Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: training

Flashback Favorite - How to avoid the sin cycle

I’m reposting this one based upon a conversation I had recently. Even though our family no longer lives in West Virginia, there’s still a lot of truth to be found in this observation.

How to avoid the sin cycle
originally posted on November 3, 2016

Do you know which plant grows best in West Virginia?

Weeds.  The weeds grow best in West Virginia.

We get a lot of snow and rain here, and the ground is rather fertile.  However, if a piece of land is cleared, the grass and flowers in the area do not take it over.  The weeds do, and quickly.

There’s a spiritual lesson in there, if we’re open to seeing it.  It’s not enough for Christians to just clear out the “bad” portions of our lives.  Clearing out sinful actions, bad habits, and distractions does take monumental effort.  Taking steps to avoid going back to those old ways will be a significant challenge.  But if we forget to take the next step, we’ll wear ourselves out, only to be caught in a sick cycle of clearing out the weeds and then letting them creep back in and take over…only to have to clear out the weeds (again) to then let them creep back in (again) and take over (again)…and again…and again…

Paul knew this, too.  He wanted Timothy to instruct the believers in Ephesus on how to avoid being stuck in this perpetual cycle.  Take a look at what “next step” Paul says they should take after avoiding the things that will distract us from God and His purpose:

1 Timothy 4:7
But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths.  Rather train yourself in godliness,

When we clear out the ungodly distractions in our lives, we MUST refill the time and use the effort we would previously spend on those distractions.  If we want grass and flowers to grow in our cleared-out land, then we must plant them immediately after doing the work of clearing out the garbage weeds.  It is at that moment that the ground (and our lives) are most willing to accept the change in direction.  If we wait to fill the void – the world will gladly fill it for us…

Paul knows it’s not enough to just avoid the irreverent and silly myths out there.  So, he tells Timothy to replace any time previously spent on those things with a specific plan that has a Godly focus.  His focus is to be on the things that have a “God-like-ness”, the things that point himself and others toward the God of the Universe.

Paul’s use of the phrase train yourself is no accident, either.  The Greek phrase means to exercise vigorously.  Given the city’s prominence in Greek culture, this is clearly a reference to the effort and dedication a Greek athlete would put toward his training to compete in the Ancient Olympic Games. 

Lastly, notice how Timothy had to choose to do the training.  No one else could do the work for him.  No one else is going to develop his relationship with God.  No one else can focus Timothy’s thoughts on God’s words and direction for his life.  As he chooses to plant the seeds of godliness, the growth that comes will fill up the area that was previously overrun with any irreverent and silly ideas.  Timothy’s training will become the long term investment that will keep him out of the sin cycle.

There’s a life lesson in there, if we are open to seeing it.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Flashback Favorite - Take this step to be like Jesus

I still do this. I’ve memorized, applied, and been able to share a lot of Scripture because this is something I practice.

I highly encourage you to do this, too.

Take this step to be like Jesus
originally posted on November 24, 2016

I’ve heard that a person’s character is defined by who they are when no one else is around.

I’m not 100% sure about that definition…instead, what we do with our time when no one else is around is how we develop our character.

When no one is looking, the choices we make will shape us.  Even the passive choice to “do nothing” has a sculpting effect.  Think of our time as spending cash.  How we spend it – either wasting or investing it – will shape who we are.

Paul knew this quite well, which is why he told Timothy:

1 Timothy 4:7-10
But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths.  Rather train yourself in godliness, for,

the training of the body has a limited benefit,
but godliness is beneficial in every way,
since it holds promise for the present life
and also for the life to come.

This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance.  In fact, we labor and strive for this, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of everyone, especially of those who believe.

We understand that musicians practice for hours when no one is looking so when it comes time to perform, they do it perfectly.  We get it that basketball players shoot 100s of free throws a week so they’re ready when they’re fouled late in a game and have to step up to the line.

Training happens when no one is looking – it’s intentional work.  Now, earlier in his letter to Timothy, Paul equated godliness with being like Jesus.  But I think we Christians don’t see how important it is for us to labor and strive to be like Jesus.  So, let’s take an intentional step in that direction and see what God does with our time investment.

Jesus was intimately connected to the Scriptures.  On a regular basis, Jesus would quote or reference God’s Word.  Here’s just a couple of ideas to put some of God’s Word directly into your life:

·        Use a verse as a password – every time you log in to an account, say the verse.  “John3:16” or “Psalm100:1” fulfills most password requirements to have a capital letter, lower case letter, number, and special character.  Perhaps your password at work is a reminder of being faithful or diligent, like Colossians3:23 or Proverbs22:29.  Maybe the password for your online bank account is about being wise with money, like Proverbs21:17 or 2Corinthians9:6.
·        Have a verse for when you start your car, a “key” verse you need to know.  Proverbs3:5 and Ephesians2:8 would be good choices.
·        Have a verse to repeat whenever you wash your hands.  I learned 1 John 4:7-8 in a tune when I was a kid.  The tune is burned into my memory, so I can “sing” those verses at any time.  As often as I need to wash my hands, I’m reminding myself multiple times per day that loving others is important, and God is the one who loved us first.

It’s ok to pull out your phone to look up the verse so you say it correctly.  And…you don’t have to implement all of these suggestions.  The point is to find one thing in your day that you do repeatedly, and attach a verse to it.  Actively invest your time.  God guarantees that this kind of training will be beneficial both in the present life and also for the life to come.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Take this step to be like Jesus

I’ve heard that a person’s character is defined by who they are when no one else is around.

I’m not 100% sure about that definition…instead, what we do with our time when no one else is around is how we develop our character.

When no one is looking, the choices we make will shape us.  Even the passive choice to “do nothing” has a sculpting effect.  Think of our time as spending cash.  How we spend it – either wasting or investing it – will shape who we are.

Paul knew this quite well, which is why he told Timothy:

1 Timothy 4:7-10
But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths.  Rather train yourself in godliness, for,

the training of the body has a limited benefit,
but godliness is beneficial in every way,
since it holds promise for the present life
and also for the life to come.

This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance.  In fact, we labor and strive for this, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of everyone, especially of those who believe.

We understand that musicians practice for hours when no one is looking so when it comes time to perform, they do it perfectly.  We get it that basketball players shoot 100s of free throws a week so they’re ready when they’re fouled late in a game and have to step up to the line.

Training happens when no one is looking – it’s intentional work.  Now, earlier in his letter to Timothy, Paul equated godliness with being like Jesus.  But I think we Christians don’t see how important it is for us to labor and strive to be like Jesus.  So, let’s take an intentional step in that direction and see what God does with our time investment.

Jesus was intimately connected to the Scriptures.  On a regular basis, Jesus would quote or reference God’s Word.  Here’s just a couple of ideas to put some of God’s Word directly into your life:

·        Use a verse as a password – every time you log in to an account, say the verse.  “John3:16” or “Psalm100:1” fulfills most password requirements to have a capital letter, lower case letter, number, and special character.  Perhaps your password at work is a reminder of being faithful or diligent, like Colossians3:23 or Proverbs22:29.  Maybe the password for your online bank account is about being wise with money, like Proverbs21:17 or 2Corinthians9:6.
·        Have a verse for when you start your car, a “key” verse you need to know.  Proverbs3:5 and Ephesians2:8 would be good choices.
·        Have a verse to repeat whenever you wash your hands.  I learned 1 John 4:7-8 in a tune when I was a kid.  The tune is burned into my memory, so I can “sing” those verses at any time.  As often as I need to wash my hands, I’m reminding myself multiple times per day that loving others is important, and God is the one who loved us first.

It’s ok to pull out your phone to look up the verse so you say it correctly.  And…you don’t have to implement all of these suggestions.  The point is to find one thing in your day that you do repeatedly, and attach a verse to it.  Actively invest your time.  God guarantees that this kind of training will be beneficial both in the present life and also for the life to come.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

How to make an eternal investment in yourself

Once you’re in God’s family, you find there are a lot of words thrown around that everyone just seems to “know” what they mean.  At least it appears that way, as often as you hear Christians use words like faith, justification, hallelujah, and salvation.

One of those terms is godliness.  Other than being told as children that is was close to cleanliness, we make the general assumption that godliness means some sort of “god-like-ness”, where we imitate a certain aspect of God as we meet Him in the Bible.  Honest, though…that definition still feels a little vague, doesn’t it?

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul uses the word godliness eight times in 113 verses.  That’s a pace of about one for every 14 verses.  By his heavy usage and what he says about it, we can see that Paul considered godliness an important point for Timothy and those under his charge.  Here’s an example:

1 Timothy 4:7-9
But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths.  Rather train yourself in godliness, for,

the training of the body has a limited benefit,
but godliness is beneficial in every way,
since it holds promise for the present life
and also for the life to come.

This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance.

So Paul considers godliness something we have to be trained in and something that is beneficial both now and in eternity future.  If that’s the case, then we need to fully understand what the word means!

But recognizing the importance of godliness doesn’t clarify the word’s meaning.  It can still feel a little vague.  A few verses back, Paul validates this feeling:

1 Timothy 3:16
And most certainly, the mystery of godliness is great

Right after saying something like this, I would expect Paul to give a definition or explanation of the mystery of godliness…but instead, he jumps straight into a description of Jesus:

1 Timothy 3:16
He was manifested in the flesh,
justified in the Spirit,
seen by angels,
preached among the Gentiles,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.

What Paul is getting at here is that if we want to have a “god-like-ness” that is valuable in the present life and in the life to come, then we need to train to have a “Jesus-like-ness”.  Jesus is our best example of how we are made to imitate and live like God designed us to.

So, practically speaking, what are some attributes of Jesus that we can imitate?  I suggest these three:

·        Jesus knew the Scriptures – He quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.  Often, during His teaching, Jesus would reference the Scriptures by saying “It is written” or asking the question “Have you not read?
·        Jesus was totally focused on His part in God’s plan and kingdom – He was on mission, would not be deterred.  In John 6:38, He said “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
·        Jesus knew both the Scriptures and His mission well enough that He could impact the lives of others – He cared for others, met them where they were, and pointed them toward God the Father.

Paul’s message to Timothy was that godliness is something infinitely valuable – and that Timothy could develop a “god-like-ness” by training to be like Jesus.

Will we follow Jesus’ example?  Pursuing a “Jesus-like-ness” will beneficial…for the present life and…for the life to come.  Will we trust God and choose to make the eternal investment in the here and now?

Keep Pressing,
Ken

The best reason for training

Who is the fastest man on the planet?

Depending on which Olympic sport you preferred to watch this past summer, you probably answered Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps.  Both men are incredible athletes and physical specimens that have pushed the limit of what the human body is capable of accomplishing.

Hours upon hours of training went into shaping and sculpting their bodies to bring them into top physical form so they could compete at the highest level.  They gave up many things so they would be physically and mentally prepared to win.

Now some Christian preachers and teachers might be tempted to knock these men for putting all their effort into “the here and now” as opposed to “eternal things”.  But have they really wasted their lives?  Paul gave us the answer in his letter to Timothy when he was warning his protégé about the dangers of false teaching:

1 Timothy 4:7-9
But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths.  Rather train yourself in godliness, for,

the training of the body has a limited benefit,
but godliness is beneficial in every way,
since it holds promise for the present life
and also for the life to come.

This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance.

We’ve come to the third trustworthy saying Paul had for his protégé.  Each one of the pithy statements made a specific point that Timothy needed to remember and accept.

In this saying, Paul wants Timothy to keep in mind the ultimate end of where he spends his efforts during this lifetime.  I find it interesting that Paul doesn’t say that training of the body has “no benefit”; instead, he says it has a limited benefit.  There is a short-term profit to taking care of ourselves; we can make our 80ish years on earth a lot harder –  or a lot easier – depending on the amount of effort we’re willing to spend on training of the body.

I fully expect that how well we took care of our physical bodies to be a stewardship issue with God.  In fact, there are many verses that point out that God made our bodies and that we are responsible for what we do with them (see Psalm 100:3 and 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). 

However, physical training isn’t the only training we need – and it’s not the most important training we can have, either.  The most beneficial training we can put ourselves through has benefits that go beyond our current circumstances.  Even if I take my physical training to the max and become the next fastest man on the planet…age and/or injury will catch up with me, and I will only hold that title for a short time. 

Our spiritual growth here in the present life on earth carries over into the life to come.  That’s not just a “double benefit”, either.  Paul comparing our 80ish years to an eternity of years.  Realistically, there is no comparison when we’re talking about our return on investment for how we invest in training.

So, has Bolt and Phelps wasted their lives on physical training?  That’s hard to answer from my vantage point.  The answer to that question would boil down to two things – What is their motivation for all their hard work?, and What are they going to do with the platform their hard work created?

I can’t answer those questions for our current living versions of the fastest man on the planet.  However, do I need to be able to answer those questions for my own life.  When God asks me about stewardship of everything He gave me in this life, will I be able to say that I trained for the life to come?

Keep Pressing,
Ken 

How to avoid the sin cycle

Do you know which plant grows best in West Virginia?

Weeds.  The weeds grow best in West Virginia.

We get a lot of snow and rain here, and the ground is rather fertile.  However, if a piece of land is cleared, the grass and flowers in the area do not take it over.  The weeds do, and quickly.

There’s a spiritual lesson in there, if we’re open to seeing it.  It’s not enough for Christians to just clear out the “bad” portions of our lives.  Clearing out sinful actions, bad habits, and distractions does take monumental effort.  Taking steps to avoid going back to those old ways will be a significant challenge.  But if we forget to take the next step, we’ll wear ourselves out, only to be caught in a sick cycle of clearing out the weeds and then letting them creep back in and take over…only to have to clear out the weeds (again) to then let them creep back in (again) and take over (again)…and again…and again…

Paul knew this, too.  He wanted Timothy to instruct the believers in Ephesus on how to avoid being stuck in this perpetual cycle.  Take a look at what “next step” Paul says they should take after avoiding the things that will distract us from God and His purpose:

1 Timothy 4:7
But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths.  Rather train yourself in godliness,

When we clear out the ungodly distractions in our lives, we MUST refill the time and use the effort we would previously spend on those distractions.  If we want grass and flowers to grow in our cleared-out land, then we must plant them immediately after doing the work of clearing out the garbage weeds.  It is at that moment that the ground (and our lives) are most willing to accept the change in direction.  If we wait to fill the void – the world will gladly fill it for us…

Paul knows it’s not enough to just avoid the irreverent and silly myths out there.  So, he tells Timothy to replace any time previously spent on those things with a specific plan that has a Godly focus.  His focus is to be on the things that have a “God-like-ness”, the things that point himself and others toward the God of the Universe.

Paul’s use of the phrase train yourself is no accident, either.  The Greek phrase means to exercise vigorously.  Given the city’s prominence in Greek culture, this is clearly a reference to the effort and dedication a Greek athlete would put toward his training to compete in the Ancient Olympic Games. 

Lastly, notice how Timothy had to choose to do the training.  No one else could do the work for him.  No one else is going to develop his relationship with God.  No one else can focus Timothy’s thoughts on God’s words and direction for his life.  As he chooses to plant the seeds of godliness, the growth that comes will fill up the area that was previously overrun with any irreverent and silly ideas.  Timothy’s training will become the long term investment that will keep him out of the sin cycle.

There’s a life lesson in there, if we are open to seeing it.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

How to handle counterfeit beliefs

Do you know how the best-trained money handlers are taught to identify counterfeits? 

Somewhat surprisingly, they do not spend time studying counterfeit money.  Mainly because there’s too many ways to make a fake.  With so many variations out there that are trying to pass off as the real thing, it would be impossible to keep up with all of them.

Instead, they are taught all the security features on real money.  They are quizzed about the features and practice handling the real thing.  The goal is to be so familiar with what is truly valuable that the fake will be easily seen for the worthless paper that it is.

Similarly, Paul wanted Timothy to have his training focused in the right place:

1 Timothy 4:6-8
If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished by the words of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. 

But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths.  Rather train yourself in godliness

The word but always signals a contrast.  When studying God’s Word, if we come across it, then we need to stop and understand the difference being presented.  In our verses above, the word rather works in the same way.

When we step back and look at Paul’s structure here, we see he’s following a “concept-opposite-concept” pattern.  Paul is equating the words of the faith and good teaching Timothy is familiar with and training yourself in godliness.  Paul is also saying that in opposition to these things are irreverent and silly myths.

The myths around the first century church would have been fantasy stories passed off as special histories of Biblical characters.  The false teachers of Paul and Timothy’s day claimed that these stories led to deeper piety and special insights into the background of Bible characters.  But what, exactly, did Paul mean when he referred to them as irreverent and silly?

irreverent – combination of two Greek words that paint the picture of crossing a threshold and this term is repeatedly used in Paul’s letters to Timothy regarding people or subjects that are opposed to God.  Paul would say irreverent topics are those that “cross the line” and are rude or derogatory toward God and his people.

silly – Paul doesn’t mean “cute” silly here, instead he’s referring to what we would call an old wives’ tale – something that people generally believe because it’s comfortable or seems likely, but on closer inspection we find that it’s not really based on anything concrete.

So what are some modern-day irreverent and silly myths that can steal our focus away from the words of faith and good teaching?

Some people believe that dancing, in any form, is a sin.
There are those who say eating or drinking certain foods (like red meat or caffeinated drinks) is sinful.
Others teach that good health always means that God likes you and that you have “enough faith”.
A growing number of Christians prefer feel-good stories to what we find in the Bible.
Every few years, a new “gospel” is discovered and people chase after it, like “The gospel of Thomas” or “The gospel of Judas”
Many authors have taken Biblical names or settings and reinvented them into conspiracy stories or “modern myths”, like The Da Vinci Code or stories of Jesus as a young boy.
And there are many, many more…

How do we avoid being distracted by these irreverent and silly myths?  Paul says we should have nothing to do with them.  They can’t steal our focus if we’re not giving them attention.  Instead, we need to choose to train in godliness, and be nourished by the words of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

Practical application: parenting

In Colossians 3:18-19, Paul pointed out the oh-so-practical place to practice living like Christ – in our relationship with our spouse.  His next connection stays within the immediate family and is just as practical.

Colossians 3:20-21
Children obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing in the Lord.  Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so they won’t become discouraged.

As parents, we love this first sentence.  We secretly relish when the preacher or our kid’s group leader brings up teaching like this.  They need to hear this, we congratulate ourselves.  Maybe if they keep hearing from other adults, they’ll do it more at home.  Wouldn’t that be nice…

Paul gives the Colossian Christian children this command – obey your parents in everything – because it’s something they need to learn.  Let’s camp out on that thought for a moment…obedience is something that children need to learn.  They’re not going to get it right away.  Their entire focus is on their own needs, and not the needs of others.  Obedience is like any other skill we develop as we grow and mature…it’s going to take time, it’s going to take practice, and there are going to be failures along the way.

How we handle our children’s failures will heavily influence them…in their childhood for sure, but our actions will also echo throughout the rest of their lives.  We know this because we still feel the echoes from our own upbringing, but for some reason we tend to forget that reality the moment we’re dealing the shortcomings of our own kids.

More than any person in a child’s life, we fathers have the greatest influence in this area.  Apologies to all the moms out there, but we just do.  And the impact we fathers have on our child’s perspective is even greater than we realize.  Paul warns against discouraging our children, and the word he chose relates to feeling disheartened, dispirited, or broken in spirit.  A father’s reaction to his son or daughter’s failure is truly a make-or-break moment.

Paul says we push our children toward discouragement if we exasperate them.  When we push them to their whit’s end because of our insistence on “getting it right”, or when we bring them to angry tears just to make sure they understand and “get it” – whenever we take our authority too far, we run the risk of exasperating them. 

Unfortunately, I have been guilty of doing just that to my children many times over the years.  It typically happens when I’m rigidly demanding more than my son can give…and he cannot meet the standard I’ve set for him.  If my expectation was too high for his skill level, then he is doomed to failure even before he begun.  Instead of recognizing I set the bar to high, at times I’ve even doubled back and berated them for missing the mark.  I know when I’ve gone too far, too – I can see it in their eyes as they stare at the floor, their shoulders sink in despair, and their posture communicates that they’ve completely given up.

A child of any age can become exasperated and discouraged, but it is especially easy when they are young.  This doesn’t mean we don’t confront error or that we should only give easy challenges to our children; rather we need to actively match our expectations with our children’s abilities, and then be willing to be both gentle and firm as we lovingly deal with their failures.  Men, our ability to guard against this damaging practice is for us to apply the Christ-driven characteristics that Paul listed in the preceding context of 3:12-17

…put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience…
…forgive one another…just as the Lord has forgiven you…
…above all, put on love…
…be thankful…
…let the message of the Messiah dwell richly among you…
…whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus…

Our children’s hearts and maturity depend on it.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

The gift that keeps on giving

After spending the previous 10 verses explaining to specific groups within the Cretan church “What’s next” for them after becoming believers, Paul goes on to give the over-arching and insightful reason as to why those teachings were selected for them:

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 

Notice that it is by God’s grace that salvation is available to everyone.  No one deserves it, no one can contribute toward it.  God’s favor was given to us by his own choice, without influence by us.  Like a light piercing the darkness, he has chosen to offer this gift of salvation to all mankind. 

But the workings of God’s grace doesn’t stop there.  After stating the general mission of the grace of God, Paul then gets specific as to how it still works within a believer’s life, even after accepting Jesus as Savior:

Titus 2:12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age

God’s grace continues on by teaching and training us.  We didn’t merit salvation from sin’s eternal penalty of separation from God…and we don’t merit the training God gives us after we are saved, either.  Thankfully, God shows us love as adoptive sons and daughters – which means he cares for our development and growth.

We have to be taught how to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, because on our own we give in to them every time.  Turning away from sin isn’t easy, and our old nature battles against this kind of change.  By God’s grace, we were transferred from the kingdom of darkness and into God’s kingdom of light; and also by God’s grace, we are taught to turn away from ungodliness and worldly passions in order that we can say “Yes” to the kind of life we were created to live in this present age.

However, looking at this leaves me wondering:

If I was willing to accept his gracious gift of salvation, why do I fight his gracious gift of training for my life in this present age?

Keep Pressing,
Ken