Be Strong

1 Corinthians 15-16

Welcome back to our final chapters in 1st Corinthians!

Chapter 15 must be one of the most powerful and hopeful chapters that Paul has written.  There is no one that can leave this chapter feeling defeated with a message taunting Death asking “Where is your victory?  Where is your sting?” (15:55).  We have a victory in Christ that no one can stop, not even something that feels as permanent and powerful as death.

This year has brought many challenges.  People have experienced financial struggles, people have dealt with severe illnesses and deaths, people have experienced mental and emotional turmoil, people have disagreed with those they are closest to, people have felt betrayed, silenced, oppressed, offended, and defeated.  It is so easy this year to become discouraged, and no one would blame anyone if they did not focus on something as far away as the Kingdom.

But that focus on the Kingdom must be at the front of our minds daily, because without it, the darkness that is this world today will all too easily take over our own life.  Paul calls us to be steadfast, immovable, working enthusiastically for the Lord, and knowing that our work is not in vain (15:58). 

In a world where so often the struggles and challenges we face are in front of us due to someone else’s choices, it can be incredibly uplifting to remember that Jesus will abolish all of the rule and power on earth, God will put the enemies under his feet, and our world will be at peace for the first time since the fall of man.  There is a point where things will be made perfect, and those who have committed themselves to Christ will have an opportunity to experience that perfection.

What strikes me while reading these passages is how even when though this was written to a specific church however many hundreds of years ago, the message has never changed and is incredibly applicable in 2020.  Our God is unchanging, despite our world changing so rapidly away from Him.  In this changing world we must put our faith, trust, and hope in an unchanging God.  I don’t care how cheesy that sounds!

So where does Paul leave the church in this letter?  He doesn’t just finish with a message of hope.  True to form, Paul gives the church one more reality check in chapter 16.  Verse 13 says “Be alert, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong.”  To me that message is one that you leave when you know something’s coming…  Paul wasn’t finishing on a happy-go-lucky victory note because he knows that the victory doesn’t come without a battle.  As we grow closer and closer to Christ’s return, we can expect our world to continue to fall.  Yes, we have a hope.  Yes, that hope should carry us through the hard times.  And yes, we should be ready for a spiritual fight. 

We shouldn’t be living in fear of the battle, because we already know the outcome.  We should be living with the intention of being on the winning side.  When we are confidently standing with the winner, we should be finding everyone else we can to bring them to victory as well.  That is our mission.

I am so excited to jump into 2nd Corinthians with you all tomorrow!  Until then, My love be with all of you in Christ Jesus.

-Sarah Blanchard

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Corinthians 15-16

Tomorrow we will begin 2 Corinthians (chapters 1-4).

Love others and tell them about Jesus

1 Corinthians 12-14

Happy December everyone!!

Most everyone following this blog has probably read through these passages today… each chapter could have its own devotional!  Within these we have the passage on Spiritual Gifts, we have the Love chapter, and we have one of the more argued and misinterpreted verses regarding women in the church – all in one day! 

The not so crazy thing about all these chapters is how at the heart of each of them, there is one message that prevails: Love others and tell them about Jesus.  Whether it is an outsider, a fellow believer, a spouse, or anyone you meet… we are told to show them love and tell them about Jesus.

When discussing the spiritual gifts Paul talks about the importance of each member of the body being placed exactly where God wants them (12:18) and remaining united within the Church (12:25).  I have usually heard these verses used to showcase why everyone is equally important within the Church and that you should never compare yourself or your gifts to someone else’s.  However, Paul gives a pecking order in verse 28: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, next miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, managing, various kinds of languages…   At first this can seem a little harsh, especially if you’re a helper or someone who speaks another language!  And it is harsh, if you stop reading there.

In chapter 14 Paul continues “Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, and above all that you may prophesy.”  Paul is telling everyone that the main goal is to spread the message of Jesus, and love others.  He doesn’t say it’s bad to do any of the other tasks or fill other roles within the church, in fact in the previous chapter he describes at length why it is so important for everyone to be unique and do the work God intends for them.  What he is also saying here is that it is everyone’s mission to tell others about Jesus and the fact that he is coming back.  Just as every part of the body functions independently with the purpose of living daily, every part of the body of Christ must function independently with the message of the Kingdom coming.

This message continues even in chapter 14 verse 34, when Paul writes that the women of the church should be silent and submissive.  In these verses it is important to remember the historical context in which Paul is writing.  At this time, women did not hold places of leadership, and women did not *generally* have a role in proclaiming the message.  Additionally, the church in Corinth had women who struggled to act as godly women, partially because their husbands and other leaders in the church also struggled to live righteous lives.  I do not think that Paul is hating on the women, but rather explaining that when the church is struggling and in need of repair, the gossiping, adulterous, and unrighteous should not have a say in the direction of the church.  He is describing the importance of church leaders to be focused on the mission.

The call to prophesy is not one to be taken lightly, and Paul wants to make sure that the church understands that.  It is also one that the church is called to eagerly strive for, for the sake of the Kingdom.  Chapter 14 verse 24 reads “But if all are prophesying and some unbeliever or uninformed person comes in, he is convicted by all.  The secrets of his heart will be revealed, and as a result he will fall facedown and worship God, proclaiming, ‘God is really among you.’”

Let that be our goal as the Church, that anyone who walks in will have no other inclination but to fall down in worship of our great God because of our focus on His mission! 

-Sarah Blanchard Johnson

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Corinthians 12-14.

Come back tomorrow as we together finish 1 Corinthians with chapters 15 & 16.

Watch Yourself – as you step outside

1 Corinthians 9-11

Remember when I said yesterday that the message about spreading the Good News was coming?  Well, we start slowly diving into that idea with these passages today. 

In chapter nine Paul discusses how he reaches outsiders… by becoming like them (9:20-22).  Did anyone else have to reread those verses a few times?  What apostle would tell people that they should become like the outsiders in order to reach them?!?  (Hint: Probably one who knew what he was talking about!)  Before we get too worked up, let’s look at what was really being written here:

Paul wasn’t saying that we need to go out and change our lifestyles to match the sins of the world, and then try to convince them that a godly lifestyle is better.  Rather, Paul is saying that in order to reach people on the outside, we must actually go out and meet people where they’re at.  As the Church, we cannot expect to sit high and mighty in a physical building and still reach the lost.  We must go out, find those people on the outside, and witness to them from a humble perspective that understands how desperately we need the same message of grace and hope that they do. 

Within these chapters Paul does not let the Corinthians forget to think introspectively.  In fact, he spins it to describe the importance of checking on our own faith life to continue in our mission.  Chapter nine verse 27 reads “I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I will not be disqualified.” And chapter 10 verse 12 reads “So, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall.” And finally, chapter 11 verse 28 says “So a man should examine himself [before] he should eat the bread and drink from the cup.”.  All these verses are essentially Paul saying “Check yourself before you wreck yourself!” Which is completely valid!  As the Church goes out into the world to reach those outsiders the temptation and draw away from righteousness is greater than if we only surround ourselves with like-minded people.  Without taking time to focus on our own faith life, we will be just as ineffective in spreading the Word as if we did not go out in the first place.

The other idea that Paul writes about in these chapters is how the body of believers must respect one another and stay focused on what really matters.  “No one should seek his own good, but the good of the other person.” (10:24) I think it is pretty clearly laid out here; put others first!  In chapter 10 Paul is touching on the disagreements that came up related to what the believers were eating, in chapter 11 it was on what the women were wearing while praying.  In both these areas, essentially Paul is saying, “It doesn’t matter as long as they aren’t going against God!”.  Sometimes the Church can get wrapped up in those little disagreements and start to divide over things that will not matter in the Kingdom, which is why Paul tells us that “whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory.” (10:31) When we can recognize what issues in the Church truly matter, the body is built up and can refocus on their main mission of reaching those on the outside.

Today, take time to evaluate your own walk of faith.  See where you can come closer to God while still being closer to those on the outside.  Reflect on your local church and see which little issues you can set aside for the sake of the Kingdom. 

I’m excited for our next few chapters as we talk about the importance of each member in the Church!

Happy Monday everyone!

Sarah Blanchard Johnson

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Corinthians 9-11.

Tomorrow we will continue with chapters 12-14.

A Different Approach to Judging

1 Corinthians 5-8

Hello friends! 

What a year we have had… and that’s about all I am going to say on that 😊

Diving into the chapters for today I am reminded how many good bits Paul has in these letters!  Sometimes I envision Paul as a public speaker just because his words can pack such an impactful punch that makes me stop and go, “Woah.”

In all the great one-liners throughout these chapters I was made aware of one theme that Paul was trying to get the church in Corinth to understand.  Ultimately, Paul was trying to get the church to look at themselves introspectively and fix their body of believers.  1 Corinthians 5:12 sums his idea up nicely as he writes “For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders?  Don’t you judge those who are inside?” 

Here Paul is basically calling this church out for being self-righteous.  He explains to them the difference in expectations for those who are called believers and those who are not (1 Corinthians 5:11; 7:15).  Paul is not saying anything in these few chapters about how the church should be bringing outsiders to truth or spreading the Gospel (but don’t worry, that Good News message is coming later) because he knows that they will be ineffective in that area until they can rebuild and refocus their own body of believers. 

When I look at our global Church today, I think we need to take this same introspective approach before we can be as effective in spreading the Word.  While every individual church looks different, globally the Church has been struggling to balance the extremes of our world.  Some churches are hateful and judgmental to those unlike them, while others celebrate and condone individual choices that directly go against what the Bible says is righteous.  Both kinds of churches are ignoring the message from this particular passage; Show respect and love to all while keeping believers on the path of righteousness.  It is as simple, and as complex, as that. 

When you look at your own church, or even your own family, where do you see room for improvement within this message?  Our world is hurting right now, and clearly in need of grace, hope, and redemption that Jesus offers.  Are you in a position to show this same grace, hope, and message of redemption to outsiders?  If you are, are you acting on that?  And if not, what needs to happen for you to get to this place? I encourage you to take time today to consider where you stand on this area and ask God to show you where He wants you to be instead.  I know for myself I always have room to grow.

I look forward to journeying through these letters with you over this next week!  I am always struck by how much God can speak through these devotions, and I hope you are too.

-Sarah (Blanchard) Johnson

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Corinthians 5-8.

Tomorrow we continue with chapters 9-11.

The Mind of Christ – in You

1st Corinthians 1-4


Have you ever been sucked into watching an infomercial? Have you ever purchased something from an infomercial? I have a few times. I believe that my purchases have involved some sort of exercise workout or nutritional program. All guaranteed me phenomenal results. The truth is I have not experienced all the effects that these infomercials promised me. Does that shock you?


Whatever it is, we humans like guarantees. We crave guarantees because we know that we’re likely to mess it up and we want something that can still be true even with a faulty operator. 


Thank GOD that His faithfulness to me is not dependent on my ability to do right. Even on my best days I still fall short. 


One of God’s promises to us is that we have the mind of Christ.  


Not: We will have the mind of Christ – something that is promised for the future.


Not: We can have the mind of Christ – something that is contingent upon something else.


Not: We might have the mind of Christ – something that is uncertain or not yet determined to be true.


We have the mind of Christ…NOW! It’s guaranteed! Isn’t that amazing?!?!


What are the implications of this truth for you – YOU HAVE THE MIND OF CHRIST. It’s a done deal. How will this reality change the thoughts that you think, the words that you speak, the actions that you take? 


Take a bit of time today and prayerfully consider the kind of response God might be asking of you.

-Bethany Ligon

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at Bible GateWay here – 1 Corinthians 1-4

Tomorrow we continue with 1 Corinthians 5-8