1 Corinthians

Tuesday Devotional: 1 Corinthians 6

bibleRead 1 Corinthians 6:1-11

“Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” (1 Cor.6:7-8)

 What do you think you deserve?  What do you think you’re entitled to?  What do you think people, society or the world owes you?  In knowing our sinfulness by claiming unity with Christ, how dare we Christians assume such self-importance.  Jesus warns us to count the cost of becoming a disciple and a Christian and part of that cost includes being wronged, cheated, persecuted and killed.  This is our lot.  This is our portion.

But in the end, this is not about you.  This is never about you.  This is about him and his name is Jesus.  You weren’t wronged, you were convicted and by the grace of God, forgiven.  He was wronged.  The only perfect man of all creation, the beloved son of the living God was wronged.  Your suffering is real and Jesus never taught that living in this world would be easy.  However, your suffering is not like his suffering.  It will never be like his suffering.  To know Jesus is to first identify with his death as payment of the debt and death you deserved and deserve.  He saved you.  Not because you were owed it or deserved it.  You are justifiably pronounced guilty and deserving of death without the blood of Jesus.  You are not owed anything except the just penalty for your daily sins.  However, thanks be to God for Jesus Christ.  It is because he was wronged, cheated, persecuted and murdered so that you never have to live as a slave to such things.

You will experience all that Jesus did but never to the extent he did.  Being wronged and cheated is not fun, easy or something that will ever lose its sting.  But in Jesus the sting will no longer feel like death.  In Jesus the sting of death has been overcome forever.  Have you been wronged?  Have you been cheated?  Look unto the Christ.  Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look unto his suffering and be united with him in the suffering that he took upon himself for you.  You have Jesus.  Nothing in this world is of any more worth than him and you can never lose him.  He is eternally yours and therefore in your time of suffering ask our Father to give you the faith that proudly proclaims that you will choose to lose ALL things in this world for the name of Jesus.

Tuesday Devotional: Habakkuk 1

bibleHabbakuk 1

“Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.”

I am raising up the Babylonians,
that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep cross the whole earth
to seize dwelling places not their own.”

God is unbelievable.  The Bible is unbelievable.  The Gospels are unbelievable.  Jesus is unbelievable.  Not because they cannot by trusted and therefore must be false,  but because they contradict our human nature and instincts as storytellers so much that if they could not possibly have been created for literary or moral purposes.  The Bible contains far more honesty than we like.  It contains far more justice than we are comfortable with.  It also contains far more wisdom than we are even able to fathom.

The God of the Bible never acts out of consideration for our feelings, interests or desires.  The God of the Bible ONLY acts on behalf of what is true and what is just.  Therefore, when we need correction, He gives it.  When we need instruction, He gives it.  When we need compassion and gentleness, He gives it.  When we need discipline, He gives it.  In fact, God challenges us to believe the unbelievable in regards to His approach to discipline and suffering.  Through Jesus we no longer have to fear punishment from God, but suffering persists.  Why?  If the suffering is not a sign of God punishment, what is it?

The purpose of our suffering or hard times has one purpose and one purpose only.  It is ONLY to see God as sovereign and us as entirely fallible.  As Jesus is Emmanuel and therefore with us in any and all situations, the purpose of the suffering is ONLY to move us to seek the face of Jesus, to take up His grace in order to carry us through the storm.  But let us never forget that suffering will persist.  Bearing the name of Christ not only means that suffering will persist but that it will inevitably increase. 

But in the face of increasing suffering we are never to disown the name of Jesus by interpreting our hard time as the divine punishment only Jesus has any right or claim to.  We were not and are not punished because Jesus already was.  Therefore, the suffering we experience is present with us to reveal the presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  And in His name and because of His Lordship we will prevail amidst the suffering and we will see His face in the storm.  The presence of God in our lives through Jesus does not yield to suffering and sin.  It overcomes sin and suffering entirely.  Jesus rose on the third victorious over sin and death proclaiming, “Where, O death, is your sting?  Where, O death, is your victory?”  God allows suffering to a degree of such intensity that to create such a God out of thin air would not only fail to appeal to anyone but would be mocked rather than worshipped.  While one side of the world writhes back in disbelief in the face of God’s grace and compassion, the other writhes back in the face of God’s justice.  The only message relevant to the entire world is a message that is true to both sides of the world.  In Jesus, truth is united at the cross, revealing God’s grace and justice simultaneously.  The extent of both God’s grace and His justice are truly unbelievable, but in Jesus they CAN be believed and they CAN do more than we think.

 

Spiritual Gifts: Tongues

gifts

For the next four weeks, we will examine the role of spiritual gifts in our Christian walk. Just as the baptism of the Holy Spirit has been debated throughout church history, the nature of spiritual gifts has also been a topic of much debate. This reflection series will outline four of the most debated spiritual gifts that often follow a baptism by the Holy Spirit. There are other gifts, such as prayer; however, for the moment we will only discuss four. The four spiritual gifts are:

  • Teaching
  • Tongues
  • Prophecy and Vision
  • Healing

All four of these gifts have a core purpose in common but as we will see they are unique from each other in the way they are used. This week, we reflect on tongues.

The gift of tongues is often a polarizing topic of discussion. Some Christians are raised understanding that the speaking of tongues is commonplace in the Christian life. However, others have lived a Christian life for many years and have never been in an environment where the speaking of tongues ever occurred. Since two separate groups living lives devoted to God can have such different experiences in regards to the speaking of tongues, why has it become so synonymous with the gifts of the Holy Spirit? While “speaking in tongues” can be left for a different time, at its heart, this particular gift has very little to do with “words,” “sounds,” or “body language.” In fact, at the heart of speaking in tongues is simply “worship.” Worship that is not corporate, but deeply personal and intimate.

When we read the account of Pentecost where the Apostles were baptized by the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues, what is most important is not so much that they were “speaking in tongues” but that for the first time they were caught up in deeply personal worship, not simply for, but with the creator God and according to his will. This worship was unique to them personally and was not necessarily for the benefit of the group.

The gift of tongues is entirely about the personal celebration of God. While all Christians possess a deep joy in being Christian and being known by God, someone with the gift of tongues has a specific means by which to express that particular celebration of God. When the non-Christian world uses the phrase, “speaking in different tongues,” they do so to express the presence of different languages, accents or dialects. Thus, speaking in tongues is known by everyone, Christian and non-Christian, as a way of communicating that is uniquely understood by one group but not by another. The gift of tongues is similar within Christianity. For example, someone who has been gifted to compose music for the worship of God has a unique ability to craft melodies to produce a song that glorifies God.   While most people might not understand the process of songwriting, composition or musical theory, when hearing the final product in the music, it is clear that God is beautiful and beautifully good to us. Similarly, if a person finds true celebration of God in creating recipes that illustrate his provision and creativity in a delicious and beautifully nutritious meal, this also is a tongue that many people cannot understand the intricacies of, but can all come away worshiping the creator God as a result thereof.

While there are many who do speak in tongues, Scripture tells us that if traditional speaking of tongues does not express a celebration of God, then as Paul has said, it is simply the sound of an obnoxious cymbal.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. -1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Associating the gift of tongues with music or food might seem radical, but I believe that these unique abilities in all of us achieve the designed purpose of speaking in tongues in the first place. That purpose being the personal expression of personal celebration of God. Some people possess a unique quality, skill or even tongue that allows them to experience this deeply personal worship and in turn bring glory to God by sharing that gift with others, while never assuming that all must possess that gift in identical form.

 

Spiritual Gifts: Teaching

gifts

For the next four weeks, we will examine the role of spiritual gifts in our Christian walk. Just as the baptism of the Holy Spirit has been debated throughout church history, the nature of spiritual gifts has also been a topic of much debate. This reflection series will outline four of the most debated spiritual gifts that often follow a baptism by the Holy Spirit. There are other gifts, such as prayer; however, for the moment we will only discuss four. The four spiritual gifts are:

  • Teaching
  • Tongues
  • Prophecy and Vision
  • Healing

All four of these gifts have a core purpose in common but as we will see they are unique from each other in the way they are used. This week, we reflect on teaching.

As Jesus said, in order to spread the message of the Gospel to a fallen world, there must be teachers to assist people in understanding challenging teaching. The gift of teaching does not rest on a foundation of successful research.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;

   the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. -1 Corinthians 1:18-25

In fact, the gift of teaching has very little to do with knowledge. The gift of teaching goes beyond the mind. This gift is strengthened and powered by wisdom: not the wisdom of men but the wisdom of God. A person gifted in the area of teaching can go beyond well-rehearsed lessons or sayings. They instill in the learners something deeper than mere mental assent. With the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the teacher channels the wisdom of God in the same way that Jesus did during his ministry. Jesus was able to see things that no one else could. He could see the heart of the issue before anyone else seemed to know the topic. It is this very nature that is given to an individual blessed with the gift of teaching.

The gift of teaching enables the teacher to teach to the heart, the place that needs teaching the most. The gift of teaching also enables the teacher to speak clearly to a variety of listeners. In the Gospels, Jesus’ effect on hearers is not limited by the demographic of his audience. Jesus spoke clearly to every heart ready to listen. The gift of teaching allows an individual to teach clearly and succinctly, in a way that differs from man’s teaching of spirituality, codified and complex philosophical webs of theological nonsense that result in confusion and not liberation. God always desires to be well understood.

‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ -Jeremiah 33:3

The gift of teaching allows an individual to teach about God in a way that achieves this goal.

 

Tuesday Devotional: 1 Kings 6

 

bibleRead 1 Kings 6

7In building the temple, only blocks dressed at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built.”

16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? (1 Corinthians 3:16)

A Christian’s purpose is not for independent growth and prosperity.  We are by nature designed for fellowship and to be incorporated into a design of life that replaces our attention on ourselves with attention on our relationship to others.  It is in the design of God’s body that we see our purpose in the the greater complexity of the design and structure that we are a part of.  A temple is built to evoke awe and admiration from those that look upon it.  Likewise, the strength of the body of Christ correlates with our understanding of the whole as opposed to the self.  If we claim Christ as our savior we will naturally be drawn to fellowship not merely for our personal satisfaction but because we can see the Father’s glory represented by our lives as the Church, just as the temple’s strength reflected Him.

7In building the temple, only blocks dressed at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built.” 

[F]or all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Galatians 3:27 )

The blocks of the temple arrived at the site of the temple dressed, carved, measured and ready to fit into the temple’s design.  Once at the temple, nothing was left to be done to the stones in order to make them fit in the structure.  The stones were prepared and so fit perfectly.   While Christians differ in appearance, background, nationality, age, and countless other characteristics, one uniting factor miraculously allows all of the blocks to fit together perfectly.  The unity of the body of Christ comes by the saving works of Jesus Christ.  If the unity of the body of Christ is anything other than Christ, only sections of the temple will fit, leaving the rest with no place or purpose in the overall structure.  In other words, a Christian is clothed in Christ and then is able to fit perfectly into the temple, revealing the strength of the stones in their unity, and the brilliance of the structure in its size and splendor.

7In building the temple, only blocks dressed at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built.” 

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:2-3)

Living in Christian community is not easy and it never will be.  The process of individuals breaking their addiction to themselves alongside others taking on the same challenge will always reveal pain and obstacles.  However, the hope in Christ is that although the challenge is real, with the power of the Holy Spirit, the process can be smooth and does not have to be violent.  Hammers, chisels and iron tools are powerful and can inflict enormous damage on a stone.  However, being made in the image of Christ, while painful to our sinful nature, is a process of peace, joy and love.  Being made in the image of Jesus Christ is a threat to Satan and the work of sin but in the name of Jesus Christ we can find peace, joy and love amidst and throughout the rebuilding process.

7In building the temple, only blocks dressed at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built.”

 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5)

The awareness that we are made to be built into a structure with others, the foundational presence of Christ in us, and the Spirit of Christ guiding us through the building is an ongoing procedure the same way that the building of Solomon’s Temple was ongoing.  The Temple of Solomon was eventually finished, just as we will come to completion.  But our completion is not yet.  The building process is ongoing, and while we know that the end will come, we do not know when.  Until then, we build and we are being built, and the glory of an earthly building such as Solomon’s Temple will pale in comparison to the glory in the Temple of Christ in His Church, revealed in a world that has forgotten its Creator, its Designer, its Architect, its God.

 

Tuesday Devotional: 1 Corinthians 1

bibleRead 1 Corinthians 1:10-17

It is far too easy for us to place unjustifiable importance and honor on those men and women who lead us, while forgetting the role they play within the framework of spreading the Gospel of the one and only Jesus Christ.  There was only one sacrifice.  There was only one redeemer.  There was only one who became a servant to all in a mission to save all.  Church leaders, called to instruct others in the Gospel, are by nature sinners like you and I.  They could not save themselves, and required the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Becoming distracted by leaders and forgetful of the man Jesus Christ bypasses the necessity of faith in the life of a Christian.  Following a human requires little to no faith in the gospel: they are physically in our presence, we can hear their words directly as they speak them, and they can likewise hear ours.  We are tempted to accept these leaders as advisers with good stories and useful life lessons, and not representatives of Jesus Christ.  In fact, it is quite possible for one to attend church, read the Bible and pray without the deeply personal need for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  When we hope in man and not Christ alone, our transformation in the image of Christ is cut off at the source. We will never truly change, we will never be free and we will never truly have life in its purest form.  No man can change another man and make him new.  Only the work of Jesus Christ, and faith in Him as Savior, Lord and God can do that.  Church leaders are stewards of this love story of God and his children, but they are not characters in the story.  They, like us, have been given the story, blessed by it and now share it with others.  We must never forget the purpose of this story, that its focal point is always Jesus. By His name and by His stripes we are healed.

Born Again: Blind Faith (1 Corinthians 15)

Blindfold1

source

Welcome to the final of our reflection series “Born Again.” The born again life is focused on Christ’s power and nothing else. Through this reflection series, we’re looking at the things that try to take center stage in our lives. This week, we’re studying what 1 Corinthians 15 has to say about “Blind Faith.”

Read 1 Corinthians 15

One of the most cited chapters of the entire New Testament is 1 Corinthians 15. It is THE chapter that draws the proverbial “line in the sand.” On one side, upon reading the Gospels, Paul shows that the person who accepts Jesus’ claims receives a restructured life with Christ residing in the center as king. On the opposite side, the one who rejects the claims of Jesus as “The Messiah,” God in human form, as a lie, must believe that none of what he did or ever said matters one bit.  In that case, one can live in this world without a single care about what the Bible says about one’s life, since the Bible is all one big and vicious lie.

However, the most important thing to remember about Chapter 15 is that Paul doesn’t simply say, “Believe or don’t believe, the choice is yours.” To the surprise of many critics of Christianity, Paul appeals to the reader’s reasoning and logic as a means to arrive at one of the two conclusions.

For many who oppose Christianity, faith in Jesus is blind, zombie-like faith, where Christians plug along bumping into walls every which way, because simply walking forward is what a “good Christian” is supposed to do.

Paul never preached or knew that kind of Christianity, and if he heard someone argue from that position, he would be appalled.  This is not the Christianity he was transformed by.  This is not the Christianity that he preached to the world.

Are there areas where we do need faith beyond our senses in order to believe every word of the Bible? Yes. Are there things in the Bible that we cannot explain? Yes. However, Paul is clear that belief in Jesus is neither of those things. Paul contested that the Gospel he preached to the church in Corinth contained stories and accounts that could be attested to and verified by people still living.  He cites stories that go beyond individual hallucination and self-created mythology. There is a seriousness of Paul’s tone regarding the Gospel he preached and the conclusions people ultimately arrive at.

At the beginning of my walk with Christ I felt like the “Jesus Scale” was so heavily weighted in the favor of myth and legend that I felt like nothing short of a miracle would shift any weight to the opposing side. However, the more I read the Gospels, the more I realized that it was taking more faith to not believe what I was reading.

Being “born again” in truth does not mean believing everything, simply because it’s right, nor does it mean that the way we carry ourselves in the knowledge of this truth is by an irrational blind faith, like that of an insane person. I believe that I am a sane man, with a good head on my shoulders. I understand the ups and downs in this world and I carry myself like any other respectably sane individual. However, my belief in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is something I have more trust and confidence in than anything in the world. Understandably, this strikes some people as a contradiction.

Being born of the Spirit doesn’t mean losing a grip on your senses or reality. Being born again means that the truth  of the Gospel makes the most sense of all truths. The Spirit testifies to this truth when we are born again, and the way in which we testify thereafter is a testament to our rebirth in the Spirit.