Mulling It Over - Part 4

Some time has passed since I worked on this passage in 2 Timothy, but I have the time, so I wanted to get back at it. If you remember we were taking a look at 2 Timothy 2:20-26. You can see the first three parts by clicking on each of the links: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Here is the passage again as a refresher. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.
21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NASB)

Today's verse is quite pertinent in our society where social media dominates our time. Whether you are on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or some other form of social media there is no doubt that these communication avenues are powerful both in a positive and a negative way. 

23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
— 2 Timothy 2:23 (NASB)

As you know, I like to tear the verse apart. 

But refuse...

I think most of you understand the meaning of the word refuse. Words such as decline, refuse, reject, and spurn, all refer to the act of turning away by not accepting, receiving or considering what is being offered. I like the idea of not even considering. How often do we think about accepting an offer?

How many of you get sales emails in your inbox? How many of those do you read? Of those, how many do you actually click on to look at? If you are like me, you often find yourself clicking over to a site to see what new merchandise they have, and what the current sales offer is. Of course, it doesn't end there. I'll often put a few items into my shopping cart before I finally exit the site. Other times, I actually buy the items I put in my cart. I didn't refuse the offer and actually it started with just a consideration of the offer.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Now lets move on to what it is we are to refuse, or even consider. 

...foolish and ignorant speculations...

I may get into trouble here, but I believe that a high percent of what is posted on many of these social media platforms are foolish and ignorant speculations. It is one thing to talk about what you did today, share an outfit or post a recipe you want to share, but when these platforms become soap boxes for preaching, arguing or spreading hate, I believe we have moved into the arena of foolish and ignorant speculations. 

Let me say at this point, I am not against having discussions about hard topics on social media platforms, but I believe as Christians we have to be extremely careful what we say and how we come across. Topics can quickly escalate from stating the facts to spewing hateful, emotion based opinions. When I think of what our Founding Fathers meant by Freedom of Speech, I do not know that they were thinking of photos sharing body parts or using explicatives like conjunctions to string sentences together. 

Let's take just a moment to look at the words foolish and ignorant.

     foolish - Webster's online dictionary uses phrases like - showing lack of good sense, absurd or       ridiculous, and marked by a loss of composure. 

     ignorant - Webster's defines this word in this way - destitute of knowledge or education, lacking comprehension, unaware, and uninformed.

Do we really want to look foolish and ignorant when we are putting ourselves out there on social media or any other communication platform. Whether you are having a discussion with friends at the local eatery, posting opinions on Facebook or writing a blog, use discretion when choosing your words. Remember words convey a message, both spoken and written. As Christ followers, we want our message to be one of hope, truth and love. 

Finally, 

...knowing that they produce quarrels. 

Isn't it amazing that Paul, who had no knowledge of social media, knew exactly the kinds of exchanges that could take place when we start rambling off our opinions and feelings without using forethought and caution? Obviously, the tendency towards volatile emotions and conversations has been around since Adam and Eve left the garden. We, by the sin nature into which were born, are protectors of our right to be right, even if we are wrong. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Why do you think Paul included these words in his letter to Timothy, who was a young man pastoring one of the early Christian churches? I believe it had to do with Paul's God given understanding of the outcome of such behaviors on the church. Dissension, arguments and quarrels will divide and destroy a church. They will divide and destroy a marriage, a family and yes, even a nation.

Let this verse be our standard when speaking or writing, for His glory and the encouragement of others.

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
— Colossians 4:6 (NASB)

Living in the Valley

It has been a few weeks since I wrote a faith post. My husband and I went on a vacation to visit places and people in Wisconsin. It was an enjoyable trip, but I didn't have much time to write. While it is fun and important to get away, the reality is that we live in the ordinary moments of life much more often than in the extraordinary moments. Who doesn't want to live on the mountaintop, but most of us spend the majority of our time trudging through the valley bottom. 

Devil's Lake State Park

Let me say, the valley bottom is not the pristine, green grass, river filled valley. No, it is the valley that runs between two rugged, rocky cliffs and there is no water in sight for miles. Overhead the vultures are constantly circling, waiting for the valley dwellers to stumble and fall so they can begin to feed off their soon to be dead bodies. Not a pretty picture.

When you have no vision from God, no enthusiasm left in your life, and no one watching and encouraging you, it requires the grace of Almighty God to take the next step in your devotion to Him, in the reading and studying of His Word, in your family life, or in your duty to Him. It takes much more of the grace of God, and a much greater awareness of drawing upon Him, to take that next step, than it does to preach the gospel.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - March 6th

I love this thought from Oswald Chambers. He says it takes more grace and a more concentrated effort to draw on Him to take the next step in living the ordinary, mundane life, than to preach the gospel. What do you think? Do you agree? 

I have been finding life more and more challenging lately. My energy level is lower, I have physical issues that I never had to deal with before and I am continually reminded, not only of all the things I need to do, but also of all the things I have absolutely no control over. These factors all become part of life in the valley. Living here in the valley becomes a matter of trudging, not running, or skipping or even walking. Every once in a while, it becomes a crawl, a begging on hands and knees with the Master of this land to come and either let it end or bring about some sort of change. It was from this prostrate place that Oswald realized the thoughts he shared in the quote above. It truly does take the grace of the Almighty to take the next step.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

I know, without a doubt, that some of you are in this place. Just like me, you go to bed so exhausted, that you pray God will take you in your sleep, so that you don't have to get up in the morning. Some of you, don't sleep. He doesn't even give you that. But, you do get up in the morning and you start all over again...the walk, the stumble, the crawl. You feel like you could use time away, a retreat, but there is no retreat. You feel like you could use a good, long cry, but you know the tears won't change anything, besides you are too busy, too tired. You feel like you want to run away, to leave everyone and everything behind, just go somewhere and become someone different, but you know that is not the right thing to do and you are just too tired. Day after day, drudgery after drudgery. This is life in our valley.

BUT GOD!

No enthusiasm?

BUT GOD!

No one noticing?

BUT GOD!

No encouragement?

BUT GOD!

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses;
— 2 Corinthians 6:4 (NIV)
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:13 (NASB)
I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
8 The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.
— Psalm 121 (NASB)
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
— Galatians 6:9 (NASB)

I know life can be overwhelming, but God is not overwhelmed by it. We've heard it before, but I need to hear it again. Peter walked on water, though the stormy waves raged all around, as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. If you are down and out by life, look up. Jesus will always meet you exactly where you are at. 

Remember, we are all together in this valley. 

 

From Knowledge to Knowing

What is the difference between knowledge and knowing? Webster's online dictionary defines knowledge in this way - "the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association..." It can also be defined as, "the sum of what is known, body of knowledge..." The word knowing is defined - "having or reflecting knowledge, information or intelligence."

 Pixabay

Pixabay

From these definitions it would seem to be the case, we can all have some sort of knowledge about many things. I know that two plus two equals four. I also know, water is made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. However, knowing two plus two equals four does not mean I know how to do math. Nor does knowing water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen make me hydrated. Knowledge that becomes knowing is a direct result of acting on that knowledge. 

To take knowledge from our heads and make it a part of our lives takes effort. We are not sponges. We do not absorb knowledge and have it make us into a super human computer. We have to do something with the knowledge. Knowing what a number is, and a few, often quoted facts, does not mean we know how to add, subtract, multiply and divide, let alone do more complex functions, like algebraic equations and geometric formulas. To take this step from knowledge to knowing we have to learn. We must sit under the tutelage of one who knows and understands mathematics in order to come to a point of knowing it ourselves. 

water fountain

In a similar fashion, knowing what components make up water, does not give me the hydration so important for life. I must take the water and actually drink it. That is the only way my body will obtain the life giving qualities that water has. 

In our lives as Christians, we come to have a body of knowledge. We know the Bible is God's word. We know from various passages in scripture of God's love, justice and mercy. We also know about Jesus; His birth, life, death, and resurrection. But how to we take knowledge in our spiritual lives and making it knowing?

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Anyone can have knowledge of God. Plug the word God into Google and see what comes up. However, having knowledge of God does not mean you are a person of faith. I have knowledge of Allah, but I am not a Muslim. I have knowledge of Buddha, but I am not a Buddhist. So what takes us from knowledge to knowing, when it comes to faith?  

Belief is not the result of an intellectual act, but the result of an act of my will whereby I deliberately commit myself.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - December 22nd

I personally believe that when we do as Oswald says in the above quote, we go from knowledge to knowing. When we apply our will and deliberately commit ourselves to God in a relationship we no longer have knowledge, we know. How does this take place? In a supernatural way, through the Holy Spirit. 

In Biblical times, the word know was associated with sexual intercourse. It implied intimacy. A person who has sex with another in this fashion, goes from knowledge of that person to knowing that person in an intimate way. One of the issues with sex outside the parameters of a committed relationship is the inability to truly know each other. This might partially explain why so many relationships fail. The partners involved have never gone from knowledge of each other to knowing each other. 

The type of knowledge that we want to have of God and of His son Jesus is an intimate one. We want to commit ourselves to Him in a deep, vulnerable way, so that we no longer just know facts and statements made about Him, but the deep inner layers of the Almighty Himself. This is not an intellectual act, other than the thought, "I want to commit myself to God." It is an act of the will, just as much as saying "I do" is an act of the heart. 

For example, read the following verse.

Shout for joy, you heavens;
rejoice, you earth;
burst into song, you mountains!
For the Lord comforts his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.
— Isaiah 49:13 (NIV)

In the midst of chaos, I can read that verse and with the eye roll of a junior higher think, "Yeah, right."

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Or, I can commit my will to believe and suddenly it becomes the firm, heart felt statement of, "Yeah! Right!" Now, I get it. God really does comfort and have compassion. I know, because I know (intimately), that He will comfort and have compassion. I have felt it and I have seen it. 

Do you see what happened there? I went from knowledge to knowing. I committed myself to believe the promises in His word and His response to my commitment was to draw me into the deeper knowing of Himself. 

It is God and His Spirit who take us from knowledge to knowing - knowing Him; His mercy and grace; His long suffering and goodness. Merely reading, gaining knowledge and nodding our heads that we believe does not a believer make. It is our act of the will, our choices day in and day out, moment by moment that move us from rote belief and knowledge to true, heart felt faith; to knowing God. 

Walking with the Psalmist

Last month I began a discussion on the first song in the book of Psalms in the Old Testament. While we do not know for sure who wrote this psalm, it is clear, by its inclusion in the Scripture, it is important. I explained that Psalm 1 describes two men, a righteous one and a wicked one. Last month I concentrated on the righteous man and found ten characteristics that a righteous man will have. This month, I want to look more closely at the wicked man.

1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish.
— Psalm 1:1-6 (NASB)
 Pixabay

Pixabay

What sort of characteristics describe the wicked man.

1. They are not like the righteous man.

Verse 4 begins with the phrase, "The wicked are not so." It would logically follow that all of the traits that were listed to describe the righteous man are not traits the wicked man has. In other words this man does not love God's word, they hang out with other's who do not love God's word and they are not firmly rooted in God's law. 

2. They are like chaff.

What exactly is chaff? In this Old Testament context the word chaff was used to describe the outer hulls of seeds and other debris separated from the seed when threshing grain. Before the age of huge farm machinery, threshing was a laborious task done by hand on a threshing floor. The stalks of grain were beaten with a piece of wood called a flail. Chaff is not useful for anything and was thrown away. 

It might seem to us, calling a person chaff, is rather mean, but these words were inspired by a holy and righteous God. The point was to give us a comparison with no doubt involved. Righteous is righteous and wicked is wicked. 

3. They are driven away by the wind.

I think we can derive two ideas from this. First of all, the chaff in the threshing process was often swept up to blow away in the wind. It was meant to be discarded, just as our modern combine separates the chaff from the seed out in the field. Have you ever driven by a field when the combine is working and noticed a cloud of dust flying up in the air? That is not just dirt!

The second idea that came to my mind is, often people who do not know God are driven to and fro by the changing winds of life. They try anything and everything to fill the emptiness that exists inside of them and they most often are looking out for their own interests willing to step on others to feel fulfilled.

Pixabay - judgment

4. The wicked will not stand in the judgment.

The idea of judgment has become the elephant in the room. No one wants to talk about judgment. No one wants to discuss the consequences of sin. How often do you hear a sermon about sin, hell or the anger of a righteous God? Not as often as we used to, I'd venture to say. While I think we need to show love, wait for the right opportunities and reply with gentleness, we also can't stop talking about the idea that God is a holy and perfect God and we are not. That was and still is the reason Jesus became a man, walked on this earth, died on a cross and rose again. If we stop talking about judgment we might as well stop talking about Jesus. 

Jesus Christ is who differentiates us from all other religions. It is His blood that covers a righteous man and it is only His blood that allows the righteous man to stand at the final judgment. The wicked man will not stand because he has not recognized Christ as the way, the truth and the life.

For us to say, "I don't believe in hell or a judgment," is like saying, "Seventeen people didn't get shot at a high school in Florida." Just because it is terrible, doesn't mean our ignoring it or wishing it away makes it any less a reality. 

5. The wicked will not stand in the assembly of the righteous. 

I am not sure in this case whether it is similar to the judgment, they won't be able to, because their wickedness separates them from the righteous, or if it has to do with their own desire. The wicked do not want to stand in the assembly of the righteous. We have churches closing their doors at an alarming rate. For further info on this Dr. Richard Krejcir of churchleadership.org wrote an eye opening article titled Statistics and Reasons for Church Decline. Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis, wrote a book a few years ago titled Already Gone, which addresses the exodus of many young people from the church. If those who would be righteous aren't even staying in the assembly of the righteous, then the wicked certainly won't be drawn to the church. 

 St. Albans Cathedral - England trip 2012

St. Albans Cathedral - England trip 2012

This is just my take on the verse. It is more likely that the wicked won't be able to stand in the assembly of the righteous because of their wickedness. 

6. The wicked will perish.

This isn't a pleasant thought. It might be easy to think of someone like Hitler perishing, because we could easily point out his wickedness, but the scripture is clear:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
— Romans 3:23 (NASB)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 6:23 (NASB)
that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;
— Romans 10:9 (NASB)

While the standing of the wicked man compared to the righteous man is not pleasant, there is hope. If you are a Christ follower, then you are already familiar with that hope. You are also in a position to help someone who doesn't have that hope. Live your life in Christ out loud, so all the world can see. I leave you with these verses, which I will feature next week on my Mulling It Over column.

23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:23-26 (NASB)

Walking with the Psalmist

I have always loved the book of Psalms in the Old Testament. Perhaps it is my love of the written word, and poetry and songs are no exception. Of the 150 Psalms, David wrote 73, Asaph wrote 12, the Sons of Korah wrote 11, Solomon wrote 2, Ethan and Moses wrote 1 and the 50 remaining have no recorded author. The Psalms are divided into 5 books. 

Over the next few months I would like to occasionally look at a Psalm. I want to look at the Psalms, not only from a theological perspective, but from a more human and emotional perspective. After all we are emotional beings. We are created in God's image and the Creator gave us emotions.

Take a look at Psalm 1. This week we'll look at verses 1-3 and next week we'll look at 4-5. 

1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish.
— Psalm 1 (NASB)

While we do not know who the author of this Psalm was we can derive a few things from its inclusion in the canon of scripture. First, we can conclude that it is important. The content of this short psalm starts off the entirety of the book of Psalms. It has something to say and we would be wise to listen. Second, the fact that it was included might infer that God thought it important to include as well. Isn't God the one who inspired the words penned by the authors of scripture? Third, the fact that it ended up on the first page of the first book of the five books of Psalms might mean that it is setting a foundation for all the other Psalms to follow. 

This psalm compares two men (or women). The first described in verses 1-3, is a righteous man. The word righteous refers to one who acts in accordance with the divine or moral law. The second, described in verses 4-5, is an unrighteous man or one who is not following the moral law.

Looking at verses 1-3 we can learn 10 things about the righteous man. 

1. He is happy. The word blessed in this particular passage is referring to the idea of being happy or content. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

2. He does not walk in the counsel of the wicked. In other words, he is careful who he gets advice from. 

3. He does not stand in the path of sinners. He's careful where he hangs out. You probably won't find this guy at the strip club or the casino. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

4. He does not sit in the seat of scoffers. What is a scoffer? One who expresses scorn, derision or contempt. It doesn't sound like a person any of us would want to have sitting at our dinner table, but some of us, not only have them at our tables, we are them! This man, does not linger with these types of people. 

5. His delight is in the law of the Lord. Wow! Did you catch that? His delight! What do you delight in? Your spouse, your children, your job, your pets, your chocolate? It doesn't say this man delighted in any of those things. He delights in God's word. 

6. He meditates day and night in God's law. Wow, again! To meditate means to think on, ruminate on, much like a cow chews its cud. It just keeps coming back around over and over, to think on, day and night. I don't know about you, but I'm doing good if God's word comes to my mind once a day. 

7. He is like a tree, firmly planted by streams of water.  From this single sentence we can see that this man is rooted and he is provided for. The stream of water, which I would say could be compared to the Holy Spirit, is always near by, for him to swim in, rest by and drink from. I also love that the word firmly is included to describe how this tree is planted. This tree is not about to be toppled by the first storm that comes along.

Pixabay - trees by water

8. He bears fruit in its season. This man is useful to God. He allows God to use Him as He will to produce fruit in his life. This fruit can be harvested when it is the right season. This fruit is a direct result of his investment and delight in God's law. 

9. His fruit and leaves will not wither. It doesn't mean this man won't age. It means that as long as he is delighting in God's law, he will always be a productive part of God's kingdom. Sure, he will have bad days, but it will be temporary and the result will bring him closer to His creator. 

10. He prospers. It is good to be wise when we start talking about prosperity. Prosperity doesn't always mean financial gain. This man may prosper as a friend, or as a worker, or in his marriage, or other aspects of his family life. Or it may be that his relationship with the Savior is the only thing that prospers. 

When I start looking at these verses, I realize I have a long way to go to be like this righteous man. I am not always happy. I get it, life is difficult, but the things that I so often seek to make me happy are only temporary. This man fully understands that the thing that will make him happy is delighting in God and His law. It is this delight that not only gives him happiness, but roots him deeply and firmly near the source of life-giving water, the Lord Jesus Christ. 

This quick look at the first 3 verses of Psalm 1 are only a slight dig into the rich fertile soil of God' word and the meaning it has for our lives. Perhaps on your own you can do a little deeper excavating and discover more truth. 

Next week we'll take a look at the second man represented in this passage and ask the hard question, Is this who I am?

Check back tomorrow for another installment on my fashion page on Layering Love.