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.

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 1 Part 1–God Gave Us the Spirit of Power and Discipline

Ministry can be intimidating. Paul started his second letter to Timothy under that guise.  Paul reminded Timothy of the legacy he was left by his mom and grandmother.  Paul reminded Timothy that he was on a mission and that his role was to “Fan the flames of the Gospel.  But, all know that the battle to share and spread the Gospel was a spiritual war. Wars carry with them casualties and for a young preacher that can be devastating.  So Paul made the statement that has kept the mission alive for nearly 2 millennia.”God did not give us the spirit of fear! He gave us the spirit of faith pawer and a sound and disciplined mind.” As his spiritual son, Paul wanted Timothy to walk and fight with confidence in the Lord.  Paul also wanted Timothy to understand the power of the message! salvation was revealed through Christ, and redemption was bought with a price. All We Have to do is accept the gift of grace to be redeemed.
 
In our culture, we face the same spiritual battles, have the same Savior and walk in the same power as did Timothy.  We can never be ashamed or afraid to stand for Christ.  God made sure through His Spirit that we would have the message, courage, and strength to face all that comes against us.  We simply need to be ready to give an account of who Christ is and who we are in Him.  As we look at our lives, it becomes clear that apart from Him, we can do nothing.  We start each day in His word, prayer and preparing for what that day will bring.  As we do, we are no longer fearful of what lies ahead; but, instead, we are empowered to face any and all challenges.  Help me, Lord, to stand firm in the Faith and rest in Your strength and courage!
 
God Bless You
I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

Appeal for Loyalty to Paul and the Gospel

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 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.

I Timothy 5 Part 1–Treating People With Dignity

Paul continues his instruction to Timothy by reminding Him that all people should be treated with respect. Old Men should be treated as fathers, young me as brothers, etc. No matter one’s personal sentiment, it is critical that the church act with kindness, tenderness, and wisdom.  In addition, the Church needs to be ready to serve the poor, the infirm and the abandoned.  BUT, not if those people have a family to care for them. Part of treating folks with respect is accepting the responsibility to care for one’s own–even when it is inconvenient.  Paul also reminded Timothy to make sure those in need were properly placed in that category–not there simply to take advantage.  
 
In our current world, many have lost the ability to be respectful.  Unless there is a personal advantage, our culture dehumanizes about every group with need. The old, the poor, the abandoned and the unborn all have been tossed aside as useless and treated as simple inconveniences. The church must do better. We need to treat all people with proper care and respect.  We need to champion the ones left behind.  We need to honor those that have faced life’s battles.  We need to live lives that show kindness and selflessness. We need to be kind, selfless and respectful.  We are to be in the world, but not of the world.
 
God Bless You

 Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.

Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and  continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, 10 and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.

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.