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. 

Run for the Prize!

1 Corinthians 9

“Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.”  (1 Corinthians 9:1-2) 

Paul sometimes seems to teach with sarcasm. I don’t know that I had ever realized that before I started studying his letters this way. But here is an example of Paul’s sarcasm. When Paul starts asking questions that the answers should seem very obvious that, to me, seems to be when he is trying to make a very emphatic point. Some of the Corinthian Christians had begun to doubt Paul’s apostleship. But the answers to the questions in verse 1 are proof of his apostleship. Of course he was free, Paul was not teaching and writing letters and preaching under any authority than Jesus. He was an apostle because he was commissioned by Jesus himself on the road to Damascus. Paul knows that he had a true encounter with Jesus himself. And above all, he had done much work among the Corinthians that his credentials should have been enough evidence. 

Neither Paul nor Barnabas received wages from the churches they served. But it appears that maybe they were the only ones who never received wages. According to commentary, this may be the reason the Corinthian Christians were beginning to doubt his apostleship. This seems ironic to me but it appears that is what was stirring among them. Paul is stating his rights here as an apostle. Not that he wants them to start paying him, but only that he should have the same rights as the other apostles, such as Peter. But it is his choice not to receive wages from them. 

In verses 7 – 13 he is reiterating this point by stating the obvious things, even soldiers who go to war get paid, the farmer and the workers of the field get paid at least in the food they harvest. Even oxen treading grain, eat some of the grain that they tread. Those employed in the temple get their share of sacrificial offerings. 

“In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:14)

Paul did not want things to change so that he could start getting paid, what he wanted the Corinthians to realize was that it was within his rights to receive wages from them but that he chose not to receive these wages. 

“But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting. (1 Corinthians 9:15)

Remember the Corinthians were an up and coming society. They may also have looked down on Paul because of the way that he made his living. He worked with his hands. Paul, however looked on that as his reason to boast. He wanted them to know that working for his own living and yet preaching and teaching was his way of laying down his life and his rights to them. 

And this is where we finally get to our lesson in this passage. What are we laying down for Jesus? What sacrifices are we making to get the message out to the world? This is a time that is so hard because of this pandemic, we aren’t supposed to go out too much. But I’m not talking about setting ourselves up on a street corner to preach the gospel, but there are things each of us can do to live out the gospel right where we are. We can sacrifice our time, to our fellow man and neighbors, we can share good messages when we hear them. I am not talking about the “share if you love Jesus” messages on Facebook. I am the worst at those. But share what you are learning and what you are trying to internalize from His word. Ask Him where He wants you to serve. He will surely show you. 

In verses 19 – 23 Paul is telling them that he tried to become all things to all people for the sake of the gospel. When he is with the Jews he tried to become as a Jew, when he is with those lived under the law, he lived under the law, even though he didn’t have to. When he was with Gentiles he tried to identify as a Gentile. Paul’s life calling was to share the gospel and Paul did whatever he had to do in whatever circumstance to share the gospel. 

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) 

Athletics were a big part of the Corinthian culture, therefore Paul was speaking the language that they would understand. They knew the discipline of an athlete. Paul was letting them know that the self-control that he exercised in his own life was the same amount of self control that an athlete would have to exercise. The athlete does these things so he would not be disqualified by the judges from the games and that he would win the prize. Paul is just saying here he does what he does, so as not to be disqualified. Just because he doesn’t take pay from them is not grounds to disqualify him as an apostle. To Paul they are the prize.

Lord, help us to run our races the way You would have us to. Teach us to “stay in our lane” to the calling you lay on each of us. Give us the strength and courage we need to stay disciplined to what you lay on our hearts to do. 

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

Don’t be a Know it all!

1 Corinthians 8

“Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.”  (1 Corinthians 8:1)

I must admit to you I have really struggled through most of this book so far, as it has seemed like a lot of the rules that I don’t like to focus on. But this verse right here. It is speaking my language. You see I think many times we let our knowledge of things, of God’s word or of religious stuff get in the way of our love. I love the way Paul cuts to the chaste here. And you might even wonder because it starts out with “Now concerning food offered to idols”. This is phrased like this because Paul is still in the answering questions mode. This was a question that the Corinthian Christians asked Paul. I bet the answer “’all of us possess knowledge.’ This ‘knowledge’ puffs up but love builds up”, did not seem like the answer to their question at all.

“If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.” (1 Corinthians 8:2)

In other words. Don’t be a know it all.  When you think you have it all figured it out is when, quite frankly, you really don’t. But look at this next verse and get what it is saying.

“But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” (1 Corinthians 8:3)

Wow!!  We can pursue all the knowledge in the world. We can be highly educated. We can be smart off the chart and get it easy or we can struggle to understand. But sometimes all we really need to know is that if we love God that we are known by God! Think about that, let that sink in. One of my favorite verses is Psalm 19:7.

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;” (Psalm 19:7)

I heard that verse many years ago, back when I was first starting to truly fall in love with scripture. I loved it because I knew there was a lot out there I didn’t understand but this verse showed me that with the Lord’s help I could get it. The law of the Lord – His word is perfect! It is there to revive our souls. And it has revived mine over and over when the stuff of this world is on me. And the testimony, the stories in His word, is sure and if you dive in, it is there to make even the most simple minded of us wiser.

We got a whole lot out of this chapter in the first 3 verses, didn’t we?  I think chapter 8 just became my favorite in 1 Corinthians.  But that is not all this chapter has to offer us.

Now Paul decides to answer their question. Apparently their question was about eating food that had been offered to idols. I just love what Paul tells them.  He tells them in verses 4 – 6, there are no worries of eating food offered to idols, because idols are not real. There is only one God, that idols are so-called gods. There may be things in this world that people set up as “gods” but for those of us in Christ they should mean nothing to us.

“yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and through whom we exist.”  (1 Corinthians 8:6)

However, it is still our responsibility to think of others. Paul is ending this chapter reminding us that not all may be as comfortable with his argument about idols. This is the same conversation as the Freedom to eat conversation, just different context.

“Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. (1 Corinthians 8:8)

The Corinthians were putting too much importance on the food and not enough on their brothers and sisters in Christ. They may have wanted Paul to tell them they could eat or even to tell them they were being more spiritual if they didn’t eat. But that’s not Paul’s style. The heart of the matter of food is this.

“But take care that this right of yours does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” (1 Corinthians 8:9)

We must be careful of our actions and who is watching us. Paul is telling them, if your brother sees eating the food that was sacrificed to idols as a sin, then your doing that in front of the weaker brother is a sin as well. We have to be very careful not to lead our brothers and sisters astray by the things we do, the things we say, the things we watch, the things we allow ourselves to hear.

“Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” (1 Corinthians 8:13)

Oh to have that kind of love for my fellow man.

Lord, I pray we will not be puffed up with knowledge but will just love You so that we may love people well. Lord help us not to be stumbling blocks to our brothers and sisters in Christ!

Please pray for the pastors and our churches today. 

Serve Where You Are!

1 Corinthians 7

“Now concerning the matters about which you wrote….” (1 Corinthians 7:1)

The Corinthian Christians had apparently written Paul with some specific questions.  It seems that maybe he had gotten some of their attention concerning sexual immorality so that maybe they were suggesting that they should all be abstinent even in marriage. Isn’t that just like Satan to take what Paul had been saying before and twist it to make something bad out of something good. He’s done it before! Remember Eve in the garden, where Satan takes God’s words and twists them until Eve is stumbling over her own memory on what God’s instructions were. He is so crafty and will twist words until you don’t know which way is up if we aren’t careful.  That’s what I thought about as I was reading the commentary on this. Paul had in the previous chapters told them the evils of sexual immorality and before it’s all over Satan has the Corinthians believing they shouldn’t have sex inside of marriage or that maybe they should all divorce. Paul is answering their questions and giving them instructions on marriage. Paul is telling the Corinthians that if you are married you are a gift to each other and should not deprive one another. Paul does not want them to confuse the sin of sexual immorality with God’s gift of sex inside of marriage. Paul goes on to say that if you are unmarried or widowed it could be good for you to remain single. However, for some the temptations would be too great to not be married. 

While studying I ran across this statement:  “Satan’s great strategy, when it comes to sex is to do everything he can to encourage sex outside of marriage, and to discourage sex within marriage.  It is an equal victory for Satan if he accomplishes either plan.” (David Guzik) Either way he wins a battle. 

Paul also addresses those who are married to an unbeliever. It’s possible that some of the Corinthians actually saw that as less than spiritual and they thought because of their unbelieving spouse that they should just get out of the marriage. Paul is talking to the people who are already married and have an unbelieving spouse. Make no mistake that marriage between an unbeliever and a believer should not be entered into. But if this is where you find yourself, Paul is simply stating that your concern should be for your unbelieving spouse and that you do not know if you will be the means to salvation for your unbelieving spouse. This is such a hard place to be in. I have known people in this spot and it is painful and it is gut wrenching for the believer. But it is not a free ticket out of a marriage. God does not hand those out. Paul does say that if the unbelieving partner wants out that can be permitted but the marriage should not be broken by the believing partner. 

Now I can’t go any further on this subject without mentioning that no where here does Paul address abuse, either mental or physical. So please do not mistake any of this for saying anyone should ever stay in an abusive situation. I do not believe that to be so. If one partner is being physically or mentally abused they should seek help immediately. If both partners will go to counseling then by all means go, and many times for safety sake there must be a separation take place. If both parties will not get counseling then by all means the believing partner should seek good Godly Christian counseling and spend a lot of time in prayer. I have seen God redeem marriages and I have seen divorces happen and God redeem in other relationships. He wants good for His children. 

“Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.” 1 Corinthians 7:17

Paul has shifted his focus from marriage to calling. Paul gives the example of the circumcised and the uncircumcised. Back in those days this was a big deal. Because of Jewish traditions and the fact that now Gentiles were in the church there were arguments over which was better, to be circumcised or uncircumcised. Well if it wasn’t that argument it was something else, and yes we have addressed much of this already. But what Paul is really saying here and the application for us is serve where you are, in whatever position you have found yourself in at this time. 

“For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. ” (1 Corinthians 7:19-20)

How many times do we think “oh when I get beyond this ___ (job, season of life, church, school, etc.) then I will start serving.” Paul has gone on to say if you are a slave, live in the freedom of Christ and if you are free, realize you are only a slave to Christ. But serve where you are. Wherever you find yourself at this time. Serve there. 

Paul wraps up the latter part of this chapter reiterating. If you are married, stay married, if you are not married so be it. Paul says those who are single are anxious in trying to please the Lord, those who are married are anxious in trying to please their spouse and that none of that should be so. But in all whether married or unmarried stay devoted to the Lord. 

Oh Lord, may we all be satisfied in whatever circumstance we have found ourselves in and may we just serve You Lord Jesus. 

Please pray today for the educators. There are lots of big decisions coming down and whatever camp you find yourself in, you can still pray for those making these decisions. 

Washed, Sanctified, Justified

1 Corinthians 6

Oh these Corinthian Christians. I keep thinking things will turn but to no avail. They had their own thoughts and their own sets of rules they were following. I am sure that Paul was beginning to feel that he was beating his head on the wall.  Paul starts out this chapter addressing lawsuits. Apparently the Corinthian Christians were also arguing in and amongst themselves and they had things that they were beginning to feel that they needed an arbitrator to settle. So they took their matters outside the church and they were suing their brothers in Christ. Paul was stating this just could not be. Paul does not understand why the Corinthian Christians would seek justice from those who weren’t walking in Christ. I think we don’t have to think of this thing just in the context of lawsuits but I think we should be careful if we are taking our disagreements to people outside our churches. I truly think that one of Satan’s most cunning tactics against a church is to stir up divisiveness in the church, or communities, or workplaces, or families. It makes no sense to be taking our arguments outside the church to those people who aren’t Christians. We as Christians should be fully capable of handling our conflicts within ourselves. 

Paul asks the question “Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers?” (v5) He has gone on to tell them that having lawsuits among them is already a defeat. It is tearing down the church. I have seen it and I know you have too. As soon as you go so far as to think you need outside help to settle an argument or a lawsuit you are giving Satan a step into your church to tear you up. This can be said of Christian friendships or Christian businesses also. Satan would like nothing better than to tear things up from the inside out. But when you take your arguments and your disputes to someone outside the circle, you are inviting him in to do just that. Oh I have been so guilty of this before. I get my feelings hurt or I am angry about something and I think I need a judge and jury to help me try my case, or at least a listening ear to tell me I’m right and they are wrong. When Paul says “Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough?” That should stop us in our tracks to realize if we have a dispute then we must settle them among ourselves. If you need an arbitrator it must be a christian. We should be able to settle the disputes among ourselves in our christian circles, but even when we can’t we have to trust God to settle them. I had a situation a while back where there was something going on in a church that I attended. Now I felt that everyone’s heart was in the right place but I also felt a practice was wrong. I’m not talking about blatantly wrong like the sins that Paul has listed just not being handled right. But I was in the minority of those who thought it was wrong. So I prayed about it. And while I prayed about it I asked the Lord to either change my heart about the situation or to change the situation. Over time, slowly some of the practices began to change and the next thing I knew it was not an issue anymore. We saw in the previous chapter if it is blatantly wrong, we are to confront our brothers and sisters in Christ concerning sin. But how many arguments or disagreements are not blatant but just an opinion. That is what we must be careful of. The people on the outside of our circles do not need to be helping us decide our arguments or our disagreements. Because we were them at one time. But we are supposed to be different. 

“And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11) 

We have been washed in the blood of Jesus. We should have been cleansed of sin by what Jesus did for us on the Cross. We were sanctified, we should be living as set apart people. We are to be able to love people of the world without acting like people of the world. And we are justified. God’s grace justifies us by faith. Not by things we do, feel, say and think. But we truly for the sake of His name we really should be acting like it. 

“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything.” (1 Corinthians 6:12) 

Paul had apparently used this statement “All things are lawful for me” to the Corinthians before. However it appears that maybe the Corinthians had decided to use the phrase as a license to sin. Paul addresses that here. That while we do not live under the “law” anymore. That does not mean that all things are good for us. Paul is addressing food as well as sexual sin here. Paul is using the illustration of the body and sins against the body. We are to treat our bodies as the temple of God. Sexual sin is the one that will destroy the body the quickest. But I think that even mentioning food, Paul may be pointing out that there are lots of things that may be done against your body that are sin. 

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19) 

Sweet Lord, may we handle our disputes amongst ourselves and if we can’t handle them may we lay them at the foot of the cross. And at the end of the day may we only do and treat ourselves and each other as yours so that we may glorify you!! 

Please pray for the medical professionals and first responders.

Correcting in Love

1 Corinthians 5

Paul has heard of sexual sin that is taking place in the Corinthian church. And not only that is taking place but is being blatantly overlooked and truthfully it seems they are in some ways boasting because of their tolerance of the people or person engaging, and he is not happy. Paul starts this chapter addressing the sexual sin and pointing out that what is going on is not only recognized as a sin to Christians but that even those who do not know Christ, the Pagans would not accept it in their midst. And yet they were being so proud of themselves for their tolerance of allowing this to take place in their midst.  Paul, a couple of times in this chapter talks about the sinner being removed from their midst. I have to admit that bothered me a little at first. I have always been of the opinion that being in church was good even for the most horrific of sinners because they may hear something that they wouldn’t have heard otherwise that would lead them to repentance. I had to really pray over this chapter in order to make sure I handled it correctly. I hope I do. 

It seems to me that Paul is upset this is taking place openly amongst the church, but also that the Christians in the church seem to be so accepting of it and that it seems to be happening among those who proclaim Christ. That they are simply taking this behavior lightly, with a wink wink or with a let’s sweep it under the rug. I think when Paul is telling them that they are to confront this man who is doing this what he is saying here is that they are not to be so accepting. I think from what I have learned about Paul thus far that Paul would always want someone confronted or admonished in love. His intent is always to bring someone to full repentance. We are in days where tolerance is not only preached, it is encouraged. We, as Christians are supposed to be tolerant and accepting of those whose lifestyles are outside the bible. But when it is a brother or sister in Christ it definitely is different than when you are dealing with the world. We as Christians are supposed to confront (in love) those who are proclaiming Christ yet are living in a lifestyle of sin. And we should never tolerate blatant disrespect for our churches and our fellowship. Oh these are some fine lines that we must be careful and deal with with much prayer. But deal we must so as to not allow certain lines to be crossed. 

“Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Corinthians 5:6-8)

What Paul is saying here is don’t boast in your tolerance. But be careful for when you begin to turn your head at some sins and being tolerant of those sins, then it gets easier and easier to turn our heads at more and more sin. We must not do that. That is why we call out our brothers and sisters in love. Sin is an entrapment and when you start stepping over those lines it becomes a slippery slope. His illustration, a little leaven leavens the whole lump. If you had bread dough or a cake mix and you put a little of something bad in there and mixed it in, it spoils the whole batch.  This is why you have to “cleanse out the old leaven” and your hope is always that the confrontation will lead to repentance. But we know that tolerance of sin never cleanses, it grows and festers. 

Now to be clear, the points we have made so far is in dealing with our brothers and sisters in Christ who are living in sin. In the last few lines of this chapter Paul is making sure they understand that he is not talking about the people outside the church. Paul does mention judging here, but wait haven’t we talked about not being judgmental. Yes we have. And Paul is stating it here, that it is for God to judge those outsiders? That is left up to God alone. Our role with those outside the church is to love them where they are. Also even in the church, we are never to judge in hypocrisy but only to point out when Christian brothers and sisters are out of fellowship with the Lord and His people. We cannot isolate ourselves from the world, meaning we can never not come in contact with those who do not know Christ and we cannot judge how they are living. We cannot expect those who do not know Christ to live as if they do. However, we do have an expectation for those who proclaim Christ to walk in Christ. 

Lord, please help us as we navigate this. Help us to recognize in our brothers and sisters when there may be something we need to correct but Lord, please help us to do it in love so as to bring repentance. Lord, help us to find those lines and to know how to stay on the side of right! 

Please pray for your government leaders. The President, the Governor and all those in between making decisions.