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 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?



Just Stop It!

The past two weeks I started looking at how our thoughts have an affect on what we do or don’t do. I wanted to specifically examine this connection since the beginning of a new year is typically when we are trying to get back into shape, form new habits and reset ourselves to do and be better people. I have always felt that it is easy to start something new, but to keep at it is where the difficulty lies. To me it seems that our minds need rebooting as well as our bodies, so that we think differently about the habits and changes we are trying to adapt to.

Last week I looked specifically at three mentalities that most often prevent us from continuing a good thing. I call them Train Wreck Mentalities due to the fact that these mindsets often derail us from embracing a total life change. Being self absorbed, demanding our rights and not caring go a long way in causing us to crash and burn, rather than continue and thrive.

This week I want to give you two little words, but before I do, please watch the following video.

You heard the man. Stop it!

I hope that brought a smile to your face. Let me just say, this is not meant as an insult to people who struggle with mental illness. We know those things are a reality. Anxiety, multiple personality disorder, bipolar disorder, are all very real and most often have to be managed with counseling and medication. There are many of us however, who simply don’t think right and that is where our problems lie.

For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, “Eat and drink!” But his heart is not with you.
— Proverbs 23:7 (NASB)

This verse actually has to do with a ruler having you to dinner, but then begrudging every bite of food and every drink you take. He is a selfish person, only thinking about the cost of the soiree he is throwing and completely unable to enjoy it. The ruler says to eat and drink, but he doesn’t really mean it.

We are often the same way. We make grand proclamations.

“I’m going to lose 50 pounds.”

“I’m going to exercise 5 days a week.”

“I’m going to work on cleaning out clutter every day.”

“I’m going to become a millionaire by the time I’m 30.”

“i’m going to floss my teeth every night before bed.”

“I’m going to eat healthier.”

Pixabay

Pixabay

We make these proclamations, never really considering how much work and effort it will take to succeed. In reality, we can not succeed if our hearts, like that ruler’s, is not really into it. Here in lies the problem. Our minds can create all sorts of ways to succeed. We can make lists and draw up diagrams of how we are going to get it done, but if our hearts do not agree with our minds, success is going to be long in coming. In fact, if you are anything like me, you will just give up on certain things all together.

So, how exactly do we get our hearts to agree with our heads? The first step is to combat the train wreck mentality. In other words, just stop it!

Let’s first look at train wreck #1 - being self absorbed.

Stop it!

Wow. Wasn’t that simple?

Train wreck #2 - demanding our rights.

Stop it!

Whoo, hoo! See how easy it is.

Train wreck #3 - don’t care.

Stop it! Start caring.

Obviously, if things were really that easy we would all be doing much better and I wouldn’t be writing this post. The struggle is real folks and I am in there with you.

Next week I am going to delve into ways to stop the train wreck mentality, but for now, I want you to burn those two words on your brain…STOP IT.

When you want to give up the good habit your are trying to start; when you want to eat that second bowl of ice cream; when you want to yell at your kids or husband; when you want to bring home another hand bag, pair of shoes or sweater that you don’t need or you don’t really love, then think about those two little words.

Stop it.

Run them over and over in your mind and see if it helps you to make a better choice.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave me your experiences and wisdom in the comments. I appreciate it.






Gray

There are times where I feel gray. Being a fashion blogger I talk a great deal about color. Color is an important piece to the outfit equation. We usually don't say that an outfit has a non-color. Colors are colors and they all have names, whether it be orange, blue, pink or brown. We don't usually think of black or white as colorful, but they are made just as other colors from the absorption or refraction of light particles. 

It is interesting that colors have come to have certain associations. When we see red we might think of anger, as in a red head temper; or romance as in Valentine's Day. The color black can be classic and slimming in a pair of pants or hardcore and dark as in Goth. Yellow is sunny and elicits a feeling of summer. Light blue makes me think of the sky on a beautiful fall day, while red, white and blue remind us of the sacrifices many have made to give us freedom. 

But gray? What does that make you think of? What feeling does it draw from you? Sadness, depression or just a vague feeling of non-color. I actually own a number of gray tops, pants, shoes, bags and skirts. Gray is a wonderful color to pair with so many other colors whether it be classic and understated with black, or chic and elegant with yellow or purple. But gray as a feeling? Yeah, it's real. I feel gray. 

Gray day, water's edge

Some days, the gray is everywhere. The sky, the water, the land, my life, full of gray. Work, relationships, daily tasks, become a blend of various shades of gray. These are not shades of bad feelings, rather a lack of feeling. In some ways it is like being in a void, alone. They gray is not bad or good, it just is…just as I…am.

The gray becomes my focus, rather than remembering that gray is only a color. It doesn’t actually change the color of anything else. The trees are still green, my husband still loves me, my grandson is still a cutie, even when I feel gray.

Gray sky, rough water, sand

Other days, the gray is rough, gritty and cold. It pierces my being like the gray steel edge of a knife. This gray is unyielding, demanding I bend to its force. Driving me to my knees. Down here, nose to the gray, hard, ground, I remember, once again to seek His face. The gray drives me to Him, searching, wanting, begging to feel anything other than shades of gray.

Sunset behind gray clouds over water

He brings light to the gray. He opens a tiny window in the heavy expanse of gun metal sky. He raises a flower of light from the flat gray beneath my face, reminding me this gray will not last. It will be blown away by the breath of the Almighty One. He chases away the gray, raises me to my feet and breathes light and color back into my gray soul.

A gray day provides the best light.
— Leonardo da Vinci

So, it’s okay to feel gray, once in a while. It is normal, just like the gray fog, dark clouds and leafless trees are all part of the progression of life. Today, I choose to be thankful for the gray. God is still there being the light and soon He will again break through the gray, waking me up to His beautiful color.

Light arises in the darkness for the upright; He is gracious and compassionate and righteous.
— Psalm 112:4 (NASB)
Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.
— John 8:12 (NASB)
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
— Psalm 27:1 (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.

Pixabay

Pixabay

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

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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Pixabay

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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Pixabay

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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Pixabay

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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Pixabay

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. 

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. 

 

Mulling It Over - Part 3

Once again we are walking slowly through a particular portion of scripture. I love to take a small piece, maybe a few chapters, one chapter or in this case, just a few verses and completely devour it, seeing what we can get out of His Word. I always find it fascinating that God can speak to us anew, even from a portion of scripture that we have read over and over. Just like this horse is chewing up that delectable grass, we too can enjoy the delights of God's word. 

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PIxabay

We are looking at 2 Timothy 2:20-26:

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)

If you are just joining me today, you can go back and see the first two posts on: 2 Timothy 2:20 and 2 Timothy 2:21, by clicking on the links. Today we are chewing on verse 22.

22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
— 2 Timothy 2:22

This verse is pretty straight forward, but lets take a closer look.

Now flee...

Is there anything more able to get your adrenaline churning, than when someone yells, "Ruuuuuunnnnn"? Think about a few of the movies that have been on the big screen, Star Wars, Indian Jones. The Avengers, or how about the iconic Forrest Gump scene:

This is what Paul is telling us to do. Run as fast as you can away from those things that cause us to sin and turn away from God. We are to flee, like those monsters chasing us are going to eat us alive.

...from youthful lusts....

Paul was writing this letter to a young man, Timothy, who had become a pastor of one of the early churches. He encourages Timothy to flee those youthful lusts, or the things that so commonly grab our attention as young people: improper relationships, money, power, popularity and feeding our appetites are all things that constantly pull at us when we are young. It is sad that so many give in to these distractions, rather than waiting on God and allowing HIm to fill their every need. 

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Pixabay

Let me draw this out a bit further. I believe as mature Christians we can also be distracted by many things that are less than God's best for us. Think about the shows you watch, the food you eat, the things you buy. How many of these are done to fulfill our lust. Lust isn't just about sex. It is anything that takes precedent over our relationship with God. Am I saying you can't watch that show you love, or eat that cake or buy that dress? No, but we do need to allow God to monitor our actions and speak truth to us, if these types of things are becoming a problem. For some, moderation is easy, for others, myself included, not so much. Sometimes God has to rip things out of our lives to bring us into line with where He wants us to be. 

...and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace...

I decided to lump all of these characteristics together. These are four things we are to pursue. Behind us are the things we are to flee. In front of us is what we are to pursue. Righteousness or godliness, faith or belief, love and peace. We need to chase after these things as if they are rare butterflies that we are wanting to add to our collection.

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Pixabay

People who enjoy hobbies such as butterfly or bird watching, desire to see species which are rare or very rarely seen. It is their passion, just as a rock climber loves to scale mountains or an artist loves to paint or mold something out of clay. They have a passion about discovering or creating something new. In the same way we are to pursue these specific qualities We are to have a passion about pursuing God. He shouldn't be someone we occasionally think about, but a being we have a living and passionate relationship with. If we are pursuing the characteristics of righteousness, faith, love and peace we will be pursuing the author who created them.

...with those who call on the Lord with a pure heart.

Not only are we to pursue those characteristics, but we are to do it with others who call on the Lord with a pure heart. This seems to encourage us to be in a fellowship with other believers. My husband and I are between churches right now, but we both feel the need to get back into a regular fellowship. It is in the corporate worship and gathering together of like minded people, that we find accountability, stability and the sort of input that encourages growth in our relationship with Christ. 

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Pixabay

That being said, let me say, I know what it is like to feel as though the church let you down. Or, to feel like an outsider because of circumstances you had no control over. I get it, and sometimes God will draw us out of the body, to walk a path through a valley, in which we are alone, but I do not believe He intends that we stay there. We need each other, even if only to aggravate each other enough to pursue God with even more passion! Ha, ha.

I hope you are enjoying this study of 2 Timothy 2 and I hope today you will examine your own life and see what God is trying to say to you. Is there something you need to flee? Do you need to have more passion in your pursuit of God, or like us, do you need to get back into a fellowship with other believers? Seek God for wisdom and help. He is always faithful.

Have a great day. 

Beauty from Ash

There it was. A single, dark green leaf, beginning to unfurl. It had been conceived in darkness. A tiny seed that lay dormant, not dead, merely asleep in the cozy warmth of the dark earth. While it was sleeping the dragon had done his damage. He had ravaged the landscape, burning every tree and every living thing until all was nothing but ash. He thought he had destroyed life, but what he had meant for death, the One had meant for life. 

The ash lay heavy on the earth. It became, not a grave blanket of death, but a rich, comforting layer of warmth and nutrients. Gradually, over time, the rains came and the ash cooled and lingering life seeped into the black earth below. 

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Pixabay

The seed drank the death life and began to swell. Swollen and full, it opened, releasing a shoot into the fertile soil above. Pushing, struggling, reaching, it climbed upward. It knew, above the darkness there was light and the light was what it wanted. The light was what it needed. The shoot didn't know how it knew, but it knew it had to reach for the light. It knew the light would help it grow. It knew the light would give it life.

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Pixabay

Soon the pushing, struggling and reaching paid off. At the very tip of it's furthest point the shoot felt an odd sensation, warmth. It had only ever known the coolness of the earth in which it lay. It had only ever known the darkness, but now...now it reached. With one last ambitious push it poked through the earth and ash and found the light.  

*          *          *          *           *

Are we not like the seed? Were we not conceived in darkness? Did we not, when we were full with the nutrients of our mother's womb, the womb that would die after our life, death life, did we not move toward the light? We knew when it was time, as our mother's womb knew when it was time to help us, push, and reach and struggle, that we must find the light. We needed the light. 

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Pixabay

Why then, when we know the light is good, do we stop seeking it? Why, when we know the light gives us life and helps us grow, do we we hide from it? Why do we prefer to cover ourselves back up with the dragon's ash, trying to hide rather than growing to the potential that the One had meant for us? 

It is because we are afraid. 

Do not fear the light, or the One from which the light has its source. Rather, push, struggle, reach for Him. He will tend you like a tender shoot and raise you up into a mighty tree.

He alone can bring beauty from ash. 

(Written by Amy D. Christensen)

 

Our Great and Mighty Purpose

Do you ever struggle with your purpose? Do you ever feel as though the things you do are meaningless? Do you ever feel invisible? I do! I have struggled most of my life with feeling less than whole. I have too often been swayed by other's opinions of how I look, how I act or react and what my value is. Being a Christian does not eliminate the struggles, but it does put them in their proper perspective. 

You see, we are all sinners. We all fall short. 

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
— Romans 3:23 (NASB)

However, the blood of Christ made it possible that I can now have a relationship with God and with His Son. What does that mean for my purpose? It makes all the difference. 

A Christian worker has to learn how to be God’s man or woman of great worth and excellence in the midst of a multitude of meager and worthless things.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - October 25th
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Life is full of worthless and meager tasks. Cleaning toilets, doing laundry and mopping the kitchen floor all too often seem worthless. You know the cycle. Just when you get those dishes washed, another stack of bowls and spoons appear. Both our daughters are out of the house, so I am not quite sure how we use so many spoons. Ha, ha. Don't forget laundry. When the girls were growing up I made up a creature called the laundry monster and had a song that I sang when I saw him rearing his ugly head, Now that they are out of the house he is not as prominent, but those loads add up. And the cycle continues over and over and over. 

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Pixabay

If you have a job outside the home, it too can become seemingly worthless and meager. If you work retail like I do, the hours can be long, when the days are slow and the customers can be less than thankful when the days are busy. And the cycle continues over and over and over.

So how do we become those men and women of great worth and excellence as Oswald says? I think there are a few things we need to consider to realize our great and mighty purpose.

1. We are all human. There are very few of us who don't have to do dishes, laundry, take care of kids or aging family, meet the needs of a significant other or do some sort of work that wouldn't necessarily be considered fun. Obviously, there are wealthy people who can hire others to do many of those meager tasks, but they still have to bathe and groom themselves or at least wipe their own behinds when they go to the bathroom; a task that is not worth a lot, but we all do it or the world would be a pretty stinky place. 

2. We all start out ordinary. No one starts out as a movie star or the president of a company or a football player who gets paid millions whether he stands, sits or kneels. 

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Pixabay

All God’s people are ordinary people who have been made extraordinary by the purpose He has given them.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - October 25th

I love this thought, because not only does it put us all on the same playing field, but it also reminds me that God is in control. If you are a mom, God put you there. If you are a corporate VP, God put you there. If you are a missionary to a foreign country, God put you there. We must come to grips with this idea that God allows the good, the bad and the mundane. 

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
— Roman's 8:28 (NASB)

3. God is always at work. God's purpose in our lives is to make us into the image of Christ. He desires that we draw closer and closer to Him. What better way to do that than to put us in circumstances that move us closer to being what He wants us to be. 

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Pixabay

It is not that you have gotten God, but that He has gotten you. God is at work bending, breaking, molding, and doing exactly as He chooses. And why is He doing it? He is doing it for only one purpose - that He may be able to say, ‘This is My man, and this is My woman.’”
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - 0ctober 25th

4. Our great and mighty purpose is to glorify Him. Paul knew this was the case when he was transformed from a hater and persecutor of Christians to being one of the greatest evangelists that ever lived. 

...I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.
— I Corinthians 9:22-23 (NASB)

 

It doesn't matter where you are or what you do, your purpose is to glorify Him. How do we glorify God? We glorify Him when our actions, words and attitudes reflect the humility and love of Christ. 

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion,
2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
— Philippians 2:1-11 (NASB)

Wash that load of a laundry with a song in your heart. Change that baby's diaper with thanksgiving. Deal with that cantankerous customer with kindness. Write, walk, work, love, play to the glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

This is our great and mighty purpose. 

What Trees Say to Me

I often find wonderful lessons in the things that God has created. Take trees for instance. Have you ever noticed that trees stand with their arms constantly uplifted? I know they are not arms, but branches. Isn't it cool that when a tree grows it reaches for the sky. Obviously there are scientific reasons for this, such as the tree's need for light. The tree grows toward the source of light. Of course, if you believe in a Creator, then you probably would agree that God not only made the tree so that it would grow toward the light, but made it so that it could teach us lessons. What sort of lessons can we learn from a tree?

Pixabay - tree

1. Make your roots deep. Trees that have deep roots are better able to stand in the devastating storms that come along. In the past few years we have had a few strong storms come through our town. In the aftermath it is not uncommon to see pine trees laying across yards and roadways. Pine trees have shallower roots. It is harder for them to stand when the winds are fiercely blowing. So too, in our lives, the deeper we grow our roots into Christ and His word, the better we will fair when the strong winds of difficulty sweep through our lives. 

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2. Grow towards the light. As I said before, trees and all green plants will grow toward the source of light. Put a plant in the window and watch which way the leaves and flowers turn after a few days time. Or try moving the plant away from the window and see what happens. Plants need light. We need light as well. Not just the sunshine, but the light of truth and the light of a relationship with Jesus. Without light we will stop growing and spiritually we would eventually die. The light of Christ and His truth gives us the necessary nutrients and energy we need for growth. 

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3. Lift your branches up. The trees remember to praise God so why do we so easily forget? What happens when the storms come? The trees bend and sway, but their arms stay lifted up. If something as simple as a tree can keep its branches lifted up, as if in praise to God, even when the storms blow, then we can lift our hearts, hands and voices to Him also, when life gets difficult. I know from personal experience that this is not an easy task. There are times I would much rather curl into a ball to wait out the storm, rather than standing firm with my arms uplifted in praise to Him. However, God gives the strength, just as He enables the tree to stand in the mighty gale.

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4. Produce fruit. Whether it be the beautiful leaves that help produce the oxygen we breath, the nuts that fall to the ground in the fall or the many fruits from apples to oranges, cherries to peaches, all trees produce some sort of fruit. This begs me to ask the question, what sort of fruit am I producing? Am I a growing, living tree, producing beautiful leaves that bring life, hope and shade to a world that is weary and worn? Am I bearing fruit that is accessible for all to pick and enjoy? Are my words, my actions, my thoughts and my life bearing the image of the One who created all living things?  

Pixabay - fruit on the tree

5. Be the tree God made you to be. Not all trees are the same. There are so many varieties, shapes and sizes. No two, even in the same family are exactly the same. Look at one maple tree compared to another. Every branch is different. Every leaf is different. Not every tree serves the same purpose. There are hundreds of species of shade trees. There numerous fruit trees....just think of all the different kinds of apples we have. You are just exactly who God made you to be. Are you perfect? No! None of us are. God created you for His purposes. And just as a tree doesn't question how God made it, we can choose to thank God for how He made us and follow His lead to lift our arms in praise to Him in fair weather and foul.

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.
— Psalm 1:3 (NASB)
The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
— Psalm 92:12
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who is wise wins souls.
— Proverbs 11:30 (NASB)
“For you will go out with joy And be led forth with peace; The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, And all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
— Isaiah 55:12 (NASB)
For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush.
— Luke 6:44 (NASB)