Devotional

The Gift

There’s only one season, other than Fall, that makes it on my “Top Ten” favorite things, and that is the Christmas season. I love the smells, the food, the music, and since I am Puerto Rican, I get a double heaping and get to enjoy all of those things in two languages/cultures. Bonus reel: my husband and I began to date during this season 22 years ago. We were the stars of our very own Hallmark movie! Christmas is special for many reasons for different people. And yet, it can also be a sad and/or frustrating time of the year that some can’t wait to be done with it.

the gift

Let me set the record straight, I am not a Grinch. This post isn’t intending to make you feel guilty about having either 100 presents or just one under your tree. Whether you’re having 50 of your closest friends over, or if you’re spending Christmas in your jammies by yourself. I’ve had each of those experiences and I can tell you some have been great, and some sad. I just want to share my heart and what I’ve been able to observe and reflect on the past twenty-plus years as it pertains to this special holiday.

 

As Christians, we are told over and over, “Christ is the Reason for the Season,” and all the clichés and guilt trips that go along with that statement; but, do we really understand, or do we just have these sentiments playing on a memory loop as we continue to strive to be all things Christmas, as seen on TV?

 

Not only have I been a witness to other’s sadness and frustration, I too have experienced it. I recall one Christmas where I had become resolute in my Christianese to be “all about Jesus.” As Christmas drew nearer, I looked under the “empty tree” and panicked. I had just seen posts on Facebook of friends whose children had gone from relative to relative opening their hoard of gifts and they still had a massive stash at home to open from Santa. GASP!! Our girls only had about five presents each, and one of them was pajamas. The pangs of guilt (and jealousy, let’s just keep it real) filled my heart and I, the woman who does not like to shop, found myself at the mall panicking and buying anything I could find to place under that tree. I’m pretty sure I emptied the dollar bin at Target that year. I felt like such a loser. Because “nothing was good enough” and how exactly do I put Jesus under that tree and give my children the WOW factor that comes with the Greatest Gift of all. Never mind the “shopping hangover” that I had Christmas morning, between my checkbook laughing at me for emptying the account on worthless items and realizing that my children only enjoyed the original four to five gifts under the tree, I learned a valuable lesson that year.

 

I have even tried coming up with a tradition that would meet all the Christmas movie requirements, so our house would feel “Christmassy,” only to realize that I just want to be available to Jesus for however He wants to use each of us or our family. The best we can ever do is BE the hands and feet of Jesus, and to do that we need to be available.

 

It is so hard for the human ego to understand that you cannot be the greatest gift giver, you never will be – even if you have unlimited spending ability. The greatest gift will never come from you. It doesn’t matter how many presents you place under the tree, in the stockings, etc. The Greatest Gift came from God just a little more than 2,000 years ago. When you know Jesus and understand the cost of His present, it is salve for your soul.

 

The best thing we can do is bless one another and that’s what Christmas has become at our house – a time of blessing. Sometimes those blessings arrive in pretty packages wrapped with love and a bow on top; sometimes those blessings come wrapped in a hug and a kind word. We keep our lists small and our hearts ready to receive and be the blessings of the season.

 

It’s Christmas at our house and carols are playing in the background, Hallmark movies are on the TV, and we are preparing our hearts to be renewed as we celebrate the Greatest Gift ever given to mankind. This Christmas, may you find not just presents under your tree, but the presence of Jesus in your heart. O’ Come Emmanuel!

 

Content With the Hard Stuff

Contentment. It is not an easy state to stay in. We are not content about our food; wrong brand of milk.  Wrong flavor of chips. We are not content about the weather; too windy, cold, or hot. Our house is too little, too cluttery, or too dirty. Our kids are too loud, don’t listen and are too whiny.

Our husbands… Oh we won’t go there! lol

The socks left on the floor…

The hammer left on the kitchen table.

We can complain about a lot of things. Every day. Or we can be content with what we have.

contentment

The cold windy day, because it blows the leaves out of our yard. The small house that doesn’t take long to clean. The kids that are healthy enough to drive us bonkers with their noise.

There is always something to be thankful and content about.

There is one thing that the Spirit keeps asking me if I’m content with… the hard stuff.

Those hard things that keep bringing me to my knees.  The things that keep me running to Christ. My weaknesses.  The thorn in my flesh. The person that I forgive again and again. The HARD stuff that I face each day.

Am I content with that hard stuff in my life?

Not content, as is I want to stay STUCK where I am. No, not that at all, but rather content with the way those hard things have affected me. If you are like me, you have been beaten, stepped on, wrinkled, torn, to some degree. Yet, the hard things I’ve been through have taught me something; they have formed me into who I am today. I have become a different person because of the junk I’ve had to go through.

Am I content with that? Am I content with the fact that I had to go through hard stuff in order to more fully become the person God has planned for me to be?

Recently a pastor showed a crisp, clean, brand new $100 bill. The pastor went on to crumple, step on, and tear the $100 bill. Then he showed us the bill. He asked how much it was worth now.  It looked like it was years older; yet the value was still $100.

He said that we were all once that crisp dollar bill; yet, for many of us, life has crumpled, beaten, stepped on, wrinkled, and torn us. He asked, do those things make us worthless?  Though we are crumpled, beaten, stepped on, wrinkled, torn… Under all those hurts that have happened in our life, we still have the same value. Because of Christ.

Through Christ we are made into a brand new creation. Those things that crumpled us, tore us, and the times we were stepped on… those hard things… Things that Satan might be still plaguing us with today…

  • have made us into the person we have become.
  • have brought us to the place where we can help someone else.
  • cause us rely on Christ more.

Paul said in perfectly in 2 Corinthians 12:

So, to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.  Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul asked for that hard thorn to be taken from him. Then he realized that because this thorn was still there, it reminded him how much he needed Jesus.  WITHOUT Jesus, He could do NOTHING.

That thorn that we wish would leave; it is what brings us to our knees.

That hard stuff; it is where we can see Christ’s strength!

Through the hurts that we have, we can see the power of Christ.

His grace is all we need. We can be content in that.

 

Contentment: A Measure of Trust

As I reflected upon this month’s theme of contentment, I was reminded about one of last week’s meditations in the Abide app (designed to help people experience the peace of Christ through Biblical meditation and guided prayer).

The verse for the day was Psalm 37:4 which says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” It’s a familiar verse, but I was floored when the host flipped it and asked a question for reflection and confession: Is there something for which you are not delighting in the Lord?

Whoa.

contentment

I had never thought of it like that. There were actually quite a few things breeding discontent at that moment, and I was convicted.

Upon reflection, I’ve come to believe that delight and content are related: We are only able to take delight in the Lord when we are content.

So, what is contentment? What are the similarities and differences between people who are content and those who are not? Do they have anything in common? Is there a pattern?

Some would assume the line between content and discontent would fall upon economic lines or age differentials or any number of sociological variables. But it doesn’t.

The fact is, you’re just as likely to find a content minority woman living in poverty as you are a discontent rich, white man living in Beverly Hills.

Right?

We all know it’s true, and yet somehow, we still mistakenly assume contentedness is a byproduct of achievement, economic success, and maybe even luck. For example, we are shocked to learn that someone who was well-off financially, fabulously famous, and adored by fans all over the world was so discontent with his life that he did the unthinkable. Yet, we are inspired to learn that someone who had absolutely no financial means, who was known only to her family and friends was so content in her life that she impacted many for good.

So, how does one gain contentment? What are the five steps to contentment that I should take so I can get on with living my content little life?

What if I told you contentment is nothing that can be achieved. Instead, it is the product of mature faith and deep trust. In other words, contentment has nothing to do with externals and everything to do with God’s sovereignty.

A measure of trust

Contentment grows in proportion to trust. The more you trust God, the more content you become. The less you trust Him, the more discontent you are.

Put another way, your level of discontent betrays your mistrust of the Lord.

Let that sink in for a moment: discontent = mistrust. Phew!

What this means is that our discontent is a sign not to blame or shame, but to take a fresh look at our relationship with the Lord. Do we trust Him or not?

Contentedness is directly connected to your confidence that God is who He says He is and that He can and will do what He says He will do. Period.

For example, the discontent person will compare her situation with another’s focusing on differences always striving to measure up. The content person will notice the same differences and celebrate them wholeheartedly.

The discontent person will covet another’s possessions always striving for more things; whereas, the content person cherishes what she has because she knows from whom it came.

The discontent person will focus on what other people think always striving to please people with a resentful “yes” or frustrated “no,” but the content person communicates healthy boundaries with complete freedom to say yes and no because her contentment comes from being who God created her to be.

Are the differences really that clear cut? I say, “Yes!” Yes, they are.

This is great news for us, because if we pay attention to our thoughts, we can heed the early warning signs of discontent.

When we focus on what we don’t have, didn’t receive, can’t have or can’t acquire, we are discontent. And discontentment robs us of God’s most precious gift: peace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27

Ironically, discontentment alerts us that there’s a problem while pointing us towards the solution. When we recognize the seeds of discontent beginning to sprout (or maybe they’ve taken root), all we have to do is turn our hearts heavenward.

When we remind ourselves that God is in control, that He knows what we need better than we do, and when we confess our discontent to Him, He is faithful to forgive and bring peace and contentment as only He can.

When we cry out to God to meet our deepest needs and sincerely place our trust in His plan/timing/purpose, He will fill us with His peace, and we will be content. You can count on Him. Always.

How Expectations Can Get You Your Heart’s Desire…Or NOT!

When my children were very young, contentment was NOT something I felt. After all, I was too busy to be content. I was living life always looking forward to my next potential moment of peace: nap time, bedtime, the weekend, my husband coming home to watch the kids so I could take a shower…

…those rare moments when I could focus on what *I* wanted to do and finally have a little peace.

contentment

Well, you might not be surprised to know that I had it all wrong. With that attitude, I never felt content about things. I was always looking forward to a future moment, hoping that I could revel in peace and contentment then. Definitely not where I was in the present.

Needless to say, I was never content. But I eventually realized discontentment is due to something I had constructed in my mind.

You see, discontentment is a direct result of unmet expectations.

What happens is that we tend to imagine what our lives should look like. We expect others to behave the way we determine they should. So we assume our children will always behave. That means there should be no meltdowns in the grocery store checkout line. They should get along with each other at all times. Our spouse should lovingly anticipate how we are feeling and respond accordingly without us having to ask.

We expect that our finances will work out smoothly. We anticipate that there will be no health issues. We even head over to Instagram or watch gorgeous Pinterest posts and then plan on gathering all. the. things.

And when (not if) these expectations are not met, we become frustrated. We wish for things to be different. We become discontent!

Everyone has the potential

I finally learned that in order to be content, I cannot place my expectations on others. Everyone…and I mean everyone…has the potential to eventually let us down, not doing what we expect them to do or say what we want them to say. This includes my children, my husband, my friends and family, and it even includes ME! I often let myself down by how I behave or things I say or don’t say. So if I put my expectations on people, I will be disappointed. And the same goes for my circumstances. If I place my expectations on my situation, my season of life, or the occupation I have, I will at some point get disappointed and become discontent.

HOWEVER…

By placing my expectations on the Lord, things will be different. He will never disappoint. He is always true to his word.

Proverbs 19:23 says “The fear of the LORD leads to life, and whoever has it rests content; he will not be visited by harm.”

By placing our fear, trust, and hope in the Lord, we will not be surprised by what we experience. We won’t be upset when our children require training. We can love our spouse with the love that Christ modeled for us – a selfless, unconditional love.

That is where we find true fulfillment and contentment. True contentment doesn’t come from things or people or circumstances. It comes from understanding that Jesus’ purpose and provision for us is enough. It is sufficient no matter what we experience. But this requires us to be intentional. We need to deliberately place our hope in Christ and trust in his promises.

They will never disappoint!

Life Lessons Learned Through a Gift Exchange

Everyone has probably been to a “White Elephant Gift Exchange” and if you don’t know what it is, think about a gift you received in the past. It could be something that you smiled and said thank you but knew it wasn’t something you would use. It’s probably still in the box! Got it? Now for the white elephant gift exchange, you would wrap it up and bring it to the party – without knowing whom would take it home.

contentment

When it is time for the gift exchange, you would draw numbers or have your name chosen from a hat. When it is your turn, you select any gift from the table and take it back to your seat to open it.

Now the next name or number is up and they can choose to either steal the gift from the first person or opt to select one of the unopened gifts from the table. If they take your gift, then you get to steal a gift from someone else (not the same person that stole yours) or select another unopened package from the table.

The further down the list you land either through number or name, the more gifts have been opened and your choice switches from the “unknown” gifts on the table or something someone else is holding.

This continues until everyone has a gift. It may not be a gift you like…but the exchange is complete.

Every year we attend holiday parties that have this white elephant gift exchange as part of the evening events. Our family does this as part of our family reunion each year.

I personally enjoy watching the exchange play out, and watching people get really upset when someone steals their gift is funny, considering most of the exchanges have a cash limit that is usually pretty low value.

However, I do believe there are some life lessons that we can learn from a white elephant gift exchange.

  1. Hold onto physical things lightly.
    As in this exchange, the gift you just opened or stole from someone else can be taken away in a heartbeat. While this is part of the game, it’s also part of life – when the stakes are so much higher than a trinket. How fast can everything be lost in a fire, theft, accident, or an investment?  In less time that you can react, you can lose physical things you may have placed too high a value on. While having nice things is nice, if we place too high a value on them, it can be devastating to lose them. We can’t take the “things” we collect with us to Heaven, and being willing to let them go when they can be used to help another person blesses us as well as them.
  2. Rejoice in the relationships.
    Games like this gift exchange will expose the condition of the relationships of those participating. If the participants have a close and loving relationship, it is a fun activity. Yes, mock shock and horror may be exclaimed, but the laughter and fellowship with each other top you having lost that little trinket. This exchange can also show where the cracks are in the relationships of the group of people. Does someone feel left out? Does someone really get upset when their gift is stolen? When you look at the group gathered together to celebrate, does this person always seem to be on the fringe of the group? That is the relationship that you need to invest in and build.

    Our relationships need to be focused on the fellowship and heart strings with each other and not on the little gift or “things” others can do for us. Relationships are not about us. They are not about what you can do for me. They need to be about how together we are better than when we are alone.

  3. Be generous in all things.
    In the game, being generous could be that you brought something that was super popular, or valued at more than the guidelines, or perhaps something that several of the participants could really use. This gift that you brought (remember though that no one is supposed to know where the gift came from), may be stolen a dozen times before it ends up in the hands of the person that will take it home.

The last time I participated in a white elephant gift exchange, I was the last person to take a turn. I had watched as gifts were opened and so I knew what everyone had in their hands. There was one unwrapped gift on the table. I finally chose to steal a gift instead of taking the last wrapped gift from the table. The gift I selected had already been stolen several times because it was a neat gift and one that most of us would be able to use at home.

Oh the disappointment and hurt on the person’s face when I stole her cherished gift. She was really upset over it, although she herself had stolen the gift from someone else when it was her turn. Upset or not, the gift was mine to take because that’s how the gift exchange works. As I sat looking at my gift, I noticed the person that had to select the last wrapped gift off the table was holding her new gift and was trying to keep up her composure for the party, but it was clear she was disappointed.

The gift in my hands fairly quickly lost the “joy” gained by acquiring it through the game. I had not meant to hurt anyone, but my actions had caused another pain. I started considering if I really wanted or needed the gift. I didn’t, it was cute but it would probably end up in the next garage sale or packed away until another holiday party needed a white elephant gift.

I thought about what Paul wrote in Philippians 4:12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

I got up and walked over to the person that I had taken it from and re-gifted it to her. Did I have to do that? Nope, not at all. Would I have been justified to keep the item? Sure, I had gained control of it through the rules of the exchange. But, I also knew that it wasn’t something that I needed so I gave it back with a hug and a wish that she would get enjoyment out of the item. Her joy and smile meant more to me than the trinket.

In Hebrews 13:5 Paul writes:  Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Ladies, during the holiday season when we are often focused on things around us and forget the real reason for the season; let’s stop and refocus on Jesus. He was the Ultimate Gift sent from God. He was the only way for us to have a relationship with God.

As busy as things get around the holidays, we need to remember to value people and relationships over physical things, and to be generous with our time and “things” because of how grateful we are for what God has done for us and for others in our life.

While the holiday season may bring our attention to others more, it shouldn’t be the only time we practice these life lessons. Let’s start the New Year with a commitment to ourselves and those sisters in Christ to be there for each other. Together we are stronger than when we are alone.

Contentment Is Sometimes About Self Denial

“Contentment is being satisfied — satisfied not because something is in sufficient supply, but satisfied with whatever is available.” – Cynthia Heald, Becoming a Woman Whose God is Enough

I’m the first to admit that I have my preferences and sometimes I’m like a bulldog when it comes to having my way in a specific area.

contentment

To know me is to know that I’m a coffee snob; or more accurately, a coffee creamer snob. I’ve turned down a much desired early morning cup of coffee many times because I don’t have the “right” creamer available to me.

I’d go a full day or two pining for the coffee I missed. I was dissatisfied and very discontent in my choice to forgo that longed for coffee.

But then there are times that I get to choose to drink the coffee with only a couple packets of sugar and perhaps not even a hint of half and half. I can choose to be satisfied and content because it meant meeting with a dear friend and new friends over coffee in a coffee house that doesn’t specialize in the frou-frou.

Others First

In the settling in to preferring others over my own desires, I realize the richness of “self-denial”. It gives me another way to get over myself.

If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Galatians 6:3 (NLT)

I know that life is about so much more than creamer in my coffee, but it is about being more like Jesus every day.

If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow Me. Luke 9:23 (NLT)

It’s denying myself and being satisfied with whatever is available when reaching out to others.

We may not be “ever-present” like Jesus is, but it can be that we’re a ready person, “prepared and eager to respond when she believes she can help and has something to give.” – Elizabeth George, A Woman Who Reflects the Heart of Jesus

Paul learned what it is to be content, and in that contentment, he was satisfied with whatever was available to minister to others.

What would self-denial look like for you? After reading today’s devotional, do you think that it would be easier to give up something that you prefer in order to give to others?

Finding Complete Contentment

It’s funny that I am charged to write this month about contentment when I myself have been feeling a stirring of unsettledness lately. Now, it doesn’t help that at this moment, the world is beginning a season of Christmas frenzy, a sheer display of a world yearning for contentment and looking in all the wrong places. It’s the yearly dash to fulfill something that we can’t quite place our finger on, but for a fleeting moment amidst the shopping, eating, and preparations, we think we may actually have found it.

Just for a moment…

contentment

Perhaps a bit of it has rubbed off on me as I can’t quite place my finger on the unsettledness. As a writer who constantly talks about Jesus being our everything, yes, even I succumb to the battle at times. We all do. No one is immune to discontentment.

Recently, I was reading Ecclesiastes and it sums up the whole thing. Man is constantly toiling and searching, yet the end result is the same for us all. Death. We all seek what is never truly found on this earth.

“Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done
And on the labor in which I had toiled;
And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind.
There was no profit under the sun.”
Ecclesiastes 2:11

Contentment is only found in Christ

The only answer for our unsettledness or discontent in this life is Jesus.

Without Him, it is as the writer of Ecclesiastes says…a life is lived for vain purposes. But with Him, our life is complete. We can’t base our contentment on what we have, or what we do, or the circumstances around us. We will only ever find true and lasting contentment one day apart from this earth.

Psalm 23 tells us the Lord is our shepherd and we shall not want. But we live in a world that tells us just the opposite. We will live in a culture full of wants. How do we remedy this?

Look at Eve. She was discontent. That is why she sought for more than she was already given. Not satisfied that God was all she needed, she stepped out and sought something apart from Him. And frankly, we all do at times. No matter how much we know that our contentment is in Christ, since we are not in heaven yet, we easily fall into the trap of dissatisfaction and looking to things around us to provide fulfillment.

That is why it is imperative to stay in the Word, cling to Jesus, and keep our gaze heavenward anticipating the day we see Him face to face.

Designed to Be Fulfilled in Him

For now, the knowledge of that day needs to be enough to fill us and to make us stop the endless pursuit of earthly vanities. And live for Him alone.

We live in a world that is on a continuous search but know that you don’t need to. You already have what they are looking for. The Creator of the universe designed you to be fulfilled in Him alone.

Praise the Lord, it doesn’t end with death for us, and it doesn’t end with a life lived in vain toil. The last portion of Ecclesiastes sums it up:

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.”
Ecclesiastes 12:13

Stand in Awe

Here we are told to fear God, meaning to stand in awe of Him. In a world that stands in awe of the latest celebrity, the latest gadget or technology, or the latest fad and fashion, we are to fear God and be awestruck. Then everything else around us will become a little bit less desirable, for we know it is all temporal. Only He will remain.

So yes, fear God, love Him above everything, and stand in awe of Him.

Lord forgive us for the times we look for contentment part from you. May we know that we don’t have to search, toil, or strive for anything. You have provided all we need, and You are our very life itself. We look forward to the day when we stand face to face, worshipping you forever, fully complete and filled with lasting joy. Amen.

Contentment When Your Situation Doesn’t Change

Oh, friend!  Are you in the midst of a situation that you have prayed over for hours and hours? If you are, you are not alone. I truly believe these are some of the most trying moments in our lives that can turn into the biggest blessings and sources of contentment if we let them. But’s it so hard.

contentment

We have seen God relieve us in other moments, so we start questioning,

“Why not now? Why won’t you take this from me? Why won’t you save this person from that situation?”

God lets us pour our hearts out to Him and then He continues to comfort us where we are. Maybe He will relieve whatever is crushing our souls at the moment, or maybe He won’t. Whether He does or doesn’t we have to ask ourselves a  pointed questioned:

Are we willing to trust God and praise Him, even if he allows this situation to continue?

Think on this for a moment or two…

Can you instantly say, “Your will be done, Lord. I trust you even if THIS CONTINUES.”

If so, then you are allowing God’s perfect peace, the peace that defies understanding, to live in you.

But if you can’t, it is ok. God is still with you. He is patient and merciful and will guide you through, if you let Him.

You are also not alone in this.

The Bible shows us that many of our brothers and sisters in Christ have struggled with being in a seemingly permanent situation. I say seemingly because we all know that one day, when Christ comes back, whatever pain we are facing now will vanish. Praise the Lord! Let me her ya shout, “Hal-la-LU-jah!”

But what do we do until then?

I can’t help but think of David, Hannah, the Woman who bled for 12 years, and of course, Paul. They pushed through every day carrying the burden of what was happening but they also kept seeking God. They kept petitioning God.

Their contentment didn’t lie in any situation but it spiritually rested in the hands of our Lord. Yes, they all had something that overwhelmed their souls. David had to hide from Saul for years. Hannah year after year would come before God baring out her soul for a child. The Women who bled trusted God’s word in Isaiah when she reached out and touched the hem of Jesus’ garment. Paul wanted everyone to share in his joy, when he knew physical death was around the corner.

Paul says to King Agrippa in Acts 26:29:

“I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”

The boldness Paul had to proclaim, while handcuffed and being moved from prison to prison, that he was in a far superior position than the earthly king he was talking too, exudes his contentment and joy in Christ. It’s a contentment that is baffling to those who do not have it but joy to those that do. 

Sometimes, we mistake contentment for being satisfied with the situation. By looking at these brothers and sisters, we can see that they were not necessarily thrilled about their circumstances and longed for them to change, but it was who they trusted to carry them during these times that allowed them to be content while in the struggle.

Prayer Over Our Hearts

Oh, Lord, you are holy and beyond compare! You promise to take care of all you have created. Even when we are going through times that overwhelm us physically, mentally, and emotionally, we can trust that you have us spiritually and will guard us completely.

We will not stop begging for relief, but will trust that even if we do not receive it that you are still a good, good Father. There are parts of your plan that we do not see and we will be honored to be used for your glory even if it means continuing in the circumstances we are in.

Continue to encourage us daily, Lord! We know Satan will try to use our difficult circumstances to convince us that we are unloved, but help us hold on to the truth that it is because of your love that we have our eternal hope. Satan can only bother us for a while longer and then he will be held back. We praise you for your power and ability to hold him back and destroy his hold on this earthly world.

We pray that as we live with your peace and contentment in our difficult situations we will bring hope to those who are dealing with similar trials. May your light shine through the difficulties in our lives.

In the One who weeps with us while giving us strength, peace, and courage to continue – Amen!

God’s Plan, Your Sanctification

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5–6

Whenever Christmas rolls around I think of that John Lennon song that comes on the radio every year: “And so this is Christmas… and what have you done? Another year over. A new one just begun.”

contentment and rest

I guess it’s the pop version of “teach us to number our days, so that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

I used to get to the end of the year with a mild sense of guilt thinking of all the things I could have done, or had planned to do and just never got around to. All the habits I was going to start. All the goals I was going to accomplish. Sound familiar?

I would even start to think back to all those wasted years before I accepted Christ, and all the failed efforts to BE a better Christian. That guilt, along with excitement for the new year, would push me into making new goals and new lists of things to do. So that I could look back on it all once again and be disappointed that it did not meet my expectations.

Don’t you want something different? I know I do.

Of course, I have nothing against goals and establishing good habits for ourselves. I still do those things. But I’ve come to find great contentment and rest in a few key ideas that have grounded me. They have given me perspective rather than end-of-year angst:

  1. God’s plans are more important than my goals.
  2. God always accomplishes His purposes.
  3. God redeems our imperfect efforts.
  4. God’s mercies are new every morning.

Isn’t that such a relief? What a merciful blessing. Do you want to know what is even more encouraging? His plans and purposes for you are not elusive. He’s already told us exactly what He’s up to.

This is the will of God, your sanctification. 1 Thessalonians 4:3

Our sanctification is God’s goal, and it’s better than any New Years goal we could come up with on our own. It’s a sanctification that changes us ever into the likeness of Christ and can only be done in us by the work of the Holy Spirit.

What is our part? To yield to Him in full surrender. To simply trust and obey, just like that sweet hymn by John H. Sammis says: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

Dear sisters in Christ, as the new year rushes in, we can remain content and confident that God will complete His good work in us until it is finished. He will bring about all His good purposes for the glory of His name. Amen.

Contentment that Amazon Can’t Buy

This time of year requires a fair amount of shopping.  The holidays bring me into far more stores than I would normally be in, and Amazon and I know each other pretty well right now. It’s so easy to feel far from the contentment my heart longs for. 

There are SO many amazing products and services out there that I never knew I “needed”.  Sometimes I find myself longing for more than I have, yet I’m reminded of 1 Timothy 6:6,7:

“Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.”

contentment

That doesn’t really look like any of my trips to the mall, but there is such a peace that comes with true contentment.  

What is true contentment?

The kind of contentment that Paul is talking about isn’t just a philosophical outlook, but rather a real dependence on the sufficiency of Christ.  This doesn’t mean we detach ourselves emotionally.  What it does mean is that we understand the truth of Isaiah 26:3 – “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”

There is a peace that passes all understanding that is ours as Believers when we place our hope and trust in Christ to provide all that HE says we need.

Does this verse sound familiar?

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

This sentence has been used countless times to bring inspiration and strength to many, but have you ever read exactly where it lands within the context of the passage?

”How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me.  Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.  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.”

Contentment in any and ALL circumstances?  How is that even possible?  Only through Him.

The greatest gift

Hebrews 13:5 says:  “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ “

The greatest gift we have as Believers is God’s very presence…always.  Jesus, Emmanuel, “God WITH us.” 

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.  Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20,21)