Traits of a Godly Person - Goodness

I am skipping from 2 Peter 1 to Galatians 5. I thought it would be useful to talk about goodness while we were still mulling over the idea of virtue. A question comes to mind when looking at these two words side by side. Can a person be virtuous without being good? Can a person be good without being virtuous? It seems to me these two words are very closely related, almost like two peas in a pod. Each one is distinctly its own thing, but they are two parts of a larger entity, which I will call morality. Can we truly have morality without having virtue and goodness?

Image by  Ruslana Babenko  from  Pixabay

Image by Ruslana Babenko from Pixabay

Websters Online Dictionary defines the noun goodness in this way:

1 - the quality or state of being kind, honest, generous, helpful, etc

2 - the quality or state of being useful or effective

From a philosophical perspective, the word goodness and the word virtue are two distinctly different things. A person can be virtuous, meaning they have the qualities of courage, diligence, chastity and so on without being a good person. A person can also be virtuous, but not necessarily good at it. For instance, if a person bravely runs into a burning building to save someone, we would say he has the virtue of bravery, but if he trips and falls and dies in the fire and never saves the person, we would also say he wasn’t very good at following through on that bravery. Even though, I am married to a philosophy professor, I have no desire to go any deeper into the intricacies of virtue and goodness, other than to point out they are two distinct things and one does not necessarily depend on the other.

For this post, I want to stick to the idea of what goodness looks like as a state of being and as a state of doing.

1 - Goodness as a State of Being

It is my personal opinion that in order to be good and express acts of goodness, we must first be good inside. Think about acts that we would deem good: things like kindness, helpfulness, honesty and generosity typically grow out of thoughts that revolve around kindness, helpfulness, honesty and generosity.

Of course there are people who are deceptive and are not truly doing things out of goodness. They are manipulating the world around them by being good, in order to get something, even if it is the satisfaction of feeling like a good person. For this series, I am speaking to people who truly desire to be good and do good things for the sake of the gospel, or for the sake of doing good.

Image by  skeeze  from  Pixabay

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Let me interject here, that the Bible is clear on our goodness:

9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,
10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become
worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
— Romans 3:9-18 (ESV)
Image by  Sarah Richter  from  Pixabay

Image by Sarah Richter from Pixabay

Paul was writing to the Jews at the church in Rome, however, he included everyone in this group, both the Jews and the Greeks, or in other words, Gentiles. Anyone who wasn’t a Jew was a Gentile. So, you see, we are all sinners. No one is righteous. No one is truly good. Sure lots of people do good things and live their entire lives with honesty, kindness, helpfulness and generosity, but for the sake of this study, the trait of a Godly person is that it is a trait that makes him/her Godly, or in other words, more like Jesus. The only one who can truly make us more like Him, is Jesus Himself. That is part of why Galatians 5 lists the fruit of the Spirit. This goodness is His fruit. In order for us to live in a state of goodness, we must immerse ourselves in Jesus; in His words; in His spirit.

You might be asking yourself, “How in all of creation, then, are we really supposed to be this goodness? How are we supposed to live in a state of being good?”

I am so glad you asked, and I am even more glad that Jesus, through His spirit and His inspired Word, gave us a clue. Let’s look two more verses.

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
— Philippians 4:4-9 (ESV)

God has given us clear direction on how to get our mind going down the goodness track. Every word and action begins in our minds. What we spend our time thinking about will show in our actions. If we think about how many things are wrong with the world, with other people and even with ourselves, we will be anxious and frustrated. If we think about past mistakes and wrong choices, we will be consumed with guilt. However, if we think on these things, as Paul encouraged us to do, we will be more likely to be good people.

2 - Goodness as a State of Doing

Frankly, what good does it do to be good and not act on it. If we are truly good, this should lead us to take action. Those actions will include three areas: goodness towards our God, goodness towards others and goodness towards ourselves. Let’s look at each of these briefly.

Goodness Towards Our God

How is it that we can be good towards God? Just as we choose to commit wrong, we also can choose to commit good. Doing good towards God, would be refraining from choices to sin, committing time to prayer, study of His word and worship. In addition, doing good towards God would include the simple act of thankfulness. Have you ever tried to worship or pray when you are angry and upset? It does not work. However, as soon as we humble ourselves and begin to nurture a thankful heart we change and we bring honor and glory to our God.

Goodness Towards Others

It is easy to be good to people who are good to us, but what about people who are negative, ungrateful and demanding? Does that sound like anyone in your life? I think we all have at least one person in our lives like that. It is easy to hold a grudge; to begin to not like that person, and eventually to not do good to and for that person. God’s Spirit in us, is able to produce good acts, even when we don’t feel like it or want to be good, but we have to choose to let Him have his way and bring to mind verses like those in Philippians and others. A big chunk of exhibiting all of these Godly traits we have been talking about is yielding to His Spirit in our lives and in our circumstances. As we think on good things, acting with goodness towards others, the choice to be and do good will become more natural and Spirit driven.

Goodness Towards Ourselves

Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

In all honesty, this is probably one of the areas I struggle with the most. For me, it is easier to be good to others: customers at work, my family, friends, and others, but when it comes to myself, I am my own worst critic. My husband has this problem too. I have definitely softened towards myself over the years as the Spirit has brought me light on the topic of who I really am: created in His image, a royal priesthood, beloved and other wonderfully descriptive words. I still have days where I look in the mirror and am convince I am a cartoon character and should be residing in a comic book. I also have days where I feel so completely inept and unworthy, but these thoughts are not from God. (See my fiction piece The Tower, for a look inside my own struggling soul).

It is important that we give ourselves grace on a regular basis. We are not perfect. We are on a journey, just like everyone. It is also important to treat ourselves with goodness. Look in the mirror and thank yourself for getting rest the night before, showering to get clean and drinking lots of water. Make a mental list of your good traits; those beautiful eyes, pretty collar bones or shapely legs. Give thanks to the One who made you with an incredibly creative mind that desires to please Him.

There can never be enough good in the world, so let’s be sure we are doing what we can to make goodness, not only a state of being, but a state of doing.

Have a great day!



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.

Pixabay

Pixabay

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 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)

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. 

PIxabay

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. 

Mulling It Over - Part 1

Last year I did a Mulling It Over series on Ephesians 6:10-18. It took me a period of months to dig deeply into that passage on the armor of God. This year I would like to use the same format to dig into a few other passages that are worth chewing on slowly. According to Webster's online dictionary, the word ruminate means to go over in the mind repeatedly, often in a slow, casual fashion or to chew repeatedly for an extended period of time. That is what we are going to do with these passages. 

Pixabay - this little guy looks like he'll be chewing for a while!

Pixabay - this little guy looks like he'll be chewing for a while!

The books of 1st and 2nd Timothy in the New Testament were letters written by Paul to Timothy, pastor of the church at Ephesus. Timothy had journeyed with Paul on his second and third missionary journeys. The two knew each other and had spent plenty of time working and ministering side by side. Paul's purpose in these letters was to encourage and give practical advice and instruction for the pastor of a church. 

First Timothy presents the most explicit and complete instructions for church leadership and organization in the entire Bible. This includes sections on appropriate conduct in worship gatherings, the qualifications of elders and deacons, and the proper order of church discipline.
— Chuck Swindoll (from Insight for Living Ministries)

With regards to 2 Timothy:

Paul knew that Timothy’s task of keeping the church within the bounds of sound doctrine while encouraging believers to live their lives well for the sake of Christ would be an often thankless and difficult task. Though hardship would come, Paul wanted Timothy to continue in those things he had learned, drawing on the rich heritage of faith that had been passed down to the young pastor, not just from Paul but also from his mother and grandmother
— Chuck Swindoll (from Insight for Living Ministries)

Both letters written to Timothy are worth mulling over, but for the next few months, I want to look at just a few verses from 2 Timothy 2.

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)

 

Let me preface the discussion with a key point:

This was written to the church leadership. This is important to remember when we look at the terminology in the passage. I would add, it is written to any mature Christian, since it is included in the Bible. I added the word mature, because part of this passage talks about teaching and I think it is important that we have Christians who know God's word and not only understand it, but live it in leadership and teaching positions.

All that being said, let's take a look at the first verse:

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.
— 2 Timothy 2:20 (NASB)

How can we dissect this verse to squeeze as much out of it as possible? I like to take each phrase and ruminate on it. 

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Pixabay

1. Now in a large house....

I believe the idea Paul  is trying to get across is that the church is a big institution. We are not talking the physical size of each individual church, but the body as a whole. A large house, in Paul's day would have indicated power and wealth. While this is still true today (ever watch that series Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous), there can be instances of large houses that are completely abandoned. 

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Pixabay

2. ...there are not only gold and silver vessels...

This was another clue that Paul was making a comparison to a house of wealth and power. There were people in the church, just as today, who were wealthy. The church has always had a mix of rich, middle class and poor and it is often the rich and middle class who are giving of their surplus to aid those who go without. 

Gold and silver vessels were akin to us bringing out the good silver ware for a holiday dinner, at least that is something my mother used to do. I don't have any good silver ware. It is what it is. Ha, ha. But back in the day, this was an important thing to do when entertaining guests. Cleaning, polishing and making everything comfortable is the way we have chosen to honor the guests brought into our homes for centuries. 

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Pixabay

3. ...but also vessels of wood and earthenware...

Not all vessels are the same. There are gold and silver, those vessels used for special occasions, but there are also vessels of wood and earthenware. Are you following the analogy? Paul is not talking about actual cups and bowls, he is talking about people! All of us are vessels. Some of us are gold and silver. We are flashy and showy. We bring in a crowd or we brighten up a room. Some us us are wood and earthenware. We are stable, consistent and incredibly functional, but we are not recognized beyond that. 

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4. ...and some to honor and some to dishonor...

What exactly does Paul mean in this phrase? Simply put, we are all capable of honoring God, but we are also all capable of dishonoring Him.

Timothy was a young pastor and not everyone in his congregation thought he was up to the task. Rather than encouraging him and trying to work with him, a few of his congregants became obsessed with his age and felt he didn't have enough experience to properly pastor a church. He also had congregants who were involved in some less than savory things, but more on that next month. 

So what can we learn from this one verse today:

1. We are part of His body - the big house.

2. We are all vessels.

3. Not all of us are gold or silver. Some of us are wood or earthenware.

4. We are all capable of honoring or dishonoring God.

I hope and pray that as you read this post you will realize that we are all important in His body, or house - the church. I also hope you will see your worth. It doesn't matter who you are, what you look like or what you do as a job or how much money you make, you are important to the body of Christ. 

Have a great day!

 

 

 

Twoo Wuv!

Who can forget the iconic marriage scene from the Princess Bride?

If you have never seen this family friendly movie, be sure to check it out. It is everything we want in a romantic comedy...danger, sword fights, a beautiful couple and plenty of bad guys. It is one of those old fashion love stories where the couple truly lives, happily ever after.

Seeing as it is Valentine's Day, I thought it would be good to talk about twoo wuv, excuse me, I mean true love. Everyone is looking for true love. We all would like to find our soul mate, the one we instantly connect with and with whom we will always feel giddy and excited. Do you remember your first date? How about your first kiss? Weren't those magical memorable moments? And then one day you finally meet that special someone and you know they are the one you want to spend the rest of your life with. You date, get engaged, plan a wedding and get married. This is the beginning of your happily ever after....

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Pixabay

Fast forward five years. Who is this person you married and what did they do with that one you fell so madly and deeply in love with? They leave their clothes on the floor, whiskers in the bathroom sink, the toilet seat up, squeeze the toothpaste the in the middle, and when they finally think to replace the toilet paper roll, they put it on the wrong way. They don't help around the house and you could count on one hand how many diapers they have changed. What happened to true love and the happily ever after?

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Pixabay

The last two weeks, I wrote about The Real Romanceand Why is Love so Hard?  The first dealt with God's love for us and the second spoke more to our perspective on how trying to love in our own power is a very hard thing to do. I looked at 1 Corinthians 13 last week and I would like to take another look, in detail, at a few of those verses this week. Using these as a guide we can define what twoo wuv looks like. 

1. Twoo wuv is patient. 

Love is patient...
— I Corinthians 13:4 (NASB)

Patience is a virtue, as the saying goes, and it is essential in a loving relationship. Patience will cover many of those things that might irritate in a marriage, such as toothpaste tubes and toilet paper placement. If something about your significant other is irritating you, take a deep breath and let it go. 

2. Twoo wuv is kind and is not jealous.

...love is kind and is not jealous;...
— I Corinthians 13:4 (NASB)

I find it interesting that these two things are connected with a conjunction. Kindness is key in a loving relationship, just as is trust. I think it is very hard to be kind without the warm blanket of trust surrounding the relationship. There is no place for jealousy in a relationship. 

3. Twoo wuv does not brag and is not prideful. 

...love does not brag and is not arrogant,...
— I Corinthians 13:4 (NASB)

My husband loves to talk about things he's done in the past, as well as when he does a good thing at work. When we were first married, I often thought this was a matter of boastfulness and pride. I have learned, however, that some families have a tradition of story telling, much like many cultures of the past sharing their conquests and victories. Oral tradition used to be the way to pass on a culture's identity and traditions. 

Bragging and arrogance often go hand in hand. When thrown into a relationship they soon become a source of bitterness and frustration. Let's face it, bragging and pride usually are self serving and being self serving in a marriage doesn't not epitomize true love. 

4. Twoo wuv does not act ugly.

...does not act unbecomingly...
— I Corinthians 13:5 (NASB)

I know all about acting ugly in a marriage. My hubby and I affectionately call our first year of marriage, "the year from hell." Yes indeed! I have always been an emotional person. While the years and menopause have done wonders to temper my emotions, the early years were not pretty. I always had mood swings when it was "that time of the month", but being on the birth control pill contributed to emotional rants that were extremely volatile. My poor spouse must have thought he had married an alien or that a demon had come in when I said the marriage vows and taken over my body. 

Allowing ourselves to be "ugly" to our spouses does not create an environment of trust, nor even one of desire. Acting unbecomingly does not foster true love. 

5. Twoo wuv isn't selfish. 

...it does not seek its own,...
— I Corinthians 13:5 (NASB)

We are all selfish by nature. The Bible, says none of us are righteous and we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That sin nature expresses itself in the form of selfishness. If you think about all the bad stuff that happens in a marriage and even in our world we can probably link most, if not all, back to selfishness. 

Selfishness is basically the act or mentality of looking out for ourselves. There is a lot of talk these days about self love, and that is important, however, if self love becomes such a focus that it hurts and offends others, then it becomes selfish love. There is no place in a marriage for this type of love. Unfortunately, so many of us start out marriage thinking about what I am going to get from this other person, rather than being confident in our place with Christ and being a loving and gracious servant. 

6. Twoo wuv doesn't hold a grudge. 

...is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,...
— I Corinthians 13:5 (NASB)

I put these two ideas as one because what causes a person to be provoked is probably going to be the same thing that causes that person to hold a grudge. The word provoke, according to Webster means to arouse a feeling or action, or to incite to anger. If true love is not provoked then it doesn't become angry at the object of its affection. How many times have you gotten angry at your spouse? My husband and I have had to learn this one the hard way, by doing it. Ha, ha. Truly, it is not funny. Provocation and holding a grudge are a death sentence in a marriage. Even if you stick it out, like we have, it is very damaging. 

My husband and I have been married for almost 31 years and we are just now beginning to repent and turn away from these unloving behaviors in our relationship. We have a long way to go, but true love is worth the effort. 

7. Twoo wuv rejoices in the right things.

...does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth...
— I Corinthians 13:6 (NASB)

 What exactly does this mean? Certainly, there are all sorts of ways we or our spouses can be unrighteous. The goal is to not condone the things that we do or that we see in each other that are wrong. God wants us to be righteous and truthful, and even more as a couple, since many of us are examples to our children and grandchildren. 

I have found more recently that both my spouse and I have issues with wrong thinking. Meaning, we do not see ourselves truthfully, as God sees us, but as we think the world sees us, or as we see ourselves as coming up short. This is not good for a marriage. We need to be encouraging one another with the truth as it is written in God's word and rejoice in that beautiful truth. 

8. Twoo wuv is the bomb!

...bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
— I Corinthians 13:7 (NASB)

I love the insistent language in these four actions....bears, believes, hopes and endures. Isn't that just beautiful? True love does all of these things. Each of us have our own burdens in life and many of those come out of our relationships with those we love. But true love is called to bear those things, believe in God being able to work in those situations, hope in things getting better, but enduring if they don't. 

Please don't misunderstand. I believe there are situations where a couple just can't work out their issues and divorce may be the only option. Situations of abuse and infidelity are extremely hard to overcome without a great deal of counsel, and in those, each person has to recognize the problem and be willing to get help. 

9. Twoo wuv doesn't fail.

Love never fails...
— I Corinthians 13:8 (NASB)

The final point is, true love will not fail. That is precisely why, this love must come from a source greater than I. God is that source. It is easy to love when life is exciting and smooth, but the whole point of this passage, was that life can be very difficult and love that only sticks around for the smooth and easy times is not true love. 

I hope and pray that you are experiencing twoo wuv in your relationships. If not, I hope that you know, the One who created and exists as true love will always be there for you, day in and day out. 

 

 

 

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
Pixabay

Pixabay

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. 

Pixabay

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. 

Pixabay

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. 

Pixabay

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. 

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. 

Pixabay

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! 

Mulling it Over - Part 3

Right now I am devoting the second Monday of each month to mull over a particular piece of scripture. I have been working through Ephesians 6:10-18. In Part 1 I looked at verses 10 and 11. Part 2 covered verse 12. I know I am going slowly, but I feel it is imperative that we examine each verse carefully. This week I want to look at verse 13, but as a refresher, let's look at the first three verses again. 

Bible
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
— Ephesians 6:10-12 (NASB)

Now let's move on to verse 13.

Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
— Ephesian 6:13 (NASB)

When I was a young person taking English in high school one of my teachers would say, "If you see a therefore, you need to ask, what is it there for."

1. "Therefore..." When we stop and ask what is this therefore there for, I would say that it is referring back to what was previously stated. The apostle Paul begins this section of scripture admonishing us to put on the armor of God. What follows is a statement of just what sort of warfare we are up against. So important is this fact, that he says, "...take up the full armor of God..." This is the second time in just four verses that Paul tells us to "put on" or "take up" the full armor of God. Therefore refers back to the struggle against other worldly forces we are facing in battle.

2. "...take up..." This is an action. Passivity is not an option when dealing with spiritual warfare and being prepared for it. We have to be proactive. Think about the sort of training a soldier goes through when he enlists. He goes to bootcamp. Why do they put these men through such a rigorous training routine? They know that a prepared soldier is a soldier that will be able to fight. Bootcamp requires not just physical training, but mental and emotional training as well. If we were faced with a war we would want soldiers who know what they are doing and are not afraid to put their lives on the line. The same is true in the spiritual realm. We are God's enlisted men and women. Our job is to be prepared and then to fight. We can only do that by actively getting ready.

3. "...the full armor of God..." I love all the Marvel super hero movies, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, The Avengers are all fun to watch. If you think Iron Man has a cool suit, you haven't see what God has prepared for us. Tony Stark is a genius, but God created the mind of that genius! I know, those are just fictional characters, but you hopefully get the point. The God of the universe has armor and it is for us to put on. He created it, He knows it is our strongest defense and He knows we are capable of using it. 

StockSnap -  Michael Kulesza

StockSnap - Michael Kulesza

4. "...so that you will be able to resist in the evil day..." That sounds rather heavy doesn't it, but look around you. You don't have to look far to see evil. However, what I find interesting is that we must put on the armor so that we are able to resist. This means that evil will be appealing to us. We often think of evil as being the blatant things like Hitler terminating the lives of thousands of Jews or Jeffrey Dahmer raping and murdering men and boys then eating their remains. Yes! That is evil, but most of us would easily be able to resist doing those sorts of things. Why, then, does this verse say "...so that you will be able to resist..." I think it is because there is so much evil that comes disguised as something not so bad. Aren't pride, selfishness, hatred and gluttony also forms of evil? 

In addition to those forms of evil that walk among us like wolves in sheep's clothing, I also believe that evil has a way of waring us down, to the point where things become a bit fuzzy. Eventually we won't even know the difference between right and wrong

5. "...and having done everything, to stand firm." Once a soldier has prepared he knows that he will go into battle having done everything he can to be ready. Those of us who have signed up for this spiritual boot camp and the ensuing war need to be able to face the battle knowing we have done everything we can to be ready. This brings me to a question that I need to ask myself. Have I done everything to be ready? Will I be able to stand firm, or will I falter as soon as the bullets start flying? Maybe now would be a good time to get back into the Word. Maybe now would be the right time to start getting back to church. How about you? What are you doing to ensure that you have done everything to stand firm?

Next month, we'll start looking at the armor. Please leave me a comment below about what you are doing to make yourself ready for spiritual warfare. I love to have your input! 

Have a great day!

 

The Imperishable Prize

There may be no other simple six letter word that invokes so much stress and fear as change. Have you ever considered how much change you go through in a day, a week, a month or a year, let alone your life time? I was thinking about the changes that I have encountered in the last month. My daughter found a new job which changed her schedule, so that changed my grandson's schedule, which in turn, changed my schedule. Certain procedures at my place of employment changed, which changed how I did the schedule and changed the amount of time I had to spend working on the schedule. Changes are not always good. Sometimes, they are just excruciatingly frustrating. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

In the last few months my daughter and son-in-law have had both cars in the shop, my nephew who was supposed to get married, didn't, another nephew had a daughter which no one was aware of until the mother went into labor and my hairdresser decided to give up being a hairdresser for a different full time job. All of these changes in some way affected my world. Wouldn't it be nice to just go a few hours, days, weeks or even months without changes?

And let's not forget the change, that wonderful time period that all women get to look forward to. Weight gain, hot flashes, abnormal periods, oh the joy! 

Don't get me wrong, many changes are good. Giving up smoking or excessive sugar is good for your health. Ending a toxic relationship is good for your well being. Starting to exercise can, not only help your heart, but improve your mood. Reading can open your mind and imagination to new worlds and learning something new can help delay memory loss. Much of change is good and necessary. 

God does not want us to be static. Webster defines static as showing little or no change, action or progress. Our lives are supposed to change and grow as we come to know Jesus more and as we learn to trust and obey Him.

Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull .

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull.

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; 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.

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
— I Corinthians 9:19-27 (NASB)

The Apostle Paul was not only uniquely aware of change, he was an agent of change. Once a top shelf Pharisee, persecutor of Christ followers, he met the Lord Jesus Himself on the road to Damascus. You can see his conversion in Acts 9:1-19. This intellectual Jew, raised in the strict order of the Pharisees, became a Christian. He changed. He went from killing Christians to believing in Christ and becoming one of the greatest leaders in the early Christian church. 

Paul knew that change did not end the moment he became born again. He was aware that his faith was going to be an ever evolving and changing thing. His desire became, to become all things to all men, so that Christ might be preached. He wanted to do his best and he knew that meant working at his faith and his relationship with Jesus.

I am thoroughly convicted by the above passage.

1. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run - Really? Do I remember I am even in the race, let alone that I am supposed to be running. I am not a runner, but I am smart enough to understand that being in a marathon takes hard work, discipline and practice. What do marathon runners practice? Piano? Chess? Painting? No! They practice running. They run to build their endurance and then they run to increase their speed. So the first question I need to ask myself is, 

Pixabay

Pixabay

Am I running in the race or am I sitting on the sidelines being a spectator? I believe there are times we are on the sidelines. Runners get injuries, after which they have to take time to heal. As Christ followers and as human beings we get injured. We feel pain. And often that means we have to sit out for a spell. However, the analogy goes deeper. Let's say I am one of those marathon runners. My goal may be to win or just to make it to the finish line. If I fall and get injured do I stop or do I keep going? That all depends on the extent of the injury. We live in a world of hurt and pain. Our churches are filled with hurting people. Once in a while we get hurt by one of those hurting people. Does that mean I'm out of the race? Not if God is on your side.

2. Run in such a way that you may win - Winning? Hmmm. I don't feel like I am winning when I keep getting knocked down over and over. But think about it. A soldier who goes into combat keeps getting up and firing back until he can't get up any more. He knows the prize - to win the war, to keep people safe and protect human dignity and freedom. He fights for that to his very death because he is focused on the prize. So my second question is,

Am I running to win? - I have been. I am answering that question honestly. There are times in the last few years where I feel like I have hunkered down in a trench to hide and hope I don't have to ever show my head in the race again. But, my heart says, I want to run and run to win. Jesus' Spirit in me, is not going to let me give up, not if I really believe in the prize.

Pixabay

Pixabay

3. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things - Excuse me? What did you say? Self-control? What is that? You mean you want me to not eat that other donut? You mean you want me to take a walk when I would rather sit in front of the TV? You mean you want me to hold my tongue when that customer was extremely rude to me? You mean you want me to love, give and care even when there is nothing in return? So my third question (no, I don't know how to count) is, 

Do all things, really mean all things? - Uh, yeah! So true, but so hard to do! But what is the motivation? For the Olympians past and present it is to receive a perishable wreath, or gold medal. For a Christ follower it is to receive an imperishable wreath. To hear Jesus say, "Well, done." To me, that seems worth the effort. 

4. Therefore I run in such a way as not without aim. I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. - It seems to me we need to have a purpose for what we do...not without aim, not beating the air. Disciplining ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. My fourth question then is,

Pixabay

Pixabay

For what purpose? - Paul says it is so that he might not be disqualified. Paul didn't want to mess up, not for his own pride and reputation, but for his Lord. Our goal as a follower of Christ should be to lift Him up; to glorify Him; to turn people toward Him. 

What does that all have to do with change? Everything. Every day we experience change we can either take it in stride and glorify Jesus, or we can whine and complain. I know I am not always going to run with the aim in mind and at times I may even be beating the air, but I want to keep running. I want to remember why I run...for the imperishable prize.