James 2 Part 1–Loving Folks, Baggage and All

It is simply easier to love beautiful people. People that are wealthy, healthy and free of life’s baggage are often given preference and position. Those that struggle with life, with finances and have difficult journeys are often avoided and forgotten in the world.  James says the Church must be different! As a community, the Church must not show favoritism and it must take folks warts and all. That is the example the Lord showed by loving tax collectors and sinners of all sorts, healing the sick, crippled and dead. James is reminding the Church that it is truly our place to love people as they are and never look back. 
 
It is a tall order to simply love folks as they are. People drive us crazy. Their attitudes and actions may be maddening, but then the Church can be a part of seeking to save that which is lost. One simply needs to look at their own lives to realize we all have our own sets of baggage. That is why we must not serve as judges, but instead as a family to those with needs. As we do that, the communities we live in will grow strong and our hearts will grow rich. Selflessness will bring purpose and those touched will then touch others. We are called to be different. As a community, loving each other no matter what will set us apart from the rest of this selfish, biased world!
 
God Bless You

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,”[a] you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

James 1 Part 2–God Simply Will Not Tempt His Own, So Live Accordingly

Flip Wilson used to do a bit…”The Devil made me do it!” Amazingly in the world of spiritual warfare, there is a great deal of truth in that statement. What will never be true is the comment “God made me do it.”  Not unlike most parents, James knew that our Heavenly Father would never push the children He loved to separate from Him. Sin separates men from God. So the God of the universe that gave His Son as a sacrifice to restore our relationships would not, in turn, tempt men to sin and separate from Him. James, Jesus’ brother, was a pastor of the church in Jerusalem. He was a later convert, but he was incredibly practical and cared greatly for his people and the Lord. He told them to understand trials and the blessing they can be in one’s life. He next told the folks not to confuse God’s sovereignty with man’s inclination to sin.
 
In addition, James makes clear that one should listen and be slow to anger. As one listens to God’s truth, we need to put that truth into practice.  Doing what God says is so much more critical than simply hearing it. If one can learn God’s word and practice it; we will become complete.  In a world that thrives on Instant this, and impulse that, James reminds us to step back, take a breath, and live as our Lord would.  We are not perfect; thank You, Lord, for Your grace. We must know that If we will listen, respond rather than react, and maintain a peaceful spirit–then God can work through us to effect change in our homes, communities, and world.  Please, Father, help me to realize You are with me and would never seek to tempt me or separate from me. Further, help me to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry!
 
God Bless You

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

Listening and Doing

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like

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 4–The Proper Way to Finish

As Paul was wrapping up the letter to Timothy, He was not simply closing a personal letter, He was preparing his friend and ward for his personal end. Paul knew he would soon be executed. So as he closed, he gave Timothy and God’s chosen two final charges that should guide behavior and direct the steps of God’s people.  
 
First, start each day of ministry prepared for the battle that lies ahead. Paul told Timothy and he tells us–be prepared to share the gospel. Not just kind words that tickle the ears of those who would listen; but, preach the truth. That requires that one be prepared with the word hidden in their hearts. It also means that God’s people should be in prayer and committed to the opportunities to share the truth about knowing Christ and following Him closely. We must be ready to counter the arguments that its ok to believe whatever you want as long as you mean well.  That is what the enemy and the world would have us believe.  
 
Simply put, Christ says, ” Trust me and follow Me and I will give you eternal life.”  Romans 10: 9-10 says, “If we confess with our mouth that He is Lord, and believe in our hearts that God has raised Christ from the dead we will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”  It is simple, but it is difficult–God simply refuses to share His Lordship–He will be Lord, or he will stand down. That is why we confess and believe!
 
Finally, Paul tells Timothy Goodbye! He encourages his friend and gives us who are battle weary hope. Paul tells Timothy that he has fought the Good Fight, He Has finished the race and he has kept the faith. As a result, God holds for him a crown of righteousness that God will present Paul on that day. For us, Paul reminds us to fight, to finish and to keep the faith! We do not have to win the fight each day, sadly there are days we fail miserably. But, We must fight each day! 
 
Next, we must finish the race. God does not require a first-place finish, but, he does require that we do, in fact, finish the race! It is so tempting sometimes to simply give up. Imagine Paul in the dungeon, broken, blind, and abandoned. It would have been easy for him to give up. But, in that period, Paul produced great truth. Philippians, Romans, and these letters have guided millions to the kingdom. It is a great blessing for us all that Paul finished the race. We need to do the same. 
 
Finally, keep the faith! Paul says to hold on and do not give up on the Lord. The enemy will make life so difficult. If we succumb and lose our faith, it will remain difficult but we will lose our hope and love.  Those gifts are what carry us through. So we cannot lose the only thing that will allow us to endure.  I am personally grateful that God does and will provide us what we need to fight, finish and keep our faith–I cannot do it on my own. 
 
God Bless You
 

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Personal Remarks

Do your best to come to me quickly, 10 for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. 12 I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. 13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.

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.

2 Timothy 3 Part 1–Choose the Life You Want

Sorry for being away for a couple of days; Paul was reviewing hos life and preparing Timothy. Paul knew that his end was drawing near.  As he was counseling his friend, Paul stopped and did an evaluation of people in his time. Sadly, it was not flattering.  The basis of life is where one’s lordship lies. It is either based on God being Lord of one’s life or one trying to captain their own ship.  Paul in his evaluation highlighted some of the telltale signs of one that masters his own ship. People that captain their own ship are selfish and abusive in the difficult times and boastful, self-indulgent and brash in the good ones.  At the end of the day, they are the center of their own agenda at all times. Amazingly, those that live like that are never happy, content or at peace.  They are always looking for the next thing, the next excuse or the next person to blame.  
 
Conversely, those that love the Lord seek to serve others. They are content with their own circumstances and look for ways to help and improve the lives of others.  They rise each day seeking God and his direction. They spend their days being kind and selfless. They leave a legacy of selflessness and graciousness that long outlives them.  They are at peace with God being in control and only want what He has planned for their lives.  We rise each day with the opportunity to pick the life we want to live.  The world would have us be self-absorbed. The Lord would have us follow and trust Him.  Joshua says it best. Choose this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
 
God Bless You

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.

2 Timothy 2 Part 1–Discipleship

One of the most critical parts of living the life of a Christian is passing what we have gained from the Lord on to others. Paul reminded Timothy to take what he had received and pass it to people who will, in turn, pass it to others.  Christ’s message is valuable and as we incorporate it into our lives, we are changed forever. That change comes from within and yields eternal fruit.  When we pass what we have learned to family, friends, and associates; they grow and change and become like Christ.  Then like the concentric, circles in a pond, the ripples move out and grow and ultimately change the world around them. 
 
In addition, As disciples, we incorporate disciplines into our lives that allow us to keep sin at bay. We then focus our attention on being the best workers, parents, and spouses we can be. That also is infectious and impacts our communities for the gospel.  We simply cannot give up or give in to the attacks of our enemy. Instead, we must cling to the hope set before us and conduct our lives in a manner worthy of our calling.  
 
God Bless You
You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.