When the month of March arrives, we say it came in like a lamb and will go out like a lion or the reverse. This year, due to the pandemic, we might use that same phrase. How will 2020 leave, and how will 2021 arrive? For me, I am ready for a new month and then a new year! In the meantime, as December arrives, I want to ask, are you and I ready to receive the Christ child? Or are we putting him on a shelf?
Many are facing a bleak Christmas and New Year because of illness or loss of a livelihood. Paul is a good example for us because he continued to boast of his relationship with God, even in hard circumstances. Not even a thorn in the flesh, which he asked the Lord to remove, could dampen his spirit. He said I am content with weakness, insults, trouble, and persecution. Also, Paul told the Corinthians, “I boast about you even in my suffering.” Can we say the same?
Advent is a perfect time to stop and reflect on God’s goodness in the midst of a hard time and give God praise. I have put together some Advent devotionals and will share them here each day to help you. It is hoped that with each day, you will join me in giving God praise!
2Cor 7 to 9 Our world is awash in the pandemic, leaving us without that face to face time with our closest companions. The government tells us to wear masks and quarantine; use zoom or email, but that special face to face time is limited or non-existent. So loneliness sets in and especially so for our elderly who are widows or widowers. Paul’s best friends were Titus and Timothy, and when he was separated from these two, Paul felt the loneliness our elderly and singles are facing today. Perhaps you can relate. Reading between the lines we see that Paul began by encouraging others with overflowing joy, even in the midst of separation. He notes that he is troubled, but God is his encourager and even more so when Titus arrived to cheer him on. Who is your cheerleader?
In separation we can turn on the TV, go to our email accounts, but it is the power of the Word that encourages the downhearted. Titus’ arrival with news of the Corinthians who had repented brought great joy to him. So it is that just a visit from others to us brings us great joy and lightens the heart.
But what if you can’t meet face to face? Do as the phone company said, “Reach out and touch someone” with a phone call, and then take today to read through this chapter underlining his words of encouragement.
2Cor 5 Some long for riches and fame, which pass away as a cloud moves across the sky. Some long for a richer and more fulfilled life. Some like Paul, Polycarp, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer longed to be absent from the body and present with the Lord. All three faced martyrdom, and their lives speak to us from the grave of the truths found in God’s Word. Each had a life journey, and each found peace when the day came for their entrance into glory. What makes heroes of the faith?
Like Paul they chose to “walk by faith, not by sight..” [2Cor 5:7] making it “our ambition to please Christ.” [2Cor 5:9 author phrasing] All of these men saw and followed the example of the risen Christ. The author of Hebrews says, “the world was not worthy of them.” [Heb 11:38]They, along with the Hall of the faithful of Hebrews 11, are our spiritual heroes.
Polycarp, when faced with imminent death, replied Christ, “has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?” Being led to the gallows, Bonhoeffer’s last words were, “This is the end–for me, [but] the beginning of life.”
Our purpose now as then is to be an ambassador for Christ who became “sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” [2Cor 5:21]
2Cor 1 Teddy Bears are given to foster children and those facing surgery as a way of comforting them when the future is an unknown. God has given us others to comfort us as we face times of difficulty. Paul noted that God is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. Do you trust that He can comfort you in all of your troubles? Do you see your troubles as God’s open door for you to minister to others? Paul wanted the Corinthians and us to know that God “comforts us in all our troubles so that we may be able to comfort those experiencing any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” [2Cor 1:5]
Are you confident and able to trust that God is involved in your circumstances? Paul’s testimony was that he was steadfast and immovable in whatever circumstance he found himself in because his hope was set on God alone.
Lastly, Paul reminded the Corinthians to pray without ceasing so that many people may give thanks to God. John Bunyan wrote: “In prayer, it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”
What adversity are you facing today, and how may we pray for you in this time?
1Cor 13 Puzzles are challenging and time-consuming and there is nothing more frustrating than working on one only to note that one piece is missing. Our lives are like a puzzle and if we are missing the key piece of love we are like a cymbal that is off-key.
The word Paul uses is “AGAPE” and it means love without changing, self-giving without expecting something in return, even if rejected. It has little to do with emotion but much to do with self-denial for the sake of another. It is love in action and it is love that is virtuous.
Want to know what true love is; look at Christ. Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind, and Jesus was not nor will ever be envious. Jesus was humble; he was the epitome of humility (Phil 2). Love is what the world needs so they may see Christ.
Paul ends this chapter with these words: And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love for it never falls short. It never fails. You may have many gifts but without that great gift of the Holy Spirit’s Fruit, (Gal 5:22) you are a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. Today mirror Christ to the world! Ask Jesus to give you that quality so that you exhibit Him!
The B-I-B-L-E. yes that’s the book for me, the B-I-B-L-E
Days come and days go, and in those times, we are faced with decisions that are rewarded in blessings or consequences. We would be wise to learn from the past. If we don’t heed what is written for our instruction, we will repeat the same mistakes. To help each one of us, here are three principles which we should heed and be true to:
God is faithful. He will not let us be tempted or tried beyond what we can bear. But, we must seek his way to escape out of that temptation. The Israelites faced a test and failed because they had a way of escape but failed to seek God and His plan.
All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable, nor do all things edify. Ask: Will what I eat or drink glorify God? If not, walk away from it.
Temptations will come, not if they come, they will certainly come. Do not put the Lord to the test. Rather, when tempted, listen to the Holy Spirit who has been given to convict and instruct us.
May we be wise and discerning as we listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit’s counsel. Start with the B-I-B-L-E. That’s God’s instructional manual!
The B-I-B-L-E, yeah that’s the book for me I stand alone on the word of God The B-I-B-L-E
Here’s the link to that children’s song https://tinyurl.com/y3g47gqg
1Cor 5-8 Christ gave us a higher principle when we are faced with sin.
Luke 17:3-5 “If your brother sins, rebuke him. If he repents, forgive him.” Leave the results to God. An example from history: Corrie Ten Boom. Many years after being released from one of the worst concentration camps in WWII, met one of the guards who had foisted these atrocities upon her and many others. As Corrie came face to face with him and heard his words of repentance, she had a choice. Later she wrote that when she offered forgiveness, it was like a “flood of joy and peace.”
Paul speaks to the disputes going on in the Corinthian church, and he is distraught by their actions. They were airing their dirty laundry in the courts rather than allowing the church to determine the right response. Are there times when one must take the case to the courts of the land? Obviously, yes, as Paul did in Acts 22 and 25, seeking resolve and using his Roman citizenship as the leveraging tool. However, in this chapter, Paul addresses two individuals who had a dispute and needed to resolve it in the church, not outside where the unbelieving audience would be watching and determining Christianity’s stance.
We live and move in an unrighteous world, but our responses speak volumes to those without Christ. The greatest example is forgiving when others would say, “strike ’em dead.’ Jesus reminded us that there is a higher law that God holds us to, which is to forgive others as He has forgiven us.
1Cor 1-4 Romans gave us a theological discussion on salvation, unity, and service. Today we begin the walkthrough 1Corinthians. “This book provides a glimpse of life inside a first-century church.
Of all the churches that Paul birthed, loved, and tended, the Corinthian church had by far the most eye to eye contact and teaching than any other. He challenges them in three areas: their calling, contentions, and commitment.
The Corinthians were called of God, enriched in Jesus Christ, and did not lack any spiritual gift. They should boast in the Lord for the work He has done. However, Paul noted that there were divisions in the church, with some leaning towards following Paul, others Apollos, and others Cephas. He reminded them they should seek unity, not divisions; unity is key to a prosperous and functioning church. Thirdly, Paul reminded them that they were not a stumbling block to either the Jew or the Greek seeking. Always Christ should be pre-eminent in all they do and how they live for the world is watching.
To be called is a great honor. As God calls you, may you live as men/women of Christ; the world sees and desires His calling. May our testimony reveal that we live and work in our churches with a unified spirit. Lastly, may we present Christ that others may desire Him and Him alone.
Romans 12 to 16 What is faith? How do you know you have it, or how do you know it is real? These are questions that come to us from those who are struggling in their walk with the Lord. Faith is an intangible gift from God. You can’t see it or feel or smell it or touch it, but it is real. Faith is proven not by our feelings but by our way of walking, trusting God for each new step along a path He has ordered in eternity past. It is, as James said, proven by our works. Paul says we prove it by presenting our bodies as a sacrifice—alive, holy, and pleasing to God. He notes that it must be without hypocrisy, for love is the highest and greatest gift to God and mankind. That is the real test of faith.
We all have those in our sphere of influence who are weak in their faith. How then do we engage them and encourage them? We do it by not judging them for their walk. Practically we “who are strong [in our faith] ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not just please ourselves.” [Rom 15:1 author addition]Further on, we are to receive each other just as Christ has received you.
May this day be a day in which we don’t look inwardly at our faith but outwardly in the demonstration of our faith to others.
Romans 9 to 11: Temporal losses of a job are tough, but there is always hope to find another. You can lose a home and its contents, but you can build a new one. But you cannot bring back a loved one. Paul’s heart is broken 💔 for his people, but he also knows and understands the why; they who are lost are stubborn just as he was and Pharaoh along with countless others. Truth: “if we deliberately keep on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins is left for us.” [Heb 10:26]
Men’s hearts are hard and stubborn. They think there is a tomorrow when they can call upon God for salvation but there may be no tomorrow; today is the day of salvation. They know God’s mercy is evident and they understand that He has stretched out His hands to them but they keep delaying. Is this you? Have you called upon the Lord who saves? If not, know this; God and others are grieving for your soul.
Paul is speaking, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.” Is this your grief too for those who are lost?
Blessed One, we must earnestly contend for the faith. [Jude 1:3] We must “go and make disciples.” [Matt 28] We must pray for our loved ones who do not know Christ. Just as Moses, Paul was willing to forgo his eternal salvation so that the lost might be saved. Would we be so willing?