Paul continues to address the Corinthians regarding the financial support of God’s work in today’s Bible reading. He summarizes his appeal, “The point is this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously.” 2 Corinthians 9:6 (CSB)
Note that Paul doesn’t use manipulation. He doesn’t twist Scripture to promise health and wealth if the Corinthians would just plant a seed of faith. No, Paul just puts it out there, saying that God will reward generosity with generosity.
Although Corinth was a thriving metropolis when Paul wrote this letter, the citizens must have had a concept of sowing and reaping. If you want a harvest, you have to sow seeds. If you want a bountiful harvest, you have to sow a lot of seeds. Paul tapped into the people’s understanding of agriculture and presented this principle of sowing and reaping.
It’s easy to look at your paycheck and panic when you see how much of the “gross” is taken before you ever see the “net”. Between taxes, Social Security, insurance premiums, it can seem like there’s not enough left over. As the month goes on, sometimes it can seem like the month goes longer than the paycheck.
So where does God fit in the discussion of money? Well, if you’re a growing Christ-follower, God should fit right in the middle of your budgeting. Don’t just give God leftovers. Give Him your best! Give regularly. Give generously. Give sacrificially. And give wisely.
Give, and it will be given to you;
a good measure—pressed down, shaken together,
and running over—will be poured into your lap.
For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.
Luke 6:38 (CSB)
This devotional was originally published on September 3, 2019.
Here we are again, looking at frequently-occurring words. Today’s word is grief. It appears in one form or another eight times in only four verses (2 Corinthians 7:7-10) in today’s Bible reading.
The Greek word translated as grief in English means “to be sad as the result of what has happened or what one has done—‘to be sad, to be distressed”
If I were to “grieve you”, I would make you sad. If I knew that I made you sad, I would probably regret doing so. I would be sad for making you sad and I would apologize.
But what if I made you sad in the process of correcting you for doing something wrong? I wouldn’t regret it and I wouldn’t apologize (though I may have to apologize for the way I said it).
This is what Paul says in verse 8. He doesn’t regret making the Corinthians sad because it made them do something: they “repented”. They changed their behavior because of their grief, their sadness.
Regret is an emotional response. It’s “feeling sorry” for doing something. You can regret doing something and that’s the end of it. You may even apologize, but that’s the end of it. But then, you can regret doing something and the grief causes you to do something to correct what you regretted doing. If you do something as a result of the grief, you repent. You change your behavior based on a change of your thinking because of your grief.
Paul says there is a kind of regret, a kind of grief that brings about change. That is godly grief. But Paul also says there’s another kind of grief that doesn’t produce change. That kind of grief — worldly grief — simply results in death. In other words, you feel sorry and no change results from it.
When you sin, you may regret the fact that you sinned. You may be very sad and feel a deep sense of remorse. You may be heartbroken in your grief over your sin. But unless your regret produces a change in your mind that produces a change in your behavior, you have only felt an emotional response in your regret.
On the other hand, godly grief produces the life change that God desires. It’s a kind of grief that affects us on a deeper level than mere emotion. In fact, we may not even feel a deep emotional response, but we change our mindset and our behavior because of the godly grief. And that’s what God wants and that’s what God empowers us to do as we rely on the Holy Spirit’s power.
 Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 317. Print.
This devotional was originally published on August 30, 2019.
Again, I’ll highlight what I have said before, that when you see a word or phrase repeated in close proximity in the Bible, it’s a signal of its importance. In today’s Bible reading, Paul uses reconcile five times in only three verses. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)
The word reconcile is used in accounting. You may have reconciled your checkbook to make sure that your income and expenses come into agreement. Hmmm…. come into agreement. That’s what it means to be reconciled!
One of my Greek lexicons (a fancy word for dictionary) says this about reconciliation:
to reestablish proper friendly interpersonal relations after these have been disrupted or broken (the componential features of this series of meanings involve (1) disruption of friendly relations because of (2) presumed or real provocation, (3) overt behavior designed to remove hostility, and (4) restoration of original friendly relations)—‘to reconcile, to make things right with one another, reconciliation.’
The fact that God reconciles people to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18) demonstrates that the relationship was broken in the first place. And the relationship was broken by Adam and all of his descendants. Otherwise, Paul could speak of us reconciling ourselves with God.
But God is the one Who takes the initiative because we, as fallen creatures cannot. In fact, even if we could take the initiative, we would not. Yes, we are that fallen! We are that broken!
Until we can understand the gravity of our sinful condition, we can’t grasp the incredible goodness, grace, and mercy of God to reconcile us to Himself. Because God has reconciled His children to Himself through Jesus Christ, we can have peace with God and peace with each other! “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15, (CSB)
And we get to be a part of God’s ministry of reconciliation! He has made us His ambassadors to plead with our family, friends, and acquaintances, “Be reconciled to God!” What an amazing priviledge!
And what an amazing responsibility!
Have you been reconciled to God? Have you recognized your infinite debt to God due to your own sin? He has done all that is necessary to restore you to Himself, if you will only accept His offer! Be reconciled to God!
If you have been reconciled to God, have you told your family, friends, and acquaintances about this glorious God Who has extended His grace to you, and to them?
Who can you tell today?
 Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 501. Print.
This devotional was originally published August 28, 2019.
I mentioned yesterday the importance of noting repeated words and phrases in a limited number of Bible verses. In today’s Bible reading, “pain” and its derivatives occur seven times in 2 Corinthians 2:1-7. Evidently not all was well between the Apostle and the church at Corinth. Where the first paragraph in 2 Corinthians 1 was about comfort, the first paragraph of 2 Corinthians 2 is about pain between Paul and the Corinthians.
Paul may have been referring to 1 Corinthians, or he may be referring to another letter that wasn’t preserved for us. If this is the case, it’s no cause for worry; if God wanted us to have that letter, we would have that letter.
Paul gives us a glimpse into the feelings of a church leader when things aren’t right in the church. Of course, Paul was an apostle, so he wasn’t involved in the normal day-to-day operations of the church at Corinth. But he had planted the church and wanted everything to go smoothly. But oftentimes, things don’t go smoothly in a local church.
Maybe you’ve never seen church conflict that results in long-lasting hurt feelings in yourself or someone else. But sometimes the hurts are caused by the malicious actions of others, wolves in sheep clothing or “well-intentioned dragons“. Regardless of how, the wounds are real. But God can bring healing where there has been hurt.
Dealing with church conflict requires integrity. And it requires humility. If you’ve been hurt, take the high road and extend an olive branch of forgiveness. If you’ve done the hurting, take the high road and ask for forgiveness. Pride and malice can wound very deeply. So can harboring a root of bitterness, distrust, and unforgiveness. Jesus had some pretty strong words for those who would seek to give to God’s work when things aren’t right between them and another believer. Basically He said, if things aren’t right between you and another believer, don’t bother coming to worship the Father. Make it right and then come to give to His work. (Matthew 5:23–24)
Note: If your church is dealing with conflict, please seek the help of others, perhaps professional mediation. In my tribe, that would be an association Director of Missions. For United Methodists, it would be a District Superintendent. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of other denominational organizations, but I’m sure each one has resources.
I also recommend a book written by my friend, Eric Willis, Sacred Conflict: Resolution Skills for the Follower of Christ.
This devotional was originally published August 23, 2019.
Paul gives us a couple of verses in today’s Bible reading that
In a word, NO!
This idea stems from a root of self-sufficiency and sounds like the non-biblical statement, “God helps those who help themselves.” It’s non-biblical because it doesn’t appear anywhere in any translation of the Bible. Actually, this statement comes from Deist, Benjamin Franklin in his Poor Richard’s Almanac.
Both of these statements find their roots in narcissism, the belief that “it’s all about me.” “The universe revolves around me.” “God is obligated to do what I ask Him to do because I’m a believer.” This last statement may not be spoken, but you can hear the murmur under the breath of someone who quotes the statement.
Let me say as clearly and as strongly as I can: God is not obligated to do anything for you, regardless of what you may do for Him. God doesn’t make deals with anyone, even His children. God is not a magical genie!
The fact that God has offered anything good to any fallen creature is a testimony of His goodness, His grace, and His mercy. Until someone embraces this truth, he/she will never fully appreciate the grace and mercy He offers.
What Paul does say in 1 Corinthians 10:12–13 is that none of us is immune to temptation. Hey, even Jesus was tempted! Why in the world would anyone think that they, wouldn’t be tempted? That idea is also rooted in narcissism.
No, what Paul says is that if you think you’re immune to temptation, you better watch out! You will be tempted, but God always provides a way out. You can never say that you had no choice, that you had to fall into temptation. Flip Wilson’s “Geraldine” character couldn’t have been more mistaken: The devil can never make you do anything.
If you fall into sin, you and you alone are responsible for making that choice and not taking the way out that God provided for you.
I believe Martin Luther is the one who said, “I can’t stop the birds from flying over my head, but I can keep them from nesting in my hair.” Temptations will come. You have the choice whether to “cook the thought” and decide to take the bait of sin or to take the way out.
The next time you feel tempted, ask God to show you the way out. Sometimes — oftentimes? — the answer is to preach the Gospel to yourself and realize that your true fulfillment, your true satisfaction, your true happiness can only be found in Jesus Christ.
Would God give you more than you can handle? I would argue that He often does, otherwise, we would have little reason to press into Him, depending on His strength to make it through the storms, the hard times of life.
This devotional was originally published August 11, 2019.