Read Romans 6

Romans 5:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” Paul is further explaining, as he did in Romans 4, how by our faith in Jesus Christ we are able to stand in God’s grace. And we can apply this truth to our lives by rejoicing even in our sufferings, as Paul writes in verse 3-4. Our sufferings reveal the glory of God even more by producing hope and stronger faith.

Romans 6 takes a new turn and Paul begins to write about the depths of love of our amazing God. Paul, in verses 6-8, describes our powerlessness and how awful we are and the true love it would take to make such a huge sacrifice for people like us. I believe that this example of love is how we should love each other. Most would say it does not make any sense, and honestly, it doesn’t. It doesn’t make sense that someone would die, not for a good person or even an okay person, but for us: sinners. But that is what Jesus did. He demonstrated how deeply he loved us despite our sin, and he died for us. We are awful people who do awful things, but somehow God loved us so much that he sent his son to die for us. This example of love is what we should think of when someone makes us mad or frustrates us. We should love people despite every inner selfish desire that says it’s too hard. We should love people unconditionally no matter what it has to offer us in return. Because what did God get in return for his love? God got cheated on, denied, hated, and persecuted for his love. He still receives that every single day. But for some reason, God loves us anyway and desires our love. Society around us loves those who love them back or make them happy, but we should be the examples of true, unconditional, selfless love.  

In verses 12 to the end of the chapter, Paul explains the concept known as Original Sin, and we attempt to understand. This passage is deeply disputed and very confusing, but maybe my thoughts on this passage could be of service. So verse 12 is pretty simple, explaining how sin entered the world through Adam. When sin entered the world, so did death. This doctrine reveals that, like verse 13-14 explains, we don’t need a law to be sinners. The law written on our hearts makes us sinners. Even though there was no written law until Moses, we had laws written on our hearts. Because Adam sinned, and became aware of his sin, he then had laws written on his heart even though there was no written law. So, like Paul says in verse 14, nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses. Verses 15-17 explains how the justification was much needed through Jesus, and because of that we should be grateful.

Verse 20 explains that the Law of Moses was established so our sins might increase. When laws were written, humanity stumbled even more trying to follow them. But where we stumbled even more, God’s love and grace abounded even more! Romans 5 explains the revelation of God’s gigantic love for us through his son, Jesus Christ.

Today’s author: Jade Hart

Advertisements

Read 1 Corinthians 13

If I asked you, “do you have any records?” Would you know how to answer me? Probably not without asking for clarification or knowing the context of the question. Such is the case for many of our English words like “record”, which can have multiple meanings. How about, “is your Bible “red”?” You can answer that because you can see the word, but if you only heard the question you might think I was asking about your devotional life. Our word “love” is a problem word because we use it to express different things. Many of the world’s languages have specific words for the various meanings we English speakers attribute to that one word.

The ancient Greek language, the language of the Bible, had four specific words for the different things we now translate by using the one word “love”. None of the words were “religious” in nature.  The word in question before us in our passage today, 1 Corinthians 13, is the Greek word “agape”. Generally it’s meaning for the Greek people was that of relationship based on unconditional commitment; behavior that required sacrifice for a person without thought of any benefit in return.  In 1610, when the translators of the Bible we know as the King James Version came to this section of Scripture, they used the English word “charity” for “agape”. It fit perfectly with the meaning of the word in its time, but for us the meaning of that word has changed through the years to simply be understood as a handout to a needy person. So, what word can we use instead? Well, if we have to use one word, love comes closest but we have to make sure we define it as the Bible intends: the kind of relationship based on a commitment to always act in the best interest of another.

Paul gives us a picture of what that is like. The Corinthians needed it then just like we do today for about the same reasons. Our relationships with people are suspect. Our lips use the word “love”, but our lives demonstrate we define the meaning as it suits us at the time. More often than not, it is based on “what is in it for me? Or “what do I get in return?” Paul says the God-kind of love is a giving love that is not self-seeking. It seeks the best for others. It is a commitment more than an emotion. We act because we know it is the best even though we might not feel like it.  Children have to learn this and adults have to model it for them. It is the ultimate sign of maturity.

John recorded in 13:35 of his gospel account the words of Jesus: “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” How are we doing?

Today’s author: Randy Babin

Read 1 Corinthians 10

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.  Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.” 1Cor. 10:31-33

Giving up my rights for the sake of someone else? Laying aside my freedoms for another? Not an idea readily embraced by anyone, anywhere; especially not the Corinthians, and especially not me.  But, ultimately, that is Christ’s call on my life – “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24. And, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

Eating and drinking are fairly mundane activities, but the Corinthians were really struggling with them.  Some were literally eating and drinking sacrifices made to idols, knowing they were sacrifices made to idols, while others played legalistic police, adamant that one couldn’t even eat or drink food sold in the marketplace because it might have been a sacrifice.  For some, their freedom in Christ meant they could do whatever they wanted, right?  No condemnation? No law? No restrictions? No bounds?

Oh, wouldn’t I like to think so at times! But, no.

I have not been set free from sin and death to live a life fulfilling my own selfish desires ‘just because I can.’  No. I am set free to live my life for Christ.  “But to live is Christ; to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21. Everything I do is to God’s glory, for His purpose.  Paul lays out that purpose in the end of chapter 10 – ‘that they may be saved.’  I set aside my own rights and desires so that others can see God’s glory and know His salvation.

Today’s author: Sean and Rebecca Jamerson

1 Corinthians 3

Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk to you as though you were infants in Christ.  I had to feed you with milk, not solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, for you are controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world?  Vv. 1-3

Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. Vv16-17.

I always think of God’s church, His people, when I read this chapter, and how good we are at feuding amongst ourselves.  And I just have to wonder how much that grieves the Holy Spirit.  Not only does it grieve the Holy Spirit when God’s people argue and fight, but it destroys our witness to the world. Who wants to belong to a body that can’t even get along with each other?

All of us have seen it. Churches can get into the silliest arguments over carpet color, over whether to use screens or hymnals, whether the preacher should wear a tie on Sunday morning or dress more casually, or whether we should sing one type of song over another. And we all laugh at the silliness of these feuds, until our preferences are in danger. Then it becomes “our passion”, “our belief”, “our …”  I know.  I have had my preferences overruled on many occasions. And you know what? We still preached the gospel, people still got saved, lives were still changed, even though my felt needs were not being met. Funny how God can still work when things are not done the way I would have done them.

My oldest daughter and I have had many disagreements on how things should go in the church, or how a situation should be handled. One day it dawned on me why that is so. My area of giftedness is teaching and prophecy. I believe in speaking truth into people’s lives, and really feel they should act on that truth. My daughter’s area of giftedness is mercy. She always operates out of that gift and a need to redeem people. We both have the same end in mind, but we go about it in totally different ways. We talked about that, and together we help each other see from another perspective. I think that has made us each better. We can each do what God has called us to do because we collaborate.

When we disagree with one another we need to be careful that we are not acting out of our sinful natures, and we need to remember that God has called us to work together, a body of believers who are carrying out a single mission—the redemption of mankind. All of us, collectively, are the temple of God, One Body, controlled by One Holy Spirit. If we allow Him to control us, we can work together to achieve His mission here on earth.

Today’s author: Sharon Warner

Read 1 Corinthians 2

This chapter really put evangelism in perspective for me. The core message here is that people do not and should not become Christians because of a charismatic leader or human logic. Sinners are separated from God, and therefore incapable of understanding the truth about God. The Holy Spirit is the only One who can bridge this gap. This is a reality of which I needed to be reminded as a minister who teaches and evangelizes on a regular basis. I take pride in my ability to explain and reason with people who struggle with belief. And don’t misunderstand; these are good things that we should be doing. However, the realization that came to me when reading this chapter is that I need to be spending just as much, if not more, time praying for nonbelievers as witnessing to them. We cannot forget that God is the only one with power to penetrate and soften a hardened heart. Even when thinking about places like church camp and the rapid spiritual growth that occurs in just a few days, we must realize that the speaker and the band are not responsible for this success, but God! If you have been to camp you can’t help but notice feeling the thick and undeniable presence of God as soon as you walk into the room to worship. This is because there have been countless believers calling out to God to show up and in His love He responds! God is the only great evangelist! I am only his messenger. Because this is the case, I will call out to Him with all of my heart to intercede on behalf of the lost people in my life. This chapter does not relieve our responsibility to evangelize, but it reminds us of the authority by which we do preach the Gospel, and urges us to call out to the Holy Spirit who is the only one who can bridge the gap between broken sinners and the life changing truth of God.

Today’s author: Porter Brewer

Read 1 Corinthians 1

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” 1 Corinthians 1:27

I played with dolls this week. One of them was a mermaid, Ariel I believe. I’m not sure of the name of the other one but it was a girl doll. That’s not something I usually do. In fact, it’s something that I would normally have zero interest in or desire to do. But at least for a moment that changed. What happened? A two year old girl named Annie.

As part of our mission trip to Pullman Washington we stayed in homes of church members. Lynn and I stayed with a wonderful couple, Ben and Chelsey and their two children Annie, age two, and Owen, age six months. Owen was a happy little boy. Annie was a charming and delightful little girl. She quickly took to Lynn, smiling, hugging, and gazing at her with her beautiful blue eyes. Me, not so much. She would cling tightly to Ben or Chelsey or even Lynn when I was around.

I tried to win her heart, but to no avail. That is until our last day. For some reason on this day she reached out to me. She asked me to read her a book. It was about cows that could type. Then we moved on to the dolls. I was asked to hold Ariel and the other doll in my lap while Annie did some other important task. (Lynn has a pic to prove it.) I held them gladly, excited that I was finally getting to be in the inner circle with Annie.

A precious little two year old got me to do something that was completely against my nature. She got me to do things no one else could have forced me to do, no matter how strong or intelligent they were.

God is that way. He does not win the hearts of the world He loves by force. Or by impressive buildings. Or even well written doctrinal statements. (As important as these things are.) God wins the hearts of the world when normal people do extraordinary things because of His love in their hearts. Things like loving a neighbor in a time of need. Like forgiving when it’s undeserved. Like sacrificing to meet the needs of someone we don’t even know and may never see this side of heaven. Simple things that God uses in a powerful way to eternally change the hearts of a sin hardened world.

Today’s author: Monty Pierce