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, 10 July 2017

2 Corinthians Day 67 - Look Back and Think

12:14 Now for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be burdensome to you; for I do not seek yours, but you. For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. 15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved.

16 But I did not burden you. Nevertheless, being crafty, did I catch you by cunning! 17 Did I take advantage of you by any of those whom I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus, and sent our brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not walk in the same spirit? Did we not walk in the same steps?

There was a ton of prostitution and sexual sin in Corinth which was a major topic in his first letter to them and which Paul will allude to again at the end of this letter. Prostitution is a business transaction in which one acquires the illusion of affection and love in exchange for money. When Paul came to Corinth God impressed him to take no wages. He worked and taught, and preached the good news entirely free of charge. The love of God was offered without money or price involved. For the first time I can understand why. Originally I thought it was just for practical reasons. Church plants are small and all the people are new believers. Even today church planters either have to be financially supported by existing churches or they work in another line, as Paul sometimes did making tents. 

 Now we discover that when the church was up and going and Paul left and sent Titus in his place, he also served them for free. 

Now that there is trouble and men are coming in to deceptively take over the church and take it in a new and not-good-news direction Paul reminds them how much he loves them, how he spent himself in every way for them for free, how Titus came after and also laboured for free. He wants them to look back and think.

Can you see it? By always serving them without cost there was no possibility for them to entertain the idea that Paul did any of it for personal gain. He points out that he wasn't even a crafty profiteer who sent someone later (Titus) to start the cash flow going. 

There was no love and affection for profit. This was not spiritual prostitution. This was not a business transaction. He and Titus and others too served them from love for Jesus with absolutely no strings attached.

Now I want you to look back and think. Has God walked with you for profit? Has He blessed you with life, sustenance, abilities, relationships, and family for His own gain? Do any of His blessings come with strings attached? They don't. You can ignore Him or even curse Him daily and they will still be yours. As He loves you more you can love Him less yet His love will be unaffected by your indifference. His sun shines on the just and the unjust and His rain falls on both as well. With Him there is no ulterior motive. He is not running a scam. There is no spiritual prostitution. To a planet where it seems everything, including 'love' is a business deal of some sort, Jesus came at no cost to us, spent Himself completely at no cost to us, and offers everything heaven has to us, again without cost. 

Look back. Think about it.

2 Corinthians Day 66 - The Voice of Our Father?

12:14 Now for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be burdensome to you; for I do not seek yours, but you. For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. 15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved.

I know this is bad exegesis. (Study/explanation of the text) Technically this is Paul speaking to the church in Corinth but do you know what I hear? I hear Jesus speaking to humanity. 

"For the third time I am ready to come to you." The first time He came to Adam and Eve after they ate and hid. The second time (officially) He came as a baby in Bethlehem. Now He is waiting to come again. 

Paul says he isn't going back to Corinth to seek their stuff but to seek them. What a powerful statement. He doesn't want their money. He isn't looking for a job. He isn't even coming for reasons of ego. None of it is for his benefit. He wants them, the people. Isn't that true of Jesus too? What else could He be coming but us? What could we possibly have to offer more than ourselves?

Jesus came and was spent for us. He left "nothing on the table". 

The last line of this section is a serious gut check. Do I really love Jesus less the more He loves me? Did I resist and resent my parents the more they tried to help me and guide me? Are we that stubborn and foolish that we push away those who truly care and run after other voices? Do we prefer "another gospel" to the good news Jesus has for us? Are we that resistant to His correction? Is it true that the more He loves us the less we love Him?

2 Corinthians Day 65 - Everything and Nothing

12:11 I have become a fool in boasting; you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing. 12 Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds. 13 For what is it in which you were inferior to other churches, except that I myself was not burdensome to you? Forgive me this wrong!

Why does Paul feel the need, why is he compelled to blow his own horn? Is it for financial gain? It can't be. He never even took a salary from the church in Corinth. Is it for control? That can't be either because he doesn't even live there any more. No matter how you look at this situation none of this is for Paul. As from the beginning everything Paul does is for them. So how does Paul boasting about himself help Corinth? He is trying to protect them from those who are seeking control and likely financial gain. There are wolves in the hen house. 

Like we talked about a few days ago it's tough to be a leader. Even Jesus had to blow His own horn a few times but never for His own sake. What did He get from it? 

Notice how Paul is almost trying to shock them back into reality. He asks for their forgiveness for not taking a salary from them when he planted the church in the first place.

What can we learn practically from this whole scenario? The thing that keeps coming back to my mind is how critical it is who we allow to have influence in our lives. If people, (or a single person), have demonstrated over and over that they have your best interests at heart why ignore their counsel in any situation? Why run after some "new thing", or some new relationship, or some new endeavour if the people who care about you the most and have shown it over and over again are advising you otherwise?

The Bible says there is wisdom in the counsel of many but who do we permit to be those wise counselors? I'm telling you for your own sake to take stock of the people in your life that have made sacrifices for you, cared for you, prayed for you, supported you, cried with you, celebrated with you. Those are the people your ears should be listening to. The world says follow your heart. Jesus said "Follow Me." He also said to choose the people of influence in your life wisely.

Paul is still just a guy in spite of all the gifts God gave him. As he said "I am nothing" even though in giftedness as a leader and apostle he had everything. It's not about everything or nothing. It's about trusting those who have earned the right to have your trust.

2 Corinthians Day 64 - Totally Opposite

12:7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Pleasure in the bad stuff? Is Paul nuts?  

You can now see why some feel Paul was talking about himself when referring to a man who had been taken to the third heaven. Whether it was him or he just got to hear about it, notice how he contrasts that privilege with the sufferings he has endured and continues to endure. Without telling us exactly what the issue was, Paul has some kind of infirmity which he had prayed to have relief from but God told him "My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in your weakness." 

There are so many lessons to be learned from this that it's hard to know where to begin:

1. Faith in a miracle working God does not mean a life free from suffering. This is the same Paul who saw others healed by his shadow passing over them or touching his handkerchief yet his own infirmity remained. 

2. Healings are not proof or even evidence that God is pleased with a person. He sees the end from the beginning. He only heals when it is for our eternal good.

3. Success is dangerous. It can cause us to look inward rather than upward. Self-reliance can lead to self-exaltation which will lead to our ruination. Self-obsession and self-worship is what happened to Satan. 

4. Boasting is a form of self-worship.

5. Suffering is never enjoyable yet we can and should have a positive view of it, not for the suffering itself but for what it is accomplishing. Suffering is a very tangible reminder that we are not in control, that we are not the answer to our troubles, that we are in fact quite helpless and dependent. 

6. It is better to suffer and have a healthy view of ourselves, the world, and God, than to be 'well' and 'successful' and be self-obsessed.

7. His grace is sufficient. Are you ready for this? The deepest meaning in this passage is the reality that it is His grace and not our wellness that qualifies us for the third heaven. Boasting puts the focus on us. Bad religion does as well. It isn't our behaviour, our perfection, our good deeds, our great sacrifices, or any other thing we have done or have not done. It is His grace. Better to be a sinner and know it and lean heavily into His grace than develop the delusion that we have somehow arrived at a place where we are worthy by merit.

Jesus alone. God never wanted Paul to be destroyed by his own successes so he gave him a thorn to maintain his humility. His grace. Paul begins every letter with "Grace to you..." Grace full and free. Jesus only. So incredibly simple. Flies in the face of everything we are taught but so simple.

2 Corinthians Day 63 - Boasting Part 2

12:1 It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4 how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. 5 Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities. 6 For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me.

Some feel Paul is speaking of himself in the third person here as the one who went into the third heaven. Others say no. To go down that road really misses the point of what Paul is saying. As for those curious about what the third heaven is, it simply refers to where God dwells. The atmosphere of the earth is the first heaven. Space is the second heaven. God's dwelling place is the third heaven. 

Again not really the point either. Paul is talking about boasting. About listing off credentials, accomplishments, gifts, talents, etc... Boasting is done to magnify self. It is done to give a reason why I should be considered better than others. Men have come to or risen up in Corinth boasting of who they are and what they are in order to grab leadership of the church. Right of the top Paul says boasting is not profitable. Then he tells the story of a man who went to heaven either literally or in vision (which we know for sure John did) and says essentially "That is worth boasting about but I will only boast in my infirmities." Then he says "I could speak the truth but I will refrain lest someone thinks more of me than what I am".

I have been invited to speak for special occasions and I hate the part where I am introduced because they try and find whatever they can about you to make you sound as wonderful as possible. Meanwhile I'm sitting there knowing exactly who I am and it's nothing much. 

Here's what Paul is trying to say in simple terms. Let your life do the talking. Never be drawn into the game of self-promotion. Never even entertain the thoughts of how you measure up against others. Is a yellow rose superior to a white one? Is a lily superior to an orchid or vice versa?

Jesus said to never seek the best seat at a banquet. Never aspire to the top position. When James and John (with mommy's help) asked if they could sit to His right and left in His kingdom Jesus asked "Are you able to drink the cup?" In His kingdom higher is lower. Leadership is servanthood. Top is bottom. The first will be last. Jesus is King of Kings yet servant of all. The government is on His shoulders. Satan wants His glory and position but wants nothing to do with the part that position plays.

Follow Jesus. Let that journey speak. Add nothing to it. He will place you in the best spot for you, be it higher or lower. He loves you. He is for you. He wants you to blossom and succeed. Leave the boasting to fools and never join their game. 

2 Corinthians Day 62 - Boasting

11:16 I say again, let no one think me a fool. If otherwise, at least receive me as a fool, that I also may boast a little. 17 What I speak, I speak not according to the Lord, but as it were, foolishly, in this confidence of boasting. 18 Seeing that many boast according to the flesh, I also will boast. 19 For you put up with fools gladly, since you yourselves are wise! 20 For you put up with it if one brings you into bondage, if one devours you, if one takes from you, if one exalts himself, if one strikes you on the face. 21 To our shame I say that we were too weak for that! But in whatever anyone is bold—I speak foolishly—I am bold also.

22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. 24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, inperils of waters, in perils of robbers, inperils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, inperils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?

30 If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity. 31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the governor, under Aretas the king, was guarding the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desiring to arrest me; 33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped from his hands.

12:1 It is probably not profitable for me to boast.

It is hard to determine if Paul is being sarcastic or got suckered into an argument he knows he shouldn't be in. Either way he was careful to point that this section was not inspired by the Lord. I really appreciate that about Paul. It's not the only letter where he prefaces what he is about to say with "this is me speaking, not a message from the Lord". It demonstrates not only humility but a high regard for the counsel of God, never wanting to mix his opinion into it.

It's quite obvious what Paul is doing. Men have come to Corinth or have arisen within the church trying to take over and head in a new direction. A direction where Jesus is less than everything. Paul is trying to alert them and prevent them from making this mistake. One of the ways these guys are gaining a foothold is by boasting of their credentials. Since they are using 'credentials' Paul is asking "Have you looked at my credentials lately?" Then when he is all done he says "It probably isn't profitable for me to boast." 

Again tough to say if he is being sarcastic or has let his emotions carry him into a discussion he probably shouldn't be in. I lean to the sarcastic part. Paul is an intelligent man. He knows that it isn't so much the boasting of these false teachers that is drawing people in. Truthfully it is that the false teachers are telling them what they want to hear. Deception must find a responsive chord to be effective. If I get suckered it's because I had that desire in me before the trickster ever showed up. Paul seems to be exposing the folly of following boasters to uncover the reality that there is a deeper issue at play. Why isn't Jesus enough? Why are they looking for a shiny new toy? Why do they want new teachers saying new things?

2 Corinthians Day 61 - The "Other Team"

11:12 But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. 13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.

In advertising there is an unethical and usually illegal tactic called bait and switch. For those not familiar it is essentially advertising one thing only to find out the actual product is inferior to or more expensive than the one advertised. There is also the lipstick on a pig tactic where a car or house or whatever product it made to look all shiny and nice only to discover that under the new paint etc... are hiding all kinds of problems. 

It's one thing to present things as something they aren't but it goes to another level when you present yourself as something you are not. Probably most well known in this sphere in recent times is Frank Abagnale. He is the real life person behind the exploits of Leo DiCaprio in the relatively recent movie 'Catch Me If You Can'. It was a biopic based on the life of Mr. Abagnale, who from the age of 16 to 21 passed himself off successfully as a pilot, a pediatrician, a Harvard educated attorney among other things. 

I know a person who married a man who seemed like a dream until the honeymoon when he started beating her, beatings that never stopped until she fled. 

People pretending to be something they are not is nothing new. It started before earth was ever created. Satan, a created being, tried and is still trying to be God. When Jesus was fasting in the wilderness Satan came as what appeared to be an angel sent to help Him. However Jesus soon recognized his true identity not by what he looked like but by his words. Jesus on the other hand was the real deal yet rejected by most because He didn't have the look or do the things they figured He should. People like Frank Abagnale and the abusive husband succeed at fooling people because they know how to appeal to people. They get all the surface things right. They are smooth and convincing. 

Paul was authentic yet in some ways unpolished and certainly imperfect. Now others are coming into the church in Corinth who are able to exploit the wrong thinking and warped expectations of the people and lead them down the garden path. It is deception, but deception that succeeds because it is appealing to those deceived by it. People want to get rich quick so they fall for preachers who preach it. People want to swept off their feet and/or worshipped so when some smooth talking charmer comes along they are primed for the bait.

Satan has had millennia to perfect the art of pretending to be what he is not. He is more than willing to train humans to help him in his schemes and preachers are among his best pupils. Just turn on the television and watch these guys selling holy water and holy handkerchiefs and promising to solve all your problems. Send them some seed money to demonstrate your faith and wait for the blessing...

Or you could take your head out of the clouds and follow the simple Man from Nazareth who unassumingly walked the walk while others just talked the talk. Who you follow is entirely your choice. Choose wisely.

2 Corinthians Day 60 - Two Kinds of Leaders

11:7 Did I commit sin in humbling myself that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to minister to you. 9 And when I was present with you, and in need, I was a burden to no one, for what I lacked the brethren who came from Macedonia supplied. And in everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you, and so I will keep myself. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, no one shall stop me from this boasting in the regions of Achaia. 11 Why? Because I do not love you? God knows!

12 But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. 13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.

Paul is tackling the sensitive issue of false leaders, men who were trying to come in a teach Jesus + other things = salvation. These teachers use guilt, fear, and uncertainty to exploit believers for their own gain. It's interesting that the thing Paul identifies to help show he was a sincere worker is that he worked among them and for them without pay. He was not there to make money, he was there to make disciples. Did he have the right to get paid? Of course. This same Paul wrote in another letter that every worker is worth his hire and Paul was paid while in Corinth, just not by the Corinthians. He reminded them of this to show how the work done for them was done for love, his love and the love of those in Macedonia who supported the work financially. 

Today in some circles in America, parts of Africa, and other hot spots Christianity has become a get rich enterprise. Millionaire preachers are telling their followers that Jesus wants them to be rich. One preacher in America who is well known, on television a lot, was asked by a reporter how he could justify his mansion, his lavish lifestyle, exorbitant salary etc... His response was that God wants this for everyone and how could he teach this truth if he didn't model it first?

Paul said false teachers would come preaching a different Jesus. Why do you think Christianity morphed into selling forgiveness? Selling something people can't buy anywhere else is very lucrative. How do you think those massive beautiful cathedrals that dot the European landscape were paid for in an era when the vast majority of the people were poor peasants? Promising people freedom from guilt, escape from a manmade place of supposed eternal torture, and access to heaven for a price was a serious cash cow. 

Paul reminded them he never sold them anything. He didn't even take a pay cheque from them. Heaven is not for sale and anyone who distorts the simple message of Jesus is an agent of Satan. We'll talk more about that tomorrow.  

2 Corinthians Day 59 - Another Jesus?

11:4 For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!

5 For I consider that I am not at all inferior to the most eminent apostles. 6 Even though I am untrained in speech, yet not in knowledge. But we have been thoroughly manifested among you in all things.

Paul's greatest concern for Corinth, for Galatia, (Galatians chapter 1) and for all the churches he planted was that others would come after him teaching and preaching a different Jesus. Did it happen? You better believe it did. It did not just happen in local churches either. It happened on a massive scale. 'Another Jesus' became the official teaching of Christianity for centuries. What do I mean? Well first we have to know what Jesus Paul was preaching. Once we get a clear picture of the authentic Jesus, the lies and counterfeits become easy to see. Paul preached Jesus as the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the whole world. Study Romans and you will clearly see this. Jesus died for us when we were still His enemies. The wages of sin is death but Jesus came to offer a gift. That gift is life eternal with Him. A gift is only a gift if it is free. When Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the forbidden tree Jesus came to them in the garden free of charge. He killed an animal free of charge. He used the skin to cover them free of charge. He made them a promise that there was a way back from this tragic choice. The way back was also free. 

When Jesus came to earth as one of us He boldly declared "I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Me." He offered this Way (Himself) to everyone free of charge. Not once was cost ever attached to anything Jesus did or offered. The Bible declares "Come and buy without money and without price."

However Christianity began to change. It was subtle at first. Jesus plus circumcision was one teaching. Jesus plus feast keeping was another teaching. Slowly and subtly over decades and centuries Jesus was less than enough. By the turn of the first millennium the church was developing a complex payment system for buying forgiveness. Jesus was painted and sculpted as still on the cross. Celebrating the Lord's supper turned into literally eating His flesh and drinking His blood, killing Him over and over. Why? Because once wasn't enough even the Bible boldly and clearly states that Jesus died once for all, rose from the dead and is seated in victory over sin and death beside His Father. 

Teachings like confession to a human priest, penance, and indulgences became not only common place in Christianity but necessary. If you could afford to pay you had a chance to be forgiven. If you couldn't you were hopeless. This complex and demonic system of buying God's love and forgiveness took over Christianity almost completely until the dam broke in the 1500's and men like Martin Luther (himself a priest) stood up against the lies and declared what the Bible had been saying all along "The just will live by faith". As Jesus said over and over the only "requirement" is to believe that He has taken care of everything. 

Sadly the war between the authentic Jesus and the elusive Jesus who demands payment of some kind continues in the hearts and lives of every person searching for peace with God. We still have churches and pastors even within my own church who present a Jesus + something else path to heaven. Don't listen to them. Go back to the Story. There is only One God, One Bible, and One story and His love, His grace, His mercy, His Son, His Spirit, everything is full and free to every single person on the planet. Good. News. Love Wins.

2 Corinthians Day 58 - Prevention Is Tricky

11:1 Oh, that you would bear with me in a little folly—and indeed you do bear with me. 2 For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. 3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 4 For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!

Have you ever tried to address a hot button issue in the midst of the controversy? Try having a calm rational discussion about the different qualities of each political candidate and their parties a week before an election. Try discussing any topic that has generated debate and even division while that topic is foremost in everyone's minds. You know exactly what I'm talking about. More often than not all you will discover is what side everyone has already chosen. It seems once an issue starts to boil it is too late to discuss it rationally. 

Here's the problem. Try discussing any issue when it isn't an issue. Hard to find an audience isn't it? Talk about dating with people who aren't dating and they have no reason to listen. Talk about dating with people who are actively dating and if you disagree with anything they are thinking or doing they won't listen. So if you can't talk about an issue when it's not happening and it's too late to address it when it is happening what do you do?

Paul is now attempting to address an issue that isn't current but he knows will come. The issue is getting dragged away from the simplicity of the Story, the simple good news of what Jesus has done for us. 

It's certainly wise to try and address what would be a heated issue before it arises but the challenge is to get people to take an issue seriously that isn't yet an issue. If you have read Galatians you will see how similar the language is. It makes me wonder if Paul saw what happened in Galatia and tried to prevent the same crisis from happening in Corinth. 

Notice his motive: Godly jealousy. Paul loves them so much he is thinking about their well being even before the controversy/crisis comes. He is like parents trying to save their children from all the potential pitfalls of life before they ever get to the pit. I certainly feel his urgency and intensity.

Notice the topic: being drawn away from the simplicity of Jesus. Do you know the destination for those who are drawn away? Do you know where they end up? In religion. In some kind of system where God gets paid off. A system that leaves individuals obsessing over themselves and their "performance". Am I saved? Am I good enough? Am I right? Am I perfect? Am I... and the endless list goes on.

Jesus. Jesus paid it all. Simple. Stay in that simplicity. 

2 Corinthians Day 57 - Think About It

10:17 But “he who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” 18 For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.

There has been and continues to be a lot of friction in my church (not local but global) about the issue of women being ordained as pastors. I'm not here to address that issue directly but a much broader principle that Paul states brilliantly here in these two short verses.

It is true that some individuals are gifted. They have abilities which make them seek leadership and cause others to follow. Neither of these realities means God has called them. One commentator speculates that Judas Iscariot was not called by Jesus but rather volunteered. They also speculate because of his position as treasurer and some of the comments he made that he was the most educated and qualified of the twelve. Yet look how things ended up. We know from the Old Testament that Satan's rebellion began with him seeking a position that wasn't his to occupy.

I love baseball. I love to watch the kids practice and then evaluate what position they should/could play based on their abilities. When everyone is in the position best suited to their abilities it's like poetry in motion. When everyone is out of position it makes a good team look terrible in a hurry. God is our Creator. He knows where we need to be. He wants to maximize our gifts. People excel when they are doing what they were designed to do. Neuro scientists are estimating it takes ten times the energy to complete a task we are not naturally gifted for. That's an incredible number!

So don't glory in your qualifications or your race or your colour or your gender or your height or any other external measure. On the flip side don't despair because of the perceived lack of or disadvantages created by any of them either. Give yourself to God. Let Him choose your position. Respect the counsel of others but don't let them add to or subtract from what God is doing in your life or with your life. Don't step a ring higher or stay a ring lower. He is the Potter. We are the clay. Glory in Him. Let Him have His way. Man has not the power to ordain or not ordain. That's His business.

2 Corinthians Day 56 - Beware Self-Promoters

10:12 For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. 13 We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us—a sphere which especially includes you. 14 For we are not overextending ourselves (as though our authority did not extend to you), for it was to you that we came with the gospel of Christ; 15 not boasting of things beyond measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but having hope, that as your faith is increased, we shall be greatly enlarged by you in our sphere, 16 to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s sphere of accomplishment.

17 But “he who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” 18 For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.

The Bible says Moses was chosen to lead Israel because he was the most humble man available. The Bible also says when you are choosing a leader he should be a man who manages his own household well. Those two qualities alone will take you far when assessing whether or not a leader or a person seeking leadership should be trusted.

I happened to be in the United States last fall leading up to the election on a work trip with my brother. One of the breakout sessions I attended was on body language and how to assess people using non verbal clues and how to conduct yourself so as not to send the wrong non verbal messages. She knew her subject well and when it was over I couldn't resist asking her (I told her I was Canadian and it wasn't 'my election's) what she thought of the two candidates based on what she had presented to us. Beyond her direct answer to my question she made a statement I will never forget. She said historically the strongest alpha (dominant) male always wins and based on that she predicted Trump would win no matter how many blunders he made along the way. Turns out she was right.

We follow those we perceive to be strong. God says that isn't the measuring stick. Choose the one who is humble and can manage his own affairs. Paul was meek (humble) even by their own assessment in Corinth and he had a proven track record of successful servant leadership. Why then after all this time and evidence was his leadership being questioned?

The answer is simple and sobering. He had things to say that needed to be said that they didn't want to hear. Also others were coming along telling them exactly what they wanted to hear.

Do you know what the Bible says the church will be like at the end of time, just before Jesus returns? It says the people will gather to themselves teachers who tell them what they want to hear. Just like ancient idol worship the people will be looking for puppet leaders who never disagree with them. Love is not like that. Love tells the truth even if it hurts because only the truth has positive long term effects. Would you go to a doctor who tells you what you want to hear instead of what you need to hear? If you would you are a fool.

Choose truth. Choose honesty. Choose integrity. Choose humility. Choose the people of influence who have proven over time they aren't out for themselves and have your best interests at heart. "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free" – Jesus

2 Corinthians Day 55 - Tough Spot

10:7 Do you look at things according to the outward appearance? If anyone is convinced in himself that he is Christ’s, let him again consider this in himself, that just as he is Christ’s, even so we are Christ’s. 8 For even if I should boast somewhat more about our authority, which the Lord gave us for edification and not for your destruction, I shall not be ashamed— 9 lest I seem to terrify you by letters. 10 “For his letters,” they say, “are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” 11 Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when we are absent, such we will also be in deed when we are present.

Christian leadership is a tough spot to be in, especially when it's being challenged or when the body needs correction. When a leader is over a company or some other enterprise it's very different. In that scenario the good of the company trumps the well being of the employee. You see it starkly in the sports world. A player may give years of productive service to his team but as soon as the production drops off they are sent packing. Victory and/or increasing profits is all that matters.

In the kingdom of God it does not work like this. The people are the enterprise. Their success and well being is the "business". As Paul so eloquently put it, "God gave us authority for edification, not for destruction." Christian leaders exist to build up those they lead and serve. That's exactly what Paul is doing for the Corinthians. Even though he has lots on his own plate with beatings, and imprisonment and trouble on several sides he carries his churches on his heart. He thinks about them and gives them instruction and guidance even from a long way off. His leadership is not always appreciated. Correction is resisted. Others are eager to seize leadership for other motives. He is misrepresented by some, criticized by others, and questioned by still more. 

How does a leader lead in such circumstances? To assert authority over people is never welcomed. To sit idly by while others with deceptive motives seek to take leadership is irresponsible. So Paul is left to remind them of his own motives, his track record, even his Divine calling.

Just this week I faced the news one of my members may be leaving for greener pastures. The allure of a TV evangelist promising health and wealth is greater than what we can offer yet this evangelist wasn't there when... Nor will he be there in the future when...

It's hard to watch people make bad choices. People left Jesus, sometimes en masse. He even asked His twelve one day if they were going to leave too. It's tough being a true Christ-like leader. The weapons are different. The tactics of the world have no place. If truth, character, integrity, and love aren't enough there is nothing left to do but feel the pain as they head for folly. 

Be careful of your choices. Be careful of who you choose as leaders and people of influence in your life. The devil has a personalized concoction of deception for every one of us. Don't drink the Koolaid. Follow Him and those who represent Him. You will know them by their love, even their rebuking, correcting love. 

2 Corinthians Day 54 - Different Weapons

10:1 Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you. 2 But I beg you that when I am present I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.

I look forward to meeting Paul. It will be interesting to find out what he is like. Is he the bold guy that wrote all these letters or is he meek and lowly? Did he lead by charisma, by a type A personality, or by a quiet yet unmoving example? As he describes himself here it sounds like he was a lot more bold with paper and ink than he was in person. If that's true I can definitely relate to him. In person I struggle to say the things I believe need to be said. I find it much easier to express what I really want to say in writing. 

That being said, it's not the main point of what I saw this morning. I was drawn to the warfare imagery. The differences and contrast of fighting like the world fights versus fighting as Jesus fought. In Jesus' very first public message often referred to as the sermon on the mount Jesus painted a picture foreign to human nature. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness. Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are the merciful, blessed are they who mourn, blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, and blessed are the pure in heart.

Turn the other cheek if someone hits you. A soft answer turns away wrath. Pray for your enemies. Bless those who persecute you. As a sheep before the shearers is silent so Jesus uttered not a word. 

These are the weapons of a Christian: Kindness, gentleness, patience, mercy, peace, self-control. 

Who fights like this? Who would cheer for such a champion? Who would buy tickets to watch them fight? In some circles they would be called a loser, a wimp, a coward and yet it takes more inner strength to keep silent than it does to speak when provoked. 

The reason why the weapons are so different when we fight with Jesus is because the goal is so different. In human warfare the goal is to win, the objective is to crush your enemy. In Christian warfare the aim is entirely the opposite. You want to win your enemy. You want them to turn around completely. You want them to be restored. When Peter was denying Jesus with curses, Jesus didn't curse him in return. Instead it took just one look of compassion to start to turn the tables. Jesus knew the real enemy Peter was fighting was not Himself. Peter was fighting fear. Peter was fighting the need for self-preservation. Peter was in a war only love could free him from.

No matter what kind of personality Paul had, he hit the nail on the head when he said the weapons of our warfare are not carnal(human), they are Divine. 

"By this all men will know you are soldiers in My army, if you love one another as I have loved you." – Jesus