Friday, September 28, 2012

Love and Unity (2 Cor. 12:19-21)

Today’s scripture: 2 Corinthians 12:19-21

Why is it that we so often contend the most with those we’re to love the most? Paul is writing to Christians in Corinth—not unbelievers. Yet, he’s concerned with the possibility that there may be “
strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances” (v. 20).

We Christians are part of the very body of Christ. We are hands and feet, ears and eyes, knees and elbows. All together making up one unified body—or so it should be.

How sad that it isn’t that way … We point fingers. We gossip behind closed doors. We see the failings of a sister and think ourselves better. We somewhat maliciously delight in seeing the speck in our brother’s eye, all the while ignoring the plank in our own.

As Paul writes in other contexts, may it never be!

What if we all loved as we’re commanded to love? Loving our neighbor (see Matthew22:39; Mark 12:31; Romans 13:10; Galatians 5:14). Being willing to lay down our lives for others (John 15:13). Thinking of others above ourselves (Philippians 2:2-4). Showing patience, kindness, self-control (1 Corinthians13:4-7).

Can you imagine? If we loved each other that way, maybe we would love unbelievers that way too. And then how attractive would they find us? If we showed genuine love and unity, we could change our communities, our workplaces, our schools.

It would be amazing.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Father's Love (2 Cor. 12:14-18)

Today’s scripture: 2 Corinthians 12:14-18

It is a rare day when I don’t feel completely inspired by the Spirit to write the day’s devotion. However, I’m experiencing significant “fibro fog,” so I’m going to trust the words of a saint of the past—who was far wiser than I—to share his words of wisdom.

When prayerfully considering Paul’s words in today’s scripture, Adam Clarke discerned Paul was saying:

Ye are my children, and I am your father. You have not contributed to my support, but I have been labouring for your life. I will act towards you as the loving father who works hard, and lays up what is necessary to enable his children to get their bread. I will continue to act as a loving father, who spends all he has upon his children, and expends his own strength and life in providing for them the things necessary for their preservation and comfort. I will even act towards you with the most affectionate tenderness, though it happen to me, as it often does to loving fathers, that their disobedient children love them less, in proportion as their love to them is increased. Does it not frequently happen that the most disobedient child in the family is that one on which the parents' tenderness is more especially placed? See the parable of the prodigal son. It is in the order of God that it should be so, else the case of every prodigal would be utterly deplorable. The shepherd feels more for the lost sheep than for the ninety-nine that have not gone astray. (Adam Clarke Commentary)
I love any scripture that reminds me of my loving Father, my Abba … my Daddy. And as much as Paul loved his earthly “children” and as much as our parents love us, our heavenly Father loves us so much more.

Father God, Abba, thank You for Your overwhelming, unconditional love. May I live to glorify You. Every day. Amen.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

God Uses "Nobodies" (2 Cor. 12:11-13)

Today’s scripture: 2 Corinthians 12:11-13

Paul, the writer of the majority of the New Testament, deliverer of wisdom, faithful servant of God, could very well have boasted regularly about how God used him. Yet one of his most visible attributes is his humility.

I believe he never forgot what God had done for him.

When we first meet Paul, he’s supervising the execution of Stephen. Before he meets Jesus, he wants nothing more than to wipe out this new movement following the upstart Nazarene. He’s on his way to Damascus when, as the Bible says, “Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1-2).

Then he meets Jesus: “As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting’ …” (Acts 9:3-5).

Even though he had been actually and literally persecuting Jesus' very own people, God saw worth in him.

It’s easy to see why Paul would call himself a “nobody.” And I totally understand his humility. Although Paul showed such hate towards Jesus and His people, Jesus lovingly saved him, and God used him in amazing ways.

I too am a “nobody.” I turned my back on God for so many years, choosing to live, not to honor Him, but to fulfill my own fleshly desires. Yet, when I came back to Jesus, He welcomed me with open arms.

And I too am being used by God. It’s enough to make me fall on my face in humble gratitude.

What an amazingly gracious God we serve!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Strength in Weakness (2 Cor. 12:7-10)

Today’s scripture: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

So much has been questioned about Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” Was it poor eyesight? Was it circumstances? Was it some other physical ailment? I don’t think it really matters exactly what Paul’s thorn was.

The important thing is that Paul had something that tormented him, something that he asked God to remove. Something that caused him so much pain—physical or emotional—that he implored God to take it away.

Implored means “to call upon in supplication (beseech); to call or pray for earnestly (entreat)” (Mirriam-Webster Dictionary). Paul wasn’t making a casual request. He earnestly pleaded for this thorn to be removed.

Sometimes I wonder if Paul’s “three times” really meant three “seasons.” I know I’ve gone through especially rough seasons with my health when I’ve certainly implored God to heal me. Yet other times, I just manage the pain with God’s strength. In any case, God had a different plan for Paul’s life … and for mine as well.

I’ve found my pain to be a blessing. Yes, a blessing. First, my pain—my weakness—truly is my strength because I’m so aware of God’s grace. More times than I can count, I’ve needed God’s strength just to get me out of bed. Second, God uses my pain to comfort others. Because I can sincerely relate to those who suffer from chronic health issues, I can encourage them by sharing how God has worked in and through my pain.

I would rather live in pain and be able to boast about Christ’s power in me than live pain-free without His strength ... because it is truly in my weakness that I am strong.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Boasting Isn't Profitable (2 Cor. 12:1-6)

Today’s scripture: 2 Corinthians 12:1-6

Some debate about who the “man in Christ” is that Paul writes about in these verses. Was it Paul himself? Or someone who told his story to Paul? For me, this isn’t one of those “stake in the sand” issues. What matters is what Paul is saying: Boasting isn’t profitable.

When we boast about something we do, two issues arise:

First, nothing we can do is of our own merit (we’ve talked about this before) because everything we have, everything we are, everything we can do comes from God.

Second, if we do boast about ourselves, we run the risk of being foolish. We say we can do something, and then we mess up. Seriously. None of us is perfect, and even the very best of us fails sometimes. For example, I’ve heard some really wonderful vocalists miss a note. Or an amazing actor flub a line.

But when we boast in what God does in and through us, He will use us to glorify Himself. I know when I focus on Him and just let Him work, He allows me to do far more than I can do on my own. He speaks through me in unexpected ways. He helps me to write words I hadn’t planned or remember verses I thought I’d forgotten.

When I know He’s fully with me, even if I mess up in my own weakness, He’ll still be glorified. Because the focus will be on Him and His glory, not me and my human failings.

And that’s exactly as it should be.