Faithful, focus, godliness, God’s Word, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Now: How Are We to Practice Godliness in a Life of Tension?

In 2 Timothy, Paul talks about what will occur in the last days, or end times. Has every generation before now read this passage and thought, Is this now? I sure do. In a life of tension, how do we keep practicing godliness?



But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.

2 Timothy 3:1-5a, ESV

In 2 Timothy, Paul talks about the last days. Has every generation before read this and thought, Is this now? How are we we keep practicing godliness? Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #faithful #focus #godliness #GodsWord #life

Focusing on Godliness

It is hard to imagine things worse than they are right now. And who, aside from the Father, determines the length of “last days” as to how long they will go on? Technically speaking, any day after Jesus ascended to the Father could be considered the last of them. It is similar to the morbid saying that we begin to die as soon as we are born.

Nevertheless, what feels more pressing in this current reality is how much the church has allowed itself to be deceived. Yet would that not also have been the case in Martin Luther’s day? So, instead of focusing on the potential of these times being the “last,” let us draw our attention to the instruction given, and seek to do the opposite of the aforementioned verses.

  • Be others focused
  • Do not love money, or what it affords
  • Practice humility
  • Be gentle and kind to those around you
  • Show honor to parents
  • Be grateful
  • Diligently pursue holiness
  • Be compassionate and loving
  • Practice forgiveness
  • Seek reconciliation
  • Do not gossip; rather, be self-controlled
  • Be peaceable, loving what is good
  • Be trustworthy
  • Love God, and recognize Him as the giver of good things
  • Worship the Creator of pleasure rather than pleasure itself
  • Practice spiritual disciplines which can lead to true godliness, not merely the look of it

Helpful Warning

I am thankful for the monumental heads-up Jesus gave when He said we would have trouble in this world. Still more, I am grateful for the promise which followed—He has already overcome the world and has won the victory (John 16:33)!

Surely Paul would have taken this to heart as he encountered his own various trials. The brutal honesty in which Paul communicated the life of a Christ follower is refreshing. He could have stopped at simply disclosing the tribulations he endured for the sake of the Gospel, but he continually gave God the glory for rescuing him again and again.

My persecutions and sufferings that happened to me…which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.

2 Timothy 3:11, ESV

Faithfulness Now

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he encouraged Timothy to pay attention! He charged Timothy to persevere in what he was learning and to keep a close eye on what he was teaching the people around him.

Pay close attention to your life and your teaching; persevere in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.

1 Timothy 4:16, CSB

In the second letter to Timothy, Paul reiterated his instructions.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

2 Timothy 3:14-15, ESV

The Word of God gives wisdom for salvation, both individually, and for the people who hear. Even more, since Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), studying and applying its instructions is sufficient to understand how to live a godly life. There is no higher authority! What a provision of grace! But this grace is not just for ourselves. As we pursue godliness, our lives testify of faith in Jesus Christ which leads to salvation.

Chasing Fairytales

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

2 Timothy 4:3-4, ESV

These verses are palpable in today’s society. The time has come. It is now. All the more, the truth of the gospel humbles and comforts me! How often do I go searching for someone or something that will tell me what I want to hear? Justify me. Validate me. Tickle my ears. It is a slow decline over time, one where daily meditation on God’s Word is gradually abandoned. Advice is sought elsewhere, even a wicked way of thinking within myself.

Solomon talked about this trap in Proverbs: it looks like a sparkly fairytale, but it ends in death (Proverbs 16:25). Therefore, every suggestion, whether from our own minds or others, must be weighed against the Word of God. Does it align with His character? Is the purpose to bring Him glory or myself? Will following the advice move me toward godliness or away from it? Where does it focus my affections?

How often do we go searching for someone or something that will tell me what I want to hear? However, every suggestion, whether from our own minds or others, must be weighed against the Word of God. Click To Tweet

Worthy Pursuit

The main pursuit of sinners is self—looking out for #1. If the interests of the world are adopted (such as whatever the current American dream is) then the pathway to God has been deserted. The quest is no longer holiness but an evil adventure of heartily approving of the ways of the world. Avoid this way! Why? Because delighting in the instructions of the Lord have incomparable purpose and joy; not just for the life to come, but now!

The life of success spoken of in the Bible does not look anything like the prosperity gospel being peddled to the masses today. Unlike the godly person, the wicked do not prosper in everything they do (Psalm 1:3-4). Even when we cannot see it, God knows, because the Lord knows those who are His (2 Timothy 2:19). With that assurance, we can make peace with the constant tension of living a life for the glory of God.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?

Romans 8:31-32, ESV

Now, children of the King, press on! 

In 2 Timothy, Paul talks about the last days. Has every generation before read this and thought, Is this now? How are we we keep practicing godliness? Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #faithful #focus #godliness #GodsWord #life

unsplash-logoShashank Rana
God’s Word, truth, align, life, thoughts, speak, heart, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Align: Thinking Thoughts and Speaking Words of Truth

When our thoughts about ourselves and others align with the truth of God’s Word, the words we speak will be life-giving to those around us. 



As is so often the case, recently I’ve been learning a lot about this walk of faith through parenting my children. I have an eight-year-old son and a six-year-old daughter, who are precious, funny, and…challenging!

We just wrapped up a three-week track out period–on the year-round school calendar, this is the break that follows each nine-week quarter. The first week of track out went smashingly well…mainly because both kids went to a week-long, all-day camp that they love! However, for weeks two and three, the camp was full. So, the kids stayed home for two…entire…weeks! As a courtesy to the reader, I’ll spare the gory details and just say: it did not go so well.

When our thoughts about ourselves and others align with the truth of God's Word, the words we speak will be life giving to those around us. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #thoughts #truth #godsword #scripture #devotional

Dangerous Declarations…

There was yelling, hurt feelings, toy fights, and fussing and whining over…well…just about everything! At one point, I heard myself say in exasperation: “Nothing can ever just be easy with you two, can it?!” Immediately when I said this, a pit formed in my throat.

I realized that, as I was speaking, in essence, I was making some dangerous declarations about my kids and about myself. They were too difficult. I couldn’t handle them. Spending time with them was a chore I did not enjoy… And sadly, these are only some of the many negative declarations I made that week. (The final week went much more smoothly…more on that later.)

When I think and speak negatively about my kids, I create expectations and behaviors that I don’t want to be true of my family. Although they felt very true in the moment, none of the declarations I made align with God’s true desires for me or my children. So, in an effort to better shepherd these two little souls the Lord has given me, I’m more closely examining the thoughts I’m thinking. As well as the words I’m speaking. Ultimately, I’m finding that the interplay between these two critical areas directly affects not only my parenting but my entire life.

Thoughts…

The harsh comments I was making to my kids originated from the negative thoughts I was thinking about them. Each morning, I awoke dreading the long hours of the day which lay ahead. And trying to fill the time with creative activities to keep them both peacefully engaged, proved too daunting a task. I was constantly bracing myself for the next explosive outburst or heated bout of sibling rivalry. And as my thoughts were filtering for the bad, my mouth was following suit.

Constant preemptive refereeing ensued: “No, don’t play in the same room! I’m not going to listen to another argument from you two this morning. Stop throwing that in the house. You’re going to break something or hurt your sister again! Quit bothering your brother!…”

And because I was expecting them to behave poorly, indeed I saw a bunch of negative behavior from my kids. Scripture clearly describes how this happens. That which we hold in our hearts and minds determines the words we speak and the reality we see.

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

Luke 6:45

Align…

After the disastrous first week’s tremors subsided, I began to sort through the rubble. I picked up shards of cutting words I had spoken, sorted through broken remnants of hope for time well spent together, and took one last look at fading images of defeated thoughts that had been on replay in my mind. Sensing that the storm had passed, I now had a choice to make: I could either dwell on the previous week’s devastating losses, or I could look ahead to the next week as a fresh start. A new opportunity to align my thoughts and words to the truth about my kids and myself as a mom.

So, on Sunday night, I intentionally set my mind to have a better week. And how does one follow through on this kind of decision? Perhaps you’ve studied Joyce Meyer’s wonderful book The Battlefield of the Mind or meditated on the following scripture. If so, you know that it all begins with first noticing and then choosing which thoughts we allow to take root in our minds and hearts.

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:5

On Monday morning, the same heavy thoughts tried to take the stage yet again. But they were like an unwanted encore performance after the audience has left the building. I began to take each thought captive to see whether it lined up with the truth of the Word.

Paying closer attention to the ways my kids were playing well together, I began to praise their efforts–no matter how small– to cooperate and share with one another. And when I began looking for the good, guess what I saw? A great deal more positive interactions between my kiddos. And guess what I did a lot less of? Frazzled policing of their every move. By the end of the week, we had hit our stride. And for the first time, in what felt like a long time, I actually found myself thoroughly enjoying playing with my kids!

He’s Thinking Good Thoughts…

This might all sound like easy, Positive Parenting 101 stuff. But when we’re in the middle of what feels like an earthquake, sometimes it’s hard to remember the basics: find less fault, give more praise. And isn’t this how our heavenly Father guides us?

He isn’t constantly hovering over us, just waiting for our next mistake so He can bring down the hammer. Not at all. He’s a good Father who put His Holy Spirit within us as our constant comforter and counselor. And He’s quietly cheering us on. Looking for ways to praise and encourage us. Delighting in His children. And all the while, He’s thinking good thoughts about us!

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Jeremiah 29:11

So, here’s to thinking good thoughts that align with God’s truth about who we are. Beloved, when what we think aligns with His Word, we will speak life to our own hearts and to those in our midst. So, let this be our prayer:

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.

Psalms 19:14

What kinds of thoughts have you been thinking lately? Are the words you’re speaking giving life to those around you?

God doesn’t constantly hover over us, waiting for our next mistake. He's a good Father who put His comforting Holy Spirit within us; He's quietly cheering us on, delighting in His children! Click To Tweet

When our thoughts about ourselves and others align with the truth of God's Word, the words we speak will be life giving to those around us. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #thoughts #truth #godsword #scripture #devotional

Aaron Burden

All scripture references are from The King James Version of The Bible.

life, unplanned, choose, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, ministry

Life: Four Keys to Handle the Life We Didn’t Plan On

Life is full of unplanned detours and painful pieces. So, how do we handle life when it doesn’t turn out the way we planned?



Remember the 1994 movie “Forrest Gump?” Among the many quotables, Gump uttered the famous line: “Momma said life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” Those words could perhaps be the subject matter of a college exit course, especially for the students who think they have their lives mapped out…

Life is full of unplanned detours and painful pieces. So, how do we handle life when it doesn't turn out the way we planned? #chooselife #unplanned #spiritualgrowth

Unplanned Detours…

My husband and I attended a birthday party for the 32-year-old, handicapped daughter of some long-time friends of ours. This child came out of the womb with a heart condition, but mentally sound. However, due to complications and lack of oxygen during heart surgery days later, her brain was then affected. She is the youngest of three. Our friends did not have taking care of a multiple-handicapped child in their life plan, but you know what? They adjusted. They sacrificed, worked extra hours and extra years. I’ve never heard one complaint from their lips. Their other 2 children, and now their sons-in-law and grandchildren love her deeply. Life without her can’t be imagined, despite the hardship. And one day, when mom and dad are gone, one of those sisters will take over her care.

A reunion was held at the church where Gary and I grew up and raised our children. We saw many old friends, some who have experienced great hardships since we have last seen them.  One woman had been in a motorcycle accident and lost her leg two years ago, but stood before me thanking God that her life was spared. Another friend who had dated my brother-in-law decades ago is now running a business while taking care of a husband and a grandmother who both have dementia!

I have a chronic medical condition. Symptoms began not long after I started a career/ministry I loved – definitely not in my plans. For a while after I was diagnosed, I stopped participating in life, but not completely because of my illness. I was more limited by the meaning I had assigned to the illness and the power I gave the meaning.

Painful Pieces…

The reality of life is this – it isn’t only to be lived by well people, or people who have their lives going as planned, or the super intelligent or the super spiritual.

In the early stages of my illness, (and sometimes during tough seasons!) I did not choose life in whatever form God chose to give it. I wanted to pick and choose the life I wanted.

Rachel Remen, M.D. said in her beautiful book, Kitchen Table Wisdom:

When I accepted certain parts of life and denied and ignored the rest, I could only see my life a piece at a time – the happiness of a success or a time of celebration, or the ugliness and pain of a loss or a failure I was trying hard to put behind me out of sight…We are always putting the pieces together without knowing the picture ahead of time.  I have been with many people in times of profound loss and grief when an unsuspected meaning begins to emerge from the fragments of their lives. Over time, this meaning has proven itself to be durable and trustworthy, even transformative. It is a kind of strength that never comes to those who deny their pain.

Life involves many types of pain; you don’t have to have many years under your belt to know this. It is in our flesh-nature to avoid/ignore pain, to hide it from others when we can, or to rage against it as unfair, but we are sojourners and exiles in this world (1 Peter 2:11). Paul warned us in 2 Corinthians that things would become wearisome here.

For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling... For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened – not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

2 Corinthians 5:2-4, ESV

Choose Life…

When God told the Israelites in Deuteronomy 30:11-19, to “choose life,” do you think they had been listening for the previous two chapters? I ask because, in my opinion, God spelled it out very clearly what would happen if they walked with Him and obeyed Him, or what the consequences would be if they didn’t. However, it doesn’t seem as though they were prepared for the latter years of trials.

Despite how clearly pain and trials are delineated in Scripture, I fear that many Christians today are not well prepared for the Life to which they are called, either. Hardships, pain, and trials arrive and some become shell-shocked and believe God has thrown them overboard. However, Jesus succinctly warned in John 16:33 (ESV): I have said these things to you that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

His disciples were clear on this point; in 2 Timothy 2:3, Paul invites Timothy to join him in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Suffering was a given.

Keys to Accepting…

I believe the keys to accepting the life God gives us each day is hidden in the Deuteronomy 30:11-20 passage.  God said that it isn’t too mysterious for you, nor is it far off…but the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it (v. 11).

I love that – I can hear Him saying, “People! This isn’t rocket science!”

…I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days…

Deuteronomy 30:19-20, NKJV

The Keys…

  • Choose life
  • Love the Lord your God
  • Obey His voice
  • Cling to Him

Don’t wait for a new life. Live this one boldly as you cling to Him.

The reality of life is this - it isn't only to be lived by well people, or people who have their lives going as planned, or the super intelligent or the super spiritual. Click To Tweet

Life is full of unplanned detours and painful pieces. So, how do we handle life when it doesn't turn out the way we planned? #chooselife #unplanned #spiritualgrowth

I’m a Failure

Life is full of trials and tribulations. We are constantly putting out one fire, only to turn around find another. Just when we think we have found our groove and that we have everything under control, the rug gets pulled out and we realize we never really had control in the first place. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Are you starting to get the point? Are you tired of my analogies yet? Probably, but I know that you know what I’m talking about because we have all experienced this.

Our trials can take many forms. An annoying co-worker, disobedient children, fussy babies, an illness, yet another bill that can’t be paid, a spouse that just doesn’t seem to get you. Whatever it is, all of us are struggling with something. The question is, how do we handle those times when we are being tested?


Here’s what happened…

Earlier in the year my hubby had to go out of town for work. And let me just say, I am super spoiled that this rarely happens. I have a dear friend whose husband travels all the time. I don’t know how she does it, it would make me lose my mind. I depend heavily on my hubby and I don’t mind admitting it. The Lord gives us the grace to handle all of our different situations I suppose. Anyhow…he left town Sunday afternoon. That evening was alright because my dad and step-mom were visiting and I was enjoying my time with them. That night however….

It started with the fact that I had a nasty cough and couldn’t get to sleep until around 12:30. At 3:45 I awoke to the sound of foot steps running down the hall. My older son came barging in telling me that my younger son was throwing up. Wonderful. I hurry and rush to their room to find my 3 year old sitting in a puddle of vomit. But here’s the thing, we had just made bunk beds for the boys and naturally my older son got the top bunk. My younger son is such a snuggle bug, that he would wait for his brother to fall asleep and then crawl into bed with him. So my poor older son was awoken with his little brother throwing up in his bed. And this poor, pregnant mama had to clean up the vomit on a top bunk.

When I got into the room I went in to triage mode. What had to be done first? What was most urgent? First I had to clean it off the floor. Gross. Then I got my son out of the bed, stripped him down, and put him in the bathroom to get cleaned up. Then I got my older son settled on the couch since his bed was ruined for the night. Younger son was settled into his bed. Then the clean up began. Seriously, trying to clean this up on the top bunk while almost 6 months pregnant was no easy task.  At 4:15 I made it back to my bed, but not before walking full speed into the corner of the wall. I had a goose-egg and bruise on my forehead for a week. Once in bed, I hear my younger son up again. He wants to hug. And his belly hurts. Let’s go hug in the bathroom. After getting sick again, I went back to bed and prayed that my other son and I would be spared from whatever this was. I could not get sick, especially not with my hubby out of town. Sleep was pointless since I would have to wake up in less than an hour. The next day was sure to be interesting since my folks were going to be leaving and I would be on my own.

It was actually quite comical the amount of things that went wrong the first 24 hours my hubby was gone, but I was quite pleased with myself on how I was handling it. I was calm and compassionate with my boys. I was even able to get everything done that needed plus some.

It was the next day that I blew it. I had an all-out-3-year-old-style temper tantrum. And I knew in that moment that I failed. I failed the test that I was given. And this got me thinking. How could I not have failed? Were there steps or precautions that I could have taken? What about things I could tell myself to stay calm? Absolutely. I recognized that the hour before bedtime was my most challenging time of the day, so I gave myself a count down. I only had to stay calm for another 45 minutes. And I gave the boys a countdown. Ten minutes to clean up, ten minutes to get bathed, 2 minutes to brush teeth, and then read a book. Once I implemented the plan, the rest of the week went smoothly.

What I learned…

I decided that it was alright, maybe even necessary to fail. Without failing, we won’t know what needs to be changed. We won’t learn. We won’t grow. I still believe this to be true, but my lesson in failing wasn’t over. A few weeks later, I failed again. I was then challenged with the thought that I CAN’T pass the test. I will never, ever, ever get it right.

See, I believe there is such a thing as “sin” and wouldn’t you know it, we all suffer from it. The world is consumed with it actually. And even more of a bummer is that I can’t fix it on my own. But see, I also believe there is such a thing as “grace” and thankfully we all can access it. So, the next time I was presented with the test of rising anger while dealing with these selfish, inconsiderate, deceitful creatures (known as my children) I went into a quiet moment and thanked Jesus for the grace that was given to me because he bore my sin of losing my temper. And then I thanked Him for the Holy Spirit that promises to give us a spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness. That’s the the mom, wife, and friend that I desire to be. It was then that I was able to go to my children and teach them and correct their behavior and show them love. It was then that I was, yet again, changed by grace.

 

A photo by Dikaseva. unsplash.com/photos/zvf7cZ0PC20