Tag Archives: 2 Corinthians

Time to Confess

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“Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  2 Corinthians 9:7

I hate to admit it, but I’m not a cheerful giver.  I always want to hang on to things and people tightly.  Now this can be good — it makes me loyal and persevering in relationships, for example;  but when it comes to being generous, it’s a bad thing.  I could make excuses and tell you I have an anxious personality, so I get worried that I may not be able to take care of myself if I give away too much.  Or I could explain that my grandparents grew up during the depression and they taught me to be excessively frugal and worried about money.  None of this gets me off the hook, however.  God wants me to give cheerfully to others, and often I don’t.

What do I do about this?  Well, as with other spiritual disciplines (and giving is a spiritual discipline), I start where I am, and try to grow.  When I’m asked to give financially, I give an amount I am comfortable with, and then I give some more.  When I’m asked to give of my time ( and I find my problems with this often come about because I don’t want to disrupt my plans or routine), I remind myself that I’m retired now, and my plans can usually be postponed or changed without causing a problem.  I also have the advantage of having a generous, godly husband and two daughters with the gift of mercy.  When it comes to matters of giving, I try to let one of them take the lead and I follow their example.

Has it worked?  Well, I still don’t always give cheerfully.  I’m seldom spontaneously generous.  It will never be my gift.  But I have grown.  I’m not where I ought to be, but I’m not where I used to be, either.  As our author, Michele says, I’m a work in progress, both saint and sinner.

I’m open to other suggestions.  Readers and authors, how do you practice generosity?  Have you grown in this discipline?

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A Big Responsibility

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Before I retired, I worked for a hospital.  I remember at one of our training meetings, our employer stressed that we, every one of us was the face of Frederick Memorial Hospital to the community.  If we were kind, caring, and helpful, that was how others would see the hospital.  On the other hand if we were rude, careless or disinterested, our workplace would be perceived in a very different way.  Once a person develops a negative opinion about you, it’s very hard to win back their approval.

Reading Leslie’s post yesterday, I realized that being one with Christ carries a big responsibility.  We, the church, the body of Christ, represent Him to the world.  That means, as my husband (a Pastor) keeps telling us, there must be something different about us.  Our actions and attitude must mirror the One we follow.  Otherwise, many will think … what’s the big deal?  Why should I give up my time and money to be part of the church?  Those people are just the same as everyone else.

In the books of 1 and 2 Corinthians we learn something about how we are supposed to convey the presence of Christ to the world:

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.  …For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men as sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.”  2 Corinthians: 2:14, 17

“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.  And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual”  1 Corinthians 2:12-13

If we are one with Christ, our words and actions will become more and more like His.  We will be noticeably different because we have His mind and His Spirit within us.  We are His ambassadors, entrusted with sharing His good news with the world.  Are you up for this responsibility?

 

Remembering God’s Grace

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I actually wrote this years ago as part of a devotional given out to participants on a Via de Cristo retreat weekend.  It seems appropriate to share this month.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”  2 Corinthians 4:8-10

You’ve all seen the bumper sticker reminding us that bad things happen in our lives, things we can’t control and don’t expect.  I may not approve of the language, but I’m not immune to the feelings behind the sentiment.  It seems only too true.  Bad things happen to good people.  Bad things happen to me.  And I don’t like it.  It doesn’t seem fair.  There are days when I feel like Elijah, sitting under his broom tree, begging God to take his life.  I’ve had enough of this life, too.  I want to give up.  I can’t see through the dark curtain of despair the world has cast around me.

But recently I spotted a car sporting a Christian alternative to that worldly message of doom and gloom.  It read simply, “Grace Happens.”  That was a moment close to Christ for me, a powerful reminder that in the midst of disease, death, divorce, discouragement and all the other unpleasant facts of life, God is there.  His grace happens to me over and over.  It happened on my Via de Cristo weekend.  It happens every time I gather with my wonderful church family.  It happens when I feel the love of my husband and children.  It happens on the job when the Holy Spirit prompts me to encourage someone through my Christian beliefs.

Life hasn’t changed.  It was difficult for Elijah, confronting the prophets of Baal;  it was difficult for Jesus, facing death on the cross;  it’s hard for me, too.  But grace happens.  It happened then and it’s happening now.  I need to remember that.

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Worth Waiting For

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“So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen, but the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

This has been a favorite passage of mine for a long time.  It’s easy to become depressed as we age.  We lose our parents;  our children don’t seem to need us anymore;  we can’t do the things we used to do physically, and even our mental faculties aren’t as sharp as they used to be.  Paul reminds us in this letter to the Corinthian church that these things are only outer and temporary–they’re not what really counts.

What really matters is our relationship with God.  As we worship, study, pray and fellowship with other Christians, that inner nature grows stronger.  It doesn’t depend upon health, or a great job, or material possessions or other people.  God loves us as we are, and meets us where we are.  He is the one person in our life who will never change and never leave us.

Paul tells us that all the painful and frustrating losses are really just growing pains.  They are preparing us to let go of this world and ready ourselves for the next.  That new life with God will be so glorious, we won’t even miss all those fleeting things that seem so important right now.  Listen to this description of the things that will last forever:

“Behold the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with then as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  Revelation 21:3-4

Isn’t eternal life with God worth waiting for?

 

In Hot Pursuit

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According to the dictionary, to pursue means to chase or run after something or someone.  We pursue the things we really want and are interested in. What are you chasing after in your life?  Is it money?  A beautiful home?  A prestigious job? An expensive car?  A certain someone who attracts you?  If we’re honest, we realize many (if not most) of the things we pursue have to do with worldly approval or success.

The Bible tells us to pursue a whole different set of things.  For example:

“Turn from evil and do good;  seek peace and pursue it.”  Psalm 34:14

Pursue is a verb, an action word.  This means I must not only think peace is a nice idea, I must do what I can to promote it.  Maybe this means compromise, or putting another person first.  Certainly it means caring more about the other person than winning or getting my own way.

Here’s another one:

Pursue love and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts…” 1 Corinthians 14:1

Pursuing love means behaving in a loving way to all of God’s children–not just the ones I care about or the ones who treat me well.  It means using my gifts to encourage and support others, not to promote only myself and my own interests.

Finally:

Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.”  1 Timothy 6:11b

Pursuing righteousness and godliness means going against my natural inclination by doing God’s will instead of my own.  Pursuing God’s way means trying to be selfless instead of selfish.

I know I’ll never completely stop pursuing the wrong things;  but staying close to God through study, worship and prayer will help me remind me of the things I really want.

“For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18b

Run after God.  Pursue the eternal.

 

 

 

Live at Peace

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“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”  Romans 12:18

Michele’s last post highlighted how difficult it is to maintain peace, especially during these turbulent times.  People are angry and unwilling to see any virtue in those with whom they disagree.

My devotional reading a few days ago was taken from Psalm 34:

“Turn away from evil and do good;  seek peace and pursue it.”

Easier said than done, right?  People make us mad.  The folks we deal with every day in our workplace, family, even church can be irritating, insensitive, rude and more. They have political views we don’t understand.  They don’t do things the way we want them done.  They don’t seem to care how their actions and words affect us.  How do we deal with this?

Well, the only person I can really control is me.  If I want to get along with others, I have to make decisions that allow me to do this. I have to pursue peace.  My devotional, and some other readings from Romans and James have a few good suggestions I’d like to share.

  • Try to understand, through prayer, the motivation of others.  I have often found, after praying for someone there are things in their life that cause them to behave the way they do.  It may not make their behavior right, but it does help me accept it without anger.
  • Outdo one another in showing honor.(Romans 12:10)  Sometimes one person’s calm, respectful manner will create a change in the environment.
  • Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. (Romans 12:17)  Seeking revenge causes a bad situation to escalate.
  • Love one another with a brotherly affection (Romans 12:10).  When we love someone we are willing to make allowances for them.
  • Think before you speak (James 1:26)
  • (Most important) Always give others the benefit of the doubt.  How many relationships would be saved if we followed this simple rule?

I wish I could say I always follow my own advice.  Unfortunately like Michele and everyone else, sin is my default position.  I have my own particular buttons that when pushed result in a stubborn, angry, unforgiving response.  However, God doesn’t give me what I deserve.  He gives me grace;  that’s what I should extend to others.

“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”  2 Corinthians 9:15

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