Daily Readings: Joshua 9-10, 2 Corinthians 13
Frequently when I get to the portion of Paul’s letters that serve as his final greeting, I find myself reading it quickly and not really taking it in. This morning I actually read it.
Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
Greet one another with a holy kiss. All God’s people here send their greetings.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
2 Corinthians 13:11-14
Whenever I write, I want to end with a bang! I want to end with the main takeaway that I hope the reader will hold onto from what they just read. And yet, with Paul’s letters, I have always treated these final few verses in the final chapter of his lengthy letters as simply a form of “good bye”.
There was so much internal turmoil going on in the church at Corinth at this time. In fighting was rampant, debates robust, and they were anything but “of one mind living in peace”. What was Paul’s final charge to them?
We live in a society that currently does very little rejoicing and even less encouraging.
With Easter rapidly approaching, it struck me this morning how far the American church has gotten away from the vision that God had for us as a collection of believers. We have so much to rejoice about!
And yet, when we look around, it becomes increasingly evident that we spend far more time complaining, arguing on Facebook, etc. than we do rejoicing or encouraging. We have become like Corinth.
If God’s people made the decision that we would collectively be a group that never ceases to rejoice in the amazing gifts of the father and never stops encouraging one another, what an amazing change our world would see!
However, there will always be those who claim to be followers of Christ that seek to divide. There will always be those who seek to manipulate, control, and advance their own agenda to maintain power. The story of Easter is incomplete without remembering that most of God’s people blindly followed the religious leaders of the day to the point of becoming an angry mob crying out for the death of the very Messiah they had been waiting for.
All throughout the Bible there are stories of those who would seek to deceive and divide God’s people. We continuously see the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing, and more often than not, we fall for it. Today in Joshua we read another of these stories.
However, when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to a ruse: They went as a delegation whose donkeys were loaded with worn-out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended. They put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy. Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgaland said to him and the Israelites, “We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us.”
We frequently walk right into these traps because it is often more convenient to believe the deceiver. We want to believe that this person, or group of people, is on our side. When it seems like there are so many enemies seeking to destroy, it is an attractive thought to have an ally!
In Joshua we continue on and read that, “The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath.”
When we decide to “sample their provisions” without inquiring of the Lord, bad things tend to happen. When we simply listen to talking heads, political figures, or outspoken religious leaders of the day without consulting God’s word; it is a dangerous game we play.
So, as Easter approaches, are we comfortable being the angry mob? Are we comfortable being riled up through those that would use fear and anger to divide and conquer? Or are we going to get back focused on Jesus and worship the only person in human history who has been truly worthy of worship?
Will we take to heart Paul’s final words to us in Corinthians when he said:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
Greet one another with a holy kiss. All God’s people here send their greetings.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
Read that one last time slowly and really let it sink in.
Let’s go live that out this week. This Easter season Christians have the ability to have a massive impact on the world that lasts for an eternity.
Let’s make it count!
Thought to ponder
How can I spend more time rejoicing, encouraging, and acting in such a way that helps expose people to the grace and love of God?
Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 31-32, 2 Corinthians 7, Psalm 55
I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.
Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.
2 Corinthians 7:4, 8-11
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he did not pull any punches. He was extremely blunt in telling the church at Corinth the ways in which their actions were counter to their proclaimed faith in Christ.
Reading this passage today made me start to think through my life and consider the times where I might have had the opportunity to be Paul writing back to the church at Corinth, but chickened out. I started to think about people in my life right now that could use some truth spoken into their lives, where I have the strength of relationship and credibility with them necessary to deliver the message in love, but where I am just more comfortable sitting on the sidelines, praying for change, but not wanting to rock the boat.
I have always strived throughout my life to be someone who is unafraid of speaking truth in love, but there are always people in my life, at any given time, where I feel myself pulling back. I don’t want to cause strife in the relationship. I rationalize that they are not at a point where they would be willing to hear the truth. I don’t want to cause sorrow.
…yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
True friends tell you what you need to hear, not necessarily what you want to hear. I want people in my life that are willing to be Paul and challenge me if they see me living a part of my life that is out of step with the life God has called me to live. And I want the courage to be Paul when necessary.
Being Paul starts with forming strong relationships. Paul spent significant time with the church at Corinth pouring into them. He built the church from the ground up. He knew the people and they knew him. There was a bond.
If we desire to be marketplace missionaries, in whatever profession God has called us, it starts with building genuine relationships and not just surface level ones. If we desire to have an impact for the Kingdom, it takes time and effort to build the type of relationship where you can grab coffee with someone and say, “Listen, I love you, and because I love you I have to tell you…”
Then we have to be unafraid to speak the truth in love even if it causes temporary sorrow, knowing that this temporary sorrow is frequently needed to bring long-term repentance.
Eternity is worth it.
In our moment-to-moment, fast paced world, not only is eternity impossible to comprehend, but it is frequently hard to even conceptualize five years from now! And yet, truth spoken in love can have a massive impact on that person’s life here on earth for the next 5, 10, 20, 50 years, as well for an eternity. And yet I occasionally find myself pulling back, unwilling to cause sorrow for a week, month, or six month period, in order to help a true friend gain lasting freedom.
Freedom is worth it. Freedom from the lies Satan tells us. Freedom from the bondage of the sin issue that we have fallen into and believed we are unable to kick. Freedom from the rationalizations we have told ourselves in order to believe that maybe, just maybe, God wasn’t all that serious in his word when he said _________.
I want to be surrounded by Pauls in my life and I want to be unafraid to be one as well. Without the willingness to speak truth in love, we also lack the ability to experience the overwhelming joy that comes from walking with a brother or sister in Christ as they come out the other side changed, free, and back walking the path they were designed to walk. While afraid to speak the truth, we lack the ability to have the full impact we were built to have here on earth for God’s Kingdom.
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret.
I want no regrets, when thinking back on conversations that could have been had, when this life ends.
It is worth it.
Thought to ponder
What is one courageous conversation I have been conveniently avoiding with a friend that I can have this week? Do I value their friendship enough to have it?