Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Practicing Contentment

With Thanksgiving coming up I’ve been more aware of all the things I’m thankful for. I believe what Joanna Gaines said is true, “Gratitude makes what you have enough” (Magnolia Magazine). The happiest, most contented people I know aren’t necessarily wealthy, successful, or famous. They just appreciate what they have; they savor. And I think that’s the key. I also know contentment doesn’t come naturally; it takes practice. 

Paul said he learned to be content whatever the circumstances (Phil. 4:11), which implies he wasn’t always that way. When I read C.S. Lewis’ book Perelandra in college, I was struggling with food addiction—alternately binging and starving; trying to hide my problem; and full of shame  and self-loathing. So when I read the following words in chapter five I knew it was what I wanted. 

Ransom, the main character of the book, hasn’t been on the planet very long when he tastes Perelandra’s  fruit for the first time:

“He let the empty gourd fall from his hand and was about to pluck a second one, it came into his head that he was now neither hungry nor thirsty. And yet to repeat a pleasure so intense and almost so spiritual seemed an obvious thing to do. His reason, or what we commonly take to be reason in our own world, was all in favour of tasting this miracle again…Yet something seemed opposed to this 'reason'. It is difficult to suppose that this opposition came from desire, for what desire would turn from so much deliciousness? But for whatever cause, it appeared to him better not to taste again. Perhaps the experience had been so complete that repetition would be a vulgarity—like asking to hear the same symphony twice in a day.” 

Resisting the urge to reach for more? That’s almost unheard of. Voices call to us from everywhere to—eat more, buy more, do more, want more. The voices echo our sin nature. We attempt to fill the insatiable hollowness within, ending up emptier than ever. Until we discover that only God can fill the aching void and give us contentment independent of circumstances.

That doesn’t mean we don’t pursue success and strive to better ourselves, but not at the expense of the moment. That’s what I want to learn—how to be in the moment, with the person I’m with, with the stuff that I have—and not reach for more. Just savor.

This can even apply to waiting in line at the store (which some of you will be doing on Black Friday), driving a less than perfect car, during tedious moments at work or home, when kids are whiny and demanding, and when everyone else seems to have more of what you want. How did Paul learn to be content in moments like that? 

He never married, didn’t have children; was shipwrecked, starved, beaten, rejected; and he was unappreciated and abandoned by other believers. Yet he said he was content. 

When I’m feeling dissatisfied and empty, I look at his life and others who are content and note these commonalities:  Jesus and praise and the knowledge that this is not our forever home. What we have here is only temporary. So we taste, we savor, and rest in the knowledge that with Jesus, what we have is always enough.       

#Thanksgiving #gratitude #havingenough #secretofcontentment #Phil4:11

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Every Place You Set Your Foot, Prayer Walking Series: Day 31—Choose

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua 24:15

You’ve probably heard this verse before. It’s key to the book of Joshua. And on this final day of the prayer walk series, I’d like to gather you all together and ask you the same question. Who are you going to serve?

Like the Israelites, we have ancestors who have served false gods. In Egypt there were over 2,000 gods. After serving as slaves in that culture for 430 years, the Israelites’ understanding of the one true God would have been muddied. That’s why God introduced himself to them through Moses, and showed how superior He was by defeating the ten main gods of Egypt through specifically targeted plagues.

The gods worshiped where you and I grew up are probably a little harder to pinpoint. Regardless of your economic status, the gods worshiped or served in your household might have included money, education, power, sensual pleasure, drugs or alcohol, physical fitness, patriotism, revenge, relationships, or even family. Some of these things are good balanced with other aspects of life. But anything that claims our thoughts, time, and affections ahead of God is a false god.

Joshua also mentioned the gods of the Amorites, where they were living. The Israelites had finally made it to the Promised Land, but had yet to take it over.  The people who lived there had rejected God and chosen their own variety of deities. These were a snare to many Israelites, because instead of obedience and holiness, their worship encouraged sexual immorality and wild behavior.

This sounds like our world today. No matter where in the world you’re reading from, there are gods that appeal to the part of us that wants to “do it our way.” People all over the world worship nature, psychology, atheism, humanism, New Age, witchcraft, shamanism, animism, various prophets and teachers, and so many more. Even if you don’t consciously follow any of these religions, it’s easy to absorb false beliefs, because the ideas are everywhere and subtly packaged.

All of them are rooted in the same lie the serpent used to entice Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit in the Garden. He promised, “‘You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’” (Gen. 3:4-5). To seek fulfillment apart from God is a dead end road.

Joshua called the people to make a conscious choice; it’s what we must do as well. Who will you serve? How you answer that question will determine all the other choices you make in life:

  • Who you marry
  • Who you pick for leaders
  • Whether you fear man or God
  • Whether you’ll pursue wealth or wisdom
  • Who your best friends are
  • How to express your sexuality
  • Whether you’re friends with the world or with God
  • Whether you’re on a path to death or to life everlasting

I hope this last day of the series isn’t your last prayer walk. I encourage you to think about the gods you’ve encountered in your lifetime. Ask God to reveal any you’ve bowed before or sacrificed those you love to, for self-gratification or the pursuit of truth. Ask Him to show himself mighty on your behalf—as the only Provider, Healer, Truth, Life, Light, Comforter, Lord, Savior, Friend, and Almighty God. Turn away from all others who claim to be those things, but are powerless to meet the deepest need of your soul.

As for me and my household, we have chosen, and will continue daily to choose Jesus, the only Lord and Savior. The only God.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:21

*My book Taking Back October is a terrific resource for families looking for a great discussion guide and ideas for Halloween alternatives! Available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/Taking-Back-October-Believers-Pursuit/dp/1502516292/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1505868831&sr=8-1&keywords=taking+back+October

#whowillyouserve #whichgodisreal #asformeandmy #prayerwalking #spiritualwarfare #claimingterritory #Joshua24

Monday, October 30, 2017

Every Place You Set Your Foot, Prayer Walking Series: Day 30—Provide

So, as the Lord had commanded, the Israelites gave the Levites the following
towns and pasturelands out of their own inheritance.
 Joshua 21:3

Every October is Pastor Appreciation month at our church. We send cards, take them out for coffee, have them over, give gifts, and let them know how much we appreciate them. Unless you’re a pastor, or the spouse or child of one, you may have no idea how exhausting and thankless their work can be. Most of them are up all kinds of crazy hours—praying, studying, counseling, visiting, sitting through meetings, setting up and tearing down for events, dealing with personnel issues, and you name it—caring for the flock. And that doesn’t even include preaching!

Being a pastor is not just a Sunday job; it’s a life calling. A worthy and honorable and blessed calling.

That’s why the Lord told the Israelites to make special provision for the Levites, giving them towns and pasture for their flocks. When God divided the land, all the other tribes were granted portions, except the Levites. As the priestly tribe, God was to be their portion and inheritance.

The priests’ job was spiritual leadership—teaching the people about God, and offering their sacrifices to Him. But like all of us, they still needed to eat, live somewhere, and care for their families. So God told the other 11 tribes to give them some of their land.

This served three purposes:
It gave them a place of their own where they could live and thrive.
It sprinkled them throughout the Promised Land among the other tribes.
It gave the Israelites a chance to bless their spiritual leaders out of the abundance God provided.

It’s like the 10% tithe we’re commanded to give out of our earnings. That money pays our pastors’ wages, and for heat, lights, insurance, and all the supplies and expenses of running a church.
for you Pastor Jeff
Some people get stingy about sharing their wealth—as if it’s optional. They pay their pastors meager salaries, provide inadequate housing, expect them to work 6-7 days a week, and be at every event. Then they criticize them when they get sick because they never get any time off. 

The law said to let oxen eat while they worked (Deuteronomy 25:4). Well fed oxen are healthier and happier than ones forced to work with no reward. In the New Testament, Paul applies this to the way we care for our spiritual leaders:

“Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: ‘Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.’...because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.” (1 Cor. 9:7-11).

He mentions it again in his letter to Timothy (1 Tim. 5:17-18). 

It’s our job to provide for our spiritual leaders out of what God has so graciously given us. Let’s be generous! If your church doesn’t have a designated time of year when you honor and bless your pastoral staff, maybe you should get it started.

Today as you prayer walk, pray for every pastor you know and their family members—for health, strength, joy in serving, and rewards for their work. Ask God how He wants you to give personally and make plans to carry it out. Our leaders need to know how much we love and appreciate their dedication to the Lord and their efforts as we claim this land in His name.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:21

#payyourpastor #tithe #prayerwalking #spiritualwarfare #claimingterritory #Joshua21