Tag Archives: Spiritual

A Road Map To Lasting Contentment

Can you honestly say you are “content” both, inside and out?

What is “Contentment”?

Where do we find contentment?

Should fleeting environmental circumstances affect our contentment?

Should we rely on personal pleasures or perishable possessions to fuel our contentment?

Apostle Paul seems to share the answers to these questions in Chapter 4 of his letter to the congregation at Philippi.

The secret to un-wavering contentment can be found in Paul’s statement:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” Philippians 4:4

The key word in this scripture is: ALWAYS. Here the word always is used to mean “completely and infinitely rely upon” the LORD (Jesus).

Just as we all made the decision to have faith in and believe upon our Lord (Jesus), we must also remember to rejoice (or find our Joy) in Him at all times. No matter the environmental or emotional circumstances that happen often and inconveniently in this earthly life.

Rejoicing (to have joy or be joyful) is not a right nor a privilege; it is a choice. I think my personal relationship with Christ is what allows me to be joyful in all circumstances; pain, and suffering included.

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Unwanted and Unsolicited

This is a friendly reminder of a law that was signed by President George W. Bush in 2003. This Law is called the CAN-SPAM act of 2003. This law was designed to stop the barrage of unsolicited marketing emails inundating our personal email accounts. These type of emails are called SPAM. This is a bit different from the “Spam” I grew up with. The Spam I grew up with was a wonderful concoction of delicious pork pieces. I became very fond of this product. The difference between the Spam I enjoy and the SPAM I don’t is a matter of choice. I consciously choose the tasty pork loaf, however, I did not choose to be slammed with a million emails. Emails, whose only purpose is to tempt me to purchase or subscribe to something which provides nothing fruitful or uplifting. Spamming is actually a subversive attempt at mind control. Did you know that Satan is a “Spammer?” He SPAMs by slamming our minds with unsolicited negative thoughts.

Friends, don’t lose hope, and don’t lose heart. When it comes to unwanted SPAM we do have a choice. Because of the CAN-SPAM Act, by-law an “Unsubscribe” or “Opt-Out” button must appear on any unsolicited email or electronic advertisement. Yes! Great freedom comes from clicking the unsubscribe button. It isn’t easy to find, it is usually at the bottom portion of the email and is often in very fine print. I do not covet power on a regular basis, but in this instance, it feels pretty good to shoot down menacing advertisements with one click of the mouse. Ok, sometimes it takes two clicks.

In the Bible, the Apostle Paul actually talks about “unsubscribing.” However, Paul hopes we would be strong enough to unsubscribe from unsolicited negative thoughts. In Philippians 4:8-9 Paul gives us a list of things to mediate on. Things like: Love, Truth, Holiness, Righteousness, Nobility, Purity, and Virtue.” When we mediate on these things we subconsciously unsubscribe from their polar opposites. Sure, it takes some effort on our part to meditate on these things, especially since we are bombarded everyday with their opposites. But, if we do as Paul asks great mental weights are lifted off of our minds. Remember, whether it is an unwanted email or unsolicited thought we always have the choice to “Unsubscribe.” Take charge of your thoughts, you are the only one that can.

 

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Unmet Expectations: Don’t Let Them Chase Hope Away.

My house used to have a closet with a locked door. I know this because I locked it. Prior to closing off this part of my house I used it for the storage of vibrant and wonderful things. The most radiant thing I used to hang in this closet was hope. When hope was in the closet of my house the door was never closed. Each day I welcomed hope with open arms and open mind. I felt such comfort and peace having hope in my house. Then one day hope packed its bags and left. Why did hope leave? Where did it go? Upon noticing hope was gone, I ran frantically through my house looking for hope. I burst through the front door and feverishly combed my property looking for hope, but hope wasn’t to be found. I sat for a moment to collect my thoughts, all the while wondering, where did hope go? Finally, I resigned myself to thinking hope may never return. I became angry and that is when I shut and locked the closet door. I, and no one else closed the door to hope.

Now, years later, I discovered what happened to hope. You see, hope got tired, tired of watching me in agony. “What agony,” you ask? Well it seems, year after year unmet expectations kept piling up in the living room of my house. Every day, when hope was in my house I insisted on taking it for a walk past the living room. Hope noticed the sadness in my eyes as I obsessed about the ever growing pile of my unmet expectations. Finally, hope could stand it no longer, it packed up its belongings and left.

After being without hope for a while, I began to think, maybe I should unlock the closet within my house just in case hope desires to return. I really wanted to make hope feel like it was welcomed to return. I unlocked the door and pushed it open. When the closed door was opened light cast itself across the floor, and in the light I noticed a handwritten note. Here is what the note said:

“I hated to leave but you left me no choice. I truly loved the days when you would greet me and embrace me each and every day. But, when you started obsessing about unmet expectations, and forgetting about me I had no choice. I’m hope, and I can’t stay where I am not the center of your attention. I promise, one day, I will return. When you want and desire me more than your unmet expectations, then, I will return. Sincerely Yours – HOPE!”

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God’s Track Record

Sometimes learning to trust can be hard. I often wonder, why do I project the mistrust I have of certain people upon God? He’s never left me nor forsaken me. When am I going to realize that faith in God is an unbridled and bareback ride through the wilderness, with no concern of what’s over the next rise. If I believe and have faith God is with me on this side of the hill, then by faith I can believe God is on the other side waiting for me just the same. Having unbridled faith in God is a sign of complete trust in God. God can’t work in and through me if I don’t or won’t trust him completely. How can I know he is trustworthy? In Psalm 22:4 King David tells me, “Our fathers trusted in You; They trusted, and You delivered them. They cried to You, and were delivered; They trusted in You, and were not ashamed.” Wow! With a track record like God’s I have no cause for distrust.

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The Simplicity of Sharing the Good News

Sometimes Christians are so passionate about their God they unknowingly alienate potential believers. How do they unknowingly do this? When sharing the Gospel with people, who believe in some other religious system like Buddhism or Islam, Christians often speak down to these people as if they are lesser than, just because their current view doesn’t align with theirs. When this happens, non-Christians, are turned off and close down to the Gospel. In other words, they feel attacked and put up walls so thick nothing can penetrate. At this point you may be asking: “How do I share the Gospel with non-Christians in a way that attracts instead of repels?” The Apostle Paul shows us how to do this as he addresses the “Men of Athens” on Mars Hill (Acts 17:22-34). Paul starts his address with, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.”

As Paul addresses this group of people, a very devout idolatry laden group, he offers respect, instead of condemnation toward their views and beliefs. How does he show respect:

  1. He gives credit to their spirituality. Paul says, “I observe you are very religious.”
  2. He makes an attempt to understand their culture. Paul says, “I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship.” He took the time to understand the person’s view.
  3. He offers to identify their “Unknown God.” The Greeks were very inquisitive people, they enjoyed philosophical debate. Paul opened their ears to the truth when he offered to educate them. In other words, he knew his audience before he began to speak.

 

Respect, understanding, and the promise of knowledge opened the ears of the Greeks to hear what Paul had to say. A person’s ears are a gateway to the mind, and the mind is a window to the heart. Paul continued and finished his sermon on Mars Hill with the truth and nothing but the truth. Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill is actually the fullness of the Gospel of Christ in a nutshell. Here is what that small nugget of truth did:

Acts 17:32-34 says, “Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, “We shall hear you [x]again concerning this.” So Paul went out of their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.”

It was true then and true now; some sneered, some asked to hear more about the “unknown God,” and some joined and believed. Remember, the goal of an evangelist is not to prosecute the beliefs of another, it is only to share the Gospel Truth! Paul planted a seed, the Holy Spirit watered, and God grew the desire to believe. Can you see the simplicity in this?

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Let’s Be Real

“Tragically, in church, where there should be authenticity, we’ll paint on the phony smiles, slap backs, and masquerade to hide what is inside our hearts—the fact that in reality…we’re hurting. I’ve often said if you could know the pain in the lives of those sitting in front and behind you in church, you’d be shocked. Everybody hurts. We’ve all been shot…we’re all bleeding within, including the one behind the pulpit.” (Charles Swindoll – The Church Awakening)

What if we had the courage, when someone asked us how are we doing, to give them the real answer? Wouldn’t that be liberating? I think, by answering truthfully, we may see how a true friend responds. A true friend will not label you a “Whiner” or “Drama Queen” just because you tell them: “I had a bad day” or “I’m struggling in my close relationships.” A true friend will ask only one question: “How can I share your pain?”

 

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“When our thoughts are anywhere but here and now, we are merely chasing shadows.” (Quote by Author Patricia Spadaro)

As a Christian vessel impacted by God’s Graciousness I often wonder why sometimes Joy escapes me. At times I feel like a bathtub whose rubber stopper gets pulled right before the warm water of joy reaches the full line. Usually, it’s either worry or doubt that pulls the plug. To confirm which one it is I pray like this, “Lord what hinders me from being filled and overflowing with Joy?” After the prayer I immediately still my mind, relax, and listen for the Holy Spirit. I have to remind myself: shortness of time, and concerns of the past or future cannot fill my thoughts or focus is lost. Upon reminding myself I make the commitment to listen and expect an answer. That’s when the Holy Spirit speaks. On this occasion he said, “James, you are meant to be a vessel filled with joy overflowing.  However, there are times I see “worry” get the best of you. Jesus discussed the antidote to worry in his gospel (Matt. Chap 6:25-34). The antidote, he said, is to train your focus on ‘first God’s kingdom and what God wants’ not on you and what you want.  Remember, worry is a by-product of selfishness, whereas joy is a fact of selflessness.” As His voice subsides, and with a stilled mind I interpret his words and discover: Worry comes when I focus inward upon myself, my wants, and my desires. Worry is quelled when I focus completely on God’s will, God’s wants, God’s desire for me, and Christ’s ways. “So don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will have its own worries. Each day has enough trouble of its own” said Christ.  Reminds me of the old hymn “One Day at a Time.”

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