Monday, April 11, 2016

The Apostle Paul is the Real Deal!

Readings for the Day
1 Samuel 11-12, 1 Chronicles 1, 2 Corinthians 11

Verses for the Day
Whatever anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) 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. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 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. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

In today's reading in the Old Testament, we see the passing of the torch from Samuel, the prophet and seer, to King Saul. Samuel recounts Israel'a history and God's constant faithfulness and mercy, but how Israel kept turning to idols. But when they called out to God, for the sake of His name He did not reject them. He asks them to consider all The Lord has done for them and to serve him wholeheartedly. But he warns them if they persist in doing evil, "Both you and your king will perish". This sets up the book of 1 Chronicles, which will recount Israel's history from Adam to Abraham from a different writers perspective. More to come tomorrow.

Meanwhile Paul is finishing up his second letter to the Corinthians. He is responding to those who have slipped into the young church, and questioned whether he was a true apostle. They raised the question, if he was a real apostle why did he not receive financial support. Paul defends his right to offer his ministry to them free of charge, and how the church in Macedonia has supported him. Paul calls some of these people who have undermined his ministry, false apostles, who masquerade as apostles of Christ. He compares their teaching to the way the serpent cunningly deceived Eve in the garden. The worst part is that they were preaching another gospel, which Paul calls "no gospel at all".

Then he offers "tongue-in-cheek" his real qualifications, as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Paul recounts numerous instances of suffering for the sake of following Jesus and the spreading the Gospel. The Corinthians would do well to look at the track record of the so called "super apostles" and if they practiced what they preached so eloquently. At the end of the day, Paul's heart is for the Corinthians to stay true to the One who called them by his grace. He says he is "jealous with a godly jealously."

So what can learn from Paul? Paul, as the say, "walked the talk". He didn't ask anything of anyone, he wasn't willing to do himself. Even though he might not have been as eloquent of a speaker as some of the others, he had integrity. His life as a disciple and preaching were in total alignment. This is why Paul was one of the greatest apostles the world has ever known. His heart for the church of Christ, was matched by his willingness to do whatever it would take to further the gospel to the ends of the earth.

I don't know about you, but I find Paul's life pretty humbling. Would I be willing to undergo only one of the things Paul talked about enduring as he followed the way of the cross? Or, am I more comfortable playing it safe? I don't know about you, but for me the answer is all too often the latter.

Lord give us a heart like the apostle Paul. We don"t have to be perfect or extraordinarily gifted, but we we need to count the cost and realize you work powerfully even in our weaknesses, as we surrender them to you. Amen.

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