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Archive for June, 2017

hate

 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. ~Matthew 10:1

Jesus is still calling disciples.  He is still giving his disciples authority over evil spirits, disease, and every kind of affliction.  What are his instructions for his disciples?  What are Jesus’s instructions for those whom he calls?

In Matthew 10:5-15, we find that Jesus sends his disciples first to the Jews.  They were the religious people of his day.  Interestingly, he calls them “lost sheep.”  These were the descendants of Abraham.  They were “God’s people.”  That’s where he sends his guys.  Go preach to them he says.  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.  In other words, all the things they have been seeing Jesus do, he tells them to go and do as well.  He then tells them to give the gospel freely and to take nothing extra with them when they do.  Essentially, give and trust me for your return and your provision.

And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town. ~Matthew 10:11-15

Jesus’s disciples were instructed by Jesus to be discerning of how they were received.  When they are not welcomed, Jesus tells them to leave and he assures them that severe judgment – judgment worse than that that will be poured out on Sodom and Gomorrah! – will come to those who do not accept them.

The next thing Jesus does is warn his disciples.  He does not pull any punches.  Jesus is not a used car salesman.  Jesus never baits and switches.  He tells his guys right up front what they will face and it is not their best life now.

He tells them to be wise and innocent.  In verses 17-18 he tells them this:

Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.

Hey guys, you’re gonna go to court – kangaroo court, that is, just like he did.  The court proceedings will be a mockery with no valid charges and no justice.  Still, you will be charged.  Disciples, don’t be surprised when you are dragged into court as guilty men.

Nextly, you are going to be flogged in their synagogues.  You will be abused, beaten, and injured, where?!  In the synagogues.  In the very place they call my house.  Disciples, don’t be surprised when you are mercilessly abused by men who profess religion most loudly at a place they claim is God’s house.

You will be dragged before governors and kings for my name’s sake and to bear witness to them and the godless.  Disciples, don’t be surprised when your legal authorities question you.  This is for God’s glory and a witness of the gospel to them.

Do not worry, disciples.  The Holy Spirit will give you words to say.

 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. ~Matthew 10:21-22

Disciples, don’t be surprised when even your own family members want to kill you.  Do not be surprised when everyone hates you simply because you love me.  Everyone will hate you.  Everyone will turn their backs.  All men.  Don’t be surprised.

Think about that.  I don’t think we think about the magnitude of this until it actually happens to us, and when it does, we are surprised.  Jesus told his disciples that this was what they should expect.  This is what we sign up for when we follow Jesus wholeheartedly.  So what is Jesus’s advice for his disciples after he tells them the hardship and rejection they will face?

Persevere.  Persevere, disciples, persevere.  Keep moving on to another place and another place and another place when you are cast out and abused for telling my truth.  Do not give up.  You are my mouthpieces; my witnesses, my sufferers here on earth.  Do not worry.

He reminds them that he did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  It is the false prophets that thrive on false peace saying, “Peace, peace.  Comfort, comfort.  Prosperity, prosperity.  All is well, all is well” when all is not well and there is no peace.  He says instead, I have come with a sword.  That sword is the Word of God and it divides.  The truth hurts and it divides the true followers from the false followers, the light from the darkness, the real converts from the false professors of religion.  He adds that if we love anyone or anything more than he, we cannot follow him.  How’s that for an altar call?  This is Jesus’ call.

Finally, in verses 40-42, converse to the severe punishment and judgment he has spoken over those who would reject his disciples, here he promises reward and blessing for those who would receive and welcome them.

Matthew Henry says this: “Persecutors are, in this respect, worse than beasts, that they prey upon those of their own kind…It is very grievous to have men rise up against us, from whom we might expect protection, from professing men, men that have a form of godliness, and make a show of religion.  They will scourge you in their synagogues, their places of meeting for the worship of God, and for the exercise of their church discipline: so that they looked upon the scourging of Christ’s ministers to be a branch of their religion.  Paul was five times scourged in the synagogues.”

They will falsely charge you and malign you severely, disciples.  They did it to me.  They will do it to you.

If Jesus calls you, you will face much trouble in this life – with neighbors, with friends, with the state, with the country, with the law, with the church, with family, with everyone.  Jesus promises that.  If they called Christ “Satan” how much more will they malign those of his house.  The scripture asks that rhetorical question.  Jesus asks it of his disciples to expose the truth.  The answer is much, much, much more!  We will be maligned and hated because of our love and allegiance to Christ and his Word.

Blessed are we when this happens said Jesus!  Great is our reward!  Be encouraged, faithful disciples!  Do not lose heart!  Persevere.  Amen!

 

 

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If you do not attend church regularly or at all, can you take a minute and message Tim Quinn Rodeheaver at rodeyhotrod@gmail.com  or I at witnesschic@hotmail.com and share your reasons. We are listening and well aware of the likelihood of validity of your abstinence. 

We are praying about how to reach those who have disdain for the organized church and we want to start by asking you what you have seen, experienced, or need in order to be better served and loved by the people of God. 

If you have been hurt or abused by the church in any way, big or small, let us be the first to say that we are so, so sorry and that we are not ok with it. 

Also, anyone who would like prayer or just needs to talk about what you’re going through, we are listening.

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run

I have been running most of life.  I ran the bases when I was six.  I ran the soccer field all through high school and my early 20’s.  I ran my first triathlon when I was 24.  I ran my first marathon when I was 26.  I have been running for what seems like my entire life.

I love to run.  Even though it is harder now to find time, I do.  Even though it is harder now to really compete, I try.  Running is often painful, but it is always beneficial – physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Run time is often prayer time, think time, and find peace time for me.

I have run countless races over the past dozen years.  When I first started, my husband would come to a lot of them and cheer for me.  As time, change, and kids crept up on us, it became increasingly harder to find Mr. Rodeheaver attending my races.  While I am overwhelmingly thankful that I still get to run races often, it is very rare that I ever have any fans encouraging me at a race these days.

The truth is that when you love something – be it a sport or a hobby or a job or a calling – encouragement is nice, but it is generally not necessary.  When you love what you are doing, the reward is the privilege of doing it.  Getting to do what we love is our motivation.  No one has to remind me to set my alarm to wake up early.  No one has to shake me and roll me out of bed.  No one has to tell me to get dressed and feed me protein bars or pep talks in order to motivate me to go outside.  I do it simply because I love it.  Even still, when encouragement is offered, it is a rare and treasured blessing.

As I ran a little race this past Saturday, my cheerleader made a rare appearance.  My husband and I were away celebrating our anniversary and I found a 5K to run for fun.  I told him he could fish while I ran, but he insisted that he wanted to watch.

Throughout the entire race, he sent running memes, pictures, videos, and words of encouragement to me.  I could see him cheering from what seemed like mile from the finish line all the way to the end.

Truly, we should all learn how to be cheerleaders.  We should all be cheering for one another and encouraging each other in whatever good we find to do.  Encouragement is always helpful, motivating, and inspiring.  I often wonder why so few encourage excellence.  But then I remember Jesus.

Jesus was the most excellent person who ever lived.  He did all things absolutely perfectly.  Still, there were more than a few people who despised him for his excellence.  So much so, that they not only hated him, they sought to kill him for it.  Consider the words of John:

So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”…”Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples.” ~John 11:47-48, 54

Jesus’ own people were so jealous and insecure when he did the things his own Father (God!) sent him to do that they hated him completely out of town.

Jesus did not receive much encouragement from men even when he did what was absolutely perfect.  His encouragement was from His Father, God.

The truth is, I want the well done.  I want it with everything in me.  It matters nothing at all to me if men hate and despise me.  It hurts, but it does not change who I am or what I will be found doing.  If I am doing what pleases my Father, I will wait patiently for him at my race’s end.  All the years I spend running alone will be worth it when I see him clapping from a distance because he is the One I love more than life itself.

Encouragement has it’s place.  I wish that we would all become more like cheerleaders for one another because, let’s face it, life is hard enough and good words are often hard to come by when you’re living out your calling in life.  But if we are sold out and surrendered to the work we get to do here out of love for He who gave us the work in the first place, encouragement and earthly approval is very secondary.  Encouragement is only a perk – an added bonus if and when it elusively appears.

All I really want is the well done.  I want to truly be the good and faithful servant.  I want the well done at the finish.  I will gladly forfeit every false and phony accolade that compromise and complacency would bring for the proud words of my good and faithful Father.  I can wait for the well done because the One who will say it is worth every lone and heavy step taken towards Him.

 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. ~1 Corinthians 9:24

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running

Most of us know the story of Jonah and the big fish.  Jonah was sent to a wicked city called Nineveh and he did not want to go.  He got scared.  He got mad.  He was not willing.  He was like, “Anywhere but there, God.  Anyone but them.”  These were not people Jonah was at all interested in helping or teaching.  They were not nice people.  They were the worst of the worst.

So, Jonah runs away.  He gets on a boat going the opposite direction from where God called him.  He causes a big storm to come upon all those who were around him because of his rebellion.  He gets thrown overboard and God’s mercy catches him in the mouth of a whale.  Rather than letting Jonah drown in the ocean, God saves him, dusts him off, and sends him right back to the place he was running away from.  Jonah ends up in Nineveh preaching. Jonah grudgingly goes out of sheer obligation.  He is hoping the people he so dislikes do not repent.  But they do.  Jonah is not happy.  “Those people do not deserve grace!” is what he is thinking.  We know it by his words in Jonah 4:1-2

“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.”

Jonah’s argument is that these people don’t deserve mercy or grace.  God’s argument is that neither does he.  God cares about sinners!  And it is his business whom he chooses to save, not Jonah’s or mine or yours!

Nineveh repents.  They listen to the prophet.  And some generations live in grace and mercy.  But they repent of their repentance eventually.  100-150 years after Jonah was sent and they repented, another prophet speaks a word of judgement against Nineveh.

Nahum the prophet was not sent to Nineveh, just to speak a prophetic word of judgement and coming destruction.  Nineveh had again become corrupt and very wicked and evil.  Nahum describes them this way:

Woe to the bloody city,
    all full of lies and plunder—
    no end to the prey!
The crack of the whip, and rumble of the wheel,
    galloping horse and bounding chariot!
Horsemen charging,
    flashing sword and glittering spear,
hosts of slain,
    heaps of corpses,
dead bodies without end—
    they stumble over the bodies!
And all for the countless whorings of the prostitute,
    graceful and of deadly charms,
who betrays nations with her whorings,
    and peoples with her charms.

Behold, I am against you,
    declares the Lord of hosts,
    and will lift up your skirts over your face;
and I will make nations look at your nakedness
    and kingdoms at your shame.
I will throw filth at you
    and treat you with contempt
    and make you a spectacle.
And all who look at you will shrink from you and say,
“Wasted is Nineveh; who will grieve for her?”
    Where shall I seek comforters for you? ~Nahum 3:1-7

Matthew Henry says this of them: “Nineveh had with her cruelties been a terror and a destruction to others, and therefore destruction and terror shall be brought upon her.  Those that are for overthrowing all that come in their way will, sooner or later, meet with their match…Note, Those that showed no pity in the day of their power can expect to find no pity in the day of their fall…Nineveh had been told that God is against her, and then none can be for her, to stand her in any stead; yet she sets God himself at defiance, and his power and justice, and says, I shall have peace.”

This was a fortified city.  It was a strong city full of strong men.  Their walls and gates and strongholds were secure.  But God says he will break them down in an instant.  (Nahum 3:12-15)

Interestingly, Nahum begins his prophecy of destruction by saying the same words Jonah said in his protest after the people of Nineveh repented at his preaching.

“The Lord is slow to anger and great in power,
    and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.
His way is in whirlwind and storm,” 
    and the clouds are the dust of his feet. ~Nahum 1:3

Nahum reminds them how slow God has been anger.  He reminds them of God’s patience and their longstanding rebellion.  Nevertheless, Nineveh falls.  Forty years later, Judah – God’s people – falls at the hands of the same enemy – Babylon.

All of this teaches us that we have absolutely no room to exclude people from the gospel.  We have no place to tell God who we will and won’t disciple and preach the gospel to.  That is God’s business and if he sets a person within our sphere of influence, that is our job.  Being deserving is not the prerequisite.  No, they do not deserve mercy.  No, we do not deserve mercy.  We all deserve judgment and only God determines who, when, and how he will judge the living.  Our job is to share the truth and love them until that day comes.  Amen.

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Wooden background

As I studied Isaiah 66 I found that Isaiah 66:1 is the verse Stephen referenced at the conclusion of his speech to the Jews who immediately killed him afterward.

 In Acts 6 beginning at verse 8, we find Stephen working for the Lord in grace, power, wonders and signs.  Not everyone was happy about Stephan’s zeal and success.  The same religious men who killed Jesus came after Stephen when they saw his righteous deeds.  Because they could not outwit the Spirit of God which was speaking and working through him, they resorted to other measures in order to accuse and expel him.  The methods they chose were gossip, treachery, false witnesses and charges complete with a mob stirring mentality.

Their whole premise was built on lies that Stephen was saying bad things about them, about Moses, and about God.  They stirred up everyone on false charges.  Stephen answers by taking them through the entire history of the Jewish nation with God.  Notice how a factual, detailed telling of history proves the true from the false.  From Abraham to Moses to Jesus to…Isaiah.  Isaiah 66:1 is where Stephen lands just before rebuking them harshly and being murdered for it.  He applies this verse directly to them.  Why?

Thus says the Lord:
“Heaven is my throne,
    and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
    and what is the place of my rest?

All these things my hand has made,
    and so all these things came to be,
declares the Lord.
But this is the one to whom I will look:
    he who is humble and contrite in spirit
    and trembles at my word. ~
Isaiah 66:1-2

Isaiah 66 is about the contempt God has for empty religious ceremonies and rituals compared to moral obligations.  It is a chapter where salvation and comfort are given to the remnant saved by grace and harsh judgment and warning to the power hungry religious hypocrites.

In this passage, the prophet is pointing at the religious men who believed they were the ultimate authorities in God’s house.  He makes it clear that he esteems them not, and that they are full of empty, prideful religion.  They are abusing, maligning, and throwing God’s people out of their synagogues.  God speaks through Isaiah and tells them who he does esteem – the humble, contrite spirits who tremble at his word.  God esteems those who love his word, live his word, and lay down their personal interests for his word.  He gives a message of harsh judgment to these persecutors while also giving a message of comfort and hope to those whom they were persecuting and ostracizing.  In between, he makes sure his hearers know that God can do whatsoever he wants to at any time and in an instant. He does not need these so-called authorities.  He can build his own house. (Isaiah 66:7-9)

Interestingly, God sends his remnant on a mission.  (Isaiah 66:19)  He sends them to the worst of the worst!  He sends them to Tarshish, Pul, Lud, and many other difficult places.  Tarshish is the place Jonah was en route to when he was running away from God’s command to preach to evil men. He rather jumped into the ocean to avoid his call.  Pul was where the Assyrians hung out.  Lud was full of archers and warriors.  God sends his people to the worst kind of people.  And we have people in the church today who will not even speak to other members of their own congregation out of self-preservation!  News flash: God cares about sinners!!!  Those of us who have been given the grace to not fall under his judgment have a job to do and that job is not to avoid, condemn, or throw sinners out on the street refusing to ever even know or disciple them!  It is to go and teach them the gospel!  These religious hypocrites had so truncated God’s will that they didn’t even care how distorted and demoralizing they had become.  They did not care about people.  They did not care about God’s word.  All they cared about was their self-exalting show.  Anyone who did not submit and conform to their standards of showy piety and outward man-centered obedience were cast out.  Jesus included.

“Observe, How the faithful servants of God were persecuted: Their brethren hated them…their brethren, who should have loved and encouraged them for their work’s sake, hated them, and cast them out of their synagogues, excommunicated them as if they had been the greatest blemishes, when they were really the greatest blessings, of their church and their nation…Note, it is no new thing for church censures to be misapplied, and for her artillery, which was intended for her defense, to be turned against her best friends, by the treachery of her governors.” Matthew Henry

The reason Stephen chose Isaiah 66 in his final words is not hard to understand.  Isaiah rebuked religious hypocrites for how severely they were injuring God’s people in God’s name.  Jesus rebuked religious hypocrites for how severely they were injuring God’s people in his name.  Stephen was rebuking religious hypocrites for how severely they treated Jesus when he came to earth as well as how severely they were treating him out of pride and envy.  Let this be a rebuke to religious hypocrites for how they continue to do the same today.  Judgment is coming for those who would hate, ostracize, and abuse God’s precious own.  He alone is the authority over his own house.

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” Acts 7:51-53

 

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berries.jpg

“What does this bowl say?  The Pioneer Woman?  Mom, are you The Pioneer Woman?”

“Well.  As much as I would like to take credit for that woman’s success in homemaking, no, I am not her.  But, I am a pioneer, I think, and I am a woman, so, yes, I guess that does make me a pioneer woman even though I am not The Pioneer Woman.”

The inquisitive, almost too mature to be called my little girl, girl with freckles and braids follows me into the backyard.

“You look like a serial killer with that sword.”

I cut a path and I pick a pie-filling bunch of black raspberries from the picturesque providence surrounding my fully covered tick and thistle fearing body.

“See.  I am a pioneer woman.  I cut a path.  I blazed a trail.  I made a way where there was no way.  Now, the next person who wants a berry can get one without a hazmat suit.”

I carry my sword – which, by the way, is a large machete-looking knife – and I find it becoming cumbersome as my picking is prolonged.  I put it down for a moment only to pick it right back up.  There is not too far I can go into this jungle I call my backyard without it.  If I want more fruit, my sword must remain my best friend.  I tuck it underneath my arm and I continue further back into the weeds.

“Of course,” I think to myself, “There is never a fruitful harvest without a brave, willing pioneer willing to risk being bruised by the thorns, brushed by the poison, and bitten by the bloodsuckers to make a way for others to find the fruit.  There can be no fruit -finding without a constant carrying of the all-important sword.”

Oh!  How all of life is Christ!  Fruitful Christian life is never found without a pioneering spirit.  We must be willing to go where we have not gone before.  We must be unafraid to do things we have never done.   We might even have to know people we have not known and be people we have not been.  Fruitful Christian life is never found when our sword is lying on the ground.  No matter how cumbersome and difficult that sword may prove to be, we must never fail to not only carry it, but use it, everywhere, always.  Our sword is our greatest weapon in this fallen world full of thorns and thistles.  The Word of God is our sword.

We must always be willing to risk being bruised by the thorns, brushed by the poison, and bitten by the bloodsuckers if it means making a way for others to find the fruit.  Pioneering hurts.  It is hard.  If it were not so, everyone would do it.  Pioneers are the few who are willing to take the risks, endure the pain, and go the distance so that those coming after them can do the same more readily and with the confidence of a good example.

Pick up your swords, brothers and sisters!  Fail not to carry them, everywhere, always, and in every situation!  Your Bible must, must, MUST be your very best friend if you would ever wish to find your walk fruitful.  Without it, not only will you not find your own fruit, it is likely you will not even be able to walk forward any farther.

As I exit the overgrown briars and brush, my mostly mature miniature me rambles on about her frustration in the pie crust preparation she’d  been busying herself with while I had been buried in briars picking berries.

I looked down at my bucket of berries and with my sword in my right hand and my bucket of berries in my left I thought, “Fearlessness and fruitfulness inspires fearlessness and fruitfulness.”

“Hey.  You tried.  You did something most 12 year-olds wouldn’t even think of doing.  Even if your first crust isn’t right, we will make another one.  You are a pioneer woman and pioneer women keep trying until we succeed.  We have to make a way; cut a path; blaze a trail for others to come behind us and be fruitful, too.”

I thank God today that I am no longer afraid.  I do not need to follow the beaten path made by the many and the minions.  No.  I have actually learned to prefer the road less travelled.  I don’t even mind mingling and meandering along the road where there is no road.  No matter how difficult or personally dangerous, I am confident and courageous enough in the power of my both my Sword and my Savior to do all that I am called to in cutting and clearing new paths so that others can follow Christ and find themselves fruitful, too.

Thank you, black raspberry patch. Thank you, briars.  Thank you, bugs, poison branches, and brush of all kinds.  Thank you, sun, and heat, and sweat.  Your lessons are deep and your rewards make all of you worthy of my time.

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confront

In 2 Corinthians chapter 10, Paul brought to light the spiritual nature of all the conflict happening in the Corinthian Church in an effort to point to the solution.  The solution he gave was the divine power of God to destroy strongholds, in other words, our spiritual weapons.  He began to defend himself in the face of much slander and personal attacks.

In chapters 11 and 12, we find Paul dealing with specific reasons why he personally was being maligned and the truth of what was going on in this corrupt church.  He begins seeking to unmask the dark realities by stating facts and asking questions that point to the truth of who he had been to them and who he was.  He calls it foolish because he is humble.  Humble men don’t usually go around listing their qualifications, but here we find that sometimes just that is necessary for the sake of the gospel.

Paul fears that the Corinthians were being deceived to believe in a different Jesus and a different gospel.  He is showing the foolishness of their willingness to accept false brothers and false teaching but not him and his truth!  His argument is that they would put up with falsehood and not say a word in opposition or correction.  They were embracing these false men as brothers while at the very same time refusing to accept and embrace Paul.  Against Paul, they railed.  Why?

The accusation made against Paul was that he did not speak right.  Unskilled speech.  He looks wrong.  Frivolous, differing preferences was all they could come up with against Paul.

If you want to avoid the truth someone is telling, personal attacks are all you have.

Paul answers those dumb objections and reasons to refuse him saying: “Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things. “ 2 Corinthians 11:6

In verses 7-11 Paul states the facts that he had taken nothing from them and that he had given much to them.  He had gotten his needs met elsewhere and found a way to meet their needs without asking for payment.  He assures them that he was not going to be quiet about what he was about to say.  He knows they are going to claim that he is saying it because he does not love them so he puts that accusation to rest from the get-go.  He professes his great, enduring, long-suffering love and offers the proof as the fact that he preached to them for free, always.  He preached out of love and without asking for any return save their souls.  He wanted them to be saved and that was his only motivation.  Others wanted pay and position for what he did for them for free out of love.

Paul makes it clear that he is going to keep doing exactly what he had been doing in order to prove the false claims of the false followers who were maligning him false.

He says, these men boast of being servants of Christ!  Even if they truly were or are, so am I!  Why, then do you so despise and abuse me?  That is a question that begs an answer.  Christ’s ministers do not abuse and malign one another no matter how different they are.  Like mama said, it takes all kinds.  There is room for all in Christ.

So these guys are seeking to divide and Paul is seeking to unify – even though the opposite is being said of him and of them.

“I repeat, let no one think me foolish.  But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little.” 2 Corinthians 11:16

He’s like, “Hey! you let other fools come in here and talk all the nonsense they want.  Can I have a turn?!”

“He gives a good reason why they should suffer him to boast a little; namely, because they suffered others to do so who had less reason…Or these words, ‘You suffer fools gladly, seeing you yourselves are wise,’ may be ironical, and then the meaning is this: ‘Notwithstanding all your wisdom, you willingly suffer yourselves to be brought into bondage under the Jewish yoke, or suffer others to tyrannize over you; nay, to devour you, or make a prey of you, and take of you hire for their own advantage, and to exalt themselves above you, and lord it over you; nay, even to smite you on the face, or impose upon you to your very faces, upbraiding you while they reproach me, as if you had been very weak in showing regard to me.’  Seeing this was the case, that the Corinthians, or some among them, could so easily bear all this from the false apostles, it was reasonable for the apostle to desire, and expect, they should bear with what might seem to them an indiscretion in him, seeking the circumstances of the case were such as made it needful that whereinsoever any were bold he should be bold also.” ~Matthew Henry

Paul goes on to say exactly who he is beginning in verse 21.  They say they come from Abraham?  So do I!  They say serve Christ?  So do I!  They say they suffered for the gospel?  So have I!  Even more so no doubt!  Consider the facts, friends.

“He chiefly insists upon this, that he had been an extraordinary sufferer for Christ.  Note, When the apostle would prove himself an extraordinary minister, he proves that he had been an extraordinary sufferer.” Matthew Henry

Paul had suffered greatly for the Lord and no one could deny him that boast.  There was not a weak or scandalized Christian alive whom Paul could not sympathize with.

In chapter 12, Paul goes on to share of his visitations from God.  One would think with such great visions and revelations he would have been focusing constantly and speaking always of these things, but no.  Paul is humble and only speaks of them for their betterment in this case.  He speaks more so of his suffering so that the power of Christ may rest upon him.  (2 Corinthians 12:9)  From this we glean that speaking of our own weaknesses candidly causes the power of Christ to rest upon us.

Lastly, he states his concern.  He’s like, “Hey!  I’m not inferior to these boasting “apostles.”  God gave signs and wonders and works through me even though I am nothing.  Yet you fail to trust and love me while loving those who deceive you and malign both me and the gospel.  Listen to his plea of love toward them:

“Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? 16 But granting that I myself did not burden you, I was crafty, you say, and got the better of you by deceit. 17 Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not act in the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?” 2 Corinthians 12:14-18

I can hear his desperation saying, “I love you!!!  I don’t want your money!  But because of my generosity you distrust me?  Because I love you so much you love me less that those who do seek to rule and deceive and take from you?”

“He blames them for what was faulty in them; namely, that they had not stood up in his defense as they ought to have done, and so made it more needful for him to insist so much on his own vindication.  They in manner compelled him to commend himself…Note, it is a debt we owe to good men to stand up in defense of their reputation; and we are under special obligations to those we have received benefit by, especially spiritual benefit, to own them as instruments in God’s hand of good to us, and to vindicate them when they are calumniated by others…so far he was from seeking praise from men, though he tells them their duty to vindicate his reputation – so far was he from applauding himself, when he was forced to insist upon his own necessary self-defense.” Matthew Henry

Paul indicts them on the charge that they should have been sticking up for him.  For the truth he was teaching.  But they were not.  He makes it clear that he is not defending himself, rather trying to teach them for their own good and for the edification of the whole body.  He is begging them to listen.

 

 

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