Scripture reading for October 1st: 2nd Corinthians 12
Key Scriptures: 2nd Corinthians 12:7-9 “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
Paul told the Corinthian church briefly about the great revelations he had received when he was caught up into the third heaven, the dwelling place of God. This place is also called ‘paradise’ and Paul was unsure whether he had gone there in bodily form or it was an ‘out of body’ experience. He had heard things there that he was forbidden by God to talk about. So Paul had a ‘thorn given me in the flesh’, ‘a messenger of Satan’ to harass him and keep him humble. Paul had prayed to God to take it away, but God spoke to him about grace. God’s favor would be sufficient for Paul. God’s power would be made perfect in Paul’s weakness. This Word brought peace to Paul and he was now content to boast in his weakness that Christ’s power would rest on him. It is interesting we do not find him binding Satan or continuing to pray for removal. He simply rested and accepted this ‘thorn’, whatever it was, allowing God’s power to rest on him. It appears that the thorns in believer’s lives can take many forms but the result is the same–weakness leading to more grace and power.
2nd Corinthians 12:10 “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Faith confession and prayer: Father, thank You that Your grace is sufficient for me in every trial, persecution, hardship, or even calamity. For the sake of Your Son, Who was made weak by bearing my sins, I accept my weakness and Your grace. I invite You to let Your power flow through me to preach the Gospel and bring healing and salvation to the lost.
2nd Corinthians 12:14-15 “Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. . . . I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. . .”
Scripture reading for September 29th: 2nd Corinthians 10
Key Scriptures: 2nd Corinthians 10:1-6 “I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ–I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!--I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.”
Paul entreated the Corinthians to receive him and his message of the Gospel of Christ. God had assigned to Paul the mission to the Gentiles. False teachers had tried to undermine Paul’s authority and credibility and to undermine the message of salvation by grace through faith. Paul planned on boldly confronting them and had powerful weapons to do that with. It was not flesh and blood he was dealing with, but demonic strongholds of false religion and false doctrines being argued by those in opposition. He came with humility and gentleness in the spirit of Jesus Christ to them, appealing to them to lay hold of the truth and obey it fully. The powerful spiritual weapons that Paul referred to were the Word of God, passionate prayer, holy living, humility and the power of the Holy Spirit to act boldly. These weapons destroy strongholds and bring confrontation to those opposing.
2nd Corinthians 10:13 “But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even you.”
Faith confession and prayer: Father God, I humbly thank You for the assignment you have given me to be a pastor and teacher in Your Church. I rely on the Holy Spirit to reveal Your Word to me and empower me with boldness to use the spiritual weapons that are mighty through God to destroy strongholds, refute arguments, and bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. My boast is in Jesus Christ, the only wise God and Savior.
2nd Corinthians 10:17-18 “”Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.”
Scripture reading for May 21st: Galatians 6
Key Scriptures: Galatians 6:1-5 “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.”
Paul encouraged the church leaders to be gentle in their correction of those in the church fellowship who had been caught up in the false teaching of those promoting circumcision as an addition to faith in Jesus. They must be watchful of their own hearts because these false doctrines have a way of trapping people. Church leaders are to bear one another’s burdens to fulfil the law of Christ, which is truly showing ‘love your neighbor.’ This requires humility and faith, not conceit in our works, thinking we have merit with God through them. The only boasting we can do is in our Lord Jesus Who gives us grace and strength to serve. It is through the cross and Jesus Who alone bore our burden of sins and provided the ‘new creation’ that we will overcome! (Galatians 2:20)
Galatians 6:13 “For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.”
Faith confession and prayer: Lord Jesus, I find my only boast in You and Your amazing grace in making me a new creation. I am not saved by any work of my flesh but only by Your sacrifice on Calvary. All glory and honor and praise to You now and forever! Amen!
Galatians 6:14-15 “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.”
Scripture reading for May 31st: Job 35-37
“I get my knowledge from afar; I will ascribe justice to my Maker. Be assured that my words are not false; one perfect in knowledge is with you.” Job 36:3-4
Have you ever been around a person who thinks he knows everything? For every question, he has an answer and he even has information you did not ask for. Elihu was such a person. He boasted of his great wisdom and but was not much different from the other three friends. He talked down to Job and subtly accused Job of not knowing God, yet he claimed to know God perfectly. (Job 36:4)
Elihu stated that God commanded sinners to repent and that if they listened, they would spend the rest of their days in prosperity. (Job 36:11) This argument had already been hashed around and Job had reminded them that this was not always the case. Sometimes the wicked prosper and nothing seems to touch them here on earth. (Job 21:7-14) We cannot always presume that our life on earth has to be a certain way based on our behavior. God may allow other things to work out His purposes, but they will all be for our good if we love him. (Romans 8:28)
Elihu stated that our sin had no effect on God. (Job 35:6) Sin does have an effect on God. It provokes His anger and all sin is against God first. Without His Law we would not know sin, good or evil. God’s revelation of His Law and the consequences of sin show God’s concern. Job was before the Law was given but God never changes and His character was the same then as now!
Elihu also warned Job not to turn to evil and accused him of preferring evil to affliction. (Job 36:21) When we think that we are perfect in knowledge, we can easily become judgmental and critical of others. Knowledge puffs us up, but love builds us up! (1st Corinthians 8:1b)
As I ponder these dissertations by Job’s friends, I am reminded of my own need to be more quiet and listen longer before I speak. (James 1:19-20) No one is perfect in knowledge and understanding but the Lord! He is our helper and guide! In all our ways we must acknowledge Him, and He will direct our paths! (Proverbs 3:5-7)
Scripture reading for September 11th: 2nd Corinthians 12:1-10
Paul continued his boasting by talking in the third person about a man who was caught up to heaven. “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know–God knows. And I know that this man–whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows–was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.” (2nd Corinthians 12:2-4) The false apostles had stories, but Paul had a personal experience that he could only relay as if it happened to someone else. He had a vision or maybe an experience in his body that only God knew how it occurred. This person was caught up to paradise and heard some things that he was not allowed to express or tell.
Paul told them that he refrained from any more boasting so that people would not put him on a different level and cause him to have pride. God also was concerned about Paul’s pride as well! “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2nd Corinthians 12:7-10)
Much has been written about Paul’s thorn in the flesh. Some say it was a physical ailment related to Paul’s eyesight. Others believe it was the false apostles that continued to attack the church. Paul did seek the Lord about the removal of this thorn and God told him simply to abide in His grace. For Christ’s sake, Paul chose to delight in his weaknesses and trials for the Gospel. He learned that Christ’s power rested on him and worked through him in these trials. We can all learn from this truth!
Scripture reading for September 10th: 2nd Corinthians 11:16-33
Paul continued to write to the Corinthians about the contrast between his ministry and that of the false teachers. He was jealous for them as one who had promised them to Christ. (2nd Corinthians 11:1-3) Paul turned to the use of sarcasm and boasting to try and open their hearts again.
“I repeat: Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then receive me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting. In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool. Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast. You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face. To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that!” (2nd Corinthians 11:16-21) Paul admitted that boasting was not from the Lord. He was using the world’s ways like the fools who had used these methods to enslave the Corinthians. He sarcastically remarked that they put up with fools because ‘they were so wise’! Paul himself never exploited them or took advantage of them.
Paul’s credentials as an apostle were then laid out for them. He was a Hebrew and a descendant of Abraham. He was a servant of Christ who had endured prison, flogging, beatings with rods, stoning, and shipwreck. He had been constantly on the move, avoiding bandits, persecution from other Jews, false brothers, and Gentiles. He went without sleep, was hungry and thirsty, and cold and naked. All this he had endured for the cause of Jesus Christ!
A greater concern than the physical dangers he suffered was his care for all the churches. (2nd Corinthians 11:28-29) Paul hurt with those who were weak and in danger of leaving the faith. He felt a deep burden when one of the brothers or sisters was led into sin by Satan or false teachers. His boasting was not of his great strength, prophesies, preaching and powerful miracles. He was boasting in his weakness and God’s faithfulness to bring him through! Do you boast of your weakness and trials, or of your own accomplishments? May we all be ‘fools for Christ’!