Category Archives: 15 in ’15

Church daily reading plan

Peter, Persecution and Perseverance

1 Peter 1-5; Peter the beloved Apostle who consistently put his foot in his mouth and spoke the wrong thing at the wrong time. He is married, so he has a family, we know of his occupation as a fishermen businessman, he has a mother-in-law who was healed by Jesus and He was among the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples, always included with James and John the sons of Zebedee. There is a the famous statement in Matthew 16 that Peter declares the “Thou Art the Christ” which wins him an A for the day, yet within a chapter, Jesus has to rebuke him for trying to prevent the cross from happening.  Peter is the Apostle to the Jews, whereas Paul is the Apostle to the Gentiles. This came to a sticking point in Galatians, where Paul had to confront Peter because of his hypocritical behavior of entertaining the Gentiles in fellowship, but when the Jewish brethren came from Jerusalem, he removed away from them. [Gal 2:11-14]. Peter is the one Apostle that I can readily identify with. I have a lot of his traits, specifically one – inconsistency! Yet we know that Jesus entrusted the Gospel and care of the brethren to Peter. We know that the Roman Catholic church describes Peter as the first Pope, and that there is a mystical line of succession supposedly from him. The Phrase of “upon this rock, I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it;” [Matt 16:18] is the basis for the Peter Pope thought. However, it is the statement of Peter, not Peter himself, for the new name that Peter is given is that of [a small pebble], not a rock and the foundation of which the Church is built.

Enough on Peter, in our reading Peter is quick to address his Jewish audience and the persecution they are experiencing. There was a growing persecution in Jerusalem along with a famine that would relate to Peter’s message to the Jewish Christians. In fact Paul takes up a collection from the Gentile churches in support of the churches/brethren in Jerusalem [1 Cor. 16; 2 Cor 8 & 9]

Peter use many Old Testament cross-references to identify the scarlet thread of the Gospel as it moves through the Old Testament to the New. He speaks of character and righteous living before the world, and specifically before the Gentiles. While the Gospel has moved off-center from the Jews to the Gentile nations, the Jewish believers still have a bold witness that they must maintain and share. Peter mentions no less than three different times of how the Jewish believers are to act and conduct themselves in the world; I think the point Peter is trying to get all of us to understand in light of persecution against the Gospel [which we are seeing clearly today] is that we cannot be seen as offensive in cultural issues that we cannot be a witness for the Kingdom. Repeatedly Peter tells us that it is better to suffer for doing good that it is to suffer for doing evil. This is a difficult balance, while we still live in the world and are subjected to all the ills of a fallen society, we cannot lower ourselves in combative behavior, where we bring dishonor to our Lord Jesus.

Peter speaks of everyone [slaves, wives, and men] to be submissive to every human institution. This had to be hard for the brash behavior-ed Peter, that or Peter has mellowed a lot in his older years. In America we do not really understand the subjection to all authorities, for our government is based upon federalism not monarchy rule. Plus the added problem of “imperial worship” of the Caesar’s. We see a different Peter, one that is concerned for the well-doing of the Gospel; gone are the days of looking “to be the greatest.”  Peter three times mentions his prayer life. [1 Petr 3:8, 12 and 4:7] He has learned it seems to take things to God in Prayer, rather than volatile behavior.

Peter closes his first epistle with challenges for all to keep the faith in the hard times; and hard times are to be expected. The believer will be out of step with the rest of the world, but let the world revile us but be put to shame for their treatment of us. We are not alone in persecution, it is experienced by all that will desire to live godly. Just as Jesus was persecuted, even we should expect, almost welcome it.  Be humble; Be alert; Be sober in spirit, resist the devil in the power of the name – Jesus. “After you have suffered for a little while, you will be established by Him who has called you.” Don’t quit!

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By This We Know

The Book of 1 John; The similarities of John’s Gospel and this Epistle are easily noted. John the Beloved Apostle, that rested on the bosom of Jesus, is no longer the brash young boy who was one of the “Sons of Thunder.” He is the last of the Apostles, all others including Paul have died [killed] for the faith. John has not been exempted from persecution, just survived it. John is not yet in exile on the Isle of Patmos; he is the Elder statesman at the church in Ephesus. While many of the Apostles, especially Paul had to combat the Judaizers and Imperial henchmen, John is confronting a philosophical sect called the Gnostics. The sect believes in a duality of man; one where the flesh and the spirit do not necessarily affect each other. The Gnostics, also found in the book of Colossians, boasted of a superior knowledge about spiritual matters. The Gnostic’s were using cunning and crafty speech to dissuade many from following the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

There are several phrases that John uses to combat the Gnosticism philosophy: “By this we Know; If we Say; We Know.”

John uses his own John 13:34-35 as a basis for this epistle. By this all men will know that you are My disciples if you have love one for another. Two phrases again show up – By this and will know. John writes with the specific purpose – 1 John 5:13 “These things I have written to you that YOU MAY BELIEVE in the Son of God, so that YOU MAY KNOW that you have eternal life. In combating the Gnostics, John writes to the church about those things that have already been established. There is great emphasis on obeying the commands of God and believing that Jesus has come in the flesh. Part of the Gnostic thought was that Jesus was not flesh, but only appeared as flesh. This heresy will not go away until the 1st Lateran council of Nicaea in 325 AD.  It is at this council that Jesus will be affirmed as God, in the Spirit and flesh. The Incarnation is at stake if we hold that Jesus is only spirit. We then would have a High Priest that really has no idea about the things that we go through. [Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:15]

John gives a number of easy tests to determine if someone is in the faith or only pretending. The “If we say. . . . ” and do not walk gives clear evidence that the truth is not in us. John has been an eye-witness to Jesus; his senses have affirmed that Jesus was/is real. He touched him, saw him, and heard him. If John were not around to contend against the Gnostic’s they might have gotten away with their heresy. But when there is a living witness to the things that have been reported, all else would be a lie that denies the events of the witness. For example no one living today can deny that 911 occurred, too many people saw with their own eyes what happened. However, did the Holocaust happen? Enough time has passed where many have died and some are trying to re-write history to eliminate the Nazi war crimes. We live in a forgetful culture who given the opportunity would like to write Christ out of History if they could.

Three things John brings to the minds of his readers:

1st – This is the message [1:5]; that Jesus has been born, sent by the Father, manifested as the Son of God and Savior of the world. His life, death, burial and resurrection are truths. Jesus came as Light into the world, because the deeds of men were evil [darkness]. We can have fellowship with God, but not if we Harbor sin in our lives. We cannot walk in the Light and have fellowship and retain a sinful habit of living. We know that we have come to know Jesus if we keep his commandments. Pretty easy test – John does not say that we keep all the church rules. Obedience is to God and His word. If someone says they know God and doesn’t keep His commands [Matt 22:37-38] then He is the liar, not God.

2nd – This is the Promise [2:25]; The Promise is eternal life. The quality and quantity  – it is a duration and a kind of life that we are promised. Actually all mankind will have an eternity – one of separation, the other is fellowship and presence of God in Heaven. The objective of salvation is not heaven, but freedom and deliverance from a sinful nature, which enables anyone to be reconciled back to God, as it was in the beginning before the Fall.  Eternal Life has been promised to all who believe, it is something we have now because Someone is living in someone and we have Eternal Life, Because Jesus is the Christian life – He who has the Son has Life! We have it now, for we who believe will not die [John 11:25-26].

3rd – This is the Commandment [3;23]; John is infatuated with the word love. 1 John 4;15-21 is filled verse after verse with the word love. John has really mellowed since his youth. I have already referenced John 13:34-35 and Matthew 22:37-38, in these verses we find that the sum of the Law and the Prophets – not a bunch of commands, not even the 10 Commandments, just two. Love God and Love your neighbor.  Gone are the days of fulfilling the ritualistic laws of Judaism, not by works of practice, but out of a heart of love and compassion for each other, that includes the brethren and the lost world. John uses three stages of maturity for the believer to show how the love of the Father is manifested. [1 John 2:12-14] He identifies the little children they have been forgiven and KNOW the Father; the young men  have overcome the enemy and the word strongly abides in them; then the fathers, who KNOW Him who was from the beginning. Progress in the faith must occur for every believer.

John makes a great distinction between Profession and Possession. Even to the point of “they went out from us, because they were not part of us.” Not everyone who calls on “Lord, Lord” will see the kingdom of God, but only those who do the will of My Father in Heaven.

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Timothy My Son!

1 Timothy 1-5; the beginning of what has been called “the Pastoral Epistles.” Paul the Apostle and missionary is writing to his Son in the faith – Timothy. Timothy joined Paul’s missionary cadre in Acts 16. His mother is a Jew and his father a Greek. We know that Timothy was well taught the Gospel by his grandmother [Lois] and his mother [Eunice], Paul took Timothy in as the two became like father and son. Paul has left Young Timothy at Ephesus. The Church at Ephesus was a strong established church. It must have had an older contingents of congregational people, for there was a problem of Timothy’s youth. [1 Tim 4:12] So as we look at this church we actually find that it is a tough church to pastor. It is a second generation believers church; yes there were charter members still alive; but the original “core” was passing away. They could remember the glorious things that had been done in the establishing of the work in Ephesus. In Fact they could boast of Apostle Paul as the church planter, the beloved Timothy as the first pastor, then having the Patriarch John the Beloved Apostle and Jesus’ own mother part of the church. What a grand heritage! Yet we find in Revelation 2, that Ephesus had grown into a very orthodox church, looked good, believed all the right things, but they had lost their passion and first love. Imagine a church with all the things 1st Baptist Church Ephesus had going for it; yet it had lost its love for Christ.  I see Ephesus as a church that needed revitalization. It had been hot after the things of God, but was languishing in what HAD been done rather than what COULD be done. Now place a young 30 something pastor in that midst, and can you see the problems he had to face. “We have never done it that way before, that now the way we do things here.”  I am convinced that the church environment at Ephesus caused ulcers for Timothy. I am sure he tried to pastor and resolve conflict, but all this was taking its toll on him. “No longer drink just water, drink some wine for your stomach.” [1 Tim 5:23] Wine would be a stomach soother for the gastric acids of stress and worry.

These pastoral epistles have become of most importance for preachers and church ministers. How to deal with church people and problems. Often the established church is a buzz-saw for young fresh seminarians. Often they last less than 18 months, having been chewed up and spit out by staunch resistant congregations.

Paul must have been familiar with timothy’s struggles and writes to advice him on many church dynamics. It is clear that young Timothy is a called man of God. He has been discipled  by his family and Paul. Timothy having escorted Paul of his 2nd and 3rd missionary trips was intimately aware of ministry pitfalls. It is one thing to move from place to place starting churches, quite another being in one place for an extended time. Revivalist can get away with saying things that the home pastor would never even consider speaking.

In these first chapters we find a sort of laundry list of items that an established church must put in place for the organizational structure. First is the necessity of an Elder/Pastor/Bishop. In various denominations these are all still the same person, so I will use the name Pastor to identify this leadership position. The Second is the establishment of deacons. We have seen that Paul placed, overseers at the churches, and the necessity in Acts 6 for deacons to do service to the people. The character traits of both are almost exact. The leadership must have an “above reproach” personal life both in and outside the church.

Inf one was to look at Chapter 2: 9-15; you would think that Paul was sexist and against women. He said the same thing to the Corinthians. Obviously there must have been a similar problem. Paul spends chapter four is describing how women are to be in the church, and what services should include. In Chapter 5, the care or relief of widows is clearly outlined as far as who and what that ministry should look like.

Paul the “spiritual father” is instructing his son in pastoral ministry. In closing this week, Paul knew that Timothy could not do the work alone; he had to have help. chapter 1:18, invest in like-minded men who can take up the good fight with you. This enables Timothy to gain some much need relief, but also creates a legacy of passing on the Gospel. Oh Pastor listen today to the sage advice of an Elder statesmen of the Gospel – you can’t do it alone!

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No More Mr. Nice Guy

2 Cor. 9-13 is our passage for the week. Paul has come full circle with the Corinthian church. He has been there extensive time on two previous visits. He has written [I think 4 letters] at least two canonical letters to the church to try and correct behaviors, sin issues and squabbles. He has in my opinion tried to be a “Nice Guy” apostle and give both grace and mercy to them. However, they have continued to be arrogant and carnal in attitude and behavior.

His first issue was with the benevolent offering for the persecuted church in Jerusalem. It had been a year that the church said they would give an offering; yet they had fallen short of doing anything but talk. Paul admonishes them and challenges them with the testimony of the churches in Macedonia [Philippi] who had through great strain asked to be included in the offering; yet were contributing more than money, but devoted themselves completely to the Lord over it. The stark contrast between the Corinthians and the Macedonians is glaring. One is high and mighty, while the other is characterized by great humility and service.  Paul essentially tells the church – Get with it so you nor I will be embarrassed because of the boast I have made about you, then you doing nothing except talk. Obviously great pressure is being applied by Paul for the church to measure up and back up their talk with a considerable offering.

Paul and the church seems to have a very hot and cold relationship. When he is present with them, it seems they are will pleased, but absent with only his letters to them, they become mouthy towards him. In chapter 10, Paul addresses his Apostleship and his credentials. The word “BOAST” will dominate the next three chapters; over 20 times Paul uses the word. Paul boasted in the churches, Christ and in the Gospel. Rarely did he try to bring glory to himself. Yet he wants to make sure that the church knows that he is not inferior to the more eminent apostles. In 2 Cor. 10-11 Paul defends his ministry to the church. I really think it has become a condition of “to familiar ” with Paul where it lessened the strength of his message. I always had to keep in mind the church was in one of the grossly immoral places and at times rivaled Ephesus and Athens with its cultist gods worship.  Paul has a way in these chapters of indicting the church for its attitudes, but brings it in such a way that it makes them “feel guilty” about what they were doing.  Paul has had enough of the criticism and conflict, he tells the church “I am not going to spare anyone when I come.”

The church was embattled with “Judaizers” and other false teachers that had captured the vain minds of the Corinthian Church. Paul is defending his Gospel, His message, reputation, character and calling to this church. Much like the Galatians who were taken in by “smooth talking preachers,” the church was following a false Gospel.

In presenting his case, Paul brings the evidence that he has not taken anything by way of support from the; and admits that it may have been wrong not to do so.  He still hopes that they will invest in Him as he carries his message and Christ’s Gospel to further regions.

In 2 Cor. 12 – we find a controversy over what are the “3 heavens” Paul is talking about. This can be understood better when we look at creation in Genesis 1&2. The three heavens consist of the earth atmosphere, the realm of space and finally the 3rd heaven is the abode of God. It is in the 3rd heaven that Paul speaks of getting his revelation.

Paul has had a ministry that is difficult and filled with hardships, beatings and persecution. Paul also had a thorn in the flesh, he asked God to remove it three times and the answer was no. “My Grace will be sufficient for you.”  We can wonder why God would not relieve the pain of this “thorn” from Paul; however if Paul would have been healed, it could be construed that God would have lost Paul through Pride issues. With the thorn, Paul was kept humbled before God and made to recognize and deal with his own strength limits.

We don’t know if Paul made it one more time to Corinth to pick up the offering that Titus and he would bring to Jerusalem, but we do know if he did, things would be different for the church. No more Mr. Nice Guy – enough of their foolishness. It was time for them to grow up and be who they were called out to be. I find that through talking to other Pastors, our ministry today in the church has similar issues with “finishing the task” and respecting the authority of the Ministers God has placed in the Church.

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Paul the Parent

In 2 Cor. 4-8 we have repeated emphasis from Paul about the trials and suffering he and his missionary team have had to endure. He also bring an apology of sorts for the “hurt & tears” his letters to them have caused. Yet he is not sorry that is caused the church to be reconciled with their sins and behavior towards himself and others. The arrogance displayed by the church people had to be addressed. Accountability is a difficult thing to address with people, especially in the church body. Yet scripture tells us that if we see a brother sin a sin not unto death that we are to rebuke and restore that person. [1 John 5:16-17; James 5:19-20] If we would continue to admonish one another in the love of the Lord, we would not have to be fearful of the day of judgment. [2 Cor 5:10, BEMA seat] This thought also is carried out to the end of chapter 5, in that we who have been reconciled through Christ, must now be agents of reconciliation to others. I think this means whether it is a brother or someone outside the church. All of us need to be reconciled to God, then to each other.  Paul addressed a couple of times how believers are to be different from the culture they live in. Too often churches in an attempt to increase attendance try to show the community that they are no different from the world – this is a faulty philosophy – for we are to be different, even peculiar! [1 Peter 2:9-12]

2 Cor 6: makes clear argument that believers are to be different even separated from the behaviors and sin of the world. However this does not mean that we cease to reach out to them. We cannot be a part of another’s sin, but how will they hear/see the Gospel if we isolate ourselves from all of life? Some most of us have discovered is that the world has a greater effect on us than we have on them.  The world will drag us down with them, and then our testimony and character of Godly living becomes tarnished and ridiculed.

Paul describes the Corinthian church by two metaphors, a house and a letter. In both cases Paul is trying to get through to the Corinthians that they aren’t an entity unto themselves, but that they represent Paul and his ministry. The letter – people are reading them and finding out what kind of people they are, as for the house, they are the Temple of God. We are His home. Our bodies must be a place where the glory of God is clearly seen. There must be a departure from the “old Flesh” that use to work in us, and be transformed into the holy vessel that God can display to the world His glory.

Paul is admonishing the church body to be the “New Creation” that God has made them to be and to put away the fleshly lust and old habits they use to perform when they were in darkness. Sanctification really is what these chapters are about. We need to be who we are, not what will give us an easy and acceptable life without pain, trials, or even injury and death. Paul has told the Corinthians several times in His letters about the various persecutions he has suffered for their faith. While Paul was suffering, the Corinthian church was progressing, and Paul tells them that it is okay – he is willing to suffer for their advancement.

It’s like a parent or maybe a mother more specifically enduring hardship for the sake of the their children. Often the children have no idea how much their parents endure and go through for them. It is like that for us and Christ – we may at times feel Jesus isn’t doing anything and that we are on our own – yet if all of the work of Christ could be seen, we would fall on our faces in shame for such thoughts of neglect and personal comfort.

 

 

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Pain of the Gospel

Our reading in 2 Corinthians 1-3 has a definite theme to it.  Today we in the realm of the church and Christianity deal with two different aspects of the Gospel. One is as we live out the Gospel in our world publicly, we become attacked and ridiculed like Jesus and the Apostles were in their day. Scripture holds that we will suffer for righteousness sake, and Jesus, himself told us “if they have persecuted me, they will persecute you. Then in addition, Jesus tells us that in the world we will have persecution, but to take heart for He has overcome the world.  Secondly, is the philosophy that In Christ there is only joy, peace, happiness, blessings and good towards us.  One could identify this as the “health and wealth” thought, but I think it goes much deeper than this. I hold to a first option, that as we live out the faith in us and become more conformed to the image of Jesus, that the world [churches included] will be against us. The fight is not personally against us  – but against the witness of Christ that comes out of our obedient life.  The second option resonates with “Jewish” philosophy of “blessings are a result of a right life, and troubles are a result of sin.” This thought played out in the book of Job and is still be applied today.

This applies to what Paul is trying to convey to the church at Corinth. He already has a tenuous relationship with them because of his former letters.  Paul addressed several issues of behavior in the church that was unacceptable. Paul indicates that he wrote addressing the issues with heavy tears.  He wanted to come to them, but knew that his presence was [at that time] more of a hindrance than a help to the church. Paul tries to give the church a close up look at what ministry is all about. Pastors and missionaries struggle more with the church than they do the lost/unredeemed. The Corinthian church was carnal, they felt they were superior to Paul, and were offended that he would attempt to correct them and their obvious sins.

In the 1st chapter, Paul uses the word “Comfort” ten times. He also uses the word “affliction” or similar word nine times. The message is that redeemed people, living an obedient life will have troubles [James 1:2-4], but those experiences are not only for the working of righteousness and sanctification in the person, but for an example and lesson to be used for others. As the believer experiences trials and tribulations, it becomes effectual in the work in and out of the Gospel. Our struggle is we don’t want to have trials and tribulations in our lives – we have been preached and taught that “if” we will just live the Christian life, they all our worries and problems will disappear. This is a false message! Countless times in the bible we find where God allowed difficulties to occur in righteous people for the purifying of the person and the proclamation of the Gospel.

This is not to say that we should go around moping because we have troubles – in fact, Jesus condemned the Pharisees for such behavior. A word of caution for all of us. If we are suffering because of things we have done wrong – there is no testimony out of our hardships. [1 Peter 3:16-17]

Paul was hurting because the Corinthian church was hurting.  In chapter 2, he addresses the stern position of tolerated sin found in 1 Cor. 5; there is no apology for his words, but a “brokenness” for the church.  In the suffering Paul experienced, he is trying to get them to understand that he was willing to go through the struggles and pain for their benefit. In a very kind way, Paul attests to his calling and apostleship again to them.  Paul brings an Old Testament illustration at the end of the chapter by using the “sweet aroma” analogy. Sweet aroma was a result of the burnt sacrifices on the altar before God. While it was death to the sacrifice, it was Glory to the Father. So in the “sacrifice” of doing ministry, it was a foul smell to unbelievers, but a sweet aroma to those that believed.

In Chapter three, Paul uses beautiful language to convey the difference between the glory of Moses with the Law, and the glory of the Spirit of God in the believer. While the glory on Moses’ face was temporary, the glory displayed through the believer by the Holy Spirit was sustained. Paul says you are our letter, no longer stone tablets, but real people, living out a real, authentic indwelling of the Holy Spirit. As the Holy Spirit was “glowing” through them to the eyes of others, the Glory of God was manifested.  Pressing this a  bit more, think of Stephen when he was stoned, and the radiant glory Paul and others saw as Stephen was dying.

So it is clear that as we live [die daily] out our faith before the world, we will be misunderstood, persecuted and experience troubles. This should be expected, for it happened to Jesus our Lord and all those who lived out their faith before men. Our challenge – will we be willing to allow the Glory of God to “glow” through us in testimony of the Gospel?

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conversations, conduct and communion

1 Corinthians 10-14, Paul gets to a very important part of his “admonition letter” to the Corinthian church. Being carnal as they were, they had distorted much of the “communal practices.”  Paul addresses their conduct with each other, inside and out of the congregation. Since the Corinthians were so bent on “Giftedness” they developed an attitude of superiority of gifts between each other. The normal path for most Christian importance is the “squeaky wheel gets the grease” or as in this case the loudest voice gets the most notice. Paul uses the example of rebellion in the life of Israel as a nation to remind the church not to fall into the trap of thinking that they were more important than the God the served. The church displayed arrogance and stubbornness towards righteousness and holiness. Churches today are more about the individualism of the Gospel instead of the Corporate Church mission. Many times the topic of the Lord’s Supper is thought of only in chapter 11, but Paul speaks to the ordinance in Chapter 10 – of how the Church in a communal way celebrated together the Eucharist. As Paul indicated that there were division and cliques in the church, it became evident in how they looked at spiritual gifts and rated the public gifts as superior, while other more private gifts were looked upon as inferior. The church also took a stance on people of wealth and prominence over the poor and lower class. Churches today do the same thing, giving precedence to the prestigious according to man than the godliness of the lowly. Churches want the money and the prominence over those that are seen as the undesirables. This prejudice shows up in how the observed the “agape or love feast”  – those of stature were having a “questionable” banquet before the Lord’s Supper with a predetermined guest list. After a riotous type of meal, they church would come together, some being drunk from the previous feast, now tried to appear holy by affiliating with others in the church. Paul exposes the nature of the Lord’s Supper as mockery and hypocrisy because only at the Lord’s Supper table did some members have any association with those seen as inferior.

The conduct of the church was deplorable allowing open sin and idolatry to govern the day. The women of the church must have been very vocal, to the point of disruption, for Paul tells them to “shut up” and talk to your husbands at home. The issue of tongues and gifts of the Spirit are topics that dominate these chapters. There is even today question about whether the Spirit Gifts are cessation [current for today or only for the time of the Apostles]  or not. The question of tongues today finds great controversy or whether Paul is talking about languages or ecstatic utterance. I understand that Paul is talking about both. In public though Paul lays down specific guidelines for the display of “Tongues.” the tongues gift had developed into a “spiritual elitism” among those that exercised the gift. Paul however, brings back the argument that tongues are for the edification of the Church and the Lord. If a unsaved person is in the midst, they would be overcome by confusion at the erratic display of tongues. Paul talks of this issue both in Chapter 12 and 14. It is interesting that he bridges the topic with the “love chapter” – I show you a better way. In chapter 12, Paul addresses the priority of the “body” to function. It isn’t those parts that are always on display publicly that are most important, but the hidden parts [behind the scenes] doing the work. Something that is paramount for believers, the Holy Spirit is the gift giver, men should not seek gifts, but accept the position that  the Spirit has placed us in the body. Christian conduct is not a “holiness ladder” to climb. In other words, people don’t necessarily go from new christian to teacher to deacon to preacher. God has His ministry for each of us.

The correction in Lord Supper observance, ties directly into the “gifts” controversy. The point Paul states in Chapter 14 – for times he says “for edification” [3, 4, 12, and 26]. In America I think we have fallen into the “spiritual individualism” syndrome as well. We adopt a philosophy that we are the most important thing – our individual needs out weigh the needs of the congregation. This is so wrong. Jesus died for the Church – we must find our roots back to the original intent of the Church.  The Church as the Bride of Christ, must show itself to be chaste, pure, without spot or blemish before the world and the Father. John 13:34-35 is repeated, by this all men will know that you are my disciples – in the love that you have one for another. The Corinthian church had forgotten that they were the church with a mission, the church with its various and different parts was and is the organism that Jesus will use to bring the lost to salvation and glory to the Father.  This is a message every church needs to practice today. We can’t be prejudice to others, especially in the Church. We are His Church, He is the designer, our willingness to accept people unlike us will be the testimony in the community – people all people need to know that the Church is a “safe place” where they can cast their burdens and baggage down, without ridicule or judgment.

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Body Sins and Liberties

This blog entry covers 1 Corinthians 5-9. I briefly mentioned the gross sin of the son sleeping with his step mother and how the church was boasting about it, without correcting the immorality. The allowance of such a sin in the midst of the church is no different from the church today allowing couples living together [members] going unchecked. It is amazing to me how that members will be all up in arms about “other people’s” sins, but when that same sin occurs in their own families, it is accepted because they don’t “want to lose their child.” Wrong is wrong, unchecked sin is cause for the discipline of God upon the church and the person [Joshua 6-7].

In chapter 6, Paul clarifies that we cannot go to court with other believers. Matthew 18 is the biblical method for solving internal problems with each other. When we go to the courts of the world to settle our disputes, the name of Jesus is ridiculed. There are a couple of things that I have found that believers should not do with each other – don’t lend money to each other, don’t sell things to each other and don’t go into business with each other. I have heard of so many situations where what started out as a good venture, turned bad when the two parties started fighting – usually over one or the other getting more/doing less than the other.

Paul begins to describe various bodily sins that should not be found among believers.[6:9-11] Bodily sins have an adverse affect on the person as well as the church. No one sins unto himself. When we commit bodily sins, we sin against ourselves and seek our own pleasure at the expense of immorality. Our bodies are not our own. God created us with a specific design, not for self-pleasure, but pleasure for others [in the right context]. Paul brings the temple practice of prostitutes to mind when he talks about joining ones body to a prostitute. There is no relationship with a prostitute, other than self-gratification for a price. The Corinthians had come out of that environment, why would they think they could re-engage it without repercussions? Key verse – 6:19 – our body belongs to the Lord. To live with a sensual mandate is to live for ones on pleasure. Today we find that homosexuals are trying to relate marriage to love and self-satisfaction. Marriage is not about self, but about the other person. Also for procreation, I know that sounds dumb, but Adam and Eve were to reproduce and fill the land. Same-sex relationships do not reproduce. I think it is absurd that same-sex couples are allowed to adopt children and raise them in such an unnatural environment. Man and woman reproduce together; couples that cannot reproduce on their own should not have the benefit of someone else’s ability. Artificial insemination/surrogates for the purpose of having a child without heterosexual marriage should not be allowed. However, this world has defended and given rights to the absurd desires of changing what God made good, into gross immorality.

There are duties for men and women, the body of the man is for the woman and the woman’s body for the man. The bible is clear that husband and wife relationship is the only proper relationship for the expression of sex. Paul also realizes that if a man or woman doesn’t marry, that problems of passion will develop. A person should marry rather than burn for passion.  Paul continues to reveal the bodily sins that are committed, this should resonate with the Corinthian Church and the immorality they have been delivered from. If one is single they should live as single, if one is married, they should serve the Lord as if they were single. I have found in my own life that there becomes a strain between serving the Lord and marriage. After one is married, often the attention of the wife takes the precedent in the man’s life.

In regard to liberty; believers have liberty in Christ. However, Paul makes sure that the liberty is not used as a stumbling block to a younger believer. I have had people tell me it was okay for them to drink or whatever, and if a brother or sister had a problem with it, then they would just have to get over it. This speaks of the arrogance of self-gratification again. Even though we have liberty, as Jesus said, if anyone causes one of my little ones to stumble, it would be better for them to have a mill stone around their neck and thrown into the deep-sea. Our ability to have freedom is not found in our right to do, but also in our desire not to do, for the sake of another. Chapter 9, Paul speaks of self-control and how that he became all things to all men, that he might win some. The greater good is for the Gospel to be lived and preached. This carnal church was all about itself, rather than being a witness to others. Yes there are still churches today who want to do things their way, regardless of who it might offend. Therein lies the problem, churches do not exist for themselves, but for the work of the Lord.

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Arrogant, Apostasy and Authority

Beginning in 1 Corinthians, the church at Corinth is much like the churches of today. The culture of the church was too much like the community. It was considered an insult to be called “a Corinthian” because of the gross immorality that dominated the people. Corinth was second only to Ephesus in Temple worship. The temple worship consisted of temple prostitutes, both male and female. The truth be known, Paul had more problems with the Corinthians than any other church.  Paul spent most of his time correcting the church and its practices. They were his nemesis church – they constantly were “carnal” in respect to all the teaching of God. They had divisions among themselves, one boasting of Paul, another Apollos and yet another Peter. Factions cause great struggle with the unity in a congregation.

Paul is responding to a letter [previously] written to him about various topics. One can tell the topic change by the word “Now” to indicate a new topic. In the two books to the Corinthian people, there could be as many as four different letters. Some scholars see the four letters combined in the two we have today. As with a carnal church, there are many “childish” opinions. Children or young believers are too immature to understand the deep things of God.  As in most of Paul’s letters they are written to challenge and admonition the church to correct their behaviors or beliefs. [except maybe the Prison letters]

Arrogance is the first problem with the believers at Corinth. [4:6; 4:18 and 5:2] The believers were puffed up with themselves – primarily from their thought of being superior through the “spiritual gifts” they displayed. [Tongues in particular]

Paul tries to correct any attitude of arrogance by letting them know that God uses the “foolish things” of the world, so that He alone will glory.  Paul describes for us three men of the world, [2:14-3:6] the natural man -unsaved; the spiritual man – saved and the carnal man – living like the world. Paul lets them know they are carnal because of the actions and attitudes they display, but also because they are still drinking milk. It is very easy for a baby Christian to become offended, just as a child that doesn’t get their way starts screaming and throwing temper tantrums. The problem with the Corinthian Christians and many Christians today is the point that they think they are better than everyone else. This arrogance will even be projected to the Apostle Paul, in that they will challenge him and his ministry.

The attitude of arrogance drifts to an apostasy type of living. If the believer thinks more of himself than he should, he will think he is above the “law.”  Here is a problem even today, how much should a believer be involved in the world? The question arises because if there is not a balance between living for the Lord in an immoral society, the church will take on many of the customs and practices of the world. In America, I believe this is taking place. To be friends with the world, is to be enemies with God. Too much is being done today in hopes of drawing a crowd of people. Nickels and noses are used to measure success of a church ministry. This is the wrong measurement. How many disciples are we making of believers and how effective is the church in sharing the Gospel to the world; these are the true measurements to be made.

Paul tries to correct the Corinthian church about the lawsuits and such that members were doing to each other. John 13:34-35, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, in that you have love one for another.” Something the Corinthian Church had missed! The divisions were no different from how we today make distinctions from each other. The apostasy reached epic proportions – Chapter 5, the immorality of a son sleeping with his step mother. How stupid can you get, what was worse is they were glorying in the fact. The influence of the old life was still evident in their walk [or no walk] with the Lord.

The Corinthian church though high of themselves even to the point that they viewed Paul with contempt. He had to defend his apostleship [more in 2 Corinthians].  In his defense, he illustrates how that his life was filled with conflict and struggles for their sakes. However, they see this as a sign of his weakness. More will be addressed in future blogs about Paul and the relationship with the immature Corinthian church. I can remember a time in my distant past where, I thought I knew all the answers to the faith. That I had arrived spiritually and superior to others. Man was I dumb – I didn’t even know all the questions. pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall!

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Mocked, Merciless, Miraculous

In this last readings of Luke we find the Passion week relived. Each Gospel writer wrote from a different perspective and to a different audience. In the Passion Week [which by the way is the goal of Jesus coming to earth in the first place] we are given the events prior to Christ’s arrest, the trials and the crucifixion.  There is a tremendous amount of religious politics being played out by the Chief Priests, Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees. One almost gets the idea that they are suffering for Jesus Envy!

The interesting part about the narratives is the fact that Jesus doesn’t back down, but the opposite, He seems to fuel the fire of anger and hatred for Him by the religious leaders. He speaks parables that are meant for them, to indict them for missing God’s signs and warnings.[Luke 20:9-18] Now Jesus had been falling from public favor for a while because He wouldn’t be the king of King the people wanted. The Jewish leaders knew that they were in trouble because no one could argue with Jesus and win; but also many of the common people loved Him.

Jesus is accused of insurrection and trying to become King, lies and more lies were made about Jesus. The leaders twisted His words to fit their lies. He was accused of refusing to pay taxes, yet Luke 20:19-ff, indicates that Jesus was always observant to the laws.

Moving to The Upper Room, Lord’s Supper meal, we find that Satan has entered into Judas to betray Jesus. The room is a large room, probably because of the many who had been close disciples along the journey. Plus we find that there were 120 in the Upper Room in Acts – I think this is the same room where they ate the meal with Jesus. This blog isn’t the place to debate whether Judas had a choice or not to betray Jesus, but Luke 22:23, seems to indicate that they all thought each other could be the betrayer.

Now I have used the failure of the Apostles to stay awake while Jesus was praying in a very negative way in the past. However, something that we fail to understand is the wording “sleeping from sorrow” in verse 46. The word sorrow here, does not mean sadness, but overcome by stress and anxiety. The disciples felt that the coronation of Jesus was imminent, and were so excited, like a child at Christmas time, but were overcome and tired because anticipation of what was about to happen.

The trials come after the arrest of Jesus, now they had eaten in the city, walked to the Garden of Gethsemane, now are being taken back across the Kidron Valley in the middle of the night. The Mock trials before Caiaphas, Herod and at daybreak before Pilate were all illegal. The 70 – Sanhedrin couldn’t meet at night, but did so anyway. Where is Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus?  In the other Gospels we find how that many were brought to bring false accusations against Jesus – didn’t work.

Through mocking and beating [Luke 22:63] and constant quizzing – “Are you the Son of God?”  This is a dumb question, for Nicodemus has already told us that they knew Jesus was from God. [John 3] Jesus says “I am” – familiar – Exodus 3! After they Beat the confession out of Jesus – they head to Pilate, at daybreak, don’t want to get on the bad side right off – Pilate questions and finds no fault with Him. Oh, He is a Galilean, send Him to Herod. Herod and Pilate become friends that night. Again, the mocking and beating, humiliation with the robe and stick. On the way back to Pilate. Trying to see through the jealousy and plot of the Jewish leaders, Pilate tries to release Jesus – to no avail, Jesus is scourged and led out to the crucified.

Meanwhile, Peter is having his own problems, Jesus told Peter he would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed. Luke 22:61 is a very sad verse – the third denial, Jesus looks at Peter, I cannot imagine what that look appeared like, but I can imagine what it did to Peter!

Jesus, Isaiah 52:14, describes for us the extent of the beating he took.  He was so marred, he was unrecognizable as a man – the Movie “The Passion of the Christ” is the best depiction I have ever seen portraying the merciless beating and scourging Jesus withstood. How did Jesus keep going, any other man would have died under such punishment. Yet Jesus made it to the Cross, that was the goal – Get to the Cross; earlier Satan had tried to get Jesus to accept “a” crown without the cross. I think is a weird way, Jesus embraced His crucifixion. I think He said to himself – I made it!! Hence He could say “it is finished.” Even through all the pain, agony and horror of the day, Jesus still had compassion on a guilty criminal – It might as well been me hanging there that day, for this is how He – King Jesus purchased My Salvation!

In all the unlawful acts to get Jesus killed, the religious leaders still wanted to be sure they were not defiled from the Passover Meal. Oh the hypocrisy of religious people!

A hasty burial by Joseph of Arimathea, the women watching on,; quickly get him into the tomb and get inside before the Sabbath. The long lonely hours of waiting for the Sabbath day to end, early in the morning, the women go running to the tomb with more spices to finish the job. Only to find, the stone rolled away and grave-clothes inside. What has happened? “I thought the stone would be our problem; but we don’t have a body to finishing burying!”

That empty tomb the seal of our salvation in that as Jesus was the first fruits of the resurrection, so we too will join Him. Just as sin could not keep Him in the Tomb, neither can Satan and sin prevent our reunion with our Lord Jesus. That was a great day; greater than the greatest healing day Jesus ever had in His 3 years of ministry.

The take away – people will mock you, treat you merciless and humiliate you like they did Jesus. If you live out your faith, the same thing will happen to us. Expect it, get ready for it, and embrace it – for you are being fashioned into the image of you Savior – rejoice Matthew 5:11-12!

You are not of this world, don’t try to act like it, there is enough people already doing that!

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