Some Rights are Wrong

“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.” 1 Corinthians 9:18

As many of you know, Teresa and I have been in Thailand this past week serving at the Calvary Chapel Asia Missions Conference. I was so honored to have the opportunity to share the Word of God with faithful missionaries from all over Asia. I was greatly humbled when I considered what they have done in order to win some for Christ.  

For Edification

“Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.” 1 Corinthians 8:1b

We know from Paul’s other writings that he wasn’t opposed to knowledge. He appreciated good theology as much as the next person, but he was aware of its limitations. Knowledge is only part of God’s plan, it isn’t everything. If we make knowledge everything, it becomes dangerous because of how it puffs us up and potentially leads to destruction. Isn’t this what happened with the first sin in the garden? Rather than being content with their loving and peaceful relationship with God, Adam and Eve were deceived into thinking they could have even more if they ate the fruit and became like God themselves. As a result their unbroken fellowship with God was cut off and death entered the world.

Housecleaning - Part 2

“So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.” 1 Corinthians 7:23

When someone became a Christian in Corinth they immediately wanted to change everything about themselves. If they were a circumcised Jew they would go to great measures to become uncircumcised. If they were married they wanted to become single in order to serve the Lord more effectively. If they were married to an unbeliever they wanted to leave their spouse and marry a believer. If they were not content in their careers they would look for a new career. Everyone wanted to change their position in life.

Housecleaning

“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles - that a man has his father’s wife! In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” 1 Corinthians 5:1; 4-5

It truly is a shame Paul gets a bad rap nowadays. So many attempt to pit him against Jesus, claiming he was harsh and legalistic while Jesus was compassionate and grace-filled. One area where Paul could be labeled as particularly harsh is in the passage above, but once you look past the surface of what Paul is instructing and see his heart, you discover how similar what he taught was to what Jesus taught. For this Sunday’s devotional I would encourage you to read “The Parable of the Lost Son” from Luke 15 in order to figure out why Paul said what he said in the passage above.

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares

“But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of the harvest…’” Matthew 13:29-30a

When Jesus shared the parable of the wheat and the tares with his disciples, He told them there was both good seed (wheat) and bad seed (tares) planted in the kingdom of heaven. What are tares? Today we might call them “darnel”. Darnel grows side by side with wheat and the similarities between them is so great that in some regions darnel is referred to as “false wheat”. In fact, you cannot tell the difference between wheat and darnel until the ear of the wheat appears.

The Cure for Complacency

“I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” 1 Corinthians 4:14-15

Up until this point in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul has likened his position as a spiritual leader to a servant, farmer, builder, under-rower and steward, but in the passage above he uses the most beautiful and intimate description yet - a spiritual father.

One Thing

“Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” 1 Corinthians 4:2

I love Paul’s heart. Paul is asking that he and the other ministers be regarded by the Corinthians as servants and not as celebrities. The word “servant” is used to describe an “under-rower”, defined by Morgan as “one who acts under direction, and asks no questions, one who does the thing he is appointed to do without hesitation, and one who reports only to the one who is over him.”

The Parable of the Sower

“Therefore hear the parable of the sower.” Matthew 13:18

The parable of the sower is a very profound parable that is certain to compel the listener to ask, “What kind of soil am I? How can I prepare my heart and mind to be the right kind of soil?” In this parable, Jesus shares about four different types of soil. The four soils represent four classes of hearers, each with a different response to the Word of God. The most important part of the parable is understanding that the soils represent the human heart.

God's Building

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16

We know the apostle Paul was a preacher at heart because he loved a good illustration. In the passage leading up to the verse above, Paul compared himself and Apollos to farmers and builders, and the church in Corinth to a field and a building. It’s one illustration after another, but all of these illustrations seemed to culminate into the statement: “You are the temple of God.” Somehow it feels Paul is no longer speaking figuratively, but literally.

The Cure for Carnality

“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.” 1 Corinthians 3:1

The word that really jumps out to me in the verse above is the word “carnal”. In fact, if you read verses 1-4 you will find Paul uses the word “carnal” three times. The reason Paul does this is because the word “carnal” is an accurate representation of the main problem in the Corinthian church. “Carnal” simply means “flesh” or “fleshly”. Paul is not putting the Corinthians down, he is simply pointing out to them their nature. The truth is we are all fleshly people, but some happen to be more fleshly than others.

The Parables of Jesus

“And He spoke many things to them in parables.” Matthew 13:3a

Have you ever wondered what the mission of the church is? There seems to be no end to the number of books written and conferences given on the subject of the mission of the church. Every sort of program and principle that you can imagine has been studied or scrutinized. Yet with all the study and concern about the mission of the church, it seems more than any other time in history we lack understanding of what the mission of the church truly is.

The Wisdom of God

“But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.” 1 Corinthians 2:7

Lactantius, an early Christian author who became an advisor to Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor, wrote, “All the wisdom of man consists in this alone, the knowledge and worship of God. Here is that which all philosophers have sought throughout their whole life; and yet, they have not been able to investigate, to grasp, and to attain to it because they either retained a religion that was corrupt, or took it away altogether.”

The Main Thing

“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-2

In an era of endless books, podcasts, blogs, YouTube videos and lectures, there is an innumerable amount of fascinating stories and theories out there for our consumption. They can be entertaining, thought-provoking, and even challenging, but at the end of the day, how many of these resources address our greatest needs? The question then becomes, if they aren’t addressing our greatest needs, what good are they on their own?

Heavenly Harmony

“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” 1 Corinthians 1:10

I am very excited to begin 1 Corinthians this Sunday because of the numerous similarities that exist between the city of Corinth and Southern California. Corinth was a city of wealth and culture, seated at the crossroads of the Roman empire, where all the commerce of the empire passed through. It was a very pretty city, a proud city and a philosophical city, but it was also a passionate city. Corinth was known throughout all of Asia as the city of immorality because the temple of the goddess Aphrodite was there which sent out male and female prostitutes into the city every night. As a matter of fact, Plato used the phrase “Corinthian girl” in his writings to describe a prostitute.

He is Faithful to Keep His Promises

“On the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to overpower them, the opposite occurred, in that the Jews themselves overpowered those who hated them.” Esther 9:1b

Well, we have come to the end of the book of Esther. Although this book has revealed many beautiful attributes of God’s character, one attribute stands out among the rest because of how often it is displayed in this story - God always works in a supernaturally natural way. We saw it first when God arranged for Queen Vashti to be replaced by Esther and then gave her special favor with the king. We continued to see it when God arranged for Moredicai to have access to both Esther and the affairs of the kingdom.

The Whole Armor of God

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." Ephesians 6:11

Have you ever considered how long our enemy, the devil, has been in existence? Unlike any person in history, he’s been able to study how humans act and think over thousands of years. Considering his main goal since the beginning has been to destroy people and keep them from fellowship with God, he continues to use his knowledge of human behavior and weakness to accomplish it. He knows better than anyone that the key to our downfall is not to come at us with a full frontal attack, rather it’s to find areas in our lives where we are vulnerable to temptation and to attack us there. It could be greed, lust, jealousy, pride, power or popularity.

Be Strong

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” Ephesians 6:10

The word “finally” signals the beginning of Paul’s conclusion to his letter to the Ephesians, where he gives us not only powerful words to live by but also reveals the source of the power we need to experience the Christian life.

Sorrows Into Great Joy

“Now Mordecai went out from the prince of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, with a great crown of gold and a garment of fine linen and purple; and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad. The Jews had light and gladness, joy and honor. And in every province and city, wherever the king’s command and decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a holiday. Then many of the people of the land became Jews, because fear of the Jews fell upon them.” Esther 8:15-17

In the beginning of this chapter Esther is sorrowful, but by the end of the chapter she and all the people are joyful. Seven times in the three verses above we read words that express jubilation. What caused this jubilation? The people saw that Mordecai was robed in royalty and that he had delivered a decree that promised to protect all the Jews in the land. This gave them great hope, which reminded me of Romans 15:13: “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Worship While We Work

“Servants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ… and you, masters, do the same things to them.” Ephesians 6:5, 9a

The words “servants” and “masters” really jump off the page don’t they? It has been estimated that when Paul wrote this letter there were six million slaves in the Roman empire and slavery was an accepted institution. Although the gospel is clearly against slavery, it isn’t specifically condemned anywhere in the New Testament. The reason Paul never specifically condemned it was because his ministry was not to overthrow the Roman government, but to preach the gospel and win the lost to Christ, and it was among the slaves that the gospel was preached and received.

Godly Parenting

“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

That’s it. That’s all Paul has to say to parents in his entire letter to the Ephesians. If you’re anything like me - a parent who is often overwhelmed, anxious, confused and scared - then you’re wondering the same thing I am: “Really? That’s all you have for me Paul? For all the questions I have, for all the wisdom and strength I need, this is all the instruction I get?”