Posts Tagged ‘God’

2 Corinthians 13

2 Corinthians 13 has Paul finishing his letter to the church in Corinth.  He writes about coming to see them yet a third time.  On his first visit to Corinth, Paul founded the church and stayed a year and six months (Acts 18:11).  His second visit was a brief, painful visit in between the writing of 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians.  Now he is prepared to come for a third time.  His work is not quite done with them.  This time he warns that he comes as a judge to point out what needs to be corrected.  Christ is going to deal with the sin in their lives.  “He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you”.

Some think that Christ going to the Cross was a sign that He was not in fact in control.  Yet the truth is that Jesus went willingly to the Cross as part of God’s plan to provide grace to all who would believe.  His crucifixion is what provided victory over death.  Before He could rise and live victoriously, He had to submit to death, so He chose to be weak for He could be strong.  “For He was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God”.  Jesus chose weakness so He could ultimately demonstrate eternal strength.  We need to make sure we are walking with him.  “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.  Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you”?

As a Christ Follower, He lives in us through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Paul wants the church at Corinth to understand that they need to live differently than the world around them.  The same is true for us today.  We should not merely blend in and be undetectable from those in our patch.  As followers of Jesus, our lives should reflect His authority in us.  “I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down”.  Paul doesn’t want to be the heavy to those who are in the church as Christ Followers.  We need to examine ourselves and be sure we are living His way.

SO what does that look like?  Paul gives us a list:

  • rejoice – be happy and exalth the one who gives us life
  • Aim for restoration – resolve differences and be right with all around you
  • comfort one another – life is hard and we need to do it together and help each other with the hard things
  • agree with one another – unity is God’s desire, not division.  We need to find common ground and focus on that
  • live in peace – even in disagreements we need to focus on the greater good and God’s ultimate plan
  • Greet one another with a holy kiss” – maybe not something culturally accepted today, but we need to be joyful in our greetings

And what will be the result of living God’s way every day?  “And the God of love and peace will be with you”.  We sometimes think we have to give up too much to follow Jesus.   I think not.  What is a life of love and peace worth?  Isn’t it worth giving Him your all and all of you?

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1 Corinthians 12

1 Corinthians 12 has Paul jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.  He just finished laying out God’s plan for authority and accountability, and certainly wasn’t popular with most everyone who heard the design of God’s headship plan.  But now he dives into the topic of spiritual gifts, another area that has been divisive in the church for centuries. “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone”.  My understanding of spiritual gifts breaks the spiritual gifts into three distinct buckets or varieties:

  • Motivational gifts (equipping) – Rom 12:4-8
  • Ministry gifts (service) – Ephesians 4:11–13 and 1 Corinthians 12:27–31
  • Manifestation gifts (activities to bring God glory) – 1 Cor 12:7-11

Paul lists the manifestation gifts specifically:

  • Word of wisdom
  • Word of knowledge
  • Faith
  • Gifts of healing
  • Working of miracles
  • Prophecy
  • Discerning of spirits
  • Diverse kinds of tongues
  • Interpretation of tongues

God works through a believer in a given situation to demonstrate His supernatural power. The Spirit of God is the Source of these gifts, and they are manifested for the benefit of others and to bring God glory.

Churches and those who attend have gotten hung up on spiritual gifts in many ways.  Paul makes it very clear that they are a direct gift from God.  “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills”.  We don’t make them.  We don’t find them.  We simply are given them by God as He desires.  And most importantly, gifts are never given to divide, but to unify us as the body of Christ.  “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit…. God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose”.  Having a certain gift does not make one more important or holy.  God gives out His gifts as He wishes and we merely are the recipient of His blessing and should use whatever gifts He bestows for His glory, not our own.

We need each other to succeed as the Body of Christ.  It is not a solo event where we are off doing our own thing in our own way.  As a member of the Body, God has gifted us with certain spiritual gifts that we might be unified and together accomplish His will and bring His Kingdom to earth.  “But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another”.  We are knit together through our Heavenly Father as Christ Followers and need to realize that we are part of His plan given His gifts to give Him glory.  Whatever gifts we have, we need to use them to unify the body and glorify God!

1 Corinthians 10

1 Corinthians 10 has Paul giving a history lesson on how God’s children got to where they were.  “For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea”.  They all came out of Egypt the same way following the same God and escaping through the same grace.  “For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ”.  God led them to safety, but He was not pleased.  “Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness”.  They forgot His blessing and fell into idolatry.

So why does scripture take such care to record those things?  “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as  they did….Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come”.  God desires us to walk successfully with Him.  He’s given us a manual to give us the path to success.  We merely need to walk in obedience to His will.  We need to stay in sync with Him and His standards.  It’s not impossible.  They chose idolatry, sexual immorality and put Christ to the test.  That didn’t end well.

But we have their history and God’s success manual (the Bible) at our disposal.  Plus we have this promise: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it”.  Did you catch that.  NO temptation we face is beyond our ability to resist.  It completely comes down to choice.  We are not victims of sin.  We choose to sin.  Which means we can choose NOT to sin as well.  And one of those key areas is how we relate to God and His rightful place on the throne of our life.  When we allow ANYTHING else to take God’s place, it is idolatry.  “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry”.  We have to choose to keep God on the throne!

Paul goes on to give us two key live principles that we should remember.  “All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things build up”.  We have a lot of flexibility in how we live before God.  But life is not just about us.  In fact, it really is not about us at all.  We often take the selfish approach and think only of ourselves and not the consequences of our actions on those in our patch.  That is not God’s way to live.  We must always pay attention to how our choices impact those around us.  He goes on to give us the real measure of those choices we must make.  “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”.  It is about asking ourselves whether the choice we face will honor and glorify God.  Does it give God glory, or is it an embarrassment that we are Christ Followers failing to live for Him?  That is the question.

Matthew 18

Matthew 18 is a chapter with a lot of important lessons, and promises.  Jesus begins with answering a deep question raised by His disciples. “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”?  The answer they got was not what was expected.  Jesus tells them “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”.  He starts with the requirement to even enter heaven – to become like a child.  That means complete and full faith.  But Jesus adds some color to His answer:

  • humbles himself like this child is the  greatest in the kingdom of heaven
  • receives one such child in my name receives me
  • causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck
  • despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father”

Jesus is clear that it isn’t the biblical scholars who will be greatest in heaven.  It is those who truly put all their faith in Him.  Scripture points that out in Hebrews 11 with the faith hall of fame – it is those who put all their faith and trust in God that are called out as great.  But Jesus goes on to talk about the importance of a word our society doesn’t like to talk about today – sin.  “Woe to the world for temptations to sin”! Sin is a big deal in God’s eyes.  It isn’t some little mistake – sin is missing the mark – it is disobedience to a holy and righteous God.  And it comes with consequences. Jesus talks about those consequences this way:  “It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire”.

Sin matters to God. In fact, it is sin that will keep us from spending eternity with Him.  He can’t tolerate sin because of His nature of godliness, holiness and righteousness.  It will disqualify us from entering heaven.  Jesus came to this earth to address man’s greatest problem – the reality that every one of us is guilty of sin and will someday stand before a Holy and Righteous Judge who will have to deal with the sinful life we have all lived.  Standing before Him on our own, the outcome won’t go well.  We’ll be banished from heaven.  But if we’ve address the sin of our life – if we’ve received the gift of grace God provided through the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross and confessed and repented as we believed and received – our sin will be covered and we’ll stand before Him as righteous and worthy.  That’s what is at stake here and what Jesus is talking about.  Sin is real – and it has eternal consequences.

Jesus addresses a key challenge we face in the church today – what do we do with sin?  “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector”.  Does sin matter?  Enough God tells us we have to deal with it and purge it from the church.  But the method here is critical and clear.  It doesn’t begin by telling your friends and neighbors about someone elses transgressions.  It has to begin one on one.  Then one to a couple.  And if after all those efforts, finally it comes to a broader group in the church.  Too often it gets done incorrectly and causes destruction and division.  Jesus gave us the formula to address sin.  Failing to do it this way is sin itself.

He gives us a promise about the power of prayer and His Spirit we need to claim and cling to.  “If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask,  it will be done for them by my Father in heaven”.  What are the limitations to prayer?  There aren’t any.  There is power in community and the fellowship of believers.  We need to spend time together.  He goes on to say “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them”.  It doesn’t say He might show up.  God is where His people are.  We need to remember that and not only relish His presence, but act like He’s there with us!

He ends by answering a question Peter asks about forgiveness and how many times we should forgive someone.  Peter suggested maybe seven times was the limit.  But Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven”.  Forgiveness knows no limits.  That’s a good thing or we’d be in deep trouble before a Holy God.  But because of Jesus shed blood and the forgiveness of sin that He has provided, we’re forgiven as many times as it takes.  And we need to do the same to those in our patch. In fact, Jesus makes that clear. “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart”.  If we fail to forgive as God has forgiven us through Christ, we will have to answer to God for those choices.  If we know Jesus we’ve been forgiven, so we are required to do the same to those in our patch!

Haggai 1

Haggai 1 has this prophet getting after the remnant that has returned after their 70 year exile.  His prophecy begins in 520 b.c. and is under the rein of Zerubbabel who was governor of Judah and Joshua who was the high priest.  When Haggai speaks to God’s people, they have been back in Jerusalem for 18 years, but for the last 14 years, the work on God’s temple has come to a halt.  The people had convinced themselves it wasn’t time to rebuild the temple – the work was too hard.  “These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord’.

There was a shortage of manpower and money.  There were crop failures and their enemies resisted what they were doing.  Life had actually been easier in captivity.  But God speaks to them through Haggai.  “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while  this house lies in ruins”?  God expects them to focus and get after building His temple.  Haggai addresses the problem head on.  “Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little.  You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes”.

Life hasn’t been so good has it?  Haggai reminds them that their unwillingness to obey God’s desire is creating quite a mess in their life.  And if once wasn’t enough, he reminds them even more strongly.  “Consider your ways….You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house”.  In case they didn’t connect the dots, Haggai does it for them.  Their situation is because they have ignored God’s desire to rebuild His temple and put things back in place.  It is about God’s timing, not what they feel it should be.

We too need to consider our ways.  How we live matters.  Haggai calls out the people of Judah and they finally listen and “obeyed the voice of the Lord their God.”  But even more, “the people feared the Lord”.  Haggai was able to touch their hearts and help them realize the God they serve and how important the work was.  Through Haggai and his words, “the Lord stirred up….the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and  worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God”.  The stirring of their spirit wasn’t just a spiritual experience but resulted in a stirring of action that caused them to restart the hard work of rebuilding God’s House!

Habakkuk 3 has the prophet continuing to wait upon the Lord. In this chapter, he prays.  “I have heard the report of you, and your work, O Lord, do I fear”.  While Habakkuk has been vocal about his disappointment in God’s slow response to the evil around him, he also understands that God alone is in control and the timing of His response is all His – not something He’s seeking Habakkuk or anyone else to provide input.  We sometimes forget who is in charge and try to tell God what to do too.  But God alone sits in authority over our universe.  He’s not necessarily looking for our input, just our obedience.

Habakkuk realizes that God has a plan for His people.  God is in the restoration business, but on His terms and His timeline. “You went out for the salvation of your people, for the salvation of your anointed. You crushed the head of the house of the wicked, laying him bare from thigh to neck”.  And God will win, no matter who the adversary may be.  We can read the end of the book and know that God alone prevails.  He is the victor over all evil.  We need to cling to that and let Him be God.

While Habakkuk has been impatient about God’s response, he seems to be understanding that his pushing isn’t going to necessarily move God to do it sooner.  God has His own timeline.  So Habakkuk concedes saying “Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us”. He realizes that all things happen in God’s time and in God’s way.  His job is to wait upon the Lord and walk in obedience to Him.  Too often we want to dictate what we say and do and don’t necessarily seek God’s direction and walk in His ways.

But there is plenty to rejoice in.  God has prepared an amazing future for those of us who chose to deal with our sin and be set free for an eternity in His presence. “I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer’s; He makes me tread on my high places”.  We have an amazing future ahead if we walk with God.  That means addressing the sin problem that we have because of the choices we make that are contrary to God’s will and ways.  But Jesus came to provide a way for us to overcome those things – a free gift of grace we have only to receive!

Habakkuk 2

Habakkuk 2 has the prophet a bit irritated with the speed at which God is dealing with the evil around him.  “I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint”. Habakkuk has an axe to grind with God – these evil people are not being dealt with as quickly as he things is appropriate, and he simply can’t stand on the sidelines and watch them ‘get away’ with how they are living.

God welcomes our questions and concerns.  He hears and responds to Habakkuk.  “And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay”.  So God wants His prophet to capture the answer and make it known to all the people.  But it happens in His time, in His way, not as we might wish it to be.  Habakkuk gets some clarity from God.

“The righteous shall live by his faith”.  The reality is that God’s plan has never changed.  From the Garden with Adam and Eve, until this very day, God has been all about a relationship with us.  He desires us to walk in obedience to His commandments and live a life worthy of His calling.  Unfortunately, when we take control of our lives and push Him aside, we go astray.  “You have devised shame for your house by cutting off many peoples; you have forfeited your life”.  We put self ahead of all else and cut ourselves off from His blessing.

But our choices don’t change God’s design and plan.  He is still in control, even when He lets us seemingly run our own lives for a time.  One day we’ll understand that reality. “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea”.  God is Creator and Author.  He is the Almighty and sits in a place of oversight and control.  He gives us free will, which if not lived well, gets us into all sorts of trouble.  The issue with choice is we often make the wrong one and pick sinful actions.  Those carry a price, and God’s righteousness will become ours if we don’t deal with our sin through Jesus sacrifice on the Cross.

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