I John 3 Part 2–Love–Love for Us and Our Love for Others.

God truly demonstrated His love for us.  He loved us when we were unlovable.  He accepted us when we were unacceptable.  He calls us to love others the same way.  John reiterated his original message from his gospel, For God So loved the world that he gave his only son. He tells the church –this is how we know what love is…Jesus laid his life down for us. He tells the church its response should be similar…the church should lay their lives down for others.  Selfishness gets parked at the curb and believer’s lives are no longer their own.  It is not a mopey life of dower expression and mundane existence. Instead, it is a life full of meaning and purpose where the needs of others supersede the needs of self.  Amazingly, history reminds us that humans are at their best when they set their personal agendas aside.
 
In our lives, we have to choose each day to live for Christ and not for ourselves.  It is a difficult task. Even on Jesus’s birthday, we can lose the focus and become consumed with the consumerism of the holiday and the consumables we feast upon. If we are not careful, our entire life becomes filled with a desire to promote ourselves and obtain all we feel we deserve.  John’s reminder is stark and plain–live a life like Christ. Lay your lives and agendas on the alter and allow Christ dominion over them. When we live like that, we find ourselves full of life and purpose and we enjoy a glimpse of peace and joy like none other. 
 
God Bless You

 For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brothers were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters,[b] if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

2 Peter 2 Part 1–No False Teachers Allowed

God has never tolerated Heresy. From the time of Lucifer, when He took a third of the angelic host in rebellion, God has dealt directly with those that would choose evil over God. God cast angels out of Heaven, destroyed most of mankind by the flood.  He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and has dealt with false teachers and cults.  God loves His people and wants to be in a relationship with them. He will not, tolerate that relationship, however, if it is not based on faith and trust in Him. God is a gentleman.  He will not force His way into folk’s lives. He is also, however, not weak.  He does not settle for co-leadership. Either Christ leads and Christians submit to his leadership, or run their own lives.  He does not do a Hybrid version. 
 
In our lives, we try so hard, oftentimes, to help God out. Rather than wait on His timing and leadership; we take matters into our own hands.  Like the false teachers of old, we try to change the message ever so slightly to allow us to manage our lives by committee with God.  Simply put, God does not allow that.  Either we allow him to lead, or we walk on our own and suffer the consequence of running our own show. If we will allow Christ to lead and follow His truth; then, He will give us an abundant life of purpose and blessing.
 
God Bless You

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed, these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell,[a] putting them in chains of darkness[b] to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. 10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh[c] and despise authority.

I Peter 3 Part 2–Living Lives of Distinction

Peter, more than anyone could understand the importance of living a life that honors Christ despite the reaction of the world. He was the guy that denied Christ during Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. He was the one Jesus specifically asked to feed His sheep.  He was the one God had to scold about what God makes clean, is clean indeed.  He was the one Paul got onto for ignoring the Gentiles when the Jewish church folk came to town.  Peter was real, he was not perfect.  Peter was also responsible for thousands of folks coming to Christ. 
 
So, when Peter says the best way to honor God is to live in unity, humility, and holiness, one can count on the fact he taught from experience. It is very easy to understand that our lives affect the lives of others.  Our attitudes, behavior, and response to struggles are apparent for all to see.  That is why it is incumbent that Christians live lives that honor and glorify God. All of our actions, our behaviors, and our discussions are there for the world to expose and criticize the faith.   We have to be the people that show our relationship with the Lord truly makes a difference in how we behave and how we respond.  As we live our lives in that way we will be distinct from the crowd.  In addition, that distinction will draw others to Christ, and it will help us to grow stronger and more like Him each day.
 
God Bless You

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For

“Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

I Peter 1 Part 2–How to Live in a Crazy World

So when listing out the components of a Christ-like life, Peter highlights three critical pieces. First, live lives that are alert, sober, and holy. It is critical that we as the church pay attention to what is going on around us.  We live in a culture that is only steps away from Christian persecution.  We, as a nation, have moved from a nation founded on Christian principles to a nation that has moved to eradicate God from any and all public and government displays.  As is often the case, our efforts to separate God from the government have left a void that is being filled with chaos and unrest.  As a church, it is our responsibility to continue to stand for God and separate ourselves from the Chaotic self-absorption that captures our culture. 
 
Second, we need to live as a foreigner in a strange land.  We cannot focus on this world as being our home.  As ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:19) we need to live as citizens of eternity with our heart and allegiance focused there.   We cannot become too invested or in love with this aspect of life.  We live in this world but do not identify with its culture or desires. Our allegiance to Heaven may cost us, but in the long run it will provide hope and a future unmatched by the finest of this world’s treasures.
 
Finally, we love deeply those that are a part of the body of Christ.  Since we do not live as a part of this world, we will not be loved by this world. Knowing that, we must show love to one another.  We must be ready at all times to stand firm and support those who are a part of God’s family.  As we do, our unity will set us apart and draw others to Christ. 
 
Be Holy, set your focus on the eternal and finally love and support others in the family.  That is a worthy call. A call for the Chosen of God!
 
God Bless You

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”[a]

17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.[b] 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For,

“All people are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
25     but the word of the Lord endures forever.”[c]

And this is the word that was preached to you.

James 5 Final–Prayer, The Greater Work

When in doubt, PRAY! In College, I was blessed to be a part of a mission project with Campus Crusade for Christ. During that summer I learned several things about God’s provision and God’s execution of His plan in people’s lives.  Our leader taught us a great deal about taking our relationship with God deeper.  One statement he made, a quote from Oswald Chambers, stuck with me and has guided me through the last 36 years. “Prayer is not the preparation for the greater work, it is the greater work.”
James closes his letter to the church with the value and urgency of prayer. Prayer is our vehicle to give God the adoration He deserves. Prayer allows us to thank God for all He has provided and done in our lives. Prayer gives us the ability to come clean when we try to retake the throne of our lives or try to stray from what we know to be the truth. Finally, Prayer is the place we come to seek the help and direction of our creator and Heavenly Father.
 
God always has time for us to pray. He always listens. He is quick to forgive, quick to redeem, and quick to protect, provide and prepare us for the mission we are on.  Like any dad, God is specifically interested and concerned about all aspects of our lives. He loves the victories, He aches with us through the defeats. He wants to heal, to restore and to redeem–if we will allow Him to do so in His way and time.  God continues to remind us that we are never too old, nor too experienced to see Him respond in amazing ways to prayer.  We simply need to make prayer the first alternative and not the last.  We also need to patiently wait and seek His will and plan for our lives–NOT ours disguised in spirituality. 
 
Finally, know that while God will always meet us where we are, that does not mean that He does not know what is on our hearts and mind. We do not need to play games with God. We simply need to face Him and speak the truth. He has big shoulders. He can take it.  He knows our deepest thoughts.  We must pray honestly. There was a period in my life where I could only pray one simple prayer–“Lord grant me enough faith to continue to pray for faith!” He always listens and always knows our hearts.  Thank You, Lord, for making prayer the greater work! Help me to seek You first and foremost in this journey.
 
God Bless You


13 
Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

James 5 Part 1–Wealth Management

In Philippians 4, Paul lays out his plan for success quite succinctly. Paul tells the Philippians that he has learned to be content in all circumstances. Whether well fed or hungry living in plenty or in want that he could do all things through Christ Who strengthens him. (Phil 4:12-13)  In these verses from James, the author takes the negative side of that argument.  He tells the people who have had plenty and rely upon their riches and wealth for security and peace that they will come to a long and brutal end. Conversely, he tells those that have struggled not to lose hope, that God will provide in His time and in His way.  In short, James tells the people that they need to be content in serving and trusting God no matter what their circumstances may bring.  
 
Fast forward to this week of Thanksgiving.  We as God’s chosen still need to fully rely upon God. If we are wealthy and have all the security we think we need, that is when we should seek Him and lay all that we have on the altar for Him to bless.  When God blesses us with wealth; it is to prepare us to rely upon Him despite our feeling of self-sufficiency.  That is often difficult, but when one finds the ability to be free from their dependence upon their own wealth, it allows God to bless them even more.  Conversely, when one acts completely self-sufficient, they never are quite satisfied, nor are they ever quite secure in their wealth.  Their wealth becomes their prison and they never are free to enjoy the life God has given them. 
 
As for those that struggle to make ends meet; they face the same drama. They live in constant fear of losing what they have. They are always chasing ways to make circumstances better.  James tells such folks, be patient, do not grumble and trust God to prepare, provide and protect you in your journey.  There is very little actual difference in cause and effect. In all circumstances, we must choose to rely upon God for everything we have and how we proceed in the journey. If we will do that, God will, in his time, bless us. If we choose to rely upon our own power, we will sadly find no peace. Solomon said it best, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not lean on your own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all your ways, and He will make your paths straight!” Proverbs 3:5-6
 
God Bless You

Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.[a] You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.

Patience in Suffering

Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

James 3 Part 1–Watching Our Tongues

James starts to get personal in Chapter 3.  As God’s kids, we do our best to stay away from the “Big Sins”; killing, stealing, and sexual sin. But, James began discussing our tongues. Gossip, berating others, cursing, telling lies, filthy jokes…you get the picture.  God knew from the beginning the devastation caused by our evil use of our mouths. So many lives have been ruined by harsh language and gossip. We can issue a great deal of pain to our spouses and our children by failing to manage our words and our tones.  James tells the people that big ships are controlled by a little rudder–so lives are controlled by the tongue.
 
The tongue can be a source of life or death. God calls us to use our tongues as a source of life.  Earlier, James reminded the people to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry! We are to speak life to people. We encourage, we pray and we share the gospel. We speak the truth in love and always seek ways to use our language to make people better.  There is no need to be harsh, coarse. deceptive or manipulative.  Simply, speak the truth and seek to point people to faith and not from it.  One of the great sadnesses in life is to hear that Christians, by their words, do more to keep people from wanting to know God.  So, as James has so eloquently put it–control your tongue and you will be a superstar to the church!
 
God Bless You

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.