NOW THAT I HAVE HELD HIM.

We know the Christmas story; we see it reenacted in the children’s Christmas pageant every year.  Mary and Joseph travel from their home to Bethlehem where there is no room in any inn and Mary’s baby, the Son of God, is born in a manger.

Angels in Epiphany Pageant
The angels brought the news to the shepherds.

The angels announced the Baby’s birth to the shepherds in the fields.  Then the shepherds went to where the Babe was and they saw Him.  Their response was to tell everyone what they had heard and seen. 

Shepherds in pageant

While the magi usually are included in the children’s Christmas pageant, because children love to dress up like kings, Scripture does not support seeing them at the manger.  They came to see the King some time later, but that time discrepancy is alright for our pageant purposes.

When the pageant is over, we praise God that the “story” is true and that our Savior was, indeed, born of a virgin and that He came to save His people from their sin.

But there is another event that occurred when Jesus was just a baby that we seldom read or hear about during the Christmas celebration.  In short, it is about Simeon and Anna who recognized Jesus as The Christ, the Savior, the Messiah.  Luke’s description of Simeon’s response to the Babe is found in Luke 2:

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the Law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

‘Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.’”

Luke 2:25-32

Simeon was waiting.  He was watching.  He was ready to see the Savior.  He was told that he would not die until he saw the Lord’s Christ, and he was waiting. 

Jesus promised that He would come again and receive His people to Himself.  He was born as a baby for the specific purpose of dying on the cross as our atoning sacrifice.  He was raised from the dead and now is in heaven where He intercedes to God the Father on behalf of His people.

Are we waiting?  Are we watching?  Are we ready for Jesus’ return?  It is a promise as securely written in the book of the Father as the news was for Simeon that he would see the Savior before he died. 

“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.  Has he said, and will he not do it?  Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”

Numbers 23:19

Simeon understood – the prophesy said that there would be a Savior and he believed and waited.  Are we waiting?

While it is not a traditional Christmas carol that we sing every year, here is Michael Card singing Simeon’s song “Now That I Have Held Him In My Arms”.   It is a beautiful rendition of the song and I suggest that it will speak to your heart as you prepare for the celebration of the Advent of our Lord.

Here are the lyrics if you want to read them as you listen to the song.

That old man in the temple
Waiting in the court
Waiting for the answer to a promise
And all at once he sees them
In the morning sunshine
A couple come and carry in a baby

Now that I’ve held Him in my arms
My life can come to an end
Let Your servant now depart in peace
Cause I’ve seen Your salvation
He’s the Light of the Gentiles
And the glory of His people Israel

Mary and the baby come
And in her hand five shekels
The price to redeem her baby boy
The baby softly cooing
Nestled in her arms
Simeon takes the boy and starts to sing

Now that I’ve held Him in my arms 
My life can come to an end 
Let Your servant now depart in peace 
‘Cause I’ve seen Your salvation 
He’s the Light of the Gentiles 
And the glory of His people, Israel

Now’s the time to take Him in your arms
Your life will never come to an end
He’s the only way that you’ll find peace
He’ll give you salvation cause
He’s the Light of the Gentiles
And the glory of His people Israel

Father, thank You for people who are skilled in writing and performing music and movies so that we can ponder and meditate on Your Word.   Your Word is alive and speaks to us, and I pray that I will take time to meditate on it daily, even when all the Christmas activities close in on me – enable me to make YOU the priority this season, and all year long.

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU.

We hear that cry everywhere we go.  “Merry Christmas to you!? At least we hear it unless the speaker doesn’t want to acknowledge Christmas in which case it is “Happy Holidays”.  That seems to cover the waterfront of celebrations at this time of year. 

Then we also hear the phrase “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”.  We see it on greeting cards, plaques, china, even coffee mugs at Cracker Barrel. 

I certainly agree that Jesus came to earth as a baby born to a Virgin, although whether it was December 25 is somewhat in doubt.  I am glad that the phrase at least indicates that we are celebrating Christmas because our Savior came, and if it encourages people to think about our Lord’s birth then I am glad for it.

But is He really the reason for the season?  In a blog post by Jill McIlreavy on her website Mustard Seed Blog entitled “Jesus is NOT the Reason for the Season” she argues that the phrase is theologically wrong – WE are the reason for the season.  [You can find her blog at https://mustardseedblogs.com and I encourage you to read her post that gives her thoughts about this phrase.]

You see, Jesus did not leave His home in heaven because He wanted to visit our planet, or because He wanted to take a “road trip” or because He wanted to see how the “other half” lived! 

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Philippians 2:5-8

He left glory to come to this earth in humiliation: born of woman, in a cattle shed, with no clothing other than rags.  The manger became a king-sized bed as it was where the King of Kings was laid.

king-size-bed
The manger that provided a place to sleep for our Savior was, on that day, a bed for the King.

Think about it – the One who was coexistent with God the Father from all eternity, even before the world was created and before His plan for mankind was put in place, the Creator of the world and everything in it had absolutely nothing upon His birth.  The One who could call legions of angels to do His bidding had nothing but a mother and stepfather as the Babe was surrounded by farm animals.

Why would He do such a thing?  Why would He suffer such indignities as these?  He was despised by those in power from the moment He arrived.  Then after three years of declaring His message, He was rejected by the very people He came to save.  He was betrayed and belittled; He was mocked and beaten; He was crucified.  He voluntarily died a death so horrible that only one of His followers remained with Him.  Why would He do that?

Because God loved YOU and ME.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” – John 3:16-17

He came so that WE could come to God in repentance and humility, so that WE could hear the Holy Spirit tugging at our hearts and pointing us to Him, so that WE could receive forgiveness of our sins. He knew what awaited Him on earth … He willingly went through agony because of God’s love for us!

He came because of us  – WE are the reason for the season.

Father,  I thank You and praise Your holy name for sending Your Son from heaven and for His obedience in coming to this planet to live a sinless life that we could not live and for dying a death that we deserved but which He did not, all so that we could be forgiven of our sins and have a life here and forevermore with Him in heaven. 

JOY TO THE WORLD

When Isaac Watts was a young man, he became dissatisfied with the quality of singing in the British churches.  The songs sung were almost entirely taken from the Psalms in Scripture which were translated into poems with rhyme and rhythm so that they could be sung.  Watts, therefore, began writing hymns to be sung that were outside the Psalter thereby “inventing” the English hymn. 

Nativity with angel and wisemen

He did not ignore the Psalms, however.  In 1719, Watts wrote Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament.  In this work, he paraphrased 138 psalms from the perspective of his New Testament faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.   Watts stated that: “I have rather expressed myself as I may suppose David would have done if he lived in the days of Christianity.” 

The hymn “Joy to the World” was included in Watts’ work and it describes the incarnation of Christ, the presence of Christ in our hearts through the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the return of Christ as described in the book of Revelation. 

Psalm 98 depicts the salvation of God in three tenses:

  1. Salvation in the past for the people of Israel (verses 1-3)
  2. Salvation in the present for all the earth because God is King (verses 4-6) and
  3. Salvation in the future for the entire universe because God will be coming to judge at the end of time. (verses 7-9)

In other words, Christ is not just a Babe in the manger.  Christ is our Savior and, as such, He is the Victorious Warrior and Judge who is the fulfillment of David’s prayer for righteous deliverance.

Christ has won the battle.  It is the Lord who completed the prophesy of Genesis 3:15 as the One who put enmity between the serpent and the woman.  Both the carol and Psalm 98 tell us what our response should be to such great salvation given by our God.  For the Christian, the carol rightly proclaims Joy, which is our gift from God because of the atoning work of Jesus Christ. 

God’s covenant people in all nations and of all tongues joyfully tell of His salvation and righteousness, His sovereign reign and judgment.  When we consider God and all that He has done on our behalf, both in the past and in the present, we cannot possibly do anything other than praise and worship Him.

Even nature joins in the celebration of praise.  Nature gives God praise because God is its creator. 

Paul says in Romans 8:18-23 that all creation waits and longs for the return of the Lord.  When man sinned in the Garden of Eden, all creation including nature was corrupted.  But, when Jesus Christ returns as the triumphant victor over sin, the creation will be released from bondage and will receive the freedom of the glory of the Lord.

Psalm 98 envisions the glorification that is referenced centuries later in the New Testament writings and to which we are still looking forward to with eager anticipation:

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

Revelation 22:20 

Here is “Joy to the World” from the Christmas program entitled “The Joy of Christmas”, as sung by the choir of my home church and as accompanied by members of the Knoxville Symphony. 

Scripture says:

“A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance” (Proverbs 15:13) and

“Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.” (Psalm 33:3)

May this Christmas season find you praising the Lord and singing carols and hymns, even if you can’t carry a tune in a barrel.  The Lord looks at your heart, so He will know you are praising Him no matter how it sounds to those around you!

Cheerful countenance and loud shouts!  That sounds like joyful praising to me!

Father, thank You for the One who provides true joy to us daily and for the joy that comes eternally through Jesus Christ our Lord.  

WHAT CHILD IS THIS?

Christmas is a time of joy, of singing robustly about the Babe who came to earth 2000 years ago and is the Savior of mankind.  So, it is a bit unsettling when we hear the opening strains of the carol “What Child is This?” because the tune is set in the key of F minor.  We wonder why the soul-searching question at this time of joy and celebration. 

The answer to the title question and the somber mood is dispelled by the chorus which proclaims “This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing.”

The tune is an old British tune called “Greensleeves”, which originally was a ballad about a man pining for his first love, the Lady Greensleeves.  It has been said that the tune was penned by Henry VIII for Anne Boleyn.  While this is not likely, what we do know is that Henry’s daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, danced to the tune.

We also know that Shakespeare referenced the song in the play The Merry Wives of Windsor

The tune was first printed in 1580 and in 1647 it first became associated with Christmas, with words other than those we know today.   “What Child is This” has been sung to the tune “Greensleeves” for over 150 years.

The words of the carol are taken from a longer poem that was written by William Chatterton Dix.  Mr. Dix was born in Bristol, England in 1837 and earned his living by working as an insurance agent after he moved to Glasgow.  His greatest love was writing prose and poetry that praised Christ Jesus.  He wrote two devotional books and scores of hymns including two Christmas carols that we still sing today, “What Child is This” and “As with Gladness Men of Old”.

The scripture text that forms the basis of the carol is Luke 2:9-18.  Verse 18 reads:

“And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.”

Luke 2:18 

nativity-carved-into-olive-tree-wood
Nativity scene carved into olive wood tree in Bethlehem.

What child is this?  That was the question that the people 2000 years ago in Bethlehem and, later, throughout the land pondered. 

  • Jesus the baby in the manger grew into Jesus the youth who remained in the temple amazing the teachers at His understanding of the Torah. Luke 2:41-50
  • Jesus the baby in the manger became the carpenter’s son who taught in a way that befuddled the hometown folks. Matthew 13:33-36
  • Jesus the baby in the manger became the One who had authority so that even evil spirits obeyed His command. Luke 4:36
  • Jesus the baby in the manger became the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. John 1:29
  • Jesus the baby in the manger became the resurrected Christ who was taken into heaven and now sits at the right hand of God the Father. Mark 16:19

What child is this?  While the inquiry begins as a question from the dark, the answer is illuminated through the joyous response “This is Christ the King!”

Listen as the carol “What Child is This” is presented to you by the Canterbury Choristers directed by Dr. Newell Wright.

Father, I praise Your name for the gift of the baby in the manger who became my Savior and Lord.  May my Christmas celebration be glorifying to You.

SEASONS – GOD SENDS THEM ALL.

In the English language, we use the word “seasons” with reference to many different things.

For example, we talk about the season of childhood, when new things are learned and experienced every moment of every day.  Sometimes those lessons are hard and painful, other times they are fun and silly.

2008 - 12 Mom and Dad 071
The child wanting to be like the big boys!

Then there is the adolescent season, when lessons are a bit more difficult and the consequences are more far-reaching but also where we have unbounded energy and dreams of exciting days ahead.

Baseball - batter up
When learning skills that will enrich them long after adolescent years have passed.

We later arrive at the season of adulthood where we are still challenged with new problems and adventures [I am thinking about adjusting to technology here!].  Disappointments may arise when we are downsized from a long-held job.  Hardships may come when physical disabilities are hampering living life to the fullest.  Tears may fall as the child has to become the parent as dementia takes over the mind of a loved mother or father.

No matter what season of life we are in, God is there with us.  David writes:

“He asked life of you; you gave it to him, length of days forever and ever.”

Psalm 21:4

There is the season for work and accumulation of wealth.  But when we think we have arrived, we must take a second look at the situation:

“And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?'”

Luke 12:19-20

Many are the souls that work hard, care for their family, accumulate goods and money in the bank, without regard to caring for their soul.  It is paramount that we remember this world is not the end … as wonderful as it is, we will all perish and spend eternity somewhere.  Bank accounts won’t matter there – what matters is the relationship we have with God through Jesus Christ, His Son.

We use the word “seasons” to talk about various holidays and celebrations.  In the United States, for example, we have the season of Thanksgiving, a day when we recall those first settlers from Europe who endured hardships and forged the basis for our country to grow. We give thanks to God for His providence in preserving and sustaining those early settlers.  Often the meal centers around the Thanksgiving turkey!  (Of course, every day should be a day of thanksgiving, not just one time per year!)

Thanksgiving turkey ready to consume (C)
Mouths are watering, getting ready for the Thanksgiving feast!

On the heals of Thanksgiving we have the season of Christmas, the time we celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is a time to focus on the advent of our Lord, the ultimate gift of God to us.  The Christmas tree and representations of the nativity scene are found in many homes across the country.

USED Christmas tree and decorations
The decorations are ready, the nativity scene is set — praise the Lord for His Advent!

A sweet description of the season of the blessed life is found in the very first psalm in Scripture.  David, in speaking of the man who walks in the counsel of God, says:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”

Psalm 1:1-3  

God is in all our seasons.  He is the one who gives us life and breath.  He gives us security when we follow Him and walk in His Ways.  This verse does not mean that God promises that we will have material wealth here and now.  This is not the prosperity gospel from the Old Testament. 

Rather, God is speaking of prospering us in spirit, the ultimate evidence of this is the gift of Christ as our atoning sacrifice so that we can approach God in prayer and so that we will be accepted into heaven because we have been adopted by God into the family of the Lord.  Adoption as a child of God is true prosperity and security.

Father, thank You for giving me the security of being a child in Your family.  I love You and praise my Lord and Savior for all that He has done.  Help me to see Your Hand in all the seasons of my life and may I live each day You give to me to the honor and glory of Your name.  I can only do that through the power of Your Son, and my Savior.

 

THE HORSE – A VISION OF MAJESTIC STRENGTH

We were visiting in Tampa recently when we were invited to have lunch at a restaurant named Ulele.  It is in the old waterworks building so it has a charm that modern buildings just cannot replicate.

Ulele - Tampa 4

Inside the restaurant, there is a magnificent bronze statue of a stallion created by Victor Delfin, that is the focal point of the décor.

Ulele - Tampa 14

Standing closer to the figure you get a sense of its size and musculature.

The Laughing Horse by Victor Delfin at Ulele in Tampa Florida
“The Laughing Horse” by Victor Delfin.  The artist was skilled in his representation of this magnificent animal.

Scripture contains many references to horses.  One that I dearly love is found in the book of Job where God is responding to the demand for answers that Job propounded to Him:

Do you give the horse his might? Do you clothe his neck with a mane?  Do you make him leap like the locust? His majestic snorting is terrifying.  He paws in the valley and exults in his strength; he goes out to meet the weapons.  He laughs at fear and is not dismayed; he does not turn back from the sword.  Upon him rattle the quiver, the flashing spear, and the javelin.  With fierceness and rage he swallows the ground; he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet.  When the trumpet sounds, he says ‘Aha!’ He smells the battle from afar, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.”

Job 39:19-25 ESV

This description of the horse grips me with awe for the strength, courage and resilience of this mighty animal.  But we are warned in Proverbs to give credit where credit is due:

“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD.”

Proverbs 21:31 ESV

When we have battled a temptation and won, we must not boast in the victory – rather, we give God the glory for the victory because He enabled us to be victorious. 

Further, we read in Psalm 147 that while God created both the horse and man, their strength does not bring God delight:

“His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.”  

Psalm 147:10-11 ESV

Just think of the privilege we have — we can bring pleasure to the Creator of the universe!  When we reverence the Lord, when we cling to His steadfast love, it is in those times that we bring the Lord pleasure!  The prophet Micah reminded the people that God has told them what He required:

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Micah 6:8 ESV

These same commands apply to us today.  These things bring our God pleasure!

One of the final references to the horse in Scripture is in the last book of the Bible, Revelation where we read:

“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.”

Revelation 19:11 ESV

Our Lord will be victorious.  He will come in righteousness as the perfect Judge of the world He came to save but which rejected Him.  For the Christian, the white horse is a welcome sign; for the non-believer it bespeaks of judgment and rejection. 

So, do you trust in the horse or in the One who created the horse and who will ultimately return on a white horse in judgment at the end of time?

Father, I praise Your name for sending Jesus Christ to be our atoning sacrifice on the cross.  Thank You, Lord and Savior, for Your obedience and willingness to come to save us from our sin.  Thank You, Holy Spirit, for quickening the hearts of Your children so that we can believe on the name of the Lord and be saved.

500 years and counting!

Just a short note to say that Today, October 31, is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  October 31, 1517, marked the beginning of the unveiling of the light of the gospel that had been hidden during the dark Middle Ages.  It was a day that resulted in being able to spread the word that salvation is available through faith alone in Christ alone.

Martin Luther

Martin Luther stood up and faced the authorities, challenging them to accept Scripture as God’s Word and the sole guidance for our life and as the rule for our faith.

He also penned multiple hymns, the most famous of which is “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”, based on Psalm 46.  This hymn celebrates the sovereign power of God over all earthly and spiritual forces, and it highlights our sure hope that we have through Jesus Christ.   It is said that Luther’s hymn was on the lips of the people and that it encouraged the faint-hearted, bringing strength to fight the battle of the Lord.

It was sung at Augsburg during the Diet, and in all the churches of Saxony, often against the protest of the priest.  It was sung in the streets; and, so heard, comforted the hearts of Melanchthon, Jonas, and Cruciger, as they entered Welmar, when banished from Wittenberg in 1547.  It was sung by poor Protestant emigrants on their way into exile, and by martyrs at their death.  It is woven into the web of the history of Reformation times, and it became the true national hymn of Protestant Germany.

Studies of Familiar Hymns, by Louis F. Benson, D.D., The Westminster Press, 1903, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” at page 159.  

Listen to this wonderful hymn and praise our God for the work of Luther and the other Reformers 500 years ago.  Then, praise God for His preservation of His Word and for His marvelous Gift to the children of men!

Here is “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” as presented on the album Hymns for All Saints: Adoration, Praise, Comfort, (Concordia Publishing House). 

As you listen to this wonderful hymn, praise our God for the work of Luther and the other Reformers 500 years ago.  Then, praise God for His preservation of His Word and for His marvelous Gift to the children of men!   Now, work for God’s kingdom and pray that 500 years from now, if the Lord has not yet returned, the light of the Reformation will still shine out over our planet!

Praise the Lord!

UNPLUGGED – GOOD OR BAD?

We were camping in Charlottesville, Virginia.  It was a beautiful location, with wooded camp sites and quiet surroundings.  It is quite a distance from the city, but we were camping so that was perfectly alright.

What we did not realize is that our cellular provider offered no coverage in the area of the campground.  The city had good cell coverage, but where we were camping there was virtually none.  We were forced to be “unplugged”. 

Now that is likely a good thing.  We are entirely too used to looking at the cell phone or tablet while spending a nice evening next to each other, but focusing on various news stories, books, card games instead of actually spending time communicating with each other.  Perhaps the unplugged status is good after all.

While being unplugged from electronics is an inconvenience, it is not earth-shattering or of eternal significance.  However, there is nothing inconsequential about being unplugged from God.  The stakes for being unplugged from Him are both horrific and eternal!

The ultimate unplugged condition is that of unrepentant sin.  God is a holy God and He cannot and will not tolerate or look upon sin.  As R. C. Sproul says, sin is cosmic treason against God.  It is against His holy nature and, His justice demands that it be punished, eternally.

As Christians, however, we understand that God’s justice has been satisfied for His children through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross of Calvary.  Jesus, our Good Shepherd, paid the price for the sin of His sheep by giving up His life.

He offers us life abundant through His grace and mercy if we are plugged into Him. 

Wisteria blooming vine close up
Wisteria vine stem at ground level, providing nourishment for the plant.

The analogy Jesus uses is that He is the vine and we are the branches.  If we abide in the vine, we will bear much fruit, but if we are not in the vine, we will be cast out and burned. See the Gospel of John, Chapter 15.  We need to be plugged in to the vine for the power to produce fruit for Him. Only through Him can we experience a life that is abundant and fruitful.

Wisteria blooms
Wisteria vine along the front yard fence.

Christianity is a relationship between you and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Neither your parents, your pastor, your spouse, indeed no one, can enter a relationship with Christ for you.  You must receive Christ through the call that God makes on your heart.  It is a gift from God, not of works.  Ephesians 2:9.

While each of us has our own unique call into Christianity, once you are a child of God, the life in Christ is not a solitary experience. Our meeting, worship and fellowship together with other believers provides power and strength, accountability and support, so that you can grow in your Christian life and witness. 

Just as our cell phone needs charging from a source outside itself, our Christian life needs power that we do not have on our own.  Our life charger is not a plug or cable, rather our power comes from abiding in the Vine of Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Are you unplugged?  Need power?  Go to the Cross and repent.  Receive your nourishment from the Vine and you then will be able to be used for the Glory of God and of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Father, thank You for providing power through Your Word, Your Spirit, Your Son.  Forgive me when I fail to appropriate that power for my life and when I try to life a life in Christ through my own efforts or good works.  Give me the power to yield to You solely so that Your Spirit will shine through me.

REFOCUS ON CONTENTMENT

Have you ever given your young child or grandchild a shiny quarter with their eyes open wide at the wonder of the coin in their hands?  Then, when we are a bit older, we receive our first paycheck.  No matter the work, you remember the first time you see a check with your name on it because we are seeing the fruit of your labor.

Something happens as we move on with our life.  Suddenly we realize that we don’t have that same joy over our situation as we did when we were young.  This is not a new phenomenon.  Rather, it is as old as mankind itself.

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Genesis 2:16-17 ESV. 

Adam and Eve had everything at their disposal, except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Seems like they would be contented, doesn’t it? 

Ozark Mountain River
Mountain River in the Ozarks

But then came the serpent who misquoted God when he asked “Did God really say …?“

Ultimately, Eve’s eyes were refocused:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

Genesis 3:1-6 ESV.  They became discontented when they looked at the one thing they could not have and desired it so much that they disobeyed their Creator God to get it.  Of course the result of that disobedience was swift punishment – expulsion from the garden accompanied by hard work and labor.

Contentment.  Why was she not content with what she had?  Because she looked at what she did not have instead of what she had.

Yosemite water fall and downsream 2011 (C)
Yosemite National Park waterfall and downstream.

How much happier would we be if we were content with what God has given us rather than comparing our condition with others, specifically with others who we believe are more wealthy, more healthy, more wise, more … whatever, than we are.

Jesus said:

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 6:31-33 ESV

Think about what the Lord endured for you and for me.  Then look at what He has blessed you with … even the hard things and know that nothing can compare with what He went through.  Praise Him for all things, and you will see that your joy has returned and you are contented in a way that was inconceivable before.

Relax, you know that your Savior and your Heavenly Father know you better than you know yourself!  The Holy Spirit will provide that which you need most.  Seek first the kingdom of God and all the rest will fall into place.

USED Asleep on daddy's lap - snickers
Contentment — Snickers is asleep on Daddy’s lap.

Contentment comes when we focus on our Lord Jesus Christ and rest in Him.   

Father, forgive me when I have focused on things that I don’t have or can’t do rather than focusing on You and giving thanks for all the marvelous blessings You shower upon me each moment of every day.  Refocus my attention on You and away from that which would cause discontent and unrest.  Thank You for Your love, grace and mercy.