Archive for August, 2017

This benefits you (II Corinthians 8)

August 31, 2017

 10 And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it.  II Corinthians 8:10

Unless you and I are living in the affected areas it would be hard in this moment to even comprehend the massive chaos and upheaval in Texas and Louisiana as a result of the storms that are still pouring out their fury on these two states.  I watched footage from the devastation with my family and found myself asking this question: “What can our family do?”

As Paul writes chapter 8 of II Corinthians he is writing to a people who had heard of the hard times that had come to the city of Jerusalem.  The church had, while Paul was with them, committed to giving help to the people.  One year has passed and the check had still not been sent.

Question: “What motivates you and I to help others?”

Paul’s answer is in verse one of chapter 8:

We want you to know, brothers,[a] about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia

It was the amazing grace of God that motivated the churches to give.  This may be hard for some to understand?  We often only view grace from the eyes of what we receive.  Grace truly is amazing in all we receive, but it is also amazing in all that it leads us to give.

  • Grace infuses the believer with an overflowing wealth of generosity.

Affliction will not dam up this well.  Poverty will never dam up this well.

  • Grace infuses the believer with an overflowing understanding of generosity.

A person who understands grace realizes the most valuable gift they can give is the gift of themselves.  They also understand Jesus to be the greatest example of giving, Vs: 9.

When grace flows out freely you understand the trials of others benefits you in being able to exercise the works of grace.  This day I challenge you to take time to pour out love to others in their time of need, Vs: 24.  Write the check, book the flight, get involved.  Get on your knees and pray for God’s mercy and wisdom for this time.  Ask God to redeem the hearts of men all over the United States.

Who is right and who is wrong? (II Corinthians 7)

August 30, 2017

10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. II Corinthians 7:10

I wish I could say, “I always think this way,” but I don’t.  You ask, “What way?”  The way of II Corinthians 7.  Paul is writing his second letter to the Corinthian church.  In his first letter the Holy Spirit directed him to confront the church with her sin.  As Paul wrote the Words of the Lord his heart grieved over the hurt that was going to be inflicted on the congregation.

The truth of their sin would cause the people great grief.  But truth was needed so that the people would know they had sinned against God.  Their sin had robbed them of the blessing of sweet fellowship and favor with God.  Even though it hurt, it was what was needed.

The truth of God’s Word led the people of God to repent of their sin in order that they might be restored to fellowship with God.  This is the path of truth leading to godly sorrow and repentance.

Here is where I sometimes struggle.  When someone sins against me, I first think about what they did to me and I sometimes find myself only focusing on me and I forget the greater sin is against God.  If I waste my time trying to get the person to repent to me I find nothing but a greater argument between who is right and who is wrong.

However, if I focus on God’s view I find peace within and a power to help those who have sinned against God.  Such a focus leads to Godly sorrow (grief).

Acts 11:18 “Repentance that leads to life.”

David said to God in II Samuel 12:13 “Against You oh God have I sinned.”  Here is where we must begin our journey of who is right and who is wrong.

Today I am praying for Godly grief in my life and in the lives of people who need the Lord.

Father, lead me to come to the end of every day clean before you.  Lead me to come to the end of every day clean with my wife, my children, my co-workers, my friends, and my fellow-men.  Please lead me to proclaim your gospel to all nations.  

Its off to work I go (II Corinthians 6)

August 29, 2017

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. II Corinthians 6:1

Some days it seems that our lives are dominated by work that really seems to be getting us nowhere!  This thought occupied my mind as I recently came to the end of the day and had not accomplished anything I had set out to do.  Maybe this same thought occupies your mind from time to time?

The truth is God intends for our days to be filled with accomplishments that we can feel good about.  Those accomplishments are labeled as “the will of God.”

God’s will is always three-fold:  God intends for us to be saved, sanctified, and serving in Kingdom work.  This is so clear in II Corinthians 6:1-7:1.

This work becomes evident at the moment when salvation is given to us.  We enter into a lifetime partnership of work.  4 point of emphasis leap off the page for me today:

  • Our lifetime of partnership leads us down many unique roads.  Check out Vs: 3-10.
  • Our lifetime of partnership is sometimes limited by our own restrictions.  Check out Vs: 11-13.  As yourself this question: “How invested am I in this partnership?”
  • Our lifetime of partnership cannot be successful if we have other partnerships.  Check out Vs: 14-18.  We cannot be success with God and the Devil both on our team.
  • Our lifetime of partnership must have a distinct look.  Check out 7:1.   Holiness must be brought to completion in the Lord.

Question:  “How do these points of emphasis lead us to be productive in our work in the will of God?  Here is the answer, they lead us to do the following:

  1. Daily we must inspect the quality of our work.
  2. Daily we must set Kingdom expectations before us.
  3. Daily we must severe ourselves from what hinders the work.
  4. Daily must strive to come our Kingdom work in and through the Spirit.

With all of this in my heart and mind I say to you, “Its off to work we go.”

How is your life today? (II Corinthians 5)

August 28, 2017

11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. II Corinthians 5:11

A few days ago I was sitting with a young Christ follower who is seeking God with their entire being.  The smile on this person’s faith told the story of their peace and the joy of serving the Lord.  One would say, “this person’s life is good.”

The next morning I arose to an email from a dedicated missionary who found themselves in a place of great trial.  The brokenness in their email was so clear.  One might be tempted to say, “This person’s life is not so good.”

How would you respond if I told you, “both these Christ-followers were right where God wanted them to be.”  The truth is, this is exactly the truth. Both are following Christ.

It was this way in Paul’s life as well.  Here in II Corinthians 5 we see Paul as a follower who has a focus that is both here and in eternity.

Paul was focused on the joy of looking beyond this moment to an eternity in heaven, Vs: 1-11.

He saw all the sin, wickedness, and corruption of this life.  He had his eyes set on heaven and he was ready to go there.  He would rather be with the Lord.  He knew there would be a day when he would receive from the Lord, the reward of his labor.

This is what we must focus on in those days when our lives are so in turmoil here.  This dear missionary understood this and they kept on serving the Lord.

Paul was also focused on the task of this earthly life, Vs: 12-21.

Paul understood that others considered him to be radical in faith.  This radical faith came as a result of his being a new creation in Christ.  His life was now one of being a minister of God telling the world about Christ’s work on the cross.  God was taking sinful, wicked, and corrupt people and making them new.

This must be the focus of our task while on this earth.  My dear young Christ-follower was positioning his life toward this task.

I pray the Lord uses II Corinthians 5 to help you on this Monday to focus on both your earthly task and your eternal hope.

What we have been handed (II Corinthians 4)

August 25, 2017

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God,[a] we do not lose heart. II Corinthians 4:1

Years ago Beth and I were given a gift certificate for a Father and Daughter date.  The person who gave us the gift certificate raved about the entertainment and the food.  We both went with great anticipation for what we had been handed.  The music was great and the food was great, with on exception.  The portions were for a bird and not for a hungry teenager.  On the way home Beth asked, “Could we stop by McDonald’s?”

In life we face moments that leave us feeling that we do not have what we need to overcome.  Paul could have been feeling this way when he thought about all that was happening in his ministry.  But as God poured His truth into Paul, it becomes clear that Paul understands God has given him more than enough to accomplish the spiritual task before him.

Here is what Paul had been handed:

  • He had been given a ministry filled with mercy.  God was with Paul in every circumstances.  He had led Paul to have authentic ministry, Vs: 2.
  • He had been given understanding into the heights and depths of the gospel, Vs: 4-6.
  • He had been given the Holy Spirit that enabled him to have power, Vs: 7.
  • He had been given understanding of God’s purposes in suffering, Vs: 8-15.
  • He had been given a viewpoint of what was coming, Vs: 16-17.

The things that God had handed to Paul were more than enough for Paul to write, “we do not lose heart!”

Question: “Has God given you enough truth so that you will not lose heart?”  If you answer is “no,” I challenge you to dig deeper into God’s Word.  The deeper you go the greater amount of truth will be handed to you.

Because I am free… (II Corinthians 3)

August 24, 2017

17 Now the Lord[d] is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. II Corinthians 3:17

Having been born in the USA I can say, “I have always been blessed to be a citizen of a free country.”  However, this is not something I can say about my life.  The Bible teaches us that every person enters this life (born) as a slave to sin and spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-3; John 8:31).

The Apostle Paul understood this as he wrote II Corinthians 3.  Paul was responding to those who had been critical of his ministry.  They were accusing him of being a gospel peddler (2:17).  Paul’s confident response was not about his worth or his ability.  He knew his success came from the very throne room of God.  Here was his boast in the Lord:

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Paul was a minister of the New Covenant that brought freedom through Christ.  It is to this freedom that Paul writes in the ending of chapter 3.  Take time to allow Christ’s freedom to wash over you.  Through the Holy Spirit we have been brought to this freedom in Christ.

Maybe you would ask, “How do I know that I am free?”  Three characteristics leap from the text:

  • You have been cleansed by the Word.  “Your life is now free from death and living in hope.”
  • You are understanding God’s Word.  His Word is now making sense in your mind and it is at work in your life.
  • You are being changed on a daily basis.  Each day you are less and less a dead man and more and more a Christ man.

This is how it feels to be free.  It is my prayer that you and I would come to understand this in new and fresh ways each and every day.  It is also my prayer that others would come to this same freedom in Christ.

A strong statement of faith (II Corinthians 1)

August 22, 2017

10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. II Corinthians 1:10

This days Scripture reading reminds me of the awesomeness of the God we serve.  Paul makes the strongest statement of faith concerning our Father in Vs: 10 “On Him we have set our hope!”

As I read these words the weight of them crushed my fears.  As I read these words the power of them engulfed my spirit.  As I read these words the riches of them strengthened my heart.

Question: “Where is your hope today?”

As Paul begins to write this second letter to the church at Corinth, he has God the Father in full view.  We see Paul in three moments that could be described as Paul’s statement of faith:

  • Paul gives praise to the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is through Jesus that Paul has an understanding of and access to the Father, John 1:14-18.

  • Paul shares his personal experiences with us concerning the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.

He is the Father of all mercy.  Check out Psalm 32:1-2

32 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
    and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

He is the God of all comfort.

  • Paul writes with passion as he shares with us about the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul has experienced the Father’s comfort and he is sharing those experiences with the church at Corinth.

Brothers and sisters, this is a strong statement of faith in the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.  As I think of three actions to take away from this chapter:

  1. Don’t keep your story to yourself.  Share what God has done and is doing in your life.
  2. Don’t give up on His salvation.  He will see you through the storm you are in.
  3. Dive into intercessory prayer for those who are going through the storms of life.

I know many people who have heard about God but do not know God.  Today I am praying that the God of all mercy will reveal Himself to them!!!  Will you join me in this prayer?

Looking for more? (I Corinthians 15)

August 18, 2017

19 If in Christ we have hope[b] in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. I Corinthians 15:19

There he stood with just the clothes on his back and a backpack filled with useless trinkets from the many places where he had wasted his life with a mad search for purpose.  I wanted to know more about his life so I stopped and asked, “How would you describe your life?” His response was not what I expected. He said, “I have had a lot of fun and I have had to answer to no one.”  He then paused for a moment of reflection.  Next he said, “but I sometimes wonder, was my life supposed to be different?”

I believe the Apostle Paul understood this man’s viewpoint.  On the day Jesus opened his heart and mind, Acts 9, Paul began to live the more viewpoint.  He wrote to the Corinthians these words:

10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 

Paul lived His life with gospel significance.

Brothers and sisters we live in a world where people are quickly wasting their lives on dead agendas.  Paul teaches us of the powerful eternal importance of Christ’s work on our behalf.  He lived, died, and rose again for our salvation.

It is so true that our world is a mixed up place where wars are on every side.  These wars are covered under the battle flag’s of equal rights, free speech, and political agendas.  Despite all the effort men still end each day miserable.  This happens because of the hopeless agenda of a fallen world.

Paul wrote, “If this life is all there is, we are to be pitied!”

I Corinthians 15 awakens us to all that we have now and all that we have to look forward to in Christ!!!  Because of what we have to look forward too we are able to stand firm in the battles of this life (15:57-58).  We are able to abound in the blessing and beauty of the gospel.

Maybe you find yourself in that place where you seem to be like the guy at the beginning of the blog.  You have a bad full of trinkets from all the places where you have been, but nothing satisfies your soul. If so, I challenge you to find your joy in Jesus!!!   He alone gives you live, a life to live, and a life to look forward too.

What is your purpose? ( I Corinthians 14)

August 17, 2017

26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. I Corinthians 14:26

Question: “Why do you attend church?”  The obvious answer would be, “to worship God.”  Wow, this is a great spiritual answer, but be honest, why do you attend church?  What is your purpose?

As Paul continues to address the church at Corinth we understand he is continuing his Holy Spirit directed teaching concerning the proper use of spiritual gifts.  In yesterdays study we focused on the imperative of love governing the use of our gifts.  Paul begins chapter 14 with the following direct commands:

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 

As one pursues love he or she is in the correct position to exercise the use of spiritual gifts.  Notice the one gift Paul emphasises, the gift of prophesy. This gift is given by God for the purpose of giving forth the truth of God’s Word.  Be assured, Paul is not anti-tongues.  Paul is sold out to the purpose of “building up the church.”  This is the reason why we attend church.

Our passionate love is for God, so we worship God in His house.  This is building up the church.  our passionate love is for God, so we work in God’s house.  This is why we seek to prophesy so that we are equipped to do the work of the ministry which has as its aim the glory of God among the nations.

If we fail to keep our purpose in front of our thinking we will engage in useless activity that never equips the saints nor evangelise the sinner.  This very day I want my life to glorify God’s purpose.  So I pray not to speak in an unknown tongue, but to speak with my tongue the Word of God so that men, women, and boys and girls would come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Fullfill your purpose today!!!

The story of gongs and cymbals (I Corinthians 13)

August 16, 2017

 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal, I Corinthians 13:1

In recent days we find ourselves in shock once again in the tragedy in Charlottesville. I am always amazed how different groups seize the opportunity to forward their agenda in times of tragedy.  People are crying out, “racial prejudice.”  The truth is, this was an act of domestic terrorism plain and simple. This terrible deed was fueled by hatred.  But the response by the media and by most Americans covers the truth.

If the Apostle Paul were accessing the tragedy he would write of America’s response: “This is a story of gongs and cymbals.”

In I Corinthians 13 we have the teaching of Paul concerning the right kind of heart toward the use of spiritual gifts.  Paul makes it clear that our spiritual gifts have no value apart from true love.  Paul lists 16 things that love either does or does not do.

Imagine what would happen if every American applied these truths to their lives.  If we did there would be less violence, peace in the nation, and love for our fellow-man.

I certainly know that many are saying, “this is impossible.  Men cannot do this because it is not within them.”  Such a response is correct when a man or woman does not know Jesus as Lord and Savior.  But when a person surrenders their lives to Jesus, he or she has the ability within them to love as Paul directed in I Corinthians.

So the real answer to America’s hate is Jesus.  Feast on how John writes about this truth in I John 4:7-12

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

Father, lead the church to fill this nation with Your love!!!