Friday, January 30, 2015

Mentors of Faith (1 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Today's scripture: 1 Corinthians 4:16-18

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 their example. We can see how they handle adversity with grace. We can watch how they strive 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 a flesh-and-blood person. 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!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Life-long Learning (1 Corinthians 4:14-15)

Today's scripture: 1 Corinthians 4:14-15

We need to be taught. None of us learns by osmosis. We’re taught by our parents to speak, to behave properly, to understand values. Then we go to school, and we’re taught math, history, and science.

We go off to work, and we’re taught the essential duties of our jobs.

And if we’re really, really fortunate, we have good teachers who have hearts for helping us learn what we need to learn.

It’s the same with our faith. We need good, godly teachers to help us understand what it means to be followers of Christ. We need people who have spent countless hours studying God’s word, investigating it, looking at each word’s meaning in Greek or Hebrew. We need men and women whose passion is to teach believers about God, about faith.

And we learn from each other as well. That’s one of the things I love best about group Bible studies: learning from each other. The Holy Spirit speaks to each of us as we prayerfully study God’s word. And oftentimes, He’ll give me an insight that differs slightly from the insight He’s given you—and we can both be inspired.

Learning should be life-long, and this is even more so for followers of Christ. We’ll never learn, this side of heaven, all the Bible offers: encouragement, affirmation, exhortation, conviction. But as long as we’re on this earth, we should seek out godly men and women who love God’s word and learn from them.

And then, perhaps one day, we can teach others.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Just Like Paul (1 Corinthians 4:8-13)

Today's scripture: 1 Corinthians 4:8-13

I am continually amazed at Paul’s deep love for Christ and his unwavering faith. Many places in his epistles, he wrote of the suffering he endured as a follower of Christ. But he faithfully followed his Lord anyway.

In today’s verses, he wrote of being a fool for Christ, about his weaknesses, and about being dishonored.

He was hungry, thirsty, poorly clothed. He was “roughly treated … homeless.”

And yet, he didn’t complain. He continued to follow God’s call on his life.

Look at how he handled adversity:

~He blessed those who reviled him.

~He endured when he was persecuted.

~He attempted reconciliation when others slandered him.

Do we handle things in the same way? Frankly? I’ve never been hungry or thirsty or poorly clothed. I’ve always had a home. I’ve never really been mistreated because of my faith.

I don’t know if God will ever ask me to live through such adversity, such suffering, such pain, but I pray that, if He does, I will be just like Paul.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

It's ALL God's (1 Corinthian 4:6-7)

Today's scripture: 1 Corinthians 4:6-7

A few days ago, I quoted
Psalm 24:1, which says that “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein.” Everything belongs to our Creator God.

So why do we struggle with pride or arrogance? Why do we look at all the stuff around us and think, “Look at what I have. Look at what I’ve done.”

We owe our very lives to God, and if He’s chosen to bless us with earthly treasures, then we should be grateful, not arrogant.

It’s the same with any spiritual gifts with which He’s chosen to bless us. I have to admit, this is an area I used to struggle with a lot. I’m immensely privileged to speak and/or sing for women’s events, and for many years, I served on worship teams. It was often all too easy for me to think about my gifts. When I thought of those gifts as mine, rather than something from God I should steward, I’d think, “I could do that better.”

It’s only when I finally recognized how weak and incapable I am without God’s work in my life—and that everything I have and am is His—that I was able to give whatever gifts He’s given me back to Him. If He chooses to use me to speak or sing, then it’s a blessing. If He chooses not to, then it’s still a blessing because He’ll use me in another way.

We can’t take credit for anything. We’ve received everything from God, and it is for His glory that all we have—our time, our talents, and our treasures—should be used.

Monday, January 26, 2015

You're Not the Judge! (1 Corinthians 4:3-5)

Today's scripture: 1 Corinthians 4:3-5

Paul writes about judgment in today's verses. We Christians like to quote another verse about judgment a lot: “Judge not, and you shall not be judged” (NKJV, Luke 6:37). But I like today’s verse even better: “… do not go on passing judgment [because] the Lord … will bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts …”

We have no idea what’s in a person’s heart. We can point fingers all we want, but God is the ultimate judge. And because we cannot know what goes on between a person and God, we must not judge.

God examines … not us.

There’s something in human nature that wants to be judge and jury. We love it when someone else seems to stumble. Our flesh likes to think we’re somehow better than someone else. But we all have sin of some kind in our lives. And we all have things we do to build God’s kingdom.

And I’m going out on a limb here, but I think God judges the person who does “good” with a wrong motive just as He does someone who practices sin. What I mean is if I’m using a gift He’s given me, but with a prideful heart, I’m sinning. Pride is a sin. Just like anger. Or gossip. Or covetousness. Or murder. Or adultery.

Or what about when I follow God’s will for my life, but I do it grudgingly, whining and complaining all the way? God will judge that as well because He also looks at my heart’s motives. It’s like the parable Jesus told about the two sons:  "Tell me what you think of this story: A man had two sons. He went up to the first and said, 'Son, go out for the day and work in the vineyard.' The son answered, 'I don't want to.' Later on he thought better of it and went. The father gave the same command to the second son. He answered, 'Sure, glad to.' But he never went. Which of the two sons did what the father asked?" They said, "The first" (MSG, Matthew 21:28-32). It’s a tall order: We need to live as sinless as we possibly can, and we need to serve with right motives.

But praise God, we’re not in this alone. We have the Holy Spirit within us to encourage us when we’re struggling and to convict us when we veer from God’s path.

So the bottom line is, we need to watch out for ourselves. We need to focus on our own relationships with God.

And leave all judgment to the only One who has the right to judge … and it’s not us!