Archive for February, 2010

February 26, 2010

[Morning Walk] Nothing Without Love: 1 Cor. 13

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Job 27, 1 Corinthians 13

The Corinthian church had two problems: some felt useless (vv. 14-20), while others felt self-sufficient (vv. 21-26). It appears that they were tempted to experience these feelings because they were too focused on their gifts. They were quantifying their personal value based on how impressive their gifts were to others. As a result, division and confusion threatened their community.

Here, Paul tells the Corinthians that their individual gifts – no matter how impressive or important – are meaningless if they are not exercised in love.

Speech – Love = Noisy Nuisance

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. v. 1.

When love is lacking, our speech is a noisy nuisance. If speaking in tongues or eloquence is done without love, it is like a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. These two instruments were used by pagan worshippers in Corinth to invoke a god, drive away a demon, or scare a worshiper. Thus, Paul is warning the believers that they would be no different than the pagan worshippers if they exercised their gifts without love, since it is the primary mark of the Christian (see John 13).

Gifts – Love = Nothing

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. v. 2.

Without love, we are nothing. We have no usefulness to the world or significance before God. The test that God applies to judge the exercise of our gifts is the motivation of our heart. He knows and sees the expression and the reality of our Christian love (see 1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

Obedience – Love = Loss

If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. v. 3.

Without love, we cannot make it. Our sacrifice or knowledge or influence are meaningless if love is lacking. Only one thing is needed – love – and nothing can make up for it.

Application

We cannot snuggle up with our eloquence, our gifts, our knowledge, our influence or our self-sacrifice. People may speak well of us, highly consider us, give us positions of opportunity or influence. All of this is meaningless without love. Love is the lens by which we assess the effectiveness of all our giftedness.

February 25, 2010

[843 Acres] New? Yeah right.

by Mattie

Emergent church movement leader Brian McLaren claims that there are ten new questions that his movement is introducing into churches, promising a more hopeful Christian future [A New Kind of Christianity, Huffington Post]. His supposedly novel questions include such revolutionary queries as “Is the gospel good news for a few, or for all people?” and “What is the Bible about?”

Is he serious? As the author of Ecclessiastes notes:

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time” [Ecclessiastes 1:9-10, NIV]

While I agree that McLaren’s questions are pivotal, to claim they are new demonstrates historical ignorance tinged with arrogance. These are eternal human questions, ones that have been and will continue to be struggled with by believers and non believers for years to come.

February 25, 2010

[Morning Walk] You Are Not Useless: 1 Corinthians 12

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Job 25-26, 1 Corinthians 12

When I worked at the State Department, although most of us commuted in sneakers and then changed into heels upon arrival, others remained in commuter shoes all day. Sadly, I came to realize that their inattention to professional attire seemed directly related to their feeling of uselessness. The more senior staff would never have worn tennis shoes into their meetings with the Secretary or other visiting dignitaries.

Many of us attend large churches where we’re tempted to keep our “commuter shoes” on all day because we feel useless. After all, only the senior staff – i.e., the pastor, elders, teachers – needs to wear “heels” because they speak publicly and hold meetings. The rest of us are just unpaid volunteers sitting in pews, right?

Analogizing the church to the human body, Paul gives the Corinthians three rationales why this reasoning is wrong.

1. It is not in accordance with reality.

Paul writes: If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. vv. 15-16.

Even though you may think and feel that you’re useless, you’re not. You cannot compare yourself to someone else and conclude that they’re more important to the work of the church than you are. Do you think that you’re less important in your small group because you’re only a member and not a leader? You’re wrong. You’re not useless. You bring a unique manifestation of the Spirit by fellowship, prayer and community.

2. It does not acknowledge the necessity of diversity.

Paul writes: Now the body is not made up of one part but of many … If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. vv. 14, 19-20.

The body must be diverse. If every part wanted to be like one part, the body would cease to exist.

3. It does not trust God.

Paul writes: But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. v. 18.

We must trust that God is sovereign in His design of the body’s parts – for our best interest and for the manifestation of the Spirit.

February 24, 2010

[843 Acres] When’s the last time you visited a prisoner?

by amyjuliabecker

Crime has been declining in America for years. In particular, the murder rate has been declining, even in the midst of a recession. In “What’s Behind America’s Falling Crime Rate” (TIME), David von Drehle lays out the various ways sociologists explain the decline–better police work, changes to the drug trade, economic progress, legalized abortion? And finally, the explanation he credits most, a huge population of young men in prison. Drehe recognizes the benefits of locking up criminals, but he also writes, ” a court system that clobbers first-time offenders with mandatory sentences — sometimes for nonviolent crimes — will inevitably lock up thousands of not-so-bad guys alongside the hardened criminals.”

So is it good news that there are more prisoners? Has justice been served? Has our culture been served? And what does it mean to have compassion for the individuals, in particular the teenagers locked up for life, on the inside?

These questions don’t have easy answers, and they demonstrate the complex relationship between justice and mercy when it comes to public policy. On a more personal level, however, we might remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:36: “I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Jesus identifies himself directly with those in prison. We will see him, and serve him, and receive from him, when we build relationships with people behind bars. When’s the last time you visited a prisoner?

February 24, 2010

[Morning Walk] Passover and the Lord’s Supper: 1 Cor. 11

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Job 24, 1 Corinthians 11

On the heels of reading, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31), we come to a practical application, i.e., the Lord’s Supper.

Passover

The night before Jesus died, he celebrated Passover with his disciples (Matthew 26:26ff, Mark 14:22ff, Luke 22:14ff). Passover commemorates the Lord’s deliverance of the Hebrew people from their enslavement in Egypt.

In response to the cries of His people, God called Moses to lead them out of Egypt. Although Moses asked Pharaoh to release them ten times, Pharaoh refused and the Lord sent plagues. The tenth and final plague was the death of every firstborn. Since the Lord told His people that He would pass over them if they put lamb’s blood on their doorposts, none of them died. But none of the firstborn of Egypt escaped – not even Pharaoh’s firstborn son.

In Leviticus, the Lord told His people to celebrate the Passover annually (23:5). On the tenth day of the month of Nisan, they were to set apart an unblemished lamb to slaughter on the fourteenth day (aka Passover). Thereafter, the seven-day feast of the unleavened bread was to begin.

Lord’s Supper

On the tenth day of Nisan, Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey. On the fourteenth day of Nisan, Jesus and his disciples celebrated Passover with its unleavened bread and wine. At this “Last Supper,” Jesus reassigned the meaning of the Passover bread and wine, saying that the bread was his body and the wine was the blood of the new covenant. He told the disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me” (vv. 24, 25).

Later that same day [1], Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross. He was sacrificed as the firstborn son of God and the Passover lamb whose blood covers us on the Day of Judgment. By his body and his blood, we escape the slavery of sin.

Remembrance

Christianity is not a new-age spirituality. It is rooted in historical facts. Jesus was a real person who had a body that bled. He died publicly on a cross so that anyone who believes in the blood of Christ might be passed over by the wrath of God.

As we solemnly approach the Lord’s Supper (as I will at my church this Sunday), let us nourish ourselves with the benefits that he obtained for us as we remember what he did.

[1] According to the Jewish calendar, a day is sundown to sundown. Therefore, Jesus and his disciples celebrated Passover on the same day that Jesus was crucified.

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