This word…
Its posture, the emotions it represents, and its source, have appeared intermittently in my life like a rainbow in the distance.  Contentment has eluded me for way too much of my life…and it’s also the main subject matter of what I believe God wants to teach all of us today.  Think about the emotional triggers that tend to trip you up, and their relation to a lack of contentment – fear, worry, doubt, anxiety, anger, impatience, I could go on.  Many of the sins in my life spring from a lack of contentment in who God is, who I am, what He provides, His timing, can you relate?  I will say that I have experienced many episodes of contentment throughout my life.  Those memories are like jewels in my mind…special times, days, seasons of life, when all was well in my world.  For me, these happy places in time are always, without fail, connected to healthy relationship with my Heavenly Father. 
Relationship is the key word.  The kind of relationship that follows me throughout every journey, thought, action, and word of my life.  When I’m truly “walking with God” through my days – seeking to see as He sees, respond as if I were His hands, forgive offenses as if Jesus was living through me, delight in things that are pure and lovely, consume the delights of the world with prudence & thankfulness, utilize my belongings as if they were not mine to keep, give energy and care to others when I’d rather not, love my wife & kids sacrificially, do all I can to live like Jesus would if He were me – those are the times when I am totally, completely content.  Not because I’m seeking it, but because the God of my life keeps His promises; and He gives it in abundance when we surrender to Him unbridled access into every nook & cranny of our lives.  Contentment is the byproduct of walking hand in hand with the Father through life.
I want this kind of contentment…more than I want success, recognition, money, sex, food, a trim body, relevance, and all the other things we Americans seem to idolize.  We idolize stupid things, and they distract us from the life that is truly life!  I’m singling out “contentment in the Lord” as the pursuit for this year of my journey through life.  Like everyone else, I have patterns in my psyche that produce dysfunction & pain with those I love, creating chasms where I would rather see bridges.  Most of the time, I’m my own worst enemy.  As I continue to learn from scripture, and grow in living it out, I see that God is not really concerned with managing our behavior…He’s into what’s deeper; the identities He’s created in each of us, the lies and counterfeits we get ourselves ensnared in, and the rescues and rewards He plans for us to inherit from Him…and there’s only one way to get it.
Jesus, God in flesh, opened the way for us to bypass the appeasement of human religion so that we can have an actual, real, intimate relationship with our Father.  Only through Him are the obstacles of our sin wiped clean so that we have unhindered access to the Living Water we thirst for.  What makes me so sad is how we seem to easily give lip-service to this amazing truth, distancing ourselves from Him through rebellion or religion, and cutting ourselves off from the royal throne-room access that offers us more than we could ever imagine or ask for.  Thankfully, He’s an expert in route redirections, and His mercies never fail.  What a good, good Father! 
Here are some of the passages I’ve been meditating on these past several weeks of the new year.  Blessings to you in your journey. 
”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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”  (Philippians 4:12-13)
“Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  (Psalm 37:4)

”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. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”  (Philippians 4:6-9)

Life Abundant

Today on Martin Luther King, Jr. day, I remember a very great man….and want to talk about something much greater than racial equality.  Something deeper….humility.

“I have come that they would have life, and have it abundantly.”

“If you ask for anything in my Name, I will do it.”
These are amazing promises of MLK’s God, printed in the pages of the Bible.  This year, I have set my heart to pursuing them.  But they’re tricky…they don’t mean what we tend to think they do.  
These promises are meant to lure us into the pursuit of Jesus-centered thoughts, activities, and daily living with Him at the helm.  Unfortunately, we often get discouraged & apathetic, don’t we?  Have you ever wondered why being close to Jesus doesn’t always lead to the blessings we seek?  Have you ever prayed for someone to be released from addiction or illness and it didn’t work?  
Have you wondered what Jesus’ definition is for…
Was Jesus prone to wishful thinking and the stretching of truth, or is it possible that we misunderstand His values?  As the Gospel of Jesus and His people multiplies rapidly in various places of today’s world, the modern American church continues to collapse into distraction, disillusionment, and disintegration.
Disintegration: dis·in·te·gra·tion (disˌin(t)əˈɡrāSH(ə)n/)
  1. the process of losing cohesion or strength. i.e. “the twin problems of economic failure and social disintegration”
  2. the process of coming to pieces. i.e. “the disintegration of infected cells”
Jesus calls us to FOLLOW HIM, yet we often seem to spend time & energy & resources trying desperately to get HIM TO FOLLOW US!  The wonder & beauty of being “In Christ” does not come from faithful church attendance or saying “In Jesus Name” after our prayers; but by living our days, and conducting each area of our lives as if our daily conduct was an act of intimate worship and the world were His sanctuary.  Humility is the understanding and determination that my life is about God’s Kingdom rather than mine.  When we live by this, things like equality are the natural by-product.  But it’s a total 180 from the values of our world.
It is not God’s desire or purpose for us to be happy.  This is one of the great lies of the ancient serpent who continues to deceive us in the most basic & primal places of our souls.  All of us go through life with the tendency to chase after the things we believe will make us happy.  Our entire society is based upon this pursuit. The problem is that it doesn’t work…in fact, it only prolongs our slavery to desire and erects roadblocks in front of the only source of true satisfaction.  
So what is Jesus’ desire & purpose for us, especially as it is connected to the abundant and miraculous life He promises?  Humility, not advantage.  Joy, not happiness.  Peace, not fulfillment.
Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (John 12:25-26)
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it…Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:12-14, 23-27)
He says to us…
…“Do you trust me?”  
…“What are you willing to sacrifice for me?”
God’s promises are true!  He is indelibly faithful, and does not change like the shifting shadows of this world! Let us dispense with the rancorous, cancerous mythologies that surround us and deliver empty promises.  Let us love God thankfully, serve others joyfully, give generously, party soberly, and pursue His Kingdom in our lives passionately.  
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2)