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Lessons in losing

2 Timothy 4:7-8 – ” I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”

It’s soccer season at my house. That means winning games and losing games. And these last couple of days have been a lesson in losing. 

My son is on a new team that consist of many boys who do not really know each other. They are struggling to work together. There is no real leader of the team, except for the coach, and thus there is no real heart of the team. They are playing for themselves without a passion for their teammates. It can sometimes be very tough to watch. They have the potential to be extraordinary but they need heart. 

But despite their troubles and challenges, they won a game yesterday. Winning this game did nothing to promote their standing in the tournament but it has the potential to do amazing things to their mental standing. 

They didn’t give up. 

When Paul was writing to Timothy here, in part, he wanted to encourage Timothy to never give up, even when you lose. Paul had run many races, so to speak, and fought many battles. He didn’t win them all. In fact, a few of them nearly killed him, literally. But he didn’t give up. He ran the race until it was completed. 

We need to do the same thing. We are not going to win every single time. We are not going to be successful each and every time. We are not going to always see the fruit of our labor. But we have to keep going. We can’t let not winning, not being successful and not seeing our fruit keep us from doing what God says to do when He says to do it. 

We need to let our loses bring us strength. It can show us resilience. It can show us passion. It can show us love. It can show us our weakness and tell us how to become stronger. But we have to be willing to look, and we need to decide that we are going to keep going. 

There are lessons in winning but there are so many more when we lose. Winning is fun. It is enjoyable and fulfilling. But losing has the potential to make us better and stronger. Don’t let losing get you down. Let it build you up. 

Keep going

2 Timothy 3:14,15 – “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior the summer before my fourth grade year. So, basically, I don’t remember life without Christ. I have gone to church my whole life. I have attended Sunday school since before I was born. Jesus has always been a part of my life. 

And for all that time, I have learned and heard that Jesus is coming back soon. “It can’t be too much longer with the way things are going!” 

I have met people who scoff at my belief that He will return soon. Most people don’t know what to say when I say, “I hope the Lord comes back before my children have to face that!” I’m not sure if it scares them or they are just avoiding the conversation, but it seems that whomever I am speaking with quickly changes the course of the conversation. 

I have been taught to love others in all things. I have been taught to speak the truth at all costs. I have been taught to fear God and keep His commandments. I have been taught to respect others and respect myself. I have been taught that it is okay to be different when the world calls you a Jesus freak. 

But there have been times in my life that I just wanted to fit in. I wanted to be like my friends. I wanted to go to the parties. I wanted to have all the cool things everyone else had. I wanted to know what it was like to be the first to know what had gone on the night before because I was there. 

Those times are gone. 

Now, I just want my children to see their mom serving and loving God. I want others to see something different in my actions and in my words. I want to have a light in my eyes that is genuine. 

In order to accomplish all of this, I have to keep going in the way that I was taught. I have had Sunday school teachers and family and pastors and loved ones who have impacted my life in ways that they may never know. I have been encouraged by them, instructed by them, disciplined by them and most importantly, loved by them. They tell me to keep going. 

And now, I tell you – keep going. No matter the length of your testimony, keep going. When life is laying down on you like a dump truck emptying it’s contents, keep going. When you are soaring on the mountain top, keep going. When you are so confused that you don’t know if you are scratching your watch or winding your behind, keep going. 

There is a purpose in all of this. Jesus doesn’t just set us down here and say, “Go at it!”  No, He has a purpose and plan in each and every action and thought. Just keep going. 

The last days…

2 Timothy 3:1-9, 12-15 – “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;  And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

Hmm, sound vaguely familiar? 

It’s like Paul had the ability to look at a day in the life of Joe Blow citizen in 2016. In truth, the Holy Spirit has that ability and He used it to inspire Paul about what would be going on in today’s world. 

If you ever had a question about were the end times really coming and/or are here, well, here is your proof. 

It is sad to say, but too many people fit one or all of these depravities. We see it in the news. We hear about it in social media. We see it happening down the street! 

People are selling people (and little people at that!) at an alarming rate. Children disappear every day! People are fussing over bathrooms (and rightfully so, I might add). People are demanding “rights” at the expense of everyone else. People are stealing from other people because they think the more wealthy have too much. People are getting something for nothing all the time, well, just because they think they deserve it. 

I could go on and on and on and on….you get it. It is bad, people. And the time is drawing nearer and nearer. 

I’m not saying we need to be hateful and disrespectful and intolerant. Absolutely not! We need to hate the sin and love the sinner. We are all sinners. And those of us who are a child of God, are sinners saved by grace. 

That’s what the world needs more of – grace. Not our grace, but rather the grace of Jesus Christ. We can do nothing to save these people who portray the negative attributes above. No, we can do nothing.  Hating them will get us no where. Being intolerant and judgmental will prove nothing. But disagreeing in love and standing up for what is right IN LOVE will show that Christ is King of our life. 

Jesus didn’t put up with sin. He called a spade and spade and then offered them a better way. His way. His path. His love.  

So, do what you feel the Lord is leading you to do in regards to social issues, boycotts and justice. But whatever you choose to do, do it in love and with respect to everyone involved. 

The last days are here, folks. We need to wake up. We need to identify the problem and the present the solution – Jesus Christ. 

Afraid of the darkĀ 

Ephesians 6:12 – “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

Are you afraid of the dark? Are you frightened by things that you cannot see but imagine that they are there hiding for you in the dark? 

For some people this is a very real, very scary thing to endure. There is extreme fear to them when they are alone or when they find themselves completely engulfed in darkness. I have been around people who have experienced this two times this week. One was afraid of the dark and the other was fearful that something was following her while she was alone in the house. I don’t understand this fear because I have never experienced it on that level. However, just like any other fear, it can be overcome. 

But what I wanted to get at today is this – we face real and very scary things every day and most of the time, we don’t even realize it. You see, we fight a battle that no one sees. It is a spiritual battle. It is the one that is fought in the hallways of our heart when we have to decide whether we are going to do this or do that, will I choose to follow after Christ or will I choose my own way. 

The devil has a vested interest in this battle. He knows that every time we choose to go against what we know is truth and righteousness that he has won a small victory. And he is a powerful foe. We sometimes think of him as a little red demon with a tail, pitchfork and horns. But in reality, I believe that he is much more scary than that. I imagine a coldness in his eyes that would send your heart into arrest and a snarl on his lips that would make you cry. And it’s not just him – he has a whole gaggle of demons doing his bidding. He can’t be everywhere all the time but he can send his hinch men out to do his thing. 

It’s not a pretty picture. And we imagine that he is out there especially at night, in the dark. He and his demons are, after all, called “the rulers of the darkness of this world”. So it only makes since that darkness frightens us. 

But we do have this – 2 Timothy 1:7 – “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” You see, we have no need to fear the dark. God did not give us a spirit of fear. He gave us much more than that. We have power – power in Him and His salvation. He gave us love – unconditional love that will last through eternity. He gave us a sound mind – to make the choice not to be afraid of what we do not see. 

I want to encourage you today to choose not to be afraid. Don’t let fear have a seat at your table. Fight that spiritual fight with the armor of God and claim the power, love and sound mind that He has promised to those who choose Him. 

$10 or $10 million

2 Timothy 4:7,8 – “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”

Yesterday in Sunday school, I proposed this question to my class – Hypothetically speaking, would you rather have $10 now or work for me for 20 years, giving up all you plans and dreams for me and doing all that I asked you to do without complaint, and I would give you $10 million at the end? Guess what most of them said. They said $10 now. I was a little shocked that someone didn’t want the $10 million. The point of the little exercise was to teach them that God offers us so many blessing for following Him. But sometimes those blessings come a ways down the road.

We live in an instant society. I find myself getting frustrated when the internet won’t load a page I want to look at quickly enough. Or I get frustrated when my online banking is down for an upgrade. Silly stuff like that bothers me. And it shouldn’t. It’s crazy. But we are all about instant gratification. We want our stuff and we want it now.

Yet God encourages us to wait. He wants us to live our life for Him but sometimes He makes us wait for our blessings. And that can be tough.

I know that with every load of laundry you fold and every load of trash you take out and every meal that you cook and every ride that you give to school can be difficult. I know that it is time consuming. I know there are a million other things that need to be done instead. But you are serving. You are running the race. I know that every Sunday school class you teach and every minute that you spend in the nursery and every second you spend cooking for the potluck is a moment in time that you have given of yourself. I know that every paper you write and every class you attend and every homework assignment you complete can be taxing. And I know that every dollar you earn and every complaint you listen to and every mistake that you fix makes you want to pull your hair out. BUT…

“Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”

Just remember, you are “loving His appearing” when you do all that you do for Him. All that I just mentioned, that is what you can do for Him. That is serving Him. That is loving Him. That is showing Him your dedication to Him by living your life for Him. That’s what He wants when you are His.

Loyalty

2 Timothy 4:3,4 – “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

In my Sunday school class yesterday, we talked about loyalty. Dictionary.com defines loyalty as “faithfulness to commitments or obligations.” Loyalty is hard to come by in our world today. People change opinions and their minds all the time – depending on the direction of the wind. It is sad really. What people have stood behind and depended upon for years now seems cliche and unnecessary.

Yet, loyalty to Christ is absolutely necessary. Too many people are walking through the doors of the church building without the desire for a commitment. They want a short term fix for their long term problem. Some think that coming to church will appease God so that they can get what they want. They aren’t there for worship. They are there to appease the genie. There is no loyalty or desire for devotion in their actions. And that is sad.

It saddens me to think that people are missing out on an opportunity for a long term solution. Yes, it requires action and decisions and an openness to God’s leadership. But the benefits of loyalty to Christ far outweigh any tough times one might incur because of Him. You see, loyalty to Christ for me is an extended family. I have people who care about me because they want to, not that my blood family doesn’t care, they are just really far away. Loyalty to Christ also means that I have a friend all the time. When I’m by myself, I’m really not. Jesus is always there. Loyalty to Christ also means to me that there is no question of right or wrong. He always has the right answer. I always have the Guidance in the right way to go. Now, whether I follow that Guidance is a whole other issue.

Loyalty is more than a once a week thing. Loyalty is an every day thing. I choose every morning to get up and be loyal to my husband that day. I get up in the morning and choose to be loyal to the commitment I made to my job. Loyalty is an every day choice.

So let me encourage you, princess, to be loyal. Choose today to be loyal to Christ. Determine in your heart a way that you can show your loyalty to Him and go with it. Not only will you bless His heart, but it will bless yours as well.

Very superstitious

1Thessalonians 5:22 – “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”

I teach the young teen Sunday school class at my church. I love those kids. They are so much fun.

This weekend, the lesson was on animism. Do you know what animism is? Dictionary.com describes it as “the belief that natural objects, natural phenomena, and the universe itself possess souls”. It also includes the belief in superstitions. Heavy stuff, I know.

So what is my point? Do followers of Christ have any business in animism? No. They do not. Let’s start at the beginning. Where did the soul come from? What has a soul? Genesis 2:7 – “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” God did not complete this task with any of His other creations. He did not breath life into the trees. He did not breath life into the animals. He did not breath life into any of His creations except man. And that is special. That makes mankind the only creation with a soul. Well, that pretty much disproves animism, according to the Dictionary.com definition.

Now onto superstitions. The invoking of superstitions is very prominent in our society. “Knock on wood”. The one about a black cat crossing your path being bad luck. Breaking a mirror brings seven years of bad luck. There are people who will put statues in their yards to keep the bad spirits away. And that is only the tip of the iceberg. Ask anyone and I’m sure they could name at least a dozen more.
But what does our belief or saying of superstitions say about us? As I was thinking about my Sunday school lesson, it made me think about how often and when I consider these things. I don’t believe the ones about mirrors or black cats, but I do say the “knock on wood” one often. What does that mean when I say it? It means that I don’t trust God to take care of it. I feel that I need some other source to manage the problem. It is really a trust issue. Do you really trust God to take care of you or do you think you have to do something to help things along a bit?

So how does this tie in with the Bible verse? God is encouraging us through the writing of Paul to keep away from things that may look evil or that you may look evil while doing them. Even the goofy, little things that seem harmless. In the scope of things, you may lead someone astray by believing that a broken mirror will cause bad luck. How much better would your testimony be if you explained that you don’t believe in these superstitions because you trust Jesus to take care of things instead of leaving it to chance? Just that one simple step of being different has the potential to be huge.

So my challenge to you is to choose to get rid of superstitions. And if you believe that anything other than mankind has a soul, I challenge you to search the Scriptures and determine for yourself what the Word of God says on the subject.
This blog is all about getting the reader to grow – to grow closer to God, to get into the Word of God and to be more expressive about the Word of God. It is time, sister, to stop being closed mouth and timid. 2 Timothy 1:7 – “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”