The Most Excellent Way

* New Testament Reading:  1 Corinthians 13
Psalms Reading:  Psalm 60
Old Testament Reading:  Numbers Introduction – see below

1 Corinthians 13 (The Love Chapter) actually begins at the end of Chapter 12 with these words, “And now I will show you the most excellent way.”  Paul has just wrapped up his lists of Spiritual gifts, reminding us that we, as Christians, are all members of the body of Christ.  After telling us that we should desire the higher (more essential or useful) gifts, he states that there is an even better way to be useful to the body.  The most excellent way. 

Chapter 13 begins with an IF.  IF I am great, IF I can do great things, IF I can understand great things, IF I make great sacrifices…. 

What are you really good at?  Known for?  Everyone in our church knows Todd is phenomenal with numbers.  He has often said it’s too bad he can’t make a living impressing people with his quick math skills.  Everyone is good at something, but that might not matter in the big picture.

The IF part in the first three verses is followed each time with “but have not love”.  You can be the greatest at everything, but if you don’t have love you are “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal”, “nothing’, “gain nothing”.  That’s pretty powerful.  What motivates us to do what we do obviously matters a great deal.  Paul is trying to communicate with us the overriding importance of love. 

You’ve probably heard verses 4-8a read at a wedding.  A beautiful description of how to love.  One that we cannot fully accomplish in our humanity.  Pulling from different translations, here is the description of true love:

Love is:  patient; kind; rejoices with the truth; bears all things; believes all things; hopes all things; endures all things; it always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres; it never ends or fails. 

Love is not:  it does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant, proud, or rude; it does not insist on its own way; it is not self-seeking; it is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing.

Love won’t end.  Spiritual gifts, and our need for them will end.  Prophecies will end.  Speaking in tongues will end.  Knowledge will end.  Love will not end. 

Keep in mind as you read these lists that God loves us like that.  God loves YOU like that.  John 13:34-35 says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  We are to love others how God loves us.  It’s what shows the world we are His.

-Todd and Amy Blanchard

Reflection Questions

  1. Do you KNOW that God loves you with a love that is described here?  Do you FEEL His love?  What steps might you need to take to assure yourself of that love?
  2. On a scale of 1-10, how well do you love others (following the description of love in this chapter)? 
  3. Which of the “Love is” or “Love is not” traits do you see from God in your life right now?


The book of Numbers gets its name from the census that was taken both at the beginning of the book, while the Israelites were still at Mount Sinai, and also at the end of the book, when the Israelites were on the plains of Moab near Jericho 38 years later.  And in case you’re wondering why it took the ancient Israelites so long to travel from Egypt to the Promised Land, you’ll find out in chapters 13 and 14.  And by the way, this wasn’t just a small group of people walking through the desert – there were millions of them.

As you read through Numbers, you will see repeatedly that there are consequences for complaining and rebellion – and they aren’t good.  Punishments range from fire from the Lord to the earth swallowing people alive to plagues to snakes.  There will even be punishment for Moses’ striking a rock instead of speaking to it – because he didn’t obey God’s command.

You will read about Moses begging God repeatedly to spare the people, when God wanted to wipe them out because of their rebellion – reminding us of what Jesus is doing on our behalf in heaven right now.  You’ll also read about a bronze snake lifted up on a pole, which Jesus compared with himself.

The story of Balaam and his talking donkey show that God can use anyone, even a donkey, even me, even you.  You’ll also read about how Balaam told the Moabites what to do to cause God to curse Israel – even after Balaam had blessed Israel.  And you’ll read that he paid with his life.

Numbers is filled with excitement, and also with examples – both good and bad.  Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:6, “Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.”  So pay attention as you read.

I’ll close with Numbers 6:24-26, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

-Steve Mattison

As HE Chose

* New Testament Reading:  1 Corinthians 12
Psalms Reading:  Psalm 59
* Old Testament Reading:  Leviticus 25-27

My parents tried very hard to treat me and my sisters equally.  Especially when it came to spending money or giving gifts.  The idea that one might get more or better than the other, or perceived more or better, has made gift giving stressful for them.  And now there are grandkids and great grandkids!  We chose to handle gift-giving a little differently.  Of course, we try to be close in what we spend, but if a gift is found that someone really wants or needs we go with it.  Whether it’s a little more or less than the others. 

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul tells us of God’s gifts.  The first important thing to note is that it says in verse 7 that “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit..”  Everyone who is part of the body of believers has been given Spiritual gifts.  That means you if you have accepted Jesus as your Savior.  The end of verse 7 tells us why.  It says, “…for the common good”.  We are to use the gifts given to us for the common good of the church – to support, encourage, build up, protect, provide for, teach, etc.  This chapter describes many of these gifts.  We are told that there are many gifts, but that they all come from the same Spirit.  Verse 18 says, “But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.“  As he chose.  He gives us what we need, what he wants us to have, not what we want or wish for.  Think for a minute about your church and the people in it.  This verse is telling you that God chose each member, that he arranged them (gifted them) just how he wanted.  Now think for a minute about where you might fit in.  You see, God’s plan only works when everyone does their part; when everyone uses the gifts God has given them for the common good of the body.  

Our passage in Leviticus demonstrates another parenting thought.  When we wanted our kids to obey a specific command, we let them know what good things would happen if they chose to do so (we really built it up big). We also told them what would happen if they chose to disobey (we tried to make this choice sound horrible).  We learned that oftentimes it is in the presentation.  God wants his children to obey Him at all times.  In Leviticus 26 God says, “If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you….”.  He lists rain in season, abundant harvests, security, peace, victories, and His presence (verses 3-13).  He goes on to tell them, “But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, then I will do this to you:…”.  He then tells them that they will deal with panic, wasting disease, enemies eating their harvests, wild beasts, and be scattered among the nations (verses 14-33).  The list for disobedience is long and nasty.  It seems like such a “duh” decision.  Of course they, and we, want the blessings and good stuff.  But they didn’t always choose to obey.  We don’t always choose to obey.  Thankfully, God also provides a way for us to change our minds and make the right choice.  Verses 40-45 say, “But if they confess their iniquity….then I will remember my covenant with Jacob…and Isaac…and Abraham…that I might be their God…”. 

-Todd and Amy Blanchard

Reflection Questions

  1.  There are a lot of Spiritual gifts “tests” online.  And they can be fun to take.  However, one of the best ways to know what your gifts are is to try some different ministries or acts of service.  Which ones fill you up?  Which ones drain you?  Notice I didn’t ask which ones you were best at.  God will help you learn.  God will help you find courage.  He will provide opportunities for you to grow in your gifts, so you don’t need to worry about doing it really well right away.
  2.  What choices are you currently facing?  Do any of them have the “duh” right answer? 
  3. What traits did you find in today’s reading that describe God?

No one is all bad, they can always serve as a bad example

*New Testament Reading:  1 Corinthians 10

*Psalms Reading:  Psalm 57

Old Testament Reading:  Leviticus 21-22

Have you ever wondered why some things “made it” into the Bible?  Why do we need to hear about what people did thousands of years ago?  1 Corinthians 10 gives us one reason.  In verses 6 and 11 Paul writes that these things took place as examples for us.  He was referencing the Israelites as they wandered in the desert and telling us not to do the things they did (indulging in sexual immorality, putting God to the test, grumbling, etc.). 

Yesterday we talked about God’s expectations.  Sometimes rather than just giving us a list of do’s and do not’s He gives us examples of others’ choices and how that worked out for them.  We can look in the Bible and find a lot of examples of people who made good choices and bad choices.  We can learn from both of these. 

We can also learn from David’s example in Psalm 57.   Many of the Psalms tell us what the circumstances were when it was written.  This one says it was when David fled from Saul into a cave. 

Verses 1-3 – David cries out to God, believing He will save him

Verse 4 – David tells God some of his problems

Verse 5 – David exalts God

Verse 6 – David tells God more of his problems

Verses 7-11 – David tells God that his heart belongs to Him; he gives thanks and sings praises to God

It seems as if David does believe in God’s ability to protect him, but at the same time sees the big problems that are in his life at that moment.  He reminds himself of God’s faithfulness, but the fears and trials don’t go away.  He finally simply decides to praise God and recognize Him for his greatness, even in the midst of his difficult circumstances. 

-Todd and Amy Blanchard

Reflection Questions

  1. What can you praise God for right now in your life, no matter what your circumstances are? 
  2. Whose example in the Bible do you want to follow?  Whose do you want to avoid?
  3. Are you being a good example of a faithful child of God for others to follow?
  4. What character trait of God did you see in today’s reading?

Different Temptations

Old Testament Reading: Leviticus 17 & 18
Psalms Reading: Psalm 55
New Testament Reading: 1 Corinthians 8

In the letter of 1 Corinthians, Paul is writing to the church in Corinth.  Corinth is in modern day Greece, so it was at the heart of Greek influence.  This would have meant that the church in Corinth would have been surrounded by people who put their faith and hope in the Greek gods.  The worship of idols was not just an aspect of the Greek culture, it was the heart of Greek culture.  I’m sure many in the church at Corinth would have come from this background of worshipping the Greek gods.  For some, that would not have been a big deal; they could separate themselves from the worship of idols.  For others, it would have been difficult to separate themselves from the worship of idols.  For those who had troubles separating themselves from the worship of idols, they would have had a conflicting conscience eating food that was originally offered as a sacrifice to these idols.  Was it sinful to do so? 

Paul explains that we are not better or worse off if we eat the food originally offered to idols.  At the same time, Paul urges those who aren’t conflicted by eating food originally offered to idols to withhold from eating this food in front of those whose conscience was conflicted.

There are two key takeaways that I would like to mention here:

1) Everybody is susceptible to different temptations.  One path may be safe for someone to travel down; however, that same path may lead to danger for someone else.  For the church at Corinth, some could eat the food offered to idols and stay away from the temptation to commit idolatry while others could not.  One person may be fine having social media and be safe from the temptation to covet, while another person may not be safe from this temptation.  One person may be fine having a drink of alcohol and be safe from the temptation to get drunk, while another person may not be safe from this temptation.  One person may be safe to have digital media on their phone and be safe from the temptation to lust, while another person may not be safe from this temptation.  You catch the drift.

As we alluded to in yesterday’s devotion, you must be acutely aware of what triggers you to commit sin.  It is different for everybody.  Being self-aware of your triggers is key to your recovery from a sinful habit and key to keep you away from a sinful habit.

2) If something is safe for you to indulge in but not for those around you, then don’t take part in it.  Paul urged the Christians at Corinth to not serve as a stumbling block for those around them by eating the food originally offered to idols in front of others who may struggle with this.  Therefore, do we not only need to be aware of what triggers may lead us to sin, it’s imperative that we understand what triggers those around us to sin.  When we act as a stumbling block to those around us, we are sinning ourselves.  In one of my favorite teachings, Jesus explains the severity of causing others to stumble in Matthew 18:6 – check it out.

All in all, be cognizant that God made us all different, and we are all tempted by different things.  Be aware of what tempts you while also being aware of what tempts those around you.

-Kyle McClain

Reflection Questions

  1. What are your temptation triggers? What boundaries can you create to help keep yourself from sin?
  2. How can your actions lead your family members and Christian brothers and sisters who might have different temptations and consciences to sin? What can you do instead to support them and strengthen them in their stand (or flight) against temptation?
  3. What does your Bible reading today tell you about the One who inspired these words? Who is He and what is His desire?

Marital Status

Old Testament Reading: Leviticus 15 & 16
Psalms Reading: Psalm 54
New Testament Reading: 1 Corinthians 7

“Love is a burning thing

And it makes a fiery ring

Bound by wild desire

I fell into a ring of fire”

These are the words of Johnny Cash in his iconic song, Ring of Fire, that hold true for many, as many people have a desire for some form of romantic love that can lead to sexual intimacy.  Our society has a pretty wide range of views on what practices are acceptable or not to fulfill that desire for sexual intimacy.    Paul states that, “It is because of the temptation to sexual immorality that a man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband,” (1 Corinthians 7:2 ESV).  Marriage is the solution to the desire of sexual intimacy in Paul’s eyes.

Throughout scripture, it is a very constant concept that sexual intimacy is to be experienced between a husband and wife – nothing more, nothing less.  Paul urges married couples not to deprive each other, so that our lack of self-control doesn’t lead to sexual immorality.  I encourage both husbands and wives to fulfill their spouses’ sexual desires to help steer them clear of sexual immorality.  If you need some extra inspiration and motivation, you can read through Song of Solomon.

For those who are not married but burn with passion, I pray that you are able to exhibit self-control.  Remember the words of Paul in the previous chapter as well: “Flee from sexual immorality,” (1 Corinthians 6:18).  Paul does not encourage you to stand firm in the fight against the temptation to sexual immorality.  Rather, Paul encourages you to FLEE!  Be aware of your triggers and run away from them!

For those who are not married and aren’t “bound by wild desire”, I encourage you with the words of Paul: “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am,” (1 Corinthians 7:8 ESV).  The unmarried person does not need to fret about how to please their spouse.  They can spend all of this attention that many spend on pleasing their spouses, and the unmarried can devote it all to God.  What a blessing!

Whatever camp you find yourself in, whether you are married, single with passion, or single with no passion, I hope you are able to dig nuggets of invaluable information from this chapter about marriage.  When in doubt, you can turn to 1 Corinthians 7 for questions about biblical principles regarding marriage and the absence of marriage.

-Kyle McClain

Reflection Questions

  1. What is your current situation? What can you do now to make the most of your situation? How will you strive to please God in your situation?
  2. Married or unmarried, how can you flee from sexual immorality?
  3. What do we learn about God in our Bible reading today?

Quarreling with the Siblings

Old Testament Reading: Leviticus 13 & 14
Psalms Reading: Psalm 53
New Testament Reading: 1 Corinthians 6

Like most human beings I have encountered, I enjoy being right, and I like others to know when I am right.  Oftentimes, I would be willing to go the distance to ensure that others are aware of the fact that I am right.  This includes both people inside and outside of church.  If I shared a belief in the risen Christ with someone, that would not stop me from getting into a long argument… erm… I mean debate about who the greatest athlete of all time is.  Unfortunately, I am quite sure that I’m not the only one who has been there before.

Evidently, this was an issue with the church in Corinth as well, as they even took it to another level.  Christian brothers and sisters were hiring third parties to determine who was in the wrong and who wasn’t, as they were filing lawsuits against each other.  What sort of image were they giving of the church to outsiders?  This was humiliating for the church to have to hire a third party to settle a dispute between two people who were called to love one another.  Paul brings this issue to light and shames them for doing such a thing.

Although many of us have probably never filed an official lawsuit with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, how often do we quarrel with our brothers and sisters in Christ?  What sort of image are we giving of the church to outsiders when we quarrel with each other?  Often, when it comes to disagreements between two people, it is a matter of preference: Who’s the greatest athlete?  What color carpet is the best?  How loud should the music be?  Don’t let simple preferences like these cause a division among yourselves – there is no need for that.  On the other hand, we are called to judge our Christian brothers and sisters when it comes to an objective right or wrong, as Paul states in chapter 5 of 1 Corinthians.  However, more often than not, I have seen Christians quarreling over preferences rather than an objective right or wrong.  Don’t let that be you.

Therefore, I encourage you to not let a division of opinions get in the way of your relationship with your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Don’t let these small differences of opinion snowball into quarreling amongst each other.  When we digress into these small differences of opinions, we lose sight of the big picture.  What is the big picture, you may ask?  Paul highlights this in verse 11, “And such were some of you.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God,” (1 Corinthians 6:11 ESV).  We were all sinners, but now we are a new creation.  We have been washed and forgiven of our sin, set apart from the world, and made right in the eyes of God.  

Let our life be a demonstration of the forgiveness, sanctification, and justification that we have received rather than divulging and arguing about our differences of opinion.  When this successfully takes place, we will give a much better picture of what church looks like to outsiders.

-Kyle McClain

Reflection Questions

  1. When has your desire to be right gotten you into trouble – or led you into disagreements that Paul would not approve of? What could you have done instead?
  2. How does 1 Corinthians 6:11 change your outlook on disputes and the “need” to be right?
  3. What do you learn about God in your reading of His Word today?

Let’s Get to Work

Old Testament Reading: Leviticus 7 & 8
Psalms Reading: Psalm 50
*New Testament Reading: 1 Corinthians 3

For the Corinthians and Greek culture in general, wisdom and knowledge were extremely important.  This is why Paul spends 1 Corinthians 1 emphasizing that it is through faith in Christ that we are saved, not through the wisdom they have worked towards their whole lives.  Then in 1 Corinthians 2 Paul says that wisdom is important for the Christian, but it is Godly wisdom that is very different from what they have learned, and it cannot be taught, but is given by the holy spirit.  Now in chapter 3 Paul is clearing up any last confusion in case they were not understanding up until now. He very clearly says that they need this Godly wisdom, but do not have it at all. They have been seeking an elevated status in their congregation because of their high learning and deep understandings.  Paul wants to set the record straight, living a Christian life is not about sitting in your plush study and writing treatises and books and musings, and becoming revered for your knowledge. It is about getting your hands dirty. He likens the Christians to farmers and builders who have work to do, and he is a worker right there with them.  This would have been a very shocking thing to the aristocratically minded members of the Corinthian Church who would have read this.

So let me be as clear as Paul was.  If you decide to follow Jesus and serve him, then you will be a servant.  Your life will not be a vacation, but a construction project. It will take work, but in the end you will hopefully do something valuable with your life and “the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.  If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward.” 1 Corinthians 3:13-14.  That reward is everlasting life in God’s kingdom, and is worth so much more than a high position in society, or being revered for your earthly wisdom.

Your fellow servant – Chris Mattison

(Posted here first in 2019)

Reflection Questions

  1. What is your favorite verse in today’s reading? Why?
  2. Is your work ready to be tested by fire? What might God be calling you to do as a part of His field or building?
  3. What can you learn about Almighty God in your reading today?

Which are You?

Old Testament Reading: Leviticus 3 & 4
Psalms Reading: Psalm 48
New Testament Reading: 1 Corinthians 1

Let’s play a quick game together, shall we? I’m going to give you two separate lists to study, each with a dozen synonymic adjectives, and then ask you questions about them. 

List 1: idiotic, half-witted, brainless, imprudent, ill-advised, senseless, reckless, foolhardy, lunatic, absurd, unwise, nonsensical

List 2: sage, clever, informed, astute, sensible, prudent, judicious, discerning, insightful, perspicacious, sharp-witted, enlightened

Who is the first person to pop into your head when you see each respective list? 

Which list best describes you currently?

Which list would you rather have read about you at your funeral? 

The first set of words contains synonyms for the word “foolish”, and the second one lists synonyms for “wise”. The end of I Corinthians 1 is contrasting foolishness and wisdom as it relates to God vs. man, and how God empowers us to do His work. Paul writes beginning in verse 25 (ESV), “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.'”

This verse causes me to bubble over with inspiration and gratitude every time I read it! I take great joy in reading accounts of the underdogs in the Bible whom God used to do great things, and in believing that He can do the same with me. Moses had a speech impediment, but God used him to speak with Pharoah and deliver the Isaelites from slavery. Rahab was a prostitute, but God designated her to save His spies and she was then in the lineage of Jesus. David was only a grungy, petite shepherd, but God used him to defeat Goliath. (David later served God as a great King of Israel, despite being a murderer and adulterer.) Gideon, who was the least important of his family (which was the weakest of his tribe), was hiding when an angel sent from God called him “Mighty Warrior”, but God led him to defeat the Midianite army with nothing but a miniscule army and God’s power. 



BUT GOD throughout history has called people to do great things through his power. Most of them were not already rich or famous or powerful, but when God gave them His power, He did mighty things through them! Even in the New Testament, we read in Acts 4:13 that people were amazed that Peter and John were “unschooled, ordinary men.” 

God is still active and working today. He wants us to strive for wisdom and seek Him. God wants to use you to do great things for Him! God is still using his people in big ways to impact their communities and the world. No matter your history, education level, age, job, or any other excuse you might share for why God can’t use you, remember… He loves to use imperfect people for His glory. 

-Rachel Cain


*What is your excuse for why God shouldn’t use you? Pray for Him to show you the way He sees you and give you His power. 

*What is God calling you to do that might be scary or out of your comfort zone? Pray about that situation and ask Him to fill you with His power! 

*What has God revealed about Himself today?

Trust Issues

1 Corinthians 16

June 17

1 Corinthians Chapter 16 begins with Paul directing the Corinthians to set aside some money on the first day of the week.  He wants them to budget their charitable donations before they spend their money on other things during the week .  From this chapter alone it may not be immediately clear what the fundraiser was for.   Through supplemental materials we can see that the common consensus was that Paul was raising funds for the Christian Jews living in Jerusalem. They were being persecuted for their Christianity and there were many impoverished widows to support. Paul was collecting donations from many of the Gentile churches he had helped to establish, including the church in Corinth. (Partially sourced from Paul does not want to handle the money directly but plans to write letters of reference or maybe even personally  accompany delegates to deliver the money to Jerusalem so that the recipients know they can trust the source.

The chapter also talks about several people that will be visiting the Corinthians.  The Corinthians are instructed to trust and accept these visitors as ministers officially recognized by Paul himself.

Finally Paul closes his lengthy letter with well wishes and invites the Corinthians  to authenticate his handwriting.

As I read this chapter, it seems to me that the Corinthians may have had trust issues.  Paul seems to be challenging them to trust in God’s provision through the week even though they give charitably at the beginning of the week.  He directs them to trust the visitors he sends their way and finally he invites them to verify that the letter is really from him in case they don’t trust its content.

-Brian Froehlich

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1.  Do you ever distrust someone’s motives?
  2. Was there a reason that person lost your trust?
  3. Do you ever struggle to fully trust God?
  4. Is there a reason God has given you to not trust him?
  5. What is God calling you to trust him with in your life today?

The Final Enemy

1 Corinthians 15

June 16

When I was a kid, I amassed a pretty good collection of action figures.  I had a lot of He-Man and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys.  I even had a few from the lesser known franchise Silverhawks.  Transformer toys (the cars and trucks that convert to robots and visa versa) were popular then, too.  I didn’t have many officially licensed Transformers, but several of the toys I did have, could be rapidly changed from one configuration to another in some way.   With just a squeeze of the figures legs, a flip of a switch or a dip in hot or icy cold water and the figure’s costume or facial expression might change.

It seemed easier to tell the difference between heros and villains in the 80’s than it is now.  For example, The evil Skeletor was He-Man’s  enemy.  You could tell just by looking at Skeletor, “he was a bad dude”.  He had a face like a skeleton and always dressed in all dark clothing.   In the cartoons on Saturday mornings, he would cackle with delight at the misfortune of others while I ate Cap’n Crunch.

I still have most of my toys from when I was a kid, but especially those action figures.  I didn’t destroy stuff like some kids do; like MY KIDS do.  (Remember a few days ago, “puddles” and “Whacko”.) At this point I figure I’d better save those old toys  just in case I don’t ever find that savings bond, or my pension fails to keep up with inflation.  Sometimes old toys have a lot of value.  Sometimes the value isn’t monetary.

My toys helped me explore the differences between good and evil and imagine epic battles.  They helped me envision how just when the world seems to be at its darkest possible moment and we feel powerless to the evil closing in around us, our Messiah will return and save the day.

1 Corinthians 15 is one of my three favorite Chapters of the whole Bible.  It paints a vivid picture of a war story more intense and dramatic than any Hollywood blockbuster.  The chapter is chocked full of memorable quotes such as:

“The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

1 Corinthians 15:26 NIV

“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

1 Corinthians 15:52 NIV

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?””

1 Corinthians 15:55 NIV

So often, people seem to forget that the Bible calls death the enemy, not the reward.  It is in fact the LAST ENEMY to be destroyed.  It is like the “boss” at the end of a video game.

My favorite restaurant in my hometown, DeKalb, Illinois is Pizza Villa. 

In the basement of Pizza Villa there is a small arcade.  Some of their video games have changed over the years but for as long as I can remember two have been the same. 

They have always had a plastic egg dispenser that has a Fred Flinstone inside that spins around slowly when you put a quarter in it.  Fred says “Yab ah Dab Ah doo. Yab ah Dab Ah doo” twice and a little plastic “Dino egg” falls out with some cheap prize inside.  Maybe it’s a plastic spider ring or an old tootsie roll.  The prizes aren’t worth a quarter but the nostalgia of the experience is priceless.  Then there is  a four player Teenage Mutant Ninja “Turtles in Time”  game.  It’s pretty much a “must play” every time I’m there.  As you may already know, the Ninja Turtle’s final enemy is “Shredder”.  Before you get to face Shredder in the video game though, you have to beat several other opponents that gradually increase in formidability.  Among them, is a huge fly character that I’ve never known the name of, a giant humanoid hippo named Bebop and a rhinoceros named Rocksteady.

I can’t tell you how many quarters my Dad, my buddies and I have plunked into that machine over the years trying to beat Rocksteady.  We could definitely get that horn nosed beast blinking and jumping around faster (a sign that he was taking on damage).  We feverishly thrashed the joy stick and hit “A B B A A B” over and over, desperately trying to deliver just the right combination of bow staff blows and ninja kicks.  I would bargain for more quarters as a kid.  Now,  when my kids get to that spot in the game, they will beg me for “just one more quarter?!” as they watch the final seconds tick away.       There never seems to be enough “pizza power” or pocket change to finish him off.  I’ve never seen anyone beat the game.

Some people seem to think that Satan is God’s final enemy and death is just one of his attack moves. They act like we can put on some kind of invincibility shield by saying the promise of eternal life means we don’t really even die, that we just go somewhere else, maybe even “a better place” immediately.   (Remember the Bingo card I wish I had?).

Satan’s first lie was that Adam and Eve would not really die.  He tried to put a positive spin on sin.  He made it appear as though sin was a pathway to a higher consciousness of some kind; an avenue to special powers or secret knowledge; a way to become almost an equal with God. 

What Satan was actually doing was setting up an ambush by the enemy of death.  In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had access to the tree of life.  As long as they ate from it, they would continue to live.  They were protected from death.  Satan knew he needed to get them out on their own and away from the tree of life for them to be vulnerable to death.  The plan worked. 

Separation from God and the life sustaining properties of the tree of life was the wage of their disobedience (sin).  That separation resulted in death.  Their flesh decayed and they returned to the dust from which they were made.  Absolutely predictable, scientifically repeatable decay takes place when a human body dies.  The changes a dead body goes through are EXACTLY what God said they would be.  Every time.

Without obedience to God we cannot be in his presence.  Without being in his presence we do not have access to the tree of life.  Without access to the tree of life our bodies will grow tired and weak and we are vulnerable to be overcome by the enemy of death.  We spend our lives fighting off gradually more formidable foot soldiers of death that attack when we are isolated by our disobedience.  You know the ones: loneliness, poverty, obesity…when we get to the end we have no energy left to fight off the final enemy- death.   I can’t tell you how much money people have spent trying to keep fighting off death.  Sometimes we make bargains with our father at the last minute for just a little longer. Nobody beats the game. Death wins every time.

It stings to realize that. 

I vividly remember my first bee sting.  I was about 6 years old.  I was helping my dad clean out a little ski boat we had on a trailer in our driveway. I moved a pile of life jackets and disturbed a bee.  It was like life switched to slow motion for a minute.  I saw the little thing wiggle it’s bottom against my arm as it deposited its dagger.  I felt the pain pulsing up my arm.  I cried and gnashed my teeth.  I flailed my arm, but the damage was already done.  It stung me.  My dad removed the stinger and I held an ice cube against the spot to numb it.  Eventually the sting was gone, but the memory wasn’t.  Every time I hear the word “sting” I think of that incident.  As a Funeral Director and a Deputy Coroner,  when I meet with a grieving family, I often see the sting of death in their eyes.  I can almost feel it.  Death stings.  The enemy of death has not been destroyed. 

1 Corinthians 15 tells us there is a day coming when things will be changed faster than a transforming action figure.  We will be made imperishable and the sting from the enemy of death will be no more.  Death itself, the final enemy, will be defeated.

Let us cherish these truths more than our most beloved childhood toys.  Like a box of favorite action figures, let us pass these promises on to our children and their children.  When their savings bonds and pension plans fall short may their hope in Christ sustain them.

-Brian Froehlich

Application questions:

  1. What was your favorite Saturday morning Cartoon? Did you ever have any of the corresponding toys? Do you still have them?
  2. Besides a bee sting, or the sting of death what are some other things that “sting”?
  3. What comes to your mind when you hear the word “enemy”?
  4. How do you define the word “destroy”?
  5. What will it mean for the enemy of death to be destroyed?
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