A Close Examination

2 Corinthians 13

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Have you ever heard of the Viceroy butterfly? These winged insects look almost exactly like the beautiful Monarch butterfly. To the untrained eye it would be very difficult to tell the two apart. To tell the two specimens apart, one would have to examine them closely.

In this section of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he urges them to examine themselves. He wants them to consider where they are placing their faith and if they are truly living for Christ.

The monarch is poisonous to some predators. By masquerading as the Monarch, the Viceroy can allude and fool its predators. However, underneath the façade, it is not a true Monarch. In fact, it is not potent at all. Within its heart, the Viceroy is nothing like the Monarch

If we listened to Paul and took a step back to examine ourselves, what would we find? Are we masquerading as a follower of Christ or are we the real deal? Are we the Viceroy butterfly or are we the Monarch?

As we examine ourselves and aim for a life where our actions and our heart profess our faith, remember the words in verse 4. “For indeed he was crucified because of his weakness, yet he lives because the power of God. For we also are weak in him, yet we will live with him because of the power of God directed toward you.”

-Hannah Deane

Application Questions

  1. How can you tell if one’s faith is real or phony? What characteristics does real faith have? What characteristics does phony faith have?
  2. What do you see when you examine yourself?
  3. Are there areas where you want your faith to grow deeper and more genuine? What steps will help you grow in that direction? Are you willing to do them?

(Tomorrow we will begin a 3 week look at some of the highlights of the Old Testament books of Poetry: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon. After that, mid-July to August, we will read Mark, one chapter a day, and then return to Paul’s letters. Lots of good stuff ahead! Keep Seeking God and His Will in His Word! SeekGrowLove)

THE THORN

THAT REMAINS

2 Corinthians 12

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

In this section of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he shares with them about the thorn in his flesh. If you notice, we are not told exactly what this thorn is. He even mentions that three times he asked for it to be taken. But the LORD’s response was not that of immediate healing. Rather God left that thorn there, so that through this weakness Paul and others could see the power of God perfected. Paul began to view this thorn as something to keep him humble.

     Let’s think about this in a bit of a different perspective. Have you ever been out walking in the summer? Picture the trees and the birds singing, the warm air on your face and the peace of the moment. Everything is great, that is until you take that next step. Yep, there it is… Something is in your shoe.

     Imagine if it was out of your power to remove that nuisance in your shoe. You are stuck with it and now you have a limp. You cannot walk upright unless you lean on the sturdy walking stick you had brought with you but had been neglecting.

     This stone in your shoe has caused you to rely on something other than your own two feet. Paul’s thorn in his flesh gave him even more of a reason to remain humble and to rely on his God.

     We each have things in our lives that we struggle with. It may be a temptation we face, an insecurity we have, a sickness we carry or the pain of watching a loved one in agony. So often we think that God can only care for us if he is helping us fix these problems and removing these thorns. But scripture tells us that the LORD is near to the broken hearted.

     In Paul’s case, we know the LORD was with Paul. So even if your thorn is still there, it does not mean the LORD is not with you. In fact, that thorn may be the very thing that shows you that He is there. When that thorn gets uncomfortable, lean into the LORD as you would on that walking stick. And look with hope to the day when the LORD will wipe away every tear.

-Hannah Deane

Application Questions

  1. How can you be strong while you are weak? Is there a time you have felt this in your own life? When have you observed it in others?
  2. Why is God’s first priority not to give you everything you want to make yourself comfortable? What does He want instead?
  3. How does pride affect your relationship with others? How does pride affect your relationship with God? Where and how can you weed out some pride and replace it with humility?

False Advertising

2 Corinthians 11

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Have you seen anything advertised lately that you really wanted to try? Keep this in mind. We will revisit it at the end…

     Paul in this section of the letter to the Corinthians is defending his apostleship- not by means of hearsay, but through the proof of his testimony to Christ. Through the actions of his ministry, he has demonstrated his devotion to his faith. In the latter part of the section, Paul lists out the persecutions he has suffered. He does this not for the sake of attention or for puffing up his chest. He does it to demonstrate what the life of a true follower of Christ can look like. He does so to prove through his actions, and not the empty clanging of his voice, that he is an apostle of Christ.

     Paul does make a point to call attention to the “false advertising”, if you will, of others. He even makes the statement in verse 14, “…for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”

Both before and after this powerful statement of warning, Paul also mentions the servants of Satan and the deceitful workers disguising themselves as apostles of Christ and servants of righteousness. Their beautifully spun words are to create an illusion that they are something that they are not. They are to deceive and steal away those who would come to Christ.  

Going back to that product you saw advertised, what about the product appealed to you? Was it the products testability that spoke for its reliability? Or was it the colorful design and exaggerated wording? We are in a world that is saturated in advertising and overrun with so many products trying to steal our attention from the others.

It is the same with who we put our trust in. Sometimes the advertisements of Satan are much more appealing. It can be difficult to choose the beautifully created bowl of fruit over the decadent devil’s food cake. But in the end, one nourishes and sustains us and the other satisfies us for only a moment.

-Hannah Deane

Application Questions

  1. In what ways do you see Satan working to convince the world and Christians that what God said is good is actually bad, and what God said is bad is actually good? How does evil try to look good – masquerading as an angel of light?
  2. What lies of Satan have you believed?
  3. How can we protect ourself from being deceived by Satan as Eve was?
  4. What role does knowing and loving the truth play in fighting temptation? What truths do you find in Scripture that can help you be strong and wise against temptation?

My Show Horse

2 Corinthians 10

Monday, June 27, 2022

I remember back in high school I showed a horse in 4-H at the county fair. The show I was in was all about the looks of the horse and convincing the judge that my horse was the very best in the arena. The goal was to gain the approval of the judge.

So, I got my horse, who had little show experience, all cleaned up. I shined up my dusty saddle. I donned my very best western shirt. I was ready to boast my horse in front of the judge. Even if my horse wasn’t the most experienced or the most expensive, I had to get the judge to believe that he was. I had to get the judge to believe my horse was something that he wasn’t.

However, my horse decided that day that he wasn’t quite willing to cooperate. He was not having it and we very nearly cleared the fence. It is safe to say I did not convince the judge and all my “boasting” was in vain.

I feel like life is often like this. We find ourselves in circumstances where we try to prove our worth based on what we think others want. Like I was trying to convince the judge that my horse was the best show horse, we try to convince others that we are something that we are not.  

In this section of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he tells them that what he is in the letters is also who he is in person (v.11). He is not trying to shine up the saddle to convince someone of who he is- his actions speak for who he is in his letters and in person.

He also tells the Corinthians that when we commend ourselves, we are not approved. When I tried to commend myself and the horse I was riding in front of the judge, it did not go so well.

When our goal becomes the approval of humans rather than the approval of God our focus becomes warped, and we lose sight of what truly matters. However, when our goal becomes the approval of God, we become commendable by God. And then rather than boasting in our own power, which always falls short, we can boast in the LORD and His everlasting power.

-Hannah Deane

Application Questions

  1. Can you think of a time when you tried to convince others you were someone you were not? Did it work? What were the consequences?
  2. In what ways (or what areas of your life) do you seek the approval of men rather than the approval of God? What are the dangers of continuing in this pattern? How can you remember to be most concerned with how God is judging you, not what people think of you?
  3. How will you practice boasting in the LORD and His everlasting power, today?

Cheerful Heart Giving

2 Corinthians 9

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Have you ever planted a tomato seed? What was going through your head when you buried it in the dirt? Were you wondering how this small speck of matter could ever turn into an ingredient for the perfect BLT?

What was your attitude when planting this seed? Where you already drooling over the image you had in your head of that BLT? Were you skeptical it would even grow? Or maybe it wasn’t your idea to plant it and you held a grudge that the task fell to you.

While Paul wasn’t writing to the Corinthians about tomatoes or BLTs in this chapter, he did parallel the similarity between tithing and sowing seeds. He wanted the Corinthians to give with a cheerful heart and not out of compulsion or with a heart that was holding a grudge because of giving.

Whether time or financially I feel like this can be a difficulty. There is always something else we could be doing with our time or something else we could be buying with our money. But the importance of giving our time or finances to the LORD is the attitude that we have when doing so.

If we plant that tomato seed with a heart of anger, we may not appreciate the process of watching God grow the seed we planted into a bountiful and beautiful tomato plant. Sure, we can plant it with anger and still enjoy the outcome of the BLT and maybe even that outcome is what will change our perspective next planting season. But the joy of watching God take what has been sown and multiply it into something that we could never even have imagined may be missed with a heart that is misplaced.

When planting a seed, whether time or money, with a cheerful heart we not only receive the opportunity to minister to others, we also are able to enjoy the process of the LORD multiplying it. In the end, when we harbor a cheerful heart for the LORD, the BLT will taste a whole lot better. 

-Hannah Deane

Application Questions

  1. What difference does the attitude make in either cheerful generosity or grudgingly given?
  2. Which attitude do you most often have when giving of your time? Or your finances? If there is a specific area in which you struggle to give cheerfully, how can you work towards improving that attitude?
  3. What do you gain when you give, especially with a good attitude, according to 2 Corinthians verses 6-15?

How I Do It

2 Corinthians 1

June 18

When people find out what I do for a living (Funeral Director/Embalmer and Deputy Coroner) they usually respond with some variation of the following: “I don’t know how you do it”.  “How do you get used to it?”  Or “I don’t think I could do your job.”  I have never known quite how to respond to those statements.  Saying  “Oh, I think you could”, doesn’t  seem quite right.  Neither does “You’re probably right about that.”

I’ve decided that I’m going to start asking what part of my job, specifically, they think they would not be able to handle.  If they mean they don’t know how I get used to the smells, my answer would truthfully be “I don’t”…  It’s a tough part of the job.  My tongue-in-cheek answer would be “Mouth breathing and repeated formaldehyde exposure have helped.”  (I think I’ve partially embalmed my olfactory over the years of inhalation of embalming chemical fumes).   If they mean they don’t know how I can be a comforting presence when people are grieving, I have an answer for that too.  It is because God has comforted me.

In 2 Corinthians Chapter 1, Paul writes:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (verses 3&4)

When I was 7 years old my infant brother, Zachary, died a few short hours after birth. He was born with a hernia of his diaphragm. I never got to see him alive.  I never got to hold him.  We had a place ready for him at our house,  but we never got to bring him home from the hospital.   Despite what people said, I knew he certainly didn’t get to go to “a better place”.  The first and only time I ever saw him was in a tiny casket in the back of the Oregon Church of God.  Pastors Hollis Partlowe, and a new young minister at the church by the name of Michael Hoffman, co-officiated my brother’s funeral.  Pastor David Cheatwood of the Blessed Hope Bible Church also counseled and  comforted our family in the years that followed.

God,  through the ministry of these three Pastors, my Sunday school teachers and several other  faithful brothers and sisters in our church like Alan and Darlene Shaw,  Dave and Bertha Hixon and Rita Gillette  comforted me.  Through that experience, I learned the fullness of the gospel.  I learned that the gospel was not  merely that there was a perfect man who lived 2000 years ago who was falsely accused and  died on a cross.  The gospel is that, that man, CHRIST JESUS, only needed to borrow a tomb for a few days.  The gospel is, that I will have an opportunity to see my brother Zachary alive someday and walk with him on streets made of gold!   

In mortuary school I learned a lot about caskets.  I learned a lot about how they are made and the proper terminology for each of their different parts.  We had to be able to identify and differentiate between the “ogee” and  the  “overlay”.  We had to be able to explain why a person may want or not want a casket with a gasket.  (Every time I say that, it reminds me of the Dr. Seuss  book “Wocket in my Pocket.”). It would all be very depressing If I didn’t know that in the end, a casket is just a time capsule to be opened at the ribbon cutting of the new Jerusalem.  I picture graves bursting open right before the wedding supper of the lamb.  When I get a person dressed and placed in their casket, I’m really helping one of the wedding guests get their socks on for the party!

In this same Chapter Paul also writes “we do not write you anything you cannot read or understand.” Sometimes we just need to think about that.  If our message is something that cannot be understood, it just might not be Biblical. 

God created perfect people in a perfect garden on a perfect earth.  Sin caused those people to be cast out of the Garden and they lost access to the tree of life.  Therefore we all die.  We all need to consider casket gaskets. 

The entire Bible lays out plainly God’s plan to restore the perfection of his original creation and our access to Him and his tree of life.  The good news is just as Jesus arose from the grave, no casket on the market will be able to hold us when the last trumpet sounds.  We shall rise. 

That is how I am able to do what I do.  Next time you have to make funeral arrangements ask your funeral director about their long term lease programs on caskets.  We won’t be needing them forever!

-Brian Froehlich

Application Questions

  1. When you think of the word “comfort” what comes to mind?
  2. What brings you comfort in times of stress?
  3. What are some jobs you would not want or could not do?
  1. We know we won’t be needing our caskets forever.  If we could lease one until Resurrection day, how long do you think we would need it? 
  2. Are you living like you are expecting the imminent return of Christ?  What would you do differently today if you knew the date of his return?

Strive for FULL Restoration

2 Corinthians 13

Today we are looking at 2 Corinthians 13 and Paul is writing to the people of Corinth, even though he has already visited them twice but still they are unable to perform the will of God and be faithful righteous believers. In verse 11 Paul writes “Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice!…” We see that even though the Corinthians have all of these issues in their lives he calls them “brothers and sisters” because he loves them so very much that they are family to him.

“Strive for full restoration.” Paul wants us to be the best version of ourselves. I was just recently baptized and I have been working on restoring my relationship with God. As Kyle McClain said this past week at General Conference everything takes time, and the longer we go without praying and reading our Bible the farther we stray from God. Love God and trust in him and he will guide you. And closing with verse 14 – “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

God bless.

Thank you, 

Samuel Turner

This week we will get the pleasure of hearing from some new SeekGrowLove writers – and some not so new, too. Samuel is a high school student I enjoyed spending some time with at FUEL and General Conference. Thank you for writing, Samuel! Congratulations on your recent baptism! It will be fun watching God guide you as you continue seeking Him and striving for full restoration!

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Corinthians 13 and Job 23-24

Boasting of the Best

2 Corinthians 10-13

We are going through our final chapters in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians!  Thank you for sticking with me through this last week and listening to my ramblings 😊

As Paul is finishing up his letters, he seems to talk a lot about boasting.  Boasting can be defined as possessing something as a source of pride.  Paul is possessing the knowledge of the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and what that means for his sinful life.  He takes pride in the fact that he belongs to Christ, and he wants others to be proud of that too (10:2).  He doesn’t want people to be proud of themselves or their own accomplishments, but only be proud of the Lord and being part of a group of believers (10:17).

In chapter 11 Paul talks about those who do boast about themselves and discusses how at the very most we should only be willing to boast about our weakness (11:30).  In order to be in a position that you are not only willing to share a weakness but are seeking to openly and proudly share a weakness, you must be truly dedicated and excited to be part of that movement.  Paul understood the impact that sharing his weakness, or his testimony, would have on believers because he got to experience first-hand the grace of God.

Paul didn’t always want to deal with the things that created his testimony, he calls them a thorn used to torment him (12:7).  He asked for the things that were difficult for him to be taken away, and Jesus told him “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (12:9).  Paul did not innately know that the things that were difficult, that were shaping his testimony, were going to be used for God’s glory.  But when he learned that his weakness would only more greatly reflect grace, he did not shy away and try to hide or change his weaknesses to present himself as higher than he was to the church.  All too often Christians can feel this pressure to hide the parts of their life that weren’t “pretty” in the eyes of other believers.  But most times, what we have gone through and come out of because of the grace of God is one of the most powerful tools in bringing people to Christ and encouraging believers.  We should be boasting in our weaknesses, in what God has brought us out of, with the purpose of growing and strengthening the Church.

Paul closes his letter by saying this: “Finally, brothers, rejoice.  Become mature, be encouraged, be of the same mind, be at peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (13:11).  Part of becoming mature can include developing and sharing your testimony.  Being encouraged can happen when you share and hear about testimonies from other believers.  We are all of the same mind when we focus on growing and strengthening the Church.  And being at peace comes from knowing that each believer has that same focus.  When we are able to do all of these things, God will be with us and give us His strength to complete tasks we never thought possible. 

We make up the Church, and we are responsible for continuing to grow the Church and keep one another strong in the faith.  Paul’s letters are a great place to start when looking for ways to be part of the Church, but there is absolutely a level of personal communication with God that is necessary to know where He wants you to be.  I encourage you to take time today to reflect on your own testimony and to ask God who He wants you to share this testimony with.  You may be surprised where He leads you!

Thank you all for joining me through the Corinthians!  This week has been a great time for me to refocus on the mission, and I hope it was for you all as well.  Until next time, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”

-Sarah Blanchard Johnson

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Corinthians 10-13

Tomorrow we begin a new week reading Acts 20:1-3 and Romans 1-3.

A Quality Church – and Your Part in It

2 Corinthians 5-9

Welcome back!  I felt like these five chapters really covered a lot of ground today!  I will only be touching on part of the message presented here for the sake of keeping it relatively short, so I truly encourage you to find someone in your world to read and discuss with the points that stick out to you!

 One portion of this message that stuck out to me in particular was found in chapter five verse 11: “Therefore, because we know the fear of the Lord, we seek to persuade people.  We are completely open before God, and I hope we are completely open to your conscience as well.”  I really admire this idea of being just as open to other believers as we are to God.  To me, this means sharing our pains, fears, hopes, prayers, and praises with the body of believers we surround ourselves with. 

Paul brings up the idea of being open again in chapter six describing how he wants the relationship between himself and the church to be like parents and children with good communication (6:11-13).  That kind of relationship may look different for everyone, but in general, the relationship that a parent and child have should be based on trust, respect, and love.  Paul is talking about how the relationship we have with other believers should be the same!  To provide an example of this Paul describes how happy he was that Titus had come to visit this church specifically because Titus was refreshed by the church (7:13).  Whether it is to a visiting member from another congregation, someone who attends every Sunday, or someone who may only be passing through, people should leave the church feeling refreshed by their time spent with us. 

Continuing on in chapter eight verse 24 Paul is boasting about this church’s love for others in his letter and encourages them to continue to do what they are doing.  Paul doesn’t say anything regarding the physical appearance of the church, how good the music is, or how young and cool the pastor is.  OK, that may not be applicable to the church in Corinth at that time, but I think you get my point!  What makes a church a quality church is their ability to build up the body of believers, to refresh them, so that they may go out and continue their work.  This is only possible when believers in the church are open with one another and have that relationship of trust, respect, and love.

When you look at your own church, what do you boast about?  What makes you proud to attend?  Do you feel like you can be open with the other believers there?  And if not, I encourage you to dig a little deeper… Paul writes about people who sow sparingly reaping sparingly (9:6).  I think this concept applies to a lot of areas, including what we take away from our own church.  If you are looking for a church where you can find strong connections, yet never attend a Bible Study, you are trying to reap generously what was sown sparingly.  If you are trying to find a church that is energetic and full of life, but you never come with a smile on your face or a praise to share, you are trying to reap generously what was sown sparingly.  If you are disappointed that your church rarely has visitors, yet never invite your coworker, neighbor, or friend to a service, you are trying to reap generously what was sown sparingly. 

Being the church does not just mean showing up on a Sunday morning.  It means being open, it means showing respect and love, and it means being actively involved.  Without each one of us taking part in refreshing one another, the church is just a building.  We are the Church, and we each must do our part to make it all it should be.

-Sarah Blanchard Johnson

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Corinthians 5-9.

Tomorrow we will continue with chapters 10-13.

Not Working Alone

2 Corinthians 1-4

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Paul’s letters!

2 Corinthians is truly written as a letter… almost like a story written from Paul’s perspective to the church.  Although sometimes his message can feel redundant (especially when you have to listen to it from me each day…), it really should be symbolizing just how important that message truly is.  We shouldn’t necessarily be finding new ideas each day, because the ideas should be and are consistent throughout the whole Bible!  We should, however, be finding new ways to take that message and apply it to our own life.

The main message that I took from Paul in these chapters is how this mission that I have been touching on this past week isn’t one that we do alone or on our own strength.  Our mission is one that is fueled by God.  Our words, our actions, and our endurance related to spreading the message of hope and Christ’s resurrection has nothing to do with ourselves.  THANK GOODNESS. 

However, that mission is carried out by us.  In these chapters we are called to comfort, to conduct ourselves in purity, to forgive, to love, and to be bold in our faith walk.  All these ideas require us to act on the experience of grace that we have received from God.  When we carry out these things we can do so with the competence from God (3:5), which means that we aren’t responsible for making things up about grace!  We do not have to distort God’s message (in fact you shouldn’t) for people to come to Christ.  We have to tell people about Christ and let his life do the talking!

Paul recognized that this mission wasn’t easy, he lived through the difficulties of telling people about Christ.  He talks about the importance of spreading joy among believers and keeping the body built up by reaffirming people in love (2:5-8).  He reminds the church of these things because he knows how Satan works, and knows that without joy and love, the Church will be weak (2:11). 

To build the church up, Paul closes with some fantastic verses that I want to reiterate here:

“Therefore we do not give up.  Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day.  For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.  So we do not focus on what is seen, but what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (4:16-18). 

Being a Christian is hard.  Being a Christian in 2020 is hard.  But we know that everything that is hard in this current life will be nothing compared to the glory and joy that is the Kingdom.  That doesn’t change the fact that life is still hard, but it should change the way we handle this life and give us some joy and love to spread, even when the world is lacking.

No matter where you are in life today, remind yourself about the hope, grace, and joy you have in Christ.  And when someone asks you why you are still smiling despite the chaos, tell them the truth about who gave you that kind of joy.

-Sarah Blanchard Johnson

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Corinthians 1-4

Tomorrow we will continue with 2 Corinthians 5-9.

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