Sharing in Christ’s sufferings

2 Corinthians 1.5For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 2 Corinthians 1:5

SSSsssssoooo we need to pause for a moment before we move on and make certain we understand what Paul is talking about when he is speaks of suffering. It’s  one of those “don’t get it twisted” things.

Paul is addressing suffering for the cause of Christ, suffering for the Kingdom of God, suffering because of God’s righteousness…not the messes we get ourselves into because we allow our flesh to rule. I think it interesting that God knew we would need this clarification and wrote it beautifully in 1 Peter:

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 1 Peter 4:12-16 ESV

Just in case the ESV didn’t speak your language, here it is in the New Living Translation:

12 Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. 13 Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in His suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing His glory when it is revealed to all the world.
14 If you are insulted because you bear the name of Christ, you will be blessed, for the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you. 15 If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs. 16 But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name!

1 Peter 4.16

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The suffering is real…

2 Corinthians 1.9

“8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us again. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” 2 Corinthians 1:8-11

As we read the verses above, we quickly understand just how real Paul’s suffering was for the cause of Christ. It came with: 

  • great pressure
  • that was far beyond ability to endure
  • so much pressure that he despaired of life itself
  • felt like he had received the sentence of death

But praise God, he keeps writing and tells us why. Now, remember Paul is just an instrument, this is actually God-breathed Words so God is telling us why this happened in Paul’s life and ministry.

that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. “Shout now -Hallelujah, Selah”…just pause for a bit and ponder…because relying on self yields nothing of eternal value. This is something we all need to understand. Relying on self will not work, but relying on God will bring deliverance and even life out of dead people and things! Truly, this is what God did when He raised Jesus from the dead and is true for every true believer. 

The power to raise the dead did not stop at our salvation. Our God is still on the throne and He is still in control. Be encouraged about the dead things in and around your life. Are we not guilty of sometimes trying to fix things, give life ourselves, of relying on ‘me, myself, and I?’ The Lord wants us to know, it will not work. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17).” This includes the gift of deliverance.

Paul keeps writing, He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us again. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us.” My, my, my, God came to the rescue and Paul has no doubt that He will do so again because Paul worked by God’s calling and for His glory.

Only God can deliver from a deadly peril- not man, not intellect, not reason, not tears, not technology, not machines…not anyone or anything but God. Just because we exalt ourselves and man, it does not mean that either are capable of eternal results on their own.

Life is in the hand of our God. He is the One who is greater than deadly perils no matter what form or fashion they come in. Yes, we should give honor where honor is due and bless those who help us but always know men are instruments of the Holy, Almighty, All-Knowing and Sovereign God and He and He alone is our Deliverer, no matter what type deliverance we need. 

So again, as the Scriptures declare, “That we might not rely on ourselves” [or anyone or anything else] but God, who raises the dead [no matter who or what is dead]. Our loving Father, will bring us to seasons of suffering to help us know Him for Who He is, our Deliverer, Peace, Security, the Author and Finisher of our Faith, Life, Light, and Sufficiency. Praise His Holy Name! On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us…”

Psalm 121.png

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Encouragement in the Lord

2 Corinthians 1.3and4

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.  2 Corinthians 1:3-7

The Apostle Paul founded the church at Corinth and ministered there for 1 1/2 years. The church experienced some trouble after Paul was no longer there and he sent Timothy to the church to deal with the issues. The issues persisted and Paul had to visit the church himself to deal with those involved but issue was not resolved. He later sent Titus with a stern letter and Titus was able to report that problem was resolved.

Paul then wrote a second letter – 2 Corinthians with encouragement as one of the aims. As we look at the verses above from the letter, two things are very clear:

  1. believers can expect trouble and suffering
  2. comfort (encouragement) is available in God

Life comes with the “stuff” whether it is with the church, at home, at work, within the family, outside the family, in the world and on and on. There are times that we are hurting, disappointed, troubled, anxious and even depressed. I would dare to say that we all at one point or the other in life have had our moments of being the bear in the image below.

2 Corin 1.3-4

Look at his little eyes and mouth, his hand position and we know that he is sad and despondent. There is pain, suffering, anxiety that came about due to the circumstances and situations of life. Sometimes, the press can be so bad that even getting out the bed is a little too much.

I know that I have had those days in my life and have learned that one of the best ways around discouragement and depression is to move my focus from myself and my circumstance to the God who loves me so much that He gave His Son so we could have intimate relationship. This movement always begins with praise of the One, True and Living God and thanking Him that He is indeed my Father and I am His child.

It is my way of doing as the Psalmist declared in Psalm 24, Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle (vs 7-8).” It is then that I am able to begin to defeat the enemy of soul and preach the Word over myself.

No matter what your battle may be today, please know that the King of Glory is strong and mighty in battle. This alone is worthy of our praise and should bring comfort and encouragement to our souls but look at verse 3 as well and find the listing of reasons to praise our God.

  • He is God
  • He is Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
  • He is the Father of compassion
  • He is the God of all comfort
  • He comforts us in all our troubles

He is the God who will make His presence known right in the room with us and strengthen us to respond to His command to “…Get up! Pick up your mat and walk (John 5:8).”

Yes, comfort is available in God. He will use His Word, His Spirit, and sometimes He sends someone like Paul who can encourage to walk by faith and not sight, to endure suffering to His glory and blessing of others. We will talk about that on tomorrow. In the meantime, I’m lifting up my head and letting the King of Glory come in! Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle!

Psalm 24.8

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Sing to the Lord a new song!

Psalm 149.4

Psalm 149 (ESV)

Praise the Lord!
Sing to the Lord a new song,
    his praise in the assembly of the godly!
Let Israel be glad in his Maker;
    let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!
Let them praise his name with dancing,
    making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!
For the Lord takes pleasure in his people;
    he adorns the humble with salvation.
Let the godly exult in glory;
    let them sing for joy on their beds.
Let the high praises of God be in their throats
    and two-edged swords in their hands,
to execute vengeance on the nations
    and punishments on the peoples,
to bind their kings with chains
    and their nobles with fetters of iron,
to execute on them the judgment written!
    This is honor for all his godly ones.
Praise the Lord!

Psalm 149.1

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Only one King

Romans-6-12

Romans 6:8-14 (ESV)
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

The above verses are such a encouragement to me. It is just so undeserving…this new life in Christ!

Now this I know, I have first-hand experience. Sin is a horrible master, it is never satisfied. You do what it calls for and it is not content. The tempter will show right back up with a new and greater opportunity.

With this in mind, verse 11 is an awesome blessing as I read my Father’s words, “So you also much consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (vs. 11).” I mean, there goes that mind thing again…I am to consider, think carefully about what God has spoken here and regard myself to dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. No man said that, it is God-breathed. My body and my mind do not have to be controlled by sin.

Before Christ, sin had control but Jesus died so my old nature could die and I could become a new creature in Christ. Jesus broke the power of sin and as a child of God I am to walk out this new life by surrendering my all to Christ.

Verse 12-13a gives clear instructions toLet not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness…”

It’s that word, “reign” that really gets my attention and causes me to rejoice…because it takes all the fight out about my allowing the flesh to have its way. It allows me to see how necessary this instruction is for my walk with Christ. 

I know it is a simple definition but when I see the word, reign, I immediately think rule, control, sovereign. When I accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, I surrendered every bit of rule, control, sovereignty, authority to Him. It would be impossible to be surrendered to both sin and Christ. Don’t misunderstand, it’s not that I live a perfect life but believers are commanded to “present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.”  

This verse tells me to present my entire being to God – body, soul, and spirit and then become His instrument. He is the Source and Power as I walk by His Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26)! This is absolutely my great blessing and honor- for the glory of God and my benefit. It is absolutely nothing we deserve BUT GOD…! And verse 14, gives us reason to know it is possible and rejoice:

“14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” As the song says, “I’m free, I’m free, no more chains holding me. Praise the Lord! Hallelujah! I’m free!”

revelation-19-16

Romans 6.14

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Wisdom Wednesday

Psalm 119.105

Blessings today! It is Wisdom Wednesday! I am excited because on today and tomorrow we will continue with a focus on the Word of God. In Matthew 4:4, Jesus said, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” God is not a man that He should lie…so let’s read some additional words that God has spoken in regards to His Word. On today and tomorrow, I will share some short writings from a couple of my old friends, Charles Spurgeon (today) and A. W. Tozer (Thursday). May God grace us with many Selah, pause and ponder, moments. Please comment below if He gives you words to share. May your day be filled with joy as you meditate upon His Word!

Word 33

“Every word of God is flawless;
H
e is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Proverbs 30:5

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

Word 31Word 30

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. Ephesians 6:13-18

Word 29Word 28

The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.”
Isaiah 40:8

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word-26.png

God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

word-241.jpg

Word 17

For the word of the Lord is right and true;
He is faithful in all he does. Psalm 33:4

Singing the old hymn today, “Open my eyes that I might see.”

1.Open my eyes, that I may see
glimpses of truth thou hast for me;
place in my hands the wonderful key
that shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!

2.Open my ears, that I may hear
voices of truth thou sendest clear;
and while the wavenotes fall on my ear,
everything false will disappear.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!

3.Open my mouth, and let me bear
gladly the warm truth everywhere;
open my heart and let me prepare
love with thy children thus to share.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my heart, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Psalm 119.114

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Did God really say?

Genesis-3-1-Has-God-Said-red-copy

We hear the serpent asking Eve the above question in the garden before the fall of man.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman,Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’? (Genesis 3:1 NIV84).”

And we know how that conversation ended up, don’t we?!?
Now, my life experience has been that whatever proves effective for the enemy, he will keep doing until I cast it down as prescribed in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to 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.”

The “Did God really say” question proved very effective for satan with Eve in the garden. Once she allowed that seed of deception to settle in her mind, the enemy then challenged Eve’s thoughts by implying, “and if He did what kind of God is that?” The next thing we know, Eve is eating the forbidden fruit and giving some to Adam. Yep, that fiery dart landed…bull’s eye!

The world’s message today of “everything is relative” is one of satan’s fiery darts that continues to ask man the question “Did God really say?” We see this teaching proven out in the self-indulgence and self-exaltation of today’s world. It allows me to know that the enemy’s attack of “Did God really say” is still very effective.

On yesterday, we studied Isaiah in the Temple beholding the beauty and holiness of God in Sunday School. Isaiah dated this experience by the year Kind Uzziah died. You can find King Uzziah’s story at this link but the short and quick is a king who started well and finished poorly. Uzziah began as a godly king at the age of 16 and ruled for 52 years. He began his reign by “doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord” and fortifying the city of Jerusalem. The king became very powerful with a well-trained army. As long as Uzziah sought the Lord, God gave him success.

The blessings and gifts of God caused him to become prideful and unfaithful to the Lord. Uzziah knew that the priesthood was given to Aaron and his descendants and that this included the burning of incense at the altar.

When self takes over, pride settles in and we become unfaithful to God. We bow to self  and believe our knowledge and wisdom is greater than God’s. Surely, God didn’t mean the king couldn’t burn incense. In other words, Uzziah’s pride caused him to view the law of God as relative. I mean afterall, he was the king and surely he could do as he pleased at this given time instead of what God had said.

Even after the priests warned him of his unfaithfulness, Uzziah pressed on to burn the incense and while he was raging at the priests in the Lord’s temple, leprosy broke on his forehead. He had leprosy until the day he died which means he was separated from the temple and the people. I’ll let you read it in its completeness but surely we should heed the warning.

“Did God really say?” Yes, He did. When tempted to fall backward into a mindset of relativism Uzziah’s response should have been, “Yes, God did say and His commands are not burdensome or grievous. I am absolutely so blessed that He is my God. All His ways are perfect.

The temptation to sin, the bondage of pride, the desire for self-gratification and self-exaltation, the enemy’s fiery darts are no less for us as believers today than it was for a godly king named Uzziah. May the Lord strength us to stand in faith and preach to ourselves, the enemy, and a world system that stands against the Lord and His righteousness and respond to “Did God really say” with “Yes, He did” in love and with gentleness and kindness.

  • And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. Mark 8:34-35
  • For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
  • All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Isaiah 40.8

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The fear of the Lord

Ecclesiastes 12.13

I recently hear a sermon focused around “the fear of the Lord.” The sermon abounded in Scriptures regarding what God has said about fearing Him. The aim of the sermon was to encourage us to “draw near to God and He will draw near to you [us] (James 4:8)” for it is there that we will find peace, security, and hope.

How sad it is when we choose to run from God instead of drawing near for when we truly fear Him, we find that He is our refuge, fortress, sun, shield, present help, and all that we need. In fact, as the minister stated, running from God shows that we do not fear God enough. I am sharing some of the passages from the Book of Psalms that were used in the sermon and asking the Lord to help us all draw near in reverential fear, awe, honor and respect of Himself, the Holy, Righteous, Pure, Perfect, Almighty, Sovereign God and find our delight in Him.

Psalm 25:14
The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and He makes known to them His covenant.

Psalm 31:19
Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear You and worked for those who take refuge in You, in the sight of the children of mankind!

 Psalm 34:7
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them.

Psalm 34:9
Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him have no lack!

Psalm 103:11
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him;

Psalm 103:13
As a father shows compassion to His children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him.

Psalm 111:10
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!

Psalm 112:1
Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments!

The Word of God is Truth and He is faithful to His Word! We have no reason to run and every reason to draw near.

Proverbs 1.9.jpg

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Mind renewal…

Romans 12.2

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” Romans 12:2a ESV

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.Romans 12:2a NIV

“And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes].” (Romans 12:2a)

Our Sunday School lessons this quarter are focused around “God’s Urgent Call.” So far, we have looked at specific individuals and the life lessons we can learn from their responses to the assignments God gave them. Eventually, we will study God’s call to specific action on our part. The call to witness, the call to obedience, the call to shine like the stars, etc. AND the call to transformation…”transformation by the renewing of your mind.”

No matter what your Bible translation preference may be, for the most part there is no change in the words used, “transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Let’s face it, each person God created has a mind and the One who created us knows that our minds have been impacted by sin and need to renewed by His Spirit and Word.

I am reminded of the principle that states “salvation is the miracle of the moment, sanctification is the work of a lifetime.” This is what Paul was saying in Philippians 2:12b, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” When we accept Jesus and our Lord and Savior, the setting apart to and for God begins and setting apart from sin, evil and the enemy begins as well with our participating in this work.

The Lord is so gracious to call us to transformation from that old man mind (thinking) to the renewed mind (thinking) in Christ. He gave us our minds and now compels to use them for His glory. Is this not what the Lord speaks through Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:20, Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. Let your thinking align with the Word of God. It is light and it is truth; it will not change.

Mind renewal doesn’t just happen with one quick zap but is much like tenderizing a piece of meat…poke it, soak it, cook it, chew it, digest it. In other words, as God said in Isaiah 1:18, “come let us reason together.” Let there be many Selah, pause and ponder, moments of talking to God, asking questions, praying for understanding and wisdom. In fact, not moments but meditating upon the Word both day and night. Joshua 1:8 says it like this, This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.Romans says it in a nutshell, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

The transformation takes place in the moving of the Word from the head to the heart. God promised in Ezekiel 36:26, And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

“What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:12-16

What an awesome grace of God, to be instructed by His Spirit and Word…the living Wordfrom the One, True and Living God! We cannot instruct the Lord and our finite minds pale in comparison to His infinite knowledge and wisdom but the verses above encourage us to be transformed in our minds and therefore align our hearts and minds- thoughts, beliefs, actions so we no longer conform to this world but to His mind, will, ways, purposes and plans.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
    and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.  Psalm 19:7-11

Oh my, what a great privilege – all for His glory!

Psalm 1.2-3

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Hope for today: Praise the Lord!

Hope

Praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord, you his servants; praise the name of the Lord.
Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised. Psalm 113:1-3

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