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“At the end of his letter, Paul’s tone changes abruptly as he once again defends his apostleship and personal character.”

Defense of Paul’s Apostleship

Read:  2 Corinthians 10, 11, 12 & 13

“It is not long after the writing of this letter that Paul finally is able to make his promised third visit to Corinth and other parts of Achaia.”

Read:  Acts 20:2-3

All quotations taken from The Daily Bible.

Second Letter to the Corinthians

“Paul must be anxious to hear from Titus regarding the Corinthians’ reaction to his previous letter, so it appears that Paul decides to go on to Troas, where he hopes to meet Titus.  Perhaps disappointed at not finding Titus there, Paul goes on to Macedonia, where Titus joins him.  There Paul writes his final letter to the Corinthians.  In the letter he shares with them at great length the sense of fulfillment he has in both is ministry and in them personally.”

Read:  2 Corinthians 1, 2:1-13

Regarding Paul’s Ministry

Read: 2 Corinthians 2:14-17, 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7

“This letter is sent with Titus and others who are returning to Corinth to receive funds being given for relief of the brethren in Judea who are in need of financial assistance.”

Regarding Collection for Brethren in Judea

Read:  2 Corinthians 8 & 9

All quotations taken from The Daily Bible.

“Additionally, Paul addresses some of the particular problems which these Christians are facing in the pagan city of Corinth, including matters pertaining to sexual morality and modesty.”

Regarding Immorality

Read:  1 Corinthians 5 & 6

Regarding Marriage and Singleness

Read:  1 Corinthians 7

Regarding Mutual Submission

Read:  1 Corinthians 8, 9 & 10

Regarding Role Distinctions

Read:  1 Corinthians 11:1-16

All quotations taken from The Daily Bible.

Have you ever wondered where God is?  When things you pray about don’t ever seem to be answered.  When other people’s prayers are answered quickly and you’re still sitting there listening quietly… patiently… and all you hear are…

I have.

Many times.

One of my best friends is a friend from childhood.  We share crazy memories from grade school to high school to college.  We were in each other’s weddings and have made it through multiple births together. She was one of the first to know about my conversion with Christ, when I finally accepted Him, and she was there when I was baptized in Believer’s baptism.  This dear friend later also accepted Christ as her Savior and although she lived a distance away from me, I continued to try to encourage her and disciple her in her walk with the Lord.

But it was hard.

The Lord gave me very strong Christian friends in my life (including my hubby) to disciple and help me.  An amazing church family and so many opportunities for my faith to grow.  But my friend’s story was different.  Her husband wasn’t ‘religious’ so going to church at all was difficult for her.  She was surrounded by non-believers and it seemed God hadn’t placed, really, anyone around my friend to help her in her Christian walk and it broke my heart.

alone

All I could do was pray for her, and I did.  Constantly.

I prayed that God would soften her husband’s heart and give them a longing to find a good church or to place Christians in their neighborhood.  I prayed that once her babies were in the picture, God would give her a sense of obligation to raise those babies knowing Him.  But most often I prayed that God would just place Godly Christian women in her life at work.

I sent her devotions and encouragement through the years, shared with her all the ‘I Spy’ opportunities where I saw God working in my own life, but it was clear that the life she was leading was not the one I had hoped for her as a follower of Christ.

I prayed for my friend for so many years…

prayer_hands_gold

then I stopped.

Oh, once in a while I would think about her and say a little prayer hoping that she could experience the same type of relationship that I have with my Savior…but it seemed like all of it was useless.  She was still in the same place she was so many years ago…still such a baby Christian; not being fed or discipled.  It had been too long.  Maybe this is all God had planned for her.

But is it?

The Bible shares a story about a woman who suffered unanswered prayer for twelve years!

TWELVE YEARS!

“And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.”   Mark 5:25-26

How do I know she prayed this long?  Because of the testimony she has with how she reacted to Jesus later in the story.

But think about this poor woman.  She had crazy health problems!  Come on girls, can you imagine having ‘Aunt Flow’ visit for twelve years?  And this wasn’t just a short, unannounced, knock-knock-surprise-I’m-here-for-the-weekend visit.  It was a CONSTANT TWELVE YEAR flow!

kevin

NOT.EVEN.FUNNY.  I really need to stop complaining.

And on top of that, because she had this discharge of blood, according to Jewish law she was considered unclean.

“If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, not at the time of her menstrual impurity, or if she has a discharge beyond the time of her impurity, all the days of the discharge she shall continue in uncleanness. As in the days of her impurity, she shall be unclean. Every bed on which she lies, all the days of her discharge, shall be to her as the bed of her impurity. And everything on which she sits shall be unclean, as in the uncleanness of her menstrual impurity.And whoever touches these things shall be unclean, and shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening.   Leviticus 15:25-27

What does that mean?  This poor woman, suffering so much health-wise, couldn’t even be comforted.  According to the law, she could not be in contact with anyone and couldn’t even live in the town with her family and friends.  She was ostracized.

But what does she do?  Instead of ending her prayers and dumping her belief… instead of giving up and thinking “Oh gee, Jesus is here… why bother?  Maybe this is just what God has planned for me.”

No, she trusted.

“She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, ‘If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.’ And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.   Mark 5:27-29

hem

I recently heard from my dear friend.  She finally got a cell phone so we are able to text whenever we want now.  (We will certainly be keeping the cell phone companies in business!)  Woohoo!!

After we caught up a bit on the goings on in our lives, she told me this:

“I have to tell you something I don’t think you’ll be surprised by.  I work with some amazing Godly women.  I swear one friend was sent by you somehow.”

I was dumbfounded.  How silly of me to think that God had forgotten or that through these years He hadn’t been working…preparing.  If only I had trusted with the same faith as that woman…

“And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”   Mark 5:32-34

God has a plan for our lives, and it’s in His timing when it will be revealed to us.  In the mean time we must keep the faith…stay the course…and trust that all things from Him are good.

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!”
Psalm 84:11-12

As I grew up, the plan for my life was to get married, have kids and stay home to raise them.  My Mom did that and so would I.

I dated through high school but I would surely meet THE ONE in college, then I wouldn’t have to finish because, obviously, we would be married right away, have a couple kids, I would stay home, eat bonbons and live happily ever after.

mrs degree

That’s just what girls did and I couldn’t wait.

God changed that plan.  Well, as usual, His plan is always a tad different than our own.

“The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.”   Proverbs 16:9

A dear friend of mine is a wonderfully amazing single woman.  For 35 years she has remained faithful to God’s plans for her life…remaining true to His Biblical standards for a single person; growing in her faith, serving God with her time and abilities, remaining morally pure and finding contentment in her singleness.

She is one of the strongest, Godliest and wisest women I know.  To me, a married mother of four, my friend seems to have it all.  She can do whatever she chooses with her time, has a great job and resources that allow her to travel and give freely… and yet the greatest desire of her heart is to find the man God has planned for her.

Because she, like me and so many other women, know one of the simplest and most basic desires and purpose for mankind.

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply…'”   Genesis 1:27-28

Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’ For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”   Genesis 2:18, 24

Marriage

But God just hasn’t brought ‘THE ONE’ to her.

A couple years ago a single dad, and his son, moved into the area and began attending our church.  We all became fast friends and even began serving together in ministry.  I swear, a resounding “Hmmmm…re-he-he-ally?!!” could have been heard when some of us realized he was single.   My friend and he got along very well…they seemed a perfect fit and even other people noticed, however nothing seemed to come of it.

“Is he just oblivious?”  Some asked.

“Does he not have similar feelings?”  Questioned others.

None of it made any sense.  It seemed so clear.  Such a great match.

Then we received news that he would be moving back home – states away – and it would be happening immediately.  It literally knocked the wind out of me and I can only imagine what it did to my friend.

We were supposed to meet at my house, our small group women and I, the night he stopped by to tell us the sad news, but schedules changed and the meeting was canceled.  Had the gals and I met…my friend would have surely been here when he stopped.

God protected her heart.

tears

Undoubtedly there were tears and still are, but what seems so sad can also be seen as blessing.

Had something more intimate started between them, this parting would have been infinitely more difficult.  Besides, he is moving back home…back to where he and his son came from…back to where more family is… his parents AND his son’s mother.

Perhaps this is God’s plan of protection for my friend or His plan of reconciliation for a family.  We can’t know the mind of our Creator or the plan He has for our lives but Scripture shows us time and again that God knows our struggles…

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”   Hebrews 4:15-16

And if we boldly go before Him, offering up our heart’s desire, He will hear…

“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”   Romans 8:26-27
And will fill our hearts…

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”   John 7:38

But still, it hurts.

Jesus’ Early Work in Judea, Samaria, and Galilee

“The early ministry of Jesus is reported solely by the apostle John.  His account shows that Jesus’ teaching quickly appeals to the common people and results in many faithful disciples.  It is during this time that Jesus also performs his first miracles.  And just as Nehemiah had done centuries before, Jesus wastes no time in confronting those who profane the sanctity of the temple worship.  Jesus also makes it clear from the beginning that his message of salvation will extend beyond the Jewish nation to all people, and Jesus takes his ministry to the Samaritans.  So Jesus’ outreach to Gentiles could not begin more pointedly.”

Read:  John 1:35-51, 2:1-12, 3, 4, Luke 3:19-20

All quotations taken from The Daily Bible.

HISTORICAL INTERLUDE  (Ca. 425-5 B.C.)

End of Old Testament Record

“As the historical record of the Old Testament comes to a close, the curtain falls on the early centuries of mankind’s existence.  From Adam and Eve to Ezra and Nehemiah, God has revealed himself in the affairs of both individuals and nations.  From the earliest days of the patriarchs, a divine master plan has been unfolding to teach mankind the nature of God, and to prepare the world for a Savior who will transform man’s sinful condition and bring true life.  Some 650 years before it came into being, God promised the faithful patriarch Abraham that his descendants would become a great nation and have a land of their own — and that through them all the people of the earth would be blessed.

When the 12 tribes of Israel were delivered out of Egyptian bondage and brought to Mount Sinai, the first promise was fulfilled.  God covenanted with the new nation of Israel that he would be their God and they inn turn covenanted that they would be his people.  Among other symbols of the covenant was the law given through Moses.  But in the very week of its inception, the nation exhibited a spirit of rebellion which would continue generation after generation.  But God in his mercy forgave his people and led them to the promised land of Canaan and God’s second promise to Abraham was fulfilled.

The people became more and more rebellious, turning away from their God, the Creator of the universe, to pagan gods and idols of man’s own making.  God had sent one messenger after another, crying out against the people’s sins and warning of impending punishment.  And yet, without exception, every message had ended with a note of hope and a promise of restoration.

Faithful as always, God fulfilled his promise when he brought his people back into their land, exactly as he had foretold, and when the temple was rebuilt, God’s word was once again proved true.  But when foreign dominance and local oppression continued over the next century, disillusionment and cynicism set in — and with it, renewed spiritual rebellion.

Despite the message of Malachi that the day of the Lord was coming, and despite the temporary spiritual revival under Ezra and Nehemiah, the Old Testament record does not end on a note of great optimism or confidence.  Although comfortable retrospect might chide the Jews for their lack of faith, it is easy to understand their true discouragement.  Others in later centuries — Jew and non-Jew alike — whose primary focus is on a physical rather than a spiritual kingdom, or the coming of the end when they mistakingly expect it, will suffer the same disillusionment.  And saddest of all, when the Messiah finally does come, he will be so unlike the Jews’ preconceived image of him that most of them will not even recognize him.”

All quotations taken from The Daily Bible.

Michelangelo’s painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, I can only imagine, is breathtaking to see in person.  The pictures of it are jaw-dropping to say the least and it’s unbelievable to me that one man could have painted such an elaborate masterpiece!

Sistine_chapel

Sistine Chapel

My pastor last Sunday used one panel from this painting in his sermon.  The piece he used is the most well known of the panels, called Creation of Adam.

Creation_of_Adam_Michelangelo

Creation of Adam – Michelangelo

It depicts the Biblical story, from the Book of Genesis, in which God the Creator breathes life into Adam.  According to Wikipedia, “the picture illustrates that God’s right arm is outstretched to impart the spark of life from his own finger into that of Adam, whose left arm is extended in a pose mirroring God’s, a reminder that man is created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26).   Another point is that Adam’s finger and God’s finger are not touching.  It gives the impression that God, the giver of life, is reaching out to Adam who receives it; they are not on ‘the same level’ as would be two humans shaking hands, for instance.”

I’m sure most of us recognize it, whether or not we can identify where it’s from or who painted it, but we’ve seen it before; used as an example of genius in the arts or as a comedic dig as a parody: Flying Spaghetti Monster, The Simpson’s.

But on Sunday, what I saw on the screen was blatant truth.  A blaring example of the relationship so many of us have with our Maker.  God actively reaches out to us and it is clearly portrayed in that painting.

Creation_of_Adam_Michelangelo - Copy (2)

You can see it in God’s demeanor.  His upper body leaning toward Adam with determined eyes locked on His love; His creation.  His right arm fully extended, desperately reaching.  His hand open and with the last of His might, stretching His finger to touch that which He holds dear, with a despairing hunger for a response.

And how do we respond?  Adam portrays that effortlessly.

Creation_of_Adam_Michelangelo - Copy

Leaning back, comfortably resting on his own strength, Adam looks directly at God but waits for Him to come closer.  His left arm is outstretched but not with his own strength.  He rests it upon his knee, hand hanging limp, barely lifting his finger as an answer to the One who gave him everything.

If any of you know me at all, you know that I don’t think there are any accidents, chances, luck, or coincidences in life.  Everything is planned and orchestrated by God.  He is very real and active in every moment of our day and can be seen clearly and often, but we choose not to look.

“God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.”   Acts 17:27 (NIV)

Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam appropriately portrays the heart of God and the heart of man.  God actively seeks us and longs for a relationship with us, but our response is less than energetic.

We pray only when things are going badly or we need something.  Our schedules have become so hectic that if Sundays aren’t filled with activities, it’s the one day to rest, not go to church.  We won’t read the Bible because it’s old and out-dated, “How could that book help me in today’s world?” we ask incredulously.  The things we have we worked hard for and we deserve.  We deserve more, we deserve better.

Hands_of_God_and_Adam.2-571x421

If you look closely, the gap between God’s finger and Adam’s, although only a matter of a few centimeters, is an eternity and can be felt in each one of our lives if we aren’t actively seeking Him.  But it takes effort, time, study and understanding.

Don’t waste another moment to meet with Him.  He waits for your touch.

Related Articles:
Acts 17:24-31   (biblegateway.com)
How God Reveals Himself   (www.gci.org)
Sistine Chapel Ceiling – Wikipedia   (en.wikipedia.org)
The Creation of Adam – Wikipedia   (en.wikipedia.org)
The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo   (wallpaperweb.org)

Psalms of a Nation Restored

“The celebration over the completion of the temple is only symbolic of the greater joy that has been brought to the people of this restored nation.  There are many struggles still ahead and more opposition to come, but the people are no longer in captivity and those who have chosen to return are no longer in a foreign land. 

These feelings are reflected in a number of psalms which give praise to God for hearing the people’s prayers in captivity and for being faithful in his promises of restoration.”

Read:  Psalm 78

All quotations taken from The Daily Bible.

“In the final scene God himself speaks to Job and demands to know what right Job has to question the Creator of the universe about his ways.  Job’s humble response demonstrates the depth of his righteous character, and his prosperity is restored.”

Read:  Job 38, 39, 40, 41, 42

All quotations taken from The Daily Bible.

Related Posts:
High winds… [Job 38-41]
I finally finished Job!!!


							
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