Category Archives: II Corinthians

His power is made perfect in my weakness

II Corinthians 12: 9a

But  he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” NIV

I have many weaknesses.

Among them, I am highly susceptible to worry.

This project and this last year have taught me many things.  This verse is the perfect ending to what has been an incredible journey.

God’s grace is sufficient.

And, His power is made perfect in my weakness.

It’s only through weakness that many of us can see our true need for God.  My bet is that He designed it that way.

I’ve enjoyed this daily quest so much … I’ve learned so much … it’s a bit hard to believe that the goal of finding 365 reminders has been achieved.

So, what’s next?

Isn’t that just like us as humans?  We conquer one hill and immediately begin looking for the next one.  I’ve thought about several topics to study … new projects to tackle next.

But, for now, I think I’ll take some time to just enjoy the view from my new vantage point.

My parents live far away.  I’m blessed to be able to talk to them several times a week.  Often when I call I get to chat with both of them on the phone.  I love those calls.

But, whether my mom has been on the call or not, my father ends every call the same way.  He always says he loves me, and then he says, “God bless you and thank you for calling.”

I say the same to you today.

God bless you.

And, thank you for reading.

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Put yourself out!

II Corinthians 12:14-15

Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions, but you.  After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.  So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well.  If I love you more, will you love me less? NIV

It is clear to me this morning that I don’t know very much at all about Paul.  Here, in this chapter, he is feeling sorry for himself and speaking sarcastically.  But, there are some powerful grains of truth in what he says.

The word “worry,” appears early in this passage in The Message. “Everything is in readiness now for this, my third visit to you. But don’t worry about it; you won’t have to put yourselves out. I’ll be no more of a bother to you this time than on the other visits.” MSG

Earlier in the chapter, he chides the church in Corinth, which has apparently been complaining because they have had Paul ministering to them, and not one of the “super-apostles.”  Paul tells them that he is in no way inferior to those for whom the church is wishing, and that the only difference in their experience is that he was never a burden to the.  “Forgive me this wrong!” he says in verse 13.

So, his reminder not to worry here is less than genuine.  It’s more letting them know that he still doesn’t expect the church to put themselves out on his behalf.

He doesn’t expect the church to put themselves out …

I recently read part of David Platt’s book, Radical.  In it, he talks about the amount of money US churches spend on missions relative to their giving … it’s not a big number.

My question is, why don’t we put ourselves out?

Are we afraid?  Or, are we ourselves simply too human?  Is it that we want only to be fed as baby Christians and that we are unwilling to stand up and feed and care for and mentor others?

It appears to me that Paul treats the church at Corinth as a child … in fact, he even compares himself to a parent, saying, “Children shouldn’t have to look out for the parents, parents look out for the children.” MSG

I don’t know enough about everything that has gone on before this, or about what happens after to be able to learn much more from this verse at this time.  One of the things that I have learned over the course of this project, is that I seem to know the Old Testament, in many ways, much better than the New.  I’ve certainly spent time studying Christ’s life and His parables, but, when it comes to the time after His death and resurrection, I’ve not spent much time there at all.  This is something I need to do.  I live in the time after Christ’s resurrection … there are examples here that I need to better understand and to learn from.

In order to move from being a baby believer to a fully developed follower of Christ, I need to put myself out on behalf of others.  I am called to love and to serve them.  I can’t just sit on the couch, like a teenager after Thanksgiving dinner while an older relative says, “don’t worry, I’ll have this all cleaned up in no time.”

I want to be in the kitchen!

That’s what I’ll think about today.

 

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Everyone Needs Encouragement

II Corinthians 7:6-7

But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming bit also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever. NIV

We all need encouragement.

Paul was a paragon. I can’t tell you how much of the New Testament he wrote, but, it was a lot. And, when you add in the books written by those he discipled, it is clear that the man had an indelible impact on the church.

Yet, Paul, like me, was bound by time, and distracted by his circumstances.

Verse 5 says, “When we arrived in Macedonia province, we couldn’t settle down. The fights in the church and the fears in our hearts kept us on pins and needles. We couldn’t relax because we didn’t know how it would turn out.” MSG

Paul had fears. I don’t think I ever really thought about that before. When I think of Him, it is in terms of stories that I know about his life. I know that he was an enemy of the early church and that he persecuted many Christians for their faith. I know that he was struck blind on the road to, I think, Damascus, and that someone was sent by God to witness to him, and that after he regained his sight, he put all of his zealous nature into God’s work. I know that he was imprisoned multiple times for his faith and that he mentored others who carried the message forward.

But, I somehow, never thought of him as human until this morning.

I heard an amazing woman speak last night. She spoke of some of the things that had happened to her in her life, and how she had felt shattered by the tragedies that befell her.

She spoke from Jeremiah 18:1-6:

1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2 “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. 4 But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.
5 Then the word of the LORD came to me. 6 He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.” NIV

Just as the potter reformed the clay, this woman was, and is being reformed. Paul was reformed. A friend, who also heard the speech, said afterward, “The great thing about us, is that we are never ‘kilned.'” God keeps us as wet clay so that he can continually rework us to his purposes.

While I am amazed by all of this, it HURTS to be reformed! It is hard and frustrating, and discouraging to be human.

Paul felt that too. But, his spirits were lifted by the encouragement of his friends. By the knowledge that they cared for him, and that they wished him well.
“Then the God who lifts up the downcast lifted our heads and our hearts with the arrival of Titus. We were glad just to see him, but the true reassurance came in what he told us about you: how much you cared, how much you grieved, how concerned you were for me. I went from worry to tranquility in no time!” MSG

Everyone needs encouragement. I can encourage others.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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Filed under II Corinthians, New Testament, Worry

Don’t allow yourself to be entangled

Hebrews 12:1

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  NIV

This morning, I went back to the word “lose” in my concordance, in search of references to “lose heart.” Hebrews 12:3 is the third verse from the bottom of the lose listing.  When I got to Hebrews 12 and began reading, I realized that several of the verses there are reminders not to worry.  They stand easily on their own, and, when combined, they are a powerful missive.

This first verse is beautifully written.  I love the imagery that it contains.  The words, “cloud of witnesses,” are compelling.  The Message says, “all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on.”  When I think about the group of “all these witnesses,” that the writer references nearly 2000 years ago, I am struck by how much larger the cloud of witnesses has grown in the intervening time between then and now.  As I trace my faith in my own family, we are the religion that we are because of a home missionary who helped a widow and her children many years ago.  That widow and her household converted to the missionary’s faith.  My grandmother was one of her children.  That missionary is in that cloud, and so are countless others.

The next phrase is the reminder here … “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.”  That’s worry.  Worry is a hindrance and a sin that will entangle your time, your energy, your determination, everything … worry is an effective tool to render the believer ineffective.

And then, “let us run with perseverance.”  I don’t like to run.  It’s really hard work and, I find, I never really had the stamina to keep up with my friends when we would go jogging.  However, I do love to watch people run.  One of my childhood friends was a champion runner and hurdler.  She went to college on a track scholarship.  When she ran it was pure joy for her.  And, there is a picture in our yearbook of her clearing a hurdle.  The look of complete determination on her face is inspiring.  That’s the kind of running that we are called to do as Christians.  We are to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

While I don’t know what God has planned for me — the race marked out for me — I do know that there is a plan, and that I will not achieve it if I’m not up running the race.  It is not a sprint around a track.  “We are to run with perseverance,” that means cross country running, or a marathon.  A long-distance runner can walk or bike or even run the track of an upcoming race prior to the real thing, but he or she cannot possibly know all of the things that will be encountered when the race is actually happening.  I can’t know everything that will be in my path either, or all the things that I will be called to do … even though I’d really like to know those things.

Each of us as Christians is on a path.  We might stumble or wander from it from time to time, but, this verse reminds us to keep the goal in mind, and to run with perseverance.  We must avoid the obstacles that our worries pose and  listen for the cheering on of those who have gone before … they’ll be there at the end of the race to welcome us home.

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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Don’t be so focused on it

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. NIV

I know that this is a reminder not to worry.  But, I find that my perspective is so far from Paul’s at the moment that I’m having trouble relating to it.  I know that he is right.  What is seen is temporary, what we are experiencing is temporary, but, often, it is hard to get your mind around that.

I broke a toe yesterday.  My foot has turned a lovely shade of blue, and it hurts to walk and, just as I’m sitting here, it is throbbing.  Toes are such a small part of your body … how can one small part command so much attention!?!

It strikes me that my toe is similar to the worries of this world … they are small and insignificant in comparison to the whole of eternity, and yet sometimes I get bogged down in them such that I lose sight of the whole.

I know that is the opposite of what Paul is expressing.  I need to adjust my perspective.

I’ll think about that, and also go and find a bag of ice now.

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Filed under II Corinthians, Lose heart, New Testament, Strength, Trouble

Get busy!

2 Corinthians 4:1

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. NIV

For the last several days, I’ve been working through the listings under the word “lose” in my concordance.  I’ve been specifically focusing on the phrase, “lose heart,” which, in most cases, is a synonym for worry.  While the “lose” listing is not of an insignificant size, I’ve abruptly found myself deep in the New Testament.  The verses in my concordance are organized from Old to New Testament, so, it takes a while in any word search to get out of the Old Testament.

This morning, I was struck by the difference in Paul’s perspective from the Old Testament writers that I’ve spent so much time with on this project.  It looks like only 31 of the verses that I’ve found so far have been New Testament ones, so, it seems that the second half of my project will be, perhaps, even more encouraging than the first has been.

Paul begins this chapter, “Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing …” MSG

I love that!

Paul appropriately gives the credit to God, not to himself.  Paul is being beaten up and thrown in jail and maligned for doing God’s work, and yet, his perspective is, “Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we’re not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job because we run into occasional hard times.” MSG

I am in awe of his perspective.

Had I been Paul, I’m pretty certain my attitude would have been, “Hey, give me a break!  I changed my entire life for you, I completely reversed direction in my career, all my former associates think I’m crazy, I have this physical problem that won’t go away, people keep putting me in jail, and this is unpleasant!”  But no, Paul says, “Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing …”

He counts it a privilege to be in service, to have this ministry, this ability to serve.

Sometimes, I think that God uses our darkest times not only to test our faith, but also to more effectively equip us to serve.  Like new recruits into the armed services, we must be broken down and then rebuilt to be effective.

These last two years have been among my hardest.  I haven’t always taken Paul’s approach, but, I’m often reminded of a story my mom shared with me last year.  She found it in a Bible Study or in a quiet time guide.  I wish I knew who wrote the story, so I could give him credit.  The image is one that I carry with me.

A person was watching a silversmith work with silver.   There was a flame involved, and the craftsman was explaining that he needed to heat the metal to just the right point, and then no hotter to achieve his objective.  The observer asked, “how do you know when it’s ready?”  To which the silversmith replied, “That’s easy, when I can see my reflection.”

The first time I heard that story, I wept.  God allows trials in our lives not to break us, but to make us more dependent on him.  Our purpose here is to glorify Him, to commune with Him, to reflect Him to our world and to do His work.

If we’re focused on those things, we, like Paul, cannot lose heart or worry … there is too much to accomplish!  God has generously let us in on what he is doing … let’s get to it!

That’s what I’ll think about today.

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II Corinthians 1:8

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia.  We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.  Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.  But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.  He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.  On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. NIV

I love how The Message translates verse 9, “As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened.  Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally — not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead!” MSG

Again and again I see it … Trust God!  That is the source of real peace.

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