Friday, September 30, 2016

EmmDev 2016-09-30 [Treasure in Clay Pots (2Cor)] Affection


Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. 3 I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. 4 I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.
5 For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn--conflicts on the outside, fears within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.      (2Corinthians7:2-7)
The back story to this passage is important... As I have mentioned before, Paul has had to be tough with the congregation. False teachers have tried to destroy the special relationship Paul had with them.

Let's recount the history:

  • Paul spent a very fruitful ministry time in Corinth in spite of heavy opposition from the Jewish community. He stayed in Corinth for over a year and a half.
  • Then he wrote them a letter we call "1 Corinthians" where he had to address some issues.
  • Then he wrote a letter that he refers to as the "letter of tears" which we don't have and it seems that this was a very tough letter
  • And then he sent Titus to Corinth to see how things are going.

Paul eventually caught up with Titus who gave him the news that the congregation had treated him well and that they were sorrowful and had ardent concern for Paul.

The challenge is that there are still some issues to face. But the news of mutual affection and concern gives Paul the assurance to be able to go ahead and address those issues.

His assurance comes from a couple of key points:

  1. He is completely comfortable that he has behaved honourably toward them. "We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one."
  2. He is convinced of his commitment toward them. "you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you."
  3. He is optimistic about them. He believes they will ultimately do the right thing. "I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged"

Relationships can experience storms. Politics can come, misunderstandings can come, misinformation can come, and pain and tears can come, but commitment and affection/love (room in our hearts) will win the day.
We're going to take a break from Corinthians for a month. October is the Presbyterian Church's "month of mission" and we'll have devs from a different ministers on the theme of mission.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

EmmDev 2016-09-27 [Treasure in Clay Pots (2Cor)] A clear boundary

A clear boundary

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial(Satan)? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."
17 "Therefore come out from them and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,and I will receive you."
18 "I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty."
1 Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
This passage, while making perfectly good sense when standing on its own, seems a little out of place... Paul has just been pleading with the Corinthians to open their hearts to him and, in the chapter that follows this passage, he continues pleading with them to soften their hearts toward him and to understand his reason for having to reprimand them.

This passage seems out of sorts with the tone of reconciliation that Paul strikes in what goes before and comes after it. It feels harsh and challenging.

So what do we make of this passage?

I think it is important to note that there were a number of issues that the church in Corinth faced. These were issues that Paul had to address in previous letters. The false teachers who were trying to discredit Paul and establish themselves as leaders (with benefits) of the congregation were merely taking advantage of some flaws that already existed in the church.

If we look at Paul's first letter to them, we see that they:

  1. Were involved in unwholesome sexual relationships.
  2. They were getting drunk at the Lord's Supper
  3. The rich were neglecting the poor
  4. They were competing for status in the area of spiritual gifts.
  5. They were being thrown into confusion about food sacrificed to idols.
  6. Easily got sucked into the game of playing one leader off against another.
All of the above are symptoms of one core problem: They had not separated themselves from worldly ways. They were living with their feet on two paths: the narrow one and broad one. At the heart of their conflict with Paul and the ease with which the false teachers misled them was their failure to draw a clear line between God's ways and the way of the world.

Paul, in the midst of pleading with them about his relationship with them, still makes it clear what the real issue is...
It is a courageous and important move.

We too have to look at our own lives. Very often, when we scratch beneath the surface of our own problems, the answer is that we just haven't taken our other foot off the broad path...

Friday, September 23, 2016

EmmDev 2016-09-23 [Treasure in Clay Pots (2Cor)] Give and Take

Give and Take

We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. 12 We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. 13 As a fair exchange--I speak as to my children--open wide your hearts also.      (2Corinthians6:11-13)
There were false teachers who were trying to discredit Paul and win the loyalty of the Corinthians. In the verses we looked at yesterday it is clear that Paul had opened up his life for the gospel. He had been willing to suffer, be weak and struggle for the sake of the gospel.

He is able to confidently state that his heart and affection had been opened wide to the congregation. Unfortunately the trouble-makers had cast doubt and suspicion over Paul, using his transparency and his unhidden weaknesses to their advantage.

The congregation had closed their heart to Paul.
But because he loved them Paul needed to journey with them.
He had written them a "letter of tears" (which we don't have) where he had to confront a number of issues.
These were issues that threatened the health and life of the church.
Because their hearts were closed to him, they were not willing to receive his correction.

Paul had to appeal to them
- Please open your hearts to me.
- Give me the benefit of the doubt
- Bear the sacrifices I have made for you in mind
- Consider the risks I have taken for you
- Recognise that my life has been an open book to you
- Remember I love you enough to tell you the things you need to hear instead of the the things you want to hear.

Relationships are give and take.
It's very easy for one or both parties to close our hearts.
This can happen because of disappointment, deceit, disillusionment and a number of other reasons.
And Great Pain follows....

The only road to healing in such a relationship is for closed hearts to choose to open up again...

Thursday, September 22, 2016

EmmDev 2016-09-22 [Treasure in Clay Pots (2Cor)] Life Witness

Life Witness

We put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. 4 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; 6 in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7 in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; 8 through glory and dishonour, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.      (2Corinthians6:3-10)
Does your life speak of God's goodness?
Do your actions and attitudes point to Him?

Paul's greatest desire was that his life would be a message.
Look at what he offers as a canvas for God's painting:

  • On the positive side he would like to God to be seen in his endurance, hard work, purity, understanding, patience, kindness and truthful speech.
  • With God's help he'd like people to see God's power and righteousness at work in him.
  • Paul would like to run a long race so that even when there are bad reports, dishonour and distrust he would be seen as good, honourable, genuine and that nothing could keep him down.
  • He even longs that God would be evident in his troubles, hardships, beatings, sleeplessness and hunger. That although he was frail and poor, God's light would always shine in him.

Our lives are a canvas on which God can paint His message of love and grace. Our lives are a space in which God can work. Our lives are the clay from which God can shape and mould vessels that He can use for His glory.

Paul offers his whole life: His strengths, his challenges, his reputation, his history and his journey.

And his desperate prayer is that nothing will discredit Jesus and the gospel.

What could God do with the clay of your life?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

EmmDev 2016-09-21 [Treasure in Clay Pots (2Cor)] Prophecy fulfilled!!!

Prophecy fulfilled!!!

For he says,
"In the time of my favour I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you."
I tell you, now is the time of God's favour, now is the day of salvation.      (2Corinthians6:2)
Paul is quoting the prophet Isaiah.
Isaiah 49:8-9 This is what the LORD says:
"In the time of my favour I will answer you,
and in the day of salvation I will help you;
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people,
to restore the land
and to reassign its desolate inheritances,
9 to say to the captives, 'Come out,'
and to those in darkness, 'Be free!'

What Isaiah longed for is now a reality!
Paul, when quoting this promise, now puts it in the past tense.

When Jesus announced the Kingdom come, He was pronouncing the 'time of God's favour'. When He healed the sick, set the demon-possessed free and paid for our sin on the cross, Jesus brought the 'day of salvation' and He was 'reassigning our desolate inheritance!'
He was calling the captives out of captivity.
He was inviting those in darkness to be free.

We are the blessed and fortunate ones.
We don't have to wait in hope of God's favour - we have seen what God's favour looks like. And God's favour is encapsulated in one word, one idea, one action:
That word is JESUS.

He is God's love made visible.
He is the paid-in-full of sin's ransom.
He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

(Do I hear an AMEN?)

Friday, September 16, 2016

EmmDev 2016-09-16 [Treasure in Clay Pots (2Cor)] Worth it.

Worth it.

As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain.      (2Corinthians6:1-2)
The movie "Saving Private Ryan" is about 8 soldiers who are sent to save one private who is the last remaining son of a mother who has already lost 3 sons in the war. It's a perilous and unusual mission: 8 elite men sent to save one lowly private - there is no strategic value to their mission except saving a mom's last son. By the end of the movie, all eight rescuers have died and Private Ryan is saved. Throughout the movie one question is asked again and again "is it worth it?" At the end of the movie, as he is dying, Captain Miller urges Private Ryan "Earn this." The scene shifts to Arlington cemetery where Private Ryan, now an old man, falls on the ground with his large family in the background saying "Was I a good man? Did I earn this?"

Paul has been reflecting on Jesus' incredible death in our place. Unlike Captain Miller, Paul doesn't ask us to "earn this."
We can never earn God's love. We can never do anything good enough to deserve the sacrifice that Jesus made.

Although we could never earn or pay back the price that Jesus paid on the cross, the wonderful news is that He considered you and me "worth it!" He loved us - even in the depths of our brokenness - and considered us worth dying for.

However, there is always the danger that we can take this amazing grace for granted. We can receive God's grace "in vain" - we can undervalue the worth of His death and keep living for ourselves. Do you remember vs.15 from the previous chapter?
"And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again."

What is the worth of Jesus' death to you?
We don't have to earn it, but we can be influenced, impacted, instigated, impelled, incited, invigorated, inflamed and inspired by His death.

When people look at my life would they conclude that Jesus' death was in vain?

With all my being I hope not!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

EmmDev 2016-09-15 [Treasure in Clay Pots (2Cor)] Divine Exchange

Divine Exchange

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
What is the heart of the new life we have?
What lies at the core of the appeal that we make as ambassadors for Christ?
What is the hope that we have?

Listen carefully! The answer is so devastatingly simple that a child can grasp it and yet the greatest theologians gape in wonderment.

Let's break the verse up into parts:

  • God made Him: Jesus His one and only Son, who shares in His being and majesty, who had taken on humanity and become one of us
  • Who had no sin: He showed us what true humanity was meant to be. He showed us that all the pain, sorrow, and heartache are not His creation but ours. He was perfectly good, perfectly loving, perfect in every way.
  • To be sin for us: Can we imagine what this was like? All my deepest and darkest sin and failure, and all that of the rest of the world. Now rejected, repudiated, expelled, banished, isolated, separated and judged-and-found-guilty-to-be-cast-away from the presence of a holy, holy, holy God. Just the physical aspects of the crucifixion intimidate us and we have not even begun to talk about the spiritual suffering!
  • So that in Him: Connected to Him, in relationship to Him, bound and committed to Him we may experience His benefits.
  • We become the righteousness of God: It is not our righteousness - we cannot boast, brag, or claim credit. It is righteousness imputed to us - a gift for which we spend the rest of our lives gratefully giving thanks.

This is the New Life we have.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

EmmDev 2016-09-14 [Treasure in Clay Pots (2Cor)] Ambassadors 2

Ambassadors 2

We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.      (2Corinthians5:20-21)
An ambassador represents a country and its leadership.
As Christians we represent the Kingdom and its King.
When an ambassador acts in their foreign country, their actions are understood as being the actions of their home country.

Imagine reaching out to others the way Jesus would.
Imagine God making His appeal through us.

Think of Him, outside Jerusalem, five days before they crucify Him:
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings..." (Mat 23:37)

Listen to His language. Jerusalem is anything but a cute and cuddly little chick. Jerusalem has murdered the prophets and they will crucify Jesus. But He longs for them! He will shelter them under His wings - He will die for their sins.

A little while ago I was writing a Bible Study on sharing our faith. As I was reflecting and praying about it, I wrote this phrase in my journal:
"Because giving your heart to Jesus,
is also about discovering God's heart for the world."

Think about it.
If you really got to know Jesus, you would know what His longing is and you would feel it too.

When we feel His love for others, we'll find ways to tell them that "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

This is Good News that friends tell their friends!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

EmmDev 2016-09-13 [Treasure in Clay Pots (2Cor)] Ambassadors


All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.      (2Corinthians5:18-20)
On Friday - I used blood donation as an analogy for what Jesus blood can do in us.

I want to stretch that analogy....

Jesus death on the cross where He died in our place is the ultimate "blood donation" - His holy life, poured out for us can be "transfused" into us when we give our lives to Him in faith and are born of the Spirit. The Spirit transforms our lives like healthy donor blood cells will heal a body.

This good news has been entrusted to us.
We're like the South African Blood Services (SANBS)....

On the one hand - it was our sin that took the blood He donated,
but, having received His blood we are able to invite others to receive it.

During times of school holidays when the roads are busy there is often a shortage of blood. The SANBS will mail me a post card to remind me, they will sms me, and they'll phone me. When I go to donate, they make me feel welcome and valued. They also provide speed services to get blood to the hospitals and ambulances as it is needed. They have an incredible network to get this life-saving product to where it is needed most.

Being ambassadors of Christ's reconciliation means that we do whatever we can to get Jesus' life-giving good news to whoever needs it.

The SANBS does a great job. We should be more jacked up and ready than them with the life-giving good news about Christ.

Friday, September 9, 2016

EmmDev 2016-09-09 [Treasure in Clay Pots (2Cor)] New Creation

New Creation

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!      (2Corinthians5:16-17)
Paul now moves us from Jesus' death to His resurrection. Jesus died for all and we all "died" in His death. In the same way we also participate in His resurrection.

We have new life in Him. My old life - my brokenness, my failure, my sin - died on the cross. I have new life.

I'm a blood donor. In order to donate blood, I have to be healthy. There are certain medications I can't take in the ten days before donating so that those chemicals aren't in the blood I donate. I remember donating as a student when another student arrived to donate, but he had imbibed heavily of "Dutch Courage" in order to face the needles. The nurse turned him away commenting that there was too little blood in his alcohol stream!

But if I'm illness free and banned-drugs free, I can donate. When I've been exercising and am nice and fit, I always like to donate, imagining my blood to be full of healthy red oxygen cells, strong soldier cells, strong platelets and good plasma and I like to imagine that my blood being transfused into an ill patient and I imagine that blood bringing life. My blood type is O-positive which is the almost universal blood type - I can give blood to almost anyone except O-negs.

In some ways, Jesus' death on the cross for us all makes Him a universal donor. His blood was without defect and so by His resurrection He can "transfuse" life into me and His blood will unleash new "cells" in me that will rebuild my broken life from the inside out.

I am a new creation - you can still see parts of the old - but the new is happening!
Just watch this space..... ;-)  ;-)

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

EmmDev 2016-09-07 [Treasure in Clay Pots (2Cor)] The heart of it all #3

The heart of it all #3

For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.      (2Corinthians5:14)
(Apologies for the missed eDevs - it's been hectic.)

As we have explored this amazing verse we have explored the idea that we are gripped by the immensity of Jesus' sacrifice for all of humanity when one died for all.

The final thought that we can take from this verse is the fact that Paul argues that if Jesus died for all of us, then, in effect, we have all died. And, by clear implication, we all rise into a new life, just as Jesus rose from the dead.

This is a thought that Paul explores beautifully in the following verses as he speaks about being a "new creation". But before we get to that, let's consider the implication of being one of the "all died".

If we "all died" because of Jesus' generous death for us then it stands to reason that we, understanding:
(1) what Jesus did for us,
(2) that it should have been us on the cross and not Him,
(3) the love that made Him do this,
should begin to live sacrificially like He did.

To some extent we should consider our old lives of selfish self-centeredness as dead - having died on the cross with Jesus.

It's quite helpful, for example, when someone does or says something that dents my pride, to say to myself "Hang on. My old self with its fragile ego, died on the cross with Jesus. I don't have to take this personally." Or when I am tempted to be too materialistic, I remind myself that I'm dead and dead people can't own stuff.

Play with the idea of being "dead" for a while.
It's quite liberating.