Monday 21 October, 2013

2 Corinthians 1:1-11

1 I, Paul, am writing this letter. I am an apostle of Christ Jesus just as God planned. Timothy our brother joins me in writing. We are sending this letter to you, the members of God’s church in Corinth. It is also for all of God’s people everywhere in Achaia. 2 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. 3 Give praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He is the Father who gives tender love. All comfort comes from him. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles. Now we can comfort others when they are in trouble. We ourselves have received comfort from God. 5 We share the sufferings of Christ. We also share his comfort. 6 If we are having trouble, it is so that you will be comforted and renewed. If we are comforted, it is so that you will be comforted. Then you will be able to put up with the same suffering we have gone through. 7 Our hope for you remains firm. We know that you suffer just as we do. In the same way, God comforts you just as he comforts us. 8 Brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the hard times we suffered in Asia Minor. We were having a lot of trouble. It was far more than we could stand. We even thought we were going to die. 9 In fact, in our hearts we felt as if we were under the sentence of death. But that happened so that we would not depend on ourselves but on God. He raises the dead to life. 10 God has saved us from deadly dangers. And he will continue to do it. We have put our hope in him. He will continue to save us. 11 You must help us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because of what will happen to us. They will thank God for his kindness to us in answer to the prayers of many.

Paul begins his 2nd letter to the Corinthians by talking about comfort.  Comfort in the midst of all the hard times for the Gospel. He uses the word comfort 10 times in these paragraphs and gives us a picture of receiving comfort from God so that we can then be a comfort to others in similar situations.  Coming to God then going to others.  One version I read says that he felt “so utterly and unbearably crushed” v8 … What an amazing example Paul is, in some situation of his ministry of the Gospel he felt so utterly and unbearably crushed yet he went to God and not away from Him.  He did not give up, he did not throw it all in but he grew.

I’m afraid I’ve missed this many times and gone to others first.  I have missed the comfort & support I needed from God and valuable insights to then help others.

Jesus, help me to be wiser in seeking comfort from you first and foremost for whatever situation I’m going through, you are the only one who knows me completely and knows what I need in each circumstance.  Jesus, I want to grow, help me to grow in seeking you first in all things.

Written by Suzie Hodgson

 

2 replies
  1. Andrew Mellor says:

    This is a great reminder for me to find comfort in God, not just wisdom and strength, but peace and comfort. I think it helps me see that feeding my natural urges such as hunger and thirst can only help me to some degree, only God can bring comfort to an utterly crushed spirit

  2. David Newton says:

    We live in a society that provides comfort in an almost infinite variety of ways, generally for a price. For many nonbelievers and even some believers the result of chasing comfort outside of God is addiction and enslavement.

    I am pleased to be in a church that practices fasting!

    Both Suzie and Andrew have made very personally relevant observations that I will be thinking about for a good while.

    Thanks!

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Sunday 20 October, 2013

Romans 16:17-27

17 I am warning you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who try to keep you from staying together. They want to trip you up. They teach you things opposite to what you have learned. Stay away from them. 18 People like that are not serving Christ our Lord. They are serving only themselves. With smooth talk and with words they don’t mean they fool people who don’t know any better. 19 Everyone has heard that you obey God. So you have filled me with joy. I want you to be wise about what is good. And I want you to have nothing to do with what is evil. 20 The God who gives peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. 21 Timothy works together with me. He sends his greetings to you. So do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my relatives. 22 I, Tertius, wrote down this letter. I greet you as a believer in the Lord. 23/24 Gaius sends you his greetings. He has welcomed me and the whole church here into his house. Erastus is the director of public works here in the city. He sends you his greetings. Our brother Quartus also greets you. 25 May God receive glory. He is able to strengthen your faith because of the good news I preach. It is the message about Jesus Christ. It is in keeping with the mystery that was hidden for a very long time. 26 The mystery has now been made known through the writings of the prophets. The eternal God commanded that it be made known. He wanted all nations to believe and obey him. 27 May the only wise God receive glory forever through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Today's passage is Paul’s last greeting and reminders and blessings to the church in Rome.

Paul has been longing for many years to see them. He wanted to give them some spiritual gifts, so that they may be made strong (1:11) and stand firm in Jesus Christ.

Beside the greetings, Paul patiently taught them how to defend the temptation of anti-Christ : Not just being obedient, but to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. To watch out for those who cause division and put obstacles in our way.

The anti-Christ (false teachers) deceive the minds of naive people by smooth talk and flattery, they are not serving the Lord Christ, but their own appetites.

The challenge to me is: I like to be an obedient person, but, it’s not good/strong enough in this world. I have to be wise and able to tell what’s good and what is evil behind the flattery and smooth talk. I think that’s why the Bible said: … be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. (Matt10).

Oh Lord, help me “to be wise about what’s good and innocent about what is evil”, but not “to be INNOCENT about what’s good and WISE about what is evil. Amen.

Written by Allen Leu

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Saturday 19 October, 2013

Romans 16:1-16

16 I would like you to welcome our sister Phoebe. She serves the church in Cenchrea. 2 I ask you to receive her as one who belongs to the Lord. Receive her in the way God’s people should. Give her any help she may need from you. She has been a great help to many people, including me. 3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila. They work together with me in serving Christ Jesus. 4 They have put their lives in danger for me. I am thankful for them. So are all the non-Jewish churches. 5 Greet also the church that meets in the house of Priscilla and Aquila. Greet my dear friend Epenetus. He was the first person in Asia Minor to become a believer in Christ. 6 Greet Mary. She worked very hard for you. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives. They have been in prison with me. They are leaders among the apostles. They became believers in Christ before I did. 8 Greet Ampliatus. I love him as a brother in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus. He works together with me in serving Christ. And greet my dear friend Stachys. 10 Greet Apelles. Even though he was put to the test, he remained faithful as one who belonged to Christ. Greet those who live in the house of Aristobulus. 11 Greet Herodion, my relative. Greet the believers who live in the house of Narcissus. 12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa. Those women work hard for the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis. She is another woman who has worked very hard for the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus. He is a choice believer in the Lord. And greet his mother. She has been like a mother to me too. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon and Hermes. Greet Patrobas, Hermas and the believers with them. 15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister. Greet Olympas and all of God’s people with them. 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send their greetings.

Personal greetings – where Paul uses people's names and records why he is thankful to God for them are recorded here at the end of Romans. It would be easy to skim over this list of names as purely administrative, but it strikes me that this is an important record of people Paul has had the privilege of partnering in the gospel with. People who have enabled Paul to do what God has called him to do – by doing what God has called each of them to do. There is no heir-achy when you serve in the Kingdom of God. I love that the mother of Rufus (so greeted in verse 13) is greeted by Paul and commended for being 'like a mother' to him. Others are commended for: working hard, being relatives, hospitality, service and faith. All are friends and partners with Paul.

It is tempting for me to see the work of the Kingdom as so important that it belongs to the 'headline'  ministers – people that God 'really' uses!

Lord, help me remember that I am part of something much bigger that what I can see. Use me in partnership with your people so that Your Kingdom comes here on earth as it is in heaven.
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Written by Ps. Linda Quinn

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1 (reply)
  1. David Newton says:

    All church members should read this passage from time to time to realise it is appropriate to mention and thank people in church services.

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Friday 18 October, 2013

Romans 15:22-33

22 That’s why I have often been kept from coming to you. 23 Now there is no more place for me to work in those areas. For many years I have been longing to see you. 24 So I plan to see you when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while I am passing through. And I hope you will help me on my journey there. But first I want to enjoy being with you for a while. 25 Now I am on my way to Jerusalem to serve God’s people there. 26 The believers in Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to take an offering for those who were poor among God’s people in Jerusalem. 27 They were happy to do it. And of course they owe it to them. Those who aren’t Jews have shared from the Jews’ spiritual blessings. So the non-Jews should share their earthly blessings with the Jews. 28 I want to finish my task. I want to make sure that the poor in Jerusalem have received the offering. Then I will go to Spain. On my way I will visit you. 29 I know that when I come to you, I will come with the full blessing of Christ. 30 Brothers and sisters, I am asking you through the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray for me with the love the Holy Spirit provides. 31 Pray that I will be saved from those in Judea who do not believe. Pray that my work in Jerusalem will be accepted by God’s people there. 32 Then, as God has planned, I will come to you with joy. Together we will be renewed. 33 May the God who gives peace be with you all. Amen.

In reading Romans I so appreciate the way it captures Paul’s heart; his passion for God, for the Jews, and for the Gentiles flows through the text. I find his passion so infectious. Almost 2000 years ago he called on the Roman church to join him in his struggle by praying for him, such that the Jews in Jerusalem would receive the financial gift from the Gentile churches Paul had established. Paul’s heart cry was that the Jewish Christians would welcome the Gentiles into the church, and accept that God’s mercy was for the whole world.

As I read Paul urging the people to join with him in prayer my faith is stirred. Paul no longer needs our help, but in our church, in the local area, in this nation, around the world, believers are contending for the gospel.  Lord, I want to join their struggle, I want to be a part of seeing your will done and your kingdom come. Help me to see the people around me who I can join with, thank you that you call me to something so much bigger than myself. Amen.

Written by Beth Waugh

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2 replies
  1. Kim Fleming says:

    Amen to that Beth. I love it how Paul asks people to join him by praying, this walk in winning people to Christ is not an individual event it’s a team effort. May I share Paul’s passion for the lost.

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Thursday 17 October, 2013

Romans 15:14-21

14 My brothers and sisters, I am sure that you are full of goodness. What you know is complete. You are able to teach one another. 15 I have written to you very boldly about some things. I wanted you to think about them again. The grace of God has allowed me 16 to serve Christ Jesus among those who aren’t Jews. My duty as a priest is to preach God’s good news. Then the non-Jews will become an offering that pleases God. The Holy Spirit will make the offering holy. 17 Because I belong to Christ Jesus, I can take pride in my work for God. 18 I will not try to speak of anything except what Christ has done through me. He has been leading those who aren’t Jews to obey God. He has been doing this by what I have said and done. 19 He has given me power to do signs and miracles. He has given me the power of the Holy Spirit. From Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum I have finished preaching the good news about Christ. 20 I have always wanted to preach the good news where Christ was not known. I don’t want to build on what someone else has started. 21 It is written, “Those who were not told about him will understand. Those who have not heard will know what it all means.”

Paul is concluding what is undoubtedly one of the most important and influential books in the Bible. He has explained how Jesus saved us, the purpose of the law, how faith works and the life in the Spirit for which God has set us free more clearly and comprehensively than any other book in the Bible: A book that inspired Luther to begin the Reformation; John Wesley to begin what became a huge revival; and probably millions to put their faith in Christ. If I were Paul, I would be feeling rather pleased with what I had written.

Yet he’s almost apologetic to be writing these things to them: you already know these things so well you could teach them and just need a reminder. (I suspect they didn’t.) I’m astounded at Paul’s humility.

But of course he’s absolutely right. Paul only wrote the letter because God made him its messenger. If this letter has opened their minds to the deepest truths about God, it’s only because God revealed those truths. If these truths have set them free from slavery to sin or from the law, it’s only because Jesus bought that freedom with his life. If they are convinced, it’s because of God’s wonders and the power of the Spirit.
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Pauls’ ambition is to follow God’s plan, preaching good news where it has not been heard. He boasts of what Christ has done through him. His enthusiasm is to be standing with the believers before God.

Ok, so maybe it’s time for me to re-evaluate my ambitions; to read just the things that give me satisfaction; to redirect the credit (such as there is) to God.

Written by David Cornell

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1 (reply)
  1. David Newton says:

    When I first read these scriptures I couldn’t see anything much to think about but after reading your observations I was left to think about the true nature of ambition. This is an important question, particularly for men!

    I really liked your conversational style David.

    Thank you David!

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Wednesday 16 October, 2013

Romans 15:7–13

7 Christ has accepted you. So accept one another in order to bring praise to God. 8 I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews. He teaches us that God is true. He shows us that God will keep the promises he made to the founders of our nation. 9 Jesus became a servant of the Jews so that people who are not Jews could give glory to God for his mercy. It is written, “I will praise you among those who aren’t Jews. I will sing praises to you.” 10 Again it says, “You non-Jews, be full of joy. Be joyful together with God’s people.” 11 And again it says, “All you non-Jews, praise the Lord. All you nations, sing praises to him.” 12 And Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will grow up quickly. He will rule over the nations. Those who aren’t Jews will put their hope in him.” 13 May the God who gives hope fill you with great joy. May you have perfect peace as you trust in him. May the power of the Holy Spirit fill you with hope.

Hope. It is a feeling that is somewhat lacking in today’s society, often with great detriment. But God, who is the source of hope, wants us to overflow with hope, joy and peace as we trust in him. It is a circular argument. God wants us to have hope. He will give us the hope. All we have to do is trust him.
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It is always easier to trust someone when we have seen them do what they said they would do on some previous occasion.

In the beginning of this passage Paul shows us God’s trustworthiness. He outlines the 2 reasons for Christ coming to earth. 1. To fulfil the promises made to the Jews. 2. To include the gentiles in salvation. Christ came and fulfilled these longstanding promises. He has shown that he is trustworthy. THEN the passage goes on to say that we need to trust him so that we can overflow with hope and joy. Who are we to hold ourselves back from the good, joy-filled blessing of hope that God has for us?

Lord, help us to trust you and grow in joy, peace and hope by your Holy Spirit. Amen

Written by Megan Cornell

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Tuesday 15 October, 2013

Romans 15:1-6

15 We who have strong faith should help the weak with their problems. We should not please only ourselves. 2 We should all please our neighbors. Let us do what is good for them. Let us build them up. 3 Even Christ did not please himself. It is written, “Those who make fun of you have made fun of me also.” 4 Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us. The Scriptures give us strength to go on. They cheer us up and give us hope. 5 Our God is a God who strengthens you and cheers you up. May he help you agree with each other as you follow Christ Jesus. 6 Then you can give glory to God with one heart and voice. He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What is my contribution to the unity of my church in worship? Paul, in this passage, encourages us to not live for ourselves but “do what’s right to build others up in The Lord” v2. And the end result is this beautiful, glorious thing – everyone unified in worshipping God.

Maybe it’s a hug, or a word of encouragement. Maybe it’s saying sorry and seeking forgiveness. Maybe it’s talking to someone new at church instead of only my close friends. Maybe it doesn’t matter what it is so long as it helps someone else go from a place of non-worship to a place of worship. How great would it be if every time I worship my God I manage to get others to join me.

Lord, help me see worshipping You as a “we” thing and not just a “me” thing. Amen

Written by Boudy Van Noppen

2 replies
  1. Kim Fleming says:

    thanks boudy. I love how caring for others is a cooperate activity, it’s like a team sport, everyone getting in there & helping out. Paul uses lots of “us” & “all” words to model for us how it works.

  2. David Newton says:

    Most people have experienced a range of circumstances in their church life. Sometimes we live at the core and are known by many people and sometimes we are on the edge and are known by only a few.
    The experiences are very different but one rule I have always found works well in any situation and that is one you have mentioned.
    —————-
    Always plan to speak to at least one person you don’t know!
    —————-
    Thanks Boudy

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Monday 14 October, 2013

Romans 14:13-23

13 Let us stop judging one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put anything in your brother’s way that would make him trip and fall. 14 I am absolutely sure that no food is “unclean” in itself. I say this as one who belongs to the Lord Jesus. But some people may consider a thing to be “unclean.” If they do, it is “unclean” for them. 15 Your brothers and sisters may be upset by what you eat. If they are, you are no longer acting as though you love them. So don’t destroy them by what you eat. Christ died for them. 16 Don’t let something you consider good be spoken of as if it were evil. 17 God’s kingdom has nothing to do with eating or drinking. It is a matter of being right with God. It brings the peace and joy the Holy Spirit gives. 18 Those who serve Christ in this way are pleasing to God. They are pleasing to people too. 19 So let us do all we can to live in peace. And let us work hard to build each other up. 20 Don’t destroy the work of God because of food. All food is “clean.” But it is wrong for you to eat anything that causes someone else to trip and fall. 21 Don’t eat meat if it will cause your brothers and sisters to fall. Don’t drink wine or do anything else that will make them fall. 22 No matter what you think about those things, keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who do not have to feel guilty for what they allow. 23 But those who have doubts are guilty if they eat. Their eating is not based on faith. Everything that is not based on faith is sin.

No food or drink is wrong to partake of before God.  However if our eating, drinking or any other behaviour causes another believer to falter in their faith we need to reconsider our actions.  God's word is clear that his kingdom is not about eating or drinking but peace, righteousness and joy in the Holy Spirit.  Christians are called to strengthen and boost one another's faith not cause doubt, confusion and division.

It is a wonderful thing to have a clear conscience before God.  In fact, it is the way we are called to live – at peace with God.   If our actions cause another believer to have doubts or confusion as to their standing with God we need to curtail our behaviour.  It's not a case of I'm ok before God with this you deal with it!  This passage of Scripture makes it clear that we are to encourage and edify believers not put them off.

Dear God, please forgive me when I put other believers off by my words or actions.  Help me to love and encourage your people.  Amen

Written by Ainslie Woods

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2 replies
  1. David Newton says:

    I have always found the word ‘edify’ an interesting word. In many translations it is rendered ‘to build up’ (Rom 14:19). The English word ‘edifice’ means a building or structure, the verb ‘edify’ simply means to add to a structure.

    As you have pointed out our task is to add to a person’s faith but there are many ways to edify. Through example, serving and prayer but the primary method is by what we say to others (Eph 4:29).

    I think one of the lessons for me, from this passage is – if you always focus on ‘building people up’ you won’t be found to be tearing people down, even accidentally.

    Thank you Ainslie, I really enjoyed reading this passage!

  2. David Newton says:

    I have to add – Romans 14:17 is a wonderful summary scripture.

    ‘For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’ – NIV

    It’s worth the contemplation!

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Sunday 13 October, 2013

Romans 14:1-12

14 Accept those whose faith is weak. Don’t judge them where you have differences of opinion. 2 The faith of some people allows them to eat anything. But others eat only vegetables because their faith is weak. 3 People who eat everything must not look down on those who do not. And people who don’t eat everything must not judge those who do. God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servants? Whether they are faithful or not is their own master’s concern. They will be faithful, because the Lord has the power to make them faithful. 5 Some people consider one day to be more holy than another. Others think all days are the same. Each person should be absolutely sure in his own mind. 6 Those who think one day is special do it to honor the Lord. Those who eat meat do it to honor the Lord. They give thanks to God. Those who don’t eat meat do it to honor the Lord. They also give thanks to God. 7 We don’t live for ourselves alone. And we don’t die all by ourselves. 8 If we live, we live to honor the Lord. If we die, we die to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 Christ died and came back to life. He did this to become the Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 Now then, who are you to judge your brother or sister? Why do you look down on them? We will all stand in God’s courtroom to be judged. 11 It is written, “‘You can be sure that I live,’ says the Lord. ‘And you can be just as sure that every knee will bow down in front of me. Every tongue will tell the truth to God.’” 12 So we will all have to explain to God the things we have done.

Who are the weak – who are the strong – what makes them so?  These questions come straight to mind as I read this passage.  Does weak mean potential to fall away from faith in Jesus?  As far as I can tell from this passage the weak are those with more stringent disciplines around their world.  They are people for whom the external discipline is still being applied more than the internal fruit of the spirit of self discipline.

What I eat doesn’t matter to God and is not essential to my faith in Jesus.  What holy-days I observe do not matter to God, it is that I worship Him that matters!

Paul reminds us we need to be fully convinced – and what a great test that is.  I dare not be half hearted in matters of the faith and so I choose to follow Christ.

Father help me to live fully convinced – with the conviction of faith around every element of my life and so live to please you!
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Written by Ps. Richard Botta

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Saturday 12 October, 2013

Romans 13:11-14

11 When you do those things, keep in mind the times we are living in. The hour has come for you to wake up from your sleep. Our full salvation is closer now than it was when we first believed in Christ. 12 The dark night of evil is nearly over. The day of Christ’s return is almost here. So let us get rid of the works of darkness. Let us put on the armor of light. 13 Let us act as we should, like people living in the daytime. Have nothing to do with wild parties. Don’t get drunk. Don’t take part in sexual sins or evil conduct. Don’t fight with each other. Don’t be jealous of anyone. 14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ as your clothing. Don’t think about how to satisfy what your sinful nature wants.

There is an urgency in Paul's words here.  The mindset of the early church was that they were living in an 'in between' time. Jesus is risen and their salvation is assured and they are sealed by the Holy Spirit; but they know that soon Jesus will return and they will be united with him and the father in heaven. They were to be ready for this time.

When I am waiting to go out somewhere I will be dressed and watching the clock, not lying in bed until I hear the bus pull up outside.  When we prayed in the mornings with the household on a recent trip to the Philippines, we greeted each other at the end with the exclamation “maranatha”, meaning come Lord Jesus.  A great reminder to live in anticipation of the second coming.

Lord please help me to constantly bear in mind that you are coming soon, help me to check my actions and priorities so that I put on the armour of light as I wait. Amen

Written by Dimity Milne

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1 (reply)
  1. David Newton says:

    Matthew 24, 25 both describe the waiting period.

    Matt 24:36 – ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.’

    Mat 24:44 – ‘So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.’

    Matt 25:5 – ‘The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.’

    Mat 25:13 – ‘Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.’

    Bottom line is, if you are consciously waiting you will probably be prepared otherwise you will most like not.

    Thanks Dimity

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