Passage: 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1
Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are the true example of self-sacrifice. You set the standard long ago of putting others above yourself. As Christians, you have placed us throughout this globe to be your hands and feet. We will sit at tables of those that don’t know you. We will speak near the temples of the pagan. We will break bread with the alcoholic and the sex offender. We do so not to show our strength and freedoms as Christians to participate in the acts of our fellow man. We do so to set a pace for the one who needs the example of Christ. Perhaps, Lord, the days you sat at the table with sinners, you did not always feast with them. Rather, you heard their heart and never let them leave the table the same. So God, grant us wisdom to balance our freedoms and seek only to make our choices among the unbeliever that will show the purest essence of Jesus. In His Name, Jesus, we pray. Amen.
Ponder: Is the witness of Christ in your life bent overboard into the realm of the unbeliever? Has the table of fellowship become a place of indulgence rather than transformation?
Passage: 1 Corinthians 10:14-22
Prayer: Father, there seems to be in all of us this magnet that draws us toward all the wrong things in our culture. But, not only are there things in us that have been magnetized toward certain behaviors, but forces, demonic forces, that are magnetic themselves, luring us into their traps. Teach us that our only option is simply to avoid these forces in our culture like an infectious and deadly disease. Idolatry is not to be danced around. Sexual immorality is not to be flirted with. Indeed, Paul says today, run from these forces in our culture. There is no such thing as casual sex or casual worship. Both demand of us our entire persons. Both of these activities have been designed by you to be an exclusive and wholesome devotion. Both of these allow us to enter into the most intense and fulfilling relationships imaginable. However, it is these very activities that society and the forces behind society, and even the magnets inside us, seek to distort, twist, and fragment your world and your image in all of us. So may we, dear Father, give to you that exclusive worship that brings out the best inside of us. Magnetize our heart, soul, mind, and strength to be drawn only to you and your truth. Help us to be totally devoted to you in the deepest spiritual partnership possible, so that when we share in the bread and wine of communion, we share with Christ the very life of God. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Ponder: How can you consistently dine with Jesus on a daily basis so that you can find yourself “all booked up” when the more sinister and seductive suitors come calling you for a date?
Passage: 1 Corinthians 10:6-13
Prayer: Father, we, who live between the old age and the age to come, find ourselves, often, on the fault lines of these two tectonic plates. We are being tested while we have one foot still in the old and one foot stepping into the new. Show us how to live faithfully in the shifting darkness of the one, while we fix our eyes on the stable light of the other. Paul warns us to learn from Israel’s own testing in the wilderness journey, so that we do not fall into the same traps they fell into between Egypt and the Promised Land. Deep within the human heart are embedded evil desires that if not recognized and renounced, long to gain ascendency over our hearts. Help us to remain vigilant to their seductive powers. Help us to see idolatry as an attempt to dethrone and replace you with other competing loyalties and behaviors. Keep us from being drawn into the flirtatious force of sexual immorality, that saturates the prevailing culture we live and breathe in every day. Never allow us to fall into the trap of questioning, even demanding, your care when we become discontent with our circumstances, knowing that this leads to complaining and controversy among your people. All of these seductive powers seek to drag us back into the old world we once lived for. So keep our feet steady and our hearts centered on you when the old and new grind against each other so that we do not end up flat on our faces. Indeed, you are truly faithful to your people and have promised to provide a way out of the old and into the new! In Jesus’ Name, Amen!
Passage: 1 Corinthians 10:1-5
Prayer: Father, help us to remain your Passover people. You have chosen us for an exodus journey with you. From the moment the Lamb of God’s blood was applied to our hearts we were invited on this journey. Our first stop was in the waters of baptism, in which the Messiah’s name was publicly declared over our lives and Satan’s power decisively cut off. Since that time we have had the constant companionship of your Spirit leading us on the way. With his protective cloud to shield us and his blazing fire to empower us, what can hinder our progress? As we journey we are privileged to feast at the Lord’s Table; a spiritual food and drink without equal, whose nourishment feeds the deepest hunger! Truly you have furnished us with everything we need to arrive safe and sound. So may we never presume on your kindness, in being considered one of your partners, in this endeavor of faith, dear Father. May we never allow an evil heart of unbelief to rise within us, as did those in the original exodus. For sadly many of them fell short of the mark and missed the destination for which they set out on. Instead, let us stay near the Rock that keeps us stable and steady. Let us drink deeply from the refreshment that Jesus gives to all who remain near his heart. And never let us forget that since we have been afforded such huge privileges, may we offer up to you the proper corresponding obedience, so that we may arrive well. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Passage: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Prayer: Father, teach us that we are called to live in such a way as to win the prize. We have not entered into a weekend sports event just hoping to be a participant. We have not been called simply to run in a marathon simply to say we gave it our best shot. No, instead, we have been called to the highest strenuous training imaginable. One that will tax our mind, will, and emotions like nothing else. One that will max out every fiber of body and soul. In some real sense, the Christian life, is not for the faint of heart. It is not for the weekend warrior. It is not for the indolent and couch-sitting types. To so many, who live in a world where every right is protected and every freedom is allowed, the very idea of putting our body and soul into a form of slavery, is repulsive. But the truth is, to win, dear Father, in the contest of life, we will have to enslave both, so that what we want to do, what we have a right to do, and what we normally would be free to do, must be denied. Indeed, discipleship, the very word that moderns struggle to embrace, is the calling of Christ-followers. We must enter the race to win. We must train the mind to understand the hardest things; to embrace some things that are beyond reason, yet not against it. We must develop the will to do what sometimes, in ourselves, we would never do and bring our emotions into obedience to our faith. We must say “No,” to temptations of the body, so that we can say “Yes,” to the rewards of both spirit and body. So let us run with purpose, fight with passion, and win with glory the imperishable crown of eternal life in Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!
Passage: 1 Corinthians 9:19-23
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for freedom that comes from knowing you. Thank you for opening our eyes to see that this Jesus life is bigger than dietary laws and clothing policies. Bigger than sacrificial systems and feast preparation. It is about our relationship with you and those around us. You have freed us from the methods but not the goals. We are even more bound to your heart and your people through Jesus. Lord, give us the eyes to see past our own liberties for the sake of others. Let us realize the power we have to know you, God of the universe, and share your love for us. We are aware of our tendency to lose sight of the truth of your grace. We are easily swayed to take advantage of your mercy and fight for our rights as free men and women. At the expense of the lost, we become like all others, as Paul says in this passage, that we may win some. Give us a power today, God, to win someone for you. Give us commonality with people we never thought we could connect with. Help us to lower our banners of pride to reach out to the least of these and the greatest of this world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Ponder: Has legalism or Christian scruples kept you from ministering to the lost? Have you taken ahold of Christian liberty to the point of giving in to selfish desire? Where is the balance for your life?
Passage: 1 Corinthians 9:12-18
Prayer: Father, there is something about doing something for free, when deserving of pay, that gives greater attraction and power to the one performing the task. Like a talented musician who chooses to play his instrument before an adoring crowd, yet require no money to enjoy the exquisite sound, Paul preached the Gospel for free. And although Paul richly deserved to make his living from the Gospel, as do all full-time ministers, he chose to do it for free. In fact, Paul goes to great pains to show that people who announce the Gospel should make their living from the Gospel. However, he wanted to be the exception to the rule. But for what reason? Perhaps he wanted, like the unpaid musician, to make something so wonderfully beautiful available to all with nothing to hold anyone back? Perhaps he wanted to expose the “pay-for-play” proud nature of the average traveling teacher of wisdom that so many found themselves attracted to in his day. Perhaps he felt that before his own conversion he extracted such a high price from persecuting Christ’s body that he felt he owed the rest of his time, free of charge, to pay back his own indebtedness to Christ. No matter his motivation, people are inspired by him to volunteer their time, dear Jesus, to get your message of freedom and redemption out! Indeed, when someone gives such a precious thing like the Gospel out for free, they are, as N. T. Wright says today, “echoing, embodying, celebrating, a deeper freedom” that no money can buy! So may we freely give what we have freely been given! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Ponder: Perhaps the best way to live this principle out this year is to find an organization that does somebody good and to offer your time free of charge?