The Folly of the Cross

1 Corinthians 118 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

1 Corinthians 1:18–25 (ESV)

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,

and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Understanding and Applying the Word

There really is no middle road when it comes to the gospel of Jesus Christ. A person will either laugh at the foolishness of the message. After all, how does a man come back from the dead? Or a person will see the glorious hand of God and the power of God working through the events of the cross to bring salvation to all who will believe.

The message of the gospel is Jesus Christ crucified. The perfect, sinless Son of God was hung on a cross until he died. He was buried in a tomb. And later, he rose from the dead alive again. That is the message and it is through these events that God is saving mankind. This is the message that Christians are called to proclaim and it is the only message that can give life to a dying world. Many will laugh and consider it nonsense, but for those who believe, their is forgiveness and eternal life.

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Doubting Thomas

John 2028 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 20:24–29 (ESV)

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Today’s reading is the origin of the phrase “doubting Thomas”. When the other disciples told Thomas that they had seen the resurrected Jesus, he did not rush to believe them. In fact, he did not believe and said he would not unless he saw Jesus with his own eyes. Eight days later, Thomas did see Jesus with his own eyes and cried out, “My Lord and my God!” Thomas not only knew that Jesus had risen, but knew fully what the implications of such a truth meant. Jesus was God in the flesh!

Who was Jesus? That is a question that many struggle to answer. However, when we accept the accounts of the Gospels as true, the question is quickly answered. Jesus is the Lord, just as he claimed to be. And if that is true, we have the answer to our biggest questions about life and its meaning.

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The Power of Changed Lives

1 Thessalonians 16 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

1 Thessalonians 1:6–10 (ESV)

6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Paul praised the Thessalonian believers because they had received the gospel message and turned away from their old lives of  idolatry to worship the one true God. The news of their conversion quickly spread to others so that Paul exclaimed, “we need not say anything.” People already knew of what had happened in Thessalonica when the gospel had been preached by Paul.

Our lives are a living testimony to the power of the gospel. Those who know us should see the difference it has made in us. We do not just preach a message of facts and information, but we have a message of life change. We proclaim that we can be free from sin and have new life through the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit. Do others know we have changed even before we speak? Let’s point others to the one true God through our words and also through the testimony of how those words have changed us.

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God Does Not Play Favorites

James 412 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Romans 2:1–11 (ESV)

1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.

Understanding and Applying the Word

God does not play favorites. All people will be judged equally and completely for all they have done. This means that no one should look down on another person in judgment. All of us are guilty as sinners and deserving of condemnation. None of us should feel superior to anyone else.

Paul spends a great deal of time throughout the letter of Romans explaining why salvation for every person is only possible by grace, not what we have earned. Our salvation is only possible because we have a sinless Savior who gave his life in exchange for ours. And because of what Jesus has done for us, our sins can be forgiven of we place our faith in him. This truth should not cause us to become puffed up and conceited, but should bring humility into our lives. The priority of the Christian is not to look down in judgment on others, but to point them to Jesus, the one who took our sin away and can take theirs away too.

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Now Is the Day of Salvation

2 Corinthians 521 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

2 Corinthians 5:16–6:2 (ESV)

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

1 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says,

“In a favorable time I listened to you,
and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”

Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Followers of Christ have been given the ministry of reconciliation (v. 18). This does not mean that we are able to bring someone into a right relationship with God based upon anything we have done. It does mean that we are given the message of salvation to tell to the world in order that others might hear it and be saved.

The Christian’s priority is to proclaim that reconciliation with God is possible because of what Jesus Christ has done for us. 2 Corinthians 5:21 summarizes exactly what Jesus did. Though he was righteous, he took our sin upon himself so that we might receive his righteousness. There was a great exchange at the cross. Jesus took our sin and, in return, we received his righteousness. This wonderful gift is available to all who will repent of their sins and call out to Christ for forgiveness. Do not delay. Today is the day of salvation!

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Are You Good Soil?

The Sower

The Sower (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Luke 8:4–8 (ESV)

4 And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 8 And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus described the different ways the word of God effects people. In the parable, Jesus used the imagery of a farmer planting planting seed and the different types of soil the seed would land in as it was scattered. The seed represented the word of God as it was spread and the different types of soil represented the different responses to it.

The key to properly understanding this parable is focusing on the end result of the seed in each type of soil. Only one soil, the “good soil”, produced a yield. All of the others failed for one reason or another. These words teach us that those who hear the word of God and truly receive it will produce a yield. There will be true evidence in their lives. What has been your response to the word of God in your life? Has it produced a bountiful crop in your life that is evident to all who know you? Praise God for a living and active word that is powerful to change us for his glory!

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A Chosen People

1 Peter 29 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

1 Peter 2:9–10 (ESV)

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Understanding and Applying the Word

All who belong to Jesus Christ have a responsibility in the world. We are to take the message of Jesus Christ to the world. We are a people set aside to proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light. We are God’s people. We are the ones who have received mercy and we have the good news that God stands ready to forgive all who will repent and trust in Jesus Christ.

Our Christian faith is not meant to remain a private experience. It is meant to be proclaimed to a lost and sinful world. This is how we heard the gospel message and this is how others will hear it. We must tell them. We have a great and merciful God. Let’s tell the whole world about him!

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The Need for Unity

Psalm 1331 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

1 Corinthians 1:10–17 (ESV)

10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Unity among Christians is so important. It is important if there is to be spiritual growth within the church. And it is important if the church is to have an effective ministry to a lost world. Unfortunately, division is a common reality in our churches and it happens for many reasons.

In Corinth, one of the reasons believers were divided was over leadership. This may seem strange, but if we think about it, we see that this is still common today. In Paul’s day, they were saying, “I follow Paul” or “I follow Apollos”, etc. In our day, it is not uncommon for Christians to brag about and think that their pastor or church is superior to others. “I go to this church” and “We have this many members.” Or, “My pastor is so and so” and “My pastor is popular and writes books.” This way of thinking is divisive and hurts the work of the Church. We should be united in our love for Christ, his people, and proclaiming his good news. Let us focus on those things that unite us.

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Not Ashamed of the Gospel

Romans 116–17 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Romans 1:16–17 (ESV)

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Paul was a missionary. His calling was to travel around the Roman Empire and proclaim that salvation was available to all people through Jesus Christ. As a result of his preaching, Paul faced much persecution. He was imprisoned, he was beaten, he was stoned and left for dead. Yet he continued to preach. Why?

Paul tells us why he continued in his ministry despite the many hardships. He was not ashamed of the gospel because it is God’s way of saving mankind. Those who hear the message of Jesus’ sacrificial death and have faith are forgiven and will be saved from God’s judgment.

As believers today, we have the same gospel message to take to the world. We must not be ashamed because it is still the means through which God is bringing all who will believe to salvation. Let us go boldly, as Paul did, into our communities and tell people of all that Jesus has done for us!

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God Is Love So We Must Love

1 John 48 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

1 John 4:19–21 (ESV)

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Understanding and Applying the Word

True love for God is accompanied by love for others. When we come into a right relationship with God, we are to grow in godliness. This means that we are to become more and more like our Lord. And God is love (1 John 4:8). It is incompatible to say that we love God, but refuse to be like him by loving others. Such an attitude and life only proves that we do not love the Lord nor do we know him.

As God’s people in this world, we are called to be his representatives. We are called to be like him so that others will know who he is and know what he is like. We are called to love others. God has shown his great love for all by sending his Son into the world to save us. We are called to be the ongoing presence of that love in the world today. Are you known for your love for others?

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