Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Valueless Idols

4So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” 5For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
7But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do. (1 Corinthians 8:4-8)

Thoughts: The issue was that food or meat  that was offered to idols was cheaper.  Most of the early gentile Christians were very poor.  It was easy to note that no idol was really a god-- it was just a mistaken object of worship.  But Paul was saying that we should be sensitive to those who were still put off by idol worship, and did not want to touch anything impure.  Paul knows that food does not really defile after all.
     Paul contrasts the idols who made nothing, with God who made everything and who still give us life.  He also puts Christ and God the Father on the same level saying that all things came and have their being in the Father and the Son.  We give ourselves to our Lord, and such things as idols seem so valueless.  

Prayer: Lord, you are my God in whom I live, move, and have my being.  I give myself for you.  

Saturday, May 21, 2016

No Puff Daddy

1Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. 2Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. 3But whoever loves God is known by God.

Thoughts: A puffer fish is not really that big, but when it sees a bigger fish come, it puffs itself up to look big.  It is poisonous, ugly, and when blown up has spines around it.  Knowledge puffs up.  Knowledge can make us proud and make us think we're bigger than we really are and more meaningful than others. Knowledge, we think, can make us look good- but when it turns to pride it really is poisonous to relationships.  Love, on the other hand (not sexual love but agape unconditional love) is more interested in others.  As such it builds up relationships and builds us up too- giving us confidence and hope.
     So Paul is saying to be humble about religious rules (like eating food sacrificed to idols).  We should always hold the truth in humility.  The more we know, the more we know we don't know.  The more we learn about God, the more mysterious He becomes.  The more we delve into the surface of God the more we open the door to eternity.  Knowledge can reveal that we do not know God.  But we do not know God by the information we have but by the love we have.  Similarly, I do not know my brother because I know exactly how much he weighs, the exact food he has eaten and places he has been.  If I have informational knowledge via a google satellite and search that is not the same as knowing my brother because I love him.  We do not know God by our knowledge and the rules we think He requires, but by loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. 

Prayer: Lord, keep me from being puffed up with my own knowledge.  Instead, Help me to love you more and more.  

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Limits of Sexuality

39A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. 40In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is—and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.  (1 Cor. 7:39-40)

Thoughts:  Marriage is "til death do us part." After life is gone, the marriage is over too, and the wife or husband can marry someone else.  Paul says this elsewhere in Romans 7:2: "For instance, a married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage."  Marriage is not forever.  Jesus said the same thing (Mark 12:23-25 "when the dead rise they will neither die nor be given in marriage).  Marriage is a great gift- a gift that lasts a lifetime; but it is not an eternal gift.  Many of us lift up human sexual love as if it will last forever, but Jesus said we would be like the angels after we die.  There are some, like the Mormons, who would like human love guaranteed and sealed by God forever.  But perhaps God wants us not to elevate human erotic love to His level.  We do have a tendency, as the Corinthians and Baal worshipers did, to worship love (Aphrodite, Cupid, Astarte, Venus, or many today in the West  who are addicted to sexual acts,  et al).  But God's love is different from sexual love- it is an unconditional giving love that goes beyond the physical or the physical life of earth.  Paul also recommends staying in an unmarried state after the spouse dies, but he allows marriage after the death of a spouse.   This is possible, and it elevates self control over lust as a better emotion.
        This passage goes against Sigmund Freud's idea that sexuality is the main driving force of life.  Christians believe that God is the main driving force of life- this life and the next.  There are always times when we should exercise self control.  In the last stages of pregnancy when the wife does not feel like having intimacy; or when your spouse is sick and unable to have sex.  The very young and very old (despite what the tabloids and viagora commercials say) do not have to have sex to live full lives.  Those who are called to be single (or single a second time) also do not have to have sexual relations to be full human beings.  Sexuality is a gift from God.  But all good gifts can be abused or elevated to God-like status (like we can't live without them and should make them a priority over everything else).  

Prayer: Lord, let me see my life as more than my sexuality.  Help me to love you beyond this life and to worship you only.  

Thursday, May 19, 2016


36If anyone is worried that he might not be acting honorably toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if his passions are too strongb and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married.37But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin—this man also does the right thing. 38So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better. (1 Corinthians 7:36-38)

Thoughts: Engagement is not to test out the tires.  Engagement is a period of holy preparation- often stressful preparation for getting married.  Paul was saying if you can't wait sexually- go ahead and get married rather then waiting on a fancy wedding.  What is more important that the wedding is a right relationship before God.  If someone can control their sexual appetites and not be married then that is fine, and if someone gets married that is fine.  But what Paul implies here is that it is not fine to give into lust and immorality with each other before getting married.  

Prayer: Lord, let my human relationships be holy before you.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Marriage as a Distraction

32I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord. (1 Cor. 7:32-35)

Thoughts: A married man can be concerned about the Lord, but human love is a gift.  human love can be distracting- which is both a gift and a curse.  Distraction can be a blessing, but it can be a curse when we need to focus.  It is true that unmarried people can be focused, and in times of persecution this is a great advantage.  In other times, marriage adds richness to life.  Marriage can be a rich and intimate way to love your neighbor.   We think about pleasing another person.  But in times of persecution, we need to not lose our soul or our faith.  As Ecclesiastes says, "There is a time for every person under heaven."  

Prayer: Lord, help me to be content wherever you call me to be.  Help me to trust in you and not be envious of others.  

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Sin in persecution

1 Corinthians 7:25-31 Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this. What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

Thoughts: What is said here is what is not sin- staying a virgin or getting married.  But what is implied is that fornication (sexual promiscuity before marriage) and adultery (sexual promiscuity after marriage) is wrong.  Spouses and stuff are major distractions in times of persecution.  The church would be persecuted by Rome from 64 AD to 324 AD.   The crisis is that persecution that can destroy families.  Paul is trying to make the persecution as easy as possible.  

Prayer: preserve us, Lord from evil, hurt, and harm

Monday, May 16, 2016

Do not be slaves

1 Corinthians 7:21-24 Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. Brothers and sisters, each person, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation they were in when God called them. 

Thought: The world expects pride and ambition.   The world is surprised by contentment and peace.  We are, Paul says, Chist's slave.  We have been bought and owe our lives to God.  

Prayer, let me live with peace