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What thoughts fill your mind as you sign a check made payable to your local congregation? When an offering is collected for support of a church planting effort in Thailand, do you give grudgingly (“I’m getting tired of them asking me for money; they must think I’m a millionaire”), from guilt (“The last time I said no, and used the money on a new car”), or gladly (“Praise God for this glorious expansion of the gospel where it has ...Read More

But Sam, what will become of me if I sow bountifully? Will there be enough for my needs? Will I be able to provide for my family? What about the next offering? Will there be anything left to contribute to what may prove to be an even greater cause than the former one? Worse still, what’s to prevent my generosity from creating a financial crisis of my own? After all, an unexpected downturn in the market could put me in the position of being the next person who&rsquo...Read More

Why is it that we are so quick and easily inclined to take credit for what God has done? Of course, I know the answer. Sins such as pride, arrogance, selfish ambition, combined with an ignorance of the antecedence of divine grace, all converge to make it feel natural. If we are to avoid falling into this horrific trap, we must remind ourselves often that God is always antecedent; his gracious work in us always precedes and makes possible whatever work we in turn do for o...Read More

It takes great strength and maturity not to respond in kind when one is slandered and maliciously maligned. If ever there were a knee-jerk reaction that feels justified, it comes in our response to those who without ground or reason spread lies about us and question our integrity behind the scenes. It seems well within our rights to give vent to the anger in our souls and to "let ‘em have it"! No one knew this better than the apostle Paul, the victim of repeated m...Read More

We live in an age of angry atheism; not simply a casual and indifferent disregard for the existence of God but a militant opposition to all things religious. Most are by now aware (and sick of hearing about) such folk as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. What should be our response, if any? Do we simply ignore them, confident that in time they will fade away as have other skeptics in centuries past? Fade away they will, but I belie...Read More

It had to have stung more than a little bit when Paul received word that people were accusing him of reliance on mere human tactics and a this-worldly power, while largely abandoning the resources of the Holy Spirit. Let's not forget that Jesus was the object of an even more scurrilous charge. The religious leaders of his day insisted that the power in his life that accounted for healing of the sick and casting out of demons was not that of the Spirit but of Satan himsel...Read More

 The Christian world is all abuzz about leadership these days. Take a look at any list of best-selling books and you'll find at least three or four of the top ten that are concerned with some aspect of leadership, whether in identifying the essence of the good and successful sort or in warning of the bad. It's the latter that I'd like to briefly address in this meditation. I'm sickened, as I'm sure you are, by the almost daily barrage of news concerning either the ...Read More

As I've said many times, 2 Corinthians is a manual for Christian leadership. Paul would probably not have expressed it in precisely those terms, but much of his effort in this letter is designed to identify for the Corinthians the true nature of spiritual, God-given authority as over against the self-aggrandizing agenda of those who passed themselves off as "apostles" of Christ. The Corinthians had been duped. They had been deceived by a band of intruders whose ultimate...Read More

Some people live for the opportunity to flaunt their skills and to speak of their multiple accomplishments. They seize every opportunity to redirect conversation from what they believe are less important people and trivial matters to a focus on themselves, be it their success or fame or status in the community. They are not in the least hesitant to speak of their credentials and are quick to cite the educational degrees they've earned and the gold plaques for distinguish...Read More

The familiar saying, "It ain't boasting if you can do it," is not only grammatically wrong; it is profoundly dumb. Boasting is proudly drawing attention to oneself by claiming credit for some accomplishment. It is the self-centered attempt to elicit from others praise of oneself for having attained some goal or having measured up to an acknowledged standard. It does not cease to be boasting simply because it's true. If you can't do it and you boast, you lie. If you can d...Read More

Few people can maintain a godly balance between sarcasm and sincerity. The latter is all too often swallowed up and eclipsed by the former. The apostle Paul was a notable exception to that general rule. The sarcasm of the apostle is quite evident in the opening words of 2 Corinthians 11. There he writes, "I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me!" (2 Cor. 11:1). Paul was probably accused by his opponents of being a "fool" whom the Corinthia...Read More

I'd like to conduct an experiment. I want you to think about your local church, regardless of its denominational affiliation or lack thereof. Do you have it in mind? Are you ready? O.K. Now, what's the first word that comes to mind? Take a moment. Don't be in a rush. I wish it were possible to compile a list of the many answers to my question. I'm sure it would be quite instructive and enlightening, perhaps even alarming. Words such as healthy, sick, vibrant, languishin...Read More

I want to be a person known for one thing. Although I'm an author, it matters little if people buy my books. Although I'm a speaker, it matters little if they hear what I say. What ultimately matters, what is of preeminent importance, is that I be a person known for "a sincere and pure devotion to Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:3). I can't begin to describe the effect these simple words have had on me of late. Perhaps it comes from getting older. The more one sees and experi...Read More

I fear the corruption of my sincere and pure devotion to Christ. So should you. To think that you are immune from the deceptive tactics of the enemy is both arrogant and dangerous. Paul feared that some of the Corinthians had been duped, or were on the verge of it. That is why he speaks so energetically of his jealous concern for them and the state of their souls. There's nothing inconsistent with standing firm in my faith in Christ and rejoicing in the assurance of my ...Read More

Our pluralistic, consumer driven society is all about choices, options, and diversity. If you don't like what you see, be patient; another version, an updated edition, a new and improved alternative will soon appear. This is often the case in certain expressions of contemporary "Christianity" (so-called). Don't like the Jesus of evangelical, orthodox biblical faith? No problem. There are plenty of other Jesus's to choose from. There's the liberal Jesus, the liberation J...Read More

When one first reads 2 Corinthians 11:7-12, it sounds outlandish, virtually incomprehensible. Paul preached the gospel of God in Corinth for free. He refused to accept payment for his ministry in that city. He labored tirelessly with his hands to support himself so that he need never take up an offering after proclaiming the truth. And they accused him of committing a sin in doing so! As I said, outlandish and incomprehensible! But before we delve into this remarkable s...Read More

One of the things I learned about my wife on our first date (October, 1970) was that she didn't believe in a personal Devil. Having been raised in a liberal, mainline denominational church, she rarely if ever heard the gospel proclaimed while numerous biblical truths were routinely mocked and denied, Satan's existence being one. Whether or not one believes that a literal, personal spiritual being called Satan actually exists is dependent on one's view of the inspiration ...Read More

Before departing from Ephesus, the apostle Paul gathered to himself the Elders of the church and spoke words of encouragement, exhortation, and stern warning. The latter proved to be prophetic. "I know that after my departure," said Paul, "fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them" (Acts 20:29-30). It's simply stunning to think that from within...Read More

Some have struggled to reconcile Proverbs 29:4 ("Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself") with Proverbs 29:5 ("Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes"). But there's no contradiction here. On most occasions, when a fool speaks, keep your mouth shut. There are times, though, albeit rare, when an answer is essential. Evidently Paul was faced with just such a situation in his relationship with the Corinthians. H...Read More

Reading 2 Corinthians 11:21-33 leaves me breathless. Even more important, it leaves me embarrassed and ashamed. It reminds me of those many occasions when people have asked me to share my spiritual journey or perhaps themselves proceeded to recite what they consider my accomplishments in life and my achievements in ministry. Awards I've won. Pulpits I've filled. Books I've written. Places I've traveled. People I've known. Money I've raised. Sermons I've preached. Endorse...Read More

The first time I can remember being struck repeatedly by an instrument was in the fifth grade at Fannin Elementary School in Midland, Texas (yes, my father spanked me, but always with his open hand). Mr. Holmes, my teacher, was a short, but powerful man, who seemed at times to relish the opportunity to discipline rowdy young boys like me. And yes, we certainly deserved it (or at least I did). Mr. Hensley, my seventh-grade shop instructor and coach in all sports, had his...Read More

In the aftermath of 9/11 and with the ever-increasing price of gasoline, traveling has become something of a hassle. Increased air fares, long security lines that often move at a snail's pace, overcrowded flights, delayed flights, canceled flights, well, you get the picture. I must confess that on a couple of occasions I've lost my patience at such inconveniences, although I've tried not to direct my displeasure toward ticket agents and flight attendants who have no cont...Read More

Caricatures are hard to shake. Once people have an image of someone indelibly printed in their minds, not even the facts can dislodge it. As a student of Jonathan Edwards (1703-58) I've seen this first hand. Ask the man on the street (or even the person in the pew) about Edwards and they'll immediately mention his sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" and how stern, negative, and condemning a personality he must have been. Of course, anyone who has spent time rea...Read More

We are all pretty adept at avoiding embarrassing topics. Most people have learned the art of maneuvering a conversation away from anything that might show them in a bad light or disclose their incompetence. And should it happen that some shameful item is noted, we're also pretty good at explaining it away or justifying it to protect our public image. Anything to save face! So what are we to make of Paul's statement in 2 Corinthians 11:30 where he declares, "If I must bo...Read More

In the late spring of 2008, news erupted and spread like wildfire that a "heaven-sent healing revival" had broken out in Lakeland, Florida, through the ministry of a young, fully-tattooed evangelist named Todd Bentley. As I write this meditation, the meetings have continued unabated for four months. During this time I've received hundreds of e-mails and telephone calls asking for my opinion of the "revival" and my assessment of Bentley. Since I have neither personally m...Read More

As I read the Bible I've often tried to envision myself in the position of certain characters, especially those who experienced profound supernatural encounters with the Lord. How would I have reacted? Would I have been puffed up with an inflated sense of my own importance? Or would I have felt crushed by the immediate disclosure of my own comparative insignificance? Or would I, preferably, have been so captivated by the brilliance of God's glory that thinking of myself ...Read More

What are we to make of people who speak so casually (if not flippantly) about multiple heavenly visitations that involve conversations with angels, apostles, and even Jesus? Let me be clear about one thing. I have no biblical or theological grounds for concluding that Paul's translation into the third heaven was a singular event in the history of the church, as if to suggest that no one else in any other era has ever experienced a similar encounter. But I'm more than a l...Read More

Most people spend their lives worried sick that others will not think highly enough of them. So they disguise their weaknesses. They magnify their strengths. They labor not to give offense. Much of their personality and relational style is far from natural, but has been carefully crafted to elicit the approval and praise of those whose respect they covet. The apostle Paul, to say the least, was a bird of a different feather. One of his greatest fears was that people wou...Read More

It seems reasonable, does it not, that an experience of the magnitude Paul describes in vv. 1-4 would serve to subdue and perhaps even eradicate sinful impulses from his soul? How could sin possibly continue to exert its influence in the heart of a person who saw and heard the things Paul did? Surely anyone who has been blessed with such a stunning privilege as was Paul would forever cease to sin. Surely anyone who heard such transcendently glorious things as fell on the...Read More

As noted in the previous meditation, there are four broad categories in which most of the interpretations of Paul's thorn have fallen. We now turn our attention to the two most popular (and likely) views. Many take the view of Chrysostom, a famous preacher of the fourth century. He was the first to suggest that the thorn is simply a reference to all the enemies of the gospel who opposed and persecuted Paul during his evangelistic and theological labors. Alexander the co...Read More