Saturday, 31 August 2013

A way of escape

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. – 1 Corinthians 10.13

This is one of those verse that I have really had to grow into. It is not one that I have accepted from the very start, believed it by faith, and moved on. It is a area that I have had to learn by errors, mistakes, confusion, and even some tears. 

We are going to face temptations, or trials as we put it sometimes. At times these are temptation where we are being tempted to sin. Other times we have trials that test us and tempt us to give up on God. We just don't think we can think we can make it any longer. 

The old saying goes 'God won't give you more than you can handle.'

That sounds good and it is sort of true but it misses a key element. God will allow us to see all kinds of trials and temptations. 

They will come and they may very well be more than we cna handle. 

But they won't be more than He can handle. 

We face those things but God goes through them with us holding our hand and guiding us through them. We aren't facing them alone. He is always there. He knows our path. He knows our heart. And he knows the escape route. 

We can bear it. Not because it is not heavy or God cuts a break, but because He guides us through and carries the load for us. 

The sooner we learn to follow our guide and our burden bearer the better we will be. 

Take heed lest you fall

Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. – 1 Corinthians 10.11-12

These Christians in Corinth apparently thought they were pretty god compared to all the horrible things that Paul wrote about. Paul wrote that all the stuff they did and all the consequences that came about as a result were written as examples and as an admonition.

The reason I think the Corinthians must have felt superior to the Jews are Paul's next words - 'let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.'

Wow! There is a lot packed into that. It is always easier to see the other man's sins than it is to see ours. It is always easier to see the speck in another man's eye and missing the weaving beam in our own eye. We are far too often far too proud to see and deal with our own sin and for too often far too ready to judge others.

Indeed, let us be careful. Let’s be sure that We are aware of our own sins even more than we are aware of others.

The verse says ‘Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.’ That kind of thinking is convoluted thinking. It is messed up thinking. It is thinking that will surely lead to falling. 

Friday, 30 August 2013

Lessons to be learnt

Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptised into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.  – 1 Corinthians 10.1-6

We all know that there are two parts the Bible. We have the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is basically history, poetry, the law, and prophecy. However, beyond a few psalms, a couple of key proverbs, and the basic Bible stories how much do we really know? Is there really all that much we can use in the Old Testament?

At the start of 1 Corinthians 10 Paul deals with the importance of the Old Testament. He refers to Moses and the crossing of the Red Sea and some of the events that follow.

He mentions that Christ was the spiritual Rock that followed them and provided spiritual food and spiritual drink in the wilderness. The seemed to get it. 

At least some of them did.

But there were others who didn't. With them God was not pleased. Many died in the wilderness because of their sin and because they did not follow God's way.

These things, Paul writes, are an example to us. The example? We are not to lust after the evil thinsg they lusted after.

The awesome truth is that there are plenty of lessons to learn from the Old Testament. Lets preach the word, but lets preach the whole word of God. lets be sure we learn from the examples God so graciously provided. 

Thursday, 29 August 2013


Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. - 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Paul lived in one of the historical heydays of sport. The Greek Olympics had been going for almost 800 years. The Romans Games were a regular feature. There were local games of all sorts.

Now I have never, believe or not excelled at sports. I love to watch many of them, but have just never been determined or skilled enough to participate. I was always the last guy picked for teams. But I did like it, even then. If you look at the photo you can see me with my American football team about 50 years ago. That’s me, number 16, right in the middle!

Anyhow, I am glad that the Bible doesn’t condemn sports. I am also glad Paul was a down to earth preacher. He knew how to illustrate a message.

There are some folks who think that we can get to the point, even with just a prayer of faith, where we no longer have to do battle with sin. We won’t be perfect, but all we have to do is sit back and let Jesus deal with everything. We will then always be victorious in our Christian lives.

But Paul tells us the Christian life is like running a race. He coaches us in how to run. Run to win the incorruptible prize. In Hebrews he tells us to run it with patience, to lay aside the weight of our sins, and to keep our eyes on the finish line.

He tells us it is like a boxing match. Don’t just beat the air. Train, exercise, keep the old body in shape.

We need to get into the game. We need to settle in for a marathon. We need to stay in training. If not we get flabby and unfit.

We are in a race. We are in a boxing match. If Paul were writing today he might relate the Christian life as a football (soccer/rugby/American/Gaelic/Australian, whatever) match. It is not a life for us to just sit back and take it easy.

Lets get in the game folks and lets play it like we intend to win!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

All things to all men

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. - 1 Corinthians 9.19-22

Jay and Holly are naming their children after missionaries. They have Adoniram Judson Parrow. The youngest is William Carey Parrow. Right in the middle is James Hudson Taylor Parrow. He is funny about his name. He is Hud, Hudson, or James Hudson Taylor Parrow. He is not James. He is not Jim. He is not Jimmy. He is James Hudson Taylor Parrow. I wish I could type it the way he says it.

J. Hudson Taylor was a missionary with the China Inland Mission about 150 years ago. Taylor believed in doing all he could do to break down the traditional barriers between east and west. He could not change his skin colour or his features. He did however adopt Chinese garb and grew the queue that Chinese men wear.

I think Taylor had some kind of idea about what Paul was saying in this passage.

Paul said he would become all things to all men if it gave him a chance to save some.

We need to be careful that we don't get so caught up in our own way and our own customs and our own way of doing things that we are not willing to adapt and change to reach out to the people we are trying to win.

This means that sometimes we need to step out of our comfort zone. It means we may have to change our means and our methods and our preferences and our custom. We never compromise our Biblical standards. We never bend when it comes the word of God. But we may need adapt to suit the people where God puts us.

No matter how convinced we are our way is not the only way to do it. Too often we think part of the gospel is to make people like us. Paul knew that he may very well have to become like them in order to see some saved.

The same may very well be true for us. 

Monday, 26 August 2013

Nothing to brag about

For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship. What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel. - 1 Corinthians 9.16-18

I remember many years ago going to chapel services at the Bible college I attended. In these early days, and for years to follow there was something that bothered me. To be honest it still bothers me today.

I'll only present one example to show what I am talking about. We had a chapel speaker one day talking about how important 'soul winning' was. Not 'personal evangelism' or 'sharing the gospel' mind you, but actually 'soul winning.' The preacher was, per usual, chewing us out for being such rotten soul winners. He gave an example about how great he was at soul winning. He told us he had parked his car across the road and he was witnessing to everyone he met. It was about a five minute walk on a Bible college campus. In that five minutes he told us that he had seen seven people come to Christ. That was what happened if one was truly a soul winner.

His bragging (perhaps he was telling the truth, I suppose) accomplished its purpose. If he was so good at soul winning we were pretty miserable Christians.

Needless to say I have heard my share of bragging preachers through the years. Of course the bragging is often masked with a concession to God, but great edifices have been built to bear witness to the greatness of the man behind the ministries. In far too many situations man has been exalted.

This flies in the face of Biblical humility.

Paul, yes Paul, the apostle Paul, said 'I have nothing to brag about If I preach the gospel.'

Despite what we might like to think we preachers are not God’s gift to the world. All we need to do is just do our job. Just doing our job is nothing to brag about.

In fact Paul says just the opposite. Preaching is what is expected – woe be to us if we don’t do it.

What is our reward? It is certainly not a pat on the back or a little bragging. Our reward is getting to preach the gospel.

Praise God we get to serve Him in such a way 

I will never again…

For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. – 1 Corinthians 8.10-13

You have to love Paul's spirit. You have to love His love. You have to love the way he treats his brothers in Christ.

As mentioned before the topic at hand was eating meat sacrificed to idols. It could just as well be any number of issues that the scriptures do not talk about. For fear of causing offence I am not even going to list possible examples. We can all think of our own situations. We feel strongly about them. We have brothers in Christ who don't agree. And they feel just as strongly about their position as we feel about ours. If we are not careful we can begin to draw lines of division. When that happens the cause of Christ is hurt, often because neither side will 'give in.' 

Anyway, back to the dispute of Paul's day. Was it or was it not okay to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols. To Paul the matter was simple. The idols are nothing and it makes no difference if the meat had been sacrificed to them. It was still meat; don't let it go to waste. Just eat it.

And Paul would have been justified in taking a stand there. He had every right in the world.

But Paul wasn’t too worried about his rights. He was more concerned about others. He willingly laid aside his right to eat meat.

But I like the way he words it. ‘If food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother to stumble.’

Too often in today’s church it seems to be an exercise in getting my rights no matter how my brother feels about. ‘Liberty in Christ’ instead of ‘Love my brother’ seems to be the clarion call of the modern church.

Oh for a heart  like Paul’s that says ‘if it is going to cause my brother to stumble, I’ll never do it again.’

That’s love. 

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Love edifies

Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him. – 1 Corinthians 8.1-3

It is obvious from the wording that Paul is changing topics. This is one place where the chapter division was rightly inserted. 

Paul starts the section about idols with a clear statement. 'We all have knowledge,' he says, 'but knowledge is not enough. In fact knowledge cna be dangerous because we cna get puffed up with knowledge. Love is what counts because love it what truly edifies. 

The fight of the week was how to handle meat that had already been sacrificed to idols. Did the sacrifice to idols make it pagan meat that wold defile anyone who ate it? Or were the idols meaningless and therefore eating the meat was fine? Both groups had their views. Both groups 'knew' what was right. Neither side was afraid to express their point of view. All their knowledge about who was right and who was wrong gave them big heads. 

Paul introduces the whole section with a reminder that it is not all about what we do or don't know. It is really all about love. 

Love is foundational to the church surviving. If we base our actions on knowledge instead of love we will tear ourselves apart. We don't know as near as much as we think we know, but love cannot be argued. Love means that I don't have to get my way or have my preference satisfied. 

Today it is not meat offered to idols. It is any number of preferences or choices. We are all armed with knowledge to support our point of view. Maybe we ought to be more concerned about loving edification that getting our way. 

Slaves of men

Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it; but if you can be made free, rather use it. For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord's freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ's slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. Brethren, let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called.  – 1 Corinthians 7.21-24

It is amazing how we can find new truths as we study the word of God over and over again. Whenever in have thought about 1 Corinthians in the past I categorised it under 'marriage.'  That is the main point, but there is a lot more there.

Today's thought continues in the same vein as yesterday. However, I want to focus on one little phrase in the middle of the discussion. 'You are bought with a price, do not become slaves of men.'

Right in the middle of a discussion about human slavery Paul makes a spiritual application.

Paul has just said that Christians need to be content with the service and ministry God had called them to. He even wrote to Christian slaves that they ought to remain where they are unless God opens the doors for them to get their freedom.

But then he said ‘stop being slaves to men.’

I think Paul’s teaching is clear here. Christians are to bondservants to Christ. He is out master. We need to stop letting our lives being controlled by men and their ideas and expectations for us.

Yes, we are to be submissive to those in authority. There is no doubt about that.

And yet we don’t need to be slaves to what other expect out of us. We can be so caught up looking to please others or make a good impression or seeking out men’s praise that we can be more concerned about that than we are about pleasing God and serving Christ.

I need to make dead sure I am doing what Christ wants me to do. I don’t need to be offensive to others. But I also don’t need to be acting and behaving at the whims of men as though enslaved to them. 

Friday, 23 August 2013

Be content with where God puts you

But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all the churches. Was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Was anyone called while uncircumcised? Let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters. Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called. – 1 Corinthians 7.17-20

I am preaching Sunday, Lord willing, from Psalm 139. One part of that beautiful psalm deal with the fact that we are fearfully and wonderfully made and fashioned just the way God made us. That being the case we don't have to try and be anyone else.

That applies to our everyday life, but I think it always applies to our ministries and our service.

I am not exactly sure how to address this. The context of the chapter seven is marriage and the permanency of marriage, but here in the middle of it Paul inserts a section about general contentment with where God puts us.  

I think there is a basic principle here. We need to be content with where God puts us. That doesn’t mean we never aspire to do better, but it does mean that we should be faithful and consistent in the tasks God gives us. We don’t have to be someone else in someone else’s ministry or service.

I am not sure I totally get this. I don’t think it means that we never change ministry or service, but I do think it means we need to be content and consistent and faithful at the task God gives us until He moves and directs us. Wesley put it this way in his notes – ‘In the calling - The outward state. Wherein he is - When God calls him. Let him not seek to change this, without a clear direction from Providence.’

I also like what Albert Barnes wrote. His idea is that we be content with where God puts us, then we gives three things to consider:

1. When a man is a slave, and he can obtain his freedom. (1 Corinthians 7.21)
2. when a man is pursuing a wicked calling or course of life when he was converted, even if it is lucrative, he should abandon it as speedily as possible.
3. where a man can increase his usefulness by choosing a new profession.

God knows what is best. I think we need to be very slow and careful and prayerful before we decide to change our position in life.

Maybe I have this all wrong, I have been wrong more times than I have count. But I do remember years ago when I had my ‘Bethel Bench’ experience where I sat on a blue wooden bench and begged God to let me change my service and, as clear as if He spoke to me verbally, He let me know that He would let me know when it was time to change.

He hasn’t told me to do that yet. 

I have attached a clip from the film 'Facing the Giants.' I am not sure about all the theology involved, but I think it is a good summary for us and our place of service for the God who put us here. 

Thursday, 22 August 2013


Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. – 1 Corinthians 4.1-2

While doing some reading it hit me that I had somehow missed one whole section of chapter four. I debated going back and decided against it, except for one verse that I just couldn't skip.

The world measures success by who has the biggest house, the nicest car, the fattest bank account. Business measures success by size and profits and properties and office buildings.

So how do we measure success? How does the church measure success?

Is it by how many walked the aisle at special meetings? Is the number of professions of faith? (I was once is a church that kept of running total of every profession of faith by anyone associated with the church on the front wall of the church) Is it by the number of baptisms? Is it by how big the crowd is during church services? Is it by how big the mission budget is? Is it by how fancy the new building is? Is it by whether or not you can get Starbucks coffee in the family life centre?

What counts is how the Bible views success – ‘Let us consider, [not as the world, not as religious, but] as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. It is required in stewards that one be found faithful.’

God doesn’t measure our success the same way the world does. We need to be careful that we don’t decide which church or preacher or ministry is successful based on the world’s standards. God’s standard is enough.

But then we have to ask ourselves the really tough question – are we really and truly faithful to what God has called us to do? Only we ourselves can answer that question. 

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

God’s plan for sex

Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.  – 1 Corinthians 7.1-5

Sex is one of those topics that we Christians don't talk about much. I think there is some wisdom in that. Too much talk about sex can easily turn sinful and salacious. It is easy go too far in our conversations.

But we also can't ignore it. It is real. It is part of life.

But, like everything else, he Bible deals with sex in a very practical way. In just a few words Paul addresses sex outside of marriage and inside marriage.

Outside of marriage is pretty simple. It is good for a man not to touch a woman. To put it briefly that means that the limit to physical contact before marriage is anything that will excite passions.

But, we all know, it is not that simple.

So God provided marriage. But even there the problem is not solved. We are still sexual beings. So God gives His plan for sex inside marriage.

Husbands and wives are called on to be there for each other. Sex is a normal, natural, and beautiful part of marriage. Husbands and wives are not to selfishly deprive each other. Of course neither should be selfish in their demands either. Notice the fact that this is not a one way street. Both husbands and wives need to understand that they have given themselves to each other and must be aware of each other’s needs and feelings.

God doesn’t deny sex. He created it. He has a plan for His children and if we would just listen His plan works pretty well. 

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Bought with a price

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's. – 1 Corinthians 6.19-20

I can't think of this passage without thinking of pain, and sweat, and maybe tears. It carries my back to PE class in the gym at Tennessee Temple University and Coach Sims’ class. He really sticks out in my memory. He reminds me of Coach Cutlip from The Wonder Years television programme.

Fair play to the guy, he really tried to incorporate the Bible into PE class. While we were doing callisthenics we would have to quote verses. If you didn’t do it fast enough you had to run laps. Everyone wanted to be asked first so they could say ‘Jesus wept.’

Anyway, 1 Corinthians 6.19-20 was our class verse. We quoted it while we ran. We quoted it  while we did push-ups. We quoted it - well you get the idea.

For all of that one thing is certain. That verse has stuck with me. It is a constant reminder of the truth in that my body has a purpose.

My body is not my own. It is not mine to do with whatever I want. My body was bought with a price. Jesus paid for me on the cross.

Therefore my body is something to be protected and cared for. It isn’t something that I should abuse and mistreat.

But because I am bought with a price I have a purpose – to glorify God in my body and my spirit because they belong to Him.

Does the way I treat my body glorify God?
Do the things I do with my body glorify God?
Do the place I go with my body glorify God?

We are not our own. We are bought with a price.

What are we doing about that?

God can use everything, even a nasty, sweaty, painful PE class to teach us. 

Monday, 19 August 2013

Flee sexual immorality

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. – 1 Corinthians 6.15-18

Sexual immorality is one of those areas that has cropped up from the earliest days. The problem is obvious - we are sexual beings. It is part of our make up. From the very first we were told to go forth and multiply. Multiplying, of course, requires sex. So it has always been a part of our make-up.

Corinth was a city wholly given over the sexual immorality. If the city had a website it would have been something like It was normal there for the pagan religions to incorporate sex into their observances.

Paul had to deal with this. As people were saved there they would still be living in their old culture. Sexual immorality was commonplace and would have been, for many, a part of their lives.

So Paul makes a strong argument. A Christian is one with Christ. If a Christian has sex with a harlot he becomes one with her. Therefore by doing so the Christian joins Christ with the harlot.

‘That is disgusting’ we might say. And we would be right.

But that is exactly what happens.

Not only that but sexual immorality is dangerous. And, contrary to modern ideology, there is no way to make it truly safe.

So what is the Christian response? Flee. Run. Get away. Don’t mess with it.

God’s plan for sex is wonderful. God is not a spoilt sport. His plan is perfect.

Why would we mess with anything else? 

Saturday, 17 August 2013

All is lawful, but…

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. – 1 Corinthians 6.12

Liberty in Christ is a wonderful thing. There are some folks who like to teach that holy living is all about does and don'ts and cans and can'ts. 'Good Christians don’t go to those kinds of places. Good Christians do certain things. Good Christians would never do certain things.

On the other hand the Bible says here that we have liberty in Christ – all things are lawful for me. We know that now that we have been brought to Christ by the law it no longer has any power over us. It was our schoolmaster, but now we are out from under its authority.

Since the power of the Law is broken all things are indeed lawful.

So does that we mean we do anything we want? Since everything is lawful does that mean we a free to do anything at all?

Well, that’s what it says here – but that is not where it stops. All things may be lawful, but not all things are helpful or expedient.  We don’t do whatever we want just because we can.  We are told in another place not to use our liberty in Christ to serve our own flesh, but that we should use our liberty as a chance to love each other.

Paul ends this verse with a key to how to handle this wonderful liberty – ‘all things are lawful for me, but I will not be under the power of any.’

Now that is a challenge. We are indeed free, but we need to be careful that nothing that we are free to do controls us. It is easy, incredibly easy, to get obsessed or controlled by the things we are free to do. There are a lot of good, harmless, and enjoyable things we are free today. But when those things run our lives we have taken our liberty too far.

I like to watch sports, there is nothing wrong with that. I like certain television programmes, nothing wrong with that. I like Facebook and Twitter, nothing wrong with that.

But if any of those things have power over me, then there is a problem.

All things are lawful, but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily ‘okay.’ 

Thank God for Bible ‘buts’

And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. – 1 Corinthians 6.11

Paul had just finished stressing to the Christians at Corinth the importance of behaving before the world. As part of that instruction he told them they should not be going to court against each other before unbelievers. In verses 9-10 he tells them why  - ‘Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.’

Then, lest they get a big head he reminds them – and such were some of you.

And, indeed, and such were some of us.

But, ah yes, there is that wonderful word ‘but.’

But you were washed
But you were sanctified
But you were justified

Where would we be without those ‘buts?’

We were doomed like the rest of the world. But now in Christ we are washed from our sin. But now we are sanctified and set apart. But now we are justified by the blood of Christ.

Praise God for Bible 'buts.' 

Friday, 16 August 2013

How serious is sin?

Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.  – 1 Corinthians 5.6-8

I think sometimes we forget just how dangerous sin is. I think it is far too easy to take it far too lightly. The Corinthian church was certainly guilty of that. Here was a man having sexual relations with his step-mother. Paul told the church that this man had to be put out of the fellowship until he dealt with his sin. It would be a wakeup call for him and it was important that the church be protected from the sin.

To show how important purity is Paul uses the illustration of leaven. The leavening agent most of us are used to today is yeast. I don’t mind cooking, and do a pretty good job of it. But I am not much good at baking so what follows is from what I have read and heard and watched when Mary is baking. When she wants to bake certain goods sometimes she adds yeast. It makes whatever she is baking lighter and less dense. It has a major effect on the flour mixture. I love the results when she gets done baking.

But most of the time, some would say every time; yeast is referred to in the Bible it is in a negative sense. Here Paul had just been warning the people about being ‘puffed up’ I can’t help but wonder if that is the image Paul is trying to get across. The church was ‘puffed up’ despite the fact that they were not dealing with. If not dealt with the sin they were tolerating would continue to grow and ‘puff up’ until it affected the whole church.

There were at least two problems here. There was the man’s sin and there was the sin of pride and boasting and being puffed up. The tolerance of the church was its own leaven and if not dealt with the whole church would be affected.

So often sin goes unchecked. No one likes to confront anyone about sin. Sometimes the guilty party is such an asset to the church that no one wants to deal with it. Sometimes dealing with sin might affect the prestige of the church.

But left unchecked even a little sin ‘leavens the whole lump.’ 

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Puffed up

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father's wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. – 1 Corinthians 5.1-2

Paul uses the phrase 'puffed up' a few times in this letter. The phrase means just what it sounds like – to be proud and arrogant and haughty. In the previous verse Paul used the same phrase when he said the Corinthian were puffed up with arrogance because they did not think Paul was coming to confront them.

Here he nails down the particulars of their arrogance. There was immorality in the church. It was so bad in one instance that a man in the church was having sexual relations with his step-mother.

And the church was not dealing with it. They were so proud of themselves that they just overlooked it and went on their way. While this man should have been put out of the church things just carried on like nothing had happened.

It is bad enough when there is sin in the church. It is bad enough not to deal with it. It is much, much worse to carry on with a puffed up attitude and do nothing about it. 

It didn't end in Corinth. How many churches are today puffed up about what a great church they are yet are afraid to deal with sin because of how it might affect their supposed greatness?

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

My son in the Lord

I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me. For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church. Now some are puffed up, as though I were not coming to you.  – 1 Corinthians 4.14-18

One thing I really like about the church is the 'familiness' of the believers. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We have spiritual fathers and mothers and spiritual children. It is all about family. We even used to sing a song called 'I'm So Glad I'm a Part of the Family of God.'

Familiness is special. As Paul wrote these words he wrote to his 'beloved children.' He could say that because it was his witness that had laid the foundation for this church in Corinth.

But he ges even more close and personal. He calls Timothy 'my beloved and faithful son in the Lord.' As a, shall we say, more mature Christian man I am challenged by this. In other places we are commended to teach the younger men. We are instructed to teach them so that they can teach others.

Ideally I think this idea of having a ‘beloved and faithful son in the faith’ is someone we would have led to the Lord then disciple, trained, and mentored.

However, we think we also need to be aware of young believers who don’t have a ‘father in the faith.’ In those cases we can come alongside and, for lack of a better term, adopt them as our own sons in the faith to see them develop into maturity.

There is no need for anyone to do without a spiritual father or mother. We are, after all, and family and it is vital that we look out for each other. 

Fools for Christ’s sake

We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonoured! To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labour, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now. – 1 Corinthians 4.10-13

I was recently given a book by my friend Geoff, who is an atheist. He had read it and wanted my perspective as a Christian. I am about half way through it and am thoroughly intrigued by it. The book seeks to express the 'problems' that Christianity forces atheists to deal with. I read this section just yesterday. The author is pointing out how the world perceived the early church.

‘Christians were—what could be more obvious?—enemies of society, impious, subversive, and irrational; and it was no more than civic prudence to detest them for refusing to honour the gods of their ancestors, for scorning the common good, and for advancing the grotesque and shameful claim that all gods and spirits had been made subject to a crucified criminal from Galilee—one who during his life had consorted with peasants and harlots, lepers and lunatics.'  (Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies by David Bentley Hart)

I think the reference does a good job of describing just how Christians are seen a fools for Christ's sake.

But no matter how we are seen it is how we respond that makes a difference. 'Bring reviled, we bless; being persecuted we endure; being defamed we entreat.' This impact this had from the start was profound. A example, from the same book - 'Even the emperor Julian, who was all too conscious of the hypocrisies of which Christians were often capable, was forced to lament, in a letter to a pagan priest, “It is a disgrace that these impious Galilaeans care not only for their own poor but for ours as well.”'

As long as we live for Christ we will be seen as foolish in the world’s eyes. But, as strange as it might sound, there is an appeal in our ‘foolishness.’ When we love our enemies and care for their poor it makes no sense. When we respond to reviling with blessing it makes no sense. When we respond to persecution with patient endurance it seems foolish. When we respond to defamation with calling for good it seems crazy.

The Corinthians Paul was writing to counted themselves as wise. They thought they had it all figured out. They had found a way to be culturally relevant. They were distinguished, the apostles were dishonoured. The apostles were the filth and the scum of the world while the Corinthian Christians were honoured by the world.

There is a terrible tendency in the church today to seek to be culturally relevant. The church wants to fit in. Can you imagine a church sign today saying ‘Come in and join the scum of the world’ or ‘Come in and join the fools?’

The book I am reading makes the point that the early church made a difference, not because they fit in, but because they were different. It was, as the author describes it, a ‘Christian revolution’ but it was a revolution not of guns, but of love and peace and charity and giving.

Are we willing to join the fools, the filth, and the scum to live for Christ? 

Monday, 12 August 2013

Empty headed thinking

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” – 1 Corinthians 3.18-20

Solomon is considered the wisest man who ever lived. He was wise enough to learn from experience. in the book of Ecclesiastes Solomon recounts his search for the meaning of life. He wanted to find out what it as all about. So he tried everything to see if it had meaning. When he was done he came to a conclusion that all of the stuff he tried was vanity, or empty, or futile, or empty headed thinking.  

Paul comes to the same conclusion here. All of the thinking of the wise of this world is vain, or empty, or futile. All the stuff that tries to draw us in is at going to produce nothing in the end. So Paul tells us not to let ourselves be deceived by it. There are plenty of worldly philosophies out there. They all have the promise of something better. Sometimes Christians can get caught up in the world's philosophies. One of the biggest deceptions that I see among Christians is that if we can just get the politics of our various nations sorted out all will be okay. Then some folks spend all their time trying to get that sorted.

It is for this reason that our focus should not be all this empty headed thinking. It is like grasping at the air. Paul later warns Timothy not to give himself to ‘keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called.’ He repeats the same basic warning in his second letter.

All of this world’s stuff is going to one day pass away. It is all passing away. It is all vain thinking. It is all emptiness.

The only thing that matters for eternity is the ‘wisdom of God.’ We can spend far too much time dealing with empty headed philosophies of the world. Let’s be aware. Let’s be informed. But let’s not let empty headed thinking control our lives. 

Saturday, 10 August 2013

The Temple of God

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. – 1 Corinthians 3.16-17

This is a great time for this passage. It is Sunday and soon we will be gathering together as local assemblies of the body of Christ.  Later in this letter Paul refers to our physical bodies as ‘the temples of the Holy Spirit; but here he refers to the church, Christ’s body as ‘the temple of God.’ 

The use if the word 'temple' would have had a huge impact, but especially on the Jewish immigrants who had flocked to Corinth. The word would have always had an impact not the Corinthians. They knew all about temples. There was a temple to Apollo and a major temple to Aphrodite. Everyone had an image in their heads when they heard the word 'temple.'

Here Paul says what must have been startling words - 'don't you know that you are the temple of God?' He described the temple as holy. He said again 'you are the temple.' Defiling the temple was so bad that anyone who defiled it we read 'God will destroy him.' 

I am going to chicken out and not get in to the destroying bit. I'll leave that for further study. 

What is important, I think, is the aspect of the holiness of God's temple, Christ's body, the church. 

That tells me that when I sin, or when I am not right with God, it is not only me who is impacted. My sin affects he whole body. It affects the whole temple. We must always be aware of the temple of God when we choose to sin. It is not just about me. 

How Firm a Foundation

For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. – 1 Corinthians 3.11

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

In every condition, in sickness, in health;
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

Even down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavour to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

I was only to grab a few highlights from this wonderful old hymn, but I could not decide what to leave out. This song first appeared in a collection of hymns published in 1787. It is not even clear who wrote it.

Anyway, I thought of this hymn as soon as I saw the passage. There is indeed no other foundation to build on our lives on than Jesus Christ.

There are many, many foundation on which we are tempted to build our lives. We can found on lives on our own resources. We can found our lives on our abilities or skills or prestige. We can found our lives on our parents or family. We can found our lives on our church or our religion or our denomination.

But none of these things can carry us through to the end. All of them are liable to fail and often do fail. Christ, our sure foundation, will never crumble. He will never collapse. He will never fail.

Even though I am not yet ‘old’ I am at the age when old is in sight. I often battle with fears and anxiety about that. I know that God has taken care of me every step of the way so far, but the future years of aging are such an uncertainty. I am grateful for the reminder from ‘How Firm a Foundation’ about some things I already know.

Even down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.

And then, of course, those beautiful closing words:

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavour to shake,

I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

Friday, 9 August 2013

All together now

 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building. - 1 Corinthians 3.5-9

Virtually everything we do requires a team effort. Spreading the gospel is certainly a work that requires that every do their part. Here Paul mentions that some plant and some water, but God gives the increase. I think he is just illustrating the truth that the work is a team effort.

We might also say that some have to till the soil. We might even go back a step and say that some have to pick out the stones and prepare the soil for tilling. Some others watch the crops. Some add fertiliser. Every part of the task is important.

None of us can take credit when God's work is accomplished. When someone comes to Christ there is no single 'soul winner' who does the job alone.

In some circles the reaper is elevated above the planter, the waterer, or any other worker. We forget one thing – God is the true ‘soul winner,’ only He gives the increase.

Our task is to be faithful in sharing the gospel. Sometimes all we can do is dig a few stones out of the way. Sometimes we get to plant the seed. Sometimes we get to water the fertile soil. And sometimes we get to see the final step and rejoice when someone comes to Christ. When we do, we ought to stop and praise God for the planters and waterers and to remember that only God Himself gives the increase.

Even those times when we get to plant, water, and see the reaping it is still only God who gets the credit. 

We are fellow-workers, but it is God’s field and it is His building. 

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

I am of...

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? – 1 Corinthians 3.1-4

I have quite a bit of experience with churches and pastors who were very concerned about what 'camp' people are in. I rang a church in Louisiana one time and the pastor's first question was 'what camp are you in?' I honestly did not understand so I asked what he meant. 'You know. Are you in Hyle's camp? Are you in Bob Jones' camp? Are you in the Pensacola camp? Are you in the Temple camp? What camp on you in? Who do you follow?'

One of the nice things about leaving the States and coming to a place where there is not an evangelical 'church on every corner' is that this 'camp' concept is not nearly so strong. but, i have learned, it is still there. 

Sometimes I feel like Christianity is kind of like sports. Who you follow identifies you. I like sports, and for most sports there is a team I follow. I am.huge fan of Irleland in rugby and football. I follow Chelsea in the Premiership. In American college football I support Alabama. In baseball I like the Braves. If I check in on the NFL I follow the Philadelphia Eagles. Alas, I am not much of a basketball fan. 

All that is fine, unless we obsess over it. But is it 'fine' if we identify with certain Christian circles as our Christian identity? 

It is simple enough. Disunity is carnality. Envy, strife, and divisions are of men, not of God. 

We must not let the carnality of disunity control our lives. There is no room for fandom of men or organisations in the work of God. 

The mind of Christ

But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 2.15-16

Paul seems to capture the essence of this lengthy discussion about wisdom and foolishness and spiritual mindedness and fleshly mindedness with the simple statement ‘but we have the mind of Christ.’

I struggled a bit with just what Paul was saying here. When I first read it seemed a little presumptuous and it didn't make a lot of sense. I think though that I may have figured it out.

Paul is not claiming that he, or us, or anyone else already can always think like Christ and act accordingly. He is not claiming that we have Christ-like perfection.

Paul seems means that believers, because we have the Holy Spirit have the mind of Christ. It is just a fact. It means that we don’t have to think like the world. We don’t have to swallow the world’s way. We don’t have to behave the way the world behaves.

Indeed we, as God’s children, have the mind of Christ. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we use it. 

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Compare spiritual with spiritual

These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. – 1 Corinthians 2.13-14

Spiritual thinking is a whole different kind of thinking. It is something that we need to be aware of and be careful about in our everyday thinking about the things that go in our lives. the world's way of thinking and the world's standards are so prevalent and so popular that we can be tempted to think that we are doing something wrong if we don't measure up to what the world expects.

We need to get over that. We need stop comparing spiritual with carnal. They are two totally different standards. They are two different plum lines.

They are so different in fact that the natural man cannot understand spiritual things.

Why then do we bother so much with the natural things?

We don’t have to compete with the world. We know have to measure up with their standards. Those who are ‘of the spirit’ must be concerned with the spiritual. Our standard is the word of God.

Let’s be sure we are comparing ourselves to the right standard. 

Monday, 5 August 2013

Freely given

But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. – 1 Corinthians 2.10-12

Indeed, no one has seen or heard or imagined all these wonderful things, but the Holy Spirit has revealed their prospect to us. We know those things because we have the Spirit of God dwelling in us. These are great and revealing truths.

It is the very last phrase that really catches my eye in this verse though. The things that we can know are the things that we 'freely given' us by God.

When I read about anything being 'freely given' by a perfect and holy God to wretched miserable sinners it has to catch my eye. I have to ask myself a very simple question - why?

Why would the creator God of the universe freely give Roger, a sinner, anything?

There is no reason that makes any real sense according to human wisdom.

But it does make perfect sense in God’s wisdom. God gives us freely because there is no other way to get what He desires for us. We can’t earn it. We simply can do nothing about it. It makes sense because God is love and He loves us enough to give us all the things that ‘eye cannot see or ear cannot hear or hearts cannot imagine.’

Praise God He loves me enough to give freely, for otherwise there would be no hope. 

Saturday, 3 August 2013

The things God has prepared

But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.” – 1 Corinthians 2.7-10

I like the fact that our faith is forward looking. Yesterday I looked at the negative aspect so all the stuff that is coming to nothing. Today is much more encouraging. It is all about the good stuff.

Wen this is all said and done, when all the stuff that is coming to nothing has indeed come to nothing, things are going to get better. It will be worth it all.

'Eye has not seen. Ear has not heard. No one has ever imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him.'

That tells me that we can't even imagine all that God has prepared. It is like nothing we have ever seen and nothing we have ever heard of, at least not with our natural minds.

It is going tbe hard for us to explain to anyone why we do what we do. It is going to be hard for us to get people excited about something that they can't even imagine. 

But for us our future is assured. The Spirit has opened our eyes for a glimpse of the future that awaits. Praise God for that hope. 

Coming to nothing

However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, - 1 Corinthians 2.6-7

I have to say I really like Paul's focus and his explanation here. He continues his thought about how important the gospel is.

‘We speak wisdom’ he writes, ‘to the mature. We don’t speak about the wisdom of this age. We don’t speak of the rulers of this age. Those are all coming to nothing.’

Coming to nothing.

The wisdom of men and the rulers of men are coming to nothing.

I have to say that really challenges me. We have more chances to communicate with more people about more things than we have ever had before. The Internet, especially sites like Facebook and Twitter put us in touch with all kinds of people. While this can be a very bad thing, it can also be a very good thing for the work of the gospel.

But saying that, I find that far too much on my conversation, be it over a cuppa tea, chatting with a friend, or online deal with the stuff that is coming to nothing. The things that tend to dominate our thoughts and conversations are things that are all going to mean nothing one day. It doesn’t really matter what party is in power or what individual is on office. The rulers of this age are coming to nothing.

I need to be more concerned, not about all this stuff, but about speaking of the wisdom of God for that, and only that, is what results in our future glory. 

Friday, 2 August 2013

In weakness and fear

I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.1 Corinthians 2.3-5

Serving Christ can be a scary thing. At the moment, not that it is anything new, I am really battling with that. The devil throws up things to confuse and confound our ministry. It seems like time after time we see some good, then we see battles.  It is important to know how to deal with my weakness and my fear and my trembling.

The trembling Paul talks about is 'shaking with fear.' I know the feeling. 

I think most of us in ministry know the feeling. It is good to know that we are not the first and that we are not alone.

Paul realised that the key to dealing with his weakness and fear and trembling was not to depend on himself.

Paul knew that the key to his ministry was not to try and persuade men to come to Christ. He knew it was not up to him to force a decision. He knew indeed that he was a ‘fisher of men’ but he knew that only Christ could fill the net.

People are not going to be persuaded to come to Christ by my wisdom of speaking ability. Salvation is only a manifestation of the Holy Spirit and a demonstration of the power of God. There is no such thing as a good or bad ‘soul winner.’ There are only obedient or disobedient - faith or unfaithful believers.

Victory over weakness and fear comes when we remember that is not us, but the power of God as seen through His Holy Spirit that brings men to Christ. 

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Nothing but Jesus

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  – 1 Corinthians 2.1-2

Paul regularly focuses on the importance of avoiding distractions. The Holy Spirit obviously knew that the potential to get distracted would only get worse and worse as time went by and there was more and more to distract us.

Corinth was a wicked city. It was a really, really wicked city. Paul did not go to Corinth however to try and bring about social reform. He did not to try to get taxes lowered or fight for civil liberties or small government or anything like that.

Paul didn’t try to persuade the Corinthians using Greek logic or human reasoning. He didn’t try to reason them to Christ.

Paul determined to just focus on Christ. He lived and breathed Jesus. The crucified Christ consumed him.

I am reminded of what is called ‘St Patrick’s Breastplate’ when I read this. I don’t know if it has anything at all to do with Patrick, but I like the focus.

There are various versions. The one we have on our wall puts it this way:

Christ with me
Christ before me
Christ behind me
Christ below me
Christ within me
Christ at my right hand
Christ at my left hand
Christ in every ear that hears me
Christ in every eye that sees me
Christ in every mouth that speaks of me
Christ in every heart that thinks of me

Does Christ permeate my life like this? Can any of us truly sing ‘Jesus, all for Jesus?’ 

I pray for Paul's determination in my life.