Wednesday, October 31, 2007
In today’s reading we are given a portrait that is only used this one time in the Bible, but has much symbolism. Today’s reading is the only passage in which the lion symbol for Jesus and the lamb symbol for Jesus are used together. In today’s reading Jesus is referred to as the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” and the “Lamb looking as if it had been slain”. Of course these two descriptions of Jesus are symbols of Jesus at different times. The lion symbolizes the way Jesus will return to earth and destroy Satin. The lamb symbolizes Jesus offering himself as a perfect sacrifice for all of our sins. The former will bring heaven to earth. The latter assures us of an eternal life with God.
Another part of today’s reading is the scroll with the seven seals. The reading says only Jesus can break the seals and reveal the writing on the scroll. Only Jesus is worthy to do this because He conquered sin, death, hell, and Satin by living a perfect life, dying on the cross, and rising from the dead. Only Jesus can break the seals and set in motion the forces that will bring about the final destruction of evil (if you want to see how this happens, read the rest of Revelation).
Today’s reading reminds us the wonderful act Jesus did for us and the future act he will do. Today’s reading reminds us to be grateful and say THANKS!
Wishing you the best in your walk with Christ,
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Being in the Lord changes everything. It changes relationships--the hierarchy of the larger society does not force its way into the midst of our community. Being in the Lord may take away what we formerly considered entitlements--though it does not relieve us of obligations. Wherever we are, we are called upon to be useful, to forgive the debts and sins of others, out of reverence for the One who has paid everything on our behalf.
Lord, today let us be reconciled among ourselves. Restore the runaway to your presence. Renew our strength as we come to your hospitality. Refresh our hearts always in Christ. Amen.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Going through Paul’s writings, I have really come to appreciate his love for God’s people and how Paul can put his heart on the written page. Here at the end of the book of I Corinthians he labors over details of church organization. Then he is compelled to issue some admonitions in verse 13-14 and they stand out boldly in the middle of organizational details. The admonitions are a few sentences, but they could be written on an index card and be titled, “briefly, how to be a Christian.”
“Be on your guard.” Against materialism, discouragement…anything which Satan could dish out. “Stand firm in the faith.” “Be men of courage; be strong.” Then finally Paul’s hope for all of us, “Do everything in love.”
That last sentence I breath in and I hope love comes out when I exhale. I thank God for Paul and may we do all in love. Let our hands, voices, and thoughts be gentle for the kingdom of God.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
It was vital to Paul that people put their faith into practice. One of the ways he encouraged people to do this was through generous giving. Here we learn several governing principles for sharing what we have as an essential part of faithfully following Jesus.
1. Giving should be systematic. Paul writes that on the “first day of every week” the Corinthians should set aside a portion of their income as an offering to God.
2. Giving is for everyone. Notice that Paul addresses his instructions to “each of you.” Anyone who had an income also had the privilege of sharing in giving to God’s work.
3. Giving is relative to earnings. Those who make more should give more (“you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income” is how the TNIV puts it. The Message is more succinct: “Be as generous as you can.”)
Clearly, these principles apply to us as well. Duty goes with doctrine. May we be those who give as freely to others as God has given to us.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Verse 58 says, "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."
Paul reinforces the message, with verse 58, that since Christ earned our eternal lives, we should be very grateful and show our gratitude via our deeds. No Christ honoring deed is done in vain. I like this message as I feel that sometimes we hesitate to do a good deed because we do not think we will see any concrete results or receive recognition. However, I submit, that if we truly believe that Christ died and was resurrected, thus assuring us of freedom from death, that belief should affect the way we live our lives. We should not let discouragement over an apparent lack of results, or lack of earthly thanks, keep us from doing what we are called to do. If our work is good and genuine, then our work with glorify Christ and his sacrifice for us; and will have eternal rewards. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm and always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord.
Wishing you the best in your walk with Christ,
Saturday, October 20, 2007
There are a lot of things in this life that don’t make sense to me. Wonderful things happen to people that don’t seem to deserve them and tragic things happen to really good people. It’s difficult to deal with this reality. I prefer when things make sense; when they happen in a logical manner (my definition of course).
In today’s reading, Paul’s argument is logical. If we believe that Jesus died and was raised up, then we can believe that we will also be resurrected with Him. Without this belief, there is no hope or grace; no forgiveness of our sins.
But Paul assures us that Christ has been raised from the dead. In the Bible, God provides us with prophecies and testimonies that bring us this great news and give us something to hold on to. He continually reminds us that, through Christ, we do have hope and our sins have been forgiven. We will, one day, be with Him in Heaven.
Thanks be to God!skr
Friday, October 19, 2007
In today’s reading, Paul is reminding the Corinthians of the basic gospel: That Christ died for our sins and was raised in three days. He did this, through grace, for every person – even the sinners like Saul, the person Paul was before he converted.
Throughout 1 Corinthians, Paul is giving specific instruction to the new church on how to create this new community in Christ, something which had never been done before. These new Christians were likely somewhat outcasts already and not just a little revolutionary in their thinking. It may have even been easy to get them all fired up about leaving behind those old Jewish rules and laws. But, those instructions are not what Paul’s mission was about. It was about spreading the basic gospel which is repeated in these verses.
It’s one thing to hear this reminder. But I find if I say “Christ died for me” a few times, the true meaning comes to me like a lightening bolt. When I allow those words to sink down into my core, that’s when I start to feel Jesus’ presence in my heart. So, I commend to you today (and every day, for that matter) to remind yourself of the basic gospel. Say it several times, slowly. Allow its meaning to reach into your soul. As it has done for me, it will give you peace. Not a bad way to start your day.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
So I’ll keep it simple. “Let all things be done for building up.” The reference is to “good order in worship”; it is to what is done in church services. But given Paul’s earlier in statement in 1 Corinthians 8:1 that “knowledge puffs up but love builds up”, I think we can apply this principle in the larger context of our lives in general.
It is a principle that really hits home with me. I do things for a lot of different reasons, and some of those reasons don’t square very well the idea of building one another up in love. In fact, sometimes the things I say and do have exactly the opposite effect.
When I get hurt, I sometimes seek to hurt others in return. When I get angry, all too often I go on the attack. When I want my way, sometimes it is my own ego that I serve, and not the good of others. It is not a very pretty picture.
I would ask you to consider how you are doing in making sure that all the things you are doing are being done to build others up. But on this one, I think I have to start with me before I ask anyone anything.
God, please help me to serve you as my heart desires. In so doing, may all that I say and do be done to build others up in love. Amen.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Now I can certainly relate to verse 19, "But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue." Again, from my perspective, listening to someone speak a language I cannot understand seems less effective then listening to words I can understand. As examples, when I travel to a country whose native language is not English, I cannot understand people who speak to me in their native language - no matter how loud they speak or how many words they speak. Likewise, in the early Church, when the prayers at worship services were given in Latin as opposed to the native language, I can imagine that this would not be conducive to attracting people to the Church. In the second millennium AD, when the Bible and worship services where translated into local languages this was, in my opinion, an enhancement which brought more people to the Church and to Christ. Having said all of this, I would agree with Paul's comment in verse 19 - understanding the message is critical to it being properly received and accepted.
Paul begins today's reading by saying those that speak in tongues should pray for the gift of interpretation. I fully agree and this, to me, seems obvious. To bring more people to Christ, the calling for all of us, people must understand our message. Delivering this message in a way that is understood by the receiver is critical. This goes beyond speaking a commonly understood language. This means speaking to a young person in language they understand, speaking to a seeker using examples to which they can relate, or speaking to a non-believer with respect and courtesy so we do not put them off from the message we are giving.
Wishing you the best in your walk with Christ,
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Today’s passage read like a sandwich to me. It begins and ends with an exhortation; stuffed in between is a lot of meat. I have to confess that my hunger might have had a little to do with the observation, but here’s what I read:
Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, ..., try to excel in those that build up the church.
I thought of several people when I read these words.
I thought of the young dad that is taking time every Sunday evening to hang out and share his life with the youth of our Church; mentoring them and demonstrating to them how to walk in the way of love.
I thought of the middle-age mom that in the midst of juggling family and career is choosing to exercise her gifts of administration and leadership for our church; helping us to navigate the difficult and complicated path of ministry in our community.
I though of the youth that is sharing their gift of music and helping us glorify God through song; allowing us to catch a small glimpse of heavenly praise.
Building up the church sounds like a daunting task because it is a daunting task. That’s why God gifts each of us in specific ways and then gives us opportunities to use and exercise those gifts. When we choose to exercise those gifts and let God work through us we can help build up that piece of the church that we touch.
Now, that’s a sandwich that I can sink my teeth into!
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Friday, October 12, 2007
I put the flowers in a vase and propped up the red zinnia against the stronger stems of the other flowers. Now, days later, the red zinnia looks beautiful and healthy, nestled in the center of the bouquet. Its stem is held up by straight by the other flowers.
To me today’s reading about the body of Christ, the church, can be summed up in three words, “we are one.” Paul likens the church to a physical body in which each part is important. Each part has its part to play and supports the other parts. We may feel weak, but we are needed. We may be damaged, but we are held up by those who surround us.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Today’s reading raises the topic of spiritual gifts. That this is a very important subject is made clear by Paul’s injunction that we would not be ignorant of them.
Several things become immediately clear:
1. Everyone has at least one gift.
2. Our giftedness comes from God, and is therefore to be used according to the purposes of God.
3. Our gifts, and the behavior they produce (forms of service, activities in which we engage) will vary from person to person.
4. Though our gifts will be varied, they are meant to work together in such a way that our sense of community is deepened
5. The harmonious interworking of these gifts will enable us to accomplish more together than we could on our own (the common good).
The questions that proceed from the above seem equally clear:
1. What are our spiritual gifts?
2. How are we using them?
3. Do we appreciate our differences in giftedness or do we feel resentful, superior, or try to remake others in our image?
4. How are we doing at working with others? In the church, how we do our work is every bit as important as what we do. In today’s language, the idea would be of working in teams united by love, not lone rangers doing their own thing.
5. How is the larger community (including, I think, the community beyond the four walls of the church building) benefitting?
Where the answers to these questions are as clear as the questions themselves, let’s celebrate that fact. Let us be encouraged in the gifts that we offer, the camaraderie that comes in offering them together, and in the good work we see being done.
Where we do not know the answers, may we be diligent in seeking them until we do.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
A section of the Confirmation class I get to teach is about Holy Communion. Today's reading will help me in that task.
The first few verses of the reading are what Father Rob says during Holy Communion. "and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, 'This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.'" (verses 24 & 25, NIV).
These verses are very important but they are not what I want to concentrate on today. I feel verse 28 is a key message, "A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup." In reality, no one is worthy to take Holy Communion. We are all sinners saved by grace. This is why we should prepare ourselves for Holy Communion through healthy, honest introspection, confession of sin, and resolution of differences with others. By doing this we remove barriers in our relationship with Christ. So many times during Holy Communion I find myself just going through the motions. How about you? We need to prepare ourselves for what we are about to participate in. We need to examine our hearts and get things right with God. We need to remember what Jesus did for our sins, long for his return, and grow spiritually.
Remember, Paul did not say that we had to be worthy to partake in Holy Communion; but we should partake in a worthy manner. So the next time you participate in Holy Communion remember to examine your heart and repent of your sins. When I have prepared properly for Holy Communion I have been amazed by the power of God to help heal me. I am sure His power will help you too.
Wishing you the best in your walk with Christ,
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
- specific personal physical features are off limits (general family features like big lips however are fair game)
- teasing should always produce laughter not hurt feelings
I’m sure that some of the folks in Corinth were really put off by Paul’s comments; but I like to think that others heard the love and concern of a brother and then worked to correct the problem within their community.
That is the other side of the teasing in our family. We have learned to listen with a humorous ear and the knowledge that we are being teased because we are loved. We can choose to laugh at ourselves and embrace the teasing. I guess that is the lesson that I got from today’s reading.
Sometimes, we are going to get a word of correction or be told something that is hard to hear. We have the choice to become defensive and react against it; or we can listen with an open heart and embrace it.
Friday, October 05, 2007
Today’s reading tells Christians that they don’t have that choice. They cannot be lazy when it comes to proclaiming the gospel. In fact, Paul goes so far as to say that you must punish your body and enslave it. He also advises us not to run aimlessly, meaning to be deliberate about the effort and the prize, using self control to win. And to do all this of your own will.
That’s a tall order. But what is at stake is much more than a few extra pounds of belly fat. For me, the hardest thing about a regular physical work out routine is actually starting one. Once you get through the first few weeks of regular exercise, it’s routine and doable. Those folks who jump out of the gate with extremely high expectations (i.e., I’m going to lose 20 pounds this month) tend not to reach their goal and end up getting discouraged.
Perhaps, then, establishing our personal spiritual work out should be approached the same way. Make it regular and start with achievable goals. Increase the output and the expectation to just beyond what you are capable of doing. After a while, you are likely to be surprised by the headway you have made and how far you have come in your journey. Buoyed by your success, you push yourself on to higher heights. I think this is exactly the kind of thing Paul was talking about in this reading.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
I was playing Halo 3 the other day with my youngest daughter. It is a story of war between good guys and bad guys. As with every war, it takes its toll. There is a scene where one of the characters we had fought beside from the very first game dies. And you just get the sense that he has lost so much, he appreciates the mercy granted in his passing.
I think Paul could relate to that. He fought the good fight that came along with keeping the faith, and it took its on him too. But the surprising thing is that it was not the world which is causing him so much grief here. It is the church.
I am fortunate in that I serve a church that does a great job expressing love, support, and appreciation. But even so, ministry still has its painful moments and tough times. Yes, ministry brings with it some of the greatest blessings life has to offer. But it is important to realize that it will bring grief and sorrow and some of life’s greatest challenges as well.
That’s why we don’t let our ministry or service to God rise and fall on the opinions of others. Like Paul, it needs to be rooted in our understanding of God’s call upon us. I think Paul asks the initial questions in verses one and two as much of himself as does of the Corinthians. He is asking himself these questions not to call the answers in doubt, but to remind himself of the answers. Yes, he is an apostle. Yes, he has seen the Lord. Yes, the Corinthians are his work in the Lord. Everything else flows from there.
God has called us as well. He has called us to serve him. He has called us to continue to love his people. And so, no matter what comes down the pike, good or bad, we do.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Verse 8 says, "But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do." Food is neither good nor evil, regardless of whether or not is has been sacrificed to an idol. Paul indicates that Christians have the freedom to eat such meat. However, we should not let our "freedom" cause others to stray. Remember everything is not about "me". Helping others grow in their faith is much more important.
So what is Paul telling us? I think what Paul is telling us is that mature Christians (Christians strong in their faith) can participate in things that would cause other, less mature (less strong in their faith), Christians to fall into sin. Thus, mature Christians are called to act in a way that will not lead less mature Christians to stray. In other words, even if a Christian could do something, he/she should not do it if it would lead others astray. For example, a mature Christian can play cards with his/her friends. But this mature Christian should not invite someone battling a gambling problem to play. A mature Christian should be willing to "sacrifice" their freedom for love of another.
Mature Christians are to act in love. A mature Christian realizes that if Christ willingly gave up his life for us, we should be willing to give up an occasional freedom so as not to harm another.
Wishing you the best in your walk with Christ,