I Peter 3 Part 2–Living Lives of Distinction

Peter, more than anyone could understand the importance of living a life that honors Christ despite the reaction of the world. He was the guy that denied Christ during Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. He was the one Jesus specifically asked to feed His sheep.  He was the one God had to scold about what God makes clean, is clean indeed.  He was the one Paul got onto for ignoring the Gentiles when the Jewish church folk came to town.  Peter was real, he was not perfect.  Peter was also responsible for thousands of folks coming to Christ. 
 
So, when Peter says the best way to honor God is to live in unity, humility, and holiness, one can count on the fact he taught from experience. It is very easy to understand that our lives affect the lives of others.  Our attitudes, behavior, and response to struggles are apparent for all to see.  That is why it is incumbent that Christians live lives that honor and glorify God. All of our actions, our behaviors, and our discussions are there for the world to expose and criticize the faith.   We have to be the people that show our relationship with the Lord truly makes a difference in how we behave and how we respond.  As we live our lives in that way we will be distinct from the crowd.  In addition, that distinction will draw others to Christ, and it will help us to grow stronger and more like Him each day.
 
God Bless You

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For

“Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

James 5 Part 1–Wealth Management

In Philippians 4, Paul lays out his plan for success quite succinctly. Paul tells the Philippians that he has learned to be content in all circumstances. Whether well fed or hungry living in plenty or in want that he could do all things through Christ Who strengthens him. (Phil 4:12-13)  In these verses from James, the author takes the negative side of that argument.  He tells the people who have had plenty and rely upon their riches and wealth for security and peace that they will come to a long and brutal end. Conversely, he tells those that have struggled not to lose hope, that God will provide in His time and in His way.  In short, James tells the people that they need to be content in serving and trusting God no matter what their circumstances may bring.  
 
Fast forward to this week of Thanksgiving.  We as God’s chosen still need to fully rely upon God. If we are wealthy and have all the security we think we need, that is when we should seek Him and lay all that we have on the altar for Him to bless.  When God blesses us with wealth; it is to prepare us to rely upon Him despite our feeling of self-sufficiency.  That is often difficult, but when one finds the ability to be free from their dependence upon their own wealth, it allows God to bless them even more.  Conversely, when one acts completely self-sufficient, they never are quite satisfied, nor are they ever quite secure in their wealth.  Their wealth becomes their prison and they never are free to enjoy the life God has given them. 
 
As for those that struggle to make ends meet; they face the same drama. They live in constant fear of losing what they have. They are always chasing ways to make circumstances better.  James tells such folks, be patient, do not grumble and trust God to prepare, provide and protect you in your journey.  There is very little actual difference in cause and effect. In all circumstances, we must choose to rely upon God for everything we have and how we proceed in the journey. If we will do that, God will, in his time, bless us. If we choose to rely upon our own power, we will sadly find no peace. Solomon said it best, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not lean on your own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all your ways, and He will make your paths straight!” Proverbs 3:5-6
 
God Bless You

Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.[a] You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.

Patience in Suffering

Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

James 4 Part 2–Don’t Lie, Judge or Think You Have It All Together

James gets to the heart of Life. Christians need not lie about each other, judge each other or take life for granted. All those traits represent personal pridefulness. If one starts gossiping and telling lies about another,  to somehow improve their own image; they are simply replacing God and His view with a prideful and selfish view of their own. The same is true when people start judging each other. It is so fun and gratifying to look at another in their personal circumstances and cast judgment on who they are or what they have or should have done.   Truth is, no one has a right to judge another. God controls circumstance and allows things to occur in the lives of folks without explanation or reason.  Look at Joseph, Moses, David or Job and see that there is no way for those men to understand their life path from where they were.  We can see it thousands of years later–but, while they were in the midst of it–for them it was inexplicable.  Job’s friends judged him and told him everything he did wrong–and it almost cost them their lives.  We are not called to judge, we are called to love and minister to folks right where they are.
 
Finally, we need not be proud of our own path or destiny. Many have fallen from great distances in life never understanding why or how to recover. So, when one smugly says to himself that he has a plan and intends to execute it to the letter–It is simply a form of pride. God tells us to trust and follow Him. If we will He will give us a purposeful and meaningful life. No promise of riches, no promise of ease. He simply promises to love us and walk through whatever trial with us. That is itself the greatest gift. We must not presuppose we have life figured out. We are one Dr. Appt, one job loss, one wayward child away from our lives being turned upside down. God encourages us to trust Him and follow Him.  He has a plan for us and it is a plan to sanctify us and make us eternally focused and spirit-filled. Help me Lord to simply trust and follow you.
 
God Bless You

Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister[d] or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

Boasting About Tomorrow

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

James 4 Part 1–Friendship With the World Means Enmity With God

It simply will never work, Since man’s fall in the garden, the stark choice has always been who will be Lord of your life. Sadly, most times, men have chosen to make themselves the Lord’s of their lives. Oh, sure they may but a thin veil of spirituality over it, but in the end, people either choose to serve God or serve themselves. History has repeatedly reminded us that when men serve God, they have a life of purpose and order. Those that have chosen to follow God have left legacies that still shine long past their short time on earth.  Conversely, those that have been so captivated by themselves, have died alone and without honor or love. 
 
James is clear, God honors those that humbly follow His lead. When we take the lead in our life, we devolve into a confused and chaotic mess.  When we stand for the Lord and submit to his lead, we experience peace and purpose. Allowing our Creator, Redeemer, and Lord to run our lives is the easiest way to experience the most we could ever hope or dream.  It is not that God makes it easy, it is that God knows His plan to give us a full and meaningful life. We must trust the Lord to execute that plan–even when it seems hopeless.  We can never succumb to the world’s lies and deceit. We must follow Christ’s words, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” Matt 6:33.  Humility and grace will fill our lives with meaning and purpose. Trusting the world will fill us with hopelessness and defeat.  Choose this day whom you will serve…
 
God Bless You

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

You adulterous people,[a] don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us[b]But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”[c]

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

James 3 Part 1–Watching Our Tongues

James starts to get personal in Chapter 3.  As God’s kids, we do our best to stay away from the “Big Sins”; killing, stealing, and sexual sin. But, James began discussing our tongues. Gossip, berating others, cursing, telling lies, filthy jokes…you get the picture.  God knew from the beginning the devastation caused by our evil use of our mouths. So many lives have been ruined by harsh language and gossip. We can issue a great deal of pain to our spouses and our children by failing to manage our words and our tones.  James tells the people that big ships are controlled by a little rudder–so lives are controlled by the tongue.
 
The tongue can be a source of life or death. God calls us to use our tongues as a source of life.  Earlier, James reminded the people to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry! We are to speak life to people. We encourage, we pray and we share the gospel. We speak the truth in love and always seek ways to use our language to make people better.  There is no need to be harsh, coarse. deceptive or manipulative.  Simply, speak the truth and seek to point people to faith and not from it.  One of the great sadnesses in life is to hear that Christians, by their words, do more to keep people from wanting to know God.  So, as James has so eloquently put it–control your tongue and you will be a superstar to the church!
 
God Bless You

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

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.

I Thessalonians 4 Part 1–Living Holy Lives

As Paul saw things, the chosen of the Lord should live lives that honored God. Paul reminded the Thessalonians that the salvation process was a process of sanctification. Simply put, sanctification is the transformation that happens as Christians trust God and follow his daily lead. The areas that Paul discussed included sexual impurity, attitudes toward others and their treatment, and the thoughts we have about life, love, and God.  Paul reinforced the idea that Christians should live quiet lives, not looking to satisfy sexual cravings, not hurting or stealing from others, and not seeking instant gratification or attention.
 
In our lives, we are to do the same. We need to live quiet lives that seek God and not our own whims and desires.  We need to treat others with respect, kindness, and selflessness.  We need to live a life that reviews our actions and deeds and continually lays them on the altar.  The sanctification process prepares Christians for eternity.  This world is not our home, and as we pass through, we need to exhaust the effort to be like Christ.  While it is not a performance-based faith, we have to allow God to change our hearts and lives to be like Him.  When we do, we will experience peace and purpose that will help us to complete the Amazing Journey and to follow God with confidence.
 
God Bless You

As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact, you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body[a] in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.[b] The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.

Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.