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Prescription for Contentment

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. - 1 Timothy 6:6 NKJV

Yesterday, I was planning on posting today some more about wisdom from Job.  However, I remembered that I wanted to share some information given to us by our assistant teaching leader at CBS Bible study this week.  So many people struggle with finding contentment and yet, how many people really know practical ways to battle this problem?

Following is a "prescription for contentment, taken from Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow.   Some of these were really convicting to me and I think they excellent practical tips. Let's try to put them into practice, shall we?

Prescription for Contentment

  • Never allow yourself to complain about anything -- not even the weather.
  • Never picture yourself in any other circumstances or someplace else.
  • Never compare your lot with another's.
  • Never allow yourself to wish this or that had been otherwise.
  • Never dwell on tomorrow -- remember that tomorrow is God's, not ours.

Note: If you still aren't content in your dose of contentment talk today, check out another previous post, Content or Complacent.

Real Wisdom

But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding? (Job 28:12)

And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding. (Job 28:28)

Wisdom.  Don't we all want it? I know I do.  But where do we find it and how do we know that we have it?  Job had some inkling of what wisdom was and how it was to be found, but he wound up being reprimanded by God for thinking he was wise (see Job 38).  The truth of the matter is that we can have some wisdom - all given to us by God - but we must never forget our place in this world next to God.  He is everything and all knowing, we are really nothing and know very little in the whole scheme of things. 

Job was a wise man.  We can be wise too, in a relative sort of way, but we must keep in mind that we will never have the capacity to understand as God does.  The verses above, taken from yet another speech by Job answer these questions.  When we combine the two verses we can see that

1) Wisdom can be found by fearing God.

2) Understanding can be found by departing from evil, or obedience to God.

There you have it.  Wisdom and understanding in a simple nutshell.  But how then can we practically "fear God" and "obey God"?  Fearing God comes by knowing His word and thus by knowing God.  If  we know His word, which can only come by a daily reading of it, we can develop a deep knowledge of who God is through both the old and new testament.  Seeing who God is and how He reacts to both the obedience and disobedience of his chosen people will give us that healthy fear and respect that we owe to the Creator of the universe.  We can't develop that understanding and respect for God if we don't understand all aspects of His character.  In other words, just singing a praise song and hearing of God's love for me cannot develop wisdom in my character, because in those things I'm only seeing a one-dimensional aspect of God.  One dimensional thinking does not wisdom make.  Understanding then, goes hand in hand with fearing God.  By fearing God, we will want to obey Him and from that, we will have understanding.  This is sure a lot to chew on for the morning!

So in closing, I will pose a few questions for thought:

1) What will I do today to gain a greater understanding of God?

2) How many aspects of God's character do I really know?

3) Can I really have true wisdom without a working understanding of my bible?

More Ponderings About "Pre-packaged" & Plagiarism

Honestly, I was going to let this topic rest because there are so many more positive things to write about from God's Word.  However, in all fairness, I feel that I must address further some comments in the discussion that ensued at my post from last week entititled "It Can't Be Plagiarism, Can it?".  Keep in mind that I will not be addressing everything included in those comments because to do so would be repetitive.  After all, both sides of some of the questions were addressed adequately within the comments themselves. If you haven't read that post including the comments section, I would encourage you to read it in its entirety before proceeding.

Plagiarism Revisited

First of all, I must begin by restating the main purpose of my previous post.  The post was about the act of plagiarism, defined as taking the writings, ideas, etc. and passing them off as one's own.  To do such a thing, regardless of whether permission has been granted by the original idea generator, is still plagiarism.  Think back to your high school days and papers you had to write for English class.  Your teacher wouldn't let you turn in work that was prepared for you by a friend, relative or other source, would they? The standard still applies.

What's the Big Deal, Anyway?

Obviously, there is more than meets the eye to my simple question of whether or not using prepackaged purchased sermons without disclosing the source of such materials to an unsuspecting congregation is plagiarism.  By definition, not disclosing a source when the source is known is in fact plagiarism.   Most of the time, only the presenter of the material knows that he is plagiarizing.  So the question to me is then "Why would a person not want to disclose the source of their material?"  Maybe the presenter doesn't realize that they should do so, but on the other hand, could there be some deceit present?  I can't make the call, but I can ask the question.  What I do know is this:

1) God doesn't like it.

Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel. - Proverbs 20:17

2) Paul didn't do it.

For our exhortation did not come from error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit.  But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.  1 Thess 2:3-4 NKJV

What Time are We Saving?

Admittedly, putting together a worship service on Sunday takes a lot of work.  It takes a lot of resources to "keep up with the Jones'", even if you are a church.  I know this is stated pretty bluntly, but I want to make a point here.  Again, I am not criticizing here the creators of the resources, just their proper use.  A few commenters mentioned the time saving aspects of the prepackaged service materials as they related to churches of all sizes with limited resources.   It is here that I would like to address this point.

My challenge for us to consider is whether or not we are spending our precious time on the things that really matter anyway.  Do we need the drama?  Do we need the best band?  Do we need the most up to date movie clip or power point presentation?  Are these things that take up so much valuable time to put together really necessary in presenting the gospel?  Who are we trying to please?  And is "saving time" really profitable in the long run?

A faithful man will abound with blessings, but he who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.  Proverbs 28:20 NKJV

Finally, to bring this back to the whole point of my original post, if churches are going to use prepackaged services, they should be disclosing their source material to their congregation to remain blameless.

What Does God Want?

God wants us to get to know Him as He says in His word:

But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth.  For in these I delight." says the Lord. (Jer 9:24 NKJV)

God wants our teachers to study:

2 Tim 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (NKJV)

God wants us to be blameless so that the good we do will not be evil spoken of.  (Romans 14:6)

And if all of this means that we need to disclose our "source", why can't we just do it?  Let's keep the main thing the main thing, keep our motives pure and keep our focus on Jesus.  God will take care of the rest.  After all, He says He will build His church.

Better Than Chocolate?

I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.  - Job 23:12 NASB

How hungry are you for God's truth in your life?  What would you give up to spend time in God's presence, reading His words to you?  Do you think Job meant what he said when he was in the depths of despair trying to make sense of the nonsense his friends kept accusing him of?  I believe Job meant every word.  Job had such a deep relationship with God that nothing could permanently shake him.

Yes, Job wished he were dead earlier in the book of Job.  But even the most grounded Christians have moments of hopelessness when faced with a pain that is so piercing.  Remember, Job had lost everything - his family all except for his wife, his possessions and his health.  Not to mention it, but if I were him, I'd think about ditching those friends who would not shut up!  Most importantly though, Job had not lost His God nor his faith in Him.  Look at what Job said regarding God's path for him:

But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. (Job 23:10)

As He did with Job, God also has a refining purpose for all of us.  The paths He may have for us to take might not always be the comfortable paths we would have chosen, but we must rest assured that they are the best for us.

For he performs what is appointed for me, And many such decrees are with Him. (Job 23:14 NASB)

Because God's ways are not our ways, we must rely on the promises of His word so that when storms make their way into our lives we can stand firm.  In troubled times, we have to hold on to one thing in our lives that will never change - the Word of God.  Our feelings about God may change with our circumstances, but those words in black and white stay consistent from day to day, year after year.  Yes, I believe His word truly is better than my necessary food...even better than chocolate.

Priority Check:

1) What are you placing higher on your daily priority list than your time with God?

2) When was the last time you had to rely on God alone for strength?

3) How are you currently sharing God's truths to others in your life?

A Sound of Rejoicing

Oh, give thanks to the LORD!
Call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples!
Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him;
Talk of all His wondrous works!
Glory in His holy name;
Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord!
Seek the LORD and His strength;
Seek His face evermore!
Remember His marvelous works which He has done,
His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth.

(1 Chronicles 16:8-12 NKJV)

King David first delivered this Psalm on the day that the ark of God was brought into the city of Jerusalem and placed in the middle of the tabernacle that he had built for it.  Daivd was pretty happy, don't you think?  God had indeed done wonderful things for David and the people of Israel.

How do you recognize the extraordinary things that God has done for you?  Do you thank Him with words?  Do you thank Him with service?  Do you thank Him in song?  In my CBS bible study homework this week we were asked to write our own psalm expressing our feelings toward God for doing something in our lives recently that has brought us joy.  What has God done in your life lately that you can thank Him for?  I'm sure He's done something, even if you have to think hard about it. Our God is a wonderful God.   So, in closing, I'll share my "psalm".  Please keep in mind that I am definitely not a poet, but at least I did it!  :)  Enjoy.

Where would I be, Lord, without you?
I shudder to think of the pit I'd call home.
Would joy and peace prevail without your tender lovingkindness upon me?
You, my Lord, have given me life.

Thank You for new memories.
Thank You for new blessings.
Big or small, You've provided them all
Through Your marvelous love, mercy and grace.

Holy Ground

Then He said, "Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground." - Exodus 3:5 NKJV

I read the above verse in the Daily Light devotional for today.  I was hurried this morning and rushed through my quiet time with God because I didn't get up early enough to take my time and still be able to get to work earlier than usual to complete a project for a deadline.  As I read the day's devotional about the holiness of God and how worthy He is to be worshiped, I thought about my lack of holiness in God's presence at that specific moment.  I was rushing, I was thinking about multitasking and writing this blog post while eating my oatmeal and that's when it hit me.  When I approach God each day during my quiet time with Him, do I always approach it as Moses approached that holy ground to which God was referring?

We should draw near to God.  He wants us to do so.  But when we do approach God, how do we approach Him?  How do we view His Word?   Most of our bibles say on their covers the words "Holy Bible". When we open our bibles, do we do it with reverence as if they are indeed holy?  Moses was terrified and awestruck in God's presence.  Shouldn't we be?  Yes, God loves us.  Yes, we shouldn't view him only as a terrifying God.  However, His Word and His name should be respected and revered, treated as priceless treasure.

Do you have a bible where you are right now?  If you don't, you can do this later.  If you do, find it and take it and grasp it in your hands.  Look at it.  Did you know that you are holding in your hands words from the very mind of the Creator of the universe?  Did you know that His words contained in that book you are holding are the most powerful and life changing words ever written?  They are holy.  Your bible is holy.  Holy.  We can hold holiness in our hands.

Does holiness deserve the multitasking mind?  I'm ashamed at how my mind wanders sometimes when I come before God in prayer or bible study.  I'm thinking right now about the times I've opened my bible to study out a passage or subject when I've approached the exercise as a mere task.  Did I take off my "sandals" before stepping on that "holy ground"?  Did I wholeheartedly hold my bible in my hands and think about how incredible it is that I have His word to hold?  Maybe sometimes I have, but I'm sure not every time.  But tomorrow is new day.  Actually, tonight is a new night.  Tonight, I will take off my "sandals", get on my knees, pray and thank God for His words to me.

Silent Speaking

Sometimes being silent is the best option.  Have any of you ever tried to comfort someone in their grief or distress and been told that you didn't help at all?  I have, and it is not a pleasant feeling.  Have you ever been "comforted" and said to your friend that they were no help at all?  I think we've all been there.  And wouldn't you know, that in one of the oldest books of the bible we see that Job has been there too.  No matter what we've been through or are going through, we can always find an example in God's Word to match our situation.

Do you remember Job?  In the first few chapters of the book of Job, he lost everything due to the results of a little dialog between God and Satan.  The result: Job faced adversity.  More than his fair share.  His three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar heard about his calamities and came together to comfort him.  At least their hearts were in the right place. And they didn't do a bad job ... at first.

So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.  (Job 2:13)

What happened after the seventh day?  Job opened his mouth and made himself vulnerable to his friends by telling them that he wished he would never have been born (Job 3).  I suppose this was seen by his friends as a solicitation for advice because soon after, they seized the opportunity to speak.  Without going into all of the details about the conversation that ensued, let's just get to the point.  I don't think that Job was comforted by his well meaning friends.  From Job 16:1-2 we see

Then Job answered and said, I have heard many such things: miserable comforters are ye all.

Ouch.  I think I'm having a flashback to one of my meager attempts at providing comfort.  There is a lot to learn from this passage, isn't there?  Here are my life application points:

1) Fixing does not equate to comforting.  How many times do we try to fix someone's problem when all we really should be doing is listening?  We all want to be helpful, but there is a time to solve and a time to sit.  Job's friends didn't get reproved when they were just sitting with their friend. Am I comfortable in the silence?

2) "Knowing it all" will get us nowhere. Job's friends sure thought they had all of the solutions didn't they?  They even thought they knew why the horrendous things had happened to Job.  But were they right?  Sure, there were some truths to the things they said, but in Job's circumstance they didn't apply.  Oh, we need to pray before we speak.  How often do I pray before I speak and why do I really offer advice?

3) Listening is the optimal response - for all.  Listening is a challenge sometimes because of our pride.  Did Job's friends ask any questions of him to see what was really going on before they offered all of their words?  I didn't see any.  Should Job have listened to what his friends said anyway? I think so.  Listening well will always produce favorably results.  Had his friends really learned about Job and his situation, their words may have been different.  If Job could really listen to his friends in his grief - which I know sometimes isn't possible - he might gather some truths whereby he could examine his life.  How am I listening and learning to be a better friend?

Until next time...

Enduring Truth, Enduring Mercy

O Praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.  For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the LORD endureth for ever.  Praise ye the LORD. (Psalm 117)

I'm ready to think on some good thoughts today, rather than my sadness over all of the things that are wrong in our churches and in our worlds.  In spite of all of those things, our good LORD is on the throne of heaven and is still in control.

O Praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him all ye people.  How are you, dear reader, going to intentionally praise your God today?  I'm going to think about the above passage in Psalms.  I'm going to attempt to shut down all of my negative thoughts today with the truth of God that endures forever so that I can be salt and light to those I'm around today.  I will try to praise Him today with my thoughts and my life.

For His merciful kindness is great toward us: Can you think of a couple of things that God has blessed you with in your life that you don't deserve?  I know that I can.  God loves us so.  There's another reason to praise Him.  Today, I'm going to look for God in the little things - in an email from a friend, in a chirping bird on this first day of spring, in the company of friends.   Maybe He'll even throw in a few more.  :)  I'll be watching today, will you?

And the truth of the LORD endureth forever.  Do you know God's truth? The truth of the Lord is all over the pages of my bible.  Every word, every phrase, every chapter and book is true and alive and never changes. I'd say that it endures forever.  Jesus is also the Lord's truth.  After all, the bible says, Jesus is "the way, the truth and the life". Just thinking on how the God of the universe loves me and will never leave me just overwhelms me.  The truth of His goodness and love will never change.

Dear Father,

I thank you so much for who you are to me and to this broken world.  Show me how to love you more today and every day.  Enable me today to praise and worship you with my whole heart and nothing less, seeing you in every aspect of my day.  Thank you for never changing, for providing us with enduring truth and love. 


It Can't Be Plagiarism, Can It?

I am a bible teacher.  I love to study the bible.  I love to share how its words both encourage and exhort me, deliver and drive me.  I love the exercise of taking a passage of scripture and pulling out the historical, doctrinal and inspiration applications in a way that others can see how its truths can be applied to their lives.

With that said, I've seen something just now that compels me to digress from my normal devotional posts and hopefully provide some awareness as to what I feel is a sad happening in our churches today that I'm sure many church goers might not even be aware of.  I know I wasn't aware until the past couple of years.  So here is the question of the day:

When does presenting a prepackaged purchased sermon become an act of plagiarism?

First of all, let's define what plagiarism is.  According to Webster, we see the following:

plagiarism (n.) 1 the act of plagiarizing 2 an idea, plet, etc. that has been plagiarized.

plagiarize (vt.) to take (ideas, writings, etc.) from (another) and pass them off as one's own.

Did you realize that pastors all across this country are buying prepackaged sermons, complete with outlines, scripts, powerpoints, handouts, music & dramas for presentation at their churches?  I think that the availability of such resources poses or should pose an ethical dilemma for a preacher.  While the seller of the "materials" may not require credit to be given to them for their idea, shouldn't the user of the "materials" give credit where credit is due, rather than taking that credit for themselves?  As an aspiring writer and speaker, I am very careful to give credit when I am using someone else's work.  If I don't, that is plagiarism as defined.  Whether it is an outline, an idea or a lengthy quote, if it is not mine, I will tell you so.  To not do so, would be to plagiarize.

So what do you think, dear readers?  Watch the video I just saw and decide for yourselves.  At any rate, I think it is a shame that our gifted teachers are wasting their God-given talents by taking short cuts to quick, slick sermons.  Let me know what you think. 

Golf and God

You may think I'm just golfing today, but I will be really having a deep spiritual experience.  :)  I know, those of you who don't play, and maybe some who do are rolling your eyes and thinking, "How are you going to spiritualize a golf game?  It is, after all, just a game."  Yes, it is just a game, one that takes up a lot of time and can become obsessive.  However golf is unique in that it provides many opportunities to become a better person.  So, before I get ready for church and then golf, I'd like to share some of these "opportunities" with you.  :)

The game of golf provides an opportunity to practice...

1.  Patience - Inevitably on the course you will wait and wait and are helpless to do anything about it.  This can either build good character or exploit bad character.  Oh, let patience have its perfect work in us! (James 1:4

2.  Prayer - I wonder how many times I have actually cried out to God to help me out of those awful sand traps I find myself in.  Sometimes, prayer even works on the course. 

3.  Praise - Thank the Lord for the miracle shot!  :)  After all, every good gift is from God.  (James 1:17)

4.  Perseverance - One bad shot is not the end of the world.  Yes, I'm giving myself a little "self talk" before my tee time today at 12:51.  :)  Four hours is a long time to stay focused sometimes when the day isn't going well.  Like in life, we must press on. (2 Tim 4:7)

5.  Probity - I know. I've never heard of this word either, but my Thesaurus says it is a synonym for honesty.  :)  I had to stick with the "P"'s, you know.  Did you know that when you play golf that if you swing and miss you still need to count it as a stroke?  Oh, how tempting it is to just say "I was taking a very aggressive practice swing".  This is just one of many examples of how golf tests a person's honesty and integrity.  (Titus 2:7)

6.  Power - Golf is such a game of paradox.  The harder you try the worse you play - at least for me.  Mind games, mind games, mind games.   We must take easy swings and let the club do its job.  Hmm...I don't think that God needs my help either.  (2 Cor 12:9)

Okay.  Now that I've thought about some of the spiritual applications I can glean from the game of golf and since I'm going to church this morning, maybe God will bless me with a great round! :)  I can only hope. 

Until next time...