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.

February 23, 2010

[Morning Walk] The Purpose: 1 Corinthians 10

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Job 23, 1 Corinthians 10

The Purpose of a Thing

When we know what a thing was made for, we know how to use it. Take, for example, a snow blower. It’s a machine with a spiral blade that picks up and propels snow aside, where it will later melt. Its purpose is to clear snow from a sidewalk or driveway.

Now, let’s imagine that we don’t know its purpose. We think it’s for removing trash. As soon as we start using it for that, however, we discover that it’s merely displacing trash beside us. The area still smells and trash will continue building up.

It doesn’t matter if we know how a snow blower is built or how it functions. If we don’t know its purpose, then we won’t use it properly.

The Purpose of a Person

As a human being, I not only want to know how I came to be and what I’m capable of doing, I also want to know the purpose for which I was created. I don’t want to be a snow blower picking up and displacing trash, but rather one that creates safe walkways for people to walk upon.

While I’ve been thinking about our purpose, I’ve been researching natural evolution. I’ve found that there is at least one thing on which Charles Darwin, Richard Dawkins and I agree – namely, that the coming into being of the human person is magnificent. In On the Origin of Species, Darwin wrote: “Thus from the war on nature … the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life …”

Yet, our disagreement is acute. Because these extreme evolutionists don’t believe in the unique creation of the human being by a designer, they cannot proffer a purpose for it. In fact, they go to great lengths to deny that such a purpose exists. As Dawkins wrote, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”

What they cannot proffer, however, the Word of God can. As Paul wrote to the church in Corinth: “ … whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). We were made in God’s image and for His glory (Genesis 1-2, Isaiah 43:7). And there is nothing greater than knowing and living out the purpose for which we were created.

February 22, 2010

[843 Acres] Belief Missions Vs. Relief Missions

by Juliet Vedral

In Haiti, Christian missionaries are eager to provide aid [Haiti awash in Christian aid, evangelism]. While some hope to provide relief services, many more want to evangelize. Are these two goals mutually exclusive or can they be reconciled?

According to Bryan Schaaf, a former Peace Corps worker in Haiti, the mission to evangelize threatens the mission to provide relief services. He criticizes missionaries who are ignorant or disrespectful of the local culture, treating Haiti as their “spiritual sandbox.” He tells of one instance when he was teaching local youth how to prevent the spread of AIDS, while a local missionary family “would hold prayer circles with these adolescents to purge the evil thoughts of condoms from their minds.”

Why are many American Christians unable to reconcile their mission as believers to “go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15) with their mission to “act justly and to love mercy and walk humbly with their God”? (Micah 6:8) Rather than separate the two missions, we should see one as a vehicle for the other.

Centuries before Christ, the prophet Isaiah spoke, “if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday.” (Isaiah 58:10).  The best way to let the Light shine is through our service to others.

February 22, 2010

[Morning Walk] Olympic Delight and Determination: 1 Corinthians 9

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Job 22, 1 Corinthians 9

Apolo Ohno

When Apolo Ohno captured his seventh medal on Saturday, he became the “most decorated” American Winter Olympian of all time, according to the United States Olympic Committee. Additionally, he has won every overall national title in U.S. short-track speed skating since 2001.

Ohno has been set apart by his spirit. His father said, “He senses how important this is to his life and career. He wants to finish it clean, without regret. His deep-rooted passion for the Olympics and what that means have motivated him. He must embrace it.” NYT.

He has also been set apart by his discipline. In order to prepare, he trains hard. For this Olympics, he doubled his 2002 training time preparations – from 4 to 6 hours per day to about 12 hours per day. Of his training, a fellow short-track Olympian observed, “The volume he does, the way he pushes himself mentally, it’s unbelievable.”

His discipline causes him to beat his body. On February 11th, he tweeted, “Body is almost 100% ready. 20 lbs. lighter than 2002, 2.8 percent body fat. Lifting double the amount of weight. Ready as I’ll ever be. Yes!”

Paul

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he assumed that they knew about the Olympic Games. The Games took place in Greece every four years for 1,169 years – from 776 BC until 393 AD, when the Emperor Theodosius suppressed them.

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

Paul had Olympians like Ohno in mind. When we see Ohno skate, we see another kind of skating. When we see his training and self-denial, we see another kind of training and self-denial. When we see him smiling with a medal around his neck, we see another prize.

Let us see the Games as an inspiration to fight the fight of faith and run the race of life with an Olympic delight and determination.

February 19, 2010

[Morning Walk] My Redeemer Lives: Job 19

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Job 19, 1 Corinthians 6

As we saw earlier, Job loses everything – his livestock, his servants, his sons and daughters, and his health. Although his immediate response is to praise the Lord (1:21, 2:10), his suffering eventually causes him to cry out against God’s wisdom, cursing the day of his birth.

When three of his friends visit, they proffer superficial theology in their long conversation that comprises three rounds. Although Job initially hopes for death, his faith slowly regains its strength as he fights his friend’s reasoning.

Round 1.

  • Eliphaz speaks, Job responds (4-7)
  • Bildad speaks, Job responds (8-10)
  • Zophar speaks, Job responds (11-14)

In this round, Job despairs and sees death as his solution. In response to Eliphaz, he says:

When a cloud vanishes, it is gone,
So he who goes down to Sheol does not come up.( 7:9-10)

In response to Bildad, he despairs further:

Before I go – and I shall not return –
To the land of darkness and deep shadow … (10:20-22)

In response to Zophar, his faith hints of growth by his questioning:

Oh that You would hide me in Sheol …
If a man dies, will he live again? (14:7-14)

Round 2.

  • Eliphaz speaks, Job responds (15-17)
  • Bildad speaks, Job responds (18-19)
  • Zophar speaks, Job responds (20-21)

In this round, Job begins to question whether death is his solution. In response to Eliphaz, he says:

If I look for Sheol as my home,
I make my bed in the darkness …
Where now is my hope?
Will it go down with me to Sheol? (17:13-16)

Finally, in response to Bildad, Job displays his confidence that God will redeem him:

As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.
Even after my skin is destroyed,
Yet from my flesh I shall see God;
Whom I myself shall behold,
And whom my eyes will see and not another.
My heart faints within me! (19:25-27)

Unfinished

Although Job realizes that there will be life beyond the grave because he will meet God as his Redeemer, this realization does not answer all of his questions. He remains confused about his suffering.

Yet, his story is not over.

God has plans for Job’s suffering – not only for Job, but also for us who would hear of him. Like Job, in the midst of our suffering, let us trust in God our Redeemer – even when the story is not yet over.

February 18, 2010

[843 Acres] Wine, Beer, Shots, and the Spirit

by amyjuliabecker

According to Malcolm Gladwell’s “Drinking Games” (The New Yorker), the incidence of alcoholism is not as simple as genetic predisposition, but has as much, if not more, to do with the cultural norms surrounding the use of alcohol. Culture matters more than genetics. Gladwell also comments on the effects of alcohol. He challenges some of our reigning assumptions and writes, “Drunkenness is not disinhibition. Drunkenness is myopia.”

Ephesians 5:18 sets up a contrast between drunkenness and life in the Spirit: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” It’s not a prohibition against alcohol so much as a call to a fuller life. Life in the Spirit provides a cultural change, and an encouragement to live a life for others. Gladwell reports, “[Alcohol's] principal effect is to narrow our emotional and mental field of vision.” The Spirit widens that field, giving us eyes to see, and love, those around us.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 161 other followers