On Focus, and Ignorance, During Hard Times

I decided to take a break from the Traits of a Godly Person series for this week. There are so many things going on in our world, and I often wonder should I talk about some of the more difficult issues. I like my blog to be a place of encouragement, whether it is to dress better or to grow in your walk with Christ. However, there are people out there, some of whom might be following my blog, that need a different kind of encouragement.

Life really can be stinking hard! Relationships are complex and often the source of our deepest and darkest pain. More often than not, people who are going through great difficulty do not feel at liberty to talk about the situations they are facing, which means, they are not getting any support or encouragement. People who are going through great loss, also, don’t always feel free to talk about their grief and pain. I’m not really sure, how we got to this point. Why is it that we are afraid to let people know that we are not okay? Why do we hide our pain behind a smile and tell everyone who asks that we are doing fine? Maybe it has to do with not being able to express the deep pain and sadness we feel. Perhaps we are afraid that others will think less of us, if we show them our reality. Maybe we are just too dang tired from trying to cope, that we’d rather not put in the effort to explain all that is going on.

Image by  lisa runnels  from  Pixabay

Image by lisa runnels from Pixabay

I think there is something much deeper and darker going on when we are struggling. Obviously, I believe in a real God and a real devil. I believe that Satan is our enemy and he is out to kill and destroy.

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
— 1 Peter 5:8 (NASB)
Image by  steffenwienberg  from  Pixabay

Image by steffenwienberg from Pixabay

Our enemy is compared to a roaring lion. Why do you suppose Peter used the idea of a roaring lion, rather than that of a snake or some other creature? Obviously, lions are creatures to be respected. A lion can easily kill a man along with a host of wild creatures. Peter didn’t just make the comparison of the devil to a lion, but to a roaring lion. There is significance in the roar. Roaring commonly means, “This is my territory. Don’t get anywhere near.” Isn’t that interesting? Our enemy isn’t just trying to trip us up, he is trying to make us his own. He wants to claim us as his territory.

There are two problems that come up when we are going through difficulty that really affect our next step and our way of thinking. The first is our own focus. It is incredibly easy to focus on our pain. It is, our pain. The struggle is our struggle. Why wouldn’t we focus on it? This is made even harder when there is pain, illness, anxiety and broken relationships. Job loss is hard, but add to that a divorce and a persistent gall bladder problem and you are probably going to be feeling pretty overwhelmed.

Let your eyes look directly ahead
And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.
— Proverbs 4:25 (NASB)

Why is our focus so important? When you are walking you need to watch where you are going. This is especially important if you are walking on a narrow road, a path along a steep gorge or across a Lego filled living room. in those situations, it might be important to not be looking at your cell phone, reading a book or closing your eyes. This is also true when we are driving. The need for this straight forward, pay attention routine is even more important when things are getting chaotic, such as heavy traffic or passing pedestrians or bikers.

Image by  Free-Photos  from  Pixabay

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

When we are going through the hard bits of life, or even through the longer pits of life, we need to keep our eyes on our Savior. In fact it is even more important to focus on Him when we are faced with difficulty. I have been reading, Abide in Christ, by Andrew Murray. I started this book a while back, got about half way through and got busy, so put it aside. When I picked it up a week ago, I decided to start again at the beginning. There is so much good stuff in this book. Read these two quotes:

It is not the yoke, but the resistance to the yoke, that makes the difficulty; the whole hearted surrender to Jesus, as at once our Master and Keeper, finds and secures the rest.
— Abide in Christ - Andrew Murray - Chapter 2

Remember how Christ tells us if we are weary and heavy laden we should come to Him.

28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
— Matthew 11:28-29 (NASB)

Murray was referring to these verses when he was talking about the rest that is secured in Christ. Now look at this next piece from the same chapter in Murray’s book.

With this grace secured, we have strength for every duty, courage for every struggle, a blessing in every cross and the joy of life eternal in death itself.
— Abide in Christ - Andrew Murray - Chapter 2

Christ is to be our focus. Come hell or high water, this Warrior Prince named Jesus, has our back for every duty, every struggle and every cross we have to bear in this life. All you have to do is come to Him and believe He will do it.

The other problem that arises when people are going through hard times is the ignorance of those around them. How many of you have been struggling with a situation, only to have a friend give you advice on how to solve your problem? How did that make you feel? If you are like me, when I was going through a very difficult time in my life, the last thing I wanted was advice. What I really wanted was an arm around my shoulders, a friend who would pray with me, not tell me they would pray for me, a sincere hug and two listening ears.

Image by  Anemone123  from  Pixabay

Image by Anemone123 from Pixabay

My dear friends, I can not emphasize enough how important it is to keep your mouth shut and refrain from giving advice when someone close to you is going through a hard time. Give hugs, give time, bring food, pray with them, listen to them. If they ask you for advice, then and only then, open your mouth and be sure you are speaking from the Lord, not from your own large vat of worldly knowledge. In addition to that, sincerely, truly and intensely pray for that person. You will not know all the details and that is okay. God’s bigger than you and will work it out. Just pray.

He who despises his neighbor lacks sense, But a man of understanding keeps silent.
— Proverbs 11:12 (NASB)
Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; When he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.
— Proverbs 17:28 (NASB)
Pixabay - hope

Life is difficult. Some of you are going through things that you never thought you would have to go through. Don’t give up. Keep you eyes fixed on the author and perfecter or our faith. And for those of you who are watching a friend or loved one suffer, don’t give up on them either. Pray, for and with. Love, help and even just sit in silence with them. For all of us, let’s remember this:

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



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)
Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/Skitterphoto-324082/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=2254970">Rudy and Peter Skitterians</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=2254970">Pixabay</a>

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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 5

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

...and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
— 2 Peter 1:6 (NASB)
&lt;a href="https://pixabay.com/photos/books-bookstore-book-reading-1204029/"&gt;Image&lt;/a&gt; by &lt;a href="https://pixabay.com/users/LubosHouska-198496/"&gt;LubosHouska&lt;/a&gt; on Pixabay

<a href="https://pixabay.com/photos/books-bookstore-book-reading-1204029/">Image</a> by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/LubosHouska-198496/">LubosHouska</a> on Pixabay

…and in your knowledge…

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

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

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

…self-control…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and in your self-control, perseverance…

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

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

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

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

…and in your perseverance, godliness…

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

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

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

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

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

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