Devotions

Monthly Archives: July, 2016

1 Corinthians 9

“I deserve.” “Get mine.” “It is my right.” These phrases have become commonplace, not just in the world around us, but in our lives as well. In the verses we looked at yesterday, Paul emphasized his right to be supported financially by the church.

I have been married for 12 years now. They have been 12 of the best years of my life. Despite having the best wife ever, I’ve still found myself expecting more at times. I have had some moments where I felt like Paul, except on a much more selfish and immature level. You know those classic stupid guy thoughts like “I put my dishes in the dishwasher, I deserve to just sit on the couch the rest of the night now,” or even better, “I made the bed once this week and now you have the audacity to ask me to take out the trash?”

Take a moment to examine yourself and remember a recent moment where you had a similar thought about your rights. Read 1 Corinthians 9:12. Remember, Paul has spent most of this chapter reminding the church just how much sacrifice he put in for their lives and how it is his right to be supported by them.

Let’s take a closer look at verses 12.

12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.

In those moments of excessive self-worth, we rarely take into consideration how our “rights” affect the people around us. One of the most disruptive, dare I say, destructive forces in the church today takes place when we misuse the freedom or the rights we have been given by God. Throughout the Bible, God emphasizes the importance of helping and supporting the people around us. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” I often find myself focusing on what I am allowed to do instead of focusing on what I should do for those around me.

Paul set himself up as an example to follow. He showed us how he had every right to be supported by the church at Corinth, yet Paul laid down that right for something he knew was far more important: “the gospel of Christ.” He knew that these young believers in a relatively young church might have a difficult time supporting him, so he laid his right down for the greater good. When you find yourself demanding what you deserve, ask yourself “is my right what’s most important here or do I need to lay down my right to help build someone up?”

 

Trevor Cole
Communication Pastor

Pastoral Care

Let me just start today’s study by emphasizing the fact that if I had a choice, I would skip right over this part of the chapter. However, it is part of chapter 9, and I have been asked to write six devotions for chapter 9. We would come up quite short if I skipped over one-third of the chapter because it made me uncomfortable. So here we are…

I would like to do a quick review of 1 Corinthians, so we know where we have come from and where we are headed. Throughout much of this book, Paul has been answering all kinds of questions these church people had been asking. In chapter 8, he introduced the truth of Christian liberty: that we have the right to do certain things because, through Christ, we have been freed from the law. He also explained that our Christian liberty must be controlled by our concern and love for our fellow believers. In other words, there are certain things that we can do that we should not do because of how it will impact those around us. Paul uses all of chapter 9 and some of the next to teach this idea through the example of his own life. Today, let’s take a look at verses 1-11.

1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

This is my defense to those who would examine me. Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?

Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? For it is written in the Law of Moses, You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?

Did I already mention that if it were my choice, I would have skipped right over these verses? Paul spends 11 verses emphasizing his right to be supported by the church. He gives all kinds of reasons: Other pastors are supported by their churches (v. 6). Soldiers, farmers and shepherds get gain from what they oversee (v.7-9). You reap what you sow (v.11).

The most painful part about teaching on this is that so many pastors throughout the world are taking advantage of verses like these. There will always be those types of people, those who take advantage of God’s Word and abuse it for their own personal gain. Sometimes it is a “pastor” who does not truly want to serve God but serves the almighty dollar. It is not just pastors that misuse God’s Word like this though; people do it all the time as well. They manipulate God’s Word in a way that fits their argument and disregard it when it does not. However, we cannot avoid the truth of the Bible because we are uncomfortable with those who misuse it. God has called us to financially provide for those who care for our churches, and I hope that we do not take that responsibility lightly.

 

Trevor Cole
Communication Pastor

Order me up a Big Mac

It has been my choice since 2014 never to eat McDonalds’ foods. The choice was merely for better eating habits. However, before the year 2014 was to end, Jim and I drove to Selma, Alabama to visit our dear friends who are in their eighties. Jim went fishing early in the morning that next day after we arrived with Joe. Meryl and I made plans the night before to go to breakfast together in the morning. Being in a small southern town, I was looking forward to enjoying some great southern cooking for breakfast. As we drove through the town, Meryl pulls into McDonalds. I was screaming in my mind, “Oh, no, I didn’t plan on coming here again.” Did I say anything to Meryl? Absolutely not! I ate my egg McMuffin and enjoyed our time together.

Paul says that we can sin against our brothers…thus sinning against God (1 Corinthians 8:11, 12). Not hurting Meryl’s feelings was more important to me than a food choice I had made. We will answer to God for our actions, but we will also answer to God how we have treated others.

“For I was hungry and you have me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, and I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you. And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’” (Matthew 25:35-40).

What a sobering verse to realize that our actions toward others speak volumes to whom we serve. Is it the God of self or the God of the universe? I have not had McDonalds since that time, but if I am going to sin against my brother, order me up a Big Mac!

 

Carole Combs
Women’s Ministry

To Eat or Not to Eat, that is the Question

One, two, three pray after me and POOF! Your relationship with God is all set. This world we live in has mixed up and messed up how we can have a relationship with God. Paul deals with this very subject. “Food will NOT commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.” 1 Corinthians 8:8

When the teens go to camp, they have had food eating contests. They are not your typical pie, jello, or marshmallow eating contests. The contests have included pig brains, rotten eggs, and blended up worms to name just a few. My daughter would come home talking about these games, only to make me queasy hearing about them. Yes, they would win a prize for succeeding to stomach these not so normal food items. Paul was clarifying that it was not what you ate or what you did not eat that had any merit to a closer relationship with God.

So how do we draw closer to God? It is an action on our part. God always does his part.

…How can we know the way? Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:5, 6). “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32).

Our only way to the Father in heaven is through Jesus. Jesus knew there would be confusion, heartaches, and troubles in this world. There are times that I go to my “feel good” food, which includes ice cream and chocolate, of course. It is temporary, I know. However, what are you relying on that you do to have a relationship with God? Jesus said that He has “come to give us life, but not just life, but an abundant life also” (John 10:10b). We have the ability in this world we live in to live an abundant life! It is a life rich in God’s mercy and grace! It is a life surrounded by God’s goodness!

To eat or not to eat should never be the question.

To trust God and follow Him is the answer.

 

Carole Combs
Women’s Ministry

Woe is Me

“So whoever know the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17).

Ouch! How many times have you and I knowingly done things that we thought we should not do? The Spirit of God even spoke to our hearts and mind to make the right choice but we chose our way, and it was seldom by accident. The Bible calls this sin. Ouch again!

In 1 Corinthians 8:7, Paul teaches that a person can defile their conscience. Puritan Richard Sibbs wrote in the seventeenth century that, “the conscience is at the heart of what distinguishes the human creation. People, unlike animals, can contemplate their own actions and make moral self-evaluations. The conscience leads you to do what you believe is right and restrains you from what you believe is wrong.”

The conscience is not the voice of God. It is a part of us that God gave to you and me to filter our actions and thoughts. It is by the standard we know.

So what is your standard? What do you use to measure right and wrong in your life? If your standard measures up better than your neighbor, your siblings, your spouse, you may think that you are doing good in the eyes of God. What if you measured yourself to God? When Isaiah saw God in the book of Isaiah 6:5, he said, “Woe is me! I am a sinful man…”  Since Isaiah had seen God and all His righteousness, he measured his life against God and saw how sinful he was.

It is so easy to compare and learn our standards of living from those around us. I am so thankful that God has given us His living Word that we might put the right data in our consciences. We have His Word to filter our thoughts and actions. Take time today to delete those things in your mind and in your heart that are defiling you. I do not want to say “Ouch” every day, and I am sure you do not either. Your words need to be saturated with the words of God. Make your choices and actions honor God all the time.

What is your conscience telling you?

 

Carole Combs
Women’s Ministry



Office: 8393 E. Holly Rd. Holly, MI 48442 | 248.328.0490 | info@theriverchurch.cc

Copyright © 2016 The River Church. All Rights Reserved.