Whose approval do you seek?

Galatians 1

Today we will begin looking at the book of Galatians. Paul wrote this letter to the churches in Galatia. While the Corinthian letters were written to the church (one) in Corinth, this letter was written to all the churches in the region of Galatia. 

“Paul, an apostle – not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead- and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” Galatians 1:1-5

Paul, as usual starts with his credentials as an apostle, pointing out that he is not an apostle because he was called by man but because he was called by Jesus. He also sends his greetings to the Galatians, grace and peace from God, our Father and Jesus. 

It appears that the churches in Galatia had begun listening to others who were bringing them a different gospel other than Christ. 

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” Galatians 1:6-7

Paul was astonished that they would turn so quickly. The people of Galatia had received the gospel from Paul but because there were others who were distorting the gospel they had begun to believe them. This is why we should always be careful to know the word of truth ourselves and not just what the pastor is telling us. I have sat in churches before where I felt a stirring because the pastor may say something that does not line up with the word. I even sat in a church one time where the pastor told his congregation that he was the authority to them and that they should not question his authority. And I have sat under pastors who told me it was just as much my responsibility to know what was in the word as it was theirs. Give me those pastors anytime. You see the veil was torn for all of us, not just for the pastor that stands in front of us. They are mere humans just like you and me and there are those out there who will distort the gospel. Paul is calling those out that are preaching the gospel contrary to what he is preaching. Paul gives us the key in verse 10. 

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10

Is the pastor in front of you preaching a gospel that is meant to please the congregation or is he preaching the word, whether it “steps on toes” or not? But also bring it home, are you doing your every day life, am I, to seek the approval of man or is it to seek the approval of God? OUCH! God calls us to things that may not always get the approval or the understanding of man. It’s not about the Facebook likes or the affirmations. 

In the rest of this chapter, Paul explains his calling to them. He knows that the Galatians have heard about his life before his conversion experience. Paul explains his calling to them. 

“But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostle before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.” Galatians 1:15-17

Paul gives them a little insight here into his life immediately following his conversion. I learned something here. I had always thought that Paul set out preaching as soon as he had his experience but apparently he did not. Even though he mentioned that God had set him apart even before his conversion experience, he had the experience and then he spent some time before he actually began preaching. I thought this was very enlightening. Paul spent time building his own relationship with Jesus before he began preaching. 

Oh sweet Lord, may we all work on our relationship with You first and foremost. Lord, I pray that You would always make me aware when someone is trying to distort the gospel in any way. 

Please keep praying for the educators and students. Everyone is trying to figure out what the new normal is. Please pray and give grace. 

Final Warnings & Greetings

2 Corinthians 13 

Paul is planning a 3d trip to visit the Corinthians and he is giving them a warning before he comes. The first trip was when he founded the church, the 2d trip was when there was conflict between the Corinthians and himself.  This trip is when he is planning to deal with those who keep on sinning and to prove his apostleship once and for all. 

“This the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them – since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you.”  2 Corinthians 12:1-3

He is telling them, you have been asking for me to be more bold when I am present with you, well get ready, because I am coming. Paul gives a charge to the Corinthians. 

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you fail to meet the test! 2 Corinthians 12:5

Paul is telling them that he has given them all the tools. He has told them how to have a relationship with Jesus and while Paul does not want to live by a list of rules and regulations but in relationship, he has told them some absolutes that some of the Corinthians kept on doing. When Paul says “test yourselves” he is wanting them to examine their relationship with Jesus. Paul is wanting them to examine themselves before he comes because he is planning to clean house when he comes. 

“For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.” 2 Corinthians 12:10

Paul’s ministry is all about building others up in their faith. But Paul is recognizing here that sometimes you have to tear something down that is not God honoring. And he is just letting them know that he is willing to do it. 

Before he comes he leaves them with some parting words in his letter. 

“Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”  2 Corinthians 12:11-14

I read in my studies that this is the only place in the new Testament where the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are mentioned together in this type of blessing. Paul is wanting the Corinthians to be a blessed people. This reminds me of when Jesus stated his lament over Jerusalem. 

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” Matthew 23:37

Jesus is lamenting over Jerusalem. Paul is trying a different tactic with the Corinthians by blessing them. 

Lord we pray we may always Aim for Restoration! And Lord we thank you for your grace, love and fellowship! 

Please pray for the medical professionals today. Pray for the doctors and the nurses as well as the people checking in over the counter or cleaning the hospital rooms. 

Thorns & Grace

2 Corinthians 12

“I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.”  2 Corinthians 12:1

Paul feels like all he has done with the Corinthians is talk about himself when he would rather talk to them about Jesus. The next few verses Paul begins talking of a man he knows who had a vision or a revelation of Christ. He starts off speaking in the 3d person of this other man, however in verse 7 he falls into speaking in the 1st person of himself and these revelations. Scholars believe that he was speaking of himself the whole time. But because of his discomfort in speaking of himself was why he tried to speak as if he was speaking of someone else.  Verse 7 also leads us into some much loved and quoted scripture. 

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”  2 Corinthians 12: 7-9

We all know of Paul’s thorn in the flesh but scripture does not tell us what the thorn was. Why? While studying the thought was pointed out, if we knew Paul’s specific thorn in the flesh, I wonder how many people would compare themselves with Paul. I had never thought of that before but it truly does make sense. Also, would we glorify the thorn, rather than God? Paul was very conscientious about not wanting to glorify himself. The fact remains that God did not allow the thorn to be brought into scripture, and since that is the case, we can know that we all have our thorns. One does not necessarily mean worse or harder than someone else. I have often heard it said that if you think you have it bad, just look around someone will have it worse. I know that one time my family was going through a particularly difficult time. A friend asked me how we were. As I proceeded to tell her, I was humbled. You see this particular friends husband was in the dying process from a childhood illness that would soon be ending his life. I told her I knew that what I was going through was nothing compared to her. This friend, so sweetly told me, “Sonia, do you know whose cross is harder to bear?” I looked at her puzzled and she looked right at me and said “Your own.” I love that we can’t compare our thorn to Pauls. Because if we could we may think that the next verses weren’t for us as well. 

Paul says that three times he had pleaded with the Lord to take away his thorn. To unpack that, friends I can tell you I have prayed and I have seen the Lord answer and take things away and fix things that I wanted fixing. But I have also had things I have prayed for that remained. I have wondered why and I have cried out and begged and pleaded. Probably many more times than 3 times. I am somewhat more hard headed than Paul. When you aren’t getting the answers you want about something you are praying about the answer is always verse 9. Which bears repeating right here. 

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” 2 Corinthians 12:9a

You see when God is not “fixing your problem” or taking the thorn away, there is always something more to be learned or there is a way that God will be glorified in the end. Sometimes those thorns stay with us to keep us humble. Sometimes it’s just not time. But we can know this. “My grace is sufficient for you”. I have had many many things I could not walk through if not for His grace! His grace keeps me upright. His grace keeps me humble. His grace keeps me sane. His grace puts a smile on my face when I don’t really feel like smiling. It’s all about His grace! 

Oh sweet Jesus thank you for the grace to get up in the morning when I don’t really feel like getting up. Thank you Jesus for the grace that is sufficient for me! 

Please pray for our government leaders today. 

Godly Jealousy

2 Corinthians 11 

“For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.”  (2 Corinthians 11:2)

The CSB version says “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy.” So what is a divine or godly jealousy? Jealousy in and of itself is usually not very pretty. I have seen people do some pretty crazy things because they were jealous. I have probably done some pretty crazy things because of being jealous. It is not pretty in the person who is jealous and it usually does not end well. However a godly jealousy or a divine jealousy is a different story. Paul is telling the Corinthians that he has a godly or divine jealousy for them. It is stated many times in the Bible that God is a jealous God. So what does that even mean? When you have a godly jealousy for someone else like Paul has for the Corinthians, it means you want them to have all the riches and blessings that you also experience in Christ. It means that thoughts for another persons soul is consuming you. When I think of a jealous person, that person is usually consumed with another person. Their thought life is consumed with what the other person is doing and who they may be with. Godly jealousy can work in much the same way but the consuming thought is for the person to come to know Christ. Godly jealousy has the other persons best interest in mind, whereas human jealousy, while they are thinking of the other person, they are truly only thinking of that person in relation to themself. I’m afraid that we have forgotten what it is like to have a godly jealousy for anyone. It seems the world, or at least Christians in the world have adopted a live and let live attitude. Don’t get me wrong that probably comes from the fact that we have been told not to “shove our christianity down the throat of others.” We are persecuted for being intolerant, we have allowed ourselves to be silenced in the name of appearing loving and accepting of others. Can you imagine if Paul had been silenced? 

Paul spends the majority of this chapter defending his apostolic credentials AGAIN to the Corinthians. It seems to me that Paul has had to do this over and over while we have been studying 1 and 2 Corinthians. Could we not make a correlation to the Corinthians to people of today? How many people out there would like to silence us and would like to see our credentials over and over again. The Corinthians judged people by their outward appearance. They would choose the best and the brightest star simply by the way they looked. Again, Paul was apparently not considered a very handsome fellow to look at and he was apparently not necessarily an eloquent speaker either. But he knew Jesus! And he wanted others to know Jesus! While studying I ran across a little story I would like to tell you. 

“A story is told about a dinner party where the guests were expected to stand after the meal and recite something for the group. A famous actor was present, and he recited the twenty-third Psalm with great dramatic flair and emotion, and sat down to great applause. Then a very simple man got up and began to recite the same Psalm. He wasn’t very eloquent, so at first people thought it was a little funny. But his presentation was straight from his heart, so when he finished the group sat in respectful silence. It was obvious that the simple man’s presentation was more powerful than the actor’s, and afterwards the actor told him: ‘I know the Psalm, but you know the Shepherd.’”

Paul may not have been the most eloquent speaker, but he knew the Shepherd. Paul defends his credentials with the Corinthians. When you read and you think of some of the things Paul went through to preach the gospel you really would think he was some sort of strong warrior type. But I guess one thing I have learned through studying 1 and 2 Corinthians is Paul was just a man. We can tend to put him on a pedestal and I guess I had not given his appearance much thought before this book. But he was a very simple looking and, even though he was highly educated in many ways, a simple man. But he was a man who kept his mission foremost in his mind. 

Oh to be more like Paul and to keep the mission foremost in my mind. To be bold no matter what others may think or say about me. To have a godly jealousy burn within me for others to know my Jesus! Lord Jesus I want to be more like that. 

Please pray for the small business owners and the service industry today! 

Boasting

2 Corinthians 10 

Paul addresses some of the conflict that he has with the Corinthian Christians in this chapter. Or at least some of the Corinthian Christians. It seems some of them have a problem with the fact that when Paul is with them, he appears to be gentle and meek with them. But when he writes his letters to them, he speaks boldly and with confidence. Paul is telling them in verse 2 that he doesn’t want to have to speak to them so boldly face to face but that if that is what they want he will. Verses 3-6 are some of my favorite verses in the Bible. 

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6)

We all walk in the flesh, we are flesh and blood human beings. Paul is talking to them in ways they can understand when he tells them this. Our “war” however, when we become Christians becomes more inward, in our minds, than it is outward. The outward sins that we commit may be a problem, but they are a result of what is going on in our minds. However, once we have Christ and are walking with Christ, we then have the power to destroy the strongholds going on in our minds. How? By staying in the word, by reading the word. By spending time in prayer and asking the Lord to guide us daily while we are walking in the flesh, by tapping into God’s peace and by reminding ourselves of God’s truths. 

I know that if I do not spend time in prayer and have my time with Jesus daily, the battlefield that starts in my mind can be overwhelming. The thoughts that start creeping in, can overtake my worries, and my attitude. I will start perceiving everyone as against me. I start thinking, nobody likes me and I am just a nobody. Well truthfully, nobody does like me when I get to the bottom of that pit but when I take captive all of those thoughts I realize how could they, because truthfully, I don’t even like myself. These verses remind me that I need to stay in the word and I need to take captive all of those negative thoughts, feelings and emotions, compare them to the knowledge of God and who I am in Christ and walk according to who I am and not necessarily according to how I feel! 

“Look at what is before your eyes. If anyone is confident that he is Christ’s let him remind himself that just as he is Christ’s so also are we.” (2 Corinthians 10:7) 

The commentary that I read, stated that Paul was probably a small man in stature and was not necessarily a very good looking man. The Corinthians may have felt that his physical smallness, contributed to his meekness and gentleness when they did see him face to face. Maybe, and these are my thoughts, they were shocked when they saw him face to face the first time. You know how you talk with someone on the phone that you have never seen before, but in your mind you formulate a picture of how you think they will look. Well possibly Paul’s boldness in his letters caused them to formulate a picture of a strong, tall possibly good looking man and when they saw him, he was nothing like what they had pictured. Paul is telling them not to look at outward appearances. But to remember that though just as you are confident you are in Christ, remember, so are we. He is talking about himself and the others who ministered with him. 

In the rest of this chapter Paul is reminding them that although he is boasting in his letters and that his letters may be strong in their language, that his boasting and his letters are only meant to build them up and they are not meant to destroy them as people. Paul, is basically telling them that he will not be ashamed of how he speaks to them, whether in person or by letter. That they may be perceiving it as different but what he says is always the same. Paul has one goal in mind and that is to win others to Christ. Paul does not do what he does to win people to himself or to build himself up. 

“‘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 Corinthians 10:17-18)

Paul’s boasting is always in the Lord and not in himself. 

Lord, help us to only boast in You! Oh Lord, sometimes it’s hard to take captive our thoughts and not to worry about what others think or say about us. But Lord, please help us to do just that. Help us Lord to remember that we can do that so much easier when we are spending our time with You. 

Please pray for your pastors and your churches. And also today, please pray for the people in Louisiana and East Texas who are in the path of the storm. 

Cheerful Givers

2 Corinthians 9

“Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them.” (2 Corinthians 9:1-2) 

Paul is continuing his conversation about giving to the Corinthians. It is believed that Paul may be speaking sarcastically here to the Corinthians because he is giving them more instruction, however he is telling them that while he is giving them the instruction it really is unnecessary because he just knows that they are ready to give. He goes on to tell them that he will send Titus and the other fellow on to pick up their offering. He wants to save them the embarrassment of not having it ready if he waited until they had Macedonians with them to pick it up. 

“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 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 Corinthians 9:6-8)

I know we have all heard God loves a cheerful giver. Paul is explaining to them that if they don’t give abundantly they will not receive the blessings of abundant giving. But God wants them to give from their heart, not out of compulsion or just because Paul says so. But that if they can find it in their heart to give, God is able, and he will bless them with his grace. Have you ever explored that thought? God blesses our giving in many different ways. Sometimes it is a spiritual blessing where we just feel better about ourselves or our circumstances. It’s not something you can always explain. And sometimes it is a material blessing, that what we have given multiplies and we are amazed at what the return is. I had something like that happen years ago, as a young woman. I had a job where I really was barely making enough money to make ends meet. I mean they were just barely meeting month to month and I needed a new job. Yet, I truly felt convicted to begin tithing which I was not doing at the time. So I took my 10% out to tithe and I prayed really really hard over that tithe. A few weeks later, after applying for some other jobs I had an interview scheduled and I truly did not have enough gas in my car to get to my interview that afternoon. I had no idea what I would do. When the mail ran I walked out to the mailbox still wondering how I would get to my interview, and there was an insurance refund check in my mailbox for enough to cover my gas money and a little for groceries for that month. I was stunned. I went to the interview and I got the job which almost doubled my salary at the time. Now some people may call that coincidence, but I knew that God had blessed me with that check at just the right time which in turn blessed me with the job making more money. 

“He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. (2 Corinthians 9:10-11)

It’s a cycle, God supplies us with the seed, with jobs, and our means to make a living and when we give back, he multiplies our blessings which produces gratefulness in us which makes us want to give more, which makes us more and more thankful! 

“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

We thank you God for your Son, and for your blessings! We are grateful for what you have given, what you do for us, for all of the blessings that you bestow upon us as we give back to You! 

Please pray for the educators and the students today. No one really knows what to expect and everyone really is doing the best they can. 

Common Goals

2 Corinthians 8

Paul begins this chapter encouraging the Corinthian christians in their giving. Paul had been collecting money to give to the christians in Jerusalem because they were very poor. Paul uses the example of the Macedonian christians, who were not only giving, but they gave willingly and with joy out of their own poverty. 

“We want you to know brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints. (2 Corinthians 8:1-4)

Paul calls the giving that the Macedonian christians the “grace of God”. He points out that they gave out of the abundance of their joy, that even though they were poor they gave above and beyond their means, actually begging Paul to take what they had to give rather than the other way around. Paul had mentioned giving to the Corinthians back in 1 Corinthians 16 but possibly because of the falling out that they had had with him, they had become lax in their giving. 

Paul also does not want it to seem like a command to give, but that he wants them to do it out of the grace that they know from Jesus. It appears in verse 10 that the Corinthians had at one time had the desire to give and he wants them to finish well what they have started. He is not asking them to give to the point of burdening themselves but it has been very clear that the Corinthians had abundance and he is asking them to give out of their abundance. 

The second part of this chapter seems to be simply Paul’s commissioning of Titus and someone else who remains unnamed to return to the Corinthians. There are plenty of speculations as to who it could have been but scripture never states his name. Titus apparently had a heart for the Corinthians as it states in verse 16. 

“But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. (2 Corinthians 8:16) 

Titus was excited about going back to the Corinthians and Paul is glad that Titus cares as much for them as he does. Titus had obviously made a connection with the Corinthians and he desired to go back. I love how Paul seems excited that Titus is for the Corinthians. To me studying parts of Corinthians has been a little frustrating because you don’t really see Paul make a connection with them. He has a heart for them and he loves them but they seem to frustrate him. I love how Paul passes the baton so to speak to Titus when he sees their connection. He doesn’t point out the negativities that he has felt with them. Quite the contrary, he points out the things he does love about them and desires to build them up to Titus. I wonder how many times I have run across someone who felt a connection with a person that knew and maybe I didn’t see eye to eye with and instead of building that relationship up, I pointed out some negative that maybe did nothing but tear down. I want to be better about that. You know the bottom line is we aren’t going to always connect with everyone. Personalities are all different, but you may connect and it be a beautiful relationship. But I know I have been guilty of letting the big old green eyed monster in. I love how Paul was so good about being all in for the common goal. 

Lord, I pray help me to be about the common goal and not tear others down. Lord, even if I have people I don’t see eye to eye with I pray help me to see the best in them. Help me to see them through your eyes.

Please pray for medical professionals today. 

Godly Grief produces Repentance

2 Corinthians 7

“Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1)

Paul has just addressed our bodies being the temple of God in chapter 6. It seems to me that he was pretty much addressing outward sins, sins against the flesh in chapter 6. However, he is here addressing not only sins of the flesh but sins of the spirit. Lest we get all holier than thou and think well I don’t have trouble with some of those fleshly sins so I must be ok, we all have trouble with sins of the spirit. I believe that will always be a constant struggle as long as we have breath in our bodies. But that doesn’t excuse us from working on it. Ohhh how many times does my mind wander away to things that, well I would not want to admit to anyone. I have a war going on in my mind all the time about thoughts I have against myself as well as against others. Yet, Paul is saying that with God we have the ability to cleanse ourselves, cleanse our minds and bring holiness to completion. (But please know that it is a constant thing, not a one time thing.) 

This letter takes a more positive turn where the Corinthians are concerned in this chapter. We have seen in most of these chapters that Paul is admonishing the Corinthians for wanting to remain in their lifestyles even though they had accepted Jesus. They wanted to straddle the fence so to speak. But in this chapter Paul has been encouraged by Titus who had been to see the Corinthians and is delivering word to Paul that the Corinthians received him well when he visited them and that they were grieved somewhat by Paul’s letter but that it was a godly grief which brings repentance. 

“As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” (2 Corinthians 7:9-10)

Paul has found the perfect balance when he is admonishing the Corinthians. It is so hard to find that balance. We tend to either want to turn our head and pretend that the problem doesn’t exist in someone’s life or to shame someone or worse cut them off completely because of the sin in their life. Now mind you I am talking about those who are stronger in their walk. As said before if someone is still struggling with a sin, they will more than likely need to separate themselves for at least a time to gain strength. But understand shame never brings about godly grief. Just being sorry about something can produce shame or resentment or bitterness. But repentance turns back toward God. Many people think they have to repent in order to come to God. Spurgeon says “Repentance describes the very act of coming to God.” We are supposed to turn to God and then allow Him to cleanse us. We have to come to Him in order to be washed in the blood and that is the only way to cleanse us from sin. 

Paul is leaving the Corinthians in this chapter with some encouraging words. 

“For whatever boasts I made to him about you, I was not put to shame. But just as everything we said to you was true, so also our boasting before Titus has proved true. And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. I rejoice because I have complete confidence in you.” (2 Corinthians 7:14-16)

Paul is so proud of them. Even though the Corinthians had many struggles, Paul had built them up to Titus. He was so proud of the fact that the Corinthians received him well and received his instructions well too. I have often heard, speak into someone what you want them to become. While Paul has admonished and corrected them over and over, right here he is telling them he has complete confidence in them. It’s just like children respond better to praise than they do to criticism. That doesn’t give us a free ticket not to correct, however when they act right and anytime correction can be coupled with confidence and praise, they will respond better. 

Oh Lord, help us to be cleansed from sins of the spirit as well as sins of the flesh. Lord, help us too if someone in our midst needs correction to bring it to You for guidance first so that if we must say something that we say it in a way to produce godly grief and not just sorrow which leads nowhere. 

Please pray for our government, for our President, Vice President and those making decisions that affect us all. Also for our state and local government. 

Unequally yoked

2 Corinthians 6

“Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, ‘In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold now is the favorable time; behold now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:1-2)

Paul saw himself as a coworker with Jesus. He is making this appeal to the Corinthians not to “receive the grace of God in vain.” I bet Paul felt like he was banging his head on a brick wall with these Corinthians. They had received Jesus, yet it seems from these letters they didn’t want to do anything to change for Jesus. They wanted to go on living the way they always had. They wanted to do things their own way and they criticized Paul when he tried to give them direction and instruction. It’s so hard to watch someone who is making the same mistakes over and over and they say I’m sorry, but they never do anything to make the changes needed. I think that’s sort of what Paul was feeling here. He quotes them scripture and then he tells them the time is now. Paul goes on in the next few verses and lays it out. He tells them everything he has endured, but he also in the same breath tells them all the blessings he has received from God. Paul had been through a lot but Paul counted all the bad stuff right alongside all the good stuff! 

“We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians: our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.” (2 Corinthians 6:11-13)

Paul tells them I have opened my heart to you, I have spoken freely to you, I have not held anything back, yet the Corinthians seem to be the ones holding back. He wants them to open their hearts to him and to what he has told them. The Corinthians wanted to do it their way, yet they were having such a hard time seeing their way had not worked yet. 

“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Bellial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them and walk among them and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.’” (2 Corinthians has 6:14-16)

This is a pretty popular verse and while most of us tend to use it in relation to marriage, it can also be used in relation to life. But what about being in the world and not of it? Aren’t we supposed to co-mingle with unbelievers so that they will see Jesus in us? Yes we are but, there is a line that we still should not cross with unbelievers. That line should be drawn when it comes to marriage, but also to partnerships. Whether in business and sometimes even friendships, if only for a season. Christians are supposed to be set apart. However, Christians should walk mostly among other Christians to be strengthened in their walk and in their faith before they branch out into the world. You must learn to walk in the light uprightly before you can bring light into the darkness. If a person is struggling with a particular sin, it would not be wise for that person to walk amongst unbelievers who are participating in that sin with the excuse of being in the world and not of it. Paul wanted these Corinthians to realize that they could not continue to be influenced by the world. Sometimes you have to physically separate yourself from influences to learn how to not allow those influences in your own life. Then, if at some point it is not a struggle for you, then you can walk among the world, but only after you have learned how to be separate from the world. Remember the Ministry of Reconciliation we talked about. You can’t be reconciled to God and continue to live in sin. God will not bless a lifestyle of sin. We all sin, but are we striving to become who God wants us to be. Or are we comfortable remaining in the sin? 

“Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:17-18)

Oh Lord we pray help us to see ourselves as your temple, as your dwelling place. Help us to not be influenced by this world but to be a light for a dark world. 

Please pray for the small business owners and people in the service industry.

Stand in Holy Awe

2 Corinthians 5:11-21

“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God and I hope it is known also to your conscience.” (2 Corinthians 5:11) 

I loved how The Passion Translation put this verse:

“Since we are those who stand in holy awe of the Lord, we make it our passion to persuade others to turn to him. We know that our lives are transparent before the God who knows us fully, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences.” (2 Corinthians 5:11 TPT)

Do you stand in holy awe of the Lord? If you find that you have become complacent in your holy awe of Him, ask Him to help you to find it. And then you take steps to see Him. Take in a sunrise or a sunset. Look for Him in your every day mundane things of life. Look at the world and His earth in wonder. Look into the eyes of a child. Take in the tiny hands and feet of a newborn baby and then look at your own and be awed by His creation and how we grow. I look at my big, grown up sons sometimes and I am in awe that I carried these creations in my womb. When you stand in holy awe of Him, you become more passionate for Him and you want to persuade others for Him too. 

It seems to me that Paul continues to have to give his credentials or defend his ministry to these Corinthians. Well here he goes again. These Corinthians liked the outward appearances and Paul did not fit the bill for them. Paul is defending himself and giving them the words to answer to others about him. 

“We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind it is for you.” (2 Corinthians 5:12-13)

Just like with David, God chose David as King of Israel because of his heart, not his outward appearance. Paul is telling them not to boast in outward appearances and I am taking it that we all need to be careful about boasting in outward appearances. Paul is basically telling them, if you think I’m crazy it’s because I’m crazy for God, if I do things for outward appearances that would be for you. I love the next verses. 

“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who might live no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Corinthians 14-15)

Oh that I would let the love of Christ control me! I don’t want to just live for myself and for what others might think of me. I want to live for the one who died and rose again for me! 

“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:16-17) 

Paul gives reference here to Christ when he was in the flesh but He is no longer in the flesh. And when we are found in Him, we are not regarded as “in the flesh” either. God sent Jesus to earth in order to reconcile us to Himself and in that he gave us the ministry of reconciliation. That right there, is what it is all about.  Christ came to earth so that he could take on our sins and we could be reconciled to God. Paul is imploring the Corinthians and us, through God’s word to be reconciled to God. 

“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 Corinthians 5:21)

Jesus was the sinless son of God. We have no way to be sinless. Sin is not a learned behavior, we come into this world as sinners, yet Christ bore every sin we have ever committed on the cross and because of that, if we let Him make us new in Him God sees us as righteousness, not the sinners we are! 

Oh sweet Lord, thank you for loving me and I pray that I will live and walk in Your righteousness, not in a way to give others cause to boast but only to be controlled by Your love!  

Please pray for your Pastor and your church today!