June 12 – Enough – Good Enough?

Read 2 Corinthians 3:1-6

One of the greatest experiences of my life was travelling to Israel in 2012.

I don’t remember a lot but can recall standing in Caesarea Maritima amongst some ruins. Our teacher and tour guide said, “Oh, by the way, we are currently standing within 50 feet of where Paul appealed to Caesar” (Acts 25).

Chills ran throughout my body as I grappled with that statement.

We then walked over to what was a horse track back in ancient times. As we escaped the sun by standing under a porch where the ruler would address the people of the day, our teacher told us that it was above our heads where Herod was eaten alive by worms in Acts 12 because he took the praise of the people and not giving glory to God.

What a one-two punch, am I right?

That visual has always stuck out to me. I never want to be a prideful person. But, let’s be honest, it’s easy to accept the praise that people give to you.

Today, when people speak kind words to me, while thankful, I’m tempted to think higher of myself than I should. I combat those emotions by thinking of that horse track in Caesarea Maritima.

Through anything that I do, I don’t want people to see me, I want them to see Jesus within me. If thinking of Herod doesn’t work, I will vocally speak truth out loud until my heart accepts it:

“Your words, not mine.”

“Glory to you, God.”

“You be praised, Father.”

I will admit. I’m not 100% successful at diverting praise to Jesus and the Corinthian believers seemed to struggle with this as well.

In our reading today, Paul needs to dish out some humble pie because the Corinthian church began to think a little too highly of themselves:

“Are we beginning to commend ourselves again?”

Apparently, this was an ongoing problem.

“Such confidence we have through Christ before God.”

The only confidence that we can have is through Christ and for His glory. Without Him, we are nothing. It is only through Him that we can live and breathe.

Personally, I am honored that God would choose me to be one of many vessels telling people about the hope they can have through Jesus.

As you take an honest inventory of your life, are you tempted to think too highly of yourself? In what areas are you most tempted to do so? In what way are you going to humble yourself before God?

If you need to, think of Herod. It’s better to humble yourself before God humbles you.

Jake Lawson

June 11 – Enough – giving enough?

Read 2 Corinthians 9:7 and Proverbs 21:26

Generosity is a tough topic to grasp. It can be relative to each person, someone with a $100k salary might feel that giving $1,000 is impossible while someone earning $50,000 might be able to give $10,000 with no problem.

Money in general is a moving target, there is always a next level, another milestone to achieve.

The verse in Proverbs explains this perfectly, “all day long he craves for more…” Given to our selfishness and desires, our cravings can overtake us. The verse goes on to say “but the righteous give without sparing.”

The correlation of righteousness and generosity must not be overlooked.

The sanctification process that God is working in our lives is expressed in a variety of ways, one of which is giving. When we have been blessed with the greatest gift of salvation we should be filled with grace and display it, specifically in our finances, amongst other areas.

The part I struggle with when reading this verse is “without sparing.” If I really give without sparing wouldn’t I end in financial ruin and have a family that is desolate, lacking their everyday needs? There is always another area that would benefit humanity if I chip in a few dollars, as many as my life savings could afford. Does this conflict with Luke 14:28 where Jesus says?“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?”

Finances and generosity require a plan!

How much do you spend on gas a week? How much are your groceries? What are you committing to a retirement fund or your 401(k)? How much are you giving? All of these questions should have an answer and by having one, you can be much more strategic, way more influential and accomplish goals that are currently just dreams.

We shouldn’t expect to give our last dollar if our family has needs. However, we should be constantly looking for ways to bless others out of our abundance. Generosity looks a little bit different for every person because we have all been gifted differently.

Though one expectation that we all should have is living generously no matter our circumstances.

Do you need to put a plan in place? Do you need to revisit your plan? What is your plan for generosity?

Jeff Walter

June 7 – Enough

Read 2 Corinthians 5:17 and 12:9

Have you ever felt that you just weren’t good enough?

I remember, at 18, my world coming crashing down when my high school basketball coach said, to my face, that I don’t have what it takes to play college basketball. For some, that would have motivated them to no end, but it had the opposite effect on me. In the 11 years since graduating high school, I have played a competitive basketball game once.

I want nothing to do with it.

The weight that was on my shoulders of not measuring up to my standards was just about too much to carry. Always being focused on climbing a figurative ladder without taking the time to be happy on the rung that you’re currently on. It’s kind of like tunnel vision and, when you fall short, it’s the end of the world.

Praise God that I have surrendered this, among other areas in my life where I struggle with being “good enough” to the point where I am not allowing the pressure to be on my shoulders.

I am immediately, consciously and even audibly placing it at the feet of Jesus.

For the next 7 days, we will be in a devotional series called Enough where we are going to be looking at several areas of our lives and how we are enough through Jesus.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

As you read through these areas, I challenge you to read with an open mind. Do you hold yourself to an unrealistic and unachievable standard? Are you always looking up and not around you? Are you constantly focused on doing more in order to be put in a better light?

God’s grace is sufficient.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

You are not enough because of anything that you have or can do. You are enough because Jesus says you are and, through Him, you are a new creation! Your identity isn’t found in your past failures but in the future that you will have through Jesus.

Throughout the next week, I pray that you would begin to understand that you are enough. During this series, always come back to the truth of the verses that we read today.

God’s grace is sufficient. You are a new creation through Him.

Jake Lawson

April 21 – Grace – Sufficient Grace

Read 2 Corinthians 12:1-10

“If the goal is dependence, weakness is a strength.”

That statement fits today’s reading about God’s grace. Let’s try to understand the context of the reading a little better.

Believers in Corinth had become critical of the apostle Paul. Other so-called “apostles” had recently cast doubt on Paul’s ministry. Consequently, Paul defended his apostleship in this letter by outlining some of his experiences. He “boasted” in the suffering he had received as an apostle. You name it…from flogging to the lack of food, from shipwreck on the Mediterranean to personal threats on his life…he had experienced it (11:21-33). But Paul also described a glorious experience of witnessing the sights and sounds of paradise (12:1-5). What an amazing experience that must have been!

To keep him from boasting in that experience, God allowed Paul to have a “thorn in the flesh.” Many theologians have hypothesized about what that thorn was. (Some believe it was a problem with his eyesight.) Still, he wasn’t specific about what that thorn was. The thorn wasn’t a sin, but it was definitely something that was uncomfortable and distracting.

Most people I know are like Paul in that they have a “thorn” that they would wish away if they could. Perhaps it is a health issue or another life reality that they cannot change by themselves. In fact, like Paul, they have probably even prayed repeatedly about it, asking God to remove it.

But, just as Paul learned, we too must recognize that God doesn’t always swoop in to remove the thorns of our lives. If He doesn’t remove the painful thorns, though, He does provide sustaining grace. Paul described that grace as “sufficient.” In other words, it was adequate for the situation. He described it as “powerful” in the face of weakness. Paul went so far as to say that weakness, adversity, and opposition were desired experiences that he could “delight in.” It was in the face of those difficulties, in fact, that he experienced the strength of Christ.

Indeed, weakness and adversity can be to our advantage. If we allow them to create within us a dependence on God and His grace, we will discover strength that we will not otherwise experience. In what ways do you need to express your dependence? In so doing, you will find His grace to be your strength.

Steve Kern

October 8 – Living Sacrifice – Humility

Read Romans 12:3; 1 Peter 5:6; 2 Corinthians 10:1-18

Joe Burrow, Saturday, December 14, 2019

Heisman Trophy Speech in New York City (An award given annually to the most outstanding college football player in the USA)

“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought…”Romans 12:3a

“All of my teammates have supported me and welcomed me with open arms, a kid from Ohio coming down to the Bayou, and welcoming me as brothers. It’s been so awesome.”

“…but rather think of yourself with sober judgment…” – Romans 12:3b

“I tried to leave a legacy of hard work and preparation, and loyalty, and dedication everywhere I go. And, I’m surrounded by such great people that make that so easy.”

“…in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”Romans 12:3c

“Coming from southeast Ohio, it’s a very impoverished area and the poverty rate is almost two times the national average. There are so many people there who don’t have a lot and I’m up here for all those kids in Athens and Athens County that go home to not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school. You guys can be up here, too.”

In a night to honor him, Joe gave a speech focusing on others and pointing out what got him there – hard work, being prepared and dedication to his craft. He modeled Romans 12:3 by not thinking highly of himself.

Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:6 that, when you are humble, God will lift you up. Offer yourself as a living sacrifice by honoring others and talking about noble characteristics that can help you do your best. (see Colossians 3:23)

“It is what God says about you that makes the difference, not what you say about yourself.”2 Corinthians 10:15-18

When you are humble, you consider giving to others – food, clothes, time, attention, financial assistance etc. Think of yourself in sober judgement: Do you look for opportunities to help those in need? Just look around you now as there are many opportunities to give and be an example of Christ!

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) is a Christian sports ministry impacting the world for Jesus Christ through the influence of Christian athletes and coaches. If you look closely at sporting events, you will see these people trying to make a difference for Jesus Christ. They are playing for “an audience of one.” That audience is Jesus. Are you playing for an audience of one? Being humble is a great way to do that.

After Baylor won the men’s NCAA basketball championship this past April, they stood in a circle on the court and humbly thanked God in prayer. Coach Scott Drew said, “We are a Christ-centered program. We do a players’ Bible study and a chapel service…those are great times for all of us to grow spiritually.”

Are you living for an audience of one? What are some ways that you can show humility starting today?

Tom Weckesser

Joe Burrow’s Heisman speech has affected positive change in Ohio | College Gameday

September 30 – Living Courageously – Don’t Compromise Morals

Read 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 and Matthew 6:19-24

When we got our one dog, we had an invisible fence installed. She couldn’t see it, but she knew where to stay because she would feel a little shock from her collar.  She soon learned the boundaries and wouldn’t even cross that line when her collar was off.

We set it up, not to hurt her, but to protect her. She was free to run and play and enjoy being outdoors as long as she stayed within the boundaries. Why? Because we loved her and we knew that, if she went outside that boundary, she might get tempted by what she saw on the other side, wander off and get lost.  

God has set up for us an “invisible fence” through laws and rules He wants us to follow. Not because He wants to be mean, but because He loves us and doesn’t want us to get hurt or lost in our way. The only difference is He has also given us free will and so we set our own boundaries through morals.  If our personal morals line up with God’s, everything is good.  However, we humans are often willing to push those boundaries to the point of breaking when tempted by what we see others doing and seem to be getting away with.

There is a saying that, “The grass is always greener on the other side”.  But, as the comedian Erma Bombeck used to say, “The grass is always greener over the septic tank” too.  Temptation looks nice and green – even fun – but it is what is hiding beneath the surface that can destroy us.

The fall into temptation usually starts with, “Well, maybe just once.”  Then that just once leads to, “Well that didn’t hurt!” or “Who is going to know?”  Before you know it, we are trapped in sin and wondering how we got there or how we find our way back home.

Friends can be that temptation. Jesus warned us to not be yoked to unbelievers. Being “yoked” implies submission. In Matthew 11:29 Jesus tells us to take up HIS yoke, submit ourselves to Him every day and in every way!

He is the only one we should be yoked with or submissive to. 

Should we never associate with unbelievers?  NO!  Jesus Himself was known to be in the company of sinners.  How are they ever going to meet Jesus if we never introduce them to Him? However, they shouldn’t GUIDE our lives. 

Only Jesus should do that.  

What morals do you hold tight to?  Do you have boundaries that you will not cross?  Are they solid boundaries or are there cracks in your invisible moral fence? 

Remember, the world is watching us.  YOU might be the only Bible they ever read!  Make sure they are able to clearly see God’s guidelines written on the pages of your life.

Pat Arnold

August 23 – Missions Spotlight – Jim Hocking

Read 2 Corinthians 9:13

Ministry: Tackling water poverty in one of the world’s most forgotten countries. Our goal? Clean, lasting water for every man, woman, and child in the Central African Republic.

Missionary: Jim Hocking

I’m an ordinary man, serving an extraordinary God. And looking back on my life, I am still amazed at how He used a simple act of obedience back in 2004 to dramatically change the lives of those living in one of the poorest countries in the world.

For most of my working adult life, I was a missionary in the Central African Republic. I personally saw what the lack of clean water was doing to Central Africans and, when given the opportunity to take over a water well drilling business from a friend, I hesitated. I had never ever drilled a water well in my life! How was I supposed to be obedient in doing something I had no clue how to do? Being obedient to trust that He would provide knowledge, wisdom, and training I needed was very difficult for me. I didn’t know how to start a nonprofit or how to raise funds for expensive water wells. I didn’t know what would happen with the national staff. How was I going to take care of them financially, let alone the impact this would have on my wife and family? I had a lot to process and wrestle with God about.

A few weeks later, following the Lord’s lead, we moved forward with taking over the drilling and maintenance business, renaming it to Water for Good. As trusting and obeying goes, it wasn’t all smooth sailing, but the Lord was constantly by our side. Through rough terrain, a civil war, figuring out how to get supplies to a landlocked country, and many other obstacles, the Lord has blessed Water for Good’s efforts by allowing almost a million Central Africans to drink clean water on a daily basis. To date, we employ 81 Central Africans who have drilled 1,017 wells and maintain 1,869 water systems. We will not stop until the whole country has clean water! Please be praying for our team as this year has brought many challenges, including a COVID outbreak for our drilling and maintenance team, as well as rebel activity, causing safety concerns.

My prayer for you is that you make the conscious decision to serve our Lord Jesus Christ, asking God to use you in an extraordinary way as an ordinary man or woman. All He needs is a willing son or daughter who wants to serve Him. Take the pressure off of yourself to do “big things” and put that expectation onto God. He can use your “yes” in ways you would never imagine.

To learn more, visit our website at https://waterforgood.org/ or join us on social media @water_for_good

Jim Hocking

August 22 – Missions Spotlight – John McCollum

Read 2 Corinthians 8:1–15

Ministry: Asia’s Hope…Providing family-style care for orphaned children in SE Asia

Leader: John McCollum

As Executive Director of Asia’s Hope, I can identify with both the donors in Corinth and the recipients in Judea. We rely on the generosity of churches in developed countries to meet the needs of more than 800 orphaned children and 200 indigenous staff living at our 35 family-style children’s homes in Cambodia, Thailand and India.

We learn in this passage that the Corinthian Christians were among the first — and most eager — participants in Paul’s financial appeal for the church in Judea, which was suffering under persecution and poverty. Unfortunately, the church in Corinth was losing its enthusiasm and having second thoughts about fulfilling a commitment for funding the ongoing work.

After commending the faithfulness of those in Macedonia, Paul affirms the Corinthians. And then Paul addresses the questions lurking in the minds of his audience: “How much should we give? How long do we have to keep giving?” 

Instead of offering a command or giving them guidelines that could limit their generosity, Paul lays out principles that inform my work as Asia’s Hope’s primary fundraiser.

We should be motivated by gratitude to God, not by guilt or fear. Our generosity is not only a result of our gratitude, it’s a litmus test of the sincerity of our love for God.

We should give at our maximum capacity. Paul highlights the faith of the Macedonian church who gave “even beyond their ability.” He answers the implied question of “How much is too much?” by saying, “The goal is equality, 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.’”

The oft-bandied notion that financial generosity always leads to unhealthy ‘dependency’ is one foreign to the Bible. The text here is clear: God connects our brothers’ and sisters’ suffering with our excess. Those who truly love God will be moved to energetic and ongoing generosity to His work around the world.

Imagine if we, as American Christians, believed not only that our generosity demonstrated our love for God, but that we should give to global ministry until there was equality between our church and family and churches and families in places like Cambodia, Thailand and India. Would any child have to die of starvation? Would any parent ever need to hand their kids over to traffickers? Would any person on the planet not know that Jesus and His people loved them?

As you pray for Asia’s Hope, please ask God to pour out His love so extravagantly on the church in America that congregations, families and individuals respond with “Macedonian-style” generosity toward orphaned and vulnerable children around the world.

John McCollum is the co-founder and Executive Director of Asia’s Hope (www.asiashope.org). He and his wife, Kori, live in Columbus, Ohio. They have a teenage daughter and two adult sons.

August 9 – 5 – Blinded

Read 2 Corinthians 4:4

When I was just out of high school, I was involved in a somewhat serious mountain biking accident. As I was being shuttled to the hospital, my vision tunneled into complete darkness. At nineteen my mind immediately jumped to the worst possible diagnosis. I had hit my head so hard that I was now blind. Within minutes I also began to go deaf… and the next thing I remember was waking up in the hospital. My dad was sitting in a chair next to me. I had suffered a pretty severe concussion along with some road rash but I was so thankful to have regained my vision.

I’ve read today’s verse several times throughout my life, and for the majority of them I have focused on how conniving the “god of this world” is. What an evil and frustrating game he plays in blinding the minds of unbelievers from the light of the gospel. But this morning after being reminded of my biking story… my focus turned onto the actual victims of the verse:

The Blinded.

What a hopeless feeling that must be. I take for granted being brought up in a Christian home. I don’t know that I can comprehend that kind of silent, spiritual void. I think of this last year and how much I have relied on my personal relationship with Jesus to get me through on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis. My relationship isn’t perfect but it is real. It is something I can grasp hold of. It is one that the enemy would have loved to prevent from ever happening.

Today let’s pray for the unbelievers whose minds are being blinded by the enemy. We pray with a broken heart…Christ’s heart. How devastating to have lived so many years without once feeling “a peace that transcends all understanding”. (Philippians 4:7).

“Lord give us compassion to ‘see’ the unbeliever’s blindness, their circumstances, their hardships and perspective. We wait with patience in Your process.”

And make no mistake, we will rejoice when the blind finally see their “Dad” sitting bedside. He was always there.

Our God is faithful.

What are you doing to share the gospel with and influence such people for Christ?

Nate Torrence

July 27 – $ – Generosity

Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

God’s economy doesn’t always make sense.  It isn’t always ‘logical’ and definitely NOT of this world!

You see, in God’s economy we read things like this: “Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything” (Proverbs 11:24).

Also, “Give, and you will receive.  Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap.  The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” (Luke 6:38)

How does that work exactly?  Well, I’m still learning that myself, but God provides sufficiently and sometimes lavishly.

I remember a time early in our marriage when I had changed jobs and our income was reduced by a decent amount.  My wife and I had the decision to make on some of the ‘extra’ giving that we were doing at the time.  Should we continue our giving (taking a leap of faith to trust Him) or should we stop some or even all of that giving? 

Now, let me hit pause and say that I’m not sure there is a ‘right’ or a ‘wrong’ answer here and that you need to be wise in what is realistic for you and your situation.  However, for us – in this situation – God was asking us to continue to give extra and I think He has honored that in several ways.  Honestly, we felt the truth of these verses above ring true, as we really didn’t ‘miss a beat’ as far as income.  I’m not even sure my wife would remember that decision to this day because it seemed like the next step or really, obedience, to us.  (And before you think too highly of me, you can ask my wife about 1,000 other times where I wasn’t as generous.  If you know us, you know that she is truly the generous one!)

Generosity, or generous living, can mean generosity with finances, but it doesn’t end there. Generosity could mean sharing your finances or your resources or your skills or your time. 

We have so much to give! 

One of our church’s values is that “It all belongs to God.”  We believe that because it’s biblical (Psalm 24:1).  And if we truly believe that, then what are we doing about it?  You see, if you own a car and a house, you’re in the top 5% (at least) of the world in terms of wealth!  So, you are already rich, whether you feel it or not!

Now, I don’t want to guilt trip or peer pressure you into giving.  In fact, in today’s reading, Paul is writing to the Corinthians and says NOT to do that, but rather says that you must each decide in your heart how much to give. 

God loves a cheerful giver (vs. 7)!

So, ask yourself this question, “What is God calling me to give?”  Perhaps some of you need to start giving period.  Perhaps some of you need to start tithing.  And perhaps God is calling some of you to give to a specific cause, something extra, or to someone specifically.  I’d challenge you to spend some time talking with Jesus today and asking Him what He’s calling you to give…because He’s already promised that He will provide (vs. 8).

Danny Artrip