Thursday, May 5, 2016

Fellowship and Rebuke

9I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

Thoughts:  Here Paul is making a clear distinction.  It is one thing to be immoral when we do not know better.  It is another to be immoral when we profess the faith but keep on being immoral.  To continue to live selfishly and in ways that are an afront to God yet claim to be good ruins the fellowship.  On the other hand, those who mess up- in greed, idolatry, slandering, getting drunk, or stealing- but repent, there is more than room in the church for them.  For people continue to sin after they go to church or profess their faith.  What is important is the attitude of the heart- that we are trying to please God and get it right.
     At the same time, we are to seek to know people who are outside the fellowship.  Jesus ate and drank with sinners.  Yet the Pharisees, in the church,  who thought they were not sinners, he rebuked.    

Prayer: Lord, give me a heart for sinners.  Help me to know how to show your love by both fellowship and rebuke.   

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Evil is not to be winked at in church

6Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5) 

Thoughts:  Evil is not to be winked at, but it is especially not to be bragged about in church.  Boasting of evil as if it were good pours salt in the wounds, divides the church even more. We are to seek to worship in spirit and in truth- meaning with sincere and true hearts devoted to the Lord.  Immorality brings the lordship and meaning of Christ's lordship into doubt.  Sexuality is seen as something important and holy and this man's incest with his father's wife is not to be bragged on- as if Christ's grace can easily cover it.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to be sincere and true to you.  

Monday, May 2, 2016

Stopping Sexual Immorality in the Church

1It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. 2And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? 3For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. 4So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

Thoughts: Christianity is a religion of love- so why not allow any kind of love?  Jesus was all about love, but this passage seems so mean.  I have heard these things.  But we need to hear scripture, and be willing to bend our thoughts to it instead of ignoring scripture- or picking and choosing our morality.  Christianity and Jesus are all about love- loving neighbor and loving God.  But sometimes, believe it or not, loving someone means saying no.  Incest is wrong because God says so; because it causes huge family problems and family tension; It can destroy the community and the church because of its animosity to others and God; incest can bring harm in many cases to the children through birth defects.
     In the Corinthian world, there were no moral sexual taboos.  Adultery was wrong in that it caused tension but it was not forbidden.  All of Corinth stood under the shadow of the high mountain with the Temple to Aphrodite (the goddess of love) over them.  Today you can go to the museum in the ruins of Corinth and see statues of growths caused by Sexually Transmitted Diseases- that were offered to the gods to stop the pain and disease (they didn't work but spread).  Paul was preaching something new- self control.  He was encouraging to not behave like animals- giving into their natural inclinations and instincts but to go a different way.  In our culture we have confused erotic love with God's love.  This was a previous battle in the Old Testament- when people worshiped the fertility God, Baal, by having sex with a temple prostitute.  In scripture sex is important, but it is holy.  It is a gift of God that has high emotions, high consequences to it.  Therefore the boundaries around sexuality were marriage and the commands of God.  We would do well to heed this today.
     The discipline of Paul seems harsh.  But to ignore this would mean the church would fester with immorality, and divisiveness (especially between the father and son) would result.  To "Hand over to Satan" seems so esoteric to the western Christian who downplays evil and only focuses on the good.  But there are evil spiritual consequences to being exiled from the church.  The hopes are that this exile would be temporary and that this person would repent and come back.  There is always room to come back to Christ no matter what we have done- but we need to repent.  

Prayer: Lord, may my life be loving toward you.  Help me to listen to you above my own instincts and the voices who say my behavior doesn't matter.  

 Temple to Aphrodite on top of mountain over Corinth; Below VD statues.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Don't Make Me Come Back There!

18Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. 19But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. 20For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. 21What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?  (1 Corinthians 4:18-21)

Thoughts: So my father used to say when we were acting up in the car, "Don't make me come back there."  We didn't believe he would ever- all talk and no words.  But one time he did stop the car, and then we knew we were in trouble- but we deserved it.  So Paul, who loved the Corinthians as a parent loves their children, did not want to rebuke them with harshness.  Yet, he knew that all talk and no action means nothing.  Christian talk with no power means little too.  Answers to prayer, changed lives, healed marriages are signs of the Spirit working in our midst.  The Christian life is not just reading a book written by Christians.  The Christian life is the power of the resurrection at work, drawing people to Himself.

Prayer: Lord, forgive us when wesin.  Have mercy on us.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Spiritual imitation of our spiritual fathers

14I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. 15Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church. (1 Corinthians 4:14-17)

Thoughts: Paul is their spiritual father- he brought them the faith.  He is asking them to return to their first love- and the Gospel as it was presented.  He also wants them to leave the false teaching that immorality is okay- and return to what is right.  To do this, he asks them to imitate him, their spiritual father.  We too are called back to imitate those who brought the faith to us today.  

Prayer: Lord, let me learn good things from those who brought me the gospel.  Help me to imitate their work and their faith.  

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Truly Honorable

8Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign—and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you! 9For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. 10We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment. (1 Corinthians 4:8-13)

Thoughts: The Apostles changed the world.  The word "apostle" means "sent one"- almost "missionary."  Paul was talking here about how they had nothing, were persecuted, and are treated as fools for Christ.   To some this may seem like a backwards brag- a bit of sarcasm.  But the other side of this is that Paul is teaching them how to behave- to endure humiliation for the cause of Christ.  It was a bit of a rebuke to them for wanting to be considered worldly-wise, honored, and wealthy.  Paul was saying they need to give this up here.  We too need to give this up to truly follow Christ.  When we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7), God does indeed reward us.  

Prayer: Lord, let me live like an apostle.  Keep me from seeking honor for myself and instead give all the glory to you.   

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Famous are But a Lie

6Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other. 7For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? (1 Corinthians 4:6,7)

Psalm 62:9- The lowborn are but a breath; the highborn are but a lie. If weighed on a balance, they are nothing. 

1 Cor. 3:5- What after all is Apollos?  And what is Paul?  Only servants. 

Thoughts: Paul knew that he is nothing and Apollos is nothing.  The people who elevate others to celebrity status are missing something.  There is only one God.  To elevate people to god-like status (think American "Idol") does no favor to the people elevated or to the ones who elevate them.  We lose perspective when we make human heroes gods.  Everything we have is a gift from God.  Everyone who is human is human.  

Prayer: Lord, let me keep others- even the popular or famous in perspective.