Devotional Reading for September 11, 2022

2 Corinthians 5

(1-11) Speaking of eternity (4:18), we instinctively know that there is more than this earthly life. We long for it. We look forward to it. Our bodies are waiting for an upgrade! We shouldn’t fear death, because death actually frees us to go be with God, and He’s given us the Spirit as a guarantee of that future life. While we wait, we are responsible for what we do in this life with our earthly bodies. We are to make sure that we please God in this life, because one day we’ll stand before him to receive our rewards (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

(11-21) Paul and his companions know God, and they want to make Him known to others. They look at people from a spiritual perspective rather than an earthly one. They are God’s ambassadors and have been given the ministry of reconciliation. That is their priority, and they do it sincerely and soberly. They don’t try to appear spiritual outwardly; they are spiritual inwardly! Paul hopes that the Corinthians are proud of them because of their commitment and genuineness. It is their love of Christ that drives them. How could they not love Christ? He was made sin for us! Christ died for all (who believe), so that all (who believe) could die to sin. Believers are new creations, reconciled to God, forgiven of their sins, and made righteous.

The bottom line: God has saved us and given us the power to live a life pleasing to Him. A part of that is realizing that we have been given the ministry of reconciliation too. We may not be ministers or missionaries, but God has brought people into our lives that we are uniquely able to reach out to. Let’s do it!

Devotional Reading for September 10. 2022

1 Corinthians 4

There are those who think that our relationship with Christ should keep us from all harm. This passage should teach us otherwise.

  • God, through his mercy, called Paul and his companions as ministers (4:1).
  • They openly proclaim God’s truth fully and completely (4:2).
  • Some people don’t believe their testimony. Satan blinds people to the truth of the gospel (4:3-4). He has some power, but it is limited. He is only the god (small “g”) of this age.
  • Jesus Christ, on the other hand, is the “image” of God and the “Lord” of all (4:4-5)!
  • Paul and his companions devote their lives to the church as a service to Jesus (4:5).
  • Yet their ministry is all because God revealed Himself to them and empowered them for it (4:6-7). Remember, their ministry was through his mercy (4:1).
  • And even though they are persecuted because of their ministry (to the point of it being visible on their bodies), they are encouraged by the response of others (like the Corinthians) to them (4:8-12)!
  • They speak out about what they have believed, rejoicing in their new life and their upcoming resurrection, which the Corinthians will share (4:13-14).
  • The more people who believe, the greater the thanksgiving and the glory of God (4:15).
  • Which is why Paul and his companions are okay with their suffering. The spiritual is more important than the physical, the eternal is more important than the temporary, and their suffering will bring about renewal and glory in their lives (4:16-18)!

Regardless of what we face in this life, whether it is persecution or pain, suffering or sickness, our faith should enable us to say with Paul and His companions: “We are experiencing trouble on every side, but are not crushed; we are perplexed, but not driven to despair; we are persecuted, but not abandoned; we are knocked down, but not destroyed.” Our understanding of the gospel and our hope in the resurrection should cause us to trust like that!

Devotional Reading for September 9, 2022

2 Corinthians 3

It appears that there may be some in the church questioning Paul’s qualifications (3:1). He appeals to their past experience with him (3:2). He and his companions brought the gospel to them, and the Spirit convicted their hearts so that they believed (3:3)! But, even though they brought the message, it was God working in and through them by the Spirit that enabled their ministry (3:4-5). The Spirit is primary, because it is the Spirit who gives life to both believer and minister (3:6). Paul states that the letter (law) kills, which reflects what he said in Romans. The law can help us to know what to do, but it can’t help us obey. We need the Spirit for that!

It’s not that the law is evil. The law is glorious (3:7-8)! It was the first revelation of God’s will for humanity. But the ministry of the Spirit is even more glorious, because the Spirit enables us to be righteous (3:9)! Paul uses an analogy at this point to show why many of the Jewish people don’t believe. Just as Moses put a veil over his face so that the Israelites couldn’t see the reflection of the glory of God (Exodus 34:33-35), so there is a veil that keeps the Jewish people from belief (3:13). Their trust in the law as a means of salvation keeps them from fully experiencing the glory of God (3:15). They can only see and experience that glory when they believe in Jesus (3:14)! And it’s the work and ministry of the Spirit that frees us and transforms us so that we can mature and be like our Lord (17-18).

Anyone struggling with the divinity of the Holy Spirit should read 3:17-18 very closely. “The Lord is the Spirit.” “Which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” God is one, but exits as three: Father, Son, and Spirit, with perfect and complete unity of purpose. Some liken the Trinity to water. Water is always water (H2O), but it can exist as solid (ice), liquid (water), or gas (steam). Yes, it’s an imperfect analogy, but some have found it helpful! As hard as the Trinity can be to understand, we see it revealed in Scripture, which is why it’s a part of all orthodox belief systems.

Devotional Reading for September 8, 2022

2 Corinthians 1:23-2:17

1:17-2:11 Paul may be referring back to 1 Corinthains 5 here. Sinful behavior in the congregation causes both sadness over the behavior as well as sadness because of any action that needs to be taken by the congregation. Paul has continually urged them to engage in discipline because of the behavior. He has tearfully written, visited once, and refrained from visiting again. But now the purpose has been achieved! The purpose of discipline and correction is always to bring about repentance, restoration, and joy. Paul, encouraged by the report of repentance, lets the church know that he too has forgiven the person. The challenge for the church now is to encourage and restore the repentant person as quickly as possible. Satan wants the separation to linger so that hard feelings will develop and restoration won’t happen.

2:12-17 Paul is thrilled to go wherever God wants him to proclaim the gospel, but there are some traveling companions and co-ministers that help and encourage him, and he misses their support. That’s why he left Troas to go to Macedonia, recognizing that God would continue to use him on his journey to spread the gospel. He and his companions are sent from God, and take their ministries very seriously (they are “persons of sincerity” rather than “hucksters“). Their ministry brings both hope and despair, depending upon how people respond.

It’s beyond sad that what should be a “fragrance from life to life” is also an “odor from death to death.” Hopefully you have experienced the former and are a part of the “triumphal procession in Christ!

Devotional Reading for September 7, 2022

2 Corinthians 1:1-22

This is Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church. Let’s step through his introduction to see what it can teach us:

  • Paul is an apostle “by the will of God” (1:1). Remember the Damascus Road experience (Acts 9)? Paul was definitely called by God!
  • God is the God of all comfort (1:3).
  • Which is important, because we have difficulty in life.
  • God comforts us so that we can, in turn, comfort others (1:4).
  • The sufferings of Paul and his companions were severe (1:8).
  • In fact, it was beyond their ability to cope. They had to trust in God (1:9). After all, he has the power to raise the dead!
  • Their hope and trust were vindicated in the past because God delivered them, and they trust he will deliver them again (1:10).
  • The prayers of the saints helped them to make it through (1:11).
  • Paul wanted to come to them, but had to change his plans (1:16).
  • But his change of plans was done with the insight and wisdom that comes from God (1:12). He was acting honorably, not just changing his plans for no reason!
  • They should be proud of his actions, just as his pride for them will be displayed at the return of Christ (1:14).
  • All of Paul’s plans are dictated by the will of God in his life. Whatever happens, happens as a result of God’s work. What happens is a “Yes” in Christ (1:19)! Nothing is by accident! Nothing is a surprise!
  • In fact, everything in the Old Testament pointed to Jesus. Everything is fulfilled through Him. He is both the “Yes” and the “Amen” that gives all the glory to God (1:21)!
  • God establishes all of them through Christ. They are anointed for ministry, sealed forever as God’s, and given the Spirit as a down payment of the glory that is yet to come (1:22)!

What a section of Scripture! We are reminded that God comforts us in the midst of trouble and turmoil. We are reminded that God has a purpose and a plan for all things. We are reminded that whatever happens is a part of God’s purpose and plan. And we are reminded that we called by God for ministry, kept through his grace, and given the Spirit as a down payment of more that is yet to come. Hallelujah!

Devotional Reading for September 6, 2022

1 Corinthians 16

Paul coveys final greetings and let’s the church know of his intention to see them soon. In addition, he encourages them to honor and recognize other Christian workers who are passing through. His instructions for having a benevolence offering ready when he comes still inform our offerings today: thoughtfully prepared and offered on the first day of the week (16:2).

Paul apparently dictated his letters, but frequently wrote out the ending himself (16:21). His final words call for the enemies of Christ to be accursed, but the church to be blessed by God’s grace and Jesus’ return (16:22-23). However, there are two very important lines in the farewell that could be “life” verses for many of us:

Stay alert, stand firm in the faith, show courage, be strong. Everything you do should be done in love.” (16:13-14)


Devotional Reading for September 5, 2022

1 Corinthians 15:35-58

There is so much that is important and encouraging here, but Paul may save the best for last. We have a goal and a hope that we are waiting for, so everything we do while we wait has purpose (15:58)!

Paul continues this section by rebuking Christians who have been listening to the lies of unbelievers about the resurrection. He then goes on to compare the difference between our earthly bodies and our resurrection bodies:
— Our old bodies:
1. Are perishable.
2. Are sown in dishonor.
3. Are sown in weakness.
4. Are sown as natural bodies.
5. Are sown bearing the likeness of the first Adam.
— Our new bodies:
1. Will be raised imperishable.
2. Will be raised in glory.
3. Will be raised in power.
4. Will be raised a spiritual body.
5. Will be raised bearing the likeness of Christ.

The reason? Flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s Kingdom (15:50). When Jesus does come back, all believers who are alive will go to heaven without dying (15:51). This will occur in the amount of time it takes to blink an eye (15:52). The last trumpet will signify the fulfillment of this promise (15:52). However, since flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom, departed believers will exchange their corrupted bodies for incorruptible ones (15:52c), and living believers will exchange their mortal bodies for immortal ones (15:53). The Old Testament prophets Isaiah and Hosea predicted this (Isa. 25:8; Hos. 13:14). To God be the glory!

For worship:

Sermon outline for 9/4/22 (Radio broadcast 9/11/22 ) — “Sowing and Reaping”

Esther 7:1-10

I) The _____________

II) The _______________

III) The Example of _______________

     A) Haman ______________:

          1)  ________________

          2) _________________

          3) _________________

          4) _________________

     B) Haman ______________:

          1) _______________

          2) _______________

IV) The _______________ for Christians

     A) God requires ___________ from us

     B) We should _________ His displeasure

     C) But even that shows His __________ for us

V) The Principle for _______-Christians

     A) The _____________

     B) How do we ________ to the Spirit?

VI) The Principle _________________!

Devotional Reading for September 4, 2022

1 Corinthians 15:12-34

The doctrine of the resurrection is under attack (both then and now):
 -- The enemies of the gospel deny it!
 -- If there is no resurrection, one must be forced to accept the 
    following horrible conclusions:
      1. The Easter story is a lie.
      2.  Preaching the gospel is useless.
      3.  Preachers are all liars.
      4.  Believers:
         a. Our trust in God is empty, worthless, and hopeless
         b. We are still in our sin (15:17).
         c. We are the most miserable of all creatures (15:19).
         d. Those who live, suffer, and die for Christ are fools 
      5.  Departed believers are forever dead, never to rise
      6.  In regard to this present life -- We should live it up,
          for tomorrow we may die (15:32)!
 -- Paul rebukes Christians who have been listening to the lies
    of unbelievers about the resurrection.

What does "baptism for the dead" mean?  Since personal faith is essential for salvation, it can't be that the practice saves or helps save (as Mormons believe).  Paul doesn't commend or command it.  He just recognizes that it's happening and uses it to show the absurdity of the practice if you don't believe in a literal resurrection!  One possible understanding is that there was a period of time between belief and baptism.  During this time there was usually some instruction in the faith.  However, some new believers could have died before they were baptized.  "Baptism for the dead" could be understood as a visible sign and celebration that those who died had legitimate faith and would therefore participate in the resurrection.

Devotional Reading for September 3, 2022

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Some notes:

  • This is the gospel in a nutshell (15:1).
  • Notice that it is of first importance. This is the foundation of faith (15:3).
  • In fact, if you lose sight of it, it shows that your faith was never real (15:2).
  • The gospel encompasses the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (15:3-4).
  • The resurrection shows us that He wasn’t just a deluded man. He was, in fact, God incarnate (15:4-5).
  • The diversity and number of those He appeared to shows the reality of the resurrection (15:5-8).
  • Paul himself saw Jesus, long after the ascension (15:8).
  • Paul’s sees that as a marvelous sign of God’s mercy and grace (15:9-10).
  • Paul’s gratitude shows in his work for the gospel, even though he recognizes that any success he’s had is because God is working through him (15:10).
  • Factions in the church are shortsighted. The teachers all brought the same message, and the Corinthians believed that message (15:11)!

I think that Paul’s humility here should be emulated. If we are honest with ourselves, we can probably detail ways that we are the least of believers. When we truly understand that, we get an even greater insight into the grace that God has given to us!

For worship: