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.

The Scourge Of Red Tape

Ezra 4-6 and Psalm 137

Part of today’s reading is Psalm 137. I’m starting with it because this is not a note to end on. Sit with it a few minutes, but don’t take it with you for the whole day. Maybe there is no helping that. 

Psalm 137 is a tour through the raw emotions felt by those in exile. It’s the lament of the desperately misplaced. It’s a prayer to remember their home, Jerusalem, and their former standing with God. It’s a chilling and shocking request for God to repay Babylon for what they did to Jerusalem, concluding with the horrifying mental image of babies being smashed against rocks. The emotions are palpable and powerful.

Let that be a “looking back” exercise from where we are in Ezra. Look how far things have come, from complete and utter despair in a foreign land, to being home again and in the process of rebuilding and restoring. Speaking of Ezra…

When you try to do something worthwhile, there is likely to be a few obstacles. Even the most simple of projects can take twice as long as you’d thought. And that’s without anyone trying to sabotage your efforts.

At this point in the book of Ezra, the people of Jerusalem are working hard on rebuilding the city and temple, probably running into all the usual pitfalls of trying to build things. But they have a much bigger problem: Some locals are trying to stop them from building, even actively sabotaging their building plans.

These locals write the king about the people in Jerusalem, employing disinformation and half-truths, and claiming that they are all troublemakers who will rebel once the city and walls are built. The king Artaxerxes can agree that, historically speaking, they are indeed troublemakers, and he orders the construction halted.

Amidst the long hiatus, the Jews in Jerusalem receive some much needed encouragement from the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, and are sparked to begin rebuilding again. Tomorrow we’ll be looking at the part Haggai played in this.

Soon after starting the project back up, they are pestered by the locals again, who are questioning if they have permission to build. They provide their entire story, and inform the locals that Cyrus commanded them to rebuild. Word gets back to the king and they do some fact checking in the archives. They find the papers regarding the edict of Cyrus, and the king makes it clear that the original edict stands. The rebuilding will continue, and the efforts will be subsidized by the empire, including animals to sacrifice.

But did you catch what the king’s motivations are? It is “so that they may offer pleasing sacrifices to the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king as his children.” So it isn’t so much for the people as much as it’s to ensure the well-being of the king. What, did you think the king wasn’t getting something out this deal?

Overcoming these obstacles, the rebuilding of the temple is eventually finished, followed by a dedication for the temple, a massive sacrifice to atone for the sins of Israel, the appointing of priests, and observing feasts (think back to the first temple in 1 Kings 8). In other words, they are doing all the things they were not able to do while in exile. Now they have a stronger connection to and reestablishment of their worship and traditions they enjoyed before they were exiled.

It is a joyous day. Indeed they’ve come far toward restoration, but we’re left with an anti-climax and the feeling that there is much work left to be done. You can’t just build a temple, go through some motions, snap your fingers, and declare that the people are restored. There is work yet to be done on the hearts of the people.

-Jay Laurent

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Psalm 137 & Ezra 4-6

Tomorrow we will read the two chapter book of Haggai as we continue on the

Who is Worthy?

Revelation 5

Revelation 5 2 4 NIV

I remember when I was younger trying to open the jam jar and it was almost impossible. All I wanted was my PBJ and needed to open the seal of the jar so I could be successful. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get it open, so naturally I asked my brother if he could somehow open it. Then with ease and hardly a second he had it open. My brother was the key to my Peanut Butter and Jam sandwich.

In revelation 5 John is in the middle of a vision and he has in front of him a throne and next to this throne was a book with 7 seals. He is having a difficult time figuring out who could open this book with these seals but could not find any worthy person. But then it describes the one who was worthy to open the seals in verse 5:5 “The lion that is from Judah, the root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its 7 seals.”That Lion depicted in this verse is Jesus he is the one who has overcome death and has made it possible for us to do that same thing.

Having someone stronger than us in our lives so we can succeed is vital to being a Christian. We have Jesus to rely on and he makes it possible for us to worship God with pure hearts and minds. He was worthy so we can also be worthy.

I would like you all to write down on a post-it note the one thing that holds you back from your greatest potential and hang it on your mirror that you use daily. Remember this when you read it, Jesus overcame sin and death, and He gives us the power to do the same.

Jesse Allen

God First (I Chronicles 8-10)

Thursday, November 17

god_first-1097943

We are coming to the end of the genealogy in 1 Chronicles.  It goes through chapter 9.  After 3 days full of genealogy, I was excited to have something to read and write about that wasn’t genealogy.  However, I was struck by the last chapter of this genealogy, and felt compelled to write one more devotion on it.

Chapter 9:1b-2 says, “The people of Judah were taken captive to Babylon because of their unfaithfulness.  Now the first to resettle on their own property in their own towns were some Israelites, priests, Levites and temple servants.”  The chapter continues by telling us that there were 1760 priests who returned, along with 212 gatekeepers guarding the Tent of meeting.  Four principle gatekeepers were responsible for the rooms and treasuries in the house of God.  Others who returned were responsible for the articles used in temple services.  Others were in charge of the temple furnishings.

The thing that struck me about this was that the first to return, the ones listed here, were dealing with the temple and the worship of God.  It wasn’t the masons to build a wall, or the warriors who would build the army to defend the city.  The Israelites were returning their hearts to God, and had their priorities straight:  worship God first and then deal with everything else.

How does this compare to us?  Do we prepare to worship God first?  I know it is very easy for me to get things backwards, get caught up in the busyness of life, and fit God in when there is time.  However, when I take time for God first, the busyness doesn’t seem so rushed and frantic, even when the circumstances stay the same.  Let’s focus on putting God first and worship him today.

-Andrew Hamilton

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