Tag Archives: Circumstances

Blessed

Are there days when you feel “blessed”?  Days when the sun is shining and all is right with your world?  We all have had that sense that the sun is shining on us and God likes us.  I know that feeling as well as most, but today was a day when you might not use that word to describe my day.
I wonder why we think this word “blessed” only applies when things are going well, when all is right with our lives and world?  If the word “blessing” only applies when things are good then what word would you use to describe your life when things are not so good?  Does “cursed” describe the other pole in this discussion?
Do you consider yourself blessed?  Do you only think that when you win the lottery, when you get that raise, when the tornado misses your house, when you kids get scholarships to college, when you’re in the 50% that didn’t get laid off from work?
Let me frame these questions in a different way- do our circumstances determine whether we are blessed or not?  And, what does “blessed” really mean in a fickle world like this anyway?
This whole discussion was the theme of the book of Job.  It was a hotly debated topic for Job’s friends.  Job must have done something wrong because God is not “blessing him” any longer (their words, not mine), but what if blessing has nothing to do with our situation, our circumstances?  What if it isn’t about good things OR bad?  I’m asking a lot of questions here on purpose.  I’m trying to unpack this myself as I reflect on the day.
No one would look at my day and called me “blessed” but I am, and it had nothing to do with good things OR bad.  It has everything to do with who I am in relationship with.  The idea of being blessed is woven into the very idea of knowing God.  It’s a relationship that generates this word as commentary of a life….even when the tornado does hit my house, the car breaks down, the dog dies, I get laid off and lose everything.
You see being blessed is all about who you know not how the day went or what you have.  I think we miss this too easily, I know I do, but this afternoon as I watched a nurse interact with my wife and I and heard her say (not is these exact words) “Boy are you guys blessed!”  I knew in that commentary from a nurse I didn’t know that she saw in us the blessing of knowing God (and it sure wasn’t because of how the day went!)
Today and every day, good days and bad, I am blessed, and so are you, because we know God.  That’s what “blessed” really means.

The 70 Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

“Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.” ~ Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards, one of the greatest theologians of his time, wrote these resolutions during the winter of 1722 through the summer of 1723. He faithfully resolved to read these resolutions weekly in order to help him humbly stay in the will of God.

As representatives of Christ in the world, these timeless resolutions can still be applied to our walk today.

The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards (1722-1723)

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.

Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

  1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad’s of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.
  2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new invention and contrivance to promote the aforementioned things.
  3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.
  4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.
  5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.
  6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.
  7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.
  8. Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God.
  9. Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.
  10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.
  11. Resolved, when I think of any theorem in divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can towards solving it, if circumstances don’t hinder.
  12. Resolved, if I take delight in it as a gratification of pride, or vanity, or on any such account, immediately to throw it by.
  13. Resolved, to be endeavoring to find out fit objects of charity and liberality.
  14. Resolved, never to do anything out of revenge.
  15. Resolved, never to suffer the least motions of anger to irrational beings.
  16. Resolved, never to speak evil of anyone, so that it shall tend to his dishonor, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.
  17. Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.
  18. Resolved, to live so at all times, as I think is best in my devout frames, and when I have clearest notions of things of the gospel, and another world.
  19. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trump.
  20. Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.
  21. Resolved, never to do anything, which if I should see in another, I should count a just occasion to despise him for, or to think any way the more meanly of him.
  22. Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power; might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.
  23. Resolved, frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God’s glory, to repute it as a breach of the 4th Resolution.
  24. Resolved, whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then both carefully endeavor to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.
  25. Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.
  26. Resolved, to cast away such things, as I find do abate my assurance.
  27. Resolved, never willfully to omit anything, except the omission be for the glory of God; and frequently to examine my omissions.
  28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.
  29. Resolved, never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession, which I cannot hope God will accept.
  30. Resolved, to strive to my utmost every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.
  31. Resolved, never to say anything at all against anybody, but when it isperfectly agreeable to the highest degree of Christian honor, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule; often, when I have said anything against anyone, to bring it to, and try it strictly by the test of this Resolution.
  32. Resolved, to be strictly and firmly faithful to my trust, that that in Prov. 20:6, “A faithful man who can find?” may not be partly fulfilled in me.
  33. Resolved, always to do what I can towards making, maintaining, establishing and preserving peace, when it can be without over-balancing detriment in other respects. Dec.26, 1722.
  34. Resolved, in narration’s never to speak anything but the pure and simple verity.
  35. Resolved, whenever I so much question whether I have done my duty, as that my quiet and calm is thereby disturbed, to set it down, and also how the question was resolved. Dec. 18, 1722.
  36. Resolved, never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call for it. Dec. 19, 1722.
  37. Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent, what sin I have committed, and wherein I have denied myself: also at the end of every week, month and year. Dec.22 and 26, 1722.
  38. Resolved, never to speak anything that is ridiculous, sportive, or matter of laughter on the Lord’s day. Sabbath evening, Dec. 23, 1722.
  39. Resolved, never to do anything that I so much question the lawfulness of, as that I intend, at the same time, to consider and examine afterwards, whether it be lawful or no; except I as much question the lawfulness of the omission.
  40. Resolved, to inquire every night, before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to eating and drinking. Jan. 7, 1723.
  41. Resolved, to ask myself at the end of every day, week, month and year, wherein I could possibly in any respect have done better. Jan. 11, 1723.
  42. Resolved, frequently to renew the dedication of myself to God, which was made at my baptism; which I solemnly renewed, when I was received into the communion of the church; and which I have solemnly re-made this twelfth day of January, 1722-23.
  43. Resolved, never henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God’s, agreeable to what is to be found in Saturday, January 12. Jan.12, 1723.
  44. Resolved, that no other end but religion, shall have any influence at all on any of my actions; and that no action shall be, in the least circumstance, any otherwise than the religious end will carry it. Jan.12, 1723.
  45. Resolved, never to allow any pleasure or grief, joy or sorrow, nor any affection at all, nor any degree of affection, nor any circumstance relating to it, but what helps religion. Jan.12 and 13.1723.
  46. Resolved, never to allow the least measure of any fretting uneasiness at my father or mother. Resolved to suffer no effects of it, so much as in the least alteration of speech, or motion of my eve: and to be especially careful of it, with respect to any of our family.
  47. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to deny whatever is not most agreeable to a good, and universally sweet and benevolent, quiet, peaceable, contented, easy, compassionate, generous, humble, meek, modest, submissive, obliging, diligent and industrious, charitable, even, patient, moderate, forgiving, sincere temper; and to do at all times what such a temper would lead me to. Examine strictly every week, whether I have done so. Sabbath morning. May 5,1723.
  48. Resolved, constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or no; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of. May 26, 1723.
  49. Resolved, that this never shall be, if I can help it.
  50. Resolved, I will act so as I think I shall judge would have been best, and most prudent, when I come into the future world. July 5, 1723.
  51. Resolved, that I will act so, in every respect, as I think I shall wish I had done, if I should at last be damned. July 8, 1723.
  52. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age. July 8, 1723.
  53. Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer. July 8, 1723.
  54. Whenever I hear anything spoken in conversation of any person, if I think it would be praiseworthy in me, Resolved to endeavor to imitate it. July 8, 1723.
  55. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as I can think I should do, if I had already seen the happiness of heaven, and hell torments. July 8, 1723.
  56. Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.
  57. Resolved, when I fear misfortunes and adversities, to examine whether ~ have done my duty, and resolve to do it; and let it be just as providence orders it, I will as far as I can, be concerned about nothing but my duty and my sin. June 9, and July 13 1723.
  58. Resolved, not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness and benignity. May27, and July 13, 1723.
  59. Resolved, when I am most conscious of provocations to ill nature and anger, that I will strive most to feel and act good-naturedly; yea, at such times, to manifest good nature, though I think that in other respects it would be disadvantageous, and so as would be imprudent at other times. May 12, July ii, and July 13.
  60. Resolved, whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination. July 4, and 13, 1723.
  61. Resolved, that I will not give way to that listlessness which I find unbends and relaxes my mind from being fully and fixedly set on religion, whatever excuse I may have for it-that what my listlessness inclines me to do, is best to be done, etc. May 21, and July 13, 1723.
  62. Resolved, never to do anything but duty; and then according to Eph. 6:6-8, do it willingly and cheerfully as unto the Lord, and not to man; “knowing that whatever good thing any man doth, the same shall he receive of the Lord.” June 25 and July 13, 1723.
  63. On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true luster, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: Resolved, to act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time. Jan.14? and July ’3? 1723.
  64. Resolved, when I find those “groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom. 8:26), of which the Apostle speaks, and those “breakings of soul for the longing it hath,” of which the Psalmist speaks, Psalm 119:20, that I will promote them to the utmost of my power, and that I will not be wear’, of earnestly endeavoring to vent my desires, nor of the repetitions of such earnestness. July 23, and August 10, 1723.
  65. Resolved, very much to exercise myself in this all my life long, viz. with the greatest openness I am capable of, to declare my ways to God, and lay open my soul to him: all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires, and every thing, and every circumstance; according to Dr. Manton’s 27th Sermon on Psalm 119. July 26, and Aug.10 1723.
  66. Resolved, that I will endeavor always to keep a benign aspect, and air of acting and speaking in all places, and in all companies, except it should so happen that duty requires otherwise.
  67. Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.
  68. Resolved, to confess frankly to myself all that which I find in myself, either infirmity or sin; and, if it be what concerns religion, also to confess the whole case to God, and implore needed help. July 23, and August 10, 1723.
  69. Resolved, always to do that, which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it. Aug. 11, 1723.
  70. Let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak.

Written Aug. 17, 1723

Good People

I am out for coffee most mornings with different men in our church family. I love the encounters that happen in public eating places. The events of a coffee and the buzz around me is invigorating.

This morning, as I sat at coffee waiting for one of our men I couldn’t help overhearing (yes I listened in) a man at the next table say to his breakfast partner, “I’m a good person….”

There was more to his statement, but this one sentence caught my imagination. I’m sure this guy really is a nice person, trying to be good, but I wondered and wished I could ask him, so what does it mean to you to be a good person and why does it matter? What is the purpose of being good? Why did he need to say that to his friend this morning?

I wonder about these things because his statement made me immediately think about a young man who came to Jesus and basically said the same thing, “I’m a good person, what else do I need?” Jesus’ response probably stunned him when he replied, “No one is good but God alone.” From that came an encounter that left this young man depressed.

Why do we want to be good? What’s is our purpose in “being good?” Who are we trying to impress? Are we just trying to be accepted by others or do we think there is some merit in our goodness? I wonder how we measure our goodness. Compared to Hitler we are all pretty good! What or who was my breakfast friend comparing his goodness to? What was his measuring stick? Why does he want to be good?

I wonder about these things because I really have no illusions of being a good person. It’s funny that a pastor like me would say such a thing, but it comes from a perspective of really knowing my own heart and knowing my potential for evil. There is nothing I couldn’t do under the right circumstances. I have no illusions of goodness as far as I’m concerned. I know my heart and nothing good resides there so I have to find my acceptance somewhere else. I have to find it in someone else. That’s the very reason I’m a Christian! Knowing that I’m not good and can’t be good I am depending on someone else to be good for me, to accomplish what I can’t.

You will never hear me saying, “I’m a good person.” I’m not! Only in Jesus Christ do I find a goodness that puts me right with God. On my own I have no inherent goodness to offer to God. I’m so glad Jesus made my acceptance before God possible because in me is no good thing! So, from a brief comment this morning at a table near mine, I’m most grateful for what Jesus has done for me to make me acceptable to God. Praise be to God for his indescribable gift!

Visit Mike at Finishing Well.

The Pursuit Of Contentment

We have had an unusual number of days this year over 100 degrees. It’s been hot! I’m amazed at how hard it is for me to be content with my circumstances, with the heat. If it’s too hot, I wish it were cooler. If it’s too cold, I wish it were warmer. If it’s raining, I wish it weren’t. If we go through a drought (as we have), we all pray for rain. We seem to enjoy being discontent. We just recently got back from a mission trip to Russia, and when asked how the trip went my first response is, “it was really hot.” Why is my focus on my comfort, my contentment? Why do we all verbalize our discontent and everyone understands what we feel?Why is it so hard for us to be content? I hear it from everyone I spend any length of time with, “If I only had ____________.” Now, they may have a nice home, food, great kids, cars, enough to get by, but there is always that “one more thing” that will make them content.

We all struggle with it, and it has been a problem since the garden of Eden. In every country I have traveled the struggle for contentment is alive and well.

This morning I was reading Psalm 78 as the author recites the history of Israel and their sins. It’s interesting how he views it as he writes,

Psa 78:16 He brought forth streams also from the rock And caused waters to run down like rivers.
Psa 78:17 Yet they still continued to sin against Him, To rebel against the Most High in the desert.
Psa 78:18 And in their heart they put God to the test By asking food according to their desire.
Psa 78:19 Then they spoke against God; They said, “Can God prepare a table in the wilderness? 

They saw God provide rivers of water as they had asked, but is that enough? No, of course not! Can God give us bread too? And in the middle of this the author calls that discontent sin, putting God to the test.

It seems we are always trying to fill a part of us with something instead of someone. “Stuff” will never bring contentment. Our culture will make sure of that, because as soon a I get the latest and greatest of whatever toy I want then, suddenly, there is an ever better, faster more wonderful one available and I’m unhappy again.

Contentment comes from someone, not something. I see in scripture the clear teaching that contentment is a result of an intimate relationship with God. The “stuff” is another topic altogether. In fact Jesus invites us in the gospels to live our lives with open hands and freely give our “stuff” away. That’s hard to do if we consider it the source of our contentment, the reason we are happy.

I love the story that Phillip Yancey tells of a friend who went on a monastic retreat. As the little monk was taking the visitor to his room he said, “Now, if there’s anything you need let us know and we will teach you how to live without it.”

Although I have no intention of living a monastic lifestyle it’s very appealing to me because I wouldn’t have all this “stuff” to worry about and drag around.

Paul discovered the secret and talks about it in Philippians. Here is what he said,

Phi 4:11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.
Phi 4:12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.
Phi 4:13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. 

Lord, teach me to be content. Help me to find my contentment in you, and not in the “stuff.”

Henry Brandt says it best when he said, “My goal in life is not to get to the end of it and compare my pile of ashes to your pile of ashes.”

The stuff will be thrown out, sold, given away, but an intimate relationship with the living God is priceless.

I’ll gladly give all my “stuff” to get that!

But somewhere inside of me I hope I don’t have to. We are sad creatures, aren’t we?

Visit Mike at Finishing Well.