Day 51: 1 Corinthians 13-15 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from 1 Corinthians 13-15 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

I Corinthians is rightfully known as the love chapter of the bible. The chapter is so poetic and beautiful that it can be easy to forget the reason Paul wrote this chapter. The church at Corinth was facing division and Paul was writing to remind them of their need to be unified. Paul reminds the Corinthians that loving one another and using their gifts together is more important than an individual gift (13:1-3). He is pressing them to maturity, to use their gifting for the benefit of the body.

Paul calls believers to be innocent in evil, but wise in their thinking (14:20).  This has everything to do with how we treat each other and Paul insists on an orderliness in worship (14:26-40). He even goes as far as to note that when the Spirit moves in prophecy that the prophet CAN contain themselves and not interrupt (14:32).   Paul notes the need for awareness, the use of gifts in worship  will be perceived by insiders and outsiders differently (14:22-25). 

SIDE NOTE: We know from the historical data that all kinds of rumors were being spread around the Roman empire about Christians. Some would say that they were cannibals because of a misunderstanding about the Lord’s supper. Others would say that they practice incest because they called everyone brother and sister and some of those folks were married. Still others said that Christians had a creepy death ritual as a rite of initiation (baptism = dead to sin, alive in Christ). Christians didn’t need to give their detractors any extra ammunition to use against them.

FATHER, We ask to day for right priorities. We pray that we would be maturing in Christ and be concerned with using the gifts you have given to bring glory and honor to you. We pray that we would love others as described here in your word. We pray for perfect unity. Thank you for the grace to shepherd your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 50: 1 Corinthians 10-12 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from 1 Corinthians 10-12 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

There is a lot going on at the church in Corinth. There were lots of divisions and factions (11:18-19). Much of this letter is written by Paul to address these issues that cloud the church. With a rich understanding of Old Testament history, we might really appreciate the pastoral way in which Paul addresses the people who first received this letter (10:1-13).  He reminds his hearers that there is always a way out of the temptations they will face (10:13).

As Christians, we have an obligation to look after each other, especially our weaker brothers (10:24). The church is not designed to be full of mature Christians. The church is more like a spiritual nursery. There is a very real sense in which we do have an obligation to help others grow in Christ, while at the same time bringing people to Christ. We don’t abandon weaker brothers because they are weak.  Mature believers, like parents, seek out what’s best for the immature believers around them (10:31).

SIDE NOTE: I’ve heard other pastors say, “God has called me to be fishers of men, not keepers of the aquarium.” I get what they are after, but I don’t think Paul would have said that. I don’t think that is what Jesus had in mind either. In fact, if I had to pick a biblical character to put that quote with, I’d give it to Cain, because it reeks like the statement, “am I my brothers keeper?” Such statements are short sighted and miss the whole counsel of scripture.

While seeking to restore unity, Paul addresses issues that have arisen around the Lord’s Supper. A meal that was supposed to be a common table had become grounds for division (11:18). He also begins to explain why we need each other in the body of Christ and how we have all been gifted differently (12:12).

FATHER, We pray for the unity of the church today. We ask that we would be united in Christ and not divided by petty differences. We ask for the grace to have real spiritual concern for one another and that we would look out for one another, especially those who are weaker. I ask that you would help each one of us understand our calling and gifting in the body of Christ that we might be an encouragement to one another. Thank you for the calling to lead your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

Find out about New Testament 90 – Here

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Day 49: 1 Corinthians 7-9 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from 1 Corinthians 7-9 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

There is a lot of tension in today’s reading. Chapter seven addresses how believers are to regard marriage in a fallen world. Keep in mind that each scenario that Paul addresses probably represented a question that had been asked of him by individuals who were seeking to live our their faith.

Chapter eight highlights the issue of eating food that has been sacrificed to idols. The idea is to not cause a weaker brother to stumble (8:9). In other words we are to show a high regard for those who are of like faith, but have a weaker opinion on  matters (say drinking, smoking, how you dress on Sundays etc.).  Don’t cause a brother to stumble(8:13).

However in chapter nine the Apostle Paul lays out the famous phrase,  “I have become all things to all people” (9:22). Paul wants to remove barriers to the gospel (9:23). So when with orthodox Jews he doesn’t eat pork, and when with gentile believers he enjoys the bacon they put on his plate.

In our current cultural dialogue we might ask something like, “Does formal attire present a barrier to the gospel?” Well then I’ll wear jeans and a t-shirt. If lack of formal attire presents a barrier then I’ll wear formal attire… The idea is to not let something as silly as clothing style prevent others from having an opportunity to knowing God. My wardrobe can change for the sake of the gospel, but the gospel cannot be changed for the sake of my wardrobe.

To apply this thought we should be asking questions like: What prevents our neighbors from hearing and responding to the gospel? Do they stumble over Christ himself or is it a man made barrier in their way? Are we willing to remove barriers for the sake of the gospel?

FATHER, We pray for families. We lift up those who are planning and preparing for marriage. We lift up those who are single. We pray for those where believers are yoked with unbelievers and in each situation we ask for your peace and guidance. We pray that we would take care to not intentionally cause offense to our brothers. We pray for grace and guidance to remove barriers to the gospel. Thank you for the grace of shepherding your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

Find out about New Testament 90 – Here

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Day 47: 1 Corinthians 1-3 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from 1 Corinthians 1-3 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Is Christ divided (1:13a)? Why are His people so often divided? Sometimes we have following the ways of a man rather than following Christ (1:12)! We have made an idol out of the wisdom of men instead of the power of God (2:5). Paul warns the church in Corinth and he warns us today… don’t be divided (1:10)!

I have to catch myself. Sometimes it can be tempting to think that if we just develop the right strategy, more people will come to faith in Christ. We can chase program after program looking for the right one. I think that if I can just make myself more appealing it will bring a better harvest. The thing we really need the most, is not a polished man made philosophy, but the power of God!

I’m glad that Paul knew he didn’t have anything to offer but the gospel. I am grateful that he was weak by the world’s standards (2:1-5). It gives me hope to know that God uses weak men (1:27). Because I pray that He uses me.

Side Note: I am confident that power in the pulpit is directly related to prayer in the pews.Where we are unified, God is glorified.  I am extremely grateful for those who pray for me every week! I am really humbled by today’s reading. It’s a great way to start a Sunday! Let’s be focused on looking for the power of God to reveal Himself through His Word!

FATHER, We pray for the unity of your church today! We pray that our focus would be on you and not a man made philosophy or the way we think things ought to be. We don’t look for worldly wisdom, we look for you. We need spiritual discernment. Examine our hearts. Humble us. Draw us to faith and repentance. Make us more and more into the image of Jesus. We pray for salvation and faith today. Thank you for the calling to lead your people. We lift our voice and ask for the advancement of your kingdom! IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

Find out about New Testament 90 – Here

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“I’m Not Getting Fed”:Confronting the voice of Consumer Christianity

As an American I live in a consumer culture. Just check out the cereal isle of your local grocery store and take note of how many options there are for corn flakes and that is just corn flakes! We’ve coined phrases like, “The customer is always right,” “the customer is king,” and my favorite slogan from days gone by, “Your way, right away.” We’re used to paying for things and getting what we want. Almost every industry has someone else competing to offer a better or alternative product so we are never without a choice in the matter. You have tons of options when it comes to car insurance, cell phone coverage, or even what kind of pick-up you want to drive.

i'm not getting fed

To be fair, that’s probably healthy for our economy… but when we carry consumerism into other area’s of our life it can be deadly. We’re so used to getting upgrades, new leases, and trading in the old model when something new, better, more convenient that we have let that mindset creep into our relationships. Can you imagine cutting ties with a friend because a better friend came along? Or how about filing for divorce in order to get a newer younger model? (unfortunately those phrases have been used). Consumerism can trick us into thinking we have options in places where we should have commitments.

I see it in the church too. Folks send their children to one church for it’s children’s ministry, their students go to another church for student ministry, and the parents attend a different church’s community group and maybe they all show us on a Sunday morning where they have opinions about the musical style or the preaching. Folks talk about a pastor or church and say something like, “I wasn’t getting fed” and “My needs weren’t being met,” and “they didn’t have anything for me.” (All phrases that remind me of when my children were infants by the way) And that’s the rub, Christianity for these folks is just a product to be consumed. It’s about getting their needs wants met.

While that may work for corn flakes, it doesn’t work in real relationships like marriage. Consumers quit on marriages because they are consumed with their own needs instead of the needs of their partner. They would soon discover that there is actually real joy in focusing on meeting the needs of your partner and marriages can flourish that way, but that takes commitment. It’s the same way with raising children. As a society, we remove children from the homes of parents who can’t see past their own needs to meet the needs of their children. If you’re a parent, you know that there is a real joy that comes in meeting the needs of your child and even providing some of their wants along the way (despite everything their selfishness may put you through).

That is how church is supposed to work. We are to look out for one another (Philippians 2:4) and work together (1 Corinthians 12:12-31) and meet regularly for encouragement (Hebrews 10:25) and in doing so train our children to be those who commit in relationships, not those who consume. The church is the people, not the program, not the building… the people, and that implies a relationship one to another.

If you really want to grow, do more than just absorb the programming. Get involved, be invested, participate in the life of the church by volunteering. If you have children and you think the children’s ministry could up it’s game, don’t send your kids to another church, volunteer for the children’s ministry team! If you don’t/ can’t volunteer… provide snacks, offer to help financially if you are able, find a way to invest. Find the church the Lord leads you too and get plugged in and serve. You will find there is more joy in the commitment than in consuming because church really has more to do with relationships than it does with products and programs. Ultimately it is about a relationship with Jesus Christ.

I get how God might call you to serve another church. He does this sort of thing all the time. He certainly called my family from one church to serve another, but be sure you are following God’s call and not your own consumer impulses. And as much as possible worship together with one congregation.