you should keep your focus on God, Who is greater than anything and loves you more than anything, Who redeemed you out of the kingdom of darkness and the pit of Hell. Then you can, as Paul exhorts in Philippians 4:4, "Rejoice in the Lord alway". You can have that "continual feast". But you've got to keep your focus on God and nothing else.

Now we move to the second keystone of contentment: love. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith. This one sounds great doesn't it? Everyone wants love--that magical feeling that flips your stomach, flutters your heart, elates your mind, and makes everything alright. Love is wonderful, and love is powerful. Of course it will bring contentment! But 1 John 4:16 says, "God is love", so how can we have love if we don't have God? Answer: you can't. That's a problem for many people. They want the love, but they don't want anything to do with God. But it does not work that way.

Let's explain love a little bit. Love is not what was described above. Real love is not a feeling; it's a choice. Love is sacrificing of yourself in order to meet someone else's needs before your own. This is totally against the selfish nature of humans! That means love is a supernatural choice and action, and it is the highest of its kind. "Now abideth faith, hope, charity (love), these three; but the greatest of these is charity (love)" (1 Corinthians 13:13). Since love is supernatural, its source must be supernatural also, and that Source is God. When we show love, God is acting through us with His Holy Spirit to display His love to the world. Love can never come from selfish and sinful flesh. That's why it's impossible to have love without the Lord.

So how does love make us content? It's similar to the keystone of fearing God. Once you realize how powerful love is, nothing else will really matter. Love is able to melt the hardest heart, open the heaviest door, and tear down the most fortified wall. And only true, godly, self-sacrificing love can satisfy the craving that every human heart experiences--not the selfish, temporal emotions of infatuation we so mistakenly identify as love. Sacrificing of yourself, serving others out of a heart of love, and seeing their needs met instead of yours will provide a joy like nothing else. It may seem contradictory, but it's one of the great truths of life. It's just another paradox God uses to show us that we don't know best and that we should just trust Him and do things His way.

This applies both to love for God and for your neighbor. You should love and sacrifice yourself for both. (Sound familiar?) Love for your neighbor naturally flows from love for God. As the latter increases, so will the former. This is because when you love God, you desire to be like Him, and as you become more like Him, you love people as He does. And we all know what God did to express His love. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16; see also Romans 5:8 and 1 John 3:16). And what does John 15:13 say? "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." When we love God, we will love others. Then we will truly be content.

Once again, though, this cannot work without salvation. You have to know God in order for this to happen. It's absolutely impossible to be lost and content at the same time. You may think the things of this world are pleasing you or making you happy, but that will only last for a season. And there will be no happiness whatsoever after death. They will do you no good in Hell. Please, if you don't know Jesus as Savior, accept Him today. Click the Salvation tab above for more information.

For the Christian, it's very simple to be content. Solomon gave us two keystones for contentment: fear God and live in love. We've taken these and boiled them down to a one-step process: love God. So if you're not content, you've got your focus off somewhere. You're depending on something besides God for happiness and satisfaction, and it's not going to work. Pray for God to show you any areas in your life you have not surrendered to Him, where you are not relying on Him, where His love is not showing through. Thank you for reading, and God bless you as you seek to grow in Christ and serve Him.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Object of Your Trust

Jeremiah 17:5-8--Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

In this passage from Jeremiah, we have another case of antithesis. For a reminder, antithesis is two elements presented in parallel style, but with opposite meaning. I think it's pretty easy to see the parallel style and opposite meaning here. The opposite themes are being blessed and being cursed, and they are presented in the following basic style: the reason for being blessed/cursed, and then what the blessing/curse will be like.

Jeremiah begins by stating that whoever trusts in man and not God will be cursed, and he goes on to describe what this will be like. He then contrasts this by stating that whoever trusts and hopes in God will be blessed, and describes what the blessing will be like. It's simple to understand, and it all boils down to the object of your trust. So, as we discuss the effects of where you place your trust, consider your life and what you're putting your trust in. Are you trusting God or something else? How completely are you trusting Him or it? What are the results of this trust?

Jeremiah uses two extended similes to detail the effects of where you place your trust. He begins with the negative of trusting in man. Jeremiah states that whoever trusts in man "shall be like the heath in the desert", a barren wasteland. His whole life will be dry and arid. There will be no beauty, no flourishing life, just empty stretches of desert sand. It will be useless and good for nothing. Jeremiah becomes even more detailed after this, stating that he "shall not see when good cometh". This person's life will be vain and hopeless, but when something good passes by, he won't even notice it. This is because the person's focus is turned inward; his trust is in himself, so he focuses on himself. In his pride, he refuses to let go of himself and accept any help that is offered, especially help from God. As humans, this is one of the hardest things for us to do. By nature we are prideful and selfish. We think we can do everything on our own and we don't need any help. But, as Jeremiah so bluntly points out, this attitude only leads to failure.

The prophet continues, describing the habitation of the self-trusting man. He claims it is dry, full of salt, an uninhabited wilderness. That sounds like a miserable and lonely place. It's true that God has created man as a social creature. He has put in us the desire and need to build and foster relationships with other people (Gen. 2:18-22; Ecc. 4:9-12). It's very hard to grow spiritually without developing healthy relationships with others. However, it's also true that the more selfish a person is, the less friends he or she usually has. And no matter how many friends you have, if you don't have a relationship with God, you have nothing. People will never be able to fill the void in your heart created by not having Jesus. Even surrounded by friends and colleagues, you will still feel alone in the universe because you have never met the One Who created the universe. Your life will still feel pointless because you have never come to the One Who gave you life. No amount of physical, social, or material success could ever meet your spiritual need; only God can.

The next description, in which Jeremiah describes God's blessing as being like a fruitful tree, makes two characteristics stand out in my mind: stability and abundant life. The tree described here is "planted by the waters", and the waters represent God. He is the source of our life, our strength, and every good thing we have (James 1:17). But not only is this tree near the water, it also "spreadeath out [its] roots by the river". This tree's roots are spread far and sunk deep into the nourishing, life-giving water. This entails a person whose trust is deeply anchored in God, firmly founded on His Lord. He has no confidence in himself, but he has complete confidence in God. This is the way we should be. We can't trust ourselves or any other person because we are weak flesh. Abraham said he was "but dust and ashes" (Gen. 18:27); Paul stated, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing" (Rom. 7:18); and Jesus Himself said, "The flesh is weak" (Matt. 26:41). The point is that we can't trust in ourselves; we will fail every time. Either our flesh will lead us to do something wicked, or when we try to do something good, we will fail at it. Even if it seems like we succeed, if we did it in our own power and not God's, it is not glorifying to Him, and that is a failure. And no matter how good a person is, they are still human. They are imperfect, and if you put your trust in them, they will eventually disappoint you.

Now, because of this tree's habitation near the waters, it displays the two characteristics mentioned above. We've already touched on the abundant life, but let's look at it a little more. We know God is the source of all life, and Jesus said He came "that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). The more you trust in God and the closer you draw to Him, the more fulfilling your life will be. In terms of the tree, Jeremiah says its "leaf shall be green" and it will never "cease from yielding fruit". This is a healthy, vivacious tree abounding with life and fruit. If trees could smile, this one would certainly have the biggest and brightest. It's always healthy because it's near the waters, it's always joyful because it's in the waters, and it's always bearing fruit because of nutrients from the waters. Also, this is a stable tree. Nothing is moving or shaking it, and nothing affects its health. Jeremiah says, "[It] shall not see when heat cometh...and shall not be careful in the year of drought". This tree is firmly planted by the river and has no reason to worry. When heat comes, it stays cool in the water and doesn't dry up. It just keeps producing fruit. When drought comes, it's not worried at all because it's right next to the very source of life. If we wholly trust in God, we will be the same way. He is the solid Rock of ages we can stand on through any storm. He is our strong Tower and Refuge we can run to. When we hide ourselves in God and trust completely in Him, nothing can move or shake us.

So where does your trust lie? Is it in yourself or another person? Is it in success or material things? Or is it in the ever-faithful, everlasting, perfect, omnipotent, omniscient God of the universe? Maybe you're not sure. Pray for God to show you, and use some of the signs and characteristics described above to find out. If there's anything you haven't handed over to God, do so.

More importantly, are you saved? If you died right now, do you know that you would go to Heaven? If you're not saved, there's no way you can put your trust in God because you don't know Him and don't have Him. You haven't taken the first step of faith and accepted Him as Lord and Savior. Only then can you have a relationship with Him and trust your whole life to Him. Don't wait a moment longer to make this decision. Click the Salvation tab above for more details.

Monday, August 6, 2012

As a Flower

As a Flower

As a flower toward the sun
let me ever upward grow,
that Your light I would behold
and Your beauty I would know.

Though rooted in the earth I stand
my face to You is turned,
and for Your loving favor
I the earth will gladly spurn.

And in the darkness of the night,
in the beauty of the stars,
let me not forget the sun,
who has loved me well thus far.