Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Lessons of the Past

1For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3They all ate the same spiritual food 4and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. (1 Corinthians 10:1-4)

Thoughts: Paul was saying that we can learn a lesson from the past.  The lesson is that we can be baptized and eat of the bread of life and still mess up and not please God.  Moses was baptized in the cloud and nourished with the water of life coming from the rock that miraculously provided for them.  The people had seen God at work.  They had been rescued from slavery by the Sea opening up.  They had been fed with manna from heaven each day.  They had been given water miraculously from a rock in a dry desert.  Yet they ignored and showed deep ingratitude toward God.  They made a Golden Calf and worshiped it while Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments on the mountain.  They lived in fear of the future and their obstacles instead of believing that they could overcome by God's grace.  They gave into sexual immorality and paganism and paid for it.  
    Why is Moses saying this?  Because the Corinthians were dabbling with paganism in their eating meat offered to idols.  They were severely tempted with sexual immorality.  They could not get away from it (much like we see sexual immorality everywhere today).  It is important, if we love God that we show that love by being willing to listen to Him more than listen to our own instincts.  It is more important that we practice self-control and please God than that we simply give into our passions and shut our ears to Him.  Just because we go to church, are baptized, and have had communion, does not mean we can ignore God's commands. 

Prayer: Lord, give me ears to hear you, and a heart to respond.  Ma I honor you and your kingdom.  May my life reflect my baptism and my commitment to you.  

Monday, May 30, 2016

Run the Race

24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) 

Thoughts: Corinth was home to the isthmian Games which were second only to the Olympic Games in importance.  The imagery Paul used reminded them of their training and the discipline it took to be a first class athlete.  Paul was willing to give up his freedom so others would be set free.  He was willing to discipline himself so the Gospel would spread.
    He was asking the Corinthians to see the importance of spreading the faith.  He was asking them to keep the eye on the prize- the goal of spreading the good news to others.  He was willing to discipline his body to achieve a higher purpose.  Paul was reminding the Corinthians that they have a higher purpose, a goal for their lives now, and they should not let the little things in life get int he way.  

Prayer: Lord, you give me a purpose and direction. You have placed me here and called me for a reason.  

Ancient pottery drawings of Greek games

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Losing Our Freedom to Free Others

19Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)

Thoughts: Paul was saying he was willing to lose his freedom to free others.  Though he was a free man, he was willing (and he in fact was many times) to become a prisoner for the Gospel.  Paul would accommodate, going down to the level of his hearers, listening to where they were coming from in order that people might hear the Gospel.  Paul would be the best Jew around in order to gain an audience for the Jews to hear the Gospel.  Paul would not claim his pedigree as a Roman citizen except rarely and that in the face of officials.  Paul would not claim his education rights.  Instead, he came down to the level of his hearers that they might respond to the good news of Christ.  If we wish to share the hope we have in Christ, then we need to listen to the needs and context of those who would hear.  Jesus accommodated Himself for us.  He came down to our level that we might believe that God cares for us and understands us.  Paul was following Jesus' example, and so should we.  

Prayer: Lord, let me use the gifts and freedom you give me to reach others for you.  

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Reward of Preaching

5But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast. 16For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. 18What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel. (1 Corinthians 9:15-18)

Thoughts: Paul would rather die of no food than receive food and then people to claim he preached out of greed.  As it is, Paul said people ought to be paid, but he used his freedom to restrain from demanding payment that they might focus on Christ.
     "My reward" is to fulfill my calling.  In the end, this is always the true preacher's reward.  It is not getting a bigger church, a more respected position.  It is pleasing God that is important.  Paul says, "Woe to me if I did not preach the gospel."  If Paul just made tents he might make more money- but he would not be better off.  Today there are people who are full of woe- discontent with their work because they have not answered the call of God- as hard as it may be to answer today.  

Prayer: Lord, let me hear your Spirit.  Let my ultimate reward for everything I do be found in your smile.  

Friday, May 27, 2016

Working Ministers

13Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. (1 Corinthians 9:13-14)

Thoughts: The priests in the Temple were told in scripture to receive their payment for doing the Lord's work.  Leviticus speaks of the priests doing the work at the Temple allowing them to eat a portion (Lev. 6:16,18,26).  Numbers mentions that the priests should get a portion of the offerings (Numbers 5:9; 18:8,31).  When ministers/priests/clergy are allowed to get paid for their work full time, it allows them the time and focus they need to answer the calling.  If a minister has a family, then it takes the worry away from doing the Lord's work and still supporting them.  The churches that do not have a full time minister are about half as likely to grow.  The preaching, teaching, and pastoral care cannot be done well, even in a small church, part time.  It is a risky thing for a church to invest in a minister (or a new associate), but when everyone pulls together to get it done,  On the one hand, ministers are not simply hired hands but shepherds who love the sheep.  Ministers should work not for fame or popularity or money.  They will be disappointed in all of those things.  Ministers ultimately work because it is their calling and to glorify and enjoy God. 

Prayer: Lord, raise up ministers who are willing to answer the call and do the work.  

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Payment for Ministers

7Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? 8Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? 9For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”b Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?
But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:7-12)

Thoughts: A soldier does not pay his own way- why should a soldier of Christ pay his?  If you plant food, can you not eat from it?  Then why can't someone who plants churches eat of their fruit?  The shepherd of the flock gets milk from his flock.  Why should the pastor of the flock in church get provisions from his flock?
      Scripture even allows for oxen to eat while they are working, so why should Paul not be allowed to eat while he is in their service.
       This life and the next are intertwined, so if spiritual seed is sown material harvest is reaped some times.  We do not need to scorn God's provision for His ministers.  Yet Paul did not claim this right. He was a maker of tents.  Most traditions say that Paul learned his trade of tent-making from his father in Tarsus where tents were made for Roman generals and leaders.  Paul's great skill helped support him.  

Prayer: Lord, give me grace to support those over me as you can.  

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Educated Clergy

3This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. 4Don’t we have the right to food and drink? 5Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephasa ? 6Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living? (1 Corinthians 9:3-6)

Thoughts: The sad thing is that even Paul, as good a theologian, as good a teacher, and one who sacrificed so much to spread the Gospel was opposed strongly.  Paul was saying that he gave his all, even at his own expense, so the Corinthians would believe.
     There has always been a debate about whether ministers should be paid or not.  The Rabbis believed everyone should work for free, but also said that whoever supported a rabbi would earn a comfortable place in heaven.  Mormons and Quakers do not have trained and paid clergy.  Certainly clergy can have all the human qualities that we do not like in humans- pride, selfishness, artificiality.  But clergy can also lead, inspire, organize, and teach.  One seminary professor said, "To those who think education and leadership of clergy does not matter I have one question: 'If you were on the operating table, would you rather have a medical school graduate cutting on you or someone who said they had seen it done once before doing your surgery?'"  

Prayer: Lord, we pray for fair and just leadership in your church.  We also pray that our clergy would listen to you and be true to you.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Giving up Rights (even apostolic ones)

1Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord?2Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. (1 Cor. 9:1,2)

Thoughts: Paul had been talking about freedom as a Christian to claim certain rights or refuse to claim them out of deference to the Lord or others.  He has great rights as an apostle.  His credentials as an apostle are that he has seen the Lord and that his ministry has borne fruit from God.  The Corinthians themselves owe their existence to Paul's apostolic (missionary) calling.  Yet Paul doesn't claim any rights as an apostle.  Rather he casts his crown at the feet of the king of Kings.  We should do the same.  If we think we are something then we are really nothing.  

Prayer: Lord, all that I have and am are yours.  Let my life bear fruit for you as I give my all to you.  

Not a Stumbling Block

9Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.13Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.

Thoughts: Our calling as Christians is not simply to know what is right.  We are also called to build others up and even pull others up.  So if some are convinced something is wrong, and even if you have the liberty to do it, you should restrain out of respect for them.
    I have a Christian friend who cannot do this.  They are convinced of something, and they bull their way through it- saying everyone needs to adjust to their "right" thinking.  Such thinking is wrong- if only because it is insensitive.
     In today's world many wear their feelings on their sleeve and find offence at anything- even looking for a way to find offence.  Calvin spoke of offending the insensitive but being careful to the sensitive.  There are people who make a right out of being offended about anything that differs from their ideology.  If these folks are not seeking to please and honor God- offending them by being holy is certainly not only okay but proper.  But on the other hand are those who mean well, seek to be holy, but fail.

Prayer; Lord, let me be a help and not a stumbling block to others.    

If you do anything with unseemly levity, or wantonness, or rashness, out of its proper order or place, so as to cause the ignorant and the simple to stumble, such will be called an offense given by you, since by your fault it came about that this sort of offense arose. And, to be sure, one speaks of an offense as given in some matter when its fault arises from the doer of the thing itself. An offense is spoken of as received when something, otherwise not wickedly or unseasonably committed, is by ill will or malicious intent of mind wrenched into occasion for offense. Here is no ‘given’ offense, but those wicked interpreters baselessly so understand it. None but the weak is made to stumble by the first kind of offense, but the second gives offense to persons of bitter disposition and pharisaical pride. Accordingly, we shall call the one the offense of the weak, the other that of the Pharisees. Thus we shall so temper the use of our freedom as to allow for the ignorance of our weak brothers, but for the rigor of the Pharisees, not at all! [Institutes, III.19.11, p. 843].

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

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Content in my Situation

17Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. 18Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. 19Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts.20Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them. (1 Corinthians 7:17-20)

Thoughts: We should live as God calls us to live.  Finding contentment in our lives is important.  Paul is saying the circumcision is secondary today.  What is important is being content in our situation for it enables us to trust God and have peace with God and with each other.  We should be content where we live, where we stay.  God has something for us right where we are.    

Prayer: Lord, help me to be content in my situation- right where I am.  

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Unbelieving Husband

10To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.
12To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
15But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. 16How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? (1 Cor. 7)

Thoughts: There are two, yet three reasons for divorce with Christian blessing.  Jesus listed adultery as a reason.  Paul says if an unbeliever leaves the believer can separate.  In western thought abuse or danger can also be a reason for separation.  Divorce is not to be taken lightly and neither is marriage taken lightly.  Marriage of a non-believer should not be done in order to save them.  Paul was saying that while it is better to be single in such trying times, that does not mean it is okay to get divorced.  We should learn to be content in any situation with the neighbor around us (like a spouse) that is before us.  To love your neighbor as yourself means to be extraordinarily patient and gracious toward the other person in a relationship.  

Prayer: Lord, bless the marriages in our country.  Bless them especially in these extraordinary times of falling away.  

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Honoring God wherever We are

8Now to the unmarrieda and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. 9But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (1 Corinthians 7:8-9)

Thoughts: It is important to remember Paul had been in prison multiple times.  He had been thrown to lions, stoned, left for dead, and persecuted.  Paul knew that people who are persecuted and worried about their spouse, would be distracted and would make it really hard to face the pressure.   But the other side is, that it is better to marry than to fall into sexual immorality.   Sexual immorality is to be avoided at all costs.  Pleasing God is the overarching theme.  We are created to please God in how we face persecution and hardship as well as how we face the joy of marriage and love.   In all that we do- in the good and bad times- let us honor God.  Part of this too is a willingness to face whatever circumstance we are in with trust, contentment, and hope in God.  

Prayer: Lord, I am yours in good and bad married or single.  Help me to honor you and trust you wherever I am in life.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Giving for the Other

1 Corinthians 7:3-7 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.

Thoughts: In a marriage relationship the two become one.  That means that your mate does not exist simply to meet your needs.  In marriage, we do not split things 50-50.  Each one should fully give of themselves expecting nothing in return.  That is what Jesus did for us.  He gave his body for us.  Here Paul limits self control to consideration for the other partner'so needs and with adequate communication.  

Prayer: Lord, let my self be yours.  Help me to be as giving as you were for us.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

There is a Time to Abstain and a Time to Bear Fruit

1Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7)

Thoughts: Paul was saying that because of the difficulties of the time (7:26)- especially the persecution of the church- that it is best to abstain from sexual relations- at this particular time (7:5) .  Remember there was no birth control then, and to have children when people needed to move or escape in times of persecution was important.
    The other thing he says here is that married sex is a good way to stop sexual immorality.  This has been proven true over the centuries.  In the 1800s and 1900s mission boards often required their missionaries to get married before going on the field so that the missionary would not marry natives, or give into sexual immorality.  It generally worked and also provided a strong partner for the missionary.
     Another almost assumed statement made here is that a man should have sexual relations with his own wife and each woman with her own husband.  He is very explicit here in order to remove any confusion.  He did this because there was confusion about the need to stay monogamous then (as there is confusion today).  Sexuality is to be treated with respect and as special.  It is meant to be restricted to marriage where it is guarded with commitment and trust.
     I have heard some talking heads (television self-proclaimed "experts") say that sexual abstention is almost impossible and is unhealthy.  People get up in arms when sexual abstention until marriage is taught in schools- and would much rather teach about sex with birth control.  Yet I have never seen an STD caught by someone abstaining from sexual relations.  Abstention is the only 100% sure way to control birth.  I know of people who have used birth control pills and have gotten pregnant though following the instruction meticulously, and some who have gotten pregnant using condoms. Nor have I seen the emotional trauma of rape, sexual abuse, adultery, the feeling of being used coming from sexual abstention (as I do from open-bordered sexuality).  Children and some single folks abstain for long periods of time and are perfectly healthy body and soul.  It is true sexuality is a God-given desire, but like all desires (like the desire for things) it should be controlled and restricted to the proper time, date, and place.  We do not, for example allow (or think it is okay to have) intimate sex acts in public.  People will yell, "Get a room!"  It is possible to have self-control, and God can help us have self control.  There is also the command in scripture that balances this out, "Be fruitful and multiply."  There  is, as Ecclesiastes said, "A time for every purpose under heaven."  

Prayer: Lord,  help me to be a holy person in every way.   May my whole person, including my most intimate sexual self honor you. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Flee Sexual Immorality

18Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)

Thoughts: Flee sexual immorality.  That means when the semi-pornographic site pops up on the ad that you didn't ask for, you x it out.  When you get an unsolicited invitation to a bad site- turn away.  As Joseph fled from Potiphar's wife, we need to flee from sexual immorality.  In our day- it is extremely hard.  You can be sitting in your own living room and it comes to you on a commercial after 10 PM.  You don't even have to ask for it, and an adult channel pops up.  But fleeing sexual immorality means turning the channel, looking away, x-ing out, and walking away from a bad and tempting situation.  Part of our problem today is that there is so much really horrible stuff out there, that we water down what we accept as okay.  Today the standard for much of sexual immorality is a betrayal of feeling rather than a betrayal of commitment and trust.  We should listen carefully to what the scriptures say are sins.  We should not only stop before it gets too bad, we shouldn't start- to flirt with a bad situation or to play around with adultery.
    Sexual sins unlike others, are risky physically.  So sexual immorality is a sin against our own body with risk of Sexually Transmitted Diseases like AIDS.  I have done the very sad funerals of several who have had AIDS.  It is heartbreaking.  Corinth was full of people with the wounds of STDs.  It was as epidemic then as it is now.
     Our bodies are temples of God.  This is not simply a verse (to be taken out of context) telling us to exercise and eat right.  Our bodies are the shell of the Spirit of God.  They contain God- within- us when we believe.
     We are not our own to do with as we wish.  The saying, "It is my body" does not apply to Christians.  We are God's body and soul.  Christians recognize our bodies and our souls are gifts from the Maker.  The One who made us also came to redeem and save us.  We are not our own- we have been bought with a price- the price of Jesus Himself.  Jesus came to die for our bodies and souls in both this life and the life to come.  So we should guard our souls and guard our bodies- they are precious gifts to be reverenced.  We are to honor God with all we are- body and soul. 

Prayer: Lord, give me grace and strength to honor you body and soul. 

Venereal Disease Display in Corinthian Museum-
 a warning from history of elevating erotica to worshipful heights.