Moving Beyond Covetousness to Contentment

Woldumar Nature Center (Lansing, Michigan USA) Photo by: Mark J. Booth

Discontentment is found everywhere, including our own hearts.  People are discontent with their marriages, with their jobs, with their health, with their relationships, as well as their possessions.  The root of discontentment is covetousness.  Covetousness is defined as the inordinate desire to have something.  It is also defined as the desire to have something that belongs to another.

Covetousness is a sin that creates a warped view of God.  We feel that God has cheated us out of something.  Satan used this approach with Eve when he told her that God was wrong to withhold the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Eve coveted the fruit and ate it.  The tenth commandment says: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.” (Exodus 20:17)

God’s gives this commandment for two reasons.  First of all, God hates covetousness because it places the coveted object above Him, which is a form of idolatry.  It also causes us to have the wrong view of His person and blessings. “For the wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire,and blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth.” (Psalm 10:3)

Secondly, covetousness brings harm to us and to those around us.  The Bible teaches us that covetousness leads to:

  • injustice: “And they covet fields, and take them by violence;and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage.” (Micah 5:2)
  • harm to ourselves: “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
    (1 Timothy 6:9)
  • departure from the faith: “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:10)
  • many sorrows-See the above verse
  • family problems: “He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house;”
    (Proverbs 15:27)

Covetousness is clearly a problem many of us face.  The solution to this problem is having a spirit of contentment.  The secret of a growing, joyful Christian life is being content in our relationship with God in spite of the circumstances.  One person defined contentment as: “Realizing that God has provided everything I need for my present happiness.”  How do we go from a spirit of covetousness to a spirit of contentment?

We move beyond covetousness to contentment when:

1. We know that our Heavenly Father will take care of us.  Covetousness says: “I want something beyond what God gives me.”  Contentment says: “My Heavenly Father loves me and He takes care of all of my needs.” “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.” (Matthew 6: 31-32)

2. We know that God is with us even in the most difficult situations we face.  Covetousness looks at others and thinks that they have a better situation than we have.  Contentment doesn’t look at others, but looks to God.  God is with us.  What more do we need?  “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”
(Hebrews 13:5)

3. We focus on our spiritual lives above all else.  A covetous person focuses upon the physical realm.  He doesn’t make his spiritual life a priority.  Jesus reminded His hearers; “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)  A contented person understands that in this life we will have difficulties, but he knows that life is more than this material world.  His desires are focused upon his soul and his relationship with God.

4. We give God all of our burdens.  A covetous person attempts to find security through their own efforts.  They always feel that there is something missing in their life to have total security.  A contented person gives all of their cares and burdens to the Lord.  He is their security. “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Our Heavenly Father has blessed us beyond what we will ever know or understand.
“Dear Father, thank you for your many blessings.  Help me to see you in every circumstance in my life.  Help me to trust you to meet all of my needs.  May your presence, love, and provision be the focus of my daily life.  Thank you for adopting me into your family.  Amen.”

Moving Beyond Fear to Courage

Sleepy Hollow State Park, MIchigan- By Mark J. Booth

When fear takes its grip upon our lives, it affects our view of circumstances, of others and of the future.  Fear causes us to doubt the love of God, the presence of God, the provision of God, and even the protection of God.  Fear keeps us from doing what God has called us to do.  How can we move beyond our fears and approach life with courage?

Courage is the willingness to move forward with our lives in spite of the obstacles and dangers that we face.  The nation of Israel, including King Saul, was paralyzed by fear on account of Goliath.  His size was overwhelming.  However, David had moved beyond his fear to courage.  David didn’t see the power of Goliath. He saw the power of His God. His courage has inspired us to face life’s situations with the understanding that God is greater than anything that is happening in our life.

How Can I Move Beyond Fear to Courage?

1. Remember the presence of God.  God is with us as we travel through this life. His presence brings courage because we know that we are not alone.  If we are passing through the shadow of death. we are not alone.  If we are facing some great trial, we are not alone.  If we are facing an unknown future, we are not alone.  “Fear thou not; for I am with thee:be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)

2. Enjoy the love of God.  God’s love was clearly demonstrated upon the cross of Christ.  The fear of death was removed when Jesus died upon the cross for our sins.  His death and resurrection conquered death.  If his love has removed our greatest fear, it can also take away all other fears.  A baby in the arms of its loving mother has no fear.  Likewise, we are in the arms of our loving God.  Why should we be ruled by fear? “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18) 

3. Develop a fear of God.  The fear of God has been defined as: “Realizing that God is watching and weighing every one of my thoughts, words, actions and attitudes.”  The fear of God places God in His rightful place in our lives.  When our walk with God is right, we can live our life with courage instead of fear. “In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence:and his children shall have a place of refuge.” (Proverbs 14:26)

4. Walk by faith, not by sight.  When walk by faith in our loving, all-wise, and all-powerful God, we can face life with courage.  Fear cannot exist together with faith.  Fear flourishes when we see life from our perspective, instead of trusting our Great God.  When faith rules in our heart, we will have the courage to conquer any mountain that is before us.  “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him (Christ).” (Ephesians 3:12)

5. Study and memorize the Word of God.  Fear often is the result of ignorance.  When we study the Word of God, we see God working in the lives of people such as Moses, Joshua, Ruth, David and Daniel.  These people faced fearful situations; yet they faced them with courage because they knew their God. “But the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.” (Daniel 11:32)  When we study the Word, we get to know God better.  The more we know Him, the more we will be able to trust Him.  Our fear will turn into courage, not because of who we are, but because of who He is.

6. Become familiar with the “fear nots” in the Bible. God knows our heart.  He knows that we are prone to fear.  We are prone to walk by sight and not by faith.  He encourages us with many of His “fear nots” in the Bible.  Here are just a few.

  • Fear not in your life’s journey. “And the Lord appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee,” Genesis 26:24
  • Fear not concerning your daily needs. “And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth.” (1 Kings 17:13-14)
  • Fear not when in danger. “And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.”  (2 Kings 6:16)
  • Fear not in times of weakness. “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee;” (Isaiah 41:10)
  • Fear not in times of trials. “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee,I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee;and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned;” (Isaiah 43:1-2)
  • Fear not in times of failure.  Here is what God said after the Israelites’ failure at Ai. “And the Lord said unto Joshua, Fear not, neither be thou dismayed:” (Joshua 8:1)  God did bring the victory after their previous failure.  
  • Fear not in times of sickness or nearing death. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

“Dear Lord, thank you for assuring me that you are with me throughout this life and for all eternity.  Thank you that you give me the courage to move forward in my life in spite of the obstacles that are before me.  Please, give me the courage to live each day for you. ”

Author’s Note: This is the second article in the series called “Moving Beyond!”

Delighting in God in Stressful Times

 

God’s is waiting for us to come to Him. Photo by: Mark J Booth
The cares of this life often seem to build up until we feel overwhelmed. We become discouraged and feel stressed about life. Is there a place of comfort in the midst of the cares of this world? “In the multitude of my thoughts within me (cares of my heart) thy comforts delight my soul.” (Psalm 94:19). The Psalmist is saying: “No matter how stressful life is, God is here not only to bring comfort, but delight to my soul.”
There are many things that can be overwhelming and bring stress upon us:
  • the stress of our own failures, sins, and worries.
  • the stress from our concern for our loved ones.
  • the stress from people who oppose us.
  • the stress of work
  • the stress of growing older
  • the stress of keeping up with others
  • the stress of trials in our lives
  • the stress of loneliness
  • the stress of not knowing the future.
  • the stress of making decisions
Stressful situations fill our lives.  However, In the midst of the stresses of life, we can always flee to the “God of all Comfort”.  We can flee to Him:
  • by prayer and praise unto Him
  • by opening up the Word of God and listening to Him
  • by submitting our lives completely to Him
  • by confessing any known sin unto Him
He is always available to bring comfort, peace and hope to the soul who is coping with stress in their lives. Will we flee to Him in midst of the cares and stresses of life? Yes!
GOD WILL CHANGE OUR STRESS INTO DELIGHT IN HIM!

 

A Sunny Way to Start the Day(Psalm 19)

The early morning sky over Sydney, Australia: Photo by: Mark J. Booth

How we begin each day not only affects us, but also affects those around us.  How can we start the day in the right way?  In Psalm 19, God shares the example of one of His greatest creations, the sun.  The sun as it begins each day teaches us many lessons.

Once, Sharon and I had the joy of staying a couple of days in a bed and breakfast on the shores of Lake Huron.  One morning, we enjoyed a beautiful sunrise over the lake.  The sunrise brought the hope of a new day. It brought a renewed sense of the glory of God, and caused us to reflect anew upon the beauty of God’s creation.

A sunrise is one of God’s masterpieces.  Psalm 19:4-6 says: “In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,  Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it:and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.”

The sun begins the day with great joy and purpose.  It fulfills God’s plan every day. Also, it brings warmth to all of us who live upon the earth.  The sun glorifies God in all that it does.
“The heavens declare the glory of God, the firmament showeth his handiwork.” (Ps. 19:1)
What about us?  How can we live each day like the sun? How can we bring glory to God?

The heavens declaring God’s Glory from the sky: Photo by: Mark J. Booth

1. The sun rejoices as it begins each new day.  (“Rejoiceth as a strong man”)
How do we begin our day?  Do we begin the day with dread?  Do we begin the day with anger?  Do we begin the day with a complaining spirit?  Have we tried rejoicing as a way to start the day?  Our joy is not based upon circumstances, but upon our relationship with Jesus Christ.  A joyful start to the day will help us through the difficulties of the day, will bring glory to God, and will brighten the lives of other people.

2. The sun fulfills God’s purpose for each day.  (“His circuit unto the ends of it”)
The sun willingly performs the task that God has given unto it.  The sun doesn’t complain.  It doesn’t get praise.  It doesn’t doubt God’s plan.  How about God’s purpose for our lives?  Are we seeking to fulfill God’s plan for our lives?  God has a great plan for each of us.  It began with our salvation in Jesus Christ and will continue for all eternity.  Daily, we have a choice: “Will I fulfill God’s plan for my life, or will I fulfill my plan for my life?”

3. The sun ministers unto others. (“There is nothing hid from the heat thereof”)
The sun brings warmth, light and a sense of beauty to all of us.  Every day, we have an opportunity to bring warmth into the lives of those around us.  We can encourage others with our words and actions.  We can share God’s love with those that God brings into our lives.  Every day is an opportunity to brighten the lives of those around us.

Each new day is a gift from God.  We have the opportunity to rejoice in the Lord, to follow God’s plan and to brighten the lives of others.  Don’t let the clouds of fear, doubt, anger and self-pity keep you from shining brightly before God and others.  Whose life will you brighten today?

Where Can I Go?(Psalm 18:2)

 

Photo of the Alps by Mark J. Booth

I am drowning in the midst of a storm.  I feel alone.  I don’t know where to go?  What does the Word of God say: “The Lord is MY ROCK, and MY FORTRESS, and MY DELIVERER; MY GOD, MY STRENGTH, in whom I will trust; MY BUCKLER (shield), and the HORN OF MY SALVATION, and MY HIGH TOWER.” (Psalm 18:2)

Jesus reminded the disciples that in this life they would experience tribulation.  We have all experienced tribulation.  We try to resolve the situation.  We try to cope.  We try to ignore the storm; yet we feel like we are sinking deeper and deeper into the raging waters.  David experienced many storms in his life.  Where did he go for deliverance and relief?  He went to “his God”.  Likewise, we can go to our God regardless of how strong the storm.

1. We can go to Our God because He is our Rock.  When a person is sinking into the water, they are looking for something solid on which to find their footing.  We often stumble and fall because we don’t stand firmly upon our solid rock, the Lord God.  Do you feel like you are wavering in every direction, then go to the Rock.  

2. We can go to Our God because He is Our Fortress.  A fortress is a place of refuge from the enemies we may have in this life.  Many people talk about being hurt by others.  Yes, others may try to hurt us, but we have a fortress to whom we can run.  We don’t have to be hurt by others, we can go to the Lord God, Our Fortress.

3. We can go to Our God because He is Our Deliverer.  The disciples were fearful in the midst of a terrible storm.   They were without hope until they cried out to the Lord.  The Lord stopped the storm.  No matter how awful the storm, the Lord is ready and able to deliver us.  No matter how strong the temptation the Lord will deliver us.

4. We can go to Our God because He is Our God.  David knows that he has a personal relationship with the Lord God.  He can go to His God at any time.  When we know God, we can trust Him.  We know that He loves us with an everlasting love.  We know that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

5. We can go to Our God because He is Our Strength.  David couldn’t handle his enemies in his own strength, but he knew the All-Powerful God.  We can do nothing apart from God.  As Paul stated: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13).  We may get tired and want to quit, but God’s strength enables us to carry on.

6. We Can Go to Our God because He is our Shield.  Satan throws his fiery darts of doubt, denial, guilt, temptation, discouragement, and rebellion against God.  In ourselves, we have no defense against these darts; however God is Our Shield.  He comes between us and the fiery darts of Satan.  There is no safer place than behind God, Our Shield.

7. We can Go to Our God because He is Our Savior.  Our salvation solves the greatest problem in life, which is how can a sinful person approach a Holy God.  Jesus took our place upon the cross and paid for our sin.  Through Him, we have eternal life.  If God has taken care of our greatest problem in this life, why can’t we trust Him with the storms that pass through our lives?

8. We can Go to Our God because He is Our High Tower.  We often see a bird flee into the sky as we approach it.  The bird knows that there is safety in the heights.  Likewise, our Lord places us in the heights to keep us away from the traps and snares of this life.  The storms have little effect upon us when we are safe and secure in the Lord.

As a result of all that God is, David says: “In whom I will trust.”  David knows the Greatness of God.  He trusts God because he knows Him.  Do we know our Great God.  Yes, the storm may be strong, but we do have One to whom we can go.  Will we?

 

Franklin Spencer III: A Man who Greatly Influenced My Life

  • Franklin M Spencer III-Guidance Counselor (Highland Park High School-1972)
    People come and go in our lives.  We often don’t think about their influence upon our lives;  however, God has a purpose for each person that He places in our lives. For this reason I thank God for every person that He has placed in my life.  One of those people was  Franklin M. Spencer III.

    I never knew Franklin Spencer as Franklin, but as Mr. Spencer.  Mr. Spencer was my high school guidance counselor at Highland Park High School.   When I told my wife (Sharon) that I was writing about the impact Mr. Spencer made upon my life, she said: “But high school guidance counselors don’t really have much influence over our lives.”  Mr. Spencer was different.

     “This is what I think we should do.”  I was on the other side of Mr. Spencer’s desk as he was mapping out my future. “You will go to summer school and take some classes to get ahead.  As a senior, you can then take classes at Highland Park Community College.”  Taking Second Year Algebra  during the summer was not my idea of fun, but I became a willing summer school student.

     I didn’t realize that those few minutes in Mr. Spencer’s office would have an immense effect upon my life.  I followed his plan completely.  As a result, I was able to graduate from college (with studying each summer) in the summer of 1975.  This was two years ahead of schedule.  If I had graduated in 1977, I would have never met my wife.  I would have never taught in Baltimore. South Africa and Portugal would just be places on the map instead of places where we have left our hearts and many friends.

    Mr. Spencer also affected my life because he encouraged me to go beyond my own expectations.  He helped me to see that I could do well in college and beyond.  He didn’t speak down to me, but he spoke as through I could actually make some responsible decisions as a high school student.

     I also learned from Mr. Spencer leadership skills that have helped me to this very day.  As a senior, I was elected president of the National Honor Society.   Mr. Spencer was our sponsor.  He didn’t lead the group, but he guided us.

     He allowed me to take the initiative on some projects.  One project was bringing together all the National Honor Society chapters in the Detroit area.  We had the first meeting at our school.  Mr. Spencer helped, but several of us students worked together and we saw forty-two schools represented.  Mr. Spencer gave me the chance to lead, but he also taught me that a real leader allows others to use their talents and abilities to fulfill projects.  As a pastor, I still see the importance of the principle of delegation.

     Mr. Spencer would leave Highland Park High School in 1973 to teach in South Korea.  Unfortunately, he would die of cancer shortly after his arrival there.  His death would be a great loss for the cause of education.

     I remember the last time I saw Mr. Spencer.  We had an Honor Society banquet the night before graduation.  I never thanked him.  I never communicated with him.  At the time, I didn’t know what a great impact he would have upon my life.  When I heard he had died, I was saddened by the news, but it wouldn’t be until later that I truly appreciated why God had brought him into my life.

     I thank the Lord that He placed Franklin Spencer in my life.  I can’t imagine what my life would be like today if it wasn’t for those few minutes that Mr. Spencer laid out a plan that made all the difference in my life.

     P.S. This is my third post on people who have influenced my life.  My desire is that these people be remembered for not only what they did in my life, but in the lives of others.

Ruth Kuck-A Woman who Loved God

“Mark, I have a place for you to stay this summer.”  Pastor Doyle McDaniel said these words with great pleasure.  I was anticipating spending the summer in Charlotte to fulfill my final requirement to graduate from Olivet College. This last requirement would an internship at Calvary Baptist Church.

Pastor McDaniel had convinced  Ruth Kuck, a widow in the church,  that I needed a place to stay. Because of her kind heart, she accepted me in her home for the summer  I didn’t know Ruth well, but that would soon change.  It would be the beginning of a thirty-five year relationship.

Ruth had been a long-time member of the church.  she was faithful to attend all the church services, and she loved to sing in the choir.  The characteristic that stood out in Ruth’s life was her prayer life.  She was a “Prayer Warrior”.  She also loved to read her Bible.  While staying with Ruth, she introduced me to the idea of reading the Bible and praying together.  This was new to me because I had only become a Christian the year before.  She taught me through  her life and her love for the Lord and others.

Ruth also had a keen sense of hospitality.  She always invited people over for a small meal or ice cream after church.  She enjoyed having people in her home with conversation that centered around the Lord Jesus Christ.

One Sunday afternoon, I had decided that I would go out and mow the grass.  Ruth did not approve.  She told me that we don’t do such things on the Lord’s Day.  The point she made to me was that the Lord’s Day was special.  It was a lesson I never forgot.

My summer was soon over.  I was grateful for all that Ruth did for me that summer.  She continued to keep up with my life.  She attended my ordination service.  When Sharon and I served overseas she faithfully prayed for us and our ministry.  She would even ask about specific people in our ministry.  Every birthday she would send our children a card and $7.00. She always signed the card “Love, Grandma Kuck”. She never missed a birthday, whether we were in South Africa or Portugal.

In 1996, we returned to the States and I became the pastor of the same church where I met Ruth.  Ruth was  now in her eighties, but she was still very involved in the church.  Her prayer life was still as vibrant as ever.  Her love for the Lord also increased as she moved into her nineties.

Ruth eventually could no longer take care of herself.  She went to live in an assisted living home.  Even in her last days, she would still love to talk about her Lord to the residents and anybody who would visit her.

Ruth entered into the presence of her Lord in 2009 at the age of ninety-five.  Ruth is greatly missed, not only by me, but by the many people for whom she prayed.

At Ruth’s funeral, I placed a pair of her shoes on pulpit.  I asked who would fill her shoes, especially in the area of prayer.  She certainly had very big shoes.   Unfortunately, many of us are too busy to stop and take time to be a prayer warrior like Ruth.

Ruth taught me much by her example, including the importance of prayer and a love for the Word of God.  She also taught me that in spite of the trials of life, I can always keep my eyes on the Lord.  Truly, Ruth lived up to her namesake in the Bible.  Ruth reminds  of  a verse in Proverbs that says:  “Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.” (Proverbs 31:10)

I thank the Lord for bringing Ruth Kuck into my life!  I have a richer life as a result of Ruth’s example, her prayers, and her words.   Her life made me realize that I also can have an impact upon the lives of others.