cccdailybiblereading

A daily encouragement to read the Bible with others from Christ Community Church, Conway.

Month: August, 2013

Bible Reading Day 243

Day 243: August 31 (1 Corinthians 10:14-33)

Good morning!

After the warning yesterday to be careful if we think we are standing strong, Paul reiterates an earlier warning to consider others today. The basic premise is the same – God’s ways are not our ways. We are self-focused to the point that we consider ourselves above God’s standards, while God is focused on others and is always willing to humble Himself for the sake of those in need of His love (which is all of us!).

The Corinthians had been saying that they could do whatever they liked – worship idols one moment and then participate in the Christian “love feast” the next (including sharing bread and wine in the covenant meal we call communion or The Lord’s Supper). Paul contradicts this view by pointing out that each activity is an expression of unity with the one validating the meal: demons on one hand, and Jesus on the other. Since Jesus came to vanquish demons and set us free from their influence, it is inconceivable that a Christian would embrace both Jesus and demons.

Anticipating the reaction “I can do anything I want,” Paul states again that not everything is beneficial; the Christian must decide – will I do what is good for me alone, or will I consider others before I act? This means that our freedom (which is real and given by God) will sometimes be restricted lovingly for the sake of others. If another may be led astray by my choice, I had better make the choice that avoids that, even if it temporarily diminishes my freedom.

Paul puts it this way: “I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.”

What a great motivation for giving up our “rights” and “freedoms”! Freedom used for selfish ends is really bondage to sin. How does God want to set you free today?

Have a great day!

Mark.

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Bible Reading Day 242

Day 242: August 30 (1 Corinthians 10:1-13)

Good morning!

After some pointed and forceful words in the past few chapters, Paul now turns to a more pastoral angle, and reminds the Corinthians of Israel’s history. Writing as a teacher, he is less direct but no less powerful. In fact, the indirect approach seems designed to drive the message home to the whole church, rather than the specific individuals and groups targeted by his answers to their questions.

Paul warns them of the consequences in Israel’s history of being part of God’s people but not pleasing God. Specifically he mentions seeking evil things, worshiping idols, sexual immorality, putting Christ to the test, and grumbling.

When we step back and think about those things, we are all guilty of them in some degree! Paul says these examples are warnings for us to avoid the same mistakes.

The problem for the Corinthians was that they thought they had it all together, that they were superior, that they were free, that the rules didn’t apply to them in the same way; that somehow they were above the boundaries laid out for others. Sadly we often fall into the same trap in America. It is possible to be part of God’s movement without pleasing God, and the conclusion of that error is death!

So Paul reminds them, as he reminds us all, that if we think we are standing firm, be careful we don’t fall. Instead, be aware of temptations and struggles (to keep us from being proud and haughty) knowing that God will bring us through them if we trust Him more than our own strength, wisdom, and effort.

Have a great day!

Mark.

Bible Reading Day 241

Day 241: August 29 (1 Corinthians 9)

Good morning!

Having answered the specific questions in their letter, Paul now goes on to answer an implied question from the Corinthian church – “what right do you have to speak into our lives?” There is a great deal of insight into spiritual authority in this chapter, and we would benefit from a careful reading to help us receive all that God has for us.

To those who questioned his rights as an apostle, Paul reminds them of his qualifications: he saw the Lord (on the road to Damascus), he was sent by the Lord (apostle means one who is sent), and it was Paul’s work that led the Corinthians to Christ. It was the outworking of obedience in fruitfulness that gives Paul authority and freedom.

He goes on to outline the debt of provision the Corinthians owe him as the farmer who sowed the seeds of their faith, the shepherd who brought them into God’s flock. Yet he never claimed the payment of that debt. He is not boasting or claiming to be greater because of this sacrificial act – rather he feels so compelled to preach the good news that he can’t do anything else. Paul is a man with a vision, and nothing can stop him!

It is precisely this self-giving attitude that imbues Paul with spiritual authority. It is the willingness to live against the status quo that sets him apart from others who demand authority and use it to direct others. Paul has chosen the pathway of self-sacrifice, living as a Jew among Jews, and in weakness among the weak, so that his life will lead others to Jesus. In this way he runs the race with purpose and trains himself to do only what serves others.

So how can the most prolific apostle teach us about spiritual authority? Well authority is the fruit of obedient service, not bestowed by title or position. Authority is revealed by humility and the willingness to adapt to the needs of others. If it is demanded, it is lost, and if it is sought as a goal, it is elusive. Rather, authority comes from being like Jesus – going to the place of need, relinquishing rights and position, being obedient to God, and bearing fruit as a result.

How can you step into authority in that spirit? And who in your life deserves honor as a spiritual authority who has enabled you to bear fruit?

Have a great day!

Mark.

Bible Reading Day 240

Day 240: August 28 (1 Corinthians 8)

Good morning!

Today Paul’s answers to questions from the Corinthian Christians move on to another topic relevant to their time – food offered to idols.

This was a common practice in the New Testament world, just as it is in some parts of the world today. The Corinthians were proud of their “knowledge” on this issue; their freedom to do whatever they wanted extended to this area too.

But Paul offers a different perspective – God’s love is stronger than our “superior knowledge” and it is our fault if we use our “freedom” to cause a weaker brother or sister to stumble in their faith. So the higher standard is to follow Christ in caring more for the weak than for our own “rights” and “freedoms” to do as we please.

How can God use you to protect a weaker believer from harm or confusion today?

Have a great day!

Mark.

Bible Reading Day 239

Day 239: August 27 (1 Corinthians 7:25-40)

Good morning!

We move into the second half of chapter 7, and Paul focuses on those women who are unmarried, or no longer married. He says that they are better to stay single in light of the persecution the church faces, but they do not sin if they marry. He stresses that his advice is just that – advice (not a command).

He also widens his focus to urge us all not to be caught up with the things of this world, but to be free from them.
What would that look like for you? To be free from the cares and troubles of the world so that you could be more fruitful for God in the world?

Maybe God wants to show you a step you can take today?

Have a great day!

Mark.

Bible Reading Day 238

Day 238: August 26 (1 Corinthians 7:1-24)

Good morning!

Paul turns to answer a series of questions asked by the Corinthians. His answers are mainly not commands but wisdom from an apostle who knows the heart of God.

First question: is it more spiritual for a Christian couple to abstain from sex since sexual immorality is so prevalent in our society?

Answer: No. In fact it is each spouse’s privilege to fulfill the needs of the other – out of love and respect rather than mere duty.

Second question: is it more spiritual to stay single than to marry?

Answer: No. Even though Paul is now single, he must have been married at some time (he was an observant Jew who would have been expected to be married by around 20, and he was a member of the Sanhedrin which was restricted to married men). He recommends singleness, but says it is better for those attracted to another to marry rather than burn with lust.

Third question: Can a believer leave their believing spouse in order to be more spiritual as a single person again?

Answer: No. Here is a command that comes from Jesus, not Paul: you cannot leave your spouse if both are believers; that would be a betrayal of the covenant that mirrors God’s covenant with humanity. The only options for spouses who are believers are separation or reconciliation.

Question Four: If someone becomes a believer and their spouse is not a believer, should they leave the spouse?

Answer: No. God can work in a marriage through the believing spouse, so the believer must stay. If the unbeliever leaves then the believer is released from the marriage.

Then Paul lays out a principle for many decisions – stay in the condition you were in until God shows you to change. The married believer with an unbelieving spouse is to stay married unless the spouse leaves. The circumcised man is to remain circumcised and the uncircumcised likewise. Stay as you were when God called you, unless God shows you otherwise.

In all these answers, the principles Paul outlines are that God is greater than any human condition – and that He has paid a high price to make us His own. Thus there is a higher standard for us to follow; higher than the standards of the world around us, but also higher than the standards we might create as measures of holiness. Living for God is a high calling, and a costly one, but the rewards are great.

Have a great day!

Mark.

Bible Reading Day 237

Day 237: August 25 (1 Corinthians 6)

Good morning!

Paul continues to address both the divisions and the immorality in the Corinthian church in Chapter 6.

He first addresses their divisions, correcting them for going to law to settle their arguments. This shows their immaturity, and their sin. God will ensure justice when Jesus returns, it is not our place to demand it now.

Next he develops the theme of the Kingdom of God, saying clearly that many who continue to sin will not inherit the Kingdom. Be sure to read the whole of Paul’s list: this is not a tirade against sexual sin as some have made it; the list includes those who are greedy, or abusive. What Paul is saying is that our lives show the extent to which God’s Spirit rules (and thus His Kingdom comes). He tells the Corinthians “Some of you were like that, BUT you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Thirdly, having shown that our actions display the extent of God’s work in us, Paul calls for a higher standard in the lives of his readers: our bodies belong to God, and He will raise them from the dead one day, so we are not to treat them as our own to misuse as we wish. That is sin.

Our bodies are the temple (dwelling place) of the Holy Spirit, and cannot be given to sexual sin. Sexual sin affects the body more than any other sin, because it is joining what belongs to God with another outside God’s chosen pattern.

So Paul tells us to flee from sexual immorality – to run from it – to put it far from us, just as a doctor might warn us to avoid a deadly infection, or a firefighter warns us to evacuate a burning building. In those circumstances, if I invoke my “right” to do as I please, it is at my own peril!

So today, let’s take a moment to ask God “Is there anything in my life that you are warning me to change?” and “Am I insisting on my own way to my detriment?”

Have a great day!

Mark.

Bible Reading Day 236

Day 236: August 24 (1 Corinthians 5)

Good morning!

Today Paul directly addresses the scandal in the church at Corinth. The context shows us that there was  a member of the church who was in an immoral relationship and flaunted it as a sign of spiritual tolerance.

By contrast, Paul says they should not be tolerating such behavior but should instead put the unrepentant person out of the church.

As we read, it is important to remember that Corinth is an Ancient Greek city with that culture, where sexual immorality was common and accepted. But Paul says this form of immorality (incest with his stepmother) was not even accepted by the pagans. So much of what Paul writes can be misunderstood today as Christians being intolerant of others, and condemning of sin. In fact, all Paul is saying is “there is a culture clash between the values of the culture and the values of Jesus; you cannot tolerate a brother in Christ exchanging the power of God for the power of sin.”

Paul draws a clear distinction between judging those who do not believe (which is God’s prerogative) and those who have accepted Jesus’ gift of salvation. Paul says we are to judge those inside the church – not in the sense of condemning every sin we can find, but in the sense of allowing ourselves to take heart-broken action when someone turns their back on godly principles while still claiming to follow Jesus.

For too long Christians have pointed the finger at those who are still trapped in sin, condemning them, while overlooking those in sin who are also in the church, tolerating them.

We are called to be holy – set apart for God – and that means we can’t accept sinful behavior in the church, nor can we condemn outcasts to stay that way.

Have a great day!

Mark.

Bible Reading Day 235

Day 235: August 23 (1 Corinthians 4)

Good morning!

Today Paul continues to identify and challenge the errors in the Corinthian church. They have been reaching judgments on the apostles and other leaders; a role that only God can take. They have got ahead of God in deciding already what is good, and what is not. Rather than waiting for God’s final judgment, they are the arbiters of spirituality and righteousness.

The error of this attitude is obvious to us now, but it appeared very spiritual because the Corinthian church valued gifts and manifestations more than character. In their spiritual ambition, they have abandoned godly values such as humility and hard work, and embraced prideful alternatives such as competition and comparison.

By contrast the true apostles are hard-working, often persecuted, and treated like trash. Although Paul is the Corinthians spiritual father, they will not accept his input, preferring to remain independent. Paul sends Timothy (who accepts spiritual authority) to teach them how to live, and now Paul hopes to visit them in person and bring some correction to their ways. Ultimately the power of God is the final word!

God’s power is as real for you today as in Paul’s time.

Have a great day!

Mark.

Bible Reading Day 234

Day 234: August 22 (1 Corinthians 3)

Good morning!

Paul takes another step toward challenging his readers today, as he focuses on their worldly values and thinking. There is little or no difference between the believers and the unbelievers in Corinth.

First they compete with each other and try to be the best, then they also focus on human activity and traits rather than on what God has done, and is doing, in their lives. They have missed that the work in their midst is God’s work and not human effort, and thus they minimize God’s activity AND lose sight of humility by fostering pride.

Paul then turns to address those who have succeeded him as leaders of the church. They are building on the foundation he has laid, and must take care to build in ways that will last. Not human wisdom but godly fruit. Man’s wisdom seems both right and attractive, because it is what we are used to hearing, but God’s wisdom makes human wisdom seem foolish.

How is God working in you today to build on the foundation that you belong to Him?

Have a great day!

Mark.