Corinthians 1

I Corinthians 5-6 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: Out of love, He disciplines His children

The other day I saw a mother duck with four little ducklings preparing to cross the road.  I think the word adorable comes closest to describing the scene.  She gathered them in, and as if giving instructions, she nodded and quacked.  I am almost sure that she pointed to the road, but I’m not sure.  She lined them up behind her, and off they waddled, stopping traffic until they had safely crossed the road. Simply adorable!

It’s the nature of most of God’s creation to protect and defend our young.  While my children did not always consider my actions to be adorable, nonetheless, I did my best to keep them from harm, and I disciplined them when necessary.  I made careful observation of their friends, and when I found those who were not a good influence, they were no longer a part of my children’s lives. That’s the role of a loving overseer whether it brings popularity or not.  Paul found himself in this role as he addressed the Corinthian church – lining up those ducks. 

@ I Corinthians 5
“I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you – something that even pagans don’t do. I am told that a man in your church is living in sin with his stepmother. You are so proud of yourselves, but you should be mourning in sorrow and shame. And you should remove this man from your fellowship.” (1-2)  Help! This isn’t the happy, good news or comfort that I like to share, but then what kind of a mother duck would I be if I didn’t share it? Rhetorical question – no response required.

Paul went on to say that he wasn’t addressing unbelievers, where we make every attempt to lovingly teach and direct towards holy living.  He was referring to believers who knew how they should live, yet disregarded it to satisfy their own desires.  “It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, ‘You must remove the evil person from among you.’” (12)

It’s easy to get a bee in our bonnet, so to speak, about what someone within the church says or does that isn’t to our liking.  Paul is not talking about this. Throughout his writings, he encourages us to be patient, loving and kind to one another (I Corinthians 13).  Nor is he talking about judging the motivation behind what other believers do for these things will be aptly judged by Jesus Himself. (I Corinthians 3:3) Paul is talking about sin in the life of a believer within the church, plain and simple.  Rather than being enablers of sin by ignoring it, our right response when done in a spirit of love just may save the eternal life of one who is living a sinful life. (James 4:19-20)

No one wants to talk about church discipline. It’s not friendly, warm or cuddly. Jesus, however, felt it important and started the discussion in Matthew 18, providing the first steps to keeping the body of Christ protected. (See February 18 @ Matthew 17-19). After the establishment of the church, Paul continued with these instructions in Chapter 5. Not wanting to leave the matter in a hopeless condition for this man who had sinned, Paul followed up in 2 Corinthians 2:5-8, “Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise, he may be overcome by discouragement.  So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him.”  This is always our goal because it is the heart of the Father – repentance, and restoration.

Had the mother duck not loved and cared for her ducklings, she would have allowed them to wander off as they wished; and in the heavy traffic of life, they would have been lost forever.  “For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” (Hebrews 12:6)  So, don’t feel only disciplined by these words today by Paul, but know that we are loved by the Lord as His children. The thought of it is far beyond adorable. 

Moving Forward: My goal is to do nothing that requires His discipline, but I’m so thankful He loves me enough to do so if needed.  Doing my best today to keep those ducks in a row… 

Tomorrow @ Genesis 40-43

I Corinthians 3-4 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He causes the seeds planted in our hearts to grow

There are several components to growing a healthy garden.  Nutrient-rich soil is essential along with plenty of sunshine and rain, but we won’t yield a harvest without the seeds.  It’s really all about the seed and how God guides it along to fruition.

@ I Corinthians 3
“Who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.” (5-7)

It seems the Corinthian church members were arguing and determining the degree of their spirituality by who ministered to them, looking to who planted and watered rather than to the seed – the Good News of Jesus.  It’s human nature, I guess, for us to be attracted to the tangible man or woman and how they present the message rather than the message itself, but it’s not the messenger that gives life to us.  It’s the Jesus of the message, the power of the message that gives life and causes us to grow.  If we depend only on the messenger for our growth, and then the messenger fails, we might shrivel up and die.

In most ministry situations, I prefer to be invisible, behind the scenes assisting wherever I can.  Nothing makes me happier than to be unnoticed, but when I am speaking and ministering to others, my goal is to be invisible to where the listeners see only the Lord, drawn only to Him.  The task of the messenger is daunting.  “But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward.  But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss.” (13-15) Whether we are preaching a sermon, teaching Sunday School, singing or leading a Bible Study, may our work bring honor and glory to Him alone, never to ourselves – may it be considered of great value on judgment day.

Paul was saying to the Corinthians that there is a responsibility for the listener to focus on the message, the seed, rather than the messenger.  And he was saying that there is a responsibility on the part of the messenger to keep motivations pure and to keep the focus on the message.  When we do this, we won’t be like the Corinthians, “I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger.” (2) We want to look past the charisma of the messenger and sink our teeth into something substantial – bring on the meat! 

Moving Forward: Checking my motives today so that they will withstand the fire, and focusing on the message and the growth it will bring to my life. 

Tomorrow @ Genesis 36-39

I Corinthians 1-2 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He longs to share His wisdom and deep secrets with us

My husband recently purchased a Kindle for me, a nifty little electronic book that is less than one-fourth of an inch thick yet holds an entire library of reading.  I must admit that I love the feel and weight of tangible books, flipping through those pages and smelling the ink; but at the time of purchase, the Kindle was ideal for my travel.  It was a used Kindle, so after reading through the manual, I deleted most of the previous library, not really interested in Sci-Fi and horror.

My mind was having trouble getting around the concept of adding books to this little device because surely the process would be complicated and filled with technical lingo.  To my amazement, in two or three clicks, using very familiar terms to me like purchase and select, my new book was there on my Kindle in black and white.  I did my best to make the process more complicated than it really was because sometimes it’s difficult to accept that something of worth could be so simple to attain.  Paul wrote about this very thing in our reading today. 

@ I Corinthians 1
“Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.” (21-23)

The Gospel is uncomplicated:  John 3:16 – God loved, God gave.  We believe, we receive.  For the intellectuals who were the Greek philosophers of Paul’s day, this message was foolish and too simple to be true.  For those with a religious background, the Jews, this message was foolish and too simple to be of value.  Doesn’t this sound familiar?  So many neighbors and acquaintances through the years have looked down their long intellectual noses as I’ve shared the simple Gospel with them, and many religious people, those who have been christened or confirmed or catechismed, have no need for the truth I am sharing.  Yet, if they will accept this simple Gospel, a door to wisdom will open for them that is so deep that only the Spirit can reveal its truths. 

@ I Corinthians 2
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him. But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit.  For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets.” (9-10) The Gospel of salvation may be simple, but God’s deep secrets will never be understood without it.

With salvation come the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, and the ability to understand God’s Word and the secrets it contains.  “And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.” (12)

We will never understand all the mysteries and depths of God’s wisdom while here on earth, but those recorded in the Bible, at the very least, are available to us through His Spirit – His love for us, His intentions, and His direction. Isn’t that what the early Greeks and Jews were seeking in all their philosophical debates and teachings?  Isn’t that what people everywhere today are seeking?  Love, purpose and direction?  And it all begins with acceptance of the simple Gospel – God loved, God gave. We believe, we receive.   Simple but priceless. 

Moving Forward: I will continue to seek out through the Spirit the revelation of His wisdom, the mind of Christ.  And I will continue sharing the simple Gospel, undaunted by the intellectuals and religious, and finding those hearts that desire to learn God’s deep secrets. 

Tomorrow @ Genesis 32-35

I Corinthians 15-16 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He promises a resurrected body for all who believe in Him

Over the past few years, the resurgence of vampires, zombies, occult books and movies has captivated the world, each giving a false depiction of the resurrected body. The devil has a counterfeit for everything. While many of these books, movies and television programs are entertaining and spine-tingling for some, their message dilutes and brings confusion about God’s wonderful promise of the resurrected body and eternity. As believers, we should not be ignorant of their agenda. Evidently the New Testament Greek Church was dealing with its own brand of confusion over resurrection, and Paul had plenty to say about it.

@ I Corinthians 15
“But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless.” (12-14) Greek culture believed that only the soul lived forever which would dismiss the fact the Jesus walked this earth and His body was recognized after His resurrection. (Luke 24:22-49)

In Chapter 15, Paul confirmed the resurrection of Christ, the only valid reason for the gospel, and the resurrection of all who follow in Christ. Without it, reason might dictate a party on mentality because tomorrow we will die and that’s it. Paul said, “Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for ‘bad company corrupts good character.’” (33) What we believe about eternity definitely affects how we live today.

“How will the dead be raised? What kind of bodies will they have?” (35) Brilliant Paul remarked that these were foolish questions, but I, not so brilliant, appreciate them and his explanation in verses 36-44. We understand the process of planting a seed, its death in the soil and then the transformation into a beautiful plant. What a great explanation of what happens to our bodies from death in the soil to the beautiful transformed body at the resurrection, one that can last for eternity.

“But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed.”(51-52) I love to imagine the experience of His coming for those who are still living: Trumpet sound> transformation> out-of-this-world flight – all in a blink! What a trip! Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

It only stands to reason that the enemy of our soul would want to bring confusion and water down this wonderful promise of resurrection. As a believer, I’ve chosen to avoid the popular books and movies of our day, from Harry Potter to the Twilight series – they just don’t sit right with me. “For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14, NIV). “I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar,” (Psalm 101:3) I remain ever mindful of the company I keep.

Moving forward: Thrilled with the prospect of a resurrected body, I continue this day with eternity on my mind, encouraging others to join me on that glorious day.

Tomorrow @ Exodus 9-12

I Corinthians 13-14 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He longs for us to love others in the pure way He loves us

Love! Now that’s a heady subject for a 600-word blog. Great literature and screenplays have been written since recorded time about this basic emotion that we all experience. Today we have diluted the meaning of the word so much that I wonder what it really means to most of us in light of a relationship. We love chocolate and music, movies and sports, but what does it mean when we love someone? Hopefully it is more than feeling lightheaded and warm fuzzies.

When we ask a young couple today if they are in love, I wonder what that question means to them? Is their love a commitment to each other more lasting than the music or food they both love at the moment? With the blur between love and lust in our movies and on television, do they understand that love is a noun with significance, not just a feeling? Evidently the subject of love had its share of misunderstandings even back in Paul’s day, and he wrote a brilliant chapter about it with only 320 words. Imagine.

@ I Corinthians 13
It’s interesting that Paul’s writing about love falls between chapters on spiritual gifts in the church and the use of the prophetic gifts. I’m fairly certain it was intentional. All of our giftings, knowledge, faith and generosity are without merit and often turn sour if they do not flow out of a heart of love. (1-4)

Most of us can describe how love makes us feel, but in Chapter 13, Paul did us the favor of giving the character of love, what love is, not how it feels. In reading his list, how does our love for others reflect true love’s character?

• Love is patient
• Love is kind
• Love is not jealous
• Love is not boastful
• Love is not proud
• Love is not rude
• Love does not demand its own way
• Love is not irritable
• Love keeps no record of being wronged
• Love does not rejoice was injustice
• Love does rejoice whenever truth wins out
• Love never gives up
• Love never loses faith
• Love is always hopeful
• Love endures through every circumstance

Well, on my report card, I’ve written a big “N” for Needs Improvement in how I love others. I wonder what would happen to the divorce rate in our country if the love we brought into our marriages was true love’s character rather than the movie screen version. The next time a dreamy-eyed young couple tells me of their great love for each other, I may just whip out this list to make sure they know what they’re talking about when they say the word love. It couldn’t hurt…she writes in 465 words.

Moving Forward: I’m challenged today to love others with the unselfish character of I Corinthians 13, enduring through every circumstance.

Tomorrow @ Exodus 5-8

I Corinthians 11-12 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He asks that we remember His death

Every culture in the world has its holidays and remembrances, occasions that are celebrated and honored with gatherings, food and gifts. Beyond the ten major holidays we celebrate in the United States, it seems we are always celebrating someone’s birthday or anniversary where we set aside time to honor an individual or couple, remembering their special day.

When my family celebrates the birthdays of our children, I love to refresh everyone’s memory of the events that took place on the day of their birth. I especially enjoy sharing all the details of our son’s birth, embarrassing little details for him. I’m not certain why I do this, but the word payback comes to mind – it was a difficult delivery. Regardless, our moments together as we remember and celebrate are filled with much laughter, joy and often sweet tears. Another day we frequently remember and give honor to is a day that entirely changed our lives.

@ I Corinthians 11
“For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.’ In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this to remember me as often as you drink it.’”(23-25)

These are familiar words to those who observe the Lord’s Supper, or Communion as we most often refer to it, and observe we should! We may struggle with knowing what God desires for us to do at certain times in our lives, but there is one thing we know for certain that He wants us to do and that is remember, honor and give pause to what He did for us on the cross. “Do this,” He said, and even if we don’t know one other deed He desires from us, we know to do this. Sometimes He observes our faithfulness in the things we know to do before we reveals the unknown.

As a child, I don’t remember a single Communion Service where I didn’t look over to see my mom’s face moistened by tears of gratitude and love as she remembered what Jesus did for her, transforming her from death unto life. My response is much the same, humbled by His willingness to suffer the cross for me. “With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—He entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.” (Hebrews 9:12) And when I remember this, I am forever humbled to tears by His grace.

“For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.” (26) Our participation in Communion is even more than remembrance – it is our confession, each and every time, of our participation in the new covenant, the new testament or testimony of what Christ has done for us. In a Communion Service we are testifying to everyone present of our commitment to Him as we eat the symbols that represent His body and blood.

How appropriate that this sacred celebration would be shared with others “until He comes again.” One day we will gather at another Supper with the very One we are remembering, “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready…Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” (Revelations 19:7,9) Oh, what a celebration!

Moving Forward: Today I look forward to my next opportunity to do this, to remember His death, His body and His blood, and what they mean to me through Communion. Whether gathered with believers or at home with my family, I will remember…

Tomorrow @ Exodus 1-4

I Corinthians 9-10 (NLT)

Discover His heart: His Word about the past provides protection for our present and our future

When we acquire a new book to read, most of us do not spend a lot of time reading the front matter, as it’s called. These are pages that may include the endorsement page, title half page, the title full page with publisher information, the copyright page, the dedication page, the acknowledgment page, the contents page, the foreword page and the introduction page. Whew! No, we want to get right into the good stuff, the heart of the book, Chapter One.

From the viewpoint of an author, I believe those front pages are important and should be read. In many cases, it’s the only opportunity for authors to express their purpose for writing, their gratitude to others and their credentials. As a reader, I appreciate knowing these things. They add validity to what I’m reading and an understanding of what the author intends for me to glean from the book. The pages that follow are their heart and soul, and I don’t want to miss a beat. I think this is somewhat how Paul felt about Israel’s recorded history. The Corinthian Church was living in the here and now, but he desired for them to reread the front pages of their history because they were written down for a purpose by the Author.

@ I Corinthians 10
“These things happened to [the Israelites] as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.” (11) The Corinthian Church was struggling in many areas of conduct and dedication to the Lord, and Paul’s purpose for writing this letter was to address these issues. Paul gave a brief summary of Israel’s past blessings from the Lord, but to keep history from repeating itself, he also gave a brief summary of Israel’s past mistakes.

“I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud… all of them walked through the sea… all of them were baptized as followers of Moses… All of them ate the same spiritual food… and all of them drank the same spiritual water.” (1-4) Obviously, God is an equal-opportunity provider! But here was the glitch, “Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.” (5) Help. Provision is not necessarily an endorsement of our behavior.

In response to all this supernatural provision from the Lord, most of the Israelites decided to “crave evil things…worship idols…engage in sexual immorality…put Christ to the test…grumble.” (6-10) And God responded to their sin by sending a plague where 23,000 died in one day, allowing some to die from snakebites and others to be destroyed by the angel of death. “These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did.” (6)

We love the New Testament message of grace, mercy and blessings, but those front pages, the Old Testament, are important for us to understand so that history does not repeat itself in our lives. Just as with every author, when the Author wrote the Bible, every word was intentional and carried with it His heart on the matter.

Wise one that he was, Paul added this caution because he understood the hearts of those he ministered to, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.” (12) In other words, if we think we would never do such a thing – we would never crave evil, worship idols, commit sexual sin, tempt God or live a grumbling lifestyle – watch out because that attitude sets up a fall through temptation.

To this heavy message, Paul added a word of comfort for his readers, “And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.” (13) New Testament grace through the Holy Spirit for an Old and New Testament challenge! I once read, When you flee from temptation, be sure you do not leave a forwarding address behind. That should cover it.

Moving Forward: Learning from the past, applying to the present, protecting for the future. Join me tomorrow for a little Old Testament…

Tomorrow @ Genesis 48-50

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