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–Mission First, Despite Struggles

Paul realized better than most that his mission would be difficult and that God’s grace had to be sufficient to meet his needs. The Corinthian Church was a wealthy church, but the people had no intention of supporting Paul.  So as he ministered, he also made tents.  The tents supported the ministry. Further, Paul knew that it was a spiritual war and that the enemy and life would throw everything at him to neutralize or at least minimize his impact on spreading the Gospel across the world.  So Paul very kindly, but directly lays it out–We are ministering despite poverty, beatings, accusation, imprisonment, loneliness near-death experiences, sadness–in short, NO MATTER WHAT! Paul knew that the more impact he was making, the more difficult the battle would become.  So in his journey–he said, “Bring it on!”
 
What about us? Do we have the same call? Yes! We are to minister no matter what. We need to press on knowing it will not be easy and sometimes it will be darn near impossible.  We should never expect this life to be easy. But, we can cling to the promise that the difficulties we experience now are nothing compared to the blessings that await us if we trust and follow Christ. (Romans 8-18) We have to look past the struggles and focus upon the prize–salvation to all who believe.  Is it worth the struggles? ABSOLUTELY! That is why we must continue to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness–If we will, He will supply the rest. In good times and difficult times, God prepares, protects and provides, we simply have to trust Him!
 
God Bless You

As God’s co-workers, we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says,

“In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”[a]

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

Paul’s Hardships

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. 12 We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. 13 As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.

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 5 Part 1–The Best Is Yet to Come

It is often easy to forget that this world is simply not our home.  Paul was reminding the Corinthians that as humans we walk on the earth in a temporary dwelling. These bodies we have been given were not built to last.  Instead, God sent the Holy Spirit as a deposit and a reminder that we will receive Heavenly bodies as we join the Lord for eternity. What’s more, not only are these bodies temporary, but this life is also temporary.  God calls us to live for eternal things.
 
If we spend our lives gathering and building as if this world is all that there is, we, as His children, have completely missed the point.  Nothing about this life is lasting–except the things we do to become like Christ.  The greatest legacy we can leave is not some monument or vault full of riches. Instead, the legacy is a group of friends and family that know and love God and will spend eternity with us as we are with Him. While we are here, we must be open and vocal about Christ; because soon we will be with Him–in new bodies and with those that have grasped the critical nature of knowing the Lord, personally.  As Paul so clearly put it, “To be at home in our bodies is to be away from the Lord!”  We must live lives that point us toward being home with the Lord!!!
 
God Bless You

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile, we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

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.