intensified influence

marmsky devotions pics November 2017 (17)devotional post # 2203

2 Corinthians 10:15-18

2Co 10:15  We do not brag excessively about the hard work of others. But we do expect that as your faith increases, our degree of influence among you may be intensified,
2Co 10:16  so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without bragging of work already done in another’s area of influence.
2Co 10:17  “Let the one who brags, brag about the Lord.”
2Co 10:18  Because it is not the one who promotes himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord promotes.

intensified influence

Paul’s goal was to keep reaching more people — in more places — for Christ. He saw the opposition he was facing by these leaders in Corinth as a threat. The problem was more than personal. It threatened the work of global evangelism. These people who were bad mouthing Paul were hindering world missions. He wanted the Corinthians to respect his team and their work because they had a job to complete. They wanted to preach the gospel in the lands beyond Corinth. That required the support and prayers of the Corinthians. This was not the time to lose their influence, but to intensify it.

LORD, strengthen the ties between our churches and our missionaries, so that we can reach the lands beyond with the gospel.

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first team

marmsky devotions pics November 2017 (16)devotional post # 2201

2 Corinthians 10:12-14

2Co 10:12  Because we do not dare categorize or compare ourselves with some of those who are promoting themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves to one another, they are without understanding.
2Co 10:13  But we will not brag beyond limits, but will brag only with regard to the boundary God assigned to us, to reach even to you.
2Co 10:14  Because we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. Because we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ.

first team

Paul defends his team from the accusations of the Corinthian super apostles. He does not choose to lay out all their accomplishments. It is enough to know one thing. Paul’s team was the first to reach the Corinthians with the gospel. God assigned them a task,and a boundary, and they acheived the task.

LORD, give us the wisdom to know that we do not have to do everything, but the courage to do what you have assigned us to do.

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square in the face

marmsky devotions pics November 2017 (15)devotional post # 2201

2 Corinthians 10:7-11

2Co 10:7  Look at us square in the face. If anyone is confident that his ministry comes from Christ, let him remind himself that just as he is from Christ, so also are we.
2Co 10:8  Because even if I were to brag a bit more of what we have the right to do, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I would not be ashamed to do so.
2Co 10:9  I do not want you to think that I am just using my letters to frighten you.
2Co 10:10  Because they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his actual presence is weak, and his word is not worth listening to.”
2Co 10:11  Let a person like that understand that what we say by word when absent, we intend to put in practice when present.

square in the face

Ever since Paul and his team left Corinth to plant churches elsewhere, some of the members of the churches have been accusing him of being inauthentic. They want to gain prominence among the others in the group, and seek to do so by criticizing Paul. Their cheif criticism is that Paul is not the person he appears to be in his letters. In this section, Paul is addressing those critics. He tells them to stop the gossip. If they have  a complaint, say it to their face.

LORD, rid us of our baseless criticism.

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the force of truth

marmsky devotions pics November 2017 (14)devotional post # 2200

2 Corinthians 10:4-6

2Co 10:4  Because we do not use material weapons for our combat, but those divinely enabled to destroy strongholds.
2Co 10:5  We demolish worldviews and every highly polished theory raised against the knowledge of God, and take every idea captive to obey Christ,
2Co 10:6  being prepared to appropriately respond to every disobedience, once you have completely obeyed.

the force of truth

Paul had been criticized for not being forceful enough in his ministry. The super-apostles of Corinth had gained prominence there for being dominant over their underlings. Paul had taken a laid back approach. He trusted in the force of truth itself. He knew that the gospel had ways of overwhelming all the objections to it. It was powerful enough to neutralize worldviews, theories, and ideas that might tempt a believer to be disobedient to Christ and his covenant. So, Paul saw no need to dominate. His task was to educate.

LORD, give us the confidence to speak your truth, and let its force be enough.

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milk toast

marmsky devotions pics November 2017 (13)devotional post # 2199

2 Corinthians 10:1-3

2Co 10:1  I, Paul, myself am encouraging you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ– I who am humble when looking you in the face, but bold toward you when I am away!–
2Co 10:2  When I am present, please do not make me have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh.
2Co 10:3  Because although we walk in the flesh, we are not engaging in combat according to the flesh.

milk toast

The critics of Paul in the Cortinthian churches have suggested that he does not really have what it takes to be a good leader. They said that his words sound forceful enough when someone else reads them from his letters, but when he actually visits and you hear him in person, he is milk toast!

These critics misunderstood Paul’s meek and gentle demeaner. They expected him to assert his influence the way other Gentile leaders do. But Paul knows that true spiritual leadership engages in combat kata pneuma, not kata sarka. The true spiritual leader prays, gently speaks God’s words of truth, and lets the Holy Spirit demonstrate God’s power. If need be, Paul is prepared to speak out boldly in rebuke of those critics, but he does not want to have to.

LORD, give us the courage to fight our battles on our knees.

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beyond words

marmsky devotions pics November 2017 (12)

devotional post # 2198

2 Corinthians 9:13-15

2Co 9:13  When they see the evidence of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission and your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,
2Co 9:14  while their prayers will express a strong affection for you, because of the overwhelming grace of God evidenced by you.
2Co 9:15  Thanks be to God for his gift which is beyond words!

beyond words

Paul imagines the Jerusalem saints, seeing the gifts collected from the Gentile Christians for them in their time of need, pouring out their hearts in gratitude in their prayers. It will be all the more overwhelming for these suffering saints because they will know that all those gifts came from hearts that were touched by God’s gift of grace in Christ, a gift which is beyond words.

While on deputation a few months ago, we visited a small church and promoted the mission agency we represent. This church was mostly older people, but they give overwhelmingly to the mission every year. When so many give so little, it is absolutely refreshing to see this kind of generosity. It reflects God’s grace in giving us Christ — a gift for whom we cannot be grateful enough.

LORD, thank you for your loving grace, and for those who reflect your generosity in their giving.

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what good it does

marmsky devotions pics November 2017 (11)devotional post # 2197

2 Corinthians 9:10-12

2Co 9:10  The one supplying seed to the planter and bread for food will supply and inrease your seed for planting and increase the harvest of your righteousness.
2Co 9:11  You will be enriched in every way so you can be generous in every way, which will produce thanksgiving to God by means of us.
2Co 9:12  Because the purpose this ministry serves is not only supplying the needs of the saints but it also overflows, bringing many thanksgivings to God.

what good it does

Some Corinthians might have been wandering what good it would do them to give to the needy in Jerusalem. Paul lays out two positive outcomes: God would increase their harvest, and he would increase the gratitude of the recipients to God.  Generosity has its perks.

Paul intentionally uses words in this section that stress religious ritual. Perhaps he was speaking to those Corinthians who were looking for ways to express their devotion to God. So, maybe Paul was hinting that the best way to show your love for God is to love your neighbor.

LORD, show us ways to express our devotion to you, by our are for others.

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the generosity package

marmsky devotions pics November 2017 (10)devotional post # 2196

2 Corinthians 9:7-9

2Co 9:7  Each one should give as he has decided in his heart, not out of guilt or from fear, because God loves a happy giver.
2Co 9:8  And God is able to richly bless you in all kinds of ways, so that having all your needs supplied in all things at all times, you may be rich in every good work.
2Co 9:9  Just like what is written, “He has contributed generously, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”

the generosity package

Paul quotes from Psalm 112:9 here. He was using the quote as a footnote to the entire psalm, which lays out the activities and results of a righteous person’s life. Paul was telling the Corinthians that when they give generously to this cause, they are doing something that a righteous person does, and they can expect to be blessed in various ways.

  • His family after him will be prominent.
  • He will have wealth and riches.
  • His times of darkness will be followed by light.
  • He will be vindicated if charged of wrongdoing.
  • He will be strong during tough times.
  • He will be an honored leader.

Generosity is only part of the righteousness package of Psalm 112. But it is a part of it.

LORD, teach us to do right, including doing right by our giving.

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what others think

marmsky devotions pics November 2017 (9)devotional post # 2195

2 Corinthians 9:4-6

2Co 9:4  If you are not ready, some Macedonians might come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be shamed– to say nothing of you– for being so confident.
2Co 9:5  So I thought it necessary to encourage the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as something you grudgingly give.
2Co 9:6 But consider this: whoever plants minimally will also harvest minimally, and whoever plants amply will also reap amply.

what others think

Paul warned the Corinthians that if they did not make good on their promise to contribute to the Jerusalem relief fund, it would shame him and them. They lived in an honor/shame culture, and it mattered to them what others thought of them.

It also mattered what God thought of them. If they were to scrimp on this charitable act, perhaps God would see to it that others are just as stingy when they have a need. 

It matters what others think of us, because we identify with Jesus. Jesus is a generous giver. It also matters what God thinks of us, because he is a just God, and repays evil, and rewards good.

LORD, show us how to honor you in what we do, and not to shame you or ourselves.

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prove me right

marmsky devotions pics November 2017 (8)devotional post # 2194

2 Corinthians 9:1-3

2Co 9:1  In one sense, it is redundant for me to write to you about this service to the saints,
2Co 9:2  because I know how eager you are; I brag about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your fervor has stirred up most of them.
2Co 9:3  But I am sending the brothers so that our bragging about you may not prove empty concerning this project, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be.

prove me right

Paul has assured other regions that there would be no problem getting funds from Achaia. So, now he sends a gentle reminder to the Corinthians to prove him right. Relief funds are needed, so now it is time to make good all that stuff about loving our neighbors as ourselves. Christianity is a profession, but there comes a time when we have to demonstrate what we profess.

LORD, prepare us for proving our faith in you, and our faithfulness to you and to each other.

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