Friday, July 31, 2015

Persecuted for Faith (2 Corinthians 11:21b-29)

Today’s scripture: 2 Corinthians 11:21b-29

I love reviewing the Beatitudes; our Lord Jesus encouraged His audience then—and His readers now. The last of these is: “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).

Whenever I read this, I have to ask myself: Have I ever truly been persecuted for my faith?

While I’ve been ridiculed and stifled, I’ve never been persecuted … certainly not like Paul was. When I read verses like today’s, I’m humbled—really humbled. Imprisonments. Beatings. Betrayals. Shipwrecks. Dangers from all sides.

Paul was really, truly persecuted for the sake of righteousness.

And today, Christians throughout the world are still being persecuted.

A couple of years ago, the story of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani made the headlines when he was released from an Iranian prison after three years. Praise God! But more are suffering. Just last month, imprisoned pastor Saeed Adedini, who has been imprisoned since 2012, was reportedly viciously beaten.

Christendom has its martyrs, its persecuted. Most of us will never experience what Paul did then or Pastor Adenini is now. But whenever we stand up for truth, whenever we’re insulted for our faith, whenever we’re shunned because of Christ, we are blessed.

And one day, anything we experience during this temporary life will be forgotten as we spend eternity with our Lord.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Tolerance (2 Corinthians 11:16-21a)

Today’s scripture: 2 Corinthians 11:16-21a

Much is said these days about tolerance. We need to tolerate others’ beliefs, flaws, foibles, idiosyncrasies, and, as Paul writes, foolishness.

Webster’s defines “tolerance” as the “capacity to endure pain or hardship” (synonyms include endurance, fortitude, and stamina). Verse 20 of today’s scripture seems to speak to this kind of tolerance: enduring persecution and suffering.

But verse 19 seems to illustrate the second of Webster’s definition—and what our society means by tolerance: “sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own; the act of allowing something.”

While I believe we should be sympathetic and compassionate with all people, no matter what they believe, I do believe that we who follow Christ must be careful about “allowing” those beliefs to permeate or meld with our own. Tolerance doesn’t mean acceptance.

Unfortunately, for many, these terms are interchangeable. This is why many Christians are jumping on the “it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe” bandwagon. The “all roads lead to heaven” squad. The “do what you want as long as you don’t hurt anyone” team.

Dangerous territory.

Yes, we need to love others—this is, after all, the second greatest commandment (Mark 12:31). Yes, we need to show compassion, kindness, and gentleness. Yes, we need to shine Christ’s light to everyone.

But we cannot—we must not—allow beliefs that are contrary to God’s word to infiltrate our hearts and souls. We can 
tolerate but we must stand firm in faith.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Disguises and Deception (2 Corinthians 11:12-15)

Today’s scripture: 2 Corinthians 11:12-15

Oh, these verses are chilling.

The enemy of our souls, the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), often “disguises himself as an angel of light,” as Paul wrote to the church at Corinth. He is a liar and, indeed, the “father of lies” (John 8:44). And as the best of deceivers, he often entices with promises of seemingly good things.

Use this drug, and you’ll feel good.

Sleep around. Everyone does it, and you have the right to do whatever you want. It’s your body.

Use that credit card. You deserve that [fill in the blank], and that’s what credit’s for, right?

Even worse: You’re in control. You don’t need a savior. You’re a good person. So just live your life.

But worst of all? He influences mere humans to deceive as well. False apostles who have started “churches” proclaiming we’re all gods, so we don’t need one true God. It doesn’t matter what a person believes because all path lead to whatever his definition of “god” is.

Even deceitful workers exist within churches that claim to be Bible-believing, Christ-followers.  They say the Bible can be pulled apart and interpreted at will. As long as you don’t hurt anyone or break any laws, anything goes.

It’s so easy to get sucked into to false light. But it is false. Only God is light. True light. And one day, the false light of the enemy will be shut off forever.

And the God of light will illumine heaven and earth:

And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22:5)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Supporting God's Workers (2 Corinthians 11:7-11)

Today’s scripture: 2 Corinthians 11:7-11

I can’t imagine all that Paul went through in order to fulfill God’s purpose through him. Not only did he face persecution from his enemies, but he also experienced rejection and conflict from those who claimed to share his faith.

In these verses, it appears that some of the Christians in Corinth were taking Paul for granted. He was working for them, expecting nothing in return. But, perhaps that wasn’t in their best interest. The Message paraphrases:

I wonder, did I make a bad mistake in proclaiming God's Message to you without asking for something in return, serving you free of charge so that you wouldn't be inconvenienced by me? It turns out that the other churches paid my way so that you could have a free ride. Not once during the time I lived among you did anyone have to lift a finger to help me out. My needs were always supplied by the believers from Macedonia province. I was careful never to be a burden to you, and I never will be, you can count on it. With Christ as my witness, it's a point of honor with me, and I'm not going to keep it quiet just to protect you from what the neighbors will think. It's not that I don't love you; God knows I do.
Sometimes, it seems those in Christian leadership just can’t win. Some complain when those workers are too self-sufficient. Others complain when ministers or missionaries ask for support.

We who follow Christ and who are not called to ministries that require financial support should be willing to give to those who are. Love offerings. Monthly contributions. We must not look at supporting these workers as a burden. They’re serving God as they’ve been called to do. And they do it out of love for God … and for those they’re serving.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Don't Be Deceived (2 Corinthians 11:1-6)

Today’s scripture: 2 Corinthians 11:1-6

It is so very important that we keep our hearts and minds fixed on biblical truth and that we filter everything through the scriptures. Some preach “another Jesus,” even to the point of saying that Jesus may not have lived a sinless life. Some say that many roads lead to heaven. Some say that a God of love would never send anyone to hell.

Then there are those who downplay sin. As long as no one is hurt, they say, you should be able to live as you choose. The Bible is wide open to interpretation, they claim, and you can take what makes sense and disregard the rest.

The Bible is God-breathed truth. The Holy Spirit inspired the hearts and minds of the Bible’s authors and the hearts and minds of those who compiled the 66 books it contains. It is full of history, poetry, parable, imagery, and symbolism, and each and every word speaks to one central theme: God’s plan of redemption.

Yes, there are some parts that give historical or cultural context that don’t necessarily apply to modern-day Christ-followers. For example, much of the levitical law was written because people of Israel needed guidelines by which they could be ritually cleansed. They hadn’t the blessing of salvation through the shedding of Christ’s blood.

The real issue? If we don’t know God’s word, we can’t know if someone is preaching something that goes against it. We are responsible for our own study. We need to spend time really digging into the Bible. And when we come to passages we don’t understand, we need to find wise mentors of faith who can help guide us.

We must not be like Eve who was so easily deceived. We must be wise and discerning, not giving the enemy a toehold. We must remain focused on having a “simple and pure devotion to Christ.”

Friday, July 24, 2015

I Am Nothing (2 Corinthians 10:14-18)

Today’s scripture: 2 Corinthians 10:14-18

I know I’ve written about this before, but we really have nothing to boast about in ourselves. Or perhaps I should speak only of myself.

I’m so flawed. So very flawed.

I want so much to be a godly, humble woman, but then my flesh rears its ugly head. And suddenly, I’m discontent. Or I’m discouraged. Or I’m prideful

I get a chance to use a God-given gift, and someone affirms me. Instead of immediately giving praise and honor to the Lord, I think, “Yeah. I did well. Good for me.”

Instead of boasting in the Lord, I boast in myself. And that truly breaks my heart.

I know—truly know—that nothing I have, nothing I am, nothing I can do is of my own merit. My abilities to speak and write and teach come directly from God. It is His voice that sings or acts through me. I live in a home that He gave me. I drive a car that He provided.

And as Job said (and I paraphrase), “The Lord gives, and the Lord can take away.” Because it’s all His.

We have nothing to boast about. Absolutely nothing.

Instead, we should give praise and gratitude to the One who chooses to bless us by entrusting our gifts and our things to us. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Comparisons ... (2 Corinthians 10:12-13)

Today’s scripture: 2 Corinthians 10:12-13

Comparing ourselves to others is never a wise thing to do. God created us differently—and that’s a very good thing, as far as I’m concerned. When we begin to compare ourselves to others, we can become prideful, thinking we’re somehow better than they are, or we can disparage ourselves, thinking we’re somehow less.

But sometimes when we “commend ourselves,” we’re equally at risk. Paul wrote about to those who “measure themselves by themselves” and their pride. One commentary expounds: 

They were pleased, and did pride themselves, in their own attainments, and never considered those who far exceeded them in gifts and graces, in power and authority; and this made them haughty and insolent. Note, If we would compare ourselves with others who excel us, this would be a good method to keep us humble; we should be pleased and thankful for what we have of gifts or graces, but never pride ourselves therein, as if there were none to be compared with us or that did excel us. The apostle would not be of the number of such vain men: let us resolve that we will not make ourselves of that number. (Matthew Henry Complete Commentary of the Whole Bible)
The bottom line is that we really cannot and should not boast in ourselves because we are nothing of ourselves. What we have and who we are is only by God’s grace. And since He’s created each of us according to His own purpose, comparing ourselves to others and being prideful in ourselves is not only sinful, but it’s also as if we’re telling God He’s done something wrong … And He does nothing wrong.

It comes down to trusting God that He’s right—always. However He’s created us. And whatever He’s called us to do.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Walk the Talk (2 Corinthians 10:7-11)

Today’s scripture: 2 Corinthians 10:7-11

You’ve heard the phrase, “Walk the talk”? It means, of course, that our actions should mirror our words. The opposite is, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

Paul wrote several times about how one should behave the same, no matter who else may be around. He wrote to the Christians at Philippi: “What I’m getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you’ve done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I’m separated from you, keep it up” (2:12, MSG).

We are Christ’s, and both our words and our actions should reflect Him. We should, “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life …” (Philippians 2:14-16a, NKJV).

Inwardly growing to be more like Christ. Outwardly reflecting His attributes of love, grace, gentleness, and mercy.

Indeed, walking the talk.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

So Much Wisdom! (2 Corinthians 10:1-6)

Today’s scripture: 2 Corinthians 10:1-6

Sometimes—actually, often—I read God’s word, and I’m almost overwhelmed by how much wisdom is contained in just a few verses. Today is no exception.

First, Paul writes about having the “meekness and gentleness of Christ” and being “bold with confidence.” While these terms seem contradictory, they are clearly Christ-like attributes. Our Savior was certainly meek—in the best sense of the word. Quite awhile ago, I went through a study on the beatitudes, and in the chapter on “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth
 (Matthew 5:5), the author writes, “The Greek adjective translated ‘meet,’ means ‘gentle,’ ‘humble,’ ‘considerate,’ ‘courteous,’ and therefore exercising the self-control without which these qualities would be impossible” (John Stott, The Beatitudes: Developing Spiritual Character).

Yet as meek and gentle as Christ was, He was also bold to speak truth, never shying away from telling it like it is. Does the phrase “white-washed sepulchers” ring any bells?

We too need to be gentle and meek with others, yet be confident to share God’s truth whenever and with whomever we can.

Second, Paul writes about the war we face every day. Not a war against flesh, but one against the lies of the enemy. Satan is the “father of lies” (see John 8:44). While he’s lost the war with those of us who have committed our lives to Christ, he would like nothing more than to drag us down and keep us from fulfilling God’s purpose through and in us. We need to be prepared—each and every day—as we take up our God-given armor (see Ephesians 6:10-18).

Finally, Paul writes of our taking “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ …” How often does our thought life translate into wrong actions? Seriously, that’s where sin starts, right? I think something before I do it, and so if I’m not careful about what I think, I’m going to more easily fall into sin.

We need to be diligent about this. Whenever a thought creeps in (remember that “father of lies”?), we need to take it captive, asking the Holy Spirit to completely eradicate it from our minds. We can’t let sinful thoughts take even a toehold.

Well … so much wisdom. So much to think—and pray—about.

And that’s just from six short verses!

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Meaning of Life (2 Corinthians 9:12-15)

Today’s scripture: 2 Corinthians 9:12-15

The age-old question: What is the meaning of life?

For Christ-followers, the meaning of our lives is our faith. And the purpose of our lives is to bring glory to God. Everything we do, everything we say, all that we are … to bring glory to God.

Sometimes we use a word over and over, and we forget its actual meaning. Good old Webster defines “glory” as “worshipful praise, honor, and thanksgiving.” So when we say we glorify God, we mean—or at least we should mean—we’re giving all praise (“worship” or “reverence”), all honor (“a showing of respect), all thanksgiving (“a prayer expressing gratitude).

So the next question is: Do we do these things? Do we truly praise God at all times, through good times and bad? Do we worship Him with the reverence and respect He so deserves? Do we show heartfelt gratitude for His blessings—and for the pain, knowing He’s using it to refine us?

It’s easy to take God for granted, and that’s tragic. We let days—or weeks or months—go by without spending time with Him. Oh, we thank Him when things are going well, and we cry out to Him when times are dark. But do we really, truly glorify Him—each and every day?

God is worthy of all honor, praise, worship, and yes, glory. And we as His very blessed children of grace should give Him all He deserves.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Seed-Bearers (2 Corinthians 9:10-11)

Today’s scripture: 2 Corinthians 9:10-11

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes feel so inadequate to share the gospel. What if they ask a question to which I don’t know the answer? What if they ridicule me? What if they’re downright hostile?

Then God reminds me: He will supply whatever I need to “sow seeds.” All I have to do is tell how He’s worked in my life. How I’ve seen the evidence of His presence. How He’s worked in unexpected ways. How He’s answered prayer after prayer.

The gospel message is simple: believe in Jesus Christ and accept the gift of salvation through grace. It’s so simple even a child can understand. In fact, Jesus Himself said, “I'm telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you're not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God's kingdom” (MSG, Matthew 18:3-5).

Yet we often complicate it or succumb to fear or think, “Someone else will tell them.”

We’re all seed-bearers. Each and every one of us who knows Christ is called to share the good news of God’s grace. He has equipped us to sow seeds because He has worked in our lives.

We need to overcome our fears, our feelings of inadequacy … because the God who saved us, who changed our lives, is the same God who will speak through us. He has liberally supplied all we need to sow seeds and to help others come to know Him.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Sow Bountifully (2 Corinthians 9:6-9)

Today’s scripture: 2 Corinthians 9:6-9

Most of us who live in the United States have been abundantly, overwhelmingly blessed. We own homes and cars and “stuff.” We never have to worry about where our next meal will come from. We have medical care. Plenty of clothes. Computers. Smart phones.

Abundantly blessed.

And we who follow Christ are even more abundantly blessed. We have been given grace—unmerited favor. We have been given mercy. Protection. Provision … Peace. We are loved unconditionally by our Creator God.

He gives us strength to accomplish His purpose for our lives. He comforts us through difficult times. He is ever-present with us.

What do we give in return? Do we use our time wisely, studying His word and spending time in prayer? Serving others? Helping the “least of these”?

Do we joyfully use the talents with which He’s blessed us? Praising Him? Giving Him glory?

Do we cheerfully give a portion of our treasures … that are really His treasures?

Everything we have, everything we are, is His. We are mere stewards. As the psalmist wrote, “The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it” (24:1). We have been given so much, so we much we must "sow bountifully," doing whatever we can to serve God and others, to further His kingdom, and to glorify God.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Be Prepared! (2 Corinthians 9:1-5)

Today’s scripture: 2Corinthians 9:1-5

Are you prepared?

I recently relocated from Southern California, where we experienced earthquakes periodically. Each time another earthquake occurred, everyone talked about being prepared: Do you have an earthquake kit, including plenty of water, food, flashlight, etc.? Do you have a communication plan, with an out-of-area contact? Do you have an “escape” plan to get you back home?

Now that I live in an area prone to thunderstorms that can knock out power, the same questions apply.

My answer? Yes and no. I do have adequate food at home, but I’m not certain about water. I have kit in my car, but I’m not sure if any of the food in it is good. I certainly have out-of-area contacts, but if my cell phone doesn’t work, how will I call?

Being prepared is so very important. But even more important than being prepared for a natural disaster, we need to be prepared for eternity. And we need to help others be prepared as well.

While I may not be fully prepared for a major catastrophe, I am prepared for eternity. I have accepted the gift of salvation through a personal belief in the death, burial, and resurrection of my Savior, Jesus Christ. I have committed my life to serving God—Father, Son, and Spirit. I go to the throne of God daily and surrender myself to His purpose.

My desire now should be to help those around me who are not prepared for eternity become prepared.

Because just as an occasional earthquake is inevitable in Southern California or a severe thunderstorm in Eastern Tennessee, eternity is inevitable.

Are you prepared?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Pray for Those Who Serve (2 Corinthians 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. In fact, my middle-born nephew and his wife and infant son will soon be leaving to work full-time in Latvia. 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. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Abundant Grace (2 Corinthians 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.

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 just don’t think you can make it on your own.

You have been blessed. Abundantly.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Sincerely ... (2 Corinthians 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.

Speaking of wise words, I love reading through the beatitudes through which Our Lord Jesus gave us words to live by. Today’s verses resonate with 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, as Paul writes, “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.


Thursday, July 09, 2015

Generous Giving (2 Corinthians 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 one 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 room 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?

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Back to Basics (1 Corinthians 7:13-16)

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

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” (NKJV, John 3:16). And if we “confess our sin, He is just and faithful to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (NKJV, 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.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Earnest and Zealous (2 Corinthians 7:10-13)

Today’s scripture: 2 Corinthians 7:10-13

Many of the words Paul uses in these verses are very convicting: earnestness, godly sorrow, zeal, longing …

Yesterday, I wrote of how godly sorrow over our sin leads to repentance. And that repentance leads to salvation. But salvation shouldn’t be the end for us who follow Christ. We shouldn’t be content with the fact of our own salvation.

No. We should be earnestly serving God and zealously following Him. We should long for Him. We should desire His will above all.

And we should be as earnest and zealous about sharing the truth of the gospel with others. We should be so humbled and grateful for what God has done for us that we want others to experience the same.

Yet, how often are we complacent and content to just enjoy our blessings. We go to church (as we should). We read our Bible and pray (as we should). We have our small groups, our Bible study, our Christian conferences. We surround ourselves with other believers.

There’s nothing wrong with these. However, our zeal for God should automatically flow into a zeal to reach others.

And so I have to ask myself … How zealous am I in sharing the gospel? How earnest am I to make sure I’m available to reach others for God? Certainly, not nearly as much as I should be.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Sorrow Leading to Repentance (2 Corinthians 7:8-9)

Today’s scripture: 2 Corinthians 7:8-9

Throughout God’s word, we’re promised joy—not happiness, perhaps, but joy. Happiness is based on circumstances. Joy is a state of the heart.

Psalm 16:11 tells us that:

You [God] will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
We can even find joy through adversity (James 1:2). God, our loving Father, wants our joy.

So why does Paul write about not regretting causing sorrow for his fellow believers? One commentary clarifies:
Sorrow according to the will of God, tending to the glory of God, and wrought by the Spirit of God, renders the heart humble, contrite, submissive, disposed to mortify every sin, and to walk in newness of life. And this repentance is connected with saving faith in Christ, and an interest in his atonement. There is a great difference between this sorrow of a godly sort, and the sorrow of the world. (Matthew Henry Concise Commentary)
We should be sorrowful about our sin, and that sorrow should lead us to repentance.

But once we’ve repented, we can be certain that God has removed that sin “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). And then we can experience that God-given joy.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Comforted with Presence (2 Corinthians 7:5-7)

Today’s scripture: 2 Corinthians 7:5-7

Have you ever felt as Paul did? Your flesh has no rest? You’re afflicted on every side? You have conflicts without and fears within? Have you ever felt depressed?

I’ve struggled with depression off and on for decades. At one point, I even had to go on anti-depressants. At that time, I wasn’t walking with the Lord, and because I’d pushed away many friends, I felt very alone. I had no one to offer me comfort.

Once I recommitted my life to the Lord, I finally received the comfort my heart craved. And since then, I’ve established relationships that also give me great comfort.

I have no issues with medical help when one is dealing with depression, and professional counseling can be critical. But I don’t think that’s enough. One of the most important ways to handle difficult times is seeking the comfort that only comes from a relationship with the Lord. And by being surrounded by friends and family who can offer physical, tangible comfort ... just as Paul was comforted by the presence of Titus.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Made for Relationship (2 Corinthians 7:2-4)

Today’s scripture: 2 Corinthians 7:2-4

God created us for relationship, both with Him and with others. He could have made us solitary, independent beings that relied only on ourselves. But He didn’t do that.

And I, for one, am grateful.

I cannot imagine my life without my husband, my family, my friends. And I strive to be faithful and loving to each of them. I try not to wrong them. I certainly pray I don’t corrupt them. Nor do I want to take advantage of them.

Instead, I want to show confidence in them, and when they do great things, I want to boast in them. I support them in prayer and am always willing to offer a supportive shoulder or a listening ear. I want to comfort them, and when they offer the same shoulder or ear to me, I’m comforted in return.

And when the times of trial or affliction come—and they always do—I find great joy in knowing I have people to whom I can go who will pray for me. I find great joy in knowing I don’t have to carry my burdens alone.

Because God did not make me—and He didn’t make you—to be alone.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

"Perfecting Holiness" (2 Corinthians 7:1)

Today’s scripture: 2 Corinthians 7:1

“Perfecting holiness” … Sounds like a pretty tall order. And one most of us are far from completing.

How in the world can someone as fleshly as I “cleanse [myself] from all defilement of flesh and spirit”? I mean, seriously … I can barely keep my focus where it belongs.

I don’t often argue with Paul, but I have to say: I don’t think we’re able to cleanse ourselves. Maybe I’m the only one, but I am so very incapable of keeping myself pure. I just can’t do it. If I try, I fall. Every time.

I am cleansed through the blood of Christ, and it is only when I confess my sins that I am washed clean (1 John 1:9).

So again, how can I take part of my cleansing and perfecting? By totally and completely surrendering everything I am to my God. If I seek His will for me, then He will continue to perfect me and I will continue to want what He wants for me (see Psalm 37:3-5; Proverbs 3:5-6; Philippians 1:6).

I cannot be holy on my own. I cannot work my way to salvation. I cannot find perfection through my own feeble efforts.

It’s only when I seek God, when I trust Him, when I give up my own desires and focus on His, that I begin to achieve holiness.

Because only then do I desire nothing but Him.