Isaiah 30-32; 1 Corinthians 5

Don’t be surprised when those who don’t know Me don’t follow My ways…

I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. 1 Corinthians 5:10

Christians often earn a reputation for being judgmental toward people who don’t share our faith. And while a life apart from God usually isn’t lived according to His standards, Christians make a mistake by acting surprised by a world that acts like it doesn’t love Him. Instead of forcing our opinions on people who aren’t interested, it might be better to spend our energy rethinking our approach.

As His children, we should focus on growing in wisdom and love. The wisdom of 1 Corinthians 5 reveals us as His loving followers when we need it. Our job as reflections of Jesus on earth is not to turn off those who don’t know Him. But that’s essentially what we do when we make our faith about expecting a lost world to conform to standards He calls His children to obey.

Not living by His truth is wrong for Christians and unbelievers alike. But our role as His followers is to love others, not to condemn them. We can and should show love to people who don’t know the Lord, regardless of whether their lifestyle lines up with the Bible. We can know someone’s behavior is wrong, but still draw that person closer to Christ through the quality of our love for them.

The world sorely lacks love, and many people’s sin  patterns result as coping mechanisms for past hurts. We have no business stomping someone’s heart with condemnation, particularly when that heart has grown accustomed to mistreatment. God calls us to a higher love that cares first about the person.

When God’s own, who are dearly love by Him, thumb our noses at those who desperately need to know what real love feels like, we do His reputation more harm than good. Instead of being surprised by the world’s sin, perhaps we might surprise the world with a different approach… with real love… the love of Jesus!

Lord, please help me to be a messenger of Your love and don’t let me forget that a person living in sin is a person living in pain. Amen!

Greg Stefanelli (gstefanelli)

Where did we get the idea that responding to wrong behavior with hateful behavior could improve someone?

Anonymous

What Love Really Means – Love Me (JJ Heller)

 

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Isaiah 26-29; Psalm 65; I Corinthians 4

Do you have problems with trust? I often say that I trust others to do what they say they will do, only to think silently that I doubt they will adequately fulfill the promise made or complete the requested task. Just yesterday, I spoke on the phone with someone who asked if I wanted to cancel my services since I moved. This is the third time I have “cancelled” the services by phone, and I just knew there would be some extra charge. After droning on about the inefficiency of the company, my unwillingness to accept further charges, etc., the agent repeated, “Would you like to cancel the service today?” Polite but frozen calmness and the use of fragmented sentences and monotone voice relayed my irritation. Ever the diplomat, the agent cancelled the service and assured me there were no further charges on my account. This is just one example of how I step in to gain control, become overwhelmed, and realize too late that I have failed at doing what someone else was really capable and more qualified to do. This pattern of thinking and behavior has infected personal and working relationships, but mostly my relationship with God. It all boils down to trust.

Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” If I am stressed, worried, or anxious, then do I really trust in God? And does my cynicism about the state of this world interfere with the belief that “With my soul I have desired You in the night; yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early; for when Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9)? Do I really trust that the judgments of God will one day right the world? Also, do I trust in my abilities and knowledge to affect change in others, open those proverbial doors and set me in high places? Or do I seek the source of all good counsel? Isaiah 28:29 says, “This [wisdom] also comes from the Lord of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance.”

Psalm 65:9 reminds us that God visits the earth and waters it, and that God greatly enriches it, so that “The pastures are clothed with flocks; The valleys also are covered with grain,” (v13), yet I toy with thoughts that the good we receive in life is circumstantial and coincidental. I say that God is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance, yet do I boast about what I have received and judge others (and even myself) for what we lack?

I could go on with evidence of lacking trust…but beating me up for a lack of trust serves no other purpose than confessing my weakness. I Corinthians 4:5 says, “Therefore judge nothing before the time until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.” Come, let us learn to hand over the need for control to the One who with absolute perfection will accomplish His will in our lives.

God, I will trust You today to teach me how to be a faithful servant in the field You have provided me to tend. Though, as the Apostle Paul said, I might have a thousand teachers, only You, Lord Jesus, are rightfully called the Wonderful Counselor. I will not judge others by my standards nor interfere when Your righteousness is being poured out. I will trust that You know my needs (and those of all Your creation), and that You will increase the fruit of our labor and drop, as from an overflowing cart, abundance. Thank You Almighty God and Lord Jesus Christ for providing me opportunities to trust You today as I dwell in Your presence.  Amen.

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Isaiah 23-25; 1 Corinthians 3

Isaiah’s world is being torn apart by ruthless men. The surrounding nations are about to implode. Torture, suffering and terror  swirl around him. How does he respond?

“O Lord,  you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things planned long ago.” Isaiah 25:1

Is this wishful thinking? Oblivion to the circumstances around him? No, it is rock solid reality. Isaiah has a clear understanding of the truth.

What about me? When life seemingly spins out of control and sorrow and fear threaten to take over, what do I hold onto?

“But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his 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 man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” I Corinthians 3:12-15

Lord, by your grace,  may who I am, what I do and what I say be grounded in the truth of your sovereignty and goodness. Forgive me when I have stubbornly held onto some stubborn, false narrative.  I trust you to be a kind surgeon and remove the malignant lies that have kept me from living in the reality of who You are. I rest in your faithfulness and look to You with hope for the future.  Amen

Klueh

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Isaiah 20-22; 1 Corinthians 2

You run to the armory for your weapons.
You inspect the breaks in the walls of Jerusalem.
    You store up water in the lower pool.
10 You survey the houses and tear some down
    for stone to strengthen the walls.
11 Between the city walls, you build a reservoir
    for water from the old pool.
But you never ask for help from the One who did all this.
    You never considered the One who planned this long ago. Isaiah 22:8b-11, NLT

I know there have been times I’ve exhausted myself emotionally and physically–my mind a steady stream of thoughts that churn a situation, looking for solution at every angle. Or my efforts the “one foot in front of the other” work, the next step, the next right thing–marching on and pushing through. In all of it, I realize how very small I am. To carry the weight of a burden alone can crush a spirit.

God wants me to take my burdens to him and lay them at his feet. I offer up petitions and prayer, and the Spirit groans on my behalf.

For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. 11 No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. 12 And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.

13 When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. 14 But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. 15 Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others. 16 For,

“Who can know the Lord’s thoughts?
    Who knows enough to teach him?”

But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:10b-16, NLT

A Matthew Henry Commentary tells me: “Though the infirmities of Christians are many and great, so that they would be overpowered if left to themselves, yet the Holy Spirit supports them. The Spirit, as an enlightening Spirit, teaches us what to pray for; as a sanctifying Spirit, works and stirs up praying graces; as a comforting Spirit, silences our fears, and helps us over all discouragements. The Holy Spirit is the spring of all desires toward God, which are often more than words can utter. The Spirit who searches the hearts, can perceive the mind and will of the spirit, the renewed mind, and advocates his cause. The Spirit makes intercession to God, and the enemy prevails not.”

Father God, thank you that your spirit lives in me. Thank you that you make yourself accessible to me, leaning low to listen even when I don’t have words, or know what words to speak. I do not have to carry a burden alone–my Lord, my Shepherd, you are with me.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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Isaiah 17-19; Psalm 62; 1 Corinthians 1

18The teaching about the cross seems foolish to those who are lost. But to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19It is written in the Scriptures:

“I will cause the wise men to lose their wisdom.

I will make the wise men unable to understand.” Isaiah 29:14

20Where is the wise person? Where is the educated person? Where is the philosopher of our times? God has made the wisdom of the world foolish. 21The world did not know God through its own wisdom. So God chose to use the message that sounds foolish to save those who believe it. 22The Jews ask for miracles as proofs. The Greeks want wisdom. 23But we preach Christ on the cross. This is a big problem to the Jews. And it seems foolish to the non-Jews. 24But Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God to those people God has called—Jews and Greeks. 25Even the foolishness of God is wiser than men. Even the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26Brothers, look at what you were when God called you. Not many of you were wise in the way the world judges wisdom. Not many of you had great influence. Not many of you came from important families. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. He chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28And he chose what the world thinks is not important. He chose what the world hates and thinks is nothing. He chose these to destroy what the world thinks is important. 29God did this so that no man can brag before him. 30It is God who has made you part of Christ Jesus. Christ has become wisdom for us from God. Christ is the reason we are right with God and have freedom from sin; Christ is the reason we are holy. 31So, as the Scripture says, “If a person brags, he should brag only about the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (ICB)

The Cross.

The symbol believers look toward for redemption. The knowledge that God’s Son, come to earth in the form of man, willingly laid Himself down as a sacrificial Lamb, so that all mankind could be saved for eternity.

In one of my ministry school classes, we were encouraged to really study the Cross, to be CSI as it were-to get intimate with the bloody crime scene of our Savior’s death; to truly understand the lengths that Jesus went to because He loves us SO much.

My favorite biblical movie to date is The Passion of the Christ. It’s my favorite because the graphic portrayal of what happened that day over 2000 years ago. For the first time I truly understood the anguish, the pain, the suffering that Jesus chose to experience for me. The childhood pictures of a pristine Christ with a crown of thorns around His curly locks, nails in His very white hands and feet, and a thin line of blood in His side blinding me to the horrors of that day fell like shackles off the eyes of my heart.

The Cross…foolishness.

In no other religion, that I have studied, do the ‘gods’ sacrifice themselves for their people. In many of those religions, the ‘gods’ actually require the people to do heinous things to their own bodies. Things like walking across fire, leaving the feet with third degree burns, or putting metal hooks in the skin and pulling their god’s chariot through the village.

And, yet, Christ did what made no sense to the wisdom of man. He laid Himself down, humbled Himself, as low as a man could go, into death, a thief’s punishment, so that upon His resurrection, everyone could be restored into right relationship with God.

Nothing I can do makes me right with God, only Jesus revives my connection to Him. It doesn’t matter how hard I try to be sin-free, only my Savior makes me blameless before the Father. No matter how righteous I act, only Christ makes me holy. Only He redeems my life and makes it truly worthy.

Yesappa, Thank You for the foolishness of the Cross.

 

Blessings, Julie

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Isaiah 14-16; Matthew 28

Ezra 1:1-8 The captives of Babylon were taken by Zerubbabel to rebuild the temple.

Captives will be taken captive.  Sounds like a tongue twister or tongue in cheek kind of phrase, if you think about it.  Without God in our lives; we are merely captive souls owned by others through unequally yoked relationships, competitive materialism, and emotionally hijacked situations that prevent us from making rational decisions that net eternal benefits. We often speak of freedom as if the concept is simply a reward for longsuffering. Instead of holding out our hands to be led to freedom in Christ, we struggle to break free of only what we can see. We are captive still.

What will open those clenched fists? Isaiah said freedom begins when the Lord has mercy (Isaiah 14:1, 2 For the Lord will have mercy on Jacob…they will take them captive whose captives they were…”). Why do we need mercy to enter into God’s kingdom? The emphasis here seems to be on the total helplessness man feels when he/she has no other way but to follow Christ. Try as we might, we are unable to earn our freedom or even know how to pursue the idea.

If freedom is my goal; why would I want to be taken captive again? The obvious answer is to be among those chosen in the Lord’s kingdom, and with that calling have the no-holds barred attitude about serving Him here on earth and eternally.  Is there a choice?  I tend to believe there is. We can choose to sacrifice on earth for earthly things or we can pursue the ordained works from the will of God as His captive.

What is in this captivity for me? There are times when I tell myself, I should walk away. I sometimes say what makes the difference?  Captivity indicates that I have little choice but to do what God says. Yet, captivity has not prevented me from falling short of doing what I know to do. For instance, Matthew 28:19  says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” I confess that I have not played a major role in evangelism as this great commission by Christ.

Whether or not I can follow Christ depends mostly on what Christ has done for me. Ephesians 4:8 When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave good gifts to men.” Not only does He call me to be His captive, but He gives me whatever good gifts He knows I need. With these gifts I can choose to seek healthy relationships, befriend the strangers in this world, and witness supernatural results from simple obedience. Being a captive of Christ is to receive mercy, to be given gifts to perform His will, and to enjoy the privilege of freedom.

Janet (Jansuwilkinson)

From the archives. This post originally published August 24, 2015.

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Isaiah 11-13, Psalm 118, Matthew 27

Over the past year or so, my second grader has had a struggle that seems to have lasted more than the average time of other children his age. As an active, strong, big-hearted 8 year old boy you would not expect him to be sneaking around corners and afraid to be left alone in a room. This has gone beyond being afraid of the dark. He refuses to enter any room in our home alone, even during the daylight hours. He begs his siblings to go with him if he’s instructed to get something from another room in the house or even somewhere outside. Before falling asleep, his bedroom has to be in order with nothing out of place, the lamp on, the bathroom door cracked just perfectly and a sibling or two is always joyfully welcomed to sleep over. And though he is finally at the age he can be left alone at home for short periods of time, he chooses to go along on errands instead of “being grown up” and staying at home.

Every child, every person really goes through stages like this during their lives, some more extreme, difficult or long lasting than others. Just a few months ago after realizing this stage was lasting a little longer than “usual” we decided to tackle this together. Up went bible verses in his room in large print and in plain sight of his bed.  Encouraging and uplifting songs were put on his little mp3 player and prayers were focused on trusting in the Lord. But still we wrestle with this spirit of fear every day.

Our goal has been to point my son in the direction of the only One who can comfort his fearful heart and remove the spirit of fear with His spirit of love. This week, we started writing special verses on index cards to begin memorizing and hiding God’s word in our hearts, together. As I was reading this passage, two passages jumped off the page and encouraged my heart and his!

 

Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
the Lord answered me and set me free.
The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.
What can man do to me?
The Lord is on my side as my helper;
I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. Psalm 118

2“Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God[b] is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12

 

There are probably hundreds of verses on the topic of fear and though it is important for us as parents to point those out to him we don’t want to stop there. It’s important to remind and encourage him of the extravagant love of God that replaces fear!

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!

Let Israel say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.” Psalm 118

Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection remind us that there is nothing in this life to be afraid of because he has overcome the world. It was his steadfast (unwavering, firmly established, resolute, and steadily directed) love for his children that took him to the cross and it is the same love that fills our hearts and casts out all fear.

Thank you, Lord Jesus for your steadfast love that has and will endure all times. Thank you for your beautiful Word that brings life and hope and love to my heart and helps me endure the hard days and brings joy no matter the circumstances. Please remove the spirit of fear in our hearts and replace it with a spirit of love and give us boldness and courage as we face trials. Amen.

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