August 10 – Looking for God’s Light, Not Artificial Light

2 Corinthians 11; 2 Kings 25; Habakkuk 2

“And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15 NKJV) 

The Corinthians had a problem. If someone seemed to talk a good Christian game, they’d follow them. Because of that, they were easy prey for those who would lead them astray. Paul had no problem describing these people as ministers of Satan who might look good on the outside, but deep down, their purpose was to deceive those who would follow Christ and lead them astray. In the long run, even if it waited until the end of this life, they would face an end that would be fitting for their spiritual crimes.

I see this in the world today. Many so-called Christian leaders have gained huge followings, raked in a lot of offerings – for Kingdom work of course, and have been well-respected by people of many different persuasions. Then the truth came out. Their downfalls were swift as their lifestyles proved them to be false ministers of the gospel. Perhaps the most tragic, but pertinent example would the that of Jim Jones. He began as the pastor of a local church who slowly led people away from the gospel and into his flock. Their end was death. Paul’s teachings give us two warnings. The first is to be careful of anyone who seems to be drawing people to themselves instead of Jesus. The second is a reminder to all God’s people that our lives should be tied into Christ and not to our own glory. If we continue to point people to Jesus, we’ll never be in the position of becoming false ministers of God.

Lord, give me wisdom and discernment in dealing with others. Help me to stay true to You rather than following popular but false teachers, and when I’m teaching others.

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August 9 – Knowing The Enemy

2 Corinthians 10; 2 Kings 23:36-24:20; Habakkuk 1

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds…” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4 NKJV) 

One of the most amazing things about Paul’s discussion with the Corinthian Church was his need to defend his own apostleship to them. People who came after Paul to fleece..er…build the church may have been more eloquent, they commanded greater offerings, perhaps they were even more attractive as physical specimens. Paul was accused of being weak and of having strong words in his letters, but not being so imposing when people met him in person. Paul reminded them not only of his apostleship, he reminded them of the battle they faced. We don’t war according to the flesh. We’re in a spiritual battle. Our enemies are not those we can see, they are the spiritual forces of wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12) The most effective weapons we can wield in this war are not related to our physical prowess or even greatest technological advances in weaponry; our most effective weapons spring from our relationship with God.

As Christians, we need to remember our battle. We’re called to wage war against the devil and his demons. We aren’t at war against those of other religions – although we’re called to show them the love of God. We aren’t at war against “those sinners,” (meaning of course, the people whose sin is different from ours) – although we’re called to show them God’s forgiveness. If you can see, or touch, hear another person – we aren’t at war against them. We should see these people as potential allies in the war against the spiritual forces of wickedness. Some are trapped in the darkness of evil. Our job is to free them to see the light of Jesus. The greatest weapon we have in the battle against the forces of wickedness is a life that shows others the love of God. Good overcomes evil, when our “goodness” is based in our relationship with Jesus Christ. If you really want to prevail against the devil and those evil forces, live in obedience to Christ and show His love to others. That will work miracles.

Lord, remind me who the enemy isn’t as I go about my life each day. Help me to treat all people with Your love and grace. Make me a warrior against evil by helping me to live in obedience to You.

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August 8 – Attitudes in Giving

2 Corinthians 9; 2 Kings 22:1-23:35; Nahum 3

“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. And God is able to bless you abundantly. So that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8-9)

Many people don’t think we should talk about giving because giving’s a personal matter. Paul recognized that. He didn’t set a percentage, or an amount, he established an attitude. We should give with rich generosity, We should give what we’ve decided in our heart to give. We shouldn’t give because we feel an obligation to give or give when we’re reluctant to give. If we understand that our giving is going to advance the Kingdom of God, we can give generously and cheerfully. What can we expect? To have enough for our need and to be able to do good things in God’s kingdom. Many in our society use money to keep score. We look at land, houses, cars, bank accounts, jewelry, and many other things to judge the worth of a person. Paul would tell people that God looks at your attitudes in giving, and what you do with that wealth to promote the Kingdom of God to keep score. 

Giving is NOT a condition of salvation, please remember that. Our salvation was bought and paid for at the cross by Jesus Christ. But one of the ways we experience joy in salvation is by giving to and participating in God’s work. Wealth is not an eternal measuring stick, generosity is. Ebenezer Scrooge found that out in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. We may find temporary pleasure in a new car or a nicy, shiny piece of jewelry, but the joy of seeing people coming to know Jesus, or growing as a Christian lasts forever. The joy of seeing someone who’s been blessed by the generosity of God’s people is eternal. Look at your giving. If you’re not giving generously, with great joy, try giving more and thinking about how God will use that gift. It will bring great joy to your heart. And if it doesn’t, You can have double your misery back.

Lord, thank You for joy in giving. Thank You that not only can I support others in doing Your work by giving, I can also have enough to do Your work as I trust in You. 

 

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August 7 – The Rich Generosity of the Grace of God

2 Corinthians 8; 2 Kings 20-21; Nahum 2

“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.” (2 Corinthians 8:9) 

In 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, Paul taught about giving. He began by giving an example from the Macedonian churches as he noted that they gave in grace, in severe trials, in extreme poverty, they gave generously, they recognized giving was a privilege, and they gave themselves first to the Lord, and then gave to others. The second example was even more powerful: Jesus Christ. He had all the wealth of all of creation at His disposal, and yet He gave it all up to come to earth to die on the cross so that we, through His great sacrifice, might become rich. Given Paul’s theme in these two chapters, he obviously meant that we could become rich in generosity as we give to God’s work in the grace of God.

The two mistakes that people make when talking about giving is that 1) it’s a burden, and 2) that we give so we can get back, because, you know, “God’s gonna bless you real good.” When we approach giving as followers of Christ, it should be a joy to give to God’s work and to help others. Because my wife and I practice percentage giving, when she writes our check to the church, we’re reminded of how much God has blessed us over the past week, or month. It’s a joy to be able to give larger amounts. And when our giving checks aren’t so big, we’re stll joyful that God has blessed us enough to be able to give and still have money left over. We rejoice as we think about how God’s people will use that money in His kingdom work. We don’t “give to get” either. Some people believe that when Jesus taught about God giving back a hundred fold, that it applies to money and when they write their $200 check to the church, they’re expecting $20,000 to be lying in a sack on their doorstep. The truth is, that we give in rich generosity by the grace of God so that we can meet the needs of others, knowing that when times get tough for us, God will have ways of meeting our needs. When we give generously under the grace of God, we have a reward that’s far greater than any financial return. We can rejoice that God counted us faithful and allowed us to have a part in His kingdom work.

Lord, thank You for the blessing of being able to give. Give me the grace to give generously to others so that I might play a small part in growing Your kingdom.

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August 6 – Godly Sorrow vs. Worldly Sorrow

My wife and I returned from a cruise on Friday, and Saturday I barely opened my computer and Sunday’s are just full…including the fact that we traveled again Sunday – for medical reason. I say that because I’m going to be posting past devotionals every hour until I get caught up. Please forgive me if this slams your inbox.

2 Corinthians 6:14-7:16; 2 Kings 19; Nahum 1

“Godly sorrow brings repentence that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10 NIV) 

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians dealt with a serious moral issue and Paul called them on the carpet about it. The Corinthians could have responded in one of two possible ways. They could have responded in anger and been sorry they ever listened to Paul in the first place, or they could have realized they were doing wrong, been sorry, and taken steps to correct it. They chose the second option – the good one. They became so zealous to do what was right that Paul now had to teach them the process of restoring someone who was caught in their sin and repented. He reminded them that their godly sorrow ultimately brought a desire to see justice done. 

A while back, someone mentioned some mistakes I had made in my work at church. They were right, to a degree, but rather than taking the criticism as it was meant, which was a way to help me do my work better, I got my hackles up and reacted defensively. That worldly sorrow response put a strain on our relationship.It took me a while to respond in godly sorrow and accept the criticism, which was just, as a caring comment to help me do my job better. While this wasn’t a moral issue, it highlights the problems we have as Christians when seeking to help people understand God’s love. These days, when we speak to people on moral issues, those on the other side of the issue from us assume that our comments come from hate. Society at large seems to accept the “anything goes” lifestyles of those opposed to the gospel and brand us with the same label of hate. They are, in Paul’s words, headed for death. There are times, though, when God’s ways and purposes become clear and our teachings lead to godly sorrow and people repent and turn to God. Their godly sorrow leads them to salvation, and they don’t regret leaving their past lives behind because the joy of living for the Lord is so amazing. 

Lord, first of all, make me receptive to godly criticism so that I can respond as You would have me do so when someone corrects me. Second, let me seep my concerns for others in Your love so much that anything I say might result in godly sorrow and repentence, and not worldly sorrow shown in defensiveness.

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Another Quick Update

We’re back in port. Communications restored. Will be uploading back devotionals once I get home. Wife and I took a four day cruise. I thought I had arranged internet. Ship didn’t. I wasn’t going to pay that much for it. So…

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Quick Update

My wife and I are on a family vacation. I thought we arranged internet service. Now, I’m not sure. If I don’t post the next couple days, please forgive me.

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August 5 – Learning to Do “Job One” as a Minister of God

2 Corinthians 5:11-6:13; 2 Kings 18; Micah 7

“We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed. But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God:” (2 Corinthians 6:3-41 NKJV) 

There are some people who seem to think that the more they offend people, the stronger their ministry and message is. Paul didn’t think so. I have no doubt that people were offended by Paul’s preaching, because the message of the cross is very offensive, but as a minister of God, he went through a lot of different issues with the same attitude: God loves you and wants to develop a relationship with you. If you keep reading in the passage you’ll note a long string of different circumstances that Paul went through, but in all things he stayed true to the message that God makes forgiveness available to all people through Jesus Christ. 

Years ago I worked with someone who would share the gospel and inevitably find some way to make his presentation offensive on a personal level. When the person rejected my co-worker’s presentation, they’d walk away and say, smugly, “Well, they may not have gotten saved, but they sure got told.” I’ve had to make some adjustments in my own life because I realized that many of the things I was talking about to others would cause an offense that would keep people from hearing about the love of Jesus. Just as Paul recognized that “job one” was to proclaim the gospel and help people grow in their faith, I had to realize that I had the same responsibility. I urge you to look at your interactions with people and ask yourself if they lead people toward the love of God or if they set up roadblocks that would keep them from coming to know God’s love and forgiveness. Commend yourself as a minister of God.

Lord, teach me to share Your love and grace with all people. Help me to remember that my one job is to serve as Your minister to a world that needs to be reconciled to you. 

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August 4 – You Have Purpose!

2 Corinthians 4:1 – 5:10; 2 Kings 17; Micah 6

 

“Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:9 NKJV)

Throughout this section Paul deals with Christians and the issue of life and death. As he dealt with the questions from the church, they asked a question that’s still discussed today. Is it better to keep on living on this earth, or would it be better to be with Jesus right away. In short, if we’re absent from the body, we’re present with the Lord. If we’re present in the body, were absent from the Lord. I believe the influence of Greek culture, which saw material things, especially the body as evil, made this an important question to the Corinthians. Paul’s response is timeless: wherever we are, whatever we do, we’re called to please God. In other words, God still has something for us to do.

Let that thought sink in. God has something for you to do. He’s called you for a purpose. Following Christ is not a decision we make so that we’ll have fire insurance in the hereafter, we follow Christ to enter into and develop a relationship with God. Because of that relationship, we should want to do whatever we can to please God. We don’t serve Him out of fear of losing our relationship with Him; we serve Him out of a desire to experience a greater joy in our relationship. Throughout the Old and New Testament, our relationship with God is described as a marriage. In a good marriage, husbands and wives don’t act because they’re afraid their spouse won’t love them if they don’t, they act because they want the relationship to grow stronger and stronger. That should be our attitude as we live daily in our relationship with God. 

Lord, teach me how to live a life that’s well pleasing to You. Remind me of Your call on my life each day. 

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August 3 – Smelly Christians

2 Corinthians 2:5-3:18; 2 Kings 15-16; Micah 5:2-15

“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. (2 Corinthians 2:14-16 NKJV)

One experience common to many religions is the experience of aroma. In the Old Testament system of sacrifices, the burning of the sacrifice was meant to be an aroma pleasing to God. There was even a special form of incense that was to be used only in worship. One of the gifts for the baby Jesus was frankincense which had a pleasant aroma. In other religions, incense might be used and any burnt offerings were meant to be a pleasing aroma to their deity. Among Christians, some churches use censers loaded with incense as part of their worship. Paul must have had that concept in mind as he talked about Christians being the fragrance of Christ. To those who are part of God’s kingdom, we are a pleasant aroma leading to life. To those outside the church – we have the stench of death about us.

Aroma makes a great impact on all of us. I’m going to make a bit of a confession here: I don’t like bacon. Really. When I go into a store that’s cooking bacon, I shudder because the aroma of bacon bothers me. So I don’t eat bacon, but I don’t attack people who enjoy it. As our world becomes more polarized, Christian viewpoints are being attacked by many who have different or no religious beliefs. The “aroma” of our faith so bothers people that they attack our faith and our beliefs rather than engaging in dialogue or even ignoring us. To those who aren’t of the kingdom of God, our faith is a stench. But, those who are of the faith can usually tell other Christians because their lives are a pleasant aroma: the aroma of God’s love. While Paul used figurative language here, the truth is that our teaching isn’t and won’t be accepted by those who are not in a relationship with Christ. Our job isn’t to condemn those people; our job is to show the love of Christ to them with the hope of helping them become sweet smelling citizens of the Kingdom of God.

Lord, let my life always be a sweet aroma of righteousness to You. Let me continue to love those who haven’t turned to You yet so that they too may one day enter into Your Kingdom.

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