Saturday, July 7: Proverbs 4- Guard your heart.

      Wisdom and understanding continue to be Solomon's prime topics. Find them, keep them, do not stray from them is his repeated refrain.

Without mentioning his two prime topics, Solomon puts an exclamation mark on his words with verse 23:  Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Solomon is not talking about guarding our physical heart, but rather 'heart' refers to our inner person, the core and essence of who we are.  One lexicon says of the figurative meaning of heart, ""heart" became the richest Biblical term for the totality of man's inner or immaterial nature."

I am to guard who I am, my inner self, my real self because everything flows from it. To guard my heart in need is to wall it off from evil or bad influence.  Then I have to install in it good things, like wisdom and understanding.  Verses 24-27 give practical mechanisms to guard one's heart.

Mind your tongue… keep it from perversity and corrupt talk (24). Control your eyes, look ahead… don't gaze to the right or left. Don't gaze into the shadows were evil lurks (25). Monitor your path… beware traveling with the wrong crowds or into the wrong areas. Stay as they say, on the straight and narrow (26-27).

Following this advice will certainly guard our hearts and lives… practical thoughts for living as God would have us live.

Lord, this is easier considered than followed, even Solomon slipped on his own advice. Help me, Lord, for it takes more than will power to live faithfully before You. Help me… In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.


Friday, July 6: Proverbs 3- A person of love and faithfulness.

So many potential lines to ponder. Ah, the riches of Proverbs.

I found myself drawn to verse 3-4, so after completing the chapter I returned to those verses. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man (3-4).

Love and faithfulness seemed like words I should dig into a bit more deeply.

Love (Hebrew 'Hesed') is a most important OT word meaning "kindness," "mercy," "loyalty" or "steadfast love." Often used to describe an attribute of God, it becomes a key theological term for understanding the nature of God as presented in the OT, especially in relation to being faithful to covenants and true to His Word. In the verse at hand it is an attribute that should characterize ourselves as well. Thus we are bidden to be people of kindness, mercy, loyalty, and steadfast love. We should keep our word and be faithful to the ways of the Lord.

Faithfulness as a singular noun, denotes the qualities of "firmness," "faithfulness," and "truth." So our word should be solid and true. We are firm in our convictions, which in the grand scheme of the scripture, means firmness is living as the Lord would have his son or daughter live.

The proverb goes on to say that we must tie these character traits to our very being. We are to secure them to our lives so that they guide us in all we do.

Interestingly, if we live this way, not only will God honor us but people will as well. There is truth here, because people appreciate men and women of integrity, mercy, kindness and love!

So reflecting on my associations and relationships, am I a person of love and faithfulness? Can I be counted upon for kindness and mercy, love and truth? Am I firm in my convictions yet tempered by love?

Am I?

Are you?

Think about it… I am.

Oh God, to reflect You to my world is an honor and hard work. Forgive me when I fall short and help me grow in love and faithfulness. I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.


Thursday, July 5: Proverbs 2- Dedication, resolve, determination, and attention needed.

Proverbs continues to pound home the truth that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom.

Chapter 2 opens: My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding— indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God (1-5).

The challenge to us, as the son –the apprentice, the learner –is conveyed in the verbs used. Accept, store up, turn to, apply, call out, cry aloud, look for then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. The pressure is placed squarely upon us to seek after God's knowledge and understanding. We are to apply ourselves to the task of discerning and learning from the Lord.

The tenor and resolve embedded in these verbs tells me the task will not be simple or easy. It takes application and determination.

I have a son who just graduated from law school and is now studying for his Bar exam. For 6 or 7 weeks studying is his full time work. Eight or so hours a day he works, taking notes on lectures, completing practice exams and writing sample essays. In this span he will take off maybe 4 days. Dedication, resolve, determination, and attention is needed to pass the Bar.

So, too, should we apply ourselves to apprehend the knowledge and wisdom of the Lord. Unlike studying for the bar we cannot cram our learning into a few weeks… pursuit of God is a life long endeavor.

Will I give it my best? Will I give it my all? The Lord deserves nothing less…

Strengthen my spine and will power, Oh Lord, so that when I am tempted to slack off or quit, I don't give in. I pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.


Wednesday, July 4: Proverbs 1- The gift of Proverbs.

Proverbs opens with a statement of purpose.

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair (1-3)…

I pause to ponder this statement. What a gift the book of Proverbs is. If it can fulfill its purpose then it is a book everyone should read and devour!

My hope and prayer is that each day there will be one or more Proverbs that I can latch onto and grow with.

After the purpose statement, Solomon gives the heart of the Proverbs, verse 7. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Fearing God, says Solomon, is key to wise living.

So simple, and so profound.

Fear God… yes, recognize that God alone is great and awesome and I am not. I am no match for God. Should God choose to slay me, I am slain. Should God choose to crush me, I am crushed. I am defenseless before God.

Remembering this. Keeping a clear understanding of God's greatness and my smallness always in my mind, this is the beginning of knowledge. It is the beginning because now I have the correct footing and foundation from which to explore the world and learn the ways of the Lord.

Yes, the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge…

Lord, pound this truth home to me. Press it into every fiber of my being. I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.


Tuesday, July 3: 2Corinthians 13- Practical steps to deepen your faith.

Paul has a way of calling readers to deeper faith. Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you (11).

Rejoice… take time to recognize all the ways God is with you and has blessed you. The fact that we have breath in our lungs and know the love of the Savior is reason enough to rejoice!

Strive for full restoration… I am not sure what 'restoration' to which Paul is referring. But it seems plausible that Paul is calling us to strive for full maturity, full renewal in Jesus. The word 'strive' calls me to put my 'back into it,' to give my faith effort and will power, to work at it. I enjoy watching sports and the best athletes are always working and practicing and receiving coaching to become better. That's what I hear in the word 'strive' => work to grow in your faith. Give it effort!

Encourage one another… an interesting element of encouragement is that I often find myself encouraged. When I spur others on to love and good deeds, God seems to work in me to spur me on to love and good deeds as well. Giving myself away to others, God never fails to replenish me. 

Be of one mind, live at peace… focus on Jesus. He is our center and our hope and thinking upon Jesus we can all be of one mind; His mind. Live at peace; don't be a rabble-rouser; don't stir up trouble, instead be a calming influence on the people around you.

Do these things and God will be with you. Ahh, to know the presence of the Lord in the midst of life. This will certainly lead me to rejoice. And so I find myself back where I began… Rejoice!

Simple, practical, helpful is Your Word to me today. Now, Lord, help me to strive to live it. I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.


Monday, July 2: 2Corinthians 12- Messy lives.

Paul's description of the church of Corinth is not pretty, and that is being polite. The closing words of the chapter describe Paul's fears about what he might find when he goes to Corinth.

For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged (20-21).

My bolded words highlight what Paul fears he may find. Uuugh.

Still these people are the Church of God in Corinth. He opens the letter writing, Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God in Corinth, together with all his holy people throughout Achaia (2Corinthians 1:1).

My thoughts fly all over the place. On the one hand they, and we, are called to live better. We are called to be holy. On the other hand, we remain imperfect human beings. We in the church are not to lower our standards; what God calls sin remains sin. But it also seems that we need to keep calling back to the Lord those who name Christ as Lord yet fall into sin.

This is a difficult balancing act… holding holiness as the goal yet understanding that sin happens. However, redemption and forgiveness is always open.

Personally, I must continue to examine myself in the light of God's Word, confessing sin and seeking God's strength to gain victory over sin so that I might grow in maturity and holiness.

No easy task…

Lord God, I have much growth needed… MUCH. Help me, lead me, guide me. For Your sake and the advancement of the Gospel. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.


Saturday, June 30: 2Corinthians 11- Humbled.

Even though I have read this chapter over 40 times, I still sit here stunned and humbled by Paul's example of living all out for Jesus. His pursuit of and suffering for Jesus and the gospel shame me. My life and following of Jesus has been so easy compared to the road God had him traverse.

I know my road from the Lord has been different and to compare my journey with anyone else's, even more so someone of the stature of Paul, is wrong. Still I am humbled by Paul's steadfast determination and love for the Lord… that he would endure all this gladly for Jesus and keep pressing forward in service to Jesus.

…I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? (23b-29).

When I hear people preach that God wants all Christians to prosper, meaning all Christians should be healed of all diseases and earn comfortable wages and live in fine homes, I choke, wondering if they have read what Paul endured for his faith?

This last thought, however true it might be, is a rabbit trail away from my time with the Lord allowing me to avoid the questions God possess to me in the quietness of my inner being. Questions, which go like this… "Bill, would you give your all for Me like Paul did?" "Bill, would you accept suffering if that was My will for you?" "Bill, do you trust Me –really trust Me –with your life? "Bill, where is your passion to spread My name and fame across the earth?" Bill, show Me your life scars from battling with world to advance My gospel?" And so God's inquiry went…

Honestly, I didn't know if I could answer these questions. Like Job, I found myself speechless before the Lord. I am not worthy to be His disciple. Thankfully God's mercy and grace is far greater than my unworthiness…

Alleluia! Thank You, Oh Lord, for Your grace, mercy, love, forgiveness, redemption, care, gifts and presence. You alone are worthy. I praise You and bless You. Through Jesus, my Savior, I pray. Amen.


Friday, June 29: 2Corinthians 10- Standards.

My thoughts and meditations were drawn to ending thought in verse 2. I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world (2).

Paul's baseline is that we, Christ-followers, do not live by the standard of this world.

We are to live differently. We measure living, success, 'the good life,' by standards different than people who are not Christ followers.

But do I live by a different standard? This question plagues me. Do I? Do You live by a different standard, God's standard?

I find myself thinking through various aspects of my life… and I see as many standards similar to the world as I see distinctive standards? Have I capitulated?

My time with the Lord is filled with self-examination.

Lord, it is so easy to be sucked into living as the world lives. I am inundated by the world's thinking, values, examples, and there are times I cannot even tell where I have been infected? Over and over the OT people of God found themselves worshipping Baals… they slipped to the world's standards. Paul wrote this letter reminding the Corinthians that they had slipped down to the world's standards. Through them I am being reminded that I to slip to following the world's standards. Oh, God, forgive me and help me rise above to follow Your standards. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.


Thursday, June 28: 2Corinthians 9- Generosity.

Generosity is a theme word from today's chapter. What is generosity?

From the chapter's context generosity speaks of people who sacrificially give for the sake of people in need. People who do something about alleviating the need of another brother in Christ who is in need.

It seems to me that one cannot turn generosity into a formula… From verse 7 there are some guidelines for generosity. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. But these guidelines are far from a formula.

First guideline… generosity is individual… Each of you should give what you have decided…  Tied to this generosity is driven by the heart which according to a Greek lexicon refers to the 'inner person, the seat of understanding, knowledge, and will, and takes on as well the meaning conscience.'* Thus the hearts is the place of conscience, thought informed by faith…

Generosity is also an act of one's will, not guilted, forced or coerced, rather it grows from a heart that wants to do something and derives cheer or joy from being able to help.

Questions erupt within me:

--Is my giving characterized by generosity?

--Would God consider me a generous person?

--Am I willing to engage the need of others so that generosity might flower?

This are questions worth chewing on…

Lord, open me to true generosity. I pray in Jesus' name and for the sake of people in need and Your kingdom's expansion. Amen.


*Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament – Volume 2.


Wednesday, June 27: 2Corinthians 8- Intention and completion.

Paul's words about the offering raise the difference between intention and completion. And it is here that I found myself contemplating. The issue is highlighted in verses 10-11. And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.

Paul's third sentence reverberates within me. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.

How often I intend to do some good thing… write a letter, make a call, give a gift, but then life gets in the way. For me it is not so much that I change my mind –sometimes maybe -rather I am thinking about the times I just don't get around to doing whatever I have said or thought I should do. I get busy with other things and forget to make the phone call. If I remember it will be hours or days later and the 'moment' for action has passed.

I could lay out similar scenarios for other intentions that never were completed.

I look back at Paul's words. Now finish the work… do what you said you would do! And if that word isn't enough, he continues: so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.

Willingness… matched by your completion of it. Ouch, that one stings.

Somehow my mind connects this passage with Old Testament concepts of vows. I realize an intention isn't necessarily the same as a vow, but they have a similar ilk. And the Lord speaks strongly about keeping one's vows to Him. Similar principle. Keep your word. Do what you said or intended to do.

It is the keeping of one's vow, the completion of one's intention that brings the blessing to self, others or both.

Think about it…

Lord, if I long to be a man of my word and a man after Your own heart then I need to finish the work and follow through on the Spirit promptings and God-honoring intentions that come to me. Lord, keep speaking and leading, also please provide me with the spirit-empowered strength to follow though. In Jesus' name. Amen


Tuesday, June 26: 2Corinthians 7- Perfecting holiness.

Right out of the block, I knew the verse I was to linger upon after reading the chapter. Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God (1, bold mine).

I carry the responsibility for my life… I can choose to purify my life or to contaminate it. Me, the responsibility lies with me.

God, the Holy Spirit, lives in me, a gift of the Father and Son at the moment of my new birth in Jesus. In my merely human strength I could never choose to purify myself, but with the presence and power of the Spirit, I can draw upon God in and with me to give me the strength to purify myself.

The question is, do I have the want to do this? God is a gentleman. God will not force His will upon us humans. God will not even force His will on His followers. God invites us, woos us, charges us… and waits. Waits for us to acknowledge Him and desire to draw into Him.

So Paul entreats the Corinthians, and through his letter he entreats us, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

In the stillness, I ask God to go with me as I examine my life… and purge contaminants wherever they are found… in my thoughts, desires, hurts, fears, finances, relationships, appetites of food, drink, sex, and so on.

Holy Spirit, strengthen me for this task, a life-long task, because like weeds in a garden, contaminants continually pop up in my life. I pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.


Monday, June 25: 2Corinthians 6- Don't be yoked together.

What does God mean? Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? (14).

What does it mean to be yoked to another person? Marriage is certainly a possibility. Business partnerships, certainly possible. Friendships? Clubs and guilds? Temples and pagan worship activities?

Whatever being 'yoked together' means it does not mean general connection or interaction. Paul (and the Spirit) are quite clear about this in 1Corinthians 5:9-11 (NIV2011): I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. So it is certain that being 'yoked together' is not general association or friendship. We are, after all, supposed to be ambassadors for Christ, drawing people to the Savior.

So back to the first question, what does it mean?

Being 'yoked together' must mean some kind of a connection that binds us spiritually together in some way. Being a part of a guild where pagan practices are indulged in would certainly count. And marriage could be a possibility as well.

The question I hear in my spirit goes like this. "Bill, are you spiritually connected to anyone or thing who does not belong to the Lord?"

How about you?

Lord, search me… In Jesus' name I pray. Amen


Saturday, June 23: 2Corinthians 5- Appointed ambassador.

This chapter is a feast of meditative inspiration. Lord, where would you have me pause and ponder?

We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (20-21).

An ambassador is appointed by the head of state to represent her/him in dealing with the people to whom the ambassador is sent. The ambassador's voice in not his/her own, rather the ambassador is to speak as the regent would have them speak.

In the USA's political system senators and representatives are elected by the people to vote their (the elected official's) conscience. Not so an ambassador. An ambassador does not speak his/her mind, but rather is a mouthpiece for the regent.

We are Christ's ambassadors, therefore we represent Him. The words we speak should be His words. Our actions should be His actions. It is as if looking through us, people see Christ. As Paul says, it is as though God were making his appeal through us. What a responsibility! Christ is making His appeal to the world to believe in Him through us!!!

Thursday's poem, pops back into my mind… 'Tis the only gospel some men will read, This gospel according to you.

Today, as I go about my life, I am representing Christ. Today as I live, I am an ambassador for Jesus. And the same is true tomorrow and the next day and the next… This is a 24/7/365, for the rest of my life, responsibility… for all of us who call Jesus Lord.

Oh, Lord, only in Your power can I do this. Only by staying close to You can I know what to say and how to act so that You are seen and heard in me. Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, help me. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.


Friday, June 22: 2Corinthians 4- Earthen vessels.

Years ago when I was married, my wife and I chose an earthenware pattern for our dishes. They were nice, but over not too many years they began to chip and break. Earthenware can be fragile. And that is Paul's point in verse 4. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

I have read this chapter and these words yearly since 1975 but recently they took on a more visceral and literal meaning.

I have been blessed with a healthy body. Then about 2 months ago there was an indication that I had an issue and a month ago tomorrow I had surgery to remove cancer in my prostate. Now I am recuperating. It is taking weeks for my body to heal. I am very fortunate that the cancer was removed and I should be fine going forward. But I still need to heal from the surgery. And presently I am limited in what I can do. My body tires quickly.

My 'earthen vessel' is breakable.

These post-surgery days of recovery are reinforcing how fragile life can be. Am I making the most of the life I have been given? Am I regularly and continually thankful to the Lord for the vim and vigor I have. Were it not for God's all-surpassing power and His gift of grace and mercy, I might have no breath at all.

It is so easy to fall prey to thinking that my life and health is all about my effort. And while it is important for me (us) to take care of ourselves and our bodies, God has the ultimate say. God alone grants life and God calls us home.

Paul goes on to write, So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (18). Paul's not so subtle reminder is that we are to constantly (hence fix our eyes) be looking to our God –Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit –and not concentrate solely on the things of this world, which like us, are temporary.

Lord God, I thank You for my health and for this body and life you have given me. Lord, I want to take care of it as a way to honor You. Even more, I pray Lord, that I might use this earthen vessel, as dinged up and cracked as it may be, to point people to Your glory. I pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.


Thursday, June 21: 2Corinthians 3- The gospel according to YOU.

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone (1-2).

Immediately as I began reading the idea of being someone's letter of commendation grabbed hold of me. And I was reminded of a poem I ran across years ago.

You are writing a gospel, a chapter each day.

By deeds that you do, by words that you say

Men read what you write, whether faithless or true.

Say, What is this gospel according to you?


Men read and admire the Gospel of Christ.

With its love so unfailing and true:

But what do they say, and what do they think

Of the gospel according to you?


Tis a wonderful story, that Gospel of love,

As it shines in the Christ-life divine,

And oh, that its truth might be told again

In the story of your life and mine!


You are writing each day a letter to men;

Take care that your writing is true.

'Tis the only gospel some men will read,

This gospel according to you.

The poem caused me to consider how well my life mirrored the true gospel of Jesus Christ

Lord, may my life point people to You. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen


Wednesday, June 20: 2Corinthians 2- Aroma of Christ.

Smell, we are told, is the fastest sense to recall memory. This thought about the fast access scent has to memory came to mind as I read Paul's admonition that we are the aroma of Christ in verses 14-15. But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ's triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing (14-15).

God... uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere… The aroma of Christ, what an interesting word picture. Growing up my mom was a great cook; when I would come in from playing the house was filled with the aroma of whatever she was cooking that day. Simply walking in the house I was engulfed by the smells of dinner cooking. It filled every nook and cranny of the house, and was delightful. Those are wonderful memories.

I have experienced a similar delight walking into the church sanctuary on Easter when multitudes of beautiful and aromatic flowers adorn the sanctuary.

A pleasant aroma delights and lifts life.

We are to be the aroma of Christ filling the world with His aroma! What an interesting thought. As I live, I am to fill the world around me with Jesus' aroma.

The word 'aroma' leaves me with thoughts of pleasant smells. What can I do, how can I live so that the pleasant smells of Jesus wafts in my wake?

I loved coming home to my house filled with the aroma of dinner. I love entering the church sanctuary filled with the aroma of flowers on Easter. How can I live so that people long to enter and enjoy the pleasantness of Jesus aroma experienced though my faithful living?

Lord, may I live so faithfully to You that people see and meet Jesus in my living. I pray this in His name. Amen.


Tuesday, June 19: 2Corinthians 1- Learning to surrender.

Life for the follower of Jesus is not always one of joy and delight. Every human, both in Christ and out of Christ endure difficult times. And sometimes Christ followers endure difficult times because of their faith in Jesus. God is with us and for us in every situation.

Paul's words struck me: We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many (8-11).

First the extent of the pressure Paul felt so that he despaired of life itself hit me. Paul realized there are no guarantees. God may come through with deliverance and God may not. Seriously, if he knew God would deliver him, why despair?!

Paul was beyond his ability to change his circumstances, far beyond our ability to endure, or even his human ability to endure. So apparently he released control to God. God was the keeper of his life and outcome.

To release or relinquish control to the Lord is never easy for me. I doubt it came naturally to Paul either. But he had learned to cede control to his Lord.

One measure of a disciple is that we all learn to cede control to the Lord and trust Him with our lives.

It also stuck me that Paul didn't go it alone, he turned to the body for their prayers. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

This statement is not a prescription for some 'magic elixir' that makes everything always turn out wonderfully. Again, there are no guarantees, but being surrounded by and carried by the prayers of the faithful is a beautiful thing.

On countless mission trips I have known the sustaining power of the prayers of God's people. During my present surgery recovery I know the sustaining power of the prayers of God's people. I wish things always turned out as I hoped and dreamed… but God's will is not always what I hope and will. And that is a truth I must master if I am truly to learn how to give over my will to His will and surrender my life to my God.

Lord… continue teaching me and continue leading me to deeper trust and surrender to You and Your will. I pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.


Monday, June 18: 1Corinthians 16- Do everything in love. .

It was only a few days ago I read the wonderful "love" chapter. I remember it was a rich and full morning contemplating the importance of love. I think my heart is still primed by those contemplations. So today, as I read Paul's closing words to his letter, verse 14 burrowed directly into me. Do everything in love.

How important is love? The most. Do everything in love.

Not some things or most things but do everything in love. This is an all-encompassing directive.

Greet your neighbor in love.

Do your grocery shopping in love.

Speak with your boss/coworker/subordinate in love. And remember this stands when you are angry, tired, happy or perplexed. No matter how you are feeling speak in love.

Fire someone in love; discipline in love. "Everything" is endless. It includes the things I like to do and the things I loathe to do.

Do everything in love.

I am wondering where life will take me today and all my todays. Everywhere life takes me is a place to love.

Lord, I know I cannot do this on my own. I can only do this in Your strength. Thank You for living inside of me. Help me to listen and obey as You lead me in doing everything in love. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.



Saturday, June 16: 1Corinthians 15- Resurrection.

Resurrection is central to the faith. Paul makes and incredible statement in verse 19. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. If there is no resurrection, Paul says we are the ones who should be pitied.

Pitied… yes. If there is no resurrection we have lived a lie, preached a lie, and witnessed to a lie.

Resurrection sets things straight. Those in Christ live with God forever. God's justice prevails. Evil is finally and decisively defeated.

Most people live life without thinking much about death and afterlife. We live as if this life is the only life. Most do this, that is, until they near the end of life. I have seen it dozens of times, faced with one's mortality our questions change. We wonder and think, is there more???

Not long ago I stood at the graveside of a dear Christ follower. Her family hung to her faith believing, they as believers, will see her again in eternity. And they will! If I am wrong, if she and her family are wrong than If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But don't pity me… because Christ was raised from the dead! And I, along with all who put their faith in Jesus Christ, will be raised, too!

Halleluiah. Amen! Thank You, Lord. What a delight to contemplate resurrection! Amen and amen.


Friday, June 15: 1Corinthians 14- It is not about me (you).

Some mornings I find myself pondering specifics from in my Bible reading.  Other mornings I find myself considering more about the whole statement. Today is a latter morning.

There is much in this chapter that can be parsed and dissected. Still after completing my reading and a few silent moments I noticed two larger themes.

As I see it we, Christ-followers, have a seminal decision to make. We can seek the 'show,' displays of power and spiritual gifts that while potentially helping others is more about elevating self , showing off or gaining honor as a 'spiritual person.' In this chapter this attitude is found in people who speak on and on in tongues in worship, having their euphoric moment and appearing to all the others as spiritual, but not actually spurring others on to love and good deeds (1-14). In this chapter this attitude is found in people who speak prophetic words, ignoring that the Spirit has moved on from them to others who have God's anointing to help the body (29-31). Even the issue of women speaking and asking questions can be understood in this light. While I do not understand the cultural ethic at play, the point seems to be that these women were disrupting things, creating a display or show and not actually helping the body grow in understanding God's way and will.

To each of these behaviors that place personal displays above the body, learning and growing or new people coming to faith, Paul counters with 'consider the body' and 'consider the seeker.' The underlying principle in this chapter seems to be the body gathered together is more important that any personal recognition. The learning and growth of the body is more important than any personal recognition or display of gifts. Seekers being convicted of sin and coming to faith is more important than personal wants or displays of spirituality. Finally, life in the body of Christ has each member doing her or his part rather than a few showing off.

Recalling the flow of chapters 12-14 a consistency appears. Chapter 12, gifts given for the common good (12:7), and all parts of the body are important (12:12-31). Chapter 13:4-8, the way of love  patient, kind. not envious, not boastful, not proud does not dishonor others, and so on. 

And today's chapter, see the other people in the gathered assembly, live for the others in the gathered assembly…

Moving to my life, the Spirit begins to query, "How much of the gathered assembly, Bill, do you want to be about you? Focus your eyes on those I bring to the gathering and help them grow. Use what I have given you for their good, not your pleasure."

I am stopped in my tracks…

Oh God, Oh God, may I never do things for show or personal gain, especially things in Your name. I pray through my Savior, Jesus. Amen.


Thursday, June 14: 1Corinthians 13- LOVE.

Love… just seeing the chapter designation primes my thinking. Possibly the greatest definition of love ever put on paper. And while I was primed to consider love as I set my eyes to the page, I was taken back by the statements of the opening paragraph.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing (1-3).

It is not simply the definition of love that is so powerful; it is also the place of love in the world's economy.

More important than any eloquence, more important than the deepest understanding, more important than the deepest faith or than the highest sacrifice to give ones' life for someone else, is that these great deeds be done with love.

I let these thoughts soak in. 

Love is the paramount action, bar none! Love is the definition of a life well lived. I looked back now at the definition of love given by Paul… and soaked in it…

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (4-7).

Oh, God… to be Your disciple is to be a person formed by and for love. Lord, when my life draws to a close and I am ushered into Your eternity… may it be said of me, 'He loved.'

God lead me to be such a man, I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.


Wednesday, June 13: 1Corinthians 12- .

Being part of a body… it is a life giving concept. I am needed. I am necessary. The church is not a one person or few persons' show. The church is everybody, doing what they have been gifted by God to do. And every part is important, every part is needed… every part.

God is making a huge statement in this chapter. His design is that everyone is critical to the mission of being the body of Christ… everyone.

Now comes the personal questions. Am I filling the roles I was designed to fill? Are you who is reading this?

As a pastor I can be tempted to answer yes too quickly. Yes, I am fulfilling certain pastoral functions, but what I need to query is, are there other gifts/functions/ways the Lord wants me active in the life of His church? This is a question we all need to be answering. Am I doing all God would have me do in His body?

Lord God, show me the things You have for me to do in Your church. Help me to be the best body parts I can be for Your glory and the success of the church's mission to take the name of Jesus to the ends of the earth. Through Christ I pray. Amen.


Tuesday, June 12: 1Corinthians 11- No dividing peoples.


I find it interesting that in the same chapter where Paul upholds the custom of head coverings for women in worship, Paul upends the custom of wealth having privilege over poor. I am struggling to make sense of this; when is human custom honored and when is it not?

As I sit and consider, one large lesson seems to emerge. Does the custom put a certain group down, thus creating some kind of a divide… one better than the other?

While some may see the head covering issue dividing people, it did not set up two classes of humans, one more important and one less important. Instead the head covering issue is about how women can fully take part in church gatherings by praying and prophesying. In the ancient culture where women were second class humans, inviting women to pray and prophesy in mixed gatherings of men and women was so incredibly counter-cultural. I suspect that wearing the head covering was a non-issue for women; the fact that they were able to fully participate in the gathering even by filling speaking roles was enormously honoring. As such, this teaching may have been a pretty significant blow to the "men's club" of the day.

In the communion paragraphs Paul directly takes on the rich and their arrogance against the poor. I agree with Gordon Fee's interpretation that 'discerning the body of Christ" in verse 29 refers to paying attention to the community of faith gathered at the table rather than the elements of bread and cup on the table.* Given the whole of the Lord's Supper discussion, Paul is correcting the church who are playing favorites, which is belittling those who are poor. Paul, directed by God's inspiration, will have none of this. Favoritism and putting down the poor is a topic God corrects throughout the scripture, Old and New Testaments.

We are all one in Christ; old-young, rich-poor, male-female, Jew-Gentile. We should not make distinctions in the church.

So today God is pounding me… no favoritism, no distinctions, treat all people equally. This thought does not come naturally to me. I certainly have blind spots and weaknesses. There are times I have to battle racial reactions and thoughts. Another concern for me can be in the education area, I have to beware judging based on education level, which I notice in speech patterns.

Oh, Lord God, I still have so much grow and maturity to go. I need Your strength to gain victory in these natural, human reactions I have. Help me, Lord, to set down my sin-tainted humanity and pick up the Holy Spirit empowered life. I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.


*Gordon Fee discusses this in his NIV Commentary on 1Corinthians and in other places.



Monday, June 11: 1Corinthians 10- An interesting list.

There is so much in this chapter… likely it warrants many readings and much thought. For this sitting I was attracted to the 'do not' warnings in the second paragraph (7).

·         Do not be idolaters.

·         Don't commit sexual immorality (8).

·         Do not test Christ (9).

·         Don't be grumblers (10).

This is an interesting list to consider. Of all the 'do nots' possible for Paul to choose from, these are his list for now. Wow, the Holy Spirit is addressing some interesting behaviors.

No idolatry… don't put anything, any practice, any wrong thinking before God and His correct thinking. That's one all-encompassing command. All God, all the time… no time wasted on other ways, truths, belief structures and the like.

No sexual immorality… we are sexual beings and God is clear: one man and one woman, that's it. Any behavior outside of that is not God's way. Watch yourself; their culture and our culture pushes a different ethic. Don't fall prey.

No testing of Christ… where did this come from? What's going on and what does this mean to me? I am not sure at this time what God is saying to me…

No grumbling… this is an interesting inclusion in the list. As I ponder this one I realize that grumblers tear down and dishearten. Grumbling destroys unity, undermining trust and connection. Generally we grumble against someone, hence the destruction of trust and connection.

There is LOTS to chew on…. So I conclude with Paul's summary comment. Verse 13:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Lord God, help me to take Your admonition to heart. Please, Lord, help me. Through Christ I pray. Amen.