2 Corinthians 8–Giving From The Heart

Paul was addressing another difficult subject–giving. The Church in Jerusalem was in dire straits. They had been persecuted by the Jewish community and by Rome and it left them decimated.  Paul was asked to collect an offering to support the Church. The Corinthians had assisted before, but now they hesitated in giving–(partly because of Paul’s disciplining of them).  So Paul confronted the issue directly–please give what you can not because of obligation, but for the simple ability to trust God and see him work.
 
Nothing has changed. God does not tax his kids. He asks us to give generously to support the church and His plan. Often we give out of wealth, but sometimes we are called to give from our poverty. It is that giving that defines our faith. He will provide and he will bless our generosity.   We take steps of faith in giving and we watch God use what we have given to touch lives. We have no expectation for a return but know that God will prepare, protect and provide for us! We simply have to trust him in all things, even in giving back.
 
God Bless You

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you[a]—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 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 through his poverty might become rich.

10 And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.

2 Corinthians 6 Part 2–The Critical Nature of Being Aligned

It is difficult to do life. Everyday pressures, expectations, and circumstances wear us down and push us to the edge.  It was the same during Paul’s time. People were doing jobs, getting married, raising kids and dealing with life’s pressures and without technology.  In the midst of that, Paul tells the people do not be unequally yoked. As a married couple, it is critical to be aligned. in life, we need to be aligned with those we count on to walk through life with us.  If we are not, it adds a layer of complexity in an already complex situation.  Is it doable, sure! Is it difficult–you bet! Bottom line Paul told the Corinthians–get aligned.
 
In our time, it is equally important to be aligned. Believers should consider faith as a critical component for marriage. If a couple does not share the same faith, it will mean strife at every major event. Going through a crisis together and aligned is often the only thing that allows the family to pass through to the other side. There is little in the world that encourages such alignment. Yet, when we see families aligned in faith, there is so much more harmony and unity in good and bad times.  They operate with a purpose and a perspective that is bigger than themselves. In Paul’s time and now, folks must consider faith a critical component in choosing a life partner and in raising a family!
 
God Bless You

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial[b]? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

“I will live with them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.”[c]

17 Therefore,

“Come out from them
and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.”[d]

18 And,

“I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”[e]

2 Corinthians 6 Part 1–Not an Easy Assignment

Paul could not have been any clearer. When He signed up for his role as Christ’s ambassador to the Gentiles, it was not an easy gig.  He was an up and coming Pharisee. Trained by the best, taking on the toughest jobs he was in line to be a prominent Jewish leader. What’s more, as a Roman citizen, he had rights and access that most Jewish leaders simply did not possess. In the midst to his rise, Paul was brought face to face with Jesus. From that moment on, everything changed. He went from being loved by many to being hated by most. He went from financial and social prominence to poverty and imprisonment. He changed the world, but was beaten, stoned, jailed, demonized, accused and never fully understood.  He died in prison at the hand of Nero. Still, he would have it no other way. He said it best in Philippians 3, 
 

“If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”

As his ambassadors of today, no one promises it will be easy.  Living a life counter to the current culture will bring criticism, harassment, and possible persecution. As we watch the world unfold, those that stand for Christian principles are being put to the test daily. But, like Paul, we have to face those trials with the promise of eternity and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  We should not expect easy–instead, we should train for struggles, put on the whole armor of God and follow Christ in battle. If it is not daily warfare, awesome! But better to be ready and not battle in a day than to be unprepared and then defeated. 

God Bless You

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path so that our ministry will not be discredited.Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying,and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you.

2 Corinthians 5 Part 2–New Creations and Christ’s Ambassadors

In all of God’s word, the message of God’s love is clear. From Creation to Revelation, God demonstrates His love for us. Paul was making it clear to the Corinthians–Christ’s death changed everything. When He died for our sin, everything was new.  Men had a brand new opportunity to be reconciled to God. If they chose to follow him, they became new creations–eternal and forgiven. What’s more, newly armed with life and salvation, God’s folks become His ambassadors. They show a life of purpose, peace, and freedom from the world’s grasp. Armed with that, Christians are called to present the message and show the world a life that is not about themselves–but all about Him.
 
That is still the message today.  We are Christ’s ambassadors.  We are saved, made new and armed with His spirit.  We live lives in this world–but, like an ambassador, we represent our native land.  We are citizens of Heaven. While here, we live lives that Honor God and show the world the amazing life they can have in Christ.  We need not beat people with Bibles–we simply live lives that show the world the difference Christ can make.  We are new creations–we must die to the ways of the world and walk humbly in the Lord’s grace. As we do, people will see the value of knowing Christ personally and we will have the opportunity to introduce Him. That is the role of an ambassador! Help me, Lord to represent you and your kingdom!
 
God Bless You 

 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

16 So from now on, we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.21 God made him who had no sin to be sin[b] for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 4–A Priceless Message in Jars of Clay…

Paul is serving up two messages this day. The first message is that the light of God is delivered to those that would believe in a very straight forward way.  There are no tricks, nor is there a lot of pomp and ceremony. The truth is simply that God loves us, but, our sin has separated us from that love. Christ came and revealed God’s love to us and then demonstrated it by His death, burial and resurrection. We must accept God’s gift and follow Christ to restore the relationship with God and have eternal life. While the message is simple, many are blinded to that truth simply because they are not willing to submit or believe in the spiritual aspect of life.
 
The second message is equally critical–as messengers, we are like jars of clay. We are neither glamorous nor are we impervious to the attacks of life or of our enemy Satan.  What is more, as we follow God, we can be assured that we will be pressed down on every side–but not crushed. We will seem perplexed–but not in complete despair. We will be persecuted–but, not abandoned-He will walk through it with us!!! We will be struck down–but not destroyed! We will be containers full of Christ’s Gospel–ready to die; knowing that even in our death–Christ’s gift of life will be revealed.  It is so much bigger than us, so we must live ready to do whatever it takes to reveal Christ to all who might believe!!! 
 
God Bless You

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

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

2 Corinthians 2–Forgive and Move On

Paul was struggling with the idea of returning to Corinth.  He had initially intended to return, but, the issues he raised in his first letter were difficult and left many angry and upset.  So Paul decided to forgo a second trip.  Paul still wanted this young church to know, however, that they were a valuable church and He loved and prayed ceaselessly for them. So Paul, simply put, said it is time to forgive and move on.  He agreed to forgive anyone that challenged him and asked the Corinthians to do the same.  It was not worth the pain and anguish of losing their friendship or their faith to battle.  So Move on and move forward.
 
In our lives, no matter our depth of faith, We also face times and challenges that leave us hurt and wondering if we can continue to move forward.  Like Paul, we must carefully evaluate whether such hurt or disappointment is worth the cost of losing our ministry and mission.  If we look at the world through the eyes of grace, it is often better to forgive and move forward even after things seem unforgivable.  We, like Paul, need simply to lay the anger and hurt on God’s alter and allow him to restore and heal that which seems broken beyond repair.  If we will, we can see God’s miraculous work and know He can do what we cannot!
 
God Bless You

So I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you. For if I grieve you, who is left to make me glad but you whom I have grieved? I wrote as I did so that when I came I would not be distressed by those who should have made me rejoice. I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy. For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.

Forgiveness for the Offender

If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10 Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.

2 Corinthians 1 Part 1–God of Comfort

Make no mistake, God is never surprised.  Often the church finds itself in times of difficulty, distress and even persecution by the enemy and the world.  Some that seek Him with their hearts are literally fighting daily for their lives and existence.  Even in normal times, Christians experience trials of various kinds of health, career, financial and relationship issues that are at best a distraction and often debilitating. Paul started his second letter to the Corinthians with the reminder that God is there to comfort and to care for His own.  Paul made no promise as to avoiding trouble, trials, and difficulties–he simply reminded the Corinthians that those struggles would not have to be faced alone.
 
Our Lord does love and care for us like none other.  He provides peace in the midst of chaos; meets needs that seem unquenchable and provides hope and direction in a life that would be otherwise hopeless and aimless.  As His chosen, We have to stand firm.  We must cling to the faith and hope that God will, in fact, provide all our needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:19. We cannot focus on what the world is doing, what others are doing and even what the church is doing.  We must focus our eyes on the eternal truth that We are loved, and protected and being prepared for by our Father.  We must start each day in His word and on our knees seeking him first and foremost.  If we will, He will, in fact, comfort us and come alongside He is a God that comforts and protects His own.  
 
God Bless You

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters,[a] about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On Him, we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.