Friday, September 30, 2016

Ambassador for God

20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.  (2 Corinthians 5:20)

Thoughts: An ambassador represents his government while in another country.  Ambassadors are not citizens of the country they are in- the country they are in is not their true home.  As an ambassador speaks on behalf of his/her ruler, so we speak on behalf of God.  We are asking others to make peace with God.  We are asking them to be friends with God.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to be a good ambassador for you.   

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Reconciliation

 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)

Thoughts: God has made us new creatures- with a different way of looking at others- because He has reconciled us. God brings us to Himself and then He asks us to bring others to Him too.  Christ pulls us to the Father- He is the mediator uniting God and humans.  Our message should be that we are called to come back to Christ.  Reconciliation is a great descriptive word.  We are away from God- we have wandered away. He calls us back. We have a broken relationship with Him and God Himself comes to scoop us up and bring us back.  

Prayer: Lord, reconcile me to yourself and I will proclaim your message of reconciliation. 


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

New Creation

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
(2 Corinthians 5:17)


Thoughts: This is one of the seminal verses in the New Testament.  There is so much here.
First it says that it is possible for anyone to be in Christ.  No matter what you have or don't; how much you know, or don't; no matter who you are or where you are from; or even what how bad or good you have been in the past.  Anyone can come.
    But we come to be "In Christ." This is a mystical but important union.  We are adopted "into" His family.  We are a part of His body- part of who He is, and He is part of who we are.  But this oneness is contingent on our believing in Him- following Him. Anyone is welcome- but we must be one with Him not only in faith but also on His same path.  Anyone should not say they are one with Christ but then not even try to follow in His way.
      But once you are truly in Christ everything is different- it is new.  It is like, as Jesus said (John 3), we are born again.  The old way of life- the old way of thinking and looking at things is gone.  No longer do we live for ourselves or live for some temporary cause.  There is a new heaven and a new earth in our eyes.  We look at things with new glasses.  A person in the dark may not see well-but when they put on night vision goggles they see everything.  A person who has faith sees people as valuable; life as purposeful; work as a way to glorify God; the words we say and deeds we do as meaningful.  Anyone who is in Christ can have everything new. 


Prayer: Lord, thank you that you invite even me to this new way of life.  Thank you for giving me another chance- a new lease on life.   

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Seeing Others with New Eyes

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. (2 Corinthians 5:16)


Thoughts: When we see Christ as more than just an ordinary man- when we believe in Him (with a capital "H") it changes us.  It changes the way we look at life- at the world- and at other people.  Any human is someone made by God, loved by God, and potentially a child redeemed by God.  We cannot be indifferent to others who may be our brothers and sisters.  People are not just another being or another coagulation of atoms.  People are precious to God and should be precious to us.  He values them and we should too.
     This is missing among some.  It is not an accident that the greatest inhumane acts the dehumanize others are done by the atheistic communist regimes.  Millions were killed in the Gulags of the old atheistic Soviet Union; or the old People's Republic of China during Mao's Cultural Revolution; or in Pol Pot's killing fields in Cambodia.   Such things seem so extreme.  Yet when life is not valued as having eternal meaning, others may get in the way of our ideal- and they can be eliminated like dust is swept from the kitchen.  Modern atheists forget this.  While we may build artificial temporary reasons to value others- love and human beings are deeply devalued when we only see them from a worldly point of view.  On the other hand, if we see them as those who God loves and we ought to love- there is value there.   Look around you at the crowds.  See them as people who need to realize the love of God.  


Prayer: Lord, open my eyes so that I may see others as you see them.    


Monday, September 26, 2016

Christ's Love Compels Us

For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 2 Corinthians 5:14

Thoughts: Christ's love compels us.  We treat people differently because Christ's love compels us. Paul would leave Jerusalem compelled by Christ's love.  Christ's death applies to all human beings. So all need to know of the love of Christ. 

Prayer: Lord, let me feel the force of your love.  Let your love compel and propel me to reach out to others for you.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Care of What Others Think

12We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.  (2 Corinthians 5:12-13)

Thoughts: Paul didn't care what people thought of him.  Once General Booth, the founder of the Salvation army, toward Rudyard Kipling, "If I thought I could win one more person by standing on my head and banging a tamborine with my feet, I would learn to do it."   Often the people who are excited about life are seen as unusual or crazy.  The ones who are apathetic about life are the norm.  But Paul had a reason to live  We too, should not care what people think but seek to please God.  When we care to be popular to a misguided, temporary and dying world, we are allowing ourselves to be sucked into their whirlpool of nothingness.  But if we follow God- amazing things happen, 

Prayer: Lord, help me to live my life for you and for no one else.  

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Advantages of Fearing God

11Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.  (2 Corinthians 5:11)

Thoughts: Paul had just talked about standing before the judgment seat of Christ, and he indicates he understands what it is to fear God.  To respect the judgment seat meas that we are held accountable for what we do, what we believe, and who we are.  To fear God is not such a terrible thing.  In fact, it means that there is ultimate meaning to what we do.  It is not that whatever you do doesn't really matter.  God holds us accountable.  It also means when others hurt us, we can leave revenge in God's hands.  Because Paul know this, he tries to persuade others.  He wants them to have meaning and hope.  

Prayer: Lord, let me grow in fear and respect for you. Let this motivate me to persuade others to listen to you and follow you. 

Judgement seat- or Bema in Corinth.
Paul stood before this.
The judgement seat in the synagogue was where the Torah was read.



Friday, September 23, 2016

Confidence in Life and Death

8We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:8-10)

Thoughts:  Paul is confident and hopeful.  He believes he will win either way- by dying or living.  Death does not take our confidence and hope away.  But what we want to do is to always please Him- whether we are alive or in heaven.  The idea of judgment is not a bad thing for Paul.  He knows the judge and he knows he not only will not be condemned but he expects and award.  The judgement seat was not just for condemnation- or even for a declaration of innocence or forgiveness- but rather an award.  Paul views the judgment seat like the podium for Olympic medals- a place to go to be honored and rewarded.  Paul has confidence, though he was very aware of his past sins against Stephen and others.  He has more confidence in knowing Christ, his cross, and his resurreciton.  

Prayer: Lord, let me find my confidence in you in life or in death.  

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Violence and Injustice

3When the foundations are being destroyed,
what can the righteous do?”
4The Lord is in his holy temple;
the Lord is on his heavenly throne.
He observes everyone on earth;
his eyes examine them.
5The Lord examines the righteous,
but the wicked, those who love violence,
he hates with a passion.

Thoughts: This is a passage that condemns people who love violence.  When violence is valued that is a sign that the foundations of morality are being destroyed.  That is what we are seeing in our culture today.
    This also is a reminder that God is not blind.  God sees what is going on more than all the security cameras put together- and more than all the google satellite shots. If you can search for your house and Google can show your street view- and it is just a machine- what can God see?  God sees the violent.  As much as we can we should turn the other cheek.  We should leave revenge to God- for He sees all the injustice no matter who causes it.  But people who do not trust in God feel that they must take justice into their own hands.  There will be injustice.  But there is a judge who overrules injustice.  In the end, we need to believe He will win.
     So today, when immorality and skepticism along with injustice and violence seem to be ruling our day, let us remember... God notices and will win in the end.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to trust in your righteousness.  Let me remember that after the injustice of the cross, you won.  Win again.  Win in our day- let justice roll down like a river. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Pray for Charlotte

Why are the nations in uproar [agitated and in turmoil] and why do the people devise a vain and hopeless plot?  (Psalm 2:1)

Thoughts: There is much injustice in this world.  It is hard to believe that there are riots in Charlotte North Carolina where an African American policeman shot an African American that he thought had a gun.  There also is an African American police chief.  My wife was born there.  Charlotte was once known as the Queen City and was well known for its churches and morality.  It is evident from the stance of Charlotte's leadership (political and economic- who purposefully turned a deaf ear to the churches on many issues) that Charlotte has lost its moral center and along with that, peace.  But this is not just true of Charlotte, it is true of other places as well.  Ironically, when nine were killed in Charleston, there were no riots- no looting.  CNN (Now MSN too) has an article contrasting the prayer meetings of Tulsa with the riots of Charlotte.  What is the difference?  Charleston is only a few hours away from Charlotte.  The difference is the church and the families of the victims urged forgiveness, unity, and prayer.  In so many ways Charleston united against its racial agitators on both sides.  Instead of the looting of stores there was a unity march on the Cooper River Bridge.  Many say prayer does nothing- but it is obvious that the act of the prayer of forgiveness and for strength made a difference in Charleston- where 9 were killed unjustly by a racially motivated man.  We should pray for Charlotte.  It is not just a fight between those treated unfairly and the police.  It is a spiritual fight for this city and even our country.

Prayer: Lord, bring peace to Charlotte and to our country.  Grant us justice and peace.  Help us to turn to you fully- not just in name. Keep violence and agitation from us.

Charlotte riots (CNS News picture)

   

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Faith not Sight

7For we live by faith, not by sight.  (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Thoughts: Perhaps this is the key verse in 2 Coriinthians.  There is a choice- to live only by what we see, or live in belief that there is more to life.
We really do not live by sight.  We believe that those who taught us before are trustworthy and we can rely on their work.  We believe our brakes will work in our car without having to inspect them each time we step on them.  We believe the sun will come up tomorrow- not because we have mathematically figured it- or followed the sun's trip around the earth.  We often walk by faith rather than sight.  We believe in love even when we cannot see it.  We are called to embrace that here.  Do not be embarrassed that you must rely on more than you can see or understand.  But when we walk by faith, we can go further and more assuredly.  We don't have to stop and measure or see things.  


Prayer: Lord, help me to live trusting in you rather than just what I can see.  Thank you that you see more than I can begin to understand.  

Monday, September 19, 2016

Our True Home

6Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:6)

Thoughts: Paul was always confident.  His faith in his hope made him have confidence and boldness.  Paul knew and was certain that as long as he was comfortable here he was uncomfortable in heaven.   The whole world will tell you to settle in and be comfortable.  But God would remind us that His peace is not the peace of the grave, but the peace of heaven.
     So what are you investing your time, your energy, your money, yourself in?  Do you invest in your comfort or in the Kingdom to come?   It is not the new mattress, the new furniture, the new car, the new house that will satisfy your greatest need.  Christ is your hearts true home.  


Prayer: Lord, make me confident in you.  Help me to not want more of the world, but to want more of you.  

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Deposit of God

so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. ( 2 Corinthians 5:4b-5)

Thoughts: The very purpose for which we are fashioned is for eternity.  We are made to last.  We are not made to merely rust or rot or fail.  Rather we are made to live and to glorify God.  We have little tastes of this now.  The Holy Spirit and the fact of the resurrection are both described by Paul as deposits of what is to come- glimpses of our true future.  So, trust in the glimpse and not in your own illusion that this life is all you have.  Commercials will say, "You only live once- go for all the gusto you can."  But while we don't get born all over again in this life- a reincarnation- we do get a second chance at what we were made to do.  Over and over we fail to recognize our true purpose and over and over God gives us another chance at getting to eternal life.  The Spirit gives us glimpses but more- He also nudges us- convicting us that there is such a thing as wrong in the world, and that there is a God.  A deposit here is a down payment- a foretaste.  The Spirit gives us this so we will have faith hope- and inspired by these- love.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to see you- through your glimpses and nudges of the Spirit and the clarity of your Word.  

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Groaning for the Future

 2Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.4For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. (2 Corinthians 5:2-4)

Thoughts: Paul uses this word "groan" (stenazomen in Greek) expresses pressure from what is coming on.  It is a deep inner longing for what is to come (cf. Rom. 8:23).  Paul here is saying that deep within us is a longing for heaven.  It is almost like a naked person longing for clothes. Something is missing from this life.  We are incomplete in public without our clothes.  We are incomplete in life without God.  When we get to heaven, we will be made complete.  In the end, what is temporary and dying will be swallowed up by what is eternal and living.  Death and dying will come- the temporary nature of this life will be shown for what it is.  But for those who believe, the temporary and dying cross does not compare to the living power of the resurrection. 

Prayer: Lord, we long for you.  We groan deep down for the day we will be made complete in you.  Give us grace to live today in that hope.  

Woman giving a child her own coat to keep him warm in the cold. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Tents vs. Houses

1For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. (2 Corinthians 5:1)

Thoughts: Paul is comparing our earthly bodies to a tent.  A tent is temporary and will not last.  It is important to know that Paul was a tent maker (Acts 18:3) .  He made friends in Corinth with Aquilla and Priscilla who were also tentmakers.   Tradition says that Paul's parents made tents for Roman leaders in Tarsus.  Tarsus was the home of some of the best tents in the world.  It was well known for a special rough black goats hair named cilicium that was used for both tents and sails (Cilicia was the region where Tarsus was located).   Even the best tents in the world, though, did not last.  Tents are no substitutes for real buildings.
    Paul is saying our bodies here are but tents compared to the eternal bodies we receive in heaven.  If you could choose a tent or an everlasting house- which would you choose?  Let us choose what will last- and invest ourselves, our treasure, and our effort in that.  Our bodies will not last, but our souls and being with God lasts forever. 


Prayer: Lord, give me a vision for what will last.  Let me long always- for your eternal home instead of the tents of the wicked.   

Paul as tentmaker

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Focus on the Unseen

16Therefore 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. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Thoughts: In life there is the part we see and the part we do not see.  The part of life we see will not last.  Outwardly we get old, slow, and die away.  The beautiful, strong, fast, and intelligent are not able to maintain their outward appearance- but they can become more and more beautiful on the inside.  In Paul's case, the ship wrecks, stonings, and prison were wearing on him.  Paul says here that the pains we suffer here so visibly, do not compare to the rewards we get in heaven.  Paul says we need to focus on what will last and is unseen versus what will fade and we see.  This is where hope lies.  Hope, meaning and purpose does not lie in the temporary that we currently see but disappears in the long-run.  Rather Hope, meaning and purpose means focusing on God and His reward.  There are those who say that if we are heavenly minded we will do no earthly good.  But C.S. Lewis rightly points out that many who made real changes in this world were focused on heaven (like Wilberforce and Newton who helped conquer the slave trade).   If we focus on heaven we see that things can improve and our hope gives us strength to change things here.  Certainly Paul changed the world.  

Prayer: Lord, may my focus be on you.  Let me not be consumed with the surface, but what is deep- in my soul. 


Above- Lauren Bacall early and later; Jack Nicholson young and old.
Outwardly we waste away- but inwardly we can be renewed day by day. 


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Speaking from the Heart

13It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.”b Since we have that same spirit ofcfaith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.15All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 4:13-15)

Thoughts:  We speak out of our belief.  The world recognizes that there are Elmer Gantry types who are gifted speakers but shallow because they do not practice or believe what they preach.  For Paul this is personal.  He knows God raised Jesus and will therefore also raise us.  It is personal.  Everyone must make an individual decision, but each individual is a part of the group that follows Christ.  We are called to be together- to encourage one another.  So Paul is speaking about individual salvation- but more than that He is speaking about loving God and each other.  When we come to God- and then come together there is "thanksgiving that overflows to the glory of God" (2 Cor. 4:15).  We learn to be grateful for what God does for us as individuals and what God does for us as a group.  

Prayer: Lord let my lips reflect my heart.  May my belief bubble over so that I might want to say something to others about what is in my heart- your love.   

Monday, September 12, 2016

Dying that Others May Live

11For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
(2 Corinthians 4:11-12)


Thoughts: Death is at work in us.  When Paul says we are being given over to death for Jesus' sake he speaks of his persecution.  Sometimes we are willing to give of ourselves for a better cause.  Barclay tells of the Boulder Dam in America that brings water to the desert at the cost of many lives given to build it.  Inside the dam is a plaque to those who gave their lives that says, "These died that the desert may rejoice and blossom as the rose."  Paul was more than willing to give himself that the gospel might blossom in others. 

Prayer: Lord, may your life be at work in me.  Give me the will to take up my cross and follow you.  

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Keeping Hope

 8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)

Thoughts: Sometimes life is tough.  Maybe it is tough from sickness or pain; but maybe it is hard because we are facing injustice or even persecution.  When life gets tough, these are great verses to remember.  As we survive, we survive without despair. God does not abandon us.  We suffer as Christ suffered.  We do not need to think we have done something wrong- just because we suffer in life.  Jesus was the most perfect man, and He suffered.  But in our weakness, Christ's power becomes apparent and evident.  Paul never lost his hope, and we shouldn't either. 

Prayer: Lord, when the hard times come, keep me in your care.  Keep me from giving up hope. 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Treasure in Clay Jars

 6For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”a made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
7But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:6-7) 

Thoughts: In the 1946 a shepherd boy discovered large clay jars in a cave in an isolated mountain near the Dead Sea.  This was one of the greatest archaeological discoveries ever.  It gave us portions and even whole books of the Old Testament Bible dating back to the third century BC.   The treasure of the Bible was preserved in large clay jars or vases for centuries.
    In our passage it speaks about treasure in jars of clay in a different manner.  The Gospel of Life is taught by frail and fragile human beings.  Even more of a contrast is found when we think of the hope that gives eternal life is given to others by sinful human beings who need forgiveness.  It is amazing to think that God entrusts the most important news in the world to people who mess up and who are blinded to the importance of it all.  Many can turn away from the hope of Christ because a minister may say the wrong thing in the wrong way.  Some preachers I have seen are great about preaching but not great about living what they preach.  Paul himself took part in the stoning of a deacon.  Peter denied Christ three times and all the disciples ran away.  Yet the good news of Christ still needs to be heard- even if it is given by those who are not consistent with it, or even if we mess up the way we say it, or get the message itself garbled up.  Yet the hope of Christ is still our true needed hope.  Paul says that this gives even greater glory to God.  For if God can still get through to people despite our slip ups, mess ups, and goof ups- it is the Spirit of God at work overcoming the messenger with grace.  Do not ever be afraid of saying the message wrong, or wrongly.  Be afraid of not saying it at all.  God will use you to help someone with their faith if you will be courageous and share. 

Prayer: Lord, may I not get in the way of your Gospel.  May the treasure of the greatest message in the world not be obscured by my failures, fragility and frailty.  

The Light of Truth

1Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.2Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”a made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:1-6)

Thoughts: What makes the Gospel appealing is that it is not an appeal to deception but an appeal to truth.  There is no hocus pocus like some religions (especially the Greek and Roman pagan religions) warrant.  There is no secret password or smoke and mirrors in order to fool people into believing.  So why do some not believe?  Paul says they are blinded.   Just as a fish that is used to a dark cave cannot stand the light- so many people cannot see the light of Christ.  But there are some who will have their eyes opened by God's Spirit so they can respond.  

Prayer: Lord, let you light shine through my darkness.  Let your light grow more and more in my heart that I might be a light for you.  
 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Ministry That Encourages

1Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.

Thoughts: Doing the work of God- the ministry- paid or unpaid- is the most important thing you can do in life.  We are all called to do ministry. There is nothing else we can do on earth that can have an everlasting, eternal impact. Sometimes what you do earns little money but is making a difference for the Lord.
     But Paul is saying that doing the Lord's work motivates him in life.  Paul has had a rough life, with lots of persecution and tough circumstances.  But his purpose keeps him motivated.  If you know you are here for a reason- more than just earning money or buying stuff- which will rot/fade anyway- then you can be encouraged no matter what.  If you need more encouragement in your life, perhaps you need to get more in touch with your purpose.  For your purpose gives you hope- a reason to endure- a reason to carry on. 


Prayer: Lord, let me find my purpose in you.  

Richard Halverson's benediction:  Remember you go nowhere by accident.  Where you are going, God is sending you.  Where you are, He has placed you.  God has a purpose for your life- right where you are. Christ Jesus who indwells you has something He wants to do through you- right where you are.  Believe this, and go in His grace, and in His love and in His power.   

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Growing in Glory

13We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.15Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplatea the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:13-18)

Thoughts: Exodus 34 records that Moses came down from meeting with God with his face glowing so brightly that the people made him put a veil over his face.  The veil is a way of keeping out light and glory.  Paul is saying that there is a filter that keeps out the light of God- the light of the Gospel.  Christ makes the glory of God clear and brings it down to our level. When we come to Christ, God's plan, love, and hope become clear to us.  The Spirit of the Lord gives freedom- freedom from the Law.  We are becoming better and better- growing in sanctification- heading toward the glory.  When we go to heaven we will behold the full glory of God and we ourselves will be changed.  Moses was changed with a glimpse of the glory.  But in heaven we will fully be changed.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to grow in glory.  Help me to glorify you more and more in my life- with my words and actions.  


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Hope Brings Boldness

12Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. (2 Corinthians 3:12)

Thoughts: Hope makes us bold.  It encourages us to do things beyond what we would normally do.  So the swimmer who can see the finish line swims extra hard; he marathoner has a kick when the finish line is in sight.  A researcher who has found a cure is anxious to share that hope.
     Paul is saying that because he has eternal hope- the most important hope that anyone can have- he is bold in sharing his faith with others.  We too can have boldness.  We want others to have the hope we have.  


Prayer: Lord, help me to remember my hope and share that hope with others. 


Monday, September 5, 2016

The Ministry of the New Covenant

6He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
7Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, 8will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! (2 Cor. 3:6-11)

Thoughts: On this Labor Day, I am writing about the Labor given to each of us. Paul was not a full time minister- but a tent maker volunteering his time to go all over the world for Christ.  Paul is comparing the ministry of the New Covenant (New Testament) with the ministry of the Old Covenant (Old Testament).  The Old Covenant was a ministry of the letter of the Law.  The Law convicts us of our sin, but does not give us a great way to get forgiveness for our sins.  The sacrificial system disappeared with the destruction of the Temple, and was downgraded in importance when the first Temple was destroyed in 586.  The Law given by Moses was glorious because it was given by God.  The glory of the Law was symbolized by the glory of Moses' face after receiving it.  But the glory of the Spirit is even more glorious.  The Spirit tells us not only how to live (as the Law did), but how to obtain forgiveness and eternal life.  To be a part of the ministry of the Spirit is a true blessing.  

Prayer: Lord, you have given each of us a ministry of living for you.  Thank you for this.  Help us to be good stewards of the glorious ministry of following you and sharing your love with others.  

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Competence and Confidence

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—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:4-6)

Thoughts: There is a lot of talk of self-esteem.  But Paul had something better- God-esteem.  He knew God made him and gave him abilities and talents and a calling.  We are not self-made.  Not everyone has what the world wants (beauty, wealth, intelligence, health).  The real beginning of the idea that what counts is not reality but what we think reality is (I feel therefore I am) comes from the "everybody needs self-esteem" movement.  Everyone has worth- but that is not found just because we are human.  Our worth is found beyond ourselves.  God made us (in His image), loves us, died for us, and calls us to do something with our lives.  Paul knew his talent came from Jesus.  He knew his calling changed his life from persecuting the church to building it up.  His confidence was in that call and in Christs sacrifice and forgiveness.  His competence also was not from his great education but from God who established the work of his hands.  A minister especially should know that even the best sermons can fall flat without the Spirit giving life to them. There are many competent and confident ministers whose ministry falls flat.  But the Spirit can make the seed bear fruit.  Our confidence and competence -whatever we do- is from the Lord. 

Prayer: Lord, forgive me when I put confidence in myself rather than you.  Forgive me when I plagiarize your work by taking all the credit for myself- as if my abilities, genetics, and environment are of my own making. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Respect and Honor

1Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 3You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Corinthians 3:1-3)

Thoughts: Paul does not need to brag or have other people brag for him.  The people in Corinth are the fruit of his labor in the power and grace of the Lord.  1 Samuel 2:30 says, "Those who honor me I will honor."  Jesus himself said to not sit at the place of honor but sit at the lowest place and let the banquet maker elevate you (Luke 14:8-10).  We do not need to boast of who we are and our accomplishments- for without God any good would be impossible.  The very best kind of fruit in life is the fruit of changed human lives impacted for eternity.  The Corinthians are a living letter to call the Corinthians to respect Paul.  When the Spirit is at work in the lives of people, we need to respect those who are being used by the Holy Spirit to make a difference.  Looking back, it is hard for us to imagine the Corinthians not respecting the great apostle Paul.  The worldly pressures and little problems no doubt influenced them to grumble against his leadership.  

Prayer: Lord, our lives, our reputations, our honor are yours.  Keep me from seeking worldly honor over honoring you.  Give me grace to honor those who honor you.