Category: 2 Corinthians (page 1 of 10)

God at Work: With Us

“We are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God and they will be my people.'” ~2 Corinthians 6:16

In Exodus 24, God has come down to his people on a mountain. He comes to be  near them, to be with them. He’s keeping his covenant promise to live with us, to dwell among us. And you see all three of the Church sacraments in this passage. The people have assembled together in God’s presence. It’s the Day of Assembly. And the people are worshiping. They hear the Word of the Lord and they respond, “Everything the Lord has said, we will do!” They’re making burnt offerings, fellowship offerings, and sacrifices to God. The people are being washed by blood. Paul says in 1 Corinthians these people were all baptized when they passed through the Red Sea. But they are certainly being cleansed.

“Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you…’ Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel… They saw God and they ate and drank.” ~Exodus 24:8-11

God comes to his people, he cleanses us, he makes us righteous and whole, and he eats and drinks with us. We see God at the table.

But that’s not enough for our God. It’s not close enough to us. So he makes his dwelling place in the tabernacle in the desert and, later, inside the temple in Jerusalem. But that’s not close enough to us for our Father. So he comes here himself in the physical flesh and blood of Jesus. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. He tabernacle with us as one of us.

When Jesus was baptized, Luke tells us “all the people were being baptized.” Matthew says the people came “from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan” to be baptized. And Jesus joins us in the water. He meets us there in our cleansing. God’s presence is there. The dove, the Holy Spirit, the voice of God affirming and commissioning: “You are my child, I am proud of you.”

And Jesus meets us in worship. The Gospels say he went to the synagogue regularly, as was his custom. He went to the temple, faithfully, for the corporate assemblies and festivals. He never missed. And he ate and drank with everybody — rich and poor, men and women, Jews and Gentiles, slave and free, sinners and saints.  He ate with Mary and Martha and tax collectors in their own houses. He set up a picnic with 4,000 Gentiles out in the wilderness. He got in trouble because he refused to discriminate. He ate with all of us!

That last night with his closest disciples, around the table, he’s eating with us. “This is my blood of the covenant,” our Lord says.

“I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the Kingdom of God… I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes.” ~Luke 22:15-18

And then on the day of his resurrection, Jesus can’t wait to eat with his disciples. He makes lunch plans with two of them on the road to Emmaus and when Jesus breaks the bread, they “see” him. That evening he shows up where the apostles are, right in the middle of dinner. They’re not sure it’s him — maybe this is a ghost. So Jesus asks for a piece of fish and eats it “in their presence.” Later, when people ask Peter how he knows Jesus is alive, he replies, “Because we ate and drank with him after he was raised from the dead!”

But that’s not enough for our God. He wants to be even closer. He doesn’t want his presence with us to be limited by physical space. So he pours out his Holy Spirit on everybody. By his Spirit, God Almighty takes up residence, he tabernacles, he makes his dwelling place, inside each of us and all of us.

We see all these sacraments on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2.

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, into the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off — for all whom the Lord our God will call… Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day… They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer… Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” ~Acts 2:38-47

Look, baptism doesn’t work because we believe all the right things and we say all the right words. Baptism saves us because God is there. God meets us in the water. He forgives us, he cleanses us, he unites with us in baptism. He connects us to the salvation death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord so he can live with us.

And Jesus doesn’t meet us at the table to shame us. It’s not, “Look what I had to do for you — remember it!” It’s his gift to us, this sacred time with him and with one another where God accepts us and affirms us, where he nourishes us and sustains our lives. It’s not, “I had to die for you — be grateful!” It’s, “I love you; I want to eat with you.” It’s an invitation.

And worship doesn’t work because we’ve got it figured out and we’re good at it. Worship works because God is with us and he’s working. His presence is with us. God is speaking to us by his Word. Christ Jesus is eating with us and nurturing us at the table. And the Spirit is interceding for us with words we can’t begin to describe.

Our actions don’t move God to grace; God’s grace moves him to action. These sacraments, these ordinances, are gifts of God’s grace to us. He initiated these things we do together. In baptism and at the table, together with God’s people in holy assembly, God says to us, “We can meet each other here.” That’s his promise: I will meet you here.

He left heaven to give these gifts to us. He came to us and suffered and died for us in order to be close to you. He wants to be near you. He wants to change you and make you whole. He loves you. He wants to eat with you. It’s an invitation.

In baptism and at the table and during the assembly, God promises, “I’m here. You may not see me every time, you may not feel it every time, but I’m here. You may feel far from me, but I am present with you in these special times and places. I am near you. I am cleansing you and nourishing you and changing you.”

This is God’s work in transforming encounter, in the sacraments. Even if you don’t see it or feel it, you can trust it.

Peace,

Allan

Faith is Our “Yes” to God

“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.” ~2 Corinthians 1:20

amenblackWhen we say “Amen” (this is true, I believe this, may it be so, etc.,) when we believe the promises of God, God is praised because, as the passage continues, he is the One who makes you stand firm in Christ. God has established you securely in his Son. You’re not going anywhere and neither is God. God is given glory because he has anointed you, he has called you out and set you apart to work in you and through you for his salvation purposes. And God is the One who has taken you as his own. He has put his stamp on you, he’s placed his Spirit in your heart to prove that what he has said, he will do. And he’s going to fulfill his promises.

The Bible is not fundamentally about us. Scripture is about God. The Bible is not about me and my present and my future — it’s about what God has done and what he’s doing right now and what he’s going to do tomorrow. When I say “Amen” or “I believe,” I say I trust God and I’m banking my whole life on his holy Word.

“My purpose is that you may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that you may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that you may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” ~Colossians 2:2-3

As you reflect on the promises of God and his faithfulness, as you fix your eyes on Jesus and see and experience how God is fulfilling those promises through Christ for you, the more you read it and talk about it and pray it and share it — an “Amen” will start to develop in your heart. An “Amen” will form and grow in your soul. “I believe.” “So be it.”

Think about God’s “Yes,” his “Amen” to us. Spend time with that. And his Spirit will stir up in your heart a responding “Yes,” your own resounding “Amen” to our Lord’s eternal glory and praise.

Peace,

Allan

Jesus is God’s “Yes” to You

“God is not a man, that he should lie
nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
Does he promise and not fulfill?”
~Numbers 23:19

amenscrabbleWhat God says, he will do. What God promises, he will fulfill. God is faithful to his Word. What God has said about your life, what he has said regarding your past, what he has promised related to your right now, what he has promised concerning your home, your family, your job, your well-being — he is faithful. He can be trusted to keep his Word.

There are a lot of promises in the Bible. God promises to do a lot of really great and eternal things. But I think we struggle sometimes to believe his promises are for “me.” Church people, Christians, — us! — believe God in the abstract, but we struggle to believe him personally. We believe in theory. But it doesn’t always translate to “me” very well.

I totally believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross and that he was raised from the dead for the forgiveness of sins. Yes, I believe God promised to forgive sin and I believe God worked through Jesus to accomplish it. Amen, yes, I believe in the forgiveness of sins…

…unless we’re talking about your sins, maybe.

Well… I’ve got some really bad sins. I don’t know. I mean, I still sin. I’m not a good person. I can’t believe my sins are totally taken care of. Not all of them.

Look, I’ll be honest here. I can have a hard time with this, too. It doesn’t always take much. Bad things can start happening and I can question and doubt the faithfulness of our God.

“No matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ!” ~2 Corinthians 1:20

Everybody loves to hear “Yes.” You’ve never heard anybody say, “If I could get a few more ‘NOs’ in my life, I’d be a happier person.” Two children talking together in a bedroom have never said, “Let’s don’t ask dad, let’s ask mom; she always says ‘No!'” We all want to hear “Yes.” We love to hear “Yes.”

Scripture reminds us that all of God’s promises find their “Yes” in Jesus. Not half of God’s promises, not some of God’s promises, not a conditional percentage of God’s promises — the answer to every single promise God has ever made is “Yes” in Jesus!

How do you really know God’s promises are true for you? Can you really trust that all your sins are truly forgiven? How do you know?

Scripture says if we look to ourselves for the answers to these profound and valid questions, we’ll struggle and doubt for our entire lives. The solution is to look to Jesus. Find the answers in Jesus. Fix your eyes on Jesus and your confidence and faith in God will grow.

How do you know God is fully in charge and he really is going to fix everything that’s wrong with the world and me? Look at Jesus. Look how he heals the lame, how he gives sight to the blind, how he feeds the hungry, how he drives out the tormenting demons, how he raises the dead. God will fix you. It’s a promise.

amenblocksHow do you know God can really forgive my worst sins? Look at Jesus. Look how he loves the prostitute at Simon’s house and says to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Look how he saves the woman caught in adultery and tells her, “I don’t consider you guilty.” Look how he forgives the tax collector in the tree, the best friend who betrayed him, the paralyzed man. Look how Jesus prays from the cross for his accusers and executioners; how with his dying breath he prays for his killers: “Father, forgive them.” God will forgive you. It’s a promise.

How do you know that God is really for you, that he’s not indifferent toward you, that he really loves you and he’s in tune with you and paying attention to you and he wants the very best for you? Look at Jesus on that cross. He died for you. He suffered and died for you.

“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” ~Romans 8:31-32

There is no event in salvation history, there is no promise made by God to his people, that is not coming true in Jesus. God is faithful to keep his Word to you. It’s a promise.

Peace,

Allan

In Community with Sinners

“This son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes!” ~Luke 15:30

brothersangrybroThere’s a problem when we don’t see ourselves in community with sinners. We are all sinners. We’re all stained with sin.

In Jesus’ timeless story, the older brother’s sin is not breaking the father’s rules, it’s the pride he has in keeping all the rules. It’s not his wrong-doing, it’s his righteousness — his self-righteousness — that’s separating him from his father. The younger son wanted to make his own decisions, he wanted control of the wealth, so he left. The older son wanted the same control and he tried to get it by staying. “I’ve never disobeyed you,” he says, “Now you have to bless me.”

Both brothers had faulty hearts. They both resented the father’s authority. They both looked for ways to get out from under the father’s rule. They each tried to do things their own way for their own benefit, not matter how it impacted the relationship. But the older son doesn’t see himself as a sinner.

“This son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes,” he says. “He may be your son, but he’s not my brother. You can claim him as yours, but I don’t want any part of him. And remember what he’s done! Remember his terrible sins! We’re not just going to ignore his sins, are we?”

You’ll never forgive anybody if you think you’re better than they are. All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. How do we forget that? Hanging out with sinners isn’t going to accomplish much, if anything, if you can’t see that all of us are in the same boat.

The good news is that the father’s love and grace covers every single kind of sin. Jesus gives us this story so we can see that God’s love and forgiveness can pardon any and every kind of sin and restore any and every kind of broken relationship. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done. The father says, “I’m not going to wait until you’ve paid off your debt. I’m not going to wait until you’ve begged. You’re not going to have to earn your way back in to the family. I’m just going to take you back. I will cover your nakedness, your poverty, and your shame with the glorious robes of my love.”

The father pounces on his sinful son before he can clean up his life, before he can prove he has a changed heart, before he can even say his repentance speech. The father is only concerned with getting rid of the sin in order to restore the relationship. And the only way to get rid of sin is to forgive it.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” ~2 Corinthians 5:21

Sin destroys relationship with God. So God took care of it. God made his Son to be sin for us. And our sin died with Christ Jesus on the cross. God is reconciling the whole world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. God takes care of the sin. He forgives it.

“For he says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation!” ~2 Corinthians 6:2

The Father is waiting for you. He’s looking and searching for you. And he’s waiting, not to condemn you but to welcome you. With a gracious heart, he’s running to you. With compassionate arms, he’s hugging you. With merciful lips, he’s kissing you and speaking to you words of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Peace,

Allan

Jesus’ Judgment Will Be Fair

JudgmentDay

“A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out — those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. By myself, I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” ~John 5:28-30

The first Christians believed that what you do matters. The writers of Scripture all confirm that a fair and impartial judgment day is consistent with the character of God who doesn’t play favorites.

“God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.” ~Romans 2:6-11

2 Corinthians 5 tells us that all men and women are someday going to stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account of all their thoughts and words and deeds. Everything. And each of us is going to receive what’s right according to whether we’ve done good or evil.

JudgeSheep&GoatsJesus gives us a compelling picture of this in Matthew 25 with the separation of the sheep and the goats.  To the sheep on the right, Jesus says, “Come!” Come on in. Come close. You belong. You’re in. Come. How cool would it be to hear the Lord say that to you?

Notice the righteous in this story don’t say, “Boom! Nailed it! Yeah! That’s right! We’re feeding the hungry and clothing the naked! Yes! The Kingdom has been prepared for me! That’s what I’m talking about!” No, it’s more like, “What?!? We did what?!? You mean we got it right?” The sheep on the right are surprised.

Jesus explains that the way you regard the poor and the sick and the abused and the hungry shows your high regard for him and his mission. Our King associates himself with the lowly, with people who don’t have any resources. So when you show compassion for the poor, when you extend mercy to the sick, when you show love to the marginalized, that’s proof that you belong to God. These aren’t good works to earn favor from God. You don’t give a cup of water so you can go to heaven. That’s not why these people did these good deeds. They were surprised their kindness to prisoners and aliens had anything to do with it. The way they treated the poor and the minorities proved that they had submitted to the Lordship of Jesus and that his Holy Spirit was shaping their minds and lives. Clothing the naked is not a qualification to get in — it’s an evidence of a saving faith.

To the ones on the left, Jesus says, “Depart!” Go away. Get out of my presence. You don’t belong to me.” How awful and terrible to hear the Lord say that to you.

Notice the unrighteous goats who are eternally condemned are just as surprised as the righteous sheep. “What? When did these things happen? I don’t remember not taking care of you, Jesus, when you needed help.?

I don’t think they were deliberately rejecting Jesus when they turned their backs on the poor and the weak. It’s just evidence that they had not submitted to Jesus as Lord and to his mission to seek and save and make things right. They didn’t see Jesus in the poor and hurting.

Maybe they saw Jesus in their church, so they had perfect attendance. Maybe they saw Jesus in their political candidates, so they voted regularly. Maybe they saw Jesus in their Christian jewelry and T-shirts, so they went shopping. But they never saw Jesus in the poor. They never experienced his character in his mission to the lost. This was proof they had not allowed the Holy Spirit to shape them and transform them into the image of Christ.

JudgeMosaic2

Being faithful, being righteous, doesn’t mean being burned at the stake or becoming a missionary to Yugoslavia. The righteous are just paying attention to the people around them and taking care of real, practical, every day needs. A cup of water. A sandwich. A visit. A coat. Just be faithful with what God puts right in front of you every day. What you do matters. It’s evidence.

The righteous will always produce evidence. You’ll always be able to notice the transformed speech and thoughts and actions and character of disciples of Christ. On that last day, Jesus will distribute rewards and penalties according to the clear evidence. And he’s always fair.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

RangersLogoYesterday, while basking in the glorious glow of another exciting round of last minute deals for the Rangers at the trade deadline, I wrote in this space that, with the additions of Beltran and Lucroy, this Texas team will score an average of more than five runs a game from here on out. Last night, Beltran and Lucroy went a combined 0-6 with three Ks in a 5-1 loss at Baltimore.

I’m sticking with it. Hold me to it. This Rangers lineup will average more than five runs per game the rest of the way. Starting……
Now!

Peace,

Allan

Generous on Every Occasion

“God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work… You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.” ~2 Corinthians 9:8-11

CupOverflowsBlueThe foundation of our Christian giving is knowing that God is the giver of all things. It’s a very radical thing to declare that God — not me, God! — is responsible for everything I have and everything I am. It’s huge. It’s an insight that is so simple, yet profoundly life-changing. Once you grasp the truth that everything you own, everything you have decisions over, comes from God, your whole outlook and lifestyle change.

It’s not that we care less about our possessions; it’s that we care much more about God’s purposes in giving us all these possessions in the first place which, ironically, is to give them away for the benefit of others.

Generous, over-the-top giving demonstrates our continuing confidence that God is always going to give us everything we need. Giving away our money is an act of dependence on God. To withhold our money or to give it grudgingly or with hesitation betrays an insecurity that denies the very thing Scripture’s talking about in 2 Corinthians 8-9.

We’ll justify conservative giving, though. Well throw big words at stingy giving to make it sound better. “Stewardship.” We’ve got to be “good stewards” with God’s money. Usually when people say “stewardship” — and I’m talking about individual Christians and church leadership groups — they’re talking about not spending the money or saving the money or holding the money. I don’t know how that became the Church’s idea of stewardship when the Bible’s idea of stewardship is to give everything away and trust in God.

The fact that Christians ask all the time how much they should give, how much they have to give, how much they’re supposed to give, tells me we don’t get it yet. An amount is not the Bible’s point. The point is that our giving flows from a grateful attitude toward God and a faithful dependence on God. The underlying assumption in Scripture, the principle that undergirds everything, is that all of God’s people give as much money as they can to help as many people as they can to give God as much glory as they can. The only rule is to give freely and generously as an expression of thanksgiving and trust.

Peace,

Allan

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