Category: 2 Corinthians (page 2 of 10)

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.

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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

Having All That You Need

“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.” ~2 Corinthians 9:8

CupOfBlessingOverflowThe four words in the middle of that verse — “all that you need” — could make you think that God’s interested in giving you a bunch of material things. But he’s not. “Having all that you need” is about contentment. We all have every single thing we need. I dare say every single person reading this post has every single thing he or she needs to make it through today and tonight and into tomorrow. We all have everything we need. We just might not have everything we want. But what we want isn’t always what’s best for us, right? Paul’s talking about a contentment, a satisfaction with what God is choosing to give us. This is about you being good with what God is choosing to give you and what he’s deciding not to give you.

It’s also about knowing that the truly important things, the eternal things, the things that really matter, he gives us in abundance. We have more of the really important stuff than we know what to do with.

“the surpassing grace God has given you” (2 Corinthians 9:14) – surpassing grace, overflowing grace, enough grace to obliterate every single one of your sins and restore you to a righteous relationship with God;

“his incomparable great power for us who believe” (Ephesians 1:19) – overflowing power, overwhelming power, more than enough divine Holy Spirit power inside you to annihilate sin and death and Satan and everything that might separate you from God;

“the incomparable riches of his grace” (Ephesians 2:7) – buckets of grace, grace in spades, more than plenty of grace to be saved, it says, and to join God in doing works;

“this love that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19) – incomprehensible love, love that blows your mind, divine love up to here, unconditional love coming out your ears; a surplus of love, it says, to fill you to the measure of all the fullness of God himself; this God who is able to do, it says, immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within you!

All that grace. All that power. All that love. Lavished on us. More than we need. Why? Why does God give us so much?

So you will abound in every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8)

So you can be generous on every occasion (2 Corinthians 9:11)

So you can supply the needs of God’s people (2 Corinthians 9:12)

So you can share with God’s people and everyone else (2 Corinthians 9:13)

You and I have all that we need, and then some. It’s a simple concept, an easy thing to understand. But once we truly grasp it and begin to live out its implications, it’s profoundly life-changing. So, try it. Double up on your tip today at the restaurant. Buy the cold drink for the guy behind you in line at the convenience store. Let somebody else go first. Give. Give. Give. Because our God has given you more than enough.

Peace,

Allan

Younger Every Day

“Inwardly, we are being renewed day by day.” ~2 Corinthians 4:16

If the apostle Paul is right — I’m betting my life on it — then you and I are actually getting younger every day. By the grace of God and the power of his Spirit, we are more refreshed, more energetic, more joyful today than we were yesterday.

We’re all in the youth group!

With that in mind, our whole Central church family got together Wednesday night for our annual Fall Festival. Everybody’s always invited. It’s an intergenerational, church-wide deal. And we do our best to get everybody — young and old — to the party.

FallFestMatt&Lydia

FallFestPeterPan

 

 

 

 

 

 

If hot dogs and cotton candy are not your thing, maybe karaoke is. If singing a pop song over a cheesy soundtrack doesn’t interest you, maybe judging jack o’ lanterns and Halloween costumes is. If you don’t have a judgmental spirit, maybe you’d rather help with a booth or pass out candy. If none of that floats your boat, then we go ahead and play the ultimate trump card:

The family is getting together to show the kids a good time. You’re part of the family.

FallFestShepherds

FallFestSteve&JudyIt’s always good to just show up and cut loose for a bit. You can encourage the children by telling them how great they look and how talented they are. You can laugh at the adults who show up in a costume and indulge yourself with a long-time favorite Halloween candy. Mainly, though, you can spend a few minutes with a kid. Let him know you’re glad he’s at our church. Tell her how special she is and that she’s important at our church. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll head having been renewed by God’s Spirit.

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Golf2015We got Carley’s Canyon High School Golf Team pictures in. While she is yet to actually play in an official tournament — this weekend’s matches, like last weekend’s matches, have been canceled due to rain — she does take a pretty good picture.

DirkAsLurch

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, our favorite German, Dirk Nowitzki, got into the Halloween spirit this week by channeling his inner Lurch. Gotta love Dirk.

Peace,

Allan

Live to Give

“But just as you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us — see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” ~2 Corinthians 8:7

GivingConsistent and sacrificial giving is an act of Christian gratitude. It reveals a true grasp of the magnitude of God’s salvation gifts to us through Christ. It has very little to do with obedience and nothing at all to do with the size of your bank account.

Our giving is an act of Christian faith. It declares that God is the giver of all things and we are merely recipients. It reflects a confidence that our gracious Father will always keep his promises to provide for his children. It’s an act of dependence on him. To withhold our money or to give it grudgingly or with hesitation reflects and insecurity that denies the very thing the Church teaches.

We also believe real giving serves to sanctify us — to shape us and mold us more into the image of Jesus — which is the whole point of our being saved. When we give away our money, we’re becoming like Christ as we act in our context the same way our Lord acted in his. We give up our physical resources for others because of our spiritual riches in God. When we give, we’re considering the needs of others more important than our own. That’s what it means to “attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

Excelling in giving has nothing to do with personal resources. It’s all about experiencing and participating in God’s mercy and grace.

Peace,

Allan

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