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 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 4 Part 1–Spiritual Fitness

Paul reminded Timothy to be on guard for false teachers.  These leaders promote very structured and sacrificial lives for their congregants and yet, have no desire to follow the codes they espouse. They promise the world in exchange for being treated like royalty; but in reality, they intend to deliver nothing.  Paul urged Timothy to stand up to such teaching and to the leaders that make their fortunes promoting it.  
 
In addition, Paul reminds Timothy to remain spiritually fit.  Paul does not diminish the value of physical discipline, but, wants Timothy to note that spiritual fitness is more important. Its importance lies in the eternal nature of the outcome.  Our physical health is as temporal as life itself. The spiritual fitness is preparation for the eternal.  We need to think eternally, live eternally and act eternally.  We can never be afraid to press on to take hold of the Spirit’s teaching, leading and comfort.
 
In short, we have to make the main thing, the main thing. We cannot lose sight of what God has taught and promised.  We have to live our lives focused on becoming like Christ and honoring Him in the way we work, the way we act, and in the way we live!
 
God Bless You

 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters,[a] you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. 10 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.

I Timothy 3 Part 1–Desire to Lead

Leadership is critical in any organization.  In the body of Christ, the character of a leader is as critical as the leader’s skills and gifts. Paul told Timothy to do a careful search of the character of church leaders. They must live Godly lives, have a noble character, display restraint, gentleness amicability and have families that do the same. Are leaders supposed to be perfect? In Paul’s mind, he knew no leaders–especially himself, were perfect. But, due to the scrutiny and the importance of the role, Leaders need to be a cut above.
 
In our society, we have forgotten that character is often what distinguishes great leaders. Our culture looks at wealth, celebrity, charisma and social status as the hallmark of great leaders. In spite of that, there are many folks of amazing character that rise to the tops of their field and remain unassuming, noncontroversial and humble.  They work hard and are extremely gifted, but see leadership as a wonderful honor; one not to be taken lightly.  They have a lasting influence on those that they lead, and they are recognized and remembered for their legacy and character–not their title and wealth.  God calls his leaders to be servants, He prepares them, promotes them and uses them to shape the church and the community to become like Him.  Thank you, servant leaders, and thank You, Lord, for providing them.
 
God Bless You

Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full[a] respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

In the same way, deacons[b] are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

I Timothy 1 Part 2–Using the Worst to Bring Out God’s Best

Paul begins his letter to Timothy with a very strong confession. In short, Paul tells Timothy that he was as vile and violent a sinner as was known to man. He blasphemed God, he carried out violence and was far from the godly Pharisee he perceived himself to be.  But, in the midst of that, God forgave, restored, and commissioned Paul to bring the Gospel to the Gentile world.  Why would God do that?  Simple, God prepares and uses those best suited for the task assigned.  
 
God used Noah to save men and beast after the flood.  God used Moses, murderer,  shepherd, to free His people and lead them to the Promised Land. God used a boy shepherd, David, to kill Goliath and return Israel to its place as a great nation. God used a group of fishermen and misfits from around Galilee to spread the Gospel to His people, Israel.  God used the ultimate Jewish leader to take the Gospel outside Israel and to the Gentile world at large. God has always made clear that it is not who he picks, it is the faith and willingness of those he picks that makes them and their mission so amazing.  
 
The same remains true today.  God uses us, misfits, sinners to continue the work of the Gospel.  We are no more worthy than was Paul or Timothy. That is what causes God’s message to thrive the most. If we, who are in no way worthy of salvation, can demonstrate God’s influence and work in our lives; then, there can be little argument that such change is from the Lord and not due to our personal charm and talent.  If from the Lord, then the change is real and ready for anyone that is willing to accept Christ in their lives. It is not about us, it is about the One who lives within us! 
 
God Bless You

12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

The Charge to Timothy Renewed

18 Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, 19 holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. 20 Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.