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.

James 1-Blessed are You…

Trials Stink! James knew it, and everybody knows it.  It is difficult to endure the trials and temptations of life. In the Letter from James, he takes a bolder perspective. James reminds the Church that they are blessed by encountering trials of various kinds.  Those tests and trials, as James points out, bring a more complete life and mature response to the journey. There was a movie that came out sometime back called Lone Survivor. The movie was about some Special Ops guys that get caught in an ambush during a mission and the measures they take to survive. The first part of the movie recounts the rigorous and sometimes inhuman training the members of the team had to face.  It showed men going through difficulties that no one should ever have to face.  The training went on for weeks and months and the men would literally collapse under the load. But, those that survived were ready to face some of the most difficult situations known to man. As the movie demonstrated, those men were prepared for anything and took on everything to finish the mission.
 
In our daily walks with God, we too face trials. Some days those trails seem insurmountable. As we endure them, we are faced with the rawest part of our lives and our faith is tested to points we simply feel are impossible. The joy comes as we see God use that training to make us like Him and help us through some very arduous and difficult circumstances. In the process, we may be bloodied and bruised, but that training helps us to survive and to move forward.   That is why James tells the church that those times are a blessing. We have to accept them with gratitude and focus upon the way God comes in and delivers, provides and prepares his people for the next battle.  We need to lean on and lean into our Father who will carry us through to face the next battle. If we will, the Lord will bless us and use us in ways we could never imagine.
 
God Bless You

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wildflower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

2 Timothy 3 Part 2–The Bible-Life Sustaining Weapon and Tool

What keeps from falling prey to the attacks of the enemy? One of the chief tools is God’s holy word.  The Bible is no ordinary book. 66 separate books written by 40 authors over hundreds of years. It is the true message from our creator and the author of the universe. It has been the center of controversy for millennia and the guide to the formation of governments, foundations of education and creation of Churches, families and some of the greatest leaders of all time.  The Bible is dynamic–Its message tailored to fit each person at the place they are in their lives.  It is used for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training.  Paul wanted to give his young friend a grasp of the vital nature of understanding the word of God.  The Faith, the Church, and Christianity, in general, would not grow or remained sustained without the clear message that God’s word provided.
 
In our lives, we are still very dependent upon the message from God.  The Bible is as relevant today as the words of God were 2000 years ago.  We still gain a great wealth of knowledge from the lives of the people in the Bible, the messages of the Bible, and Spirit’s leading through the Bible. If we continue to draw from its message each day, we can battle through the spiritual battles this journey throws at us.  We can never lose heart, nor can we ever lose hope.  Amazingly, faith hope and love are promised by Paul in God’s word. One need not be a Bible scholar to use God’s word. We must simply ask God to lead us through and spend time digging in and reading each day. If we will, then God will use His word to build our lives and grow us into the people He has called us to be!
 
God Bless You

You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.