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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. Philippians 4:12

A friend of mine makes the statement “You can do anything for awhile if you see the end in sight.” There is some truth to this statement. If we know the struggle we are in is temporary we know we can probably endure. For example, a runner will see the finish line ahead and often get a quick burst of adrenaline that helps to cross the finish line.

But what about in the spiritual life? What about those times along this journey we call life when we don’t know the outcome. When the doctor’s report isn’t what we’d hoped. When our children start making bad choices. When our spouse begins to drift from us emotionally. What then? If we don’t see the end in sight what helps us to keep going?

It’s during those times when life seems uncertain that we need to look at the life of Paul and his motivation for moving on. Today’s verse seems like a ‘pie in the sky by and by’ statement until we realize what had happened in the life of Paul. He’d been stoned and left for dead. He’d been lost at sea after a shipwreck. He had spent nights in the cold dark cell of prisons and, on one occasion, lived through an earthquake while underground. Relationally he was hated by many of his closest friends, held in suspicion by his new friends, critiqued for his preaching and leadership styles, and now, sat in a Roman prison awaiting execution!

So with all that history and an uncertain future what was his secret to ‘being content’? Paul had learned the hard way that God can see us through anything. What Paul is NOT saying is that life in Christ is a breeze, and void of any adversity or conflict. What Paul IS saying is that every time he came upon an obstacle he found that his faith in Jesus Christ was powerful enough to see him through!

In Christ you can do anything when you realize that whatever is going on in your life is temporary. Temporary in the sense that here on earth the worst that could happen is death, and, for the Christ-follower the best that could happen is to be transformed from this frail human body into the glorious body we receive when we see Jesus.

Learning contentment comes from seeing how God helps you through adversity. Sometimes you don’t see it until you’ve come through the fire or through the flood. Sometimes you don’t realize it until after the divorce or miscarriage. Sometimes you won’t realize it until you are on the other side of life, looking back as Paul did.

The Psalmist says (Psalm 34:8) to taste and see that the Lord is good. Until we’ve tasted of his goodness through adversity we will never learn contentment in this life.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for the reminder that you know better than anyone what I’m going through right now. I don’t see even a hint of light at the end of this tunnel. I have no idea what lays on the other side. Empower me with your spirit to taste your goodness in the light of this trial. Let me look back on my life to see how you have seen me through. With you on my side I know I can ‘do anything’ because my future is in your hands. In Jesus name, Amen.

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 2 Timothy 1:6

When I was very young my grandparents took me with them on a camping trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota. Other than ‘camping’ at Bible Camp, this was my first camping adventure and everything was new and exciting.

Grandma and Grandpa had been camping for years and I learned much from him. When I read 2 Timothy 1:6 I was reminded of how Grandpa would light a fire every night when camped, or when we’d spend time at his lake cabin. Sometimes we’d have dry wood to burn and it would ignite easily. Other times the wood may be green or wet and would smolder or the flame would die out completely.

When the fire didn’t get started as quickly as Grandpa would have liked, he would take a piece of cardboard or something to fan the fire. Soon the smoldering heap would flare up into flames that would warm a cool night and cook our supper…and smore’s of course!

What Paul was really telling his student is this, ‘Remember the things I’ve taught you. Remember what you have learned about God, about yourself, about others. You, Timothy, are a gifted man. A man who God has placed in the right place at the right time to make a difference in his world.’

Our Father has the same message for us. Each of us has been given gifts and talents to be used of God. Sometimes the ‘wet wood’ of doubt can cause our flames to die out or smolder worthlessly. The ‘wet wood’ of our lives could be doubting that we can make a difference because of our past, or our current struggles. It could be doubting that we can make a difference because our gifts aren’t as good or important as other people’s gifts and talents. We could be bogged down by guilt and shame because we are suffering consequences of poor decisions in our past.

Just as my Grandpa fanned the flames into existence from a smoldering heap of wet wood, let God fan life into you to make a difference in your world. As a Christ-follower you have an important part to play in someone’s life. It could be a family member, a friend, a co-worker. Whoever it is needs to know they are loved by God and can be forgiven.

Sometimes Grandpa would have to fan the smoky fire several times before the flames would roar to life. Don’t expect change over night. Allow God’s Spirit to work in you to bring the fire in your life and the lives of others.  Don’t let the ‘wet wood’ of doubt keep you from warming the lives of those who need to experience first-hand, the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

PRAYER: Father God, I praise you for making me the way I am. By faith I acknowledge that I have gifts, talents and abilities that can be used by you. I confess that often times I feel like a failure for past mistakes and the consequences I’m now suffering as a result. Forgive me for doubting you. I ask that your Holy Spirit would fan the flames of life into me so that I can warm the lives of those around me. In Jesus name, Amen.

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:5

Everyone likes to have ‘new things’. We dream of winning the lottery or inheriting a fortune and most of us begin to think of all the ‘new things’ we would buy and ‘new things’ we would do with our new found fortune and power. Money is power!

In reality though, there really is nothing around us that is ‘new’ in the way God talks about ‘newness’. Our idea of new is, in reality, modifications to something that has already existed. There’s nothing really ‘new’ under the sun, as the cliché goes.

God’s view of ‘new-ness’ is vastly different than ours however. When God says He’s going to make something new He isn’t referring to modifications of something that already is. When He created the world there wasn’t something to model it after. It was His own creativity that formed the life we see around us. What a marvelous thought!

That makes the statement John writes down in Revelation even more exciting. From a prophecy standpoint John is telling us that what lies in the future is NEW! It’s nothing we’ve ever seen or experienced before. When you consider the vast love God has for us and when you think of His promise to make all things NEW it should excite you. When someone makes new stuff for those they love they don’t make junk! His promise of ‘new-ness’ makes what we look forward to so much better than we can imagine here on earth, and there is nothing we can compare it to.

But God’s idea of newness didn’t skip from creation to eternity. His newness is available to each of us as well. Paul tells us that through Jesus we are ‘NEW CREATIONS’.  When you accepted Jesus as your personal savior He didn’t simply revamp the old you. He made a new one! A nice shiny new you. No past. No failures. No flaws. NEW.

Don’t let past failures or poor decisions keep you from realizing the potential you have to be new in Jesus. Your new-ness isn’t the result of anything you have done or said. It’s all because of God’s great love for you.

PRAYER: Father God. As I think about what it means to be a ‘new creation’ I’m in awe of your love and power. I’m so undeserving of your great love! I fail you and others constantly. I make poor choices and demand my own way. Still, in the face of all this you love me! Thank you for your great love and compassion. Help me from this day forward to live in the newness you have planned for me. Amen.

After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ Acts 13:22

Remember during recess when it was time to choose teams? Two captains were chosen to determine the self-esteem of everyone for the entire day, or life! We’d look around us and measure each other up. “I’m better than her.” “He’ll be chosen first.” “I hope I’m chosen!” Woe to the last two people in line. While both would be chosen, it was obvious they were the ‘worst players on each team.’

While age matures us somewhat, the process of determining ones worth has really remained the same. Back then, teams were chosen according to their performance. There were some mighty ‘nice people’ that were chosen last because it wasn’t about being nice; it was about performance and outward looks.

The Israelites chose their first king because he was good looking, strong, and powerful man. He stood head and shoulders about all the rest. Years later God sent a message to Saul. “But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command.” (1 Samuel 13:14). Saul’s kingdom came to an end because of his disobedience and David was chosen as his successor.

Saul lost his Kingdom because of his sin and David was chosen because, as God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ What an ultimate irony. David? A man after God’s heart? The same David that was dishonest, an adulterer, a murderer and a really poor parent? How could this be?

Both David and Saul were like any of us. They were rebellious, sinful, selfish men. What set them apart from each other was the one thing we can’t see: the heart. When Saul was confronted concerning his sin he made excuses, blamed others and refused to admit he was wrong. Time and time again, God would reveal David’s sin to him and David would respond by saying, “I am guilty as charged O Lord. Please forgive me.” Was that the end of his sinful life? NO! But God can use a life stained by sin when that life is washed in the blood of Jesus and our heart attitude is to serve Christ.

God knew David would fail but He chose him anyway because of his desire, not his performance. People, even Christians, will still choose you by your past performance, but God chooses you because of your heart. Follow Him. Ask Him to help you leave the sin that encumbers you. Like David, it’s not about our past and inability to follow Jesus. It’s about our willingness to ask forgiveness for our mistakes and strive to live life the way God intends.

PRAYER: Father God. Like David my life is strewn with rebellion, stubbornness and just plain stupid choices. Thank You for looking at my heart and not my actions. Today, I confess to you my inability to live for you. Please forgive me of my sin and help me to live for you. I want to be a person after your own heart.  Amen.

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