I Corinthians 13-14 | Sunday: The Corinthians were greatly blessed with spiritual gifts. However, they were using these gifts in a fleshly way rather than spiritual. They were using their gifts to show off and to inflate their egos. They thought their gifts were for themselves. However, Paul says that our gifts are for others. We are to use our gifts to love others and serve them, not to show off.
This is why Paul inserts the ‘love chapter’ (1 Corinthians 13) in the middle of this discussion.
In light of this, read these familiar words:
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” (13:1-2)
1 Corinthians 14 is Paul’s attempt to work out the principles of love that he just laid out in actual practice in the Corinthian church. “This is how you are to use these specific gifts for the building up of the body of Christ.”
D.A. Carson has done some careful scholarship on these chapters. You can listen to his lengthy explanation of 1 Corinthians 14:1-15, here and 14:26-40, here.
Exodus 5-8 | Monday: We see Moses obeying God and confronting Pharaoh. However, Pharaoh responds by making the slavery and service of the people of Israel worse. This no doubt made Moses look bad in the eyes of Israel:
“The foremen of the people of Israel saw that they were in trouble. . . . They met Moses and Aaron, who were waiting for them, as they came out from Pharaoh; and they said to them, ‘The Lord look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.’ (Exodus 5:19-21)
What is Moses’ response?
“Then Moses turned to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.” (5:22-23)
This is not hard to apply to our own lives. How often have we taken a step of obedience, perhaps even difficult obedience, and yet found that our circumstances actually grew worse as a direct result of our actions.
Moses is confused. Why are things getting worse? Why do I now stink in the eyes of the people I’ve been sent to deliver?
We must learn to trust God’s mysterious ways as we live our lives for Him.
This reminds us of the words of the great hymn by William Cowper called God Moves in a Mysterious Way:
- God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
- Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sov’reign will.
- Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
- Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
- His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.
- Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.
For an NAC sermon that overviews Exodus and the plagues, see here.
I Samuel 21-25 | Tuesday: 1 Samuel 21-22 is the background to David’s brief yet powerful words in Psalm 142.
For an NAC sermon that gives some of the background of 1 Samuel 21-22 and explains how David’s prayer in Psalm 142 is transformative for him, see here.
Psalms 42-44 | Wednesday: D.A. Carson writes this helpful meditation on Psalm 42:
“Millions of Christians have sung the words as a chorus. Millions more have meditated on them in their own quiet reading of Scripture: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God” (Ps. 42:1). It is a haunting image. One pictures the buck or the doe, descending through the forest’s perimeter in the half-light of dusk, to slake the thirst of a hot day in the cool waters of a crystal stream. When Christians have applied the image to themselves, they have conjured up a plethora of diverse personal circumstances: semi-mystical longings for a feeling of the transcendent, courageous God-centeredness that flies in the face of cultural opposition, a lonely longing for a sense of God’s presence when the heavens seem as bronze, a placid contentment with our own religious experience, and more.
But whatever the possible applications of this haunting image, the situation of the deer—and of the psalmist, too, as we shall see—is full of enormous stress. The deer is not sidling up to the stream for the regular supply of refreshment; it is panting for water. The metrical psalter adds the words, “when heated by the chase”; but there is no hint of that here, and the application the psalmist makes would fit less well than another possibility. The psalmist is thinking of a deer panting for refreshing streams of water during a season of drought and famine (as in Joel 1:20). In the same way, he is hungry for the Lord, famished for the presence of God, and in particular hungry to be back in Jerusalem enjoying temple worship, “leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng” (42:4). Instead, he finds himself “downcast” (42:5) because he is way up the Jordan Valley, somewhere near the heights of Hermon, in the far north of the country.
Here the psalmist must contend with foes who taunt him, not least regarding his faith. They sneer all day long, “Where is your God?” (42:10). The only thing that will satisfy the psalmist is not, finally, Jerusalem and the temple, but God himself. Wherever he finds himself, the psalmist can still declare, “By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life” (42:8). So he encourages himself with these reflections: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (42:11). Sing the chorus, repeat the ancient lines. And draw comfort when you are fighting the bleak bog of despair, and God seems far away.”
The first part of Psalm 43:4 says: “Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy,” John Piper comments on this verse with these words: “The final goal of life is not forgiveness or any of God’s good gifts. The final goal of life is God himself, experienced as your exceeding joy. Or very literally from the Hebrew, “God, the gladness of my rejoicing.” That is, God, who in all my rejoicing over all the good things that he had made, is himself, in all my rejoicing, the heart of my joy, the gladness of my joy. Every joy that does not have God as the central gladness of the joy is a hollow joy and in the end will burst like a bubble.
Isn’t this amazing! Here is man threatened by enemies and feeling danger from his adversaries, and yet he knows that the ultimate battle of his life is not the defeat of his enemies, it is not escaping natural catastrophe, it is not being healed from cancer. The ultimate battle is: Will God be his exceeding joy? Will God be the gladness at the heart of all his joys?
call believers to confidence because they summarize God’s eternal plan to rescue a people and empower them to “push down” all enemies who serve the Serpent (v. 5; Gen. 3:15). But it must be a humble confidence: the whole plan will be accomplished in such a way as to redound to the praise of the Lord’s “great might” through the “light” which came into darkness, and was the “delight” of his Father.
Job 29-30 | Thursday: Something to keep in mind as we read Job 29 are these words from Christopher Ash:
We too should long, as Job did, for the joy of intimate fellowship with our heavenly Father in Jesus and for the final joy of governing the cleansed and renewed creation in Christ. Such longings, experienced at best in this age, are the yearnings of Spirit-filled hearts. They will not be disappointed.
being trapped in the present tense…The hope of that comes from the memory of the past and hope for the future is removed and replaced by the prison of now. This is what it is to undergo redemptive suffering. The experience of Job only makes ultimate sense when it is understood as a foreshadowing of the redemptive suffering of Jesus Christ.
Jeremiah 12-16 | Friday: Jeremiah 12 and 15 both show us a wonderful model of pouring out our complaint before the Lord. Jeremiah is obeying Yahweh and yet finding himself broken hearted over the apparent lack of success of his ministry and the ‘success’ of the false prophets who prophesy lies.
Let us learn from Jeremiah how to process our emotions before the Lord.
To get a better grasp on false teachers and false teaching, read these words carefully from Jeremiah 14:
13 Then I said: “Ah, Lord God, behold, the prophets say to them, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.’” 14 And the Lordsaid to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds. 15 Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who prophesy in my name although I did not send them, and who say, ‘Sword and famine shall not come upon this land’: By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed. 16 And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem, victims of famine and sword, with none to bury them—them, their wives, their sons, and their daughters. For I will pour out their evil upon them.
Notice how the false teachers are telling people exactly what they want to hear. “You shall not see the sword” but rather you’ll experience “peace in this place.”
What does this tell us about false teachers today? Think about Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”
Mark 9-10 | Saturday: Paul Tripp provides some wisdom when he comments on Mark 9:14-29 with these words:
At the bottom of the mountain Jesus walks into an argument and when he asks what the argument is about, the father of the boy with the unclean spirit says, “I asked your disciples to cast out this spirit and they were not able.” Later in the passage Jesus tells us why; the disciples actually tried to deliver this poor little boy without praying. Let it sink in. They didn’t pray! You read it right, they didn’t pray! They tried to defeat the powerfully destructive evil that had taken over this boy in their own strength. Did they really think they the had that kind of independent power over evil? It’s shocking!
Jesus’ rebuke is brief, but stinging. He is essentially saying, “When will you realize that you have no independent, self-sufficient ability to defeat evil on your own; none whatsoever? This is exactly why you need the powerful grace and glory that was revealed on the mountain just a few hours ago.”
Now, don’t be too quick to condemn the disciples. I think there is a whole lot of prayerless Christianity in the church of Jesus Christ. I think we often try to defeat, in our own strength, things that we have no capacity whatsoever to defeat. We attempt to do, in our own power, things that we have no ability to do without empowering grace. A husband and wife will attempt a difficult conversation without prayer. A dad will attempt to have a constructive talk with his rebellious teenage son, but it never hits him that he should pray first. A student tries to matriculate his way through a secular university without prayer. When we face temptation we try to muster up the strength we need not to give in, instead of running in weakness to our gracious and powerful Savior.
You see, if you had the ability to defeat evil on your own, Jesus would wouldn’t have had to come to live and die for your sake. So, prayer remembers the lesson of his coming and calls you to abandon your reliance on you and rest in the power of the One who invaded your weakness with his grace. And it is important to remember that the evil which most often troubles and defeats you is not the evil outside of you, but the evil inside of you. If the evil inside is your biggest problem, then you need to pray for rescue again and again and again because you have no ability at all to escape you! The rebuke for prayerless self-reliance is one each of us needs again and again.
So, because we don’t always see evil as evil and because we try to defeat it again and again in our own strength, your Lord will come to you again and again with warning and rebuke. His gracious warning and rebuke are for your protection and your rescue. Anytime your Lord opens your eyes to see evil for what it is and anytime he exposes yourself sufficiency for what it is, he is wrapping arms of faithful redemptive love around you. Love warns, love rebukes. Each expresses the fatherly grace of your faithful and persistent Savior.”
A follower of Christ must search his heart regarding human beings who are ill-regarded in the prevailing ethic, racial, or social environment. The kingdom of God opposes such “profiling.” Every human being is made in the image of God and therefore has innate dignity, and thus ought not to be undervalued; and every Christian is still a fallen person and therefore ought not to overvalue himself.”