Heart Test

2 Corinthians 13

2 Corinthians 13 5

I’m picking up here on the last chapter of 2 Corinthians.   Thanks to Marcia Railton & Kayla Tullis for the first 12 chapters in this book!

One thing I love about these devotion blogs is that you get something a little different each week with different people contributing.  My style is pulling out some verses that stand out to me, doing some summarizing, and adding some of my own thoughts.  I hope that there is something this week that you can learn and/or grow from.

Chapter 13 picks up right where chapter 12 left off.  Paul is writing to tell them of his coming third visit.  And he isn’t going to be quite as nice.  They have gotten a couple of warnings, and now he is cracking down.

Grace is an amazing concept.  But if you use grace as an excuse to continue sinning, it cheapens God’s gift, and Jesus’s sacrifice.  So do this:

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong—not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed.For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is that you may be fully restored.

We may be weak at times, but if Christ is in us, we can rely on his strength and be fully restored – thank you God for this gift!  Because if we had to do it on our own, we simply couldn’t.

Paul finishes his letter with good advice:

11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

It can be hard to live at peace with our brothers and sisters if we aren’t at peace with God.

The past couple of weeks in our ladies class at church, we have been talking about our testimonies, and this reminds me of mine.  I grew up in the church and always knew I needed to accept Christ as my Savior to fully experience his and God’s love, but for some reason, I just hadn’t.  I believed everything, I had the knowledge, but it just hadn’t made a connection in my heart.  Then one Sunday, a lady in our church who was struggling with cancer shared how in her darkest time at the hospital, she had felt so far from God feeling almost abandoned.  Yet after feeling that, God blessed her with a deep sense of peace that passed any understanding of her circumstances.  And she knew that whatever happened, she would be ok whether in this lifetime, or in the coming Kingdom.  That got to me.  That gave me that heart connection I was missing.  I remember going to my pastor after church and telling him that I wanted to know that peace – I was ready to make my decision.

 

So if you have made your decision already, I am so happy for you!  I hope that you can live in peace and feel God with you.

And if you haven’t, I encourage you to consider it.  Maybe you are like me and know the truth, but just haven’t felt that connection in your heart.  If this is the case, I hope that you will spend time talking to God and ask Him to give you that connection so that you don’t have to miss out.

 

~Stephanie Fletcher

His Perfect Power

2 Corinthians 12

2 corinthians 12 9

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 

For when I am weak, then I am strong. Let this verse pour over your heart today. How encouraging is it to know that no matter what circumstance we walk through, we can stand firm in the grace of God. His power is made PERFECT in our weakness. All of our fears, worries, troubles, sorrows, and pain may be put to rest. We can lay them all down and know that our God is greater. I’ve said it many times while writing this week, and i’ll continue to say it over and over again, our God is so very good. May we cling to Him, not only as we continue our Bible reading plan, but cling to him throughout the entirety of our lives. Wishing you all the best and I hope to see you this summer at FUEL!

-Kayla Tullis

Hardships

2 Corinthians 11

2 Corinthians 11 28

… in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

2 Corinthians 11: 27-28

 

2 Corinthians 11 portrays Paul’s passion towards the church and the sufferings that he went through to build it up. Living life as a Christian is not promised to be easy. Though we may not all face the sufferings that Paul faced in his ministry, we too may endure hardships throughout our lives. However, we can take heart as we know from Romans 5 verses 3-6 that “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Thankfully, in America we have the freedom to worship God openly. However, as we know, not all Christians are as fortunate and face persecutions daily. No matter what circumstances we face as we proclaim the name of the Lord and our hope in His coming Kingdom, may we remain firm in our faith and press on as we pursue a ministry that glorifies Him.

-Kayla Tullis

Lift His Name Higher

2 Corinthians 10

2 Corinthians 10 17

 

“We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.”

2 Corinthians 10:15-18 ESV

 

It’s human nature to seek recognition. I see this come to life within my classroom full of preschoolers. Throughout the day, I watch their actions and encourage them to be kind and helpful towards one another. In turn, I like to celebrate a few students each day and write out what we like to call “kindness notes” with a sticker of their choice to take home to their families. All the children in the classroom give a big “woop woop” to the student receiving the note after we read it aloud for all to hear. The students who hear about and see the child with the kindness note also want to be kind and helpful later on as they have seen their friends doing good works and they too want to join in (& take a sticker home). However, it’s not always about having recognition for ourselves.

 

They may be four but I can learn a lot from the childlike hearts that fill up my days. Cooper is a young student within my class who may be entirely silly at times but he really does have such a big heart. I was celebrating Cooper’s accomplishments just this week as he worked very hard to help decorate our classroom to fit the theme of the week: jungle days. In speaking about this student to another teacher, Cooper was sure to stop me in my tracks to make sure that it was clear that he was not deserving of all of the credit himself. At the end of the day, it was his friends that helped him decorate and that was all that truly mattered to him.

In thinking about this simple action and as I read Paul’s words, I too have asked the question, “Am I the person who boasts about myself or do I put my boast in God and Jesus, the ones who are responsible for all the gains that I may have in this life?”

 

Encouraging others to do good works is not a bad thing! In fact, talking about your actions can have a positive effect on those around you. However, there are limitations. As we read here in 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about how one should boast; “let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” Or, as my fiance would say, “Don’t boast, raise a toast,” as we are not supposed to boast about what we do but rather boast about what God and Jesus are doing through us. My friends, as our faith grows, may we continue to let it spread amongst others and with humble hearts, always seek to lift the name of the Lord higher and higher. If you haven’t heard it before, I encourage you to check out Lecrae’s song “Boasting” as it sums up 2 Corinthians 10 well. At the end of the day, it’s really not about us. But boy am I grateful that I can put my boast in the Lord and bring glory to his name.

 

“Boasting” Chorus: Lecrae (Ft. Anthony Evans)

If this life has anything to gain at all

I’ll count it loss if I can’t hear you, feel you, ’cause I need you.

Can’t walk this earth alone.

I recognize I’m not my own, so before I fall

I need to hear you, feel you, as I live to make my boast in you alone.

 

-Kayla Tullis

Happy to Give

2 Corinthians 9

2 Corinthians 9 7 b

“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 ESV

 

Yesterday, we talked about presenting an offering to the Lord. Furthermore, we discussed ways that you may contribute within your own lives! Today’s chapter adds onto yesterday’s as it not only tells of giving but explains how you should give– with a cheerful heart. I love love love seeing the smile that is put on another’s face after giving a really good gift. I always feel so good as I present a gift that I wanted to give rather than one that I feel pressured to give. According to these verses in 2 Corinthians 9, God loves when we are cheerful about giving too. We are not only able to “abound in good work” but are able to impact someone else in a positive way. How cool is that! As you have decided in your hearts to give, let’s remember to do so cheerfully.

-Kayla Tullis

 

 

Giving!

2 Corinthians 8

2 Corinthians 8 4

 

“But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.”

2 Corinthians 8:7 ESV

 

 

“For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.”

2 Corinthians 8:12 ESV

 

 

“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 by his poverty might become rich.”

2 Corinthians 8:9 ESV

 

Wow. Pause and read this again. So very powerful. Let’s let this one sink in.

 

 

“And not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will. We take this course so that no one should blame us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.”

2 Corinthians 8:19-21 ESV

 

Throughout 2 Corinthians 8, it is evident that this chapter is explaining the collection that Titus was sent to receive for the Lord’s people. In starting out today’s reading, I decided to highlight a few key verses (as listed above) to read before we move onto a deeper discussion.

 

So often in this life, I feel as if it is ingrained into our society to accumulate more and more so that we may be perceived as the richest, having the most glamor, and being considered high in status. Many popular songs today even send out the message to seek after selfish ambitions– more money, more things, seeking after unhealthy relationships, and the list goes on and on. However, it was so refreshing to dig into this chapter today as it speaks truth onto the matter of, not only having, but also giving. Moreover, this chapter highlights the importance of recognizing what you have, and with responsibility, using a portion of it to present it as an offering unto the Lord with willingness. I love that Paul writes about the importance of being diligent and being invested in your faith, speech, knowledge, earnestness, and love, but also writes that presenting an offering is indeed an act of grace.

  • You don’t think you have anything valuable to offer? Think again! One of the best parts about presenting the Lord with an offering is that you do not have to have a lot to be able to give/carry out an act of ministry, contributing to the furtherance of the kingdom. An offering for one person may look completely different than an offering for another person and that’s okay!

Question:

Ask yourselves, “What do I have to offer today?”

  • Maybe it’s: time, a financial donation, investing in others, offering words of encouragement, acts of service, praying for others, etc.
  • There are several ways that you can contribute!

 

My biggest take away from this chapter is that we have a God who sent His only son to sacrifice everything on our behalf to pave the way to eternal life. It is my hope that we can present our lives as an offering to God and let His work truly come to life within us! We have the chance to do something very special to honor God and further His kingdom unto others. Are you willing to be a part of it? With grace, I encourage you to present an offering to God– today, this week, this month, this year, or all the above. Whatever that may look like in your life, seek after it. Let’s set our selfish ambitions aside and really focus on the things that matter. My friends, you are so loved! We serve a good good father. Have a great day and be sure to join back again tomorrow for our next daily devotion!

-Kayla Tullis

Repentance that Leads to Salvation

2 Corinthians 7

2 Corinthians 7_10

While I was at church last week, one of the younger girls that I have watched grow up  since she was a baby came up to me and was so very excited to whisper some big news into my ear. Her smile grew larger and larger as she leaned in close to reveal that she and her older sister are planning to be baptized in just a few weeks! I looked at her with excitement! I was overjoyed! What wonderful news for anyone to tell me, let alone this sweet girl who I adore. Of course as an education major, I am drawn towards investing in youth. I am passionate about teaching children in my daily life but more than that, I am passionate about guiding youth to become individuals who strive to honor God daily. In the same sense, Paul was passionate about building and growing the church. He was passionate about investing in others also as we see here in 2 Corinthians. I imagine the excitement that I had when I received the news of the baptisms in my church was similar to the excitement that Paul had when the people of Corinth were repenting.

 

 

While reading this chapter today, I was especially drawn to verses ten and eleven as they state,

10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret,

whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief

has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation,

what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved

yourselves innocent in the matter.

 

Question:

Is there anything in your life that is holding you back from pursuing a healthy relationship with our Heavenly Father? Moreover, is there anything in your life that is stopping you from accepting the sacrifice that His son made on our behalf?

 

  • No matter where you are at in your life right now, no matter what struggles you may be facing, I encourage you to give it all to God. Lay down all of your burdens and troubles and He will meet you wherever you are. It’s not too late to say yes to His free and perfect gift. It’s one that you don’t want to miss out on!

 

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:38

 

-Kayla Tullis

Living Fearlessly for the Kingdom – Even in Trials

2 Corinthians 6

2 corinthians 6 3

Hardships. We all go through them! Often times we are left wondering, why why why. I once had a coach tell me that the way that I walked through adversity would truly define my character and who I am as a person. This saying has stuck with me for years as I live each day asking myself whether or not I am reflecting God’s love to those around me. When I am faced with the unknown, when I am knocked down on my back, or even when life is running smoothly, I find the verses in 2 Corinthians 6 to be so important and encourage them to flow over my heart. We have the chance to truly make a difference in the lives of those around us as we love unconditionally and live fearlessly for the Kingdom of God. We know that we serve a good good Father and at the end of the day, when we are beat down/exhausted, we can find rest in His love and His grace. Friends, I encourage you to take a minute to stop and reflect. Ask yourselves, “How am I doing in my walk of faith?” Of course this is no competition or race, but it’s important to evaluate where your heart is and how you can honor God daily. Be encouraged that the Lord is for you! How thankful I am to say that He is our God and that we may be called His people. Let’s put our best forth to live a life pleasing to Him!

 

“Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:

  • in great endurance
  • in troubles, hardships and distresses
  • in beatings
  • imprisonments and riots
  • in hard work
  • sleepless nights and hunger
  • in purity
  • understanding
  • patience and kindness
  • in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love
  • in truthful speech
  • in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left
  • through glory and dishonor
  • bad report and good report
  • genuine, yet regarded as impostors
  • known, yet regarded as unknown
  • dying, and yet we live on
  • beaten, and yet not killed
  • sorrowful, yet always rejoicing
  • poor, yet making many rich
  • having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”

 

2 Corinthians 6:4-10

 

-Kayla Tullis

 

A Job to Do

2 Corinthians 5

2 Corinthians 5 19

 

I recently watched Finding Hope Now (also more recently titled Streets of Hope) based on the true story of the ministry of Roger Minassian and his book Gangs to Jobs: Faith-Based Gang Intervention for Your City.  At 53 Roger left his comfortable pastorate to create a ministry to gang members (something he knew nothing about at the time – except that they needed help – even though they often didn’t want it).  I won’t share too much about the movie because I hope you see it for yourself.  But at one point a gang member is before a judge who has the power to convict the young man for crimes he did commit and deliver him to a punishment he did deserve.  But, Roger was there at the teen’s side – even though this kid had personally caused Roger much personal pain, heartache and property damage.  Roger was speaking for the troubled teen.  Telling the judge of the change he saw – the old was gone, the new had come.  Roger was deep in the ministry of reconciliation – both to reconcile this young man with the court system and his community – as well as to reconcile him to God.  Now, you have to watch the movie to see what happened next.

 

Reconciliation is “the restoration of friendly relations”.  And, the world is much in need of it – particularly as it pertains to restoring a relationship with God.  Paul says it best here:

 

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 for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.                   (2 Corinthians 5:17-21 . NIV)

 

 

God seeks restoration and “friendly relationships” with His creation.  So much so that He sent His sinless Son to carry our sins to the cross so we could become new, righteous creations who could draw near to God.  Previously our mountain of baggage and sins we were carrying was keeping us from embracing God.  But God made a way for us to set it all down – at the foot of the cross.  Because Jesus spoke for us God is not holding our sins against us – if we are in Christ – and have asked for forgiveness, accepted Jesus as Lord, been baptized to demonstrate the putting off of the old self, and are living a life of obedience.

 

If you aren’t there yet – in Christ – why not?  “We implore you on Christ’s behalf.  Be reconciled to God.” (vs. 20).  Please talk to your pastor or Sunday School teacher or youth group leader or Godly parents or me.  You don’t have to wait until you are perfect or you know the whole Bible – none of us Christians fall into either of those categories.  You just need to be ready to put the old behind.  Drop the junk you are holding onto, accept the sacrifice the Son made for you as he was speaking to his Dad for you and put on a new friendly relationship with God.  Be reconciled to God.

 

If you are there – in Christ – Congratulations!  Best choice ever!   Daily enjoy that friendly relationship with God that was opened for you by Christ.  And, get to work – you have a job to do!

 

“God has committed/given to us, the ministry/message of reconciliation.” (vs. 18 and 19).  Saying it once wasn’t enough for Paul.  So, I will repeat it, too.  “God has committed/given to us, the ministry/message of reconciliation. (vs. 18 and 19)”.  Do it!

 

If you’ve got the priceless gift of reconciliation with God through His Son – give it to others.  It won’t subtract what you have, but it will only multiply as you follow God’s command.   Maybe you will bring the message to gang members and in the process save a whole town!  Maybe you will boldly speak to a neighbor, family member, friend, co-worker, or church youth and be instrumental in that priceless person’s decision to be reconciled to God.  And all of heaven will rejoice with you.  Pray for God to show you where to start – and then start!

 

People are listening.  People are looking for hope in a hurting world.  Yesterday my heart hurt to hear of a girl in Malaysia who posted an Instagram poll – should she live or die?  Tears are falling as I type that she received a 69% response to die – and she took her own life.

 

The enemy is alive and well and we have a job to do!   Spread life and hope and reconciliation.  You won’t convince everyone.  Paul didn’t.  Roger didn’t.  But they did change lives because of their ministry of reconciliation.  And, we can, too.  People need reconciliation with God – even if they don’t know it yet.  How will you share it?

 

In Christ and Reconciled With a Job to Do,

Marcia Railton

Treasures in Jars of Clay

2 Corinthians 4

2 corinthians 4 5

It’s a beautiful chapter – make sure you give it a read, it won’t take long.

While I read, various people came to mind as Paul was describing his ministry.  People I know who have – and are currently – serving faithfully, carrying on the work Paul had given his life to 2,000 years ago.

One of the key repeated themes in this chapter is the task of pointing others to God, rather than to ourselves.  It requires humility and relying on God’s strength and mercy.  It means realizing that this priceless treasure of the message of God’s glory is housed in our plain, everyday, unglamorous, and sometimes frail bodies.  As Paul says: “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (vs. 7). It’s not about us – it’s about Him and His greatness.  It involves letting God’s light shine through us – so others will see God when we share about His Son.  After a conversation with others, do they know more about me – or about my God and my Lord?

And – it’s about the work of being a servant to those you minister to – for Jesus’ sake.  Growing up as a pastor’s kid I was privileged enough to see the beauty of servanthood Pastor Ray Hall lived out daily.  Numerous weekly Bible Studies at church, at the adult foster care homes or at the breakfast restaurant with the men’s group.  Countless counseling sessions in his office, at the jail, or the hospital or even in the garage. Up extra early to drive the man in need of a fresh start to his new job, writing and delivering sermons and SS classes, taking breaks to fix the neighbors’ bikes or paint a welcome home sign for returning snowbirds, teaching the little kids’ VBS class and taking all the late-night phone calls.

Being a servant doesn’t leave a lot of time for piddly pursuits.  In fact, it can be downright demanding, and sometimes discouraging.  Paul knew.  He writes, “We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed…so then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” (vs 8, 9 & 12).  In order to share the life-giving message with others – it was going to require taking up his cross and dying to his own will – just as Jesus did.  It would be hard, but not without help (God’s power at work) or hope. “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 in his presence.” (vs. 14).

Even as Paul was following in Christ’s footsteps, he was encouraging those who would follow in his own footsteps with these words (repeated twice in this short chapter) – “We do not lose heart.” (vs. 1 & 16).  God needs people with heart – and lots of it!  You don’t have to be a full-time pastor to be taking on the role as a servant for Jesus’s sake.  Some of the people I thought of when reading this chapter were not pastors but full-time mothers and dedicated Sunday School teachers or amazing pastors’ wives.  Whether you are a student or a mother or a plumber or a truck driver or a teacher – you can also be called to be a servant – for Jesus’ sake.

On the sad flip side, other faces and hearts were brought to mind when Paul wrote about those for whom the gospel was veiled – those who were perishing.  Some family.  Some friends.  Some from years of church and youth work.  Indeed, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel.” (vs. 4).  Satan is still very much alive and kicking.  The battle is real.  And real lives are perishing – unbeknownst to those with blinded minds.  Pray for veils to be yanked off.  Pray for our families to flee Satan.  Pray for the light of the gospel to shine through the darkness.

Thank God for the light.  Thank God for those who have been a servant to you to show you the light.  Pray that through you God’s light will shine.  Pray that you do not lose heart.  Pray that you will be worthy of the title of servant – for Jesus’ sake.

Thankful and Praying,

Marcia Railton