Monthly Archives: April 2020

2 Corinthians 10 Devotion

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Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

(2 Tim. 3:12-13)

Deceived…

There will always be a battle until Jesus returns. This chapter breaks my heart. Not only for what happened in the church at Corinth but the same patterns have continued wreaking havoc (temporarily) in the church. Why do false teachers (here false apostles) gain so much ground in the church? How are they allowed to twist and deceive the church into believing wrong things about the gospel and about Paul’s apostleship? We are easily deceived and fears often control us.

The fact that Paul must defend himself says much about what is going on in this section. Obviously and thankfully, the church must have mentioned what “they” had said about Paul. Take note: For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” (2 Cor. 10:10). I’m so thankful for this being exposed. So many cases like this NEVER get exposed and the troublemakers just continue their erosive, slow destruction.

Leaders often stand alone. There is no one to defend them. I’m not saying leaders should be allowed to do things contrary to God’s Word but in the cases that I am aware of it’s more about preferences and selfishness than about what God has said in His word. These people sneak around in the shadows sowing discord in the hearts of others. They build their case and support secretly while the leader either unknowingly continues about his business or is weeping in his office not knowing how he will get through the next hour.

Paul’s defense is necessary because no one else is defending him and they should have: “I have been a fool! You forced me to it, for I ought to have been commended by you. For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing” (2 Cor. 12:11). What’s at stake? Think. Ask yourself. Is it merely about Paul’s character? Is he simply trying to save face? Do you really think Paul is making this whole thing about himself? Me…me…me…me…me. Is that what’s going on?

Leaders are expendable. The community often wins when it should not have. Do you know what was at stake in his defense? THE GOSPEL! When someone or some group discredited Paul’s apostleship do you think that’s all they were destroying? C.K. Barrett said this about this passage, “It is the nature of the apostolic gospel, and the apostolic authority behind it, that are at stake.” David Garland adds this, “Paul defends his reputation, but it is more to save the community from fools and a false gospel than to save his reputation.”

Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved.

(2 Cor. 12:19)

Silence often kills. I wish I had the confidence and courage of Paul. I weep as I write from shame of silence and pain that it caused and the continuation of the wolves among the sheep.

I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.

(Acts 20:29-31)

I, along with many pastors and leaders, have found comfort in this: “But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth” (2 Tim. 4:17). Those who sometimes see what’s going on choose not to say anything because the loss of one pastor seems easier than the loss of many. The community bonds are hard to overcome and fear of “what if” kills our courage.

But Jesus is worth the battle and the pain. Keep fighting the good fight of faith. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends (2 Cor. 10:17-18).


2 Corinthians 8-9 Devotion

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Grace leads to praise and thanksgiving!

How is it that I often read a passage and miss very important things and add in something that isn’t there? At first glance, chapter 8 and 9 appear to be mainly about securing the gift the church had been preparing for and promised to do. However, after rereading it slowly I see something very important that I missed. Yes, Paul is urging them to finish well (and I’ll have more to say about that in a moment) but if we miss the grace of God in this, God misses His deserved praise!

As I read chapter 8, I think I read it like this: ” We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God [money/gift] that has been given among the churches of Macedonia” (2 Cor. 8:1). As you might be aware, that changes everything. Why? No grace, no praise! If the example of the Macedonians’ gift and the gift the Corinthians were not by God’s grace but merely in their own strength then these churches should be praised for what they did!

But that’s not what happened and that’s not what the scripture says. The “Today Show” would love to have these stories to highlight people on their “Morning Boost.” But who gives out of poverty and affliction? I said this in a sermon when preaching about the widow who put in all she had to live on: “If you do not give in your poverty, you will not give in your abundance.” Yet, the ONLY reason these churches gave was because God gave them grace! In other words, it was by God’s grace only that they gave!

What is grace that it would cause this in them? Well, when favor with God has NOTHING to do with what you do (it’s unmerited) then it frees you to give lavishly because the love and favor of God is enough for you and causes you to do strange things like this. AND Paul pens one of the most amazing visuals of what Jesus DID: “For you know the *grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).

When God’s grace lands on us, we finally get to see the beauty in the cross of Christ. Notice what Paul said again, “…you know the *grace of our Lord Jesus Christ…”. When God’s grace/favor awakens us to His amazing love, then we follow Christ and we begin to become like him. We start becoming poor though we may be rich because God has made us rich in Christ, meaning we have everything if we have Jesus. But if you have all the riches of the world and do not have Jesus, you have nothing!

These chapters are saturated with grace! Take note of what the Macedonians plead for: “…begging us earnestly for the favor (grace) of taking part in the relief of the saints” (2 Cor. 8:4). God’s unmerited favor (grace) produces in us the desire for more grace…the grace of participation (like being ambassadors in the previous chapters). But the order is important. Grace must come first and here’s what that looks like: “…but they gave themselves *first to the Lord and *then by the will of God to us” (2 Cor. 8:5). That order matters. If that order gets turned around, God’s glory is at stake!

Now to a particular grace of God in these chapters that we might miss. So here it is…all of this: Paul made known this need of the saints in Jerusalem, he prepared them, they became desirous to participate in this need, they were even zealous for this work (so much so they influenced Achaia to this work), and yet they needed to finish this work.

There’s more to this grace but let me pause to confess that I struggle at finishing. Maybe you struggle to finish as well. I can be just like the Corinthians…hear the need, desire to help, get all pumped for the work and then not cross the finish line. But let me encourage you in this: Jesus crossed the finish line for you and me and stated from the cross “it is finished!” And that’s not all, Paul’s urging and sending of Titus is God’s grace too. In other words, God is urging us on by His grace!

He provides what we need to finish the race. That’s why He gets the glory. It sort of looks like this picture/scene:

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It matters that we finish. It matters how we do this. God is not glorified when it seems as though our fingers must be pried open and we are grumbling under our breath when we give. But rather, like this: “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a *cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). It doesn’t make worldly sense to give and end up getting more! But that’s how God’s economy works. You must have eyes of faith to see that. And only cheerful givers glorify God.

Let’s see how this section ends and how grace results in praise. I think I’ll simply quote the verses without comment. It’s so easy to see now:

1. (2 Cor. 9:8) And God is able to make all *grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

2. (2 Cor. 9:11-15) You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

All “because of the surpassing grace of God upon you! Praise be to God!


Only One Life

By C.T. Studd

Two little lines I heard one day,

Traveling along life’s busy way;

Bringing conviction to my heart,

And from my mind would not depart;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past, 

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,

Soon will its fleeting hours be done;

Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,

And stand before His Judgement seat;

Only one life,’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice,

Gently pleads for a better choice

Bidding me selfish aims to leave,

And to God’s holy will to cleave;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years,

Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;

Each with its clays I must fulfill,

living for self or in His will;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

When this bright world would tempt me sore,

When Satan would a victory score;

When self would seek to have its way,

Then help me Lord with joy to say;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Give me Father, a purpose deep,

In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;

Faithful and true what e’er the strife,

Pleasing Thee in my daily life;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Oh let my love with fervor burn,

And from the world now let me turn;

Living for Thee, and Thee alone,

Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,

Now let me say,”Thy will be done”;

And when at last I’ll hear the call,

I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;

Only one life,’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.


2 Corinthians 4-7 Devotion

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Ambassadors for Christ!

These chapters have much to say about Paul’s ministry and our ministry or service. I will describe those various elements in a moment but let me set the stage and tell you why I chose the picture above. As followers of Christ, our citizenship is in heaven and we await our Savior and King, the Lord Jesus! Yet, “while in the body” we are ambassadors for the Kingdom of God wherever we live on this planet. In other words, our ultimate allegiance is to Jesus and he has done some amazing things for the nations that they need to hear about!

I chose that photo of a meeting of the United Nations because you get to see a room full of ambassadors making various appeals on behalf of their nation. As you can see, it demands communicating with others. The Kingdom of Jesus doesn’t have a seat at this table mainly because his Kingdom is not of this world nor would it be united with any nation. It’s message demands a renouncement of ALL other allegiances with King Jesus as Lord. The church is like an embassy and all of us are ambassadors for Christ. We represent the Kingdom of God and promote the worship of our King by way of the proclaiming the gospel! Take note of the basic definition of ambassador below.

Definition of ambassador

1: an official envoy especially: a diplomatic agent of the highest rank accredited to a foreign government or sovereign as the resident representative of his or her own government or sovereign or appointed for a special and often temporary diplomatic assignment.

Can you believe that we get to participate in such an endeavor? God has reconciled us to Himself in the gospel. We are then given the ministry of reconciliation: “that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:19). Now what does that mean for us who have been reconciled? “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20).

How on earth can man be reconciled to the Holy God of the universe? Justice demands perfection and justice demands satisfactory payment. Verse 21 tells us: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). Paul moves directly from this amazing truth to active participants as ambassadors! “Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain” (2 Cor. 6:1). Because of the grace of God, we can move from enemy combatant to active participant!

From chapters 4-7, I’m going to try and list some of what is now true of those who have repented and believe in King Jesus.

*God turned the light on by His grace so that we could see Jesus our hope!

* We are still clay pots but now we have this amazing treasure within!

*The One who raised Jesus from the dead will also raise us from the dead!

*Our temporary tent (our body) is wasting away so that we long for our permanent house (a resurrected body)!

*The love of Christ now controls us not the love of ourselves because Jesus saved us so that we who live might no longer live for ourselves but for Christ who died and rose again on our behalf!

*We not only have a new start but rather our old self is dead and we are a new creation!

*God has reconciled Himself to us. He is the primary initiator in salvation! He is the One who pursue us and saves us!

*Therefore, we are now servants of God! We were His enemy but now we are His ambassadors!

*We are the temple (or dwelling place) of God! The Holy Spirit is in us! It’s as though we are walking with God in the Garden again! He is our God and we are His people! We are adopted children with the most amazing Father!

*And if I may, I will summarize ch. 7 like this: we no longer have to hide our mistakes nor lie about who we REALLY are. We are repentant people! We walk in the light! Nothing is hidden anyway!

This is really good news for us! Let us live for Christ in the small amount of time we have here. For eternity awaits us! We are ambassadors controlled by the love of Christ. Let us represent our King well and attempt to persuade others to join his Kingdom by faith in Jesus!


2 Corinthians 3 Devotion

This chapter is one of my favorites! But I will be brief…I think! I can remember pouring over this chapter some years ago. I was preparing to preach several revival messages. This ended up being one of them.

What first caught my attention was the idea at the end of the chapter: And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:18. However, I had to understand all of chapter two in order to understand how we were to be transformed. What I discovered has changed my life forever.

Though this chapter speaks much of Moses, I think it’s important to push all the way back to creation. There we understand how things were meant to be. God had created out of nothing! Part of that creation involved mankind. God said that man was created in His image. Whatever all that entails, we know it meant that man was to be with God…in His presence and walk in His ways. This involved worshiping and serving the Creator in the Garden.

But you know, God’s creation fell into ruin because they sinned against God. Because of Adam and Eve, the entire human race would now be subjected to a sin nature. That doesn’t mean we can blame Adam for our sin because he represents exactly what any of us would have done. Knowing myself, I probably would have been much quicker than they were.

The consequence of sin was separation from God…from His presence. Sin also badly damaged man’s likeness of God because God does not sin. The marring of the image would get much worse when man was no longer in God’s presence. It was the presence of God that kept man like God. A humorous side note: is that why parents purchase a picture of Jesus to put in their kid’s dorm room when they move off to college? I bet that picture didn’t last the day in most dorm rooms!

Now we can begin talking about this chapter. Paul speaks of the letter of death. I’ve heard it said that law never made anyone better. In other words, you could obey a law but it does nothing to change your heart. Our sin nature requires us to pick up rocks and throw them at sign that says “Don’t throw rocks.” Even if we don’t, the sign beckons us to do so. We want to do it. The law is trying to make us not do what we want to do.

So how do we change or as this chapter calls it “transform”? Well the letter of the law can’t do it. How about being in the presence of God? Well that will certainly do it but we can’t (or couldn’t) come into the presence of God and survive. Yet there were ways prescribed by the Lord on how to approach Him. In this chapter we know that Moses visited with God in the tent of meeting. While in God’s presence his face would shine but Moses would put a veil over his face because of that fading glory.

Moses nor the high priests could remain in God’s presence. There was no way back in the Garden of Eden. There was no way to go and stay behind the curtain of the holy of holies. Or we would be like Aaron’s two sons or Uzzah—dead! That means we can never be transformed back into God’s image because no one can go into His presence and remain there.

Yet…yet, something amazing happened at the cross. The reason we cannot approach God is because of our sin. But Christ came to pay the penalty of sin for us…in our place. That death sentence Adam and Eve got for their rebellion was taken by Jesus the second Adam. But this Adam would not fail like every human being that has ever lived.

So what does that mean for us? It means we now have access behind the curtain that was torn in two. We now have a way back to the Garden of Eden—the transforming presence of God. Not just briefly then fade away but continually and forever because Christ dealt with our sin and sin nature. By repentance and faith we are now new creations. We have a new nature because we are forgiven and counted righteous in Christ. And just as Christ was raised to live forever so too we will as well. Eternal life awaits us because our sin has been ransomed by Jesus.

Eden will be God’s new Kingdom but way better. But for now we are being transformed by beholding the glory of the Lord. And how does this happen? By being in the presence of God! And how are we in the presence of God? The indwelling Holy Spirit is the presence and power of God. God is in us and with us transforming us back to the image of God—the image of Christ. And this time because of the cross, the Spirit and presence of God will remain in us and will therefore transform us.

In other words, our “want to” was changed because we died with Christ. The old man is dead. We now want to be like Jesus. We are slowly becoming more like him as we behold him in the Word and walk in the power and presence of the Spirit. That glory will not fade because Christ will never fade. Our future and transformation is certain because Christ is certain.

I will end with this beautiful Eden-like picture of what is to come:

1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb
2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.
4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.
5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. – Revelation 22:1-5


2 Corinthians 2 Devotion

I’m going to say it this way even though I think it’s unnecessary and a result of our culture redefining things but we often need to exercise “tough love.” Now I think it need not be stated as “tough love” but some will not understand it without the qualifier.

When I correct or discipline my children, I do not think of it as “tough love” but rather as love. I do not think it is loving to allow them to—let’s say—lie. Lying harms everyone involved. If I were to label anything as “tough love” it would have to be that same problem I must address again for the 1000th time. In other words, it’s tough to continue loving. I would get weary when our kids were younger. But I was always reminded of my own sinfulness and how patient and persistent the Lord was with me!

That gets us chapter 2 in this letter Paul has written to the church in Corinth. It is understood that the person Paul spoke of was possibly the person from chapter 5 in the first letter. Can you imagine having to confront that situation? Confrontation is not something anyone should enjoy but rather love beckons us to action. Why? Why is love not tolerating something like this?

As we saw in the love chapter, it says this: it (love) does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). If this is true, then love demands a loving attempt(s) at correcting the wrongdoing. The church member in chapter 5 of the first letter, was in a gross and embarrassing situation which made him “hard to love” as the quote above alludes to. It’s hard to love him for various reasons.

Part of the difficulties come in what Paul mentions here in chapter 2. To confront this will cause much sorrow and the sorrow will be widespread. Paul even says, “Who’s going to make me glad when all of you are sorrowful?” He wrote the letter prior to his coming so that the issue would be resolved BEFORE he arrived.

What does this type of love look like for Paul? To write such things caused him “much affliction and anguish of heart.” This letter may have had some blurred ink because he wrote it “with many tears.” He even points out the reason: For I wrote to you…not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant *love that I have for you (2 Corinthians 2:4). Love compelled him to this difficult correction.

This person needed such love. We all need people in our lives that would love us this way. It would not have been loving of Paul to hear of such things going on in this person’s life and merely avoided it. I would also add that love doesn’t only confront the wrongdoing but stands with this person to walk WITH them through it. I’ve found the confrontation to be the easy part of this journey compared to the difficulties that lie ahead in making the change.

The consequences are gut wrenching to watch but are often necessary. One must keep an eye of this person. As Paul instructed them “to reaffirm your love for him.” The punishment can cause “excessive sorrow” but they must know that you aren’t going anywhere. LOVE REMAINS! LOVE DOESN’T LEAVE! LOVE COMPELS YOU TO STAY!

We must be aware that any of us are capable of just about anything. We are often arrogant in thinking we would never do this or that. I would caution you from ever thinking this way. In fact, I think it is extremely important to think otherwise so that we remain on guard. And it is a huge help when you have to confront such things as this man in chapter 5. It helps when you are not surprised. Being surprised often leads to inaction and abandonment of the person who need you to help them OUT OF THE WRONGDOING?

I so think this way that I believe it is only wrong but also very dangerous for my soul to be in a church that would not do church discipline. Jesus’ instructions were not optional suggestions. They are the means by which he keeps and shepherds his people. May we love like this!

I will end with this:

19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back,
20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. – James 5:19-20


2 Corinthians 1 Devotion

I love early Christian Art! Trying to describe truth about God by way of painting is very difficult and sometimes risky. Words are the best form of art we have. God has revealed Himself in the Word/Jesus and in the scriptures. Yet, words cannot describe the realities of God fully and neither can paintings. But we should devour every word God has given us about Himself.

The painting above was a very common work depicting Jesus as the Good Shepherd, which He is. Ironically, this painting is underground in the Catacombs of Rome. Needless to say, that was a place people needed visual reminders that Jesus was the Good Shepherd. In fact, we always need this reminder.

But what does this painting have to with 2 Corinthians 1? It all surrounds the word “comfort.” I’m sure you know that one of the names to describe the Holy Spirit is the Comforter. It comes from the same word here—paraklesis. The most basic meaning of this word is “calling someone to oneself.”

In other words, comfort comes when the Good Shepherd comes calling and brings us near himself. No other time does Jesus come nearer than when we are suffering. This word also means exhortation, encouragement, and consolation (consoling help). Notice its use in this verse (same word): Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the *consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. – Luke 2:25

I share the details of this word because I think we can ascribe “comfort” in our culture with some things that may not be accurate. One of the ways we comfort one another is not sending someone off on a cruise but rather being near them during the suffering. One of my favorite fiction books gives us a vivid and simple picture of this:

Sadie said, “I sat closer to my brother than normal. I needed his courage to rub off on me.”

The Tethered World, by Heather Love FitzGerald

These are strange and dangerous days we live in. At this moment, we are going through the COVID-19 pandemic. Rightly so, many churches have ceased gathering together until it seems safe for everyone to be near each other. This is loving each other and loving our neighbors. Yet it is difficult because God’s people are still suffering.

Whenever we start meeting together in person again, there will be several difficulties to endure through. For a time, we will meet together in person but will still maintain a certain amount of distance. Granted it will be much better than a Zoom or Messenger meeting where even conversation is difficult. But it’s possible to be lonely while being with people.

I say that because, for example, hugs communicate sympathy when words cannot. Oftentimes we don’t have words or we cannot even say anything because we are weeping and wailing. We need the embrace of those who love us. They give us courage when our tank is empty.

The difficulties of our future gathering with each other is the fact that there will be a variety of feelings among the people about how much and when we should be near each other. Those who will be willing to embrace must love still more for those who aren’t yet sure. Fear is not easy to shake. Caution will remain necessary for a time. So prepare yourself for these days as I know all of us are longing to assemble again.

This is an extraordinary passage in chapter one. The blessed happiness of God produces mercy and mercy produces comfort (nearness, encouragement, and consolation). God comforts us SO THAT we can comfort those who are suffering. Paul leaves the door open to what this suffering is—“any affliction.” That is so comforting!

The fact is, to follow the suffering Savior is to join him in his sufferings. But I love how Paul adds “so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.” And as I understand this, these afflictions are good for us. Why? As in the example Paul gives, that they “were burdened excessively beyond their own strength so that…they would not trust in themselves but in God who raises the dead.”

And by what means did Paul attribute how God comforted them in such a great peril? Through the prayers of other believers! You might wonder if your prayers matter. This text should assure you that they do. But why would God use such means to comfort other believers? “So that *thanks may be given by many persons.”

It goes like this: we hear of our brothers and sisters suffering in a particular way and we start asking God to have mercy and give them courage in the midst of their trial. God answers our petition and all of us rejoice. We rejoice because God has heard and acted and so too those who were comforted rejoice for God’s consolation has come!

It says of satan that he is the father of lies. Here Paul describes God as the Father of mercies! What a great comfort that is, beloved of the Lord! Let me end with these encouragements:

…we who have fled for refuge might have strong *encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. – Hebrews 6:18

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. – John 10:11

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, – John 10:14


1 Corinthians 16 Devotion

Giving may be one of the most revealing works we are called to do that exposes our hearts. The way we give in our culture brings about other sorts of temptations. The public nature of “passing the plate” allows others to see whether or not a fellow member gives. The extent to which we will go to preserve our image is unbelievable. Like putting in an empty envelope or the one dollar bill giving. Both gives the appearance of giving but the truth about us remains hidden.

Those things do not even get to what our motives are. It’s possible that the person actually has nothing to give for legitimate reasons yet wants to maintain a very edited version of themselves. While others have so much that to part with a single coin is next to impossible. We are called to give with a cheerful heart. The picture above shows the widow gladly giving the only TWO coins she had. Do you give with joy in your heart and a smile on your face?

It reminds me of the Hobbit movies. If you are familiar with those movies I can briefly remind you of the scene where they are approaching Lake Town in the boat with Bard. They had made arrangements to pay Bard to transport them into the town. One of the Dwarves named Gloin was reluctant to give his share…that is until he saw his home—the Lonely Mountain. When he saw it he said, “Here, take it all!”

The application is this: when we see Jesus rightly, we are willing to give all we have. See, the duty of giving will only go so far. But when we LOVE Jesus, there’s no end to what we will give…even our lives. So, we don’t necessarily have an obedience problem. We have a love problem. Love never fails.

Paul ends this letter with instructions about giving to “a collection for the saints.” We understand that to be a collection for Jewish Christians who were living through a famine in the Jerusalem area. In other words, they are gathering an offering for people they did not know. But the fact that they were fellow Christians in need was enough. And they were to begin this process before Paul arrived.

Planning your giving is good and wise. To be cheerful you must give thought to what you are doing. And it’s good to think about it every week “as God may have prospered you.” And it was also important to display integrity for the future delivery. There should ALWAYS be witnesses for accountability around the offering. It is wise and good to do so. I would never want to have such a gift in my hand alone for the simple fact that anyone could think anything about what that looks like. Living above reproach is avoiding situations that would cause reproach…even the slightest whiff of it.

Enough about giving. Isn’t it strange the place “for a wide door for effective service” for Paul was also a place of “many adversaries”? Where God is at work so too is the enemy. The book of Acts began on Pentecost which is a celebration 50 days after Passover for the harvest. The Passover from which the book of Acts began was the one which Jesus was the Passover Lamb. That Passover began a harvest of souls on that following Pentecost.

Amazingly, the harvest has continued and will continue. Paul has an open door for a harvest of souls around Pentecost. I just think the imagery is beautiful. But there are tares in the wheat, too. That will be so until the end. However, the harvest is ripe. Did you notice the continued language of Pentecost? The household of Stephanas was the firstfruits in Achaia meaning there would be MORE harvest…more souls to believe and love Jesus.

Dear, beloved of the Lord. Let work until Jesus comes!

13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
14 Let all that you do be done in love. – 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Marantha!


1 Corinthians 15 Devotion

Does chapter 15 seem out of place to you? Try this…go back a read the last chapter and then continue reading and see if it seems out of place. I think for some it does seem out of place because the resurrection isn’t central enough in our minds. It is common among many Christians to leave out this most important reality in the gospel we share. Maybe that’s why we do not live and love differently in the present.

It seems essential to go ahead and state what the purpose of chapter 15 is. How do we figure that out? Context and sometimes the author just simply states the purpose. Of course the context and the statement work together but sometime all we have is the context and flow of what was written. In this case, Paul has been trying to stamp out selfishness among these believers and the gospel was their only hope and ours.

A sneaky and subtle fear of death will cause you to live a very selfish life. That fear of death will greatly hinder the mission to make disciples of all nations. Self-preservation of our life and our identity will extinguish the work that needs to be done. I’m pretty sure chapter 15 was written to keep that from happening. Take note of how the chapter ends: Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. – 1 Corinthians 15:58

This follows the realization that an enemy remains. Though death is defeated, it hasn’t yet been abolished. But…..someday…..

54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, *then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Corinthians 15:54-57

Victory is certain! There’s no need to live selfishly now. Let us be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, now, knowing that our toil is not in vain in the Lord.

There’s so much I’d like to write about concerning this chapter but I’m afraid we might miss the point and purpose of this amazing reality—our resurrection. I will end with this: But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. – 1 Corinthians 15:23. The OT celebration at the harvest in bringing their firstfruits was a test to see if they trusted that more fruit would come. If Christ’s resurrection was the firstfruits then more is expected to come.

It’s like if we planted a garden and it was the only means by which we would have food for the year, we would have a decision to make when those first ripe tomatoes were glowing red among the green vines. We could selfishly take them for ourselves or offer them freely because we trusted that the Lord would cause more to come. Dear beloved of the Lord, you can give this mortal body of yours over to the Lord to do with as He pleases for one day you will be clothed in immortality! Let’s forget self. Let us take risks. Let us labor! We have work to do.

We have some repenting to do because the same problem among the Corinthians exists in us too. Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame. – 1 Corinthians 15:34


1 Corinthians 14 Devotion

When building a house, there are many different types of materials that must be put together in order to have the finished product. The materials in neat stacks on the truck or on the job site is not a house. Those materials in and of themselves cannot serve a family to protect them from a storm or provide a space to sit down and enjoy a meal together. The bricks, lumber, wiring, plumbing, and cement must be skillfully put together to provide a functioning home.

In this letter to the Corinthians, Paul is working to keep the pieces together. The letter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is the means by which God is building His house. The threat in this letter was disunity. A functioning house needs to be a unity. Materials that are disunited do not make a good house.

From the beginning, Paul states that the Corinthian believers “are God’s house” (3:9). The Apostle attempts to correct many things that threaten the unity of God’s house. Whatever issue that might have been addressed there was an overwhelming and common problem of selfishness. I’m so thankful Jesus wasn’t selfish or I’d be lost without hope. The Selfless Savior offered himself up for us! Praise be to God!

Chapter 12 stated that God had arranged the various members (materials, you might say) just as He desired. The diverse people and gifts were to work together in One Spirit for the common good. Chapter 13 insisted that love was a necessary component in making use of the various spiritual gifts. It matters how you do something. One’s motives are very important.

Here in chapter 14, Paul identifies two of the speaking gifts. The Lord makes uses of various symbols to describe the functions of the church. So when the Bible speaks of building or equipping or edifying a building…a people, the way God’s house is built is by speaking God’s powerful word. We don’t use hammers and saws but preaching and teaching. You can trace this throughout the gospels as the means by which Jesus was building the Kingdom, namely, teaching.

The result of prophecy is for the building up of the church. Note these statements:

3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.
4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. – 1 Corinthians 14:3-4

My focus in this post has been the purpose of the speaking gifts rather than defining the gifts. I think too often we waste our time on this rather than the purpose. But I’m aware we must know what the gifts are in order for them to be useful.

Since the focus is primarily on prophecy as the means for building up let me briefly say that prophecy is normally defined as foretelling as we understand it in the OT. We understand that part of the book of Revelation is a foretelling of what is to come. But the Bible is complete. Though I may be wrong, I see this speaking gift at as forth-telling of what has already been foretold and some of that will be forth-telling of events, like the coming of Jesus and the Judgment, that have not happened yet.

These things will take place. Now is the time to build the Kingdom. The way we do that is speaking the gospel and teaching God’s word. We must work together and be put together by the Spirit and by the word. We are God’s house. We are living stones!

Let me end with these words of hope:

4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,
5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” – 1 Peter 2:4-6

Wow! Behold the Cornerstone! Do you believe in him?