II Corinthians 1

Vs. 3, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.”  In all circumstances, Paul found reasons to praise the Lord.  There was sin in the Corinthian church that had brought much struggle.  Paul opens his letter with candid words that reveal the struggles he also faced (vs. 1-11).  Some had been questioning his leadership and Paul wanted to take the opportunity to respond.  There is a saying, “The higher we climb, the farther down we can fall.”  Paul felt these immense pressures (vs. 8) but was able to put his trust in the Lord.  I love how Paul was so thankful for many of their faithful prayers (vs. 11).  In the latter half of our chapter (vs. 12-24), Paul wrote in response to the reality that he had to change his plans.  Some had accused him of being deceiving them for he was not able to visit them has he intended.  Paul aptly reminds them that their ultimate trust should be in the Lord and it is the Holy Spirit that is God’s testament of faithfulness (vs. 22).  In the end, we must remember that God’s timing isn’t always our timing.

Regarding application…Comfort Others.  Vs. 4, “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”  The Greek wordπαρακαλέω (comfort) means “called to one’s side to help.”  Paul took the time to write this letter to bring comfort for those who had been disappointed or were questioning.  It was not by Paul’s might that he could bring comfort, but from the comfort that comes from God.  In essence, God’s comfort to us in our suffering can bring comfort to others.  Rather than wallow in self-pity, we can comfort each other because we all understand what it feels like to live in this sin-filled world.  So the next time we go through trials and tribulations, let’s take comfort in knowing that this will enable us to help others one day.

II Corinthians 13

Vs. 2, “I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others.”  Paul is wrapping up his letter, but wants to make sure the unrepentant among them will turn their hearts back to God.  They were demanding for proof if Paul was a true Apostle (vs. 3), so Paul is letting them know he will oblige.  Some of the Corinthians were pointing the finger at Paul and quick to judge, but now the tables are turned.  Paul challenges them to look into their own mirror (vs. 5-7).  The example we have to see the right answers is none other than the truth (vs. 8 ) which is God’s word.  Paul had no desire to come exercise his power and authority (vs. 9-10), he just prayed they would be repentant.  And then Paul closes with encouraging words as a benediction that covers all three persons of the trinity (vs. 14).

Regarding application…Test Yourself.  Vs. 5, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?”  Question: Who likes taking an exam or test?  Unless we are fully confident, tests are not fun because they point out the things we don’t know or do.  Yet, this is what Paul is admonishing the Corinthians to do.  Question: How could they say they had a authentic faith if they accused Paul of being a false teacher?  Something wasn’t connecting, and we know it wasn’t Paul.  So this is why Paul is asking them to reexamine and make sure they are on the right side.  Question: What are your Christian faith Test results?  Maybe you are wishing there was a actual test.  But, while only God knows our hearts, Jesus did inform us we would know true believers by the fruit they bear.  Question: Are you bearing good fruit?  Are you rooted in the good soil?  Take time today to examine your heart and find peace through the Holy Spirit today!

II Corinthians 12

Vs. 1, “I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord.”  Though Paul doesn’t like it, he continues to respond to the boasting of others.  Some were making huge claims of extraordinary spiritual experiences to make others in awe of them.  While it is beneficial to share testimonies of things God has done, Paul did not go around flaunting some of the visions God did in fact give him (vs. 1-6).  The person Paul speaks about is himself, but he did not share this for worry that others would put him on a pedestal.  In addition, in order to keep Paul humble, God brought a thorn in Paul’s flesh (vs. 7) a messenger of Satan.  No one is quite sure what this thorn in the flesh was, but Paul definitely understood that though he prayed for the Lord to deliver him from it, God was the one who was in control (vs. 8-9).  In the end, Paul reminds them of God’s call as an apostle for the Lord and that the Corinthians were just as important to him as all the other churches (vs. 11-13).  Remember, they thought lesser of Paul and of themselves since Paul did not receive financial support from them (vs. 14-18).  And Paul refers to some of the sins they were reverting back to when he had visited them the second short visit (in-between the writing of the of two letters.) (vs. 19-21).  I was Paul’s hope and prayer they would live a life worthy of the Lord and thankfully he had the courage to address it.

Regarding application…Staying Humble.  Vs. 7b, “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.”  How interesting that God would use the epitome of pride in Satan to keep Paul humble.  Wouldn’t it be nice to think that we don’t have to struggle with pride in our lives today?  Yet, I wonder how many times God has allowed us the enemy to bring struggles for the intent purpose to keep us humbled and dependent upon the Lord.  Question: What are your “thorns in the flesh” today?  I think self-esteem is one of them for me.  There are times I struggle with my abilities whether good or lacking.  I am quick to find my esteem in my success and lose my esteem in my failures.  Yet, God has a way of keeping me humbled to prevent my head from getting too big.  My struggles with low self-esteem have been a personal “thorn in my flesh”, but that has often been the driving force of reminding me that my esteem is found not in my self (accomplishments or failures)…but in my identity in the Lord.  Whatever struggles you have, find peace in knowing that God is the one in control!  Have a very blessed week!

II Corinthians 11

Vs. 1, “I hope you will put up with me in a little foolishness. Yes, please put up with me!”  Question: Why is Paul asking the Corinthians to be patient with him?  There is a twist in irony on this because they were also too patient and being deceived (vs. 1-4).  There were those who were against Paul and claimed to be super apostles (vs. 5).  People looked down upon Paul because he ministered in Corinth without being asking for financial assistance (vs. 7-11).  We still have that mind-set today as we believe those who make the most money must be the most talented.  But Paul isn’t going to just sit back and let these false teachers get their way (vs. 12-15).  Good for Paul and to top that off, Paul goes into a style that the Corinthians would understand, boasting.  But this boasting is not about all the thing great things he has done and the strength he as a powerful teacher.  Paul boasts about his weaknesses (vs. 21-33).  This was not something he ran around telling everyone about, but he needed to respond to some of the Corinthians questioning Paul’s role in the church.

Regarding application…Don’t be Deceived.  Vs. 3, “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”  Paul’s admonishment was not to people who did not know Jesus, it was to those who were sincere and devoted.  There were gifted speakers in Corinth with ulterior motives and deceptive lies.  They came in the guise of being preachers of Christ, but they had crossed the line.  We don’t know what kind of line they crossed, but it was serious enough for Paul to say they were preaching a different Jesus.  There is a difference between a good intentioned Pastor teaching out of biblical ignorance vs. a determined Pastor teaching outright false doctrine.  Question: What can you do?  Know God’s word.  That is why I post my reflections to encourage you to know His word more.  Have a blessed evening and go worship the Lord tomorrow!

II Corinthians 10

Vs. 7, “You are judging by appearances.  If anyone is confident that they belong to Christ, they should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as they do.”  Question: Is it ever appropriate to defend ourselves?  Absolutely.  Much of II Corinthians so far has been Paul taking the time to defend himself amongst the negative critics.  In the last couple of chapters, we have seen Paul bring thankfulness and encouragement to those who supported him.  Now, Paul will take the time to delicately balance his response to those who were questioning him.  Some thought that Paul was meek in person, but overly bold in letter (vs. 1-6).  But they were judging Paul’s actions by a worldly standard and appearance (vs. 7).  Paul’s boldness to be reconciled was true meekness, for he could have brought much worse consequences and still could.  We are reminded that there is a spiritual battle going on (vs. 3-6) and Paul hopes that these words of encouragement will help humble their hearts before he comes to visit a third time.  In the last part of our chapter, Paul addresses the issues of boasting.  There were some that were boasting out of their own perspective on things (vs. 12).  Whatever gifts we have is because of what God has given us.

Regarding application…What Weapon?  Vs. 4, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”  I’m dating myself in this example, but I’ll share it.  There is a very comical scene in a old move called “Crocodile Dundee.”  The main character is an Australian outback cowboy who is visiting New York City.  He is walking with a female and they are accosted by a thug who pulls out a pocket knife and demands their money.  The female character cries out, “He has a knife.”  The Aussie pulls out his huge “Outback” knife that dwarfs the pocket knife and states, “That’s not a knife, this is a knife.”, or something along those words.  This scene came to mind because when people attack us, it’s normally because they think we are meek and weak.  If they knew we packing quite a dangerous weapon, they might not be so quick to attack.  This is kind of what Paul was reminding the naysayers against his ministry.  They didn’t realize that Paul was holding a much more dangerous weapon, not a worldly weapon, but a spiritual one that can demolish strongholds!  We are reminded from the wonderful passage in Ephesians 6 concerning the full armor of God.  Our weapon that keeps us safe is the Bible, the living word of God!  Through this weapon, we have the confidence to walk with courage daily in this difficult but blessed journey!

 

II Corinthians 9

Vs. 15, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”  Question: What is this gift Paul is so thankful for?  God’s surpassing grace (vs. 14).  It is this grace that motivates us for a reason to do that which Paul is exhorting the Corinthians: to give generously.  Notice the amount of time in the letter and the sending of servants to ensure that their gift to God and the church will be followed up.  It’s safe to say it is not enough to just say it once and in awhile and everyone will just give.   A farmer doesn’t just throw a seed into the soil and never returns to care for its growth.  Paul, continues to encourage the Corinthians by reminding them that they too are an example to the Macedonian churches as well (vs. 1-5).  As Paul exhorted them in yesterday’s chapter about how to give, we now are reminded the attitude of how we give (vs. 6-15)

Regarding application…Giving Cheerfully.  Vs. 7, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  I had mentioned this passage in a message I gave recently at my church.  The key word in this encouragement is “heart”.  We are not given a specific percentage to give in the New Testament church.  We are to give to the proportion of what we have (II Cor. 8:12).  But, we must make the decision with our hearts, not our minds.   We don’t do it with a reluctant mind or under compulsion, but we realize that this money and possessions never belonged to us in the first place.  There have been times when I haven’t been able to give much during church offering and times when God has blessed me with plenty.  Give back to the Lord just as the Macedonian and Corinthian churches did.  But most importantly do it with cheerful heart!

II Corinthians 8

Vs. 7, “But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”  The first section of our chapter today, Paul uses another church area as an example for them to follow (vs. 1-6).  Though the Macedonian churches (Philippi and Thessalonica) were poor and going through many trials, they gave beyond what they could give to strengthen the whole church and the collection for the poor in Jerusalem.  What’s also encouraging that both the regions of Macedonia and Achaia (Corinth) were predominately Gentiles who were now giving support to the suffering Jews in Jerusalem.  What a picture of generosity and unity!  As a church, we must ensure that we are meeting the needs of our body (vs. 8-15).  In the last section of our chapter, we see the importance of trusting Godly people to help in the collection of the offering (vs. 16-24).  Notice that this is not just a job for Titus, but two others (vs. 18, 22) as they go and are commended by Paul.  The Corinthians are asked to receive them with love (vs. 24).

Regarding application…Jesus as the Example.  Vs. 9, “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.”  Question: Why are we to be generous in our giving?  Paul points to the utmost example: Jesus.  Jesus was the Son of God, yet became flesh and poor so that we might become sons and daughters of God (rich).  It’s one thing to use the Macedonians as an example, but Paul drives it home with Jesus as the example.  Question: What can you give?  The direct context is money, but certainly it is not a stretch to look at how God has given us spiritual treasures (gifts) to give to others as well.  The church cannot function if everyone just selfishly chooses not to give of themselves.  It’s great to have examples of Pastors, deacons, leaders in the church to set the tone, but we have no excuse.  Jesus laid out the formula.  It is better to give.

II Corinthians 7

Vs. 7, “and not only by his coming but 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.”  Paul had been anxiously awaiting a report from Titus that things were getting better in Corinth.  For the last few chapters, we’ve been reading Paul defending the truth and his authority to those who were against him.  However, this was not the majority feeling amongst the Corinthians.  Many of them repented and loved Paul after his previous letter of rebuke.  Paul now uses this section to thank the Corinthians and their encouragement they provided to Paul.  This just reminds me how God created us as emotional beings with feelings.  Paul certainly was one who expressed his sorrows, worries, and joys.

Regarding application…The Right Sorrow.  Vs. 10, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”  For the Corinthians, there was sin that they were dealing with and their right sorrow brought about repentance.  I wonder if we in our culture today are very sorrowful?  The reason why the Corinthians were sorrowful in the first place was that Paul spoke truth in love and rebuked the Corinthians for their sins.  No one likes to hear negative things and this was the worry that Paul had.  Question: Was he too tough on them?  Thankfully, Titus’ report was that Paul’s words challenged their hearts and they had a right sorrow…a Godly sorrow.  Question: What’s the difference between a right (Godly) and wrong (worldly) sorrow?  Take Judas Iscariot for example.  He had sorrow and admitted he had sinned.  But, there was no repentance.  Question: Is there anything in your life where you need a right sorrow?  Bring it to the cross.  Seek out forgiveness from the Lord and one another.

II Corinthians 6

Vs. 1, “As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.”  We are reminded of the personal tone of Paul’s intimate letter to the Corinthians.  In yesterday’s chapter, we were reminded of not having worldly view, but remembering God’s desire to have us reconciled to Him.  Paul is continuing to respond to those in Corinth who still questioned him (vs. 3-13).  In this section, Paul addresses the hardships (vs. 4-5), the attitudes (vs. 6-7) and the perceptions (vs. 8-10).  When you desire to live for God and are obedient to Him, there will be people who are encouragers and discouragers.  But, notice that Paul did not allow all the naysayers to bring his joy in the Lord down.  I love Paul’s admonishment to have the Corinthians open their hearts wide.  The troubles of this world often make our hearts calloused and we tend to throw up walls.  In our next section (vs. 14-18), we see Paul address a topic that can be easily taken out of context.  In light of the secular culture and worldly view points, Paul is taking a moment to exhort the Corinthians not to be like this world.  We certainly are not called to completely separate ourselves, but there is a definite lesson to how do we live a Christian life in a secular world.  I don’t have all the answers to this, but I do know that if Christians live too much like the world, then hypocrisy is always the excuse for unbelievers to go to church.  But if Christians avoid the world too much, then we are sectarian and live in our own reality and have no pulse to the world.  There needs to be much wisdom and knowledge that we should be praying for.  Bear in mind, that Paul’s admonishments are directed towards a church that was divided.  Some scholars point out that Paul’s reference to unbelievers are those who are within the context of the church.  In any case, we must be very wise.

Regarding application…How are You Connected?  Vs. 14, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”  Paul gives the Corinthians an Old Testament example under the Mosaic Law that instructed farmers to not yoke (wooden bar placed across the necks of animals and then connected to a plow or cart) two different types of animals.  As we live this life for the Lord, it is very important to determine how we are going to be connected to others in our lives.  Question: Who are you most connected to?  Where do you find your identity?  When I worked at Nike years ago, I wore Nike clothes all the time.  In fact, there was rule on the Nike Campus in Beaverton, OR that you would be first reprimanded and even fired if you wore any other competitors clothes (Reebok, Addidas, etc.)  Who we connect to should always be determined by our main connection in the Lord.  As Christians we connect in community in our churches so that we can effectively live in a world that does not believe.  By being connected, we can support each other as we reach out to unbelievers with the love of Christ.  We are not to avoid the world, but be connected so that we can love others as Christ loved us.

 

II Corinthians 5

Vs. 7, “For we live by faith, not by sight.”  Question: How was Paul able to confidently state this?  Because Paul knew his final destination.  In our first world culture, it is easy to try to not think about death.  But, I was just conversing with a fellow brother of mine today at church and in that conversation, we were both reminded of the short life we live because of a family friends unexpected coma.  Back in Paul’s time, death was certainly something that was a stark reality.  But Paul illustrates to us of the hope of having a new resurrected body (vs. 1-10).  We are also reminded that all Christians will appear at the judgment seat of Christ (vs. 10), which has a future reference of end times.  It’s important to remember the reason Paul had to write the Corinthians in the first place.  The church of Corinth struggled with division and continued to even struggle with looking at Paul as a legitimate Apostle for the Lord Jesus.  Paul implores them to have a right fear of the Lord (vs. 11) and see that Paul was on the Lord’s side (vs. 11-15).  And the last section of our passage is incredibly profound (vs. 16-21), for Paul now explains a bit more to us what it means to be a new creation.  God desires to reconcile His creation.  This worldly point of view (vs. 16), was judged on the basis of what was seen.  Opponents of Paul took a relationship with Christ as being something that was a “spiritual high” and saw Paul as a counterfeit.  But to be a new creation (vs. 17), is the realization that we are no longer condemned in our fleshly sin.  We have been give the Holy Spirit and our lives are being transformed from the inside out.  Because of what Jesus has done, our sinful lives have been reconciled (restored) in a right relationship (vs. 19).

Regarding application…We are God’s Righteousness.  Vs. 21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  This is one of my most treasured verses in the bible.  For in this verse, we see a summary of what the Gospel is.  Jesus who had no sin, became sin on the cross so that we could be reconciled and righteous before our Heavenly Father.  To appreciate what this means, this forces us to think about our sins.  Paul looked back at his life and called himself the chief of sinners (I Timothy 1:15).  When we look back at our own lives, it’s not easy to reflect upon our sinful past.  But, the more we soberly see ourselves, the more we will appreciate the fact that we are new righteous creations before an almighty God!  Question: How is your relationship with the Lord?  Does it need to be restored?  Put your trust and hope in Him as we start a new week!