Psalm 34:8

Get a fresh taste!

Stronghold, castle

If you’ve been around church very long and you’ve heard about “spiritual warfare”, you’ll find one of the key passages on the subject in today’s Bible reading.

Paul says, “For although we live in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh, since the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ. And we are ready to punish any disobedience, once your obedience is complete.” 2 Corinthians 10:3–6 (CSB)

Oftentimes when we run into rough times in our walk with God, prayer is our last resort. Prayer should be our first resort! Why? Because prayer is a very powerful weapon in the battle for our hearts that’s fought mostly in our minds. Unfortunately, we often use prayer as a domestic intercom (“Butler, please adjust the thermostat.”) when prayer is actually a wartime walkie-talkie (“Commander, send reinforcements!”).

Prayer and the other spiritual weapons in our arsenal (Ephesians 6:10-20) are Weapons of Mass Destruction. When Paul says that our weapons are powerful for demolishing strongholds, he isn’t kidding! The word translated demolishing means absolute obliteration. Jesus uses the word to describe the coming destruction of the Temple in Luke 21:6 when “not one stone will be left on another that will not be thrown down.”

Our weapons tear down strongholds, defined as “1. a castle, stronghold, fortress, fastness. 2. anything on which one relies. 2A. of the arguments and reasonings by which a disputant endeavours to fortify his opinion and defend it against his opponent.”[1]

Our WMDs attack the false arguments and thoughts that exalt themselves against knowing God. And do you remember what eternal life is? It is knowing God. (John 17:3) Proper use of our spiritual arsenal can affect people’s eternal destinies!

We often think of “spiritual warfare” as fighting demonic forces. But did you notice that Paul doesn’t say anything about using our spiritual arsenal against demonic forces? Of course, I believe in the influence of demonic forces in the life of Believers. But perhaps instead of fighting demons, most of our spiritual warfare has more to do with reclaiming the “thought territory” that we previously surrendered to demonic forces.

Application

A good friend wisely said, “You will never win a spiritual battle with a fleshly weapon.” If that’s true, why do we tend to resort to using fleshly weapons? Because those are the ones we are most familiar with, despite the fact that our spiritual weapons are infinitely more powerful. But we need to grow accustomed to using our spiritual arsenal so we are able to deal most effectively with spiritual warfare.

Using our spiritual weapons to win a battle isn’t the end of their use. We also use our spiritual WMDs to take every thought captive that we would obey Jesus.

[1] Strong, James. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon 1995 : n. pag. Print.

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Sowing seed

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.

Application

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)

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In today’s Bible reading, Paul talks about people supporting his mission work. He says that even in the midst of financial hardship, the Macedonian churches gave out of their poverty to support God’s work. He says, ” I can testify that, according to their ability and even beyond their ability, of their own accord, they begged us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in the ministry to the saints, and not just as we had hoped. Instead, they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us by God’s will.” 2 Corinthians 8:3-5 (CSB) This reminds me of when Jesus and His Disciples watched people give their tithes and offerings in the Temple in Mark 12:41–44.

Sitting across from the temple treasury, he watched how the crowd dropped money into the treasury. Many rich people were putting in large sums. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two tiny coins worth very little. Summoning his disciples, he said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. For they all gave out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had—all she had to live on.”

The picture above is from a Facebook group for Small Church Pastors that I belong to. I have never seen anything like this. And I find it gravely offensive on many layers. This is definitely NOT what Paul was talking about in today’s reading. My point is not to get into the pattern of New Testament giving, but to talk about how Paul used the Macedonian churches as an example of how giving is supposed to function.

As I read Scripture, it seems that if God is calling someone to do a ministry, God will provide the funding to support the work. Missionary Hudson Taylor said,

“God’s work, done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.”

If Taylor was correct — and I believe he was — what does that say about modern-day fund raising to support “God’s work”? I remember many conversations with my dad talking about people “begging for money” on Christian radio and TV. It shouldn’t be this way! Yes, ministries should be up front with their needs. And they may miss a lot of financial support if they don’t ask. And like Paul says, people get in on a blessing when they support God’s work.

But how much of “God’s work” isn’t? That may well explain why so many ministries have to “beg for money”. Maybe it isn’t God’s “big K” Kingdom they’re trying to build, but rather their own “little k” kingdoms.

Paul says that the Macedonian churches begged for the privilege to support God’s work. (2 Corinthians 8:4–5) When Moses collected the Hebrews’ gifts to build the wilderness Tabernacle, the people responded above and beyond the need. Moses responded, “Let no man or woman make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.” So the people stopped. The materials were sufficient for them to do all the work. There was more than enough.” Exodus 36:6–7 (CSB)

Application

Let me ask you, when was the last time a church or ministry begged people to stop giving? I never have!

Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a person sows he will also reap, because the one who sows to his flesh will reap destruction from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith. Galatians 6:7–10 (CSB)

So how much should you give? That’s a great question! I like what John Piper suggests.

Giving is a way of having what you need. Giving in a regular, disciplined, generous way … is simply good sense in view of the promises of God. [2 Corinthians 9:6] says, “He who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully.” Then [2 Corinthians 9:8] says, “God is able to make all grace abound to you that always having all sufficiency . . . ” In other words the “bountiful reaping” promised in verse 6 is explained in verse 8 by God’s pledge to give a sufficiency for us and an abundance for good deeds.

He says elsewhere,

When you get your paycheck, do you look to the Spirit for how to turn this money to best advantage for God’s kingdom, or do you invest it in the field of the flesh for your own private use? Sowing to the Spirit means recognizing where the Spirit aims to produce some luscious fruit for the glory of God and dropping the seed of your resources in there.

One thing to point out: the Corinthians knew Paul and Titus, just as the Macedonians did. They weren’t just sending money to some preacher who may have been a charlatan, frivolously squandering their gifts. There was a sense of accountability by knowing the people they were supporting.

Note: God doesn’t need your money.
But you need to give!

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Good Grief, Charlie Brown

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”[1]

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.

Application

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.

[1] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 317. Print.

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shun

What does Paul mean when he tells the Corinthians to “come out and be separate” and to not be “unequally yoked” in today’s Bible reading? (2 Corinthians 6:14, 17) Does he mean that Believers are supposed to only deal with Christian businesses? In light of recent Social Media posts, maybe this means Believers should eat at Chic fil-A instead of Popeye’s. Maybe Believers should live in communes to avoid contamination from the world. Maybe Believers should make their clothes rather than wearing “tainted” branded clothes made and advertized by companies that support liberal, godless agendas. Maybe Believers should only date and marry believers. Maybe Believers should boycott businesses that are supported by groups that support liberal, godless agendas. I remember a boycott against a cruise line or an entertainment resort because they had a “Gay Pride” week. There are Christians who have taken any or all of these applications from Paul’s instructions.

Let me just say that if Believers spend all their time trying to avoid contact with the world, we won’t be able to establish relationships and win people to Christ and disciple them in the faith… which is one of the things Jesus commanded us to do! Jesus prayed in His “High Priestly Prayer” in John 17 that God would protect Believers as they lived in the world, but not of it. (John 17:14–18)

If Jesus really wanted us to come out and be separate — completely — He would rapture Believers immediately after becoming Christians. But who would tell the lost people then?

One of my favorite Christian artists, Lauren Daigle came under fire a few months ago for appearing on the Ellen TV show and for not clearly denouncing homosexuality. Thirty-some odd years ago, Christian artist Amy Grant came under fire for singing and shooting a music video “The Next Time I Fall in Love” with Chicago’s Peter Cetera.

Let me just say that not everyone has the same platform and not everyone can reach every audience. I will never be asked to be on the Ellen TV show. Probably no one else who reads this devo will either. What many critics don’t know is that the day she appeared on Ellen, every studio audience member went home with a copy of Lauren Daigle’s CD. Daigle’s music has been featured on TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Dancing with the Stars. Some secular radio stations have played some of her music. No, Lauren Daigle’s music doesn’t preach the Gospel in the traditional sense, though it is clearly aimed at praising God.

Lauren Daigle is reaching people I never will be able to. And as she reaches out to them, maybe they’ll hear a little about Jesus that they’ll never hear me be able to tell them. We need to pray for people like Lauren Daigle. Pray she stays close to Jesus. And pray that she stays clean in her walk with Him so that when she tells people about Jesus, they will listen to a person of integrity.

There is more to preaching the Gospel than presenting a Four Spiritual Laws message with an invitation. And let me just say that a church doesn’t have to do a gospel presentation complete with an altar call every time it does an outreach event. For several years, our church has hosted a Fall “Trunk-or-Treat” Outreach around October 31. We also host an Egg Hunt Outreach during the Resurrection Day weekend. I clearly present the Gospel at the Egg Hunt, but because of the come-and-go nature of our “Trunk-or-Treat”, I don’t give a presentation for that outreach. Sometimes, we just need to make ourselves available to be friends. Even with people whose lives are very different from ours.

Application

People don’t always need to know what we’re against. Many times — most times — they need to know what we’re for. Though oftentimes, we do the exact opposite of this.

Paul’s point in saying Believers should come out and be separate is that we should be different. But I don’t think Paul was telling us to be weird.

And God hasn’t left us up to our own devices to be different. He gave His Holy Spirit to empower us to live holy lives. Not weird lives.

Perhaps Paul’s emphasis of “come out and be separate” has more to do with what (Who) we are coming out to and being separated for rather than than what we are coming out and being separated from.

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