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2 Corinthians 4-5: Getting Past Discouragement


“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”

II Corinthians 4:7-10 (ESV)

I need this attitude. How easily I get distracted and discouraged in my service to God because things in life aren’t easy. I get sick. Someone gets mad at me. Someone says something unkind. Somebody leaves the congregation. Somebody misunderstands me. These things happen and I get depressed and sometimes wonder why I keep trying. 

But then I remember Paul. He went through real trouble. Shipwrecks, beatings, persecutions, imprisonments, attempts on his life, thorn in the flesh… He kept his head up. He kept on in faith because he could see the big picture. All these things happened, but none of them took salvation away. None of them took heaven away. None of them took the love of God away. 

Sure, bad things happened to him. But the worst thing didn’t happen. God did not forsake Him. God won’t forsake me. God won’t forsake you. 

I think too often we get bogged down about all the blessings we would like but haven’t received that we forget the great blessing we have received. Jesus died for us and washed our sins away. He has reserved a home in heaven for us who are protected by the power of God through faith. I’m not shopping for a car here. What more could I ask for to sweeten this deal any better? 

I just need to keep in mind that the life of Jesus is in me, if I stay in Him and don’t let Satan discourage me and get me to turn my back on my Savior.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC 

September 30, 2008 Posted by | Encouragement, II Corinthians, perseverance | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 2-3: Comforting the Penitent

“For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.”

–II Corinthians 2:6-7 (ESV)

As best I can tell (and I think this is pretty consistently considered to be the case), Paul is referring to the man mentioned back in I Corinthians 5:1 who had been committing sexual immorality with his step-mother. I think most of us would admit that was a pretty vile thing going on there. Back when Paul wrote his first letter, the Corinthians were acting like it was not a big deal. He rebuked them and told them to discipline the man that he might have shame and repent. Apparently he did. 

However, as Paul writes his second letter, the Corinthians had gone to the opposite extreme. They now had a penitent man and they would not accept him back. Paul had to rebuke them again. They needed to forgive him and more than forgive him, they needed to comfort him. This, of course, demonstrated the true nature of his penitence. He needed comforting. He was mourning over his sin now. 

I know I have had to let my brothers and sisters know about my sins. Up to the moment I confessed, I feared rejection and isolation. But my brothers and sisters did not reject. I was mourning and fearful. They embraced me, drew me in closer and then lifted me up. What a wonderful experience that was. I can hardly imagine how awful it would have been if I had tried to overcome sin while believing my brothers and sisters hated me. I would likely have given up. Instead, they loved me and that made all the difference.

Now I have to remember that when I see others who are penitent and confessing. They may have committed extremely vile sins, sins at which even the Gentiles would blanch. But when my brothers or sisters repent, I should not hold them at arms length. I do not put them on trial to see if their penitence is real or if it will stick. I need to forgive. I need to comfort. I need to embrace, lift up and help forward. I need to see them as my equals in Christ, not my underlings because their sin has merely been admitted more recently than my own.

Certainly, we must not coddle sin. We must not let it slip in unnoticed. But at the same time, we must not ignore the penitent. Isn’t that all of us?

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

September 29, 2008 Posted by | Comfort, Encouragement, forgiveness, II Corinthians, Judging, Love | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 16-2 Corinthians 1:Relying on the Lord who Raises the Dead

II Corinthians 1:9-10 jumped out at me today.

“Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.” (ESV)

Paul and his companions were close to death. No doubt it was because of persecution. Yet, he saw a different purpose. Being pushed to that point forced him to rely on God. He knew he could not deliver himself from death, he could only rely on God. 

How often does that happen to us and yet we can’t see the lessons God has for us. We get sick to remind us our health is not in our hands, but God’s. We lose jobs to remind us our security is not in our hands, but God’s. We lose loved ones to remind us that life is not in our hands, but Gods.

All this goes on around us reminding us to quit relying on ourselves but to rely on God instead. No matter where we are, He is there. No matter what we face, He can deliver. The longer we try to work harder to preserve ourselves, the longer we wait to truly have God’s blessings.

I’m not saying we sit on our backsides and wait for God to hand us our free lunch. It doesn’t work like that. Rather, we must seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33) and then He will add to us. Of course, God’s blessings are not merely the material and financial. Rather, He blesses us with contentment, peace and joy no matter what we face and He blesses us with a home in heaven.

Perhaps this struck me because I’m sick this week–strep throat. It has thrown major wrinkles in my plans. But maybe what I need to do is remember that God is in charge, not me.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

September 26, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, God, I Corinthians, II Corinthians, perseverance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthian 14-15: The End of Christ’s Kingdom

Despite what our Premillennial friends like Tim LaHaye, Jack Van Impe and Hal Lindsey tell us, the kingdom of Christ is now. We aren’t waiting for it to be established at the end of time. It was established on Pentecost in Acts 2. Interestingly enough, Premillennialists tell us at Christ’s return the kingdom will be established. However, Paul tells us something different. 

In I Corinthians 15:23-24, Paul explains that at the resurrection of Christ’s people the end takes place. That is when Jesus hands His kingdom back to the Father. Premillennialists tell us that when the resurrection occurs it is not the end, but the beginning of the kingdom. They tell us there will be 7 years of tribulation and then 1000 years of Christ’s kingdom.

Somehow, LaHaye, Impe, Lindsey and others press 1007 years between vs. 23 and vs. 24. I’m not sure where they get it, other than just that is the way they have to do it to make sure their doctrine is still taught. So much for taking every verse literally unless absurd. What I have found that mantra means is “Take every verse literally unless doing so demonstrates Premillennialism is wrong.”

The kingdom is here and now, if you wait until the end to get into it, there is no second chance (Kirk Cameron movies notwithstanding). There is no adventure awaiting us if we ignore Jesus until He returns. After that, there is only the certainty of judgment. Get into Christ’s kingdom now. When He returns, we will be resurrected and handed over to God, the rest will be judged (cf. II Thessalonians 1:8-10).

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

September 25, 2008 Posted by | I Corinthians, Kingdom of God, Premillennialism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 12-13: The Greatest of All Is Love

In modern times, we are enamored with miracles. How cool it would be if we could touch someone and heal them. How awesome if we could just speak another language. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could speak a message directly from God complete with signs and wonders? But Paul said there was something better. LOVE.

What is amazing is every single one of us can do this. We can all love. It doesn’t take a special miraculous gift from God to love others. We just have to do it.

To test yourself on this take I Corinthians 13:4-7 and make it personal. Wherever it says the word “love,” put your name. Thus, I would say, “Edwin is patient and kind…” But now take it a step further. Make it be about someone. My scale of love might be different for different people so I add in someone else’s name as an object to the sentence. “Edwin is patient and kind to Marita.” Or “Edwin is patient and kind to my elders.” “Edwin is patient and kind to Tessa, Ethan, Ryan and Trina.” 

Quit waiting for the lesser issue of miraculous gifts and start doing what God called the greatest of all which is entirely within our grasp. Let’s get to loving each other.

Keep the faith and keep reading.

ELC

September 24, 2008 Posted by | I Corinthians, Love | , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 10-11: Whatever You Do, Glorify God

I Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (ESV). 

I have heard others and I have often just come to this verse and said, “See, everything we do has to glorify God.” While that is the final logical point of the verse, just making the statement actually misses Paul’s point in context. 

From I Corinthians 8 to this point, Paul has been discussing issues of conscience and liberty. He had been trying to wade through the issues of eating meats and especially meats offered to idols. Through those chapters we learned that knowledge puffs up and love edifies. We learned that we should take care not to offend the conscience of our brethren. Further, we even learned we should take care with our actions because of the conscience of unbelievers (cf. I Corinthians 10:28). 

Within this context, Paul is not just making the statement that everything we do should glorify God. Rather, he is saying that as we consider how to pursue our liberties and how to preserve our conscience and the conscience of others, the determining factor is which choice will glorify God. It will glorify God if I eat and give thanks to Him. However, it will not glorify God even if I give thanks, if it causes a brother or sister to stumble. It will not glorify God if it causes an outsider to believe I pay homage to an idol. I may have the liberty to eat whatever I want in the strictest sense, but I must not simply consider my hunger and my culinary tastes. I must consider whether God will be glorified by pursuing this liberty.

Finally, as Paul continued, he pointed out that glorifying God meant not giving offense to either the Jews or the Greeks. In other words, don’t pursue your Christian liberties in a way that causes Jews or Greeks to judge you as immoral or ungodly. Don’t invite a Jew into your home and set pork chops before him (especially if you are a Jewish Christian, they will view you as a traitor to God and will not listen to a thing you have to say about Jesus). Don’t eat something a Gentile gives you if he makes a point to let you know it was sacrificed to some idol. He may think you honor that idol and will not learn the idol is no god at all. Don’t give offense to the church of God. In other words, don’t cause your brothers and sisters who are not as knowledgeable to stumble. 

Then he concludes, that instead of seeking his own advantage, he is seeking the salvation of others. This actually gets us back to yesterday’s theme. What glorifies God the most? The salvation of the lost. 

Thus, the point about glorifying God whether we eat or drink or whatever we do is that we must not seek our own advantage, but serve others so they can be saved and God glorified. Yes, once we recognize that point, we get to the usual statement that this means everything we do must glorify God, but it is important to actually notice the logic that gets us there. Because only then do we actually learn what Paul wants us to do to glorify God. He wants us to be all things to all people that by all means we might save some.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

September 23, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Evangelism, Glorifying God, God, I Corinthians, Sacrifice, Serving | , , , , , | 2 Comments

1 Corinthians 8-9: 5 Keys to Winning More Souls

“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel. That I may share with them in its blessings.”

I Corinthians 9:19-23 (ESV)

 

This passage affected me so much, I had to preach on it this week. I need to do better at getting the word out to the loss. I learned five keys from this passage to help.

1. We have to see the gospel as good news.

The word “gospel” has essentially become a specialized word for us. We see that and hear “whatever the Bible says.” However, when our first century counterparts read this letter, they didn’t see a specialized religious word. They saw the word “euaggelion” which literally meant “good message” or “good news.” What do you do with good news? You share it. If we see the gospel as merely a list of requirements and rules that limit us, we’re not likely to share it, because we don’t see it as good news. Only when we recognize the gospel is the good news to set us free from our sins, will we get the message out (cf. Romans 6:16-23).

2. We have to see lost people as lost.

Repeatedly, Paul says he was doing his work in order to “win” and “save” souls. The reason is, he saw lost people as lost. He was like a man walking in a ship of safety, casting out a life preserver because he saw the souls drowning all around him. What would happen if he was walking on the ship looking at the clouds, just chit-chatting with other boat riders and never looking over the edge at the waters? No one would be saved. When we come in contact with people, we shouldn’t just see bank tellers, check-out clerks, co-workers, family, friends, neighbors, we should see lost people drowning in the bad news of their sins. We have the good news that will save them.

3. We have to see ourselves as servants to the lost. 

In I Corinthians 9:19, Paul said he was free from all, but made himself a servant so that he might save some. Being a servant means sacrifice. It means sacrificing our desires, wants and goals in order to accomplish what the lost need. We may have to sacrifice time. We may have to sacrifice money. We may have to sacrifice recreations. We may have to sacrifice our liberties. This is what servants do.

4. We have to get out of our comfort zone.

Think about the first day that Paul went to teach Gentiles in their home and they dropped a greasy piece of pork on his plate. Do you think that was comfortable for him? What about just teaching a Gentile to begin with? Was that comfortable for a Jew raised as a separatist Pharisee? He got out of his comfort zone. We need to have a sign that says–“Comfort Zone: No Parking.”

5. We have to use all means to save others.

“All means,” that was what Paul used to try to save some. That means proclaiming the gospel to the lost is not something we do in addition to everything else we do. That means we are thinking about teaching the lost in everything we do. Little League provides contact with 10 to 15 families who may need the gospel. A trip to Wal-Mart provides countless contacts. Work is not just a place of employment. It is a place in which we can display the fruit of the spirit and pursue spiritual conversations. We need to be thinking evangelism through every part of our life. I’ll give you a practical way to get the spiritual into conversations which someone shared with me and I am starting to use it. While at a restaurant, let your waiter or waitress know you are about to pray and then ask if he/she has something for which you could pray. I tried it for the first time last week and the waiter’s girlfriend’s brother had just died. He wanted us to pray for her. Do you think that made an impact on him? I think it did.

If you would like to read or listen to the sermon I presented based on this passage, click the link below.
Winning More!
Keep the faith and keep reading,
ELC

September 22, 2008 Posted by | Evangelism, Growth, I Corinthians, Responsibility, Sacrifice, salvation, Serving, Teaching | , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthian 6-7: Why Not Rather Be Defrauded?

I don’t have much to say from this reading. Simply that one sentence struck me and is causing me some introspection. 

We are a rights and entitlement people. We argue fuss and fight over our rights. We whine and complain the moment we sniff out something that has the potential of not being fair. We march on the capital, hold rallies, wave flags and hold up banners.

But Paul asked, “Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud–even your own brothers” (I Corinthians 6:7-8, ESV). 

I don’t know what legal lines for personal conduct we should draw exactly around these verses. It simply calls to mind how much of a whiner I am when I think someone is doing me wrong and how often I want to get them back or get someone else to figure out how wrong that other person is. Maybe I should take a new approach. Why don’t I just suffer wrong? Maybe some real good can come out of the relationship when I do that.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

P.S. What struck you in today’s reading?

September 19, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, I Corinthians, Sacrifice | , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 4-5: I Don’t Care if You Judge Me, God is My Real Judge

Let’s face it, our society is so whiny and up in arms afraid that somebody somewhere might judge them. “How dare you judge me,” we hear people moan. “I’m afraid to share with my brothers and sisters what I’ve done because I know they’ll judge me,” we hear others claim. “I don’t like churches because they are so judgmental.”

Okay, okay, I know there is a point to be made among Christians about having compassion. I’m sure we’ll hit that one in another post. In today’s reading, I didn’t get far before a passage just smacked me. Paul said:

“But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me” (I Corinthians 4:3-4, ESV).

Paul provides the attitude we should have about others judging us. Who cares? Their judgment doesn’t matter. God is the one who is the judge. 

I find this interesting. Paul knew God was the judge. That fact however did not cause him to tell everyone else, “Don’t you dare judge me.” It caused him to say, “Judge me if you want. Your judgment isn’t the one that counts.”

Maybe we’d all be better off if we could have this attitude.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

September 18, 2008 Posted by | God, I Corinthians, Judging | , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 2-3: How Can I Know God?

I love to tell people about the time my wife and I rode a plane with Deborah Harry (lead singer of the 70’s and 80’s band Blondie). Or the time my wife rode a fair ride with Mark Slaughter (lead singer of the 80’s and 90’s band Slaughter). I also like to tell people about my friend Dan Degarmo who went to high school with Brad Paisley. I can’t wait to tell people I shook hands with Ken Starr. And one of my prized possessions is a photo with John Maxwell.

We naturally like to tell people about our connections with famous people. It is almost like a bit of their importance and fame rubs off on us just because we can establish some connection. But, of course, I don’t actually know any of these people. 

However, I can have a relationship with the most important being in existence. Of course, you know where I’m going with this. I can have a relationship with God. I can go beyond just having ridden with him on a plane or a fair ride. I can go beyond just having my picture taken with him. I can actually get to know Him. I Corinthians 2:10-13 explains how.

“For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” (I Corinthians 2:10-13, ESV).

There is only one way to get to know God. We get to know God by getting into the word He has revealed by the Spirit. That is why what we are doing at Give Attention to Reading is so important. Only through reading, studying and meditating upon God’s word can we come face to face with God while we are still in this life. We can’t know God by watching Oprah or Dr. Phil. We can’t know God by tearing up over “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” We can’t know God by merely talking with our friends about Him. We can only get to know God when we get into the word that the Spirit has revealed about Him. 

Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God…” and the rest of the Bible proceeds to tell us His story. Yes, our story is in there too. But this is His story and if we want to know Him we have to…

…keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

September 17, 2008 Posted by | God, I Corinthians, The Bible | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment