Missing Jesus by an Acre

            In the book of Mark, chapter 10, we read this story about a devoted Jew, who understands that Jesus is someone special. He comes to Jesus and asks a really good question, “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). We know, having the luxury of being able to look back on all of Jesus’ teachings, that following Jesus and devoting our lives to him is what gives us the right to become children of God and heirs to eternal life. This is exactly what Jesus wants this unnamed man to do.

            Jesus asks this man to sell everything he had and give it to the poor, and then to come and follow him. Imagine being this man. Imagine owning 1,000 acres of land, filled with livestock, fields, barns and equipment. All of which would be worth millions of dollars. I mean, this is everything you have, maybe you inherited it from your father and plan on passing it to your children. This could have been in the family for generations, and with what we know of inheritance of Jewish property in the time of Jesus, it most likely was. Then Jesus asks you to sell all of it and give the money to the poor! Imagine what you would have done in his situation? Better yet, imagine what you have to lose?

            I don’t want you to miss Jesus by an acre. By that I mean, I don’t want you to miss following Jesus because of something that you’re holding onto in your life. The sad and ironic things is, later in the chapter Jesus says these words, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for my sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30). There is nothing this unnamed man could have given up that he wouldn’t have received multiplied back to him in kingdom. The same goes for us, anything this world can offer, anything we have, is not even worth being compared to the riches of the kingdom.

-Josiah Cain

Links to today’s Bible reading – Exodus 25-26 and Mark 10

Humility

Romans 11-13

I am a fairly humble fellow.  I do not stand out in a crowd.  I do not try to draw attention to myself.  In fact I don’t like attention.  I don’t consider myself arrogant and  I am very aware of my flaws.  And yet, there are still times when I allow myself to feel superior to others.  Maybe we all do that at times?

No matter how many flaws we have, all of us are better at something than someone else.  And in those moments where we take notice of that, it is easy to allow our egos to puff up a bit, isn’t it?  Maybe that is even especially true for those, like me, that are more keenly aware of our shortcomings than our triumphs.

Paul touches on humility several times in chapter 12, and typically when I read these passages, I instantly think about people that are very arrogant, and think, “this doesn’t really apply to me,” or “I’m doing fine in this area.”  But then (sometimes) I think about the thoughts that I opened with.

Beginning in verse 3, Paul says, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”

 There you have it.  Each of us should NOT think of ourselves more highly than we ought.  Well then how highly SHOULD we think of ourselves?  Frankly, I would say pretty high, because we are each pretty incredible creations of God.  And we have each been blessed with many abilities and talents.  But as Paul points out, we have all been given DIFFERENT abilities.  And it is key to remember that we have been given those abilities.  We didn’t do anything ourselves to acquire natural abilities.  Some people are born with great musical talent.  Others with sharp intellect.  Still others with amazing athletic skill.  Paul here is speaking primarily of spiritual gifts, but all abilities and talents are indeed granted by our Creator.  I really appreciate when I see gifted athletes giving credit to God for their abilities during post-game interviews.  I am not always sure how sincere they are, but the message is true regardless.

In verse 10, Paul says to Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one other above yourselves.  This is an outward extension of humility, and here, should be motivated by love.  How often do you honor others above yourself?

Finally, Paul comes back to humility again in verse 16.

“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.”

We should not just be showing humility to the people we are comfortable being with, or the people that are “our kind of crowd.”  We should be showing humility to, and honoring above us those whom we would consider to be of low position. 

Again, this is the example Jesus left for us, and it is a humility that is motivated by love, which Paul sums up perfectly in verses 9-21.

So, think of yourselves very highly, as an amazing creation, but do not think of yourself more highly than someone else.  That is when you are thinking of yourself more highly than you ought.  It’s about recognizing that God has given each of us different gifts, to be used to His glory.

-Greg Landry

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Romans 11-13.

Tomorrow we will finish the book of Romans (chapters 14-16).

If God is for you…

Romans 8-10

I think Romans chapter 8 is one of the most encouraging sections of scripture.  And boy can we use some encouragement right now.

It is so sad to see so many suffering from the effects of the Covid virus.  Many, many people have lost work and income.  Many children are not able to attend school in person.  Abuse has increased.  And many people have died or have otherwise physically suffered from this virus.  It is very easy and very natural to be discouraged and worried right now.  But for Christians at least, we need to cling to the fact that present circumstances do not alter the future promise that God has made.

One day, there will be no need to fear death from a virus or anything else.  We will be made perfect in the coming Kingdom!  That is the hope talked about in Chapter 8, and it is a hope that can not be taken from us. 

Until that day comes, be encouraged, fellow believers, in the words Paul shares here.  Verse 28 says, And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. That’s encouraging!  That doesn’t mean everything will be perfect as we want it to be, but God, in His infinite wisdom knows what is best for our own good even if we do not.

Verse 31b – If God is for us, who can be against us?  That is a great statement.  What God has put in motion is unstoppable.  No one will stop God’s plans, and God’s plans include YOU!

Yes, this pandemic stinks.  And it doesn’t seem the end of it is super soon.  But we have a certain hope in that coming day, and nothing can take that hope away or prevent that day from coming.  Likewise, these momentary troubles can not separate us from the love of Christ.  Paul tells us  in verse 37 that in regards to these troubles we are “more than conquerors.”  We WILL get through these momentary troubles.  For that is all they are, in the bigger picture.

Finally, chapter 8 concludes with more incredible encouragement:

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I hope that is as encouraging for you as it is for me.  Take these passages to heart.  Remember them when the world seems to be against you or, as now, the world seems to be falling apart.  Remember that your creator, your Father, your God is FOR YOU!  And nothing can take that, or His future promise for you, away.

-Greg Landry

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Romans 8-10.

Tomorrow we continue with Romans 11-13.

My Sinful Nature

Romans 4-7

I’m skipping right to the end of chapter seven, to a dilemma that many Christians wrestle with.

Starting in verse 15, Paul says, I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Paul really nails what I and so many other Christians struggle with – the question of why do I continue to sin if I have turned my life over to Christ?  Certainly all Christians still sin.  I know my sins, and you know yours.  But why do we continue to repeat certain sins over and over, if we know they are wrong, and we want to change our behavior?  It’s frustrating.  Many new Christians especially think they have left sin behind once they have accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior, only to be discouraged to discover that their sin nature is alive and well within them, as Paul points out.

I cannot begin to attempt to explain or examine every facet of sin, and why Christians still find themselves caught up in various sins, but I can offer at least one strategy that has worked for me, dealing with a specific sin.  We should all have strategies for overcoming our biggest sin obstacles. 

The following is an excerpt from the marriage book From This Day Forward by Craig and Amy Groeschel.

-“I have a special software installed that, although it allows me to get on the internet when I need to, filters what sites I can get to.  And it sends reports of everything I see to my accountability partners.  Maybe this sounds extreme to you (which doesn’t bother me at all).  Maybe it sounds like a lot of trouble.  It is.   An obvious question might be, “So are you really that weak and vulnerable Craig?  That if nobody was watching, you’d look at things that were immoral or impure?”  I can honestly say the answer is, “No, not really.”  Right now as I’m writing this, and as I’m thinking about these things, I’m in a really good place.  My resolve is strong.  I’m confident in my relationship with Christ, and everything is going really well.  So why bother?  Because if you are honest, you know that not every single moment of your life looks like that.  Sometimes I get tired.  Sometimes my feelings get hurt, or I get angry, or I feel like I’m not getting everything I deserve.  And then, in those fleeting moments of weakness, every door to temptation that I might otherwise try to turn to is completely, thoroughly, securely locked.  Strong Craig of this moment is looking out for weak Craig of those other moments.”

This is great advice.  (By the way, the software he is speaking of is likely called Covenant Eyes, which we use in our house).  When we are strong, we often don’t think about our weaknesses.  But that is the best time to acknowledge them and plan what to do in case they return.  If we can cut off access to committing some of the sins we have struggled with, then do it, if at all possible.

But when we do sin, whether large or small, habitual sin or not, we need not be discouraged to the point of giving up.  Remember that Christ died for us while we were still sinners.  And Paul humbly acknowledged that even he struggled with continuing to commit sins after accepting Christ.   Our sin nature will not be completely shed until, Christ returns, and he delivers us from it.  Until that day, we should be working to sin less and less.  There are certainly strategies we can employ to try to accomplish that, as mentioned already.  But thanks be to God that Christ’s blood covers us, despite our sins. 

-Greg Landry


Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Romans 4-7.

Tomorrow we continue with Romans 8-10.

Not a Blind Faith

Romans 1-3 (& Acts 20:1-3)

This is the first of 5 straight days going through the book of Romans.  That’s not much time for a book loaded with so many great refrigerator verses.  This is also my favorite book to read through, and something different stands out to me almost every time I read from it.  So my intent is to share one or two things that stood out to me THIS TIME from each section.

Romans 1:16 says, For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

I hope you are not ashamed of the Gospel.  I do understand the temptation to be somewhat embarrassed or secretive of it.  Many of the ideas and truths in scripture are no longer “acceptable” in today’s progressive world.  That’s not really new, but it seems to be more true than ever before.  I think we also are often afraid of appearing foolish for believing many of the miraculous aspects of scripture, up to and including the existence of a Creator God.

1:17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.

We as believers must live by faith.  We have never seen God.  We did not witness the mighty miracles recorded in the Bible.  But thankfully, we do not have a blind faith that is not backed up by evidence.  We have had life changing experiences due to our decision to accept Christ.  We have had direct answers to prayers.  We have an abundance of historical documents and artifacts that confirm scripture.  We also have evidence of our faith all around us and even inside of us.

1:18-20 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Simply put, we can know there is a Creator because we reside in His creation.  You can know there is a Creator because you are reading this right now, and YOU were created!  Well, at least that’s what scripture tells us.  But the secular world has different ideas, doesn’t it?  The secular world is only interested in what can be proven.  Or at least that is what they claim.  This is where the foolishness comes in.  We Christians are viewed as foolish for believing “a big guy in the sky” made everything in nature, when science has clearly shown that all living things have evolved from a common ancestor over millions of years.  Those who deny Darwinian evolution are mocked by its adherents.

Either the world was created or it wasn’t, and those who fall on the wrong side of belief in this area probably are foolish.  So which side does the actual evidence back?  As a side note, I have presented this very topic at churches and camps in the course of hours and sometimes days, so this is going to be a VERY abbreviated version of that.

As a Creationist, my confidence in the world being created is because everything actually appears to be created.  Staunch evolutionist Richard Dawkins even admits that (though he proposes that possibly aliens created our world).  Again, if everything appears to be created, then there is likely a Creator.

Perhaps the best evidence that living things specifically are created is the DNA found within every living cell of every living thing, including you.  This DNA is essentially a programming code, much like your computer uses, but DNA is much more complex.  Bill Gates has said that DNA is a more complex code or programming language than any of his best programmers could have created.  Languages and codes do not arise by chance, and to suggest otherwise is actual foolishness.  Beyond that, living cells themselves, as well as the systems that they combine to create, are so unbelievably complex, that they are beyond the law of probability to have evolved by chance.

So to believe in a Creator does still require faith, because we have not seen our Creator.  But it is not a blind faith, because we have ample evidence that we reside in His creation.

On the other hand, if you do not believe in a Creator, then you also must have a large amount of faith.  You must have faith that something can come from nothing (even though this has never been demonstrated to be possible) because this is how big bang theorists imagine the universe started.  You must have faith that living things can come from non-living things (even though this has never been demonstrated to be possible) because this is how most secular thinkers imagine life began.  And you must have faith that less complex organisms can become more complex over time, completely by chance (even though this has never been demonstrated to be possible) because this is the essence of a belief in Darwinian evolution. 

Do not be ashamed of the faith that we hold dear.  It is indeed a faith-based belief system, but not a blind faith.  And keep in mind that those that do not share our faith have also been created by our Great God, and are also loved by Him.  If we have opportunities to share our faith and the reasons we believe with non-believers, I sure hope you will take them.  In the end, they will be without excuse if they have not accepted Christ, but what a shame it would be if they had an opportunity to hear truth from someone like you, and you passed on that opportunity.

-Greg Landry

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 20:1-3 and Romans 1-3.

Tomorrow we will continue with Romans 4-7.

Boasting of the Best

2 Corinthians 10-13

We are going through our final chapters in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians!  Thank you for sticking with me through this last week and listening to my ramblings 😊

As Paul is finishing up his letters, he seems to talk a lot about boasting.  Boasting can be defined as possessing something as a source of pride.  Paul is possessing the knowledge of the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and what that means for his sinful life.  He takes pride in the fact that he belongs to Christ, and he wants others to be proud of that too (10:2).  He doesn’t want people to be proud of themselves or their own accomplishments, but only be proud of the Lord and being part of a group of believers (10:17).

In chapter 11 Paul talks about those who do boast about themselves and discusses how at the very most we should only be willing to boast about our weakness (11:30).  In order to be in a position that you are not only willing to share a weakness but are seeking to openly and proudly share a weakness, you must be truly dedicated and excited to be part of that movement.  Paul understood the impact that sharing his weakness, or his testimony, would have on believers because he got to experience first-hand the grace of God.

Paul didn’t always want to deal with the things that created his testimony, he calls them a thorn used to torment him (12:7).  He asked for the things that were difficult for him to be taken away, and Jesus told him “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (12:9).  Paul did not innately know that the things that were difficult, that were shaping his testimony, were going to be used for God’s glory.  But when he learned that his weakness would only more greatly reflect grace, he did not shy away and try to hide or change his weaknesses to present himself as higher than he was to the church.  All too often Christians can feel this pressure to hide the parts of their life that weren’t “pretty” in the eyes of other believers.  But most times, what we have gone through and come out of because of the grace of God is one of the most powerful tools in bringing people to Christ and encouraging believers.  We should be boasting in our weaknesses, in what God has brought us out of, with the purpose of growing and strengthening the Church.

Paul closes his letter by saying this: “Finally, brothers, rejoice.  Become mature, be encouraged, be of the same mind, be at peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (13:11).  Part of becoming mature can include developing and sharing your testimony.  Being encouraged can happen when you share and hear about testimonies from other believers.  We are all of the same mind when we focus on growing and strengthening the Church.  And being at peace comes from knowing that each believer has that same focus.  When we are able to do all of these things, God will be with us and give us His strength to complete tasks we never thought possible. 

We make up the Church, and we are responsible for continuing to grow the Church and keep one another strong in the faith.  Paul’s letters are a great place to start when looking for ways to be part of the Church, but there is absolutely a level of personal communication with God that is necessary to know where He wants you to be.  I encourage you to take time today to reflect on your own testimony and to ask God who He wants you to share this testimony with.  You may be surprised where He leads you!

Thank you all for joining me through the Corinthians!  This week has been a great time for me to refocus on the mission, and I hope it was for you all as well.  Until next time, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”

-Sarah Blanchard Johnson

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Corinthians 10-13

Tomorrow we begin a new week reading Acts 20:1-3 and Romans 1-3.

A Quality Church – and Your Part in It

2 Corinthians 5-9

Welcome back!  I felt like these five chapters really covered a lot of ground today!  I will only be touching on part of the message presented here for the sake of keeping it relatively short, so I truly encourage you to find someone in your world to read and discuss with the points that stick out to you!

 One portion of this message that stuck out to me in particular was found in chapter five verse 11: “Therefore, because we know the fear of the Lord, we seek to persuade people.  We are completely open before God, and I hope we are completely open to your conscience as well.”  I really admire this idea of being just as open to other believers as we are to God.  To me, this means sharing our pains, fears, hopes, prayers, and praises with the body of believers we surround ourselves with. 

Paul brings up the idea of being open again in chapter six describing how he wants the relationship between himself and the church to be like parents and children with good communication (6:11-13).  That kind of relationship may look different for everyone, but in general, the relationship that a parent and child have should be based on trust, respect, and love.  Paul is talking about how the relationship we have with other believers should be the same!  To provide an example of this Paul describes how happy he was that Titus had come to visit this church specifically because Titus was refreshed by the church (7:13).  Whether it is to a visiting member from another congregation, someone who attends every Sunday, or someone who may only be passing through, people should leave the church feeling refreshed by their time spent with us. 

Continuing on in chapter eight verse 24 Paul is boasting about this church’s love for others in his letter and encourages them to continue to do what they are doing.  Paul doesn’t say anything regarding the physical appearance of the church, how good the music is, or how young and cool the pastor is.  OK, that may not be applicable to the church in Corinth at that time, but I think you get my point!  What makes a church a quality church is their ability to build up the body of believers, to refresh them, so that they may go out and continue their work.  This is only possible when believers in the church are open with one another and have that relationship of trust, respect, and love.

When you look at your own church, what do you boast about?  What makes you proud to attend?  Do you feel like you can be open with the other believers there?  And if not, I encourage you to dig a little deeper… Paul writes about people who sow sparingly reaping sparingly (9:6).  I think this concept applies to a lot of areas, including what we take away from our own church.  If you are looking for a church where you can find strong connections, yet never attend a Bible Study, you are trying to reap generously what was sown sparingly.  If you are trying to find a church that is energetic and full of life, but you never come with a smile on your face or a praise to share, you are trying to reap generously what was sown sparingly.  If you are disappointed that your church rarely has visitors, yet never invite your coworker, neighbor, or friend to a service, you are trying to reap generously what was sown sparingly. 

Being the church does not just mean showing up on a Sunday morning.  It means being open, it means showing respect and love, and it means being actively involved.  Without each one of us taking part in refreshing one another, the church is just a building.  We are the Church, and we each must do our part to make it all it should be.

-Sarah Blanchard Johnson

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Corinthians 5-9.

Tomorrow we will continue with chapters 10-13.

Not Working Alone

2 Corinthians 1-4

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Paul’s letters!

2 Corinthians is truly written as a letter… almost like a story written from Paul’s perspective to the church.  Although sometimes his message can feel redundant (especially when you have to listen to it from me each day…), it really should be symbolizing just how important that message truly is.  We shouldn’t necessarily be finding new ideas each day, because the ideas should be and are consistent throughout the whole Bible!  We should, however, be finding new ways to take that message and apply it to our own life.

The main message that I took from Paul in these chapters is how this mission that I have been touching on this past week isn’t one that we do alone or on our own strength.  Our mission is one that is fueled by God.  Our words, our actions, and our endurance related to spreading the message of hope and Christ’s resurrection has nothing to do with ourselves.  THANK GOODNESS. 

However, that mission is carried out by us.  In these chapters we are called to comfort, to conduct ourselves in purity, to forgive, to love, and to be bold in our faith walk.  All these ideas require us to act on the experience of grace that we have received from God.  When we carry out these things we can do so with the competence from God (3:5), which means that we aren’t responsible for making things up about grace!  We do not have to distort God’s message (in fact you shouldn’t) for people to come to Christ.  We have to tell people about Christ and let his life do the talking!

Paul recognized that this mission wasn’t easy, he lived through the difficulties of telling people about Christ.  He talks about the importance of spreading joy among believers and keeping the body built up by reaffirming people in love (2:5-8).  He reminds the church of these things because he knows how Satan works, and knows that without joy and love, the Church will be weak (2:11). 

To build the church up, Paul closes with some fantastic verses that I want to reiterate here:

“Therefore we do not give up.  Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day.  For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.  So we do not focus on what is seen, but what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (4:16-18). 

Being a Christian is hard.  Being a Christian in 2020 is hard.  But we know that everything that is hard in this current life will be nothing compared to the glory and joy that is the Kingdom.  That doesn’t change the fact that life is still hard, but it should change the way we handle this life and give us some joy and love to spread, even when the world is lacking.

No matter where you are in life today, remind yourself about the hope, grace, and joy you have in Christ.  And when someone asks you why you are still smiling despite the chaos, tell them the truth about who gave you that kind of joy.

-Sarah Blanchard Johnson

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Corinthians 1-4

Tomorrow we will continue with 2 Corinthians 5-9.

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.