2 Corinthians 5:8 | Why God?

One objection to God that has gathered my attention lately is the question why would God allow suffering and death. Why the loss of a child? Why death from covid? How could God do such a thing especially when one sees the evil done toward children from other people and from the harsh environment of the world itself. This question for me was resolved long ago and for those asking this question now the answer is found in understanding the world from God’s perspective.

We are always so wrapped up in ourselves. Focusing on our loss or our expectations. And here is the big perspective issue… We live and view this world as the end. This world is not our home. This world is temporary and trying to get comfortable here in such a way that we delude ourselves into thinking it is forever leaves us to question God when this world is not forever.

6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 2 Corinthians 5:6-9 ESV

There are two homes. The temporary home and the home with God in eternity. Paul uses a Greek word for home that is only found in these few verses ἐνδημέω (endēmeō). The definition is to be among one’s own people, dwell in one’s own country, stay at home. Paul is saying here that we are of good courage because while here in this temporary body we are with brother and sisters in Christ. And we are also of good courage if dead because we are at home with our heavenly father dwelling in our true home with our true people.

We see a tragedy where people die due to an accident and we question God. Why Lord? Jesus responded to an accident that happened where a tower (under construction, due to negligent building practices, or due to earthquake we don’t know) collapsed and killed 18 people. It must have been all the news because Jesus brought it up. Were the 18 judged by God and the preverbal lighting bolt fell from the sky? Where the 18 in the wrong place at the wrong time? Why Lord?

3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:3-5 ESV

Jesus offers no answer to the “why” question. He only notes that everyone is a sinner and unless we repent, we will perish. God owes me no answers. He is God and he has ordered the days of my life. We are promised nothing beyond today because this life, this time, this world, and this universe are temporary. If God permits a child to die that child while taken from us here and now is reunited with God in eternity. We greave and it is a hardship that can break hearts we take good courage, as Paul writes, that this child is at home with God.

12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

13 Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants!

14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

Psalms 90:12-14 ESV

The pain of lost loved ones is real and I do not wish to diminish that for anyone who has lost, but I also want us all as we approach God see things from His perfect perspective. He has limited our time on earth. He calls us to repentance for our own actions and we like Paul can take good courage in knowing that our true home is with Christ in Heaven.

9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 5:9-10 ESV

2 Corinthians 4:3 | The Veiled Light

As Christians it is our primary duty to share the gospel of Jesus with family, friends, community, and the world. Jesus promised the disciples, and modern Christians by extension, that “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth”. (Acts 1:8 ESV) Nothing in that promise has changed. That promise that Christians will be the witnesses of Christ to everyone is ongoing right this minute. Paul in his letter to the church writes what may be the most inspiring and motivating evangelistic words in the Bible.

3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 ESV

The gospel of Jesus Christ is hidden. The Greek word for “veiled” here means to “hinder the knowledge of a thing” καλύπτω (kalyptō). The knowledge of Christ is hidden from those who are perishing. Christians speak of a lost and dying world but in reality, we should change that phrase to a dark and dead world and only the light and new birth in Jesus Christ, the gospel, will save that dark and dead world. Those whose minds are blinded are blinded by the “god”, or Satan, of this world to keep them from seeing the “light of the gospel of the glory of Christ”.

Satan is actively working to suppress the light of Christ in this world. Where then does the light come from and how is it suppressed? The source of the light is God and specifically the glory of Christ and Paul tells us that the light shines from our heart outward.

6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV

Pause for a moment brother and sister in Christ. Pause and think for a moment that the light of God, the light of the knowledge of God, the light of the gospel message, shines in our hearts. The light is inside of you Christian! Therefore, of the light is veiled. If the light is dim, if the light is not making it to those around you then why?

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 ESV

Do you hide the light in your heart? Are you fearful to expose your heart of light to the world? Paul understood that there are risks and there are abuses for those that open their heart for the world to see. The god of this world wants you to hide you light. This evil god wants the dead to remain so in darkness and Paul addressed that with these wonderful words of realism and encouragement.

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 ESV

March on spiritual warrior of God. Take up the spiritual weapons and walk right into that ridicule, that mockery, that persecution, that loss of a job, even that death in this life if so called because of the surpassing power of God is there at work. Let that light shine. Eternity is at stake.

2 Corinthians 3:1 | Credentialism is Killing the Church

The world is changing. The post covid world is being shaped before our lives as we live through this historic event. My trust in institutions, experts, scientists, and authorities has been completely broken. Between the media war on the former president and their absolute covering for the current president to the complete failure of leaders to remove politics and focus on helping people in the pandemic it is clear to me that salvation and help will never come from the institutions, national government, or press. Both groups are cut from the same educational institutions and both groups have a global agenda that does not care for the every day person.

I realize this intro is much more political than normal but these realizations have brought me to a place where I am questioning the desire of the western world to credential everyone and only those with credentials have any value to add. This covid world makes it obviously clear that it is unwise to think that only those with credentials should be listened too.

The same happens in the church. Preachers go to seminary for degrees and preachers are the only authority that may speak God’s word in the church. The members of the church are just fine letting the better educated preacher do all the work of ministry. That kind of church is dysfunctional and will die.

Paul writes to the Corinthians and poses a question.

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 Corinthians 3:1 ESV

Paul wants to know if he needs to be credentialed in order to speak to the church. Who has authority to speak or teach in the church? Is that decided by people or should that be decided by God?

4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 ESV

Paul answers the question… “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything… but our sufficiency is from God”. Paul does not need letters of recommendation because Paul was made sufficient by God. Jesus called Paul to preach the gospel and Jesus backs that call up by the lives changed, miracles worked, and the impact on communities where Paul is sent.

The same is true of the disciples. Very few of them were educated and credentialed to do what Jesus called them to do by the standards of society.

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. Acts 4:13 ESV

In the eyes of the religious leaders Peter and John were recognized not as illiterate simpletons but they were recognized as uncredentialled. No journalist would go to Peter and John for a quote and call them an “expert” or a “source”. They had not achieved the academic rigor necessary to speak on these topics. I have an advanced degree from a seminary. True that education makes me a better teacher however that credential does not give me an authority to be a teacher in the local church. Jesus calling me to teach in the church makes me a teacher. I am sufficient to teach because he called and over the years I have worked hard to be a worker approved as directed by Jesus not some earthly authority. Peter and John were sufficient to be disciples because Jesus called them. “but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant”.

There is a quote that I keep close as I love the local church. I keep this quote close as my desire to see the church grow might lead me to schemes and marketing ideas help God along.

The problem with modern Christianity’s obsession with principles is that it removes any real conversation with God. Find the principle, apply the principle – what do you need God for? (John Eldredge, Wild at Heart, p210, 2001)

Our obsession should be not with governments, schools, marketing, media, social media preachers, or other organizations staffed with sinners… our obsession must be with Jesus and what he wants from us.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15 ESV

What is Jesus asking of you uncredentialled or over credentialed sinner? How does Jesus want you to spend your time in the local church? If you love him then get busy because he is sufficient for that task that he, the Creator, called you to do.

2 Corinthians 2:14 | The Smell of Victory

One of the best parts of the fall holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, are the smells. The smells trigger wonderful memories for me. I love the pine smell of a Christmas tree. I love the fire place smoke. I love the smells of the kitchen spices. It is a wonderful time of the year. I think if one were to walk into a home that is cooking something wonderful the smells alone can change the mood in a positive direction.

14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 ESV

Paul in his letter to the Corinthians reminds them that they themselves are a sweet fragrance and a positive influence because they are infused with the aroma of Christ. Is there a person that walks into a room and you instantly feel more at ease? To others Paul says that Christians are the “fragrance of the knowledge of [God]” in every direction. We fill up the room with the smell of God. That presence flows to every corner of our influence. That aroma is noticeable and pervasive. People know when you have been with God. His love flows out of you in overflowing glory. Some hate that smell and others embrace it. So what is the smell that is so overwhelming? What is this fragrance? It is the “aroma of Christ” an incense burned up to God. Christ is the incense and we who are being saved are bathed in the atoning smoke.  

And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it. Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the Lord throughout your generations. You shall not offer unauthorized incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering, and you shall not pour a drink offering on it. 10 Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year. With the blood of the sin offering of atonement he shall make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the Lord.” Exodus 30:7-10 ESV

When we look at the history of the Old Testament everything prescribed and everything commanded by God was done to point toward Jesus and the perfect savior. The Priest would burn a specific type of incense as part of the temple duties before God as part of the sacrifice and sin covering attornment process. Jesus completed and fulfilled all those duties when he died on the cross for my sins and your sins.

Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV

Jesus Christ became the burnt offering of attornment. Jesus Christ is the fragrant incense burning before God and those who are being saved are bathed in that smell. So therefore, be imitators of God. Be his representative on earth toward everyone around you. Smell like victory in Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:20 | Yes to God’s Glory

The Bible is full of promises and most readers have a few promises that they have held onto in their lives. “God your word promises this to be true and I want to trust you for that promise” is a prayer I have made. For me a promise I have held onto over the years is from Romans.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  Romans 12:2 ESV

I love this verse because it is a promise to me that I can trust God. This world is broken. This world is hard. This world is painful. But the promise that I can trust God’s will for me is “good and acceptable and perfect” is a profound idea. And when I look back on where I come from through the pain, joy, tears, and mountain tops I can see he has been there protecting me. He has been guiding me. He has had a perfect plan for me and it is acceptable. I can only be grateful and thankful for all the care and concern he has poured into my life.

But why does he do it? I am just an average person living an average life. Why is he involved with me?

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 2 Corinthians 1:20 ESV

I am living proof that God is active in the lives of creation. My life is an “Amen” to him. Why does he interject himself in my life? He does it because he loves me, since he created me, and because I glorify him. When I write this post and when I go about my life as a living example of what it looks like to glorify God it is noticeable. People at work I have never spoken a word to about church or God or Jesus have asked me to pray for them. Conversations change from crass to more acceptable when I enter the room. I have never asked anyone to stop speaking about a topic and I have never judged anyone for their conversations. It all happens because, I pray, God is glorified. All of his promises are found true because I am resting in Christ and trusting him for today. I want God to be glorified because of what he has done.

Why does God perform miracles in the lives of people? Healed people still get stick again. Life fixed in one moment is broken later. Our need for God never ends. Look at the example of Lazarus the man Jesus raised from the dead. Lazarus is not alive today so the poor man had to die twice. Look here at the words of Jesus explaining why he raised Lazarus from the grave.

Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” John 11:40 ESV

Jesus did this so the people at that moment would glorify God. God wanted to show his glory to them. How awesome is that? All of the YES to the promises of God find their glory in God. Why does God inject himself into the lives of people through Christ? So that we might glorify him and give him our yes. Dear reader if you have not said yes to Jesus now is that time.

2 Corinthians 12:10 |Content in Weakness

weak

I am rarely content. I think it is a sickness to always want more. It is part of the sin nature to covet and desire. Always comparing myself to my neighbors and coming up short. It eats away at the soul to always want more.

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. 2 Corinthians 12:10 ESV

Contentment while having a lack of money and power and contentment with actual hardships points to a diminished sense of self and selfish desires. Paul found strength to live like this through Christ. Wealth is a dangerous power because it creates an illusion that the possessor of the wealth has control over life and can live independent of God. We control less than we think. Wealth only separates one from dependence on God temporarily like the foolish prodigal son who left his father to live a life independent of any care for tomorrow.

12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:12-13 ESV

That is not to say wealth in this life cannot and should not be taken advantage of when it is used for God’s glory according to his leading. The strength comes not from the wealth, in fact it is a weakness, strength comes from Christ and Christ alone.

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV

Whatever your circumstance, rich, poor, happy, sad, strong, or weak give thanks to God that he has given Christ. Give thanks to God for giving you life to live. Be content where you are today and be grateful for all that you already have secured through his love.