Category: 2 Corinthians (Page 1 of 11)

There’s Always a Way

The Dallas Mavericks won their first playoff game in franchise history in 1984 over the Seattle Supersonics and attempted zero three-pointers in the process. Zero three-point shots. No attempts. In the first two games against the Clippers in this current first round playoff series, the Mavs have hit 35 of 70 three-point shots to take a commanding two-games-to-none lead. Times have changed.

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If our God sees things that you can’t see and if our God chooses and uses nobodies and calls them beloved, then there is always a way for you. And God has already got it figured out.

It doesn’t matter how big and imposing the obstacles in your life. It doesn’t matter how numerous the forces trying to knock you off track or destroy you. Or destroy your marriage. Or your kids. Or your peace. Or your faith. It doesn’t matter how far back you are at the end of the line or where you are at the bottom of the pile. Or how you got there. There’s always a way for you and our God has already figured it out.

Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of God tells us, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand… My Father has given them to me… no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:28-30). 2 Corinthians 1 says God has delivered us, he is delivering us, and we have set our hope on him that he will continue to deliver us.

Our God is willing to break through the barriers of time and space to do the impossible, to come to earth in your flesh and blood, to put on your skin and to take on your sin and suffering to rescue you and save you right now today and forever. With humans this is impossible; but with our God, all things are possible!

As long as there is one lost sheep wandering around in the wilderness, as long as there is one dusty coin hiding in a dark corner, as long as there is one lonely child desperate and crying in a faraway pig pen, our God will do whatever it takes – he will not stop – until he finds you and brings you home! He will bring to completion the good thing he has started in you. The Bible says he is faithful and he will do it.

And I know the voices are there. You hear the voices. So do I.

You messed that up big time. You failed her big time. You let him down. You’ll never change your behavior. You’re trapped. You’re dead.

Like Goliath, those voices, those words, are there in your head every morning. They’re ringing in your ears every night. The insults, the mistreatment, the lies – penetrating your soul and just sitting there. Heavy.

You’re not a good parent. You’re not a good Christian. God hasn’t really totally forgiven you of that.

You hear the voices. You sense the size of the enemy. But there is a way for you and God has already figured it out. And he’s already done it. Jesus Christ willingly took all your sins with you to the cross. And God’s Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit who came upon David in power, raised Jesus from the grave to destroy forever the forces of sin and death and Satan and anything that might separate you from God. That same Spirit of the Lord lives inside you with that same eternal power. It’s not fate or luck – God’s Spirit is in you. God’s Spirit has taken hold of you like he did David and he won’t let you go. You can betray and stumble and sin and fail, but he will never fail!

In Jesus Christ, all your enemies have already been defeated. All of them. Name them. The voices are wrong. The enemy is dead. The way for you is clear in the Way, the Truth, and the Life in Jesus. And, to quote David, you and I and the whole world know that there is a God in Israel. And he has chosen you and he loves you and you belong to him today and forever.

Peace,

Allan

Seeing What Others Can’t

We took in our first Sod Poodles game of the new season yesterday, enjoying a 6-3 Amarillo win over Midland to secure a series split with the RockHounds. We sat in Dale Cooper’s seats, it was Buddy Reed bobblehead day, and I came up one ice cream helmet short of eating for the cycle. A wonderful day at the downtown ballpark.

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We’ve started a new sermon series here at Central on the life of David. And it’s complicated. David is chosen by God to be Israel’s king, but he’s a mess. He commits public adultery and proxy murder. He joins the enemy army and he’s obsessed with revenge. He doesn’t get along with his wives, his children, or his troops. He is responsible for some of the most atrocious acts of cruelty and selfishness in the Bible. Yet, somehow, he is a described as “a man after God’s own heart.”

It’s complicated.

One of the questions we’re asking each week during this series is How does David reflect God’s heart? Yesterday we looked at the familiar story of David’s battle with Goliath. And we determined that one thing David and our God have in common is that they see what others can’t.

Romans 4 tells us that God gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. That’s how David is, too.

David sees the giant enemy of God as small and weak and insignificant. The very sight of Goliath paralyzed the Israelites. His size, his strength, his words – the Bible says Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified. But David looks at Goliath and he sees him as nothing. He sees him as already dead. He thinks about the lions and bears he’s killed in the past and he tells Saul, “This uncircumcised Philistine will be just like one of them.” He says, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Yeah, Goliath is powerful; but God is much more powerful. Yes, Goliath is strong and mighty;  but compared to Almighty God, David sees Goliath as puny. He sees Goliath as already defeated. And that’s the way God looks at things.

2 Corinthians 10 says “You’re only looking at the surface of things.” Look deeper. Look bigger. When you see things the way God sees things, it empowers you to act with zeal, the kind of zeal and boldness and assurance that changes everything.

David makes things bigger. He sees more clearly. When everybody knows you can’t beat Goliath with a sword, David comes up with another way. When David can’t live in Israel because Saul is trying to kill him, he becomes a Philistine. When Jerusalem is just a hick-town with one red light, David sees a glorious and holy capital city. When the wandering Israelites are worshiping God in a tent, David draws up plans for a beautiful temple. David stays outside the box, seeing and creating new possibilities from the darkness and the void. Just like our God.

Samuel did not see David as a king, but God did. God sees possibilities we don’t always see. And he makes them happen.

Peace,

Allan

Trust the Lord with the Future

“On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.” ~2 Corinthians 1:10

God’s promise in Jesus Christ is that everything is going to be made right. All will be well. Jesus came here to fix everything in your life that’s broken and to make right everything in your world that has gone wrong. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, all things are being redeemed and restored so we can live together forever in his holy presence.

So if things are not well with you today, it just means it’s not over yet. It’s not done. This is Good News! God is still at work in you and through you!

The Spirit says God will bring to completion that good thing he has started in you. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. In fact, I would say it’s already done!

Our Lord never calls us to do anything he hasn’t already done or go anywhere he hasn’t already been. He told the Israelites, The Lord himself goes before you! He’ll wipe out all your enemies before you even get there! Your future is being secured because God is going first!

When the people came out of Egypt, it was God who went before them in the fiery pillar. It was God who took care of his people along the journey. The Lord prepares the path through the journey and he secures the conditions on the other side.

That’s why Jesus came: to take care of your eternal future. He died on the cross to give you his righteousness, his holiness, and his redemption. The sin that separates you from God, he has taken it all away. Jesus was condemned so you would be acquitted. Jesus was found guilty so you could be forgiven. He died in your place and then three days later God’s Spirit raised him from the grave to prove that everything Jesus says is true and everything he does is right.

The Bible calls Jesus the pioneer, the trailblazer of the faith. He went to death and back and conquered all of it for you already – he’s already done it! The way through for you has already been worked out. He has delivered you, he is delivering you, and he will continue to deliver you into his glory on that last day!

Peace,

Allan

Pay Attention to the Present

The main thing with the pandemic has been, and still is, the uncertainty. We don’t know anything. For more than a year now we have collectively felt like we’re on the brink of… what? We don’t know! Something significant, we think. We feel like it’s big and it’s going to leave a mark. But there’s still so much – even today – uncertainty.

Should I get the shot? How long will my immunity last? What is my city going to look like on the other side of this? What kind of church are we going to have? What about the variants? What about the economy? How much longer do we need to wear masks? Are we going to go through this every winter? Was the whole thing blown out of proportion? Or should we have done even more? We don’t know! And the stress of the uncertainty is unsettling.

“This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God.” ~2 Corinthians 1:9

Many times I’ve asked people who are going through a major life thing, “What is God doing with this right now?” You’re putting your mom in a nursing home, you’re pregnant with twins, you’ve been diagnosed with cancer – your life as you know it is changing. What do you think God is doing?

This is what I hear: “I haven’t thought about it.”

You haven’t thought about it? Well, for pity’s sake, you need to start thinking about it!

God has not abandoned you. He’s not on vacation somewhere and can’t see you right now. The Lord is near. He’s in this with you. Pay attention to what he’s doing. Don’t go through a major thing in your life and not be transformed by him. Be aware. Be on the lookout.

When something really great happens to you, think about how God is shaping you in that. You know that every good and perfect gift comes from him. You know the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it belongs to him. So you’re just the manager of this gift from God. How is he wanting you to manage it? Pay attention.

When something really awful happens to you, think about how God is forming you in that. You that God is working in all things for your good. You know his strength is made perfect in your weakness. So this is an opportunity for growth and witness. How is God wanting you to mature? How is he wanting you to testify? Pay attention.

During a crisis or a major transition, we can get locked in on the wrong things. We can ask the wrong questions. That’s what Jesus is addressing in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. What will I eat and drink? What will I wear? What if I get sick? How do we make up the money we’ve lost? What are we never going to get back? All of that is legitimate. Those are fair questions and real things we’re all dealing with. But Jesus brings our attention to a godly focus when he says:

“Seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” ~Matthew 6:33

No matter your present circumstances, you’ve got to be awake to God’s Kingdom and God’s will and his work in those circumstances because if you’re not, you’re going to be eaten up with anxiety. If you’re not viewing your present situation in light of God’s love for you and his power and will to work all things together for your good and the good of his everlasting Kingdom, you’re going to be paralyzed with worry and fear.

If we care about what kind of people we’re going to be on the other side of this pandemic, we have to care deeply about the kind of people we’re becoming every single day DURING the pandemic. We’re not going to be faithful Kingdom-seekers on this side of it if we’re not paying attention to what God is doing in our lives right now.

The question is not “What?” What if this happens? What if that happens?

The question is not “How?” How am I going to do this? How is this going to work out?

The question is “Who?” Who’s making it happen? Who’s working it out?

Your Father. The Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth who loves you and who is right there with you in the middle of your situation.

When life happens – when a pandemic changes everything – you can wring your hands and say, “I don’t know!” Or you can lift your hands and say, “God knows! I’m not going to rely on myself in this, I’m relying on God!”

Peace,

Allan

Gain Perspective from the Past

It feels like we’re coming out of the pandemic. Slowly. Thankfully. In fits and starts. And I know your life has been impacted over the past twelve months. Some of us lost money and jobs, some of us lost senior years and graduations, some of us lost loved ones and buried them without funerals. Vacations were postponed, holidays were canceled. What was going well for you before the pandemic was probably disrupted and stressed. What wasn’t so great before the coronavirus probably got worse. We’ve all been affected differently by this thing, but we have ALL been affected.

As we begin the slow transition to whatever the future holds, we need to reflect on where we’ve been and where we are. We can’t really turn the page on something new, something post-pandemic, until we’ve taken a hard, honest look at what’s happened DURING the pandemic.

I would suggest using 2 Corinthians 1:9-10 as a backdrop for your prayers and reflections.

“This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he is delivering us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.”

Scripture gives us the proper perspective on difficulties and tough times. The Apostle Paul says these kinds of trials are to teach us not to rely on ourselves but on God. Placing you in a desert like this is how God shapes you. When you’re in a desert, you can’t survive without God’s intervention. If God doesn’t provide water, you die. If he doesn’t give you bread, you die. If God doesn’t provide shade or rescue, it’s over. You rely completely on God when you’re putting one foot in front of the other in a barren desert.

And that’s exactly where God shapes you. God trains you in the desert. He draws you closer and causes you to depend on him more.

Before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they spent 40 years in the desert. God gave them manna and quail from heaven and water from a rock. And it changed them into the people he wanted them to be.

David spent time in the desert running for his life, hiding in caves, barely staying half-a-step ahead of the enemies who wanted him dead. God protected him and provided for him in the oasis at En Gedi. And it changed him into the greatest king Israel’s ever known.

Elijah complained while he was in the desert. He spent his time griping to God. He couldn’t understand why the Lord would allow bad things to happen to him when he had been so good. But God sent an angel with food to Elijah and the Lord spoke to Elijah in a still, quiet voice. And it shaped him into God’s greatest prophet.

Our Lord Jesus was baptized and preparing to launch his salvation mission to the world when God’s Holy Spirit drove him into the desert. No food, no water; tempted and tortured by the devil for 40 days. Protected and provided for by God. That’s where the Father equipped him to do what God needed him to do.

I know this has been your experience, too. When your dad died. When you lost your job. God formed you during that time. You started reading the Bible more during the tough time and God spoke to you.

When you moved to a new town or when your last kid moved out of the house, God put the exact right people into your life and he changed you.

After the funeral, you immersed yourself in that service project, you started doing more for others. And God shaped you.

When you were in that horrible financial mess, when your marriage was threatened, when your child was diagnosed, you started spending more time in prayer, just you and God, and he convinced you of some things you never would have heard otherwise.

Gain perspective from the past. God has delivered you, he is delivering you, and he will continue to deliver you.

Peace,

Allan

Helpful in His Spirit

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope — the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” ~Titus 2:11-14

While we wait for the coming of Christ, we are to help others in the name and the manner of the One who came here to help us. During this Advent Season, we notice in the birth of Jesus that our God does not separate himself from the pain of the world. God through Christ enters the pain of others. He takes your pain into himself, he becomes your sin for you and takes it to the cross where he annihilates it forever. He dwells with us today in the middle of our suffering by his Holy Spirit. God has come to help his people. And as a people belonging to God, we join him in helping others. We are helpful in his spirit, in his name and manner, eager to do what is good.

We look to Jesus and we do God’s work for others the way he does it. In humility. No arrogance. No lording it over anybody. No beating anybody over the head with a stick. Or a Bible. Or a doctrine or tradition. Humility and service and love.

Look at the first coming of Jesus. God’s way is to join people where they are, level with them in their contexts, serve their needs, honor their humanity, become one with them, become one of them, even to the point of risking terrible loss. God could have very easily come to this earth to dominate us, to force us, to overpower us, and push us to where he wants us to go, even for our own good. But he didn’t. He came to us in humility and grace. To help.

And helping others is not something we do to get salvation, it is our salvation. We are being saved, we are being taught and shaped; it’s a long process. We do keep our eyes on that final glorious destination, but never at the expense of the journey. You know, Jesus talked all the  time about the Kingdom of Heaven, but all his teachings had to do with living right here, right now, in the present age, with people.

“You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” ~ 2 Corinthians 8:9

Jesus says whenever you feed someone who’s hungry, you’re feeding me; whenever you give a drink to a thirsty person, you’re giving that drink to me; whenever you invite in a refugee or clothe the needy or visit somebody in prison, you’re helping me. That’s not just a metaphor. That doesn’t mean, “Oh, Jesus’ heart is with those kinds of people.” It means Jesus is those kinds of people!

When God came to earth and put on our flesh and blood, he chose to become homeless. He decided to identify with the jobless, the poor and needy, the hungry. That’s our Lord. And when you decide to follow Jesus, when you pray for God’s Spirit to transform you more into his holy image, you’re deciding to help the people without power, the people without beauty, the people without money and wealth. That’s how you help in his spirit.

The same grace of God that has appeared to all people in Christ Jesus and saves us is the same grace of God that trains us how to live in the present age while we wait for his second appearing. His gracious help for us turns into our help for others.

Peace,

Allan

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