Friday, March 27, 2009

2 Corinthians, chapter 13

Have you ever wondered if Christ is truly in you? I know at times I have felt it. I have felt that I can’t possibly be following God’s plan because I feel so lost. That is our own imperfection speaking. I have spoken about the imperfection of humanity, but it stands in such stark contrast to God’s perfection. In a way, God’s perfection is what makes our own imperfection perfect. Here in the final chapter of 2 Corinthians Paul makes the point again of our own weaknesses being made strong in the sight of God. Only an all-powerful God can do something like that.

4For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God's power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God's power we will live with him to serve you. – 2 Corinthians 13:4

This is a very short chapter. It is also the last I will be writing before a much needed vacation begins next week. Still, it continues to bring home the most important point of all of Scripture. That point is that the blood of Christ conquers all. We talk about our own weakness, but it was Christ making himself week that allows us to have our greatest strength. That’s really all I have to say today.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

2 Corinthians, Chapter 12

I am not perfect. You are not perfect. No one is perfect. The amazing thing about God is that He does not need us to be perfect. Here in 2 Corinthians 12 Paul reminds us that God’ power is made perfect in our own weakness. I have long prayed for this blog to be made perfect in my weakness. I have prayed the God’s message will come out even in my halting and imperfect attempts to elaborate on it. I know that ultimately it is not what I want to say that is important here. It is what God wants to say through me that is important.

9But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I consider it the greatest honor of my life that God uses me for His kingdom. Recently my other blog was picked up by a national service. I now have an audience that literally comes from around the world. It represents a huge step forward in my career that gets me to that next level where even more doors can open. I find myself wanting to write all the time over there, while coming here for a few hundred words a day is sometimes a struggle. This is my weakness because I know this is my far more important work. Still, all the accoledes and possibilities mean nothing compared to the work I am doing in this space. I am reaching only a handful of people each day, but I am honored that God even has that small audience for me. I pray that in my imperfect His knowledge reaches you the reader.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

2 Corinthians, chapter 11

One of the things that bothers me in this day and age is when groups of people try to build a doctrine on one small part of the Bible. The infamous Westboro Baptist Church is a prime example. It’s leader, Fred Phelps, has built a culture of hatred based on a couple of verses in the Bible. He tries to back up his beliefs by saying that he is following God’s word, but instead he comes off as a raving loon and gives Christians a bad name. Is he right that homosexuality is a sin? Yes. Is he right to go out and protest funerals, rejoicing in the deaths of U.S. soldiers, and saying that they deserved what they got? Absolutely not!

This is a fool that does not understand the basic concept that Jesus taught of hating the sin, but loving the sinner. It is also an example of what Paul talks about here in 2 Corinthians 11.

4For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. 5But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those "super-apostles." 6I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way. – 2 Corinthians 11:4-6

I do have a point here in a roundabout way. We must always remember that Christ should be the focus of any Christians. It cannot be hate. It cannot be a personal agenda. Most people don’t want to make Christ the sole focus of a message because that glorious light points out many of their wrongs. How does the fact that Jesus stated he came to die for EVERYONE stand in the face of a message of hate as presented by the Westboro Baptist church? Basically, they are saying with their message that God loves everyone, as long as you follow their set of rules. The very idea of that is exclusionary and flies in the face of what Jesus taught.

Jesus’ message is so beautiful in its simplicity, but as humans we make it so complicated because we try to take more meaning from it. There is no other meaning to take. It is very black and white. What is so hard to understand bout, “I am the way, the truth, and the light. No one can know the Father without knowing me.” It does not say, “No one can know the father without hating this group of people and excluding them. If you are a member of this group you are SOL.”

12And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. 13For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. – 2 Corinthians 11:12-15

I bet that is one passage the Westboro Baptist Church conveniently glosses over. As always, the focus of any message must be solely on Christ. We cannot inject ourselves and our aims into that otherwise it will skew what is trying to be said. I try to do that here, and I hope I am successful.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

2 Corinthians, chapter 10

I love Paul’s powerful preaching here in 2 Corinthians 10. In this chapter Paul stands firm that the message of Christ is not one that is meek. It is bold. It is changing. It breaks down barriers and forces us to confront the truth that Christ is ruler of all. One of the constants in Paul’s wide-ranging ministry is that he was never ashamed of the gospel. Wherever he went, he preached it boldly in the face of incredible opposition. His life is an example of how we should look to live our lives because the message is infinitely more important than ourselves.

4The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

This is forceful. This shows that there is absolutely nothing that can stand in the way of the power of God. We are told that in the end, every knee shall bow. Because of that, knowing God has the power to take every thought captive and make it obedient is a small thing. The only thing that gets in the way of this truth is our own narrow-mindedness.

I guess this is also where free will comes into play. It is obvious to me that the gospel is unchanging, forceful, and erodes our spirits to its course like a river erodes its path. Because of free will, however, people can miss the message entirely simply by choice. We have to have our minds open to change if we are going to accept the knowledge of God. Once we accept it though, it is not a trickle. It is a firehose of love and change that washes away all our previous misconceptions.

Monday, March 23, 2009

2 Corinthians, chapter 9

I apologize for the lack of a Friday update. I got too busy as soon as I got to work and simply forgot to post. The theme of 2 Corinthians 9 is the same as our previous chapter. Paul talks of generosity and why giving is so important to a Christian life. Here he doesn’t specifically focus on giving monetarily, but instead he looks more at the giving of ourselves. This can be through time, service, prayer, or any of a number of ways. The purpose of giving is still the same. We are to give because Christ gave so much for us.

12This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. – 2 Corinthians 9:12-13

It is important to give with a cheerful heart lest it become an obligation. Christ did not give much to us because He had to. He gave because he wanted to. He gave freely and cheerfully and that is what He asks in return. We are it give freely and cheerfully out of thankfulness for what we have received. God does not need it. That is why it is an expression of gratitude.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

2 Corinthians, chapter 8

How many ways do you see generosity each day? Sure, there are overt forms of generosity, such as when Drew Brees and his wife donated $2 million to my alma mater for the purpose of a student-athlete education center. This is obviously a gift beyond most people’s means, yet in the eyes of God it is just as important as the little, every day steps we take. Generosity can come from lifting a heavy object that someone else can’t lift. It can come from waiting in line instead of charging ahead and cutting someone off. It can even come in the quiet moments when we reflect and pray those we care about.

Paul speaks of generosity here in 2 Corinthians 8. He points out that Christ gave everything He had for us. To me, isn’t it the least we can do to give the same back to Him in return? I don’t even think it has to be gifts of monetary value and support. Those are good, of course, but we must be willing to give up more than that for those we care about. If someone is displaced, we must be ready to give shelter. If someone is hungry, we must be ready to give food. It is more than charity. It is a giving of a part of ourselves to comfort others.

13Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, 15as it is written: "He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.” – 2 Corinthians 8:13-15

We give because we never know when it will be necessary for us to be on the receiving end. God has promised that he will always take care of our needs. We will always have enough to survive on if we trust in Him. This has never been more true than the last four years of my life. Though employment has been difficult for me to find at time, he has always come through with just the right amount I needed at that time. Right now I am in the middle of a brief, 6 week temp assignment. There is no hope of it becoming permanent, but it perfectly fits a gap that needed to be filled. It fits so perfectly, that the rest of the year can fall into place now with a solid “worst case scenario” that allows us to not only survive, but to give back in return.

This is what I am most thankful for, that not only has He cared for us, He allows us enough to give back to others.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

2 Corinthians, chapter 7

When can sorrow be a good thing? When sorrow leads to repentance, which is different from regret, it can be a very good thing. First off, we need to look at the difference between repentance and regret. Regret means you feel bad about something. Repentance means you feel bad, but you do something about it and look to learn from the experience. True repentance brings about change in the heart instead of on the surface. Paul goes into detail about true repentance in 2 Corinthians 7 and the role that it plays in conjunction with Godly sorrow and worldly sorrow.

10Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 11See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. 12So even though I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did the wrong or of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. – 2 Corinthians 7:10-12

Regret is something that can eat at a person. I know I struggle with the regret of a thousand decisions gone wrong. True repentance can erase this regret, however. As Paul describes here, true repentance causes us to strive not only for innoence, but to right any wrong that may have occurred. It causes us to strive for a cleanliness of spirit that can only be acheieved by the blood of Christ. Why do we do this? We do this out of devotion to Christ. It is almost done out of an effort to thank Him for the gift of salvation.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

2 Corinthians, chapter 6

This chapter presents and interesting message in how we are to deal with unbelievers. In it, Paul calls for us to not be yoked with them. On the surface, this could be in conflict with our mission to spread the gospel to unbelievers. How are we supposed to accomplish this, then, if we cannot associate with unbelievers? In looking at the wording of this passage a little closer I think this becomes a little more clear.

14Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." – 2 Corinthians 6:14-16

Being yoked to someone paints the picture of a burden. It means we are dragged down to their level. When we associate with unbelievers we must be cautious not to fall prey to the temptations of sin. That is the burden Paul references being yoked to. Those who do not believe often don't have the same concepts of sin and salvation that believers have. They have a different perspective in that way. To me, there is a difference between simply associating with people that don't believe in Christ's message and being yoked to them. If we are yoked to them it means we are brought down by their desires without having the strength to stand up for our own.

Monday, March 16, 2009

2 Corinthians, chapter 5

I think this chapter goes a long way in explaining why I don't feel like I fit in very well with this world. I am a person that I constantly at odds with my surroundings. I am not comfortable in many situations. I tend to take a narrow, bitter view of the world and the way it operates because it seems so contrary to the principles I learned while growing up. I guess I just have different expectations, and this chapter goes a long way in explaining that. I am uncomfortable because I am a child of the Spirit, and not of the world.

6Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7We live by faith, not by sight. 8We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. – 2 Corinthians 5:6-10

Maybe that is why I don't feel at home in my own body anymore. I have accepted my role as a servant of Christ, so I no longer serve myself. I live to serve Christ, and since most days I feel like I fall short of this goal it leads to a down attitude. Fortunately, we are promised salvation as long as we believe that Christ died for our sins. Though we will still be responsible for what we do in this life, it is still forgiven if we accept the gift of forgiveness. That is the beauty of the promise.

Friday, March 13, 2009

2 Corinthians, chapter 4

10We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. – 2 Corinthians 4:10

I wanted to begin with Scripture today because that verse provided one of those rare moments where I was blown away by the Word of God. I try to begin each day by asking that God achieve something wonderful in me that day. I often do this right after my alarm goes off before I even put my feet on the floor. Generally, I have a moment or two while my wife is drying her hair where I don't have to get up immediately, so I use that moment to connect to God in prayer. While it is not verbatim, I basically pray that this verse happens to me in that time.

This is not our work when we are here on this earth. This chapter makes it clear that all we do is done for the glory of God. If we have success in our labors it is God's success, not our own. In a way, we are slaves. Paul often referred to himself as a slave for the Gospel. That is essentially wheat we become when we put our faith in Christ. We no longer serve our selfish interests. Instead, we are commissioned with the task of living His message at all times. We are finite and frail, so we are not always successful in this. Still, we see here that God has promised to always triumph.

2Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. 3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. 6For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. – 2 Corinthians 4:2-6

That is why I write here. That is why I continue doing this even on days where my heart is not fully in it. I do not want the gospel veiled when it comes to me. When people see me I want the gospel to plainly be written on me. From there it is not longer my choice. I don't have control over it once it leaves me, because then it is up to God. By not veiling it in me I am doing my part. I am not Lord, but Jesus Christ is.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

2 Corinthians, chapter 3

It is appropriate that 2 Corinthians 3 focus on the Glory of God today. I have nothing but praise for God with the news of the morning. The temp assignment I have been working for the past four weeks got extended through March 31st, giving me a much needed 2 week and 2 day bonus of work that will carry us until we go to Florida to see my Mother in law. This is nothing less than an overwhelming blessing this morning. I am so thankful for something that in the grand scheme of things is small, but at the present it is very large.

7Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, 8will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! – 2 Corinthians 3:7-11

There is so much to celebrate about the new covenant through Christ's blood. In it, we have the Glory of the Spirit of God as a promise. It is not etched in stone, which can be broken. It is etched on our spirits and can never fade away. The ministry of the spirit trumps anything before it in its righteousness. It is pure and enduring. Paul cannot stress this enough in this chapter, and I cannot stress it enough.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

2 Corinthians, chapter 2

The primary focus of Christ's message was one of forgiveness. He made this a focus not only because he came to forgive through His blood on the Cross, but to teach us how to forgive. Think about some of the worst atrocities committed by mankind. Many of them came about because someone sought revenge instead of forgiving. When I took a history of World War II class in college I remember hearing in a lecture a rumor about why Hitler was anti-Semitic. It was alleged that a Jewish doctor didn't have the proper treatment for his mother, who died of breast cancer, so his anti-Semitism rose from that moment of not forgiving an alleged mistake.

In this world we have to forgive. This is a lesson I cannot stress enough because it is one that I need to work on myself. Forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts we can give a person, but it is also one of the hardest to give. We want to hold on to our anger. It is a natural human emotion. When we are hurt we want to hurt back instead of forgive. It is something that is very hard for us to control.

5If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent—not to put it too severely. 6The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. 7Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. 2 Corinthians 2:5-8

I think one of the struggles with forgiveness comes from our thinking it needs to be deserved. If there is genuine contrition from the person that has wrong us, then it becomes easier for us to forgive. Still, Christ teaches that we must forgive unconditionally. Sometimes this can mean forgiving when the other person doesn't particularly want or care to have that forgiveness. The reason we forgive in those cases is because harboring that anger causes nothing but pain. We forgive so that we may move on ourselves instead of being held back by that anger.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

2 Corinthians, Chapter 1

I still have plans to complete a study of the gospels by writing on the book of John, but I will wait until I get back from a vacation I have planned for April 1st. Until then, the book of 2 Corinthians should fill the gap until I leave quite nicely. I also want to thank the anonymous commenter that suggested the black cherry juice for use with arthritis. I will have to give that a try in conjunction with a cream that my dad has given me. The Ketoprophin he makes in his pharmacy also does wonders.

2 Corinthians is exactly what it sounds like. It is a second letter to the church in Corinth by the apostle Paul. Like the previous letter, he addresses a variety of topics that the church needed to hear. The first one he touches on is the topic of God being a God of comfort.

When I think of God comfort is one of the first capacities I see him serving in. it is only natural because we often turn to god, even if we don't truly know Him in our hearts, when we are in need of comfort. It is a natural human reaction to reach out to God when we need that comfort. We are also promised that He will be there when we need that comfort.

5For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. – 1 Cortinthians 1:5-7

Putting comfort and suffering together may seem like an odd idea, but it makes sense. Why would others take comfort in our distress? As Christians, we are expected to be leaders and examples for non-Christians. We have already signed up to be soldiers for Christ, while others have not. This is why they find comfort in our suffering. We must put for an example, just as Christ did, of serving a greater purpose in our suffering. If we show that we still find comfort in Christ while we suffer, then we are living a lesson that Christ wants others to see.

That is where patient endurance comes in. Patience is not one of my God-given virtues, but I have learned some patience as I age. To me, a lack of patience is short-sightedness. It is an inability to see a larger picture. When we are impatient it is because we want a result now. We don't see the greater picture and instead we focus on an infant-like desire to placate ourselves in a situation where we don't know an immediate answer. I often fall prey to this, and the result is often burning frustration.

If we patiently endure, however, we open our minds to what God wants us to see. We move past the suffering and frustration of a difficult situation and enter a place of comfort. Sometimes it is simple changing our self talk to, "Okay, I am unsure of where to go next, but I trust you, Father, that You will show the way." That way is not always instantly shown, but God has promised that He will show us. That promise is our comfort. That is the reason we can endure patiently and serve as an example.

Monday, March 9, 2009

1 Corinthians, chapter 16

We come to the end of our study of 1 Corinthians today. On the surface, chapter 16 looks mostly like a personal letter to the church from Paul. There are not any huge insights, but we can still take a lot from it. In that time, many of the churches were working apart from each other. They did not have the internet or instant communication that we do now. Each church kind of did their own thing in regards to the gospel, and there was no real centralized leadership as the apostles spread throughout the world.

We do see Paul trying to centralize that leadership here though. Instead of going off and following their own teachings, Paul wanted to make sure each of the churches was following as close to the original gospels as possible. That is why many of the books of the New Testament were written as Paul's personal letters. They are reminders to the different churches about things they needed to work on. They also continue to press home the centralizing point of Christ's sacrifice and how salvation can be found through His blood.

1Now about the collection for God's people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. – 1 Corinthians 16:1

This is the first verse of this chapter, but it is the most relevant. If one of the churches that Paul visited was doing something right it was important for him to tell the others. That is the only way the proper teachings were going to flourish in this era of limited communication. Paul was one of the few common messengers in the early church, so this final chapter kind of wraps up what he needed the church in Corinth to know. We later see that he reminds other churches of what the church in Corinth was doing write. It is, therefore, no wonder the New Testament flows so well even today. This collection of letters continues to serve as a unifying force in the church, just as it did when it was originally written.

Friday, March 6, 2009

1 Corinthians, chapter 15 part 2

Later this year I will turn 30. I am trying to understand that because my mind still feels fresh and young. I feel like a teenager most days mentally, and I hope I never lose that. My body, however, is just beginning to feels some of the signs of age. I have some arthritis in my big toes that occasionally causes pain. My knees and back are prone to twinges now and then from old basketball injuries. I'm not exactly ready for a can and walker yet, but the inexorable march of time is beginning to be felt as I age.

That is why today's second part of 1 Corinthians 15 is so promising. In it, Paul paints a picture of what our glorified bodies will be like once we are with Christ. Physically, we will be totally different because we will exist in a body that is fully in tune with our spiritual selves. Just as our spirits never dies, our new bodies in Christ will never die either. We will be transformed instantly into being that will no longer feel the limitations of our current human flesh.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. 48As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. – 1 Corinthians 15:44-49

This is part of the natural process that must occur. Our current bodies are flawed. There is no way they can stand up to being in the glorified presence of God. It's like in the movie Dogma. In that film, if a regular human were to hear the direct voice of God, the power of that voice would cause the person's head to explode. As they said, it took them five Adams to figure that one out. While that is humorous fiction, the picture that Paul paints here is very similar. We cannot be in the Presence of God in our current state, so it is only natural that we must be transformed.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

1 Corinthians, chapter 15 part 1

What would Christ's sacrifice mean if He had not been raised from the dead? That is the question that Paul answers here in 1 Corinthians 15. The actual sacrifice was very necessary. Christ was sinless, and in order to gain salvation here needed to be a perfect, sinless sacrifice. Under the old Jewish system of sacrifices, however, there was no resurrection. If the priest sacrificed a dove as a sin offering it did not miraculously come back to life. That is part of what made these spiritual cleansings impermanent.

In Christ, however, we have victory over death. That victory comes from the fact he conquered the grave. Because he was resurrected, we can gain our own resurrection through His sacrifice. In Paul's time it may have been easier to believe in the resurrection. There were still people alive that had witnessed the event first hand. We have only 2,000 years of faith to rely on.

14And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. – 1 Corinthians 15:14-17

What other religion offers this kind of belief. Only Christianity offers the promise of resurrection because its central figure died and lived again. Still, it is an act of faith. Essentially, if Christ did not rise from the grave our faith is meaningless anyway. If Christ did not rise, then we have no hope. That is why we must put faith in the one little hope we have.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

1 Corinthians, chapter 14

This chapter of 1 Corinthians continues to deal with the orderly running of the church. Specifically, it talks about how speaking in tongues can fit in with the greater church body, but it cannot work by itself. This goes back to spiritual gifts and how the body of the church works better when all parts are functioning in harmony. When the parts function independent of each other there is chaos. No one can understand what's going on at that point, just like when someone is speaking in a different language no one can understand. It means nothing without the translation. That is why we must each accept our spiritual gift and use it to work in harmony with others, and therefore further God's plan.

As in all the congregations of the saints, 34women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. 35If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. – 1 Corinthians 14:33-35

I wanted to include this passage mostly as a discussion point. If we are to believe the Bible is the Living Word of God, how does something like this fit in with today's modern world? Personally, I don't see how this can work. To me, this is a very out-dated and sexist view that diminishes the contributions of women. It does this so much, that an entire church I know of would be in violation of that. When I was in South Carolina recently for a funeral the service was officiated by a female pastor, which would be in direct violation of this. How, then, do we accept the entire Word as truth?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

1 Corinthians, Chapter 13

What is love? In my opinion, it is the ultimate expression of feelings from one person to another. The greatest example of love was Christ's death on the Cross for all mankind. That one sacrifice was the expression of God's love for mankind. In the sacrifice, God showed that he intended the gift of salvation to be spread beyond the Jews to everyone. The apostle clarifies what love is in this chapter. It is a familiar passage, as I can't seem to remember a wedding I have been to where I didn't hear this passage quoted.

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. – 1 Corinthians 12:4-7

This goes beyond romantic love between a man and a woman though. Love is the one hope we have for humanity because it is the root of our salvation. Our salvation comes from Christ's love for us, and accepting that gift is an expression f our love in return to Christ. My cynical view on life tends to not see the love and beauty in this world, but it is there. Sometimes it seems like mankind goes out of its way to taint something so beautiful, but that is when God reveals His awesome power to forgive. It is an even greater expression of love that God can love us unconditionally when we soil something that is so beautiful and pure as love.

Monday, March 2, 2009

1 Corinthians, Chapter 12

This chapter of 1 Corinthians has a lot of meaning to me. For about the past two years I have tried to focus on what my spiritual gifts are and how best to use them. One of my greatest struggles is finding a place in which I can totally focus my energies. I feel like throughout my life I have tried a number of pursuits, but I could never fully focus myself on one. One needs only to look at my high school yearbook to see that. I was, at one time or another, a member of the football and basketball teams, the band, Drama Club, chess club, Mayor's Youth Advisory Board, a DARE role model, Honor Society, and probably a few others that I have since forgotten. I was good in many of these roles, but never truly great.

That is what life can be like if we are searching for our spiritual gifts. Paul describes what those are in this chapter. When we find those spiritual gifts and dedicate ourselves to them, we fill our specific purpose that God put us on this earth for. It's is a spiritual comfort zone where everything just feels right when we are doing that role. To some it can be teaching. To others, it is serving.

14Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many parts, but one body. – 1 Corinthians 12:14-20

None of us can fulfill God's purpose alone. Within the greater church everyone has a role. I find it funny that this idea was reinforced last season with my church's softball team. I had played with them for years, but I was more of a utility guy. I never had a definite position until need put me at First base. In the first game there I had a really good defensive game. I had the ability to stretch and make plays that no one else had exhibited. The position also negated my liabilities in the field (read: I can run down fly balls, but I have an awful throwing arm). By the end of the season I had found my role and I really enjoyed playing. This is what finding one's spiritual gifts is like. It is a sweet spot achieved when serving the role God intends for us.