08/14/18 - 2Cor 12

Aug 14, 2018

Jesus said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2Cor 12:9

The greatest form of power comes from desiring more grace and connection with Jesus.

The secret to power is not in the size of our strength, but in the size of our grace.   Consider the person who has great physical strength but no character.  That person would often leverage his power for selfish interests, making them a bully or worse.  Then consider the one who has the strength, like a martial arts expert, but restrains it and chooses to suffer as if weak.  That person’s restraint would be a greater power than their physical skills. 

The power of God comes through grace instead of strength.  He works through meekness and humility over arrogance and pride.  Jesus delivers the greatest power through His saving grace.  When we tap into grace, we will find the most powerful force on earth. 

The power of grace shows up everywhere.  It is in the forgiveness that helps a marriage stay together after pain or failure.  It’s the power that helps children continue to obey their parents even after being ridiculed or mistreated.  It’s the strength that empowers people to sacrifice themselves for their neighbor.  It’s in the voice of the Spirit that encourages believers to follow a prompting.   

Jesus changed the life of a legalistic non-believer named Saul through the power of grace.   Instead of punishing Saul or ending his life, Jesus spoke to Saul, called him to believe, repaired his eyesight, and sent him forward with a powerful mission.  It wasn’t rule or punishment that changed Saul into Paul, it was grace.

If you’re a parent, it won’t be your threats or conditions that mold your kids properly, it will be the grace you gave.

If you’re a business leader, your effectiveness won’t be through harder work or high demands, but through the grace you give your staff.

If you’re a skeptic of Jesus, you won’t come to know Him personally by following rules, but by embracing His love.  The commands and rules will be your way of giving grace back ONCE YOU HAVE a relationship.

Grace is the power of life, so make an effort to tap into His grace more & more.  Hunger for more connection to Jesus.  Look for the gift of grace Jesus offers you every day.  Then be a giver of grace to others, so that His power can be made perfect in you!

08/13/18 - 2Cor 11

Aug 13, 2018

If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 2Cor 11:30

Brag about what God is doing instead of what we’re doing.

It’s amazing what one person can accomplish in life!  Consider the accomplishments of this person:

-          Graduated college, starring in football, swimming, journalism & class president

-          Worked as a radio broadcaster, covering athletic competitions & play-by-play

-          Hired & worked as an actor / movie star in 52 films

-          Served in the Army and Army Reserve, defending our country in World War II

-          Elected as a Governor for the State of California for two terms

-          Elected President of the United States for two terms

You, of course, realize that we are talking about Ronald Reagan.  His list of accomplishments are far greater than that, and show what a life well lived can look like.  Before bragging about our list, we might want to compare it to Ronald Reagan’s (or a number of other amazing people)!

But no matter how long the list is, it doesn’t compare to the list God is credited with: Creation of the Universe, creation and design of everything, created men & women and gave them free will, manages the world and watches over every living being, protects & disciplines, then birthed his Son through a virgin, and used Him to replace humanity’s sin on the cross so that He could save the world.  The list is infinitely long.

Even if we put ALL of our lists of successes together, it would never come close to matching God’s list.  In fact, our list IS A SUBSET OF GOD’S LIST ANYWAYS!  He gets credit for all of our list too, since He created us.

So before we start bragging about our list of successes, we may want to compare them to the list God has.  Before we tell others about the good things we have done, we might want to rethink what God has done.  Compared to Him, our list is quite weak!

Here’s what Paul discovered:  when Paul started bragging about God’s strengths and successes, it made his list look like weaknesses.  Paul found God at work in his list, and that dependence on God became a source of STRENGTH!  It’s when we see God’s Strength at work in our lives that we find more confidence and security to live the life He gave us. 

So forget your list, and boast about God’s List --- your list is His list anyways. J

08/10/18 - 2Cor 10

Aug 12, 2018

We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2Cor 10:5

Victory over sin starts by training our mind to think like Jesus.

Moving to California created some changes that we did not expect, including the installation of a home security system.  It was not something we had need for in Ohio where we lived, and certainly not something we had developed a lifestyle pattern for.

That’s why for several months, I periodically forgot that opening the back door instantly triggered the break-in alarm sound.  I would come downstairs in the morning and open the back door to let some cool air in before deactivating the alarm.  The sound instantly woke up everyone in the house (and probably the neighborhood).  The interesting thing to me was that our FRONT DOOR was set to give us 30 seconds to deactivate the alarm, but the back door was instant!  In time, I learned not to open the back door at all, but just open windows or the front door for letting in the breeze.

When it comes to temptation, Jesus wants to be the one who opens the front door for whatever comes knocking.  Unfortunately, temptation tends to visit us at our back porch!  Wouldn’t it be great if we all had a SPIRITUAL ALARM SYSTEM that goes off every time we try to open the back door and let temptation in!  (Not sure the rest of the people around us would like it, but it would help!)

THERE IS A SOLUTION TO THIS – send all temptation around to the front door and let Jesus answer it first.  That’s what Paul is telling the Corinthian church.  If we make Jesus the filter for every decision or idea, we have a much better shot at protecting ourselves and living a victorious life.  Make every so-called opportunity go through the Jesus test of obedience, or don’t let it in the front door!

So before you accept an invitation to something that seems questionable, run it by Jesus.

Before exposing your eyes to something on the screen, bring Jesus in to look.

Before pursuing a career move, deciding who to date, accepting that gift, agreeing with an argument, ask Jesus what He thinks.

Make everything go through the front door of your mind and pass through Jesus to get to you.  It’s the only way to keep sin from entering the home of your heart, and the best way to avoid setting off the spiritual alarm system. J

08/09/18 - 2Cor 9

Aug 09, 2018

Give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2Cor 9:7 

God loves givers, so plan, proportion, and praise God in our giving.

Van Morris of Kentucky tells this story:  A mother gave her child a one-dollar bill and a quarter.  "Sweetheart," the mother said, "you can place either one in the offering plate. It's entirely up to you."  As they were driving home, the mother asked the daughter what she had decided to give.  "Well, at first I was going to give the dollar," said the daughter. "But the man behind the pulpit said God loves a cheerful giver, so I felt like I would be much more cheerful if I gave the quarter instead."

Somehow I think the child missed the point about giving with a cheerful heart … and maybe we do too.

Too often, we associate cheerful with happy.  Although there is often happiness in a cheerful heart, that is not the whole meaning.  Being cheerful is about encouraging or enjoying the success of another.  Greed can make us temporarily happy, but doesn’t create cheer.   Cheer is created when we GIVE something for another – whether that’s money, time, encouragement, appreciation, support, etc.  Holding may help us feel happy for ourselves, but it is not cheerful.

That’s why Paul reminds us that when we give, it should be thought out, prepared, and with the desire to cheer another on.  When we give for the sake of others, it pleases God.  And SOMEHOW we seem to know that deep in our soul.  Most people DO realize that it is more blessed to give than to receive.  Because when they have given and it met a need or encouraged a needy person, we actually felt the blessing in our soul. 

If we’re holding back on giving to the Kingdom – we’re missing out.  We miss out on a cheerful heart.  We miss out on some of God’s blessings upon our life.  We miss out on eternal rewards.  And we miss out on expanding the Kingdom of God.  GET THIS:  GOD LOVES GIVERS, because God IS a Giver.  That’s who He is, and that’s who He wants us to be.  When we give – we Cheer God On!

Here’s an exercise to do TODAY (if you delay, you won’t likely do it!):

1.       Stop and look at your account(s), and discern what your current plan for giving looks like.  Write down how you give – whether to church, other organizations, relatives, friends.  Consider also the giving you do to support local fundraisers and shopping center collections.

2.       Review that plan – and consider what God wants you to do with it.  What percentage of income do you give on a regular basis?  Is that appropriate?  Should it be more?  Should it be reallocated?

3.       Make a new plan – consider how you can give to more of the functions that God is directing.  Look for how God wants you to create CHEER when you give.  (Not happiness, but cheer.)

If you’re not cheerful when you give, hit the pause button, and review your giving.  Either you’re not giving properly, or not giving with the right spirit.  Give to create CHEER!  Then watch what happens when you obey and follow through on a plan of consistent giving!  (You will find a cheerFULL heart.)

08/08/18 - 2Cor 8

Aug 08, 2018

Since you excel in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in love - see that you also excel in this grace of giving. 2Cor 8:7  

Giving to God is a privilege & grace - to save souls and break the power of sin in us.

Everybody wants to excel at something.  Musicians want to excel at playing or singing.  Athletes want to excel at their sport.  Entrepreneurs want to excel at their businesses.  Politicians want to excel at their governance.  Preachers want to excel at their teaching.  Moms & dads want to excel at their parenting.

Even in a church, we want to excel at something.  But the ONE thing people prefer NOT to excel at is giving.  That doesn’t mean we don’t have generous people in churches or in the world.  There are MANY GENEROUS Givers!!!  In fact, I’m blown away by the depth and commitment of the smaller percentage of people who give to the Kingdom work so faithfully.  It’s simply amazing what 20% of the Kingdom gives to support the other 80% (on average).

But here’s the thing --- who have you ever heard say they want to EXCEL at giving?  I know people who want to improve their giving, or give more, but who is committed to figuring out how to EXCEL at it?

So based on this Scripture, I wrote down some personal convictions about what excelling at giving might look like.

1.       Certainly it means giving God my first-fruits of anything I receive.  That includes gross salary, bonuses, gifts, etc.  If I want to Excel, then honoring him first in my giving is the starting point.

2.       It also means percentage giving, figuring out the percent of my income that qualifies as an excellent gift.  Abraham & the Scriptures look at 10% as the standard to shoot for, but excellent giving is about what God expects from me (maybe less at the moment, maybe more during this season of life).

3.       Excelling in giving would also challenge me to examine how I spend my income in the other areas of my life.  If I wanted to excel at it, then other areas would be minimized or even eliminated.  I would look at how I spend God’s resources, and try to find ways to bless missions & ministries that would generate a better return.

4.       Excelling also would challenge me in other areas of giving – like giving of my time, giving of my wisdom, investing of my character into the next generation. 

5.       To pursue excellence always requires sacrifice, but also generates the pleasure of knowing we fulfilled our goal.  So excelling at giving would also be goal-driven.  We would want a way to know we accomplished our intent, both to hold ourselves accountable and to know our gifts succeeded.  It would raise the bar significantly on wanting to know what people are doing with our gifts (not to the point of control, but to verify our giving was effective).

You might have a much bigger list than that, but the point is that excelling at giving takes thought, planning, and effort.  The reward is a partnership with God that far exceeds what much of the world looks for, and even the possibility of God routing MUCH MORE RESOURCES through us.  Who knows what God might do with us --- so choose to EXCEL in this gift of giving!

08/07/18 - 2Cor 7

Aug 7, 2018

Because of God's promises, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.  2Cor 7:1 

Our holiness is a reflection of how big God is in our lives.

Here’s a simple principle to consider:  The bigger my God, the better my holiness!

So to turn that around:  People can tell the size of our God by the level of holy obedience we live out.

That sounds very profound, but it really is a simple concept.  Consider:

-          If my God is big enough to solve all my problems, I can be more patient, have a better attitude, offer people more trust, take on bigger challenges, obey His word more faithfully, live more joyfully, have a spirit of forgiveness, and be more content.

-          If my God is smaller than that, I will have to fix every problem, control my circumstances, push my plans, test people’s trustworthiness, discern what works for me, make my own joy, be cautious with forgiveness, and grab for everything in life.

Holiness is not as much about the size of my abilities as it is the size of my God.  That’s both encouraging and convicting.  It’s also why a person can practice religious behaviors and not be holy.  Or why a person can fail miserably in life and still find salvation. 

Paul tells the Corinthians that our God is 100% faithful to EVERY promise.   If we truly believe God is that great and that perfect, then we will trust Him to take care of us when we obey Him.  But if we think God is only 90% faithful, or 80%, or 70% … we not only shrink the size of God in our lives, we shrink the level of holy obedience too. 

Here’s a practice for every temptation or struggle to take shortcuts:  remind yourself GOD is 100% FAITHFUL!

-          He is faithful to give us a way out from a difficult temptation – find it and take it.

-          He is faithful to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from the past – let him make you clean.

-          He is faithful to NEVER leave you nor forsake you – so stand for Him, even against ‘friends’.

-          He is faithful to meet your every need – so be content with what He gives us daily.

-          He is faithful to reward your obedience – so obey and let Him decide how to reward.

-          He is faithful to protect His own – so live for Him.

What percentage does your God represent?  The level of trust reflects the size of your God!

And the size of your God will determine the level of holiness you will live. 

God said:  Be Holy, because I the Lord God AM holy!  He’s our 100% God!  That’s pretty big!

08/06/18 - 2Cor 6

Aug 6, 2018

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? 2 Cor 6:14 

Our closest relationships will influence beliefs, so choose wisely.

What are you looking for in a mate?

When I have asked other people that question, the common answers tend to deal with personality, physique, life season similarities, shared enjoyments, and other physical or emotional characteristics.  Sometimes people list their spiritual expectations, but often that is down the list from appearance or temperament.  Sadly, the traits that tend to be less important before the marriage often become the roadblocks after the wedding. 

Our best relational matches have little to do with physical, emotional or social attributes.  The best relationships share common beliefs and values – which are spiritual attributes.  Show me a couple who have shared beliefs about handling money, raising children, worshipping God, choosing a lifestyle, and I will show you a couple that has a far better chance of going the distance.  But show me one that is mismatched in those areas, and I’ll show you one that will be struggling with doubts and fears.

The Bible teaches us to be yoked with people who have common values in our religious (spiritual) beliefs.  Because when we don’t match up with another person who shares in our faith, it will weaken the person of faith and cause compromise in their values.  When that happens, not only does the marriage head the wrong direction, but the children grow up without a strong moral foundation, and end up struggling with the same challenges in their future relationships.  The principle is simple – beliefs tend to travel to the LOWEST common denominator. 

That’s why SO MANY believers are falling for sinful lifestyles these days!  People are valuing physical attraction and shared enjoyment over spiritual values – and end up sacrificing their obedience to gain the relationship.  In the end, it leaves a trail of brokenness and pain that either must be repaired, or ends up as lingering disappointment.

CHANGE the ORDER!   START with looking at beliefs and values FIRST --- THEN consider the physical, emotional and social elements.  Not only will it lead to a happier relationship, but the marriage will grow more holy.  And THAT IS THE REAL PURPOSE of marriage anyways.

So take 5 minutes right now and start a list – what are the right spiritual values to look for, or to build up, in your marriage.  Whether you are married or not, it will be the foundation of growing holiness in yourself and your closest relationship.