Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Secret to Contentment

I know I can have enough yet still feel the need to convince myself to have more.  As long as I believe I need more, I will never be content. The dictionary defines contentment as the state of being satisfied with what you have.  Being satisfied with what you have is so much better than the alternative not being satisfied with what you have.  Not being satisfied can lead to crazy amounts of debt.  Not being satisfied can lead to an unhealthy life style.  Not being satisfied can lead to affairs.  Not being satisfied can lead to feeling entitled.  Not being satisfied can lead to addictions.  Not being satisfied can lead to greed.  Not being satisfied can lead to stealing.  Not being satisfied can lead to putting work first and family last.  Not being satisfied can lead to a demanding attitude.  Not being satisfied can lead to a lack of patience and an increase in arrogance.  Not being satisfied can lead to me putting my wants at the center of the Universe.  Not being satisfied blinds me to what I have and causes me to see only what I don’t have.  Not being satisfied quickly turns you into my competitor because I compare what you have with what I do not have.  Not being satisfied makes everything about me and my wants.  

So, do you see what’s at stake here?   “You simply cannot be in the center of your world and be your own highest authority and not be a moral danger to yourself (and others), because when you are at the center you will not say no to you.” (Tripp) This is why a lack of contentment can create colossal problems. And, this is the tension that we all feel because as long as we’re human, we will struggle with this to one degree or another because it’s human nature to be selfish and convince ourselves we need more.  It doesn’t take any work on my part to be selfish.  I am so much better at it than I would ever care to be. 

The devotion of my heart will always drift toward what I believe will provide everything.  To discover what I believe will provide everything, I simply have to finish this one sentence:  “If only I had ___________, then I’d be content.”   “If only I had more money, then I’d be content.  If only I had a better job, I’d be content.  If only I was more disciplined, I’d be content.  If only I were healthy, I’d be content.  If only I had a better marriage, I’d be content.  If only my children acted how I want them too, I’d be content.  If only I had more followers, I’d be content.  If only I didn’t have this stress in my life, I’d be content.  If only I had the acceptance I desire, I’d be content.  If only I had their abilities, I’d be content.  If only I didn’t have this relationship in my life, I’d be content.” If only, if only, if only The list of “if only’s” is endless and as long as we believe that our “if only” will provide everything we need, we’ll never believe that God will provide everything we need and we’ll never fully experience what only He can offer. 

Whatever my “if only” is will never do anything to address contentment because contentment is an issue of my heart.  Until my heart is transformed, my wants never will be.  And, this is why I am so desperate for the grace of God in my life.  God offers something even greater than your “if only” life.  He offers grace.  Grace is not circumstance dependent.  Grace is not conditional.  Grace is not received through a checklist.  Grace is not received by working harder.  Grace is not received by trying to climb higher.  Grace is not received through discipline.  Grace is not the result of my strength but rather offered because of my weakness.  Grace is not the result of an act of my will but rather offered because of something I could never do.  Grace is a Person and His name is Jesus.   When I give Him access to my heart, transformation results.  My “if only” life will never transform my heart, it will only reveal what is in it a constant hunger for something more a longing for comfort a need to prove myself worthy a constant desire to “perform” a plea for acceptance a demand for others to act how I want them to act or give me what I feel I deserve.  My “if only” will pretend to be an everything.  But, my “if only” was never meant to carry the weight of life.  It will always cave under that pressure and I will be left unsatisfied, longing for something more.

A heart that is content is free from the angst of want and free from the demand to perform.  A heart that is content is a heart at peace.  It is a heart overwhelmed by Jesus and His grace.  I can find contentment when I trust that His grace will always intersect my need.  And, truth be known, I am incredibly needy which is exactly why I NEED Jesus.  My needs are endless and His mercies are new every morning. It’s a match made in heaven literally!  The more I recognize this, the more I’m able to experience the words of the Apostle Paul: “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything.  I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.  For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”  (Philippians 4:12 – 13)  The secret to contentment is Jesus and this is one secret we do not need to keep to ourselves.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Be Known for Who You Stand For Not What You Stand Against.

A few years ago, my wife was able to score us some tickets to a Penn State/Notre Dame football game.  I’m a Penn State graduate.  At the time we lived very close to the University of Notre Dame.  So, when Penn State was playing at Notre Dame, because my wife is wonderful, she got us tickets to the game.

We both decked out in our best Penn State gear.  I even got a new PSU hat because there is something my wife likes about a sharp dressed man.  There was no doubt who I was cheering for.  

One thing I underestimated, though, was the amount of harassment we would take AT Notre Dame.  I know there are some places where it’s really not safe to wear the opposing team’s colors (i.e. Philadelphia Eagles fans have thrown snowballs at Santa!) but I certainly didn’t think Notre Dame would fall into that category.  Here we are in the mid-West.  Hoosier hospitality would surely welcome us with open arms.  We’re also at a Catholic university.  So, I’m thinking mid-West, friendly Catholics.  What could go wrong?  But, as soon as we stepped foot on to the university, you wouldn’t believe the harassment we took!  There was yelling, there was screaming, there were swear words (some of which I had never heard) and that was just from the nuns!  They were angry Catholics, let me tell you!

For those of us who are followers of Jesus, living out our faith is similar to that story.  We want to put our faith on display.  But for those of us who try to live our lives in submission to Jesus and His word, it’s becoming increasingly common to be discriminated against for doing so.  

Billy Graham said, “Unless this nation turns to Christ within the next few months, I despair of its future.” He said that but he said it in 1952.  Living for Jesus has never been easy. It’s not easy today.  It wasn’t easy in 1952.  It certainly wasn’t easy 2000 years ago when the Church was getting started.

In our increasingly dark culture, I see us with an unparalleled opportunity to shine.  But, the more “godless” our culture becomes, the easier it is for bitterness to take root.  (i.e. the "red cup" controversy ... seriously ... it's a cup.  If Starbucks stops selling Peppermint Mochas, then I might get upset.)  

In much of what I hear on TV or the radio or read on social media, it doesn’t take long for me to see a lack of compassion for people who do not share our Christian beliefs.  Instead of compassion, I often see hatred and contempt and ridicule.  I know people who would rather see sinners punished instead of saved.  If we want to make God known, we won’t do it by expecting someone who is not a follower of Jesus to live like one.  We won’t do it by forcing our Christian beliefs on companies who are not Christian.  We won’t do it by hiding our lights under the umbrella of judgment and ridicule.  We set ourselves apart by living out the words of 2 Timothy 2:24 – 26 “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” Please remember, people who do not live their lives in submission to Jesus are not the enemy ... they are trapped by the enemy. So, yes, we stand for what Jesus stands for, but the goal of our stance is not to see God pour out his judgment upon the captives. It’s to see him pour out his grace and mercy bringing them to a knowledge of the truth.  (Osborne) We I need to ask God to offer His grace to give me a greater desire to see someone saved from their sin instead of punished for their sin.

So, yes stand out.  Shine bright.  But, don’t stand out solely based upon who or what you stand against.  If anything sets us apart as followers of Jesus, please let it be Who we stand for. Our mission has never been to share values.  Our mission is to share the greatest news to ever make its way through the ears and to the heart the message of Gospel that you are worse off than you could imagine, but more loved and accepted than you ever dreamed. (Keller)  Jesus didn’t die to be the poster boy for a cause. Jesus didn’t die to promote your values. (Flores) Jesus didn’t even die to make bad people good, but rather to make spiritually dead people alive.  (Giglio).  The more I allow God’s grace to intersect my life, the more I will be able to extend that same grace to others.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

God's Love for Orphans

I have had the privilege of serving at two churches who love orphans.  Grace Community (Indiana) has been a part of rescuing many orphans in Thailand and Cambodia by partnering with Asia’s Hope.  They’ve built orphanages, sent many teams over, and have supported the children and staff with prayers and finances. 

Grace Community (Maryland) is also passionate about orphans.  We sponsor hundreds of orphans in Uganda in a partnership with AOET (AIDS Orphan Education Trust).  We also send many teams to Uganda each year and support the children and staff with our prayers and finances.

I have also been inspired by the stories of numerous people in both churches who have opened up their families and adopted children.  I have prayed with families seeking to adopt.  I have grieved with families when an adoption has fallen through.  I have rejoiced with families when they finally brought their little boy or girl home. 

The adoption process is not easy and it’s certainly not cheap.  And, sometimes there is heartbreak on the other end of it.  But, in the sight of God, caring for orphans is something He considers “pure and genuine.”  (James 1:27)

That’s why I’m excited about Orphan Sunday (November 8th).  Thousands of events will be held across America and around the world, all sharing a single focus that’s God’s heart to love and care for the orphan will become our heart as well.

I’m thankful that our church is able to host a wide variety of workshops during the afternoon of November 8th in an effort to ignite a passion to stand up for those who are not able to stand up for themselves.  These workshops will cover the spectrum of care: from what it means to adopt to learning how to care for orphans from afar.  We’ll also hear a powerful story from one of our own talking about their journey as an orphan.

I’m also thrilled to be a part of a team that will be going to Uganda in January to help care for orphans at AOET.  While this will not be my first time loving on orphans, it will be my first time overseas and I can’t wait!

Would you consider attending an Orphan Sunday event in your area this Sunday? 

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