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Category Archives: 2 Corinthians

The Flood – Genesis 7:17-24


The image above is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image itself is called “And Such Were You” and was created by Matthew L. Clark and Ned Bustard.

Dear God, I looked at this passage this morning and looked at the picture for a while and, frankly, I was having trouble getting anything from it. Then I read Bustard’s commentary in the bottom paragraph on the left. It says:

This large woodcut lifts the wave from the famous Ulithi-e woodblock print The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai Katsushika and the ark from a small Washington print by Saadi Watanabe to create an image intended to communicate the idea of God’s goodness as seen through the preservation and redemption of the unworthy. The animals on this ark are not the cute, innocent animals found in a Noah’s Ark play set. According to the traditional symbolism in Christian art, these animals are all evil: the bear (evil influence), the cat (laziness), the goat (the damned), the blackbird (temptation of the flesh), the ape (malice), the leopard (cruelty), the owl (devotion), the hog (gluttony) and the fox (guile). The passengers on the ark that God chooses to save are undeserving–as are the people described in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.

So, of course, after I read that, I went to 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral nor idolators nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor greedy nor dunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (NIV)

Yes, I like this. I like Bustard’s idea that you saved the unworthy with the ark and you saved me, the unworthy, with Jesus. The trick is, how do I stop grieving you with wickedness in my heart. And it’s not just the obvious that sticks out on the Corinthians passage like the idolatry and sexual immorality, but it’s the seemingly little things like slander, drunkenness and stealing. No one is innocent. We love to judge others, but none of us are pure.

Father, help me to embrace your forgiveness and pursue you. Help me to forgive others as you have forgiven me, extend grace when it isn’t deserved and being your light of love, joy, peace, gentleness, faithfulness, kindness and self control into the world.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

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2 Corinthians 5:16-21

2 Corinthians 5:16-21 [NLT]

So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

Dear God, there is some work for us to do here. We have a task set out for us—to reconcile people to you through our knowledge of who Jesus is and what He did. We are Jesus’ ambassadors, and you use us to make your appeal to people. And what’s our message? That Jesus came to bring us freedom through the release of our sins by His own sacrifice.

There is a billboard out on the highway about five miles outside of my town. It’s says something like, “Jesus can free you from your sin.” I’ve had a negative initial reaction to it. Going back to my marketing training, I’ve wondered what I would say instead. For me, it all starts with the four questions a man taught me back in 1995. These are what I ask myself before I write a piece:

  • Who am I talking to?
  • What do they think?
  • What do I want them to think?
  • How do I get them to think that?

In the case of this billboard, part of my “what do they think?” answer is that I think the word sin has a lot of baggage and, for the purposes of this billboard, I probably would have avoided it. People are miserable in their sin. They hide it. The deny it. They hold onto it because it pretends to offer them what they think they want. What they don’t want is to be judged by me or preached at by a billboard.

So what would I put on that billboard? I heard a sermon on the gospel from Andy Stanley back in December, and this thesis was, “I understand not being able to bring yourself to believe in the Jesus of the Bible, but I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t WANT it to be true.” That’s probably where I would go with this billboard. As your ambassador, I think my message should be, “The Jesus of the Bible can set you free!”

Father, help me to live this message to those who come across my path today. There are times when I feel like I am a terrible ambassador for you. I let way too many opportunities pass me by. I’m sorry for that. Please give me your eyes to see, ears to hear, courage to act, and words to say.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2019 in 2 Corinthians

 

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What are we selling?

Dear God, I am giving a sermon tomorrow morning at the Presbyterian church. It will be the first time I’ve done two Sundays in a rom, and I have felt the leading for a long time to give them a good serving of the Gospel–the Good News. But is it for them or is it for me?

A couple of years ago, I heard David Brooks say something that I’ve looked for online and I cannot find. He made the comment that Christians have this great message of grace, love, forgiveness, compassion, etc., but what we communicate to the world as a group is that all we really care about is what happens in their bedrooms. While I think there is a call to a certain level of purity by you and that cannot be overlooked (for example, porn is extremely toxic and dangerous), I completely agree with this thought. We do have this great message to give people.

I just stopped in the middle of writing this to see if I could find that David Brooks quote. I didn’t find it exactly, but I found a good interview with him. I found this quote in the middle of it: “Some of my more popular columns have been those about forgiveness, or the role of suffering, or what graciousness looks like. There’s a widespread hunger to hear people talk about those issues. When you touch upon those themes, I think, ‘I’m not the only person out there who is wrestling with these things and troubled by them or comforted by them.”

Later in the interview with him, the interviewer asked, “To grasp the beauty of a love for thngs that are unlovable, you have to recognize yourself as unlovable. If we don’t want to reckon with sin, is it possible to see grace?

Brooks replied, “I think you have to have a sense that you’re loved beyond what you deserve. I think we experience grace both in this world and in a divine sense when we have messed up and don’t deserve to be forgiven but are. That’s when grace becomes shocking.

So with all of that said, let’s look at the passage I have set out for tomorrow after praying to you and see if I can make some sense of the message you want me to share.

Exodus 34:29-35: When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the LORD had given him on Mount Sinai. // When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever he entered the LORD’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the LORD.

2 Corinthians 3:7-18: Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!//Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over this face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Matthew 11:28-30 [Jesus speaking] “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Father, it’s time for me to start to work on my outline, but I think it’s going to come down to this. We need to be reminded of what you are offering us and what we accepted:

  • Forgiveness of our sins and freedom from our shame
  • Peace to know that the circumstances in our physical world are all under your control, whether them seem to be working out for us or against us
  • Hope that even if tomorrow isn’t better, in the end, we win!
  • Joy that is driven by the freedom, the peace, and the hope

Then we need to be reminded that this is what we have to offer others. We have it to offer our friends and acquaintances. And as a church, they have it to offer their neighborhood and our community.

We aren’t selling morals and judgment. We aren’t selling condemnation. What we are selling is the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. And the only cost for the person is a willingness to humbly confess their sin before you, turn from their sin as they know it, and then pursue you. If those things happen, it won’t necessarily be an easy life, but the trials will shape us, and the fruit will be love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, kindness, goodness, and self-control. Who wouldn’t buy some of that?

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2018 in 2 Corinthians, Exodus, Galatians, Matthew

 

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2 Corinthians 10:17-18

“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” For it is not those who commend themselves that are approved, but those whom the Lord commends.

2 Corinthians 10:17-18

Dear God, I hope I give you enough glory for the good in my life. I have to say that over the last two months I have felt like you have been particularly gracious in answering my prayers. You’ve answered them in my personal life. You’ve really answered some concerns I’ve had about work—and not just is a mild, oh, I can explain this away kind of way. I mean, you’ve done some big things at work. I’ve tried to point your provision out to people (especially board members of the nonprofit where I work). I’ve tried to be humble and give you the glory. With some of the good fortune we’ve had lately, I think I’ve been able to successfully point them to you.

If I get the glory for any of these things, nobody wins. I don’t win because I’m a deluded fool. Those around me don’t win because they don’t see evidence of your glory and power. And you don’t win because I’ve thumbed my nose at you and your answer to my spoken and unspoken prayers.

Father, first, I’m sorry for the times, even now, that I fail to give you the proper glory. I know I do it. I know I want people to look at me and think highly of me. Second, I still have a few things in my life that distress me. You know who and what they are. Move in me. Move in these situations. Make them count. Glorify your name through them. Give me the path you need me to have and help me to walk down it.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2018 in 2 Corinthians

 

Pressed but not crushed

Dear God, over the last couple of days, I’ve spent a lot of time delving back into some stuff that was important to me back in the 90s. One is the music of Rich Mullins. The other is a book called The Tale of Three Kings. The latter is a simply written book looking at King Saul, King David, and Would-be King Absolom.

I was in my 20s back then and life looked very different to me. I have scars now that I didn’t have then. I have some wisdom that was learned by being pressed but not crushed (2 Corinthians 4:8-10). It seems, however, that I laid enough foundation in my faith to have kept me here, praying to you. For that, I’m very grateful.

And now I’m watching my kids enter their 20s. One of the hardest things to do as a parent is let them grow and walk in the path you have for them when it looks so different than the path you had for me. I remember when they were in high school and telling a friend that I don’t know what it looks like to “turn my children over to God.” I’m still not where you draw that line as the parent of a teenager. It’s easier for me to find now, although I do find myself tempted to intervene.

I’m re-reading The Tale of Three Kings and the basic thesis of the book is that you used Saul and his treatment of David to mold David into your king. The suffering David experienced at Saul’s hand made him a better king than he ever would have been on his own. As I look at my life, sure, I’ve suffered at times, but I still have enough perspective to acknowledge that my suffering has not been beyond what I could bear, or close to what others have suffered. But I can say with certainty that it was the low times that taught me the most about loving you.

Father, help me to keep from getting in the way of anything you are teaching my children. As I bless them and turn their paths over to you, help me to have faith in you that it’s all okay. Like the father who cried out for his child, my words to you are, Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. (Mark 9:24)

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2018 in 2 Corinthians, Mark

 

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2 Corinthians 12:2-10

I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know—only God knows. Yes, only God knows whether I was in my body or outside my body. But I do know that I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell. That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it. I will boast only about my weaknesses. If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:2-10

Dear God, I think the key to this passage isn’t the part about the third heaven or the thorn, but the phrase, “to keep me from becoming proud.” Oh, how pride is a downfall for so many.

As I prepare for my sermon this Sunday, I’ve been thinking about David and what his life might have been if Samuel had never anointed him king. Would he have avoided some of the sins of his life? Might he have been the next “judge” of Israel after Samuel? But with being king comes a lot of power and pride.

I certainly know pride can be something for me, and goodness knows I have the flaws, vices, and “thorns” to help keep it in check, but it’s still a continuous struggle.

Here’s a confession. I’ve been jealous of some people who are my age lately. I learned of three people lately who have done some amazing things in their careers and it’s made me feel less than. I thought about this last night. It’s as if I’m thinking the life you’ve lead me on isn’t good enough for me. I’m sorry for that. The only reason I would want to trade for those lives is power and prestige. The vanity of those jobs is the only thing about them that attracts me, and it really reveals how shallow and selfish I can be.

Father, thank you for where you’ve lead me. Thank you for forgiving my foolishness. Thank you for overlooking my weaknesses and my missed opportunities. Thank you for forgiving my sin. As I turn my eyes upon you and look full in your wonderful face, the things of earth do grow strangely dim in the light of your glory and grace.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2018 in 2 Corinthians

 

2 Corinthians 12:7b-10

So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:7b-10

Dear God, what Paul is speaking here is absolute truth, but even he seems to be unwilling to let us in on what the thorn is. He has his weakness. He says he is glad to boast about his weaknesses, but when it comes down to it, I can’t think of any examples where he actually enumerates his weaknesses. In fact, it’s one of the things that has always made Paul an unattractive biblical character to me—he’s too perfect.

The thing that I’ve noticed is that one of the critical things about sharing your life with others is to be explicit and intentional about sharing your weaknesses. For example, I was talking with a friend last Friday at my class reunion who is also a devoted believer in you. What impressed me about our conversation is that we were both willing to share with each other and encourage each other about some of the failings in ourselves as fathers and husbands. We talked about how our families were not perfect. As I think about it now, we weren’t trying to impress each other, but encourage each other instead.

Father, help me to be less impressive and more encouraging. Help me to be a continuous source of encouragement for others through the explicit sharing of my weaknesses, failures, and reception of your grace. Help me to extend your grace to others. Be glorified in me and glorify your name in the eyes of others. In the end it’s about people experiencing your freedom through the releasing of their secrets, shame and failing, and accepting of your grace. Help me to be a model of that.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2018 in 2 Corinthians