Out of Line

S (Scripture) – 1 Corinthians 5:9-13

“I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world.  But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.  For what have I to do with judging outsiders?  Do you not judge those who are within the church?  But those who are outside, God judges.  Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” NASB

“I wrote you in my earlier letter that you shouldn’t make yourselves at home among the sexually promiscuous.  I didn’t mean that you should have nothing at all to do with outsiders of that sort.  Or with crooks, whether blue- or white-collar.  Or with spiritual phonies, for that matter.  You’d have to leave the world entirely to do that!  But I am saying that you shouldn’t act as if everything is just fine when a friend who claims to be a Christian is promiscuous or crooked, is flip with God or rude to friends, gets drunk or becomes greedy and predatory.  You can’t just go along with this, treating it as acceptable behavior.  I’m not responsible for what the outsiders do, but don’t we have some responsibility for those within our community of believers?  God decides on the outsiders, but we need to decide when our brothers and sisters are out of line and, if necessary, clean house.” The Message

O (Observation) – Lord Jesus, only You can know the motives of a person’s heart.  We should not pretend for one moment that we can do the same.  However, for someone who calls him or herself a believer, that person should not act unbecoming of what that means.  If one of our brothers or sisters is blatantly acting in contradiction to Your word, we have a responsibility to them to love them enough to say something about it.  The important part of that scenario is the motivation of our hearts.  Are we confronting this person because we truly care enough about them that we want them to grow in spiritual maturity, or are we trying to self-righteously call out faults we see in others while neglecting to see our own?

A (Application) – If we do not confront unbecoming behavior within the body of Christ, the person will almost certainly cause other believers to stumble.  Outsiders to the church will look within it and think that because that behavior is acceptable and no one does anything about it, then there really must not be anything different about Christ-followers, so what is the point of following Him?  However, the key takeaway for this application is that we should have the ultimate goal of restoring fellowship with that brother or sister the moment he or she repents and turns away from the sin.  Every single person will fall short, mess up, back slide, etc. at some point in our spiritual journey.  “Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17).”  We need each other to grow and hold each other accountable.  Unfortunately, many people experienced excommunication from the Catholic church after going through a divorce, even if the other spouse walked out on the family without notice or there was some other just reason.  Simply because the person had a divorce “on their record” meant that they were no longer welcome in their church.  This is where understanding the motivations of the heart come into play, and the notion that no matter what has happened in a person’s past, God’s grace is more than enough to cover them and fellowship can be restored as long as the person is presently in alignment with His word.  Jesus has never punished us for our past, and we should not punish others for theirs.

P (Prayer) – Precious Lord, give us wisdom in this area.  Help us to judge the behavior of our fellow believers without judging their hearts.  Help us to spur one another on to spiritual growth by holding ourselves to a standard which You find pleasing and acceptable.  May we not focus on the faults of others, but rather, on how we can love them well.  For all believers that are willfully disobeying Your word and will not receive instruction from a brother or sister, we pray that Your Holy Spirit would lead them back to Your heart so that fellowship can be restored to both You and the rest of the body of believers.


Dregs of All Things

S (Scripture) – 1 Corinthians 4:9-13

“For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.  We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor.  To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.” NASB

“It seems to me that God has put us who bear His Message on stage in a theatre in which no one wants to buy a ticket.  We’re something everyone stands around and stares at, like an accident in the street.  We’re the Messiah’s misfits.  You might be sure of yourselves, but we live in the midst of frailties and uncertainties.  You might be well-thought-of by others, but we’re mostly kicked around.  Much of the time we don’t have enough to eat, we wear patched and threadbare clothes, we get doors slammed in our faces, and we pick up odd jobs anywhere we can to eke out a living.  When they call us names, we say, ‘God bless you.’  When they spread rumors about us, we put in a good word for them.  We’re treated like garbage, potato peelings from the culture’s kitchen.  And it’s not getting any better.” The Message

O (Observation) – Lord, as Paul is talking to this newly established church at Corinth, my heart is heavy for him and the other apostles.  So many intense words to describe what their daily existence must have been like.  Certainly not a glamorous life.  Wherever Paul went, he was protested against, beaten, wrongfully imprisoned, told to stop preaching in the Name of Jesus, or some combination thereof.  Why would anyone keep doing this to themself day after day?  What could possibly drive someone to intentionally inflict all of this misery upon themself when all that would be needed to make it stop is to go live a “normal” life and back off of the whole missionary-to-the-world gig?

Here’s why: When you know that you know that the King of kings and the Lord of lords is who He says He is, and you have met Him face-to-face, it’s impossible to continue living a lie, pretending He doesn’t exist.  I don’t believe it could have been even a remote possibility that Paul would have carried on his life with a good J-O-B, went fishing occasionally, and celebrated shabbat services with friends each week as if nothing had happened with Jesus.  Paul knew the truth about Jesus.  He knew he had the Holy Spirit with him to carry out his calling of sharing that Good News with the world.  He was a man on a mission, and there wasn’t anything in this world that could stop him.

A (Application) – Lord Jesus, this world (overall) does not take kindly to those who trust in You.  They never have, and they never will.  We are blessed to live in a country that, at least for now, allows us to worship You freely.  This is not true in many parts of the world.  In so many places, Your followers have to meet underground, and read the Bible with constant fear for their lives if they are caught.  Even though we are able to worship You freely, we do encounter plenty of opposition and ridicule along the way.  What’s fascinating to me is that the more governments and persecutors attempt to push back against Your truth, the more the church flourishes.

So many “cult” leaders have come and gone over the years who had far more than 12 followers behind them, but when the cult leader dies, so goes the cult.  To just fathom that Your followers were perceived as fanatics of some “cult” of the day, but look at what has happened over the last 2,000 years since You died and rose again.  All of the apostles lived this life of destitution and persecution, ultimately dying for believing in You.  Yet, here we are today.  The work they started so long ago on foot to carry Your truth to the world has finally reached even the most remote parts of our human population.  Thousands of people each day from Islam, Judaism, and other world religions are turning to the truth of Who You are.  May we take great comfort in knowing that any backlash we may receive in this life is nothing compared to what the apostles endured, and even if it was, it would be worth it.

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, Your word tells us that we will indeed face persecution in this life as Your children.  We are to take heart, for You have overcome the world (John 16:33).  Help us to see Your story with a different perspective, and to know that we are on to something with the more persecution we face.  I pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who are enduring truly horrific treatment for their faith – free them from their captors and give them peace and comfort in the midst of their agony.  May we remember that our reward is in Heaven, and that our eternity with You is far greater than any amount of time we have here in this life.

Servant Assignment

S (Scripture) – 1 Corinthians 3:4-8

“For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not mere men?  What then is Apollos?  And what is Paul?  Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one.  I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.  So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.  Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” NASB

“When one of you says ‘I’m on Paul’s side,’ and another says, ‘I’m for Apollos,’ aren’t you being totally infantile?  Who do you think Paul is anyway?  Or Apollos, for that matter?  Servants, both of us – servants who waited on you as you gradually learned to entrust your lives to our mutual Master.  We each carried out our servant assignment.  I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plants, but God made you grow.  It’s not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center of this process but God, who makes things grow.  Planting and watering are menial servant jobs at minimum wages.  What makes them worth doing is the God we are serving.  You happen to be God’s field in which we are working.” The Message

O (Observation) – Lord, You have called each follower of Yours to go into all the earth and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them, and teaching them to observe all that You have commanded us (Matthew 28:19-20).  You have given each of us a servant assignment, and have promised to be with us always as we carry out Your work.  You have not placed upon us the responsibility of growing others – the growth is between You and that person; You are the One responsible for someone’s spiritual maturity.  You have called us to teach, love, and serve others – all acts of which we have complete control over.  We cannot control whether or not someone grows from our labor; we must leave the results up to You alone and be faithful with our service to You.

A (Application) – Don’t become discouraged when the people in our lives that we invest in spiritually do not become mature at a pace that we think they should.  It is our responsibility to show the love of Jesus to others and rely on the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives to teach them His ways.  Ultimately, each person has to truly seek Him in order to find Him, and only God can bring about the growth in a person’s life that is needed.  Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” NIV

P (Prayer) – Thank You, Lord, that You take all of the pressure off of Your servants to bring about growth and change in someone’s life.  All You ask is that we do our part of Your Great Commission, and You will do all the rest.  I pray for all those in spiritual infancy who are struggling with growing in their faith that You would strengthen them and bring strong men and women of faith into their lives that You might use in order to encourage them and build them up.  I also pray for Your faithful servants that invest countless hours in teaching, praying, and building relationships that they would continue to do so in Your strength, relying on You for the results.  May they continue to faithfully sow the seed of Your Word and not become weary in doing good.

Undeniable Demonstration

S (Scripture) – 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

“And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.  For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.  I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”

O (Observation) – Jesus, it wasn’t the magnificent preaching or in-depth studies that captivated that first generation of believers.  Paul was beyond humble.  He knew that winning over the hearts of those around him for You would take more than a few compelling arguments about why the cross might be a good idea in which to trust.  It would take more than winning debates with some worldly academics to build momentum.  It would take something so extraordinary, so impactful, so significant and mighty to draw the hearts of a lost people to something so simple as the cross.

A (Application) – Have you ever thought about what it must have been like to have been alive during the time of Paul?  Jesus had just risen from the dead, and here was this man who was traveling the known world “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”  If Paul, and the other apostles, were just lunatics who corroborated a story about a dead man coming back to life in order to manipulate the people, why did they all end up being martyred for their faith?  If their words were meant to control the population, why did the governments of that population incessantly tell them to stop preaching in the Name of Jesus and to flee their cities and never return (read through the entire book of Acts as the early church is being established)?  Paul proclaimed that he could not stop preaching about what he had seen and heard and knew in his heart to be true.  He dedicated his life to share what the Holy Spirit had done in his life and was only stopped when he was killed.  The seeds he and the other apostles planted took root, and today, millions of Christ-followers are experiencing the same power.  How do we win over the hearts of our generation?  Not with fancy teaching and complex reasoning…but with demonstration of the Spirit and of the power of God at work in our own lives.  God’s healing in our hearts and families, His provision in our times of need, His faithfulness in our times of brokenness, His comfort in our times of pain, His joy in our hearts irregardless of our circumstances…there is nothing more beautiful than a man or a woman fully submitted to the power of God at work in his or her life.  The transformation from worldly, prideful mess to chosen, humble servant is a slow, but sure, demonstration of God’s Spirit and power that is undeniable.

P (Prayer) – Jesus, thank You for the work that You have done, and are still doing, in my heart.  I know who I was before I met You, and there is no denying Your power to make someone into a new creation.  People can argue all they want to about semantics, perspectives, nuances of parables, etc., but one thing that can never be disputed is my personal history with You.  I pray for all those who trust more in the wisdom of men than in Your Spirit and power.  Help them to experience Your presence in a way that is unmistakable so they might know that You alone are God.

The Foolishness of the Cross

S (Scripture) – 1 Corinthians 1:18

“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” NASB

“The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense.” The Message

O (Observation) – Father, it seems that everywhere I look lately, I see people of the world mocking You.  They scoff.  They roll their eyes.  They cannot fathom how anyone in our modern society can honestly believe in You and Your promises.  The whole concept of Jesus, the crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and coming again seems like a fairy tale and one that should not be discussed in the marketplace of ideas.  Yet, at the same time, there are millions of Christ-followers all over the world that would die for their faith in You.  How can it be that one set of people can be so sure that You are Who You say You are and another that is so vehemently opposed to You?  “Those who are perishing” and “hellbent on destruction” are the ones who find Your kingdom “foolishness.”  Perishing can be defined as “to slowly break apart by a natural process (MW)”.  It’s sad to think about people breaking apart slowly over time by a natural process that could be saved but willfully elect to push You away.  Those of us being saved by You have experienced firsthand Your power in our lives and can see clearly that Your plan makes perfect sense.

A (Application) – It’s heartbreaking to see members of my own family that mock You and attempt to make others who know You feel like fools.  You have much to say about what a fool really is in this world:

“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’  They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good.” Psalm 14:1, Psalm 53:1

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7

“Wisdom shouts in the street, she lifts her voice in the square; At the head of the noisy streets she cries out; At the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings: “How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded?  And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing and fools hate knowledge?  Turn to my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.  Because I called and you refused, I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention; And you neglected all my counsel and did not want my reproof; I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes, when your dread comes like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.  Then they will call on me [Wisdom], but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but they will not find me, because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD.  They would not accept my counsel.  They spurned all my reproof.  So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way and be satiated with their own devices.  For the waywardness of the naive will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them.  But he who listens to me shall live securely and will be at ease from the dread of evil.

We need to pray for those who do not yet know You, and intentionally love them in any way You call us to do so.  We are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44).  We should share the truth, in love, but recognize that each person ultimately has to answer the question of his or her own eternity.

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, thank You for truth.  Thank You, that in a world that has values that change with the seasons, that You are the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Your wisdom is timeless.  Your wisdom is absolute.  You did not stutter.  Your Word is alive and at work within the hearts of those who know You.  I pray for each and every person on this planet that does not yet know You personally as his or her Lord…no one is too far from You for You to reach – never stop pursuing the hearts of Your children.  I pray that the blindness of their defiance would melt away with the realization of your love and desire to know them.  Help me be a light to others around me that points them directly to Your heart.