Daily Prayer Guide – Wednesday, Dec 2

2 Corinthians 8:1-9
Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia.  2 They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.  3 For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will.  4 They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem.  5 They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do.  6 So we have urged Titus, who encouraged your giving in the first place, to return to you and encourage you to finish this ministry of giving.  7 Since you excel in so many ways– in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us– I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving.  8 I am not commanding you to do this. But I am testing how genuine your love is by comparing it with the eagerness of the other churches.  9 You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.

Meditation
Paul the apostle was a man of two worlds among the early Christians. He knew and had worked closely with the first Christ followers, all Jewish, all living in Jerusalem (see Acts 1-6). He also spent most of his energies as part of the early Christian mission, expanding the reach of the Gospel story to the non-Jewish world. In this letter, he is writing to a group of Christ followers in Corinth (modern Greece), and mentions the churches in Macedonia (modern Turkey). The Jerusalem community of Christ followers had fallen on hard times, impoverished due to famine (see Acts 11:28), and Paul was convinced that the larger non-Jewish communities of Christ should send a financial gift to Jerusalem to assist them in their poverty. Paul highlights the believers in Macedonia, who themselves were quite impoverished, but gave a generous gift anyway. They themselves went with less, so that others could have more. Paul sees something very, very Christ-like about all this: Christ himself experienced poverty (becoming human, living in poverty, dying on a cross) so that others (all humanity) could become rich (i.e. experience God’s grace). And, if you think about it, this is precisely the kind of giving the Christmas story celebrates: God’s gift of life to our world.

Notice, however, that for the Macedonian believers who gave sacrificially, it was not primarily about giving money. It was about “giving themselves first to the Lord” (2 Cor 8:5). At the core of the Christmas story is the surging, overflowing generosity of the creator God. He gave the gift of Jesus, grace, and hope for new life at great personal cost to himself. How then should we as Christ followers respond to this kind of God, this kind of story. Paul challenges the Corinthians to “test the genuineness” of their love for God and others: Am I willing to go without so that others in poverty can have more? A simple question. But the simplicity ends there. The answer requires soul-searching for each one of us.

Reflection
Reread Paul’s description of the Macedonian Christ-followers and their generosity (verses 1-5). Could he have said these things about our church had he lived here? Could Paul have said these things about you had he known you? Why or why not?

Prayer
– What would it look like to “give yourself first to the Lord” when it comes to finances and generosity? Ask God what this could look like in your life? Ask him to help make this into a reality.

– How can this Christmas season open new opportunities for generosity and humility? Ask God to open your eyes to situations where you could show grace and generosity to others in the advent season.

Written by Tim Mackie

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Love All

Act Local: Share gifts of time and resources with those in our community. At the Impact Tree in the Atrium, find opportunities available for individuals, families and life groups. All the information you need will be on the cards by the Tree. Take a card – put an ornament on the tree.

Give Global: On Sunday, December 13 during services, we'll take up an Advent Conspiracy offering (a direct result of spending less) to give towards clean water projects and wheelchair needs in Honduras, Kenya and Romania. If you won’t be able to join us at services on that day but still want to participate, just write "Advent" in the memo of your check and drop it in any of the offering boxes.


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