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 incredible 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 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 full title 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 relevant 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 account 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 vital 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, protection for the future. Join me tomorrow for a little Old Testament…

Tomorrow @ Genesis 48-50

I Corinthians 7-8 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He gave us the gift of marriage, help included.

Every time I read 1 Corinthians 7, I think of the story of Tony and Marguerite.  Married with five children, Marguerite came to know the Lord in a personal way; but at the time, Tony did not appreciate nor accept this new expression of Marguerite’s faith.  As the years went on, Marguerite remained faithful to the Lord, and she stayed faithful to Tony with two more children added to their full house.  Oh, how she longed for her husband to take on the role as the spiritual head of their home.

There were many days when Tony did not make her feel very special in their relationship; and where others may have packed up the kids and left, Marguerite hung in there and prayed for Tony every day for 30 years.  Then, one day when he was facing surgery, Marguerite had the privilege of leading him to a personal relationship with the Lord, and 30 years became just a small blip on the radar screen of life.  My dear parents remained married until Dad died some years later, and what a joy for me to see him read his Bible, pray for me every day, and usher me to my seat in church when I was able to visit.  Thanks, mom, for hanging in there – great is your reward in heaven! 

@ I Corinthians 7
“And if a Christian woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to continue living with her, she must not leave him. For the Christian wife brings holiness to her marriage, and the Christian husband brings holiness to his marriage…Don’t you wives realize that your husbands might be saved because of you? And don’t you husbands realize that your wives might be saved because of you?” (13-14,16)  See what I mean?  Tony and Marguerite!

In I Corinthians 7, Paul was answering questions that were asked by the church in Corinth regarding marriage.  Because of the challenges of marriage, the impending persecution, and his calling, Paul suggested remaining single over marriage, but understanding the normal drives that face men and women alike, Paul gave some guidance on married life.  It’s a strain to think of Paul as a marriage counselor, single at the time and an apostle to boot, but his advice was right on target for his day and for our day as well.

Paul’s counsel for marriage is this:

  • It is a gift from God to satisfy our natural desires in a blessed union. (3-5)
  • It is a mission to secure the salvation of our loved ones. (16)
  • It is a forever commitment, “Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you…remain as you were when God first called you.”
  • And it is a challenge, “But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided…a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband.” (33-34)

No doubt about it, marriage has always been a challenge, but even more so today.  I’m saddened by the number of individuals who leave their marriages because of the way they feel, throwing away the gift, the mission and the commitment, unwilling to take on the challenge.  Marguerite rose to the challenge, denying how she sometimes felt. Because of it, her husband is with her in heaven today.  During the rough times, she would just go out into the marketplace and win a soul or two for Jesus, and that joy kept her satisfied and fulfilled through the years.  It was a win/win situation for everyone who knew her, including me! 

Moving Forward: Praying for our marriages today, that we will cherish the gift, accept our mission, stay true to our commitment and rise to the challenge. 

Tomorrow @ Genesis 44-47

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

Romans 5-6 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He made peace with us through His Son

When two nations are at odds with each other, the conflict will continue until some sort of an agreement can be reached to end it.  The two parties involved will send mediators to a peace summit where a peace agreement is signed and usually a celebration follows, everyone feeling the love and warm fuzzies.  However, most of us have observed through the years, especially in the Middle East, that this euphoric feeling of peace and safety is often short-lived because it was based on an agreement to be at peace and not a standing or position of peace. Signing an agreement is a good initiative and may make those involved feel good at the moment, but real peace is much more than a feeling.

@ Romans 5
“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.”(1)  Paul is not talking here about the peace of God, which I might add is one of the great blessings we receive in our walk with God, but he is talking about our peace with God because of what Jesus has done for us.

This is not a peace that comes and goes according to our feelings at the moment.  This peace is a standing or position of peace with God, and it comes with benefits as well, “Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” (2)

I appreciate that someone, and Paul of all people, placed some blame for the fall of mankind on Adam.  Eve has shouldered most of the blame for man’s separation from God, but Adam could have resisted that beguiling woman of his had he wanted to do so.  “Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.” (18)

Because of Christ’s one act of righteousness, we are no longer in conflict and hostile with God.  We are at peace with God.  We are not only in agreement with Him, but in good standing with Him.  We are standing in a place of undeserved privilege where God shares His glory with us.

Our position of peace with God allows us to receive the peace of God and that is why Paul says, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (3-5)

Sometimes reading the complexity of Romans makes my brain hurt, but I get this one.  God sent His Son, our mediator, to make possible our peace with Him before we ever even came to the peace talk, while we were still His enemy, because of His great love for us. “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners… So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.” (8,10)  Friends of God!  Not only are we enjoying peace with God and the peace of God, plus all the privileges, but we are friends! 

Moving Forward: I can’t help singing today, “I am a friend of God.  I am a friend of God.  I am a friend of God – He calls me friend.” (I. Houghton)  So thankful for Jesus.

Tomorrow @ Genesis 8-11