Tag Archives: apostle paul

Our Daily Bread — A Fragrance and a Letter

 

Read: 2 Corinthians 2:14-3:3

Bible in a Year: Proverbs 6-7; 2 Corinthians 2

We are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ. —2 Corinthians 2:15

Every time I get close to a rosebush or a bouquet of flowers, I’m unable to resist the temptation to pull a flower toward my nose to savor the fragrance. The sweet aroma lifts up my heart and triggers good feelings within me.

Writing to the Christians in Corinth centuries ago, the apostle Paul says that because we belong to Christ, God “uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere” (2 Cor. 2:14). Through His strength we can live a victorious life, exchanging our selfishness for His love and kindness and proclaiming the goodness of His salvation. When we do this, we are indeed a sweet fragrance to God.

Paul then switches to a second image, describing Christians as a “letter from Christ” (3:3). The letter of our lives is not written with ordinary ink, but by the Spirit of God. God changes us by writing His Word on our hearts for others to read.

Both word pictures encourage us to allow the beauty of Christ to be seen in us so we can point people to Him. He is the One who, as Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:2, “loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” —Lawrence Darmani

Lord, let Your splendor fill my life, that I may draw people to You. Help me walk in the way that spreads the fragrance of Your love to others.

Our actions speak louder than our words.

INSIGHT: Paul had a strained relationship with the church in Corinth. Within this troubled church were those who undermined unity, holy living, and sound doctrine. The Corinthian church was the recipient of three visits and multiple letters from the apostle Paul. Yet despite all the problems the church was facing—doubting Paul’s authority, allowing and perhaps bragging about sin, suggesting there is no resurrection—Paul continually reassured them of both his own affection and God’s affection for them. Paul’s message is clear—for Corinth and for us. Yes, we will experience problems that need to be corrected, but our position in Christ is secure. J.R. Hudberg

Charles Stanley – The Way to Finish Well

 

2 Timothy 4:6-8

Many people think about the last years of life as an opportunity to relax. But this does not fit with God’s purpose for us; He wants us to serve Him all the days of our lives.

Let’s look at the apostle Paul’s journey and explore what it?means to finish well. He spent time pouring into others until the very end of his life. Consider the letters he wrote to Timothy from prison prior to being executed. In every season of life, God calls us to serve others.

And notice how, when writing about his life, Paul chose words descriptive of a battle. He understood the human struggle against sin as well as the challenges of pain and persecution in the trials we all face—even in doing kingdom work like preaching Christ to a fiercely resistant society.

This godly servant’s life was also marked by surrender. His mindset is obvious in these words: “Present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Rom. 12:1). He was not afraid of the Roman emperor Nero, nor was he struggling to stay alive. Paul trusted God to determine everything about his life, including where he would go, what he would do, and when he would die. Death did not scare him, because he knew he would dwell with Jesus forever.

God doesn’t require us to have perfect lives in order to finish strong. We can live abundantly and be ready to meet our Maker by surrendering, walking victoriously with Christ, and serving others. The question is, if Jesus called you home today, would you—like Paul—be confident that you lived well until the end?

Bible in One Year: Ezekiel 32-33

 

Our Daily Bread — To Be Continued . . .

 

Read: 1 Corinthians 15:50-58

Bible in a Year: Psalms 148-150; 1 Corinthians 15:29-58

Death has been swallowed up in victory. —1 Corinthians 15:54

Growing up in the 1950s, I often attended the Saturday matinee at a local movie theater. Along with cartoons and a feature film, there was an adventure serial that always ended with the hero or heroine facing an impossible situation. There seemed to be no way out, but each episode concluded with the words “To Be Continued . . . ”

The apostle Paul was no stranger to life-threatening situations. He was imprisoned, beaten, stoned, and shipwrecked as he sought to take the good news of Jesus Christ to people. He knew that someday he would die, but he never considered that to be the end of the story. Paul wrote to the followers of Jesus in Corinth, “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory’ ” (1 Cor. 15:54). The passion of Paul’s life was telling others that Jesus our Savior gave His life on the cross so that through faith in Him we can receive forgiveness for all our sins and have eternal life.

We are not like the movie hero who always escapes certain death. The day will come when our earthly lives will end either by death or Christ’s return. But by God’s grace and mercy, the story of your life and mine is “to be continued.” —David McCasland

Father, we praise You for Your gift of eternal life and say with Paul, “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57).

In life and death, Christ is our hope.

INSIGHT: Paul wrote chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians in response to those in the church at Corinth who denied that Jesus rose bodily from the dead. This chapter is divided into two sections. In verses 1-34, Paul discusses the reasons to believe that Jesus did in fact walk out of His tomb. In verses 35-57, Paul talks about the need for and the nature of our resurrected bodies. These verses lead to Paul’s concluding point in verse 58. While waiting for our resurrection, “give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” J.R. Hudberg

Presidential Prayer Team; C.P. – A Man to Be Like

 

Most people have heard of the apostle Paul, but a lesser-known name is Barnabas. His name was actually Joseph, but the disciples called him Barnabas or “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36). The first mention of Barnabas is when he sold a field and brought the money to the apostles (Acts 4:37).

For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.

Acts 11:24

When Paul was converted from persecutor to preacher, it was Barnabas who presented him to Christians who were understandably afraid of Paul (Acts 9:26). Barnabas traveled to Tarsus to find Paul and take him to Antioch, where they both preached for a year (Acts 11:25). It was Barnabas who assisted Paul through most of his missionary journeys (Acts 13-14), and though John Mark had abandoned them earlier, it was Barnabas who opposed Paul to give Mark a second chance (Acts 15:39-40).

Most people will never be like Paul, but most can be like Barnabas – one who gives, encourages, assists and gives second chances. You can be also be like Barnabas by praying and being filled with the Holy Spirit and faith. Intercede for this nation and ask God for opportunities to help spread the gospel to those who have yet to hear it.

Recommended Reading: I Corinthians 12:12-26

Greg Laurie – How Sin Spreads

Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? —1 Corinthians 5:6
As believers, we are interconnected. The sin of one will affect many. That is why the apostle Paul said the church should never tolerate evil. He said, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26).
Apparently in the Corinthian church, there was a man who was sleeping his father’s wife (not his biological mother but a woman his father had married). The church was actually boasting about how liberal and tolerant they were. So Paul confronted them, saying, “And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you” (1 Corinthians 5:2).
If an unbeliever who is living an immoral lifestyle comes to our church, we’ll welcome that person. We’ll say, “We love you.” We’ll also say, “Jesus Christ wants to change your life.” We will call him or her to the Lord and to faith.
But if a Christian comes to our church and is living openly in sin, if we find out about it, we will call him or her to repentance. But if that Christian refuses to repent, then he or she will be asked to leave.
Some might think that isn’t very loving. But actually it is very loving, and I’ll tell you why. If believers are living openly in sin, and the church doesn’t do anything about it, it’s sending a message that everything is okay and that we can thumb our noses at God.
Paul said, “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” (1 Corinthians 5:6). In modern vernacular, a little yeast permeates the whole batch of dough. If sin is tolerated, it will spread and corrupt others.

Our Daily Bread — Tears of a Teen

 

Read: Romans 9:1-5

Bible in a Year: Psalms 18-19; Acts 20:17-38

I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. —Romans 9:2

As I sat with four teenagers and a 20-something homeless man at a soup kitchen in Alaska, I was touched by the teens’ compassion for him. They listened as he talked about what he believed and then they gently presented the gospel to him—lovingly offering him hope in Jesus. Sadly, the man refused to seriously consider the gospel.

As we were leaving, one of the girls, Grace, expressed through her tears how much she didn’t want the man to die without knowing Jesus. From the heart, she grieved for this young man who, at least at this point, was rejecting the love of the Savior.

The tears of this teen remind me of the apostle Paul who served the Lord humbly and had great sorrow in his heart for his countrymen, desiring that they trust in Christ (Rom. 9:1-5). Paul’s compassion and concern must have brought him to tears on many occasions.

If we care enough for others who have not yet accepted God’s gift of forgiveness through Christ, we will find ways to share with them. With the confidence of our own faith and with tears of compassion, let’s take the good news to those who need to know the Savior. —Dave Branon

Is there someone you need to talk to about Jesus today?

Sharing the gospel is one person telling another good news.

INSIGHT: The book of Romans is unique in Paul’s New Testament writings. While the rest of his letters are to those with whom he had an existing relationship (either individuals or churches), Romans is written to a group of people that Paul has not yet met. This may explain some of the deep theological themes that he covers. Although Paul was hoping to visit the Christians in Rome in person, one of the reasons he wrote this letter was to ensure they had a solid foundation of belief.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Commending Christ

 

Author John Stackhouse describes the discipline of “apologetics” as the Christian work of commending the faith as much as it is about defending the faith.(1) Commending the faith, he argues, is something the Christian community does wherever it is—with one another, with neighbors, with the world. Consequently, it is also something the Christian community does whether they are aware of it or not.

In his sermon before the Areopagus, the apostle Paul commended the gospel with reason and rhetoric that would not have gone unrecognized. This is the “good news,” he professed, and the “good life” depends on it. To the Athenian philosophers, he commended the gospel in terms that mattered deeply to them. “Since we are God’s offspring,” he said quoting an Athenian poet, “we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals.”(2) For on the contrary, he told them, the real and present Deity is now calling people everywhere to turn around and come near.

The apostle then followed this bold notion with a proof that would have caused as much, if not more, commotion in first century Athens as in hyper-rational modernity and cynical post-modernity. We know that God is the true creator, sustainer, and friend, he reasoned, because God “has given this proof… by raising [Christ] from the dead.”(3) Paul is telling the story of God in the world here, but he is also telling his own story. This Deity he commends to the Athenian philosophers is the risen Christ who appeared to him on Damascus road, who became ‘friend’ instead of ‘foe,’ and turned his own philosophy and consequently his life around.

Paul’s use of the resurrection as proof of all he has proclaimed to the Athenians is interesting on several levels. To begin with, while the apostle clearly sought to ground his Mars Hill message on a common foundation, he ended with a proof that must have seemed to some like a foreign tidal wave. For the Athenians, resurrection of the body was absurd and unreasonable, as much of an obstacle to them as the scandalizing cross to men and women of Jerusalem. While the philosophers of the Areopagus may have believed in the immortality of the soul, the body was what confined and imprisoned this soul. In their minds, there was a radical distinction between matter and spirit. Bodily resurrection did not make any more sense than a god with a body! For the Athenians, and indeed for all of us, this very proof required a radical turn of heart, mind, soul, and body. For some, this babbler’s new teaching was immediately labeled absurd. When they heard of this resurrection of the dead, reports Luke, there were scoffs and sneers.

Yet Paul’s apologetic, which was carefully researched, powerfully worded, and respectfully delivered, was not here ending on a careless note. On the contrary, he was ending with the chorus itself. For Paul, all of the words uttered up until this point would merely be noise had they not come from this very refrain. For if Christ has not been raised, both preaching and faith itself is useless, as he said elsewhere. Though it would have been a foreign language to the crowd at the Areopagus, Paul commended the resurrection as the very proof of his apologetic—for the entirety of his message was authoritative only and specifically because the resurrection had indeed occurred. Authors Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon note the central task of commending the Gospel: “Our claim is not that this tradition will make sense to anyone or will enable the world to run more smoothly. Our claim is that it just happens to be true. This really is the way God is. This really is the way God’s world is.”(4) For Paul, and for the apologist, the important Christian act of finding common ground must never involve burying what is real and living: Christ is risen from the dead.

This single event is the theological core of Paul’s identity and his highest apologetic. It is also the very pillar which makes abundantly clear that the true work of apologetics does not belong to Christians. Writes Stackhouse, “Spiritual adepts throughout the ages warn us that mere argument accomplishes little even within our own hearts.”(5) No one knew this better than the apostle Paul, who would never have otherwise considered Jesus anymore than one to despise: the work of conversion belongs to the Holy Spirit.

Thus, there were many at the Areopagus that day who sneered at Paul’s philosophical conclusions. There were also many who responded in the same manner they responded to any teaching considered at the Areopagus—namely, with fascination, with discussion, and with barren hearts and minds. But likewise, there were a number who believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.(6) By the grace of God, the risen Christ was commended and the obstacles that kept him from sight were overcome.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) The discipline of apologetics derives its name from the Greek word apologia, meaning defense. “Always be ready to give an answer (apologia) to anyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).

(2) Acts 17:29.

(3) Acts 17:31.

(4) Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon, Resident Aliens (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1989), 101.

(5) John Stackhouse, Jr. Humble Apologetics: Defending the Faith Today (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 82.

(6) cf. Acts 17:34.

Charles Spurgeon – Contentment

 

“For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Philippians 4:11

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Timothy 6:6-11

The apostle Paul was a very learned man, but not the least among his manifold acquisitions in knowledge was this—he had learned to be content. Such learning is far better than much that is acquired in the schools. Their learning may look studiously back on the past, but too often those who cull the relics of antiquity with enthusiasm, are thoughtless about the present, and neglect the practical duties of daily life. Their learning may open up dead languages to those who will never derive any living benefit from them. Far better the learning of the apostle. It was a thing of ever-present utility, and alike serviceable for all generations; one of the rarest, but one of the most desirable accomplishments. I put the senior wrangler and the most learned of our Cambridge men, in the lowest form compared with this learned apostle; for this surely is the highest degree in humanities to which a man can possibly attain, to have learned in whatsoever state he is, to be content. You will see at once from reading the text, upon the very surface, that contentment in all states is not a natural propensity of man. Ill weeds grow apace; covetousness, discontent, and murmuring, are as natural to man as thorns are to the soil. You have no need to sow thistles and brambles; they come up naturally enough, because they are indigenous to earth, upon which rests the curse; so you have no need to teach men to complain, they complain fast enough without any education. But the precious things of the earth must be cultivated. If we would have wheat, we must plough and sow; if we want flowers, there must be the garden, and all the gardener’s care. Now, contentment is one of the flowers of heaven, and if we would have it, it must be cultivated.

For meditation: Proverbs 30:7-9: the balanced prayer of Agur, an observant and humble man. Covetousness is the enemy of contentment.

Sermon no. 320
9 July (Preached 25 March 1860)

Our Daily Bread — A Letter from the Battlefield

 

Read: 2 Timothy 4:1-8

Bible in a Year: Job 25-27; Acts 12

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. —2 Timothy 4:7

For more than two decades, Andrew Carroll has been urging people not to throw away the letters written by family members or friends during a time of war. Carroll, director of the Center for American War Letters at Chapman University in California, considers them an irreplaceable link to tie families together and open a door of understanding. “Younger generations are reading these letters,” Carroll says, “and asking questions and saying, ‘Now I understand what you endured, what you sacrificed.’ ”

When the apostle Paul was imprisoned in Rome and knew his life would soon end, he wrote a letter to a young man whom he considered a “son in the faith,” Timothy. Like a soldier on the battlefield, Paul opened his heart to him: “The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8).

When we read the letters in the Bible that the heroes of the Christian faith have left for us and grasp what they endured because of their love for Christ, we gain courage to follow their example and to stand strong for those who come after us. —David C. McCasland

Lord, give us strength for the spiritual battles we face today, knowing that You have won the ultimate victory and that we will one day live eternally with You.

Run the race with eternity in view.

INSIGHT: Titus and 1 Timothy were probably written after the apostle Paul was released from house arrest in Rome (ad 61-62) and during his fourth missionary journey (ad 62-63; see Acts 28:30-31). When persecution broke out under Emperor Nero, Paul was imprisoned again. During this second Roman imprisonment, Paul wrote 2 Timothy (ad 65-67). This time he knew his death was imminent (4:6-7). Paul warns that a time is coming when Christians will not “endure sound doctrine” and will turn away from the truth (vv. 3-7). To counter false teaching, Timothy is to “preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (v. 2).

Max Lucado – Say Thank You

 

The Apostle Paul says, “Give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).

You don’t have to name a child after God, but then again, you could. Or you could draft a letter listing all His blessings or write a song in His honor. You could sponsor an orphan or adopt a child just because God adopted you. The surest path out of a slump is marked by the road sign, “Thank you.”

But what of the disastrous days? Are you grateful then? Jesus was. “On the night when He was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it…” (1 Corinthians 11:23-24). Not often are the words betrayed and thanks in the same sentence, much less in the same heart. Anyone can thank God for the light. Jesus teaches us to thank God for the night!

From You’ll Get Through This

Charles Stanley – The Secret of Contentment

 

Philippians 4:4-13

In today’s reading, the apostle Paul says he has learned the secret of experiencing contentment in all circumstances, good or bad. Does it surprise you that he wrote this when he was in prison, unsure of his future? We’re often discontent even when all is going well. Consequently, we wonder how it’s possible to be truly content during our most difficult trials, especially when there’s no end in sight. So what is genuine contentment? Paul is speaking of a freedom from worry and frustration in all aspects of life—even unfulfilled desires.

It’s usually when we cannot control or change our situation that we feel discontentment. As long as our satisfaction depends on whether certain things actually work out, we’ll allow circumstances to cheat us out of peace. I’m not saying there’s some spiritual stage where you will never again experience anxiety or frustration. But what matters is how we respond when those feelings grip us.

This is something that the apostle had to learn. Paul endured amazing suffering, from shipwrecks and hunger to unjust imprisonment and beatings (2 Corinthians 11:24-30). He had gone through countless situations that were uncertain, extraordinarily painful, and seemingly hopeless. But he finally discovered that contentment could not? be dependent upon his circumstances.

How do you respond when circumstances are out of your control? Do you get angry? Do you try to escape? Does despair make you want to give up? Paul chose to give his anxieties to Jesus in exchange for peace that “surpasses all comprehension” (Philippians 4:7). That same peace is available to you!

Bible in One Year: Psalms 90-94

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Not in Vain

 

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58, KJV).

“Do not let your belief of these truths be shaken,” the apostle Paul was saying to the Corinthian believers. “They are most certain, and of the utmost importance.”

In the context, you will remember that Paul had just been talking about the resurrection, and now he wanted them to be steadfast believers of this great truth. The person who has no belief in the afterlife – the resurrection – is of all men most miserable. His motto is: “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”

Paul also exhorts believers to be immovable in their expectation of being raised incorruptible and immortal. Christians should never lose sight of this hope of the gospel:

“The only condition is that you fully believe the Truth, standing in it steadfast and firm, strong in the Lord, convinced of the Good News that Jesus died for you, and never shifting from trusting Him to save you. This is the wonderful news that came to each of you and is now spreading all over the world. And I, Paul, have the joy of telling it to others” (Colossians 1:23).

Having determined to remain steadfast and unmovable for the rest of their lives, believers then are ready with God’s help to labor faithfully for the Lord, knowing that such labor is not in vain.

Bible Reading: I Corinthians 15:51-57

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Drawing by faith upon the supernatural resources of the Holy Spirit, I will keep my expectation and my hope steadfast and unmovable, continuing my service for the Lord with the confident assurance that it will not be in vain.

 

Our Daily Bread — What We Do

 

Read: Philippians 3:7-17

Bible in a Year: 2 Chronicles 23-24; John 15

One thing I do . . . I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. —Philippians 3:13-14

When Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert died, a fellow journalist wrote of him: “With all his notoriety, honors, and celebrity, all his exclusive interviews and star-dusted encounters with movie greats, Ebert never forgot the essence of what we do—review movies. And he reviewed them with an infectious zeal and probing intellect” (Dennis King, The Oklahoman).

The apostle Paul never forgot the essence of what God wanted him to be and do. Focus and enthusiasm were at the heart of his relationship with Christ. Whether he was reasoning with philosophers in Athens, experiencing shipwreck in the Mediterranean, or being chained to a Roman soldier in prison, he focused on his calling to know “Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings” and to teach about Him (Phil. 3:10).

While he was in prison, Paul wrote, “I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (3:13-14). Whatever his circumstances, Paul continually pressed forward in his calling as a disciple of Christ.

May we always remember the essence, the heart, of who we are called to be and what we are called to do as followers of Jesus. —David C. McCasland

Father, may I be willing to do what I can with all that I have, wherever I am.

Paul was in earnest over one thing only, and that was his relationship to Jesus Christ. Oswald Chambers

INSIGHT: In the verses preceding today’s reading (see vv. 4-6), Paul describes his credentials—his “confidence in the flesh”—including his religious upbringing, his ethnic heritage, his zeal, and a lifetime of devotion to the law of Moses. However, all of this is nothing compared to knowing Christ and receiving the gift of salvation (vv. 7-8).

Streams in the Desert for Kids – Diamonds in the Making

2 Corinthians 7:5

Carbon is a soft natural material, but it is also the raw material from which diamonds—the hardest substance on earth—are made. How does that happen? Diamonds are formed 75 to 120 miles below the earth’s surface. When carbon buried deep in the earth is put under extreme pressure, and when the temperature is at least 192 degrees Fahrenheit, the carbon changes into diamonds. Scientists discovered that there have been only three times during Earth’s history when diamonds were made, and the planet no longer makes diamonds as it once did. Diamonds are highly valued as jewelry. Maybe your mother or father has a diamond ring. Diamonds are also valued in industry. A diamond saw blade will cut through almost anything.

In the Scripture verse for today, the Apostle Paul describes being harassed, or troubled, on every side. He was under extreme pressure, but God used that pressure to change Paul from an ordinary person into an extraordinary man of God. And God can do the same thing for us. When we feel like everything is pushing on us so hard we cannot stand it, it could be that God is changing us from soft material into a beautiful diamond that he can use.

Dear Lord, I hate to be under pressure. Help me to understand, though, that you can use my troubles to create something new and beautiful in my heart. Amen.

Our Daily Bread — Guard Your Focus

 

Read: 1 Corinthians 3:1-9

Bible in a Year: 1 Chronicles 10-12; John 6:45-71

Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. —Hebrews 12:2

“That’s my disciple,” I once heard a woman say about someone she was helping. As followers of Christ we are all tasked with making disciples—sharing the good news of Christ with people and helping them grow spiritually. But it can be easy to focus on ourselves instead of Jesus.

The apostle Paul was concerned that the Corinthian church was losing its focus on Christ. The two best-known preachers in those days were Paul and Apollos. The church was divided: “I follow Paul.” “Well, I follow Apollos!” They had begun focusing on the wrong person, following the teachers rather than the Savior. But Paul corrected them. We are “God’s fellow workers.” It doesn’t matter who plants and who waters, for only God can give the growth. Christians are “God’s field, God’s building” (1 Cor. 3:6-9). The Corinthian believers didn’t belong to Paul nor to Apollos.

Jesus tells us to go and make disciples and to teach them about Him (Matt. 28:20). And the author of the book of Hebrews reminds us to focus on the Author and Finisher of our faith (12:2). Christ will be honored when we focus on Him; He is superior to any human being and He will meet our needs. —C. P. Hia

Father, I confess that it is easy to shift my focus from You to less important things. Thank You for putting people in my life that help point me to You. Help me point others to You in a way that makes You more and me less.

Put Jesus first.

INSIGHT: Apollos first appears on the pages of the New Testament in the book of Acts, where it says he was “born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures” (18:24). Though he spoke of Jesus boldly in the synagogue, his understanding of the Scriptures was incomplete, so he received training from Aquila and Priscilla (v. 26). Apollos is discussed in today’s text as someone who had developed a strong following among believers in Christ (1 Cor. 3:4). He is mentioned favorably by Paul in Titus 3:13 when he urged Titus to help Apollos on his journey.

Our Daily Bread — A Survivor’s Thoughts

 

Read: Romans 9:1-5

Bible in a Year: 2 Kings 22-23; John 4:31-54

I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren. —Romans 9:3

After a 71-year-old South Korean woman was rescued during the tragic sinking of a ferry boat, she struggled with survivor’s guilt. From her hospital bed she said she couldn’t understand how it could be right for her to have lived through an accident that had taken the lives of many who were so much younger. She also regretted not knowing the name of the young man who had pulled her out of the water after she had given up hope. Then she added, “I want to buy him a meal at least, or hold his hand, or give him a hug.”

This woman’s heart for others reminds me of the apostle Paul. He was so concerned about his neighbors and countrymen that he said he wished he could trade his own relationship with Christ for their rescue: “I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren” (Rom. 9:2-3).

Paul also expressed a deep sense of personal gratitude. He knew he didn’t understand the ways and judgments of God (see vv.14-24). So while doing everything he could to proclaim the gospel to all, he found peace and joy in trusting the heart of a God who loves the whole world so much more than we ever could. —Mart DeHaan

Lord God, Your ways are so far beyond our comprehension, yet we know without doubt that You love us. Help us trust Your loving heart with the things we don’t understand.

Gratitude to God leads to growth in godliness.

INSIGHT: Even though Paul was “an apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:13; Gal. 2:8), his heart’s desire was to see his own people—the Jews—come to faith in Jesus (Rom. 9:2-3). In Romans 9–11 Paul discussed the continuing unbelief of the Jews, but he assured them that they had not been rejected. He reminded them of their privileged status (v. 4), and the climax of these privileges is that the Messiah—the Savior—is Himself a Jew (v. 5).

Greg Laurie – Be a Friend

 

So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. —Colossians 1:28

Somewhere along the line, we have separated evangelism from discipleship. We preach the gospel, but we don’t disciple. We don’t get people on their feet spiritually. But the two go together.

The conversion of Saul of Tarsus, one of the most notorious nonbelievers ever, was so unexpected that a lot of people didn’t think it was true. So God spoke to a Christian named Ananias and told him to visit Saul. After some initial resistance, Ananias obeyed and found Saul (who later changed his name to Paul), prayed for him, and took the time to encourage him. Then God brought another man into Paul’s life, and his name was Barnabas. He introduced Paul to the apostles and vouched for his conversion.

A lot of people want to be an apostle Paul, but would someone please be an Ananias or a Barnabas—a person who works behind the scenes? You may not be the next Billy Graham, but you may the best person who helps to nurture the next Billy Graham.

You can show that person what a Christian family, a Christian man, or a Christian woman looks like. You can befriend that individual who has no friends and bring him or her into your group. You don’t know what God can do in the life of that person.

Discipling someone is not just talking to that person about Jesus; it is also being a friend. And that is what a lot of people need: a friend. That is what I needed as a brand-new believer. Thankfully, someone named Mark saw that I came to Christ and very persistently said, “You’re going to church with me.” I was resistant at first. But he won me over and ended up helping me get grounded in the faith. That is what discipling is.

Presidential Prayer Team; J.K. – Message First

 

The apostle Paul knew there was more than one way to get things done. He was in Rome, imprisoned, and false friends and enemies were taking advantage of that situation. In fact, they were preaching Christ out of envy and rivalry, wishing only to cause more grief to Paul. But his response was one of joy – not in their motivation, but in the results…to advance the gospel and save souls.

Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed.

Philippians 1:18

He was not the first to realize that Jesus and His message must come first. John the Baptist spoke of Christ’s coming and announced, “Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:29-30) Each man knew his message: to let others know the salvation offered through Jesus, their Lord and Savior.

Do you have that desire? Let Christ be magnified in you. Be transformed to the will of God that you might be His instrument, not discouraged by others, but encouraged by the Holy Spirit through prayer for yourself and for the leaders of this nation. May they learn to know and trust in Jesus as Lord.

Recommended Reading: Philippians 1:12-21, 27-28

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Cheer Up; He Has Overcome

 

“I have told you all this so that you will have peace of heart and mind. Here on earth you will have many sorrows and trials; but cheer up, for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

I know of few promises in all the Word of God that offer more assurance and encouragement than this one.

The apostle Paul was an aggressive soldier of God who carried the gospel far and wide throughout the known world. He was greatly used of God to expand the territorial borders of Christendom. All that Paul did, he did in the name of Christ and through the power and control of the Holy Spirit.

But there was great opposition to Paul’s ministry. Consequently, he always seemed to be in the center of spiritual warfare. He knew his enemies, Satan and the world system, and their subtle, deceiving devices.

Throughout his Christian life, he suffered various kinds of persecutions, including stonings, beatings and imprisonment. In spite of such harsh persecution, Paul could write, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice” (Philipians 4:4, NAS).

It was during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, about 61 or 62 A.D., that he wrote to the church at Ephesus. The theme of his letter is supernatural living, and he talks about the Christian’s spiritual warfare. He tells us that the battle we fight is against Satan and the spiritual forces of wickedness, not against other people.

The apostle Paul experienced the supernatural peace of heart and mind which Jesus promised, a promise which we too can claim, in times of difficulty, testing and even persecution.

Bible Reading: John 16:25-32

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  Today I will claim the peace of heart and mind which Jesus promised to all who trust and obey Him. Deliberately and faithfully I will seek to put on the whole armor of God so that I will be fully prepared to withstand the wiles of the enemy and thus live a supernatural life for the glory of God.

Charles Stanley – When Others Fail Us

2 Timothy 4:9-16

The apostle Paul knew the value of good friends: Silas partnered with him in establishing new churches; Barnabas encouraged him in his ministry; and Timothy became like a son to him. Paul also knew the heartache of co-laborers turning away from him when times got tough (2 Tim. 1:15). We may experience something similar in our life.

People will have a variety of reactions to our struggles. Some feel inadequate and hold back because they are uncertain about what to say or do. Others are so protective of their time that selfishness causes them to turn away. And sometimes our friends and co-workers do not want to be identified with us in our trials. In my early days as a pastor, this happened to me when the church was going through a period of turmoil. Only two pastors reached out to me and offered support; the others stood back. This experience taught me the importance of reaching out to people in crisis.

Helping others requires an investment of time and energy. We start by praying for them and asking the Lord how we can help. He may have us lend emotional support, provide spiritual guidance, offer assistance in a physical or financial way, or find others who can. Standing with people will encourage them.

When friends abandoned him, Paul asked God not to count their actions against them (4:16). He followed the example of Jesus, who prayed for the Father to forgive His persecutors. What’s your response when friends let you down? Forgiveness is the choice that pleases God every time.