Lesson Fifteen • Devotion #2: What Do You See?

I feel Satan is becoming more prevalent in today’s society. Satan has been using media, money, fear, and idolatry to creep into the souls of people changing their morals and inherently, making people question their existence altogether. Satan has been at work tempting people to sin and it has been devastating. One of the more common sins of the world is idolizing something other than God.  

In 2 Corinthians 10:7, we read, “Look at what is before your eyes. If anyone is confident that he is Christ’s, let him remind himself that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we.” Breaking this down by sentence, the first statement is questioning, “What is before your eyes?” I know that I am not the only one who scrolls Facebook and finds himself watching dessert recipes or cats getting scared by cucumbers. I know that I am not alone when I fear a virus or wish to be wealthy beyond my means. Also, I certainly know that some people turn on the TV and wish to be famous and live a ritzy lifestyle. To be real, there are very real struggles and addictions to pornography. To be quite honest and frank, this is all garbage that can fill our hearts and minds. It teaches us to idolize those that are not God and it makes us blind to all of the blessings that the Lord has given us. It destroys marriages and splits families.  

The second sentence states that if you are confident that you are a believer, then remind yourself constantly that you are so. To make it easier on yourself, if you put yourself in God’s Word more often than you fill your eyes with other distractions, not only will you fix your eyes on God and receive the Living Word, you will also be constantly reminded of God’s love for you. It has the power to transform you in a way that transcends all understanding. He can break addictions and strongholds that weigh you down. He forgives and loves and takes away your sin so you can have everlasting life.  

Challenging yourself to be better is always a great idea. Challenging yourself to follow what God wants for you in your life is the greatest way you can honor His leadership. Challenge yourself to take away the distractions. Set a time to fast from technology. Shut off the computer, turn your phone off for the day, and find yourself in the Word. Idolize God for He is your creator. Find yourself learning and listening to what God has to speak into your life. Find yourself taking a step further in your walk with God. 

Lesson Fifteen • Devotion #1: Command

“You better not be texting me in that tone of voice!” Have you ever felt like saying that back to a friend, spouse, or your teenager? Better yet, have you ever been misunderstood in a text or email due to the fact that your tone, facial expression, and body language were absent from the message? I am a fairly direct person, especially when I go into task mode and need to clear my email inbox. A few years ago, I was sitting with the staff team I was leading and we had just finished taking a strengths finder assessment. One of my top strengths is “command” and after reading about it I said to the team, “I am not sure this is really me.” They started laughing and proceeded to read out loud text messages and emails from me. Absent from those messages was the heart and tone in which I was sending them. I was grateful for their grace and willingness to help me see a blind spot in my leadership.

As we move into chapter ten of 2 Corinthians, we see there is a different tone with Paul as he defends his ministry against a group that questioned his authority and heart toward the Church. One of their arguments is based on the strong tone in Paul’s letter to the church as opposed to his behavior in their presence. There is a tension for anyone in a church leadership role when it comes to leading and discipling, similar to that of a parent-child relationship. The leader cares yet at times has to strongly speak to explain the importance of the message. 

As imperfect people, sinners by nature, we will always drift towards the need for correction. The source of that correction is not the messenger, but the message.  When we recognize that the battle is not with the messenger, we can begin to see our own blind spots and need for change. The Gospel leads to repentance, or at least that is the purpose of proclaiming it to the world. Paul says in verse 8, “For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed.”  The next time you listen to a sermon or teaching, focus on the message of the Scripture, not the person delivering it. As humble servants of Christ, they are trying to build you up with spiritual discipline through the Gospel. Unless we are willing to support a spiritual disciplining, that discipline will be largely ineffective.  

Lesson Fourteen • Devotion #6: Be a Cheerful Giver

“I really don’t need to write to you about this ministry of giving for the believers in Jerusalem. For I know how eager you are to help, and I have been boasting to the churches in Macedonia that you in Greece were ready to send an offering a year ago. In fact, it was your enthusiasm that stirred up many of the Macedonian believers to begin giving.” 2 Corinthians 9:1-2

I love the way this passage of Scripture begins. Paul is excited about the generosity of the people in Corinth. He has been boasting of how eager they are to help others. Their excitement and enthusiasm was an encouragement to other believers.  

We find the Corinthians here giving to the work of the church. God starts in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, teaching us to give to the work of God. Paul continues the Lord’s teaching and in 2 Corinthians 9:7b-8 (NLT), says: “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully. And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” 

When we moved into the warehouse at the Holly location we raised money to purchase additional chairs. My heart was so excited to think about someone coming to the church and hearing the Gospel for the first time while sitting in a chair that had been purchased with the help of our church body.  

The Bible mentions money over 800 times and more than half of the parables that Jesus taught were lessons about money. Our wise God knew that we would need a lot of direction in this area. The Psalms say that the Lord delights in His people. Would it not be incredible to know that we excited God with our generous giving? Scripture says, when we sow generously, we will also reap generously.  

The typical title for 2 Corinthians chapter 9 is “God loves a cheerful giver.” I see it in all of my Bibles. What a great title!  We should be cheerful when we give to God, after all, God generously provided all that we have!   

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38

Lesson Fourteen • Devotion #5: A Culture of Generosity

A topic people often shy away from is money. Whether it be with your spouse, family, friends, or on occasion even within the church, money can be uncomfortable to discuss. Money, especially the aspect of generosity, was a subject the Bible did not avoid. There must be an understanding when talking about money inside the context of God’s people, that God is the one who owns everything around us. With that being said, any pastor or church staff who is seeking to gain by utilizing the Gospel of Jesus as their means will be dealt with by God. Inasmuch as any church member who does not obediently utilize the financial blessings they are given to further the cause of Christ, will be dealt with by God.

We do not know the exacts of every issue that the church of Corinth faced, but it would appear the church was somehow always in a mess. It makes sense that they are also in a mess of a situation in regards to giving. In 2 Corinthians chapter 9, money is brought up, which leads us to believe that it was a topic of concern. The Apostle Paul writes, “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God” (2 Corinthians 9:10-12).

Paul starts with an understanding of where we get our finances. He brings us back to the reality that what we have comes from God. Paul then indicates that God does not give us health, wealth, or abilities just to hoard them to ourselves. If I gave you an apple seed, and you did nothing with it, that seed is rendered useless. The seed only becomes useful if you take it, plant it, care for it, and allow it to grow into its full potential. “The message is free but the means might cost you” was a way I heard one person explain giving to me easily in my walk. Since God commands us to give, and commands us to reach the world, what if we do neither? What if you only do one, is that any less disobedient? No sincere Christian would stand by and not disagree with the contradiction of a non-evangelical Christian. Yet, we are perfectly fine with a non-generous Christian.

For you, when you give, how do you view that? Is it a check in the box as a task completed? Do you give begrudgingly, thinking of other things that money could be used for? Or do you give in thanksgiving to God? “That seed that would be useless if I did nothing with it” has unlimited potential when used properly. In the same way, God seeks to use our generosity in our giving, whether that giving be money, time, or abilities, to create unlimited effects. One aspect of American culture that has seeped its way into the church is the sense of individualism. When I read 2 Corinthians chapter 9, I do think there is the individual’s call to reflect and give according to those verses. I also think what if a church focuses on every member giving in this way. Imagine the kind of overflow we at The River would see. 

Lesson Fourteen • Devotion #4: Consuming

I have always thought of tithing or giving as support for the Church. While this is a very important aspect of our call to give to the Church, it is only a portion of this call from God. What 2 Corinthians chapter 9 teaches us is what giving produces in us and other people. It is always interesting, and I fall into this as well, that we do these things God commands of us (giving, praying, and loving) and we do them because we want to obey and “help” other people. What it actually produces in us as individuals is equally beautiful and transformative.

In 2 Corinthians 9:11-14, Paul says, “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.”

Paul is saying something here that I think we forget; when we obey God in His commandments, we see Him differently, we see the Gospel differently. Giving (of our time, money, and resources) produces thanksgiving in us and when we are thankful we worship and serve God more abundantly. Hebrews 12:28-29 (NIV) says, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’”

We serve an amazing God who should consume us! In order for us to be consumed by Him, we must be thankful for all He has done for us. When we allow this to change us, we can be used to shine a light to those around us. We see this in 2 Corinthians, “By their approval of this service, THEY will glorify God because of your submission” (emphasis mine). Obeying God proclaims the Gospel! For all of my rule followers out there, this makes my heart sing! 

As we continue to grow in His Word, we cannot forget this, we must seek out and be faithful to everything that points people to the Gospel. I am writing this during our COVID pandemic, and when you read this, who knows what the world will be like, but this I know to be true now and in the future, we are called to proclaim the Gospel, in big ways and small ways. Are you being faithful to the things of God? Are you being faithful to the Gospel even when the world around you may be burning down? Obedience to Him is one way to ensure you are proclaiming the Gospel.

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