Friday, August 31, 2012

Serving Through Missions (2 Cor. 8:16-24)

Today’s scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:16-24

Few of us are called to leave our homes and venture out to spread the gospel. In fact, it’s often joked about when we talk about areas of giftedness: “I’ll do anything for You, Lord, but don’t send me to the mission field!”

Full-time missionary workers often give up everything they hold near and dear. They leave their homes, their families, their friends. They go to foreign, often hostile, lands. They’re faced with strange customs, traditions, and foods. They usually don’t make much money and, in fact, are dependent upon others to provide their support.

And they do it earnestly, readily, and diligently. They do “what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of man.”

I have several friends who have listened to God’s voice and His call to full-time missions work. They’d be the first to tell you it can be tough. Some are in countries that are so anti-Christ, they can’t openly share God’s word. Some live in harsh climates. Others work in “regular” jobs as well as perform their missionary duties.

They do this while we sit in comfort in our familiar homes with our familiar things and our familiar friends. So what can we do to help? More than anything, we need to pray for them diligently—much more diligently than we probably do. We need to lift them up daily to God’s throne, praying for protection, strength, and provision. And if possible, we need to support them financially.

Because while not all of us are called to the mission field, all of us are called to pray for our brothers and sisters, including those who serve—both here and abroad.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Abundant Grace (2 Cor. 8:9-15)

Today’s scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:9-15

Grace. Unmerited favor.

We are so undeserving of God’s grace. We are so unworthy. We fail so often. We listen to the lies of the world. We compromise truth.

And yet, God sees worth in us. He loves us so much He offers grace and forgiveness even when we don’t deserve it ... which is the definition of grace.

Our Savior gave everything for us. Everything. He gave up heaven to come to earth. He took on flesh and experienced temptation. Pain. Fatigue. Sorrow. Death.

All for us. All so that we could receive grace.

Oh, we have been so abundantly blessed because, not only does God offer grace to those who seek Him, but He also gives us strength for each day. He provides for our needs—not our wants, but our needs. He gives us peace and comfort through times of affliction. He loves us unconditionally. He never leaves us alone.

It would have been enough if He’d only offered grace, but He chooses to give us so much more.

No matter what you’re going through right now, God is with you. He’s walking alongside you, every minute of every day. He’s there to hold your hand—and sometimes to carry you—when you just don’t think you can make it on your own.

You have been blessed. Abundantly.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Living Sincerely (2 Cor. 8:7-8)

Today’s scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:7-8

Someone once said, “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.”

Wise words.

In my small group, we’ve been studying the beatitudes, and last week’s study was on being “pure in heart” (Matthew 5:8). One aspect of being pure in heart is sincerity: 

It is single-mindedness, having a single heart. More precisely, the primary reference is to sincerity. The pure in heart have their whole lives, public and private, transparent before others. Their very hearts—including their thoughts and motives—[are] pure, unmixed with anything devious, ulterior or false. (The Beatitudes: Developing Spiritual Character, John Stott) 
When we “abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspire …” people see something different in us.

When we focus on those things that are above rather than those things on earth (Colossians 3:1-3), we find peace and contentment that the world craves.

When we manifest the fruit of the Spirit, showing love, joy, gentleness (Galatians 5:22), people may very well want to know the source of that love, joy, gentleness …

We have been given much, especially our salvation. We should—no, we must—live so that others want to know our Savior.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Generous Giving (2 Cor. 8:1-6)

Today’s scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:1-6

Can you imagine the impact Christ’s church could have on this world if we who claim to know Him gave generously? Or gave at all?

I remember hearing (or reading) somewhere that if each evangelical Christian gave just 1 percent of his or her income, clean water and adequate food could be provided for each and every person on earth. Poverty could be eliminated. Education could be more readily available.

The early church was made up of givers, of people who cared for others … and did something about it. From the beginning, “they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need” (Acts 2:45). They cared for the “least of these” as Jesus had taught (see Acts 4:32-37; 6:1-6).

The church at Corinth certainly understood the importance of generous giving, and “they gave of their own accord …” They gave “beyond their ability.” They saw giving as a privilege, not a burden. They experienced the joy that comes from being “cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

So many of us have been blessed abundantly. We have homes and cars and gadgets. We have the latest and greatest technology. We’ve made storage facilities a booming business because we don’t have enough storage in our homes to hoard our stuff.

And yet with our abundance, we so often neglect those in need. We don’t give generously. Often, we don’t give anything. Whatever you believe about the theology of giving, could you—should you—be giving more? To anyone?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Unity (2 Cor. 7:13b-16)

Today’s scripture: 2 Corinthians 7:13b-16

We could learn a lot from the early church and its members. They were unified and supportive, comforting and affectionate.

They didn’t have denominational conflicts—mainly because there were no denominations. They were a group of people dedicated to one thing, and one thing only: proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ.

Today, we’re so focused on our traditions, our rituals, our interpretation of non-essential biblical elements that we’ve forgotten the one thing that matters: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). And if we “confess our sin, He is just and faithful to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Somehow, some of us have come to the mistaken conclusion that only those who attend our church or belong to our denomination are “chosen.” Or if someone believes differently than we do about baptism or communion, they’re wrong and we’re right.

Instead of loving each other as Christ loves us, we hate each other just as the world hates us.

I can picture Paul and Peter or Timothy and Titus observing our modern church members and shaking their heads in despair. We’re so far from where we should be.

And how can we love unbelievers when we can’t love those in our own “family”? How can we bring unity to a fallen world when we’re so divided?

Maybe it’s time to go back to the basics: loving God—heart, soul, mind, and strength—and loving others as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). And then drawing unbelievers to the truth of God’s love for them.