Sunday 30 April, 2017

1 Corinthians 16:13-24

13 Be on your guard. Remain strong in the faith. Be brave. 14 Be loving in everything you do. 15 You know that the first believers in Achaia were from the family of Stephanas. They have spent all their time serving the Lord’s people. Brothers and sisters, I am asking you 16 to follow the lead of people like them. Follow everyone who joins in the task and works hard at it. 17 I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived. They have supplied me with what you couldn’t give me. 18 They renewed my spirit, and yours also. People like them are worthy of honor. 19 The churches in Asia Minor send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly because of the Lord’s love. So does the church that meets in their house. 20 All the brothers and sisters here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. 21 I, Paul, am writing this greeting with my own hand. 22 If anyone does not love the Lord, let a curse be on that person! Come, Lord! 23 May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 I give my love to all of you who belong to Christ Jesus. Amen.

As Paul is wrapping up his first letter to the Corinthians, he gives them some exhortations. “Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love.” We hear these sorts of encouragements so often that they can almost lose their meaning, but they are essential to the Christian life.

1 – What opposition faces me, and am I on guard against it? Typically for me this is the voice of discouragement and fear, and so I must daily speak in faith against it.

2 – Am I standing firmly in the faith? Here I think of the foundations that let me stand firm. Am I in God’s word and prayer daily? Am I at church weekly? Am I surrounded by solid Christian people?

3 – Do I see scary situations and step into them full of courage? It’s strange that what can seem simple to one person can be terrifying to another, and vice versa. In this season, to me, courage means saying what is on my heart and not fearing what others will think.

4 – Am I strong? Do I hold up or buckle under pressure? We don’t give much thought to our strength until it is tested, but the encouragement here is simply to “be strong”. Exercise regularly and remain strong.

5 – And perhaps most difficult of all, can I honestly say I do everything with love? I can think of many areas that I do lovingly, and many others that I do begrudgingly, angrily, with frustration and complaint.

God, thank You that You lead me and You know me. Help me to live my life the way Paul encourages me to in these verses.

Written by Matt Samperi

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Saturday 29 April, 2017

1 Corinthians 16:1-12

16 Now I want to deal with the offering of money for the Lord’s people. Do what I told the churches in Galatia to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you should put some money away. The amount should be in keeping with how much money you make. Save the money so that you won’t have to take up an offering when I come. 3 When I arrive, I will send some people with your gift to Jerusalem. They will be people you consider to be good. And I will give them letters that explain who they are. 4 If it seems good for me to go also, they will go with me. 5 After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you. I will only be passing through Macedonia. 6 But I might stay with you for a while. I might even spend the winter. Then you can help me on my journey everywhere I go. 7 I don’t want to see you now while I am just passing through. Instead, I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord allows it. 8 But I will stay at Ephesus until the day of Pentecost. 9 A door has opened wide for me to do some good work here. There are many people who oppose me. 10 Timothy will visit you. Make sure he has nothing to worry about while he is with you. He is doing the work of the Lord, just as I am. 11 No one should treat him badly. Send him safely on his way so he can return to me. I’m expecting him to come back along with the others. 12 I want to say something about our brother Apollos. I tried my best to get him to go to you with the others. But he didn’t want to go right now. He will go when he can.

When reading this passage, the verses that stand out to me most are vs 5-9. Paul is submissive to God’s call and demonstrates an incredible willingness to do what is asked of him. In these verses, Paul directly goes to the people he is ministering to and gives time to them.

I am challenged and encouraged by the proactive nature of Paul and the way that God used him. Paul was intentional and “made plans” (vs 5) to spread the gospel and build up the church. He submitted his plans to God and held them lightly, as he said in verse 7, “if the Lord will let me”. And in response to Paul’s faithfulness and obedience, God opened doors to his ministry (vs 9).

God, I lay myself before You today and ask that You would fill me with fresh faith to do Your work. Please help me to be intentional and proactive in my ministry. I choose to submit all these plans to You. And as a result, may You open doors for opportunity to spread Your Word to those around me. In Jesus’ name.

Written by Laura Samperi

 

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Friday 28 April, 2017

1 Corinthians 15:50-58

50 Brothers and sisters, here is what I’m telling you. Bodies made of flesh and blood can’t share in the kingdom of God. And what dies can’t share in what never dies. 51 Listen! I am telling you a mystery. We will not all die. But we will all be changed. 52 That will happen in a flash, as quickly as you can wink an eye. It will happen at the blast of the last trumpet. Then the dead will be raised to live forever. And we will be changed. 53 Our natural bodies don’t last forever. They must be dressed with what does last forever. What dies must be dressed with what does not die. 54 In fact, that is going to happen. What does not last will be dressed with what lasts forever. What dies will be dressed with what does not die. Then what is written will come true. It says, “Death has been swallowed up. It has lost the battle.” (Isaiah 25:8) 55 “Death, where is the victory you thought you had? Death, where is your sting?” (Hosea 13:14) 56 The sting of death is sin. And the power of sin is the law. 57 But let us give thanks to God! He gives us the victory because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done. 58 My dear brothers and sisters, remain strong in the faith. Don’t let anything move you. Always give yourselves completely to the work of the Lord. Because you belong to the Lord, you know that your work is not worthless.

Reading this passage, I am reminded of simple truths from the Bible that our human nature allows us to so easily forget or misconstrue. Here we are told that death has no power over us, it has no sting! Indeed, death only retains any sting because of sin, and sin only retains power because of the law.

However, we have “victory because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done.” Jesus has defeated death and sin, and fulfilled the law so that we don’t have to. This scripture is such a good reminder, because it is sometimes easy to almost bypass this and try to take our salvation into our own hands. As believers, we have no reason to worry about whether our actions are good enough to make us acceptable to God – they aren’t. We come to God through the sacrifice of Jesus. These are simple biblical truths yet sometimes we confuse and stumble over them.

Our “work for the Lord” is not to appease Him or to make ourselves appear righteous in His sight – Jesus has already done that! Rather, it is an outworking of our faith in and love for Him.

Jesus, may I always be filled with gratitude and awe at your incredible love! You conquered sin and death, and made a way for us to be right with you. Help us to remember this truth and live by it each day, serving you out of love and always remaining strong in our faith. Amen.

Written by Madelaine Tarasenko

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Thursday 27 April, 2017

1 Corinthians 15:35-49

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? What kind of body will they have?” 36 How foolish! What you plant doesn’t come to life unless it dies. 37 When you plant something, it isn’t a completely grown plant that you put in the ground. You only plant a seed. Maybe it’s wheat or something else. 38 But God gives the seed a body just as he has planned. And to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39 Not all earthly creatures are the same. People have one kind of body. Animals have another. Birds have another kind. Fish have still another. 40 There are also heavenly bodies as well as earthly bodies. Heavenly bodies have one kind of glory. Earthly bodies have another. 41 The sun has one kind of glory. The moon has another kind. The stars have still another. And one star’s glory is different from that of another star. 42 It will be like that with bodies that are raised from the dead. The body that is planted does not last forever. The body that is raised from the dead lasts forever. 43 It is planted without honor. But it is raised in glory. It is planted in weakness. But it is raised in power. 44 It is planted as an earthly body. But it is raised as a spiritual body. Just as there is an earthly body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 It is written, “The first man Adam became a living person.” (Genesis 2:7) The last Adam became a spirit that gives life. 46 What is spiritual did not come first. What is earthly came first. What is spiritual came after that. 47 The first man came from the dust of the earth. The second man came from heaven. 48 Those who belong to the earth are like the one who came from the earth. And those who are spiritual are like the heavenly man. 49 We are like the earthly man. And we will be like the heavenly man.

I think that the concept of sowing and reaping isn’t something we’re very familiar with in this day and age. Most of us live in industrialised cities so when we go grocery shopping, we only see the end product. We see fruit and vegetables but don’t see the whole process from the sowing of the seed to its harvest. But sowing is a key aspect of this passage. It paints a picture of how God’s plan for the new creation comes about.

Taking the example of a seed, Paul explains how as Christians, when we sow our seed of faith, we reap eternal life and new resurrection bodies. But unlike our ‘ready to go’ grocery stores, resurrection bodies don’t automatically appear when we become Christians. They are the patient fruit of our seed sown in faith.

In view of that I’m a bit impatient, I want to see the blessing now! But isn’t it comforting to know that though our bodies are fragile and fallen, they will be made imperishable and glorious in the likeness of Jesus (v.42-43).

Lord, let your promise of a new creation would be a bright light of hope amidst life’s brokenness and weakness. Thank you that the end product of seed sown in faith is salvation a new resurrection body. Amen

Written by Sam Liu

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Wednesday 26 April, 2017

1 Corinthians 15:20-34

20 But Christ really has been raised from the dead. He is the first of all those who will rise from the dead. 21 Death came because of what a man did. Rising from the dead also comes because of what a man did. 22 Because of Adam, all people die. So because of Christ, all will be made alive. 23 But here is the order of events. Christ is the first of those who rise from the dead. When he comes back, those who belong to him will be raised. 24 Then the end will come after Christ destroys all rule, authority and power. Then he will hand over the kingdom to God the Father. 25 Christ must rule until he has put all his enemies under his control. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. 27 Scripture says that God “has put everything under his control.” (Psalm 8:6) It says that “everything” has been put under him. But it is clear that this does not include God himself. That’s because God put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done that, the Son also will be under God’s rule. God put everything under the Son. In that way, God will be all in all. 29 Suppose no one rises from the dead. Then what will people do who are baptized for the dead? Suppose the dead are not raised at all. Then why are people baptized for them? 30 And why would we put ourselves in danger every hour? 31 I face death every day. That’s the truth. And here is something you can be just as sure of. I take pride in what Christ Jesus our Lord has done for you through my work. 32 Did I fight wild animals in Ephesus with nothing more than human hopes? Then what have I gotten for it? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, because tomorrow we will die.” (Isaiah 22:13) 33 Don’t let anyone fool you. “Bad companions make a good person bad.” 34 You should come back to your senses and stop sinning. Some of you don’t know anything about God. I say this to make you ashamed.

This passage is part of a larger argument the apostle Paul is making to the Corinthian church to encourage them to behave in a manner appropriate with Christian beliefs.

In verse 20 Paul reaffirms ‘Christ was indeed raised from the dead’. Then in verse 24, 25 Paul makes two astonishing statements. First, Christ now has full authority over the world and second, He is removing all the influences that oppose His authority.

When I look around me, when I watch the news on TV, when I read an online news feed or listen to the radio I am left with the question. How is this possible for Christ to be ruling in all this mess?

The answer to this question is simple; ‘this cannot be seen or understood in the mind but by faith can be discerned by the heart’. Paul’s point is, in this world people do not get resurrected from the dead but Christ was, and it’s that resurrection power that is now subduing His enemies and restoring the world back to life. It does not appear to be logical but that does not stop it from being true.

That leaves me with the question, how should I respond?

Verse 33 is the answer. ‘Bad company corrupts good character’. Paul is simply saying think about who you are hanging out with!

For me the simplest way to take up this challenge today is to be more discerning about what I watch on TV, look at on the internet or how much I allow social media to influence me.

Lord, today, give me greater discernment as to when I should switch off electronic devices and spend more time with You. Amen!

Written by David Newton

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Tuesday 25 April, 2017

1 Corinthians 15:12-19

12 We have preached that Christ has been raised from the dead. So how can some of you say that no one rises from the dead? 13 If no one rises from the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, what we preach doesn’t mean anything. Your faith doesn’t mean anything either. 15 More than that, we would be lying about God. We are witnesses that God raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if the dead are not raised. 16 If the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith doesn’t mean anything. Your sins have not been forgiven. 18 Those who have died believing in Christ are also lost. 19 Do we have hope in Christ only for this life? Then people should pity us more than anyone else.

This passage reminds me of stretching a very tight muscle – it seems easier to leave it because the process is uncomfortable, but it needs to be done and it’s worth it in the end.  There are things in our faith that call us to stretch out our beliefs beyond the boundaries of our knowledge – does God heal, will he provide for me, did Jesus really come back from the dead? Just like some Corinthians, sometimes I would like to shrink God to my size, limit what I have to believe.

But this life in Christ that we live calls us to be stretched, believe things we cannot see or fully understand. God has always met me at every challenge, he has provided, he has healed. He will do it for you too. Without the resurrection we are all lost. Allow your faith muscle to be stretched. Ask God to reveal himself in your life.

Heavenly Father thank you for all you have done for me and with me. Thank you for the cross and Jesus’s resurrection. Stretch me Lord so my faith will grow. Reveal yourself to me today and help me to reflect your glory. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Written by Christine Knight

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Monday 24 April, 2017

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

15 Brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the good news I preached to you. You received it and have put your faith in it. 2 Because you believed the good news, you are saved. But you must hold firmly to the message I preached to you. If you don’t, you have believed it for nothing. 3 What I received I passed on to you. And it is the most important of all. Here is what it is. Christ died for our sins, just as Scripture said he would. 4 He was buried. He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as Scripture said he would be. 5 He appeared to Peter. Then he appeared to the 12 apostles. 6 After that, he appeared to more than 500 brothers and sisters at the same time. Most of them are still living. But some have died. 7 He appeared to James. Then he appeared to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, he also appeared to me. I was like someone who wasn’t born at the right time. 9 I am the least important of the apostles. I’m not even fit to be called an apostle. I tried to destroy God’s church. 10 But because of God’s grace I am what I am. And his grace was not wasted on me. No, I have worked harder than all the other apostles. But I didn’t do the work. God’s grace was with me. 11 So this is what we preach, whether I or the other apostles who preached to you. And that is what you believed.

Later in this passage, Paul declares two seemingly juxtaposing statements – “…I am the least of the apostles and don’t even deserve to be called an apostle…” followed up by “…by the grace of God I am what I am…no, I worked harder than all of them…”. Usually, in my experience, when someone believes they are the least effective and undeserved at something, they bow out and never try again – whether it be a sport, a subject of learning, a new project or job, or a relationship. Yet Paul is saying; I am the least apostle, completely undeserving, and yet I have worked the hardest of them all, by God’s grace.

This tells me a few crucial things about God’s grace – God’s grace is both for the least, and the undeserved, but God’s grace doesn’t leave us there if we truly receive it from Him. God’s grace transforms the least and undeserved amongst us into incredible hard workers and contributors to His cause in the earth.

Being the least qualified, and most undeserving of something, is no longer the limiter I’ve often claimed it to be in my own life. In this new era of grace, if God’s grace is actively directing me to do something, I MUST…I MUST get on and do it. Taking up that new opportunity; sharing my faith; becoming a new version of me. Why? Because that’s what God’s grace is for – transforming the least qualified, and undeserving, into glorious new beings that serve Him powerfully and remarkably amongst their generation.

Bring it on Lord.

Written by Ps. Rob Waugh

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Sunday 23 April, 2017

1 Corinthians 14:26-40

26 Brothers and sisters, what should we say then? When you come together, each of you brings something. You bring a hymn or a teaching or a message from God. You bring a message in another language or explain what was said in that language. Everything must be done to build up the church. 27 No more than two or three people should speak in another language. And they should speak one at a time. Then someone must explain what was said. 28 If there is no one to explain, the person speaking should keep quiet in the church. They can speak to themselves and to God. 29 Only two or three prophets are supposed to speak. Others should decide if what is being said is true. 30 What if a message from God comes to someone else who is sitting there? Then the one who is speaking should stop. 31 Those who prophesy can all take turns. In that way, everyone can be taught and be given hope. 32 Those who prophesy should control their speaking. 33 God is not a God of disorder. He is a God of peace, just as in all the churches of the Lord’s people. 34 Women should remain silent in church meetings. They are not allowed to speak. They must follow the lead of those who are in authority, as the law says. 35 If they have a question about something, they should ask their own husbands at home. It is shameful for women to speak in church meetings. 36 Or did the word of God begin with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? 37 Suppose anyone thinks they are a prophet. Or suppose they think they have other gifts given by the Holy Spirit. They should agree that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. 38 But anyone who does not recognize this will not be recognized. 39 Brothers and sisters, you should want to prophesy. And don’t stop people from speaking in languages they had not known before. 40 But everything should be done in a proper and orderly way.

Noise! No one likes to be sitting in a place where everyone is talking but it’s so noisy you can’t hear what is being said. Paul is bringing this point to the Corinthian church as it seems their worship meetings are for the most part a lot of noise.

Paul is expecting that messages from God through tongues, prophecy, songs, teaching etc, will be apart of the meeting but its to be done in such a way that all benefit, all are built up and encouraged. It’s not a time to be trying to ‘out-do’ each other or a time to ‘have-a-chat’ (as some of the women seem to be doing), but it’s a time to worship God and grow each other in our faith.

I believe this passage has made its mark on church history. Thankfully I’ve never been in a chaotic church service. I love it when words of knowledge, prophecy, tongues & interpretation, a song, come in our worship services – it confirms to me that the God I worship is personal, caring, encouraging and He longs to strengthen, give courage and show love to His people.

Thank you Lord Jesus that you are a God of harmony, peace, order & above all you want a dynamic relationship with each one of us.

Written by Suzie Hodgson

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Saturday 22 April, 2017

1 Corinthians 14:13-25

13 So here is what the person who speaks in languages they had not known before should do. They should pray that they can explain what they say. 14 If I pray in another language, my spirit prays. But my mind does not pray. 15 So what should 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 Suppose you are praising God in the Spirit. And suppose there are visitors among you who want to know what’s going on. How can they say “Amen” when you give thanks? They don’t know what you are saying. 17 You are certainly giving thanks. But no one else is being built up. 18 I thank God that I speak in other languages more than all of you do. 19 In the church, I wouldn’t want to speak 10,000 words in an unfamiliar language. I’d rather speak five words in a language people could understand. Then I would be teaching others. 20 Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. Be like babies as far as evil is concerned. But be grown up in your thinking. 21 In the law it is written, “With unfamiliar languages and through the lips of outsiders I will speak to these people. But even then they will not listen to me.” (Isaiah 28:11,12) That is what the Lord says. 22 So speaking in other languages is a sign for those who don’t believe. It is not a sign for those who do believe. But prophecy is not for those who don’t believe. It is for those who believe. 23 Suppose the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in other languages. And suppose visitors or unbelievers come in. Won’t they say you are out of your minds? 24 But suppose unbelievers or visitors come in while everyone is prophesying. Then they will feel guilty about their sin. They will be judged by all. 25 The secrets of their hearts will be brought out into the open. They will fall down and worship God. They will exclaim, “God is really here among you!”

Paul is concerned about the use of spiritual gifts by the Corinthian church. These gifts are outlined in Chapter 12:8-10, he writes here specifically about speaking in tongues. The special communion between our spirit and God is a work of the Holy Spirit, enabling us to be free spiritually as we pray. However if we pray in this way publicly, how does this “build up the church” (verse 12)? This intimate prayer language could be seen to exclude rather than build up, unless it is interpreted for all to understand. The body is built up when another uses their gifts to interpret the spiritual language.

The passage does not highlight any one in particular as having these spiritual gifts – I am thinking of leaders. Paul uses general words like “everyone” and “everybody”, to tell us that we all are responsible for using our gifts to build up and draw unbelievers to God. It is such a privilege to be used by God to impact others. The beautiful result is that when we use our spiritual gifts we are built up, together and individually. Paul’s words encourage me that God wants to use me to bless and encourage others, and he has equipped me to do this. How can I use my spiritual gifts?

Lord, I want to thank you for putting me in community, your church. You have given each of us the gifts we need to build and grow together. Strengthen me to boldly use my spiritual gifts. Amen

Written by Claire Moore

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Friday 21 April, 2017

1 Corinthians 14:1-12

14 Follow the way of love. You should also want the gifts the Holy Spirit gives. Most of all, you should want the gift of prophecy. 2 Anyone who speaks in a language they had not known before doesn’t speak to people. They speak only to God. In fact, no one understands them. What they say by the Spirit remains a mystery. 3 But the person who prophesies speaks to people. That person prophesies to make people stronger, to give them hope, and to comfort them. 4 Anyone who speaks in other languages builds up only themselves. But the person who prophesies builds up the church. 5 I would like all of you to speak in other languages. But I would rather have you prophesy. The person who prophesies is more helpful than those who speak in other languages. But that is not the case if someone explains what was said in the other languages. Then the whole church can be built up. 6 Brothers and sisters, suppose I were to come to you and speak in other languages. What good would I be to you? None! I would need to come with new truth or knowledge. Or I would need to come with a prophecy or a teaching. 7 Here are some examples. Certain objects make sounds. Take a flute or a harp. No one will know what the tune is unless different notes are played. 8 Also, if the trumpet call isn’t clear, who will get ready for battle? 9 It’s the same with you. You must speak words that people understand. If you don’t, no one will know what you are saying. You will just be speaking into the air. 10 It is true that there are all kinds of languages in the world. And they all have meaning. 11 But if I don’t understand what someone is saying, I am a stranger to the person speaking. And that person is a stranger to me. 12 It’s the same with you. You want the gifts of the Spirit. So try to do your best in using gifts that build up the church.

I didn’t grow up in a pentecostal family and I was saved in a church that was cautious about supernatural gifts. Then I went to a church that taught that supernatural spiritual gifts were only around while the Apostles (defined as people who had met Jesus in the flesh) were still alive.

When I look back, I don’t fully understand why, but I seemed to have no problem with the notion that through Christ, people could be healed and even raised from death. I could accept that people had special revelations of the future and special insights into the lives of others for encouragement and correction, but I couldn’t get what speaking in tongues was all about.

I was given some really wise advice. It was suggested to me that I pray about it and seek God.

So I did. I prayed out loud that if speaking in tongues was legit, I wanted confirmation. I prayed in English for probably less than 5 minutes and then found myself talking in a language I didn’t understand.  I could start it and stop it, so it was under my control, but I didn’t know the meaning of the words.

But I did somehow have a sense of what I was saying. It was vague, but I knew the gist of what I was saying and it was blessing after blessing of praise towards God. Powerful words deeper with meaning and more insightful than I could craft in my wisest moment.

From that point, I understood the purpose of this type of “tongue” as a private prayer language. My spirit intertwined with the Holy Spirit can communicate with God infinitely better than my brain. When I pray with English words, I can do good in me and I can encourage others. But my spiritual language takes it to another level!

Written by Ps Justin Ware 

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