Thursday, 31 October 2013

This old tent

For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. – 2 Corinthians 5.1

'This world is not my home, I'm just apassing through. My treasures are laid out up there beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from heaven's open door. And I can't feel at home in this world anymore.' 

I am not going to vouch for all the theology in that old chorus, but there is a valid point.  There is a lot more than where we are living now. Our earthly being is just like living in a tent. One day the tent will be taken down and folded away. 

But that is when the good part starts. One of the first Bible studies I remember going to was back in about 1975. The person leading the study talked about this passage and  I still remember it. I remember thinking about the contrast between our temporary tent and the permanent home God has for us in heaven. 

I never would have even thought about forty years down the road, but here I am. I'm still living in the same old tent. It's just older and a little more worn out. 

But that doesn't change the fact that this old tent is not going to last forever. Not that I am really ready to move out yet, but know that one day the tent will be folded up and put away for good. One day I get to move into my permanent dwelling place. Jesus has gone to get it ready for me and one day I am going to get to move in. 

As I've said before, what a day that will be!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

For a moment

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.  - 2 Corinthians 4.17-18

Our light affliction?

Wait a second, are you kidding? Our 'light affliction?' There are times when the struggles we face seem like everything but light. Financial problems, illnesses, family problems, broken economies, loss of job, accidents, deaths, and so on are all part of what Paul calls 'light afflictions' here. 

But think about it. Paul knew what trouble was like. He had been arrested, beaten, and left for dead. The had been shipwrecked. His life was under threat. The had been stoned. He, if anyone, knew what affliction was. 

And yet he calls it light affliction. 

How can he call it light? 

Because Paul has the right focus. 

These light afflictions are only going to last a moment compared to eternity
The afflictions of today are nothing compared to the glory we are going to see one day
The stuff we see around us today is temporary
The glories we can't see today are for eternity

The problem is that we get too short sighted. We don't look way down the road. All we look at are our immediate surroundings and that gets us into big trouble. We get so consumed in the here and now that we forget what God has promised for us in the there and then. 

When things get really tough is when it is important to look at the unseen blessings of eternity. Sure, we have to endure for a while. But it is only for a moment. 

Let's just keep on keeping on. It will be worth it all one day. 

Monday, 28 October 2013

Day by day

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. – 2 Corinthians 4.16

No matter how bad it gets, no matter how dark the night, no matter that the outward man is perishing Paul has confidence.

I don't know about you, but I can find the charge to 'not lose heart' challenging. I don't have any real valid gripes or complaints and I still am tempted to lose heart at times.

But I look around me and see Christians who are really going through it. I read Christian biographies and see what believers have endured in the past. No matter where we look it is obvious the outward man in perishing. Struggles go on. We have defeats. The battle continues.

Not only are we struggling and facing difficulties we are also, literally, dying. We started dying the day we were born. And it gets more obvious as the years go by. Though still a young guy I am becoming more and more aware that by body is ageing. My feet hurt. My knees hurt. I need varifocals. Indeed my outward man is dying. It is passing away and getting closer and closer to shut-down.

But, on the other hand, my inward man is renewed day by day. Every single day God's Holy Spirit is renewing us and preparing us for eternity with Him.

Though we are dying on the outside day by day, we are becoming more and more alive on the inside.

There is an old hymn called 'Day by Day' which captures what this day by day renewal means and how we should respond on faith.

Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find, to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He Whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best—
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Every day, the Lord Himself is near me
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me,
He Whose Name is Counselor and Pow’r.
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
“As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,”
This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then in every tribulation
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E’er to take, as from a father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,

Till I reach the promised land.

Believing and speaking

And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, "I believed and therefore I spoke," we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.  – 2 Corinthians 4.13-15

Here Paul quotes a beautiful statement of faith from Pslam 116. The psalmist speaks of dealing with great turmoil and difficulty

I love the LORD, because He has heard My voice and my supplications.   Because He has inclined His ear to me, Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live. The pains of death surrounded me, And the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow.Then I called upon the name of the LORD: "O LORD, I implore You, deliver my soul!"Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; Yes, our God is merciful.The LORD preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me. Return to your rest, O my soul, For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. For You have delivered my soul from death, My eyes from tears, And my feet from falling. I will walk before the LORD In the land of the living. I believed, therefore I spoke, "I am greatly afflicted."

The psalmist speaks because he had confidence He decided to speak about the Lord based on who Godwas, not because of what he saw around him. He, like Paul, saw trouble and opposition. He didn't wait till things improved before he spoke out. He looked back at all that God had already done and then said, quite simply, 'I believed therefore. I spoke.' 

Paul said, 'we also believe, and so we speak.' Paul don't base his ministry on what he saw. He based his ministry on the fact that the God who raised Jesus from the dead will also raise believers from the dead. He knew that God would present believers to the Father one day. Everything that had happened had happened so that the grace of God would cause thanksgiving to abound that God would be glorified. 

Paul had eyes for eternity. His eyes were focused on the result of the preaching, not the temporary situations. 

They believed - so they spoke. 

Could it be that our lack of speaking is a result of a lack of belief? 

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Our pattern

—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.  For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you. – 2 Corinthians 4.10-12

So why do we not lose heart? Why do we not just lay on the mat when we are beaten? Why do we not just give in? 

Jesus didn’t quit. His obedience, even to the cross, was unabated. His death is our example. His body in an irrefutable fact that we can't deny. He was broken, but could not be beaten. It goes even further. He was dead, but. He rose again. 

Death is already at work, but we always strive the 'manifest the life of Christ' in our mortal flesh. Paul knew that they were likely to die for Christ, but he saw it a worthwhile if it his ministry would help those believers in Corinth. 

We must ask ourselves if the life of Christ is being manifest in our bodies. Do people see us and own own goals and desires and frets and concerns or do they see the life of Christ shining through? 

If we are living for Christ and remembering His example we won't quit. He went to death for us. Surely we can plod on through for Him. 

Knocked down, but not knocked out

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.  – 2 Corinthians 4.8-10

I remember the first time I ever really encountered this verse. I don't remember when, but would guess it was at least. 35 years ago or so. When I heard it I thought about an illustration as the preacher spoke.

I am ashamed to it it, but back then I was something of a fan of professional wrestling. I have lost track of all of the various organisations, but this was back in the days of WWF.

One of the good guys, or bad guys depending on the year, was a fella named Hulk Hogan. He was a big guy with long stringy blond hair. Nearly every fight he would be on the mat ready for the count. Somehow he would lift his shoulder. Then he'd roll over and get to his knees. Ignoring the blows of his opponent he would stand up whole glaring at his opponent. He'd rip off his shirt and tear into the other fighter and working seconds the other guy would be pinned, the ref would count to three, and the fight would be over. Hulk was well known for a knack of being knocked down and nearly defeated, but he would not be knocked out.

This passage has always stuck in my head. Serving the Lord can be a challenge. He can be a lot like a wresting match. We can be on the mat, ready for the count, and feeling defeated.

Paul talks about that. They were hard pressed but not crushed. They were perplexed, but not in despair. They were persecuted, but not forsaken. They were struck down, but they would not be destroyed.

I find that so often the biggest blows come after a victory. Just last Sunday we had a day of great victory. We drove down to Greystones and had two baptisms. It was one of there highlights of our ministry.  We have a young Irish couple who have begun attending church and are looking like they will be with us for the foreseeable future. Things were feeling great.

But then this week there has been a struggle for some folks we are really close to. It has been a blow. Sometimes it seems we can’t buy a victory without some kind of defeat.

And so it goes. Even though we may get knocked down again and again and again but we can't afford to get knocked out. We need to find our strength in Christ and some how get back up again. I think about Christian and his massive battle with Apollyon in Pilgrim's Progress.

Then Apollyon straddled quite over the whole breadth of the way, and said, I am void of fear in this matter. Prepare thyself to die; for I swear by my infernal den, that thou shalt go no farther: here will I spill thy soul. And with that he threw a flaming dart at his breast; but Christian had a shield in his hand, with which he caught it, and so prevented the danger of that.

Then did Christian draw, for he saw it was time to bestir him; and Apollyon as fast made at him, throwing darts as thick as hail; by the which, notwithstanding all that Christian could do to avoid it, Apollyon wounded him in his head, his hand, and foot. This made Christian give a little back: Apollyon, therefore, followed his work amain, and Christian again took courage, and resisted as manfully as he could. This sore combat lasted for above half a day, even till Christian was almost quite spent: for you must know, that Christian, by reason of his wounds, must needs grow weaker and weaker.

Then Apollyon, espying his opportunity, began to gather up close to Christian, and wrestling with him, gave him a dreadful fall; and with that Christian’s sword flew out of his hand. Then said Apollyon, I am sure of thee now: and with that he had almost pressed him to death, so that Christian began to despair of life. But, as God would have it, while Apollyon was fetching his last blow, thereby to make a full end of this good man, Christian nimbly reached out his hand for his sword, and caught it, saying, Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise, Mic. 7:8; and with that gave him a deadly thrust, which made him give back, as one that had received his mortal wound. Christian perceiving that, made at him again, saying, Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us. Rom. 8:37. And with that Apollyon spread forth his dragon wings, and sped him away, that Christian saw him no more. James 4:7.

Though I fall, I will arise – amen and amen.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Earthen vessels

 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. - 2 Corinthians 4:7

This whole section is a powerful message on ministry. It is something. I need. It is a constant reminder to me about how I should view the ministry where God has placed us.

Maybe I should have included this with the thoughts from yesterday, but I was touched by the phrase 'earthen vessels.'

These earthen vessels Paul talks about here were just what they sound like. They were common every day pots and containers. There were not expensive pottery or fine bone china. They were the everyday vessels. These were the broken and chipped containers that the family uses when there is not company around.

God uses the most unlikely tools to do his work.

God doesn't tend to use the wise or the noble or the strong or the refined or the noble. He doesn't tend to use the fancy pottery or the crystal or the fine china vessels. Over the years we have collected a few crystal containers. We have a couple of china vases and such. We have some nice pottery.

But we don't use that stuff for everyday use. We don't give the grand kids crystal bowls for their cereal. When they have breakfast with us we give them the cheap plastic cartoon character bowls. They are not fancy, but the suit the purpose. They do the job. And that is what God wants out of us - to do the job. 

Sadly, in big parts of western church we don't see a whole lot of earthen vessels. We see a lot of spit and polish and fancy building and expensive suits and such. We might not like to think of ourselves and those cheap everyday vessels, but that is what God uses so that others will see excellence in the power of God in not in our own abilities.

May God allow me to be the earthen vessel He wants me to be. 

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The Light of the knowledge of God

For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. - 2 Corinthians 4.5-6

Today's verse ties in well with yesterday's.

Sometimes we forget who our service is all about. The bad thing is that it can be a struggle for the whole gamut of ministries. If a ministry is growing and vibrant and big and, in the world's eyes, successful it can be tempting for the workers to think that it is because of their skills and abilities.

On the other hand if their work is slow and struggling and difficult and small the workers may be tempted think that it is because they are such failures.

But the reality is that it really is not about us (more on that tomorrow). We are but the bond slaves of Christ. We just preach Jesus - that's it. That's all there is to it.

He is the one who commanded light out of the darkness of creation. He is the one shines in the darkness of men's hearts to bring the knowledge of the glory of God.  He is the light that shines, our hearts reflect His light.

I read a story yesterday about a town in a valley in Norway that has built three big mirrors on the ridge above the town to reflect the sun's light down into the valley during the cold dark months of autumn and winter. Those mirrors are tools to reflect the sun's light down into the town. 

Like those mirrors, which only work when they are focused on the sun, we can only work when we are focused on the Son, not on ourselves.

We don't preach ourselves. We preach only Christ. 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The hidden things of shame

But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. – 2 Corinthians 4.2

I have only recently discovered the writings of J. C. Ryle. He was a bishop in the Church of England in the mid-19th century. He was not a dissenter, but chose to try and reform the creeping liberalism of the church from the inside. The first book I read by him is the very rare The Bishop, the Pastor,and the Preacher where he criticised the church for ridding itself from men like. Latimer,  Baxter, and Whitefield.

I am now reading his book on holiness. Just yesterday I was reading the section on sanctification. He makes the point that our practical sanctification involves just what Paul writes about here. We can't claim to be saved and just keep on going, even if it is stuff others can't see. Paul says that these men have 'renounced the hidden things of shame.' They have rejected not only the out in the open obvious sins, but they have rejected the hidden shameful things. If we are going to 'not lose heart' we had better make sure that our hearts are right.

Not only that they had rejected trickery and craftiness in their ministry. They didn't (mis)use the word of God to promote their own agenda.

They just did right. No show, no self glory, no trickery, no gimmicks. They just preached the truth and let that work on the hearts of men.

What a pattern for us in our ministries. It's not time to try to keep up with the latest trends. We need to just manifest the truth in our lives and in our preaching and let God use it to work in hearts. 

Monday, 21 October 2013

We do not lose heart

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.-  2 Corinthians 4:1

A few months ago I was walking along the canal and praying. Usually my canal prayers may not seem like the most spiritual prayers. On this particular walk I was complaining – yes, me – I was complaining. or, if you will, I was prayplaining.

I hope I am not the only one who has done this. You know what I am talking about. God is not doing things your way so you are giving out telling Him how it should be done. While you are at it you are telling God how to sort it out and how you would do it if you were in charge. My complaint this day was about the work God has given us. 

Anyway, I was on the canal about 3 minutes from home having a good grumble. Suddenly, out of 'nowhere' came this thought, but it might just have well been the big 'God voice' you see in the movies.

'Therefore, seeing that YOU have THIS ministry, don't you dare faint.' (I learned it in the KJV)

I literally threw up my hands. God had me. As always He won the debate.

I don't know about you, but I find comfort and confidence in this passage. Sometimes, like this incident, God has to be blunt with me. Sometimes He can can gently and lovingly give me the blessings I need to keep going.

Either way the message is the same. Don't faint. Don't give up. Be steadfast. Don't be weary in well doing.

Stay at it.

If God has given you ministry don't faint. Don't lose heart. Stay with the stuff. 


Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. – 2 Corinthians 3.17-18

The Lord is the Spirit
The Spirit brings liberty
We see the reflection of the glory of the Lord
We are being transformed from glory to glory into His glory
The Holy Spirit is doing the transforming

Sometimes it helps me to just write out a verse in list form to help me see just what the verse is all about.

There are several things we could look at here, but The thing that really stuck out to me this time was 'we are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory.' The image Paul is writing about is the image of the glory of the Lord.

Did you catch that? We are being transformed into the image of the glory of the Lord.

It is happening from glory to glory. And we are bring transformed by the Holy Spirit.

So what does that mean? It means that as we progress through life we are in the process of being transformed. As the glory of God works in our lives we grow and change from glory to glory to glory to glory. As we learn to submit to the transformation our victories bring glory. As we suffer setbacks and defeats we learn that they are for God's glory. As we just plod along we learn to plod along to God's glory.

Whether we eat or drink or whatever we do it to the glory of God. As we do that and allow the Holy Spirit to work in us we reflect more and more of  God's glory to those around us.

The question I have to ask myself is whether or not yo life is growing and changing from glory. It only happens as I remember the glory of God and let the Holy Spirit change me.

Or are we stuck in the rut of focusing on ourselves and our woes? 

Saturday, 19 October 2013

New glory

 But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious. - 2 Corinthians 3:7-11

The Law was not a waste. Indeed it was glorious. So glorious in fact that when Moses went up to receive the Law and came back the people could not even look at his face for the glory. But the glory that hid Moses' face did not last forever. It eventually faded. Like that the ministry of condemnation under the law had a measure of glory, but it fell short. In God's divine plan all it could do is to point out to men where they failed. It was glorious in accomplishing that, for without the knowledge of sin there could be no effective gospel message. 

The glorious system of the Law has been surpassed. In its place is something that dims its glory. The angels announced it when they said 'glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.' The glory of the gospel of Christ is so bright that it makes the glory of the law seem like no glory at all. 

What passed was glorious. It was a marvelous schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. But what remains is the glorious gospel and we have the glorious privilege of taking part in the glorious ministry of sharing it with all those around us. 

The spirit gives life

who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
- 2 Corinthians 3.6

God made us 'ministers of the new covenant.' This is, of course, as opposed to the old covenant. It is only of the Lord that we have the sufficiency to serve in this new covenant.

The old covenant, under the Law, was a covenant that stuck to the letter of that law. Its purpose was to point out that under it we are under the penalty of death. The letter of the Law could only ever lead to death.

But the new covenant is the covenant of the spirit. The covenant of the spirit is the spirit of the gospel. It is the spirit of the gospel that gives life. The old covenant and its ministers had a purpose. The purpose was to show us our own powerlessness to please God. It showed us we are sinners, and its end is only death.

Only God could empower us to minister the gospel that brings eternal life. His Holy Spirit gives the hope of eternal life and gives us strength to share it. 

Friday, 18 October 2013

Our Sufficiency

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, - 2 Corinthians 3.4

Self-sufficiency. Now that is something that all of us understand. It is something we all want. Most of us really don't like the idea of having to depend on someone else. I have been watching the American television programme 'The Wonder Years.' The show was broadcast in the 80s and tells the story of a teenager 'coming of age' the same time I did, in the last 60s and early 70s. As I watch it I remember that great desire to be self-sufficient so that I had the freedom to make my own decisions and do what I wanted to do. 'I can do it' must have been one of my favourite sayings.

In that regard self-sufficiency is a fine thing. We need to be able to not depend on someone else for everything. We need to be able to make it on our own.

But there is an area where we soon find that there is no such thing as self-sufficiency.

There is nothing we can do in and of ourselves when it comes to the Lord's work. Paul was writing here of the work they had been doing and what they had seen accomplished. But he wanted to make it clear that 'they' had done nothing of their own ability, it was all from God.

Before we think too highly of ourselves regarding our lives or ministries or successes or accomplishments it is vital that we remember that nothing we do is because of our great abilities or skills or charisma or anything else. It is all what God is doing in us. All we can do is praise God for what He does. 

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

An epistle

You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by he Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart. - 2 Corinthians 3.2-3

Most of the people we meet are never going to open a Bible to learn about God. It is hard to get someone to pick up a Bible and read it. We pray, we witness, we try to be a friend but it is hard to make the connection between that and the Bible. 

They may never read the word of God, but he does have a letter for them. There is a way God can communicate to those who aren't going to read His book. 

'You,' Paul writes, 'are clearly an epistle of Christ...not written with ink, but by the Spirit of our living God. Not carved on tablets of stone, but on the tablet of the heart.' 

There is an old saying  - 'you are the only Bible some people are ever going to read.' 

That's not just a cute little saying. It is the absolute truth. Those who never open a Bible are going to look to us to see if God is real. Our lives are going to be all they see of the impact God can have. 

You, we, are indeed the only epistle some people will ever see.  What do they see through you and me? 

Will we be the epistle that introduces them to God and His complete word? Or will we turn them away? 


Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? - 2 Corinthians 2:14-16

Life certainly doesn't feel like we are on the victory lap. Most of the time we can't even see the finish line. Sure, most of the time we can't even see around the bend. We stumble and slip and fall and get off course and so on and so on.

But those victory laps are great, aren't they. The victor grabs a flag and runs around the stadium whole the crowds cheers and clap and stomp their feet and the bands play. They are quit a buzz.

Or so we hear.

The Romans had their own 'victory lap.' It was called 'The Triumph.' The conquering military leader would return of to the city. Everyone would be there to cheer and to honour him. Flower petals were laid out so that as us chariot rolled the the city the wheels and the horses feet would crush the petals and send out an aroma.

This is the victory lap that Paul writes about.

He writes that no matter how we may feel at the moment God ALWAYS leads us in triumph in Christ - always.

As we ride about in the great Triumph Parade we too emit a fragrance. We all know how smells can bring up memories and emotions.  Our fragrance of victory has an impact on all those around us and it affects different people in different ways. To believers we are the aroma of life leading to life. Our lives encourage and bless them  The victory aroma stirs up and encourages other believers.

But to the lost the aroma is different. We remind them of their life of death leading to death. No wonder the lost are uncomfortable with our presence. No wonder there is so much opposition. We remind them of where they are bound without Christ. No wonder Christians are being killed by the scores all over the world today.

Our Victory Parade is not just for us to feel good about our victory. It has, or should have, an impact on all their around us. 

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Abundant love

For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you, with many tears, not that you should be grieved, but that you might know the love which I have so abundantly for you. - 2 Corinthians 2:4

Paul's first letter to the Corinthians was quite forceful. They were falling into error and sin. They were tolerating sin. At times the letter seemed a bit harsh. 

Here in the second letter Paul wants to make sure that they knew the reason and the attitude  behind his comments and his correction. He wanted them to see his heart. He did not want them to be grieved over the letter. 

But Paul said that he wrote what he wrote out of 'much affliction and anguish of heart.' He wanted them to know that he said what he had to say out of his abundant love. 

I think there is a lesson here for us. There are times when we need deal with sin. If it ever because easy or something we do out of arrogance or haughtiness then we ourselves have the wrong attitude. Every time we have to deal with another's sin he ought to cause us deep affliction and anguish of heart. Love must always be the motivation. 

Monday, 14 October 2013

All together now

Moreover I call God as witness against my soul, that to spare you I came no more to Corinth. Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand.  – 2 Corinthians 1.23-24 

Paul could easily have claimed all kinds of authority over the people at Corinth. He was an apostle. He had a direct comission from Jesus.  The apostles all had what we now call apostalic authority. Without the completed word of God these men could speak with the voice of God to the people. It would have been a prime opportunity to 'boss the people around' and rule with a firm hand. 

But Paul was humble. He was not going to exercise dominion over the Corinthians or their faith. He pointed out that they were merely fellow workers, co-labourers, for their joyful service.  Paul, apostle and missionary, saw himself as nothing more than a co-worker with the believers in Corinth. 

It is easy for those of us who are outside the major denominational groups to be critical of those groups where the clergy are somehow ranked higher than the 'laity.' We can attack them for having 'fathers' and 'reverends' and 'cardinals' and 'vicars' and all kinds of titles. 

But there are times when we can be just as guilty. Because the scriptures admonish the churches to submit to church leadership we can get the idea that somehow pastors are somehow different or more spiritual or godlier than the rest. There has even been a notion that pastors are above criticism or question because they are the pastor. 

It is true that pastors or elders have high standards applied to them. It is true that they are to be respected. It is true that when an accusation is brought against them two or more should bring it. 

But it is not true that somehow pastors or elders are somehow better or more spiritual. We are all in the same boat. We are all fellow workers in doing God's. We work, not as master and servant, but shoulder to shoulder as we seek to do the work we are called to do. 

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Signed, sealed, and delivered

Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. – 2 Corinthians 1.21-22

Established. Anointed. Sealed. 

Those three little words really summarise who it is that does all the work when it comes to salvation, sancticifcation, and eternity. When you look at this passage it is clear that it is God who does all the work. 

He established us in the faith. 
He anointed us for his service. 
He has sealed us. 
He has given us the Spirit as a guarantee of salvation. 

My salvation was established by God, not me. 
My spiritual anointing was accomplished by God, not me. 
My eternity is sealed by the Holy Spirit, not me. 
My salvation is guaranteed by the Holy Spriit, not me. 

I have to say that I am really, truly grateful that it is the way it is. I could nevertheless have established myself. If I had done the sealing the seal would soon be broken. If my works were the only guarantee of salvation that guarantee would soon be broken. 

Praise God heat my salvation is signed, sealed, and delivered by Him, and doesn't depend on me. 

Simplicity and sincerity

For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.  – 2 Corinthians 1.12

It all started out so simply. Jesus and twelve men was all there was. They picked up an few more followers and it still stayed simple. The early church started and thousands were saved but those early days were ones of simplicity and sincerity. They met, they sang, the prayed, the broke bread, they baptised, they evanaglised, and they loved and cared for those around them.

But my how things have changed.

'Simplicity and sincerity' certainly does not describe vast segments of the church today. It seems that in some parts of the modern world the church has become complicated, complex, and confusing. Fleshly wisdom seems to take the place of that simplicity and godly sincerity. Too many churches are focused on their plans and programmes and properties than on people and poverty. It is the later, not the former, that our early brothers and sisters focused on.

We now see churches as a successes based on the size and wealth of their church campuses. Simple preaching and fellowship and taking care of the poor have been replaced with coffee shops and family centres and megaplexes. Some churches biggest concern now seem to be which chandelier to buy for the new auditorium instead of how to take care of the needy outside their doors.

Something is wrong. Where is the simplicity and godly sincerity that Paul writes about here in the church today? 

Friday, 11 October 2013

Helping in prayer

For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia:that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many. - 2 Corinthians 1.8-11

Paul continues on to talk ahoy the troubles they had been through. Things had been tough for Paul and the team. He said that the burdens they had been through in Asia were burdens beyond measure. The burdens were so heavy that it was more than their strength could bear. They despaired even of their lives. They were under the death penalty. They had no strength to trust in themselves.

But God had delivered them. They were trusting God to keep on delivering them.

But the Corinthians also had played a part. They helped in their prayers.

We can sort of get caught in a trap of thinking that prayer is not really doing all that much. Have you ever heard the little phrase 'well, There's not much I can do,  but I can pray' or something similar? I know I have heard it and even said it.

Now, I understand the meaning, and am not putting that down, but 'only praying' is much more than just 'all I can do.'

Prayer is that great, often untapped resource that most of us use far too seldom. The theme of prayer is a dominate one in the word of God. Pray without ceasing. Pray in the Holy Spirit. In everything by prayer and thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Prayers are a help. They are a gift.

Let’s be sure we never relegate prayer an ‘only praying/ status. It is a vital work, if not the most vital work, a Christian can do. 

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Comforting each other

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation. - 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Comfort is a wonderful thing. Comfort is a needed thing. Of course the source of all real comfort is the God of comfort.

But it goes beyond just God's comfort. As God comforts us  he expects us to comfort each other. He comforts us in every tribulation that we might be able to comfort others in their tribulation.

There is no indication that we are going to be able to get out of tribulation, and the sufferings for Christ are going to abound. But in that suffering Christ's consolation also abounds.

It is easy to wonder why we of through things. There can be many reasons, but one of them is so that we can help others when they go through tough times. If we have been there we are better able to help others when they go though it. Paul and his team had really been through out, but they rejoiced because not they would be better able to help others.

When we got through our own struggles we need to get our eyes off ourselves and look for chances to comfort and console others in their own troubles. 

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Closing words

If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed. O Lord, come! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.  – 1 Corinthians 16.22-24

Paul closes this first letter to Corinth with a few simple words. 

The first one reminds us of the importance of the gospel. 'If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus, let him be accursed.' That remains me of the job we have to do. 

O Lord, come. 

What a wonderful plea that is. It seems that we can get so caught up in the semantics and the minor aspects of. His coming that we forget the one thing that is most important. Jesus is coming again. I like the fact that Paul wrote about it in his day, John wrote about in his day, and we are still looking for it today. It ties us together with the Christians of the first century. 

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. 

Grace is the operative word here. Paul's prayer was what while he was away the Corinthans would live and thrive in the grace of God. Nothing would ever be possible in the church without the grace of God. 

My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. 

And then Paul closes by sending his love. 

My mom would have loved Paul. She had a tradition of never saying goodbye in person or by phone without saying 'I love youyounger idea was that if anything happened the last words said would be 'I love you.' Paul closed this letter full of correction and instruction and communication with the words 'I love you.' 


For they refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore acknowledge such men. – 1 Corinthians 16.18

Have you ever known the kind of Christian who seems to have a knack for putting a damper on everything? You know the type, a spiritual wet blanket. We all know for too many Christians like that. There is always a reason to squelch any kind of excitement. That kind of company if far too common, and sadly I know that I have been guilty of the same. 

But there is an example of having the opposite effect. 

Paul knew three men named  Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus. They were a blessing because they had met every need where the Corinthians had fallen short. 

Not only that, but they were known because they had, in Paul's words, 'refreshed my spirit and yours' 

Three men whose made it into the word of God simply because they had the ability to refresh Paul's spirit. 

Wouldn't it be great to be known as a refresher? Wouldn't it be great if every time we spoke with someone they left our company the felt refreshed and renewed? 

Lord, help be to be a refresher to everyone I meet today. Help me to refresh every soul. 

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Everything in love

Let all that you do be done with love. - 1 Corinthians 16.14

So here we have it yet again. That little topic called love just keeps popping up over and over again. Be on guard. Stand fast. Be brave. Be strong. But there is one thing more. 

Do everything in love. 

Love doesn't take  a whole lot more instruction than that. Whatever we do we do in love. 

We go together to fellowship. We do it in love. 
We face opposition. We face it in love. 
We have to confront a brother about his sin. We confront him in love. 
We go to our weekly church service. We go in love. 
We have a troublesome neighbour. We approach him in love. 

And the lost could go on and on. 

But if doesn't require a list. It is really pretty simple. Do everything in love. Everything. 

Anything we have on our calendar to day must be done in love. 

I wonder how our lives would be different if we took that one admonition with us today? 

Saturday, 5 October 2013


Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. - 1 Corinthians 16.13

Paul gave the Corinthian church four key points of instruction as a church. These are words that any church in any location, at any time world do well to heed.  

Corinth, like the church through history was facing troublesome times. It was a wicked city. They faced opposition from the world, from Satan, and from their own flesh.

Be on guard
Stand fast in the faith
Be brave
Be strong

We need words like that today. We need that kid of encouragement. We need to wake up out of defeatist lethargy and stand on the promises. If any church could ever had called things hopeless it would have been Corinth.

But. Paul didn't say

Take cover
Protect yourselves
Do the best you can

We say we live in a day of wickedness and indeed we do. Some claim it is worse than it has ever been. On that point I would differ.

But the message for the church for all times in the same.

We must always be on guard. We can never let our guard down. We must be sovereign and vigilant.
We must set our feet and stand fast. We cannot be moved.
We must be brave. We cannot be cowed by fear.
We must be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

It's not going to easy, but it never was supposed to be easy. 

Don’t despise him

And if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear; for he does the work of the Lord, as I also do. Therefore let no one despise him. But send him on his journey in peace, that he may come to me; for I am waiting for him with the brethren. - 1 Corinthians 16.10-11

One of my favourite relationships in the Bible is that between Paul and Timothy. We have a modern term for thier relationship. Today we call it 'mentoring' but. I like how Paul put it. Paul called Timothy his 'son in the faith.'

This kind of relationship is vital for the church to survive. We need to 'pass it on' from generation to generation. In one of his letters he told Timothy 'take the things I have taught you. Pass them on to faithful men so that they can teach other men as well.'

Paul mentored Timothy. Paul also watched out for him. Here there was a possibility that he was going to visit Corinth.  Paul had to make sure that Timothy was treated properly. He was young. A bad experience could easily sour him to the ministry.

Let him come is such a way that he won't be afraid.
He is doing. God's work just like Paul.
Don't despise him because he is young.
Send him on his way in peace so that he can come to me.

I love the practicality of that.  Timothy’s youth must have been an issue. In one of Paul’s letters to him he specifically instructs Timothy to ‘let no man despise your youth.’

It is vitally important that we encourage young preachers on their way. They are our future. They need our encouragement. They need our help. They need our comfort.

Who knows where God may lead and how God may use that young person you know who is trying o serve God despite all the challenges.

The world is going to all it can to call them away. They need to know that we are behind them. 

Friday, 4 October 2013

An open door, but...

For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries. - 1 Corinthians 16:9

Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians from Ephesus where he was ministering. He told the Ephesians that he was going to stay there serving until Pentacost. The reason was clear - God had opened a door for him there. 

Open doors of ministry are great opportunities. Praise God for them. 

But, and there is always a but, along with open doors often comes the other side. 

And there are many adversaries. 

We need to be aware that just because we see an open door doesn't mean it is all going to be smooth sailing. When we walk through that door we need to remember that there is going to be opposition. There are going to be adversaries. It is not always going to be easy. 

On the other hand we need to remember that just because we see opposition it doesn't mean that the door is closed. 

We just need to remember that an open door doesn't necessarily mean a smooth road and if the road gets rough it doesn't necessarily mean the door is closing. 

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Concerning the collection

Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. – 1 Corinthians 16.1-3

We don't read a whole lot about what we now call 'the offering' at church. There are mentions about giving and collections and gifts and all that, but not a whole lot about the offering that is taken on Sunday morning at church. 

Why do we do it? What is the purpose? What is the main reason for an offering? 

We have all kinds of reasons for offerings. We need money to rent or buy a building. We need to buy supplies. We need to pay the pastor and support missionaries and so many things. 

But at the root of this offering is the collection 'for the saints.' 

I realise we have to pay bills and such. I realise we have expenses. But how often do we take a collection 'for the saints?' I have heard of collections for a new chandelier or a new organ or for the family centre or to send the pastor to Hawaii or on a cruise, or whatever the cae may be. 

But how often is there a collection for the saints?

From what I read it seems that far from rare, this was the norm in the early church. The money that was collected was to care for the parts of the body who are suffering. 

When I see images of churches in all their splendour and I see churches meeting in leaking shanties or struggling to pay the rent for a community hall I wonder if we really have it right. When I see crowds of Chrisitans packing the best restaurants after church and images of Christians struggling to but their daily bread I wonder if this can really be God's will. 

Perhaps we need think and pray and consider what Paul says concerning the collection for the saints. 

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Not in vain

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.  – 1 Corinthians 15.58

How often have some of us wondered whether or not we were doing whatever we were doing for the Lord was worth it. It may no be a problem in a big, thriving, and vibrant church or ministry, but what about when the ministry is small and weak and just struggling along? What if it seems like everything we try fails? Is it really worth it? Why should we keep plugging away when we don't see the results that we want to see?

When we consider that question we need to keep in mind the rest of the chapter. We are assured of eternal life because of the resurrection that Christ made possible. This is not all there is. Death is not the end because it has been crushed to death. One day Jesus is coming back for us. The final victory is already won. 

In the light of that, because our future in not contingent on our present circumstances, because we work in the light of eternity we are to:

Be steadfast 
Be unmoveable 
Be always abounding in the work of the. Lord

And why do we bother with all that? Because we are looking for recognition or rewards here on earth? Because we are going to see earthly success?

No, we do it because we know that our labour in the Lord is not a waste. We may not see it now. We may not see it next year or the year after or the year after that. We may not even see it in our lives. But our labour is not in vain, it is not a waste, it is not empty. 

So let's stick at the job God has given us to do. Let's not give up because it doesn't go the way we think it should.