Is It Okay To Be Content?

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12 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. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.  –Philippians 4:12-13

I had one thing on my list yesterday afternoon. I had a precious 5 hours set aside to relax and be content.

And I just couldn’t do it.

There were too many big pressing issues taking up space in my brain.  Not enough professions of faith at my church this year. The future of my denomination. The constant creep of scary political times.  The busy week ahead.

Not only did I feel plagued by these issues and more, I started feeling like it would be irresponsible to push them aside.  There are, for me, some pretty serious issues on that list.  Big problems.  Disturbances in the Force.  Valid reasons for feeling discontent.

Maybe it was wrong for me to want to be content in the first place.  To take a big sigh and forget my problems for a while.  Maybe that was a mistake.

Maybe my role as a disciple is to carry my cross, shoulder my burdens, keeping my eyes on the prize of the Kingdom come.  As long as things are broken in this world, my job is to be discontent.  Or even a malcontent–fighting the man, even if that turns out to be me.

So, no bingeing on Netflix.  No Burger King Impossible Burger.  No Lazy Boy Recliner.  And NO peace of mind.

That is the dangerous path my brain was headed down.  So many Christians have chosen to live that way .  I didn’t fully rest.  I couldn’t relax.  I went to bed exhausted.

Today, I read the scripture above, from Philippians, where Paul talks about being content.  He has figured out the secret–so much so that he can feel at peace when life is producing either a bounty or a scarcity.

The key, it seems, is what gives you contentment.  Paul finds peace in good times and bad.  There is no earthly item on his list that can sway him–because his strength comes from God.  His ongoing connection with God is the most real thing in his life, and holding tightly to that allows him to be content, even when things on earth feel dicey.

I happen to know several times where Paul declares himself to be distressed, so it’s not like he’s unaffected by the problems he’s up against.  It must be that the hope and joy of a life in God simply matters more.

I wish I could go back and live those 5 hours of downtime over again.  I would have leaned on God more.  I would have rested in the sure and certain knowledge that God wants more for me than to fret without ceasing.  Perhaps praying without ceasing would have framed things better.

That kind of bingeing…

is even better than Netflix.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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The Wrestling Life

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The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. -Exodus 14:14

What a match this has been.

On one side, it’s been You and God, and on the other side, your opponents.  You know, your physical and mental illnesses that bring you to your knees.  Injustices that try to hold you down.  Doubt and Fear that threaten to do a pile driver on you.  Sin and shame that will hit you with a chair when you least suspect it.

You and God?  Totally outnumbered.  There’s an endless mob climbing up over the ropes trying to pin you. Adversaries you’re wrestled with for so long you know them as well as you know yourself.  Grabbing you by the hair, and flinging you into the ropes.

You’ve had about all you can take.

Isn’t wrestling supposed to be fake?  This doesn’t feel fake.  It feels like you’re getting your tail kicked.   Sometimes life is like that.  And no matter how hard you try to fight it, sometimes it feels like you may be going down, and you may not be getting up again.

Gasping for breath, you see it out of the corner of your eye:  God’s hand, reaching out desperately.  How could you have forgotten?  This is a tag team match!  If you can just reach out and take…God’s…hand…

Connection!  God swoops into the ring as your beaten body slumps to the side.  God says, “I will fight for you; you need only to be still.”  And so you are.  It’s all you can do.

You lie there, panting, having done everything you could do to overcome every last sin, sickness, and shortcoming.  You’ve long been accustomed to the wrestling life, one ordeal after another.  One obstacle, one battle, one endless bout, but now, you have taken God’s hand…

God is powerful. Doubt and Fear dissolve at God’s gaze.  Injustices and enemies reel at God’s signature move — a mighty blow, arms formed into the shape of the cross.

As the match continues, you just lie there, as instructed.  Your breathing slows.  Your eyes droop.  You are still.

And then God is prodding you.  You awake refreshed, energized.  God nods back to the ring, hand outstretched to you.  God has done so much on your behalf, but most importantly, God has renewed your strength, so that you’re ready to go back to the battle..

It’s your turn again.   You take God’s hand, and climb back into the fray.

Now this story may seem a little bleak to you.  Life must surely be more than a constant battle, and our relationship with God is certainly more than a “Tag, you’re it” at the edge of a wrestling ring. But the moral of the story is essentially clear:

God will fight for you when you can’t. And when life threatens to overtake you, God can give you rest.

So get out there!  Grab that lingering self-doubt by the shoulders and pin him to the mat.  And remember, you don’t have to conquer all your adversaries at once…

just the ones walking around in their underwear.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. –Exodus 20:8

It was one year ago today that the World Council of Churches met and made an audacious proposal to the rest of the world:

They suggested that we add an eighth day to the week.

Since it was their idea,  they decided to call the day “Sabbath-Day-OK-This-Time-We-Really-Mean-It”.

The scientists said “Sure, time is a human construction, and we can make it whatever we want.” So they eliminated January and February from the calendar, and did a few more tweaks here and there, and got us back to 365 days a year.

Non-churchgoers loved the idea of an extra long weekend every week. Business owners found that their productivity stayed strong as worker morale improved.  And as for  Christians, celebrating their “Sabbath-Day-OK-This-Time-We-Really-Mean-It”?

Attendance went down.

That’s right. Attendance figures just came out for the past year, and worship in American churches has dropped another tenth of a percent.

It would appear that with more time on the weekend people just did more stuff. More visiting with the grandkids. More time for yardwork. More camping trips or sleeping in.

A tired-looking president of the World Council of Churches issued a statement just moments ago:

“Well, fellow Christians, we tried. We cleared a whole extra day for you to keep the Sabbath, but you just keep doing other things! As of today I am resigning my position. I’m looking forward to a nice long break, and this weekend I plan to go visit my grandkids.”

Rumors of a proposed ninth day of the week movement has met with much criticism. As one Christian said, “Honestly? I think they could add five more Sabbaths every week and it still wouldn’t make a difference. Worship and rest is still a priority for people, but it’s just not the only priority, and not always on Sunday. I love to go to church, but I’ve got other things I want to do, too. So I do my best to balance it out.”

And so, the Eight Days A Week movement, as it has been called, was a success for everybody except the people who proposed it in the first place. Lately, there’s been talk about moving back to the old system. People miss Martin Luther King Jr Day and Valentine’s Day in particular.

As for my humble take on things, I think the church is going to be okay, and I think Christians are going to be okay, but not without some tough times along the way.  Our society has definitely steered away from notions of Holy rest and worship, things God says we clearly need.

I predict people will still gather for worship on the Sabbath, but maybe we need to focus our efforts towards teaching people how to be Holy…

on the other six days.

Or seven.

Whichever calendar you’re using.

Have a good week,

Mitch

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