Hi this is pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…Being Content…With The Content…Or Lack Thereof
Those who know me and or those who have been listening to my podcasts for a while know I love a good pun. I enjoy being able to play one word upon another especially if I believe it strikes the nail on the head and will drive my point home. A little sarcasm here…a little irony there…any clever play on words is fun for me. The title of this episode is no exception, and yet it is a necessary understanding if we are to live lives free of worry.
Contentment is the antidote for worry. If we are content with what we have, we do not worry about what we don’t have. If this is true, and it is, then the reverse truth (another thing I like to consider as often as is applicable) if we are experiencing worry, we need to practice more contentment. The consideration of this reverse truth is especially applicable here because I find most people have learned to be content with some things while other issues make contentedness seemingly elusive.
Paul wrote about his level of contentment to the church at Philippi. Philippians 4:11-12 in the New International Version says; I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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. Paul clearly said that he had found how to be content in every situation. As I said a moment ago, many of us have learned to be content in some situations…some people however have great difficulty with contentment in almost any situation. We have all met those who have a hard time finding anything good to say about almost anything. My grandpa had a descriptor for those who struggled with contentment. He would say that kind of person “Wouldn’t be happy in a pie shop”. This was the same grandfather who used to say he “Never met a pie he didn’t like” and yet, I heard him be less than content about a few of his own circumstances.
Sometimes through lessons of God’s provisions we learn to have some of the contentedness Paul wrote of. We learn at least in that area to be content with the content…or lack thereof. This is true for me when it comes to things like food or other basic necessities of life. I have seen God provide so many times in my life that I have simply arrived at an understanding that when it comes to those things it doesn’t matter what the contents are…I know God will make it enough. My mother modeled this for me nearly every day growing up in my parent’s home. The amount of food she would extract from the fridge and cupboards each day to make dinner for our family of five, and whoever else may have been showing up to eat with us was often in hindsight enough for one maybe two people. Mom was always thankful however for what she had and would invariably manage to make a meal for the family from it. Mom could stretch food farther than anyone I have ever known. Watching this same scenario play out day after day, year after year, I no longer worry about what is in (or isn’t in) the pantry. It doesn’t mean I don’t stock an ample supply when possible, but it does mean my contentedness does not rise and fall with the inventory. As Paul wrote, I too have learned to be content when living with little or plenty.
As I mentioned however, there are areas I and probably most of us still need to work on to get to a place where we can say we have learned to be content in all circumstances. If contentedness is the antidote to worry, then complaints are anti-contentedness. So if we want to find out where we still need to learn to be content…start with the complaints. Do any of the following situations prompt you to complain?
• The current high price of gasoline.
• The price of food in the grocery stores.
• The rate of inflation in general.
• Which political party is in power at any given time.
• The direction of the Nation.
• Your marriage.
• Your family.
• Your bank account.
• The economy and stock market.
• Your 401k retirement accounts.
• The car you drive.
• The home you live in.
• The job you have.
These and many other things are the source of our complaints. Complaints are an indication we are not content with the content of our lives. Worry is the go-to-response to discontent. In that same letter to the Philippian church Paul wrote how to take worry and complaints and convert them into contentedness. He shared with them the keys to being content with the content…or lack thereof. In verses 4-7 of the same chapter I referenced earlier he penned these instructions. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Paul understood a great truth. We cannot complain and give thanks at the same time. It is a psychological impossibility for our minds to travel in two opposite directions simultaneously. Paul knew that complaints are an indication of fear, and he desired that the Christians in the Philippian church not live in fear but rather in peace. How can we learn to do that in any circumstance so that we can be content with the content…or the lack thereof? First, Paul instructed them to rejoice in the Lord. No matter what else you may have…or not have…if you have Him, you have all you need. Second, Paul said rather than being anxious, we should pray and ask our good, good Father in heaven to meet our needs out of His abundance. Psalm 24 says that “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” God owns it all, and He loves us tremendously, Paul says we should ask God for what we need instead of worrying about what we think we lack. Make no mistake though, Paul was quite clear, it is only a prayer offered in thanksgiving that prompts God to meet the need. He goes on to say that one of those results will be the peace of God which will blow your mind given the circumstances. Finally, in verse 13 Paul disclosed how it is possible to be content with the content…or the lack thereof. Paul said he discovered that the only way he was able to do those very things he was suggesting the Philippians should do …was to do them in the power of Christ. He said that he found that he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him.
So now, learning to be content with the content…or lack thereof through the power of Christ in you…Go be Awesome!
Hi this is pastor Ken and this is my Monday Marriage Message. The Right Questions…
Matthew 19:3-6 The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Jesus found it necessary to do two things for these Pharisees to help them have a better understanding of what they were asking. First He chose to take them back to the beginning. So often as was the case with these men, we want answers to our questions. What we don’t realize is that our questions are flawed due to our skewed perception and so an answer to our question as stated will simply propel our flawed thinking. Jesus understood this. The Pharisees were asking a question about divorce. Divorce is a result of flawed thinking, therefore any primary answer to that question would have served only to keep the conversation headed in a flawed direction. Jesus first had to correct the direction of the conversation and did so. How? He answered their question about divorce in terms of marriage. He made an attempt to steer the dialogue into a much more profitable direction by talking with them about their marriages. The second thing Jesus did here was to reorient the Pharisees in terms of their skewed thinking about marriage. They were looking at marriage as a temporary condition; Jesus reiterated that God, the inventor of the institution, saw it as a lifelong covenant.
Jesus illustrated for them in terms they well understood (the Old Testament scriptures) that marriage was intended to take two people and make them one, duplicating what had been done by creating Eve from one of Adam’s ribs. Adam and Eve were one flesh from the word go. Jesus was pointing out that through marriage, God re-creates that situation for every man and woman who marry. Jesus also made it a point that it was God who had married them to their spouses, and what God does we can’t figure out in our limited ability how to undo.
The analogy I like to use is that of a loaf of bread. The baker starts out with separate ingredients. Though he may add more ingredients than oil, water, yeast and flour, those are the necessary ones. After the ingredients are mixed and have had time to rise, the dough that is formed is thoroughly mixed through the process of kneading. The baker does this with great care until the dough is just right, a compliment of just the right amount of the incorporated ingredients. That dough created just as the baker wanted, with informed intent he shapes it into loaves and places it in the oven. A short time later, the dough emerges something new…bread. In the same way the baker has taken the multiple ingredients and made them one thing that we can’t figure out how to successfully separate again, what God has joined, no one should try to separate.
We may have difficulty understanding our “one flesh” condition but it is our reality none the less. Paul certainly recognized this and called it a great mystery (Ephesians 5:32). Jesus said it though, “They are no longer two, but one flesh.” When we are walking comfortably in our new reality we have little problem accepting it, we experience trouble however when we see our oneness as a restriction instead of a blessing. In those times we can think, even if only momentarily that it would be easier if we were able to live, act and move singularly again. That is however no longer reality, nor is it even correct. Ecclesiastes tells us clearly that two are better than one. Learning to walk comfortably in our oneness with another at all times is what is best, and to some degree the learning curve is what God intends. He desires that as we learn to be one with our spouse, we will learn what it truly means to be one with Him.
Questions to Answer:
What does being “no longer two, but one flesh” mean to you and your spouse?
What ways do you feel as though you and your spouse are one?
In what ways do you wish you noticed more oneness in your marriage?
Actions to Take:
Pray together that God will help you to have a fuller understanding of your oneness and that you will be open to all that means.
So now, looking to Him to complete your understanding of the oneness you share with your spouse…Go be Awesome!
Hi, this is pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…The High Cost of Building Materials
Have you been to a Lowe’s or Home Depot to buy any building materials lately? The cost of nearly every kind of material necessary for home construction has gone through the roof! I was at the home center the other day and what almost causes me more dismay than anything else is how much I sound like an old man when I am there. “This never used to cost this much!” “In my day you could get these for a song” or the best one, “There was a day they couldn’t give these things away!” Yep, all I have to do is stroll through the lumber department and I sound like the old guy I am becoming faster than I want to admit. In all seriousness though, I don’t know how people afford to build a house in this day and age. There is one building material however that has always cost more than you or I will probably ever fully grasp.
Ephesians 2:19-22 in the New King James Version says: Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
I often lean on the old economics definition of value to illustrate our worth to God. In Economics 101 every student is given the following definition of value: The value of a thing is determined by what a willing buyer will give a willing seller. If someone is willing to pay a certain price for something and the owner of that thing is willing to accept that price, then the value of that thing is determined in that agreement. This paradigm is also represented in our relationship with God. John 3:16 tells us that God (the willing buyer) loved the whole world so much that He gave His Only Son to die in our place (the offered price) so that we could live eternally with Him. Accepting His gift as offered; Lordship of our lives (we become the willing seller). When we accept His offer and give our lives to Him, we also accept His determination of our value. We are worth more to God than the life of His One and Only Son. He was willing to buy us at that high a price to do what the scripture referenced above says…He wants to use us as building material to construct a holy house for Him to live in. Talk about high construction costs!
When I buy materials from the home center if I get them home and find they are not perfect, I immediately become frustrated. I love the fact that this scripture points out that there are no second class citizens in God’s kingdom. There may be some who are more mature than I, there are some who may not struggle with the same things I do, but none of us are perfect. It is not our current condition that determines our acceptance by the Builder, it is our faith in Jesus Christ. The fact that we have accepted that He is Lord and have aligned ourselves with Him, that is what determines our usefulness to Him. In Him we are completely accepted just as we are…but He has incredible plans to construct something perfect of our lives! As members of His household, and citizens of His kingdom we are called His building blocks, or living stones being fashioned into a home for the very Spirit of God! We make ourselves available to His plans through the instruction of His word and relying on Jesus Christ, the chief cornerstone to keep us straight and true.
A few years ago I fulfilled a lifelong dream of building a house from foundation to roofline. After the site was leveled and the footers dug and poured, arguably the most important task of the entire Job commenced. The corner blocks for the foundation had to be laid to be built upon. When they were set correctly, the rest of the foundation could be completed. The placement of the first of those corners was critical. If it were not right, nothing else would be either. The foundation had to be true for the walls to go up straight. If the foundation was off, even the roof shingles would have ended up askew. The entire integrity of the house was dependent upon a firm and true foundation.
1 Peter 2:6-7 in the New Living Translation says; And you are living stones that God is building into His spiritual temple. What’s more, you are His holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. As the Scriptures say, “I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor, and anyone who trusts in Him will never be disgraced.”
Jesus is the chief cornerstone. He is that first and all-important building block for us…His church. As living stones, we have only one purpose, to get into, and stay in line with the Cornerstone, so that the results of our lives can be full of His integrity. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior He also must become our Lord, and that means we must fit into His building plans where He tells us to. With Him as Lord that leaves us only one thing to be…willing servants.
So now, understanding we are among the costliest of building materials, live a life that is straight, and true, safely in line with The Cornerstone, and go be awesome!
Hi, this is pastor Ken, welcome to the Monday Marriage Message, this will be the third installment in a series I am calling Marital Communication 101
For the past two weeks we have looked at the often difficult topic of marital communication. In the first session I spoke of the important difference between communication and mutual understanding. There I encouraged you to recognize that even when we don’t arrive at mutual understanding, we still communicate with each other through things like body language, tone, volume, etc. I spoke to the fact that if we are not careful we may communicate some things to each other that we don’t mean and that aren’t even true. Frustration brought on by a lack of arriving at mutual understanding can cause us to communicate things we do not wish our spouse to think.
In the second, I spoke of a few of the variables that can lead to misunderstanding such as; differing process of thought, differing families of origin as well as the fact that we each have our own unique set of core beliefs. I discussed the fact that those core belief systems we each have often cause us to interpret the same information very differently and that can lead to breakdowns in mutual understanding. When this is the case it is vital that we recognize that differences in any of these areas or others do not make one of you right and the other wrong. You can, and often are, both right to think the way you each do given the variables that make up who you are and what you believe as individuals. The objective is not necessarily agreement, but rather that you each have heard and find the other person’s thoughts on the matter valuable.
One of the major roadblocks to successful marital communication is frustration. That condition results from a faulty belief that communication is only effective if it results in agreement. When we are striving for mutual agreement rather than mutual understanding we unintentionally set ourselves up for failure. Understanding that you and your spouse think differently than each other on nearly every subject, agreement will require that one of you admit that your spouse’s ideas and thoughts are more valuable than your own. The “loser” will then have to abandon their own thoughts (which they know have merit) and adopt their spouse’s thoughts as their own. Even when this is accomplished without visible tension, silently held frustration usually exists. In most marriages this misguided goal means that one spouse or the other will triumph in determining what the “agreed” upon outcome will be, and the other is forced to acquiesce. In some marriages the winning position will vacillate between spouses with the husband winning some while the wife succeeds in others. In less fair instances either the husband or the wife will be the victor in a far more lopsided final count.
When mutual agreement is the goal of communication, silent frustration is not the only kind that can abound. We can, and often do become overtly frustrated when a meeting of the minds is the expected outcome of communication. Actually this can cause a total breakdown altogether in the process. Often times as soon as it becomes apparent in a discussion that husband and wife to not see the matter at hand the same way, the process of “convincing” erupts. While one spouse is explaining their thoughts on the matter the other is not listening, but rather formulating a response designed to devalue their spouse’s ideas illustrating their own to be superior. Having proceeded to develop their own thoughts communication ceases to employ one of its two necessary components…listening. This breakdown soon becomes apparent and frustration and anger quickly follow. James 1:19 in the New Living Translation says: Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. This scripture warns that when we fail to listen and desire instead to speak our own mind, we risk anger on one or both of our parts as a result. As I mentioned last week, Proverbs 18:2 tells us that A fool has no delight in understanding, but only in expressing his own heart. The breakdowns in communication that I have just described come from the very foolishness that this scripture speaks of.
However, the reverse truth offers to us the correct objective of successful communication. A wise spouse seeks to understand the other and refrains from being pushy with their own thoughts. In other words, a wise person truly wants to know what another’s thoughts are and why they think what they do. Verbally seeking this information alone, validates the other’s thoughts as valuable. Making the point that we need to know our spouse’s thoughts because they are valuable to us…goes even further. When we take these wise steps we are exchanging the purpose of successful communication from agreement for mutual understanding. When the latter is the goal as opposed to the former there is no need for frustration, and the probability of success skyrockets. One might argue that mutual understanding sounds wonderful, and it might keep frustration at bay, but don’t decisions still have to be made? Don’t we sometimes still have to come to some sort of conclusion as to how to move forward? Yes.
Thankfully scripture has an answer for that as well. Proverbs 31:10-11 speak to this very thing. Essentially what those verses say is that if we will give equal value to each other’s thoughts they can be used to collaborate and arrive at a decision that has greater potential than even the best thoughts of one spouse alone. Here God is admonishing that success comes from wisdom which is arrived at only after carefully considering both spouse’s ideas. As the two thought processes exhibiting the intelligence of the husband and wife are married together, they give birth to wisdom…and true wisdom promotes success.
Questions to answer:
When you consider it carefully what do you generally hold as the goal of successful communication between you and your spouse?
How do each of you recognize when frustration is hijacking the process of successful marital communication for you?
Actions to take:
Discuss some strategies the two of you could employ to trade mutual agreement for mutual understanding in your marital communication skills.
Without using any form of the word frustrate, discuss how you feel when you see communication breaking down between the two of you.
So now, choosing to increase the success rate of your marital communication by exchanging the goal of mutual agreement for mutual understanding…Go Be Awesome!
Hi, this is pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…A Day to Celebrate Mom!
Proverbs 31:25-31 speaks of the virtuous mother. That scripture is paraphrased in the Living Bible as follows: She is a woman of strength and dignity and has no fear of old age. When she speaks, her words are wise, and kindness is the rule for everything she says. She watches carefully all that goes on throughout her household and is never lazy. Her children stand and bless her; so does her husband. He praises her with these words: “There are many fine women in the world, but you are the best of them all!” Charm can be deceptive and beauty doesn’t last, but a woman who fears and reverences God shall be greatly praised. Praise her for the many fine things she does. These good deeds of hers shall bring her honor and recognition from people of importance.
Moms are incredible people. There is no part of their being that is not impacted by being a mom. Their bodies are literally stretched to allow them to carry a baby to full term in pregnancy. The imposition on them does not start or stop there though. They are impacted hormonally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, financially…Moms are affected by being moms in every conceivable way (and yes, that pun was intended). Additionally, there doesn’t seem to be an expiration date on being a mom. I have a theory that every mom upon holding her child in the first moments of bonding looks into that child’s eyes and says to herself, “I am going to be this baby’s mommy forever!”
When I think of the moms that are a personal part of my life I can fairly quickly become overwhelmed with all that they have added to my life. The scripture above describes the kind of mom that is virtuous or in other words fulfilling her calling as a godly mom. It names several of her virtuous characteristics, many of which I see in the women in my life that are moms. It also predicts that this kind of mom will be called blessed by both their children and their husband.
When I think of those women in my life who are moms, naturally my first thoughts go toward my own mother. She is a woman full of grace and dignity. She selflessly concerns herself with those around her. Though daily she suffers physically she focuses on the needs of those she loves and not on her own body’s weaknesses. She has always been industrious and has taken great joy in providing well for her family. And yes, I will always be her baby…even at 56 years of age if I enter her home she will seek to meet any need I may have though it is obvious to both of us that I could “do it myself”. Mom is able to be who she is because of Jesus…without Him she wouldn’t be capable of any of it. I think she would also tell you that it took a lot of Jesus to raise her three boys.
The second mom that comes to mind is my sweet wife. If my mom had her hands full raising three boys it was at the very least an equal challenge for my wife to raise four girls and one boy. When I think of her several characteristics come to mind. Loving, careful, tenacious, supportive, and fun those are only the beginnings of a complete list. We have a blended family and those come with their own set of challenges. Not to use a cliché but she is not a step-mom, but she is a mom who stepped up and into my children’s lives. When we married she understood that she was not marrying a man only, but another entire family and she did so with an open heart and open arms. I watched in awe over the years as she interacted with each of our five children in ways that were clearly for their best even if it made her life more difficult. It is absolutely true that there are many fine women in the world but that she is the best of them all!
I also have daughters who are moms. Next to my mom and my wife, they are the best moms I know. When I watch them interact with their children I see the following qualities that make them virtuous moms; encouragement, patience, gentleness and kindheartedness just to name a few. One of our daughters has not yet become a mom physically but has one of the best “mom hearts” I have ever seen. Her unconditional acceptance of each of her nephews and nieces has no limits, and I know that the children God will eventually gift her with will be blessed by her all the more for her experience.
What words come to mind when you rise up and call the moms in your life blessed? This Mother’s Day I encourage you to do more than send a card or flowers or give your mom a gift. There is nothing wrong with those things and I know they are appreciated by moms everywhere. However, I encourage each of you to additionally take the Proverbs 31 challenge. Stand up and bless the moms in your life, consider carefully the words you would use to describe their best mom characteristics…and then let them know.
Proverbs 31:31 Give her the reward she has earned; she should be praised in public for what she has done. (New Century Version)
So now, this Mother’s Day, stand up and give honor to the moms in your life…go tell her why you think she is so awesome!