You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 2 Cor 3:2-3
I’ve written and received a few letters of recommendation in my life. A letter of recommendation is telling someone else the good qualities you have observed of a person who is looking to enter employment or entrance into a school or such things. It is someone willing to vouch for your abilities, good behavior, and possibility of being better in the future. If you are personally looking for a letter of recommendation, it’s good to find someone who likes you to begin with J. It requires someone who knows who you are and believes you are worthy of saying good things about what you have done, who you are, and what they feel you could add to the future. I never wanted to get a letter of recommendation from someone who just said “I recommend this person” because then the person or organization is putting their faith in that person and not me. Basically, it doesn’t mean much. But someone who is willing to list my good qualities and character is a great recommendation to make me look worthy of confidence.
Paul, in the passage above, is telling the church in Corinth, that they are his and others like Timothy and Titus’ letter of recommendation. The church in Corinth was proof of what the Lord had been able to do through these men. You see, there were others who were coming into the church to take all or part of what Paul and the others had built in Corinth for themselves. They were bringing letters of recommendation from other places that showed their credentials as talented speakers and from other groups who said they were great guys. All of this was with the aim to take individuals away from the gospel of Jesus Christ to follow them. They trumped themselves up as being great and at the same time said things to belittle Paul and the others. Paul, in this letter, is trying to tell the Corinthian church what they meant to him, and at the same time tells them things about the struggles and weaknesses he goes through to make sure they stay faithful to God through Christ. So, in a way, he is going to other parts of Asia Minor, Macedonia, and Greece telling other churches how good the church in Corinth is doing.
Now, if you read 1 Corinthians, you will see a church who has their fair share of problems. They were not able to treat their spiritual gifts right, which led to division in their numbers, and was the main source problems they dealt with. This stands to reason in a city that is known for its diversity in general being a major seaport. Just like many other churches then and through history, they had their difficulties being part of Christ’s church, but they were working through their problems and Paul recognized this in 2 Corinthians. In this letter to the church in Corinth, Paul is boasting about what the church had become and encouraging it to stay the course so that even better things would come. Then towards the end of the letter he boasts about himself to criticize what the men trying to tear down what he had built were doing. If they wanted to use letters of recommendation from their sources and boast about their abilities, Paul said that he could out boast them with what and who he was, but Paul ended up boasting about his weaknesses instead.
Okay, if you wanted to do a little bragging about who you are, or list your qualities to a school or employer, would you list your weaknesses? No, you wouldn’t want to do that, even if they ask for you to. But Paul lists his weaknesses. Why? Because he isn’t boasting about himself; he is boasting about what Christ has done through him. “For Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” 2 Cor 12:10. He is giving all glory and honor to the Lord. Is this a practice that we utilize in our Christian lives? I wish it were in mine. For when I am weak, humble myself, then I am made strong through the strength the Lord provides. In 2 Corinthians 11:21-30, Paul lists all of his rights to boast about who he is, but then goes on to tell of all that he has gone through to bring the gospel to the Gentiles, and concludes in verse 30, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” He will boast about what the Lord has done through him.
I have been known to push people to the point of my getting angry and making them angry at me. I say this to my regret. Not that I push, but the way it leads to anger. All through 1 Corinthians, Paul was pushing and instructing the church to realize it’s problems and to find ways to correct the problems. He did this by showing his love for them and pointing them towards Christ. So, when I write or preach, there is a lot of it that I can direct to myself. What do you see in your life? Are you standing on your past accomplishments? Are you one who boasts about your abilities to others? Or, are you one who needs to hear your accomplishments talked about by others? Let’s try this, let’s keep pushing onward in the truth and way of Christ, knowing that he will direct our ways to good works. Let’s not worry about what others may think, but look forward to the day when we can stand before the Lord and hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.” For when we humble ourselves, God is able to do great things.
Let’s conduct ourselves in such a way that we become a letter of recommendation for each other. That we might have only good things to say about each other. There might be those in the church we disagree with on how to do things, but let’s encourage them and ourselves to always do better. I often say, “People are people and people will do what people do.” Harry Owen used to say, “The church is made up of all kinds of people and we got’em.” Let’s understand that God has brought us all together to be Christ’s church. We come with different backgrounds and ideas of how things ought to be done. But what we also have is a common goal in Christ Jesus to become the church He intended. Let’s delight in our diversity to grow stronger in Christ. I’m thankful that not everyone thinks like I do (that would be a mess), but have ideas and ways that I might not have thought of. Everyone has good ideas and sometimes they even become great, but more important, let’s see what the Lord can do through us – all of us. So, I’ll leave you with this, let’s write a letter of recommendation on our hearts towards each other that make up the church. But above all else, let’s write a letter of recommendation on our hearts about Christ, and what He means to us, so we can share it with others who don’t know Him. I love you all, Doug.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. ~ Philippians 4:8
"Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty.” Job 5:17
There is an expression used throughout the Bible about showing kindness. David said about his dear friend, Jonathan’s son who was crippled, “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, to whom I may show the kindness of God?" (2 Sam 9:3). Luke used merciful, which is another word for kindness, “Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:36). So Jesus could have said “Therefore show kindness, just as your Father also shows kindness.” Another word that can be substituted for kindness which Paul alludes to in Titus 3:3-5a is compassion: “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared (was shown), not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” We find from these passages that kindness, mercy, compassion is something we ought to show to others, because God has shown these benefits to us.
Showing kindness to others requires action on our part – it isn’t passive. It’s doing or saying something that benefits the other person. You can’t just stand there with saying nothing and no expression on your face and say that you are being kind. Well, unless, you are a terrible person and not being terrible is the kindest thing you can do for others. Terrible people are not the kind of people we’re wanting to talk about, but a good prospect of someone to show kindness to. How can you show the kindness of God to others? Notice it doesn’t say using the same kind of kindness other people use toward others, but the kindness of God. There are a lot of ways God has shown kindness, mercy, and compassion toward us – mankind. When you are reading your Bible look for all the ways God shows kindness, mercy and compassion towards people in the Bible.
Kindness is taking the positive side of all situations when you come into contact with all people. When faced with a situation that is negative, it’s responding in a way that is kind and promotes good. Not giving any way for Satan to use his ways to promote evil. It’s having mercy on others because “all sin and fall short of the glory of God”. All people make mistakes and sin, some have not been raised to know otherwise, and some just don’t care and have a habit of doing bad things. We need to show mercy on these people and try to do good anyway to show them a better way to be. We are all sinners and deserve destruction, but God showed mercy on mankind to allow them to be saved anyway – if they are obedient to God’s will and way to salvation. In the same way God shows us compassion “For God so loved the world that He gave (sacrificed) his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (eternal life) (John 3:16). Showing kindness is treating people better than what they deserve. What way will you show kindness to others this week? Don’t let it be an afterthought, but a forethought before you say or do something. Be good, I love you all ~ Doug.
La Grande Church of Christ
When I was a young man, it was popular to hold up two fingers which had meant “victory” until that time and say “peace” – “peace, man”. Even though there was riots every night it seemed on television, there were shouts for peace. Needless to say it was a very conflicting time in our country, but isn’t it always?
We live in a time where there could be a terrorist attack at any time, a crime of hate, abuse of children, wives, and older people. People are in debt, addicted to more things than people used to think were possible, and with a world that doesn’t know the Lord or care what He says. That last part is the big one in terms of having a peaceful world. We’ll never have total peace in this world, that’s reserved for our reward in heaven. But we can have peace in our life and share it with others so it spreads to as many people as possible.
Peace is a state of mind, you can choose a peaceful way, or you can choose not to be peaceful. When we don’t choose the peaceful way we give into anger, rage, spitefulness, and on and on. Attitudes that make others the same way in response and those attitudes escalate into bigger problems. But, if we can choose to have a peaceful attitude in all things we can produce that attitude in others – most of the time. If it doesn’t turn out that way then we can walk away in a peaceful state and let them deal with their bad attitude. Usually walking away is the best answer to a situation that is spiraling downward.
If we can choose peace in the situations we encounter God will bless us: “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:5-7). This isn’t a hit and miss instruction by Paul to all believers. It is a promise if we will do the first part then Christ will give you the second part. We need to practice gentleness, not getting anxious or riled up, but constantly coming to the Lord in prayer and thanksgiving so our attitude can be one with God. Then the peace of God which is beyond our understanding will live in our mind, heart, and soul. We will demonstrate a peaceful attitude and life to others and God will have our back to do great things through us.
People can’t see peace in our lives if we don’t act in such a way that it is noticeable. Look in the mirror, do you look like a person that is at peace through God’s love? Are the corners of your mouth naturally pointed down or your eyebrows furrowed? Are there deep lines across your forehead, a stiffness in your shoulders and stance? You might not be projecting a peaceful attitude if you have any one of these symptoms. Relax, let God be seen in your actions and speech, and try smiling to get the corners of your mouth naturally going up. Give your life to God and let Him work through you to encourage others. And remember, “Peace, man!”
What does joy mean to you? Kids or grandkids saying or doing something to show their love for you? Being recognized for a job well done? Knowing you’ve helped someone else? Nelson’s Bible Dictionary defines joy as “A positive attitude or pleasant emotion; delight.” Joy is mentioned many times in the Bible. King David the psalmist wrote: The king shall have joy in Your strength, O Lord; and in Your salvation how greatly shall he rejoice! You have given him his heart's desire, and have not withheld the request of his lips (Ps 21:1-2).
God wants us to display joy in what we do no matter the task. How can that be done. It’s in the positive attitude spoken of before. There is nothing that should get you down if you are in the Lord, nothing! As an example: if you have lost a loved one that is in the Lord, praise God, they’re in a better place. Live your life to be with them for eternity. If your loved one was not in the Lord, learn from that, and live your life in the Lord so you can be in a better place later. We live in a world where there is good and bad. Which half of the glass will you choose to look at? The choice is yours. You cannot be effective in the Lord’s kingdom with a negative attitude or being sorrowful. We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed . . . as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things (2 Cor 6:3,10).
God and Jesus give us examples of showing joy, or being delighted, as a pleasant emotion. For the two servants that increased the gifts left to them by the master: 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord' (Matt 25:21). How would you like to hear that when your Lord and Master returns? Are you doing what you should for that kind of response? The way to feel joy in your life is to find joy or delight in the eyes of the Lord. Live your life to bring joy to the Lord and you will find joy in your own life and also being a joy to others. Having joy and being joyful sounds so great, how could we ever want to be anything else? Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! (Phil 4:4). Be good! I love you all
La Grande Church of Christ