Tuesday, March 28, 2017


            The Amplified Bible renders 2 Corinthians 5:10 like this:  “For we must all appear and be revealed as we are before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive [his pay] according to what he has done in the body, whether good or evil, [considering what his purpose and motive have been, and what he has achieved, been busy with and given himself and his attention to accomplishing].”  Please read it again, very slowly.  Let the gravity of those words sink into your mind and spirit.
            If suddenly you were revealed as you really are, what would people see?  Would it be a different you than they were used to?  What have you achieved?  What are you giving yourself to accomplish?  What or who has your attention?  What are your motives and purpose in what you are busy working toward?  We all have carefully learned answers to such questions.  Of course, we are giving ourselves to the work of the Lord for His glory.  Really?  That’s the right answer, but is it true?  Certainly it is the goal of every real Christian – to please God above all else.  But Satan is doing everything he can to turn us from that goal.  He is fighting hard because it is so close to the end.  He wants to lull us to sleep to keep us from accomplishing eternal purposes.
            When religion replaces relationship with Christ, we have been lulled to sleep.  When “getting out of the box” really means trading in tradition for the newest fad, we have become drunk with the world system, reeling from box to box and fooling ourselves.  When motivational speeches have replaced the message of Jesus Christ crucified, dead and resurrected to save us from our sins, denying ourselves and becoming one with the Father, we are severely lacking in truth.
            We seem to have forgotten passages of scripture like 1 John 2:15.  “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  If we believe that scripture, why would we want to copy the practices of the world by developing our Christian version of it?  We try to offer a “Christian alternative” to every holiday and trend of the world, but wouldn’t it be better to simply offer them Jesus in the power of His Spirit?  If we want to give them something different, why don’t we, instead of trying to wrap Him in their trappings?  We are not to live in darkness, but in the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is not a message to condemn, but an urgent message to rouse us out of our sleep to arise and follow Jesus.
            We are living very close to the day of Jesus’ return, the coming of antichrist and the judgment of God upon this earth.  It is of grave importance that we wake up from our slumber and become the people He has called us to be and do the work He has called us to do.  The hour is too late to offer emotionally charged but spiritually empty performances in Jesus’ name.  It is too late to offer messages that are only “bless me” oriented and leave out the teachings of Jesus that we are to sacrifice to bless others and selflessly do the work of the Kingdom.  It is too late for our churches to be passive rather than places of pure worship and equipping the saints to take the message outside the walls.  It is too late for us to be striving for positions, money, power and the honor of men, rather than taking on the role of a servant.  It is time to be kind to God and not always be asking Him to be kind to us.  We need to wake up!
 “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.  For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.  But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.”  1 Thessalonians 5:6-8
            Those who sleep are in a state of partial unconsciousness.  Spiritually speaking, they are carnal (thinking from a darkened mind) and indifferent to the things of God’s Spirit.  They are sluggish in their understanding of spiritual matters and the times and seasons.  A person who is drunk has lost their self-control, their balance and their ability to think or express themselves because they have put poison inside them.  The word ‘intoxicate’ comes from the root of two Latin words; one meaning ‘in’ and the other meaning ‘poison’.  When we as Christians give our attention to the things of the world rather than the things of God, we are filling our spirit with poison.  We lose our ability to think and comprehend clearly.  We even lose our ability to walk in the Spirit and communicate clearly.  In either case, whether asleep or drunk, we are not fit to do the work of the Kingdom.  We are instructed to be alert and sober.  That may mean renewing our faith in a Holy God and giving Him the reverence He deserves.  It may mean renewing our passion for Him alone.  It may mean renewing our hope in His promise of salvation - His way, not our way.
2 Peter 3 tells us “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.  Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation [behavior] and godliness”.   We Christians need to shake ourselves and wake up.  Where is our zeal?  Where is our power?  Just as alcohol is never the answer for the flesh, filling our minds with worldly things is not the answer for our spirit.  We need to keep intoxicants from our spirits so we can be spiritually alert.  Satan has offered us a sedative to make us comfortable in this world, and we have taken it.  His real intention is to take our eyes off Jesus.  Jesus never promised us a comfortable life in this world, but the power to overcome.  The only place we can find the power to overcome is at the feet of Jesus, learning of Him and being filled with His Holy Spirit.  Then we can have our minds transformed to the mind of Christ and be free from the influence of intoxicants.
We are warned further in 2 Peter 3, “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness.”  We may know the dangers ahead of time, but that alone will not save us from the enemy.
A soldier who studies the enemy’s tactics and learns how to conquer them, then settles down to sleep will be captured by the enemy and will put many others in danger.  Knowledge in itself will not get the job done.  It takes putting that knowledge into action. The scripture here tells us to “beware”.  That means to stay alert and be prepared for danger and the wiles of the devil.  
We need to watch.  The meaning of watching is not only to stay awake, but to stay awake because one is so intent upon something.  If we put all our emphasis on the enemy, we won’t have the offense ready.  The positive side is to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be glory both now and for ever.  Amen.”  2 Peter 3:18
As we are watchful of the enemies’ devices, we are also watchful in readiness.  If we want to be ready, we have to make the effort it takes to continually grow in grace (the Divine touch on our hearts and its outflow from our lives).  If we will observe the example of Jesus, we will discover He made time with the Father a priority.  His whole purpose was to do the Father’s will, so He had to know what it was.  Our relationship with Jesus Christ is our lifeline.  It is everything, because we get our strength, wisdom and guidance from Him.  We need to become one with Him in character, in purpose, in service, in love.  We can only do that as we are consistently influenced by being in His presence.  The things of this world are passing away, and if we want to invest in something eternal, we must stay connected with Jesus Christ.  Just doing and saying the right things won’t work.  We must have the anointing (the touch of God) on our lives to give power and substance to our work.  As John the Baptist observed, we must decrease and Jesus must increase.  Our wants and desires must fade away as we merge into His will and desires.  In this close fellowship and walking it out in our lives, we will be set free from the bondage of the temporary to soar with the eternal.

“Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.  See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil.”  Ephesians 5:14-16 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


Contentment – a state of being satisfied or easy in mind

            Are you content?  Part of the time? All the time? Never?  What makes you feel content?  I enjoy quiet, unrushed moments when I’m alone with the Lord.  They give me a sense of contentment.  Finishing a task I had been dreading to tackle can also give me a feeling of satisfaction.  Of course, being with family, a peaceful vacation and many other circumstances can bring contentment.  But when those circumstances are past, the feeling of contentment goes with them.  And what about the days when there are no quiet moments, the work load is overwhelming, the family isn’t around and our circumstances have left us alone and afraid?  We need something that never changes if we want true, lasting contentment.  Situations change. Relationships change.  Our needs change.  The contentment they offer today may be pulled out from under us tomorrow, leaving us discontent.  But we can have an abiding contentment, regardless of our circumstances.
            Paul had a firsthand understanding of the complexities and even brutalities of this world.  But he had a greater understanding of the realm of God’s kingdom.  In Philippians 4:11 he made this statement: “for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”  Paul had learned from experience to be content regardless of his condition or status.  His comfort level was not the prerequisite for his contentment.  Whether he had plenty to eat or was hungry, he knew God would not let Him down. If everyone else was against him, God was for him.  Paul knew what it was like to have to restrain people from worshipping him, but he also knew what it was like to be tracked down, hated, stoned, persecuted and thrown in prison without a cause.  Yet he said whatever his status, he had learned to be content with it.
To ‘be’ is to exist in the present.  When troubles come, it’s easy to long for the pleasant days of the past or try to block out the present by looking to the future as we ‘wait it out’.  But even in the hard times, the unfair times, we need to be present in our existing circumstances and look for the purpose of God in them.  We can look around us and say, “What is God’s work here?  He has me here for a purpose, so what is it?”  It may be to turn our attention back to God.  It may be an open door for ministry.  When we find it, we need to move with it.  That is where Paul found contentment.  Knowing and doing the will of God.  That is where we will find it, too.
            How could Paul be content when his circumstances contradicted everything we consider essential for contentment?  He gives us the answer in verse 13.  “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”  That scripture is not just a mantra that if repeated over and over will come true.  It is much more than that.  Paul had learned from experience that it is a rock-solid truth he could count on.  Paul accepted the will of God, but not without the strength and ability of God.  We can, too, but we have to choose to set our focus and goals on a higher realm of living.
            Paul had learned that real, lasting contentment is found only in Christ.  Before his encounter with Jesus, he was a Pharisee.  He had enjoyed prestige and the best this life has to offer.  But he learned contentment was not found in the long, repetitious prayers prayed in public, or being called “Rabbi”, or even in having the esteem of the people, his peers and his superiors.  The pride of the position he had earned by a well-disciplined life fell short of bringing contentment.  He found contentment in giving everything for the cause of Christ.  And Christ became everything to him.
            Paul was always fully engaged in his present circumstances. When he stood in chains before Festus and king Agrippa, he seized the opportunity to give testimony of how Jesus had appeared to him on the road to Damascus, and how his life was changed. When he was shipwrecked on an island, then bitten by a poisonous snake, it was all for the glory of God.  It led to the salvation of those on the island.  When he was arrested in Jerusalem, it was his ticket to Rome where God had called him.  Even during his imprisonment there, he continued to write and share the gospel with everyone who came to see him.  Paul did the work of the kingdom of God wherever he was.  He didn’t need a formal invitation.  His circumstances were his invitation.
            Because of the hardships in his life, Paul stood before kings, worked miracles, shared the gospel with most of the world, and wrote a large portion of the New Testament by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  He was content in the will of God.
            Jesus is the perfect example of finding joy and contentment in doing God’s will.  Even as He struggled in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was set and determined to do God’s will.  He had the power to free Himself with one word.  So, how did He find the resolve to give Himself over to the torturers?  It was for the joy of doing the Father’s will.  It was for the joy of knowing He was buying our redemption. 
Hebrews 12:2 speaks of Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” He knew what was ahead, and He allowed Himself to be tortured, humiliated, ridiculed and crucified for the joy that was set before Him, and for the joy He brought to those who believe on Him.
I know this is a poor example in comparison to what Jesus has done for us, but it will give us a picture of the principle involved.  I don’t like to clean house.  Scrubbing sinks, bathtubs and toilets and vacuuming, dusting and mopping don’t really bring excitement into my life. I dread it, but I do those things because I know what will happen if I don’t.  It would leave us in unhealthy living conditions, and all the clutter would overwhelm us.  I do it because I know the benefits and the light feeling that comes with a clean house.  The work is worth it.  It leaves me with a sense of contentment.
We were worth it to Jesus because He loves us.  He knew our sins had overwhelmed us and would destroy us, and there was nothing we could do to redeem ourselves.  He saw the end result – our redemption.  He also found joy in pleasing the Father by accomplishing His plan. We can find that same joy and contentment, knowing we are in the will of God.
We are called to lay aside anything and everything that will take us away from accomplishing God’s will.  If we will give up the struggle and give in to walking in God’s will (following His Word), we will find contentment there. If we offer ourselves up as living sacrifices, being transformed by His Word and refusing to be conformed to this world, we will walk out the perfect and acceptable will of God in our lives.  Even our harshest circumstances can prove to be of great value to us and the kingdom of God.
First Timothy 6:6 tells us, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”  Godliness is holiness and righteousness that is ours only through Jesus’ sacrifice and the abiding Spirit of God in us.  It cannot be earned.  We can have the life of Christ in us and be free from the guilt of sin, all because Jesus walked in the Father’s will and paid for our freedom.  Now we need to set ourselves to walk in the Father’s will and see what He will do through us. 
Jesus said, “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”  (Matthew 7:21, emphasis mine) We live in the kingdom of God by doing the will of the Father.  We can have the Spirit of God alive in us, changing us to be more and more like Jesus, guiding us, giving us understanding of God’s Word.  That is the epitome of contentment – living the full life of freedom in the kingdom of God, the perfect will of God.  We can be satisfied even in the most difficult of times, because we know the One Who has promised to provide everything we need.  When we learn to trust in the all-powerful hands of God, we can have a mind that is at peace with its lot in life, hands that are ready to seize every opportunity, and an assurance that we have more than enough of whatever we need.  We can go through the hardships with joy because we are accomplishing God’s plan.
What are you leaning on to make you content?  Is it a relationship, a promotion, a bigger house or retirement? If it is the things of this world, I can assure you it is not enough and it won’t last.  It’s amazing, that most things we think will bring us contentment are dreams for the future that will probably never come to pass.  But, we can start being content here and now, in our ‘present’, wherever that may be.  Because only following Jesus will bring contentment that weathers the storms of this life and ushers us into His presence.  Only by His Spirit can we recognize the will of God and walk in it. That is contentment.

Are you content?

Do you want to be?