Archive for the ‘Contending…’ Category

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A MEASURE is a plan or course of action taken to achieve a particular purpose. Through the leading of the Spirit i am presented with a particular verse and then i determine if i am willing to approve it thus making it a matter of application in my life. My approval has no bearing on whether it is truth or not. It most certainly is truth but i have a choice in what i do with truth.

i woke up this morning to the idea that this post was already done and all i had to do was review it, record it, and post it. NOT!

In the Word Jesus shows me an example of how to begin my day. It says, “He woke up long before the sun rose.” i’d have to say He was intentional. Wanting to be like Jesus, i wake up early before the sunrises as well. Notice i left out the words long before? Non the less i’m being intentional. Then it says, “He went to a far away place.” Again, intentional. For me i too go to a… well, a not so far away place, but from my bedroom to my family room, a distance of about 50 feet. Still intentional! Jesus does these first two things, so that He can spend time with the Father. Intentional, intentional, intentional.  But He doesn’t settle for just a few moments. He gets up before everyone else, goes to a far away place where they can’t find Him, because He wants extended time with His Father, ALONE! Thus, that’s my same intention. i can sum my intentions with three words. PURPOSED, PRIVATE, PROLONGED.

With that being said, i can now get to today’s topic, which just happens to be Contending… Part 5. All week-long i have been sharing about contending, but more specifically about contending for thankfulness. my contending paid off today. As i sat in my purposed, private, prolonged time with the Father this morning i began to notice things within the room. I though it a bit strange as this has been my routine for some time and never before have i even noticed the room or the items in it.

At first glance i saw a small blue, kind of laced ridge bowl with a silver stripe around it. i immediately remembered how long i looked at it before i decided to buy it. i remembered exactly where the shop was and what it looked like. i remembered that i got it during a phase when anything that could hold water, was turned into a fountain. i could almost hear the sound of the water and i was thankful.

i saw a row of VHS videos that captured some of my children’s early years. The one that captured my thoughts was of a Christmas while living in Lake Tahoe. As i thought about that video i still wonder why we recorded endless hours of driving around in the snow just rambling about nothing. i chuckled as i recalled getting the kids a dog which turned out to be one of the worst pets we have ever had, but it brought a smile and i was thankful.

My attention then moved to a painting on the wall, tucked away in a corner where it’s not seen very easily. i though about the person who painted it and gave it to us. They had capture the essence of music and angels which both have great memories of some incredible stories for me. i thought about the fact that the relationship had faded and passed away but the memory of that relationship and this picture that has held a place on the wall of our home for over 25 years brought me to another moment of thankfulness.

i now began to scan the room intently looking at what else i was thankful for. i could not escape from them. Memory after memory filled my heart with more and more thankfulness. Everything before me became precious, reminders of a trip, moments of a place in time, or persons from the past, present and the wonder of who would be in my future.

One of my favorite gifts is a Kaleidoscope that was given to me a couple of years ago. i pick it up every now and then to gaze at the beauty that it creates as i spin one lens this way and another a different way and add variations of light from the windows. So many things to be thankful for as i’m amazed by all the shapes and colors and the imagination of it all.

my prolonged time of about an hour and forty-five minutes was filled and sadly enough gone, but not without one last thankful thought. It came as i was surveying the entire room, realizing that every item in the room occupied a special place on a shelf or a certain position as it hung on a wall. In the memories of that neatly organized room, every item there made my far away place a place of beauty. At that moment i was most thankful for my wife who without realizing it at the time has prepared a place for my most precious and intentional time, that of being with my Father.

In closing i must share that once again, for about the millionth time i am reminded of “Be Still And Know.” my PURPOSED, PRIVATE, PROLONGED time get’s me the BE STILL. The KNOW comes out of the BE STILL. The KNOW is the most intimate moment when i am the Fathers and He is mine and nothing for that instant can separate me from Him. To Know is translated in this verse in the same way that it is when it says that Adam KNEW Eve. That doesn’t require any further explanation. i should say that, where the phrase, so and so knew, so and so, there was a conception that took place and a birth that followed. How is that relevant here? We’ll just have to wait and see. To KNOW comes from INTENTION. INTENTION toward a purposed, private, prolonged time with the Father.  There is no short cut, no easy way, no magic wand to get me there.

i say yes to Psalm 46:10 – MEASURE #13 – i will contend for more purposed, private, prolonged, intimate times of thankfulness? How about you? Will you approve MEASURE #13 and KNOW Him today in that kind of, THANKFUL way?

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It occurred to me that any discussion of being thankful must include at least one discussion or post regarding being unthankful.

Unthankful is when someone just doesn’t care about all the good things i’ve done for them. If i describe someone as unthankful i am criticizing them for not showing thanks or for being cruel to someone who has helped them.

Being unthankful has become an integral part of society. If I were to ask people if they are unthankful, they would probably reply, “Of course not!” However, this attitude can be ingrained in my life to the point that i don’t openly admit—or even realize—that i am sometimes unthankful.

In today’s fast-paced world, many people seem to not have time for thankfulness. Work, traffic, family, soccer practice, doctor appointments, and countless other things are the main priorities. There seems to be no time to thank others.

If you’re like me you have given someone a gift and not received thanks for it? You’ve also  been in a grocery store or restaurant and were not thanked for your business? And I can’t count the times I have felt unappreciated by family or friends or at my workplace? How did it make me feel? Not very good.

Deuteronomy 28 is called the “Blessings and Curses” chapter. It records a warning. This prophecy, given almost 3,500 years ago, recounts what is foretold to happen to proud, arrogant and unthankful nations!

The first 14 verses describe many wonderful blessings that are to be poured upon the nations that obey and worship God. The remaining part of the chapter lists the curses that are reaped for disobeying God:

“Because you serve not the Lord your God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; therefore shall you serve your enemies which the Lord shall send against you, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon your neck, until he have destroyed you.

“The Lord shall bring a nation against you from far, a nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the old, nor show favor to the young: and he shall eat the fruit of your cattle, and the fruit of your land, until you be destroyed…

“And he shall besiege you in all your gates, until your high and fenced walls come down, wherein you trusted, throughout all your land: and he shall besiege you in all your gates throughout all your land, which the Lord your God has given you” (Deut. 28:47-52).

In the book of Luke there’s the story of a miraculous healing. In this story, Christ healed ten lepers. Luke 17:12 says, “And as He entered into a certain village, there met Him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: and they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.

“And when He saw them, He said unto them, Go show yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.

“And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? They are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And He said unto him, Arise, go your way: your faith has made you whole”

Of the ten lepers, only one returned to thank Christ. Only one of the ten thanked God for healing them of an awful disease!

From television commercials, programs, movies, shopping malls and homes, a widespread attitude of selfishness is sweeping the nations of this world. Adults, children and teens are becoming more unthankful every day.

All to often i get caught up in the “you-work-hard-so-you-deserve-a-new-car-and-a-vacation-in-Barbados” mentality. This, in turn, causes me to believe the ideology that, if i don’t acquire these, life is somehow treating me unfairly.

The apostle Paul wrote, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (II Tim. 3:1-4).

I need to say “Thank you” often. Did you know that many people fear thanking others. They fall into the mentality that, by thanking, they are somehow in debt or owe something to that person.

How do I stay thankful? Change my mind… change my mind, everything changes. Thankfulness is not the answer, it is the assignment.

In closing, “I  have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and  kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am unthankful to those teachers.” – Khalil  Gibran

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A.J. Jacobs, author of “The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible“ said . . . my obsession with gratefulness. I can’t stop.  Just now, I press the elevator button and am thankful that it arrives quickly.  I get onto the elevator and am thankful that the elevator cable didn’t snap and plummet me to the basement.  I go to the fifth floor and am thankful that I didn’t have to stop on the second or third or fourth floor.  I get out and am thankful that Julie left the door unlocked so I don’t have to rummage for my King Kong key ring.  I walk in, and am thankful that Jasper is home and healthy and stuffing his face with pineapple wedges.  And on and on.  I’m actually muttering to myself, ‘Thank you. . .thank you. . . thank you.’ It’s an odd way to live.  But also kind of great and powerful.  I’ve never before been so aware of the thousands of little good things, the thousands of things that go right every day.”

George Barna a statistician asked people what they look forward to:

71% answered getting a good nights sleep. – 68% watching tv.  –  55% being with friends. – 54% listening to music.  –  40% attending church.

With only 3% of those who call themselves Christians picking up a Bible from Sunday to Sunday the question must be what are we pursuing?

Criss Jami says that, “The reality of loving God is loving him like he’s a Superhero who actually saved you from stuff rather than a Santa Claus who merely gave you some stuff.”

There are times when i have though that it was hypocritical to thank God with my tongue when i don’t feel thankful in my heart. Hypocritical thanksgiving is if my aim is to conceal ingratitude and get the praise of others. That’s not my aim.  my aim in speaking words of gratitude is that God would be merciful and fill my words with the emotion of true gratitude.  i am not seeking the praise of men; i am seeking the mercy of God.  i’m not hiding the hardness of ingratitude, but hoping for the in-filling of the Spirit. Thanksgiving with my mouth stirs up thankfulness in my heart

i should probably ask myself, ‘Do i know my heart so well that i am sure the words of thanks have no trace of gratitude in them?’  i, for one, distrust my own assessment of my motives. It’s doubtful that i know my good ones well enough to see all the traces of contamination.  And i doubt that i know my bad ones well enough to see the traces of grace.  That being said, it is incorrect for me to assume that there is some trace of gratitude in my heart when i speak and sing of God’s goodness even though i feel little or nothing.

In the opening story A. J. Jacobs shared how he was resolved to spend most of his time in thanksgiving and praising God.  If i can’t do it with the joy that i should, i must do it as i can.  Every man, good and bad, is bound to praise God, and to be thankful for all that he has received, and to do it as well as he can, rather than leave it undone…. Doing it as you can is the way to be able to do it better.  Thanksgiving stirs up thankfulness in the heart.”

In closing, Joel Osteen says, “One of the main reasons that we lose our enthusiasm in life is because we become ungrateful.. we let what was once a miracle become common to us. We get so accustomed to God’s goodness it becomes a routine..” For me, it’s time for more intentional thankfulness.

Contending… Part 2

Posted: November 5, 2013 in Contending..., Podcasts

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ON TOP OF THE FENCEPOST – Alex Haley, the author of “Roots,” had an unusual picture hanging on his office wall. It was a picture of a turtle on top of a fence post. When asked, “Why is that there?” Alex Haley answered, “Every time I write something significant, every time I read my words & think that they are wonderful, & begin to feel proud of myself, I look at the turtle on top of the fence post & remember that he didn’t get there on his own. He had help.”

That’s the basis of thankfulness. Remembering that i had help to get where ever i think i am. Despite the highest standard of living in the history of humanity, people seem driven by an insatiable desire for more, better and faster. Just when i should feel most satisfied, i find myself bored and disillusioned. The problem is not that things are so bad, but that i have lost a gift called thankfulness.

The word urges me to maintain a spirit of thanksgiving in all circumstances. Not as a gift to God, but as a gift from God. He doesn’t need my thanks, but i desperately need reminders that i am His. Unfortunately, i was born with a tendency toward greed, envy and other addictions that encourage discontent. In order to contend for thankfulness or anything else for that matter I must be in the game. Too often i am sitting on the sidelines watching and waiting for God to do His thing. When He does i may or may not chime in with an act of thankfulness.

  • Thankfulness is a learned discipline that goes a long way toward curing my discontent.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “ed give thanks in all your circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

i wonder how many times i have been offended at Jesus? Only seeing Him as the One who didn’t give enough or love according to my desires. How many times has my heart been wounded by hurt and pain and filled with blame toward Him for my perceived “lesser than” status in the kingdom or community i live and serve in? Paul describes this journey, “Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were they thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools…” (Rom. 1:21-22).

Here’s a story to make those words more clear.

There’s the story of a woman who was getting ready to jump off a 44 story building in New York City.

Witnesses said that she did not look like the type of person who would do such a thing. She was very distinguished and well dressed.

All the attempts made by the police to get the woman off the ledge had failed.

One of the officers asked if he could call his pastor in to see if he could help. When the pastor arrived, he asked permission to go to the ledge and talk to the woman.

As the pastor neared the edge the woman screamed, “Don’t come any closer or I’ll jump!”

The pastor took a step back and then said, “I am sorry that you believe no one loves you.”

This got the woman’s attention and it got the attention of the police. That was something that you don’t usually say to a person who is threatening suicide.

The woman took a step towards the pastor and said, “My grandchildren love me and so does my children. My whole family loves me! I have 8 wonderful grandchildren and they love me.”

The pastor took a step towards the woman and said, “Well then, you must be very poor, maybe that is why you want to take your own life.”

The woman who was a little overweight said, “Do I look like I go without any meals? We live in a very nice apartment. I’m not poor.”

The pastor took another step closer to her and was now 3 feet from her when he asked, “Then why do you want to kill yourself? I don’t understand.”

The woman thought for a moment and then said, “You know, I don’t really remember.”

The story ends with the pastor and the woman walking towards the elevator as she shows him pictures of her grandchildren. Eventually this woman becomes a volunteer on the city’s suicide hotline, helping others choose life.

What did the pastor do to help this woman?

He helped her get her eyes off herself and onto the many ways that God had blessed her.

She learned a valuable lesson that day. She learned that thankful people are happy people.

i do not want God to look at me as not being thankful, that i had become futile in my thoughts, and my foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, but became a fool.

If i don’t learn anything else today, i hope it would be just that. Thankful people are happy people.

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A.W. Tozer said, “Perhaps it takes a purer faith to praise God for unrealized blessings than for those we once enjoyed or those we enjoy now.”

Today I have found a quiet, yet possibly overwhelming issue which has made its way into my life, the Body of Christ and the hearts of many believers. It’s acceptable and as American as hot dogs and apple pie. It is encouraged and rewarded in our daily lives yet undetected for what it is and the dangers of embracing it. My busy everyday life, my pride and the seemingly fulfilling accomplishments that come from it keep me from seeing the facts that would bring it to my attention. It’s described in a single word… discontent.

To contend is to strive in rivalry, to compete. The rivalry is between being discontent and content. The difference for me is in being more thankful than unthankful. Change my mind, everything changes. As part of my desire to live life intentionally my mind needs to be focused on thankfulness instead of the worlds point of view of “what have you done for me lately.”

dis·con·tent: A restless desire or craving for something one does not have, A restless longing for better circumstances, Absence of contentment. Showing or experiencing dissatisfaction or restless longing, A longing for something better than the present situation.

On the flip side.

Con-tent-ment: Happiness or satisfaction with one’s situation in life.

Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary says, “A state of mind in which one’s desires are confined to his lot whatever it may be (1 Tim. 6:6). [And it is, indeed, a source of immense profit, for] godliness accompanied with contentment (that contentment which is a sense of inward sufficiency) is great and abundant gain.”

So where exactly do i live… discontent, with a restless desire for something i don’t have? Or… with my desires confined, and content with that being my great and abundant gain? The real answer is probably dependent upon the week, day or the hour. So the  truthful answer is probably somewhere in between.

Colossians 4:2 Be earnest and unwearied and steadfast in your prayer [life], being [both] alert and intent in [your praying] with thanksgiving.

One of the problems in discussing this topic is that it is subject to individual perceptions. The determination is made by our own values, our character, our life experiences and our relationships. I can’t count the hours spent in pursuit of whatever (work, church, family, etc.) and come to a conclusion based on the total. This issue is of the heart and it can only be addressed with God. There will be a day when i will answer for the intents of my heart. This won’t be out of a judgment executed by God but by my own heart.

Yet this is an issue which few and i for one am not sure that i have the discernment or wisdom to acknowledge and deal with on my own. James spoke of it as that which wars within us, as i am longing and striving within myself to obtain what i do not have. i “do all these things and cannot obtain” (Jas. 4:2). I (Ed) “fight and war” within myself. Sometimes secretly while other times not so secretly desiring those things which i believe will improve my life. i have been deceived in believing that i have been in full, or at least at some high level of pursuit of contentment in the things of God. All the while i am actually fighting for contentment outside of the God-ordained path to a satisfied, fully convinced, free heart, which can only be found through a life of prayer and fasting.

Paul was a man who was content in any and every circumstance, “Not which I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Phil. 4:11-12).

How did Paul learn such a thing? How did he come to be content regardless of the circumstance?

Paul learned to set his mind on things above (Col. 3:3) rather than on earthly things, having fully owned the truth that this world was not his home – but that his citizenship was in heaven (Phil. 3:19-20).

He was settled in his identity and had a deep sense of assurance that God would withhold no good thing from him, and he sought for his heart to be rooted and grounded in this confident trust through the love of God (Eph. 3:16-19).

He kept his mind set on the one true thing which was real and worth giving his life for, rather than finding comfort in the things of this world which could never fully satisfy.

I am not promoting a lifestyle of poverty. I’m not proposing a life of lack and sacrificial giving of all i posses. I’m not suggesting that i give up all my dreams or that i abandon all my gifts, talents or passions.

I am suggesting that if I am going to be consumed by anything let it be my thankfulness for my personal. intimate, eternal relationship with God.

Harry Ironside said, “We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.”

The world is consumed with self-improvement in almost everything but the things of God. Let God find my life lived in contrast to the world. Let Him find me “contending earnestly and unwearied and steadfast in my prayer [life], being [both] alert and intent in [my praying] with thanksgiving.