Mulling it Over - Part 9

Once again I am looking at 2 Peter 1:1-11. Over the last number of weeks I have been walking slowly through this passage, desiring that you and I ruminate on the verses each week, much like a cow chewing on his cud. We want to read, reread and reread again. Not only read, but really think about the words that God inspired His chosen ones to write in the Holy Scriptures.

Image by  blende22  from  Pixabay

Image by blende22 from Pixabay

The context of this passage written by Peter was to encourage believers that were scattered throughout the areas of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia. His readers were mainly Jews who had become believers. Seeing as it was a large area Peter was writing to, it makes sense that he was trying to cover the main points of what a walk with Christ would look like. Let’s look at the whole passage again.

1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

As we have learned in our study, the eight qualities that Peter lists are ours to have because of Jesus’ great and magnificent promises. They are to be increasing in our lives, meaning we need to be putting in the effort to focus on these qualities and determine, how we can allow God to bring them to fullness in us.

Today we are going to finish the passage, by looking at the last two verses.

10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
— 2 Peter 1:10-11 (NASB)

Therefore, brethren…

Once again, we are reminded that these letters were written to believers. In the Christian community we look at our fellow believers as our brothers and sisters.

…be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you…

I believe in eternal security, meaning once you make the decision to accept Christ as your Savior, you are always saved, however, there are decisions made when emotions are high, that aren’t necessarily real. I grew up in a Bible believing church and was taught that asking Jesus to be my Savior was a decision I had to make. While my Sunday School teachers did an excellent job to teach me how to make this decision and what and who exactly I was believing in, it wasn’t until I was twelve that I fully committed my life to Christ. That decision was real. I knew exactly who I was talking to, when I prayed that prayer, on my own, in my bedroom at home.

Image by  reenablack  from  Pixabay  

Image by reenablack from Pixabay 

When Peter says to be diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you, He isn’t saying you might have lost your salvation along the way. He’s saying, make sure that decision was real when you made it. I also think that he is encouraging us to go back and ruminate on what, exactly Jesus did and why He did it. With Easter just around the corner, what better time to be certain about His calling and choosing. Did you make a decision to follow Jesus? What it real? Has it changed your life? That brings us to the next phrase.

…for as long as you practice these things you, will never stumble…

Do you believe this? There is a connection here between the two phases. Practice is essential for not stumbling. The passage doesn’t say, “…for as long as you read about these things…” Nor does it say, “…for as long as you occasionally do these things…” The word is practice. You all remember the old saying, “Practice makes perfect.” Of late, there is a new movement towards a different mentality of “Practice makes permanent,” which actually might make more sense. We want what we practice to become a permanent part of who we are. If I am practicing brotherly kindness, I want to practice it and practice it, until it becomes a natural response for me.

So what exactly does it mean when it says, we will never stumble?

If we were truly practicing all of the qualities listed in this passage, and it was a practice that made permanent, I think Peter would be right, we would never stumble. Unfortunately, how many of us are practicing these qualities until they are firmly embedded on our minds and hearts. Sure we might be really good at brotherly kindness, but when it comes to self-control, we trip up. Yes, we might make a regular practice of moral excellence, but when we have to be diligent we fall short. I do believe we can become better and better at every single one of these qualities, and we may even get to the point where we no longer stumble, but again, it is only Jesus and his Spirit that gives us this stumble proof ability.

For in this way, the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

If we don’t really pay attention, one could say that this verse is a proponent of good works theology. This is theology that says, we gain entrance into heaven by our good works. But the Bible is clear on this:

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
— Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB)

i believe this verse is speaking as a matter of degrees. The Bible says,

...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)

If we believe in Jesus we will be saved. We will get into Heaven and dwell with the Almighty forever. What this verse seems to be suggesting is that it can be even better than that. It says that entrance into the Kingdom will be abundantly supplied to us. Abundance implies wealth and resources. Maybe for those who have been practicing these qualities and striving to be diligent and remember God’s precious and magnificent promises, they will receive a ticker tape parade. I really don’t know, but I find it interesting that the point was made that the entrance into the Kingdom will be abundantly supplied.

Image by  Dimitris Vetsikas  from  Pixabay  

Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay 

I hope you have enjoyed this look at 2 Peter 1:1-11. Next week, I hope to do an Easter post. After that I might return to the eight qualities listed in this passage and start looking at those in depth. Until then, have a great week everyone.




Mulling it Over - Part 8

I love to watch British mystery shows. I’ve worked my way through several and have thoroughly enjoyed them. I often think of reading and studying the Bible as a mystery investigation. We have many questions in life that we want answers for. The Bible gives us understanding as we learn to investigate its depths and trust God to teach us from it.

Image by  M W  from  Pixabay

Image by M W from Pixabay

Just as a child has an immense sense of curiosity, in the same way we need to be curious about what God says in His word. Reading it, is a good start. Studying it, is even better. Mulling it over and ruminating on it is best. This is how we have our curiosity satisfied and it is how we learn.

Today we are looking at 2 Peter 1:9

For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
— 2 Peter 1:9 (NASB)

For he who lacks these qualities…

Peter is, once again, referring back to the qualities that were listed in the previous verses. Let’s review them as they are listed in the verses 5-7.

5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
— 2 Peter 1:5-7 (NASB)

We can draw the conclusion from the beginning of verse 9, that not everyone was practicing these qualities. This letter written by Peter was specifically for Christians, people who already believed in the death and resurrection of Christ. We can better understand this if we look back at the book of 1 Peter and the beginning of this chapter.

1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen
2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.
— 1 Peter 1:1-2 (NASB)
1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:
— 2 Peter 1:1 (NASB)

It would seem, then, that not all Christians have these qualities. That may give us added insight into why Peter wrote these two letters in the first place, aside from the Divine Inspiration, aspect. God inspired him to pen these words, because there were Christians who were not exemplifying these qualities.

…is blind or short-sighted…

Talk about a slap in the face! What Peter is saying is that those who are not exhibiting these qualities are unable to see. What exactly does that mean? Obviously, there are lots of people who call themselves Christians, because they have accepted Jesus as their Savior, but they are not showing the qualities that Peter lists above.

Image by  OpenClipart-Vectors  from  Pixabay

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Let’s stop for a minute and talk about this. All of us fall short. I believe I have mentioned this before. None of us is perfect. As I have mentioned I struggle with things like self-control, diligence and love. However, struggling with doing these on a regular basis is different than not exhibiting these qualities all together. If you ask my kids and my husband, they would tell you I love them. If you ask my boss at work, she’d say I am diligent. The fact that I have chosen to not drink alcohol or smoke, tells you that I have some self-control. So what does Peter mean when he says that those who are not practicing these things are blind?

I believe that when we do not practice these qualities we become insensitive to the movement of God’s spirit in our lives. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit, when we accept Jesus’ work, life, death and resurrection, is the string that connects us to the Almighty. The Holy Spirit’s work in us is to make us more like Christ.

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.
— John 16:13 (NASB)

The Spirit’s job is to guide us into truth. He teaches us about diligence, knowledge, brotherly kindness and all the other qualities that we are to be practicing. When we don’t pursue these things, we become blind or short sighted to what the Spirit of the Living God wants to teach us.

…having forgotten his purification from his former sins.

Sin is not something we spend huge amounts of time talking about or thinking about, but we should. When we forget sin, we forget the whole reason, Jesus had to die on the cross. We begin to forget that we were and are sinners, saved by God’s grace and mercy. We buy into the lies that the world puts out there, that sin is a bad word and all the bad things in the world are a result of bad luck or the choices of others. We are playing a long, drawn out version of the blame game and in the end it leads to destruction.

Image by  ErikaWittlieb  from  Pixabay  

Image by ErikaWittlieb from Pixabay 

As we begin to think about Easter, which is only a few weeks away, I hope that each of us will spend a little time in self-reflection asking these questions:

Am I practicing the qualities Peter lists in verses 5, 6 and 7?

Have I forgotten why Jesus came to die on the cross?

Have I stopped believing what God says about sin?

Have I really taken a look at myself lately to see where I am sinning, and where I need to confess and receive His forgiveness?

Let’s keep practicing these qualities. Not only will it draw us closer to Christ, but it will make us much better human beings.

Mulling it Over - Part 7

We have been working our way through 2 Peter 1:1-11. If you are just coming in to this series and want to check out the previous posts just click on the links below:

Part 1 Part 4

Part 2 Part 5

Part 3 Part 6

Today we are going to mull over verse 8:

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
— 2 Peter 1:8 (NASB)
Pixabay

Pixabay

There is something about spring that really sets our hearts to racing. It is like a romance with nature, as she offers her ever increasing beauty for all of us to enjoy. The same can be said of our relationship with the triune God head. He is ever increasing our ability to experience Him more deeply. Let’s take a closer look at today’s verse by breaking each phrase down. Please remember, this is my take on the passage. I am neither a Bible teacher or a scholar, just a Holy Spirit filled woman who follows Christ.

For if these qualities…

The qualities referred to are the ones previously mentioned. Let me list them: diligence, faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love.

…are yours…

Have you made these qualities a part of your life? Remember back in verse 4, Peter refers to God’s precious and magnificent promises, which, when we claim them as our own, we become partakers in the divine nature. All of these qualities are the same qualities we see in God. It is His divine nature that gives us the ability to make these qualities ours. We do that, when we make Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. I will talk more about this event in the days leading up to Easter.

…and are increasing…

I find it interesting that Peter was sure to include this phrase. The aforementioned qualities are not just to be ours, but are to be increasing. It really is easy for many people to be “good” for a day, a week, a month or even a few years, but remember last week, when I shared Jeremiah 17:9?

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Even the best of us, fall short. It isn’t enough to have the quality of self-control, or diligence or brotherly kindness. Each of these needs to be practiced and it is by practice that they become more a part of who we are. Instead of anger, it becomes our natural response to be kind. Instead of hatred, we return love. Temptations that once assailed us, will no longer have control over us, because our diligence and self-control are stronger.

…they render you, neither useless nor unfruitful…

If those qualities are increasing, then we are neither useless nor unfruitful. We are often encouraged to be about the Lord’s business, whether that means sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, or being involved in a ministry for the homeless. It really doesn’t matter what we do, as long as these qualities are increasing in our lives. Being fruitful isn’t just about the souls we are going to take to heaven with us, it is about glorifying God in all we do and say.

When I was a student at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL the president at the time often used the terminology, “being a person of excellence.” For some reason, that has always stuck with me. The reason we want to be a person of excellence, is because of who we are representing. It makes sense to me, that if the qualities of diligence, godliness, self-control, and so on are increasing, we will automatically be useful and fruitful.

so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
— Colossians 1:10 (NASB)

This verse from Colossians also talks about increasing, specifically in the knowledge of God. It also talks about bearing fruit. This idea of increasing in the knowledge of God and bearing fruit, seems to go hand in hand. Maybe that will need to be looked into at a future date. That brings me to the last phrase of this verse.

…in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Once again, knowledge. Not just any old knowledge, but the true knowledge of Christ. There is plenty of untruth in the world. There is falsehood, lies and a twisting of the truth. People say there are no moral absolutes and everyone should be able to do whatever they want. That would be fine, if every single person was increasing in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, there are many false teachers and false teachings out there. Often, they are dressed in robes of that look godly, but really are not. All the more reason, we need to be diligent, increasing in these qualities and truly learning more of God, by studying His word, the Bible.

How do we increase in this knowledge? Reading the Bible, prayer and fellowship are good practices to get into. Don’t just read your Bible, study it. Don’t just pray, but do spiritual warfare when you pray. Find a church where you can actually worship and hang out with other like-minded, godly individuals. In addition, ask God to show you which of these qualities you need to be increasing in.

I hope you are enjoying this study of 2 Peter 1:1-11. Have a great day and check back again next week.

Mulling It Over - Part 6

It is always refreshing when we can learn something new. It is also good for our brains. As we age things in our bodies change and that includes in our brains. That is why I like to do this blog. It has helped me learn many new things, such as how to build a post and actually get it out there where you can see it. It also has given me the opportunity to go back to Scripture and learn new things. I am a graduate of Moody Bible Institute. I was brought up in a Bible believing church where the word was preached every time the doors were open. My husband and i brought our children up in a Bible based church where both of our daughters were involved in Bible quizzing. To say that God’s word is important to us is obvious.

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However, that doesn’t mean life has been perfect. We have walked through some very difficult times and probably will walk through more, but then that is the beauty of a life walked out with Jesus Christ. He is always there, through every difficulty, and with each difficulty He brings new light and depth to our understanding of Him. It doesn’t matter how many times I have read through the Bible. It doesn’t matter that my education revolved around the Bible. Today, I still learn new things from God’s word, and that is exactly why I like to do this series.

Let’s review by reading through this passage in 2 Peter 1 again:

1 To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
— 2 Peter 2:1-11 (NASB)

Today we are concentrating on verse 7:

7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
— 2 Peter 1:7 (NASB)

…and in your godliness…

Last week I spend some time discussing what it means to be godly. We looked at how godliness enables us to persevere. You can read that full post here.

I’d like to take a closer look at this idea of godliness; what it is and is not. Let’s look at some verses:

1 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.
2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,
3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good,
4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these
— 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NASB)

We are told in this passage that in the last days difficult times will come. If you look at the descriptions that follow, we would probably agree that these times are already on us. The words that describe these “men” are, unfortunately, words that paint a picture of the daily news. Words like unloving, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, conceited….all describe people we either know first hand or that we have read about or seen on various forms of media.

The point I want to emphasize is in verse 5. “Holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power…” How many people do you know that say, “I believe in God,” but their lives show no evidence that they really know who that supreme being is? Their form of godliness goes under the guise of good deeds, kind words and harmony. There is nothing wrong with those things, but those things do not make us godly. Those things do not have any power.

It is true, that being kind and doing good deeds are beneficial. What a better world we would be living in, if everyone actually did those things, but it is God who makes us godly, not the things we do. As much as we don’t like to hear it and as much as we want to be the good guy, the Bible tells us that we are wicked.

9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
— Jeremiah 17:9 (KJV)
Pixabay

Pixabay

I found it interesting as I looked for this verse. I memorized it in my younger days in the King James Version, so that is what I was looking for. As I looked at various translations it was interesting to see the condition word that was used to describe the heart. These were some of the descriptors: desperately wicked, exceedingly corrupt, mortally sick, desperately sick, incurable, beyond cure, desperately corrupt. How does that make you feel? These are words God inspired to describe our hearts. So when it says that men are holding to a form of godliness, yet there is no power in it, it makes perfect sense. We cannot be godly without God, and it seems that the One True God is being shoved to the back seat, as an after thought, rather than a priority. For many, He is not even an after thought, except to take His name in vain.

…brotherly kindness…

I just got done saying that only God makes us godly, so why then is brotherly kindness attached to godliness? The Bible is full of examples of what modern day philanthropists would title a social gospel. Before there was a politically correct way of looking at the world, the God who created the heavens and the earth, had already put into motion a social system that took care of those who had to do without. If you are ever interested do a study of the complex social system God places on the Jewish people. This system did not allow the unseen to fall through the cracks. People were taken care of, either by family or by the community in general. If they didn’t have food, those that did were instructed to leave their excess for the use of those without. Brotherly kindness also transcends the bounds of our immediate community as it is an attitude that we can take with us any where.

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What does this have to do with godliness? The ability to extend brotherly kindness, reminds us of who we are. We are created in the image of a God whose lovingkindness is everlasting. When we look beyond ourselves to the needs of others we are doing what God Himself did when He offered His only son, Jesus, for our redemption. We cannot be godly, if we are not trying to become more like Him, by living our lives in the service of others.

…and in your brotherly kindness, love.

Many of you who regularly read God’s word are familiar with the 1 Corinthians 13 chapter on love. The chapter, which is all about the characteristics of true, godly love, ends with this simple culmination:

13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

— 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NASB)

How fitting that this list of characteristics of Christian virtue, ends with love. As Paul said in his famous chapter, anything I try to do without love, means nothing. All those acts of brotherly kindness will only reach as deep as our love for the people we are serving. Many acts of brotherly kindness have been done in the name of self. After all, doing things for others, makes us feel good. However, only real, godly love will make the acts that we do last. We can take water and food to people who have none, but if we leave having done, only that, the food and water will run out and the difference that was made will only be temporary.

Love fuels brotherly kindness. Without love we are a noisy gong or a clanging symbol; making a lot of noise, but not making an impact on people’s lives.

As you go about your week, this week, think about what you are doing. When you are serving someone else, is it a reminder to you of your position before God? Are you extending brotherly kindness, but doing so with love?



Mulling it Over - Part 5

Good day, everyone. Another week has come and gone and here we are looking at 2 Peter 1 again. Have you been enjoying this series? Have any of you done some deeper digging to look more into these amazing verses of scripture? Last week we mulled over verse 5, so on to verse 6.

...and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
— 2 Peter 1:6 (NASB)
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…and in your knowledge…

We often associate knowledge with learning. It used to be the case, knowledge came from reading books and listening to teachers. In our technologically oriented society, books are taking a back seat to online versions of obtaining knowledge, from YouTube videos to pod casts. I know on several occasions, my hubby has looked on YouTube to find a video on fixing a certain problem with an appliance or the car. These advances are not necessarily bad, but personally, I still like the feel of a book in my hand and the smell of a place filled with books, like a library or bookstore.

As I mentioned in last week’s post (here), the knowledge that Peter is referring to in this passage is the knowledge of God. While we can obtain that knowledge through a copy of the Bible in our hand, a pod cast, a sermon on YouTube or a digital app on our phones, true knowledge of God is found in a personal relationship with Him. Let me spend a few moments on this, as it will reinforce the rest of the passage.

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Having a relationship with someone requires knowledge. When my husband and I first started dating, all those many moons ago, we initially tried to get to know each other, by asking questions and spending time together. As our relationship moved from friendship to actual dating, our knowledge of each other grew and broadened. After we got married, this knowledge increased as life became full of circumstances neither of us had encountered before, like having children, finding jobs and owning a home. The same is true in our relationship with God. We don’t come to a saving knowledge of Christ and then just stop learning more of God. We are to be continually delving deeper into the hidden layers of this Almighty being. He is a mystery we will never know the full depth of.

…self-control…

Oh dear, there is that word. A few weeks ago we looked at diligence. Now we need to become more familiar with self-control and what it has to do with knowledge. Why would self-control be essential for knowledge? The answer is really rather simple, integrity. Let’s do a little word study.

Self - control - restraint exercised over ones own impulses, emotions or desires. (Webster’s Online Dictionary)

Integrity - the quality or state of being complete or undivided; firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values; incorruptibility. (Webster’s Online Dictionary)

In order for us to have knowledge of God, we must exercise restraint over our sinful desires. These impulses and the feeding of them, will not bring us closer in our relationship with God, but will put more space between us.

Going back to the marriage analogy. When you and your spouse married it was for better or worse, but those vows you took included the idea of being faithful to one another. They also revolved around the idea of love and honor, cherishing and encouraging. When we allow other things, whether people, work, hobbies or problems, to become more important than our spouses, we are no longer exercising self-control in our marriages. If we decide that other things/people are more important than the one we made a vow to, we will no longer know our spouses. Our knowledge of them becomes clouded and skewed. We forget that they used to have a favorite flower, movie, author, band or meal. Suddenly, we are living with a stranger in our house.

This same process of moving away, happens in our relationship with God. If we allow other people, relationships, job, worries, hobbies, habits or other to become more important than seeking out and spending time with Jesus, then our knowledge of Him will grow dim. The process is much like an old photograph that fades with time. What was once sharp and clear, becomes faded and washed out.

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As we saw in the definition of integrity above, we need to remain complete and undivided in our knowledge of God. We need to be incorruptible and the only way to do that is to stick with the One who is closer than a brother. We must use self-control to keep our desires, thoughts and actions in line. With self-control our knowledge of God will remain clear and pure.

…and in your self-control, perseverance…

This one is pretty obvious, but let’s take a look at the definition of perseverance.

Perseverance - continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition. (Websters Online Dictionary)

What is more necessary to self-control than perseverance? Most of the things we come up against where we need to exhibit self-control are difficult. Being able to persevere when things are difficult is part of the Christian life.

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
— James 4:12 (NASB)
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Let’s take this a step further and apply it to the real world. What are some areas that you struggle to have self-control? For me it is eating things that are not good for me, getting regular exercise, having a regular time to spend with God, praying and others. I have found that when I do not exercise self-control, I feel miserable and I also feel distant from God. It doesn’t matter how big or small, anything that regularly takes us further from God interferes with our knowledge of Him. We need to persevere in our self-control, to maintain our knowledge of Him.

…and in your perseverance, godliness…

I wondered why the word godliness was put in, this late in the game. I’d like to do something different for this word. Instead of just giving you the definition, I’d also like to give you a list of antonyms. Often, it is easier to understand something, when we can see what it is not.

Godliness - divine, pious or devout. (Webster’s Online Dictionary)

Godliness - Antonyms: faithless, ungodly, unholy, godless, irreligious, anti-religious, impious. (Webster’s Online Dictionary)

If we are not godly we do not have faith, and we are not holy. Isn’t the end result of our walk with Christ that we become holy as He is holy? If we have no faith, we are not going to be able to persevere. Our faith in Christ is what gives us the ability to keep going, especially when life gets harder than hard. While we all know that we are not perfect and cannot hope to be until we are home on heaven’s shores, we can have an attitude and a mindset of godliness. Let me clarify, this is not what some teach, that one day we will be gods. This is the truth that we want to be like God.

for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
— I Timothy 4:8 (NASB)

I would love to have your feedback on this verse. If you have the time, leave a comment or two. Until next week, take care and keep close to Him.




Mulling It Over - Part 4

Hi again! I hope you are enjoying this study of 2 Peter 1:1-11. Here is another look at the passage in its entirety.

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1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
— 2 Peter 1:1-11 (NASB)

The last few weeks we have looked at verses 1 & 2 (here), 3 (here) and 4 (here). Today, I would like to ruminate on verse 5.

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
— 2 Peter 1:5 (NASB)

As usual, I want to take the verse apart piece by piece.

Now for this very reason also…

I believe this phrase is referring back to the previous phrase in verse 4, “…having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” The fact that we are in the world means we are exposed to the corruption in it. We are bombarded with images and messages telling us we are the center of the universe and if we aren’t happy with ourselves we can buy this, or do that and all will be well. Unfortunately, there are also darker forces at work that we cannot see, motivating people to do things that are even more corrupt. Evil is targeting our marriages, our families and our children. Because of the corruption that surrounds us due to darkened hearts and even dimmer understanding of the truth, it is for that reason that we also….

…applying all diligence…

What do you think of when you hear the word, diligence? I think of teeny critters like honey bees and ants. These tiny creatures go about their business day in and day out, working to keep their hives or their hills intact and in working order.

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How does Webster define the word diligence?

steady, earnest, and energetic effort persevering application

I don’t know about you, but I do not always fit into the steady, earnest, and energetic effort description. I really struggle with being diligent in many areas of my life. I put diligence up there with discipline and self-control, which are also words I struggle with. But, here Peter is admonishing us to apply diligence. He’s telling us when it comes to the corruption in the world, we need to be steady, earnest and energetic in our effort to not become marred by it. We are to be like the ant or the honey bee diligently taking care of the people God has given us charge of. That may mean our coworkers, our spouses, our children or our fellow worshippers.

You should diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and His testimonies and His statutes which He has commanded you.
— Deuteronomy 6:17 (NASB)
Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.
— Proverbs 4:23 (NASB)
I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me.
— Proverbs 8:17 (NASB)
He who diligently seeks good seeks favor, But he who seeks evil, evil will come to him.
— Proverbs 11;27 (NASB)

The next few phrases refer back to the idea of applying all diligence. In other words we are to be diligent in each of the following areas:

…in your faith, supply moral excellence…

Why do you think the word faith here is paired with moral excellence? It is my belief that our faith can be easily swayed by the corruption in the world, because we do not adhere to moral excellence. Moral excellence encompasses issues having to do with morality, think Ten Commandments sorts of issues. Whether we are talking about murder, adultery, taking God’s name in vain, jealousy and others, when we begin to loosen our moral suspenders we risk being caught with our spiritual pants down. Our faith is only strengthened and grown as we continue to make morally excellent choices. In today’s world that is hard, but Jesus never said it would be easy. In fact, I am pretty sure that is why He inspired Peter to pen these words. He knew we would need the reminder.

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…and in your moral excellence, knowledge…

Once again, we need to ask, why is moral excellence paired with knowledge? Let’s face it, there is an awful lot of knowledge out there. With the onset of social media, Google and other computer applications we are able to instantly know about everything. Do you want to know what people think about a political issue? Open that can of worms on Facebook or Twitter. Do you want to know what the side affects are for that medication the doctor just put you on? Type it in to Google. Do want to keep track of your calories, your steps, your sleep or your water intake, there is an app for that. We have knowledge pouring into us in at a rate that is not only unhealthy for us mentally, but emotionally as well. If you want to see news stories and videos of people getting handcuffed or beat up, you can access it. If you want to know how to grow marijuana, you can find out. Some will say we are living in the enlightened age. I believe we are living in the burdened age. While it is true that knowledge is power, knowledge can also be a weighty thing to carry around.

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However, Peter was not talking about knowledge of the world. He is talking about knowledge of God. The more we know God, His character and His mind, the easier it is to discern what is morally excellent. in order to be diligent in our moral excellence we must learn of and know God. We do that by being in His word, praying, fellowshipping with other believers and by sitting under teachers who specifically adhere to the truth of Scripture and moral excellence.

Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;
— Deuteronomy 7:9
Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.
— Psalm 46:10 (NASB)
Know that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
— Psalm 100:3 (NASB)

Being morally excellent does not take on the guise of moral judge. What it does do is puts itself in the hands of the Perfect Judge and let’s Him take care it. Being morally excellent doesn’t mean never being tempted, nor does it mean never giving in to a temptation, but what it does mean is knowledge of the perfect forgiver of sins and the way to receive that forgiveness. Knowledge is essential for attaining and maintaining moral excellence.

There is so much more to be learned from these verses, as we could study each and every one of these words in depth. I would encourage you to continue study on your own. Do a word study of the words diligent, diligence, moral, excellence and knowledge. Feel free to share your own experiences with these words in the comments below.

Until next time, have a great Wednesday.













Mulling it Over - Part 3

Here we are again, ready to mull a few ideas over. I like the word, ruminate. If you have been following me for a while you know I have used this word before, when discussing the idea of Bible study. God tells us through the Psalmist that we are to meditate on His word day and night.

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This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success
— Joshua 1:8 (NASB)

Webster’s online dictionary gives several definitions for the word meditate. These two describe what it means to ruminate on God’s word.

1 - to engage in contemplation or reflection

2 - to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one's breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness

Meditation is basically giving deep thought to God’s word and allowing His Holy Spirit to give us His understanding of it. To ruminate, literally means - to chew repeatedly for an extended period. Whether you want to call it meditating or ruminating, getting into God’s word should be more that a passing fancy. It should be something we dive into with the intent of moving into the deeper layers.

Image by Free-Photos on Pixabay

Image by Free-Photos on Pixabay

Let’s look at our verse for this week:

For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
— 2 Peter 1:4 (NASB)

…For by these…

This refers back to the end of verse 3, “…Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” It is His glory and excellence to which the these refers. God is reliable. His glory and excellence cannot be undermined by any trouble or power on this earth. Remember in last week’s post we saw that His glory and excellence was personified in the person of Jesus Christ. It is His glory and excellence that lead us to the next part of the verse.

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Image by klimkin on Pixabay

…He has granted to us…

Once again we see God granting to us. This all mighty being wants to give us things. As we looked at verse 3 (see that post here) of the 2 Peter 1 passage we saw that God granted to us. He not only granted to us by His divine power, but now He grants to us by His glory and excellence.

Let’s just take a moment to think this over. Here is an all powerful being. His words brought this planet and all it contains into existence. His breath gave life to dust in the form of humanity. This humanity chose to rebel against Him. Yet…

…He loves us. He holds all that power and glory and excellence and yet, He desires to give to us.

Just what did He give to us?

…His precious and magnificent promises…

Look at the descriptors. Precious and magnificent. Let’s go back to Websters.

Precious - of great value or high price; highly esteemed or cherished.

Image by amyelizabethquinn on Pixabay

Image by amyelizabethquinn on Pixabay

Magnificent - marked by stately grandeur or lavishness; impressive to the mind or spirit; great in deed; exceptionally fine.

Image by 12019 on Pixabay

Image by 12019 on Pixabay

These words describe the promises of God. These aren’t cheesy, second rate promises. What God says, He will do. Who He says He is, He is. Who He says you are, you are.

All of us have been the recipients of broken promises. We’ve all experienced the disappointment of a parent, partner, friend or lover, making a promise and not proving good on that promise. We even break promises to ourselves. That is because we make our promises starting from a position of brokenness. God makes His promises starting from a position of divine power, glory and excellence. He can’t go wrong. He doesn’t forget, and He most certainly will not fall out of love with you. God always keeps His precious and magnificent promises.

Here are a few of those promises:

He will fight for you - Isaiah 14:14

He will give you strength - Isaiah 40:31 and Philippians 4:13

He will hold our hand - Isaiah 41:13

He will be with us - Isaiah 43:2 and Matthew 28:20

He will give us wisdom - James 1:5

He will forgive us - 1 John 1:9 and 2 Chronicles 7:14

He will give us eternal life - John 3:16

He will meet our needs - Philippians 4:19

He works things for our good - Romans 8:28

The list goes on. These are just a few of His precious and magnificent promises.

….so that by them, you may become partakers of the divine nature…

Whoa! Did that just say that I could receive some of that divine nature? Is that the same divine nature that granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness? In other words that divine nature becomes a part of me when I partake. I partake by taking the precious and magnificent promises.

This flow of thought and action just blows my mind. He gives, we take. He gives, we partake. He gives, and we become. So what exactly does it mean to become a partaker of the divine nature? Let’s take a look at the word partake:

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Image by Pezibear on Pixabay

1 - to take part in or experience something along with others

2 - to have a portion (as of food or drink)

3 - to possess or share a certain nature or attribute

I think all three of these definitions make sense when it comes to partaking of the divine nature. We take part in it. We have a portion of it. We share it with the Almighty. Doesn’t that make you feel rather special? Everything that He does for us, that He gives to us, is to enable us to be a part of Him, to share in His very nature.

This leads to the question, how do the precious and magnificent promises enable us to partake in His divine nature? This is my theory. When we become a Christ follower, by belief, we are then able to claim those precious and magnificent promises. When I claim a promise that God has made, I take it back to Him and I say,

“You have said this in Your word. This is a promise that You have made. I am claiming that promise as my own, believing that You will do it, because You have said it.”

Now, let me clarify, this is not a Santa Clause wish list. We need to understand that all of what God does is to make us partakers of His divine nature. He is not out to grant our every desire. He is not going to make life free of difficulty, but He is going to honor the promises He has made when we claim them, and as He does that He grants us a portion of His divine nature.

If you are uncertain what I mean when I talk about the divine nature, think about the characteristics of God; His holiness, righteousness, love, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, and so on. As we live life, claiming His promises and walking in His spirit, those characteristics will become a part of us in a more deeply rooted way.

Let’s look at the last piece of this verse.

…having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

Image by Kasman on Pixabay

Image by Kasman on Pixabay

Partaking of His divine nature enables us to escape the corruption that is in the world. Why do you think Peter was inspired to add the phase, by lust? Aren’t there other things in the world that cause corruption? If the idea of lust is an intense longing for something or someone, that pretty much covers most of what causes the corruption in our world. Think about things like stealing, murder, adultery, jealousy, anger, gluttony, pride, the list goes on. Doesn’t everything begin with the idea, “I want?” Didn’t the first rebellion against God start with the thought, “I want?” When we partake of the divine nature, our “I wants” turn into “He wants.” We become more interested in what God wants and what we can do to love and serve Him and others. How different would the world be if we all journeyed through life with the divine nature flowing through us, rather than the weight of “I want” holding us down.

I hope you are enjoying this study of 2 Peter 1:1-11. Be sure to check back next week for Part 4 as we look at verse 5.

I love hearing your thoughts, so if you have the time let me know what you are thinking. Have you every claimed one of God’s precious and magnificent promises? How did God come through for you? Do you feel like you are partaking of His divine nature on a regular basis? What does that look like for you. I’d love to hear from you.

Have a great day.




























Mulling It Over - Part 2

It was a good morning to stay inside. The temperature hovered at 32 degrees Fahrenheit making the moisture that fell turn everything into something similar to a glazed doughnut without the sweet taste. Even now, as the temps have risen to a balmy 34 degrees, the ice still lingers, stubbornly clinging to branches, wires, driveways, cars and buildings.

Ice on back door
Ice on branches
Ice on plant hanger

I am looking at a portion of scripture that I introduced last week in the New Testament book of 2 Peter. Peter, one of the original twelve disciples, authored 1st and 2nd Peter. Here is the passage again.

1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
— 2 Peter 1:1-11 (NASB)

Last week we looked at verses 1 and 2. You can see that post here. This week we will dissect verse 3. If you have not been a participant in my Mulling It Over series before, let me briefly explain how this works. I love to let the Bible speak for itself. The Holy Spirit gives us the capacity to understand scripture, so what I am doing is sharing with you what I have learned in my study of certain scriptures. I think is is wonderful to study the Bible in different ways, so I would strongly encourage you to do further research and study on various passages, but for this particular study we will just chew on what it says and let the Bible do the talking.

On to verse 3:

...seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
— 2 Peter 1:3 (NASB)

…seeing that His divine power…

The fact that it is divine power, means that it is power of God, not men or machines or whatever you want to use to fill in the blank. This power is from God. It is His to give and His to withhold. Here are a few other verses that talk about His divine power.

With Him are wisdom and might; To Him belong counsel and understanding.
— Job 12:13 (NASB)
I will instruct you in the power of God; What is with the Almighty I will not conceal.
— Job 27:11 (NASB)
O God, You are awesome from Your sanctuary. The God of Israel Himself gives strength and power to the people. Blessed be God!
— Psalm 68:35 (NASB)
Daniel said, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power belong to Him.
— Daniel 2:20 (NASB)

…has granted to us…

I looked up the word granted in Webster’s Online Dictionary. There are two specific definitions that I feel define the way the word is used in this sentence. The first says, “…to permit as a right, privilege or favor.” God has given us rights. He has privileged us and he has given us favor. It may not always seems like it, but it is true.

The second definition says, “…to bestow or transfer formally; to give the possession or title of by a deed.” God, in His great generosity gives us things. Just as a good father loves to give his children gifts, so too, our Heavenly Father derives great pleasure from giving His spiritual children gifts.

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
— Matthew 7:11 (NASB)
Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.”
— Ephesians 4:8 (NASB)
Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.”
— Genesis 13:17 (NASB)
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
— Matthew 7:7 (NASB)

So what, exactly, is it that God granted to us?

…everything pertaining to life and godliness…

The word everything is pretty all encompassing. We could all list things that we have wanted that God didn’t necessarily give us, so why does it say everything. The key phrase here is pertaining to. Everything pertaining to life and godliness. We all might think, now wait a minute, there are plenty of things pertaining to life that I haven’t been given. For example, a woman who desires to have a child, but is unable or someone looking for a life partner, but not able to find the right one. What about the man or woman who is out of a job and can’t find work, or people in other countries who live in fear for their lives and the lives of their children? Isn’t the ability to find love, have a family and have a secure, safe place to live all part of life?

How many of you remember the song, sung by Lynn Anderson, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden? Here’s a refresher if you have the time to listen.

The first few lines go:

“I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden

Along with the sunshine, there has to be a little rain sometime.”

It might sound rather trite, especially if you are going through a hard time, but there is great truth there. God didn’t promise us that we would have everything we want, or even everything we need. The power He has granted to us is the ability to live life, regardless of what difficulties come along.

Notice that the verse says everything pertaining to life and godliness. There seems to be a connection here which cannot be ignored. Godliness goes hand in hand with living life. We don’t become godly after life is over, we become godly as we live life. As many of you have already experienced becoming godly often happens during the most difficult portions of life, not during the rose garden moments, but during the monsoon moments. It is during these monsoon moments that God grants us what we need to keep living life, or the grace to give up.

Pixabay

Pixabay

There is nothing wrong with giving up, particularly if you have struggled and struggled. There are times that the giving up is more a matter of our pride than it is the desire to get what we want. We don’t want to look weak, or stupid, or unable to cope. We don’t want to ask for help or admit that this is definitely not what we thought life would look like. But it is okay! Come to terms with it, you are weak, sometimes your decisions are stupid and frankly I have had many days where I just could’t cope, but God has always been there through it all and that brings me to the last portion of this verse.

…through the true knowledge of Him who has called us by His own glory and excellence.

That divine power that grants to us everything to live this journey we call life and make us godly is only obtainable through the true knowledge of Him. In other words, it is through our acknowledgment and acceptance of Jesus as our Lord and Savior that we are able to live life and be godly. We can’t do this on our own and that is precisely the point.

God called us, each one of us, by His own glory and excellence, which was personified in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the crowing glory of the Father and Jesus is the perfect man, a man of true excellence. When we come to know Him by our faith in His virgin birth, life, death and resurrection, we are given the ability to live this life, no matter what it throws at us. Our loss is an opportunity for gaining more of Him. Our weakness is an opportunity for being infused with His strength. Our stupidity is an opportunity for learning more of Him and growing in His wisdom. Our deepest, unmet desire is an opportunity for becoming intimate with a Holy, loving god.

I hope this verse has given you hope. You are not living this life alone. He is with you, granting you the ability to live life, no matter what storm you are going through. Hang on!









Mulling It Over - Part 1

I wanted to get back to my Mulling It Over series, where I look at a portion of scripture, taking it apart in order to more deeply understand and think about God’s word. When we dig deeper into God’s word we learn new things. It doesn’t matter how many times we have read through the Bible. The Holy Spirit is capable of teaching us something new over and over. Searching through the scripture is often like going on a treasure hunt. My goal with this series is to discover some of the wonderful nuggets that God wants to teach us.

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Beginning this month, I want to take a look at the book of 2 Peter in the New Testament, specifically verses 1 - 11. Both 1st and 2nd Peter were written by Peter, one of the original 12 apostles. If you know anything about Peter, you know that he could be rather bull headed, overly enthusiastic and thick, but Peter was the one to which Jesus posed statements such as,

And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
— Matthew 16:17 & 18 (NASB)

Scofield’s reference notes from 1917, makes clear Jesus was not intending to build the church on Peter, but on Himself. Jesus’ statement to Peter was a confirmation of the faith he had; a faith that is necessary for all believers to have. The fact that Peter was privy to this information reveals the depth of trust and love Jesus had for this man.

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As a shepherd of the flock, Peter had the responsibility to teach and instruct the members of the early church. In his first letter he encourages the church through the difficulties of persecution, which Christians were facing at the time from Nero. Many followers of Christ were being used as torches, if you get my meaning. Peter speaks of hope and the grace of God.

In his second letter, Peter addresses the presence of false teachers and wrong doers within the church and suggests the need for growth in the faith and watchfulness for Christ’s return.

This week, I just want to introduce the passage and then look at the introductory verses.

Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

Take it apart:

Verse 1 -

Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

The author identifies himself by giving his name and then by giving his credentials. He is both a bond-servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ. These two descriptions say much about the man Peter.

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I have looked at this idea of being a bond-servant on an earlier occasion, but lets review. Another word for bond-servant is slave. Typically, a bond-servant is one who works for someone else without wages. Basically a bond-servant is owned by their master. Why would a person want to identify themselves with this moniker? The Apostle Paul also used the term bond-servant to refer to himself. The common denominator for these two is the person of Jesus Christ. They had committed their lives to Him in such a way that they identified themselves as being His slaves. They were sold out to the person of Jesus and knew their lives were no longer their own.

Peter also identifies himself as an apostle. One way to define the word apostle is to list other words that have the same idea. Words like, advocate, backer, proponent, promoter, supporter and herald, all are synonymous with apostle. Peter was one of the original 12 men who followed Jesus and lived with him during his three years of earthly ministry. This fact gives Peter a huge amount of credibility to speak about Jesus’ message to the early church and to us today.

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…to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours…

This letter is written specifically to those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. Many people today who are not proponent’s of the Bible claim that it is no longer relevant in our world today. They claim it is outdated, yet Peter, over 2000 years ago wrote his letter to those who were of the same faith as him. In other words, his letter is as real and living to us today as it was to the early church, for the very reason that we share a common faith in Jesus Christ.

…by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:

This confirms that same faith came about by the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Our faith in Him is secure because of what He did and who He was. Jesus is God and his life on this earth, was not to preach a social gospel. The gospel that Christ preached was not salvation from the hardships of life, but salvation from ramifications of sin. It is His death on a cross and his rising from the dead that enables us to place our faith in Him.

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Verse 2 -

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord

Who doesn’t long for grace and peace. We desire others give us grace when we are having a hard time. We desire peace from all the fears and anxieties that plague us on a daily basis. The author states that these will be multiplied to the readers in the knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord. Knowledge of God and Jesus are essential to knowing peace and grace. This is not a head knowledge that nods absently when asked the question, “Do you know Jesus?” This knowledge is a personal, burning knowledge that can only be obtained when we call Him Lord.

The idea of Lordship takes us back to the term bond-servant. Have you chosen Jesus as your Lord? Are you sold out to Him? Do you call Him master?

Next week we will delve into verse 3. If you have any thoughts on this passage or these first two verse, I love to have your feedback. Just leave a comment.

Have a wonderful weekend.












What Giants are you Fighting?

Last week I wrote a fictional piece that was based on a dream I had a number of years ago. At the time a girlfriend and I were doing a study by Mark and Patti Virkler titled, How to Hear God’s Voice. It was an eye opening study and I would strongly recommend it to anyone interested in delving deeper into their relationship with God. However, I will caution, this study is not for everyone. Some of Virkler’s practices and teachings might grate against those who are more conservative and traditional. It is my opinion that the concepts Virkler addresses are solidly backed by scripture and accountability, thus eliminating the possibility for misunderstanding or being led astray.

All that being said, at one point in the study, the author encourages the reader to ask God for dreams that are of Him and to journal and share those dreams with an accountability partner, which is imperative to the study. It was during this time, God gave me the dream about the giants. When I wrote the piece for last week’s post, which you can read here, I added a few details, but the essence and message of the dream is the same.

All of us are facing giants in our lives. Some of those giants may have us so entangled in their lies that we no longer realize they hold us captive. Many giants we face are brutal and ugly and others are merely just annoying, simply taking up large spaces in our homes and eating our food. In this post I would like to share with you a few of the giants I battle on a regular basis.

The Giant Called SELF

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This one is a doozy. He is huge and like an oversized octopus has his tentacles digging into everything. I find him lounging around my home, like he owns the place and am often at a loss as to what to do with him. However, the Bible is clear on the likes of this one.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit,
— Philippians 2:3a (NASB)

It says do nothing, from a selfish standpoint. That is pretty specific. I mean, shouldn’t I be able to do at least a few things from a selfish point of view?

I hear a giant growing.

I mean, isn’t my time, my time? Shouldn’t I be allowed to do what I want, at least once in a while? Don’t I get to wallow in the bad stuff that has happened to me? Don’t I get to voice my opinion? Don’t I have rights?

No wonder that giant has gotten so big.

Please don’t misunderstand there is a difference between taking care of ourselves and something called selfish ambition.

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.
— James 3:16 (NASB)

Selfish ambition is a seed of self centeredness that is allowed to grow…well, into a giant. What ensues is disorder and every evil thing.

Let me give you an example that many of you might understand. In marriage there is little room for selfishness, yet so often it is self centeredness that leads to arguments, misunderstandings and eventual break downs of relationships. I know! I am married and I still battle with this giant almost every day in my marriage. I believe that is true for two reasons.

1. Satan hates marriage and has no problem creating havoc in a marriage.

2. Marriage and family is, perhaps, the toughest proving ground for living selflessly. After all, any time other people are involved that closely the giant of SELF is bound to interfere.

The Giant Called FEAR

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This giant may be a home dweller for some of you, but for me he just sort of comes and goes. He’ll pop up when I have to do something different from the usual, like go to the dentist or meet someone new. Sometimes, he comes around when it gets dark or just when I am going to lay down for the night. All too often he torments me when I am alone.

Once again, the Bible is clear on this as well.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
— 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)

I quoted this verse in the New King James Version of the Bible, because that is how I learned it. I love the focus that this verse has. God is not the one who makes us afraid. Fear is from Satan. God gives us power, love and a sound mind.

Start listening to the news and you can tell people are afraid. People are fighting for power, dying for love and taking meds and drugs to create a semblance of a sound mind. Satan created fear and he bases fear on lies. Lies that say if you don’t have money or power or this or that you won’t ever have security. Lies that say, if you don’t dress this way or do this or that you’ll never have love. Lies that also say if you don’t have it immediately you aren’t going to be happy or that get you to focus on details that don’t even matter to such an extent that you can’t sleep or eat or think straight.

This giant is persistent and without divine intervention will be a constant companion.

The Giant Called DESPAIR

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This is probably one of the hardest giants to fight. He usually doesn’t make an appearance until I am so worn down I have nothing left to fight with. He often takes over where the other two giants leave off. When I have become focused on myself and am obsessing over my fears, then he steps in and I become hopeless. He often brings up things from the past and leaves me feeling useless and used up.

The Bible is full of stories of people who were sad and despairing. Job, Esther, Ruth, Naomi, David and many others felt the weight of having their souls in despair.

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.
— Psalm 42:5 (NASB)

Often when this giant is looming over us, we don’t even know for sure why he is there, but one thing is often the case, we begin to doubt. We doubt God and all the promises He has made in His word. This doubt is like candy for Giant DESPAIR. He feeds off of our doubt. That is why the psalmist placed his hope in the Lord. Only the Lord is a steady rock in a very shaky world.

Next week I’ll be giving a few pointers for battles the giants we face in our lives. Until then, don’t give up the fight!


The Making of Giant Stew

They were coming. The giants. I couldn’t see them, but I could feel their footsteps. Every step shook the earth. I could see the chain reaction of each large foot, even though I couldn’t actually see their physical forms. Trees shook, streams sputtered, even rocks seemed to shake in their places as the vibrations of those giant feet reached the ground all around me.

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I was terrified, running away from the sound, but knowing it was only a matter of time until they found me. They were hunting. The prey they longed for was me. They wanted to crush my bones and drink my blood. The thought, kept my feet moving, though my lungs were ready to collapse from the effort.

I stumbled to the ground, tripping on a branch that had fallen and become buried in the long grass. Breathing, panting, I got to my knees. What was I supposed to do? I had nothing left. I couldn’t run any more.

I heard His voice, “Head for the high ground!”

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I looked frantically around me. There were not many places to hide. A few trees dotted the landscape, but they would only become like broken down fence posts once the giants came through. I looked ahead of me. Off on the horizon, there appeared to be a small rise. It didn’t look like much, but It was a direction to go.

I stood up and felt myself collapse as pain shot up my leg. My ankle! I must have injured it when I tripped over the branch.

Thump! This time, I not only felt the vibration, I heard the sound of their feet hitting the ground. I had to get up. I had to move. The alternative was going to hurt a lot worse than my ankle.

I stood up, cringing and started to limp. Each step hurt, but eventually I knew It was this pain or death. I started to run.

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The small rise on the horizon didn’t look like much, but He had said to head for the high ground and it seemed to be the only hill around. I would like to say I ran without questioning, that I completely trusted His voice, and His wisdom, but I doubted. All the way there, the doubts in my mind were like the fire in my ankle, lapping at my confidence, trying to tear it down and make me falter.

But hadn’t He always proved himself faithful? Hadn’t He always been there in every difficulty and tragedy? Hadn’t He told me to be strong, to have courage, to not be afraid, because He would be with me.

I was Joshua, going places I had never been before, and I was afraid. Afraid of the giants that were after me, but more afraid that He wouldn’t come through for me.

I could hear them more loudly now. Their steps creating small quakes in the earth that threatened to throw me off balance. I reached the bottom of the small rise.

“What do I do now,” I shouted, my voice angry. “You lead me here. How is this supposed to end well?”

“Trust me.” His voice was just a whisper.

I stopped. Every fiber in my being wanted to lash out at Him. I was going to die. I was going to be giant stew, What was the point? Why had He brought me here?

I took a breath, remembering, when things were at their worst that was the time to breath and focus on His voice. I closed my eyes and breathed in. I could smell the earth, the trees, the grass, all around me and I could smell water.

“Take the high ground.”

I moved as quickly as I could up the grassy hill. There were only a few scrubby trees that would provide no place to hide. Going to the top of the hill would, in reality expose me further. I had made my choice. I was going to trust Him, no matter what the outcome.

At the top, I found a small brook, just barely as wide as my body. It was as clear as the sky was blue.

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The footsteps! Now I could smell their rank breath. They had to have seen me by now.

“Enter the flow.”

I looked at the stream, then I was in it. I laid back in its deep coolness, feeling it wrap around my tired, sweating body like a cocoon. My whole body was covered, except for my face.

“Enter the flow.” His voice was persistent.

Once again, I doubted. He wanted me to completely submerge? Once again, I was afraid. This was a place I had never been before. Is that really what He wanted me to do? What was going to happen to me if I did what He said? Would I die?

One thing was sure, if I didn’t do what He said, I most certainly would die and it wouldn’t be a pleasant death. To just lay back and enter the water…and enter His flow, I closed my eyes and went under.

When I was under, I began to count. How long could I hold my breath? Long enough for the giants to pass my little hill by? What if they decided to use the hill for a seat to rest.

But no! He was faithful. He always had been and He always would be. Even as I, once again, made the decision to trust, every part of my body exploded with fire. I thought perhaps one of the giants had stepped on me, but I soon realized this was not a crushing, weighted feeling, but a feeling of complete release and freedom.

“Go beyond belief, dear one. Go from belief and obedience to child-like trust!”

I had believed in Him, and He had always been there.

I had obeyed Him, and He always rewarded.

Child-like trust….

Even though I was submerged, I took a breath.

The fire entered my lungs and I was flung upward out of the stream. In my hand was a sword and on my body was armor that felt lighter than clothing. Through my body coursed a wind of fire that made strength move outward into every limb.

Now I was David and I was going to make my own giant stew.

(This was a work of fiction by Amy D. Christensen)

The song below is an oldie, but goodie. Petra has always been one of my favorites because their words are so sound. Enjoy!





Mulling It Over - Part 7

This is the final part in this series on 2 Timothy 2:20-26. If you are interested in the Parts 1 through 6, just click on each of the links. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6. Each week takes a look at one verse. Let’s dive in to this last verse in this chapter.

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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 2:26 (NASB)

If you read last month’s post you know that the preceding verse emphasized gentleness as the cloak which correction should wear. Today’s verse is a continuation of that thought. If we are correcting with gentleness verse 26 can be the result. Let’s take this verse apart phrase by phrase.

…they may come to their senses…

First of all, let’s figure out who “they” are. “They” refers back to the previous verse and those that are being corrected or more specifically, “ those who are in opposition.” What were these people in opposition to? Remember, this book was written by Paul to Timothy, a young pastor of one of the early Christian churches. Timothy was dealing with many types of opposition, some of which was to his ability to lead a church because he was young. Paul reminds him in verse 24 to not quarrel with these people. Quarreling, most often, only brings about more problems.

People who are in opposition to us may be jealous, insecure, angry, impatient or any number of other attitudes. These do not necessarily have to be non-believers. Those who are in opposition to us could be people at church, people we work with or even people within our own families.

Now that we know who “they” are, what does it mean to say “may come to their senses?” Have you ever been a situation where volatile emotions begin to escalate quickly? If you have been on the receiving end of those volatile emotions you probably have observed that the ones becoming volatile are not always making sense. Often when our emotions become compromised, whether through overwhelming tragedy or circumstances beyond our control we lose our ability to think rationally. It is best, in these situations, to slow the situation down by being calm and responding with gentleness. When we respond in this way, we often allow people the time needed to regroup and come back to their senses.

This same idea is true with people who are adamantly opposed to Christianity. We will not win them by allowing our own emotions to become volatile and hateful. Those emotions will only give them a firmer foundation on which to base their own reasons to say no to Jesus. We want them to “come to their senses” with regard to the truth of the gospel and the best way to do that is through prayer and gentleness.

“…and escape from the snare of the devil…”

There are people who say there is no devil; that the reference is merely to a fiction made up by people who do not want to take responsibility for their actions. “The devil made me do it.” For those of us who are Christ followers, we do believe in a real enemy of Christ known by names such as Lucifer, Beelzebub, Satan, and many others. This enemy is working in the spiritual realm to thwart the spread of the gospel and condemn the persons of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in the world we live in.

The snare’s that Satan’s sets are many, but generally involve lies and deception. His purpose is to prevent people from knowing the truth, that Jesus came to give His life for us and desires a relationship with us. Snares may involve lies about our standing before God, our purpose and the purpose of humanity and creation. His lies include words like secularism, humanism, and rights. There are aspects to all of these which are good, but more often they are a ploy to set our eyes on ourselves and the stand we took at the beginning of time to “be as God.”

“…having been held captive by him to do his will.”

What could be more disturbing than to be ensnared by an enemy who is so charming and subtle that even with the chains on our wrists and ankles we bend to do his will? Friends this isn’t just for those who don’t follow Christ. As Christians how many of us are ensnared to things like food, pornography, sports, hobbies or even our own creeds? Satan can just as easily use a Christian who is bound by legalism, as one who is bound by freedom.

Any of us can be held captive by our enemy, even those of us who are walking with Christ. Our enemy wants to hold us captive and he wants to hold others captive as well. But…

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
— Galatians 5:1 (NASB)

Mulling It Over - Part 5

It is that time of month again, where I take a look at a particular portion of scripture and ruminate on it by tearing it apart verse by verse. For those of you who following me regularly you know I have been wading through 2 Timothy 2:20-26. The books of 1st and 2nd Timothy were written by Paul to Timothy a young pastor of a growing group of believers in the early church age. The books were written to encourage Timothy in the face of disgruntled church members. Not only were there members who looked down on Timothy because he was young, but there were members who were living a less than moral life style.

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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)

You can see my musings on the first four verses by clicking on each of the links. Week 1 - Verse 20, Week 2 - Verse 21, Week 3 - Verse 22, Week 4 - Verse 23. Today I'll be discussing Verse 24.

24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
— 2 Timothy 2:24 (NASB)

Before we look at the traits of a bondservant we should take a moment to define what a bond-servant was in the New Testament time period. Note the following quotes from an online article regarding the role of a bondservant. 

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The term “bondservant” in the New Testament (bond-servant or slave in some translations) is a translation of the Greek word doulos. Unlike perceptions of modern slavery, bondservant or doulos is a relatively broad term with a wider range of usage. In the time of the New Testament a bondservant could refer at times to someone who voluntarily served others. In most cases, however, the term referred to a person in a permanent role of service. A bondservant was considered the property of a Roman citizen, holding no right to leave his place of service.
— from an online article "What is a bondservant?..." compellingtruth. org
In many New Testament books, the word bondservant was used in reference to a person’s commitment to Jesus. Most of Paul’s letters begin by referring to himself as a servant of Christ Jesus. James and Jude, half-brothers of Jesus, both refer to themselves as Christ’s bondservants. The apostle Peter called himself a “servant and apostle”
— online article "What is a bondservant?..." compellingtruth.org
The importance of these New Testament authors referring to themselves as bondservants should not be overlooked. Despite proclaiming a message of freedom from sin in Jesus Christ, these writers were dedicated to Jesus as their one master. Further, their service to the Lord was not one they could consider leaving. Just as a bondservant was more than an employee who could leave for another job, these Christians were servants who could never leave their master for another.
— online article "What is a bondservant?..." compellingtruth.org

If you are a committed Christ follower, then you could say you are His bondservant. It is something I struggle to be, in all honesty. I want to be committed 100% to my Savior and yes my Master...I am not afraid to use that word. We live in a world where the idea of calling someone Lord or Master is not pleasant and truth be told, there is no master that is worthy of our life's commitment other than Jesus. However, there is a disconnect between saying I want to be a bondservant and actually being one. Let's see what the qualities are of one who calls Jesus Master.

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1. Not quarrelsome.

Okay! I am disqualified already. How about you? As a wife, do you ever find yourself quarreling with your spouse? I think most of you know what the word quarrel means. It is not just a matter of disagreeing with someone. We often disagree with our bosses, other employees, our parents and people we are following on social media, but we don't necessarily quarrel with them. When we quarrel we are trying to make our point, not only heard but adhered to. 

Why do you supposed Paul brought up this particular characteristic with Timothy? I personally do not believe Timothy was a quarrelsome chap. In fact, I think it was because people in his congregation were opinionated troublemakers that Paul encouraged Timothy...don't even go there. It won't get you any where. Just like we looked at last month to refuse ignorant and foolish speculations, so too, we should not allow ourselves to become participants in quarreling. 

I find this is incredibly hard with our significant others. We often feel, that we have a right to spew at them, because, after all we are married and they have to take the good with the bad. I hate to tell you ladies, as the Lord's bondservants we are not to be quarrelsome, end of discussion!

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2. Kind to all.

Does that mean everyone? Yes. Does that mean that person at work that I absolutely can't stand? Yes. Does that mean that teller at the bank who is always grumpy and scowling? Yes. Does that mean that person I thought was a friend that talked about me behind my back? Yes. 

Kindness is one of the fruits of the spirit. 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
— Galatians 5:22 (NASB)

What that means is we have the ability to be kind, all the time, to everyone. Once again, the fruit of the Spirit is His fruit. It grows in our lives as we become better and better at abiding in Christ. As His bondservant we must be kind to all. 

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3. Able to teach.

We could argue on this point that not everyone can be expected to teach, because not everyone has the gift of teaching. However, I would like to interject that we are all capable of teaching by example. You may not be gifted to stand in front of people and give a lecture like my husband is. You may not be good at leading a small group and explaining to others what a Bible passage means, but you can be an example of love and kindness to your children or your grand children. You might be able to teach a younger woman how to cook, take care of her first child or patch a hole in her husband's sock. The point is patience and willingness. We can all be teachers of this type by merely being willing to take the time to show others love and kindness. 

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4. Patient when wronged. 

This is right up there with not being quarrelsome in the hardness factor. We live in a society based on rights. If you hurt me, I have the right to seek retribution whether by payment or incarceration. I am not saying criminals should not be punished. However, there are times that we as the body of Christ are just as hard or harder on our own brothers and sisters when they have wronged us as the penal system is on a criminal. 

I am sure Timothy, as a young pastor had to endure a plethora of wrongs done against him by his own flock. Paul's advice to him is just as pertinent to us today. It is not easy to be hurt or wronged and then patient in the face of it. We want an instantaneous fix. We don't want to be mercy showers and wait for God to move in, not only the other person's life, but ours as well. God is on our side. He is just and merciful and we need to trust Him when faced with this sort of difficulty. It is never the case that only one person has been hurt. 

13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
— I Corinthians 13:13 (NASB)

If you feel a tad bit convicted after reading through these four characteristics of a bondservant of Christ, then know you are not alone. I am walking this journey with you. I am glad that He is long suffering and He keeps working on us, after all we call Him Master. 

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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

 

Divine Appointments

We live in a society of planners. Architects design and plan buildings. Engineers design and plan roads and parking lots. Fashion designers plan for the next season always thinking ahead to the next color palette or trend. Even those of us, who would not call ourselves true planners make dentist and doctor appointments, write up grocery lists and plan get togethers with friends. 

Pixabay - checklist

Jerry Jenkins, is the author of a myriad of books including the Left Behind Series and numerous biographies on people ranging from Hank Aaron, to Luis Pulau to Walter Payton. He even assisted Billy Graham with his autobiography, Just As I Am. Jerry also owns and runs The Jerry Jenkins Writer's Guild, of which I am in my second year of membership. I remember one of the first webinars I took from Jerry, where he talked about the difference between two types of writers; the panster and the outliner. Like Jerry himself and another big name author,  Stephen King, I am a panster.  I write my blog and my fiction by the seat of my pants. Where as an outliner has a plan or an outline they follow as they write. Neither one is better than the other, they are just different. There is also a hybrid of writers who combine the elements of both styles of writing. They come up with a loose outline, but fill in details by the seat of their pants. 

Pixabay - typewriter

When we talk about making plans versus living by the seat of our pants, we can see that there are good points and bad points to both ways of approaching life. Planners, usually, get more done, but they are often so rigid in their schedules that they have forgotten how to enjoy the moment. Those who live by the seat of their pants are usually more relaxed and easy going, but often have projects piling up, because they neglect to develop a plan on how to get them finished.

We as Christ followers can often be guilty of both, planning too much and not planning enough. When I was a young mom, trying to figure out marriage, family life and eventually home schooling, I was often impatient and frustrated because I looked at life as a list of things I had to accomplish. This mentality become more pronounced as I home schooled our daughters from kindergarten through high school. I became a list person, which is a planner, if you didn't know! I think it is amusing that I could be a panster as a writer but in every day life, I was a planner. I loved to get a new planner every year as I looked forward to a new year of home schooling. I still love planners, but I'm not quite as rigid in how I used them. 

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What does God say in His word about having plans? Let's take a look. 

Commit your works to the Lord And your plans will be established.
— Proverbs 16:3 (NASB)
The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.
— Proverbs 16:9 (NASB)
Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the Lord will stand.
— Proverbs 19:21 (NASB)
The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, But everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.
— Proverbs 21:5 (NASB)

Obviously, God inspired King Solomon, the author of Proverbs to pen these many verses about planning. It is normal and it is good to have a plan, whether you are talking about retirement or about next week's meals, planning can be beneficial in saving us time, money and frustration. 

Unfortunately, many of us have made plans that didn't work out. We have been disappointed by failed relationships, ruined vacations and the chaos of life that constantly seems to want to get in the way of our well thought out plans. The beauty of being a panster, when it comes to real life is a drastic reduction in stress and pain brought about by waylaid plans. 

A mindset that has recently come about in my own life, is that of divine appointments.

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.
— Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)

If I really believe that God is sovereign, and I really believe that He is good, then I must also believe that every bump in the road and every plan that doesn't come to fruition, He already knows about and has a purpose for. How often have you had a plan for your day off and the day draws to a close and you didn't accomplish anything that you had planned? I see those hands our there! In addition to that, how many of you got frustrated because what you had planned got sabotaged by life....a child stays home from school sick, your mother needed your help with the garden, your teenagers and your spouse call saying that won't be home to eat that delicious meal you slaved to prepare....this is the reality of life. The question then becomes, am I supposed to stop planning? Do I just let life fly and go with the flow, like some sort of 1960's flower child, content to sit in the sun and listen to the music?

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Like so many things we talk about, I think the key here is, balance. I think it is important to have plans, but we also need to allow God to do that thing that He does best...orchestrate our lives. Recognize that those speed bumps that come into life are allowed by Him. Everything that comes your way, even the little annoyance and inconveniences, have passed through Him. This is even more pertinent when we are talking about divine appointments. These are those interruptions to our plans that revolve around people. 

Sunday, my Grandson came down with a nasty virus. I am the primary care person when he is out of school, as my daughter, a single mom, has to work a full time job. He comes to my house, when he is home from school. Sunday, I had plans for Monday. I was going to get ahead on my blog, do some writing and try to tackle the laundry. It wasn't going to happen. In fact, here it is Wednesday and the poor guy is still running a low grade temp, so once again, he is home from school. You know what? It's okay. Did my plans get ruined? Not ruined, just adjusted. When I look at life as a series of divine appointments, not only do I have an easier time adjusting to the bumps, but I also keep my focus on the author and finisher of my faith. 

Whether you are a planner or a panster, allowing God to direct your life, day in and day out, gives you the capacity to be less frustrated and more in tune with exactly what He wants you to do. Next time you have a plan and it gets interrupted, ask yourself, could this be one of His divine appointments, then let Him meet you right there. 

Seeing Him Who is Unseen

I am sure you have all felt the weight of life pressing in on you at some point or other. Maybe you have been blessed to have not felt it as heavily as others, or maybe you have felt as though life weighs on you like the water pressure at 1000 feet below the surface. My husband and I have had an interesting life. Not that we have done so many amazing things or traveled to so many amazing places. Golly, neither one of us has published a book or won the lottery. If you met us you would probably agree that we are not very exotic, however, we have gone through plenty of tough times together. 

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Pixabay

Before we married, we spent a summer in what was then known as Zaire, Africa. We both almost died after contracting cerebral malaria, the most deadly form of that vicious disease. We lived to tell the tale, got married and moved to Ohio, where Mark started working on his PhD. Only a year in, I found out I was pregnant with our first child. We lived in student housing and had no health insurance. God provided a place to live, a little two room shack on a river outside of town with a propane toilet. Piecing together numerous part time jobs, we had, not just one, but two babies in that little home, without health insurance. Our story goes on through various rusty trucks and cars, one of those part time jobs becoming full time and the purchase of the home we currently live in. Over the years we have experienced other heartaches, things that have tested our faith and our limits, not only as individuals, but as a couple. Even now, our hearts are daily burdened by the difficulties of family and loved ones. 

When Moses was born, this was the edict that Pharaoh put forth:

Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other was named Puah; and he said, ‘When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.’
— Exodus 1:15-16 (NASB)
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Pixabay

Moses' parents were not about to let their son be killed. Taking no thought for the King's edict they kept their baby boy hidden for three months. When they knew they could no longer hide the child, his mother put him in a basket and set him among the reeds of the Nile river close to where Pharaoh's daughter came to bathe. When she spotted the basket among the reeds she had her maids get it for her. When she saw the child, I have a feeling, she fell in love. She named him Moses and the rest is history. 

Recently I was reading in Hebrews and came across this story in the Hall of Faith, found in Hebrews 11. These three verses stood out to me regarding Moses' character. 

24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,
25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,
26 considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.
— Hebrews 11:24-26 (NASB)

There are several things we can learn about Moses from these verses. Let's explore. 

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PIxabay

1. He grew up in Pharaoh's house. Moses was by all accounts the child of Pharaoh's daughter. He was called her son, because the verse says that he refused to be called her son. Just think about what sort of childhood he had. He was raised in the center of the Egyptian kingdom. He was exposed not only to the wealth, pleasures and education available to the ruling house, but he was also exposed to the religious teachings of Pharaoh's priests. However, we find that Moses was not influenced by any of these things. 

2. He turned away from his position as an Egyptian to take his place among the Hebrews. I was struck by this. Moses had grown up with access to so much, yet he chose to go back to his roots. The Bible is not clear on how much time, Moses got to spend with his birth mother. However, I am sure during those special times she shared stories with him of the Israelite people and their God. Perhaps it was during these times that a flame began in his heart for his people and the One who would become his God.

3. He was looking to the reward. Do we know that Moses knew who Jesus was? No. Do we know that he knew there was an eternal reward? No. But Moses had a deep inner conviction that there was something and someone, much greater than himself or the Pharaoh of Egypt, ruling the universe. Who knows, but that at night, when the sky was black and the diamonds of the universe sparkled in its expanse that something in him, didn't yearn to believe there was so much more than just the grandeur of Egypt. 

This brings me to verse 27 of Hebrews.

27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.
— Hebrews 11:27 (NASB)

The morning I read this, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and discouraged. Life was doing its best to wear me down. From the original story in Exodus we are given a slightly different look at this man called Moses. 

11 Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren.
12 So he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.
13 He went out the next day, and behold, two Hebrews were fighting with each other; and he said to the offender, “Why are you striking your companion?”
14 But he said, “Who made you a prince or a judge over us? Are you intending to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and said, “Surely the matter has become known.”
15 When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian, and he sat down by a well.
— Exodus 2:11-15 (NASB)

The man described in Hebrews 11 hardly seems to match the man we find in Exodus. Bare with me, if you will, while I do a bit of comparing and contrasting. 

1. By faith he left Egypt vs. Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh.

2. Not fearing the wrath of the king vs. Moses was afraid. 

Those of you who are familiar with the Old Testament and the full story of Moses and the exodus of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, know there is so much more to the story than just these few verses. There begins a long, drawn out and complex relationship between God, Moses and the children of Israel. I am by no means a Bible scholar. My three years at Moody Bible Institute taught me many things, including how to study God's word, but there are still things that baffle me. 

The book of Hebrews paints Moses as a man of faith, fearless and able to endure, but I believe Moses became those things as he walked through the difficulties of life. I'm sure you have heard the idea that some of us are journey people and some of us are destination people. My husband is all about the end goal. I am all about the journey along the way. The fact of the matter is, we are all, by God's design, journey people. We all are walking along in this life, struggling through the hard bits and hoping to enjoy more of the good bits. We don't get to go directly to go, or to jump ahead to the end. It drives me crazy when my husband will read the last few pages of a book, just to see how it ends without reading the entire book....destination mentality. 

Moses became a man of faith, as he grew to know God. He became fearless as he saw God work and overcome. He endured because he saw Him who is unseen. The same is true for us. We become men and women of faith as we grow to know God better. We do that as we struggle on the journey, giving the difficulties over to Him and allowing Him to mold and shape us to be more like Christ. We become fearless as we see God work. We know there is nothing God cannot do. We also know that He doesn't always do the things we would like, because He has a greater purpose. Our fear disappears as we put our complete trust in Him and His goodness. Finally, we can endure because we can see Him who is unseen. 

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Pixabay

Today, if you are going through a hard time, try to see God. I mean really see Him. Delve deep into His word. Pray to know Him better. Wait on Him in the quietness. Depend on Him in the chaos. Let Him transform your mind, so that you can see with the eyes of your heart. At that point you will endure as seeing Him who is unseen. 

Mulling It Over - Part 10: Ephesians 6:18

Last month we learned about the sword of the spirit, which is the first of our offensive weapons in this passage on the armor of God. In this final post in my series on the armor of God I want to focus in on verse 18 and our second offensive weapon in our fight against the enemy.

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,
— Ephesians 6:18 (NASB)
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Pixabay

Besides our sword, which we now know is God's word, we have the offensive weapon of prayer. Let me take a few sentences to clarify the difference between defensive versus offensive. Defensive pieces are those which protect us from the onslaught of the enemy. Our armor, including the helmet and the shield are all pieces that we use to protect ourselves. Offensive pieces are those with which we can actually do damage to the enemy, through the Spirit of Jesus Christ. 

I think it is important to note that most of this passage in Ephesians 6:10-18 is spent describing the defensive pieces or the armor, which we are to put on. This suggests that our part as followers of Christ is to make sure we are battle ready and able to stand firm when the arrows fly. There are times when life is too overwhelming to actually fight back. Those are the times we have to let God, the almighty One, have His way and let Him fight for us. I firmly believe there are myriads of skirmishes going on all around us in the heavenly realms that we do not participate in. However, I also believe there are times that God calls us to pick up that sword and go to war. This leads us back to verse 18 and the offensive weapon of prayer. 

Let's look at what prayer does as an offensive weapon.

1. Puts us in contact with the commander. In what army are the soldiers not aware of who their commander is? From the generals at the top, to the sergeants in the enlisted ranks, soldiers are aware that there is a chain of command. They know who they report to and who reports to them. As Christians prayer puts us in direct contact with the highest head of all the armies at His command. Isn't that awesome? How much more time should we be spending in prayer, knowing that this is the way to get right to the top?

2. Places us under the headship of the Holy Spirit. When we really are seeking God and are trying to pray as He would want us to pray, we are placing ourselves under the movement and persuasion of the Holy Spirit. 

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
— John 14:26 (NASB)

Jesus tells us that the Helper will teach you all things. I think that includes teaching us how to pray. You might think that's a bit silly, but I'm not talking about saying a prayer before dinner or even reciting the Lord's prayer. I am referring to intense, battle worthy praying that gets us prostrate on the floor or pacing around the house with tears streaming down our faces and our hands raised in the air. This is Holy Spirit lead warring prayer. 

Please do not jump to the conclusion that I think this is the only time the Holy Spirit directs our prayer, because it is not. He leads us in prayers of worship, prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of confession and prayers of humble petition as well. But there is something about warring prayer that makes praying in the Spirit seem even more real. 

3. Perseveres for the saints. Battle prayers are most often connected to others who need our added strength to help them get through a particularly difficult situation. Verse 18 encourages us to: "With all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view (the idea that we are to be praying all prayers at all times in the Spirit) be on the alert (for the enemy, as well as for peeps who need our prayers) with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.

Did you notice how many alls are in that verse. I bolded them so you could see them more clearly. Whoa! This idea of prayer is pretty important. I Thessalonians 5:17 says, "pray without ceasing." There isn't a command that is much more straight forward than that. Don't stop praying. 

Praying does not mean that life will suddenly be filled with sunshine and flowers. In fact, often times when we begin the intense prayer of warring praying, we may find the enemy's assaults also intensify. Don't give up. It is even more important when the battle is continuous and overwhelming. Someone needs you to pray, maybe even your own self. Remember you are fighting because the Commander has called you to. He knows who needs those prayers. 

Many of you, like me are older. Your children are grown and you may no longer be as involved as you once were in their lives. Don't stop praying for them. Now, more than ever, they need your prayers, because one thing is sure, our enemy is a roaring lion seeking to devour. He wants our sons and daughters, our spouses, our grandchildren, our friends, our churches and our nation. If you can't sleep at night, God wants you to pray. If you have a few moments alone, God wants you to pray. If you are sick, you can still pray. Driving in the car, pray. Taking a shower, pray.

When you have gotten to the end of yourself and think you can no longer pray, then let go and He will pray for you. Now how cool is that? He will pray for you, until you are able to stand, put on the armor and go to battle again. 

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;
— Romans 8:26 (NASB)
and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
— Romans 8:27 (NASB)
who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.
— Romans 8:34 (NASB)

You can see the rest of this series by clicking on the links below. 

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, and Part 9.

Mulling It Over - Part 9: Ephesians 6:17

Last time in this Mulling It Over series, I looked at the beginning of Ephesians 6:17. This week, I'd like to mull over the last part of that verse. 

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
— Ephesians 6:17 (NASB)

The helmet of salvation was the last of our defensive pieces of armor. All of the defensive pieces are articles that are worn on the body, or as in the shield of faith, are used to protect the body from assaults from the enemy. The sword of the Spirit, is the first weapon listed. 

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Pixabay

We might wonder why God gives us so many pieces of armor to protect ourselves and only two weapons with which to actually attack the enemy. Obviously God knows what is best and I hope to illuminate why this is the case.

First, I think we need to look at 2 Corinthians 10

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,
— 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (NASB)

These verses clearly state the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful. In other words, our weapons are divinely empowered. In essence God does the fighting for us. Our job is to stand firm (Ephesians 6:10-13) and resist in that evil day. Our job also involves destroying wrong thinking and taking all of our own thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. 

Next we need to look at what exactly this sword of the spirit is. We all know what a sword is. A long sharp weapon that was meant for slicing, chopping and stabbing. It was meant to inflict harm and even kill. There are numerous types of swords from the Roman Gladius, to the English Broadsword, to the modern foil used in competitive fencing. For the most part a sword was meant for close combat. While we occasionally see in a movie a sword being flung long distances and making its mark, the sword is meant to be used when the enemy is at arm's length.

Pixabay

Pixabay

I find it interesting that God directed Paul to write the sword of the Spirit, not the axe or the spear, both of which were often thrown from a distance. The axe, especially one used during the Viking era, was often used in close combat to chop, hack and bash, but a sword enabled the user to finalize his victim with a well placed point to the heart or a slicing slash along the throat. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

This sword we are given to use is meant to be taken up when we are in close combat with the enemy. This sword is of the Spirit and is the word of God. God's word is a powerful, offensive weapon for us to use when we are face to face with our enemy, the devil. 

What does this look like in real life. I know for me, when I am really struggling with some specific difficulty, using God's word is the best way to kill the wrong thinking that is so often associated with sin. For instance, more recently I have had anxiety. Nothing new right? We all deal with anxiety. However, anxiety left unresolved and allowed to run rampant will becoming a raging bull, one that we will not be able to control.

When faced with anxiety I have learned to use God's word to remind me of His truth. His word says this in regards to anxiety and fear:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
— Philippians 4:6 (NASB)
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
— 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

I love the 2 Timothy verse in the King James Version because it uses the word fear and it also uses the phrase sound mind. What is more chaotic and confused than the anxious mind? 

Here are a few more scriptures that have to do with fear.

So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.
— Matthew 10:31 (NASB)
For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”
— Romans 8:15 (NASB)
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
— Psalm 23:4 (NASB)

These are just a few of the verses in scripture that deal with fear. Perhaps your issue is not fear, but anger, or lust or pride. God's sword is capable of delivering fatal blows to all of our enemy's minions. Let me say, it may not happen immediately. When I was in college I was struggling against several different sins that kept coming back to haunt me, but as I matured in my walk with Christ and began to take His word seriously I just kept using it when the temptations returned. Over and over, I stabbed and jabbed, sometimes on my knees, sometimes laying flat on the floor and sometimes pacing with my fist in the air, but eventually that sword did its job. 

Often when we struggle against the same recurring lies of the enemy it might be our "thorn in the flesh" so to speak, but God's word is still faithful, no matter how many times the enemy returns to attack us. If you have His Spirit in you and you are able to yield the sword of His word, victory will come.

Don't forget when you put on your armor in the morning to grab that sword before you walk out the door. 

 

Mulling it Over: Part 7 - Ephesians 6:16

Today in my Mulling It Over series on the Armor of God I am looking at Ephesians 6:16. This piece of armor is essential as protection. While the other pieces, so far, have been actual body armor - the belt, the breastplate and the shoes, this piece is defensive, but not attached to the body. 

in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
— Ephesians 6:16 (NASB)

Piece # 4 - Shield of Faith

There were three types of Roman shields. The legionaire scutum was a long oval or rectangular shield used by foot soldiers. It was particularly effective in battle when a group of soldiers would stand side by side. The scutum created a wall which was almost impenetrable. The shields could also be turned skyward to keep arrows from hitting their targets.

Pixabay

Pixabay

The other two types of Roman shields were the parma and the clipeus. Both of these shields were round. The parma was used by soldiers on horseback and was easier to maneuver. They were, however, made with an iron frame and were heavy. These eventually were replaced with the clipeus which was designed similarly to the Greek aspis. (This info was gleaned from this article by Graham Land.)

Pixabay

Pixabay

There are several points I would like to make regarding this piece of armor. Once again, I would like to dissect the verse to squeeze the most out of it we can.

1. In addition to all...

This phrase at the beginning of the verse causes me to think there is something important to derive from it. This would seem to refer back to the pieces of armor that were listed before hand. In other words once you have put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness and the shoes of the gospel of piece, now it is time...

2. ...taking up....

It is time to take up...don't just leave that shield sitting on the floor, or the bedside table or on a shelf in the closet. Get it out and pick it up. Carry it. Use it. Protect yourself with it. That is exactly what it is intended to be used for.

Pixabay - helm, sword, shield

3. ...the shield of faith....

So what is the shield of faith? Let's have a little discussion on faith. Faith is essentially belief. A belief in something or someone. For us as Christ followers we place our faith or our belief in Jesus Christ. When we take that step or make that choice to believe we now have faith. 

Everyone has some sort of faith. When you go to sit in a chair you have faith the chair will hold you. When you get up in the morning you have faith the sun will rise. We have faith in the medicine we take, the food we eat and the police that keep us safe. 

Our faith in Jesus is much deeper and more life changing that the faith that allows me to sit in a chair. My faith is in Christ, a person. Yes He is also God, which is a real plus!

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval.By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.
— Hebrews 11:1-3 (NASB)

Why does Paul refer to our faith as a shield? Ask yourself this question, what would my life be like without my faith? My answer would be, empty. A living and active faith, one that believes in a living and active God, fills our life with the breath of the Almighty and the firm foundation of a risen Savior. My faith affects everything I do, or at least it should. It should affect our choices, what we do, where we go, how we act and react. There are 378 verses in the Bible that contain the word faith (or a derivation such as faithful or faithfully, etc.). There are 259 verses in the Bible that use the word believe

Now, think about the things that affect your faith. What sorts of things shake you? What events challenge your faith? What difficulties crimp your faith and which ones cause your faith to grow? Can you think of a time that you started to doubt? Doubt that God exists, cares or loves you? Imagine if you allowed that doubt to grow? What would happen to your faith and what would happen to your life?

Faith is our shield. To fully understand how this works, let's look at the last part of Ephesians 6:16.

Pixabay - arrow/archer

4. ...with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

Whoa! That's some pretty hefty battle damage, extinguishing all the flaming arrows of the evil one! It doesn't say one or two arrows, or even a few dozen, it says all. This shield of faith is capable of combatting any arrow Satan throws at us. Did you get that? All the flaming arrows.

If you want to know what these arrows look like, think about any negative thought that pops into your mind: worry, fear, despair, hopelessness, envy, lust, anger, malice, gossip....I'm sure you can add more. These are Satan's arrows. It is our faith that protects us from these fire tipped barbs. 

"I'm worried about my job....God says do not be anxious."

"I'm afraid...God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind."

"I feel hopeless...my hope is in the Lord."

"I wish I had that...as Paul said, 'Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.'"

"I am so angry...God's word says to cease from anger and forsake wrath, fretting only leads to evil doing."

Satan knows the greatest battle is in our mind. Look at the world we live in. Opposing ideologies, racism, terrorism, acceptance of so many things that were once seen as taboo. It would seem that our enemy is walking out in the open, reveling in every moment. Even Christians are being taken in by the lies of our enemy. That is exactly why we need to raise our shield of faith. 

It is my faith in God and His word, that enables me to take up the shield and use it against my enemy. We need to recognize the fiery arrows of our enemy and raise our shield against him. Battle on warriors! Battle on!