Week 35, Day 3
August 31, 2022
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 6
“We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (2 Corinthians 6:3–10)
Our new life in Christ empowers us to face incredible trials and difficulties.
That’s Paul’s message to the Corinthian church, and it echoes to us. Despite the beatings, imprisonments, the sleepless nights, the great trials that we may face as Christians, there is hope. There is comfort and strength that guides us forward knowing that God is greater than all of it. Through the power and love of God, we may face death with courage. Through the power of God, we can face evil and difficulty knowing that God is with us.
We do not hear what we think we want to hear. That is, that a new life will be easier and filled with riches. Rather, Paul teaches us that despite that good and bad, the ups and downs, no matter the circumstances, salvation is now. The circumstances won’t get easier, necessarily, but the strength and deliverance has come. You know how your story ends when Christ is writing it. He will draw you to Himself.
We are delivered from sin and death. The old is gone. Paul seems intent on helping us see that the new life in Christ is a present reality in the midst of this life. We live with our eyes on Christ now. The coming reality is breaking into our present reality.
This worldview is what has been commonly referred to as “Now, but not yet.” We have the new life in Christ and his Kingdom now, but it is not yet fully here. That tension with the world, with suffering and evil, well it isn’t easy. But Paul’s words give us the courage here to look at the world during the good, the bad, and the beautiful and the ugly and see that Christ is with us, his power carries us, and his presence comforts us.
Live to the new life now. It is here.
Is Christ writing your story? If so, you know how it ends. Life with Him.
Week 35, Day 2
August 30, 2022
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 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 5:20–21)
We are a new creation in Christ. The old is gone and the new has come!
This invitation and high calling are what we embrace as Christians. I can remember when I read this passage in high school and it dawned on me that I had new life in Jesus. The overwhelming peace that comes from knowing that you have new life and are created for an incredible purpose is the greatest feeling in the world.
We are redeemed. We are saved for a purpose. Paul tells the Corinthian church that they are ambassadors for Jesus Christ. That title is embraced by all Christians still today.
We ought to consider this role of ours incredibly important as we navigate life as a Christian. We are ambassadors of Jesus Christ. As an ambassador of the Kingdom of God we represent his purposes in the world. We seek His will and express it in the world.
We often want God to adjust to our plans. We invite God to be our ambassador, to advance our purposes and will. In our self-focused idealism, we are jarred away from that as we realize that we are made righteous and reconciled to God. We are his. The old life, the old ways are gone.
It’s a life-long adjustment to this new life. It is incredibly important for us as Christians to embrace a reconciled life with God and share it with others. So we seek the heart of God as we share it with others.
You are God’s letter, written for the world to know of his love.
Will you embrace this wonderful call on your life to be an ambassador for Jesus Christ?
Week 35, Day 1
August 29, 2022
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 4
“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:15)
“as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” (2 Corinthians 1:11)
What is our response to people when they do us a significant favor?
I hope that our response is gratitude. At the very least, we ought to tell people “Thank you” when they do something kind or in our favor.
What is our response to God for His grace?
Paul contends in Romans that it isn’t to go on sinning so grace may increase. Rather, we live transformed and sacrificial lives. For Paul in Corinth, he is encouraging generosity and gratitude as response to the kindness of God. It is a worthwhile question to answer rand consider today, how do I respond to God’s favor and grace? He has loved me and rescued me, how shall I respond?
Take time to express gratitude to God!
May God be glorified!
Week 34, Day 5
August 26, 2022
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 3
“But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:14-18)
The veil is taken away, that we might reflect the glory of the Lord.
What is spiritual transformation? How do I become more like Jesus? How do I reflect God’s goodness in this world? How do I follow Jesus?
These are critically important questions for us as we think about where we are in our journey with Jesus. Some of us have been on the road a long time, and others are just getting on it as we all seek to become transformed into his image. NO matter where you are or how long you’ve been on the journey, the answer really comes down to what is now made available to us. Freedom in Christ with a new heart!
New life in Christ means the freedom to approach God. All of us have that privilege. To come to Christ and know him and seek his face. God is writing a new covenant on our hearts with Christ’s Spirit in us. The answer for all of us, is to consciously keep turning towards the Lord. Turn to him in prayer. Turn to him in our studies. Turn to him in every aspect of our lives. “God remind me of your presence, cover me in your grace, and show me your faithful kindness. Give me your love as I seek to love and care for others.”
You have freedom today to face the Lord.
Week 34, Day 4
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 2
“But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15)
For fun, tell me your ranking of best aromas between freshly cooked bacon, fresh baked bread, freshly baked cookies?
I love the smell of fresh baked bread, but the others are on my list as well.
Let’s be honest about the church. It is often not a pleasing aroma to the world. There are times that we get it right, and times we get it wrong. Unfortunately, what often gets the attention is when we get it wrong.
It is not an appealing aroma when the church is just as corrupted as the world.
Paul here, has a grander vision for the church. We are not given over to the evil, but rather, called to love and mercy. We offer the dead (Paul here, referencing I think those who have yet to believe) and the living a pleasing aroma, drawing people to God.
The church is at its stinkiest, really festering in the gunk and mire of the world when we deviate from our call. In our quest for power, control, wealth, we’ve corrupted the mission. When we no longer address the sin in our own lives we stink. We smell worse when we condemn those outside the church and hide our sin. When sin smolders in the church, it stinks! When we try to do more than what we are called to, we often try to control the culture around us. That control rarely works out well for the church.
We are to be, as Rich Mullins would teach us, “arrows pointing to heaven.” We are a pleasing aroma that draws people to the love of God. WE emanate what good God is doing in us. His love in us, and shared by us, is a pleasing aroma that draws people to what is Good.
The church is to be less skunk, and much more bread, bacon and fresh baked cookies. We draw people into something that is wonderful. When they see us, hear us, interact with the church, they should know the goodness of God.
Now lets have some baked goods.
Point people to love of God today!
Week 34, Day 3
August 24, 2022
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 1
“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 1:21–22)
Paul’s concluding word in his previous letter gets a double-down and encouragement.
We stand firm in Christ. We can do that now, because Christ has anointed us, sealed us with ownership and his Spirit is in us.
Friends, one of the most important aspects of our walk with Christ is knowing that he is in us, and he has sealed us with his ownership. I am deeply comforted by these truths laid out for us so simply.
So much of my life I have felt like it is up to myself, and personal strength to stand firm. Standing firm for what I believe, standing firm for the truth, standing firm for what is right! All of that is so overwhelming. Especially when we face trials and temptations. It seems impossible to endure on our own. Yet there is this comforting word to us, that teaches us that Christ is in us, His Spirit is at work in us, and we are not our own. We belong to Christ.
Suddenly, the standing firm doesn’t seem as daunting when you belong to Jesus.
There was this incredible moment on America’s Got Talent this season. Every season, there are what are famously known as “Golden Buzzer’s.” It’s when the judges hit a button and emotional music plays and people’s lives are changed forever.
Avery Dixon received the Golden Buzzer from Terry Crews. You can watch the special moment here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TOysi_1INs
After Avery Dixon’s incredible performance playing the saxophone, the judges begin deliberating. Terry Crews comes over to the judging area and shares:
“I want to tell you man. You’ve been bullied all your life. But you tell every bully that you have a big brother named Terry Crews, who is here, and who’s got your back! And all those bullies are going to have to watch you succeed, my friend!” That’s the moment my tears start flowing. I love it.
Terry Crews is 250 pounds of muscle, and I would love it if he were my big brother looking out for me.
Paul is teaching us that the Golden Buzzer was hit for you when you gave your life to Christ. I want to tell you friend, that you have a brother in Jesus Christ. And you can stand firm, all the way until the end, because he is with you and laid down his life for you. The bullies we’ve known as evil, death, suffering, sin, shame – all the bullies of life that we all face, well they are going to have to go through Jesus. He loves you and has your back! He’s more than 250 pounds of muscle. He’s the King of Kings, Lord of Lord’s and all our hope is in him.
Love you. Stand firm.
Week 34, Day 2
August 23, 2022
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 16
1 Corinthians 16:13 “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.”
The concluding encouragement from Paul to the Corinthians church is to “be on guard, stand firm in the faith, be courageous; be strong.”
How many different ways can you say, “Be strong?” He’s certainly making a point of emphasis here, and it reminds me of the concluding messages of Moses and Joshua in the life of Israel. As Moses looks to the people in his final sermon of Deuteronomy he encourages the people to remain firm in their faith and to continue to walk with the Lord. Joshua, he too, is called to be strong and courageous in his faith.
What does it mean for us to stand firm, and be courageous in our faith?
There’s a word that wasn’t used, but I think it fits appropriately and helps us give legs to this idea of standing firm. It’s a call to determination. We’ve all met the determined 3-year-old. The one who is fiercely independent of their parents, looking to accomplish the amazing feet of getting their own shoes on. Or more seriously, the determined individual to accomplish their goals like achieving mastery in a skill, or amazing feet of strength. It takes steady determination to accomplish these sorts of goals.
Steady or consistent faith, one that is not tossed back and forth by every teaching is what Paul is calling the Corinthian church to live out. They’ve shown quite a few lapses in faith and judgment just in this letter. But Paul holds out hope that they will find solid ground to stand firm on. That solid ground is fleshed out throughout the book. He points them towards unity, love, faith and hope, rooted in the powerful resurrection of Jesus. All of this Good News should reignite their faith and embolden their stance in the world. Jesus loves the Corinthian church, despite their failures. He is with them and unites them. They are one body, living out their faith.
Like Israel, the people will fail, everyone will falter. But Paul reminds the church that they have the Lord Jesus with them. Nothing will separate them from the love of God in Jesus Christ.
Be courageous, for God is with you.
You may feel like you’ve faltered too much in your faith. Consider with me this truth, Paul still holds out the grace, mercy and love of Jesus to a people filled with sexual immorality, disunity, drunkenness and more. That hope, grace and mercy is held out to all of us…still!
Stand firm, stand upon Jesus.
Week 34, Day 1
August 22, 2022
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58
There is quite a lot going on in Corinth, to say the least. Divisions abound, and opportunities for it to expand are what I think Paul is going after. It’s not over anything petty, either. Some very serious problems have arrived. There is debate over speaking in tongues. People are deliberating over who has the greater gifts, as if there is some superiority thing going on. There are problems around the Lord’s Supper, and how it was practiced. Sexual immorality is hurting the church as well.
The church in Corinth is a mess. To top it off, there is now a problem with some who don’t believe in the resurrection.
If Jesus isn’t raised from the dead, well nothing else matters. That’s the ball game.
So, he reminds the church of the Good News of Jesus Christ. He recounts the Gospel at the beginning of chapter 15. What was shared with him, and hundreds of others that Jesus was raised from the dead and our king! It is the reminder of the eye-witnesses who saw Jesus Christ.
It all comes back to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ for us as Christians. We build out from there and form our unity from what Christ has done and accomplished. Death is defeated! Life begins in Christ!
Corinth is a divisive church that is struggling to be unified over the most important aspects of the Christian faith. We can imagine that there is volatility still abounding in churches around the world. The letters to the Corinthian church are a reminder of what is most important, “Stand firm, give yourself to the work of the Lord, it won’t be in vain.” Stand firm, Jesus is raised from the dead. Give yourself to the love and care of others. Know that what we do in the Lord is not in vain, it matters.
It’s a get back to work letter. You’re so busy arguing and dividing, its time to work together and carrying on the mission of the Lord.
Stand firm, love and serve today!
Week 33, Day 3
August 17, 2022
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.” (1 Corinthians 12:27–31)
Paul continues to address the division that is plaguing the local church in Corinth. The division over how the Lord’s Supper was practiced, followed the division over food sacrificed to idols. What came before that was the division caused by sexual immorality that affected the entire church body.
Now he addresses disunity over pride. The pride of one part of the church body feeling superior to another. He reminds them, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
We are all a part of the body of Christ. We all have a role, and some of the roles are unexpectedly more important than we realize. A lot of folks would look at me, in my role as the preacher and say that I have a critical role. And that is true. I am very, very important. Look at me!!!!
But have you been to the church on a Sunday where we didn’t have our communion prepared? Something happened and it didn’t get covered? We found out very quickly how that unnoticed person is so vitally important to what we do on a Sunday. Thank you communion preparers for the unnoticed work you do, quietly each week for everyone. That’s one “small” role. But there are hundred of things happening within a given week, if not thousands that care for the body of believers and unite us. All of which are incredibly important to the life and health of the body. Consider with me all of the prayers, all of the service, all of the notes and kindness offered to the body of believers. We really are all one, and every single person is a part of it. Every activity, every sharing of individual gifts and talents bring us together as one in Christ. Our gifts are not intended to separate us, rather, they are given us that we might care of the body of believers.
I get a lot of the attention and focus because of my more noticeable role. But Paul appropriately reminds us that I am one more part of the wider body of believers. I need you. You need me. We ALL need Christ. We are his, and we belong together through him.
So, we pursue the greater gift together. The most important thing. Some want the gift of healing, or prophecy, or other prominent gifts and roles within the body. I get that. But Paul teaches us that the best is the gift of love.
Let us love one another. That is what will unite the church. Seek the greater gift of love.
Jordan Ickes, Minister of Etna Green Church of Christ.