Joshua 4, Jeremiah 29, 2 Corinthians 11

Read Joshua 4, Jeremiah 29, and 2 Corinthians 11.

This devotional is about 2 Corinthians 11.

Yesterday, as we read chapter 10, we saw how concerned Paul was about having to confront somebody within the church at Corinth. Judging from what Paul wrote at the end of chapter 10 and here in chapter 11, the person or people he was concerned about were heavy self-promotors (10:12, 18; 11:5, 21). In today’s reading, Paul was quite emotional about how effectively these people had ingratiated themselves with the church and, it seems, how they had marginalized Paul and his ministry (v. 12). While he was concerned about these personality conflicts, he was more concerned about the false doctrine these “personalities” were bringing (v. 4, 13). This chapter is one of several in Paul’s letters where he reviewed his personal history as a servant of Christ (vv. 21-33). Not only did he suffer much for the gospel throughout his ministry, he also suffered much for the benefit of the Corinthians directly (vv. 7-12). Yet the Corinthians seemed unmoved by how much Paul had done for them and had sacrificed for the Lord. To them, Paul was an inferior speaker (v. 6) and others were deserving of equal status and respect to him (vv. 12, 19-20).

What Paul was saying in this chapter extends into chapter 12 as well, so we’ll see more on Monday when we read that. But the problem he addressed in this chapter continues today. It’s the myth of the greener grass, the idea that what I’m getting now isn’t as good as what I could get from others. I’ve seen this repeatedly in my adult life and in the ministry. Dr. So-and-so from out of town is a great speaker, a godly man, someone whose opinion isn’t inspired and infallible, but almost…. Meanwhile, faithful elders, patient pastors, good bosses, giving spouses, or others are taken for granted. This isn’t to say that Dr. So-and-so isn’t everything they claim him to be. He may be a godly man and a great servant of Christ or he may be a false teacher who is really persuasive (v. 4). The point is that people by nature get used to what they have and become bedazzled by the new thing, the author they just learned about, the new church in town, or the girl that caught their eye today. New things are exciting because they are new but the newness wears off eventually. Do we recognize and appreciate the good things in our lives that have been there a long time, consistently serving us well?

The church in Corinth was started by Paul at great personal cost (verses 7-9, Acts 18:1-11). He was willing to do hard things to purify the church for the glory of Christ (v. 2) and was tormented with concern for them even when he was doing God’s work in other cities (vv. 28-29). Yet the church never seemed to appreciate him very much and constantly, negatively compared him to others. There is probably some realm in your life or some point in your past where you did something similar-took for granted someone who was faithfully and deeply devoted to you and negatively compared them to someone who hadn’t done anything for you except, maybe, collect your money when they sold you a book or a seminar. I’m guilty of this as well and–just in case you are wondering-I’m not talking about myself here. This passage just reminded me of something I’ve seen more than a few times in my life. Whether we recognize it or not, all of us have benefited from others who served us consistently and without complaint. Let’s be careful to appreciate and be thankful to the Lord for them instead of being quick to point out their flaws when compared to others. Whether your realize it or not, you probably have it better than you think so be thankful for the contribution other people have made to your life for God’s glory.

Numbers 24, Isaiah 47, 1 Thessalonians 2

Read Numbers 24, Isaiah 47, and 1 Thessalonians 2.

This devotional is about 1 Thessalonians 2.

The Bible describes us Christians as “sheep” and he has provided shepherds to give us the spiritual guidance and leadership we need.

Some men are attracted to ministry, however, because they like the power over people’s lives that being a pastor or elder brings. Power is important and necessary for leadership, but some men use that power to abuse the people who are under their authority.

Here in 1 Thessalonians 2 Paul continued describing his ministry and relationship with the Thessalonians. After reminding them about their salvation in chapter 1, here in chapter 2 he reminds them of what he was like when he served among them. Paul and his team were not manipulative (vv. 3-4), they did not “butter them up” with flattery in order to extract money from the Thessalonians (v. 5) and they did not serve for the praise of men (v. 6).

Instead, Paul reminded the Thessalonian believers that he and Silas were innocent like children (v. 7a) and cared for them like a nursing mother cares for her child (v. 8). This kind of loving tenderness is the example to follow for any of us who serve the Lord in leadership. As a parent, an AWANA leader or teacher in one of our other children’s ministries, small group leader, or as an elder in our church, what goes through your mind when you think about serving his people in our congregation? Are you looking for their respect? Do you want them to fear you or love you?

In other words, is your service about you or is it about them?

Let this passage cause you to examine your motives about how and why you do ministry, then ask the Lord for the kind of nurturing heart toward the people you’re serving that a mother has toward her nursing infant.

Numbers 7, Isaiah 32, Galatians 1

Read Numbers 7, Isaiah 32, and Galatians 1.

This devotional is about Numbers 7.

Numbers 7:2 says that the leaders of each tribe of Israel made offerings to the Lord to be used by the Levities and priest in their Tabernacle ministry. Those offerings were, according to verse 3: “…six covered carts and twelve oxen—an ox from each leader and a cart from every two. These they presented before the tabernacle.”

The oxen in this gift were not given to be slaughtered for sacrifices; they were to pull the carts that were also part of this gift. This kind of utilitarian offering was not commanded by God, so Moses might have been uncertain if it was even appropriate to receive them as offerings. God spoke up, however, in verses 4-5: “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Accept these from them, that they may be used in the work at the tent of meeting. Give them to the Levites as each man’s work requires.’”

Te oxen and carts were useful and, therefore, a legitimate gift to the Lord for his work. Not every Levite needed them which is why the Lord said, “Give them to the Levites as each man’s work requires” (v. 5). Nevertheless, they were helpful to some of the Levites and, therefore, they were a thoughtful gift for the Lord’s work.

This is a reminder that people who serve the Lord in full-time ministry—pastors, church-planters, foreign missionaries, college and seminary professors, and others—need tools. Tools are an essential part of doing our work well for the Lord. I was away from my office when I wrote this devotional, but I was able to write it on a Macbook that our church purchased for me. I’m grateful that we have money in our budget for good tools; otherwise, the only productive time I would have would be time spent in my office.

I am involved in a few ministries outside of our church. My role is small and usually consists of me just giving advice. One of these ministries is frugal and spends money carefully and wisely. In terms of raw dollars, not a lot is spent of staff salaries or ministry expenses but in terms of percentages, a fair amount goes to those things. It would be an error, however, to think that the money spent on salaries and expenses is wasted. The people who receive pay offer valuable advice, guidance, leadership, and teaching. Without them, there would be no ministry, so paying them for their work and providing them with the tools they need is money well spent for God’s work, even if it is not directly spent on the ministry’s core tasks. It is something to keep in mind when you choose which ministries to support and how that support is spent.

The men in this passage gave something they made to God’s work. As a ministry leader, I would honestly rather people gave money to the church so that we can decide whether to buy a certain kind of tool or what kind of tool we think will be most useful. But occasionally people buy stuff and donate it to the church. We’ve had people donate computers, projectors, couches and other kinds of furniture, and many other kinds of tools or materials that I can’t think of at the moment. Gifts like these–especially if they are things we actually need and will use (which is not always the case with donated stuff)–are a blessing to God’s work.

If you tithe faithfully to this church, thank you! Your obedience and generosity makes our ministries possible. If you are tithing but also have skills you can use here or see needs for physical things that you’d like to donate to the church, let this passage encourage you to contribute to God’s work in those ways.

Leviticus 21, Isaiah 17-18, Acts 6

Read Leviticus 21, Isaiah 17-18, and Acts 6 today.

This devotional is about Acts 6.

A couple of things are important to keep in mind as we read these chapters describing the first church in Jerusalem.

  • First, remember that all of the twelve disciples, except for Judas, were from Galilee, the northern part of Israel.
  • Second, most of Jesus other disciples before his crucifixion were Galileans, too. 
  • Third, Jesus death, burial, resurrection, and the coming of the Holy Spirit in power in Acts 2 happened in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is in Judea, the Southern part of  Israel. Jesus had told the disciples to stay there in Jerusalem until the Spirit’s power descended on them (see Acts 1:4).

After the Spirit came on the disciples in power, people began to trust Christ in large numbers (see Acts 2:41, 47; 4:4). Many of those who became believers lived in Jerusalem and the early church met in their homes (see Acts 2:42). But many of them lived outside of Jerusalem, a long way from Jerusalem, like the twelve disciples of Jesus did. These new believers, though, wanted to stay in Jerusalem and experience what God was doing in the church. So there are some new believers in the Jerusalem church who lived in Jerusalem and made their living in Jerusalem but many others who did not live in Jerusalem and, therefore, had no income for as long as they remained in Jerusalem.

These facts explain the need for so much sharing of homes, food, and money in the early church in Jerusalem. The church was not communistic or socialistic by nature; instead, many believers had no means of support while they stayed in Jerusalem. But they wanted to stay there and experience what God was doing, so, their brothers and sisters who had financial means generously shared with those who did not.

Here in Acts 6, then, we see that there were problems–gaps, even–in how people were being cared for in the early church. According to verse 1, there was some discrimination–intentional or not–regarding how people with needs were supported and cared for. In verse 2, the twelve disciples gathered to discuss how to address this problem. It was a true dilemma because the needs of the people were legitimate and important; however, enough needed to happen logistically that some or all of the apostles could have had their time consumed by making sure all the needs were met.

The answer the twelve came up with was to distribute responsibility to other people (vv. 3-4). This was to allow the twelve to give their full attention to “prayer and the ministry of the word” (v. 4). Although the task given to these men did not require any particular spiritual gifting or skill, the disciples felt it was important to give the task to godly men (v. 3). Although this passage does not directly say it, many people (me included) think that this paragraph is how the office of deacon began in the church.

The men who were chosen for this ministry were “known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom” (v. 3). Yet they did not consider this task to be beneath them. In keeping with their reputations for godliness, these men had hearts of a servant. So, they took on willingly the responsibility they were chosen for.

When you are asked to serve somewhere in the church, do you see it as a chance to serve the Lord or as a burden to bear? It is true that some people can be overburdened if they take on too many ministries, but it is also true that many people are unwilling to serve when asked. It is a blessing to serve the Lord and, as believers, we should be honored to serve him by serving his church when we are given the opportunity.

Leviticus 11-12, Isaiah 7, Luke 24

Read Leviticus 11-12, Isaiah 7, and Luke 24.

This devotional is about Luke 24.

Remember those women in Luke 8:2-3 that Luke said traveled with Jesus and the disciples? Luke named a few of them: “Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others” (v. 2b-3a). He had told us that they “were helping to support them out of their own means” (v. 3b).

That passage in Luke 8 is the only insight we are given in the Gospels–at least, that I can think of–about the financial support of Jesus ministry. Think about 13 men traveling to different villages, towns, and cities. Where did they sleep? Where did they get their meals in an age before restaurants? These women provided them the money they needed to buy food; they probably also prepared food when needed, found places for everyone to sleep at night, brought Jesus and the disciples water during the day. Maybe they helped mend clothes and wash them, too, but it seems clear that they volunteered to help Jesus and his disciples in whatever way was needed.

Here in Luke 24 these women emerge from the shadows again (v. 1, 10). The passage says they came “very early in the morning” (v. 1) to the tomb where Jesus’ body had been buried. My guess is that they figured this would be the last of their unheralded acts of service on behalf of Jesus. When Jesus’ burial was complete, they might have stayed for a few days to mourn his death and remember his life, then they would return to Galilee and re-enter daily life.

Instead of doing the sad, unpleasant, and difficult work of embalming Jesus’ body, the women were surprised to hear the message that Jesus was risen from the dead (vv. 3-7, 10)! The angels that reported this news to them said to them in verse 6, “Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” That happened back in Luke 9:22. It was just after Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Messiah. One of the benefits of being on Jesus’ support team was that they could listen to him teach as they served or during the moments when there was nothing immediate to do. Verse 8 here in Luke 24 says, “Then they remembered his words” which tells us that they were in the audience when Peter declared Jesus to be the Messiah so they heard Jesus predict his death and resurrection. Now God had chosen them to be the first people learn of Christ’s resurrection.

Although it isn’t the point of this passage, this story suggests a truth that may encourage you today which is that some of the greatest blessings of following Jesus occur when we are doing the difficult, unpleasant, unnoticed work of serving him. If you are discouraged because you feel like your life and or your ministry in the church is often overlooked, unnoticed, unappreciated, think of these women. You may be tempted to think that your life doesn’t matter much, but God sees. He knows what your love for Christ leads you to do for him even if nobody else ever knows.

And, God may just surprise you one day with an unexpected blessing; it won’t be anything as big as an angel informing you that Jesus has risen from the dead, but it will be a blessing nonetheless. So don’t be discouraged or give up serving Jesus.

Exodus 29, Ecclesiastes 5, Luke 9

Read Exodus 29, Ecclesiastes 5, and Luke 9.

This devotional is about Luke 9.

At the beginning of this lengthy chapter, Jesus told the disciples, “If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet” (v. 5).

Toward the end of this chapter, Jesus sent messengers into a Samaritan village “to get things ready for him” (v. 52). I take that phrase to mean that Jesus was sending some of the people mentioned in Luke 8:1-3 to prepare for Jesus’s arrival because he was going to stay and teach in that village for a while on his way to Jerusalem.

According to verse 53 here in Luke 9, “the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.” Angry, apparently, that Jesus would only stay the night rather than for an extended time of ministry, the Samaritans decided they’d rather not have Jesus there at all.

James and John were incensed by this rejection. Claiming the supernatural power that Jesus had conferred on them in verse 1, these two brothers “asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?’”

Their question demonstrated the wrong spirit toward those who had rejected Jesus.

When Jesus told the disciples to shake the dust off their feet in verse 5, the reason he gave was “as a testimony against them.” It was for their warning and rebuke that Jesus commanded the disciples to do this, not because the disciples were angry or ready to send judgment on the towns that rejected them.

So, instead of saying, “Great idea! Let’s torch ’em!”, according to verse 55 “Jesus turned and rebuked” James and John instead of praising them or encouraging them in their anger.

The reason Jesus rebuked them was that James and John were not concerned about the lost souls of these Samaritans; they were ticked off at being rejected and wanted to show them some power!

Jesus surely will bring judgment on anyone who rejects him in this life. That is one of his promises and one of his roles when he returns.

But, until the day of judgment begins, Jesus calls us to show grace and mercy to his enemies, not to call for their destruction. We should keep this in mind when unbelievers mock our faith, or belittle us personally, or even persecute us. We should definitely testify to them about the judgment that Jesus will bring for these actions; that’s what he told the disciples to do in verse 5–testify against them.

But we should be merciful and plead with them as we talk to them about God’s judgment because we know that their eternal souls are at stake.

So consider your heart and attitude toward those who are hostile to righteousness, to Christianity, Christians, or Christ. Don’t hope for and call for God’s judgment; tell them of God’s judgment but in a way that shows them how much we want to see God’s mercy in their lives.

Exodus 26, Ecclesiastes 2, Luke 8

Read Exodus 26, Ecclesiastes 2, and Luke 8.

Luke 8 presents us with one of Jesus’ best known parables (vv. 4-15), some lesser known teachings of Jesus (vv. 16-21) and several miracles (vv. 22-56).

The chapter began, though, by listing Jesus’s key financial contributors. They were some women who traveled with Jesus and the disciples who “were helping to support them out of their own means.” That sentence gives us insight into how Jesus and the disciples were able to stay alive while devoting themselves full-time to the ministry and it sets a precedent for how ministry is funded that the rest of the New Testament developed for us.

Luke doesn’t say much about what these women did. Verse 2 indicates that they were with him and the Twelve as they traveled “from one town and village to another” and verse 3 says that they “were helping to support them out of their own means.” That last phrase obviously means that they were spending their own money to pay for food and lodging and anything else Jesus and the Twelve needed money for. But why would these women need to travel with Jesus and the disciples? Couldn’t they just send the money by messenger whenever it was needed?

I think they could have sent the money, but I also think they traveled with Jesus and the Twelve to hear Jesus teach just like everyone else who followed him around. I wonder, though, if they also didn’t handle some of the logistics–going ahead of the men to find enough places for them to sleep, buying food and preparing meals as needed. Again the text does not say this, but it makes sense that they would do at least some of this planning and preparation work so as to give Jesus the maximum amount of time to do ministry and to do so without distractions.

If you’ve served somewhere behind the scenes–doing sound or lighting or projection or as a helper or preparing meals for families that just had a baby or helping with the Sunday coffee and donuts or giving rides to people to church on Sunday or making copies of material or helping out with office work or cleaning the floors on Saturday night or serving in the chair ministry or making and serving funeral meals or serving in the food pantry or in the prison ministry or doing any other number of tasks, your ministry is important! It may seem unnoticed or feel unimportant but the truth is that it is very important. Servants like you make every ministry possible so if you’ve served in one of these places, thank you!

If you could serve in one of these ways but haven’t volunteered yet, would you volunteer this week? Everything we do as a church takes dedicated volunteers so the more volunteers we have, the more ministry we can do. Jesus said that a cup of water given in his name would be rewarded so there are eternal dividends to be reaped if you sow into His work now, even in ways that seem insignificant and small. So, if you’re not serving somewhere yet, one way to put the truth in this chapter into practice is to find your place to serve. It is the Lord’s work so he’s the one you’re serving, just as these women served him in their unseen but important role.