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 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.

I Timothy 2 Part 1–The Heart of Worship

First and foremost pray. That was Paul’s message to Timothy. Pray for whom we ask–Kings and everyone in authority. What a great way to start a discussion of Worship.  From Paul’s perspective prayer is the heart of worship.  Prayer is talking to God. intimate communication with our Creator, Savior, and Lord.  Without prayer, we are floating aimlessly through life.  It is a great gift to be able to praise, thank, confess, and seek out God’s direction for our lives.  The Church simply does not function in an environment that is void of prayer and worship.  
 
Worship is an attitude of gratefulness and intimacy with God. We long to be like Him and with Him more than anything else.  We focus on who God is not how we are dressed or who we can impress. We simply seek to know God and become like Him in our thoughts, speech, and actions.  Because of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection, we are able to approach God’s throne with our deepest needs and concerns.  He wants that and is glad to welcome us to share our hearts and desires. 
 
In that, we need to approach with a humble heart and a spirit of thanksgiving. We need to trust the Lord to do what is the best fo our lives. He is not “Amazon” where we make our 1 click orders. No, He is our Heavenly Father that wants to prepare us for an eternity with Him. We are blessed to approach Him and long to worship Him. Help me, Lord to approach You with the proper spirit of worship.
 
God Bless You

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.

Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

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.

Colossians 2 Part 2–It’s Not About the Rules, Its About the Relationship

Paul was obviously frustrated by the ease that the Colossians fell back into a checklist mentality.  He had literally traveled the world preaching the importance of Christ’s death and resurrection. He had been imprisoned, stoned, shipwrecked, beaten for preaching the Gospel.  So to hear that one of the churches had fallen prey to the deceitful knowledge and works mentality spread by the gnostics and the traditionalists, was almost more than he could bear.  So Paul reminded the Colossians that when one accepts Christ Jesus as Lord, they are no longer judged by what they eat, what they wear or even what they do.  Instead, they are saved by their relationship with God that was made possible when they accepted the free gift of Salvation.  In short, Gifts simply cannot be earned.
 
In our day and culture, everything is competitive. Income, family size, achievements at work or school all help to define our success and our standing in the community.  As with the Colossians, however, God reminds us that our eternal salvation is not a competition, it is a faith journey started with a free gift.  His chosen simply have to trust and follow the Lord. He will do the work of forgiving, restoring and preparing us for Heaven.   Christians must not fall into the trap of believing that their feeble attempts at “Doing the Christian life” will ever be sufficient to win favor with God or earn some sort of salvation bonus.  We are completely forgiven and completely saved from sin and death.  We can simply rejoice in the true grace the Lord provides and follow God’s lead as we continue on this Amazing Journey.
 
God Bless You

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces[a] of this world rather than on Christ.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh[b] was put off when you were circumcised by[c] Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you[d] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.[e]

Freedom From Human Rules

16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19 They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

Colossians 1 Part 2–The Supremacy of Christ

 

One cannot begin to understand the sacrifice Christ made on the cross until there is a clear picture of the amazing supremacy that Christ holds.  “Let there be Light” and there was light…Christ created all things physical, spiritual in heaven and on earth. Let’s make man in our image…Christ did that. When scientists talk of the galaxies that stretch for an inconceivably astronomical distance across the universe Christ did that.  Not only did he create it, but by Him, all this stuff holds together. Jesus was that guy and walked away from the immortal, omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscience the Lord had–only to demonstrate His love by humbling Himself to be a human and to die a horrific death–in order to restore our relationship with God.  The very One that provided life and purpose sacrificed both in order to give spiritual Life back to men.
 
So, knowing that, we should leap at the opportunity to build a relationship and follow Jesus Christ our Lord. We have the great gift of being able to step up to God’s throne and ask whatever, whenever and however. God loves us and wants nothing more than to be in relationship with us.  It is that amazing gift that drives us to our knees and into God’s word.  We must live equally sacrificial lives and walk humbly in His love. As we do, we experience peace and purpose. We see the world falling into hopeless chaos and still are able to piece together a life of hope and joy. We live for the eternal not for the now. We know that ultimately God is Supreme and has a plan to restore all that was destroyed by sin.  He is supreme, amazing, and personal.  He loves each of us and would have made the sacrifice, even if we were the only beneficiary. That is true love, and that is who our Lord really is!
 
God Bless You

 


He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by[f] him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him, all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation[g] under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Philippians 1 Part 3–To Live is Christ and to Die is Gain

As Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians, He was in prison in Rome. He lived chained between two guards. The one-time world traveler now was awaiting his final fate from Rome. In the midst of the hopeless situation he faced, Paul was able to continue to preach the Gospel through his letters. What’s more, others were preaching the Gospel loudly and spreading the message even beyond where Paul had reached. But, at the end of the day, Paul knew that life on earth was not comparable to eternity in Heaven.   As he languished in prison;  beaten, broken and blind—Paul longed to be home with Lord.  Amazingly, it was that longing that drove Paul to preach the Gospel all day every day.
 
Paul, more than most, understood the deception of a rules-based religion. As a Jew of Jews, Paul learned from the best and performed religion as well as anyone. But, when he had his encounter with Christ, It changed Him. He realized he would never be worthy in his own power. He also learned that God’s grace was sufficient to meet his needs. From there, God brought him to a place that made him a true ambassador for God and showed him that Christ alone was all anyone needed to have a relationship with God.  Paul was driven to get that message out to everyone. So until God brought him home, Paul would spread that message to all who would listen and all who would read the letters he drafted.  Paul Had come to a place that valued Christ above all. So wherever he was Christ was the most important thing.
 
In our lives we have to come to a place where we also can say to live is Christ and to die is gain. Each of us faces trials of various types. In those trials, we can become distracted from what is important and what is not.  If we can move forward with a grateful heart and follow His leading, then no matter the circumstances we face our response can remain grateful and hopeful. Only with a grateful heart is this life bearable. Otherwise, we become like the Israelites in the desert;  complaining when God is in their presence literally dropping food from heaven each day.  Treasure the joys of our life here–but, know to live is Christ and to die is gain.
 
God Bless You

Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,[b] that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard[c] and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this, I rejoice.

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.[d] 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.