Monday, July 26, 2010



And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me”(2 Corinthians 12:9).

Saul of Tarsus, that Pharisee of the Pharisees, and persecutor of the early Christian church, was taught many things after his jolting confrontation with the living Christ on his way to Damascus to persecute more Christians (Read Acts 9:1-29). That meeting with the resurrected Savior changed Saul’s life forever. Not only was his name changed to Paul sometime after this meeting, but he was made an apostle by the Lord to declare His gospel in preaching, and in writing, and build His local assemblies in various cities. Bible scholars Robert Young and Merrill Unger both believe it was Paul himself who changed his name. Saul was a proud name among the Jews. Another Benjamite, Israel’s first king, Saul the son of Kish, had that name. After being converted, Saul of Tarsus had a humility he had not had before. So he adopted the name Paul, which in Greek means little because he saw himself as the least of all saints, not worthy; and chief of sinners. It was that way for the rest of his life. He wanted Christ to be recognized as the highly exalted one, not any man.

In this second canonical letter to the church at Corinth, in chapter 11, Paul warns of false apostles which were preaching another Jesus, another spirit and another gospel. He warns that these false teachers are ministers of Satan. Because these false apostles influenced many to turn against Paul, even though it was largely he who established the Corinthian church; Paul also relates some of the persecutions and difficulties he has personally suffered, and defended his own actions as a true apostle appointed by the Lord..

Then in chapter 12, Paul shifts gears and discusses “visions and revelations of the Lord” (verse 1). He tells in the third person something that happened to “a man” he knew (which we find later is obviously Paul himself). This “person” was caught up to the third heaven, to Paradise itself, and saw things, and heard unspeakable words that man is not permitted to utter. The word Paradise is only found three times in the KJV. It is speaking of that spiritual realm where God’s throne is; most often called heaven, or as here, the third heaven.

In verse five Paul says that he will boast of “this man’s” experiences, but not of himself except in his frailties and infirmities. The apostle was not by nature a boasting man. Much of the defense he gave in chapter 11 was because those false apostles had stirred up people against him saying "For his letters, ‘they say’ are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible” (2 Corinthians 10:10). Imagine professing Corinthian Christians saying this about the man who organized the church in Corinth! The influence of false teachers caused some to accuse Paul of being a false apostle. After all, he was not one of the original twelve. So Paul lets them know that it was God who appointed him, and he is equal to all the other earlier apostles.

In verse six he says he can boast and not be a fool, but wanted no one to put him on a pedestal . He knew that the third heaven experience would be cause for criticism, or on the other hand, exaltation.

In verse seven he shows that God kept him humble, and from over exalting himself by “a thorn in the flesh” -- “a messenger of Satan”, to buffet him. The pain and suffering was evidently a physical thing, a thorn in the flesh -- so powerful that he sought Christ three times about it. He asked if the Lord would “let it depart”. Paul evidently was praying directly to Jesus Christ. After all he had met Him on the Damascus road in that remarkable transformation. We normally are taught to pray to the Father in Christ’s name, but we are not forbidden to address either member of the Godhead. Perhaps Paul was remembering that Christ had sought the Father three times in Gethsemane to let the cup pass from Him. Consider this: ’”I besought the Lord thrice’, i.e. frequently and fervently. God respected not the arithmetic of our prayers, how many they are; nor the rhetoric of our prayers, how neat they are; nor the geometry of our prayers, how long they are; nor the music of our prayers, how melodious they are; nor the logic of our prayers, how methodical they are; but the divinity of our prayers, how heart-sprung they are. Not gifts, but graces prevail in prayer” (John Trapp-1647).

The Lord answered him directly “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness”( 2 Corinthians 12:9). A remarkable answer, and a great lesson for Paul, and for us. “These words should be engraven on the palm of every believer’s hand” (Charles Hodge- 1797-1878). We know that grace is the Greek word charis, which is found over 120 times in the Bible, and in regard to God’s grace to man means His love, and favor, and care, all strictly unmerited to unworthy sinners such as we all are.

It may seem incredible to some of us that God would use a messenger of Satan for the purpose of keeping any of God’s children humble, especially the apostle Paul, but that is exactly what God did in this case. We need to fully understand that Satan is “God’s devil” as Rolfe Barnard once said. He was not the first one to see this. Martin Luther said it in the 1500’s. Also, John Calvin said "Satan...can do nothing without God's will and consent” (Institutes I: xiv:17) But what we may not realize that is more incredible is Christ’s answer to the apostle, and ultimately for us. He is saying that in every situation that we may face, His grace is sufficient. For the child of God this is a promise, sustenance and a comfort through any trial, any loss, including death.

It also may seem incredible that Paul would say “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me”(verse 12, latter part). Then in verse 13 he says “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then am I strong” Just try to grasp that if you can, beloved. Paul says I take pleasure in infirmities, persecutions, distresses etc.. Pleasure in suffering? Was Paul crazy? No! He was a “sold out” servant of Jesus Christ, and knew that what Christ told him was exactly the truth. Christ’s strength was made perfect (brought to it’s peak effect) -- in weakness! We do not generally regard the apostle Paul as weak, but he felt it. He sensed it. Read his words in Romans seven to see that without the grace of God he was as vile as any sinner. Remember that Paul said he was the chief of sinners. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” ( 1Timothy 1:15).

But something else that Paul saw in the sufficient grace Christ spoke about here. Adam Clarke (Methodist), and John Gill (Baptist), both say this about the latter part of verse 9: “That the power of Christ may rest upon me”. They both say it means “that His power may tabernacle over me”. Greek scholar A.T Robertson says “only here in the New Testament the Greek word for rest (episkenose) is used. The expanded meaning of this word is ‘to tent upon, to rest upon me”’ Kenneth Wuest translates it thus “Therefore most gladly will I the rather boast in my weaknesses in order that the power of Christ (like the Shekinah Glory in the Holies of Holies of the Tent of Meeting) may take up its residence in me (working within me and giving me help)”. The Amplified Bible gives this rendering “That the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me”. What I am trying to convey is that His sufficient grace will protect and envelope us. Both John Darby’s translation and the Modern King James Version render it “dwell upon me”. When you have God dwell with you, upon you and in you, then you have nothing to fear. What a blessing! What a comfort!

For Paul, it was a promise he already knew in his heart. In all the things he suffered which he described to the Corinthian church in the latter part of chapter 11, he surely knew that God had already seen him through these things, and would see him through anything else necessary. It is just that daily thorn in the flesh was disturbing him, and wearing on him, and he needed this reminder directly from Jesus Christ. He was preparing for other things including what was probably his last voyage, which took Paul to Rome where he was to die for the cause of Christ. On that voyage, there were trials; the dangerous storms, shipwreck on the island of Melita. There a viper bit him, but it did him no harm. He shook it off into the fire (see Acts 28:1-6).

Once at Rome, Paul was able to have a private quarters with a soldier guarding him. There he was enabled to address inquirers among the Jews who came to him. They had many questions about this sect of Christians (v.22). Some believed, and some did not (v.24). Paul attributes this to the sovereign will of God as described in Isaiah 6:9-10, and foretold that upon hearing, many more Gentiles would believe (v.28). At the end of the book of Acts, we see that Paul received all who came to him and was faithfully preaching and teaching about Jesus Christ. We know that Paul wrote his last epistle (2 Timothy) from Rome, and that there he died. He found, as we will, that the grace of Jesus Christ is sufficient for the child of God.(cw)

Thursday, July 15, 2010



We are endeavoring in prayer meetings at our local church to really study, and be involved in, prayer, especially corporate prayer as gathered believers. God tells us much about prayer, especially that He delights in His children seeking Him, and that He hears and answers prayer, according to His purpose. As Arthur Pink said in quoting Martin Luther and others, “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance, but laying hold of God’s willingness”.

“Nine times out of ten, declension from God begins in the neglect of private prayer“- Charles Spurgeon

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).

Prayer for forgiveness is part of it, as Christ teaches us in the so-called Lord’s Prayer. It is actually the model prayer. In this example He says in part: “Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive everyone that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil” (Luke 11:3-4).

I am personally so glad that He is a forgiving God, for I went through several years of failure and defeat in the things of the Lord. It was backsliding---just to be completely honest. I am ashamed of it now, but thank God I am forgiven. I won’t give the devil any glory by telling all about it. Suffice it to say, Christ preserved me from the worst sins. I could have hit rock bottom, but I am sure God heard the prayers of my family and others. About eight years ago, the Lord met me where I was. I repented and He restored me. I hope I have grown ever since. By His grace alone I will persevere! It is He that preserves us, and enables us to persevere. It is all of grace! There is no mercy or security outside of Christ! The following reading from Mr. Spurgeon for May 18th is partially my testimony.


“And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten” (Joel 2:25).

Yes those wasted years over which we sigh shall be restored to us. God can give us such plentiful grace that we shall crowd into the remainder of

our days as much of service as will be some recompense for those years of unregeneracy over which we mourn in humble penitence.

The locusts of backsliding, worldliness, lukewarmness, are now viewed by us as a terrible plague. Oh that they had never come near us! The Lord in mercy has now taken them away, and we are full of zeal to serve Him.

Blessed be His name, we can raise such harvests of spiritual graces as shall make our former barrenness to disappear.Through rich grace we can turn to account our bitter experience, and use it to warn others. We can become

the more rooted in humility, childlike dependence, and penitent spirituality, by reason of our former shortcomings. If we are the more watchful, zealous, and tender, we shall gain by our lamentable losses. The wasted years, by a miracle of love, can be restored. Does it seem too great a boon? Let us believe for it, and live for it, and we may yet realize it, even as Peter

became all the more useful a man after his presumption was cured by his discovered weakness. Lord, aid us by thy grace” (Faith’s Checkbook)

Prayer For Our Nation

The United States of America is rapidly becoming something different -- much different than it used to be, and much different than our forefathers intended. It is much different than it used to be when I was a boy. It hasn’t really been that long. I am not a fossil --yet!

Some of the changes we have seen are better, of course. Technology and invention has made our lives easier. Most of us couldn’t make it without air conditioning; both in our homes, and our cars. Air travel has made it quick, and usually safe to get most anywhere fast. Interstates whisk us across the country (when there are not massive traffic jams!)

Of course, unless you are very young, I do not need to say so much about how things have changed. You have seen it with your own eyes. But all the changes have not been for good. Sin and violence fill the land. Daily, we hear of a kidnapping, several murders, rapes, robberies, etc.. Senseless violence! The recent example of the ruthless beating of a 90 year old man by a thug while people stood by and watched was disgusting. Liberal judges slap on the wrist the child molesters, and child porn purveyors assuring us that “knowing where they live” because they “have to register” will protect our children and grandchildren. Many are repeat offenders who are treated with kid gloves. People convicted of child molestation, who are repeat offenders, should be put to death! I am, of course, speaking of real, convicted child molesters, not some family squabble where one has been falsely accused, or other highly questionable cases.

In 2006 on Cinco de Mayo (Fifth of May), you may remember I wrote concerning illegal aliens. That problem has still not been solved. Why? Because laws we already have are not being enforced. Congress is supposedly going to pass legislation to solve the problem. It won’t solve it because it will have no teeth! Close the border first! Finish the fences! Allow police to ask the status of those they stop in suspected violations, as they now in 2010 are allowed to do in Arizona. Send back, especially, the criminal element among them. Place fines on businesses that hire illegals. Do all that, but tighten border security first, as Mike Huckabee, Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin and others have said. Our borders are vulnerable, and we must solve the problem of those who are already here. The government isn't enforcing the laws we now have! This must change, or how else will we see enforcement of any new provisions?

Yes, the USA is becoming something even more different. The main reason? I’ll tell you what it is. You may not like it. But here it is. It is sin! The nation is under judgment! When a nation can wink at the murder of millions of unborn every year, promote adultery, sodomy, violence and disregard the constitution allowing liberal judges to legislate from the bench; when those we elect to office are too sorry to stand for what we voted them in for, and too cowardly to stand for what is morally right -- we are under judgment! “The wicked shall be turned into hell and all nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17). We must pray for our land, for unless Christ returns soon, our children and grandchildren will face misery in a land “That knows not Joseph” (see Exodus 1:8. and see if you get my point). “Fools make a mock at sin: but among the righteous there is favor (Proverbs 14:9). "Thy kingdom come.Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10).