Wednesday, June 30, 2010

2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11

23 I call God as my witness—and I stake my life on it—that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth. 24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm.
1 So I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you. 2 For if I grieve you, who is left to make me glad but you whom I have grieved? 3 I wrote as I did, so that when I came I would not be distressed by those who should have made me rejoice. I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy. 4 For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.

5 If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. 6 The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. 7 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. 9 Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10 Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.

Questions to consider:
  • What reasons does Paul give for not visiting the Corinthian church as he had formerly planned?
  • What principles of church discipline and forgiveness does Paul teach through the incident described in this passage?
  • What kind of conduct is expected of you in relation to the church?

Possibilities for prayer:

Paul’s call to forgiveness and comfort for those who have offended is a definite challenge. And he goes a step further in suggesting that we reaffirm our love for the offender. I don’t know about you--but when someone has hurt me, the last thing on my mind is reassuring them that I still love them! And yet, as followers of Jesus, these are the kind of life decisions we are called to make. Today, let’s ask to make us the kind of people who affirm our love for those who wrong us, instead of trying to make them pay for our wounds. And let’s ask God to make us a community that forgives readily and easily, and offers comfort not only to the offended party, but to the party who caused the offense in the first place. Ask God to make us a radical community in His image.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

2 Corinthians 1:12-23

12 Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God's grace. 13 For we do not write you anything you cannot read or understand. And I hope that, 14 as you have understood us in part, you will come to understand fully that you can boast of us just as we will boast of you in the day of the Lord Jesus.
15 Because I was confident of this, I wanted to visit you first so that you might benefit twice. 16 I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia, and then to have you send me on my way to Judea. 17 Was I fickle when I intended to do this? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say both "Yes, yes" and "No, no"?
18 But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not "Yes" and "No." 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silas and Timothy—was not "Yes" and "No," but in him it has always been "Yes." 20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God. 21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
23 I call God as my witness—and I stake my life on it—that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth.

Questions to consider:
  • What factors, does Paul claim, govern his conduct with regard to Christians and non-Christians?
  • Characterize Paul’s positive relation to the Corinthians.
  • In what ways would your life have to change to be able to similarly characterize your relationships?
  • What do verses 18-20 say about the nature and promises of God?
  • How does Jesus Christ fulfill every promise of God?

Possibilities for prayer:

Paul’s language of God’s anointing, setting of a seal upon us, and putting his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit is a lovely image and rather poetic. Isn’t it kind of amazing to think about what that means for our lives? Having the Holy Spirit around means that we’re able to do all kinds of cool things. And belonging to the God of the universe can’t be a bad thing! Let’s thank God for these blessings that Paul has laid out in this passage, expressing true gratitude for all that these words Paul wrote so long ago mean, even today.

Monday, June 28, 2010

2 Corinthians 1:1-11

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the church of God in Corinth, together with all his holy people throughout Achaia:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Praise to the God of All Comfort
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

Questions to consider:
  • State what Paul says concerning the (a) nature and (b) activities of God.
  • How does comfort relate to the nature and activities of God?
  • How does Paul understand afflictions in relation to the comfort of God?
  • How do you respond in times of difficulty and stress? Why?
  • Why does God allow difficult circumstances to enter Paul’s life?
  • If Paul is sure that he will be released from prison, why, do you think, does he ask for prayer from the Corinthians?

Possibilities for prayer:

Being willing to rely on God rather than on ourselves is often a step of courage. It doesn’t seem like it should be, since God, as Paul writes, raises people from the dead. But God often feels less tangible than our own actions and abilities--which can make it a little more difficult to simply and completely trust in Him. Today, let’s ask for the confidence and courage to put our trust in a God who raises the dead, no matter what our life circumstances may look like.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

1 Corinthians 16

1 Now about the collection for the Lord's people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. 3 Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me.

5 After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you—for I will be going through Macedonia. 6 Perhaps I will stay with you for a while, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go. 7 For I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. 8 But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.
10 When Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am. 11 No one, then, should treat him with contempt. Send him on his way in peace so that he may return to me. I am expecting him along with the brothers.
12 Now about our brother Apollos: I strongly urged him to go to you with the brothers. He was quite unwilling to go now, but he will go when he has the opportunity.
13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 14 Do everything in love.
15 You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the Lord's people. I urge you, brothers and sisters, 16 to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work and labors at it. 17 I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. 18 For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition.
19 The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house. 20 All the brothers and sisters here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.
21 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand.
22 If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed! Come, Lord !
23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.
24 My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Questions to consider:
  • Do you fulfill your responsibility to God and to others in the area of giving? In what ways?
  • About what things in other people is Paul concerned?
  • What does Paul desire to see accomplished in other Christians as he works for and with them?

Possibilities for prayer:

One of the things that I notice about this passage is the way that Paul makes plans, careful to acknowledge God’s ultimate control over them. He hopes to spend some time with the Corinthian church, but he also is quick to add the phrase, “if the Lord permits.” Sometimes I think we get caught up in the details of trying to plan our own lives without acknowledging the reality that we should be constantly handing those plans over to God. Today, let’s hand our plans over to God--the big things and the small things--and let God know that we want to be in His will above all else. If that seems like a hard prayer to offer, ask that God would be changing your heart to desire that will above your own--and we can all ask that God would help us to live lives where our hopes, dreams, and desires for ourselves naturally line up with God’s.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

1 Corinthians 15:35-58

35 But someone will ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?" 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39 All flesh is not the same: Human beings have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.
42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: "The first Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.
50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."
55 "Where, O death, is your victory? 
 Where, O death, is your sting?"
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Questions to consider:
  • How does Paul use parallels in nature to help the Corinthians grasp truths of the resurrection?
  • What is the relation between your present body and the one Christ will give you at the resurrection of the dead?
  • Describe the resurrected body.
  • How will death be defeated ultimately?
  • In what ways do you and will you demonstrate the defeat of (a) death and (b) the sting of sin?

Possibilities for prayer:

Death being swallowed up in victory is a pretty profound and powerful image, and one that we can be excited about! One of the truly great things about Christianity is the promise of eternity--that things don’t simply end when we die, but that there is so much goodness to which we can look forward. Let’s praise God for victory over death, for the fact that death is no longer something that we need to fear.

Friday, June 25, 2010

1 Corinthians 15:1-34

1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas,and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all others.
20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a human being. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But in this order: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he "has put everything under his feet." Now when it says that "everything" has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.
29 Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? 30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31 I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, 
 "Let us eat and drink, 
 for tomorrow we die."
33 Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." 34 Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.

Questions to consider:
  • How does Paul substantiate Christ’s resurrection?
  • How is God’s grace shown in your life?
  • What kind of attitude and behavior would result in those who believe in resurrection?
  • What kind of behavior and attitude is evident in your life because Jesus is risen?
  • How are you fitting into God’s overall plan?

Possibilities for prayer:

“If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”

These are strong words. Paul is pretty much laying it out that without Christ’s resurrection, all his work, and much of his life, was for naught. But since Paul did a lot of things, went a lot of places, and touched a lot of lives, we can be pretty sure that he was sold on the idea of Christ’s resurrection, and hopefully you are too! Today, let’s thank God for the gift of resurrection--for the fact that we are not “still in our sins” as Paul writes, but rather, set free from them. Let’s praise Christ for the freedom that His death and resurrection provide.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

1 Corinthians 14:20-40

20 Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. 21 In the Law it is written: 
 "With other tongues 
 and through the lips of foreigners 
 I will speak to this people, 
 but even then they will not listen to me, 
 says the Lord."
22 Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24 But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, 25 as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!"
26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church; let them speak to themselves and to God.
29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord's people.
34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
36 Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? 37 If any think they are prophets or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command. 38 Those who ignore this will themselves be ignored.
39 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

Questions to consider:

  • How does Paul’s illustration of children relate to the desire for tongues?
  • What is the anticipated attitude and response of unbelievers toward (a) tongues and (b) prophecy?
  • What effect does your group’s behavior have on outsiders?
  • What are the parts of a Corinthian meeting?
  • In what ways are tongues and prophecy controllable? How does this control relate to the nature of God?

Possibilities for prayer:

Paul gives some pretty particular instructions here and finishes up with the admonition that everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way. While it’s a little hard to know what to do with the silencing of women portion of this passage (other than attribute it to the culture of the time, something we did with an earlier passage in 1 Corinthians), the idea of creating order and still blessing community with gifts is definitely something that we can strive for and embody in our own church community. It can be tempting with some of these more “power” oriented gifts to try to flaunt them in community, which tends to be an issue of pride. Today let’s pray for our community, and ask God to be growing and developing a spirit of humility within all of us, and a true desire to see God’s will done within it, as opposed to our own.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Corinthians 14:1-19

1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. 2 For those who speak in a tongue do not speak to other people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. 3 But those who prophesy speak to people for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. 4 Those who speak in a tongue edify themselves, but those who prophesy edify the church. 5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. Those who prophesy are greater than those who speak in tongues, unless they interpret, so that the church may be edified.
6 Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? 7 Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the pipe or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? 8 Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? 9 So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. 10 Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 11 If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me. 12 So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.
13 For this reason those who speak in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. 16 Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can the others, who are now put in the same situation as an inquirer, say "Amen" to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? 17 You are giving thanks well enough, but the others are not edified.
18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

Questions to consider:

  • For what reasons does Paul encourage the Corinthians to desire prophecy over tongues?
  • In what ways can you make Paul’s advice in verse 12 the standard of behavior and desire in your Christian community?
  • Do you desire tongues or prophecy? Why?
  • How does Paul substantiate his statements to the Corinthians?
Possibilities for prayer:

Even though Paul comes across as denigrating the gift of tongues a little bit in this passage, it is clear that he values it in his own life--and it’s a pretty neat thought that this gift is kind of like your direct line to God, a language that the two of you can use to communicate that is beyond human thought or intellect. Paul’s language of prophecy being greater than tongues is perhaps a little misleading here--I think he wants the Corinthian church to be in a place where they can edify and encourage each other and not just themselves. It’s important to edify and encourage your community, but it’s also important to be edified and encouraged by God for oneself, and definitely exciting to be able to communicate with God in a very unique way. So today, let’s ask God to grant us both those gifts--and the wisdom to use them well.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

1 Corinthians 13

1 If I speak in human or angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body [to hardship] that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Questions to consider:

  • What spiritual gifts are mentioned in verses 1-3?
  • What is the purpose and future of spiritual gifts? How are faith, hope and love superior?
  • What do you need to change about your attitudes and actions toward various people in your life (friends, roommates, husband/wife, mom/dad, etc)?

Possibilities for prayer:

Ah, the love chapter. A lot of people are familiar with the middle chunk of this passage (verses 4-8a), but have you ever stopped to seriously consider what the very first part of the passage is saying? Love is a very serious deal--being able to fathom all knowledge AND a having a faith that can move mountains still results in being counted nothing without the presence of love. Obviously, love is pretty important stuff, and something we should be seeking diligently. Let’s ask God for a revelation of what real love is and looks like, and the courage to press into that and make it a reality in our own lives.

Monday, June 21, 2010

1 Corinthians 12:21-31

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.
And yet I will show you the most excellent way.

Questions to consider:
  • How are the activities of the body coordinated?
  • What is the right attitude of a person with a less “spectacular” gift toward a person with a more “spectacular” gift? Vice versa?
  • To what degree do you accept your place in Christ’s body?
  • How important is each member of the church body?
Possibilities for prayer:

We are all members of the body of Christ. I think this analogy is a rather useful one in figuring out how we all fit together--a body just doesn’t function as well when some of the parts are missing, even if it’s one of the parts about which we don’t think as much. Today, let’s give God thanks for the gifts we’ve been given, and the role we play in our church body. Let’s also ask God to reveal to us gifts that we may not know we have, and continue to ask for those gifts that we desire to have.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

1 Corinthians 12:14-20

14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

Questions to consider:

  • How does Paul compare the physical body with the body of Christ?
  • How does Paul reconcile unity with diversity among Christians?

Possibilities for prayer:

This is a really important piece of Scripture to me. Acknowledging the significance of every member of Christ’s body is something about which everyone should be aware. Today, let’s take some time to thank God for the other people in the body of our own church communities, for the way that we are all uniquely designed to work together--and let’s ask God to help us learn how to appreciate and encourage everyone’s unique gifts.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

1 Corinthians 12:7-13

7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Questions to consider:
  • What is the purpose of the gifts?
  • What are your gifts?
  • How are a person’s specific gifts determined?
  • Is the truth of verse 13 apparent in your church community? In what ways?

Possibilities for prayer:

When I look through this list of spiritual gifts, I get very excited. It’s definitely excited that we’ve been granted the ability to do some pretty amazing things through the power of the holy spirit! Again there’s a need for discernment, however. One of the questions for today’s passage asked what your gifts are. Maybe you know what they are, and maybe you don’t. But one way to get an idea about what they might be is to pray and ask God to show you! So today, let’s do just that; let’s take some time to ask God to show us what our gifts are, particularly those gifts that might not naturally be so apparent to us.

Friday, June 18, 2010

1 Corinthians 12:1-6

1 Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Questions to consider:
  • What does Paul want the Corinthians to understand about spiritual gifts?
  • What is the unity across the diverse gifts?
  • What theme does Paul seem to be trying to get across to the Corinthian church in verses 4-6?

Possibilities for prayer:

It’s pretty cool that spiritual gifts are something that we’re encouraged to know about. It’s also encouraging that we can be confident that all the gifts, in all their diversity, come from the Holy Spirit. Despite this confidence, we still require discernment to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. Today, let’s ask for greater ability to hear and understand the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

1 Corinthians 11:27-34

27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. 32 Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.
33 So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together. 34 Those who are hungry should eat something at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment. 

And when I come I will give further directions.

Questions to consider:

  • How should a person approach a communion meal with others?
  • What does communion mean to you? What attitudes or practices do you need to change?

Possibilities for prayer:

As we read yesterday, partaking of the Lord’s supper is a serious deal, and something that we should think about before we do. Today as we pray, let’s take some time to examine our hearts and make sure that we’re in right relationship with God and with those around us. Confessing the ugly things in our lives is rarely a fun process, but something that we are called to do. Let’s be open and honest in our worship of and communication with God.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

1 Corinthians 11:17-27

17 In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval. 20 So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, 21 for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. 22 Don't you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter!
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 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." 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

Questions to consider:

  • What is Paul’s reaction to what he has heard about the Corinthians’ gatherings?
  • What explanation does Paul give the church about the communion meal?

Possibilities for prayer:

Paul reminds us of what communion is all about--Christ’s very physical sacrifice of His body and blood for us. He challenges the Corinthian church to take communion much more seriously, and grant it more respect than it appears they have been. This is a challenge relevant to us as well. A time of communion should not be taken lightly, just as Christ’s death should not be taken lightly. Today, let’s remember that sacrifice and take some time to thank and praise God for the intense love we were shown through Jesus’s death on the cross so many years ago.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

1 Corinthians 11:2-16

2 I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. 3 But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.

7 A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9 neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.

Questions to consider:
  • In what ways does your relationship with God govern your interactions when you meet other Christians?
  • What reasons are given for the covering of heads (there was a Jewish tradition of covering all heads and a Greek tradition of covering no heads)?
  • To what extent does Paul adapt these principles from the general practice of the day?
  • How do we interact with culture today? How does our current culture affect the way that we practice our faith?

Some thoughts from Matt:

So, obviously, this passage has a couple sticky points for many of us. I warn you in advance; I will not answer all of the questions here…

1) First, there's the issue of the specific question of veiling or covering (the Greek literally just says "uncovered" or "unhidden") women's heads. Why is Paul so concerned about this issue which he himself describes as one merely of "custom" or "tradition"? Indeed, various ancient Mediterranean people had different practices in terms of veiling (both men and women or just women or neither). Paul's logic in prescribing veiling for women seems strained here (because of the angels?!); I've read many attempts to explain this; none have been completely satisfying to me. Perhaps what God is leading us to consider here is how we interact with cultural customs in our context. When should we accept cultural norms in our society? What if those norms vary among sub-groups (as they did in Paul's context)? Which do we accept? Which do we resist? How will these decisions shape our interactions with various cultural groups?

2) Second, this passage raises more substantial issues vis-a-vis gender hierarchy. Paul seems to say two very different things: On the one hand, the woman, in the creation narrative (in Genesis), was created from man and after man, and so, therefore is the image and reflection of man (not of God). On the other hand, "in the Lord" (that is, in Christ) there is a relationship of mutuality, "woman is not independent of man or man independent of woman." This is a difficult tension to resolve. What is Paul really saying about men and women? Or, perhaps more to the point, what is God saying to us through this passage about men and women? My take is that, "in the Lord"—that is, in light of Jesus' work—the relationship between men and women is truly egalitarian. Paul's concession, then, to custom and to tradition is all the more intriguing and throws us back to the first set of issues: What did Paul's community have to gain in following these traditions and customs? (Favor with outsiders? Authenticity for believers from certain cultural backgrounds? Respectability in the broader culture?)

At the end of the day, some of the clearest data we have from Paul comes in the form of his greetings to various women who were leading in his churches (e.g., 1Cor 1.11, Rom 16.1-16 (note Phoebe (a deacon) and Junia (an apostle)). However we end up trying to piece together what Paul said on this topic, we can know that his churches did place women in important roles of leadership and service. ECV (and the Vineyard USA as a whole) are committed to doing the same.

Possibilities for prayer:

This passage gives us a lot to think about. Something that’s important to keep in mind whenever we read any passage of the Bible is that we should be seeking help in discerning what the passage means with the Holy Spirit’s help. So let’s put that into practice today--let’s ask God to help us take away the important points for our lives today. God wants to honor our genuine attempts to seek Him through Scripture.

Monday, June 14, 2010

1 Corinthians 10:14-11:1

14 Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
18 Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? 19 Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons. 22 Are we trying to arouse the Lord's jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
23 "I have the right to do anything," you say—but not everything is beneficial. "I have the right to do anything"—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.
25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it."
27 If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice," then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. 29 I am referring to the other person's conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another's conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?
31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.
1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

Questions to consider:
  • What basis of Christian unity is in the Lord’s supper?
  • Why does participation in the Lord’s supper exclude participation in idol feasts? Vice versa?
  • What are Paul’s major considerations in exercising Christian liberty?
  • What about Christian liberty have you questioned recently? What principles from this passage will you apply to your specific problems?

Possibilities for prayer:

I like Paul’s distinction between things being permissible and beneficial. In thinking through decisions, I know I have a tendency to think about what I can get away with without actually crossing that “line.” But Paul shows us that it’s a much more helpful paradigm to look at things in a way that shows them as beneficial or not. Today, let’s ask God to help us desire those things for ourselves that are truly beneficial for our lives, and to stop trying to live “on the line.”

Sunday, June 13, 2010

1 Corinthians 10:1-14

1 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: "The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry." 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9 We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.
11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to us all. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
14 Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.

Questions to consider:
  • Contrast the benefits of Israel (vs.1-4) with their response to God (vs.5-10). How has Christ been related to the Israelites?
  • How do these Old Testament activities add force to Paul’s argument?
  • How do you deal with temptation in your life? How does the faithfulness of God relate to your situation?

Possibilities for prayer:

It is certainly encouraging to be assured that God knows our limits and will not push beyond them. Of course, this can sometimes mean that we are pushed to them, but as Paul writes, God always gives us a way out, if we are just ready to look for it, to ask for it. Let’s ask God for strength in times of temptation and for the ability to see His faithfulness through the “way out” that is provided.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

1 Corinthians 9:19-27

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Questions to consider:
  • What is Paul’s (a) attitude and (b) purpose in personal relationships?
  • How is Paul free to be like all men without becoming carried away with this freedom?
  • What are you doing to keep in shape spiritually? What prize do you seek?

Possibilities for prayer:

Paul writes about discipline at the end of this passage. Everyone knows that someone who entered the Olympic 400 meter dash without training a day would not stand a chance against those athletes who have spent years training, toning, and disciplining their bodies into excellent shape. Our spiritual lives are much the same. We should be disciplining ourselves to grow in knowledge and understanding of God in order that we might be able to share more effectively about Him. Today, let’s ask God for a spirit of discipline, so that we can become even more astute and knowledgeable disciples.

Friday, June 11, 2010

1 Corinthians 9:1-18

1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? 2 Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

3 This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. 4 Don't we have the right to food and drink? 5 Don't we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord's brothers and Cephas ? 6 Or is it only I and Barnabas who don't have the right not to work for a living?
7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk? 8 Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn't the Law say the same thing? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10 Surely he says this for us, doesn't he? Yes, this was written for us, because when farmers plow and thresh, they should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn't we have it all the more? 
 But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.
13 Don't you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.
15 But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast. 16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. 18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not misuse my rights as a preacher of the gospel.

Questions to consider:

  • Compare and contrast Paul’s situation with other apostles’ to (a) claim apostleship and (b) maintenance at the church’s expense.
  • What causes Paul to forego his rights? What is his attitude?
  • What rights might you forego in order to share the good news? What is your attitude?
  • What is the extent of Paul’s responsibility to God’s commission? What is yours?
  • What is the irony of Paul’s reward?

Possibilities for prayer:

We are given the choice and opportunity to share the good news of Jesus with others. The reward for making the decision to share Jesus with the world often does not look like a reward in the world’s sense--Paul experienced internal peace and joy as a result of his ministry, despite many physical challenges (many of which we read about in Acts). Let’s ask God to reorient our understanding of “reward” to look more like what Paul was excited about: peace, joy, and comfort of our souls.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

1 Corinthians 8

1 Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that "We all possess knowledge." But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. 2 Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. 3 But whoever loves God is known by God.

4 So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that "An idol is nothing at all in the world" and that "There is no God but one." 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
7 But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8 But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.
9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol's temple, won't they be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.

Questions to consider:
  • What is the problem here?
  • What knowledge do some Christians possess that others do not?
  • How are they failing to show love to the others?
  • What responsibility do you have to another person’s conscience?
  • In what ways are you building up a Christian brother or sister by not flaunting your knowledge to their detriment?

Possibilities for prayer:

There’s a lot of wisdom in thinking carefully about how the things we choose to do might negatively affect the spiritual growth of those around us. Paul makes the distinction that it is not so much about the action (here, of eating food sacrificed to idols) but about the consequences. Let’s pray for wisdom in the decisions we make, and the consequences those decisions might have. Ask for an increasing awareness of and compassion for those who look to us as examples of Christ in this world, that we might be encouraging examples rather than discouraging ones.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

1 Corinthians 7:25-40

25 Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. 26 Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. 27 Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.
29 What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who are married should live as if they were not; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.
32 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.
36 If anyone is worried that he might not be acting honorably toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if she is getting beyond the usual age for marrying and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. 37 But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin—this man also does the right thing. 38 So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better.
39 A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. 40 In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is—and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.

Questions to consider:

  • List and explain the reasons Paul counsels to marry and to remain single.
  • What would it look like in our own lives to truly acknowledge that the world around us was passing away?
  • What basic attitudes toward earthly values and relationships does Paul urge?
  • To what extent are you willing to forego good legitimate things in order to secure you undivided devotion to the Lord?
  • What are the realistic advantages and disadvantages of marriage for you?

Possibilities for prayer:

In our world today it can be difficult to live as if the things we have are not ours to keep. But Paul challenges us to recognize that this world is not our final home, and that things we find here are not eternal. Let’s ask God to give us eyes to see our lives in a more eternal way, that we might learn to value the things that are important and be much less focused on those things that are not.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

1 Corinthians 7:1-24

1 Now for the matters you wrote about: "It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman." 2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. 5 Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 I say this as a concession, not as a command. 7 I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.
8 Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. 9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.
12 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. 16 How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?
17 Nevertheless, each of you should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to you, just as God has called you. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. 18 Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God's commands is what counts. 20 Each of you should remain in the situation you were in when God called you.
21 Were you a slave when you were called? Don't let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22 For those who were slaves when called to faith in the Lord are the Lord's freed people; similarly, those who were free when called are Christ's slaves. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. 24 Brothers and sisters, all of you, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation in which God called you.

Questions to consider:

  • What responsibilities do a husband and a wife have toward each other?
  • Do married people necessarily lack self control?
  • Compare and contrast your feelings concerning marriage with Paul’s.
  • Under what conditions is marriage advisable?
  • What personal encouragement do you find in these verses?

Possibilities for prayer:

Paul writes about doing the best we can in the situation in which we find ourselves--that keeping God’s commands is more important than our circumstances. Today, let’s ask God to help us remember that. No matter what might be going on in our own lives or around us, we are still called to be faithful to God. Let’s ask God for strength to remain faithful even when our situation feels difficult or discouraging.

Monday, June 7, 2010

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

12 "I have the right to do anything," you say—but not everything is beneficial. "I have the right to do anything"—but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 You say, "Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both." The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, "The two will become one flesh." 17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.
18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins people commit are outside their bodies, but those who sin sexually sin against their own bodies. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Questions to consider:

  • What misapplication of Christian freedom does Paul attack? On what grounds?
  • What misuses of the body does Paul specify?
  • In what ways do you misuse your body?
  • What should be Christian’s attitude toward his or her body?

Possibilities for prayer:

Free will is definitely a blessing, but sometimes it can be a bit troublesome as well. We often want to do things that are not in our best interest, though seem good at the time. Paul’s words that we ‘“have the right to do anything’” but that does not mean that “everything is beneficial” are wise ones. Today, let’s ask God for an increased desire for the things that are beneficial, so that we would not only do them, but desire to do them. As Paul writes, let’s honor God with our actions and with our bodies.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

1 Corinthians 6:1-11

1 If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord's people? 2 Or do you not know that the Lord's people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! 4 Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? 5 I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? 6 But instead, one brother goes to law against another—and this in front of unbelievers!
7 The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 8 Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters. 9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Questions to consider:

  • What in the Corinthians’ legal practices upsets Paul?
  • What reasons does Paul give to confirm the principles he suggests?
  • What attitude does Paul commend to the aggrieved party?
  • What determines whether a person will inherit the kingdom of God?
  • Explain how you have been washed, sanctified and justified. How are these happenings obvious in your life today?

Possibilities for prayer:

Paul’s mention of being washed, sanctified, and justified is encouraging to me. We all have dark places in our lives, places of sin. But fortunately, we have the gifts of grace and forgiveness from Jesus, which means that those dark places, the bad things that have a hold on our lives, can be broken and given over to God. Today, let’s confess to God those broken places within us, and ask for healing and restoration. Let’s also take some time to thank God for the blessings that grace and forgiveness are, especially when we are so often unworthy of either.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

1 Corinthians 5

1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man has his father's wife. 2 And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? 3 For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. 4 So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5 hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the sinful nature so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.
6 Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with any who claim to be fellow believers but are sexually immoral or greedy, idolaters or slanderers, drunkards or swindlers. With such persons do not even eat.
12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked person from among you."

Questions to consider:

  • Compare the first century Greek attitudes and modern attitudes toward sexual morality.
  • What is the attitude of the Corinthian church to the problem? How does Paul instruct them to act?
  • Specify those with whom the church is not to associate. How far does their practical excommunication go?
  • With whom can you associate if you follow Paul’s instruction?

Possibilities for prayer:

Paul seems to be concerned about the issue of pride in the Corinthian church; this passage is not the first time he has mentioned being surprised by their pride. Much like having judgmental attitudes, pride is one of those issues with which most people struggle at one time or another in their lives. Paul is particularly surprised in this situation because the types of behavior that appear to be going on in this community are not things of which someone should be proud! Today, let’s ask God to help us take a healthy and Godly type of pride in the good things in our lives, in the ways that God is working through us to bring more of the Kingdom to this world, and that he would continue to build a spirit of humility within us, that we might always recognize God as the source of the good things we are able to accomplish.

Friday, June 4, 2010

1 Corinthians 4

1 This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. 2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of people's hearts. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
6 Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, "Do not go beyond what is written." Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other. 7 For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign—and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you! 9 For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. 10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.
14 I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. 15 Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
18 Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. 20 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. 21 What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?

Questions to consider:

  • How does Paul describe the apostles?
  • Describe and distinguish servants and stewards.
  • What truth about God does Paul introduce?
  • How does Paul contrast the position of the apostles and the Corinthian church? With which group do you identify? Why?
  • What result does Paul hope for in the Corinthians?

Possibilities for prayer:

Judgment is something with which many of us struggle, I think. It can easy to look around at the way those around us are living their lives and compare their choices to our own, casting judgment upon ourselves or upon others. But Paul reminds us that we are not in a position to be judgmental--because our judgment does not have the full knowledge that God has. Let’s ask God to break us of our judgmental habits, and help us to see those around with eyes of love and compassion instead.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

1 Corinthians 3

1 Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere human beings? 4 For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere human beings?
5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are God's co-workers; you are God's field, God's building.
10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person's work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
16 Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person; for God's temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.
18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become "fools" so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written: "He catches the wise in their craftiness"; 20 and again, "The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile." 21 So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

Questions to consider:

• What figures of speech does Paul use to characterize the Corinthian church?
• What indicates the Corinthians’ lack of progress? Why?
• Which is your emphasis in building, quantity or quality? Which is God’s?
• In what sense is verse 21 a logical conclusion to verses 18-19?

Possibilities for prayer:

Paul speaks about humility in this passage, in maybe a little bit of a round about way. He refers to the fact that it is God “who makes things grow.” This can be a lesson to us to not take credit for the things that God has done. We are working with God to see good things come in this world, as opposed to bringing about the good on our own. Let’s ask God to help us to see the ways in which we can partner with Him to do good work in this world, and to help us to always have humility and the ability to acknowledge God as the source--not ourselves.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

1 Corinthians 2

1 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God's power.

6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God's wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:
"What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived—
these things God has prepared for those who love him" —
10 for God has revealed them to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person's thoughts except that person's own spirit within? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, 
 "Who has known the mind of the Lord 
 so as to instruct him?"
 But we have the mind of Christ.

Questions to consider:

• What is the content of Paul’s message?
• How is it an example of true wisdom?
• Describe Paul’s presentation of the gospel.
• Characterize and describe God’s wisdom.
• What do you learn here about the work Holy Spirit?
• How does what the Holy Spirit teaches affect your understanding of God and Jesus Christ?

Possibilities for prayer:

In this passage, Paul expounds on the importance of the Spirit’s role in understanding how God sees the world. Let’s ask for for a greater outpouring of God’s spirit in our lives so that we will be able to accept and reject things as God would have us do.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:
"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate."
20 Where are the wise? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: "Let those who boast boast in the Lord."

Questions to consider:

• Contrast the two viewpoints which the message produces.
• How has the wisdom of this world been made foolish?
• What is true wisdom? Its goal? Its relation to the cross? Its endurance?
• How are God’s people described here? Why has God chosen such people to represent him?
• How does this message attack the problem in the Corinthian church?

Possibilities for prayer:

God seems to be a God that turns the understandings of this world on their heads, using foolish and weak things to shame the wise and strong. Today, let’s ask God to give us His vision of the world, and an understanding of what wisdom from God looks like.