Devotional Reading for September 19, 2022

2 Corinthians 12

(1-10) Paul really doesn’t try to hide the fact that he’s boasting about himself in the first few verses, but he acts like it’s somebody else. If he’s going to boast, it’s about his weakness. If he can’t do it in his own strength, then it’s God working through him. And God has helped him out with that, by giving him a “thorn in the flesh” to deal with! Although there are many suggestions concerning what that was, it seems best to see it as a physical ailment because of the way it’s described. Paul wasn’t above asking it to be removed, and did so three times. But three times it was revealed to him that it was God’s will for the thorn to remain, so he stopped asking. How does this correlate with the idea that we are to be persistent in prayer? Well, Paul seemingly got an answer, so he stopped. Should this remind us of Jesus in the Garden?

(11-21) Paul reminds them that he lacks nothing compared to the “super-apostles.” He displayed the “signs of an apostle” (identified as “signs and wonders and powerful deeds“). Neither he nor his companions were ever a burden to them, nor would they be. The difference in ministry was so stark compared to his opponents that they claimed he was only that way to try to deceive the Corinthians! All Paul wants to do is build them up on his next visit, but he’s worried that it won’t happen. He’s afraid that after all his boasting about them and his care for them that they will still be engaging in sinful practices.

There is quite a list here of things that we (as individuals) and we (as churches) should stay away from: quarreling, jealousy, intense anger, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance, disorder, sexual immorality, and licentiousness (lack of self-restraint, probably in sexual matters). How are you doing?

Sermon outline for 9/18/22 (Radio broadcast 9/25/22) — “Being an Influencer”

“Being an Influencer”
Esther 8:1-17

I) ________________ leadership is an ongoing problem

     A) Government is meant to be ___________

     B) But it is corrupted by _______

     C) Xerxes is _____________

     D) Xerxes is _____________

II) Esther is an example of how we can _____________ society

     A) Some see Esther as __________

     B) But Esther is _________

          1) She is _______________

          2) She uses what is at her ___________

          3) She appeals to the kings ______________

          4) She realizes that ________ is at work

     C) She teaches us that we need to be __________ and

III) Our influence should be ____________

     A) The Jews are given the power to ___________ 

     B) People notice the ____________

     C) But do their hearts really ____________?

     D) We can’t know peoples ___________

     E) But we can continue to _____________!

Devotional Reading for September 18, 2022

2 Corinthians 11:16-33

Paul says that the church is willingly enslaving themselves to masters that only want to exploit them (11:20). Why would they put up with that? Paul decides to reiterate why he is better than the other “super-apostles“, even though he can’t believe he is being so crass (11:23). Not only does he have the same “qualifications” (Hebrew, Israelite, Abraham), but he has shown his ongoing love and support of the church by enduring more suffering and hardship than the “super-apostles” could ever imagine (11:22-33). Does that make him weak? Well, he’d rather boast in his weakness than in his accomplishments (11:29). Why? Because, as he says later, “whenever I am weak, then I am strong” (12:10).

Do we sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that being prosperous and escaping hardship means that people have a better relationship with God? Paul should help us to believe otherwise. We need to be sure that we aren’t awed by “human standards” when we look at others.

Devotional Reading for September 17, 2022

2 Corinthians 11:1-15

Paul is about to challenge the Corinthians about the false teachers in their midst. He considers himself their father, and they are his daughter (the Greek word for “church” is feminine). He wants to present them as a perfect and holy bride for Christ. Unfortunately, some of them are being corrupted by false teaching. The passage presents several characteristics of false teachers that serve as a warning for us in our own day and age:

  • They are arrogant. They consider themselves to be “super apostles” (5). They consider eloquence of speech to be superior to knowledge (6).
  • They are greedy. They belittle Paul for not charging for his teaching (7). Paul makes it clear that he is being supported by other churches (8), but he won’t accept money from them because he wants to be differentiated from the false teachers (12).
  • They are deceitful and deceptive. They are like the serpent in the garden (3) who questioned God’s provision and the truth of His Word. They preach a false Christ and a false gospel through a false spirit (4). They disguise themselves as “servants of righteousness” (15) and “apostles of Christ” (13), when they are anything but.
  • They are evil. They are like Satan, who “disguises himself as an angel of light” (14).

Devotional Reading for September 16, 2022

2 Corinthians 10

Paul (and his companions) are being personally attacked and ridiculed. Some say that, although he has been forceful in his letters, he has a weak personality in person. Paul warns them to be careful what they ask for! He will defend himself if he has to! His opponents are concerned about outward appearances and human standards. If Paul boasts it is because of his spiritual authority, which he has because he is the one who started the church! He has the right to confront and correct because he brought them the gospel! In fact, his ministry is such that he will bring the gospel to new areas, instead of interfering in other places where churches have been planted!

How often have we seen this happen in other churches? Someone comes in from the outside and confronts those who hold legitimate spiritual authority in the church, all because they want power and recognition. And most of the time it’s not even about spiritual matters, but matters of personality and “human standards.” If we ever do challenge the leadership in our churches, we’d better make sure that we’re doing it for the right reasons.

Devotional Reading for September 15, 2022

2 Corinthians 9

Paul continues his appeal to the Corinthians to be generous with their offering. As we read, we see several principles for our own giving:

  • God blesses us materially so that we can bless others.
  • When we give, we give willingly and cheerfully.
  • We are blessed spiritually when we give (the harvest of our righteousness will grow, God will make all grace abound to us, and our righteousness will endure forever).
  • A part of that blessing is that others will pray for us because of our obedience and our generosity.
  • And, best of all, God will be glorified and thanked because of us as well!
  • Our willingness to give is a poor reflection of the inexpressible gift that God has given to us in Christ.

Devotional Reading for September 14, 2022

2 Corinthians 8

The next two chapters deal with the collection of money for poor Christians in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:1-3). As we step through todays reading, see what insights you can apply to your own giving!

  • The churches in Macedonia have responded to the need of the Jerusalem saints in a sacrificial way (1-3).
  • They responded freely (3).
  • They saw it as a way of fellowship and ministry to others (4).
  • Their material sacrifice was exceeded by their spiritual sacrifice in rededicating themselves to the Lord and to Paul’s ministry (5). Their rededication to Paul may have had a financial component as well (Philippians 4:10-18).
  • Titus was on his way to the Corinthian church. Paul encouraged them to abound in their generosity just as they excelled in other areas (6-7).
  • Once again, the freewill nature of the offering is stressed (8). Their giving is an expression of their love.
  • Jesus left heaven and lived as a man so that we could be redeemed. We, who were lost in sin, are saved through Him (9). Isn’t that a reason to show grace to others in a practical way? They need to remember the grace that they have been shown!
  • Since they pledged to give they need to give. They must follow through. But it needs to be willing, and it needs to be realistic (10-12). Is pledging what we don’t have testing God?
  • We have a responsibility towards each other. If we have been blessed, we should help those who have not been as blessed. That is the fairness Paul is calling the Corinthians to (13-15). They will still have what they need (Exodus 16:18).
  • When Titus comes to collect the offering, he is not coming alone. A trusted associate is coming with him who has been chosen by the churches. This is to protect the integrity of the offering, as well as the integrity of Titus! They want to make sure that everything is correct and above board both before the Lord and before men (16-23).
  • Paul again encourages the Corinthians to show their love and fulfill his pride in them (24)!

Devotional Reading for September 13, 2022

2 Corinthians 7

7:1-3 Since God lives in us and we are his children (2 Corinthians 6:16-18), we should now live holy lives out of reverence for Him. Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthians includes an entreaty: we love you, so please listen to us. Don’t shut us out!

7:4-16 And Paul is encouraged that they won’t. There had been an issue in the church (perhaps related to 1 Corinthians 5:1, or something else dealing specifically with an attack on Paul and his apostleship, or both), and Paul wrote a letter that had made them sad. But they listened to what he said! Titus reported back to Paul that they had not only encouraged and refreshed him, but they had responded appropriately to Paul’s letter. They repented of the wrong they were engaging in (in fact, they met Titus with “fear and trembling“) and reaffirmed their concern for Paul. He ends by rejoicing that his confidence in them wasn’t misplaced.

In addition to the reminder to live holy lives, we are also reminded that “sadness as intended by God produces a repentance that leads to salvation, leaving no regret, but worldly sadness brings about death.” Salvation here probably doesn’t mean our initial conversion, but growth and progress in our Christian life. While repentance is necessary for conversion, it is also necessary for Christian maturity. True repentance leads us to a right and growing relationship with God, but simple sadness doesn’t do that. The key here is probably that repentance can mean “a change of mind.” Sorrow doesn’t necessarily mean change, and continuing in our sinful excesses can certainly bring death!

Devotional Reading for September 12, 2022

2 Corinthians 6

Now is the time to work! Now is the time to share! Now is the day of salvation! They are being called to join with Paul and his companions as fellow workers (6:1). Paul and his companions have endured all kinds of hardship for them. But even in the midst of it they have continued in purity, knowledge, patience, benevolence, love, and truthful teaching (6:4-7). They have continued to minister by the Holy Spirit and in the power of God with weapons of righteousness (6:6-7). They are poor, but they make others rich by the gospel message; they have nothing, but they possess everything in Christ (6:10). Paul and his companions gave everything so that the Corinthian church could know God. Surely the church will join them in their work? Surely the church will hold fast to the gospel? Surely the church will have the same priorities and affection as they do (6:12)?

But instead, the church has joined with those who don’t believe. The issue here is the partnership. Perhaps they are following false teachers (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). Perhaps they are joining pagan temples. Paul’s warning is clear and is backed by Scripture (Leviticus 26:11-12; Isaiah 52:11): don’t be in a situation where you end up yielding control of your actions to another who doesn’t know or follow God. The church has, and they are in danger of having received the gospel in vain (6:1). They have forgotten that they are the temple of the living God (6:16), and that they serve an “All-Powerful Lord” (6:18)!

If we want our lives to glorify God more and more, and we want the gospel we believed to bear lasting fruit in our lives, we have to devote ourselves to holiness and service. A part of that holiness is being careful who we partner with. But note: even with that devotion, it doesn’t mean that we’ll never experience hardship. In fact, it’s what comes out of that hardship that shows our character and maturity (or our lack of character and immaturity). Is it purity, knowledge, patience, benevolence, and love? Do we sorrow, yet rejoice? Do we make others rich? Do we have nothing, but possess everything? If so, we know whose we are and who we serve!

Devotional Reading for September 11, 2022

2 Corinthians 5

(1-11) Speaking of eternity (4:18), we instinctively know that there is more than this earthly life. We long for it. We look forward to it. Our bodies are waiting for an upgrade! We shouldn’t fear death, because death actually frees us to go be with God, and He’s given us the Spirit as a guarantee of that future life. While we wait, we are responsible for what we do in this life with our earthly bodies. We are to make sure that we please God in this life, because one day we’ll stand before him to receive our rewards (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

(11-21) Paul and his companions know God, and they want to make Him known to others. They look at people from a spiritual perspective rather than an earthly one. They are God’s ambassadors and have been given the ministry of reconciliation. That is their priority, and they do it sincerely and soberly. They don’t try to appear spiritual outwardly; they are spiritual inwardly! Paul hopes that the Corinthians are proud of them because of their commitment and genuineness. It is their love of Christ that drives them. How could they not love Christ? He was made sin for us! Christ died for all (who believe), so that all (who believe) could die to sin. Believers are new creations, reconciled to God, forgiven of their sins, and made righteous.

The bottom line: God has saved us and given us the power to live a life pleasing to Him. A part of that is realizing that we have been given the ministry of reconciliation too. We may not be ministers or missionaries, but God has brought people into our lives that we are uniquely able to reach out to. Let’s do it!