Category Archives: Faith
Today marks the conclusion of the Fall Bible study, All Things New by Kelly Minter. I hope you have enjoyed this in-depth look at 2 Corinthians. I also hope that you have discovered more about yourself and your relationship with Jesus Christ through all you have learned. Our theme verse for the study was 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV); “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” All of the posts pertaining to this study as well as past studies are available for your use at any time under the Bible Studies Archive tab.
“… I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the “super-apostles,” even though I am nothing. The things that make an apostle – signs, wonders and miracles- were done among you with great perseverance. How were you inferior to the other churches, except that I was never a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong!” Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well. If I love you more, will you love me less? ” 2 Corinthians 12:11-15
During the early days of the church, signs, miracles, and wonders were proofs that the disciples had been given spiritual authority by God. Some of the people of Corinth still had difficulty believing Paul despite all of the supernatural work he had done before them. They turned to others that Paul called super-apostles because they felt these other men were better equipped than Paul. These super-apostles made demands upon them that Paul didn’t make. Our questions on Day 1 of our lesson were focused on discovering the true proof of Paul’s and of our faith and discipleship. In our cross- reference passages, we learned that the true proof is love. The remaining personal reflection and response questions dealt with one of the chief complaints of the Corinthians which was that Paul wasn’t accepting financial support from them. The questions we answered concerned various aspects, barriers, and difficulties of sharing love and friendship with others.
“Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? We have been speaking in the sight of God as those in Christ; and everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening. For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be….” 2 Corinthians 12:19,20a
In our lesson on Day 2, we considered the four fears that Paul had concerning his upcoming visit to the Corinthian church. We also listed the eight sinful behaviors that Paul highlighted in his letter to them. We answered and reflected on these sins and fears as part of our personal questions for this day.
“This will be my third visit to you….On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others, since you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him to serve you.” 2 Corinthians 13:1-4
Our lesson on Day 3 led us to ponder the proof of Christ in our lives. Paul took his time in dealing out judgment among those who were sinning in the church. We reflected on the problems he handled in Corinth and if we,too, are slow to judge and patient to confront in love. We considered how God uses our weaknesses to show His strength in our lives rather than our own strength. We were also led to consider if we perceive God’s favor of blessings, particularly materialistic ones, as evidence of His love and favor on us.
“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 that people will see that we have stood the test but 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 for your perfection. This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority – the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.” 2 Corinthians 13:5-10
We were challenged to examine our faith during our lesson on Day 4. We reflected on the desires of our hearts, our spiritual passions, what motivates our actions and our prayers as well as our love for others. We also answered questions about the Corinthians and their spiritual condition.
“…Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal,, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints send their greetings. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 2 Corinthians 13:11-14
Kelly Minter writes in our lesson on Day 5; “2 Corinthians was written to real people in a real city because the gospel is meant to thrive in real life. My prayer is that what we’ve learned along the way will not be mere academic knowledge but will be put into practice.” I couldn’t state the importance of bible study any better. The information is meant to be applied and lived out. The five imperatives that we listed in our lesson challenge us to live vibrant, active, maturing, faith-filled lives as brothers and sisters in Christ. We examined ourselves and our relationships based on these 5 commands during this lesson. May our lives be distinguished by the grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
Thank you for joining me on this journey through Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth.
We have only one week remaining in our fall bible study. The time has flown by! This week, our lessons covered all of 2 Corinthians 11 through the first ten verses of 2 Corinthians 12.
“I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.” 2 Corinthians 11:2-4
For our lesson on Day 1, we answered questions, read cross-references, and explored the idea of what Paul meant by the words, godly jealousy. The basic premise is what does it mean to be jealous of or jealous for someone. Continuing on in 2 Corinthians 11:4, Paul states that the Corinthians had heard distortions from others of the message about Jesus, the gospel, and the Holy Spirit that Paul had brought and preached to them. The heart of the problem was that the Corinthian church had placed themselves in a position that allowed their thinking to become in opposition to God’s word and they were in danger of being deceived. The remainder of the questions on this day dealt with the examining of our own hearts, minds, and lives to discover if we believe truth or distortion, have contrary thoughts or beliefs, and whether we love God with an undivided heart.
“But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.” I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way.” 2 Corinthians 11:5,6
Our lesson on Day 2 centered on how Paul defended himself and how he ministered to the Corinthian church. They had placed value on others who outwardly were more appealing. These false apostles had charisma, influence, and persuasion that drew others to themselves and their ideals. Aren’t we likewise drawn to similar people? We answered questions about how Paul differed from them in how he preached the message of Christ. In one of our cross-references, we learned that his style was characterized by wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:5-7,10). He had knowledge that the churches needed about what truly mattered.
“Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast. You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face. To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that! What anyone else dares to boast about – I am speaking as a fool – I also dare to boast about.” 2 Corinthians 11:18-21
We learned on Day 3 from our reading that the Corinthian church was putting up with mistreatment as well from the hands of these false teachers. These teachers, Paul had stated, were masquerading as apostles of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:13). They looked right but their actions were entirely wrong. In our questions, we compared and contrasted their characteristics and ministry with the characteristics and ministry of Paul’s.
“Are they servants of Christ? … I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” 2 Corinthians 11:23-27
In defense of himself and the gospel, Paul boasts of all he has endured for the sake of others to know Jesus Christ. His ministry was characterized by humility and love. The remainder of our questions for this lesson reflected on the things we have endured for the sake of the gospel and spending time to journal about a specific action that we can take on the behalf of Jesus.
“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” 2 Corinthians 11:30
The questions from our lesson on Day 4 dealt with Paul’s boasting about his weakness as well as the extraordinary vision he was given when he was caught up to heaven (2 Corinthians 12:1,2). We considered our own vulnerability as well as what we hope to be remembered for. In our reading, we learned that Paul wanted to be noted for what he did and what he said (2 Corinthians 12:6). We also considered why he waited fourteen years before sharing his vision.
“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Our last lesson for the week considered Paul’s thorn. Kelly Minter shared with us her thoughts on the difficulties and implications of verse 7. We were given space to respond and reflect about our own concerns about this verse. Who gave the thorn? Did God or did Satan give it while God allowed it? These questions were the ones we mulled over. We also considered questions about our own thorns or trials. How have we responded to difficulty? Have we allowed the thorn in our life to become an opportunity to share faith? Has our weakness been used for God’s glory? Has the thorn of your life become something that you wouldn’t trade?
I shared a little of my story last week in a post. This particular lesson was very personal for me because these verses are the ones that God led me to during my initial diagnosis for my disease. Over the years as I have struggled with my illness, I’ve considered whether I would prefer the thorn and the relationship I have with God over being healed and not having the journey with God. Discovering the answer to that question is not easy but important. God’s grace is sufficient.
Start Session 8 this week! You can do it! Only one week left!
15,000. Give or take a few is the number of opioid pills I’ve taken. I had a diagnosis and a reason. The political climate isn’t favorable towards the opioid industry. Those of us who manage pain on a regular, daily basis find relief and solace in the form of those geometrically, constructed chemicals. Little did I understand the impact those 15,000 pills would have on my entire life. Neither, my doctor nor myself, understood that the drug I was taking was addictive when she prescribed it for pain. However, now gazing 21 years at the future, the medical community knows that the small dose I took acted as an opiate.
I was offered a couple of choices this summer. I could remain on the drug and go to a pain management clinic or I could try to live without it. I chose the latter. I wish I had known sooner the impact that choice would make ricocheting through my life.
Pain has been a constant companion. I fake being well. I’m really good at it. Decades of solitude and platitudes taught me to hone my skills. The basic fear of my personality I’ve discovered is of being deprived and in pain. My fear became my reality for decades. In every life, major markers exist. I can recall certain events in my life with clarity because they forever changed me and the course of my life. The day I woke up sick. The day I got a diagnosis. The day I quit opioids.
One day I was healthy and the next, I woke to pain accompanied by fever and barely able to move. I stymied doctor after doctor. None could figure out the source of my pain. I remained in that unanswered, mind-battling state for a year and a half. Finally, I received a diagnosis. I was relieved and, dare I say, joyful. To have a diagnosis- Heck! Any diagnosis was preferable to the not knowing. My doctor began a round of treatment to fit my particular disease. A short time later, she added the opioid because the pain persisted. Two pills a day every morning and every evening. The new normal. No one told me or warned me that I would have a brain fog that grew steadily worse each year. Or that this inhibiting drug would begin to change my personality and suppress my responses. I lost my effervescence and zest for life.
“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country … For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” Hebrews 11:8-10
What does any of this story have to do with faith? Everything. During the time of not knowing, I turned and trusted in God to deliver me and to help me find joy in a life of constant pain and difficulty with no answers. Like Abraham, I was called to enter into a time of traveling with God until I came to the place to which He called me. My faith grew exponentially during that time. I fully relied on His strength to carry me through the valley of the shadow of death. Following the diagnosis, I praised Him for an answer and He carried me into a new journey of learning, growing, studying, and sharing His word. I did it through the pain, the bone-weary fatigue, the setbacks, and the comebacks with tears hoping for healing to which He responded; “No”. He reminded me that His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). That girl lived her life serving the Lord with hardship. She had many questions, doubts, hurts, and much was forgiven and healed. She served cheerfully and joyfully with physical and mental difficulties.
Today, I’m on a new journey with God. He carried me through the crucible of withdrawal buoyed by the prayers of some in my church family. Powerful prayers. I’m three months off of opiates and I’m the same yet different. I have new prayers and new horizons.
“How do you pick up the threads of an old life … when in your heart, you begin to understand, there is no going back.” Frodo Baggins -The Return of the King movie
I’ve been talking with someone to help me sort everything out and integrate my old life with my new future. She says it’s as if I’ve awakened from a decades long coma. I thought that my personality had shifted but actually the light just got turned on. The person I’ve been for decades wasn’t exactly me. She was asleep. The person I’m becoming is the me I was decades ago before I woke up sick and in pain. I don’t exactly remember her. Many things I’ve thought about myself aren’t true and I’m having to relearn and rediscover who I am. I’m searching for myself. Those 15,000 pills changed me and how I saw and perceived myself in the world. I don’t know what the future holds. My diagnosis hasn’t gone away. I still have pain. I’m only managing it differently. But this one thing I do know – God is good all the time. I can build my life on that truth.
“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?” 2 Corinthians 2:14-16
Paul had chosen not to return to Corinth. He could not make another painful visit. [2 Corinthians 1:23; 2:1] But he still longed to know how the people, who made up this fledgling church, were doing. Paul’s love for them had not ended. In Day 1 of this week’s lessons, we read that Paul traveled to Troas and had hoped to see Titus there. He wanted to receive news about the Corinthian church. However, Titus wasn’t there and Paul made the decision to journey onward to Macedonia.[2 Corinthians 2:12,13] We responded to questions in our lesson about how to continue when disappoint, hardships, and uncertainties come into our life. We also looked at the redeeming of broken relationships. The bulk of this lesson focused on how Christ leads us. To those who are perishing, his words, message, and followers are the smell of death but to others the fragrance of his life is salvation. Paul wore the fragrance of Christ with sincerity of heart and he chose to walk wafting the sweet aroma of Christ by enduring through the difficulties he faced for his Lord.
“You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 2 Corinthians 3:2,3
On Day 2, we learned that Paul was refuting claims made by false teachers that had infiltrated the church in Corinth. We considered those in our own lives that are our letter of recommendation and to whom our lives represent their letters of recommendation. We also answered questions about what scripture means regarding tablets of stone and a heart of flesh. We closed the day pondering the descriptive words that Paul chose to describe his calling to others. His words suggest that believers are called to a more connectional, intimate ministry with others.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:17,18
Our lesson on Day 3 of this week issued a call to a new ministry. We considered the ministry of death and reconciliation in addition to the ministry of the Spirit and righteousness. We also learned about the Old Covenant and what the Law’s intent was according to scripture. Then, we considered the New Covenant and what Jesus accomplished by establishing the New Covenant. We also pursued a detailed look at the word, glory in scripture.
“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 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 every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:1,2
On Day 4, our lesson focused on truth. We answered questions pertaining to things we harbor secretly along with deceptions and distortions of truth that we have done. Kelly Minter also had us consider how people have used a distortion of God’s word to condone wrong behavior or even condemn right belief. Paul called for the telling of truth to others as well as living with a clear conscience before others and in the sight of God. Kelly Minter reminded us at the end of this lesson that wherever we have been, the things we have covered up, or the issues with which we have struggled that we have access to the glory of God. Because of Jesus, we can draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith to be restored. [ Hebrews 10:22]
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17,18
Our last lesson for the week taught that God takes our fragile lives to display His mighty power when we are yielded to Him. Our questions dealt with how God has used weakness, hardship, pain, and difficulty in our lives to display His power and strength. We were also encouraged to view our struggles through the lens of eternity and not focus on their temporal nature.
Begin the Session 4 lessons this week starting on page 69.
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If you would like to start from the beginning of this Bible study series, click here.