I Peter 4 Part 2–Live as if There is No Tomorrow

Peter was truly living as if it was the end times. They were difficult years for the new church. Peter wanted the young church to realize that it was not an easy path.  He did want them to know that the eternal road ahead was critical. Peter encouraged the people to focus on the walk and be sober-minded and have expectations for trials. Knowing that Peter’s message is as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago.
 
Live as if the end is near.  Love people like they will be gone soon. conduct yourself as if it is how you want to be remembered. Leave a good reputation behind.  Show love and grace.  Act with class and character.  Do not be amazed when you suffer as a Christian.  It is the rule, not the exception.  Make sure God is honored in your response to suffering.  It is a journey that requires grace and discipline.  So live as if you expect to meet trials and tribulations and feel blessed and honored that God trusts you enough to go through it. 
 
God Bless You

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Suffering as a Christian

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory[b] and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And

“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”[c]

19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

I Timothy 4 Part 2–Stay Focused on the Mission

Paul reminded Timothy that his time and attention needed to be focused upon ministry–not on his concerns about what others thought.  Timothy was young and was certainly receiving pressure about his youth; as he taught in Ephesus.  This was a church that strong and growing. Paul led the church for some time. So, now as Timothy continued to lead it, many would argue that they deserved better.  Paul was clear–do not fall into that trap. simply focus upon the mission and continue to fight forward leading and training the church and using the spiritual gifts God provides.
 
In the present culture, there are countless obstacles and excuses to take one’s eyes off of the Lord. If our focus strays form ministry and mission, then we can be undermined by criticism from others or even by our own fears and baggage.  Paul reminds us, as he did Timothy, that our focus needs to remain on the Lord, and His mission for our lives. Our perceptions, weaknesses, and fears are his to control. We need simply focus on Him as we move forward.  Paul summed it up well in Colossians 3:1-2, “Set your heart on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things!”
 
We must focus on walking and leading! Then He will use us and we will experience an amazing journey.
 
God Bless You

That is why we labor and strive because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.

11 Command and teach these things. 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Colossians 1 Part 1–“Christ Plus” Theology

The Church at Colossae was unique in Paul’s writings.  Paul had never visited the city or the church.  The church at Colossae was started by Epaphras, one of Paul’s disciples. The great story of Colossae was that even without Paul’s direct involvement in its growth, the Church was having an impact. Epaphras had been a great friend to Paul and served him while he was in prison. In addition, he was an evangelist and pastor starting this church.   Paul had received the word, however, that the Colossians had been infiltrated by teachers that pushed the Christ plus heresy. Whether it was Christ Plus Judaism, Christ plus ceremonialism or Christ plus other knowledge–Paul was writing to tell the church that Christ was sufficient–no other thing, tradition or knowledge was necessary!
 
It has been and is still hard to accept that when we come to follow Christ, His salvation is a gift and requires nothing more than our acceptance. If there was a plus to Christ’s gift, in short, it would no longer be a gift. Interestingly, that is what makes men chase these false doctrines. Then and now, we simply cannot stand the idea that we cannot achieve salvation on our own.  We want to help. We want to be able to point to what we have done. God says no. To receive salvation, we simply have to trust God and accept the plan that He has offered.  The great news is that Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection opened the door for us to have fellowship with God if we will simply believe.  That does not seem like a bad thing at all!!!
 
God Bless You
 

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant,[c] who is a faithful minister of Christ on our[d] behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,[e] 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you[f] to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Philippians 3 Part 1–Bragging Rights

Paul was the super pharisee.  If one wanted a poster child for how to “do religion” Paul was easily that guy. He was circumcised, Part of the tribe of Benjamin, trained by Gamaliel the ultimate Rabbi.  He knew all the traditions, all the law and exactly what to do.  He attacked the Christians with zeal and complete abandon. Any Jewish leader would be proud of Paul’s record.  Paul, however, realized that it was not his knowledge or performance that made him righteous.  Paul went as far as to say that stuff was bio-waste compared to the surpassing greatness of Christ,  Paul no longer needed to flaunt a resume–He simply needed to trust God and allow God to transform him into the image of Christ.
 
We are the same.  We are not a product of our accomplishments.  We can never “DO” Christianity to a level that our actions bring us justification.  In fact, as Paul so elegantly articulated it, our efforts to earn salvation look, smell and feel like bio-waste! We need to know Christ! As we get to know him we quickly see that it is His grace and His mercy, not our background or performance that brings us salvation. If we will simply trust and follow His lead–He will restore our relationship with God, and he will prepare us for the journey that lies ahead.  In addition, the Lord will change our hearts and our desires to conform to His image.  There is simply no greater gift than the salvation we receive by trusting Christ alone.
 
God Bless You
 

Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Ephesians 2 Part 1–The Gift of Salvation

Paul was clear; if one was to take a measure of their lives, their actions, attitudes, and focus–the result would be that each of us is deserving of death and separation from God. All have followed the ways of the world, desired the things of the world, believed the lies of the world and ultimately resembled the godlessness of the world.  The great news is that Jesus death and resurrection was the ultimate gift and allowed and still allows men the grace to have a relationship with God.
 
It is by grace we are saved. It is our faith, not our works that save us. Ironically, that gift does affect our works.  We want to honor God, we want to live a life worthy of the Gospel.  We desire to follow him and complete the mission He has for our lives. The most wonderful part, however, is that the desire we have to please God is not a compulsion born out of fear, but, it is instead a longing based in love and devotion.  We simply want to please God because He first loved us.  We do not retire each night checking a scorecard of achievement. Instead, we rest in the faith that we are saved by His grace and are free to follow the Lord and complete the plan set out for us, through our faith in Christ Jesus. It is still a gift, and we are still “works in progress” but, His grace is sufficient to save us and complete the work.
 
God Bless You
 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

I Corinthians 13–The Impact Love Has on our Faith and Our Ministry

Paul came to what many would call the climax of his letter to the Corinthians. It was the discussion to end all questions about Life, sacrifice and talent.  It reframed the entire discussion of faith into one single word. Love. Paul starts the discussion with what love is not–1. Love is not saying the right words or teaching the right doctrines–because to do so without love is both noisy and annoying.  2. Speaking the truth and foretelling the mystery of life is not love; to do so without love is worth nothing. 3. Personal sacrifice in deed or death is not love, because making a sacrifice without love gains one nothing.
 
Paul then addresses what love is–it is patient, it is kind, it is humble, selfless, graceful. It does not act brash, rude, boastful nor does it snicker at the sins and crimes of others. Love rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, endures all things, it is always hopeful and always positive about others.  Love is quite simply what we are all about.  
 
When operating out of love the “religious activities” naturally occur.  Amazingly, they are more beautiful, helpful and meaningful when they come from the love we have for God and for one another. As in everything else in Christianity God looks at our hearts, not our deeds.  If our heart is right, the deeds happen. But using the deeds as a way to gain approval, when done without love is a distorted mess. That is the heart of love and that is the heart of ministry.
 
God Bless You

 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.

I Corinthians 11 Part 2–Church is More Than Simply Gathering

The Corinthians never had a problem getting together, in fact, that was one of Paul’s major concerns.  The people were coming to argue and to party.  The regular meeting to take communion had become a combination tailgate party and runway to show the haves vs have nots.  Some people would come to the fellowship and not have anything while others would come and get drunk and eat bread until they were sick. Paul was furious.
First, communion is for remembering the sacrifice Christ, it was not about us. So, when folks came in and used it as a buffet and bar, clearly Christ was neither the focus nor purpose for the communion. 
In addition, If folks were coming to communion underfed and hungry, the church should have been meeting those needs in another forum–not communion.  The church body should not have had a “have’s” and “have not’s” division. It is unthinkable to have such issues in a prosperous and growing church.
 
As believers, we need to keep our focus on Christ, His sacrifice and His leadership.  Communion is an opportunity to stop, take stock and refocus upon Him.  When we come together as believers, we are blessed to share that experience of remembering His sacrifice and love for us. We must never use that time to focus on our needs or our accomplishments.
As a body, Christians must focus on how to serve Christ and the others in His church. We must be proactive in our service and humble in our demeanor–if we will, then the Church will be a family, not a meeting place. Our gathering will be a joyful time and not a time of jealousy, pride, and infighting. Help us, Lord, to gather with the desire of honoring you and not focusing on ourselves.
 
God Bless You

 In the following directives, I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent, I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. 20 So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. 22 Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter!

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.