Comparison is the Opposite of Contentment

OK everybody up! Rise and shine! Good Morning

Sometimes I struggle. Does that ever happen to you? Struggle? If we put our list of struggles side by side there’s a good chance there would be no matches, but we would all have something on our lists.011214_2029_OneWord1.png I have a lifelong infatuation with the word ‘why’; not so much the academic, ‘Why does that formula work when this one doesn’t?’ but the practical, ‘Why did this happen when it’s not at all what I expected.’  We’ve all been there, navigating the speculative ‘What happens now?’

You know, Gideon went through that same litany of defeat when nothing seemed to be going the way he envisioned. For one thing, did you know that Gideon’s reputation was not ‘mighty warrior’, but was instead ‘weakest member of the weakest tribe’? This was serious for a warrior who was in charge of leading soldiers in battle. Do you think Gideon had ‘why’ on his mind? In Judges 6:12 & 13 “The angel of God appeared to him and said, “God is with you, O mighty warrior!”   “Gideon replied, “With me, my master? If God is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all the miracle-wonders our parents and grandparents told us about, telling us?”

Docile, frightened Gideon was carrying the burden of a nation and because he destroyed the altars of the false god, Baal, his life was in danger. I’m thinking Gideon asked ‘why’. The story continues in Judges 6 with Gideon confronting the Angel of the Lord with this argument, “The fact is, God has nothing to do with us—he has turned us over to Midian.” It sounds like Gideon was struggling with ‘Why did this happen?’ Is this a lot like our struggles today? Do we concentrate so intently on activities we can’t do to the detriment of those we can? Do we so obsessively crave what we have lost, we disregard what we still have?

Sometimes we need a little reminder that comparison is the enemy of contentment. We need to take stock of what we have now and begin a new inventory to build on. It’s true that many individuals have lost much of their past inventory and rebuilding from what they have now is devastating. The truth is though, what’s gone is the past, what remains might be crumbs but they are the morsels to start rebuilding. Focus on what we have, not on what was lost. Unsure? Of course we are unsure, so was Gideon. Remember he had just shown his skepticism when he reminded God that it seemed like He had turned his back on Gideon’s people. So let’s continue Judges 6:14 “God faced him directly: “Go in this strength that is yours. I have sent you, haven’t I? The victory over Midian is already yours.” Can you just hear Gideon? Ha! “You’re kidding right? Me, my master? I’m going to save Israel?  I’ve got nothing – no strength, no power. Look at me. My clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I’m the runt of the litter.” Gideon was focusing on what he didn’t have’; what he couldn’t do, but God had a plan that far exceeding any that Gideon could imagine. Verse 16 “God said to him, “I’ll be with you. Believe me, you’ll defeat Midian as one man.”

The story of Gideon doesn’t end there. He did go on to defeat the enemy. We can go on to defeat the enemy too. The enemy that gets inside our minds, and worms its way to our heart and makes us feel like we have nothing – absolutely nothing. But when we listen to God he says “My child, “I’ll be with you. Believe me ….”

Here’s the path to overcoming the enemy of defeat. Don’t worry. It changes nothing.  Remember God is by your side. Ask Him to be your guide and protector. Start reminding yourself of what is good, lovely, honorable, and brings you joy. Did you start an inventory of what you can do? Do you have a ‘thankful’ list? There is no such thing as perfect. Perfect is just a word, it’s not a state of being. So let’s not expect perfect but let’s expect to be so persuasive in our thoughts that our hearts and attitudes catch up. What we think eventually gets to our emotions. We choose.  Better or bitter.  Sunny or cloudy.  Peace or conflict. Joy ….. choose joy.  It’s the better deal.

And I choose this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tezG4LRNzw&feature=g-vrec

You are now entering the mission field!

Can we start over at the gateway to summer?  In June, didn’t we all feel like we were on a mission to enjoy the days of summer?  How successfully did that mission progress? The countdown has begun. Mom’s everywhere are on the fence with this one.  On one side, the return to structure, a time to wake and a time to sleep. On the other side, the return to structure, a time to wake and a time to sleep. See the dilemma?  These days preceding the start of school are evaporating.  When entering a store I want to wrap a tarp around the displays of schools supplies to hold back the reality that summer is nearly over. How can it be that August is so quickly slipping away when there are so many activities still waiting to transpire? ERGH! Can we go back to June, please, when we were just embarking on our mission?  I know what the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” but can’t we stretch this season out a lot longer?

What do you love most about summer? Is it vacation? Catching a few extra minutes (or maybe hours) of deck time? A chance to be outside till God turns the stars on? Running errands that have no obligated set time to be done? Downshifting a little, instead of feeling like every gear is programmed to shift on command? Opportunities to gather with friends for a few hours without wondering if you’ll be plowing snow all the way home? Sounds like a mission of a different variety, doesn’t it?

I love every season. In fact I love every day of the week. Some are more fun than others – like summer, like vacations. But then back to work and back to reality and back to ‘that’ mission field.  For some of us it’s a job, for others it’s schools, and for everyone it’s a place to be.  That place to be, no matter who we are is our mission field.  It’s that place where just by being in it we can make a difference. I read a lot, listen to podcasts and watch countless videos. The number of social media evangelists telling me what I have to do to be successful is overwhelming. Their mission field is vast compared to mine. But this one thing is true for me and it’s true for you, we all have a mission. We have a place to serve – a place to make a difference – a place to shine. Some of us take the scenic route, a crooked path, a mountainous trail, while others seem to know their mission like an internal compass stuck on true north.  For those who lack that pinpoint precision, we gain unparalleled experience from all the ups and downs, twists and turns while wandering.  The key is building a strong foundation of experience as we cross boundaries, then use what we’ve learned to help others and help ourselves too.  Our mission field might be small and familial or it might be diverse and seem foreign.  Most of us are not called to acts of prominence or fame but each of us is called to be a light right where we are.

My mission field at home and at work is my opportunity to make a difference.  It’s yours too. We don’t know the impact one small act of kindness will make.  Philippians 2:1-4 says: “If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”

What is your mission field? Does it feel like unknown territory?  The entire landscape of my day will be different from yours.  We know different people, we live in different places, what we do every day is different. We have a kaleidoscope of opportunities on our mission fields all needing just one thing to be effective.  Light!  The places where light makes the most difference is where there is no light.  Proverbs 13:9 says “The light of the righteous shines brightly.” We look toward the Light of the World to receive energy, contentment, and an unlimited supply of joy.  Colossians 3:23 reminds us that “Whatever we do, we are to work at it with all our heart, just like we are working for the Lord.” No matter where we live, work, go to school, or play, whatever gifts God has given each of us, we are responsible to Him to work at it with all our heart and be faithful.  1 Thessalonians 5:24 tells me if God calls me to do something he will be alongside me helping me do it. “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”

Leaving the gateway of the summer camp I attended, there was a sign that read “You are now entering the mission field.”  Back then I didn’t think about the significance of that simple statement. Now I recognize its truth. I could spend years looking for my mission, when all along I have been on my mission field, the place where every day I make a difference.  The question is, what kind of difference am I making?

Ready?  You are now entering the mission field. Let’s get out there. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDjstImknnU

Lover vs Enemy – Which Do You Choose

Have you ever started your day from the moment of wakefulness with an unexplained sense of regret? Monday, I woke up disappointed; no reason, but the tug toward discouragement was obvious. Monday follows Sunday, the day of spiritual feasting.  It didn’t take long to recognize the leading character in this restless descent into pessimism. While my guard was down, the ‘Enemy of My Soul’ brought out his messy paintbrush and tried to ruin the landscape of the beautiful day God planned. During our pastor’s sermon on Sunday, he was reading in Psalms when my eReader flipped back a few chapters to a passage that came to my heart at the first sign of morning today. Psalm 57:8 “Awake, my soul! Awake, O stringed instrument and harp! I will wake up at dawn!” Being awake is a helpful first step, but what comes next? Good question. What does come with the advent of a new day? Some days are immersed in wandering contentedness; on others we need a swift upsurge of incentive! There is nothing wrong with taking a break, letting off the accelerator of life and coasting aimlessly for a little while. We need a reprieve from regimented structure and relentless work, but this was not one of those time-off days.

This day I had my heart set on a productive day; productive laced with contentment. I was thinking of all the things I wanted to check off my list and the satisfaction of seeing that line drawn through each task. I’m pretty sure I gave some thought to the Lord and even started the day with a sincere prayer.  I know what it says in 1Timothy 6:6 “Now godliness combined with contentment brings great profit.” Instead of contentment, menacing flickers of discouragement threatened. Less than 15 minutes into morning the effects of Monday after Sunday were coloring my day with abstract images; lost focus and no contentment in sight. After about the 4th fruitless trip up and down the stairs, I recognized the signs of attitude deterioration.  I was definitely not following what I learned just the day before from Psalm 63:8 “My soul pursues you; your right hand upholds me.” I had to ask. Is this the path God would want me to stumble around on; all this aimless wandering? Isn’t this wasted energy? And what about all the time I can’t get back if this restlessness continues all day?

Does this ever happen to you? Some obscure emotion snags your attitude and drags it through a gloomy path to despair and spiritual poverty? Couldn’t we use a stop sign right then with an arrow pointing to a better path; one that’s well marked with a light at the end? There is always a better path. In fact, I can prove it in Jeremiah 6:16 where “The Lord said to his people: “You are standing at the crossroads. So consider your path. Ask where the old, reliable paths are. Ask where the path is that leads to blessing and follow it. If you do, you will find rest for your souls.” But they said, “We will not follow it!” In that context, God is calmly trying to convince his people that he has given them instruction and has shown them the tried and true path, but they seemed to have a better idea and purposefully rejected God’s advice and said “We will not follow it.”  Let’s not make that chaotic mistake!

Where do we find momentum for living above challenges etched in the landscape by that messy paintbrush clasped in the hands of the ‘Enemy of Your Soul’?

  • Dive into the hands of the ‘Lover of Your Soul’, Jesus, God’s Son who promises in Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”  If you get the inside right, the outside will take care of itself.
  • Connect with God – Isaiah 59 reveals some consequences of being alienated from Him. Unfamiliar with peace; wait for light, but see only darkness; grope along the wall like the blind, like those who cannot see;
    we stumble at noontime as if it were evening.

It’s easy to begin the day with hope and quickly slide into sadness. Even when we pray to the ‘Lover of Our Soul’, that despicable ‘Enemy of Our Soul’ is ready to pounce, claw, and drag us to defeat. In those times, remember these words from David in Psalm 119:65-68 “Be good to your servant, God; be as good as your Word. Train me in good common sense; I’m thoroughly committed to living your way. Before I learned to answer you, I wandered all over the place, but now I’m in step with your Word. You are good, and the source of good; train me in your goodness.” [Message]

Your mission, should you decide to accept it is, Lover vs Enemy – you choose. Joshua 24:15 “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve”

Ready?  Let’s get out there!  All will be well.

21 Tips For Being Wise

You’ve heard it before. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. I’m not convinced that qualifies as insanity, but it runs backward from wisdom. Did you know knowledge and wisdom have distinctive differences? I read, I study, I memorize, I even practice, but I can still lack wisdom. I can use more wisdom. Maybe you’ve already got it mastered.   Personally I’ve taken God at his word in James 1:5 “If you lack wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”  I think I better take the advice here – and get on track.

Have you ever thought about the differences between knowledge and wisdom? They go together but are not a matched set. Knowledge is gained through study, experience, investigation of facts, and knowing about a subject enough to share precepts or an educated opinion.  Wisdom can be coupled with knowledge but its qualities extend beyond what is known to encompass what is right. Wisdom is joined to discernment and is the navigation system we use to make decisions and find our true north.  So many decisions, so many possibilities, so many paths to get there.  My quiet time today took me to Proverbs 4.  But somehow these two verses in Proverbs  got me started.  Proverbs 18:9 “One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.” And Proverbs 16:9 “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”  One thing I never want to be is one who is slack in my work; it destroys! And I know that I can plan all I want, but it is God who gives me wisdom to sort out the steps to take.

Reading through Proverbs 4, I made a little checklist.  Go ahead and read the full 27 verses after this, but I thought it might be fun to dash through Proverbs 4 and pick up some tips to share.  I’m not going to identify the verses …. But just remember Proverbs 4.  Here we go.

  1. Listen to your father’s instruction
  2. Pay attention and gain understanding
  3. Do not forsake my [father] teaching
  4. Take hold of my words with all your heart
  5. Keep my commands
  6. Get wisdom – The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom
  7. Get understanding – Though it cost all you have: Get understanding
  8. Do not forsake wisdom
  9. Listen and accept what your father says
  10. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go
  11. Do not set foot on the path of the wicked
  12. Avoid the path of evil; do not travel on it
  13. Choose the path of the righteous which shines like the morning sun
  14. Do not walk with evil; the wicked is like deep darkness
  15. Pay attention to the words of your father
  16. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
  17. Keep your mouth free of perversity
  18. Keep corrupt talk far from your lips
  19. Keep eyes your straight ahead – do not turn to evil
  20. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
  21. Be steadfast in all your ways

So there we are. Twenty one tips for becoming wise and gaining understanding.  Something to think about; something to strive for.  Look back at the list once more.  Ready?

Let’s get out there. And remember: Treat yourself to joy everyday!