Monday, 18 September 2017

Discontent Leads to All Sins.

Photo by Bernard DuPont

I am writing on the book, “The Art of Divine Contentment,” by Thomas Watson. I’ve learned a lot about myself in this book and how I have let discontent sometimes rule my life.

Mr. Watson writes that the first sin in the universe came from discontent. Lucifer and his angel friends became discontented with their stations.

And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—“ Jude 6

Lucifer (Satan) was quite dissatisfied with his place in heaven. His discontent turned into rebellion against God – though God had done nothing to him.

“How you have fallen from heaven,
morning star, son of the dawn! (Lucifer)

You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!

You said in your heart,
“I will ascend to the heavens;
I will raise my throne
above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.

I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.”
But you are brought down to the realm of the dead,
to the depths of the pit.”  Isaiah 14:12-15

When Satan met Eve in the garden, he told her God was withholding a wonderful thing from her, the knowledge of good and evil. He said, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Eve must have felt some discontent in not having the same knowledge as God. She must have wanted what God had and decided to get it. So, she believed God was a liar and sinned against him.

In his book, Watson says that discontentment leads to every other sin. Every single one!

I thought about myself. I thought about the years I had been so depressed, suicidal and lonely. Was that because of discontentment? Yes, it was. I could see it clearly. I was discontented with my past, with my childhood all the way through adulthood.

I was angry I had a mental illness, that I wasn’t like other people, that I couldn’t work without having a breakdown, that my husband and I didn’t have what other people had because their wives worked and they had extra money. I was not content with this life God had given me. I thought I had suffered too much. That it wasn’t fair, that God wasn’t fair.

Yes, I was the epitome of discontent. I was its poster child. I was no better than Eve, or heaven-forbid, Satan himself. Whoa. Scary.

So, this week, I had been feeling down and upset and didn’t realize why. I asked myself, “Are you discontented about something?”  Yes, I was. I didn’t like it that my mom was in a nursing home instead of with me. I felt terribly sorry for her that her memory was bad now. She couldn’t read, watch TV or walk any longer.

Mom had told me she had wanted to die, but she didn’t die. She told me she hates being in a home. She told me she is angry, helpless and hopeless. I felt sick when she said these things. I don’t want this kind of empty life for her either.

But, during this, I did remember how when I trust God I always find there is a very good reason for everything that happens. I’ve been trying to give all my feelings about Mom to him. He has been helping me a lot. But I need to do it every day, or the discontent will creep up on me and I’ll be depressed and angry too.

I believe Mr. Watson is right. All sins do come from discontentment. Now that I know this, I will talk with God about it, pray about it and because God is my Savior and partner, I believe I will gain the victory over my discontentment.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Spiritual Things Go Against Nature.

In my last post, I wrote about learning about God and how important that is. I thought I would continue writing about this as found in the book, “The Art of Divine Contentment,” by Thomas Watson. There are many lessons in this book that I think are helpful to Christians.

The author says there are two main reasons why we must study the Bible and study what God is like.

Number One: Because spiritual things are against nature. “For men to be justified by the righteousness of another, to become a fool that he may be wise, to have all by losing all; this is against nature.”

“For a man to deny his own wisdom, and see himself blind; to deny his own will and have it melted into the will of God…crucifying that sin that is dearest to his heart; for a man to be dead to the world, and in the midst of want to abound; for him to take up the cross, and follow Jesus…this is against nature and therefore must be learned.”

Number 2: Because spiritual things are far above nature.

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD.  Isaiah 55:8

“Only God’s Spirit can light our candle here,” writes Watson. Like the man in the chariot, who needed Philip to explain the scriptures to him, so we need the Holy Spirit to enlighten our mind. “We  cannot learn till the Spirit of God shines into our hearts.”

 “Lead me in your truth and teach me, For you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day.”  Psalm 25:5

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”  John 14:26

I’m going to add my own thoughts here. I’ll call it my number 3 reason for studying the Bible.

Number 3:

In order to love God, we need to know him. We cannot feel close to a stranger. We cannot  admire someone we don’t know. If we are to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, we must know him.

Every book in the Bible tells us something about God. If we have trouble understanding what we read about him, then ask him for guidance and perhaps read some Commentaries on the Bible that try to explain each verse. I have found that very helpful. There are good Commentaries on Bible Hub online. They are written by man, so realize they could be off the mark. But knowing the culture of the ancient people helps us understand why God dealt with them the way he did.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Students in God's School.

Gutenberg Bible

“I 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.”  Philippians 4:12

In his book, “The Art of Divine Contentment,” Thomas Watson writes, “It is not enough for Christians to hear their duty, but they must learn their duty. It is one thing to hear, and another thing to learn.”  Paul said, "I have learned..." He also cites the parable of the sower and how there was only one good ground; there were many hearers of the gospel, but few learners.

Watson says there are two things that keep us from learning: Slighting and forgetting. In slighting the word of God, we give it little importance. In forgetting the word of God, we do not “examine the scriptures.”  Acts 17:11

If we go to school and take a class, reading or listening once to the teacher will not help us pass the course.  If we wish to really learn the information and not forget, we must read it again and again; we must make notes on the subject. If we do this, we will pass the test when it comes.

We need to understand the importance of listening to God, either by reading the Bible or by listening to it read to us. There is a wonderful site online that is called, Daily Audio Bible. Each day, Brian reads parts from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs. It is lovely to put earphones in and hear someone read the Bible. I get more out of the verses than when I read it myself.

Jesus spoke to his disciples about listening carefully to what he had to say. Here are some verses:

"So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them."  Luke 8:18

“Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” Luke 9:44  The disciples did not listen and understand. It was something they did not want to hear.

And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”  Mark 4:9

After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, "Listen to me, all of you, and understand… Mark 7:14

"Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.  Matthew 7:24

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  Matthew 11:29

We need the Holy Spirit to help us learn of God. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”  John 14:26

In my own life, I have noticed the more time I spend reading the Bible, the more God’s words come into my mind as I go through my day and encounter different trials or problems. Then I can say that verse and be comforted and strengthened.

“Your word I have treasured in my heart that I may not sin against you.”  Psalm 119:11

Saturday, 2 September 2017

James 1:27

I just finished reading a very good book entitled, “Speak Life,” by Brady Boyd. His message is how we need to learn how to speak only that which is good. I learned a lot from this book.

 But one of the most moving parts of this book for me was when Boyd wrote about how God impressed him to follow James 1:27. This is something all churches should do. To help widows and orphans is something God asks from us all through the Bible, in the Old Testament as well as the New. This is the first time I have ever read of a church making concrete decisions on this verse and my heart was lifted up in joy and thanksgiving. Here is an excerpt from the book:

“Many years prior, during a quiet time with the Lord, he sealed a verse in my mind and heart that would direct my ministry endeavors for decades to come. The verse was James 1:27, which says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

I’d read and re-read that verse, I’d memorized it, and I’d preached on the fact that those words were my official “life verse,” and yet during the darkest moments of my ministry, I’d forgotten what that verse instructed me to do.

I now know that whenever I can’t hear the voice of God, it would serve me well to review the last input I received from him to see whether I’ve tied up all the loose ends…

So, as a church, we opened a health clinic for under-insured moms; we launched an effort to find every orphan in the care of the State of Colorado a loving Christian home; and we purchased and renovated an apartment complex so that single moms and their children would have a safe, clean place to live rather than living on the streets or in the backs of their cars. Only then could I expect God to chat with me again – only after I’d fulfilled the instructions he’d already sent my way.”

What a blessing from God this church is! There are so many homeless and people without hope out on the streets. It would be wonderful if many churches followed Brady Boyd's compassionate outreach. I do know there are many churches that give food and needed items away. What a blessing they are to the poor or homeless!

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Under the Shadow of His Wings.

Photo by Michael Gordon

"Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young, God spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions.  Deuteronomy 32:11

This verse is speaking of how God led the children of Israel, but we can take it for ourselves. He will carry us on his wings if we ask him. He does this through our prayers when we tell him how heavy our burden feels. When we tell him how much we need him. He lifts us up, he holds our hand, he leads us beside still waters.

 "I once saw a very interesting sight above one of the crags of Ben Nevis, as I was going in pursuit of black game. Two parent eagles were teaching their offspring, two young birds, the maneuvers of flight. They began by rising from the top of a mountain, in the eye of the sun; - it was about midday, and bright for this climate. They at first made small circles, and the young imitated them; they paused on their wings, waiting till they had made their first flight, holding them on their expanded wings when they appeared exhausted, and then took a second and larger gyration, always rising towards the sun, and enlarging their circle of flight, so as to make a gradually ascending spiral."

I love the image of God being a bird who cares for us as the birds care for their young. There are so many references to this in the Bible. Jesus compared himself to a hen who calls her little ones to her.  

Photo by: Ks mini -

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling."  Luke 13:34

I once saw an amazing thing. I had walked to a pond near my house. It was close to sunset. A mother and father mallard duck were with their little ones in the middle of the pond. 

The mother quacked and started for the reeds. All the ducklings followed but one. One stayed back. The mother noticed, and after she had taken all the others to the shore, she went back and quacked some more. 

That duckling refused to follow her. So she leaped upward and landed on top of the duckling over and over pushing him under the water. She finally stopped; she turned towards home and the duckling meekly followed. Like most of us, he learned his lesson the hard way.

The mother mallard could have left that one duckling to go on its rebellious way, but she didn’t. She knew if she did, he would die. Like the shepherd in another story, she left her other babes at home and turned to seek and save her one disobedient duckling.

Here are some verses on finding shelter under God's wings:

 “How precious is Your loving kindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.”   Psam 36:7

“For You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.”  Psalm 63:7

“Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Your wings.”   Psalm 17:8

“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.”   Psalm 57:1

“He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.”  Psalm 91:4

Friday, 25 August 2017

Jesus Enveloped in Sin, Within and Without.

Although I had known Jesus became sin for us, that he took our sins upon his heart, I didn’t think about the depth of that until I read these two verses explained.

 “And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly amazed, and sore troubled.And he said to them, "My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch."    Mark 14:33,34

“He began to be greatly amazed, and sore troubled…”These two Greek verbs are as adequately expressed above as seems possible. The first impies "utter extreme amazement;" if the second has for its root "not at home," it implies the anguish of the soul struggling to free itself from the body under the pressure of intense mental distress."

Verse 34. – “None but he who bore those sorrows can know what they were. It was not the apprehension of the bodily torments and the bitter death that awaited him, all foreknown by him. It was the inconceivable agony of the weight of the sins of men. The Lord was thus laying "upon him the iniquity of us all." This, and this alone, can explain it. My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death.’ Every word carries the emphasis of an overwhelming grief. It was then that "the deep waters came in," even unto his soul. "What," says Cornelius a Lapide, "must have been the voice, the countenance, the expression, as he uttered those awful words!"

Jesus sweat drops of blood that night. He said he was at the point of death. An angel came and strengthened him or he might have died there in Gethsemane.
This was the sin within him.

From the time of his arrest until he died on the cross, Jesus was surrounded by sin of every type.

Cruelty, cowardice, envy, betrayal, mocking, hatred, torture, slapping, beating, lies, indifference, pride, unbelief, anger, and injustice.

This was the sin without him.

For a pure and holy person, being surrounded by evil must have been horrible. Realize also, he loved all the people there who caused him such pain. It would be like us having our parents or children abuse us. Some of us have lived through that, it’s true. Jesus did too on the night and day of his trial and death.

Someday, when we are in heaven, we will see what Jesus left to become one of us, to suffer untold agony and to die feeling all alone. 

Here are some extra verses: 

 “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  2 Corinthians 5:21

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’—“   Galatians 3:13

“But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.  Isaiah 53:5

“Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”   Hebrews 9:28

Monday, 21 August 2017

The Last will be First.

I’m reading a book called, “The Parables of Jesus,” by George A. Buttrick. It was published in 1928. It’s a wonderful book that gives deep insights into the parables of Jesus. One that impressed me this morning was on the parable of, The Vineyard Owner and the Laborers found in Matthew chapter 19.

The story is of a man who needs laborers and goes early to the marketplace to hire some. He finds men standing around waiting for work and hires them. They agree on a wage of a denarius for a day’s work.  The man goes back many times during the day because he needs more help. Finally, he goes at 5pm and asks the men there, “Why are you idle?”  They answer him, “Because no one has hired us.” He says, “You go too into my vineyard.”

At the end of the day, the owner pays them all the same wage – a denarius. The ones who worked the longest were angry. They questioned why those who didn’t work as hard or as long got the same amount they did. The owner said, “Friend, I am not wronging you. Can I not do what I please with what is mine? Have you a grudge because I am generous?”

Jesus finished the story by saying this, “So the last will be first, and the first last.”
He told this story after Peter had reminded Jesus that he and the other disciples had left everything and followed him. “What shall we get for this?” was his question.
The author writes, “Life, lived abundantly, does not ask, “What shall we get?” God is not the Keeper of a ledger entering a credit or debit account, according as a man observes or fails to observe certain holy regulations…”God has subtler tests than the piece-measure and the time-clock. Everlastingly, the motive of a man’s life proclaims his worth.”

The author proposes the early workers are those who greet each day with strength and resolution. They perhaps have great talent, a keen mind and a healthy body.  “But others drag crippling chains of inheritance, or beat against confining walls of circumstances. Who will hire them? They would like to serve God, but cannot serve him as they would like to. “No man has hired us.” But their intention is accepted as their deed!”

 “Though they cannot claim saintliness, though in unrealized hopes they must be content to offer hospitality to the prophet and saint, they are not forgotten in the appraisals of the kingdom: “He that receives a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward.”

After reading this chapter, I thought of what I said to my husband once after we had been members at a church for a long time. “We aren’t like most of these people. We are damaged goods. We could never be an evangelist or preacher.”

We had both been horribly abused when we were children. Because of that, we both had a lot of emotional problems. Sometimes I felt like I was hanging on to God by my fingertips. What help could I be to someone else? And my hubby had anger issues because of all the beatings he endured. Neither of us were the picture-postcard of a Christian.

Reading this parable explained, I understand now that it is okay to be the last in the vineyard! Hallelujah! I’m happy with that position. I’m glad God is pleased with whatever I can do for him, even if it is very small.