2 Corinthians 12:11-21 – Here to Help

Read 2 Corinthians 12:11-21

Have you ever had your motives questioned? Maybe you were trying to help a neighbor in need and someone else looked at what you were doing and thought you were taking advantage. Or maybe you were serving at church and somebody thought you were only worried about your “own” agenda and not what was best for the ministry. If it sounds like I’ve “been there, done that,” it’s true. Those are real life examples, and it hurts.

Paul seems to be having a little of the same “shame” going on. He shouldn’t. He is listening to the voice of God and is there to help. People will be people. Doubting. Judgmental. Perhaps even jealous. As leaders, we open ourselves up to criticism. We can’t please everyone and many times that’s enough to keep good people from taking leadership roles. Even in the church, especially in the church, you would think we’d be safe from this questioning behavior. Paul shows us it was happening even then.

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2 Corinthians 8:16-24 – Glorify the Lord

Read 2 Corinthians 8:16-24

Paul introduces us in this passage to Titus and has many nice things to say about him. Titus will have some companions, too, but they remain unnamed here. It seems like Paul is going out of his way to show his support and acceptance, presumably to give the Corinthians the same level of trust. After all, Titus and his travel mates will be the ones carrying the donations back to Jerusalem.

Having been a church leader for many years, I know the scrutiny we endure. There is a lot of pressure to be above reproach. Why is that? For some, it is to make sure nobody can accuse you of doing something shady. We’ve all seen the scandals of church leaders who have been caught in their sin, exposed, ridiculed, and thrown out of their roles. Being we’re all sinful, it can be hard to live up to the expectations put on a church leader to somehow be less sinful. How can it be less daunting?

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Matthew 20:17-28 – Be a Servant

Read Matthew 20:17-28

Before Jesus’ teaching on being a servant, he spoke of his own death again. This time, he spoke about the Son of Man (himself) in third person. Why does he share again? I’m guessing it’s to prepare his friends. He is telling them exactly what is going to happen. This time he connects it with being in Jerusalem, their destination. Jesus is headed right into his destiny. How was he feeling about that? How would you have felt?

It doesn’t say what the disciples’ response was. I’m guessing they are still finding it hard to believe. Jesus is so popular. How is it possible that he will be killed so ruthlessly? Our reading quickly shifts to the scene with the mother of James and John. She is asking for favor for her sons. Jesus isn’t about to grant her request, it is not his place to do so.

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Acts 28:11-31: Serve and Love

Read Acts 28:11-31

Paul has arrived in Rome, just as Jesus told him he would. The journey there was a bit rocky, but he was safe. His ministry in Rome is now underway. I am always amazed at how news traveled in those days. The phone hadn’t been invented yet, and certainly, there was no email or texting. Yet believers knew and came to welcome and encourage Paul.

Who have you welcomed or encouraged today? Continue reading “Acts 28:11-31: Serve and Love”

Luke 1:39-45 – What Do You Believe In?

Read Luke 1:39-45

There is so much going on in this short passage. We are told that it was only a “few days” after receiving the message from the angel that Mary left to visit her relative, Elizabeth. I’m sure Mary was very excited to see Elizabeth and share “girl talk” about what was happening in their lives.

In Luke, we don’t see the interaction between Mary and Joseph, but could it be that she left quickly after telling him she was pregnant. Joseph’s anguish and deliberation takes place in the book of Matthew.

Mary didn’t have to say a word, as the Holy Spirit filled Elizabeth with the knowledge of what was happening to Mary. Even the son in her womb leaped for joy!

Mary no doubt left behind a questioning fiancé and surrounded herself with family. With Elizabeth, an older woman, pregnant in her final trimester, Mary was probably a very good companion and helper. Mary was also able to process the reality of what was happening to her. I can’t even imagine being the mother of  God’s son, can you?

Is Mary alone in her blessedness? While she is the only one that will  ever carry the Son of God, we can all receive God’s blessing. Elizabeth said, “You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” Now I realize the context here is huge, but for us it can also speak volumes.

As we prepare our hearts for the Christmas season, and more importantly for the second coming, all we need to do is believe. Believe that God will do what he has said. There are so many promises in the Bible. We need to believe them. Even without seeing first, especially without seeing them. We will then have a faith that will set us apart.

Jesus told us he is going to return. We need to believe that with our whole heart. We need to feel the anticipation each and every day. We should be living our lives as if he were coming today.

What does that look like for you? Do you want to tidy your house and have some cookies in the oven? Do you want to walk away from an unhealthy relationship and rely on God’s perfect will for your life? Do you want to devote more time each day to building your relationship with God?

How can you change things up in your life to be more obedient to God, to be ready? What lies are filling your head and keeping you from believing God’s word to be true?

Let’s pray. Lord I come to you today yearning to be closer to you. Help me to shut out all the ugliness of the world so I can truly focus on you and your goodness. May your peace and mercy wash over me and give me a new sense of joy. As we celebrate your incarnation, may we stay truly expectant on your second coming. Lord, I want my heart to be ready. I want to help bring others to a faith and belief in you as well. Give me the words to say and the wisdom to know when to speak. In Jesus’ name. Amen.