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 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 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.

I Timothy 6 Part 2–Fighting the Good Fight

Paul’s final command to Timothy was huge! As a man of God, run from evil and pursue righteousness. Fight the good fight!!! As General Patton would say, “This is war boys!!!” As Christ faced death, He stood firm and made no excuse.  Paul calls Timothy to do the same.  Face death and make a good confession that Jesus Christ is Lord. Paul further reminds Timothy, let those in your group be God-focused and not focused on the material things. Let the rich worship God not their stuff; understanding God gave them what they have to enjoy and to be generous with others. Use the resources God gave to help others and honor God–by doing that one will lay up treasures in Heaven.
 
That reality is still the same.  This is war and as we march forward, we must do so with a righteous heart and a spirit focused on God. We live as warriors facing death every day.  We use all the resources we have been given to honor God.  We need to hold on loosely to the material things God has blessed us with.  Not fearing the enemy, but treating the enemy with righteous respect for the evil that he is, and the enemy’s focused desire to end us and our mission. if we will, then in God’s time He will lift us up. We will be the Lord’s ambassadors and will leave an impact and legacy for generations to come!
 
God Bless You

 But you, a man of God, flee from all this and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

20 Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, 21 which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith.

Grace be with you all.

I Timothy 3 Part 2–How Shall We Then Live?

While Christianity is not a performance-based religion, Paul reminded Timothy that he needed to examine those he served with and also the church at large. In Christ’s life, death and resurrection the Lord demonstrated His authority and His servant’s heart. He led a selfless life, and as a result, was raised to the highest place; and holds the name that is above every name (Philippians 2). Paul reminds Timothy that the truth of that is the very foundation of the Church.  As such, Christ is alive, revered by angels, feared by demons, available to every person on earth and an advocate for all who trust him and believe.
 
Those of us who follow him are called to live similar and selfless lives. Colossians 3 reminds us that we have died and our lives are now hidden in Christ with God. 2 Corinthians 5 tells us we are new creations–ambassadors of eternity. As such, we are to live lives that bring honor to the name that is above every name. We are not checking off boxes to meet requirements; instead, we are becoming like the Lord that gave all he had to redeem us from sin and death. It is no secret that apart from God we can do nothing. More importantly, it is no secret that in Christ, He does it all. In short, We are called to live like the Lord that died for us!
 
God Bless You

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.

11 In the same way, the women[c] are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.

12 A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. 13 Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.

Reasons for Paul’s Instructions

14 Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. 16 Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:

He appeared in the flesh,
was vindicated by the Spirit,[d]
was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
was taken up in glory.

I Thessalonians 4 Part 2–What Happens Next

So what happens to those of us who die in Christ? There is a great deal of speculation.  The bottom line is that when we are headed home. Paul was clear in his later letter to the Philippians–to live is Christ and to die is gain.  He was encouraging the Thessalonians to take heart. This life is only a dot on the line of eternity. Paul was making clear that once we finish this life, God will not forget or forsake us!  God will call us home to spend eternity with Him and we will see the fullness and glory of God.
 
In the meanwhile, we should live each day as if it were our last and as if we are working for God–not for men.  Even with the finest bosses, we still need to see our efforts reflect and are to honor our Father in heaven.  The way we live is our legacy. The life we lead should reflect the Lord as our light and life. It is simply no secret that this is the training ground for what is ahead. We should face each day with the confidence that Christ will return and we will spend eternity with Him.  Help me, Lord to live and honor you in all that I do.
 
God Bless You

 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord, himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

I Thessalonians 2 Part 1–The Heart of Ministry

Ministry can never be about one’s personal gain. People see right through that. Paul expressed to the Thessalonians that he and Silas ministered with pure hearts and right motives.  They worked to earn their own keep, they took on dramatic opposition and in the midst of that, they spread the Gospel, discipled believers, and spiritually raised the church.  They remained transparent, kind and nurturing in the midst of their own trials and testing.
 
Ministry is never easy. We are at war. Our enemy wants to destroy and neutralize our impact on the lives of others.  He will use personal gain, open opposition, trials, and temptation to confuse and minimize our impact.  As Christians, we have to fight on, but, in the midst of the battle, remain kind and Christ-focused as we minister to others. Rick Warren’s premise “it is not about you” is truth in your walk with God and your ministry to others. The more it becomes about you, the less effective you become. It is critical to lay all your concerns on the alter and continue to seek God’s direction and provision no matter what is before you. It is never easy and sometimes seems completely hopeless. But God does protect, provide and prepare us for what lies ahead. He did it for Paul and He will do it for us–if we will allow Him.   Help us Lord to trust you and minister in all circumstances you have set before us.
 
God Bless You

 You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results. We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God, we dared to tell you His gospel in the face of strong opposition. For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. Instead, we were like young children[a] among you.

Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.