A Worshiper of Excellence

1 Corinthians 4:6-13

By Samantha Chambo

For who makes you different than anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? (1 Cor. 4:7).

We are always searching that which makes us different, unique. We are always faced with the question: “What makes me special?” This is a good thing, because our Father made us all with unique personalities, gifts and abilities. It is therefore interesting that Paul here emphasises the fact that we are all the same.

He is addressing a congregation that highlighted their difference in order to elevate self and to marginalise those who did not measure up according to their estimation. Paul reminds them that everything they had where gifts from God. They received their belongings, status, gifts, talents and abilities, appearances and even the opportunities that to learn from God. This made them all the same. This truth applies to us as well. We are and have nothing apart from what is given to us by our Father’s loving generosity.

The fact that we have received everything we are and have from God has important implications for our lives. Firstly, it signifies that we cannot boast and we do not have any reason to succumb to pride because we are just working with what we have received. Secondly, it implies stewardship. What will we do with all that we have received from God (Matthew 25:14-28)? Oswald Chambers said: “Worship is giving God the best that He has given you. Be careful what you do with the best you have. Whenever you get a blessing from God, give it back to Him as a love-gift.”[1]

Let us resolve at the beginning of 2016, to walk in humility as we continue to give our very best for the kingdom of God. Let us use it to make the love of God known to a hurting world.

Think About it

What are the gifts and abilities and resources that you can offer back to God? Which of these creates the greatest temptation towards pride in you?

For today

Look for God’s gifts in the lives of others and affirm them for it. Seek practical ways to use your gifts to uplift those you encounter

Prayer

Father, help us to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, help us to value others above ourselves in humility, not looking for our own interest but each of us to the interest of the others (Phil. 2:3-4). Amen.

[1] My Utmost for His Highest, My Utmost for His Highest, 2005.

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Loving Judgment

1 Corinthians 4:1-5

By Samantha Chambo

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me (1 Cor. 4:3-4).

The Lord’s judgment has always been a scary thing to me. I grew up in a church where the possibilities of hell was preached on a regular basis and that filled me with enough fear to keep me out of trouble.

So it is a strange thing to hear Paul say that he prefers the judgment of God and that he cares very little about the judgment of people. After all, people can’t zap you with lighting, right? I listened to a teaching by NT Wright on YouTube[1] a while back that helped me to think differently about God’s judgment. He said that God’s judgment is a good thing. He said to imagine being wronged severely and then coming to a fair and righteous judge who will give you justice. He said that the judgment of God means that things will be set strait; made right. That is a good thing.

God’s judgment is an outflow of his love, righteousness and faithfulness. He is not like human beings who generally judge in order to gage superiority or advantage. I think this is the reason why Paul cares so little about the opinions of the congregants who’s sole interest was their own status in society. Paul knew that the only judgment that has eternal significance is that of Christ, and that is why he lived his life to the glory of God.

It gives me a great sense of security and peace to know that I can trust God to be a loving judge. It also lifts a weight of my shoulders to know that I can disengage from the judgment of people. God will make all things right.

Think about it

What effect did your attachment to the judgment of others have on your life and ministry?

For Today

Listen to people’s opinions of you and your efforts in order to improve where needed, not to determine your self-worth.

Prayer

We hear and are glad, and we rejoice, because of your judgments, O Lord (Psalm 97:8). Amen

 

 

[1] NT Wright, Surprised by Hope.

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The Abundance of Belonging 1Cor 3:5-23

by Samantha Chambo

“… all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future- all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.”

(1 Cor. 3: 21-23)

These words remind me of the African philosophy of Ubuntu. It is the belief that our existence is tied to that of other people. Ubuntu says: “I am because we are.” It means my humanity is totally tied in with that of my community and so good fortune in the community means my good fortune and the downfall of the community means my own downfall.

Paul is addressing the factionalism, fighting, gossiping and quarreling in the Corinthians church, so he reminds them that they all belong to each other. Paul says that all the leaders belong to all of them and the leaders also belong to each other. He reminds them that God, who is the Lord of all these leaders should be the focus because He is the one who gives the fruit of their ministry. This belonging that Paul mentions has even greater significance, the world belongs to them, life or death, the present or the future all of it belongs to them. Why? Because they are in Christ and Christ is the Son of God.

Working the argument backwards we can say that those who are in Christ have such an amazing abundance that it cancels out any need for fighting, grasping or diminishing any person. It realizes that Christ has provided such an abundance of blessings for us that we can afford to be generous in our dealing with other human beings. There is more than enough to go around. This generosity extends beyond material things, but it includes consideration, forgiveness and even allowance for mistakes. The greatest blessing in all of this is that we can belong to the beautiful family of Christ.

Think about it

Count the many ways that being a part of Christ family has blessed your life.

How generous have you been to others as a result of your awareness of these blessings?

For Today

Make it a point to be as generous as possible in your evaluations of people’s efforts as they work with or serve you.

Prayer

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5-6)

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I want to be a Church Mother 1 Corinthians 3:1-4

By Samantha Chambo

You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?[1] (1 Corinthians 3:3)

Jealousy and quarreling is generally recognized as female flaws. However, this chapter in Corinthians seems to suggest that it is a human problem. I suppose we cannot be blamed for this situation because it is an outflow of the culture we live in. We are always challenged to be the best, the most outstanding and exceptional humans beings possible. So, comparison, competition and later, jealousy and quarrelling is a natural outflow.

This was the problem in the Corinthians church. They thought they could elevate themselves above the crowd by claiming the best leaders or teachers. The obvious result was jealousy and quarrelling, a divided church. Paul rebukes them by saying they are behaving like immature Christians, mere babies in Christ. He admonishes them that it’s not about the teachers you’ve had or about the knowledge you’ve gained, but it is about the extent to which you have yielded to the Holy Spirit and in so doing becoming mature and ready for the deep things of God

According to Kenneth Bailey “The Eastern churches did not have scholars or theologians, but rather ‘Fathers of the church.’ The assumption behind that language is: Only when we see the authenticity of your piety, and your commitment to the church, will we take your scholarship seriously.”[2] Africans normally call mature women mothers. People call me mother on a regular basis. This is because I have children, but also because I am in leadership over them. They see me as someone that is supposed to feed them milk and later solid foods. I want to make sure that I don’t have to survive on milk myself because I am still caught in a worldly spirit of competition, comparison, jealousy and quarrelling. I want to make sure that I am worthy to be called a mother in the church.

Think about it

What are the things in other people that you normally compare yourself to? What effect does this comparison have on yourself and your relationships?

For Today

Resist the temptation to compare yourself to other people. Rather seek to grow in your spiritual maturity.

Prayer

And I pray this, that your love may abound even more and more in knowledge and every kind of insight so that you can decide what is best, and thus be sincere and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God (Phil. 1:9-11). Amen

[1] The New International Version. (2011). (1 Co 3:3). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Kenneth E Bailey, Paul through Mediterranean Eyes: Cultural Studies in 1 Corinthians (London: SPCK, 2011), 123.

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Glasses On! 1 Corinthians 2: 6-16

By Samantha Chambo

 

We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us (2:12)[1]

This section reminds me of the times I went to see a 3 D movie. It would normally start with some trailers and then, at some point we would receive the instruction to put on our 3 D glasses so we can enjoy the rest of the show. I believe this is what Paul is doing in this part of his introduction in the letter of Corinthians. He giving us is the right mind set and heart attitude to shed light on all the things he is about to address. He stresses the importance of judging by the Holy Spirit rather than the worldly wisdom.

Paul had to speak about many things pertaining the daily life of the church in this letter. He had to talk about the relationship of believers to God and to other human beings, believers as well as the unbelievers. He had to talk about matters of communal living and worship and the correct attitude as far as social status is concerned. He had to address issues of appropriate conduct for believers. Paul wanted to make sure they received all his directions in the correct attitude and spirit.

Believers had to remember that they had the Holy Spirit to help them understand the revelation of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross and also it’s implications to their daily lives. The mystery of God is revealed to them by the Spirit (2:10), they understand by the Spirit (2:12), They speak spiritual words by the Spirit (2:13), they judge all things by the Spirit (2:15), as a matter of fact; they have the mind of Christ (2:16).

This is challenging because it takes intentionality to live your everyday life by the Holy Spirit.

Think About it

How often do you defer to the Holy Spirit during your normal daily routine?

For Today

Pass every thought, judgement and action by the Holy Spirit before proceeding.

Prayer

Father I know that I cannot understand  your will apart from your Spirit (2:14). Please help me to live by your Spirit everyday of my life. Amen

[1] Schenck, K. (2006). 1 & 2 Corinthians: a commentary for Bible students (p. 55). Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House.

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A Little bit of Weakness, Fear and Trembling 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

by Samantha Chambo

I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. (1 Cor. 2:3)

I know we already read these verses in the previous devotion, but verse 3 grabbed my attention and I just had to revisit it. I was intrigued by the fact that the great apostle Paul, first century missionary and the first great theologian of the Christian church, suffered from weakness, fear and trembling at some point in his life

Commentators have different opinions as to what Paul meant in this verse. Some says it was because of physical problems, others say he did not feel confident in his public speaking abilities, that he felt intimidated because Corinth was such a great metropolitan Roman city, and that he was just very aware of the great responsibility of communicating the truth of Jesus Christ to those God loves. What ever his reasons, I can relate to all of the above reasons.

I believe a sense of inadequacy for the mission of Christ can be very beneficial for Christian workers, providing we don’t allow it to cripple us in our ministry. Tara Mohr in her book Playing Big describes two kinds of fear: pachad, which is “the fear of the phantom, the fear whose object is imagined.”[1] And Yirah “It is the feeling that overcomes us when we inhabit a larger space than we are used to. The feeling we experience when we suddenly come into possession of considerably more energy than we had before. It is what we feel in the presence of the divine.”[2] Feeling Yirah means we are involved in something much bigger then ourselves or even that we are at the verge of something great. We do not have to back away from this fear, because it can propel us into even greater things for God.

The key for Paul was to take his focus of his own weakness, fear and trembling and to fix it on Jesus Christ, the wisdom and power of God. He accomplished all that was necessary “with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” (1 Cor. 2:4).

Think about it

Can you recall instances from your past where you felt either pachad or yirah? How did you respond to it?

For today

Be curious about your fear. Think about it and journal about it. What is Christ showing you?

Prayer

Father, help me to be strong and courageous, because I know you are with me wherever I go (Joshua 1:9). Amen.

[1] Tara Mohr, Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message, 2014, 65.

[2] Mohr, Playing Big, 66.

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Wise Wisdom: What do you know? I Corinthians 1:18-2:5

By Samantha Chambo

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Cor. 2:2)

What do you know? Are we well versed in Philosophy, technology, sciences or psychology? According to Paul all of this wisdom is foolishness in comparison with the worth of knowing Christ. Real wisdom in this world, knows the God who created it all and He came to teach us about himself in the person of his son, Jesus Christ.

The Corinthian church took great pride in their Greek knowledge and in the teachers that they looked up to. Yet all the knowledge they valued did not make them a better community. They were a fractioned church, disregarding those who were disadvantaged in life and were given to pagan practices of sensuality just like the Roman society around them who were given to banquets and sexual misbehaviour. They knew much, but their knowledge did not lead to wholeness of life.

This is why Paul warns them that their faith should not rest on human wisdom but on God’s power (2:5), that is revealed in the life and death of Jesus Christ. Knowing Christ crucified means that we can become comfortable with the discomfort and often suffering that is a part of living in this fallen world. We can have empathy with the disadvantaged because we identify with the suffering of Christ and this helps us to understand his heart to those on the margins of society. This wisdom supersedes self-empowerment and makes us effective in empowering others.

Living our lives with the purpose of knowing Christ leads to wise living in every area of our lives because Christ is God’s secret to a wholesome life and ministry.

Think about it

How have I turned to the wisdom of the world to resolve spiritual issues?

For today

Seek to ways to know Christ better.

Prayer.

[Jesus] If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. (Exodus 33:13)

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Superior Power 1 Corinthians 1:10-17

by Samantha Chambo

 

I have felt powerless and helpless for most of my life. This must be a result of witnessing my alcoholic father physically abuse my mother during of my formative years. The result is that I am always searching for ways to empower myself through education and I also believe in faking it until it feels real. So I strive to come across as an empowered competent woman. I do this by depending on my intelligence; my knowledge and I depend heavily on my gift of effective communication. This is also how I find myself approaching my ministry some times. I work hard at the things I believe is needed to be effective, hoping for the best.

The Corinthian Church also valued external sources of power and status. They valued wise words and eloquent speaking. That is why there were quarrels amongst them. It seems as if Apollos was known as an eloquent speaker, and the disciples in Corinth felt very proud to be able to say that they were discipled by Apollos. This resulted in divisions in the church, because they all wanted to defend the apostle that brought them to faith.

Paul was not impressed with this worldly attitude. He assured them that he did not depend on his own wisdom and eloquence when he first preached to them; he depended on the power of the cross of Christ. This is the real power of salvation (1 Corinthians 1:18). Totally depending on the cross of Christ is the most superior way to make disciples and it is also much easier. It takes the pressure of the minister. This will result in a strong united church that looks simultaneously at the glorious cross as the source of effective ministry.

Think about it

What are the things I fall back on when I need to feel powerful and confident?

Are these things or ways pleasing to God or is there a need to revise them?

For today

Consciously endeavour to turn to Christ first for any challenge or responsibility you face today.

Prayer

Father help me to take pride in the message for the cross, because it is your power that will bring salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). Amen

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Bizarre Thanksgiving 1 Corinthians 4:1-9

by Samantha Chambo

Maintaining a spirit of gratitude is difficult. There is just so much that I think is needed and so much that I feel I need to do, but I do not always succeed in the time that I desire to. This creates a constant sense of dissatisfaction, a feeling that there is always something missing. Like a good dish that just misses a bit of salt. This makes it difficult to be thankful for all the blessings that are already available. Logic dictates that things must be as desired before gratitude can be expressed.

Paul writes this letter to the church in Corinth to rebuke and correct some ungodly behaviour and attitudes. But his comprehensive thanksgiving does not let on that there are any problems. Paul affirms the nature of the church; they were saints and called by God. He thanks God for the gifts on their lives and even their sure future in Christ. This is strange for people who were  so obviously out of line.

This must be because the source of all that is good in and for Corinth was from God in Christ. They received grace; they are enriched with grace to convey knowledge of Christ to others. They possessed all the spiritual gifts, obviously from the Holy Spirit and it is God that will keep them firm until the end. Actually everything that Paul is thankful for is a result of the faithfulness of God.

I suppose this is the joy of salvation. It is a sure knowledge that everything is fine because our Saviour is trustworthy. So, I can be content “like a weaned child with its mother” (Psalm 131:2). Then I can be truly thankful for all God’s blessings on my life.

Think about it

Am I able to maintain a bizarre thankfulness even in the face of adversity?

What special blessings do I see in my life today?

For today

Make a gratitude list and thank God for everything on the list. Make time to thank friends and family who have been a source of blessing in your life.

Prayer

Father we come before you with thanksgiving and extol you with music and song. For you are the great God, the great King above all gods (Psalm 95:2-3).

Amen

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Jesus at the Centre 1 Corinthians 1:1-3

by Samantha Chambo

I often get confused about the focal point of my Christian life, like a cat chasing its own tail. There is so much that vies for priority and dominance. At times my religious activities can become a decoy from Satan, so I forget why I am here. This must have been the root problem in the church of Corinth. Paul does write to address many serious problems, but it seems as if they forgot the focal point of their lives in Christ. So Paul jumps in, starting with his greetings, reminding them whom it is all about.

He mentions Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus four times in the first three short verses. He was an apostle called of Jesus Christ, the church of Corinth was sanctified in Christ Jesus, and all the rest of the believers call on the name of Jesus, and then grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The theme of the rest of the letter is obvious from this introduction. Paul will talk about  Jesus Christ who calls us, and who sanctifies us and who gives us grace and peace. Jesus Christ is the start and the finish of our faith life, but we must make sure that he is the focal point of every other point of our journey.

So our family is ours by Jesus Christ, and our lives are lived in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ should direct every moment in between. Not living in this way creates many problems, as we see later in the book of 1 Corinthians. However, returning to Jesus Christ as the centre of our lives can set all things strait.

Think about it

How have I veered away from Jesus Christ as the centre of my life?

How can I practically return to holding Christ as the axis of my life?

For today:

Run every thought and prospective activity by Jesus and journal how this has made this day different then other days.

Prayer

Father please forgive me for losing my focus on you. Help me to refocus and put you back at the centre of my life.

Amen

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