Tuesday, May 25, 2010

1 Corinthians 1 - Pride in the Church

by Katrina

LINK: 1 Corinthians 1

Paul took the gospel to the city of Corinth on his second missionary journey about six years before writing this letter. He had written another letter in the interim, but it has been lost. He had also received a letter from the Corinthians before writing this letter. It's apparent that sections of this letter were written as responses to their questions. First Corinthians is a very practical book. It deals with moral and spiritual issues and has plenty of application to real, every day life.

Chapter 1
There were divisions in the church at Corinth. Paul addressed the division as being a result of pride. People were bragging based on who had baptized them. "I'm a better Christian because I follow Paul," etc. Paul made it clear that baptism was not the main point of the gospel message. It's the message of the cross that was important. The cross demonstrated the power of God, not anything man could do.

Paul also pointed out to them that man's knowledge, wisdom, and strength pale in comparison to God. They were bragging about their own strengths, which are really nothing.

Their boasting was causing division among the believers. How does that happen today? Does it?

Let's not allow ourselves to boast in any wisdom or strength we might have. It really is nothing. We have no boasts before God. Instead, let's proclaim that any righteousness, sanctification, and redemption we have is totally God's doing in our lives. Let us boast about the Lord's work!

Lord, you are all powerful and wise. You are the one who has changed my heart from one of complete sin to one of righteousness. Thank you for the work you do to keep changing and purifying my heart. Let me not become proud in myself but boast about you and your work in me. In the name of Jesus who made it all possible, amen.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Romans 16 - Greetings

by Katrina

LINK: Romans 16

Most of this chapter consists of greetings from Paul to individual believers in Rome as well as greetings to them from others who are with Paul.

As Paul concludes his letter to the believers in Rome, he urges them to watch out for those who will cause dissension and teach anything different from the gospel message he taught.

His final thought to them is to commend them to God. God is able to establish them in faith, and Paul praises God for His wisdom and glory.

Are you a loner? I have a tendency to do things on my own. I'm a bit too independent that way. There are so many people Paul mentions in this chapter who are fellow workers with him in the ministry of the gospel. These many greetings drove home to me the need to be joined with other believers in serving the Lord. I am not an island. God has not called me to serve Him by Himself. I should always have a network of other believers to work alongside, to encourage, to pray. Do you see others who are loners? Maybe you can come alongside someone and be an encouragement to them.

Lord, thank you for the tremendous ministry of Paul to the early believers. Thank you for the many people who worked alongside him, encouraged him, and helped him as he served you. Give us others who will encourage us as we seek to serve you. Don't let us become isolated and try to serve you on our own. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Romans 15 - Christ, Our Hope and Example

by Becky

LINK: Romans 15


Paul wrote the book of Romans when he was in Corinth of Greece (Achaia), after he'd left Ephesus, on his third missionary journey. He planned to return to Jerusalem with contributions made by the Greek believers to help the poor believers in Judea, who were most likely Jewish. He expected to come to visit those who believed in Rome, too, after his visit to Jerusalem, and on his way to Spain. He mentions all this in the last part of this chapter, to further support his teaching that there should be harmony between all believers, no matter what their background. The believers of Greece had sent the money from grateful hearts. Because they'd received the the spiritual blessing of the good news of Jesus through the Jews, they wanted to share their material blessing. Paul asked the Roman believers to pray that the Jewish Christians would be willing to receive the donation he was bringing.

I can't help but think about how Paul actually got to Rome - as a prisoner of the Roman emperor - not on another missionary journey. He asked the believers in Rome to pray for his safety and protection in Judea. God did protect Paul, even from a storm at sea, and got him to Rome, though probably not in the manner Paul expected.


Some highlights from this chapter:

We are to build each other up in faith, being considerate of each other's weaknesses, rather than serving ourselves. We don't do this to please people, but for God's glory. We are to live in harmony, focused on giving praise and glory to God.

God's word is given to us to encourage us! All those people and stories in the Old Testament teach us about God, that He keeps His promises. That helps us to wait more patiently ourselves, with hope, for the working out of the promises He's made us. Do you know God's promises? Are you confident that God's will is what is best for you?

Jesus fulfilled God's promise to the Jews. He also came so that the Gentiles could praise God. He unifies Jews and Gentiles. Paul quotes several Old Testament passages to show that God planned all along for Jesus to come for the Gentiles as well as for the Jews. He died that we might live - for God's glory.


What is your focus in your service? Is it to make yourself look good? Is it for the praise of others? How well do you get along with other believers? Are you willing to give up your preferences to help build others up spiritually - for God's glory?

Read this chapter prayerfully. If the reason for what you do has shifted from the glory of God to your own pride and service, refocus on who it is you are to glorify. For whom do you exist?

Immerse yourself in God's Word, which helps give encouragement and hope!


"I pray that God, who gives you hope, will keep you happy and full of peace as you believe in Him. May you overflow with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Romans 11 - Has God Rejected Israel?

by Katrina

LINK: Romans 11

So has God rejected the Jews??? Is He finished with the nation of Israel?? Paul answers with an emphatic, "NO!" So, what's the deal? That's what this chapter is all about.

Although the nation of Israel as a group had not been faithful to God, God has always had a remnant of believing Jews. By God's grace, many Jews have faith in Him and are thereby saved. But God wants more Jews to believe, so He disciplined them as sons. (We read about many of those occasions last year in our journey through the prophets.) And finally, He disciplined them by making the same salvation available to the Gentiles. This, of course, made the Jews very jealous. Their hearts are hardened toward God during this "time of the Gentiles," but this time will be followed by great belief among the Jews. God still loves the Jewish people as His own, and although they are now disobedient, God will show them mercy. In the same way, God has shown mercy to multitudes of disobedient Gentiles.

Paul illustrates the relationship of the Gentile believer to the Jewish nation as a wild branch grafted into an olive tree in verses 16-24. What are the benefits and responsibilities of being "grafted in"? What should be a Gentile Christian's attitude toward Jews? What warning is given to the Gentile believers?

You may be interested in exploring some ministries geared toward sharing the gospel with Jews. Here are two good ones that I know of: Jews for Jesus and Friends of Israel.

Lord, we don't understand Your ways or why You do things the way you do. Your wisdom is way beyond our understanding. We can't understand Your mind or presume to teach you anything. We have nothing to offer You. Yet you offer us everything! You make us rich recipients of Your great mercy and love. You gave us the salvation of our souls even though we were Your enemies. You grafted us in to Your plan and Your work. There is no reason to praise us for anything, for You did it all Yourself. All good things are from You, and through You, and to You. May You receive glory forever, amen!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Romans 10 - It's All About Faith in Jesus

by Katrina

LINK: Romans 10

Paul had a great desire to see his fellow Jews come to salvation. But instead of seeking God and His righteousness, the Jews had historically sought their own self-righteousness through the Law. This will never save them, nor will it save anyone else, for that matter.

This is the key: "if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation" (Rom 10:9-10).

So, you might ask as Paul does in verse 18, "What about those who have never heard?" Indeed, they have heard. God has sent evidence of Himself all over the world (remember chapter one?).

Or one might object, "The Jews didn't know, did they?" Even as far back as Moses, God predicted to the Jews that they would reject Him and He would make Gentiles His people (vs 19). God would show Himself to the Gentiles even though they didn't look for Him (vs 20). But as for Israel, God demonstrated love to them generation after generation, yet they continued to be disobedient and obstinate toward Him (vs 21).

So the Jews "had a chance," so to speak, but what about the heathens? How can they call on Jesus for salvation if they don't believe in Him? How can they believe in Him if they've never heard of Him? How can they hear of Him unless somebody goes to them and tells them? How can someone go and tell them unless they are sent?

What role are you playing? Are you one who is going? Are you one who is sending? Are you telling people about Jesus? There are still many people groups around the world who have never heard of Jesus. They have no Scripture in their language, neither are there any believers among them. How are they going to know?

Take a look at the Joshua Project, Frontiers, New Tribes Mission, Wycliffe Bible Translators, other missions you know of, or your church's mission organization for ideas of how you can get involved.

Lord, open our eyes to see that it's all about Jesus and faith in Him. We are not and never will be righteous on our own efforts. But it's through our faith in Jesus that You make us righteous. This is truly Good News! May we share the good news of Jesus around the world. Amen.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Romans 9 - It's All About God

by Becky

LINK: Romans 9


Paul goes straight from a song of triumphant joy at the end of Chapter 8 to anguish of heart at the beginning of Chapter 9. Isn't that the way we are? We can go from praise to tears in a heartbeat. Paul is heartbroken over his own people, the Jews (or Israel), to whom so much has been given by God. Many of them are not God's children.

Paul picks a theme he touched on earlier, that righteousness is from God. Salvation is not a result of what family we are born into or what we ourselves do or don't do. He deals with questions that are probably percolating in the minds of those who read this letter. This is a tough chapter and many people have questioned God over it and even rebelled against its words. I don't pretend to understand all of it, but I believe it.

Paul begins with the point that simply being is a physical Jew doesn't make someone God's child. Paul uses Jewish history and some quotes from the prophets as illustration. Simply being a child of Abraham or Isaac didn't guarantee being a child of the promise. Physical descent has nothing to do with being considered righteous, with being one of God's children. What does make someone God's child is God's merciful intervention. Without God's softening work in a heart, all the miracles in the world will only serve to make that hard heart harder. Look at the pharaoh during the time of the Jews exodus from Egypt.

God made us for His glory. That is one of the main themes of this chapter. We exist for Him. That is a hard thing to understand, because we want it all to be about us, about people. But think about it. If God is who He says He is: Creator of all that exists, Sustainer of the universe, I Am, Redeemer; then He has the right to do as He chooses with all He has made. If He is the way He says He is: merciful, loving, just, kind, patient; then can't we trust Him to do what is right?

Does the thing that is made tell the one who made it that he made a mistake, that he's doing it wrong? That makes no sense. We don't begin to understand God's purposes and motives OR where He is taking history - either our own personal histories or this world's history.

This chapter ends with irony. The Gentiles (all who aren't Jews), who as a group have not pursued righteousness, can now obtain it. The Jews, who pursued the law of righteousness, who sought a right standing with God based on their own works, haven't achieved it. Why not? Because they're stumbling over Christ, the rock. They just can't trust that He is the way to righteousness. Jesus is the final evidence that God's word is true and sure. God became flesh to give us mercy.


Grace is a difficult concept to grasp. We want to think that we DESERVE salvation. We make gods of ourselves.

Salvation is not through physical descent or what we do. It is entirely of God. And as C.S. Lewis put it, God is not tame. We don't tell Him what to do.

Think through this chapter. Are you trying to tell God what to do? Are you stumbling over the rock that is Christ?


Father, this chapter is hard. Give us hearts that are soft toward you. Help us to throw ourselves on your mercy and grace. Thank you for Jesus, who is the visible expression of your love. Help us to know you so that we can trust you.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Romans 6:1-14 -- Dead or Alive

by Katrina

LINK: Romans 6:1-14

Yesterday we saw the contrast between our life in Adam and our life in Christ. So, shall we continue to live in Adam, or shall we live in Christ? Here Paul wants the reader to understand that we are baptized into Christ, that is to say, we are identified with him. And we are no longer identified with Adam.

We have joined Christ in his death -- Sin died in that death, so sin should no longer reign in our lives.

We have joined Christ in his resurrection -- We live in righteousness, so we should present ourselves to God as instruments of righteousness.

Let's be sure we understand. We were once slaves to sin. It ruled our lives. But the old self was crucified and then raised in Christ. We are no longer slaves to sin, and we should not allow sin to be master over us.

Key Verse (memorize this one!):
Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
(Romans 6:11)

This is such an amazing truth to grab hold of! Take some time today to consider the implications this truth should/does have in your life. Does sin rule your life? Are there sins you need to crucify? Jesus died to free us from the power of sin! Don't let sin be in charge of your life! You don't have to serve sin. Rather, present yourself daily to God to be used by him as an instrument of righteousness.

Lord, I have died with Jesus and now live in him. I am no longer trapped in sin, but am free to serve you and live in your righteousness. Thank you for delivering me from the power of sin and death. May I live a righteous life for you. Amen.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Romans 5 - Justification

by Katrina

LINK: Romans 5

The New American Standard Bible divides this chapter into two paragraphs. The first eleven verses are about the benefits of our justification in Christ, beginning with the fact that if we are justified we now have peace with God.

What is justification? The Greek word used here is dikaiosis and is used to refer to the action by which God the Judge declares someone righteous and acceptable before Him. Unger's Bible dictionary explains it beautifully. "In this marvelous operation of God the infinitely Holy Judge judicially declares righteous the one who believes in Jesus. A justified believer emerges from God's great court room with a consciousness that Another, his Substitute, has borne his guilt, and that  he stands without accusation before the bar of God. Justification makes no one righteous, neither is it the bestowment of righteousness as such but rather declares one to be justified whom God sees as perfected once and forever in His Beloved Son."

The second section, verses 12-21, explains the transactions that occurred through Adam and Jesus.

Carefully read the first eleven verses of this chapter and make a list of all the benefits of our justification in Christ. You should find at least seven. The first is that we have peace with God. Contemplate each one and praise God for them!

For the second half of the chapter, make a chart with Adam at the top of one column and Jesus at the top of the other. What actions did each one take? What conditions of mankind are a result of each one? You will find an amazing contrast!

Wow, Lord! Thank you that our justification is through Jesus and his obedience and not dependent on us. We would never, ever be justified before you based on our own efforts! Thank you for these many benefits of our justification in Jesus! Thank you for the free gift given to us through Jesus that takes care of the "gift" of Adam in our lives. Thank you that as believers we no longer live under a reign of death but have eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Romans 4 - Fully Persuaded

by Becky

LINK: Romans 4


Paul continues to explain God's eternal plan for people's salvation. It is a plan based on God's righteousness, not ours. Paul uses Abraham, the father of the Jews, to explain that it wasn't because of what Abraham did that he was counted righteous, but because of faith in God's promise - faith in God's righteousness.

The followers of Jesus, Christians, began mainly as an outgrowth of Judaism. Most of the first believers were Jews. Presumably the church in Rome, to whom this letter was originally written, began in the Jewish community there. But as time went on, more and more Gentiles (people who weren't Jews) believed. This inevitably led to some conflicts, as we saw in Acts. Some of the Jewish believers felt that the Gentile believers should be circumcised, an outward sign of being part of God's covenant community.

Paul takes their premise, the basis of their understanding, and turns it on end. He shows here that Abraham believed God's promise (had faith) before he was circumcised. His circumcision (an action - something Abraham did) came after he believed, as an outward sign of his faith. Paul clarifies we are made right with God not because we've earned it through anything we've done, but because of what Jesus did. It is because of Jesus' righteousness that we are considered righteous. That is the meaning of that big word imputation that Carol mentioned yesterday: "And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness." (v 5) Imputation means to be counted or declared righteous, not because of our own merit or goodness or actions, but because of Jesus' merit and goodness and action - His death and resurrection.


This is not a dry doctrinal passage!

Abraham, the father of the Jews, is the father of all who believe God's promise. God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. Abraham knew his God. He knew that the God he trusted was the Creator of all that exists - the God who makes something out of nothing and who gives life to the dead. Abraham's faith in God's promise didn't waver when he looked at the circumstances of his own life - his age, the years of barrenness.

Why not?

His faith didn't waver because he was "fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised."

"That is why his faith was 'counted to him as righteousness.'"

"But the words 'it was counted to him' were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification." (vv 21-25)


Depending on what we do (our works) for our righteousness leads to two errors. We either become proud or we feel defeated.

Abraham could have focused on himself and his circumstances - an old body, a barren wife, time that went on and on without the fruition of God's promise. But he didn't. He focused on God. He knew his God. He was fully persuaded that God was able to do what He'd promised.

What are you focusing on? Do you still think that it is what you do that makes you righteous? Focus instead on the Lord Jesus. He died for us that we might live. His resurrection from the dead is the promise that we are made right with God - just as if we'd never sinned!

Do you know the Lord? Are you fully persuaded that He is able to do what He's promised?


Father God, thank you for your grace and love and mercy. We are truly blessed if we trust you. We have no weight of guilt or shame or sin to deal with; we don't have to worry about being good enough to please you. We thank you that in your righteousness and love you provided the way for us to be righteous. Thank you that you came in the flesh, in the person of Jesus Christ, to die and rise again for us. Help us to trust you and your work for us.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Romans 1 - Evidence of the Existence of God

by Katrina

LINK: Romans 1

Paul wrote this letter to believers in Rome while he was in Corinth. Paul had been collecting money to help the poor in Palestine, and his last stop was Corinth. From there he traveled to Jerusalem to deliver the money and intended to continue on to Rome and Spain. But he was arrested in Jerusalem, so his trip to Rome was delayed. In the meantime, this letter was carried to Rome ahead of him. He eventually arrived in Rome as a prisoner. As we read yesterday, while Paul was in Rome under house arrest, believers could come and see him at will, and I'm sure they met with Paul and discussed this letter he had sent.

There are several important themes in this book. Some of them are:
  • justification by faith
  • propitiation
  • righteousness
  • revelation of God in nature
  • universality of sin
  • original sin through Adam
  • faith
  • being united with Christ
  • Israel's rejection
  • spiritual gifts
  • respect for civil government
In chapter one, Paul described the devolution of man. Since the beginning, the world itself has testified to the existence of God. The evidence is so strong that no one has any excuse for not believing God exists. But man has chosen to suppress that knowledge of God so he can live free from accountability to God (at least he thinks he's free). Mankind didn't want to know and honor God, but he wanted to worship something, so he made idols. From idolatry, man moved to indulgence in all sorts of self-pleasing behavior. Then God abandoned man to his own sinful ways. Finally man hated God and sank deeper and deeper into sin.

And this is the world we live in.

It was also the world Paul lived in. It was Paul's desire to take the gospel message of salvation everywhere he went. He was eager to preach both to Greeks and non-Greeks, to the wise and the foolish, to Jews and Gentiles, to everyone! He wanted to spread the message that, through faith, one could replace a meaningless life of debauchery with the righteousness of God. The world is under God's wrath, but this gospel message can free people from the wrath of God. It can stop the downward spiral of devolution.

Can you say with Paul, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes"? (1:16)

Let us never be ashamed of the gospel, Lord! It is the only power for salvation. By faith in Jesus, we can be restored to a relationship with you that is without wrath. Thank you for this great gift! Amen.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Acts 28 - Malta to Rome

by Katrina

LINK: Acts 28

 Map by Gordon Smith can be used without further permission. http://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/JBPhillips.htm

The shipwreck occurred off the coast of the island of Malta (point 15 on the map). The inhabitants of this island were not Greek and did not speak Greek. But they were kind to the shipwrecked foreigners and treated them well for the three months they were on the island. When an Alexandrian ship nearby was ready to sail, they boarded it and headed for Rome, stopping at various ports of Italy along the way. By the way, Puteoli is the port of Naples.

Paul was in Rome under house arrest for two years. He rented a place to live and was guarded by a soldier there. Anyone could visit him at any time. Upon his arrival, he gathered the Jews together to hear his defense. His accusers from Palestine never showed up, though, so Paul was acquitted and freed.

During his two years in Rome, Paul shared the gospel with the Jews and the Gentiles, and many believed. He was not restricted in any way from his teaching.

Luke ends his narrative here, but while he was under house arrest in Rome, Paul wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. It is likely that during this two year period, Luke recorded the book of Acts. (It was also during this time that James wrote his epistle and Peter wrote his first letter.) Upon his release from Rome, Paul began traveling again. We don't have his travels mapped out for us like we do in the book of Acts, but in the letters that follow this time, he refers to many of the places he went.

CONGRATULATIONS on your completion of the book of Acts!!! Wasn't that an exciting story of the events following Jesus' ministry on earth!?

I'm very excited to begin Paul's epistles tomorrow! They will flesh out the gospel message and help us understand our salvation in Jesus and how we should conduct our lives as believers.

Father, thank you for sending your Holy Spirit and demonstrating your power to us through your work. Help us to continue to teach the Lord Jesus Christ in our generation to all the world. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Acts 27 - Shipwreck!

by Becky

LINK: Acts 27


Paul, accompanied by Luke and possibly others, is under arrest and bound for Rome by sea. An officer named Julius has been placed in charge of Paul and some other prisoners and accompanies them. He seems to have been a fair man, who showed respect to Paul.

As a Roman citizen Paul had a right to appeal to Caesar, which he had done. So now he's on his way to Rome to stand trial there. He is taking the gospel there at the expense of the Roman government!

The ship was boarded in Caesarea and hugged the coastline as much as possible on its way - for safety. From what I've read in study Bibles, this chapter is a remarkably accurate and detailed account and is consistent with what is known of sea travel at that time. A northeaster hits, and the ship is shipwrecked, but NO ONE aboard dies.

This chapter is an exciting one. I loved hearing it when I was a little girl. It also clearly shows God's hand of protection and care.

Here is a map that shows the route their ship took:

Maps by Gordon Smith can be used without further permission. http://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/JBPhillips.htm


When I was about seven or eight our family was stationed in Germany and we took several trips to other European countries. We took a tent and camped as we toured. One of our trips was to Spain and one afternoon we pitched our tent on the Mediterranean coast near Barcelona. That night a huge storm hit. I woke up, frightened. My parents were scrambling around trying to secure things outside, as well as the tent. Soon after that my younger sister woke up; she, too, was scared. I remembered this story and told it to her (and to myself), to remind us that God could take care of us, too. Our fear subsided as we thought about the story. I will always think of this story of Paul and the captain Justus and the shipwreck in the context of howling winds and rain bombarding our tent. I learned the power of God's word that day, too... remembering what He has done and applying who He is to the situation I'm in.

I don't know what "storm" you're in right now or what "storm" I will face tomorrow. But I do know WHO is with me. I do know WHO is in charge. God is the same today as He was then. Paul lived in trust and obedience to the LORD. He carried the good news of Jesus with him wherever he went. He trusted his life to God.


Thanks for this story, Lord. I thank you for that storm our family went through long ago and what you taught me then. I thank you that you are in charge and for your care. Help us to trust and obey and to carry the good news of Jesus wherever we go.