Monthly Archives: October 2012

Falling Leaves–Finding Stability in a Changing World

Fallen leaves litter lawns. Trees stand bare. A northwest wind assails pedestrians causing them to turn up their collars against the bite. A chill of grumbling about the long months ahead frosts conversation around the water coolers. People talk wistfully of last summer’s fun and of retiring early so they can move to a country that has summer all year long. A place where the leaves never fall.

We forget that no place on earth is safe from change. Most of the countries with summer-like climates have tsunamis and typhoons and volcanoes and coups and runaway inflation and malaria. Better to look elsewhere for something changeless.

Where shall we look? Malachi reminded Israel that the promise of their escape from total destruction was rooted in the covenant promises God made to Jacob. “I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob are not destroyed.” (Malachi 3:6)

The storms of winter that will break around us need have no impact on our soul health. Like Jacob, those who have been born again by faith in the gospel seed discover that their soul-stability rests in God’s unchanging word. “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” In this passage, Peter contrasts the frailty of mankind in general with the passing glory of grass and flowers. “‘All men are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.’ And this is the word that was preached to you.” (1 Peter 1:24,25)

The leaves fall. The weather changes. But in our hearts we can rest in God and his unchanging word. “Your word, O Lord, is eternal; its stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations.” (Psalm 119:89,90) God’s faithfulness guarantees his ongoing commitment to keep his promises. And his power enables him to actually fulfill them. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him . . . through these he has given us his very great and precious promises.” (2 Peter 1:3,4)

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The Restless Sea

The ocean is never still. Its tides rise and fall, its breakers crest and dissipate, and its waves roll on and on until they crash against a rocky shore or roll up on a sandy beach. Its waters collect and propel unto the world’s beaches all the flotsam and jetsam of the ocean world: broken shells, shattered boats, bottles, broken plastic spoons, splintered trees and cast-off Styrofoam. The more agitated the ocean becomes, the more it stirs up the whole mix of broken shells and mud that in calmer times settles to the ocean floor. After storms, shorelines are littered with mud and debris.

How appropriate that the prophet used this image to describe the condition of men and women who jettison moral standards in their struggle to fulfill their desires. “‘The wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. There is no peace,’ says my God. ‘for the wicked'”(Isaiah 57:20,21).

We cannot expect a tranquil mind if our lives are a graveyard of broken promises, shattered morals, and shady practices. Instead, nefarious schemes will occupy our minds. Thoughts of past dealings with others will provoke bitterness, anger and thoughts of revenge. Unless we have denied the voice of our consciences long enough to dull their injured cries, we will be fretful, restless, and unhappy.

God has given everyone a conscience imprinted with a set of moral principles. But the more we listen to the siren song of our culture’s ‘new morality,’ the more our innate sense of right and wrong will be blunted and distorted. The result? Restlessness. Inability to find peace of heart.

Paul writes, “My conscience is clear” (1 Cor. 4:4). Can you and I say that? If not, the only remedy is to bow to Jesus Christ, confessing our moral failures, and asking him to forgive us our sins and bring peace of heart. Jesus promised, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”(John 14:27).

When we confess our moral failures to Jesus Christ, He will forgive us and soothe and calm our hearts.

Contentment Through Getting Rid of the “If-Onlys”

For the past few years, morning glories have sprouted spontaneously below our deck. Nothing except outright drought keeps them from twining around anything that comes in their path. Every morning we are regaled with a new burst of blue flowers turned toward the sun.

I doubt if morning glories have an itch to grow somewhere new and exotic. Unlike them, an itch to be somewhere else resides in many us. To travel to a new country. To live in a new house. To find a better job or a better church. To climb Mount Kilimanjaro. To hike the Pacific trail. To take the train across Canada or ride a barge on the Danube.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to travel, wanting to get ahead in one’s business, or wanting to grow as a Christian. But sometimes a neurotic discontent with our circumstances haunts us.

Some of us seem habitually unhappy. We moan: if only I’d taken that other job, if only I didn’t have arthritis, if only I had more income, if only I had better friends, if only I lived where there is no winter, if only I’d grown up in a different family, if only I hadn’t had that accident. The “if onlys” destroy our ability to enjoy life. The “if onlys” stunt our growth in grace. They curdle our temperaments, driving people away who might become our friends.

Contentment is such an important Christian grace, rooted as it is in confidence that God knows how to run the universe. Although in prison, Paul wrote: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances…in need…to have plenty”(Phil. 4;11,12). Learning to be content is not natural—nor easy—but the alternative is a life of miserable discontent. No wonder we need the indwelling Holy Spirit so we can develop godliness because, “Godliness with contentment is great gain”(1 Tim. 6:6). Check out how Jesus addressed these issues in Matthew 6:25-34.