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

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 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.

2 Timothy 1 Part 2–I know in Whom I have Believed

Paul was a prisoner of Rome. He had given his life to spreading the Gospel to the Gentiles. He had been arrested and had gone through difficult trials, facing death several times.   Now as Paul languished in prison, he was confident in the one with whom he had believed. God carried him through thick and thin. and no matter the circumstance, Paul was able to point to God’s hand leading him to the execution of God’s mission throughout the world.  Now, as Paul was confined and waiting for the end; he was as confident in God as he had been in Damascus.  Paul knew his circumstances were never the issue, it was Paul’s faith and confidence in God, and God’s direction in Paul’s life.  Still, the enemy used Paul’s pain, his imminent execution, and his feeling of abandonment to try to kill the last vestiges of Paul’s faith.  Paul made it clear to Timothy that the enemy was not successful.  
 
The enemy does the same to us as well. He uses our temptations and trials to rob us of the three great gifts–Faith, Hope, and Love. Like Paul, we need to learn to be content in all circumstances.  We too must know in whom we have believed. We then cling to the faith given us to walk through whatever trial or storm into the promise of God’s blessing. God is able to take that which we are willing to commit to him, and store it to our favor upon his return. We simply have to live lives focused upon that which is eternal not that which is temporal.  Help me, Lord to live that kind of life in my walk with You!
 
God Bless You

But it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11 And of this gospel, I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.

13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

Examples of Disloyalty and Loyalty

15 You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes.

16 May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. 17 On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. 18 May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus.

I Timothy 6 Part 1–Learn To Be Content

Paul winds up the discussion with Timothy focused upon learning to be content. He had discussed the misuse of benevolence among the people and told Timothy that people would try to take advantage of the kindness of the church–do not let them.  Make families care for their own and make sure that people do not try to manipulate the truth for personal gain.  He reminded Timothy to focus on what is critical not on the things that cause senseless arguing and strife.  Mostly, though Paul reminded Timothy to teach and be content. As long as you have food to eat and clothes on our back one needs to be grateful and content.
 
Sadly, then and now, money has a hold on us all. We have to have money to live. In our culture, money not only buys things, but it gives power and influence. It is so easy to make money one’s daily obsession. Sadly, it never satisfies, and if allowed becomes Lord and Master. Paul reminds Timothy that becoming content with what one has is the basis for a great walk with God. Chasing money and things conversely lead to being miserable and destroying our lives. Our prayer needs to be one of gratefulness and humility. Never holding so tight to the things of this world that we lose our focus on Christ and His kingdom.  Paul said it best in Philippians 4, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances, whether well fed or hungry living in plenty and in want, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil 4:12-13.
 
God Bless You

These are the things you are to teach and insist on. If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.