Devotions

Monthly Archives: July, 2016

Audience of One

In chapter nine of 1 Corinthians, Paul illustrates the concept of giving up your rights, for the good of others.  He uses his own life as an example saying, “Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:19). Paul was truly focused on others!

In chapter 10, Paul furthers his thoughts about how you live by using the Israelites as a prime example.  He says this about the Israelites:

“All of them ate the same spiritual food, and all of them drank the same spiritual water. For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ. Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness” (1 Corinthians 10:3-5 NLT).

What does Paul mean here?  We believe that Paul is using the Israelites as an example to prove to us that no matter how spiritual you think you are, it has nothing to do with religious acts!  The people of Israel “drank the same spiritual water” and “ate the same spiritual food”, but MOST of them displeased God.  This shows us that being a genuine believer is a rare thing.  Most people put on an act that makes others think they have it all together.  However, that “act,” displeases God.  Paul is telling us that true spirituality resides on the inside.  Genuine belief is a relationship between you and God.  How spiritual you are has nothing to do with the acts you commit so others can see.  It has everything to do with the decisions you make to honor God and God alone.

Now that we know what it means, this passage is challenging for us to read.  It is very difficult for us to make decisions solely based upon what God thinks, instead of what others think.  As prideful humans, we do good things to impress others. Shouldn’t we try everything possible to impress our God?

 

Tommy Youngquist
Children’s Pastor

1 Corinthians 9:26-27

1 Corinthians 9:26-27 – So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

I have already told you that I am no marathon runner but I would not call myself a fighter either. Apart from my younger brother, I have never been in a fistfight in my life. Regardless of not being a fighter, I can get the picture Paul paints when he talks about keeping his body under control. We know that he is a goal setter because he does not want to run “aimlessly.” Anyone who has ever trained for anything can relate to that concept.

I remember a few years ago when I realized I had put on a few extra pounds since my college days. I knew I needed to take care of the body God has so graciously given me, and I was sick of feeling as if I was going to die every time I simply jogged down the basketball court. So off I went to get “back in shape.” It did not take me long to realize that I needed some goals, so I started writing everything down. Distances and times for runs, weights used, pushups done, and all that. It is funny that when it comes to fitness we know what it takes to get better and move forward. If we are really serious, we do not just want to get by with our training we want to do everything we can to get the best results. If I just go out for a jog every day and do not have anything to compare one day with the next, how will I know if I have grown at all? I won’t and I will end up stuck in a rut going nowhere.

God wants us to have the same attitude about goals for our spiritual life. I would encourage you to regularly examine yourself and ask God for some spiritual goals. That can be something as simple as reading a certain book of the Bible for a month or spending a certain amount of time in prayer for a season. We do not want these goals to be a checklist that makes us feel more spiritual; they are to help us grow closer to God.

I would also encourage you, do not try to do it all on your own. Hebrews 3:13 – “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Find someone that is almost a spiritual workout partner. Someone you respect that you can be open and honest with about the spiritual goals you want to set. God made us social people and that is no different when it comes to spiritual growth.

 

Trevor Cole
Communication Pastor

Crown Me

1 Corinthians 9:25 – “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.”

Matthew 5:6 – “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

Have you ever failed at something? Have you ever given your all toward something and still come up short? It hurts doesn’t it? Trying to live for God sometimes feels that way. We know the sacrifice that Jesus made to give us forgiveness and we long to live for Him in return, but it often feels like we fail Him all the time. For many years I’ve asked God to make me the man He wants me to be: To lead people to follow Him, to live a holy life, to lead my family His way, to be a loving, kind, and strong husband and so on. I wish I could tell you that I am always all of those things, but I am not.

In 1 Corinthians 9:25 Paul talks about this imperishable wreath or crown: Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  Yesterday we learned about staying on course and keeping eternity in mind as we run the race that God has for us. Today I want to encourage you with the promise that God has made for those who run the race well. Paul reminds us that those who win races here on earth receive a crown that will eventually be meaningless but that believers run their race for one that is imperishable, but what is the crown he is talking about? The word Paul uses here can be found in other parts of the Bible but the most similar use can be found in 2 Timothy 4:7-8: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness… This crown of righteousness that is promised to those who keep the faith is what makes us fit for heaven. Here on earth we are not perfect. We do the best we can with God’s help, but we still make mistakes; we fail Him. I find it so encouraging to know that there will come a day when I no longer falter in this race we run.

It is important and encouraging to remember that this world we live in is not our final home. We are just racing through it, and we must keep our eye on the prize or we will run off course. I’m going to date myself here, but Steven Curtis Chapman wrote a song that never ceases to give me hope; it is called “Not Home Yet.” If you have a moment, give it a listen, but let me leave you with these words from the song: “I know there’ll be a moment, I know there’ll be a place, where we will see our Savior and fall in His embrace. So let us not grow weary or to content to stay, because we are not home yet.” We may not be perfect yet, but when we reach our final home, we will be the best version of ourselves that God always had planned for us.

 

Trevor Cole
Communication Pastor

Run with Purpose

I have never loved running. Plenty of people I know have asked me “isn’t it on your bucket list to run a marathon?” Nope, not even a little bit. Don’t get me wrong; I am a pretty competitive person. I’ll bust out the occasional 2-5 mile run just to see what I can do, but 26.2 miles? Yeah, I’ll pass on that.

Even though I would not consider myself an avid runner, I think we can all understand the point Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 9:24: Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  There are so many things grasping for our attention on a daily basis with many of them being very worthwhile, valuable pursuits. A successful career, physical fitness, financial security, a happy marriage, who would criticize such pursuits? In and of themselves these goals are benign, but when we allow them to control our every decision, we have left the course of the most important race we must run.

Let’s just take a moment and focus on one area that almost everyone desires, a happy marriage. We can all agree that a happy marriage is a good thing and that God has the power to give us just that. The problem arises when we make a good marriage our goal. We believe that a happy marriage will help everything else fall into place. When that happens, we are no longer running in the right race. Our life’s goal should be to follow Jesus with everything we have and to share the message of His forgiveness and freedom.

If in my marriage all I am trying to do is make my partner happy and vice versa, we may end up with a “good” marriage by most standards. We stay faithful to one another, enjoy going to dinner and on vacations with one another, and everyone around us thinks “they’ve got it pretty good.” A happy marriage may be a wonderful thing, but it should never be our ultimate goal. Our marriages would be much better off if husband and wife kept eternity in mind. We must remember that God did not bring us together simply for our enjoyment and happiness but so that we could serve Him better. A couple dedicated to giving their all to God instead of just to each other has enormous power.

This idea of keeping eternity in mind applies to any other pursuit in this world as well. Career, fitness, and finances can all be good things if we remember why God has given us those opportunities and abilities: for His glory and to reach others with His good news. A great runner of any kind keeps the end in mind. That is what we must do; focus on what is ahead. It is not easy to live with eternity in mind every day of our lives, but we must give everything we have to focus on the end of our race.

 

Trevor Cole
Communication Pastor

By All Means

Before we look at anything else Paul writes in this section we need to establish why he did what he did and why we should follow his example. We find his reasoning at the end of verse 22: “that by all means I might save some.” What exactly was he trying to save them from? He may not state it explicitly in this verse but Romans 5:9, another of Paul’s letters, reads “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” That is exactly what Paul and we are trying to rescue people from, the wrath of God.

Maybe it is because, as Americans, we have so much. Maybe it is just because we do not want to be reminded of God’s justice. Whatever the reason may be, we often avoid the fact that the Holy God, who created this earth, must pour out His wrath on those who do not put their faith in the saving work of Jesus. Many people emphasize the help that Jesus can give psychologically, the power to overcome hate, fear, loneliness, and so on. Those things are wonderful, and He does help us to overcome those issues, but the best and most important part of the gospel is that we do not have to experience God’s almighty wrath. Do you believe that?

It is entirely possible that we do not share the message of Jesus because we do not believe, deep down, that God’s wrath will reign down on those who reject His truth. Our lives have become so busy and so filled with an excess of doing that we take little time to remind ourselves that our lives are short, and people need the truth of Jesus. Take some time today and simply think on the wrath of God that will come. Allow it to impact your view of this world just as it did Paul’s.

Once you have allowed the truth and power of God’s wrath to sink into your heart and mind, then read the following verses.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 – For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

Now that we understand Paul’s reason, his heart, we can truly understand what it means to be all things to all men. We have freedom in Christ to put aside the petty differences that can alienate us from society and more specifically, from those who do not follow Jesus. We must also remember to examine ourselves regularly before God to make sure that we are not becoming too much like the world that they no longer realize that there is something different about us. This task is not an easy one, but I challenge you to see what God can do through you when you ask yourself this question often: “Am I doing everything I can to reach those around me while remaining true to the God who saved me from His wrath?” Can you say like Paul “that by all means I might save some”?

 

Trevor Cole
Communication Pastor



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