Saturday, March 31, 2012

Learning from History (1 Cor. 10:1-5)

For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.
(1 Corinthians 10:1-5, NASB)

What’s that old saying? Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it (something like that). It’s true for us Christians as well.

We are so tremendously blessed. Tremendously blessed. We have been blessed with provision and protection. Our needs are met. We are blessed with friends and family. Most of all, we are blessed by God’s grace, both at the moment of our salvation and then throughout our lives.

God’s chosen people were equally blessed. They were supernaturally released from slavery in Egypt. They were miraculously brought through the Red Sea. They were given food and water in the middle of the desert. They were promised a land flowing with milk and honey.

They were tremendously blessed.

And yet, they doubted. They whined. They complained. They built false idols. They promised to serve God, and yet they turned away time and time again. And because of their sin and lack of faith, an entire generation didn’t enter that promised land.

Have we learned from their mistakes?

Or do we forget how God has blessed us and try to do things our own way? Do we build our own idols? Do we look to the world for gratification?

We can learn from history. We can do things differently than those who came before us.

Or we can be doomed to repeat their mistakes.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Win the Race (1 Cor. 9:24-27)

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
(1 Corinthians 9:24-27, NASB)

We are running a race towards an amazing, mind-boggling finish line. And despite what Paul writes, each of us can win the prize. Each of us who follows Christ will one day receive what Peter calls a “crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:4). We don’t know what these crowns will be like, but it appears our crowns are being—for lack of a better word—designed based on how we serve God and others while we’re here on earth (see Matthew 6:1-7; Luke 6:23; Luke 6:35; Hebrews 2:2; 2 John 1:8).

Our reward will be imperishable, eternal.

As I was meditating over these verses, something struck me … We’re not racing against anyone else. We’re not competing against anyone else. We don’t have to be concerned about where anyone else is as he runs his own race.

We can, instead, celebrate how everyone is running. And we can focus on making certain we’re running our own races with discipline and self-control. We can seek God’s will and follow His unique plan.

And we can know that, if we run well, if we serve God—heart, soul, mind, and strength—we’ll win the race … and receive the crown of glory.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Being All Things to All Men (1 Cor. 9:19-23)

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.
(1 Corinthians 9:19-23, NASB)

How often do we really try to “walk in the shoes” of another? Instead of looking for what’s different, how often do we look for similarities?

Too often, we point fingers and judge rather than just love and being Christ.

Paul knew that caring for others and being “all things to all men” was important to attract unbelievers to Christ:
Though he would transgress no laws of Christ, to please any man, yet he would accommodate himself to all men, where he might do it lawfully, to gain some. Doing good was the study and business of his life; and, that he might reach this end, he did not stand on privileges. We must carefully watch against extremes, and against relying on anything but trust in Christ alone. We must not allow errors or faults, so as to hurt others, or disgrace the gospel. (Matthew Henry Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible)
We need to go where unbelievers are and love them. And if you think about it, isn’t that exactly what Jesus Himself did? Didn’t He eat with prostitutes and touch lepers’ wounds?

Just as He did, just as Paul did, we can love others so they can find the truth of the gospel.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Changing Lives for God (1 Cor. 9:15-18)

But I have used none of these things. And I am not writing these things so that it will be done so in my case; for it would be better for me to die than have any man make my boast an empty one. For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.
(1 Corinthians 9:15-18, NASB)

Yesterday, we looked at how we who are not called to full time ministry can support those who are. However, in today’s verses, Paul reminds those who are in full time ministry to not expect a monetary reward. Their reward is knowing that God is using them to reach the unsaved or equip the saints.

They should preach or teach or share the gospel because they just can’t do anything else. It’s a compulsion, or as Webster’s Dictionary says, “an irresistible persistent impulse to perform an act.” Serving God is life and breath to them.

However, full time ministers and missionaries do need to eat and drink, and they need roofs over their heads. So while they should have no expectations of monetary rewards, we are expected to support them financially.

It’s a wonderful symbiosis: They can do what God calls them to do, and we can support their calling.

And the most important result: Lives are changed for God.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Supporting God's Servants (1 Cor. 9:8-14)

I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things? For it is written in the Law of Moses, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He? Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops. If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar? So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.
(1 Corinthians 9:8-14, NASB)

Some followers of Christ are called to full time ministry: pastors, teachers, evangelists, missionaries. They devote their lives to serving God, to reaching the unsaved, to supporting the “least of these,” and to equip the saints.

Those whom God has called to serve Him full time have needs, those same needs we looked at yesterday.

And they need to have those needs met as well.

We who are not called to full time ministry have a wonderful privilege of supporting those who are. We can contribute to godly ministries. We can tithe to our local churches. We can financially support missionaries.

And when we give a portion of what God’s given us to meet our needs, we help to meet the needs of God’s full time servants as well.

It truly is a privilege because we have a small part in growing God’s kingdom when we support those who have committed their lives to serve Him and others. When we help to provide for their needs, we allow them to focus on their calling.

What a blessing!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Meeting Our Needs (1 Cor. 9:3-7)

My defense to those who examine me is this: Do we not have a right to eat and drink? Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or do only Barnabas and I not have a right to refrain from working? Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock?
(1 Corinthians 9:3-7, NASB)

As followers of Christ, we have the “right” to take care of ourselves and our families. We have the “right” to work and to enjoy the fruit of our labor.

We have a few precious “needs” in life. We need water. We need food. We need shelter.

And most of us meet those needs by working. Some people work the land, and they have the right to eat some of what they grow. Some raise animals, and they have the right to enjoy milk or meat. Others work at various jobs to earn a paycheck.

In any case, our ability to work comes from God—our skills, our talents, our energy.

The other need? We really are created for relationships, and for some of us, that means marriage. We’ve already talked a lot about marriage over the last several days, but we have that right, if God has led us there. But even married or not, we need friends. We need people to whom we can to when things are difficult—and with whom we can celebrate during times of joy.

God provides the means for meeting our needs. We merely need to do what He’s called us to do.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

True Freedom (1 Cor. 9:1-2)

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
(1 Corinthians 9:1-2, NASB)

Freedom. It’s a fundamental desire of all humanity. We weren’t created for slavery of any kind. When we feel confined, we strive to shake off whatever binds us.

Yet even if we’re free of any earthly constraints, so many are bound by sin. We are, in fact, slaves of sin. Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34, NKJV).

Addictions. Sexual sin. Greed. Anger.

Freedom, true freedom, comes from faith in Christ. Paul wrote to the Roman Christians: “… thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (6:17-18).

When we’re in Christ, we are free from the repercussions of sin. We’re free to live according to God’s will. We’re free to serve our God who loves more than we can truly comprehend.

And we who are in Christ must not continue to live in habitual sin because He saved us from that sin: “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

Indeed, our being freed from sin should cause us to joyfully and gratefully serve God and others. “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Don't Be a Stumbling Block (1 Cor. 8:7-13)

However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.
(1 Corinthians 8:7-13, NASB)

Yesterday, we addressed the issue of man-made gods and idols. Today’s verses, at first, don’t seem to fit. What does food have to do with being a Christ-follower?

I, as I often do, visit one of my favorite commentaries:
Eating one kind of food, and abstaining from another, have nothing in them to recommend a person to God. But the apostle cautions against putting a stumbling-block in the way of the weak; lest they be made bold to eat what was offered to the idol, not as common food, but as a sacrifice, and thereby be guilty of idolatry. He who has the Spirit of Christ in him, will love those whom Christ loved so as to die for them. Injuries done to Christians, are done to Christ; but most of all, the entangling them in guilt: wounding their consciences, is wounding him. We should be very tender of doing anything that may occasion stumbling to others, though it may be innocent in itself. And if we must not endanger other men's souls, how much should we take care not to destroy our own! Let Christians beware of approaching the brink of evil, or the appearance of it, though many do this in public matters, for which perhaps they plead plausibly. Men cannot thus sin against their brethren, without offending Christ, and endangering their own souls
(Matthew Henry Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible).
We must do nothing that might cause a brother or sister in Christ to stumble or fall away from faith.

We must be aware of how we act and the choices we make. We must be careful of what we say. Others are watching us, and if we do anything that might cause another Christian to stumble, we sin against Christ.

And as Paul writes elsewhere, may that never be!

Friday, March 23, 2012

There Is No God But One (1 Cor. 8:4-6)

Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.
(1 Corinthians 8:4-6, NASB)

“… there is no God but one.”

Some belief systems believe in many gods. This concept dates back to shortly after Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden.

Man seeks something higher than himself. There’s something in us that desires a power above us … something that we can believe in, something we can trust. Sometimes that desire manifests itself in worshiping the created rather than the Creator. Some people worship the sun or trees or oceans.

Or they create their own god—or gods. The Romans had Zeus and Jupiter (among many others). The Greeks had Jupiter and Neptune (… among many others). But their gods—and the gods of many other beliefs—were impersonal, distant.

Our God—the one true God of the Bible—is personal and loving and compassionate. He is full of mercy and grace. As we saw yesterday, He knows us, and He wants to be known by us.

Our Abba invites us to crawl on His lap and seek shelter in His arms. Our Lord Jesus came to earth and took on human flesh in order to provide for us a way of salvation and reconciliation with God. Our Holy Spirit indwells us and helps us to face the daily battle we face.

And Paul says it better than I ever could:
… yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.
Amen and amen.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Knowledge versus Love (1 Cor. 8:1-3)

Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.
(1 Corinthians 8:1-3, NASB)

“Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.”

So often unbelievers say they can’t accept the Christian faith until they know more. They want all their questions answered before they commit. They want to have all the mysteries explained.

My answer to them is two-fold: First, the Holy Spirit illuminates God’s word for believers and helps us better understand what God is trying to say to us (see 1 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 4:3); second, even for believers, there is so much of the Bible that remains a mystery. And that’s as it should be. I don’t want to serve a God whom I can fully know. Because if I know as He knows, then that would make me like Him.

And I am not God.

I read and study and meditate on God’s word every day because I want to know Him more. Not because I want to be Him, but because I love Him. Just as I want to spend time with my husband because I love him.

I love God, and I am known by Him. And in His infinite grace and mercy and love for me, He wants me to know Him as well.

And so I do have knowledge of Him. I do know how holy and just and righteous He is. I do know He can’t coexist with sin. I do know He offers grace and mercy to those who seek Him. I do know He put a plan of redemption in place—for me. I do know that Jesus Christ will return one day to gather His followers to heaven. I do know that we will spend eternity in a new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1).

Because He loves us.

I don’t need to know every nuance of God. I don’t have to understand every single word of every single verse of His word.

The Holy Spirit will reveal to me what I need to know. Because God—Father, Son, and Spirit—loves me that much.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Last Word for Married Couples( 1 Cor. 7:39-40)

A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. But in my opinion she is happier if she remains as she is; and I think that I also have the Spirit of God.
(1 Corinthians 7:39-40, NASB)

Today’s verses complete Paul’s quite lengthy exhortation to married couples and singles. And he ends by one last “stay as you are” message.

He directs these verses to wives, but I believe the same applies to husbands. As long as we are married, we are to stay married; however, if one spouse predeceases the other, the living spouse is free to remarry. And in most marriages? One spouse usually does predecease the other.

My husband always says I’m going to outlive him. He bases that on the fact that he’s six and one-half years older than I am and that women usually live longer than men. He also bases it on the fact that all of my grandparents lived well into their eighties, and my paternal grandmother lived to be almost 95. In contrast, his grandparents lived only into their seventies.

Only God knows if I’ll outlive Russ—or if he’ll outlive me. One thing I do know is that I’ll probably “remain as [I am]” should I one day be a widow. I love being married, and I love my husband. But I see my single friends as they maneuver the perils of dating. It doesn’t look like too much fun to me.

I agree with Paul that I probably would be happier just living for Jesus, being available to do all God calls me to do.

Yet since I hope Russ and I both live to ripe old ages, side by side, I’ll never have to think about being single. That’s my hope.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Serve Devotedly (1 Cor. 7:32-35)

But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.
(1 Corinthians 7:32-35, NASB)

Paul’s concern is that married people cannot “secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.” And in many ways, he’s right. I need to make certain I’m devoting time to my husband and to our marriage to make certain that most important relationship stays strong and healthy. And yes, if I weren’t married, I could devote that time to God.

And for those of you who have children, your time is divided even more. So yes, the unmarried might indeed have more time and energy to serving God.

But that’s not to say we who are married—and even we who have children—cannot serve God whole-heartedly. In fact, serving and caring for our families is, in many ways, serving God. Those of you who are raising children are called to a purpose of eternal ramifications: You are raising your children to know and love God. I’m sure even Paul would agree how greatly important that calling is.

Just because we may not have the same amount of time to spend in Bible study and prayer doesn’t mean that we’re not able to serve God well. In fact, if we’re called to marriage, to remain single would be a sin.

So, going back to previous verses, do as God has called you and remain as you are. If God has called you to marriage—and perhaps parenthood—then embrace it, stay faithful to your spouse, and serve God with all your heart. And if God has called you to singleness, then embrace that. And take all the extra time and energy with which He’s blessed you—and serve God with all your heart.

Monday, March 19, 2012

This World Is Passing Away (1 Cor. 7:29-31)

But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away.
(1 Corinthians 7:29-31, NASB)

Paul encompasses these verses with two similar thoughts: “… the time has been shortened …” and “… for the form of this world is passing away.” According to Matthew Henry Complete Commentary of the Entire Bible:
It will soon be gone. It is just ready to be wrapped up in eternity. Therefore do not set your hearts on worldly enjoyments. Do not be overwhelmed with worldly cares and troubles. Possess what you must shortly leave without suffering yourselves to be possessed by it. Why should your hearts be much set on what you must quickly resign?
This world is winding down. As it grows more corrupt and its citizens become more antagonistic toward matters of faith, I can’t help but think that Christ’s return is imminent.

And so, we who know truth should hold onto things very, very lightly.

I often use an illustration when I speak. I hold both hands in front of me close-fisted. I then say that we should just give up everything to our faithful, loving, merciful God, and I open my fist, palms facing upward. And then I smile and say, “But how often do we say, 'You can have everything except for …'” and I close one fist and pull it back.

We truly need to give up everything—everything—to God, for three reasons: Everything is His anyway (see Psalm 89:11); if we leave this earth through death, we’ll leave everything behind anyway; and, if we’re still here when Christ returns, this world and all that’s in it will pass away.

So indeed, hold onto this life, this world, these possessions lightly. For this world really is passing away.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Remain as You Are (1 Cor. 7:25-28)

Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy. I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you.
(1 Corinthians 7:25-28, NASB)

Paul’s exhortations to those single and to those married continue. Again, his feelings are very clear: If you’re married, stay married. If you’re single, stay single. Neither is sinful.

But more than any other passages, Paul states unequivocally that he really feels being single is the better way: “Yet such [married people] will have trouble in this life.”And he’s not far wrong. It takes a lot of work to enjoy a successful, thriving marriage. In many ways, being single is far easier.

Frankly, there are pros and cons for both states. Married couples have constant companionship. They have someone to share the joy and the sorrows of life. On the other hand, singles have the freedom to go where they want when they want. They don’t have to get anyone’s “permission” to move to another country if they want to.

Pray for God’s will for your life. If you feel called to marriage, embrace it and be committed to it. And if God’s calling you to remain single? Enjoy the freedom to serve Him in a way your married friends just can’t.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

True Freedom (1 Cor. 7:21-24)

Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that. For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called.
(1 Corinthians 7:21-24, NASB)

When we come to know Jesus Christ, we experience true freedom. Freedom from sin. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from the world’s enticements. True freedom.

But sometimes, we don't live as though we're free in Christ.

Our Lord paid the ultimate price for our salvation. And yet, we are still enslaved by some kind of sin. It’s just like Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome: “I don't understand why I act the way I do. I don't do what I know is right. I do the things I hate” (7:15, CEV). We’re still at war with the flesh even though we know how Christ provided for our freedom from sin.

Yet, even when we sin, we can be assured: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ” (Romans 8:1, NASB). When we confess our sins and strive diligently to live like Christ, He will forgive us. Yes, it's a constant battle this side of heaven, but we can win each battle. If we keep our focus on our Lord.

I want so much to show my gratitude for all Jesus has done for me. I want to live for Him, not for myself. I want to be a slave to Him, not a slave to the world. And so each day, I have to commit my life to Him. I have to give up my fleshly desires for Him. I have to—no, I want to—honor Him and give Him glory.

Because I know the freedom I have as a daughter of the Most High God. A freedom that will one day give me the privilege of standing before His throne and hear—oh, how I pray this will be true—“Well done, my dear daughter.” I will hear Him say, “…enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21, NASB).

Ahh. That’s true freedom.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Walk as You've Been Called (1 Cor. 7:17-20)

Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And so I direct in all the churches. Was any man called when he was already circumcised? He is not to become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? He is not to be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God. Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called.
(1 Corinthians 7:17-20, NASB)

God calls each of us uniquely. What He’s called me to do is different than what He’s called you to do. And vice versa. Each of us needs to walk in the manner to which God has called us.

It doesn’t matter if one is a Jew or a Gentile, if he has committed his life to Christ, he is to do as God called him. In the early church, a huge controversy existed about Gentiles and circumcision. Jewish Christians insisted that Gentile converts be circumcised according to the law. But Paul said that circumcision was part of the old covenant, and with Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection, He fulfilled the law and established a new covenant. Therefore, a Gentile Christian was to “remain in that condition in which he was called.”

We don’t really have to be concerned about this issue today; however, we do need to take to heart Paul’s words: “… what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.”

No matter where you were, no matter where you come from, once you know God, once you’ve committed your life to His calling, then you need to focus on Him. Focus on His commandments. Make Him the number one priority in your life. Study His word, applying its truths.

Indeed, let me repeat: Walk in the manner to which God has called you.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Commandment and Encouragement for the "Unequally Yoked" (1 Cor. 7:12-16)

But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?
(1 Corinthians 7:12-16, NASB)

Today’s verses are very personal to me. They’ve provided both conviction and encouragement for me for years. And I frequently meditate on them when I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by one of the more painful realities of my life: being married to someone who doesn’t share my faith.

I am blessed with my husband. He is loving, supportive, loyal, faithful, trustworthy—a true gem! The only thing about him that is heavy on my heart is his lack of faith.

But even if he wasn’t the amazing guy that he is, I’d still be committed to him. Because I’m commanded to do so. The Bible doesn’t give me any “out.” I am commanded to stay with Russ because he “consents to live with [me].”

Those of us who are married to spouses who don’t share our faith are commanded to stay with them, but Paul also gives great encouragement in the final verses. I especially like the New Living Translation’s version of verse 16: “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?”

I often tell women who are married to unbelieving husbands that God has entrusted to us a great honor. He’s allowed us to play a part in our husbands’ faith journeys. And for me at least, being “unequally yoked” has helped to grow my faith. I’ve investigated other belief systems and my own so I can be completely certain of why I believe what I believe. I’ve drawn closer to God through daily Bible study and prayer. I’ve fully committed my life to God’s will.

If you’re married to someone who doesn’t share your faith, be committed to him or her. Be a Christ-like example. Pray consistently and persistently for his or her salvation.

And live in hope that, indeed, he or she finds Christ because of you.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Marriage Covenant (1 Cor. 7:8-11)

But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.
(1 Corinthians 7:8-11, NASB)

Today’s verses begin by reiterating Paul’s exhortations we looked at yesterday. Single people should stay single and serve God, but if their sexual drive is strong, they should get married.

Then he goes on to instruct married people. And he reminds his readers that these instructions come from the Lord, not from him. Please know that I'm not condemning those who have experienced the tragedy of divorce; if this is you, and you've sought God's forgiveness, then my heart breaks for you. But I truly believe with all my heart that God's heart is for healthy, strong Christian marriages. And so I write:

Married couples should stay married. Bottom line.

Paul writes that wives should not leave their husbands and that husbands should not divorce their wives. But the reverse is also true.

Marriage—Christian marriage—is a covenant relationship, with God at the center. And it is meant to be for life. Hebrews 13:4 states, “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” Nothing—nothing—should break this covenant.

And yet, Christian marriages break up all the time. The Bible gives two “reasons” for divorce (and I believe implies a third). The first is infidelity (see Matthew 19:9), and the second will be addressed tomorrow. The implied third is in cases of abuse, and I believe this because the Bible is clear that wives are to be subject to their husbands, and husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves us (see Ephesians 5:22-28; Colossians 3:18-19). Abuse is not love.

The fact that Christian marriages end because of “irreconcilable differences” is one of the biggest tragedies of our age. “I just don’t love him anymore,” she says. “We’ve grown apart,” he insists.

I’m sorry (well, no I’m not sorry), but committed couples understand that love and passion ebb and flow, and they work through those times when things may not be all “roses and sunshine.”

And guess what? Couples cannot “grow” apart. Growth implies maturity and health. Instead, couples fall apart. And sadly, it’s often because they just don’t try. They aren’t willing to work during the hard times.

It’s tragic. Truly tragic.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sex in Marriage (1 Cor. 7:1-7)

But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. But this I say by way of concession, not of command. Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.
(1 Corinthians 7:1-7, NASB)

In these verses, Paul is clearly gives two messages. One is for married folks, and the other is for singles.

Marriage is a partnership, and each partner is to “fulfill his (or her) duty” to his (or her) spouse. And frankly, he’s talking about sex here. Each has “authority” over the other’s body, and to use sex as a weapon is wrong. In healthy marriages, each partner should be satisfied with the couple’s sex life. The couple should be in agreement about when, where, and how.

Then, bookending this message to those married, he writes to the singles. His very first verse of this chapter shows Paul’s heart: He really thinks that the celibate, single life is more conducive to serving God. And the last verse reiterates this thought. Paul was single, and he “wish[ed] that all men were even as [he was].” Again, to be frank, in many ways, he’s right. A single person has more time (and energy) to serve God. He can spend more time in Bible study. He can volunteer more. He doesn’t have anyone competing for God’s attention.

But Paul is very aware that celibacy isn’t for everyone. And so, if the possibility of immorality exists, then a man or woman must be married to meet his or her sexual drive.

Paul doesn’t give a middle ground: If you want sex, get married. If you’re going to stay single, don’t have sex.

Simple, isn’t it?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17-20)

But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
(1 Corinthians 6:17-20 NASB)

These verses are so convicting—or at least they should be.

You have been bought with a price: The Son of God, Jesus Christ, chose to come to earth and take on human flesh. He chose to suffer betrayal, a sham “trial,” and excruciating, beyond-our-comprehension pain. He chose to die a humiliating death.

For you. For me.

He paid our penalty for our sins, and He paid it with His own life.

And when we accepted the gift of salvation through His sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection, the Holy Spirit—part of the triune God—took up resident in each and every one of us.

God Himself resides in us. Each of us is a temple of God! But do we truly understand this amazingly mysterious concept?

I don’t think we do. Not really.

Because if we really, truly did, we would take so much better care of these temples of ours.

We would, indeed, flee immorality. We would treat our bodies with respect, with dignity. We would make wiser choices. We would remain pure and clean. We would fill our hearts and minds with thoughts that edify and help us to become stronger in our faith.

And frankly, even though Paul is writing about not using our bodies for immoral acts, we would do even more to keep our temples healthy and strong. We would eat better and exercise more. We would avoid things that break our bodies down.

Think of it this way: The God of all creation calls to say He’s coming to visit your home. What would you do to prepare it for Him? What kind of feast would you create? How diligently would you clean?

Well, He’s not just visiting your home; He’s living in you. Inside of you.

So how is your temple? Is it clean and fresh and full of good things? Does the Spirit feel welcome? Or is He competing with all the junk and clutter?

I don’t know about you, but I have some housekeeping to do …

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sex In Its Proper Place (1 Cor. 6:15-16)

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.”
(1 Corinthians 6:15-16, NASB)

I believe one of the saddest commentaries of this present age is the ease with which people treat sex. What God created as an intimate experience to be contained within the confines of marriage has become a commodity, a throw-away.

One night stands. Multiple partners. “Friends with benefits.”

It just breaks my heart.

Sex is more than just an act of pleasure or release. Two people, when they engage in sex—which includes oral sex, by the way—become, as the Bible says, “one flesh.” They exchange bodily fluids, and part of each becomes part of the other.

But it’s more than just physical. Sex, as its very best, brings an emotional bond that should be unbreakable. One definition of "intimate" is “belonging to or characterizing one's deepest nature.” Being sexually intimate with someone should mean becoming “one flesh”: body, soul, and mind.

And yet, even in the Christian community, people seem to think it’s okay to have sex outside of marriage. It’s “old-fashioned” to remain a virgin until marriage, they say. Now, to be honest, I wasn’t a virgin when I was married, and I’d had one other partner besides my husband. But it was during a very lengthy rebellion against my God, and at least I acknowledged that did was sinful. I just did it anyway.

Today, however, it seems like young Christians don’t even think it’s wrong. They’ve bought into the world’s lies that sex is just one more thing to do.

And it’s not. Not in the way God intended, at least.

We need to return to God’s original plan. We need to “leave and cleave” in marriage, and treat sex with the dignity and intimacy that God intended.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lawful ... But Not Profitable (1 Cor. 6:12-14)

All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.
(1 Corinthians 6:12-14, NASB)

Susanna Wesley was the mother of two great men of faith, John and Charles. A wonderful quote about sin is ascribed to her: “Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off the relish for spiritual things then it is sin for you, however, innocent it may be in itself” (source:

This is very much what Paul is saying. Yes, there are many things the Bible condemns as sin—those things we must not do. Things like adultery, lying, covetousness, wrath, pride. But sometimes, even those things that are “lawful” become sin to us. If I’m focusing on a hobby or a vocation or a relationship that takes my focus off of God, then it is sin for me.

One definition of sin is “missing the mark” or not being whom God has created me to be. Sin is anything that separates me from God and His plan. So, believe it or not, even ministry can be sinful if I’m not pursuing it and seeking God's will with my whole heart.

Praise God, though, all we have to do is turn back to Him—and turn over anything that is making Him anything less than the number one priority of our lives. We merely need to “confess our sin [knowing that He is] faithful and just to forgive us of our sin” (1 John 1:9).

Or as Martin Luther wrote, “Either sin is with you, lying on your shoulders, or it is lying on Christ, the Lamb of God. Now if it is lying on your back, you are lost; but if it is resting on Christ, you are free, and you will be saved. Now choose what you want” (source:

Indeed. Choose what you want. Choose those things that are profitable and choose not to be mastered by anything—other than the Master of your heart.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Inheriting the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-11)

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
(1 Corinthians 6:9-11, NASB)

We are all sinners, each and every one of us. No one is without sin. And even when we come to faith through the acceptance of and belief in Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection, we still sin.

However, as we become more and more like Christ, as we mature in faith, we learn to avoid sin more and more.

And when we do sin, we need to go to Jesus and confess our sin.

These verses deal with those who haven’t committed their lives to Christ. Those people who practice sin unrepentantly will not “inherit the kingdom of God.” And I could add to this list: those who are habitually angry or prideful or those who gossip or slander.

Yes, we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and yes, the penalty for that sin is death—eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23). And when a person knowingly and willfully chooses to live in sin, when he chooses not to follow Christ, then he chooses death.

This world is winding down. I believe this with all my heart. And one day—be it days, weeks, or years—Christ will return. Everything on this earth will be no more. So ask yourself this one question: Is the sin I choose to live in worth eternal separation from my Creator?

Temporary sin verses not inheriting God’s kingdom? I don’t think so.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Handling Disputes ... Continued (1 Cor. 6:7-8)

Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren.
(1 Corinthians 6:7-8, NASB)

Today’s verses continue Paul’s exhortation against Christians bringing lawsuits against each other.

And he asks a couple of questions that remind me of how we’re to be humble and “esteem others better than” ourselves (Phil. 2:3, NKJV). If we’re focusing on the welfare of others, looking out for the “interests of others” (v. 4), then we won’t consider taking them to court. We would rather “be wronged” or “be defrauded” than to jeopardize any relationship with a brother or sister.

It’s quite true. Taking someone to court and suing them stems from their having done something to us, usually harming our property. We’re such a litigious society that suing someone—for even the most minor perceived infraction—is often the first response.

Yet if we really considered the other side, if we looked at the motives of our brother or sister, we’d probably find out that he or she was not, in any way, acting maliciously or hurtful.

And even if he or she was? We still should have a personal discussion to resolve the situation rather than dragging that brother or sister into court.

It all comes down to that second greatest commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31, NKJV).

That’s Jesus speaking, by the way. And somehow, I don't see Jesus ever dragging anyone into court ... even those of us who have wronged Him by our sin.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Handling Disputes (1 Cor. 3:1-6)

Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life? So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?
(1 Corinthians 6:1-6, NASB)

Before I start writing each day’s devotional, I pray for the Holy Spirit to write through me. And usually, He gives me the words. Then there are times like today when He leads me to seek guidance from others He’s inspired.

Sometimes God’s word seems very clear to me, and other times … not so much. That’s one of the things I love about the Bible: No matter how often I read it, I learn new things, and I find new mysteries. That’s also why I love that the Spirit has inspired countless men and women—many of whom are much smarter than I am—to write books and commentaries.

So today, I go to one of them to help me write.

According to The Adam Clark Commentary, these verses deal with Christians were taking each other to the heathen courts. He writes that “we learn that the Christian Church at Corinth was in a state of great imperfection, notwithstanding there were very many eminent characters among them. Divided as they were among themselves, there was no one person who possessed any public authority to settle differences between man and man …”

Paul told the Corinthian Christians that one day, the saints—followers of the one true God—will judge the world and the angels; therefore, shouldn’t there have been a wise Christian man who could judge the disputes between Christian brothers?

Today, we have a court system set up to arbitrate disputes, but Paul was adamant: A Christian shouldn’t take a brother or sister to court. Instead, they should settle their dispute by seeking wise, godly counsel.

I guess the bottom line is that if we’re dealing with each other in love, we shouldn’t have any dispute that would require legal intervention. If we manifest the fruit of the Spirit, then we will never do anything that would cause another to even consider legal action.

Is this true? Do we love each other that much? Do we strive to be gentle and kind to our brothers and sisters?

I have to agree with Paul: It’s shameful when Christians escalate any dispute to a courtroom. What does that say to the world? Certainly not that we’re like Christ.

Something to think about …

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

When to Judge (1 Cor. 5:9-13)

I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES.
(1 Corinthians 5:9-13, NASB)

Ah, more controversy. It’s times like this when I have to wonder why I choose to base my devotionals on entire books of the Bible. It would be a lot easier to write theme-based devotionals: love, peace, grace, mercy.

But when I started this devotional blog several years ago, I felt led to focus on entire books … in context. And I knew it would mean that I would have to deal with verses and passages that weren’t necessarily the easiest to write about.

Today’s verses make it clear that we are not to judge “outsiders.” But we are to not only judge those who call themselves our Christian brothers (and sisters), but to “remove” them if they don’t repent.

We can’t judge outsiders because they don’t believe as we do. They don’t study and apply the Bible as we do. So how can we expect them to follow its commandments? On the other hand, however, those who call themselves Christians should know God’s word and how He expects us to live. And if they don’t, if they deliberately sin, then we should first approach them as Jesus described in Matthew 17 (see devotional on March 5). Then, if they still don’t repent of their sin, we need to remove them from fellowship—but we still need to pray for them and try to win them back.

So many who call themselves Christians live habitually sinful lifestyles. Sex outside of marriage. Pornography. Cheating. Gossip. Pride. Lying.

The key word here is “habitually.” The Bible says “practice” (see Romans 1:28-32; Galatians 5:20-22; Ephesians 4:17-19). We’re all fleshly, and we battle with sin all the time. The difference is whether or not we choose to practice that sin.

And if a brother or sister chooses to sin, then we need to lovingly, yet purposefully judge them—and seek to reconcile them to their Savior.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Pride Versus Humility (1 Cor. 5:6-8)

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
(1 Corinthians 5:6-8, NASB)

I just finished performing in a production of “Annie,” and at one point, Mr. Warbucks says something like, “It doesn’t matter who you step on to get up the ladder if you don’t plan on coming back down again.”

That’s pride.

Pride is selfish and self-serving. It boasts in “self,” and says, “It’s all about me.” Pride says, “I’m better than you are, and so I deserve more than you do.” Prideful people are out for “number one,” and they don’t care who they have to step on to get what they want.

On the other end of the spectrum is humility.

Humility is self-less and other-serving. Humility says, “What can I do to help you?” It is sincerely interested in others and desires to lift them up.

As Paul wrote in another of his epistles: “Don't be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves. Care about them as much as you care about yourselves” (Philippians 2:3-4, CEV).

I’ve struggled with pride, with thinking that I’m somehow better than someone else. And then God reminded me that, first of all, He loves each of us equally. Second, He’s gifted each of us uniquely, and each of us serves Him however He’s gifted us. Third, I can’t do anything on my own; He works His will through me.

If I can do anything, it’s only through the strength of Christ. It’s not about me … It’s about Him and what I can do to serve Him and others.

And if I’m going to boast about anything, it must be about Him. Because without Him, I can do nothing.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Loving Discipline (1 Cor. 5:3-5)

For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
(1 Corinthians 5:3-5, NASB)

Many people say the Bible is full of contradictions, and this very well may be one of those passages that causes issues. Elsewhere, the Bible says “Do not judge so that you will not be judged” (Matthew 7:1). Yet here, Paul writes that he judged the one who had sinned with his father’s wife.

First, we need to look at Matthew 7:1 in context. It’s really talking about hypocrisy. We shouldn’t be judging others in arrogance. Verse 3 of that same chapter asks the question, “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”

The Bible does allow for discipline of our Christian brothers and sisters. Jesus Himself talked about this very thing in Matthew 17.
If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector (vv. 15-17).
However, it’s important to remember that the goal here is reconciliation, not excommunication. Just as we’d share truth with a nonbeliever, we should continue to share truth with a wayward brother.

Now this idea of “delivering such a one to Satan” also causes a bit of controversy. Was Paul really turning this man over to Satan? A commentary responds: Paul “put forth an act of extraordinary power, and gave him up to Satan, nor for his destruction, but for his deliverance, at least for the destruction of the flesh, that the soul might be saved … that [his] spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (Matthew Henry Complete Commentary of the Entire Bible).

We should not arrogantly judge our brothers and sisters, ignoring our own sin. However, we should lovingly, compassionately, and mercifully guide those who are willfully sinning back to God’s truth.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Tolerance and Arrogance (1 Cor. 5:1-2)

It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.
(1 Corinthians 5:1-2, NASB)

In the name of tolerance, have we become arrogant? Have we accepted “immorality among [us]”? Have we become immune to sin and its repercussions?

I listen to my younger Christian friends (and some of my not-so-younger friends), and they’re so accepting of behavior that isn’t Christ-honoring. They post verses on Facebook, and then the next moment, they’re posting something that isn’t, as Paul wrote in Philippians 4:8, true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, excellent or worthy of praise.

Living with one’s boyfriend is okay. Divorce for reasons other than those given in the Bible is okay. Gossip. Pride. Anger. Greed.

They’re all okay.

But they’re not. And I can only imagine how Christ’s heart must be breaking to see the actions of those who claim to be His followers.

Believe me. I’m not perfect. I struggle with some of the very behaviors I mentioned above. But I seek the Lord’s help every day to live as He would have me live. I study His word every day. I spend time in prayer every day.

Because I don’t—I do not—want to break His heart any more than I already have.

Is there anything you’re dong to break Christ’s heart? Give it over to Him.

Today—and every day.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Exhortations ... and Encouragement (1 Cor. 4:19-21)

But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power. What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?
(1 Corinthians 4:19-21, NASB)

When I meditate on these three verses, I see words of both exhortation and encouragement.

The first exhortation, although I don’t know if Paul meant it that way, is that we’re to plan within God’s will. Paul writes, “I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills …” Paul made plans to visit the Christians at Corinth. He may have already packed his bags. But he knew that he would only arrive if God willed it.

We need to do the same. We can certainly make plans. The Bible tells us to plan (see Luke 14:28), but we always need to ask for God’s will (see James 4:13-15).

The second exhortation is that we need to treat each other with “love and a spirit of gentleness.” You’ve probably heard the old adage, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Whenever we interact with others—believers or not—we should do so lovingly, compassionately, and gently. Even if we’re reproving someone for sin, we still need to show Christ-like love.

Finally, I’m greatly encouraged to remember how powerful our God is. He is greater than anything this world can throw our way. He loves us unconditionally, and He is with us always.

These days, it’s easy to think that the enemy is winning. Corruption. Perversion. Wars (and rumors of wars). Natural disasters. Disregard for others. Pain. Suffering.

It’s a mess. But we can be assured that our powerful God—Father, Son, and Spirit—is in control. And we can be assured that “greater is He who is in [us] than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Imitators of Christ (1 Cor. 4:16-18)

Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church. Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you.
(1 Corinthians 4:16-18, NASB)

Paul exhorted the Christians in Corinth to imitate him. He didn’t do this because he thought he was somehow better than they were. He did it because he knew he was more mature in his faith, and he knew they could learn from him.

Each of us has someone (or perhaps more than one someone) who is farther along his faith journey than we are. We can learn from his example. We can see how he handles adversity with grace. We can watch how he strives to be more like Christ. My maternal grandfather was such a person. I would consider myself blessed indeed if I knew I was imitating his faith.

If you don’t have someone like this, find someone. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be someone you can see and touch. You can study Paul’s life. Read each of his epistles very carefully and learn from him. Two mentors of mine are Joni Eareckson Tada and Corrie Ten Boom. I never met either of these women, but their stories have inspired me, encouraged me, and convicted me through the years.

Imitating godly people helps us to become more the people God created us to be. And it does something more: We often become mentors for others. As we grow in faith, God will bring younger (and I don’t just mean chronologically) believers into our lives. They then look to us as examples of more mature faith.

It’s a wonderful circle of learning and being influenced, and then teaching and influencing. And God’s in the middle of it all!