Wednesday, July 30, 2014

2 Corinthians 12

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12)

Thoughts: Not many would say, "When I am weak I am strong."  Not many could thank God or boast about their weaknesses.  Paul was talking about his "thorn in the flesh."  His thorn was some kind of physical ailment.  Some say he had a limp, or he stuttered, but clearly he had eye problems- maybe as a result of his blindness on the road to Damascus.  He wrote a few times that he wrote large so the readers could tell it was from his own hand.  It could be that his weaknesses were all the things he had talked about previously that surely took an overall toll on his body.  He does not spell out his weakness- it probably was obvious to the Corinthians- but really only a matter of curiosity today for us.  The point was that God sustained Paul.  Paul knew that when he had no strength of his own, God's strength kicked in.  Apart from Christ we are weak and can do nothing.  But with God all things are possible. Jesus said the last shall be first- another way of saying the weak will be made strong.  He also talked about the meek will inherit the earth.  So when you have reached the end of your strength- look for God.  He is close.  He has not forsaken you- for after your God-forsaken cross- just around the corner- within a three days walk- is a resurrection!  When someone says, "How does he do that?"  It honors Christ- for His power is seen in our inability.  When someone is amazed at what God does through us- it is not us that should get the glory (or it wouldn't be amazing).  God gets the glory.  He made us with what little strength we have- but He is the One who feeds us in the famines as He fed Elijah. He is the One who lifts us out of our mud pits as he lifted Jeremiah.  He is the One who rescues us from the sea as He rescued Jonah.  He is the One who allows us to suffer on the cross- only to raise us up from the dead.  In our weakness- He is strong- and we- tied to Him- are strong too!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

2 Corinthians 11- Paul's hardship

24Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.28Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? (2 Cor. 11)

Thoughts: Paul did not have an easy road.  What made him continue?  It was not that he was forced to by weapons.  People tried to force him to recant by weapons and whipping- both Jews and Gentiles.  He has suffered- without nourishment, shelter, and clothing- the very basics of life.  Obviously Paul had a great purpose that drove him on- that kept him from being distracted. Paul knew the power of the Gospel to change a person for the better.  His purpose was to pass that great news on.  It was not a news of comfort- sometimes just the opposite.  But the love of Christ makes us numb to the torture of the world, and pushes us out of our comfort zone and selfishness to a higher purpose. 
     Out of his love for Christ, he not only was able to push through hardship, but he had extra sympathy and love for those who accepted the message.  This is a glimpse into the hardship, love and soul of Paul.  

Prayer: Lord, let me not lose sight of you.  You endured the cross for me.  Help me to endure my crosses for you and your glory.  Thank you for saints like Paul who were willing to sacrifice so that the Gospel would be spread even to me. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

2 Corinthians 10

 17But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”b 18For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

Thoughts: If we are blessed with strength, or looks, intelligence or ability- we should give thanks to God- not to ourselves.  Apart from Him we can do nothing.  But with Him all things are possible.  

Prayer; Keep me Lord, from boasting in myself.  Help me to be proud of you, my God.  

Sunday, July 27, 2014

7/28/14- 2 Corinithians 9- Generosity

6Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work...15Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Thoughts: Paul is giving a New Testament theology of giving. It is based on the idea that God has already given the greatest gift- salvation.  God is able to bless us and provide for us.  If we give generously, God gives generously to us. If we withhold out of fear or selfishness, God withholds His blessing from us.  Yet we do not need to give in order to get or give because we feel compelled.  Giving is a blessing.  

Prayer: Help me to be a generous person God as you have been generous to me.  

Saturday, July 26, 2014

2 Corinthians 8

 9For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

Paul was commending one church that had little but cared for another church that had nothing and was facing famine.  So no church is independent of another.  Perhaps today, when we hear of the Christians in Mosul Iraq being given the choice to a. Convert to Islam, b. be killed, or c. leave, we should have compassion on them.  Macedonia was about 1,000 miles from Jerusalem but was caring for the brothers and sisters in Christ there.  When we become Christians, we are called to not just care about ourselves, but to care for others.
     The reason for caring for others is that God cares for us when we were far away.  When we sinned against Him we drove Him far away, but He still came for us.  He left the riches of heaven to meet our need.  Jesus said the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).  Jesus gave Himself for us.  Part of being a Christian is giving- even giving for strangers or people in other lands.  It means sacrificing something for the higher cause of God. 

Prayer: Lord, thank you for your example of giving and the example of others who follow in your footsteps.  Give me the grace to give.  

Friday, July 25, 2014

2 Corinthians 7

1Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. (2 Corinthians 7)

Thoughts: Much of this chapter is about Paul's relationship with the Corinthians which is a bit rocky.  Corinth had the largest Temple to Aphrodite and the largest Temple to Apollos (the sun god) in the world.  Paul would rebuke the Corinthians when they would slip into pagan practice (if not pagan worship).  
     But Paul's basic advice to a sexually immoral culture is good advice to our culture- where sexual purity seems to be cast to the side.  It is that God has rewards and promises for those who seek to please Him- not just in the life to come- but even in this life.  But there are things that can contaminate our body and our soul.  We should guard our hearts out of respect for God and out of fear of displeasing God.  Some act as if God does not care or does not see what we do.  But God loves us- and He wants the best for us in this life and in the life to come.  If we believed that God really cares what we do, and is a personal God then doubtless it would effect our behavior. 

Prayer: Lord, keep me from polluting my body by doing wrong, and polluting the purity of my soul by going my own way.  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

2 Corinthians 6

14Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15What harmony is there between Christ and Belialb ? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
“I will live with them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.” (2 Corinthians 6)

Thoughts: This is marriage advice but also spiritual advice.  He is saying to not be married to an unbeliever as if unbelief were not important to your soul or your relationship.  This does not mean that it cannot be gotten around.  Timothy's mother was married to a Greek unbeliever and she and Timothy kept their faith.  It is just difficult.  The other thing inferred here and spelled out in other places 1 Cor. 3:16; 1 Cor 6:19 is that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, so we need to take holy care of our bodies as people care for a temple.  You don't have two gods worshiping in the same temple.  Faith is an important question- for if both believe the closer we get to God, the closer we get to each other.  But if only one believes- the closer they get to God the more distance is to the other partner.  

Prayer: Lord, help my heart and relationships be pure and honoring to you.