Strength in deadly trials

Scripture reading for September 16th: 2nd Corinthians 1

Key Scriptures: 2nd Corinthians 1:8-11 “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God Who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us. On Him we have set our hope that He will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”

Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians came after the church and Paul had experienced some difficult trials and persecution. Disciples of Jesus and ministers of His Gospel will suffer persecution. Jesus did not tell His disciples life would be easy. He told them that the student would not be above the teacher, as He would suffer and even be crucified, so they would also suffer. Paul and his ministry team suffered in Asia such that they felt they were going to die. But the suffering worked in their favor. They learned to rely on God Who even raises the dead. They also relied on the prayers of the saints to help them and God answered prayer and delivered them. They placed their hope in God and were not disappointed!

Matthew 24:9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for My Name’s sake.”

Faith declaration and prayer: Father God, I have set my hope on You alone! Thank You for sustaining me through life’s trials and tests and allowing me to share Your great comfort with others. Help me to continue to trust in Your faithfulness and to pray for my brothers and sisters who are also going through fiery trials. I know we will not be disappointed!

2nd Corinthians 1:3-4 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, Who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves ate comforted by God.”

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Integrity in the offerings!

Scripture reading for September 15th: 1st Corinthians 16

Key Scriptures: 1st Corinthians 16:1-4 “Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that the will be no collecting when I come. And when I arrive, I will send those who you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.”

Paul gave the Corinthians instructions about receiving an offering. Giving in the church should be methodical, not just when we feel like it. The first day of the week was Sunday, the day the church gathered to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection and as part of the worship gathering, offerings should be received. Each person should give according to how they had prospered. It was to be proportional according to the means and amount each had received. Paul did not want to put pressure on them when he came to give as they were to have already received the offering. He even announced his travel plans and possible need of help from them later that year. And there was to be accountability that the offering was properly handled and distributed for the intended purpose. These instructions would make giving a joyful practice and highest integrity would be maintained and God’s work would be financed!

1st Corinthians 16:5-6 “I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go.”

Faith Confession and prayer: Father God, thank You for the privilege of giving to promote Your work and workers. As a pastor, help me to never pressure or manipulate people to give and to handle all offerings with the highest integrity and a level of accountability that is above reproach. Bless Your people as they willingly support Your work with seed for the sower and bread for the eater.

2nd Corinthians 9:10-11 “He Who supplies seed for the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”

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The powerful Gospel–first importance

Scripture reading for September 14th: 1st Corinthians 15

Key Scriptures: 1st Corinthians 15:3-8 “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared also to me.”

As Paul was concluding his letter to the church, he emphasized the importance of the Gospel message as recorded in Scripture and fulfilled. The Gospel includes the death of our Lord on the cross for our sins, His burial in a tomb for three days, and His glorious resurrection and many confirmation appearances to His followers. Without the resurrection, our faith would be on shaky ground. If Jesus were not raised from the dead, we could not have assurance that we would also be raised. Jesus was raised in a glorious body, bearing the scars of His crucifixion. Death could not hold Him because He was the sinless Son of God. His resurrection stands as a beacon of what is to come for all who follow Him and believe the Gospel message!

1st Corinthians 15:14-16 “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that He raised Christ, Whom He did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”

Faith confession and prayer: Father God, I thank You for the Gospel message and the resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead. In Him I have hope and confidence. I believe the Scriptures and the many witnesses to Christ’s resurrection. I look forward to seeing Jesus when He comes and enjoying a glorified body, like His glorious body. Help me to clearly preach this powerful Gospel that brings hope and salvation.

1st Corinthians 15:51 “Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall all be changed.”

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God’s order in using the gift of tongues

Scripture reading for September 13th: 1st Corinthians 14

Key Scriptures: 1st Corinthians 14:1-5 “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.”

Paul was writing to bring some order and understanding to the exercise of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the church. Evidently, in the services, many were speaking in tongues in a public manner and no one was interpreting. Speaking in tongues is good for the individual believer and it edifies or builds him or her up. But when used in the body, without interpretation, it doesn’t help anyone but the speaker. When tongues are interpreted, then, like prophesy, the church is edified and built up because all can understand what the Spirit is saying. That’s why Paul says that they should desire especially to prophesy (give a message in a known language) or to speak in a tongue and interpret. All must be done in love and for the common good. Tongues are a sign gift for the unbeliever to speak to his heart by the Spirit. Prophesy is for the church to speak to God’s people.

1st Corinthians 14:21-22 “In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people and even then they will not listen to Me, says the Lord.” Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers.”

Faith confession and prayer: Father God, thank you for the gifts of the Spirit. Each one is given by You as You will for the purpose You intend and are always filled and empowered by love. Help me to understand the Holy Spirit and allow Him to use me in the gifts that are appropriate and to instruct others in Your body on the proper use of these gifts. Thank You for speaking to Your people and the lost!

1st Corinthians 14:26-28 “What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. If there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God.”

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The ‘more excellent way’

Scripture reading for September 10th: 1st Corinthians 13

Key Scriptures: 1st Corinthians 12:31; 13:1-3 “But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

Paul understood God’s amazing love and knew that no human could love like God unless God had first revealed His love to them in Christ Jesus. The Corinthians were zealous for the gifts of the Holy Spirit and according to Paul, that was proper to desire them, especially the ‘higher’ gifts. (prophesy?) But there was the ‘more excellent way’ that Paul wanted to emphasize. Love must be pursued first in all things and must flow to empower the gifts of the Holy Spirit. God’s love is “agape” love, a love that always seeks the best for those it loves. God’s Love stands above every form of worldly love and love is God and God is love! Through the Holy Spirit, a river of God’s love is released into our hearts when we repent and place our trust in Jesus. (Romans 5:5) All gifts and service to God must flow with His heart of love!

1st Corinthians 13:4-8 “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. Love never ends. . .”

Faith confession and prayer: Loving Father, thank You for the river of love given me by the Holy Spirit that flows from Your heart to this world of lost people. Fill me afresh today with Your love and remind me of it in every conversation, encounter, and activity. May I always use the gifts You have given me in the ‘more excellent way,’ pursuing love first!

1st Corinthians 13:13; 14:1 “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.”

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Our God speaks and empowers!

Scripture reading for September 9th: 1st Corinthians 12

Key Scriptures: 1st Corinthians 12:1-7 “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit; and there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God Who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

The Corinthians church was full of people who were once pagans and served dumb idols. The term ‘dumb’ means the inability to speak. But in the church of Jesus Christ, we serve a God Who is alive and speaks and gives gifts and empowers! Paul wanted none of the church to be ignorant concerning the Holy Spirit and the gifts He gives. He wanted them to grow in the grace of the gifts God had put within each member of the greater body. There is only one God, one Holy Spirit, and one Lord Jesus and when someone has been born again by the Holy Spirit, they will confess “Jesus is Lord.” They will never curse their Lord! There are also varieties of gifts of the Holy Spirit and varieties of service to the Lord, but our God is the only one to empower believers. These gifts and activities are all given for the common good, never to be boasted about or used for selfish purposes.

1st Corinthians 12:8-10 “For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

Faith confession and prayer: Father, thank You for the wonderful Gift of the Holy Spirit, living in me and all who believe. Help me to grow more knowledgeable about the Holy Spirit and Your gifts that I might use the gifts you give to be a blessing to Your body, the Church. I proclaim by the Holy Spirit: “Jesus is Lord!”

1st Corinthians 12:11 “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, Who apportions to each one individually as He wills.”

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A holy prophetic proclamation!

Scripture reading for September 8th: 1st Corinthians 11

Key Scriptures: 1st Corinthians 11:23-27 “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, “This is My body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way also He took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.”

Paul had been instructing the Corinthians on eating the meat of sacrifices to idols in the pagan culture of the land. Now he turns to the holy sacrament of the Lord’s supper. Paul got this instruction from the Lord, Himself, and delivered it to these believers to help them and correct their attitudes and division that was occurring in this church family. The sacrament of the Lord’s supper was a partaking of the symbols of the sacrifice of Jesus’ body and blood on the cross of Calvary. They were to do it in remembrance of the Lord and His final and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of mankind. They were to do it after examining their own lives and asking forgiveness and grace for any offenses against Christ’s body–the Church. They were to do it prophetically–proclaiming Christ’s death and His resurrection and promised return!

1st Corinthians 11:28-30 “Let a person examine himself, then and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”

Faith confession and prayer: Father God, thank You for the gift of Your Son as my final and complete sacrifice for my sins as well as of those of the whole world. Help me to examine myself each time I partake to properly discern the body, Your Church, so that I am not bringing judgment on me or any others. I want to give a holy proclamation of Your death and soon return to all in the holiness You have provided by grace through faith.

1st Corinthians 11:31-32 “But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.”

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Pagans sacrifice to demons!

Scripture reading for September 7th: 1st Corinthians 10

Key Scriptures: 1st Corinthians 10:19-24 “What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He? “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.”

As a Christ-follower, we must never compromise our love and commitment to the One true God. In the Corinthians culture, idol worship was associated with sacrifices that were then cooked and served. Believers knew that the sacrifice was nothing more than an animal and that the god they sacrificed to was nothing. But behind these ‘gods’ were demons. They were lying religious spirits of darkness that held men in bondage. Demons were real and their purpose and power was also real. To set a good example and help those who were just coming out of this demonic bondage, Paul urged the believers to do what was most helpful and able to build up those being delivered: abstain from this meat. It would be ‘lawful’ to eat for them, but not helpful. The law of love again limits liberty to win souls.

1st Corinthians 10:26-29 “For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” If one of the unbelievers invites you to diner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, “this has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience–I do not mean your conscience, but his.”

Faith confession and prayer: Father God, thank You for this instruction on idolatry and the demonic forces behind it. Help me to apply this truth today in my time and culture that I might show the love of Christ and yet never compromise my sincere and total devotion to You and Your Word. Help me to seek the good of my neighbors always.

1st Corinthians 10:31-33 “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.”

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A servant to all for the Gospel!

Scripture reading for September 6th: 1st Corinthians 9

Key Scriptures: 1st Corinthians 9:19-23 “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”

Paul went into detail concerning his own life of serving all people for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul clearly understood the importance of winning souls for Christ as his priority. He had a right to receive offerings and get support from the church, but limited his right and worked with his own hands to provide for his needs that he might not cause any to stumble. He lived under the law although freed from law-keeping that he might win Jews. He did not keep the Jewish law around Gentiles but lived under the law of Christ (love God and love people) in order to win them. Around those with weak consciences he became weak (although strong) to win them. He desired all men to be saved and share in the blessings of eternal life in Christ. He did this out of love and Christ’s call on his life to preach.

1st Corinthians 9:16-17 “For if I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will I am still entrusted with a stewardship.”

Faith confession and prayer: Father, thank You for Your call to me to preach the Gospel. I willingly accept that call and want to freely share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Help me through the Holy Spirit to be a servant to all people that I might win some and enjoy sharing with them the blessings of eternal life with You forever and ever. As a steward, may I be found faithful.

1st Corinthians 9:26-27 “So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

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Don’t become a ‘stumbling block’!

Scripture reading for September 3rd: 1st Corinthians 8

Key Scriptures: 1st Corinthians 8:7-11 “However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.”

Paul was talking to the Corinthian believers who had come out of idolatry and found new freedom in Christ. Some were freely eating meat sacrificed to idols knowing that their eating had nothing to do with their salvation. This liberty was causing some of the believers, whose consciences were still weak, to stumble in their new-found faith. We can be right in our actions, but still be wrong if we cause others to stumble. The law of love says that I temper my actions and liberty to help and encourage my weaker brothers and sisters to grow in grace. I will do nothing that knowingly causes my brothers to stumble. Love never fails! Because of Christ’s love of all people and His desire for their salvation, we who have knowledge can limit our liberty to demonstrate our sincere commitment to Christ and build up weaker believers.

Romans 14:14-15 “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.”

Faith confession and prayer: Father, thank You for declaring all foods clean and the liberty given by grace to believers. I am thankful for knowledge through Your Word but mindful of Your great love for all. Give me grace to know when to limit my liberty to help those who are still weak in their faith and not cause them to stumble. Fill me with Your love and wisdom through the Holy Spirit.

Romans 14:17-19 “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding.”

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