Only One risen Saviuor

Only One risen Saviuor
There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved - Jesus

Monday, 26 June 2017

2 Corinthians Day 53 - The Multiplication Factor

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9:10 Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, 11 while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. 12 For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, 13 while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, 14 and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you. 15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

For God so loved the world that He gave... 

Giving is not something God demands of us, it is something He models to us endlessly. I love to garden yet when I think about gardening and the process of it, I marvel at how little I actually do. I take a seed that God designed. I put it in soil that God made. I water it with water He designed and provided. I have no control of the sunshine, the temperature, the rainfall, or anything else. I play such a tiny role and even that role is only possible because He supplied the seeds to make it possible.

God gives relentlessly. Everything is in His hands. The Bible says that the cattle on a thousand hills are His. Have you ever thought about the animals? Did He not truly give them to us? He told Adam he would have dominion over the animals and we do. Every wild animal no matter how large will submit to us, be tamed and trained by us when they could easily kill us if they wanted to.

God has given us everything we are and everything we have. He invites us to take what we have and in turn give it to others. He invites us to become part of His kingdom of generosity. Love multiplies. Hate destroys. When I receive I in turn want to give. When I give I want to give more. There is an undeniable multiplication factor in giving. A boy gave his lunch. Jesus gave lunch to thousands. A woman gave Jesus a drink of water and Jesus watered the souls of her and her entire village. Find me one example where someone gave to Jesus or for Jesus and ended up with less...

Jesus repeatedly said to others "Follow Me" and Jesus was a Giver. Follow Him. See what happens. :) 

2 Corinthians Day 52 - Some Call It Karma

9:1 Now concerning the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you; 2 for I know your willingness, about which I boast of you to the Macedonians, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal has stirred up the majority. 3 Yet I have sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this respect, that, as I said, you may be ready; 4 lest if some Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we (not to mention you!) should be ashamed of this confident boasting. 5 Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation.

6 But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. 9 As it is written:“

He has dispersed abroad,

He has given to the poor;

His righteousness endures forever.”

Karma is a principle. A word used to describe cause and effect in a person's life. Every choice will produce a reciprocal effect. If you are mean to someone eventually that will come back on you. If you are kind the same will come back to you sooner or later. Some Christians shy away or reject the word because it is often associated with eastern mysticism and/or new age beliefs. What we often fail to realize is that everything that is true has it's roots in God and we can use these universal truths to build bridges to people who have some truth but don't know Jesus, Who is the Truth. The principle of cause and effect is all through the Scriptures. When God presented the blessings and the curses to Israel it was simply a list of cause and effect. The Bible says if you cast your bread on the water, after many days you will find it again. Here Paul said that people who sow sparingly also reap sparingly and those who sow generously reap a bounty. What does he mean? You get what you give. 

I meet a lot of lonely people but it is no mystery why they are lonely in many cases. They spent their lives self-absorbed. They didn't invest in others. Their circle was small and in the end it left them lonely. 

When we lived in Cape Breton there was a family that had a house fire. They had no insurance. However the family was known and loved by many for their kindness and generosity. Guess what happened? The community rallied around them, materials and time were donated, in not long after the fire they had a brand new house that was better than what they lost and it cost them next to nothing. When Fort McMurray had their terrible forest fire last spring I was moved by the generosity of so many to come to their aid. I was proud of my church organization ADRA for taking such a large and active role. I was proud of my local churches for their immediate willingness to provide help and supplies and the entire city of Grande Prairie for being so ready to give.

If you want mercy, be merciful. If you want kindness, be kind. If you want forgiveness be forgiving. If you hope others will help you in your time of need, help others when the opportunities present themselves. There is a joy in serving others you won't find anywhere else. We were designed to serve, to give, to share, to love. True happiness is found in these things. God loves a cheerful giver because He loves our happiness. :)

2 Corinthians Day 51 - Bold

8:16 But thanks be to God who puts the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus. 17 For he not only accepted the exhortation, but being more diligent, he went to you of his own accord. 18 And we have sent with him the brother whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches, 19 and not only that, but who was also chosen by the churches to travel with us with this gift, which is administered by us to the glory of the Lord Himself and to show your ready mind, 20 avoiding this: that anyone should blame us in this lavish gift which is administered by us— 21 providing honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.

22 And we have sent with them our brother whom we have often proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, because of the great confidence which we have in you. 23 If anyone inquires about Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker concerning you. Or if our brethren are inquired about, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ. 24 Therefore show to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love and of our boasting on your behalf.

I often read Paul's writings with a certain envy. He is bold. A boldness I do not possess, at least not yet. Titus, who has pastored them before is returning to Corinth. He has volunteered to do so. Paul says Titus has a heart for them that is equal to Paul's care for them. Along with Titus is an unnamed person who has been given the responsibility of overseeing the money given by the churches in Macedonia that is destined to provide relief in Judea. 

So Paul is challenging them to give, something they promised to do a year earlier but haven't followed through on, and now he is sending Titus and the money man to collect. He ends section with verse 24 - "Therefore show to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love and of our boasting on your behalf." 

He is basically saying "It's time to put your money where your mouth is. We have boasted about you so don't make us liars."

That's bold. Very bold. I'm not a pusher. I never have been. I have been to seminars where speakers talked about the importance of making appeals and some of their tactics seemed very pushy to me, almost manipulative. There is no doubt in my mind that manipulation to get someone to do something they don't want to do is wrong. However this is a different case. Paul is not pushing them to do something they don't want to do. He is pushing them to do something they already committed to do. This was their promise, not his. 

It has me thinking about the implications for mutual accountability and pushing each other to be what we desire to be. This is the kind of boldness I pray for. I never want to push anyone into something they don't want to do, but I do want to help people realize the personal goals and commitments they have set themselves and have others do the same for me.

"Those I love I rebuke and correct." - God

See how practical God's word is. :)

2 Corinthians Day 50 - To Give Freely

8:8 I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.

10 And in this I give advice: It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago; 11 but now you also must complete the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there also may be a completion out of what you have. 12 For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.

13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; 14 but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack—that there may be equality. 15 As it is written, “He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.”

I find this section both humbling and encouraging. Humbling because I have been where Corinth is and encouraging because I'm not alone in my good intentions. As you can see it's been a year since Corinth agreed to support others in need but in that year nothing has been done. The others churches in Macedonia have been doing what they can while Corinth has done nothing. Notice that Paul doesn't call this giving a commandment. He calls it a grace. Choosing to give and following through is an evidence of growth in Christ like character. It's an area of growth where Corinth is struggling.

Paul makes a passing reference to an Old Testament story. The story is found in Exodus 16. The book of Haggai deals with the exact same principle. The Bible teaches that hoarding does not lead to abundance and giving does not lead to a lack. In fact nature teaches that giving leads to abundance. Why are dandelions so successful? Because they are so good at giving their seeds away and they are well rooted.

A well rooted Christian knows what it is to give. It is life and joy and a privilege that leads to abundance for all. It has been said that in this world there are givers and takers and we must decide which we will be. My favourite author describes it as consumers and producers. Jesus lived to give. He gave Himself continually. When John the Baptist died the Bible said Jesus tried to take some down time but He saw people in need and had compassion on them and went back to "work". He didn't have to. It wasn't a commandment. It just demonstrated the grace that filled His character. The grace of self-sacrificing love. 

Paul is encouraging, reminding, and challenging the believers in Corinth to consider Jesus and develop the grace of giving. He who had everything left it all behind to rescue us. Will we do less? Look around for opportunities to practice the grace of giving. You will experience no lack.

Don't be like the grandpa who took his grandson to church. When the boy came home he said to his mother "Grandpa sure can't handle much pain." 

 "What makes you say that? Is grandpa ok?" asked his mother.

"Oh I think so but the preacher asked everyone to give until it hurt. Grandpa only gave a dollar."

2 Corinthians Day 49 - This Grace Also

8:1 Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: 2 that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. 3 For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, 4 imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. 5 And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God. 6 So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well. 7 But as you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—see that you abound in this grace also.

The grace of self-sacrificing generosity - do we possess it? Notice what the grace of God has produced in the Corinthian church already: faith, speech, knowledge, diligence, and love. Paul is asking for an encouraging a new manifestation of grace - that they would choose to share/give generously.

He continues to explains where this generosity should come from:

8 I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.

Paul has shared that other churches throughout Macedonia have already discovered the grace of giving. Note that he is not commanding them to give. He is encouraging them to look to the example of Jesus. To give from obligation is not generous. That kind of giving will eventually produce bitterness. When the children of Israel were asked to donate materials to build the Sanctuary, God asked only to give from a willing heart. There was no forced giving. There were no guilt trips. There was no coercion. 

To give unwillingly is no benefit to anyone. It is hurtful to the recipient and will only bring resentment to the giver. True giving is a byproduct of grace. It is another manifestation of what happens to the heart that is touched with the ever increasing scope of what Jesus did, is doing, and will do for us. If you have not yet received this grace of self-sacrificing generosity don't attempt to produce it. Instead look again at what Jesus has given for you. Heaven came down while all the comforts and glory of heaven remained behind. Born to poor parents, laid in a feed trough for a crib, His life was anything but affluent. Had He been honoured with the best this world has to offer it still would have been an immeasurable step down. Why did He do it? Love. 

May the grace of giving for the benefit of helping others become a grace we receive in ever increasing measure. 

2 Corinthians Day 48 - A Thousand Times No

7:13 Therefore we have been comforted in your comfort. And we rejoiced exceedingly more for the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. 14 For if in anything I have boasted to him about you, I am not ashamed. But as we spoke all things to you in truth, even so our boasting to Titus was found true. 15 And his affections are greater for you as he remembers the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling you received him. 16 Therefore I rejoice that I have confidence in you in everything.

I was asked once if it made me partly happy when the pastor who came to a church after I had left struggled to succeed. I understood the question but it hurt me. The answer is no. A thousand times no. If the pastor who comes after me struggles who loses? Is it not my church members? The people I taught, prayed with, prayed for, wept with and celebrated with? How could I ever hope for anything but their increased growth and joy in the Lord? When I leave I don't pray I will be the best pastor they ever had. I pray the next one will be able to take them places I never could. 

Paul raised up the church in Corinth. That's something I've never done. They were literally a newborn baby in his arms. They learned to walk and talk under his guidance. It must have caused him great pain to leave them. I can tell you it's like grieving a death to leave a church. I have hated it each and every time and felt like I could never love another like I loved them. It takes me about two years to feel normal again. What makes it worse is the news they are struggling and you are helpless to do anything about it.

Paul found something he could do. He sent them a new pastor. He sent young Titus. He told Titus how wonderful they were which was probably more true in his heart than in reality. He told Corinth how wonderful Titus was too. Long story short Titus went and it was a good experience for him and them. Now it seems Titus has finished his time with them and Paul is still pastoring them from afar. 

There is no greater example in the Bible besides Jesus of the heart of a shepherd. Paul keeps following wherever Jesus leads but never leaves one church in the dust. He writes to them, prays for them, sends leaders to help them. He does it all because he isn't a shepherd for hire. He loves his sheep. When you see Paul and his care for his churches know that Jesus' concern for you is infinitely greater. He loves you with an everlasting love. Hebrews 7:25 tells us that Jesus lives to pray for us. He sends people to help us. His angels do things for us we will never know about until we get Home. He is the Great Shepherd of the sheep and Paul is just a taste, just a glimpse into the love He has for us and the ways He cares for us from afar. Take courage. You have the best Pastor always. :)

2 Corinthians Day 47 - Is It Possible...?

7:12 Therefore, although I wrote to you, I did not do it for the sake of him who had done the wrong, nor for the sake of him who suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear to you.

This is going to be short but thought provoking. As we have seen all along the context of this letter is dealing with a man who sinned and the fall out from it. This statement by Paul makes that all the more clear. His statement also does something else. It opens to our view the motive for writing the letter. The content and counsel surrounds the man who sinned, was sorry, and was not exactly being forgiven in the fullest sense. That's the context and content but the motive says Paul is entirely different. He wrote to them to reveal his care and concern for them. He wanted them to know he was following their story, knew of their struggles, and was concerned about how it was affecting them. In simple terms he loved them and he wanted them to know it.

Is it possible, is it within the realm of conceivable that this opens to us a much greater truth? Replace Paul with God. Replace Corinth with planet earth. Replace the letter with Jesus, the Word of God. What if Jesus was sent not so much to deal with men who have been wronged or done wrong, but rather to reveal God's love and concern for us? Is that possible? 

Don't get me wrong, it's not one or the other but both. Paul did write to address the situation with the man but by his own admission it wasn't his primary motive. Could it be that dealing with sin was not the primary reason Jesus came?!

"For God so loved that He sent..."

Jesus. God's love letter to us...

Monday, 19 June 2017

2 Corinthians Day 46 - I'm Not Sorry

7:5 For indeed, when we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears. 6 Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming, but also by the consolation with which he was comforted in you, when he told us of your earnest desire, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more.

8 For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. 9 Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11 For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what  vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter. 12 Therefore, although I wrote to you, I did not do it for the sake of him who had done the wrong, nor for the sake of him who suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear to you.

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It's difficult to know for certain but it seems Paul is referring to the letter he wrote them which we know as 1 Corinthians. The reason why it's difficult to know for sure is because he alludes in both letters we have to other letters which we don't have. However since the lessons to be learned remain the same either way, it doesn't really matter. If it was 1 Corinthians he is referring to we know the situation. He wrote chastising them because a man in the church was openly sleeping with his father's wife (we presume not his mother but can't be sure). Paul was upset not just because of the situation but the fact the church was letting it slide as if nothing was wrong. 

I want you to notice Paul's admission about the whole thing. He found out what was happening, was likely tortured trying to figure out how to respond. He decides to write the letter. Apparently it was not well received at first and for a time Paul was sorry he had sent it. In time though the church came to grips with their role and responsibilities in the matter and dealt with it. Now Paul is remembering all that to them in this letter and telling them how he went through the roller coaster of emotions but ultimately is thankful he did what he did because it had the desired result and more importantly it was the right thing to do. As Jesus said "Those I love I rebuke and correct." 

Paul has a reason for reminiscing. He knows this letter may upset them as well. None of likes being corrected. We get defensive, pride is awakened, and we get offended. You can just imagine the reaction. "First you get mad at us because a guy is doing something wrong and we didn't do anything about it. Now you're mad because a guy did something wrong, we did correct it and now you think we're not being nice enough to him. First it was 'Have nothing to do with that guy' and now it's 'Comfort the poor bad guy so he doesn't feel so bad about what he did'. 

Easy for pride to mess with our thinking isn't it? Now you can see why Paul spends more time telling them how much he loves them and desires their good. He does not want to leave any room for distorted thinking and a negative, destructive reaction. He loves them and his counsel is only for their good. He reminds them how much he has suffered along with his companions to bring them the gospel in the first place and how much he has suffered within himself trying to keep them connected with Jesus and free from the land mines of the enemy. 

Love suffers long and is kind and we can certainly see that as Paul continues to shepherd Corinth long after his departure. As a pastor I too struggle to know when to speak and when to remain silent, when to risk offending in order to correct and when to give people space and time to figure things out on their own. I'm glad to know Paul had those struggles too. I'm glad to know he did things he regretted only to learn in time it was the right thing to do.

Loving others is hard. It requires wisdom, courage, tact, compassion, and a host of other qualities I lack. I'm thankful Jesus never stops being my Shepherd even when He tells me things I don't want to hear.

2 Corinthians Day 45 - Open

7:1Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

2 Open your hearts to us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have cheated no one. 3 I do not say this to condemn; for I have said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together. 4 Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort. I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.

What promises is Paul referring to? God's promises to walk with us, to live in us, to be our God at all times, in all places, and in all ways. We are sons and daughters of God. We are a theater for the universe. We are in the midst of life and death struggle between good and evil, between the kingdom of God and the rebel kingdom of Satan. Paul says that knowing this, and having God's promises lived out in Jesus we should be doing everything to align ourselves with Him. 

This is the reason Paul is writing to them. He sees the potential for evil to take root, for bitterness and unforgiveness to ruin them. He is not angry. He is not condemning them. He is not being critical. As he has said before and is repeating his heart is open to them. He is writing precisely because he loves them. He cares for them. He is concerned for them.  

If he was a hireling who preached for profit he wouldn't care. He isn't their pastor anymore. He has moved on. He has other responsibilities. If they want to fight amongst themselves and hold a man's sin over his head indefinitely what is that to him? 

But Paul does care. He has their eternal destiny in mind. He carries the weight of their future on his shoulders. He knows he is taking a risk. He knows they could react badly to his correction and shut him out. He takes the risk because that's what love does. His heart is open and he is pleading with them to do the same, to receive his rebuke in the Spirit of concern and devotion in which it was given.

Paul understands the human heart, the nature of pride, our tendency to allow feelings to reign over reason and right. What will happen? How will they respond? He doesn't know and we never find out... Eternity will tell the rest of the story.

What does it have to do with us? Keep your heart open to the people that love you. Be humble enough to take their correction and wise enough to know it is coming from an open heart that only desires your good.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

2 Corinthians Day 44 – Unequally Yoked?

6:14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

“I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”

17 Therefore

“Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.”

18 “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty.”

I get a lot of questions about this passage. In fact recently I was asked to preach a sermon on it. The irony is that the passage, again picked like a flower from a garden is applied to who a person marries, which you can clearly see if you've been following along in our study through 2 Corinthians has nothing to do with the context. The next question naturally is "What is Paul talking about?" It's almost like this section was dropped from the sky and doesn't fit, or does it? 

Try this on and see if it fits:

Image result for Unequally yoked"Evil company corrupts good habits." Paul said that in his last letter to Corinth (1 Corinthians 15:33). It turns out not everyone in the church in Corinth was actually in a life changing relationship with Jesus. If you walk with people who crave revenge and bitterness over grace and forgiveness what will happen to you? Won't their thoughts, words, and attitudes start creeping into your headspace? Consider these words of wisdom:  

"Every soul is surrounded by an atmosphere of its own,—an atmosphere, it may be, charged with the life-giving power of faith, courage, and hope, and sweet with the fragrance of love. Or it may be heavy and chill with the gloom of discontent and selfishness, or poisonous with the deadly taint of cherished sin. By the atmosphere surrounding us, every person with whom we come in contact is consciously or unconsciously affected.—Christ's Object Lessons, 339

How about this:

Character is power. The silent witness of a true, unselfish, godly life carries an almost irresistible influence. By revealing in our own life the character of Christ we co-operate with Him in the work of saving souls. It is only by revealing in our life His character that we can co-operate with Him. And the wider the sphere of our influence, the more good we may do.—Christ's Object Lessons, 340

Guess who wants to have the greatest influence in your life? Jesus wants to live inside you. He wants you to be His temple. He wants His thoughts to become your thoughts and grace to flow as freely from you as it does from Him. 

We all are connected to a lesser or greater degree to others. Make your connection to Jesus the strongest one in your life. Yoke up with Him. Live in His atmosphere. Let Him reveal Himself through you. You may have to distance yourself from some people, maybe even some church people...

2 Corinthians Day 43 - I'm Begging You!

6:11 O Corinthians! We have spoken openly to you, our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections. 13 Now in return for the same (I speak as to children), you also be open.

Without the context of the letter these verses wouldn't make much sense would they? I hope as we travel through the Bible together verse by verse you are seeing how crucial it is to keep the big picture in mind. I wasn't taught to read/study the Bible this way growing up. The Bible was used as a resource from which to take individual verses and string them together to prove a teaching.  I was in high school when I began to see how poor a method this could be. I owe the discovery to a friend. She was a pretty friend but there was a problem. She was a Jehovah's Witness. That meant she wasn't allowed to like me or come to my church. In an attempt to fix the impasse she gave me a book of their teachings, their understanding of the Bible. I took it home and read it. Found some weird stuff in there as well as some ideas I had never heard of. The weird part was it was all backed up by the Bible or at least appeared to be. There was at least one quoted verse for every teaching. The book was full of Bible quotes. How could this be? So I grabbed my Bible and started looking up the verses only to discover that the verses were all picked from their context like roses from a garden and twisted or misused to teach things the Bible didn't teach at all. When I talked to her about it do you know what she said? "We don't really read the Bible." Now before you jump to the conclusion I'm picking on her church, there are plenty of people in all churches who think they know what the Bible teaches and can even quote some verses but "don't really read the Bible."

2 Corinthians was written for a purpose. There was a problem in Corinth. Paul wrote to address that problem. The entire letter must be read with that problem in mind. The church was refusing grace to a fallen brother who was sorry and was seeking forgiveness and attempting to live a changed life. 

6:11 O Corinthians! We have spoken openly to you, our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections. 13 Now in return for the same (I speak as to children), you also be open.

Paul is begging them to see their situation as it really is. Do you remember 1 Corinthians? Do you remember how many issues the church had then? Paul dealt with their sins but he never withheld grace from them. He didn't refuse forgiveness or turn his back on them because they were struggling. His heart is wide open toward them but their hearts are restricted. There is a clogged artery and we all know what happens when a heart has a clogged artery. What is causing the blockage? The Greek word translated here as affections is much broader than one English word can convey. It means feelings, emotions, compassion, affections. 

Whatever that man did it really hurt them and rather than looking at how big God's grace is, they are fixated on their feelings, their pain, and it is choking their compassion and cutting off their affections. If they persist that part of their heart that could love that man and aid in his recovery will die. Do you know what will happen after that? Their hearts will weaken. Their ability to forgive and restore others will be damaged. Eventually they will suffer from heart failure. The grace of God will no longer be found among them.

Consider this: Give yourself permission to hate just one person and eventually you will find ways to excuse hating anyone who offends you.

God's heart is fully open toward you. Open yours toward others and never allow it to close. 

Thursday, 15 June 2017

2 Corinthians Day 42 - Unchanged

6:3 We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed. 4 But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, 5 in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; 6 by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, 7 by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, 8 by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

A good friend of mine is sick. Without God's intervention she is dying. Yesterday she wrote me to tell me that when she woke up in the morning she was in so much pain that she couldn't make her body get out of bed. She could reach her cell phone and called her neighbour who got her an ambulance.

Why am I telling you this? Because even in such a condition she remains unchanged. 

Her last lines to me were "I remembering to be joyful always, pray continuously, and give thanks in all circumstances. 

Have a good night! Blessings & love, 


Like Paul and his companions she is living for Jesus, living above, beyond, and outside of her present circumstances. 

It was also Paul who wrote in Romans 8 

"18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us... 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God." 

This life is temporary at best. Like the waves of the ocean it is always changing, sometimes calm and peaceful, others times churning and violent yet in the end both crash against the shore. 

What is Paul's point keeping in mind the context? Hurts will come. People will do awful things to us. Forgive them. Let it go. Recognize it is not them but evil working through them. If they are sorry don't withhold grace from them. Will it cost you? Of course it will but nothing compared to what we have all cost our Saviour yet His grace flows full and free. Where sin abounds grace abounds all the more. 

 Paul was simply saying "We continue to serve and preach Jesus no matter what. Some are for us, some against us. Some days are good, others are horrible. Regardless of sunshine or storm we keep going, treating all as children of God."

His last line is my favourite: "having nothing yet possessing all things..."

When we have Jesus what can possibly be more? What could possibly be missing?

2 Corinthians Day 41 - Simple But Serious

6:1 We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For He says:

“In an acceptable time I have heard you,

And in the day of salvation I have helped you.”

Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Please remember always the context of this letter. A man has sinned and repented yet they continue to hold his sin against him. This is why Paul now pleads with them. How can they receive His grace but not give it? How can we? Is there a greater sin than taking His grace but refusing it to others? If you are doing that today is the day to make it right. Don't receive His grace in vain.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

2 Corinthians Day 40 - Short and So Sweet

Ever wonder how you could summarize the entire Bible and the role/purpose of a Christian in a sentence or two? Here it is:

5:20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

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An ambassador is an official envoy, especially a highest ranking diplomat who represents a state and is usually accredited to another sovereign state, or to an international organization as the resident representative of their own government or sovereign or appointed for a special and often temporary diplomatic assignment.

You see there are two kingdoms: God's kingdom and the dominion of Satan. At the present time Satan's kingdom is confined to this world. We are the only beings in the entire universe or multiverse that he has access to. The messages from his side are many, conflicting, and confusing because as Jesus pointed out, he is a liar and the father of all lying. He has convinced some that we came from random chance in a universe that has no meaning. Stuff happens. When we die it's over. As such you best eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you die. He has convinced others that death is an illusion and no one ever dies, they just enter a new dimension, a different phase. Some he has convinced there is no God. Others are convinced there is a God but He is not to be trusted. Others he has convinced that there are many gods etc... Still others he has convinced that we are all gods. 

Confusion. That is the essence of his kingdom.  

What we know for certain in this life is that something is very wrong, not just around us, but in us. We do things we wish we didn't do. We don't do things we wish we did do. We say things we don't want to say and struggle to say the things we wish we could. It's like we are prisoners within our own selves.

Then someone tells us about Jesus. We hear the Story and piece by piece the confusion clears away. We are prisoners. We have two kingdoms within our own mind. One desires to give and receive love, the other desires to be selfish. The selfish side has done some stuff that has caused others pain, and us shame, and guilt. When we find out about Jesus we discover that burden of guilt and shame and the fear that comes with it has long ago been dealt with. We discover we can leave the kingdom of selfishness and darkness and fully enter the kingdom of love and light. When we do we become ambassadors of the King. We become His representatives in a world still fumbling in confusion and darkness. We have the privilege of turning the light on in the minds of others. 

God has long ago reconciled us to Himself through Jesus. All that's left is for us to understand that and embrace it and then we become reconciled to Him. It's sort of like being penniless and then finding out we have money that was given to us through an inheritance long ago and it's just been sitting in an account until we could be found and notified. Jesus provided the inheritance of forgiveness full and free. It's our job as Christians to let people know it's there, waiting for them to claim it.

And you though being a Christian was difficult and complicated... It is not at all complicated but it is difficult because we are ambassadors in hostile territory but we have nothing to fear because He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world. :)

2 Corinthians Day 39 - Sit Down Please

5:16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

I hope you are sitting down because I don't want to have any responsibility for you falling down if/when the immensity of what Paul just said becomes clear to you.

You will remember that Paul addressed a situation where someone in Corinth (we don't know who) did something wrong (we don't know what) and the church was having a hard time letting it go. He was sorry, he was not doing it any more and yet they made him live under the cloud of his past. Paul warned them that if they kept it up the man would be crushed by the weight of it.

Then Paul went on to describe in great detail the contrasts between how we are apart from Jesus (living for ourselves) and how we are after we choose Him (living for others). 

Now he brings both of these subjects together and lays out before us how we should see and be towards others and what the primary role of a Christian is. Let me lay it out in point form and then wrap it up.

1.  We choose to see all people in a new way.

2.  God has (past tense) reconciled us to Himself.

3.  Those who know and understand have the ministry (job, role, task, privilege) of reconciling others.

4.  We don't do the reconciling, we help them see that God has done it already.

Do you see it? At first Jesus was just a guy. Sure he was different, but still just a carpenter's son from Nazareth. People felt free to disagree with Him, laugh at him, ridicule him, and even accuse him of being a sinner and a trouble maker, a threat to the Jewish faith. Paul himself saw Jesus this way. However his eyes were opened and now Paul sees Him as the spotless Lamb and the Son of God Almighty. To stand next to Jesus is to stand on Holy Ground.

Point number one, is that we who are Christians no longer regard others at mere humans to be judged and even ridiculed. We see them as what they can be and will be in Jesus - a new creation. The old washed away and gone. The new as the present reality.

Are you grasping this? We regard no one according to the flesh. We don't see their appearance. We don't see their mental, social, or sexual struggles. We don't see their political or religious affiliations. We don't see their sins and failures. What do we see? We see their true identity. They are sons and daughters of God. God had already reconciled them to Himself. They probably don't know that but it doesn't make it less true. It is our privilege who do know this to treat them according to this reality. It is our privilege as opportunity allows to make them aware of who they really are because of what God has done. We are not the ones to reconcile them to God. He has already done that. Jesus was the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the entire world.

In my city there is a cashier at a store who is clearly in the midst of transitioning from a man to a woman. I don't know why. I don't understand the biology of it or the psychology of it. When I shop at that store I look for him/her. I purposely choose his/her lane no matter how long the line or if another is shorter. I engage him/her in conversation. It's clear from our chats there are heavy burdens. I don't know the history yet and really it doesn't matter. I know something he/she does not know yet. I know their true identity. He/she is a child of the King. God has already reconciled him/her to Himself. When I stand with him/her in the business of a grocery isle I am actually standing on Holy Ground. 

The same is true for every person I meet.

"God forgive me for not treating others with the reverence they deserve, not because of their present life but because of who they are in You. Help me to see what You see. Help me to treat them as You would treat them. Help me to kneel by those being crushed by their own shame which has been multiplied many times over by the condemnation of others and tell them "I don't condemnation you. This is not who you are. You are a son, a daughter of the King." Help me to lift them up and give me the words to help them understand who they really are. Father teach me in a real, living, practical way what it looks like to treat everyone as if I am walking and talking with You. Give me the ability to truly practice the ministry of reconciliation. Help me restore the dignity in others that you created, that sin destroyed, and that Jesus bought back. Help to help them see themselves as you choose to see them - a new creation. I have no hope of succeeding without You, but with You all things are possible. Thanks Dad."

Sunday, 11 June 2017

2 Corinthians Day 38 - There's A Difference

5:12 For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, that you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

Image result for hirelingJesus told a parable about shepherds who are hired help. He said they are just working for pay. They don't care about the sheep. When danger comes these shepherds run away and abandon the sheep because they are only there for themselves to begin with. On a warm sunny day when all is well you can't easily tell by observation which shepherds love the sheep and which are there just to get paid. However when the storms come or the predators circle the flock it becomes obvious very quickly what kind of shepherd they are.

Paul and his companions don't need a recommendation. Time has shown what kind of shepherds they are. When a man lands in prison simply for sharing Jesus with strangers and then writes from prison to give them encouragement you know what kind of shepherd he is. 

The key though is not how great Paul is but how he can to be this way. He found the One. The One who laid aside His kingdom and crown, His divinity and majesty to come to this dark broken and hurting planet. He became one of us, and as if that wasn't enough He became a servant to all of us. His days were spent for suffering humanity. His nights were often spent in prayer for the strength of character to keep going in the face of violent relentless opposition. The very ones who should have been His greatest support were instead His most fierce detractors. In spite of all this He kept going. From the temple in the heart of Jerusalem to the far reaches of Tyre and Decapolis Jesus was a tirelessly unstoppable force. He had sheep to feed, lambs to train, wounds to bind, and a message to bring from His Father. In the end He died. He didn't have to. He chose to. He could have called ten thousand angels to His rescue but He never called one. Satan's claim was that He couldn't be merciful to us and remain just. It seemed a rock solid argument until the Rock of Ages stepped down into our mess and took the punishment so we could receive His mercy. 

Paul found Him or more accurately He found Saul and transformed him into Paul. For Paul it was simple. "Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe. My sins had left a crimson stain and He washed it white as snow." So Paul laid down the whip of the predator and became the prey. How could he do less? 

If you are going to follow any one, make sure it's Someone who would rather die than quit on you. Love never fails.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

2 Corinthians Day 37 - The Terror of God???

5:9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.

Image result for sinners in the hands of an angry godIt is highly frustrating to encounter words in the Bible that miss the intent of what is really meant. It's usually easy to spot them because they generally don't fit. Rule number one when seeking to understand the Bible is that God's message to us and for us is good news. This passage as it reads in this English translation does not sound like good news at all. It sounds like we are all going to be dragged before God's judgement seat and get what we deserve, the good, bad, and ugly and God is a Holy Terror. It's a picture of God and our future that is or at least was not uncommon in Christian circles. There is a book written by a famous preacher called 'Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God'. The preacher was known for his ability to graphically portray the supposed eternal torments of hell. Contests were held in that era between preachers to see who could describe hell the best, with blood boiling in sinners veins etc...

However that picture of God doesn't reflect the general tone of Paul's writings. It certainly doesn't match what Jesus said: "If you have seen Me you have seen God". Can you picture Jesus roasting a person for eternity? Was He a terror? 

So then what was Paul saying that got misrepresented and mistranslated by men with a warped view if God?

First the word is fear, not terror. It's the same word/meaning as when God said to Abraham "Now I know that you fear Me..." and the context (Genesis 22) was not of Abraham being terrified of God. In fact the Bible says later they were friends. The context is that Abraham had finally come to the place where He trusted God completely. Fear in the Biblical use of the word as it relates to our relationship with God is perfect trust. John wrote that there is no fear(terror) in love because fear (terror) has to do with torment and perfect love casts out all fear. It's impossible to have perfect love and be afraid of that person.

Paul was explaining that whether in this life or the next we live for Jesus. We live to please Him just as He lives for us. That's the very essence of love. And we will stand before God. Those who lived for themselves at the expense of others will get their reward as will those who like Jesus lived for others. 

Then he tried to say "Knowing therefore what it is to trust God completely, we persuade men (to do the same) but we are well known by God (because we live by His constant leading) and I trust you can see that."

Paul all through this chapter and much of the last is describing from many angles the life of a Christian, a life of full surrender to the will of God, a life focused on the inward, not the outward, a life that looks forward rather than living in the moment, a life that is spent for others, not in taking from others, a life that would prefer to be Home rather than here but remains here to fulfill whatever mission God puts before them. 

Paul knows what it is to fear God, to trust Him fully as Abraham did, and he is trusting his example will have an impact on the consciences of others, inspiring them to do the same.

Friday, 9 June 2017

2 Corinthians Day 36 - Context

5:6 So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

Isn't context amazing?! The first word of verse 6 tells us that what Paul is about to say is based on what he just said. Here's what he just said: "5:1 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent(body), is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, 3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. 4 For we who are in this tent(body) groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee."

I know we covered this already but since the verses we are looking at today are so often ripped from their context and made to say something else entirely I felt it was important to put the verses back in their context.

The broader context is that Paul and his companions who are traveling all over Asia Minor preaching the Gospel are constantly harassed. They have been beaten and imprisoned. They have been shipwrecked attacked by mobs. I am certain there were well meaning Christians advising them to have more concern about self-care and self-protection. It was to this Paul was speaking. He doesn't care if he dies. The experiences he is going through are building him into a new man. The body he lives in is but a tent that will ultimately be destroyed no matter what happens. As he clearly taught back in 1 Corinthians 15 even those who are alive when Jesus returns and never experience death of any kind are still getting new bodies.  

So what is Paul saying in the verses we're looking at today? If you have been following along it's pretty obvious right? To be here in this world with this mortal tent/body is to be separated from Jesus. It means we aren't Home yet. Then he goes on to say it is better to be done with this body and to be with Jesus. It applies both literally and figuratively. We can't hang on to our inner desires for pride, ego, self-protection, self-advancement, lust, greed, power etc... and walk with Jesus. We also can't worry about hanging onto and preserving our physical lives here when we are headed Home.

Paul is simply asking them and us to step back and look at the big picture. Why are we so concerned for this temporary mortal existence when we are headed for the life that really counts and the center of what counts here and then is Jesus. Let Him into your tattered tent and start the work of restoration from the inside out by His Spirit so that when He returns He can give us a body that matches the contents. 

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Sandwiched in between those two statements about the body and being with Jesus is the simple phrase "For we walk by faith and not by sight". Paul is not going to adjust his course according to the dangers and difficulties he sees. He is on a journey of faith, a journey of following God and if it leads to good or to death it doesn't matter. Either way it leads Home.

Context and perspective. They change everything. 

2 Corinthians Day 35 - It Starts Now

5:2 For in this(tent) we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, 3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. 4 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

I can't quantify this but it seems with the rising issues or depression, mental health, suicide, sexual identity etc... that more and more people are uncomfortable within themselves and are seeking some kind of change. They know something is wrong. They may not know what but they are groaning within. Paul identifies both the cause and the solution for this inward dissatisfaction​. We were not designed for hate, envy, strife, pride, self-obsession, self-pity, self-loathing, guilt, shame, fear, angst, anxiety, divorce, abuse, etc... We carry burdens we were never meant to have. As a result, our tents are getting tattered and torn and we're looking at alternatives. We think "Maybe if I change this or do that things will be better." 

When I read the story of Mike Penner it affected me deeply. He was a Sports Writer for the LA Times and at the top of his game it seemed when he went on vacation in 2007 after stating in a column he wrote the he was a woman on the inside. When he returned from that vacation he had transitioned to be Christine Daniels and remained that way for most of a year. Then in 2008 she transitioned back to being Mike Penner. In 2009 he killed himself. I don't pretend to know anything beyond those facts nor am I trying to apply his case to others. What I can say with confidence is that whatever he was trying to fix didn't work and the peace he was seeking he never found. So intense was his inner groaning that he killed himself to silence it. 

Paul offers a solution. He speaks not as a theorist but from personal experience. Prior to his life as a follower of Jesus he tried to silence his inner groaning by being an elite religionist. He figured if he could be the best Jew possible he would find peace. He even went so far as to hunt down those who were a threat to the Jewish faith but none of it worked. The cause of our groanings is not in our religion, sexuality, self-advancement, professional accomplishments, relationships, or any other area. We can spend years, decades, or even a lifetime pursuing one or more of those avenues to peace but it will never come. Jesus met a woman who was working on getting her sixth husband but her misery was only increasing.

We were meant for more. Jesus has a tent for us. We can starting putting it on now. We don't have to wait for heaven. In that tent we don't have to work to increase our value. In that tent heaven paid the ultimate price for us. In that tent we begin to see we have nothing to fear because God is for us so what could possibly succeed against us? In that tent we begin to understand our true identity. It is not based on our race, religion, success, sexuality, or anything else. We are a child of God. We are heirs of eternity. As we grow into the indescribable love that caused God to pitch His tent among us, the lies about what we are and aren't begin to fall off. We begin to see we have no cause for worry. Anxiety melts in His presence. His Spirit begins to build up in us what Satan has worked so diligently to tear down.

Imagine a life where you had boundless boldness to love others unconditionally. Imagine a life where the hurts and attacks of others caused no pain to you because you understood it was only a manifestation of their own pain and really had nothing to do with you. Imagine being able to say, mean, and feel these words "Father forgive them for they know not what they do".

The person we were can and will be swallowed up by the person we were and are designed by God to become. We were prepared for this very thing by God. It is our true destiny. We are His. That is our true identity. We just need to discover it and learn to walk in it. It's a process and it starts here and now. 

Stop trying to patch your old tent. Let Him give you your new one. :)