Galatians

Living For an Audience of One {Galatians 1}

12:00 AM

The Book of Galatians was written by Paul to the churches in Galatia. It is the strongest wording of all his letters, for these new converts were being influenced by those who would "pervert the gospel of Christ" (1:6-7; 3:1). They were known as "Judaizing teachers", who taught that Gentile Christians needed to be circumcised and must keep the Law of Moses in order to truly follow Christ ( Act 15). Paul knew that this doctrine would jeopardize the salvation of those who accepted it and needed to address it right from the start!

Paul had helped start these churches on his first missionary journey to Asia Minor and upon returning from it, learns that they have already begun to turn away from the salvation message Paul had preached! Which might explain the strong tone he uses in writing this letter,

“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.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.  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.” - Gal 1:6-10

Before we delve too far into this chapter, let me ask you, what type of person are you?
  • Do you tend to be a “people pleaser”?
  • Do you tend to follow the crowd, or are you able to stand alone?
  • Are you easily swayed by other’s opinions, or do you do your own investigative research to come up with your own truths?
  • Are you more a leader or follower?

It’s obvious these young Christians had turned away fairly quickly after coming to Christ, and let’s be clear on this, when you reject the gospel message, you’re rejecting God and His message! No wonder Paul is writing in such a harsh manner, and we’d all be wise to carefully go over all Paul has to say to the believers in Galatia, for there are still many out there today, who are trying to sway believers to follow a false gospel!

I’ll confess, the opinions of others have always had an influence on me! I hate to admit it, but there have been times when I failed to do what God called me to do, because I was more concerned about what others might think! I’ve sat silent when The Lord said, “speak out!” Even acted on completely false information, BEFORE investigating it to find out if it was true or not. In this era of, “fake news” do you ever find yourself wondering what to believe anymore?

It’s the same with different faiths and religions today, each claiming theirs is the right way; the only way! Only, how can they ALL be right? More importantly, how can we discern which one is right? And how can we stand firm in our faith and NOT be swayed by the false teachers out there today?
We've got to go back to the beginning! All the way back to the very basics! I know God knew this was going to happen when He wrote the very first commandment:

“You shall have no other gods before Me.” - Exodus 20:3


In life, we only have one person we need to please, and that is our Creator and Lord; the One who made us and has a purpose for our lives. We only need One person’s approval: God’s!

Jesus put it this way in John 5:30: “...I don’t try to please myself, but I try to please the One who sent me”. Did you know that people-pleasing is a form of idolatry? Anyone we put before God becomes a god, including ourselves. It also doesn’t have to be a person, but anything we place above God; our job, possessions, activities you enjoy, etc. Anything that becomes number one in our life that isn’t God becomes our god.

Paul put it this way in his letter to the Philippians, [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers],…” ( Phil 3:10 AMP). Paul devoted his life to knowing God more deeply and intimately each day, for when we love someone it only stands to reason that we’re going to want to know them more intimately.  And the way we grow to know Him, is by spending time reading His letters to us and in being in constant communication with Him throughout our day, for the greater we know Him the greater we’ll love Him, and our desire to please Him, above everyone else, will win out!

Paul got it right when he said, “I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant” (Gal 1:10 NLT).

2 Corinthians

Test Yourself – Is There Love?

12:30 AM

{2 Corinthians 13}

By Lisa Thayer

Last week I had the privilege of attending a 2-day retreat for high school seniors.  I was a small group facilitator – I made sure these kids stayed together and participated in the events.  The speaker was amazing.  His life story was uplifting and encouraging and his message really pointed to unity.  To be unified with Christ.

Here in this final chapter to the Corinthians, Paul knew he was dealing with on-going problems in the Church.  These seniors at this retreat, were a tough group to engage, and Paul – the speaker, could have given up and refused to communicate with them, but he continued to speak the truth to these kids.  He never gave up.  He never stopped loving this group of dead-eyed, high school seniors.  He never stopped encouraging them and building them up.

As believers, we have to reach out to people who are sinning, but we have to do it in such a way that truly is with the love of Christ.  We don’t want to break relationships – but build them up.  We want to heal people.  We can blast people away with laws and rules, or we could turn from these people because we don’t want to face their situation.  We can isolate them by gossiping about their problem and turn others against them.  Or like both Paul’s, we can seek to build relationships by taking a better approach – sharing, communicating and caring. 


“For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.”  2 Corinthians 13:8



I am reminded that there were different churches back in the days of the early church – the Corinthian church, the Galatian church, the church at Ephesus and the church in Rome, just to name a few.  We can get wrapped up in which church is better, whether Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Christian Reformed, etc., and push people away because of the rules established in each of these named faiths by being insistent on following the rules.  We can lose our focus of the One truth – that Christ is our Savior.  That failing to believe in Him is the greatest sin.  We owe our entire lives to Him.  Each one of the original churches had people, not the entire church body, sinning.  BUT, each one also had believers.  Each one had people totally focused on the love of God and were willing to share that message with others.  I cannot help but look at how the apostle Paul went to Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, Rome, Jerusalem, Thessalonica, Colossae, Antioch and others – these were all different people groups, yet Paul’s message was the same.  He risked his life to share it with so many people.  Are you?  Are you willing to help people from another background, a different faith, to share your love of Christ?

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2 Corinthians

The Value of Weakness {2 Corinthians 12}

12:00 AM



The Value of Weakness {2 Corinthians 12}

The Apostle Paul faced many trials and tribulations during his ministry.  He was repeatedly put in prison. He was beaten, stoned, and shipwrecked. He was under constant fear of death. He was flogged countless times. He was often hungry, thirsty, and cold. And even with all of this, God allowed him to be broken further. But instead of giving in or giving up, Paul drew closer to God. And in the process he learned that there is strength in weakness.

After Paul spoke to the Corinthians about his visions and revelations, he told them about the "thorn in the flesh" given to him by God and the reason behind it. "Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given to me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me..." ( v. 7)  The visions Paul had received were so magnificent that he could have easily boasted in his own glory. To keep him humble, God allowed a thorn into Paul's life via a messenger of Satan to torment him. And in response, Paul did just as he instructed us to do in Philippians 4:6, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God." And so Paul fervently prayed that God would remove his thorn.  And when nothing happened, he prayed again..and again. But God's answer to Paul's prayer didn't come in the form of healing. Instead God said to him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." (v. 9) 

Although we aren't told specifically what Paul's thorn was, we can relate to the suffering he endured. For whether it be emotional, physical, or spiritual, each of us have our own thorns to bear.  Thorns for which we have pleaded with God to remove. And sometimes He will do just that. But what happens when His answer is no?  What if instead He wants us to endure? Paul tells us we are to rejoice in our sufferings. For although the thorn may remain, God is at work strengthening the one under it.

"Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." (vs. 9-10)  Instead of becoming bitter, angry, or frustrated, Paul embraced the thorns in his life. He understood that it was in his weakness where Jesus would be glorified, and where he would most experience God's grace. It's often in our lowest times when God can do His greatest work. When we are broken, helpless, and weak, with no where else to turn; when we are at a place of complete humility with no room for pride, only then are we truly able to receive God's grace and see that everything good in our lives comes from Him, and to Him alone goes the glory. And although we might not understand why God allows suffering into our lives, we can rest in the knowledge that when trouble does knock at our door He will be there with the love, strength, and grace to see us through. For as Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."

Lisa Moore

Caramel Snickerdoodle Bars

12:00 PM

I loved Snickerdoodles as a kid and sure made plenty of them. This recipe takes a plain cookie up a delicious notch!  A big hit with my family. I used Nestle dulce de leche which I found in the international food section in my local supermarket.

Caramel Snickerdoodle Bars

1 tablespoon light corn syrup 
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsps. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. salt  
1/4 cup sugar 
3 tsps. cinnamon
2 cans (13.4 ounces each) dulce de leche 
12 ounces white chocolate chips
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp. light corn syrup 

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 13x9-in. baking pan with parchment paper, letting ends extend over sides by 1 inch. In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt; gradually beat into creamed mixture. Spread onto bottom of prepared pan. In a small bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle 2 tablespoons mixture over batter. Bake 25-30 minutes or until edges are light brown. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Spread dulce de leche over crust. In a small saucepan, combine white baking chocolate, cream and corn syrup; cook and stir over low heat until smooth. Cool slightly. Spread over dulce de leche. Sprinkle with remaining cinnamon sugar. Refrigerate, covered, at least 1 hour.Lifting with parchment paper, remove from pan. Cut into bars. Refrigerate leftovers. 


2 Corinthians

Grace

12:30 AM

Welcome to Scripture Saturday!

Today, we complete our memorization of verses found in 2 Corinthians with 8:9…
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich.
 
Grace.  Here are some synonyms…charity, mercy, kindness, favor, goodwill, pity, thanksgiving, reward.
But the basic meaning of this word is beauty, charm, loveliness.  We also have the word graceful which means beauty of line or movement…acts of beauty.  So when we combine the synonyms of kindness and mercy with acts of beauty we have the most beautiful acts possible to human beings.  Through this verse Paul is saying to the people of Corinth…”You know the beautiful acts of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We all know that Jesus is kind and merciful - we know of His self-giving love. He was ready to give of Himself, holding nothing back and still is for us today.”

Before Jesus came to this earth in the form of a man, He had everything - he was omnipotent - everything in this universe was at His command - yet He laid this all aside and He became powerless.  Remember what He said of Himself in John? …”Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in Me does His works.  He was dependent fully on His Father for everything…He became nothing.
And through Him we have become rich! By His daily mercies, His love, His selfless giving of Himself He has given us power.  Power to become like Him - self-giving, kind, merciful - we are right where He began. He began rich, became poor, so that we, like Him, can be rich, to become poor for others so that they may be rich! 
Freely you have received; freely give. (Matt 10:8b NIV)

Have a blessed and precious day everyone!

2 Corinthians

The Beauty of Simplicity {2 Cor. 11}

2:13 AM



By Angie Benjamin

"But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your mind may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ" 2 Cor. 11:3

In this verse, Paul warns people not to let their minds to be corrupted from  "wholehearted and sincere devotion to Christ", or as the King James Version says the "simplicity that is in Christ".

Have you heard the phrase "less is more", well, it is so true when it comes to our lives and our Christianity.




Living in Africa has taught me the beauty of simplicity in many aspects. 
It has changed my perspective regarding materialism or consumerism.

I've had the blessing to visit rural areas, villages, to visit friends or family members.
I've been to places where a family of 4 or more people share one room or two at max....no living room, no kitchen (or kitchen can be a mud hut with thatched roof outside the main room, where they cook with fire). 

These people have the very "basics"...or most of the time they cannot even afford them. They don't spend time thinking about brands of clothes, the latest gadget or cellphone, decorative items for their house, etc. They just want to do one thing:  Survive... get through that day... One day at a time...and when the goal has been achieved, they're happy. Content. They're happy that that particular day they had a meal, that that day they survived the heat or the cold.

And despite their situation the joy that they reflect on their faces, the hope their eyes reflect...and those smiles...I've never seen such wide, beautiful and sincere smiles in my life.

And they can give! oh they do!! out of their scarcity, they give what they have. One day, a family, a single mom and her two teenage children, invited me and my family for a meal with them... they killed one of the two chickens they had and cooked it for us...they wanted to give me the other alive chicken for me to have. That act of kindness and selflessness taught me a lesson I'll cherish for the rest of my life. As I once read, "people who have the least give me most, because they know what it is to have nothing"

I want that joy, I want that contentment. I want to enjoy the simplicity of life. Simplicity can be so liberating... the same applies for our walk with Christ.

 It is okay to have a plan for our lives and everyday activities but we must be open to follow God's plan if  He has any other direction in which He wants us to go. We often block God's plan by following our own desires and plans without consulting him.

It is mind blowing to realize that God's plans for us are actually quite simple, so simple that many times we miss them. Like in everything, we tend to get busy, to complicate our lives...we look for something more difficult, more complicated as if we think we are expected to do to please God.



One day, a close friend to us, our spiritual leader (for a home cell group) in England, said something shocking, something that changed the way I live my walk with Christ. He said if we can only live our lives meditating "on the cross"...on what the cross means, what Jesus did on the cross and what that means to me...what the cross has given me... our lives would be transformed.

Rather than thinking on what I do and what I don't do to please God, whether I sin or not, whether I'm putting enough effort or not, am I praying enough or not, am I reading the Bible "enough" or not...rather than all those things we tend to analyze and complicate our lives with, I must just "look at the cross", meditate on it and everything else will fall into place. When we truly understand the meaning of the cross, the power of it...the simplicity of it, our lives will be truly transformed.

Jesus told us what to do to follow God's plan: BELIEVE!!

Just think about the simple, uncomplicated approach a child has to life... for example, I have two daughters, 5 and 2 year-old. One thing they have in common...they are going to enjoy themselves if at all possible. They are carefree and completely without concern. They believe what they are told. Their nature is to trust (BELIEVE). They are simple, and they approach life with simplicity. They believe everything is fine and everything will be fine. They believe in provision. They don't know and they don't worry where their next meal will come from, but they know (believe) it will come anyhow.

Everyday these girls remind me that I need to develop this aspect of childlikeness as I relate to God and as I go about my life.

Learn to keep life as simple as possible. It's liberating. You won't regret it ;-)

Remain blessed x

CRITICAL THINKING [2 Corinthians 10]

12:30 AM



Courage is telling our story, not being immune to criticism.
– Brené Brown

There will always be critics. In chapter 10, Paul writes a letter defending his ministry.  We don't know exactly what the critics were saying but we glean a few insights from Paul's comments. 
“For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.”" (v10).

Apparently, Paul's critics found discrepancy in the rebukes and commands found in Paul's letters and the more timid, humble man they found him to be in person.  But Paul was both. He wrote with the authority of God and he lived those principles but he also chose to imitate the humbleness and gentleness of Christ. “I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!—”(v1)

Even if the critics found him "weak" and even though they accused him of "walking according to the flesh (v2)", Paul knew who he represented and when to be bold.
‭‭He wanted to extend the love of Christ and develop relationship with his disciples but he also knew that he was given authority by God as a leader who couldn't sugarcoat God's truths. As he explained, he used  authority "which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you..." (v8)

Paul set a wonderful example to us of being a spiritual mentor.  He loved others and invested himself in following through with promoting spiritual growth and encouragement.  He knew that when he was away, Satan would try to destroy and cause division.  He stayed in touch, being bold when needed and risking criticism because he knew the spiritual warfare at stake. “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,” (4-5)

Paul also knew whose opinion mattered. He was surrounded by those who admired and those who criticized.  He could easily have been influenced by the "critical chatter" or enticement of being "popular".  But Paul did what God told him to do and left the outcomes to God. He chose to not concern himself with the opinions of man and he warned against boasting to gain the favor of others. “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.” (v 17-18).

Verses to Ponder:
Galatians 1:10
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.

1 Thessalonians 2:4
But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.

Proverbs 29:25
The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.

John 12:43
For they love the glory that comes from man more than the glory that come from God.

Colossians 3:23
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.


2 Corinthians

A Matter of The Heart {2 Corinthins 9}

12:00 AM

I honestly “laughed out loud” when I saw the chapter I was to write on this week, for the Lord made sure I never forgot the lessons I learned long ago from this chapter, and I never have! You see long ago when I was merely a seeker and almost a believer, I was sitting in church one Sunday morning opening my wallet when it came time for the offering and discovered I had just two bills within it; one, a $1, and the other a $20 bill.

That Sunday, John had been called into work and I had been running late with two young children in tow and I forgot my checkbook as I hurried out the door. I had also planned to take the kids out for lunch after church and that $1 bill wouldn’t be enough for even a “Happy Meal” back then. It seemed like I sat there and debated for quite a while as the ushers made their way up the aisle,Should I give God the $20 bill and make lunch at home, or….not.” Finally the plate arrived and I decided lunch with the kids after church sounded too good to me, and I took out the $1 bill and laid it in the plate despite the pang of guilt I was feeling at the moment. I tried to console myself with the thought, “Oh well, I’ll be sure to do better next time.

The offertory music ended and the pastor got up and asked us all to open up our Bibles to 2 Corinthians chapter 9. I look down at the page and swallowed hard as I read the words, “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.” (2 Cor. 9:6-7)

I can share that story today, because I can look back at that time and laugh, knowing God has done an amazing work in me since, and I’m no longer that person that chose my creature comforts over blessing the Lord; all the while expecting The Lord to continue to bless me! I was already feeling convicted before the pastor ever spoke that morning, and I remember lunch wasn’t as enjoyable as I thought it would be, but I never forgot the lesson I learned that day!

BUT, enough about me, let’s look at all Paul actually says about giving in these two verses, for it seems to me that giving, or the lack of giving is all a matter of our heart!

It seems to me that The Lord is more interested in our willingness to give than the amount we actually do give, don’t you think?  Look back 2 Corinthians 9:7, “You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. ‘For God loves a person who gives cheerfully’” (NLT).
This verse mentions four key heart attitudes we should have when we give to Him or others:

  1. Give thoughtfully. Don’t allow yourself to give on impulse, because the most spiritual kind of giving is when you think about it, pray about it and make up your mind before Him. This is how we should plan anything that’s important in our lives. God wants our giving to be an important and meaningful part of our lives. It should be looked upon as an act of worship as we give back to Him. Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:40, “‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
  2. Give enthusiastically. We should never feel pressured to give out of some form of obligation, for I don’t believe God will bless if we only give because we feel obligated to give something.  Give because you know God’s going to do something big in your heart when you become a generous giver. (I’m a living,breathing testimony to that!)
  3. Give voluntarily. Any time you’re pressured to give, stop. God’s not going to bless that. But every time you sense God challenging you to give, do it. Trust me! (referring back to my earlier story :))
  4. Give cheerfully. Give with joy! The Greek word used here can be translated “hilarious.” Which means it can be a “LOL” moment! God wants you to enjoy giving to him and to others. In order to receive a blessing far greater than what you gave! Trust me on that too!

Sometimes it’s a challenge to be cheerful when God’s calling on us to give. Whenever we feel less than cheerful, it may help to remember all the benefits of all God wants to do in our hearts. So, why be generous? Because:
  • It unites us; creating community, oneness among the body.
  • It’s making an investment in eternity.
  • It strengthens our faith.
  • It defeats materialism.  
  • It blesses us incredibly in return.
  • And, it makes us more like our Savior and Lord.
We can never, never, ever out give God. It’s all His anyway, but I believe He wants us to experience just a tiny bit of all He experiences every time He gives to us!

2 Corinthians 8

The Joy of Giving {2 Corinthians 8}

12:30 AM

{2 Corinthians 8}

by Lisa Thayer

I have heard that approximately 15% of what Jesus talked about was related to money. 
One of our first good works that comes from the transformation from the grace of God is in how we give.  How we give is a joyful response to the grace of God.  The grace of God works in such a way that it produces joy in our lives, and we are so joyful in our giving that we cannot give enough.

“For it was by grace that you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Ephesians 2:8-10

Just look at verse 2 – they earnestly wanted to give.  Imagine if we were to go to church and say, ‘I cannot wait for the offering.’

These people knew what sacrificial giving truly meant.  They were poor themselves – but they wanted to help.  The point of giving is not so much the amount we give, but why and how we give.  God does not want us to give grudgingly or out of obligation.  He wants us to give out of our dedication to Christ, love for fellow believers and the joy of helping those in need.  And, it is simply the right thing to do.

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When we join other Christian believers to do God’s work, we increase Christian unity and help God’s Kingdom grow.  Do you want your faith to grow or do you believe once it reaches a certain level, you are done?  How about your level of knowledge – are you satisfied with where you are at, or would you like your knowledge to grow?  Many believers set a limit on giving - they give a specific percentage, and that’s it.  There’s even churches that recommend a set amount – do your church envelopes have a scale of giving on them?  But true discipleship includes growing in the mature use of ALL resources, so giving should expand as well as faith and knowledge.  God can give you the desire and enable you to increase your capacity to give.  Don’t miss this opportunity to grow in giving – just ask.

In verses 10-15, Paul challenges us to act on our plans to give.  Here he gives four principles of giving:
  1. Your willingness to give cheerfully is more important than the amount you give.
  2. You should strive to fulfill your financial commitments (your household expenses)
  3. If you give to others in need, they will, in turn help you when you are in need.
  4. You should give as a response to Christ, not for anything you can get out of it.  How you give reflects your devotion to Christ.

I don’t know about you, but I have found that when I want to give, God gives to me so that I can give to others. 


Lastly, as I spend time thinking about Jesus leaving His heavenly Kingdom, and coming to earth, being born in a stinky barn, and being on the run for a few years, never fully using His eternal power.  He became poor for us.  He set aside His glory and His rights to serve us.  To teach us what serving others looks like.  Yet, by doing so, He makes us ‘rich’ because we receive salvation and eternal life.  Giving IS a sacrifice.  I know my attitude has changed throughout the years.  I spent some time expecting to be served in this life.  But eventually my attitude changed and now I have opportunities to serve others.  Every time I leave a volunteer job, the joy and memories I have do not have a dollar value.  They simply bring me a huge dose of peaceful joy.  


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2 Corinthians

Perfecting Holiness { 2 Corinthians 7 }

12:30 AM










I love having a garden. There's nothing better than being able to walk out to my back yard and pick a fresh tomato or maybe a few beans for dinner.  But it's also a lot of work. It takes constant attention and if I'm not diligent, the weeds will take over and choke out the plants in which I've invested so much of my time. The Christian walk takes work too.  If not constantly tended, the weeds of unholiness can take over and choke out the fruit of the Spirit.

After ending chapter six with one of God's most beautiful promises, "And I will be a Father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me." (2 Cor. 6:18), Paul explains what this promise should motivate us to do. "Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." (v. 1)

To become holy is to become more like Jesus, to be separate for God. It's a conscious decision to let the Holy Spirit transform us from the inside out.  And it's also a daily commitment to work hand in hand with God to remove from our lives all filthiness that keeps us from having a close intimate relationship with Him. Filthiness from both our minds and bodies.  

1 Peter 1:15 tells us, "Like the Holy One who called you, be Holy yourselves also in all your behavior." God calls us to be holy. Out of a genuine love and respect for Him and fear of the consequences of our sin, we should each day search ourselves for areas that need cleansing.  And although it takes work and repentance, we can have power over the filthiness in our lives.  When Jesus died on the Cross, the hold sin had over us was defeated.  And when it is in our hearts to truly be obedient to God, He promises us victory over every temptation thrown our way. "God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." (1 Cor. 10:13) 

Perfecting holiness is possible when we are willing to put in the work. Each day is a new opportunity to weed out the bad and only allow things into our lives that are pleasing to God. And by cleansing ourselves from all filthiness not only are we paying reverence to our Father in heaven, we become, "a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work." (2 Tim. 2:21)  

2 Corinthians

Today is the Day!

12:30 AM


Welcome to Scripture Saturday!

Today, we begin our memorization of verses found in 2 Corinthians with 6:2…
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.”
 
Here is the verse in the New Living Translation…
As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.

Here, Paul is quoting Isaiah 49:8…
This is what the Lord says: “At just the right time, I will respond to you. On the day of salvation I will help you. I will protect you and give you to the people as my covenant with them. Through you I will reestablish the land of Israel and assign it to its own people again. (NLT)
Just as God spoke to the people of Israel through Isaiah, Paul wanted to give the Corinthian Christians a sense of urgency and purpose.  God has an acceptable time for us to work with His grace.  God has a day of salvation that will not last forever.  As a follower of Christ we need not to live our lives in comfort.  It is time for us to begin getting busy for the Lord, and to be work with with Him and glorify Him through our lives.

Have a blessed and precious day everyone!

2 Corinthians

Working together with Him {2 Corinthians 6}

10:30 PM



By Mari Sandoval

Today we’ll begin our study of chapter 6 by considering Paul’s final words to the Corinthians in chapter 5: 20-21:” So we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His appeal through us; we [as Christ’s representatives] plead with you on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God.  He made Christ who knew no sin to [judicially] be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we would become the righteousness of God [that is, we would be made acceptable to Him and placed in a right relationship with Him by His gracious loving-kindness].”

In chapter 6:1-3 Paul continues on to say: “ Working together with Him, we strongly urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain [by turning away from sound doctrine and His merciful kindness].  2- For He says, “At the acceptable time (the time of grace) I listened to you,

And I helped you on the day of salvation.” Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation”—


We are workers together with Him! Isn’t it amazing that God would even take us in consideration to be participants of such task?  When Paul mentions that we are ambassadors for Christ (5:20), he is saying that we are actually working together with Him. An ambassador works together with his king.  He represents his king. Yet, he has no power or authority on his own. 

Now Paul will also plead with the Corinthian Christians… Not to receive the grace of God in vain:  What does it mean to receive the grace of God in vain?  It means to receive the goodness and favor of God, yet to hinder the work of grace in one's life.  Many Christians struggle at this very point. I remember my husband and I in our early years as Christians, we felt we were doing enough by attending Church every Sunday. We had received our God’s saving Grace and we were keeping it to ourselves!  Not bothering to move out of our comfort zone! This is exactly what the Christians from Corinth were doing; they felt they could continue living their lives as if it was theirs: “ For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation]. 10 For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us]. (Ephesians 2:8)



There is so much work out there, and God wants us to be an active part of the work for His kingdom and He has prepared those good works for us!  If we neglect our part, God's grace doesn't accomplish all that it might, and therefore HIS GRACE is given in vain.

M. Henry explains it this way: “The gospel is a word of grace sounding in our ears. The gospel day is a day of salvation, the means of grace the means of salvation, the offers of the gospel the offers of salvation, and the present time the proper time to accept these offers. The morrow is none of ours: we know not what will be on the morrow, nor where we shall be. We now enjoy a day of grace; then let all be careful not to neglect it”

In our walk (work) with the Lord we will continually find Satan’s opposition, and Paul writes about this in verses 3-9.  These verses reminded me of a time I was witnessing to a very close friend (we’ve known each other since 7th grade… 40+ yrs.), and after I had talked she asked: “ But why is it that if you have such faith you and your husband have had so much bad luck during your walk with God?” I can’t deny I felt a sting on my flesh! I knew where that came from! To those that are not walking by faith but walking by sight, our trials and troubles are something they don’t want to experience! So that is why, in some way they don’t’ want to trade what the world has to offer and even some Christians will freely participate in what unbelievers do (6:14-16) But what a great promise we find in the last verses, if we determine ourselves to be faithful to our God:

I will dwell among them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 17 “So come out from among unbelievers and be separate,” says the Lord, And do not touch what is unclean; And I will graciously receive you and welcome you [with favor], 18 And I will be a Father to you, And you will be My sons and daughters,” Says the Lord Almighty.”

Remember, there is so much work for us out there -good works-, but we must trust our Heavenly Father, rely on Him and on the Power of His Holy Spirit, and then get to work and work as hard as we can! May this be our prayer today!

Blessings!!

2 Corinthians

Ambassadors for Christ [2Corinthians 5]

12:30 AM



“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling," (v1-2)

Paul opens this chapter talking about our future home in heaven where we will spend eternity. He compares our earthly bodies to a tent but our heavenly bodies to a building. The tent is temporary, and meager but also portable and valuable. Compared to the more eternal substance of a strong, unmovable building, however, the tent is lacking. Paul reminds us that our lives and circumstances are temporary and we are not designed to be comfortable remaining in our earthly, imperfect bodies.  We are designed for more....so much more.   We are designed for heavenly bodies and dwelling with God Almighty.  As Christians, there is an unrest, an uneasiness that naturally dwells within us, and the more we know Jesus, the more we should long to be with him. 

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (v17) How easy it is to get "bogged down" in our flesh, our earthly failures, our inadequacies. If we had to change ourselves, we would certainly fail.  How amazing it is, however, to be remade, transformed, renewed because Christ is at work in us. There are many references in the Bible about this " newness " given through Christ.

And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19-20)

He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit(Titus 3:5)

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3-4)

God wants us to share this " message of reconciliation" with others so that they too can be given the gift of " being made new" and having an eternal Heavenly body someday.  We are given the important task of representing God as His "ambassadors".
 “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." ( v 18-20)


What is your life characterized by?  Do you stay " bogged down" in the old failures of your imperfect flesh or do you " walk in newness of life" where Christ is at work transforming you? What do people see reflected in your life?  Are you His ambassador?  Do they see "the new" in you?  Do they see Christ in you?