Thursday, May 18, 2017

II Corinthians 12

II Corinthians 12:1-10

"My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness."  II Corinthians 12:9

The apostle Paul had an affliction or infirmity of some kind.  The precise nature of this infirmity that plagued Paul's life is uncertain.  Paul called his affliction in II Corinthians 12:7b "a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me."  It would seem as if the "thorn" that Paul experienced in his life was significant.  Paul went on to say in II Corinthians 12:8, "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me."

God's answer to Paul's prayer in II Corinthians 12:9 was "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  God was telling Paul that His love and kindness would be enough for Paul.  The Lord was telling Paul that with the Lord's strength in his life Paul would be able to bear the "thorn" in his life.

The "thorn" of affliction in Paul's life had been given to him to keep him humble.  It was given to Paul to keep him from self-reliance and to cause him to rely on the Lord alone for strength.  The Lord's strength and grace in Paul's life would be sufficient.  Because Paul was willing to accept God's will in not removing the "thorn" from his life, Paul experienced the Lord's blessing.  Even the "thorn" became a blessing to Paul!  Paul's "thorn" or weakness enabled Paul to experience the Lord's strength in his life.  God's strength was more clearly exhibited and completed in Paul's weaknesses!

God sometimes allows problems and afflictions in our lives also.  The Lord does not always remove every affliction and problem that we ask Him to remove from our lives.  He will instead give us the grace that we need to live victoriously in spite of those problems.  The Lord's grace is sufficient for every circumstance and need.  Only as we lose our dependence on self and avail ourselves of the Lord's strength do we become dynamic instruments in the Lord's hand. Sometimes the Lord allows afflictions and trials in our lives to keep us close to Him and dependent on Him.  Relying and resting on the Lord's strength brings glory and honor to the Lord. Trials are in this way turned to blessing and triumph in our lives!

Paul went on to say in II Corinthians 12:9b-10, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Through Paul's affliction Christ became increasingly real to him.  Through his trials Paul grew in his personal love relationship with the Lord.  Paul was willing to endure his affliction the rest of his life; if it would better display the power, presence, and glory of the Lord in his life.  Paul even delighted in his afflictions, because he knew they were bringing about favorable results in his life. He also knew they were bringing greater glory to the Lord.  Paul knew that his weakness in his own human strength resulted in a greater flow of the Lord's strength in him.

We also can glory and delight in our trials and weaknesses.  It is in our weakness that the power of our Lord is most clearly displayed.  The Lord can not use our foolish attempts at self-reliance. When we depend on the Lord and His strength alone, however, we can be used in powerful ways for the glory of the Lord.  Let it be our passion to rely on the Lord's all-sufficiency, power, and grace alone!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Il Corinthians 5

"So we make it our goal to please Him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it."
II Corinthians 5:9

How much time do you and I spend trying to please other people?  If we love someone we will try to show our love for them, and we will try to do things for them that bring them joy.  Our main joy and priority in life must be found in pleasing the Lord, however.  It is God's purpose for our lives that we live for His glory and that we find our ultimate joy in Him alone.  Paul said in ll Corinthians 5:9, "So we make it our goal to please Him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it." We must seek to please the Lord in our words, thoughts, habits, attitudes, and deeds.  It must be our consuming desire to moment by moment live in the center of the Lord's will and to please Him in all things.

Earlier in the chapter in ll Corinthians 5 in the last part of verse two Paul spoke of His and every believer's "longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling."  Every believer knows that the moments of this life on earth are fleeting and temporary and that eternal joys await us in the future. Only in eternity will we be free from sin and its consequences in our lives and in our world, and only then will we be completely free to experience uninhibited joy in our love relationship with the Lord.

Until then, however,  ll Corinthians 5:7 reminds us that  "we live by faith, not by sight."  As we live our lives here on earth we also "make it our goal" to glorify and please the Lord in all areas of our lives (ll Corinthians 5:9).  We seek to avoid self-importance, pride, and the foolish pursuit of worldly things as our source of fulfillment.  Instead our goal and priority must be our love relationship with the Lord and our desire to serve Him with all our hearts.

We say with Paul in ll Corinthians 5:14-15, "For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that One died for all, and therefore all died.  And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and was raised again"  The love of Christ must so consume us that it controls, compels, and urges us to live our lives with purpose and to live them only for the glory of the Lord.

The Lord Jesus died for our sins, and He made us His children.  Because of His atoning death on the cross we are new creatures in Him.  ll Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"  As new creatures in Christ we have new attitudes, hew identities in Christ, and new purpose.  That purpose according to ll Corinthians 5:20 is to live for Jesus Christ's glory and be "Christ's ambassadors" to the world. By our lives we must create a desire in others to come to the Lord Jesus for His forgiveness and His grace.

II Corinthians 5:21 says, "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."  The Lord Jesus died to pay the punishment for our sins. Jesus Christ also lived a perfectly righteous life for us that we were unable to live. So Christ's righteousness is now given to us.  We now have a righteous standing before the Almighty God because of Christ's righteousness given to us.  We must grow in practical holiness also, however, and we must begin to more and more reflect the Lord Jesus in our lives.  It must be our consuming desire to live for the glory of the Lord.  We must increasingly think as God would want us to think and act the way God would want us to act.  This is God's purpose and will for our lives.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

II Corinthians 4

"For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness' made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.  But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed, perplexed, but not in despair."  II Corinthians 4:6-8

"Therefore we do not lose heart---For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."  II Corinthians 4:16-18

Do you ever feel discouraged?  Do you ever feel like everything is falling apart, and you do not know where to turn next?  This is actually a good place to be, because it is then that the Lord can begin to do His work in you.  The Lord is our great strength giver.  He has called us to be His servants, and He will give us the strength to live for Him day by day and moment by moment!

We need never be discouraged; because the Lord in His mercy has redeemed us from sin, chosen us to be His child and servant, and is busy about the task of transforming us into His likeness! Those who are not believers and do not belong to the Lord truly do not understand the joy that we have in the Lord.  The devil has blinded their minds, so they cannot see the Lord's glory.  They cannot see that Jesus is the very Son of God!  We need to be eternally thankful to the Lord for choosing us as His children and for being our Lord and Savior.

II Corinthians 4:6b tells us that He "made  His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ."  What a priceless treasure!  What a priceless treasure we have in our salvation!  What a priceless treasure we have in belonging to the Lord! What a priceless treasure we have in the Lord Jesus Christ living in our hearts and lives!  Praise His name!

ll Corinthians 4:7 says, "we have this treasure in jars of clay."  In Bible times it was customary to hid treasures and valuable items in clay jars which had very little value or beauty in themselves.Thus attention was not attracted to the jars; and the valuable contents were protected.  We have the Lord's treasure in us who are unworthy and frail humans, so that His glory will be shown in us. Through our insufficiency the Lord chooses to reveal His all-sufficiency, grander, power, and greatness!  We are nothing in ourselves, but He chooses to fill us with His all-surpassing power! The more we realize that we are nothing in ourselves, the more He can infuse us with His power.

We need to reflect the Lord Jesus and His beauty in our lives.  We must ask the Lord to break us of self, self-will, and self-reliance; so that His light and power and glory shines forth in our lives. This is the road to the Lord's best for you and me!  It is the road to joy and spiritual prosperity!

ll Corinthians 4:8 tells us that in life's trials and troubles we often feel "hard pressed on every side" and "perplexed."  As His children, however, we are never "crushed." because the Lord is with us all the way.  We will never be abandoned by Him!  The frailty of our humanness makes us more dependent on His strength and thus reveals His life in us in a greater way!  We can believe with absolute certainty that the Lord will lead us through this life and through death and to eternity! Any difficulties you or I may experience in this life are nothing compared to the glories that we will experience with the Lord in His presence.  We must fix our eyes not on the things we see, namely life's difficulties or material things, but  on the Lord Jesus and on eternal realities!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

II Corinthians 3

Do others see Jesus Christ living in us?  Do we reflect Jesus in our lives?  Does what we say and profess about our faith agree and correlate with how we live our lives?  The apostle Paul told the Corinthian Christians in II Corinthians 3:2-3 that they were to be living letters or examples to those who do not know Christ Jesus as their Savior and Lord.  Paul said in II Corinthians 3:2-3, "You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody.  You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the Living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts."

We also by the example of our lives are living letters "known and read by everybody."  We must be God's "letter from Christ" to the world around us.  We can be that kind of living letter or example to the world around us, because we have been transformed by the blood of Jesus.  As redeemed children of God we also have the Holy Spirit now living in us.  Hence, we must reflect Christ in our lives.  We must be a living letter "written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God."  Since many people never read a Bible, we must be Christ's living and walking "letter from Christ."  The people of the world are watching us closely.  Do they perceive and recognize Christ in our lives?

Many people today have a veil over their hearts.  They refuse to acknowledge the Lord Jesus. The veil over their hearts according to II Corinthians 3:14b "has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away."  The Holy Spirit has worked in our hearts as believers and has removed that veil of unbelief, and II Corinthians 3:17b goes on to remind us that "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom."

Because we have experienced that awesome freedom, joy, and forgiveness found only in Christ; we can and must reflect the Lord Jesus in our lives.  II Corinthians 3:18 says, "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory are being transformed into His likeness."  As a mirror is a reflection of us, so we in and through our lives must be a reflection of the Lord Jesus.  We must reflect the Lord Jesus in our attitudes, thoughts, actions, and in our character.  We must reflect the Lord's glory to those around us,  We must become "transformed into His likeness."

In order to be able to reflect the Lord Jesus' glory in our lives we ourselves must truly contemplate and behold the Lord Jesus in all of His glory.  We can begin to contemplate and behold the Lord's glory by reading and immersing ourselves in God's Holy Word.  As we focus on the Lord Jesus and get to know Him better through His Holy Word, we cannot help but begin to trust and love Him more and more.  Hence, we are much more likely to then follow the Lord's paths and will for our lives, and in the process we will bring increasing glory to the Lord's name.  As we behold and contemplate Christ in His Holy Word, we become more like the Lord Jesus.  In this way we bring glory to His name.

Also as we read and immerse ourselves in God's Holy Word, we more and more see God's holiness and our own sinfulness.  This leads to repentance and a turning away from sin in our lives.  Hence, as we are beholding and contemplating Christ in all His holiness; we are becoming more like Jesus Christ and becoming a better reflection of Him to the world around us.  As we truly behold Jesus in all of His glory and holiness, we become better living letters for Christ to the world around us.  We then like II Corinthians 3:18b says "are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."  May it be our passion to grow in our love for the Lord Jesus!  May it be our passion to grow in our perception of the glory of our Lord and Savior. May it be our passion to better reflect the Lord Jesus in our lives!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

II Corinthians 1

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."  II Corinthians 1:3-4

"For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ.  And so through Him the 'Amen' is spoken by us to the glory of God.  Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ.  He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come."  II Corinthians 1:20-22

Have you ever wondered why life does not always go according to our best laid plans and wishes? Have you ever wondered why God sometimes allows difficult circumstances in our lives?  The main reason there are problems in the world and in our lives is because of sin.  Sin has disrupted God's world and is the ultimate source behind all the problems we experience in this world.  God, however, often uses difficult circumstances in our lives for our good and for His glory.

The first chapter of II Corinthians gives us some clues as to the benefits and reasons for difficult circumstances in our lives as Christians,  Verse three and four of II Corinthians chapter one tells us that God is a compassionate God and that He is our source of comfort.  The Lord is our comfort in difficult times so that we in turn can comfort others with that same comfort we receive from God. Difficult times in our own lives makes us more sensitive to the needs of others.  If we never experienced any difficulties in our lives, we would not be able to comfort others.

Another reason that God allows difficult times in our lives is suggested in II Corinthians 1:9b. When speaking of trials that Paul had experienced in his own life Paul said, "But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God."  When all is going smoothly in our lives we have a tendency to become smug and complacent.  We begin to think that we are self-sufficient. Difficult times makes us realize that we must depend on the Lord's strength alone.  God's grace and strength is all-sufficient, and our weakness is the perfect opportunity for His power to be displayed.  Difficult times causes us to "set our hope" on the Lord for our strength and deliverance II Corinthians 1:10b).  The Lord must become our only source of confidence.

Yet another reason for difficult times is our lives is suggested in II Corinthians 1:11.  Difficult times causes us to seek the Lord in prayer in a deeper way.  Difficult times cause us to come to the Lord in prayer for our needs and the needs of others.  This in turn results in us seeing God's awesome answers to prayer in our lives and in the lives of others.

No matter what circumstances come our way we can count on God's precious promises to always be with us.  II Corinthians 1:20-22 tells us, "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'yes' in Christ. And so through Him the 'Amen' is spoken by us to the glory of God.  Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ.  He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come."

We can be sure of God's promises to always be with us!  We belong to the Lord for time and for eternity!  His Holy Spirit is in our hearts guaranteeing us an eternal presence with the Lord! Because of the Holy Spirit in our hearts we can "stand firm" in our faith no matter what the circumstances in our lives.  We can do this, because we know we serve a faithful and all-wise God!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Psalm 34

Psalm thirty-four is a beautiful Psalm.  Psalm thirty-four is filled with beautiful promises from the Lord to His people.  David wrote Psalm thirty-four when he was homeless and still hiding from Saul. Saul was trying to take David's life.  David could have concluded that he had nothing for which to be thankful.  Instead David said in Psalm 34:1, "I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips."  Notice David said his praises for the lord would be on his lips at ALL times.  Do we praise the Lord at all times?  Do we praise the Lord when we have financial reverse?  Do we praise the Lord when we experience heartache and sorrow?  Do we praise the Lord when we experience daily irritations and interruptions?

We must remember that God works all things together for our good.  This does not mean that all of life's events are good in themselves.  It does mean, however, that the Lord uses even what we consider the bad circumstances in our lives for our ultimate spiritual good.  Through difficult times in our lives the Lord teaches us patience, perseverance, and dependence on Him rather than in ourselves. We grow spiritually during those times.  So even in difficult times we need to say with David in Psalm 34:3, "Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name together."  Praising God in all circumstances is the secret to a life filled with joy.  Praise on our lips and praise in our hearts for the Lord lifts us above our difficulties.

When David was in the midst of a difficult circumstance in his life he sought out the Lord, and the Lord delivered him from all his fears (Psalm 34:4).  God did not deliver David from some of his fears but from ALL his fears.  We also must bring all our fears and worries to the Lord, and we must leave them with the Lord.  We must trust that the Lord will take care of our difficult circumstances in His perfect way.  Psalm 34:5 tells us, "those who look to Him are radiant" with joy.  When we keep our eyes focused on the Lord and on His promises our fears and worries will slip away, and our joy and trust in the Lord will increase.

Psalm 34:6 goes on to tell us that David called to the Lord in his troubles.  David knew that he had no resources in himself.  David knew that he was totally dependent on the Lord.  The Lord heard David's prayers, and He saved him from all his troubles.  The Lord will also save and help us in times of trouble. In fact, Psalm 34:7 promises us that "the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them."  The Lord's protective guidance and help is all around us each and every moment of our lives.  The Lord tells us to to taste and experience His goodness and faithfulness. Blessed and joyful is the person who finds his or her refuge and strength in the Lord alone!

When you or I are feeling overwhelmed with one of life's difficulties we need to trust the Lord, and we need to stand in awe of Him.  A child of God can trust the Lord completely, because Psalm 34:10b reminds us that "those who seek the Lord lack no good thing."  Wow!  What a promise! When our hearts are breaking the Lord hears our prayers.  Psalm 34:17-19 says, "The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all."

Notice once again the world ALL is used.  The Lord delivers us from ALL our troubles when we approach Him in faith.  He does this in His perfect time and in His perfect way.  Things will not be perfect until we reach our eternal home.  In fact, the Lord promises us that we will have difficulties in this life.  We can trust the Lord, however, to be with us all the way!  He has His perfect plan for our lives, and no ultimate spiritual harm can ever come to a child of God!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Psalm 33

"Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise Him."  Psalm 33:1

"We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.  In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name."  Psalm 33:20-21

Joy should be evident in the life of every child of God.  The Lord has given us so many blessings. Hence, our hearts and lips should burst out in song and praise to the Lord.  Psalm 33:1 says, "Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise Him."  The Lord has saved us by His grace.  The Lord's love and mercy to us is eternal. and He is always faithful. Therefore "it is is fitting for the upright to praise Him."

Everyday and always our praise for the Lord must be fresh and new.  Psalm 33:3 says, "Sing to Him a new song."  The Lord deserves our continual and daily praise, because as Psalm 33:4 promises, "the word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does."

The Lord deserves our praise, because He is awesome in His character.  The Lord also deserves our praise, because He displays power and glory in His creation.  Psalm 33:6 tells us, "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth."  God not only created this awesome universe, but He continues to maintain it in perfect order.  "For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm."  (Psalm 33:9)  Finally, Psalm 33:11 reminds us that the Lord is worthy of our praise; because "the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations."  Our God is a faithful God, and His plans will always remain firm and eternal.

Blessed and joyful is the nation or individual who has the Lord as their God, (Psalm 33:12).  He is our only sure foundation and refuge for time and for eternity.  Psalm 33:17 exhorts us that a dependence on the things or powers of this world for our safety and protection is "a vain hope for deliverance."  There is safety and protection for the child of God, however!  That safety and protection is found in the Lord!  Psalm 33:18 blesses us by saying, "The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love."

Thus, we must use our lips and lives to praise our awesome and faithful Lord.  For He alone is our faithful "help and our shield.  In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name." (Psalm 33:20b-21)  He alone is our joy and our unfailing source of security and love!  Praise His glorious and awesome name!