Thursday 18 February, 2021

2 Corinthians 8:16-24

16 Thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. 17 For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative. 18 And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. 19 What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. 20 We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. 21 For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man. 22 In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you. 23 As for Titus, he is my partner and co-worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ. 24 Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it.

I don’t think you can read this passage and not pick up on the honour theme that runs through it. Everyone involved in the carrying of this offering is praised, honourable, eager to honour the Lord, helpful, zealous, an honour to Christ. But they are praised not so much for what they’ve achieved, but for who they are – enthusiastic initiators in serving the gospel; eager helpers of the church; people of integrity, doing the right thing before God and man; hard workers and honours to Christ Himself.

I am all too often caught up in our culture’s obsession with performance, and here Paul speaks of a completely different quality of person. And I am sure it is not simply that these men were great people, but did nothing with their lives. They worked hard, but the achievements were not what made them – their character sustained their achievements, not the other way around.

This passage is deeply inspiring for me. I aspire to be named amongst such a collection of saints.

God, empower in me a life of enthusiastic initiative for your gospel, eager support for your church, integrity of life, and hard work such that I am an honour to You, personally. Amen.

Written by Ps. Rob Waugh

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Wednesday 17 February, 2021

2 Corinthians 8:1-15

8 And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. 8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. 10 And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. 12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have. 13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, 15 as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”

Paul now turns his attention to the gift that the Corinthians were to be saving towards in 1 Cor 16:1-4 – a gift for fellow believers doing it tough in Jerusalem.  He’s encouraging them to give “according to your means” (NRSV) “give on the basis of what you have” (NIRV).  This is to be a heart felt offering, something they want to do – to give from their present abundance.

This does not seem to be a “faith” offering – over and above what they have the means to give – but one where the giver can afford it.  We might call it ‘discretionary’ money today – money that’s available to us that we can use to bless other believers in times when they don’t have enough.  In Corinthians, this is a specific offering in time and place but the principle I see here is God’s economy being one of balance; there will always be people in need and people with abundance. We are to keep our hearts & eyes open, be ready to give where we see other believers having a need.  This might be believers that are far from us and unknown or someone in our church or circle of friends.  Our hearts need to ready so that our hands can give.

Holy Spirit keep us soft in regards to the money you provide for us – keep our hearts an open channel for you to use.  I love how you know that money can be a challenge for us & here you give us guidance and encouragement. Help me to always keep Your perspective on what you have provided for me.  Amen

Written by Suzie Hodgson

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  1. Richard says:

    I am taken by Paul’s use of the term grace. He uses it here in the context of giving. He also uses the word excel, calling the people to excel in giving not only in faith, speech and knowledge.

    I am challenged by the thought of becoming excellent in giving, of refining my abilities under Christ that excellence would be an apt description of my giving

    Father help me to give in grace in an excellent manner and so honour You.

  2. Matt Samperi says:

    Great reflections Suzie! We’re at Wednesday morning SOAP, so here are my reflections:

    Generosity isn’t an optional extra of my faith. I have Jesus as the ultimate example of generosity – that although He was infinitely rich, He impoverished Himself / gave it all away for my sake. And He calls me to do the same – to give up my riches for His sake and the sake of others.
    And so what is generosity? Not just being charitable, or spending lots. It is letting the grace of God overflow through me, being motivated by His great love and sacrifice, so that I am a conduit by which He can bless others. Blessed to be a blessing! Generosity is being a conduit for God.

    Father, I reflect on just how generous You’ve been to me. That you gave up INFINITE riches for my sake. I can’t comprehend this kind of generosity, but I am moved by it. You demonstrate to us that our security is not in our riches but in You. So help me to stop clinging to my riches, and be a conduit of generosity to all those around me. Amen.

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Tuesday 16 February, 2021

2 Corinthians 7:2-16

2 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 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. 5 For when we came into Macedonia, we 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. 8 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— 9 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. 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 11 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. 12 So even though I wrote to you, it was neither on account of the one who did the wrong nor on account of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. 13 By all this we are encouraged. In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you. 14 I had boasted to him about you, and you have not embarrassed me. But just as everything we said to you was true, so our boasting about you to Titus has proved to be true as well. 15 And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling. 16 I am glad I can have complete confidence in you.

It’s not easy being a pastor. Not that I’d know, but when I read this passage I feel Paul’s struggle in delivering a tough message to the Corinthian church.

False teachers were challenging the authority of Paul and drawing Christians away from the message of grace. Paul has been highlighting that he has always acted with integrity and love. This is a response to attacks from the false teachers, but Paul goes on to reflect on his joy at the positive response of the Christians, who heeded his rebuke, leading them to repent and convey their concern for Paul, via Titus.

I’d love to respond to godly correction in that way! Listening, praying, repenting. The world’s way is to stick up for yourself, find excuses, to reject correction and become bitter, resentful. It leads to “regret” says The Message version. How true is that! The other alternative is to pray, asking God to reveal his truth, to bring a spirit of repentance, to be honest with yourself. Then we can “experience divine grace” (NIV Study Bible v 10). There is nothing easy about receiving godly correction, but the distress produced “drives us to God…it turns us around” (The Message v 10). It leads to LIFE! (v10)

Dear Lord Jesus, you draw me to a place of repentance, often by a rough difficult path, one I would probably rather avoid. I know you love me and you are leading me to life. Like the Corinthians, please drive me back in the way of salvation.” Amen

Written by Claire Moore

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Monday 15 February, 2021

2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1

14 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? Or 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 And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” 7 Therefore, 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.

My body is the temple of the Living God! An incredible concept – God with me – God living in me.

When I am having people over to my house I like to clean up, sort through the stuff on my bench – remove the clutter accumulated over the week or weeks… I like to vacuum the floors and freshen up the place. I have thought about my motivation for this and while I do want to make a good impression, I think I do it mostly because I want my guests to feel comfortable, at home, when they come. So that our time together won’t be negatively affected by the look, the feel or the aroma of my home.

Lord, I am sorry that I don’t always keep the place where you live in me as well attended to as I do my physical home. You make it clear there are activities, relationships and possessions that pollute and clutter my life and therefore your home – things I give far too much attention to – dare I say – idolise – getting more attention than I give to you. Idols take my eyes off you, crave my attention, mess up my house…your temple… Keep me alert to what you are saying to me Holy Spirit and show me what needs to go and then help me be obedient in removing it.

Written by Ps. Linda Quinn

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Sunday 14 February, 2021

2 Corinthians 6:1-13

6 As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.”[a] I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. 3 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 dishonor, 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. 11 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.

In verse 1 Paul urges the Corinthians not to receive God’s grace in vain. God’s grace is a free gift of favour and power, that we could never deserve or earn. If something is in vain it is pointless, useless and worthless. In different translations Paul’s sentiment is expressed as, don’t toss aside God’s kindness (TLB), and don’t accept this marvellous gift only to ignore it (NLT). God has freely given me His favour and power on the basis of His goodness and love. Am I receiving and using His grace everyday? Or am I still trying to be good enough, strong enough, intelligent enough, wise enough and loving enough to manage life? 

God, please help me to stop tossing aside your kindness and ignoring the great gift of your grace. Help me to unwrap it afresh each day, such that your gift would not be useless, pointless or worthless. Thank you for providing grace for me, a grace that will never run out or reach an expiry date. Amen. 

Written by Ps. Beth Waugh

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Saturday 13 February, 2021

2 Corinthians 5:11-21

11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 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. 16 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, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 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 people’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. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin[b] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 “Anyone who believes in Christ is a new creation. The old is gone! The new has come!”

It’s one of those pivotal verses. God’s first act of creation was extraordinary. Now the break between my old separated self and my new reconciled self is so profound that I’m now a whole new work of creation.

But it’s not a new me that is just like the old me. The new me is no longer separated from God, I’m reconciled with him. The new me lives for Christ (not myself). The new me has been entrusted with the good news and a part to play in bringing back people who are still separated.

I love how it describes it as the “task of reconciling people to him” in the NLT (“ministry of reconciliation” in NIV). It’s “bring people back” (here in the NIRV), but with the aspect of healing the relationship, healing what’s broken, healing what hurts.

I think of when I was small and I was always keen for my mum to “put a band aid on it” if I hurt myself. Then it would be safe from being poked (ouch) to get the dirt out; safe from the antiseptic (ouch again). I understand that people who are separated from God may not want that injured relationship touched, but that infected wound to their lives will only be whole if Jesus is allowed to touch it.

Father, I can barely express how grateful I am to you for remaking me in right relationship with you. But please give me words, and insights, and courage, and sensitivity to express it to those who are still separated.

Written by David Cornell

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Friday 12 February, 2021

2 Corinthians 5:6-10

6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 For we live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

I remember praying once “Lord, I’d love to see my report card. How am I doing? What will my judgement be when I see you in eternity?”

I guess I was nervous that I wasn’t doing what Jesus wanted me to do and I was fearful of His judgement. Paul doesn’t seem to have this problem. He can’t wait to see Jesus. He knows his report card is all A+’s. He has lived his life doing what Jesus asked him to do and did it at full throttle. His conscience is completely clear. “Bring on eternity” Paul is saying “my report is going to be good”.

What a great example for how to live this life well.

Lord, I know that one day I will meet you face to face and You will require me to give an account for how I’ve lived my life. I want to be confident like your servant Paul. Help me choose today the path that You’ve called me to walk and serve You with absolutely everything I’ve got.

Written by Boudy Van Noppen

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Thursday 11 February, 2021

2 Corinthians 4:16-5:5

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 5 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Our earthly bodies grow older and frailer by the day.  That’s just a fact – we can see it.   What believers don’t see is that their inner man is being renewed each day.  By God’s grace there is new life on the inside of the believer and it is getting livelier by the day, just the opposite to our physical bodies. This passage acknowledges that there will be troubles and suffering but as believers we are not to let these things overwhelm us.  Paul encourages us to get some eternal perspective and not to focus on temporary things.  We are also told that we will receive new bodies in heaven.

This Scripture is a strong reminder of the growing life within us as Christians and more importantly our ultimate destination, heaven for all eternity.   It’s very easy to get caught up with the day to day issues of here and now. Our five senses seem to download the temporary stuff 24/7 causing us to forget the unseen or eternal things to which we are destined.  Paul has given us an important reminder as to what Christians are called to focus upon. As Christians we have been granted temporary planet earth visas.  We are just passing through!  We are not aiming for permanent residency down here so don’t get too familiar with all the goings on, it’s unnecessary and throws us off course. Once you meet Jesus your destination is heaven, lets remind ourselves and one another of this often.  Think I need to read this passage frequently!

Dear God, thank you, that as we trust in you we are being renewed each day.  Please help me not to get caught up in temporary things, show me what is eternal so I can focus on those things.  Amen

Written by Ainslie Woods

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Wednesday 10 February, 2021

2 Corinthians 4:7-15

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

At first read, this passage reminds me of that late 1990’s drinking song ‘Tub Thumping’ – “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you ain’t never going to keep me down”. Or the exploits of Rocky Balboa come to mind, ‘down, but never for the count!’

But Paul is talking about something far more reliable and enduring then the human spirit of persistence and dogged determination. Paul knows what it means to be knocked down, literally. He has been abused in all senses of the word. He knows that he will one day be knocked down so hard that he does not get up again, not under his own steam. But there is nothing that can be thrown at Paul, not even death, that can keep him down forever, because Christ himself is at work in him and the Holy Spirit will raise him up for all eternity. 

The work of death is not something we can escape as Christians; its gnawing effects on the physical body are a guarantee for all of us. God’s plan for his people is not that we would escape death, but overcome it. One day, just like Rocky, we will stand over a defeated and powerless ‘death’, and we will gloat over it.

Lord, in our lives, let the world know that you have conquered death. Tell them through us.

Written by Andrew Mellor

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Tuesday 9 February, 2021

2 Corinthians 4:1-6

4 Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

At the same time that Paul was seeking to teach and encourage the Corinthian church there were others speaking into their world. It appears that some of these other ‘teachers’ were preaching a message that Paul described as ‘secret and shameful’ – one that sought to deceive in order to get popularity; a following, and financial gain. They spoke what people wanted to hear, they avoided the hard teachings in order to be liked.

This was so far from what Paul was about. He refused to change the message for anyone even if it meant he lost popularity or finances. He knew that the message he had been given was straight from the mouth of God, that it was a privilege to be a minister of it; he would not and did not distort the word of God.

I’m challenged on two levels. One, how open am I to being challenged and convicted, as well as encouraged when I hear teaching from the word of God, and secondly, in what ways am I watering down the gospel message with those I meet in order to be liked, and still included. The gospel of Jesus is life to all who accept him. It is a beautiful message of salvation and love, but there is also a call to repentance and life change. It’s only through Jesus that we can live in heaven eternally. There is no other way, no other God, he will not be light handed on sin. Am I sharing the whole gospel?

Help me Lord to be led by your Spirit and to be strong and courageous as you lead me in all I do and say. Amen

Written by Rosie Walker

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