Monday, August 31, 2009

1 Corinthians 14:1-20

Why is this here? I think that there must have been unloving, disorderly, and divisive use of tongues in this church. That's all he seems to be addressing. . . so far.

Though "tongues" in Acts clearly describes real human language spoken somewhere in the world, he leaves the door open, at least, that he may be talking about something else here. He seems to be describing an ecstatic utterance that you will enjoy, but other people won't understand.

In the church he sees little or no place for tongues because they do not build others up. If other people don't understand our worship, what good is it to them. This has many applications. You must seek understanding if other people are involved.

If you do not engage the mind and the understanding, you will not be able to sustain the Christian faith. It requires knowledge and understanding.

Monday, August 24, 2009

On Vacation

I have a few posts made ahead, but won't be back to posting until near the end of this month. Don't stop reading. Even in small bites we are going to read through the New Testament this year. This might be a good time to review and highlight some of the things that God has spoken to you about as you have read. Please share them with the rest of us. Thanks.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

1 Corinthians 13

Clearly, the context of this chapter is set in church life, not in marital life, even though it is read most often at weddings. The quality most people only dream of for their marriages is what should be normal in church.

The aspect of love described here that is most vulnerable in me today is this: love is not irritable. Why am I so irritable with the people I love? Lord, help me here!

It is not clear what "that which is perfect" refers to. So it is not clear when those things that are "in part" shall be finished. While I can supply multiple possibilities, I do not want to lose sight of the great hope of knowing as I am known and seeing clearly.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

1 Corinthians 12

The Holy Spirit directs Christian worship. What Paul had just written in 1 Corinthians 11 about the Lord's Supper led him to point out you can't worship Jesus without the Holy Spirit. That took him to the way the Holy Spirit assembled the church. He put them together like a physical body is put together. Different people have different gifts.

I have known this, but have enjoyed it more recently than before. I've gained a higher appreciation for the gifts of others and have been more aware that some things come easier for me than they should. The only explanation is the gifting of the Holy Spirit.

What part has the Holy Spirit given you to play in the Body of Christ He has assembled?

Friday, August 21, 2009

1 Corinthians 11

The lead idea in this chapter is clearly stated in 1 Cor. 11:3 -- The head of the woman is man, the head of the man is Christ, the head of Christ is God. Everything else springs from this idea. This statement also has some clear implications:
  • There is no difference in value between Christ and God, so there doesn't need to be inequality between a man and woman.
  • The differences in roles implies a mutual dependence, not a superior or one-way relationship.
  • God intends interdependence in worship. You might think of it as a dance of worship defined by relationships between persons with different roles.
  • An attitude of submission supports worship. Apart from submission at any juncture, worship breaks down.
The Lord's supper is not a place to over-eat or over-drink. It is not a time for rivalry or schisms, but for unity. The warning about taking the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner is about as stiff a warning as can possibly be imagined.

It is interesting that we should judge ourselves so we can avoid judgment with the world. I'm glad we program that kind of experience into church life regularly.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

1 Corinthians 10

This chapter starts with a stiff warning about sin. Consider Israel; in spite of their advantages they still sinned terribly. Don't be like them. God provides a way out -- don't miss it. A bad example is part of the way to escape. We must always be on the look out for the way of escape and the strategies of grace to avoid sin.

Identification with Christ in communion is a powerful deterrent to compromise. I dare not identify myself with demonic activity or damage my brothers with whom I share a connection to Jesus.

Paule gives us his example of how he makes practical eating and drinking decisions so he can glorify God in everything.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

1 Corinthians 9

As an example of limiting your rights for the sake of someone else, Paul expounds his rights as an apostle that he declines to exercise. He made very deliberate, costly and personal choices so he could be sure to make the gospel the issue. He didn't want his personal freedom to be the cause of someone dismissing the gospel.

To the Jew he became a Jews . . . to win more. He limited his freedom with certain people -- that's his argument. He did not add to his freedom to win them, I don't think. Many use this in the opposite direction, "to the cool, I became cool (doing things I've always wanted to do), to win more cool people." That is not his point at all.

I love the focus of 1 Cor. 9:24-27. It forces me, each time I read it, to re-examine my own focus.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

1 Corinthians 8

The principle of love for those who are weaker is a beautiful thing. It trumps what we know. We know these things are OK, but we reject them on account of other people we love. What sweet relationships that would foster.

Several questions factor into decisions here:
  • Are idols, in reality, anything real? Of course not.
  • Does the participation in worship to something that is imaginary somehow taint or alter the quality of the meat? No.
  • Is a person wrong for making connections that aren't there?
  • Should knowledge of the truth or relationship the most important thing in these decisions?
  • Do I always insist on what I know to be true, regardless of the impact of the truth on someone else?

Monday, August 17, 2009

1 Corinthians 7

If God lays claim to a person's body and forbids relations with a prostitute, what are they to do about their sexual desires? Marriage! According to this text sexual fulfillment and sexual fidelty are central reasons to marry. Don't short-sell sexual desire as a motivation for marriage and an intended outcome of marriage.

The purpose of life, however is to please the Lord. It is easier, simpler, to please the Lord when you don't have to also please a spouse. If times are difficult, this becomes even more obvious. Paul had in mind some kind of brewing storm on the horizon. So, whether you marry or not, you should marry or not marry with reference to the Lord.

It is very interesting that this is the only place where you hear the Apostle sound self-conscious about his opinions. "I think I have the Spirit of God. . ." "I say this, but I don't have a command. . ." This word to us is no less inspired by God. We are not free to dismiss this as less-than-a-word-from God. What interests me is that he treads softly when he gets to home life, sexuality, marriage and divorce.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

1 Corinthians 6

Two very distinct ideas comprise this chapter. They connect by the understanding that the judgment of God falls on the sexually immoral. Judge among yourselves and don't go before a court. God will judge and he will exclude certain sinners (1 Cor. 6:9-11), you can be sure. So, don't be that kind of sinner.

His rationale for avoiding court and settling your own disputes is interesting, to say the least. Saints will judge the world and saints will judge the angels. Apparently, Paul knows more than he tells. I have no idea what this means exactly. If you take an offense against a brother to a human court you are appealing to an inferior court!

Like bread is for the stomach, so the Lord is for the body. God does not intend a spiritual relationship with us only. He wants us physically to be wholly his, too. Our bodies have been purchased to be his temples.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

1 Corinthians 5

There is no such thing as a secret sin. This one could have been a private matter, but was somehow bragged about. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. The whole body/church is affected by the sin of one. Make no mistake, this is not about everyone keeping the rules, it is about the spiritual integrity at the heart of a congregation.

For the sake of the church, put away the sinner. He's injurious to the whole. And, for HIS sake, let Satan take him down so that he will ultimately be saved. The good of the individual and the whole are the same when it comes to hating sin.

The church should not be the most accepting place on earth if that means they lead the way in making sin acceptable.

Friday, August 14, 2009

1 Corinthians 4

Paul understands himself as a steward of the mysteries of the God. It is required of a steward that he be found faithful. To that end Paul preaches the same message in every church (1 Cor. 4:17). It's not his message, it belongs to someone else.

"God will judge, so I don't need to." This is such a key idea for maintaining a clear conscience.

His strategy is to make this church ashamed by recounting his struggle and pain (often at their hands, I'm sure). I'm fascinated that Paul is unwilling to let some things slide. Their treatment of him is not an OK think to let slide. He confronts their disrespect, but he does it in relationship -- I am your father in the Lord (1 Cor. 4:15). When should I defend myself and when should I let things slide?

Paul sees imitation, even over a distance, as his best means of discipling the church. He even sent Timothy to remind them to imitate him. We see it again in 1 Cor. 11:1.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

1 Corinthians 3

"They walk according to man." (1 Cor. 3:3). That is his way of saying, "You live like everyone else. Your lives are merely human and are not supernatural. What an interesting rebuke to the way most Christians live.

The evidence of walking naturally is a party spirit where they pick their favorite teachers (This is the third time he's brought it up in as many chapters). They derive pride from who has won them to faith and who taught them.

From God's perspective, each of those planters, waterers and harvesters cooperate with God who is responsible for the increase. Each will receive a reward according to their own effort.

This chapter includes a stiff warning about messing with God's church. If you destroy God's temple, God will destroy you.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

1 Corinthians 2

I love the goal that drives Paul's preaching method in 1 Cor. 2:5 -- So that your faith might not be in the wisdom of man but in the power of God. He made deliberate choices to insure their faith had a sure foundation.

After rehearsing the logic and the necessity of the Spirit, the writer, wanting to insure our dependence on the Spirit says, "The natural man doesn't receive the things of the Spirit of God; they are foolishness to him and he is not able to know them." We must develop a Spirit-dependence in evangelism. Well, this chapter would say we need Spirit-dependence in everything.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

1 Corinthians 1

This church had everything. They had favorite radio preachers ("I am of. . ."), they had every spiritual gift and they were divided.

Pride was deeply entrenched. That seems to be the appeal of identifying with celebrity preachers. That is why the cross is such a great uniter. It is not a proud event.

God purposely went for the down-and-outers so that the cross could confound all reason for boasting. Not many wise or well-bred or powerful were included. How can what looks like successful ministry also be built on beautiful people? Seems to me the Jesus way is most likely opposite.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Romans 16

Two things impress me in this chapter. First, the warmth and the extent of the affection expressed in these greetings. Paul clearly goes out of his way to single out those important to him for special notice. If it were not important to mention these individuals by name he wouldn't have done it. He truly loved them. And, I'm sure that love flavors the church.

Second, the command to be wise to good and innocent toward evil (Romans 16:19-20) is the means to the God of peace crushing Satan under their feet. It deals Satan a crushing blow when Christians choose to be ignorant of evil. We can make choices that make it easier or more difficult for Satan. That should make us stop and think.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Romans 15:14-32

How I long to be similarly persuaded as Paul is that every church, that my church, would be full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, is powerful, and the people are warning one another! What a cool church that would be (Romans 15:14).

Paul's commission from God was to be a spiritual servant of Jesus Christ before God, a priest of the gospel of God so that the offering of the gentiles would be acceptable, set apart by the Holy Spirit. That seems very similar to my commission. I want my church to be acceptable, set apart by the Holy Spirit.

The Gentiles in Macedonia and Achaia were pleased and obligated to give. What a great combo! Why do people think it has to be one or the other? That is the best kind of giving.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Romans 15:1-13

I could have quit reading after 3 or 4 verses and had enough blessing for a week.
  • I should not please myself because Christ did not please himself. The proof is that my reproach fell on Him. (Romans 15:2-3).
  • Scriptures were written in order that by patience and encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:3 is a perfect example of this principle.
  • God is the God of patience and encouragement -- that's why the Scriptures, which he breathed for us -- are designed to give patience and encouragement (Romans 15:5).
  • So that, single-mindedly, with one voice we might glorify God (Romans 15:6). The goal of the Scriptures is ultimately the same as God's goal for the rest of creation -- His glory.
  • Jews and Gentiles need to receive one another. This is a strong case from the Old Testament that God intended to accept Gentiles all along.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Romans 14

Paul is clearly developing an idea that we belong to one another and the love he spoke of in the last chapter applies to the mundane things of life, like what you eat or drink at a barbecue. The way to handle differences in these things is not to condemn, but to remember that we all answer to God. That principles governs everything.

Several things stand out:
  • Faith is central. Romans 14:23 makes it clear in summary, but the chapter starts out that way, too.
  • Our accountability before the Lord is the controlling principle (Romans 14:10).
  • We must be able to let other people be accountable before God and not accountable before us (Romans 14:4).
  • Love is more important than food -- more important than anything else (Romans 14:15).
  • The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Who wouldn't want to live under that kind of reign?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Romans 13

A Christian theory of government finds its foundation in this passage. There is no authority except from God. What authority is in place is appointed by God. Seems a lot of bad government is appointed by God! Authority should punish evil and praise what is good. It is not coincidental that this discussion of authority comes right after the discussion of vengeance and being overcome by evil.

Romans 13:8 is not about financial debt. Love is your primary obligation. Loving your neighbor fulfills every other law! So, a violation of any other command is also a violation of love -- two sins in one!

Because the day is near and the night is far gone, get rid of deeds of darkness and put on what fits light. Clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ and literally, 'don't think ahead' about how you would fulfill the desires of your flesh.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Romans 12

Christian living is sacrificial living. It is an act of worship to give yourself to God and his will, then, it is the determining factor in your life. This verse chapter gives me the impression that EVERY christian is in full-time christian service.

The Christian life is built on mercy and grace. Never lose sight of the fact that Christian commitment is on the basis of the mercy of God. We must relate to God properly before we express that grace in ministry to other people.Christians relate to one another in humility, knowing that we are recipients of grace and my grace looks different than your grace.

Paul gives a long list of ways to keep your love free from hypocrisy. The forms look like bullet points more than as sentence. If you were to list key attitudes of the Christian life, this would be a great place to start. Cling to what is good. . .
  • to brother love. . .
  • to honor. . .
  • to diligence. . .
  • to spirit. . .
  • to the Lord. . .
  • to hope. . .
  • to affliction. . .
  • to prayer. . .
How to treat an enemy:
  • Think good.
  • Live at peace.
  • Don't take revenge.
  • Give God room to work.
  • Trust God's vengeance to be better than yours.
  • Don't be overcome by evil.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Romans 11

I think it is remarkable that the kindness and severity of God in election is designed to prompt worship -- Romans 11:33-36! It clearly displaces human effort and pride, but God aims beyond that to lead to worship. When it does not displace pride, it does not lead to worship.

It might be easiest to say that the Church displaces Israel completely as God's people, but I don't think this chapter leaves that open. I think there is a future for Israel.

The mystery that erupts into praise at the end of this chapter has to do with how God will use disobedience to bring about his grace. How the humbling of Israel was necessary so His grace would be evident.

I expect to hear the crescendo of thunder when I read, "Behold the kindness and severity of God." It is impossible for us to adequately combine those two and it is popular not to try! God must either be a benevolent grandfather or a harsh taskmaster, who can be easily rejected by the natural man.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Romans 10

The most fascinating thing about Romans 10 is that it follows Romans 9! God elects/chooses for his purposes. . . AND whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. As Paul prays for the salvation of his countrymen, he details the free offer of salvation, all in the context of God's electing/choosing grace! Oh, that we would see the connection and get both!

The problem is that they have a zeal for God that is ignorant. They want something else, not the real deal. They are unsubmissieve because they don't know the righteousness of God and create a substitute. And. . . there is no substitute. Christ is righteousness.

The Old Testament Scriptures saturate this chapter and form the foundation of the offer of salvation. This is not new that salvation comes through faith. Don't think for a moment that Old Testament believers were saved another way. It is not new, either, that God will give salvation to the Gentiles.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Romans 9:19-33

I'd always envisioned the questioned to be this: "Does the lump have the right to ask the potter, 'why'?" I think that's the wrong question.

Lumps of clay are just that, lumps. The question in the text is can God blame us? If he shows mercy to some who are undeserving can he still blame others who are undeserving? It is not, why didn't I get in because I really want in? Why did you reject me when I didn't reject you? That isn't the question asked by a lump.

Some think there are a lot of lost people who want into heaven and are bent out of shape God won't let them in. That isn't the case. I think many people do not want the God of heaven, they don't want to be his fine china. They just don't want other people to be, unless they earn it.

In total, I think this is an argument for the inclusion of the Gentiles and the exclusion of unregenerate Israel. It is God's prerogative to save whoever He wants.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Romans 9:1-18

This chapter is remarkable for its clarity about a most challenging topic. Apparently, Paul did not want there to be any question about what he thought about God's freedom to choose whomever He wants.

First, I notice Paul is in significant pain about this doctrine and particularly the lostness of his countrymen. This is not a smug theological treatise, "I've got God all figured out." He's grieved because not all Israel belonged to true Israel. And, this is his explanation for how that happens.

His singular justification is that God has willed it to be this way, so that salvation might be by mercy alone. He hardened Pharoah so that his name might be told throughout the whole earth. God wants his reputation and mercy to be spoken of throughout the world.

The choice of Rebecka's children was specifically made before they'd done good or bad so no one could construe they'd done anything to merit their salvation. That's the point. God didn't choose them because. . . of anything!