Give thanks to the Lord of lords … to him who alone does great wonders (Psalm 136:3-4). The authors of Scripture are unanimously in awe of the God about whom they are writing. And here the psalmist explains why: God alone does great wonders. “To him who by understanding made the heavens … to him who spread out the earth … the sun to rule over the day … the moon and stars to rule over the night” (Psalm 136:5-9). God is the God of creation.
…I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits (1 Corinthians 16:7). Even the best of desires may not be brought to fruition here on earth. Even our best kingdom visions may never be fulfilled. And even our best plans may never come to pass. Here even the apostle Paul himself admits that his plans are fallible and must therefore be flexible. “I have made my very best plans,” Paul says, “and am operating according to them to the best of my ability—but all the while in the recognition that my plans may not be God’s plans.”
I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting (1 Corinthians 9:15). What is the ground for Paul’s boasting? It is the “gospel of Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:12). The gospel of Christ is centered on Jesus Himself—His perfect humanity, His full deity, the salvation that He perfectly fashioned on the cross. When Paul glories in the gospel, he is glorying in the good news of Jesus Christ, not just of “salvation” as though separate from Christ.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20) When we open the door of communication with Jesus, Jesus himself describes this event as being like dinner with a dear friend. Do you come to your dinner table with a to-do list of things to cover in conversation? Are you nervous or hurried when you sit down to have dinner in your home with a dear friend?
You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15). Paul is intent on telling Christians something the Spirit of God does do, and something the Spirit emphatically does not do. Paul insists the Spirit of God does not bring a slavish fear but rather an affectionate crying out to God as our Father.
In several places in Scripture Paul gives us a list of the kinds of sins that characterize the unsaved, along with the admonition not to tolerate these sins in our own lives as professing believers (1 Corinthians 10:7-12; Ephesians 5:3-7; Colossians 3:5-9). It should be incredibly sobering to us if we are regularly participating in the exact same sins that have brought others under the wrath and judgment of God!
…it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 2:6-7). Put simply, there are two wisdoms, Paul says: human wisdom, and divine wisdom. They are not the same. They are not even similar. They are not coming to the same conclusions about God, life, priorities, joy, fulfillment, or meaning.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy (Matthew 5:7). Implicit in Jesus’ promise is this reality: the merciful recognize their own need for mercy. Otherwise, how could Jesus’ promise hold any weight? If I don’t need mercy, then what good is there in promising me mercy? But if I see my own need of mercy, then I will want to emulate any description of those who obtain mercy. The merciful recognize their own need for mercy.
I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me (1 Corinthians 15:9-10). Here we see one of several little windows from the New Testament into Paul’s very human struggles with his past. While he was completely resting in Christ’s work on the cross, dying for
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). In the middle of this famous chapter on spiritual gifts, Paul makes it clear that partaking of the Spirit of God is something that every Christian experiences. The physical baptism we experience in the church is a symbol of the spiritual baptism of every believer by the Spirit!
When Jesus knew that his hour had come… he loved them to the end (John 13:1). The gospels are not only filled with actions and with history—they are also filled with romance. The romance of Jesus’ love for his Church. We all want a passionate romance with the kind of person that will love you even when you wake up in the morning with bad breath or no makeup; even if you have an accident and become physically disfigured; even when you get old and forgetful; even when this person finds out how faulty and misfit you really are. This
Imagine you are about to move to a new area. Not just a new location, but a whole new part of the world—surrounded by a new culture and new faces, and without any familiar friends or contacts. Besides the personal, emotional challenges of such a move there would obviously be some significant spiritual challenges to anticipate. Whatever spiritual habits you have in place will be changed or challenged; the fellow Christians by whom you’ve been encouraged and to whom you’ve been accountable won’t be nearby to help you.
The apostle Peter writes to hurting and persecuted Christian believers, who have been “scattered” from their homes and familiar surroundings, and tells them to cast all their anxieties on God knowing that God cares for them (1 Peter 5:7). This is not some puff piece, or academic lecture, or thoughtless encouragement. Peter is communicating to real people, in real pain, and giving them real comfort. God cares about you!
Not long ago our church studied through the Ten Commandments together. In preparation for considering this formidable and famous piece of Old Testament law, it was helpful for me to consider, or reconsider, the goodness of God in all that he does, including giving us the law. More than just a list of do’s and don’ts, Jesus later summarizes all the law, including these “top ten,” in terms of love. So, we might well approach each commandment as an answer to this question first and foremost: how can I better love God and love my neighbor?
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13). God is faithful. What a wonderful reminder! God will never give up on what he has begun, he will never renege on any promise he has made. Because God will never give up, we ought to never give up. And yet God’s faithfulness, we are reminded in this very verse of Scripture,