Saturday, January 28, 2017

Do You Want to Be Content?

by Sylvia Gaston

With greater access to other people’s lives through social media, it’s very easy to fall into the bad habit of playing the “comparison game”. Sadly, in this game, there are no winners.

If you have children, you’ve seen that they also compare themselves and what they have (or don’t have) with those around them. As a mom of high schoolers who are neck-deep in the observation of their peers’ lives, I realize how hard it can be to instill the value of contentment into your family’s life.

But, comparisons always leave us wanting more. And discontented is a horrible way to go through daily life. It can lead to depression, stress, and a general ugly attitude.

All of us have less than others. All of us have more than others. Do you tend to focus on what you don’t have rather than feel grateful and content for what you do have? When we become so focused on where our life falls short, we miss the wonderfulness of how great our life actually is.

Contentment is defined as a state of happiness and appreciation.

Contentment. You have to want it! You have to fight for it!

Developing a discipline of contentment is easier said than done – but it is possible. Just as we work out our bodies, we can learn to work out our minds. The battle begins there.

We can have great power over our lives if we learn to stay in control of our thoughts and actions.  There is a great book about this called, “Battlefield of the Mind” by Joyce Meyer.

Here are just 2 suggestions to begin your journey on the road to contentment:

 1. Trade in grumbling and complaining for thankfulness and appreciation:

 Let’s face it, some of us are just in the habit of, or even addicted to, whining and complaining. We automatically see the worst in people or situations instead of looking for the best. When you catch yourself doing so, immediately ask yourself, “What is the bright side of this situation (or person)?” Turn your focus there BEFORE you spiral down that negativity tunnel. You will feel better about the situation, about yourself, about life!

2. Focus on and appreciate what you have. The antidote to discontent is thankfulness:

When we focus on what we don’t have, we completely overlook our blessings. I sometimes ask myself how I can possibly complain when I have health, love, a place to live and good food and water. And, yet I do! Tsk, tsk.

I have invented a mental game called “Kodak moments”. I remind myself to look around and take a mental snapshot of what is right in front of me (“click”) – kids who are healthy and have goodness in them, a husband who loves me and works hard, a job where I am valued, and a God who loves me, unconditionally – even when I’m not being very lovable! “Click”, “click”, “click”!

Another thing you can commit to in 2017 is to make an ongoing list of things you are thankful for. This can jumpstart the optimism in your brain and squash some of that Negative Ned (or Nelly) thinking.

God tells us in the Bible that we are to “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for  you…” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)

Pull out the Bible and find out what God has to say about how we are to live satisfied and fulfilling lives. Or visit a church near you. We were created to be content.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Beyond the Tears

by Tim Howard

Grandchildren bring a tremendous amount of joy to any grandparent. The Bible tells us that children are a gift from the Lord and grandchildren bring honor and glory to the grandparent. Since our grandson lives with us on a regular basis, our joy is multiplied many times over! Having said that, I must admit it’s not all fun and games.  My wife and I have been in the process of learning that life is full of laughter, joy, and happiness but there are times when sorrow, pain, and darkness supplant the light-hearted spirit.  Tears flow as a result!

When people hurt they often cry.  Even though tears can be the product of great joy – sorrow is more often the source. It’s ok to cry and that truth applies to all men  – especially those who believe that strong men don’t cry!

I can’t speak for you but when I see a person crying I want to stop, listen, comfort, and help them wipe away the tears.  I don’t want them to hurt, experience pain, or be filled with sorrow. The quandary, however, is the very tears that come from sorrow can become the spring waters that produce repentance and growth.

In 2 Corinthians 7:9 & 10, Paul says to some people, "I am happy now, not because you were made sorrowful, but because your sorrow led you to repentance."  “Repentance” is one of the most misunderstood words in the Christian vocabulary and possibly one of the most neglected experiences in the Christian life.  Repentance is vital if you want Christ's life and power.  It means more than shedding a few tears and saying "I'm sorry!"  You may be sorry for getting caught, sorry that you have to pay the consequences or sorry for the misery you created, but Godly sorrow involves repentance. When you repent of a sin, you're not just saying, "Oh, I feel terrible about it."  You say, "I feel so terrible about my sin, I'm going to stop doing it.  I'll reorder my life so I don't have a relapse."  That is abandoning your sin.  That’s forsaking the sin.  That’s repentance!

The Greek word for repentance is "metanoia". The first part of that term is “Meta” and is found in our English words like metabolism and metamorphosis.  Therefore, “Metanoia” or repentance is something that brings about change.  It is a change of action, thought, attitude, and direction.  God uses your sorrow when you repent to change you and make you more like Him.

If Godly sorrow turns you from sin and helps you follow Jesus more closely, then sorrow and tears become your friend.  Knowing that sorrow can lead to repentance and repentance leads to no regrets, as verse 10 indicates, I’m not sure it’s wise to wipe the tears away so quickly.  I like what God said to us in the book of James 1:3 & 4, “…when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow – for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.”

I’m going to remember this the next time my grandson comes to me with those baby blue eyes filled with tears.  It might be the very thing he needs in order to become a man of God. Maybe what’s causing you to cry in this season is the very thing God will use to give you a bright future!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Dealing with Disappointment

by Andrew Cromwell

Life is full of disappointments. To say so is to state the obvious. Relationships don’t turn out the way they’re supposed to. Businesses fail. Careers that were once fulfilling, end up being monotonous. Things you wanted to do, just aren’t going to happen. And the blockbuster movie of the summer you’ve been anticipating for so long was a bomb.

Big or small, life’s path is littered with disappointments all along the way.

The question is not whether or not we will be disappointed. Because we will. And neither is it how much we will be disappointed. Because it’s going to be a lot.

The question is, what will we do with disappointments?

The little things are generally pretty easy to shrug off. We learn from an early age that some things don’t turn out the way we thought they were going to. That toy that looked so amazing on television, doesn’t fly or disappear or actually shoot flames or rainbows. Even a little bit of experience in life helps prepare you for these little bumps in the road.

But it’s the big things that can really knock the wind out of you. Or sometimes it is just the constant barrage of disappointment that causes you to start to lose hope that things will ever turn around. You begin to wonder if life is nothing but disappointment.

If you’re struggling with disappointment (as we all do at some point in our lives), here are a few things Jesus told us that can truly change the way we respond when things don’t turn out the way we thought they were going to.

First, remember He said, “in this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). The very first thing we need to remember is that problems and disappointments are part of life. We know this, but we still forget it constantly! Disappointments don’t just happen to bad people, they happen to all people. Just because things aren’t turning out the way you thought they were, doesn’t mean that God has forgotten you, it means that you are a human being living on planet Earth.

Second, remember that He finished that first part by saying, “but fear not, I have overcome the world”. I think it is fascinating that in this simple phrase, Jesus does not deny our problems and disappointments, but He reframes them in the context of who He is. In other words, “you’re gonna have problems, but if you are in My hands, then you don’t have to be crushed by them because ultimately I (and consequently you) will win.”

So the key is not ignoring your problems or acting as if the problems don’t bother you. The key is making sure that in the middle of the problems and disappointments that you are with the only Person who really can help you with your disappointments. Jesus Himself. I have found personally, that the only true relief when my soul is in anguish, is to go to Him for help.

So if you feel trapped in a web of disappointment, why don’t you invite Jesus to come closer to you so you can grab onto His hand? He has made it clear that He will come in and help anyone who calls out to Him!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Building A Strong Future

by Tim Howard

Jesus said: “Everyone who hears my words and puts them into practice is like a wise man who builds his house upon the rock. When the rains come down – the rivers rise and the winds blow against that house – It will not fail.” Matt 7:24-25

Jesus surely isn’t talking to a group of contractors about actually building houses. He is sharing principles to build a life worth living and a life that will withstand any and all pressures.

To build a strong future – you must build upon a firm foundation and the Bible clearly states that Jesus is our foundation. If our lives are built upon His life and words we will stand. Using a metaphor to describe God, David said:

The LORD is my rock – my fortress and my deliverer… in whom I take refuge...” Psalms 18:2

Here are 10 foundational declarations that Jesus taught. If you personalize these declarations and put them into practice throughout 2017 – You will be wise!

10. I will give more than I take. “Give away your life; you'll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity." Luke 6:38

9. I will listen and think before I speak.  Maybe that’s why God gave us two ears and one mouth. James 1:19 everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak

8. I will measure people by the size of their hearts – not the size of their bank accounts. Don’t be impressed by what you see – Looks can be deceiving!

7. I will not give up on anyone because miracles happen every day!  We grow exponentially when someone believes in us.

6. I will work on my own inadequacies before I critique and criticize others.  “It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, 'Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.” Matt 7:3-5 The Message

5. I will work for what I get rather than expect others to give me a handout. A spirit of entitlement is pervasive throughout our culture. 2 Thess. 3:10 “… If anyone is unwilling to work – let him not eat.”

4. I will take responsibility for my own life rather than blame someone else. Our future lights up with possibilities when we do!

3. “I will praise God at all times.”  David penned these words in Psalm 34 because he knew that God is at work even in the difficult moments of life – building stamina and character.

2. “I will love my neighbor as myself.” Matt. 22:39

1.  “I will Love the Lord with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my mind and with all my strength.” Mark 12:30 

When a person makes these 10 declarations and begins to live them out – he or she builds on a solid foundation and builds a strong future.