The Lens of Contentment

Most people see contentment in good health, relationships, possessions, fashions, the cars we drive and the homes in which we live, many of these indicating the measure of our personal success.

God’s people are given a means of seeing what is different from the world. The new heart and new spirit (Ezekiel 36:26; John 3:3) given by God our Father, come with a lens that changes our focus from the world and our dependency on what we can achieve. Our view is upward, brought to see Him as the giver and supplier of all that we need. We see beyond the world’s offerings to the special blessings that are ours through His Son, Jesus Christ.

The writer of the book of Hebrews leaves an exhortation to God’s people in the last chapter:
“Keep your life free from the love of money.

The world trains our children to seek contentment through what our money can buy.
The followers of Christ are trained to “be content with what you have.”

Why can we be content with less than what the world offers?
~ “for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” (13:5)

The giver of all things is more precious than all the money we could accrue in this world.
His presence is greater that any relationship, entertainment or possession offered in this generation.
His love and grace is of more value that anything money could buy.
His blessings are infinite and eternally ours, while the temporal things of this world will either be lost or fade away.
Nothing of this world can compare to what we experience in His supply of all things .

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” 2 Peter 1:3-4

There are those who are suffering physically and financially from attempting to keep up with greater expectations than they are able. When they learn of life in Christ, they can let go of the world’s offerings and enjoy Him and what He gives.

But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 1 Corinthians 2:9-12

It was the apostle Paul who said, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11). He rolled with the pushes, at the same time rejoicing and praising the Lord because He had experienced the presence and power of God. In His calling, devotion and service he was given “visions and revelations” of the Lord (2 Corinthians 12:1). As an evangelist/tentmaker he knew the God “who supplies all our needs” (Philippians 4:19). He lived with a “thorn in the flesh” ~ the buffeting of Satan through the religious and government leaders, living the last part of his life in prison because he was content with the Lord’s calling and promises of the gospel. Oh, that we might all say as he did, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).

Gracious heavenly Father, creator and supplier of all things, open our eyes, turn them upward to see heaven opened as you pour out all that you have prepared for us in and through Jesus our Lord. Let the world see our contentment with you and all that you desire for us. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Related Post: A Year for Contentment ~ Continued
image: Google

Turning Everything Heavenward

Having lost a sister-in-law and a brother-in-law in less than a month has brought me to think beyond my own state of existence to something higher than man and life here on this earth. Such is the case with recording my notes as we continue hearing the   preaching of Paul’s letter to the Romans.

Again, Paul’s purpose for writing to the Roman Christians is to bring not just one or two, but, some from every nation, to obedience of faith. It is in the power of the gospel that accomplishes what God sent His Son to do; the Son of God with power (1:4) the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.  For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith. (1:16-17). We start with God and continue in a God-centered gospel through the book of Romans.

As we come to the most unpopular and unsettled passages of God’s word (for some) in Romans 9 we must, as Paul, let God speak for Himself. In chapter eight Paul begins writing on the doctrine of predestination. If that is not enough he drives the point home dramatically in the next three chapters, to the point of showing that God has the last word on the subject.  Getting through these we come to chapter twelve; to which we are brought in response to His mercy; to present ourselves, as living sacrifices to Him.

Not a Man-centered Gospel
A man-centered gospel cannot save anyone. It tends to bring God down to our own level and make Him what we want Him to be and to say what we want to hear.

Paul answers this kind of reasoning in his day, not by using his own understanding or his own words, but even as Jesus when He was tempted answered with the recorded word of the Father, words that had already been established centuries before.

In Romans 9:14-15 Paul states, in defense of God’s own choice of who He loves, “Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”

Then in Romans 9:21 he puts man in the hands of a potter. A pot has no mind of its own, nor power of its own to decide what shape or for what use it is made.

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“So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth,
but of God that sheweth mercy.”
Romans 9:16

As the creature we are at God’s mercy. Read the book of Romans and any part of God’s word, and our mouths will be shut, until we know His mercy and grace to us.
Then we will be thanking and praising Him for giving us a new heart and a new spirit. A new life beginning in faith and repentance will prove the power of God in our obedience to His word. The Lord our God leaves no room for argument, only the invitation and power to believe and live heavenward, to His glory and our joy.

“And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy,
which he had afore prepared unto glory.”
Romans 9:23

Sheet Music: I Sought the Lord

Gracious and merciful Father, thank you that we live today only as you give us the Spirit of your Son to accomplish the work for which you created and redeemed us. We praise you for your grace and yours alone that has saved us from your wrath and made us a vessel for your own use. Fill us with your fullness that you may pour out your grace and love through us today. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Abraham and Paul ~ Heirs of Promise

How exciting is our God!
The Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ continues to amaze me as I sit under the preaching of His word.
It is a joy to have my heart and mind opened to the truths that are expounded through the messengers that He has chosen. Such is the case as I am experiencing the preaching of Paul’s letter to the Romans. I have read it many times and studied it; but never before heard and seen what I am seeing now. So had Martin Luther, and God changed his understanding, his life, and the church.

In Romans 4 there is a remarkable revelationimages of how well the apostle Paul knew Abraham. Should it not be so, since Abraham was his father ~ twice born?
Jews throughout history have claimed him as their father. But, Paul gives us a backward view of who has a true claim to this relationship.

God, the Father, chose Abram to be the father of many nations, not just a nation called Israelites. He made an everlasting covenant through him for all nations and changed his name to Abraham. He chose Abraham, made a covenant with him and gave him a promise to bless people from all nations through his obedience of faith.  This is how he became the “father of faith” to all nations.

Let’s look back in time to this covenant blessing upon Abraham that is our blessing, too. We cannot skim over this, but we need to take the time to see the truths here.

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless,
that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.”
Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him,
“Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.
No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.
I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you.
And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. Genesis 17:1-7

The Lord appeared to a mere man on this earth, gave him a promise that through his physical seed a new nation of people would be born; a covenant that God, Himself would fulfill ~ an everlasting covenant ~ not just to the nation of Israel; and not just for a certain time, but a promise and covenant forever to all who believe in His promise.  God is a God of covenant; a faithful God to His people who accept His word as truth.

How would this covenant be established except through Abraham’s physical offspring, a son that God promised to Abraham? Through him would come the Messiah promised by God since the beginning (Genesis 3:15). But do we see the catch ~ Abram was ninety-nine years old and had no offspring. There was yet no son through whom a people would be born.

But God promised. And Abraham believed what God promised, though it was physically impossible. His faith was counted as his righteousness before God.  As difficult as it was for him to believe is it impossible for us to believe through our own insight.  We are each in our own country, our own little worlds until God speaks through the power of the gospel to us.  By human thinking we cannot see the incarnation, the righteous life of Jesus Christ, his death, resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father in heaven.  It is by His grace, and His light in our hearts (2 Corinthians 4:6) that reveals Christ to us and gives us the new birth by His Spirit, so that we see and believe. (John 3:3; 6:44-45)

The essence of Romans 4 is that Abraham’s faith preceded his action of circumcision. It was his faith in what God promised that made him righteous, not his works. His obedience to God’s command for circumcision was a result of His believing God’s promise.

(Remember the purpose for Paul’s letter was to bring a people from all nations to the obedience of faith. His preaching the gospel was not to tickle the ears, but to lead people to faith in the gospel and therefore to proof of salvation and righteousness by obedience to God’s word.)

How well Paul relates to his father Abraham; and how well he knew his own people who trusted in their circumcision and the law for their righteousness before God.
The Lord had chosen Saul, appeared to him, changed his name to Paul, and sent Him, first to his own people. They tried to kill him, because they did not like the good news of faith in Jesus Christ. They proved themselves not to be true offspring of Abraham, because they did not believe that God had sent His Son for their salvation.

And so, Paul was sent with the gospel to the Gentiles; and all who believe God are the heirs of the promise; joint-heirs with Christ, Abraham and Paul.

 “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.
But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also.
It will be counted to us who believe in him
who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord,
who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
Romans 3:4, 24,25

 Gracious heavenly Father, thank you for calling Abraham out of his own country to establish a new country, a new people of faith and obedience to your word. Thank you for stopping Saul from persecuting your people, that he might become your servant to all nations with the good news of our salvation. Thank you for giving us your word and your promises through others of faith. Thank you calling pastors to preach the gospel in our time. Thank you for calling each of us as your people, by your Spirit and through your word, that others may see and know who are your children; though there are those who will reject your promise and persecute us who live in obedience of faith.  Today make us to know who you are, that we may know whose we are ~ heirs of promise. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Obligated and Eager  Romans 1