Sunday Service Devotional

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 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.

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.

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?”

Communion With Our Spouses

“And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:21

This simple sentence acts as a hinge between the preceding verses that dealt with the spirit-filled life, and the following verses that deal with how to treat one another. The hinge that opens up the door is the fact that there is a third Person involved in every relationship - Jesus Christ. What a wonderful picture of communion!

Carpe Diem

“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Ephesians 5:15-17

Paul’s instruction to “see then that you walk circumspectly” is also translated “be very careful” or “pay careful attention, then, to how you live.” Paul is urging us to take a moment and consider how we live and why we make the decisions we make. Unlike what the world encourages, we aren’t to get caught up in the moment and simply do whatever feels right. The days are evil, so if we’re not careful we’ll end up giving our energy and time to temporary pleasures which will leave us empty and frustrated.

Imitators of God

“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.” Ephesians 5:1

Behavioral scientists have discovered an interesting phenomenon called “imprinting” that takes place in the early development of some animals. If an animal is exposed enough to another animal, object, or person during critical stages of their development, they will consider it as their parent. If a young goose is “imprinted” by a dog, the gosling will see the dog as it’s mother. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul suggests the same sort of imprinting should happen in our relationship with Jesus. We should be walking so closely with Him that His nature is imprinted on us.

Life as a New Man

“Put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:24

In Ephesians 4, Paul reminds his readers that when they received salvation, they were given new life. The old man that was governed by deceitful lusts was gone, and was replaced by a new man governed by the truth of Jesus Christ. In the verse above, Paul claims this new man “was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Does this remind you of Genesis 1 where it says God originally created the first man, Adam, in His image and likeness?

NCL's 13th Anniversary This Sunday!

Good morning NCL family,

As I was sitting at my desk wondering what I could share about our 13th anniversary this Sunday the only thing that came to mind is, “Oh no, 13! That’s not good. Everyone knows what that means. We’re doomed! It’s over! I guess I should prepare my last sermon ever in Newport Coast.” Isn’t it funny how humans can take a little number like 13 and make it an evil thing? Though this may be the world’s view of the number 13, it certainly isn’t the biblical view. I discovered the number 13 in the Bible refers to an amazing blessing from God.

Walk in Unity

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Ephesians 4:4-6

Did you notice one word in the above passage that stood out among the rest? The word “one” is used seven times in these three verses. I think Paul wants us to understand that there should be unity among all believers. Notice how Paul reveals that it is the triunity of God that brings unity to His children. We see the spirit in verse 4, the Son in verse 5, and the Father in verse 6.

The Prayer Request

“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height - to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge.” Ephesians 3:14, 18-19a

John Stott wrote, “One of the best ways to discover a Christians’ chief anxieties and ambitions is to study the content of his prayers and the intensity with which he prays them. Prayer expresses desire.” The above prayer from Paul takes place at a crucial transition in his letter to the Ephesians. In the first three chapters he has been discussing some pretty dense doctrine, and he will spend the rest of the letter teaching us how to apply that doctrine to our lives. So before he gets into the application, he prays the believers in Ephesus would comprehend the overwhelming love of Christ.

The Mystery

“...to make all people see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 3:9

The word “mystery” really jumps off the page doesn’t it? In the New Testament, a mystery is not an eerie thing from a movie, rather it’s “a truth hidden by God in times past that is now revealed to those who are in His family.”  

A New Society

“For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation.” Ephesians 2:14

Equality seems to be the most relevant issue today. It’s at the forefront of our society’s mind and is causing a lot of dispute because we’re desperately trying to figure out what it looks like and how to obtain it. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize we were given the answer nearly 2,000 years ago. At a time when inequality was leaps and bounds worse than it is now, Paul declared Christ Himself “is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation.”

Triumphant

All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet saying: “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” Matthew 21:4-5

Oh, the paradox of Christianity! Jesus insisted that His grand entrance into Jerusalem would be as a peaceful Savior, even though the crowd wanted Him to enter as a powerful political Messiah. While the crowd couldn’t see past their Roman bondage, Jesus saw their deeper need of being freed from their bondage to sin.

Death to Life

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Ephesians 2:1

In order that we might fully appreciate who we now are in Christ, Paul bluntly describes how terrible the situation was we used to be in. Oftentimes I feel we lose the full gravity of what Christ accomplished for us. Perhaps we think we used to be bad people and Jesus made us better, or we were struggling and Jesus came along and helped us. Even some of the metaphors we use in many of our worship songs seem to be insufficient. Although I adore the song “Amazing Grace” and would never disagree with the lyrics, I feel famous phrases like “I once was lost but now am found” or “T’was blind but now I see” don’t quite get across exactly what Jesus did for us.

Prayer for Enlightenment

“The eyes of your understanding being enlightened...” Ephesians 1:18a

Ok, I know you’ve heard me say this many times before, but this may be my favorite verse. The ESV translates it, “Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened.” We often think of the heart as the seat of our emotions, but in the Bible the heart refers to the entire inner man which includes the emotions, the mind and the will. Through the Bible we learn the heart has spiritual faculties that parallel our physical senses. We read things like, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God… He who has ears to hear, let him hear… If indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious… A sweet smelling aroma… In hope that they might grope for Him and find Him…” (John 3:3, Matthew 13:9, 1 Peter 2:3, Phillipians 4:18, Acts 17:27). Throughout these scriptures the heart is found seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and touching.