Monday, 30 September 2013


But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Corinthians 15.57

Oh victory in Jesus. My Saviour forever...
Faith is the victory, faith is the victory...

We sing ally about victory. I suspect that is because we need and are comforted by the reminder because sometimes it seems like we have everything but victory. Setback follows defeat and defeat follows setback. Everything we try seems to fail. The furtherer we go the behinder we get. At least that is how it seems.

And yet, here Paul gives thanks for the victory that God gives through the Lord Jesus Christ.

That means that no matter what the setbacks we face, no matter what the challenges, no matter what the temporary defeats, no matter how bad it seems at the moment we can look forward to the final victory that is ours in Christ. In Jesus we can always ride in triumph giving our the sweet smelling savour of victory.

It takes faith to believe that, doesn't it? In those darks days of setbacks and defeat it is hard to behave like we have the victory.

But if we could ever cop on to that fact everything would change. We would no longer drag ourselves through the day with our heads down. We could walk with our heads held high in victory.

Faith is the victory, and we look forward to the victory in faith.

Thank God for this marvelous victory! 

Death is crushed to death

So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written:“Death is swallowed up in victory.”  “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” – 1 Corinthians 15.54-55

Death is no fun. In the last few weeks I have been through the death of a loved one with a close friend. In retrospect, in a morbid sort of way, it is a fascinating process. Shortly after all this happened I heard a podcast called 'How Dying Works.' I found it an interesting study. 

But, no matter how interesting death is final. It is the end of life here on earth. Death comes at the end. 

Therefore death is the thing man tends to fear the most. What will it be like? Will it I hurt? There are stories about 'post death' experiences, but we really don't know. As one of the care givers at the nursing home said 'no one has ever sent a letter back telling us what it is like.' 

Death is the greatest unknown. Death is scary. 

But for those of us in Christ it doesn't have to be scary. Death has been crushed to death by the power of the cross. 

We may never escape the trepidation that accompanies death. We may never escape those little niggling questions. But we can rest with what I once heard a preacher call 'raw faith' that our victory over dead is assured. 

Stuart Townend and Keith Getty put is beautifully in their song 'The Power of the Cross.'

Death is crushed to death;
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Evil company

Do not be deceived:“Evil company corrupts good habits.” Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame. - 1 Corinthians 15.33-34

Paul has been speculating about what it would be like without the gospel while reinforcing the truth of the gospel. He makes a point 'if there were no resurrection then we might as well just do whatever we want.' 

But he says, 'Don't be deceived.' 

There is a resurrection. Therefore we don't just do whatever we want. We have to be aware that we must live in the light that there is an accountability. We can't live however we want. 

Paul uses a secular proverb of the time. JFB puts it this way 'a current saying, forming a verse in Menander, the comic poet, who probably took it from Euripides.' 

It's intersting that Paul uses a secular saying. A lot of Christians find that very put-offish. But that's not the point here. 

Anyway, Paul points out that there are dangers in spending too much time hanging around and spending time with 'evil company.'  Off course Paul is not saying that we should crawl away hide is some monastery. He didn't say we should cut off all our old connections. He is not saying that we should only spend time with believers. 

However, he is saying that there are dangers in spending too much time with unbelievers. We tend to become like those we spend time with. We spend time with. We need to be careful of our friends and their influences. 

But that's not all. As we spend time with with the world it is our responsibity to 'awake to righteousness and do not sin.' 

The reason, there are many who don't have the knowledge of God, and that is to our shame. 

We have to live in this world. But when we do we have to be sure that we maintain our testimony. We can't take part in their activities. Our goal is to bring them to the knowledge of God, not to become like them. 

No resurrection?

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.- 1 Corinthians 15.13-18

It is not too much to say that all of faith hinges on one key event. There are plenty of let Bible truths and fundamentals that are vital, but there is one event which is fundemental to all the rest. Without it everything else would be worthless. 

We are, of course, taking about the resurrection. Without the resurrection Christ would not have risen. If He never rose from the dead there is nothing to our preaching. Our faith is worthless. We are liars. Our faith is futile. We are still in our sins. All those who have died in Christ have simply persisted. 

That. Why the resurrection is so much under attack. That is why 2000 years on people still do research and publish papers trying to disprove it.  That's why people like Dam Brown write novels claiming there are millennia old conspiracies to cover up what 'really' happened. If the resurrection is true than the world is wrong, the word of God is true, and there is a holy God to be reckoned with. 

But, as Paul goes on to say, there is a resurrection.  Christ is risen. And because He is rise we have hope of eternal life. 

He is risen. 
He is risen indeed. 

Friday, 27 September 2013

But by the grace of God

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. – 1 Corinthians 15.10

As Paul continues to explain the basics of the gospel he gives a list of who saw the resurrected Christ. At the end of the list he mentions himself, the last one to see the risen Christ.

Paul says he was not worthy to be called an apostle. After all he had persecuted the Church of God. Surely, if anything could disqualify a man form being an apostle it would be someone who killed and imprisoned Christians. Surely God could not use him of all people.

But some of the most amazing words ever written come next - 'but by the grace of God I am what I am.' This is yet another one of those great 'Bible buts.'

But, by the grace of God I am what I am. What blessed words of comfort for each of us and a reminder not to get too high and mighty. For, without the grace of God we would all be hell bound sinners.

But we have the grace of God. Like Paul our goal should be that his grace is not in vain. God's grace should motivate us to labour for Him. His grace should labour in us. 

Not only that, it is that grace working in us that produces any good.

There is nothing good in and of myself – the phrase ‘there, but by the grace of God go I’ is more than just words. But by the grace of God we are no better that than the worst criminal or the most wicked of men.

By the grace of God I am what I am – nothing more and nothing less. 

Thanks to a dear friend for this addition.

"I am not what I ought to be—ah, how imperfect and deficient! I am not what I wish to be—I abhor that which is evil, and I would cleave to that which is good. I am not what I hope to be—soon, soon I shall put off mortality, and with mortality all sin and imperfection! Though I am not what I ought to be, what I wish to be, and what I hope to be—yet I can truly say, I am not what I once was—a slave to sin and Satan! I can heartily join with the apostle and acknowledge, "By the grace of God—I am what I am!" (John Newton)

Thursday, 26 September 2013

The gospel

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,  - 1 Corinthians 15.1-4

The gospel is a pretty broad topic. There are a lot of ways to define it, describe it, and explain it.

But here it is, in a nutshell. It is what we preach. It is the way we were saved. Without it we would have believed in vain. It is the truth on which we stand.

Jesus died for our sins according to the scripture.
He was buried.
He rose the third day according to the scriptures.

And that's it. Jesus died for our sins. That’s what the Bible says. I had sin. Something had to be done. I couldn't pay the price. The penalty was too great. So Jesus died for my sins.

He was buried. He proved He was dead by spending three days in the grave.

Then he rose victorious over death. He arose a victor from the dark domain and He lives forever with His saints to reign. Because He lives I can live. Death is crushed to death. I have nothing to fear

It is easy to get caught up in all the isms and ologies surrounding the gospel. But then there is the wonderful simplicity of the pure gospel.

Jesus died. He was buried. He rose again. That is indeed good news. Hallelujah. 

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Not the author of confusion

For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saintsLet all things be done decently and in order - 1 Corinthians 14.33. 40

Paul had a lot to cover in his letters to the early church. The church was new, it was young, they didn't have the whole New Testament to guide them. The Corinthians in particular seemed to have a problem with confusion and chaos in their services.

So here Paul gives various instructions on how the services are to go. They had their testimony to be concerned about in the midst of a chaotic society. It looks like everyone was trying to be the one who was seen in the service. Tongues had to have interpreters. No one was to over speak the other. They were to take turns. Women were to keep silent in their church services. I'll have to admit I don't know if that was a permanent instruction, or just designed to the Corinthian church, but we can save that discussion for another platform.

The main issue was order in the church.

It is obvious from God's creation that he is a God of order. He did not create a random chaos. As such God's desire is for things to be done decently and in order.

When confusion and chaos and disorder reign in a church service God is not glorified. It is simply a mess. The world finds chaos without coming to church. When people come to a church service they need to see a place of order that reflects God's character.

Decently and in order doesn't necessarily staid and boring. It doesn't have to mean formalistic and traditional. It doesn't mean we all have to do things the same way. But is does mean we need to be aware of decency and order in our worship. 

Monday, 23 September 2013

In malice be babes

 Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature. - 1 Corinthians 14.20

This chapter is mostly about tongues and other spiritual gifts. I am not crazy enough to get involved in that debate on my own personal blog though. But right in the middle of the chapter is this wonderful little instruction.

Don't be babies when it comes to understanding truths. Instead have some maturity. It is vital that we all grow in the knowledge of the truth. If we stagnate we do the cause of Christ no good. We are to grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our growth in knowledge should be a life long process and a life long pursuit. If there is no growth there is the stench of stagnation.

There is an area though where we are too  be baby like.

In malice be like a baby.

The word malice means badness, or depravity, or malignity.

The idea is that when it comes to these things we need to be like little children, who, though may misbehave, don't do so with a malicious spirit.

No matter what the context there is never an excuse for malice in Christian conduct. Let's be innocent when it comes to malice. Instead, like the previous chapter pointed out we ought to always been mindful of the importance of love.

President Lincoln said it best, 'With malice toward none, with charity towards all...'

Sunday, 22 September 2013

The greatest of these...

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13.13

There are so many wonderful things about being a Christian. We could easily fills the page just listing all of the benefits there are of being saved. But here there are only three listed so we will focus on these. 

And now abides faith, hope, and love. 

Faith is a truly amazing thing. It is faith that saves and sustains us. It is faith that keeps us on track. It is the faith that is worth contending for.  It is by grace that we are saved, through faith. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. we are to live by faith, not by sight. 

Then there is hope. It is the blessed hope of the glorious appearing of Jesus that motivtes us to holy living. Our eternal hope keeps us going in the darkest hour and at our most discouraging times. 

And then there is love, the greatest of these. That places a pretty high premium on love. It tells us just how great love is. It is great because we love Christ only because he first loved us. 

If love is greater than either faith or hope, which is what God says it is, isn't it worth our time and effort? Since God says it is the greatest of these oughtn't we give love its due? 

Saturday, 21 September 2013

View in a smeared mirror

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. - 1 Corinthians 13.11-12

Life can be confusing. Very, very, very confusing. There are times when life makes no sense at all. We read things in the scriptures that seem to not make any sense. We know they are true, we have the faith to believe, we have all the confidence in the world. But still...

Our real life circumstances just don't seem to always fit. It is like we are trying to figure out what is going on in our lives and we look into a mirror to try to see if we can figure out what the problem is. But there is another problem. The mirror is dirty and smudged and our image is distorted. We can't see what is wrong and don't really know how to fix it. It seems like an unfixable mess, but we just keep plugging away. 

But one day it will be clear. All the mysteries and darkness will fall away when we see Christ face to face. The day will one day come when we will know it all as well as Christ knows us today. 

The great truth is that I don't have to get it now. One day God is going to sort it all out. One day, when the mirror is clean, we are going to see it all clearly. 

What a day that will be. 

Love never fails

Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. - 1 Corinthians 13.8-10

Everything ends one day. Nothing lasts forever. All good things must come to an end.

Normally all those things are true.

But there is an exception.

Love will never, ever fail.

There are times when my preaching will fail. My best attempts at ministry are going to fail. Programmes will fail. People are going to fail. People I respect are going to fail me. I am going to fail.

But at the end of the day one things endures forever.

Love is incapable of failure. It seems like we would be wise enough to do more of the one thing that is not going to fail.
Andrew Peterson words it so well in his 'After the Last Tear Falls' on the album 'Love and Thunder'

And in the end, the end is
Oceans and oceans
Of love and love again
We'll see how the tears that have fallen
Were caught in the palms
Of the Giver of love and the Lover of all
And we'll look back on these tears as old tales

'Cause after the last tear falls
There is love

God, help me to love. 

Friday, 20 September 2013

Love endures

bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. – 1 Corinthians 13.7

If I were to try to come up with a recipe for marriage it might sound something like this:

Love bears with everything
Love doesn't doubt
Love gives hope
Love just endures

Love bears with everything. We all have our quirks. We all have those little strangenesses that make us unique. There are things about all of us that are irritating. There are little things about us that make us difficult to love. We all have things that are hard to endure.

So how do we deal with those things? Love bears with the toilet seat being up or down. Loves bears with toilet roll being on the wrong way. Love bears with bad moods. Love bears with grumpiness. Loves bear with tiredness. Loves bears with unlovable friends. Love bears with peculiar habits. Love bear with quirks.

Love believes all things. Love doesn't doubt. Love believes unquestionably.

But doesn’t that put me at risk. If I believe and don’t doubt doesn’t that put me at risk. Couldn’t I be taken advantage of? Well, yeah, it does – but love would rather believe and be wrong than doubt and be wrong.

Love hopes. When everything else is going wrong love keeps giving hope. Love says ‘we’re down, we don’t have much, things don’t look so hot – but we have each other and we have the Lord so we have hope.’

Love endures all things. Love just sticks. Enduring may not have the most romantic sound but love is more than romance. Love does endure. It remains, it bears up, it undergoes pressures, sometimes it struggles.

But it endures. It stays. Infatuations come and go. Romance draws us to each other and keep the emotions alive. But it is love that endures.

But this isn’t just about marriage. It is for friendships and fellowships and it is for the body of Christ.

I have attached a photo that popped up on Facebook while I was working on this. It is a photo of our daughter Beth and her friend Stacie. It was taken about 1986. Today they are still the best of friends and now they are living close to each other again. How does that happen? It happens because true love endures, and not only for married couples. It endures for all who choose to love each other. 

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Love is real

does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; - 1 Corinthians 13.6

Love simply loves truth. Love loves what is right and just. Loves does not love wrongness. It does not love injustice. Love is real.

Love does not rejoice when others fall. Love does not need to get its own back. Love doesn’t revel in the defeat of others. Love doesn’t rejoice in backbiting. Love doesn’t rejoice in moral wrongness or injustice. Love isn’t fakey. Love has no room for hypocrisy. Love doesn’t need to operate under cover of darkness.

Instead true love loves the truth. Love is open. Love is reality. Love is honest.  

There is an awful lot of false iniquity filled emotion that passes for love out there. It is all over our cinema screens, our televisions, and our computers. It fills our reading materials. It fills our minds. 

Let’s not be confused by false love.

Real love is real. May God give us that power to love in realness. 

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Love isn’t rude

does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; - 1 Corinthians 13.5

This love test is pretty tough. Most Christians know this passage a little bit, we may even have memorised part or all of it. But I don't think we examine it often enough. So what else does love do? What else doesn't it do?

I really like this first little phrase. The King James said 'Love does not heave itself unseemly' which is a brilliant way ot put it, but I like the way it is worded in the NKJV, 'love does not behave rudely.' The word means unattractively and there is nothing more unattractive than rudeness.

It's funny. I had never connected love with rudeness in a Biblical sense. But when you think about it it really is a vital aspect of love.

I guess part of the problem is that we can take people for granted when we have been close them for a long time. We get used to them. When we get to the point where we take anyone for granted it is easy to be rude, because we forget that our rudeness has an impact. We forget that rudeness hurts. So true love isn't rude. It thinks about the other person. It sees their feelings as important.

I think this is a particular problem in marriage. After 15, 20, 30 years it is easy to get so used to our husband or wife that rudeness can creep it. We may never be rude to others, but because our spouse is near and we 'can't lose them' we get to be short and uncaring, and yes, rude to them. That is not love, because love is never rude.

Love doesn’t have to have its own way. It thinks about others.

Love is not easily provoked into a fight. We could certainly stop here and look at this one as well.

Love doesn’t think evil. Love chooses to think the best. 

Monday, 16 September 2013

Love suffers long

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;  - 1 Corinthians 13.4

This is one of those chapters where I could obviously spend weeks just looking at nearly every word. Instead I think I will just do a verse a day and highlight some of the keys to what love is all about. 

Love has been so corrupted. The world presents a whole different view of love and if we are not careful we can swallow their view hook, line, and sinker. Love is not about falling not and out of. It is not some silly emotion. It is not fireworks or valentines or showy spectacles. Love is so, so much more. 

Love suffers long. It puts up with a lot. It is not put off by hard times or quirks or challenges or weaknesses or failures. Love just sticks as sticks and sticks. Love is a choice to just keep on loving. Love is 'till death do us part' not only in marriage but in the life of the believer. We choose to love and that is that. 

Love is kind. Love is not just about the big things. Love makes the cuppa tea. Love takes out the rubbish. Love bring home that batch of flowers. Love says 'please' and 'thank you' even after decades of being together. Love is niceness in all we say and how we say and do it. 

Love does not envy. It is not jealous of what the other person has. It is not envious of the other guy's successes in the midst of our disappointments. Love rejoices when the other has the things we don't. 

Love doesn't parade itself down Main Street. It doesn't need bands and majorettes and floats and crowds. Love is just there. It doesn't have to be on show. It is quiet not and not always on display, but it is always there. 

Love is not puffed up. It doesn't need bragged on. Love doesn't have to tell anyone how loving it is. It just shows. 

And have not charity

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.  – 1 Corinthians 13.1-3

And now we come to what is often called the great love chapter. These is some of the most beautiful and evocative prose in all of English literature. It is beautiful in fact that it is oftent quoted and used by people who have nothing to do with the faith.

But the beauty only adds to the very real and important Biblical theme contained there.

We put a lot of emphasis on a lot of things in serving the Lord. Paul mentions a few of them here. They are all pretty important. He mentions eloquent speech. He mentions prophecy and understand and knowledge. He mentions mountain moving faith. He mentions giving to the poor. He mentions willingness to die for the cause of Christ.

But he makes it clear, all of that is meaningless without one thing. If love is not there it is all nothing, is no more than noise, it is nothing, it is of no profit.

Sometimes we can get so caught up in programmes and plans and purposes and personalities and projects and preach and preparation that we forget about love. True love means sacrifice. It means charity in the positive sense of the word, that is willingness to give of ourselves.

Unless love is behind all that we do we are wasting our time and effort and resources. It is possible to preach and teach and sing and have faith and feed the poor and even die without love.

It's possible, but it means nothing. 

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Just be there

And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. - 1 Corinthians 12:26

How many of us have ever gone through a trial alone? How many of us have ever had a great victory and had no one to celebrate it with? 

I don't know about anyone else, but I am a person who lies to be with people. I don't like to go trough things alone. When I hurt I want to someone to hug. When I have a victory I want someone to high five. 

If we truly are a body like we claim eye church should always be that someone who is there. One member of our body cannot be in pain without it affecting all of me. One part cannot have pleasure without the whole body having pleasure. We can't distance one part of our body from the rest. 

I wish there was some deep theology or something pithy and quaint or memorable that I could say here, but his is really pretty simple - we need each other in our successes and in our failures. We need to be there for each other in our ups and our downs. We need to cry with the tearful and celebrate with the joyful. 

I read a book years ago titled We Really Do Need Each Other. And the truth is we do, both in the good times and the bad times. 

What's the lesson for today? Just be there - full stop. 

Saturday, 14 September 2013

No schism

that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.  - 1 Corinthians 12:25

Schism is an ugly word, isn't it? It is one of those English words that just sounds like it is not a nice word. It is almost onomatopoeic. The Greek word means ans split or a gap or a rending. You can almost hear that happening when you say the word.

In the church this ugly word is used to describe real ugliness. There have been several infamous schisms in Christianity in its general sense. Most of these were political in nature. There were a couple of Great Schisms in the Roman Catholic Church. This kind of thing is bad and we know what kind of damage it did even if they were more political than religious. Wars were fought and people died.

There have been schisms that are more common in nature. Good churches have split over all kinds of things. Sometimes there are major issues. Sometimes they are petty issues. Sometimes they are dumb things like the colour of the carpet or the layout of a car park.

It is these stupid things that come to my mind. Schisms are never good, but it is the stupid stuff that so often does so much damage.

Isn't it amazing what we allow to schism us?

These schisms and splits and divides in and amongst our churches are horrible things. When good churches are split and sweet fellowships are broken it is not what God wants. It happens because we become more focused on ourselves than on others.

Paul is off course speaking here of the body of Christ, the church. He has just spoken and all the wonderful and diverse members of that body. When we split and divide and schism it is like cutting off one’s nose to spite the face. It is ugly. It is sinful. It is not of God. 

Friday, 13 September 2013

Necessary parts

No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it,  - 1 Corinthians 12.22-24

I wonder how we would respond, if we were not promoted, to the question 'who are the most important people in the church?' Chances are if asked we would talk about famous speakers or authors or professors or lecturers or noted Christian personalities. In the local church we might talk about how important the pastors are or or how needy the deacons. We might praise our missionaries or special speakers. We seem to have a set up that honours certain parts of the body. 

I was once in a meeting where the speaker had all of the students at a Christian college who were pastoral studies majors to stand. He then had those planning on youth work or missions or 'evangelism' or some other 'full time' service. He then made a point that these were 'God's choice servants.' Those of us who were seated felt kind of embarrassed and 'less honourable.'

That kind of thinking seems to dominate and permeate some parts of the church.

But that flies in the face of what Paul says here. Paul says that the parts of the body that we think are the least honourable are due the most honour. Indeed, God Himself honours the parts of the body that lack honour.

Bobby Walker. That's the name that comes to mind when I think of this passage.

‘Bobby who?’ you might ask. Who is Bobby Walker? And I think that’s the point.

Bobby was the guy at Calvary Baptist in Huntsville who nobody saw, but did everything. He never preached, as far as I know he never taught Sunday School or served as a deacon. He never did any of the out front stuff.

But he was the guy who made sure the grass was cut and the car park was clean and the building was tidy and the light bulbs were replaced and so on and so on and so on. He was the guy who would pass a missionary some money to buy a new suit. He was the guy who always knew when people were going through a tough time and called them aside and wept with them.

Bobby is never going to write a book. There will never be a book written about him. Bobby is not the kind of guy who would appreciate a ‘Bobby Walker Day’ even if the church held one for him.

I am sure Bobby is not perfect, but I suspect that he is one of those ‘least honourable’ members who God will bestow honour on.

We need to worry if we are not the honoured or respected or esteemed members, but God will one day sort that all out.

Praise God that He sees the ‘less honourable.’ 

Thursday, 12 September 2013

One body

For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. – 1 Corinthians 12.12-14ff

This is a passage that I would love to see illustrated. I would love to have the skill to take the images here and put them on paper. You can almost see the humour as Paul tries to describe how silly it would be if we all tried to be the same. Paul refers to the church as a body. He states that just like a body has many members so does the church. All of our body parts have different functions. Paul uses the various body parts to illustrate the truth he is getting across. The has had its job. The eye has its job. The ears hear and the feet get us around.

But what would it be like if my foot tried to be my ear? What would happen if my hands tried to hear? What would happen if all I was was a great big eyeball? How could I get around? How could I hear? What could I do? As Paul puts it 'if the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be?'

Paul’s illustration seems almost silly – and I think that it is the point. It is downright silly when we try to be something or someone we are not. I am designed for the job God gave me. Everybody of my body must do its part for me to function. Every part of the Body of Christ must do the same. 

Tuesday, 10 September 2013


There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. - 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

I am really, really glad that we are not all alike. I can't even imagine a church full of mes. What a disaster that would be. The worst part would be me trying to get along with me. Of cause, I can't imagine a church full of anybodies.

Praise God for diversity.

For a good chunk of my Christian life I thought that the way I did things and the way the churches I went to was the only way it could be done. Virtually every church I went to to things almost exactly the same. They sang the same songs, used the same format of service, and had the same way of doing almost everything. Sunday school and service on Sunday morning wee followed by a Sunday evening service. There was Tuesday night visitation, Wednesday night prayer time, and Friday youth activities. They all ran bus ministries for outreach. And so on.

Now there is not a thing in the world wrong with any of those things. God uses them in many places. But it took a while to figure out that that was not the only way things could be done.

I don't believe that God wants us to be cookie cutter Christians. I don't believe He wants us to be cookie cutter churches.

Indeed it took a while to get it. But I am starting to learn that God works in a diversity of ministries. God works in a diversity of activities. He is not bound by customs or culture or country or conditions. We don't all have to worship exactly the same way. We don't all have to use the same hymn books. We don't all have to do the same things the same ways.

It is the same God who works in all. We had better get used to it. 

Heaven is going to be fun in its diversity. I think a lot of us are going to be very surprised at who else is going to be there. I'm glad for a body of diversity. 

Monday, 9 September 2013

Examine yourselves.

Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgement to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. - 1 Corinthians 11:27-30

Years ago, shortly after I started Christian university in Tennessee I met my first real older mentor. His name was Haynes Watson and his wife was Martha. There were from the northeast corner of Tennessee and were as country as grits and cornbread. We called them, like everyone else, Preacher and Granny. I have so many fond memories of them. He was a country boy, but a full of wisdom that comes from being country. One of his phrases, and I am sure it was not really us, was 'keep short accounts with God.'

I think about that virtually every time I come to the Table. When we come we are challenged to examine ourselves. It would be so much easier if it said 'examine those sitting around you' or ‘examine the pastor' or 'examine the guys helping with the serving of the table.'  But no, it says 'examine himself.'

When we come to the Table it is incumbent on us to take these words to heart. God actually says here that to eat and drink of the Table in an unworthy manner is to invite God's chastening.

However if we take the time to examine and judge ourselves there will be no need for judgement and chastening. We have our shot at the table to keep short accounts with God.

If we take the Table lightly I don't think it is out of place to say that we are just asking for trouble. 

Proclaim his death

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you:that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “ Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “ This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”  For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes. - 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

I think it is interesting to note that the Lord saw the Table as so important that He personally instructed Paul in just how the church was to observe the Table. The instructions given here could not be any clearer. There is no fancy formalism. There is no magic routine. There is no ritualism. It is a simple matter of following the simple instructions given here.

And then Jesus said this 'as often as you eat the bread and drink this cup you show, or proclaim, the Lord's death till He comes again.'

Years ago, when we were first discussing moving to a weekly Table observance one of my concerns was that if we did it 'too often' we would become to accustomed to it and that it would no longer be special. I have had a few people express the same concern since then.

But Matt made a good point. Is it possible to remember Jesus too much? Is it possible to proclaim His death too often?

Notice there is no time limit. There is no mention of how often. It is just 'as often as you do it, do this.'

But, to my mind, 'as often' implies some amount of 'ofteness.'

Anyhow, the ofteness is not the issue. The whyness is what matters.

And we do it to remember Christ and proclaim His death openly. We remember his broken body and His shed blood. We remember His sacrifice.

The next time we approach the Table lets be sure we do so with a holy remembrance of what we are remembering. 

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Table Trouble

Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper. For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.
1 Corinthians 11:17-22

In just a could of hours we will be headed out to church. Every week we start our day with an observance and remembrance of the Lord's Table. To me this is such a precious time as we join with our brothers and sister in Christ all around the world and over the last tow thousand years. The Table unites the church. Or it should. 

Paul was writing to a church that had table problems. They came together to the Table with divisions. When they came to the Table it was not really to partake of the Table. They came to fulfill their own desires and to promote their own agenda. They had changed the Table into a feast where everyone jaunt brought their own food and some had plenty and others had nothing. 

Paul is tactful and kind in the way he phrases his response - 'shall I praise you in this? I don't praise you.' 

But despite those words what they were doing was wrong. They has corrupted the table. They were mocking Christ's sacrifice by their selfish actions. 

We may no longer literally have the feasts the Corinthians have. We can however despise the church and shame othes by our wrong attitudes at the Table. It is not praiseworthy. 

Don't be a jerk

Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved
1 Corinthians 10:32-33

Causing offence is almost an art for among some believers. Some seem to almost pride themselves in being jerks, or at least think it is not a big deal. Some think that contending for the faith, or our own adaptation, excuses offensiveness. What offers happens is that people seek to be offensive, they get someone to respond, then claim persecution. 

This offensiveness is the origin of much of the division in the church.  We are not going to all agree, and it is good that we talk through our differences, but they're is never a reason to give offence to my brother in Christ. Never. 

But this goes even further. It is dealing with those around us as well as believers. Paul says 'give no offence, to either Jews or Greeks or the church of God.' 

Chrisitans often must confront the world. We have to deal with the world and the world is often not going to like it. Often the message of the gospel is going to offend others. It is hard  To acknowledge that one is a sinner in need of Christ. 

Jesus said that offences were going to come, but woe to the one who causes offence. 

There is a difference. While the gospel may offend, there is no excuse for us to be offensive as we present it. I have known seen some really offensive Christians. It is bad enough to be a jerk, but a Christian jerk is so much worse. One guy I went visiting with would stick his foot in the door and not let the person close the door till he 'shared the gospel.' How can we expect anyone to hear our message when we act like offensive jerks? 

Simple little application here - don't be a jerk, ever.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Do all to the glory of God

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10.31

Now Paul comes right to the crux of the matter. There is a determining factor. There is a basic guideline. 

Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 

There it is. Do our actions and attitudes glorify God? 

In context the question is whether or not a Christian can eat meat or not eat meat sacrificed to idols and still glorify God, but it of course the passage is dealing with any kind of questionable action that might offend another. 

I think this is a matter of attitude. If I insist on an action to prove that I am right or that I have a right to do it am I really glorifying God? If I insist that a brother keep to my abiblical choices and preference can God really be glorified? 

Too often these kinds of situations are based on glorifying self. That is why we are warned above about 'thinking we stand.' 

This is really not complicated. Do I strive to goofy God in everything I do? His is way and will and purpose my goal? Or do I have to be the one who gets the glory? 

The whole earth is the Lord's. My every decision should glorify the creator of heaven and earth. How many conflicts and offences could be solved if we simply united together to glorify God in every potential comflict? 

Whatever we do let's be sure that our mutual purpose is that God be glorified. 

Thursday, 5 September 2013

The earth is the Lord’s

Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience' sake; for "The earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness." – 1 Corinthians 10.25-26

It is hard to just pick out a few snippets here and there throughout this passage. Every word is packed with meaning and purpose.

At the end of the day all of the stuff that Paul has written about pales in comparison the fact that ‘the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.'

These are perhaps Paul's harshest words about legalism and man-made requirements. Paul says 'go to the meat market (I love the old word shambles here), buy what you need, don't ask any needless questions, and eat it.

Even if food has been sacrificed to idols it is still God's because 'the earth is the Lord's.'

There is nothing that God does not own and control. It reminds me of the sheet let down for Peter. It was full of unclean animals. A voice told Peter to eat and Peter said he couldn't do it because the meat was unclean. God told Peter that if He made it it was not unclean.

So that point is clear. Nothing is really unclean because it is the Lord’s.

But there is little bit of possible confusion in verse 29-30 ‘"Conscience," I say, not your own, but that of the other. For why is my liberty judged by another man's conscience? But if I partake with thanks, why am I evil spoken of for the food over which I give thanks?’

Here it looks like Paul says that he should not be controlled by a weaker brother’s convictions.

And I think that is exactly what he is saying – he should not be. There are times when we have to prayerfully determine if a brother is purposefully trying to control us with his conscience or not. He should not be able to control everything I do for the Lord.

But when it is all said and done, when in doubt – don’t offend. It is better to suffer some needless and unwanted control than to offend a brother. Because it is all about what the next verse says. 

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Let no one seek his own

All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other's well-being. – 1 Corinthians 10.23-24

Paul goes back to his theme here that our Christian walk is not about us. He reminds his reader that all things are lawful, but not everything is helpful. We have all the freedom we want, but our lives should not be about 'whatever we want.'

Then he puts it plainly just in case we missed it - 'let no one seek his own, but each one other's well being.'

That counsel flies in the face of what the world says. All the advertising campaigns and media blitzes and philosophies of life say the same basic thing, 'ya gotta look out for number one.' God certainly throws a spanner in the works of human philosophy.

The problem is that we get caught in the same trap. I need to look out for me because no one else will!

But is we were doing it right we would all be looking out for each other. The context here is within the church and we were told not that long ago that we are not our own. We are bought with a price; therefore we have no right to be looking out for ourselves. If we all did right everyone would be watched out for.

It really is time to stop looking at what is best for me. It really is time to set my focus on others.

‘Others Lord, yes others, let this my motto be. Help me to live for others, that I might live like thee.’

Think about it. Jesus gave all for us. What are we giving for others? 

Monday, 2 September 2013

Stronger than God?

For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread. Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord's table and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He? – 1 Corinthians 10.17-22

It is easy sometimes to think that we can mess around with the world while fellowshipping with our God. We think we can just mix the two together and go on our merry way. We think it possible to 'drink the cup of the Lord' and all the time 'drink the cup of demons' by carrying on in our old sinful ways. 

I did my spiritual growing up in churches that strongly stressed separation. I will be the first to admit that sometimes what was preached as separation was nothing more than fulfilling man-made tradition instead of Bibilcal separation. Some of the dos and don'ts were, in retrospect, downright silly. 

However, on the other hand there is the opposite and at least as bad problem of no separation. It is the idea that nothing really matters. It is okay to play around with the world while saying we are serving God. What God says doesn't really matter. We can take things into our own hands. It is okay to provoke His righteous jealousy. We can handle it. God doesn't really matter. 

Sound harsh? I suppose it does, but I also suppose that it should be harsh. Who are we to mess with God? When we try to play games with the world we make a mockery of our faith. 

When other things vie for our affection we provoke a holy, righteous, and jealous God. Do we really think we are strong enough to do that? 

Flee from Idolatry

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread. – 1 Corinthians 10.14-17

I know my explanation of this passage is going to rankle a very dear friend who ministers in a country where one of the big battles is literal worship of physical idols. I do realise that the issue here is actual physical idols. However, I am not so sure I agree with my friend that idolatry only means statues and such.

I love this friend, and I understand his issue, but I think idolatry goes a little deeper and a little farther than just statues to false gods.

Most of us in the west don’t have an idol shelf. We don’t have statues and carvings that we bow down to. But we are guilty of idolatry.

Miriam-Webster’s online dictionary has as its second definition for idolatry: ‘immoderate attachment or devotion to something.’ While Paul’s words had a literal meaning for the Corinthians they also had a figurative meaning for them and for us.

We do have our idols. Our ‘immoderate attachment or devotion’ should be reserved for God It should be to the body and blood of Christ which unifies us as a body. And yet we have ‘immoderate attachment or devotion’ to so many things.

Some seem to have this ‘immoderate attachment or devotion’ to their country or political party. Some have it for their sports team. Others devote themselves to film stars or music stars. Sometimes it is popularity or possessions or prestige or power.

All of this, in my mind, is indeed idolatry. While we can drift towards it God says to flee it. It is interesting how often God tells us to run away from things. We are to run from idolatry just like we run from immorality.

Next time our idols call out let’s remember the Lord’s admonition – and run.