Tuesday, July 22, 2014

2 Corinthians 4

7But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Thoughts: Paul was talking about how the body is temporary but the soul lasts forever.  The body is like a clay jar holding the treasure of the soul.  The clay jar doesn't last, but the treasure does.  The body can be crushed and perplexed but the soul cannot be destroyed.  So, even if we are sick, or are being persecuted, we do not need to lose heart.  We do not need to be enamored with the temporary, but we should fix our eyes on God the eternal One. 

Prayer: Help me to fix my eyes, Lord, on what will last.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

2 Corinthians 3 (7/22/14)

4Such confidence we have through Christ before God. 5Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 6He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—...11And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
12Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 

Thoughts: Where do you get your confidence?  It is not in and of ourselves. Our confidence is not based on our looks, our strength/health, our mental capacity.  God gives all of those things- and He also gives us confidence/faith in what will last.  If we are God's side, we work, not for temporary glory, but for eternal glory which lasts.  I have seen a little chihuahua have great confidence while a huge greyhound be as she as can be.  It is not the little dog in the fight that counts- but the fight in the little dog!  Christians do not need to be ashamed, embarrassed.  They are on the winning and right side- the side of the Maker- the side of the One who loves them.  The world needs to know the message that Christians have.  It is a message that can bring hope to the hopeless, strength to the weary, and love to the broken hearted.  It is a message that there is a cosmic and eternal forgiveness that enables us to escape the mistakes, failures, and mess-ups of the past.
      A couple of small things here.  Paul says that they are his letter.  Paul's credentials rest on their character.  They tell the world the message Paul has to give.  They prove that people can be changed for the better in Christ.
      The part about the letter, the law, veiled faces and all refers to Moses' receiving the Ten Commandments (engraved on stone).  The Law/commandments of the Old Testament is seen as a lesser glory than the grace received in Christ found in the New Testament.  When Moses received the Ten Commandments- which teach us where we fail but do not teach us how to be forgiven/saved- he had a glow about him- a temporary glory.  But we work for an eternal glory.  Give yourself for the eternal glory- and you will find confidence and hope. 

Prayer: Lord, give me confidence in you.  We put no confidence in our own temporary bodies. Use me to spread your glory to be a letter to others for you. 

Moses with glowing and veiled face


Sunday, July 20, 2014

2 Corinthians 2- Forgiveness and Restoration

6The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. 7Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.

Thoughts: Paul was seeking not to grieve the Corinthians, but to love them.  So he asked the people to forgive the one that he had asked them to punish in 1 Corinthians 5.  In the end, earthly punishment ideally should have the hope of restoration.  Even someone who had the sin of pagan sexual immorality, could be forgiven and restored.  There is no sin, except rejection of God (called the blasphemy of the Holy Spririt) that cannot be forgiven.  God longs for His people to be forgiven and restored.
    This is a real-life story of the Prodigal.  God longs for His children to be restored to Him.  

Prayer: Lord, forgive me, and help me to be forgiven.  Give me grace to forgive others as you have forgiven me. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

7/19/14- 2 Corinthians 1

Paul an apostle and Timothy our brother...
To the church at Corinth.

Paul was a Jewish leader, formerly named Saul.  Timothy was his right hand man whose mother was a Jew and his father was a Greek.  Corinth was an important Greek port of the time.  Corinth had a lot of sexual immorality in it and had a huge temple everyone could see on top of the hill to the goddess of love.  STDs were everywhere in Corinth.

"Praise be to the God...of all comfort who comforts us in all our trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. "

God comforts us so we can comfort others.. The bad things we go through can help us to sympathize with others going through similar things  Paul himself had faced death many times, and felt like God was teaching him to fully rely on God.

Paul is reminding them God is not fickle, but trustworthy.  When God says "Yes" he means yes.
The Holy Spirit is a kind of seed blessing to greater blessings we will receive in heaven.

Paul ended chapter one saying that it is by faith that we stand firm.  Faith keeps us from giving into evil.

Prayer: Lord, give me sympathy for the hurting people around me.  Help me to walk by faith and not by sight- fully relying on you.

Corinth- On top of mountain was the Temple to Aphrodite, goddess of love.  

7/20/14- Focus of the Soul

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these other things will be added to you.  (Matthew 6:33)

Whom have I in heaven but you, and being with you I desire nothing beside you.  My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  (Psalm 73:25,26)

Thoughts: There is a secret place to which we may retreat.  It is the soul.  God placed it there, and God communicates there.  It is the portion of us that does not die like the body, but can be wounded, can be sold or traded for material goods or drugs or temporary pleasure.  But Jesus rhetorically asked, "What can you give in exchange for your soul?" (Mk. 8:37). There is nothing more valuable.  To guard and keep your heart and soul, it must no only have boundaries to which you will not allow it to go, but also focus and a center.  The focus of the soul should be on the Maker of the soul.  The real soul food is the Lord.  He is the One who nourishes our soul.  It is for this reason we should seek Him, and search for Him. love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.  As we truly seek God, listening for and to Him, we will not only discover our center, but also our boundaries.  The Holy One, the Light, the way truth and life does not abide with the unholy, the ways of destruction and hurt.  A soul may wander off, may become lost and distracted and unfocused.  We may even ignore our soul- but it is still there.  If the soul is fed well it becomes a strength.  Just like the body that is exercised and fed well can be a strength and the body that is fed with too much fat, sugar, and bad drugs can become a burden rather than a vehicle to help us do more in life.  The soul can provide inner strength, courage, grace, and hope that can help us in life.

Prayer: Lord, be the focus of my soul.  Be the strength of my heart.

Friday, July 18, 2014

7/19/14- Peace and Trouble

33“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Thoughts:  People are trying to find peace in this world.  It leads to the Never-satisfying itch of consumerism.  The idea of consumerism- is that it is all about my finding peace in myself.  The common way to try to find it is through buying things.  But things do not satisfy forever.  The rich must give it up.  Another step in the same direction is education . Education, we are told alleviates poverty.  But what we are finding today is that some of the wealthiest institutions are the universities fueled on the backs of the poor buying lottery tickets that fund scholarships; or fueled on the backs of student loans borrowed from the government paid back at tremendous rates.  In the end educational pride can steal our soul away or we may give away our education when dementia or death hit. Education is so highly thought of but it is another way to define consumerism and a tremendous human effort to find peace on earth.  But smart people can be smart selfish people, or smart sinful people- to the point that we believe we can judge God or judge religion as being less sophisticated and civilized as the life we design (forgetting the pride design of the Nazis or Soviets),
     Truth is our education only makes our sin that much more sophisticated.  Now we have nuclear weapons.  When we look at an Iran heading toward nuclear armament, and a North Korea already there, then we see the peace the world gives.
      Buddhism seeks above all peace- nirvana.  But it is achieved at the cost of avoiding real love- the elimination of desire.  Desire is not the same as consumerism.  Desire is a God given trait that can help us love our spouse, our children, others.  All religions seek peace.  But Jesus says in this world we will still have trouble or tribulation.  Yet, in the midst of such pessimism toward the limitations of the world is an undeterred optimism that cannot be squished.  We can be of good cheer for Christ has overcome the world.  The worst the world could offer was to put the Maker on a torture mechanism- the cross.  But He overcame the worst of the world and can help us overcome our trouble/tribulation here.
     We hear of trouble in Iran, South Sudan, Nigeria, North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, Gaza/Israel.  We should pray and work for the peace of the world.  But true peace begins with the hope of the soul, and the cheerfulness of eternity in the face of the temporary.  We can have peace not because things go our way, or we are wealthy, or we are not at war.  The peace of God goes beyond such surface things.  True peace begins with believing the Prince of Peace has overcome the world!

Prayer: Lord, give me peace not from making my selfish soul satisfied- but by changing my soul from selfishness to otherness.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

7/18/14- Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "May those who love you be secure. (Psalm 122:6)

Thoughts: Still today, the peace of Jerusalem is important.  It was a huge debate at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).  The Presbyterian Church reaffirmed its desire for a two state solution- that all parties should recognize that Israel has a right to exist and the Palestinians have a right to exist.  When we see the news, we should not ignore it as if it is far away and does not effect us.  We are called to pray.  It is not ineffective or speaking into the air to pray for peace.  It is not simply a wishing into a vacuum.  Rather, it is speaking to the heart of God, echoing back to Him what He has asked us to do.  

Prayer: Lord, you are the Prince of Peace.  Have mercy on us.  Bring peace to the Middle East.