Sweet Aroma

2 Corinthians 2

In verses 1 – 4 Paul is giving further explanation to his decision not to return to Corinth.  The confrontation between Paul and the Corinthians must have been pretty heated, therefore Paul decided that because of the unpleasantness of it, he would not go back. But Paul is letting them know that while it caused him pain as well as them pain it was a decision he made out of love for them. Sometimes if a situation cannot resolve itself in person, there should be wisdom used and it is best to remove yourself. To gain perspective as well as to formulate what needs to be said. Paul is sending them this letter because he loves them and wants resolution with them.

Paul goes on to address the sinner among them who has caused pain. This may have been the same person in 1 Corinthians 5. The Corinthians may have done as they were told and rebuked the man and put him out of the church and their fellowship, but when the man repented they had a hard time accepting him back. Paul is telling them that if someone that has been removed from their presence and that person repents and turns back to the fellowship that the fellowship should welcome them back and not only love them but comfort them. That not doing so, is buying right into what Satan would desire us to do. 

“Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.” 2 Corinthians 2:10-11

We should always be aware that Satan has many strategies to tear us down as well as to tear down the church.  While we should not “look for a devil behind every rock” so to speak we should also “not be ignorant of his designs”.

“When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia” (2 Corinthians 2:12-14)

Paul wanted the Corinthians to know by these verses that he was always following the leading of Christ and the opened doors that Christ had for him. However, Paul also enjoyed doing ministry with others called to ministry. He felt that his strengths were in doing ministry with a team, so a solo run in Troas was shortlived.

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.” (2 Corinthians 2:14) 

Paul is painting the picture for the Corinthians of a Roman triumphal parade. He is letting them know that he follows Jesus as his general. Much like the Romans would have had a general in a war and they would have a parade when the Roman general and his army would return from war to celebrate. Paul follows Jesus, as his general. When there was a Roman triumphal parade there also may have likely been incense burning when the parade returned, hence the reference of the “spreading of fragrance”.

“For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” (2 Corinthians 2:15-16a)

The burning of the incense in a Roman parade would have meant two different things. To the Romans it was the smell of victory. But to the prisoners of war that may have been brought back it could also be the smell of death or defeat. The same smell but 2 very different meanings. Paul is saying the aroma of Christ that we bring will also mean 2 different things. To those who are in Christ Jesus and attempting to walk with him, the aroma is a sweet smell. However to those who are perishing it may not be so pleasant, it may be offensive to them. Isn’t that just how it is in the world today? When we try to spread the gospel, the world finds our ways and what we proclaim as offensive. 

“Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 2:16b-17)

Paul is recognizing that he is a mere man. He is recognizing the fact that no one is worthy to be a minister of the gospel. He also recognizes that there are those who are in ministry that are only “peddlers of God’s word”, but that he was “commissioned by God” and “in the sight of God we speak in Christ.”

Lord, while none of us are truly worthy to be ministers or advocates of the gospel, may we still be a sweet aroma to those who hear and know us. 

Please pray today for the service industry. So many stores and restaurants closing. Please pray for those who are suffering in the economy at this time. 

Yes and Amen!

2 Corinthians 1

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:1-2)

Paul begins his second letter to the Corinthians with familiarity. He states his credentials, tells them who is with him in the greeting and proclaims grace and peace to them. Much like if you answer the phone on speaker phone you would say “Hello I have so and so here with me” that way the Corinthians knew that Timothy was “with” Paul when he was writing this letter. 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with he comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Paul jumps right into things with the Corinthians, teaching them about sufferings and about comfort. And aren’t we glad he did. I am sure I am not alone in that these verses have brought me much comfort over the years. Why? Because it is one way that we can hold onto that our suffering is not in vain. Not that we want to suffer for the sake of someone else, but if we are going to suffer, and we all will at some point, then it is a comfort to us in the suffering as well as to others once we have walked through it to know that we will be helping others endure their suffering. I have had things, as I am sure you have too that were hard to walk through but later I may hear or know of someone going through the same thing that I am able to comfort them. For instance the death of my sister. The people who could identify, who had lost a sibling as well were of the greatest comfort to me during that time. And I have found since then that when I hear or know of someone who loses a sibling, I feel compelled to contact them to let them know that I know how it feels. Would I wish that I had not walked through the pain of my sister passing away? Sure I would, but I also asked the Lord to use it. I prayed that if something was going to hurt that bad, that the Lord would use that pain. That’s what makes the suffering worth it.  

Paul is sharing his sufferings with these Corinthians so that he can also share in the comfort. Paul does not give specifics of his suffering but he does tell the Corinthians that he was in fear for his life. But that he trusted God to deliver him. 

“He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.” (2 Corinthians 1:10)

I love this verse because it is Paul stating his faith in God, past present and future. And that because of what God has done for him in the past, Paul believes that he will get deliverance from God from his present troubles as well as any future troubles he will encounter. 

“You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.” (2 Corinthians 1:11)

How many times do we say “all I/we can do is pray”. Friends!! That is the very best thing we can do is pray. And here Paul is asking for prayer. Never underestimate praying for others in whatever they are going through. 

The letter changes tones just a bit. We had read at the end of Chapter 1 that Paul had intended to go to Corinth and spend time. He wanted to go through Corinth on his way to Macedonia and to return by way of Corinth and spend some time. However, it appears that the first trip to Corinth may not have gone quite as planned. So while the Corinthians were upset that Paul did not return to Corinth and it looks like word had reached Paul that they were grumbling about it. They were accusing Paul that his yes really means no and that his no would mean yes.   Paul is telling them that it is not that that was not his original intent but that he had changed his mind to “spare” them any further confrontation. But also that God had changed his path. Paul has always held fast to God is the one who establishes his plans and his steps. 

“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and how has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. But I call God to witness against me- it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.” (2 Corinthians 1:20-24) 

One of the most precious verses in scripture is verse 20. I had never read the full context surrounding it before but it was Paul’s affirmation and it is ours as well. “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him!” God always says Yes to Jesus and God always affirms His promises with an Amen! God established Paul and his work, God anointed him and put a seal on him. And God will establish our work and put a seal on us too through the Holy Spirit. Stand firm my friends. Stand firm! 

Lord thank you for your promises! Thank you that you put a Yes and Amen on your promises to us. Lord Jesus thank you that any suffering will not be in vain but that you will use it for your glory. Give us the grace to see it Lord and thank you for comforting us in all of our suffering. 

Please pray for the Pastors and our churches today. 

Parting Words

1 Corinthians 16

“Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of evert week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2)

When you see “now concerning” this is an indication that Paul was answering a question from the Corinthians as he did many times in this book. Paul has asked the churches to keep an offering for the poor in Jerusalem. What he is asking of them is to put a little aside every week so that when he comes to them, he can send people of the Corinthians choosing to Jerusalem with the gift. 

The next few verses (5-9) tell of Paul’s plans. He is planning to stay in Ephesus for the time being and then he wants to go to Macedonia before coming to Corinth. One thing to note here though is that even though Paul is making his plans on how to minister, he is also very open to the Lord’s leading in his plans. In verse 7 he clearly stated “If the Lord permits”. It is good for us to make plans in life and ministry, however, if we are trying to walk in step with Him, as we should be we also must realize that many times the Lord has a different plan for us than we have for ourselves. I can promise you 10 years ago, I would have never dreamed I would be living in small town Mississippi in a house overlooking a lake with a small community around me. When I look at the plans we had and what actually happened I see that the plans the Lord had for me were totally different than the plans I had for myself!  It’s quite exciting and interesting when you look back to see how God may be directing your steps.

Paul also gives the Corinthians instructions before he closes his letter on Timothy. He knew the Corinthians to have trouble with authority and it appears that Timothy was planning to visit Corinth on his way to see Paul so Paul asked the Corinthians in verses 10-11 to treat Timothy with respect. 

It is Paul’s desire to end his letter with some final instructions for the Corinthians. He begins verse 12 letting them know that he has urged Apollos to visit them but that Apollos is ministering and traveling of his own free will as well. 

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13)

This is Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians. He has given them a lot of instructions in this letter but he is breaking it down into one sentence right here. What he is telling them is good for us too. “Be watchful,” watch out for yourselves and what you are allowing in your midst, “stand firm in the faith” make sure you stand on the truth you have been taught. “act like men” he had told them earlier in this letter (chapter 3) that they were acting like infants or children that they had not grown up in their faith. In this statement I think he is telling them that he knows they have it in them. “Be strong” they need to stand in the strength that they receive from their faith. And then “let all that you do be done in love”. It all comes down to that. If we treat each other with love then we still may not agree with everything but we will at least respect each other. 

The last few verses of this letter are greetings from people they knew back to the Corinthians. Paul had had a scribe writing the letter but apparently he took the pen and wrote the last greeting of this letter to the Corinthians. 

“I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.” (1 Corinthians 16:21-24)

Again, Paul is putting the emphasis on love and he leaves the Corinthians with the blessing of his love. Paul has not just had touching feel good words for the Corinthians. He has told them some very hard truths at times. Yet we can all learn a lesson here by the way Paul deals with them in love. We must first strive to love the Lord and then we must ask the Lord for the grace to love others as he does. 

Oh sweet Lord, I pray that we will be able to stand firm in our faith, that we will be women and men who are strong and Lord that we will deal with others in love for them. And Lord when we are dealing with those that we may not find so lovable, I pray that you would help us to find the grace to love them as you do. 

Please pray for the educators, the teachers and the students today. 

Resurrected Bodies

1 Corinthians 15:35-58

Continuing in chapter 15 where Paul is discussing the resurrection, he talks about what our resurrection bodies will be like. 

“You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chose, and to each kind of seed its own body.” (1 Corinthians 15:36-38)

What Paul is saying here, and believe me I had to study it to get it, is that just like a seed that is planted, it grows into a plant or a stalk so to speak, our bodies will be the from our earthly body but they will be different too. 

“So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.” (1 Corinthians 15:42)

Our bodies now are decaying over time. Breaking down so to speak that is why as you get older you have more troubles with your body and you deal with more illnesses. We can work to keep our bodies healthy for longer but eventually our bodies will all wear out and will die but the bodies we return with will not break down, they will be imperishable bodies. 

“The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.” (1 Corinthians 15:47-49)

Our bodies bear the image of Adam right now, as he was formed from the earth and to earth he returned. When we are resurrected our bodies will bear the image of Christ and will live forever. 

“I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:50-52)

Even those Christians who are here when Jesus returns will be changed in the twinkling of an eye. Scholars believe because of Paul’s wording here that he thought this would happen during his lifetime. How many people through the ages have thought this would happen during their lifetime? We hear it now, all the time that with all that is going on in the world today that we are in the last days. And maybe we are, but the truth still remains that none of us know when that will happen. That is why we must align ourselves with the gospel and our salvation now. 

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:56-58)

Through Christ we have the victory over death and the victory over sin, but we must be steadfast in our work for the Lord. 

Oh Lord, help me to be steadfast in you. Show me your will and your way for my life. 

Please pray for the medical professionals today. 

The Resurrection

1 Corinthians 15:1-34 

This is such a long chapter that I am actually breaking it into 2 days to keep the post from being way too long. 

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2)

Despite all the problems that the Corinthians did have they had received the gospel, they were saved by the gospel, they just needed to hold fast to it and allow it to change them. In verses 3 – 9 Paul is reiterating what they already know and what has been preached to them. Christ died for our sins and that was in accordance with scriptures, he was buried and raised on the 3d day, He appeared to the apostles. He then appeared to more than 500 people at one time. That He appeared to Paul and changed him. Paul also goes on to call himself “the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle” because of his persecution of the church. 

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10) 

Paul is telling them that he works harder than the others, but he’s not telling them so he can boast about how hard he works but that he can point to the grace that God gave him which is what makes him work harder. What Paul is saying here is that the grace that was given to him by God compels him to work harder. When you know grace, really know it, you can’t help but want to work for Him. 

The next section, (verses 12 – 19) Paul is explaining to the Corinthians about the resurrection of the dead. It seems that the Corinthians had no trouble believing that Christ had been raised from the dead, but that they, (we) would be resurrected from the dead as well. Paul is telling them if you believe Christ has been raised then you have to believe we will be raised. And if Christ has not been raised then what are we basing our hope on. 

“If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:19)

The whole of the Christian faith rests on Christ’s resurrection. Paul is making that point to the Corinthians. He wants them to realize that what he is preaching to them is the hope beyond today and even beyond tomorrow. All rests on Christ’s resurrection and the fact that our hope beyond the here and now is our resurrection to be with Him one day in glory. You have to really read this section as Paul is talking to them with the sarcasm he can seem to lean to with them. 

Paul goes on to reiterate to them that Christ was raised from the dead and he was in fact the first to actually be resurrected. Paul also points out that sin came through the first man, Adam. Adam brought sin into the world which brought death into the world. So also Christ, through his resurrection, brings life to us. Christ was first, He is the “firstfruit” then we will be resurrected. An interesting thing I found in studying the word “firstfruit” in the Greek was translated apache. This word is, yes for the offering of first fruit, but it was also used for the term “entrance fee”. Paul may have used this term with the Corinthians partially because Jesus was raised on the day of the Feast of Firstfruit, which was observed on the day after the Sabbath following Passover but also because Jesus paid our “entrance fee” into heaven. 

Now also when I first read that I thought of the people that Jesus raised from the dead during his earthly ministry. So I did some digging, and what was pointed out was that those people were resuscitated from the dead for an earthly time only to die again in this earthly realm. When Jesus was resurrected He was raised from the dead to live again for eternity. Which is what will happen to us when we are resurrected to be with Him in all eternity. 

Paul points out in the following verses some of the practices that were going on around the Corinthian Christians that also give credence to his point. A pagan practice of that day was when someone would be baptized on behalf of someone who had already died. Paul is pointing out to the Corinthians who were getting skewed in their thinking about resurrection that if resurrection were not real why would the pagans even be doing this baptism. Apparently the pagans believed at least in the resurrection. Paul also goes on to point out to them that they need to be careful who they are listening to and learning from. 

“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’ Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.” (1 Corinthians 15:33-34)

“For Christians to resist God’s process of transformation by the renewing of our minds is to neglect the knowledge of God. To remain willfully ignorant of the truth is sin.” ~ David Guzik

I thought that sentence was too good in commentary not to use it in its full context. 

Lord Jesus let us not “remain willfully ignorant of truth. But please give us minds to understand and hearts to believe. 

Please pray for our President and government leaders today. 

Orderly Worship

1 Corinthians 14

“Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” (1 Corinthians 14:1)

Paul has laid it out for us plainly in chapter 13 that we should pursue love. This is something we can work at, we can strive for. You can love God with all your heart, soul and mind and when you pursue that kind of love, when you pursue loving God, He can give you that kind of love for people. But we can still desire spiritual gifts. Paul is specifically talking about speaking in tongues and prophesying in this chapter. I had never paid much attention to this chapter before so I found it very interesting and I don’t know a whole lot about speaking in tongues nor the gift of prophecy in today’s events. I know there are congregations who still say that they speak in tongues but I have never been a part of one. Therefore, I am not making a claim for or against it in the present day. I am simply unpacking this chapter to see what we can learn about Paul’s intent then and what we can learn about it today. 

In verses 2 – 5 Paul tells them that the one who is speaking in tongues is speaking to God, not to men. That men cannot understand the one who is speaking in tongues. That is why he says “especially that you may prophesy”. He goes on to explain that prophesying speaks to people and it is for their “upbuilding and encouragement and consolation”. 

“The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:4)

He is not saying that it is bad to speak in tongues but just that prophesying is better because it builds the community not just the person. And in fact later in the chapter and he says so even in verse 5 he wants them to speak in tongues it is just that he wants them even more to prophesy. Why? Because he wants them to be sure that they are building up the church. 

In verses 6 – 12, he explains a little further why he feels this way. He is giving them the negative side of speaking in tongues. He is telling them he can see that one speaking in tongues in a congregation would be confusing to people who could not understand what was being said. He explains this using the example of musical instruments. Now something I have always wished I could do is play a musical instrument. I was in the band for a couple of years in Junior High. I took piano lessons as a child. I have a dulcimer and I have at times picked it up to try to learn but it is not something that comes naturally for me. So assuredly listening to me play a musical instrument would not be pleasant at all. You would not get anything out of it. In the same way if someone is speaking in tongues in a group setting and there is no one to interpret it, it would not be pleasant to hear. The hearer would be like listening to a foreign language. This is why Paul desires for the Corinthians to desire prophecy rather than speaking in tongues. 

“So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:12)

As I read and studied this chapter, what my interpretation was is that speaking in tongues is more of a private matter. Paul is not saying it can never happen in a congregation, but what he is saying is that when it does that there should always be an interpreter present. But that when they, when we, come together as congregations that the purpose is for the community as a whole, not just for one person. Speaking in tongues is a communication between one man and God. I got from this that Paul does speak in tongues in his time with God. His “quiet time” or his “prayer time’ if you will. It is something that happens between him and God. But the greater thing here is to prophesy because it is for the whole. 

“Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.” (1 Corinthians 14:19)

The next section of this chapter addresses orderly worship. The Corinthians were meeting in house churches and we already know that they might tend to act like it was just a big party when they were together. Paul wants them to bring more order to their times together. ‘

“What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” (1 Corinthians 14:26) 

Paul is telling them there should be an order of things when they come together with one goal in mind and that is to build each other up. That they should come together to learn and to be encouraged. I think this is much the same as our churches today. We go to church to learn more about Jesus and to be encouraged so that we can go out we can make disciples and hopefully bring more people to the faith. Our goals in the fellowship should be to have order, so that we can all learn and be encouraged. And not to allow our worship services to be chaotic with no order in them. 

Paul finalizes the chapter with an exhortation to them. 

“So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But all things should be done decently and in order.” (1 Corinthians 14:39-40) 

Lord I pray that our churches will be meeting with the whole in mind. I pray that you will reveal to us the ways that are chaotic and not building the community so that we may bring order to them. I pray that we will know that the end goal of our fellowship is always the community and that our time with You that builds us personally is to enhance what we have in community. 

Please pray for the small business owners and service people today. 

The Greatest Love!

1 Corinthians 13

This chapter is like sitting under a warm blanket on a rainy cold drizzly day with a good book. There may even be a fire crackling in the fireplace. It has all the warmth one can receive from one chapter and it is amongst a book with what may feel like a lot of rules and a lot of don’t do this, and do that! I got excited this week just knowing this book was coming up.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love I have gained nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

Paul is telling these Corinthians what is the most important in and among all of the other things he has told them. He has taught them about sacrifice, he has taught them about faith, he has taught them about spiritual gifts but if they don’t have love for each other and love for God in the midst of all of that they have nothing! We can store up all of the knowledge of God. We can have enough faith to move mountains. But if we can’t love our fellow man then we are merely blowing smoke, as they say. Only worse because its like a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal! 

It’s also important to know the Greek word that Paul is using here. When we read the Bible and when we see the word love we see one word. But when you find out what Greek word was used it brings a clearer meaning to the passage. The Greeks had four different words that they used for love. Eros is the physical love between a man and a woman. Storge is a family love, it describes the love of a parent and child or love of family. Philia is a brotherly love and affection. Agape love is all encompassing. It is sacrificial, it is giving more of yourself than you ever would expect to receive. It denies self, it does not want anything back. It gives because it wants to, not because it has to. It does not give in order to receive, it just gives. It just loves. This love Paul is talking about, it’s agape love. 

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6)

I don’t see any way I could explain this passage any better than Paul has put it. Love is patient and kind. He also tells us what it is not. It does not envy or boast, it is not arrogant or rude, it does not insist on its own way it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice at wrongdoing. And then what it is, it rejoices with truth. All of that is pretty self explanatory. But then he ties it up with a bow 

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7)

Love covers everything we could bear from another, it believes the best in circumstances and in people. It is hopeful for the future! It endures, it keeps on believing and hoping and bearing what comes. It does not give up! This is the kind of Love that can feel so deeply it hurts but it can’t feel any other way. It is the kind that goes on and on and on! 

“Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.” (1 Corinthians 13:8-10)

Paul is referring to the spiritual gifts that he has just been teaching them about, prophecy, speaking in tongues even knowledge will or may go away one day. But even no matter how much we think we know, or how much we think we could possibly prophesy or if one can speak in tongues. All of that is just a small part “but when the perfect comes” all of that will go away. What does he meant about “when the perfect comes”. 

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:11-12)

As we grow up in Christ and we gain more faith and more knowledge of Jesus we still can’t know Him like we will know Him when we are face to face with Him. We will know Him “fully”, the same way that He knows us when we are face to face with Him. That’s when the perfect comes! 

“So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

The things our Christian life should be in pursuit of faith, hope and love! The gifts of the Holy Spirit are great, but they are not to be our focus. We should not just pursue, miracles or power. But faith hope and love is what we pursue, it’s what the world needs more of. Faith and hope are attributes of us, not of God, He does not need to have faith or to have hope. But love, this agape kind of love is a love that only God can put in us. To pursue this kind of love is to pursue God. God is love! 

Sweet Lord, we pursue You! We want to feel the warmth of You, like a warm blanket in this cold, dreary world. God we want to have faith and hope that things will work out but the kind of faith and hope we need we can only get by pursuing love, pursuing You! 

Please pray for your pastor and your church today. Things are still so strange. 

What’s your lane

1 Corinthians 12

“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led.” (1 Corinthians 12:1-2)

Paul has been speaking to the Corinthians a lot on the things that they are getting wrong, sexual misconduct, following idols, etc etc. The NKJV even says “dumb” idols instead of “mute” idols. Paul really wanted them to get it that the lifestyle they were under before was not not one they wanted to stay in. But that their new life had so much more for them.  Now he wants to talk spiritual gifts to them. One commentator defines spiritual gifts as “Gracious endowments, leading to miraculous results… these all came by the extraordinary influences of the Holy Spirit.” I love that term “gracious endowments”! 

Some of the gifts that Paul mentions here are: the utterance of wisdom, the utterance of knowledge, faith, healing, working of miracles, prophecy, ability to distinguish, speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues. Paul tells them that each of these gifts come from the same Spirit. That there are gifts, and there is service, and activities that are manifested by God and God is the one who empowers all of them. 

All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. (1 Corinthians 12:11)

The Holy Spirit is the one who gives out the spiritual gifts and He is the one who decides who gets what gift. 

Have you ever done one of those spiritual gifts quizzes and you didn’t like what you got so you tried to do it again and you tried to answer things a little differently so you would get another answer. I have and it’s funny usually I still end up with the same answer no matter how many answers I want to change. I have always wondered how that worked.  It seems to me that most of us are not necessarily satisfied with the gift that we are given. At least not at first. I have found that as I get older and I feel that I am stepping into the gifts He has given me I really am more and more comfortable acting within those gifts. Funny, He really does know me better than I know myself. 

The next section of this chapter talks about the body of the church. We believers are the body of the church. 

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free- and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)

Have you ever stubbed your pinky toe? You know that little guy is just there. It seems like it doesn’t have a very big job to do. But you catch that thing on a piece of furniture and then you find out what importance it plays. It hurts! You will be limping around and it may turn all black and blue. You can’t wear shoes. That little part of your body can make things miserable and change things with the whole rest of your body. And then you find out it’s importance!

It seems like this is Paul’s way of saying “stay in your lane”!! He does a very good job of explaining in verses 21-26 how the body works together. We all have jobs to do and some of the jobs may seem menial like the pinky toe and some may seem to be of a higher honor than others but the bottom line is it takes all of us to do the work that Christ has for us to do. Whether you are talking about church or some ministry or the body as a whole. Not everyone could be a Billy Graham or a Beth Moore, or a Priscilla Shirer. But it takes all of us to do the work of Christ and to lead others to Christ. My calling may not be to stand in an arena and speak to thousands and that’s ok because it would probably scare me to death. But that doesn’t make the calling of the one who has taught a Sunday school class of 10-20 people for decades any less important than those who are standing in arenas or pulpits. It takes someone to set up the chairs and it takes someone to make the coffee. We just have to find what our gift is and what our calling is. And we have to realize that we are all in this together. Just like the parts of the body work together, the body of the Christ should work together too. My commentary pointed out: “Sometimes there is a part of our body that only lives to serve itself. It doesn’t contribute anything to the rest of the body. And everything it gets it uses to feed and grow itself. We call this cancer.” When one person is seeking their own glory rather than the glory of Christ, that is when the eye is saying to the ear, I have no need of you. Or the hand is saying to the dirty feet I am more important than you. This kind of cancer does not belong in the body of Christ nor His church. 

“that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together, if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Corinthians 12:25-26)

When we work like this, it works! God has appointed each of us to our gifts. The Holy Spirit will give them to us. 

Oh Lord, please help us to stay in our lane! Lord, we desire the gifts that you desire to give us. Lord, we pray that as we work our way into our calling that you have for us, that we would know that we all must work together as one body, just as we pray that our bodies would work together. 

Please, please please pray for the educators and the students today! 

Be Imitators

1 Corinthians 11 

“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

Paul was secure in who he was in Christ. So secure in fact that he knew he was living a life others could follow. Paul knew that he could tell the Corinthian Christians that they could follow his examples and he would lead them straight to Christ. I was thinking about this there other day. I pray that my life will always point others to Jesus. I pray that I am never seen as judging someone else for their walk, but I feel that my place is simply to love others and point them to Jesus. Need peace of mind? I’m going to tell you to pray. That may sound like a Sunday school answer but I know He is the only one who can give you peace. Need direction? Pray, I know that there are lots of things that I have prayed about that He has worked out better than I could have imagined. Need mercy? Pray, His mercies are new every morning. Need strength? The joy of the Lord is my strength. Some days in my quiet time, I feel like I am dragging all the burdens from the day before in a big old Santa Claus bag. I drag that bag to the foot of the cross and I lay them down one by one all over again. And I beg Him for grace. I pray that He will give me grace to always point others to Him and to be joyful and to just not let my anxieties and worries spew all over the lady at the grocery store who is tired of wearing a mask and ready to throw in the towel. Or to spew all over the person who cut me off getting the closer parking space. Paul wants us to follow his example, because he was so close to the one who had saved him! 

“Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:2-3)

Paul started this section out being a little sarcastic as he would tend to do at times with the Corinthians. You see he knew that they didn’t necessarily remember his teachings nor did they hold fast to traditions. But in this passage he addresses God’s naturally ordained order of things. Christ is the head of man, a husband is the head of his wife, and God is the head of Christ. While I do believe this and it is my desire to hold to this order of things, I do realize that this could hit a nerve for some people. However, it is my desire to handle God’s word rightly. Paul is telling the Corinthian Christians, that this is the way God ordained it. But Paul is also stating that being the head comes with responsibility. It is not meant as a way to lord over someone. The head could also be considered the “source”. As one commentator put it the head of a river is the source. The river could not flow if you did not have the head of the river which is bringing energy to the river. In the same way the head of the household or church or an organization is supposed to be what leads or what gives energy to the organization. Such as the family. If the head of the household is not walking under the authority of Christ and receiving their energy from whom is supposed to be their source then that is when things suffer.

“Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made form man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.” (1 Corinthians 11:11-12)

The first woman was made from Adam’s, however man is now born of women. What Paul is saying here is it is a partnership. There may be a God ordained order and authority of things. And when they can work together rightly it is a beautiful thing. But the bottom line is “All things are from God”.  And while we can study and dissect this over and over we must always go back to the word and to Christ who being the head of man is the head over us all.  

“But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse.” (1 Corinthians 11:17) 

Again, the Corinthian society was somewhat paganistic or at the very least very materialistic. The early church would have a custom of combining their fellowship times with meals. Much like what we would call a covered dish supper. However, when they would come together they tended to practice things much like they had in the past before the establishment of the church. Very selfishly. In verses 18-22 Paul is chastising the Corinthians for this. He is telling them if they want to be selfish, do it in their own homes. But not to despise the church of God. The Corinthians were eating and drinking as if they were having a big party and the one who brought the most got to be at the head of the line. Can you imagine a dinner at church where your position in line was based on how much you brought! 

The next verses outline the Lord’s Supper and how the Corinthians should be practicing it. 

“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” (1 Corinthians 11:27-28) 

I have often read this passage and have found myself actually worrying in the past that I had something that was making unworthy to take the Lord’s supper. I have often thought of this in very legalistic terms and this made me nervous. But that is not what this means at all. You see we are all unworthy when it comes right down to it. That is, unless we are covered by the blood of Jesus. But when we remember what Jesus did for us at the cross and we take the bread and the cup and we are repentant it’s because we know that without Him we are nothing. You see all you have to do is come with a repentant heart. You don’t have to wallow in self pity or worry about not being good enough. You just have to know that there is no way you would be good enough without him. True repentance drives to the heart of God, guilt drives away. 

Oh Lord, I pray give me the grace to recognize my need for you. Give me the grace to imitate you so that my life would always point others to You! 

Please pray for the medical professionals. From the people going in to clean the rooms to the doctors working on a vaccine and cure. 

For God’s Glory

1 Corinthians 10

Paul starts this chapter comparing the Corinthian Christians with the Israelites in the wilderness with Moses. In chapter 8 Paul established the fact that an idol is nothing, should be nothing, should mean nothing to the christian. In chapter 9, however, he shows us that while Christians have the “rights” to eat what they wish, or in his case be paid a wage for his work, that giving up those “rights” for our fellow man is how we are laying down our lives for the gospel. He is warning the Corinthians here to realize all the blessings that the Israelites had. The miracles that they witnessed with their own eyes, yet when it came down to it, they did not follow God the way they should have and most of them (all but 2) died in the wilderness and did not even get to see the Promised Land. Paul’s point is this, God had so much for them. He had blessings waiting for them. Even after seeing and following with their own eyes, the fire and a pillar of cloud they never quite got it. 

“Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.” (1 Corinthians 10:6)

All scripture is written down as an example to us. Sometimes it’s difficult to think of the people in the Bible as people. They had so many tangible miracles in front of them. And sometimes we may think “oh if I had only lived back then, I would not have questioned things” because of the miracles that were right in front of them. But they were people, flesh and blood people, with thoughts and dreams and hopes. Their stories are meant to encourage us to stay on the path. Paul used the Israelites story to try to encourage the Corinthians and us. We can use the Israelites stories as well as the Corinthians stories to encourage us. 

“Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:12-13)

When I have heard verse 13 before I rarely hear it in context with verse 12. But when I read it today, it was like reading it with new eyes and ears. We must be careful not to think we have it all together. The Corinthians, in their mind, had it all together. They had the “I’ve got this” down to a science. So Paul is saying here just when you think you have it all together and that you can stand for anything, that is when you will fall. But he also lets us know that God will always give his children a way out of temptation. There is nothing you can be tempted with or I can be tempted with that has not been dealt with by God already. It is not that we will have deliverance from temptation, but when our lives are entwined with the gospel, we will be able to endure any temptation. 

Paul also gives the warning to the Corinthians that while they can eat the meat that is sacrificed to idols if they so choose, because it is nothing to them, they should not pull up a seat at the table where idol worship is taking place. He is not talking here of being with unbelievers, but do not partake in idol worship. He puts it plainly in verse 14. 

“Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” (1 Corinthians 10:14) 

If it is satanic, or paganistic, you nor I have a place there. We do not want to live by a list of rules, but to live in our freedom in Christ, but there are certain things that you can’t crossover and this is the main thing. 

“You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” (1 Corinthians 10:21)

The heading to the last part of this chapter in the ESV is “Do all to the Glory of God”!  I like that heading and I like the way Paul starts this out. 

“‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24)

This is what it comes down to again and again. What are we doing to lead our friends and neighbors to Christ? Paul is saying eat with a clean conscience. But if someone mentions to you this food was sacrificed to idols then you don’t eat it. For the sake of your brothers conscience. If you are dining with the unbeliever or hanging out with the unbelievers, which is ok and not only, ok, we should have them in our friend groups, you must still be careful because you are the Christ that they will see. If they are struggling with what you say and do because they know you are a believer, you must be careful about what you say and do. Something may be lawful for you, but ask yourself the questions. Is it helpful? Will it build the body of Christ? 

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) 

Oh Lord, may we continue as we break down these chapters in this book, to point to You. May it be the desire of our hearts to show people Your heart within us. That is what we pray to do. 

Please pray for our country, our President, our state, our Governor and all the leaders. Make no mistake God is still on the throne.