Sunday, January 30, 2011

Encouraging Words

After a miserably unsuccessful day with my sugar detox, I read these words before bed that Paul had penned to the Corinthian Church about his disappointment in their struggle with sin, their weak-kneed faith, and what he longs for them to become. This is my paraphrase & illustration of that letter:

Dear church of God at Corinth (and all the believers who live around you in Achaia),
This is Paul, the apostle of Christ Jesus, and Timothy, our brother in Christ. Do you remember me? I'm writing this because God has laid this message for you on my heart. (2 Cor 1:1)

I want you to know in your hearts the grace and peace of God, your heavenly Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1:2)

(Summary of chapters 1-12) *I think you've misunderstood me so I'm writing to clarify what I said and with what attitude I meant for you to accept and understand it. I really do love you. I don't say these things to break your spirits or discourage you. God has given us a new promise through His Son and we all need to stop living like we're subject to the old law. We need to start living like the renewed, reborn people that God has created us as. Stop this sinning! I've told you my ministry and why I do it. This life is just temporary. A short journey. But what you do now has eternal consequences. Your eternal life starts now, and how you're living is affecting your future! Timothy and I have done an excellent job in our ministry by God's grace and strength. Don't accept our message in vain! Live your life separated from the sinful thoughts and behaviors of this world! You know how I feel about you. You know how much I love you. You know how my heart breaks for you when I see you fail. Your fellow brothers in Christ have shared everything they have, to the point of having nothing themselves. But you know that. You are incredibly generous yourselves. I've boasted about you, but I want to make sure that I haven't said things that aren't true. I want to know that you are still the passionate people you were when I was last with you. Though we all give much, God has given the most. I know I talk big when I write you letters, and I tend to be quiet when I'm with you in person. I want you to know that I'm not a hypocrite. I'm the same person when I'm with you, only I put my zeal into my actions instead. I know I'm not anything great to look at or to listen to, but God has qualified me for my ministry and He is the important one here, not me! I understand your desire to criticize and examine my genuineness and my validity as a servant and messenger of God. You must know that God has already given you sufficient proof that I am His messenger. Now the proving lies with you! What I've been hearing about you makes me worry. I'm afraid that if I were to walk into your fellowship right now, what I would see would be a huge disappointment and disgrace to your testimony of the work God has done in you. I've been transparent with you about who I am and all of my actions and words. It seems to me that you have not been as honest with me. What's going on? Are you saints? Or aren't you? Show me by your actions.*

The good stuff (chapter 13):


2I have previously said when present the second time, and though now absent I say in advance to those who have sinned in the past and to all the rest as well, that if I come again I will not spare anyone,

3since you are seeking for proof of the Christ who speaks in me, and who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you.

4For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of Goddirected toward you.

5Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you--unless indeed you fail the test?

6But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test.

7Now we pray to God that you do no wrong; not that we ourselves may appear approved, but that you may do what is right, even though we may appear unapproved.

8For we can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth.

9For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong; this we also pray for, that you be made complete.

10For this reason I am writing these things while absent, so that when present I need not use severity, in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not for tearing down.

11Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

12Greet one another with a holy kiss.

13All the saints greet you.

14The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.

I'd like to address the bolded words and phrases above. These were the words that hit my heart.

Third time: This is your second warning. Paul had already been with the saints in Corinth twice before. He had instructed them, reproved them, and expected them to have grown up in their faith, at least a little. What he had been hearing about what was happening in the church there was really disappointing and frustrating to him. Now he's writing to them, giving him the same warning he had given to them in person on his second visit with them. Thick-headed people!

Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses: Turns out a few people had tattled on the Corinthians... Naughty, naughty! The Old Testament Law had laid out that it takes at least two witnesses to prove a matter.

...if I come again I will not spare anyone: After two previous visits, how could they still be confused and still be living like they were new to God's words to them? Unbelievable! He was about ready to kick some butt if they didn't shape up quick. He didn't want to waste his time there doing painful correcting when it could have been a time of joy and wonderful fellowship and fun!

...seeking for proof: I think Paul was beyond irritated by the Corinthians' questioning of the holiness and godliness of his ministry. Especially when he was receiving reports that they were being sinful, terrible testimonies, tolerating sin in the fellowship and not seeking repentance. Who were they to call him a hypocrite when he was hearing reports of them that were contrary to who he had seen when he had been there last? All of his letters hadn't been a defense of himself, but rather words to build them up. They were taking everything out of context and causing a mess.

...because of weakness: The Corinthians seemed to be mistaking weakness, humility, and gentleness for a lack of faith. Paul was trying to show them that God died on the cross because he chose weakness. He chose not to be proud and strong, but took on the form of a humble servant. Weakness or dependence on another is not wrong in itself.

...because of the power of God: The Corinthians seemed to despise weakness, yet their sin showed their weakness, and they were only living in new life and eternal life because of the POWER of God that raised Jesus and gave them the resurrection for their own souls. Strength and weakness can reside together! We, as humans in mortal form, are weak. We have no strength to control our future. We can influence it, but only God can control it. We have sin natures that conquer us daily. However, God has imprinted and sealed us with the holy spirit, which gives us the choice to be strong and resist temptation.

Test yourselves...Examine yourselves!: Since the Corinthians were reportedly living in sin and tolerating it in the church, Paul challenges them to see if THEY are in the spirit.

Jesus Christ is in you: Paul challenged the Corinthians to find proof that they were possessing the true strength of God that can conquer the sinful issues in their church. Maybe they had looked in the mirror and walked away forgetting who they were and all that God had given them in Christ's sacrifice?

...we ourselves do not fail the test: Paul and his partners already knew where they stood before God. They had a thriving ministry to the saints that proved the fruit of their hearts to be good and godly. no what is right: No matter what the Corinthians viewed Paul and his ministry partners as, he wanted them to walk in the way and to be successful. He didn't want to be used as an excuse or a crutch for their weak-kneed faith and the sinful behaviors that were rumored to be running rampant. made complete: Paul couldn't care less if he was thought weak, if it would be the outcome of strength and victory for those he ministered to. Paul had the true heart of a servant, and the love of God in great measure for those saints. We need to love each other more like Paul loved the Corinthian church! Be excited about the fruit of your ministry! Be excited when a fellow believer grows and triumphs because of your sacrifice. How awesome is it to share in Christ's sacrifice like that? Blessed to overflowing.

...rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.: Paul wanted the believers to prove God was in them and that they could conquer the sin that had snuck in. He wanted them to exhibit the godly traits (joy, satisfaction, comfort, unity, peace) that come from godly hearts and fellowship. What greater gift can a church receive than the presence of the Lord? To know soul-deep his love and peace. How can a church not flourish when it has God's love and peace in its firm embrace? There's no room for fear or hatred or sin when our hearts and minds are filled with love and peace.

holy kiss: I'm sorry, but you can't fake a holy kiss. Aretha Franklin sang a song about the truth of a kiss. It goes like this:

(Is it in his eyes?) Oh no! You need to see!

(Is it in his size?) Oh no! You make believe!

If you wanna know if he loves you so

It's in his kiss. That's where it is!

- Aretha Franklin "It's in His Kiss"

The Corinthians needed to sort things out amongst themselves and then kiss and makeup. You can't synthesize God's love in your heart or your church. It's something that is nurtured, gently tended, and strong. It stands up against hurtful words and thoughtless actions. It fosters forgiveness and generosity. It gives the "glow" of a happy bride. Christ wants His Bride (the church) to glow with joy! Don't allow yourself or your church to be a Bridezilla! be with you all: God's grace heals many wounds. His love covers a multitude of wrongs. His fellowship brings sweet peace, joy, and contentment to the hearts of His followers. I want to (and need to) embrace these things each new morning. I want to be beautiful for God. Paul wanted these wonderful things for the saints he knew were struggling, hurting, and living in the pain of sin. Who wouldn't want these things for their children?

To sum it all up (and to get back to the point of this whole post), I failed in my commitment to my diet. Unlike the Corinthians, I know why I failed! I haven't been in God's word daily. I wasn't making spiritual food of equal importance as the physical food I was avoiding or trying to increase. No matter how well you do in your spiritual life, if it's in your own strength, you'll fail eventually. Like the Corinthians, I have to be reminded and reproved over and over again in my walk. It's kind of embarassing! Yet I'm thankful for the grace, love, and fellowship of the spirit that is freely given me when I choose to repent. What a light the gospel is in this dark heart of mine! I'm learning that when I walk with God without His word, I'm taking a stroll in the most beautiful flower garden with my eyes closed. Who does that??

God is good. Enough said. Thanks for letting me share this with you. It was so enlightening and exciting to me, and I hope you can share in my joy also!

God bless you & give you grace, love, and fellowship!

Alpine Flowers - Courtesy of

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