Pastor’s Update 4/2/2020

Good Morning, Grace Family,

     Hope the glorious sunshine of this morning has warmed your soul and set you thinking about our Dayspring (sunrise; “the day springs to its start”), the Lord Jesus Christ! Let’s begin each new day, if not at sunrise, then when we arise, setting our mind on Him as the One to warm and enlighten the day! As each sunrise has a unique beauty and blend of colors all its own, so we can be assured that each new day with our Dayspring will manifest to us some new glorious trait of Jesus our Savior if we will but open the windows of our soul to see it.

      And so, with the blessed assurance that He will fulfill His promise to never leave us nor forsake us, we walk into TODAY contented that both we ourselves and our times are in His Hand.

              Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”  (Heb. 13:5, 6)

      I find it amazing that the God of the Universe Who knows every evil plan, plot, and deed can command me to be content in the midst of this kind of uncertain, alarming world just because He is with me and will never leave nor forsake me! In other words, He, Who can change, thwart, or create any circumstance for my good, doesn’t promise me instead that these special powers of His WILL keep me safe in a bubble of happy happenings.

     As the alternative, He promises Himself—His presence. When I read this, I fall to my knees in shame. Why is His promised presence not good enough for me? Why do I continue to worry? Why do I keep asking for more? Why do I COVET (want, crave, hanker, desire, long for, yearn for, wish for) and why does not getting what I want throw me into depression or rage? I know I’m not content because my conduct displays it in dissatisfaction, panic, stinginess, self-focus, and anxiety.

     Meditating on I Timothy 6 puts the right focus back on my life. Paul is giving his son in the faith Timothy advice on pastoring the flock. Sheep as well as Shepherds can learn so much from this exhortation. He describes and censures men, who have already arisen so early in the life of The Church, that are using their depraved idea of godliness to gain riches. They have distorted the Gospel and doctrine of true Christianity as delivered to them by Christ and his apostles and done so to make money. Then he adds,

             Now godliness with contentment is great gain. (I Timothy 6:6)

     Paul warns us in I Timothy 6 of falling prey to men who would have us believe the Gospel will bring us riches and health (heard that on TV lately?). Yet he wants us to know that the Gospel and Godly living DOES bring GAIN—just not the kind these guys are selling. But, have we fallen prey already to those ideas without even realizing it? Does our slight irritation with God about our circumstances reveal that we secretly believe that if we “do right” (attend church, tithe, be kind to our neighbor), He owes us? Hmmm.

     Of course, it doesn’t help for Paul to remind us that we came into the Birthing Center with nothing but our nakedness and a cry, and we go to Heaven or Sheol in the next breath after we die with nothing in our hands. Then he delivers some more reality when he claims that if we have food and clothing, that’s all we need. When you’ve spent all the hours from your birth to your death adding stuff and adding stuff and adding stuff to your life, that’s a bleak statement.

     I’ll leave the rest of chapter 6 for you to read and enjoy Paul’s reasons for why running after all our wants and imagined needs destroys us. He helps us see that we can only live a truly Godly life of service and virtue after we’ve said goodbye to coveting and hello to being satisfied and thrilled with His Presence. So, as fear will inevitably well up during the day, let’s take the opportunity to squelch it by talking to our Father Who lives inside us, is all around us, and by Whom we are seated in the heavenlies (Col. 3). If He promises that He will NEVER LEAVE us (walk away, desert) NOR FORSAKE (abandon; leave in straits or helpless), then we can trust Him. May we see His Presence as so vital in our lives that we join Moses in the sentiment, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here” (Ex. 33:15)

     We love singing, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” don’t we? Yet I fear it may only be religious sentimentality that makes it our favorite. How well do we know our Friend? As we shelter In the sunshine of this new day, God has given us another opportunity to spend time with Him, getting to know Him through His Word. We have the time now to “Come to the garden alone where He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”

     Let’s intercede for each other in this area of contentment where “IN CHRIST ALONE we place our trust and find our glory in the power of the cross.” Where, “in every victory, let it be said of me, ‘my source of strength, my source of hope, is Christ Alone.’” It is only from this calm assurance of soul that we can think of others first, reach out to help, and be the broken clay jar out of which the glorious POWER and TRUTH of the Gospel shines to a panic-stricken, lost world.

Pastor’s Update 3/31/2020

     Well, here we are in the disappointment of two further weeks of sheltering.  What can we say but, “Yuck-a-mundo!”  Yuck-a-mundo is in the agonized cry of couples when one of their mothers with Alzheimer’s has to move in with them. It’s what every gregarious teenager barks aloud in his bedroom when the ramifications of social distancing slap him in the face. It’s even possible that’s what Paul exclaimed when they threw him in the Roman jail chained to a new guard every changing shift. Yuck-a-mundo is the universal cry of the soul that translates to, “I hate being stuck in these circumstances for who knows how long!“ Nevertheless, after facing the raw emotions that accompany our rude awakenings, Paul gives us some sage advice that he learned:

     Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:  I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.      Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:11-13)  

There is a wealth of Spiritual treasures to be gleaned from these verses, but, I will only focus on one—contentment.

    This word in the Greek (autarkes)  is actually two words: self (auto) and strong or sufficient. Together, these words mean “to be sufficient for oneself, strong enough or possessing enough to need no aid or support from outside yourself; independent of external circumstances.” In using this word, Paul was actually contrasting Christianity to one of the great moral philosophies of his day—Stoicism. In the moral philosophy of Stoicism the ability to be content became the essence of the virtues. Contentment to a Stoic meant that he accepted his lot in life as determined to him by the gods and that, becoming independent of things and other people, he relied solely upon himself. Therefore, the goal of Stoicism, was to have no needs—to become SuperMan. Centuries later, forms of Stoicism  are still being practiced widely all over the world (Humanism, Hinduism and Buddhism are its kin).

    At first glance it seems Paul has become a Stoic himself, claiming that he can be content in every situation—even opposite situations:  being brought low in life or being elevated; reveling in wealth or aching in poverty; enjoying a feast each day or going to bed with an empty stomach. Yet, Paul acknowledges the truth Stoicism denies:  there is a God, to Whom we are accountable, Who has given us THE TRUE principles and virtues by which to live which we can never achieve on our own strength. Yes, we are responsible to learn them, disciplining our minds and bodies to do so, all the while acknowledging our flawed and fallen self which cannot achieve this. We need the Gospel that fills Paul’s writings. We need Jesus Christ’s sacrificial love and forgiveness and then restoration before we can ever hope to become strong men and women of contentment.

    I’ll be exploring contentment in my next few emails to you, but, in the meantime, I want you to meditate on what it means.

          Are you satisfied in Christ without any other external circumstances or things or sensations or people?          

          What have you learned about peace and contentment in regard to money or the lack of it? Job or no job? Fun with friends or being alone in your house?

          Would you even be ready to do some self evaluation in regard to contentment, or have you brushed that thought aside as you pace back and forth during this season?

      Paul’s wisdom as evidenced in his responses to life’s circumstances sure is a treasure that has me thinking. I know I admire him and would like to experience the same outlook; how can I “learn” that in the days ahead? Join me on this quest.  

Please continue to send in your prayer requests and updates on requests, and we will disseminate them as quickly as possible.

          Thurston’s sister, Dorothy Pearson, continues to hold her own in the Nursing Home as she battles pneumonia after a broken hip. Thurston shares his concern that she has stopped eating. Uplift Thurston because he cannot visit her at this crucial time due to the virus.