Are You Really Content?

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out,” 1 Timothy 6 -7

Are you someone who can sit calmly by the seashore? Or are you most happy pushing others to meet your standards, counting your riches or constantly devising ways to make more money, even on vacation?

Do we as American citizens–one of the richest civilizations in the history of the world–recognize God’s blessings or do we horde our wealth by refusing to share? Or worse, not recognizing our blessings as we fight to move up the corporate leader or strive for a few more zeros on our banking account.

Lady at the Seashore
Photo by E. Wills Images

I hope that I am the kind of guy who can relax at the seashore happy with the heat of the warm sun, the crashing waves and the body God gave me. Content. Wishing for only what has been provided to me. Not asking for an excess of material things or more than I need.

But we know that we cannot stay on the beach for ever. We all know that God has provided rest for us (Exodus 20:8), but He also directed us to work (Genesis 2:15). We must strive for the balance He outlined.

The Apostle Paul reminds us that we are to be content in whatever circumstance we find ourselves. Rich or poor, hungry or full belly whether we are beautiful or homely. He set an example for us to follow:

“…for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want.” Philippians 4:11-12

If we follow God’s direction for contentment–not that of man–we’re likely to live a better life while on earth and to enjoy eternity.

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The Christian Effectiveness Officer (C.E.O.) (Clayton Pruett) — SBC Voices

Over the last few years, a stunning shift has taken place in church culture. Successful, influential, and powerful pastors are being dismissed from their churches. Not for the typical moral failures or money scandals but for unhealthy leadership practices. Why has this become such an issue? Understanding the problem The simplified version is that decades…

The Christian Effectiveness Officer (C.E.O.) (Clayton Pruett) — SBC Voices

Nature Reveals God’s Perfection to Us All

Years ago, a friend and I took a backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail. It was a short trip via the nation’s premier hiking path. For us, it was a mere three days and two nights. Many others hikers take months to cover the entire 2,200-mile foot path from Georgia to Maine. As we hiked near Damascus, Virginia, when the spring blooms were fresh on the trees, we were awe struck by the beauty God’s handiwork.

Taking a break at the top of a hill, a silver, rock-strewn creek meandered along the bottom. Fresh magnolias bloomed. The colors of the painter’s palette treated our eyes and the smell of the exploding forest surrounded us. Such beauty makes me think of how it must have been at creation.

“God is everywhere. Take a step outside and you will be surrounded by the intricacies and fascinating systematic creation that was created by our God. He is in the mountains, the beaches, jungles, ocean depths, prairies, farmland, deserts, and valleys,” Mandy Smith writes on her website, https://www.ibelieve.com/faith

God’s handiwork is all around us. That’s why Romans 1:20 struck me so.

For His invisible attributes that is eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen since the creation of the world being understood through what He made.

Question: How have we known God’s handiwork and not recognized Him as creator? How can we attribute nature’s awesomeness to the Big Bang Theory or evolution without proof evidence.

A long time ago, I accepted that God created the world. I acknowledged that it was not a random collection of molecules from a primal swamp as the evolutionists claim. Why? Exhibit A is the majesty of the human body. How else could the body come into existence with the merger of two cells, yet grow to–in some cases—more than seven-feet tall and live for more than 100 years? How else is just the right amount of blood run through our veins? How else do a man and a woman come together to produce a child?

Think for a moment about your body and how magnificent it is. The brain is the best computer ever invented. The eyes are unmatched by any optical lens. We–unlike any other animal– can use tools to make marvelous things like airplanes.

How appropriate that we don’t have to search too far for an answer to how this came into being. This question was answered in the first verses of the Bible. As if God positioned it in the first verse of the first chapter for emphasis.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, Genesis 1:1

Application: Have you accepted that God created the world and accepted Jesus Christ as your savior? If not, why not? To become a Christian, pray this simple prayer.

Father, I know that I am a sinner and that distance from you to me is huge. I am sorry for my sins. I’m asking that you forgive them. I accept that Christ died for my sins and the sins of all. Jesus, take over my life and lead me on the right path. I cannot do this alone. Send the Holy Spirit into my life. Amen.

Then, find a Bible-based, local church that can help you grow in your walk with Christ.


Finding Your Way

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          “All a person’s ways seem pure to the, but motives are weight by the Lord, Proverbs 16: 2 (NIV)

I remember when I was a Boy Scout being taught how to use a compass.  We were in the middle of a grassy, open field in a large Michigan forest on a sunny summer day.  Mr. Maxwell, our Scoutmaster, held a compass with a clear plastic base on to which was attached a dial with a red magnetic needle. Orient the magnetic needle to find north.

“If you have a compass,”  I remember him saying, “you can always find north.”  Once you know north, you can find out where you outta be.”  Likewise the Bible is our moral compass.  Whether it’s deciding right or wrong in behavior, business decisions or national politics, the words of the Lord should be our guide.

What is your moral compass?  How do you decide what’s right or wrong?  Is it what your mother taught you?  Is it popular opinion?  Is it legal versus illegal?  Is it the likelihood of getting caught?

A compass can prevent you from making bad decisions, guiding the way at every crossroad in life. Like a hidden blind spot on a road, the Bible warns you about what’s around the corner.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,” we are reminded in Jeremiah 29:11.

The Bible, as the compass, always points to the path you should take, and is a guide to the decisions we make.

A Young Man Claims God

         “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does            not believe will be condemned,”  Matthew 16:16

Let’s face it, my church is a little weird.  First, it’s on an island–North Carolina’s Topsail Island to be specific.  That’s strange for a lifelong Midwesterner like me who relocated only three years ago.  In Indiana, flat cornfields were more of the norm.  There is not a major body of water within 100 miles of Indianapolis, where I had been living.

Then there’s the pastor and co-pastor.  One catches a tossed football on the beach headed to baptism.  The other is wearing an American-flag inspired swimsuit as he officiates.  Not exactly typical for ministers getting ready to induct new Christians into the fold.  Their actions may be unconventional, but they have built a growing, Bible-teaching, welcoming church under their tenure.

Baptism Video

 

One of the biggest reason I say our church is weird is that we do our baptisms in the Atlantic Ocean.  THE ATLANTIC OCEAN.  Let that sink in for a while.  It’s the world’s second-largest ocean, covering 20 percent of the earth’s surface,  according to Wikipedia.com.  That’s a big baptismal.  By contrast, I was baptized in a baptismal slightly larger than a bathtub, something like 4 feet by eight feet.  Both accomplish the same purpose, but the Atlantic, and its symbolism, is so much cooler.

When my oldest grandson told my wife that he wanted to be baptized, I was thrilled.  AJ’s about the right age, 10, to make this public declaration for Christ.  I’m not sure what prompted this decision, but he and his seven-year-old younger brother usually accompany us to church since we moved here.  I’m sure they’ve heard child-sized preaching in Sunday School and a recently concluded Vacation Bible School.  Still, some people go their entire lives hearing the gospel and never respond.

On two other occasions, they’d seen other church members be baptized in the ocean, including a young friend the prior Sunday.

So we found ourselves walking with sand in our toes on a nearly cloudless day this past Labor Day week.  The temperature was in the ’90s, and the beach was packed as a small crowd gathered.  A few of those frolicking on the beach looked on.

Our lead pastor, caught a football from some boys playing on the beach as he neared the ocean’s edge.  The co-lead pastor walked into the water too.

The pastors’ called for AJ first.  The thin, African-American boy responded by taking his place between the two men. “Do you believe that Christ died and rose again on the third day and that he is alive right now,” the co-pastor asked.  “Yes,” came his short reply.  “With forgiveness of your sins, do you accept Jesus Christ as your savior and Lord.”  “Yes,” again came his response.  Then AJ, another adult who was being baptized, waded into the ocean and prepared to have their sins forgiven.

They waded into until the water was knee deep for the pastors.  The white-capped waves rushed past every few minutes.  Then, at the waves peak, AJ was immersed under the water, then raised back up, a new man in Christ.

How many baptisms have their been since Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist?  Millions and millions or is it billions and billions.  Each one has God’s grace, and each one-changes lives forever.  But this one was special to me because it was my grandson and because it took place in the Atlantic Ocean.

Prayer: 

Dear Heavenly Father, bless those who have yet to embrace you through baptism to accept your invitation away from the condemnation, to everlasting life.  May all accept this gift, for which we cannot pay, and clutch the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

A Different Way of “Reading” the Bible

close up photo of a woman listening to music

Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ,” Romans 10:17  (ESV)

We all know that the Bible is the word of God, that it is the most read book in human history (estimates of 6 billion copies printed), and that there are more than 6,900  translations.  But is reading the best way to absorb the word of God?  Are there advantages to hearing it?

Recently, I fell behind in my effort to read the Bible through in a year.  Something always got in the way:  Meetings, work, family time.  Reading the Bible was pushed to the side.  I didn’t want to be a slacker.  I wanted to keep this commitment.

Then, I remembered that several years ago I listened to the Bible on CDs.  I enjoyed the richness of the Lord’s teaching, but somehow in the move from Indiana to North Carolina, the CDs got lost.  Should I buy another set?  Was this my answer for staying up on my read-the-Bible-through-in-a-year assignments?  Could I stream the Bible for free online?

No.  Yes.  Yes.  I eventually found out.  I decided to avoid the cost of a new set of CDs because I could listen for free from multiple sources.  This was the answer.

This new way of “reading” turned dead time into useful time.  For example, on my 30-minue weekly trip to Wilmington, I listen to more than my daily assignment.  I hear the Bible while making a pot of  beef stew, doing yoga, or riding the exercise bike.

Sites to download or stream the Bible are plentiful on the Internet.   All I had to do was click on the speaker icon on Biblegateway.com to hear the word in the elegant voice of Max McLean read Exodus to Revelation.  Unlike me, Max doesn’t stumble over names of places like Kiriathiam or names of people like Jehoichin.  But there are other great site too, including Biblestudytools.com, audiobible.com, and theonlineword.com, to name just a few.

Whether you read the Bible, as has been done for thousands of years, or listen to Scripture through online streaming or downloads–as we’ve done the last 30 years or so, the truths of the Bible are a priceless guide.
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A Prayer Brings A Second Chance

woman-praying1 bing.com images     
          I met Claire (not her real name) when I met with a business group at a local coffee shop.  When the meeting was over, Claire casually mentioned she’s recovering from two debilitating diseases (Lyme and Chron’s diseases) and they have taken their toll on her body for nearly two decades:  not being able to get out of the bed for months on end, a neighbor repeatedly finding her sprawled on the floor where she had fallen, not driving for five years, and, worst of all, almost total loss of her memory.  Then she told me about her miraculous healing.
 
     
          I was fascinated to hear her story.  My enthrallment increased because I had started a book on prayer, and I was petitioning to have people with interesting prayer stories identify themselves to me.  Actually, two people identified themselves on the same Saturday, a minor miracle itself.  I’ll tell you about the other amazing recovery from cancer in the near future.
          I knew that Claire and I did not have time then to chat, so I invited the small, 50-ish woman to meet me for coffee the following week.   This story poured out as Claire, dressed stylishly in jeans with the knees out, a white sleeveless top, and tear-drop earring that moved back and forth as she shook her head.
     Formerly an executive with a company that included frequent travel, she was forced to live on disability.  “I hated sitting still and not working,” she said as we sat at a small, rectangular table in the empty children’s section of the coffee shop.  The privacy of being hidden by bookshelves allowed us to talk freely.
     A native of a mid-western village of about 500, “I finally decided to leave,” she says.  Then Claire, who has other past traumas, explained what it was like for a friend she had worked with two years earlier to try to give her a hug, only to have her recoil in fear because she didn’t know who was a friend and who was trying to hurt her.  “I started shaking and crying,” she said.  Then, the hurt expression on that his face asking;  “How can you not know me?  I could see how much it hurt him.” The woman who used to do math calculations in her head and a normal recall of people and places, could not remember much besides her parents, who took control of her life, including her financial affairs.
  
     Finally, she recalls, the pain, fear, anguish became too strong and sitting on her bed, she took a handful of pills, narcotics, painkiller and whatever else she could find in a suicide attempt.  Reds, yellows and other colors of the rainbow, from a nearby nightstand.
                When I lie down I say,
                ‘When shall I arise [and the night be gone]?’
                 But the night continues,
                And I am continually tossing until the dawning of day, Job 7:4          (Amplified Bible)
          She remembers, like an out-of-body experience, the ambulance squad responding.  Hearing a paramedic asking:  ‘Who’s going to tell her dad?”  Smelling the strong odor of tobacco on the breath a female EMT.   And plans to take her body to a nearby funeral home.  “They all were crying.”  It was a town where everyone knew each other.
          Then the strangest thing happened.  She woke up.  She looked around the bedroom, and the pills–every one— was laying on a table across the room!  How’d they get there?  She says that a pile of books, her Shih-Tzu dog, and other stuff on her bed did not allow her to simply reach over to the table.  Even if they had not, because of the queen-sized bed, it was too far to reach.
          She was dazed and angry.  “Why God,” she asked, “did I wake up?”
What happened to the ambulance crew?  Were they there?  
How could it be?  She remembered taking the pills, putting them in her mouth, swallowing them.  The bitter taste.
          Did she really take them?  Was it a just a vivid dream?  Did God spiritually intervene?
          Claire, who describes herself now as “a real strong believer,” thinks it was God, and so do I.  He may have been telling her it was not the time for death.  That she is needed here. Or that He has other plans for her life.  Claire would tell a skeptic, “You can take it for what  its worth, but I took those pills.”
  
          Not a Christian at the time, Claire decided some things needed to change.  She met a personal trainer who led her to faith in Christ.  Now, she describes herself as a “seer,”  who believes in supernatural things.  “I go out with the expectation of seeing God’s work every day.” She calls them “God bumps–what we might call goosebumps–describing God work.  “Whenever I share about God’s mercy and blessings, I don’t want to call them goosebumps,” like the bumps on your arms that might be caused by a scary situation.
           Part of the change was getting away from people who knew her but she didn’t know and moving to a seaside Atlantic Ocean town.
          Since then, Claire has founded a nonprofit organization that promotes awareness of Lyme Disease, adopted a daughter, and started her life again.  All of which, lest to say, would not have been possible if the suicide attempt had been successful.
          She frequently walks and takes pictures on the nearby beach.  Nearing the one-year anniversary of moving with her daughter–Claire shows a picture of the teenager standing at the water’s edge, silhouetted against the rising morning sun.  The girl has her hands raised above her head like a football referee signaling a score.  It is symbolic of their new North Carolina life.   It is a tale of a Job-like transformation from despair to triumph, as Claire continues to walk with God.
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