Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dollars and Cents

II Corinthians 2:5-13

“A penny saved is a penny earned.”

“Take care of the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves.”

“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

These old adages are often dismissed in our day but they are still good advice about succeeding in this world. Taking care of small details is essential for success in any project. Too many small expenditures can wipe out huge incomes. Too much focus on new customers, neglecting the old ones may destroy a business.

At the same time, we can become so focused on saving a penny that we lose far more. At $4.00 per gallon for gas, even saving 10 cents per gallon, you will only save $1 on ten gallons of gas. That dollar will only buy enough gas to go 5 miles if your car gets 20 miles per gallon. Looking for another station might require more gas than the dollar you save will buy. If the difference is only a penny, it will only save enough gas for about 5 blocks. To drive farther out of your way than the amount saved will pay for is actually wasting money. Taking care of the pennies involves more than just the immediate savings. Failure to realize this makes one “penny wise and pound foolish,”

These same principles are applicable in building a church. In I Corinthians 5, Paul had instructed the church to put a man out of the church. The man was living a lifestyle that he obviously knew was wrong, and had refused to stop his sin. It was not a one time occurrence. The church had followed up on Paul’s advice, and it had the desired effect of causing the man to turn from his sin. While the man has sinned, he has not lost his salvation, and the church needs to forgive and comfort the man now. They need to show their love to prevent losing him completely.

“But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all. Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him. For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things.” (II Corinthians 2:5-9)

Just as taking care of the pennies involves more than simply paying less for gas. Taking care of the church requires Dealing with sin properly, but it also requires being alert to repentance, and dealing with it properly as well. If we are going to obey God, we have to be willing to forgive completely. While we may not give them back the exact position they had, we cannot hold back our acceptance of them.

To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.” (II Corinthians 2:10-11)

As a concerned outsider, only slightly affected by the man’s sin, Paul was obligated to forgive the man as well. To refuse to forgive on the church’s part or on Paul’s part would give Satan an advantage over them, which he would use to cause separations, an unspiritual state.

“Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord, I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia.” (II Corinthians 2:12-13)

At Troas, Paul had an opportunity to preach, and possibly see many saved, but his concern for Titus compelled him to go to Macedonia seeking Titus. Building up Titus would certainly contribute to the spread of the Gospel, while preaching in Troas might produce little results. Letting Titus go for the people in Troas might lose Titus without gaining anything. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in reaching new Christians that we forget part of the great commission.

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

The first teach, matheteuo, “to disciple” is to win them to Christ. The second word teaching is didasko “to teach,” is about teaching them to serve Christ after they are saved. Getting people saved is only the beginning of the job. It is not complete until they have been taught. While we are to win souls, we mustn’t neglect the Christians to reach the unsaved. Both jobs are part of the great commission. Think what we’d have lost if Barnabas had not reached out to Paul in Acts 9, or to Mark in Acts 15.

Building up the Christians is just as important as getting people saved. If we fail to do so, the church has no earthly future. Our current Spiritual state in the United States is the result of neglecting this in the past.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Not As Lords

II Corinthians 1:23-2:4

I ordered a website information package to see if it was something I would be interested in. When I received the information, I was concerned by a statement that if I didn’t call and cancel my website by a certain day, I would be billed about seventy dollars per month for the website. That seemed a little dishonest to me, but I spent a little time checking out the offer anyway.

A few days later, I received a call from their office and several questions were answered, convincing me that it might still be a good choice. I was transferred to another person to “help” me get started. He presented me with a couple of options to help build traffic to the site. The prices he quoted were more than I was willing to spend without testing to see if the program was practical in my situation.

The sales person became very insistent, telling me how much I would regret not taking the upgrades and what a great opportunity I was missing. He was almost demanding that I borrow $8,000 dollars to buy the upgrade because he said I should. He definitely implied that to refuse would be one of the stupidest things I could do. He totally ignored the fact that I was the one who had to live with the consequences. If I didn’t buy, I was the one who missed out if it worked, but if I bought it and it didn’t work out, I was the one who would have to pay the eight thousand dollars. That would mean that not only would I lose the money, but I would be less able to take other opportunities.

He was insistent that I make a decision immediately. I did. I decided that if I couldn’t be allowed to check out the offer more carefully before deciding, I didn’t trust it. He got even more insistent, and I decided I wouldn’t be interested at all. He was not trying to help me, but trying to get what he wanted, his commission.

While Paul had desired to go to Corinth, He did not want to put them under pressure to do what he thought was best. They were the ones who must live with the results of their actions. As a result, he delayed his coming, to give them time to decide what to do and implement the things he had already shared.

“Moreover I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth. Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.” (II Corinthians 1:23-24)

Paul says that he, as an apostle, does not have dominion over their faith. They don’t answer to him. Peter, in his instructions to church leaders, is very clear that they are not to lord it over the people in I Peter 5:1-3. “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.

This is also the instruction Jesus gave the disciples in Matthew 20:25-28. “But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."

Paul was concerned that because of who he was, they might begin to do what he said without concern for what God had said. He was not to be a dictator, but a helper, an example, just as Christ was not a dictator to his disciples, meeting the needs of others, even to the point of washing their feet, and dying for them.

His writing in I Corinthians was with concern that they not do it because of his direction but that they understood it as God’s plan. He did not want them to be hurt by his comments, but encouraged to apply what he instructed. The first letter gave them freedom to act to correct problems, without undue pressure. So that when he came both he and they could rejoice in his coming.

"But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness. For if I make you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me? And I wrote this same unto you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all. For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you.” (II Corinthians 2:1-4)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Big Bang Theory

II Corinthians 1:12-22

While I was in college, we went through Einstein’s theories and the resulting developments in our advanced physics class. One of the proofs we went through was that there can be no Doppler effect on light under normal conditions. If you’ve been near a railroad track and noticed the raise in pitch of the whistle as the train neared you and the drop as it went away, that is what a Doppler effect is. The speed of the train approaching added to the speed of sound, combined with the nearness of the train cause a distortion of the sound waves. The speed of light is so high, and the nature of light waves are such that a Doppler effect is impossible for light.

Imagine my consternation upon enrolling in a class later in which astronomy was a major factor and learning that we were able to prove the expanding universe as a result of the red shift of light from the movement of planets away from us. This red shift was the Doppler effect on light. The expanding universe was the basis of the Big Bang Theory of evolution, widely accepted as fact What we had just proven in physics was exactly the opposite of what they were teaching us in astronomy. What was the truth?

Astronomy and physics are frequently studied as separate subjects and astronomers and physicists frequently fail to recognize the relationships of physics laws and chemical laws to the universe. The same laws govern everything if the science is valid, and there are no contradictions.

Paul points out that in Christ there are no problems. If the Holy Spirit is directing, things should be clearly seen so that such confusion will not arise. He, Silvanus, and Timothy have tried to live and teach simply and clearly in a way that what God expects is obvious. Their writing does not change this. This should produce mutual rejoicing, that both are following the Lord.

“For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward. For we write none other things unto you, than what ye read or acknowledge; and I trust ye shall acknowledge even to the end; As also ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus.” (II Corinthians 1:12-14)

Paul had a desire as he described in I Corinthians 16, to visit them and give some additional teaching. While he was there he had hoped to help straighten out some of the other problems. As things worked out, he had not made the trip to them. He could not lightly come to them to teach them. He did not want to cause confusion by presenting contradictory statements or confusing teaching. His approach needed to be both simple and consistent. He needed Spiritual guidance to prevent such confusion.

And in this confidence I was minded to come unto you before, that ye might have a second benefit; And to pass by you into Macedonia, and to come again out of Macedonia unto you, and of you to be brought on my way toward Judaea. When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness? or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be yea yea, and nay nay?” (II Corinthians 1:15-17)

The failure to recognize the relationships between Physics and Astronomy caused my confusion in college. Paul has not separated things to that degree in his teaching, so that there are no contradictions in what they have been taught. Several years ago, I was speaking to Mormon man about Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden. If I understand correctly, he believed that the forbidden fruit was sex. God had commanded man not to partake of the forbidden fruit, but he commanded them to multiply and fill the earth. Man had to choose which command he would obey. Man chose to multiply and fill the earth, rather than to avoid sex. The man called the necessity to choose which sin to commit a “paradox,” of which he seemed to believe there were several.

Paul says that there were no paradoxes in his teaching, because there are none in God, nor in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Peter says that our doctrine is integrated and cannot be isolated from other scripture in II Peter 1:20-21. “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” Paradoxes and contradictions indicate misinterpretation of God’s word.

“But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea. For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us. Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” (II Corinthians 1:18-22)

God’s word is true and can be depended upon. There were and are no contradictions. His promises are sure, bringing God glory. The same God which saved us empowered Paul and the others. That same God has sealed and made our salvation sure forever. He also gave the Holy Spirit as assurance of our salvation.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Are You Sweating Yet?

II Corinthians 1:3-11

“Don’t ever let them see you sweat.”

That is the message of an advertisement for a popular anti-perspirant. To allow it to be seen that you have a problem is considered a sign of weakness in our modern society, which says “Appearance is everything.”

Unfortunately, the over use of antiperspirants has been linked to an increase in breast cancer levels in both men and women. Sweating is a way the body uses to get rid of harmful products of stress. Not allowing them to escape, while giving the illusion of strength, may result in serious damage and eventual cancer development.

Many believe that as Christians, if we serve God, there should be no problems. Jesus was very specific that “in the world ye shall have tribulation” in John 16:33. Paul warns Timothy, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution,” in II Timothy 3:12. Suffering and tribulation are as normal for Christians as sweating is for humans. It is the absence of problems that is abnormal. The pride that doesn’t want to acknowledge problems can have devastating effects on the church.

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” (II Corinthians 1:3-5)

God provides comfort in all our tribulation, and we ought to rejoice in that fact. The fact of our suffering enables us to help others in their suffering. Much as we would prefer not to suffer, it is the suffering that makes us most useable to God for ministry. People can only identify with those who are similar to themselves.

Most politicians have trouble understanding peoples financial struggles, because most of them are lawyers. It is difficult for a man earning $600.00 per hour to understand a person’s problems who makes $6.00 per hour. It is difficult for the man with a $6.00 job to equate his and the lawyer’s problems. Over supported missionaries or pastors have trouble teaching people to trust God to supply, because they don’t appear to have problems. All they have to do is ask their churches for more money. The most effective pastors and missionaries are those who have problems similar to those of their people. Our struggles are as much for those around us as for ourselves.

“And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.

For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.” (II Corinthians 1:6-11)

For others to benefit from our difficulties, they need to see us facing the problems and overcoming them by the power of God. We can only teach others to trust God by example. A missionary that calls on his supporting churches to provide for his church is teaching the people to trust people rather than God. A pastor who never lets people see problems in his life and how God provides leave people who have problems without hope. Parents who never share problems with their children leave children unequipped to deal with problems.

As people see God work in our problems, they have reason to hope that he will help in theirs. In order to pray effectively, people need to know about the problem. As God answers their prayers, they and others will give thanks for what God is doing. As they see that trust comes hard for us as well, they begin to understand their lack of trust is normal, and can be overcome. They begin to understand a full commitment to God.

It is the lack of problems that is abnormal. Concealing them is as harmful to the church as preventing sweat is to the body.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Introduction to II Corinthians

II Corinthians 1:1-2

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia: Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The letter is from both Paul and Timothy. Paul is an apostle, a special messenger from God. Although he did not accompany the other apostles from the beginning, he was chosen of God and taught by Christ. He describes himself as an apostle born out of due season. Galatians 1:15-19 describes his training. “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother.”

The apostles recognized the need for a replacement for Judas Iscariot, described in Psalm 109:1-20, and they selected Matthias as a temporary replacement in Acts 1:15-26. God chose Paul as the permanent replacement. It was not Paul’s decision.

Timothy is a much younger man, to the point that Paul warned him to behave himself in such a manner as to cause people to look up to him as an example rather than down on him as just a kid. Paul warns the church to treat him with respect as a man of God doing the work and earning that respect in I Corinthians 16:10-11.

The letter is directed to the church at Corinth, and to the Christians throughout the entire area of Achaia. Where I Corinthians was written in response to problems that had arisen in the church as a result of an unspiritual attitude, II Corinthians is written to encourage the church in maintaining and strengthening their spiritual walk. They had fulfilled some of what Paul had directed them to do in I Corinthians, but other things still needed work. The focus is on strengthening their own spiritual walk and leading others into a spiritual walk.

The desire is that they may experience his wonderful gift to the full, and the peace that comes from that relationship. It will never be possible to lead others to the spiritual state without attaining it yourself. They could only lead others as far as they had gone themselves.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What Is Being Spiritual?

Several years ago, The reality show Survivor set one series in Africa. An African-American contestant spoke of what a spiritual experience it was to be back where her ancestors came from. Several times I have been told what a spiritual and empowering experience it is to go to the Holy land and walk where Jesus walked. Moslems going to Mecca, Mormons visiting the Mormon Temple, Buddhists meeting the Dalai Lama, Catholics visiting some sacred place, and many other groups all have similar experiences. Nearly all of them refer to it as a spiritual experience.

In reality, they are not spiritual in the sense the bible talks about at all. They are purely emotional. Mistaking the emotional for spiritual, many spend their lives seeking the emotional high they once experienced. They become emotional junkies, exhibiting the same need for ever increasing fixes as a drug addict for their drugs. Many cults display this pattern. Eliphaz had a very emotional experience in Job 4:13-16. But it did not make him spiritual, despite his opinion.

Some believe that spirituality is following a certain set of standards. Each group has their own set of standards, often conflicting with one another. Paul states that those conflicts prove a lack of spirituality.

Charles Solomon, author of Hand book To Happiness and The Rejection Syndrome, realizing these things were not spiritual, focused in a different area. Looking at the fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23, he concluded that a spiritual person would be emotionally healthy, since the fruit of the spirit was very similar to what was viewed as emotional health. Based on that conclusion, he proceeded to develop a way of identifying spiritual strengths and weaknesses by testing for emotional strengths.

Before we could be approved as missionaries, my wife and I were required to participate in sessions with Dr. Solomon. On the Taylor -Johnson Temperament Analysis he administered, I scored slightly below normal in almost every area, while my wife scored above far above normal in every area, sometimes so much that her scores did not even stay on the chart. We were told that My wife was the most spiritual person he’d ever met. I came away feeling that I must be one of the least spiritual. Any questioning of her decisions thus became a demonstration of my lack of spirituality, even when they were about things the Bible clearly said.

While much that Dr. Solomon said was scripturally accurate, he failed to realize that as John 3:6 tells us, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” They are totally separate things. Galatians 5:17 says “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” Emotional health, at least as defined by the world, is in opposition to true spirituality. The resemblance is superficial. Once I understood this, I realized that neither my wife nor myself were spiritual.

Study revealed that to be spiritual involved allowing the Holy Spirit to control our mind. This totally changes our focus, and our attitude. The change in attitude will affect our actions. Spirituality is not about doing certain things, but having a spiritual attitude. Notice the stress on the mental attitude in the following passages.

“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:5-8)

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)

“But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.” (I Corinthians 2:15-16)

“That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8)

Paul will focus on the attitude and the resulting actions throughout the book of I Corinthians. The attitude is spiritual, whether the actions are or not id determined by the whether th Holy Spirit is directing th actions. Focusing on the actions cannot produce spirituality. A carnal attitude will produce carnal works because it is the result of a carnal state. Throughout this study, we must focus on the underlying attitudes, not just the actions.

II Corinthians is focused on bringing others to a spiritual state. Paul repeatedly uses his own life to demonstrate how to lead others to a similar spiritual state. He repeatedly stresses that God uses everything that happens to him for the benefit of others.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Demonstrate Your Love

I Corinthians 16:5-24

Governor Bill Richardson decided to run for president of the United States. Almost two years before the election. He began trying to build his support base. He would be out of the governors office for weeks at a time. Many people began to resent his neglect of his primary job, feeling that he was in effect saying that his political aspirations were more important than our state. The attitude is very much the same as that of many Christians, always looking for an opportunity to take a more important role.

Paul is very careful to let the church at Corinth know that although he knew that they wanted and needed him to spend some time with them, it was more important that he do the job God had given him. His love for the people could never be allowed to supercede his love for God. Once it was completed, he would come if God allowed him to. He wouldn’t leave where he was until directed by God, because it was an opportunity, despite many problems.

“Now I will come unto you, when I shall pass through Macedonia: for I do pass through Macedonia. And it may be that I will abide, yea, and winter with you, that ye may bring me on my journey whithersoever I go. For I will not see you now by the way; but I trust to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit. But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.” (I Corinthians 16:5-9)

Timothy was a very young pastor, and there was a tendency to look down on him because of his youth. Paul warns the church not to do so, because he is doing God’s work just as Paul is. In fact, Paul describes him as being the only one who is more concerned with the things of God than with his own in Philippians 2:19-21.

"Now if Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear: for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do. Let no man therefore despise him: but conduct him forth in peace, that he may come unto me: for I look for him with the brethren. As touching our brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come unto you with the brethren: but his will was not at all to come at this time; but he will come when he shall have convenient time.” (I Corinthians 16:10-12)

Paul had hoped that Apollos would be able to come, but like Paul, he could not justify leaving the work God had given him just to please Paul, which Paul understood. Paul did not have authority to override what God was directing Apollos to do, and Apollos’ love for God supercedes love for even the greatest Christians. Apollos has promised to come when he is free, but in the meantime the church needs to continue following God. Their faith and strength are not dependent on Paul, Apollos, or Timothy. There are men such as Stephanas among them who have devoted themselves to serving God. They need to submit to such men’s leadership rather than depending on outsiders.

“Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be done with charity. I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth.“ (I Corinthians 16:13-16)

Those who meet physical needs ought to be acknowledged for their part in the ministry just as those who do the spiritual work are. Without their part, much of the other would not get done. By taking away that pressure, they are very much a blessing.

“I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus: for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied. For they have refreshed my spirit and yours: therefore acknowledge ye them that are such.” (I Corinthians 16:17-18)

Christians are to love each other, even those who are not part of the same church. The affection ought to be openly shown, in an appropriate manner. It must not be faked, it must not become a ritual.

The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. All the brethren greet you. Greet ye one another with an holy kiss. The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand.” (I Corinthians 16:19-21)

We are to separate ourselves from those called Christians who do not love God as Paul says, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.” (I Corinthians 16:22). He is to be counted as accursed of God. Romans 16:17-18 gives the same basic instruction. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”

We are to take such action only after trying to show the truth, but if they refuse to listen, it is their responsibility. "A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself,” (Titus 3:10-11). Don’t waste your time trying to change someone’s mind who has chosen not to listen. Paul closes with the following assurances in I Corinthians 16:23-24.

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Special Offering

I Corinthians 16:1-4

“When I go to a revival, I take everything out of my purse, then put in two dollar bills and some change,” a lady told my mom. When Mom asked why, she said “ they will take up an offering during the service, and I put in the two dollars. When the service is over they will announce that there wasn’t enough given and they will pass the plate again, telling all the men to empty their wallets, and the women to empty their purses. All I have left is some change so I don’t have to give more than I can afford. Some of the others end up giving their whole paycheck.”

This is standard practice of “Evangelists” on the Navajo Reservation, according to people who go to the revivals. At one point, a Navajo Tribal officer visited my Dad, asking if this was legitimate, as one “Evangelist” had cashed $70,000 in tribal paychecks one weekend. Unfortunately, I have been in a couple of churches who did almost the same thing, taking up a second offering to get what they wanted. Paul gives the church at Corinth the same directions he has given all the churches.

“Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem. And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me.” (I Corinthians 16:1-4)

Paul, led of the Spirit, directs them that even their special offerings to help the poor should be a systematic giving on a weekly basis. The amount given was to be based on what God had given them that week, and it was to be taken in such a way that there would not need to be a special offering taken when Paul came to the church. Though people come from a public offering with a great feeling of pleasure, my experience over the years is that systematic giving always produces more, and ultimately, the givers receive greater blessings. Paul expresses that concept in 1II Corinthians 9.

“Lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye) should be ashamed in this same confident boasting. Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up before hand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness.

But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever.

Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;) Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God. For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God; Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men.” (II Corinthians 9:4-13)

Giving in such a manner results in more cheerful givers, as they are not under pressure to supply at this time, and can give out of their bounty without worrying about giving too much. They don’t feel obligated to put into the offering. It is up to the individual what he chooses to give. As a result, people give more than would otherwise be given, and the leaders do not risk being embarrassed by the lack of giving. The people also receive larger blessings from God because of their consistent and increased giving, and the recipients have more to be thankful for, and are not made to feel like beggars. The church should choose someone they trust to distribute the money, and not leave it to Paul to do.

Shouldn’t we do it the way God has directed, rather than the traditional way? Something you might want to consider is that although no directives as to how the offering is to be collected are given, there are no examples of passing the plate in either Old or New Testament, yet offerings were taken. Is it really the proper way?

Monday, April 20, 2009

I Know a Secret

I Corinthians 15:51-58

Most little kids love secrets. Most of their parents know that once the kids know a secret, it’s not a secret any more. The kids are so excited about the secret that they tell everyone. Paul wants to share a secret with Christians. It is a very exciting secret.

“Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (I Corinthians 15:51-53)

Hebrews 9:27 tells us, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Everybody dies. It is inevitable. We have an appointment with death. The secret is that some will not die. When the trumpet sounds, the living Christians of that day will not die, they will be changed into their spiritual body instantly, so that they are able to enter into heaven. I Thessalonians 4:13-18 describes the hope for everyone that believes.

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

When the Lord comes for his children, The dead in Christ, the Christians who have already died, will rise first. I really cannot even imagine what that will be like, except to infer that it may be similar to what happened when Christ was resurrected.

And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.” (Matthew 27:52-54)

Can you imagine the shock of the people seeing those who had died outside their graves? It definitely affected the Roman soldiers. They realized that Jesus was truly the Son of God, although they were persuaded to lie about it in Matthew 28:11-15.

The Christians who are alive at that day will be changed, and accompany the dead to meet the Lord and be with him throughout eternity. Death is only a temporary separation for the Christian. We will see each other again. The new body will never die. Death will no longer have power over us.

“So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (I Corinthians 15:54-58)

Because of that wonderful hope, and the knowledge that the resurrection of Christ is proof that it is real, we ought to fix ourselves firmly and not allow anything to change our faith. It is not blind faith. We have proof, in that Christ was seen alive after his death. We know that we are not wasting our time or energy, even if we are killed for our faith.

I'll Have a New Body

I Corinthians 15:35-50

Years ago, before rattlesnakes were considered an endangered species, a lady found a rattle snake in her house and killed it to protect her children. While talking about the incident with a friend, the friend said “You mustn’t kill rattlesnakes. They might be one of your relatives that had to come back as a snake.”

“ If one of my relatives was so bad he had to come back as a rattlesnake,” the woman replied, “ he needs to be killed again.”

A few days later, the friend called the woman. “One of your relatives is in my yard, would you come get rid of him?” While her religious beliefs wouldn’t allow her to kill the snake, she still wanted him dead.

The idea of reincarnation is common to several religions. Buddhism teaches you will be re-incarnated in various forms until you finally live a life so good you reach Nirvana or nothingness. Some groups teach that we become angels after death. One group teaches that we become gods, just like God, while others appear to believe that our body will be the same as the present one, except for being immune to all diseases. Apparently this had become a point of contention among the church at Corinth.

“But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. (I Corinthians 15:35-41)

A seed is different than the plant it produces and is destroyed by becoming a plant, and each different kind of seed is different. To get the plants you want you must plant the proper kind of seed. In the animal world, each type of animal is distinct from each other one. Chicken meat doesn’t look or taste like beef, nor does it taste like or look like catfish. Even the stars and planets are different from one another, and from the earth.

Just as there is a difference between a seed, and the plant it produces, there are differences between the body which dies and the one that is resurrected. It is silly to assume that the heavenly body will be just like the earthly body, since everything else is different.

“So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.” (I Corinthians 15:42-46)

God did not start with a spiritual being and give it a physical body. When he created man, he created the physical body from the dirt, then put in the breath of life, and man became a living spirit. God created the natural man first. The Son of God later became a man to save the natural man. We were not spirit children before we were conceived. When God is said to have known us before we were born, he knew every detail before there was nay part of us. “Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139:16)

I John 3:2 tells us that we don’t yet know what our body will be like, but that we will be like him. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” A natural body could not stand being in heaven.

The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” (I Corinthians 15:47-50)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What's the Difference

I Corinthians 15:12-23

A relative of ours said they wanted a sealed steel casket and a concrete vault so God couldn’t get them out at the resurrection. Apparently they don’t think God is as smart as I am, because I could get them out of that. Many people don’t believe a resurrection is possible, because after you’re dead, there is a point where you can’t be revived.

Most people who call themselves Christians believe in a literal resurrection from the dead, although there is a lot of disagreement about how it will be accomplished and what it will be like afterward. There are some theologians who deny the literal resurrection however, saying that it is not real. Paul deals with this teaching in the next few verses.

“Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.” (I Corinthians 15:12-18)

If Christ was raised from the dead, then a resurrection is possible. If it is not, then he could not have risen from the dead. Since that is the foundational truth of Christianity, then everything Christians believe is founded on a lie and our religion is of no more value than any other moral system. Without the resurrection, all who believed before are lost, and it is all a fraud. There is no hope beyond this life.

“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.” (I Corinthians 15:19-23)

Praise God for the evidence given earlier in the chapter because we have proof that the resurrection is possible because Christ arose. Our hope goes beyond this life because he was resurrected. It doesn’t end at death. Through Jesus Christ, every believer will be made alive, at his proper time. Christ is the first fruits, the first one to be resurrected, but not the only one.

“Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” (I Corinthians 15:24-28)

After the resurrection, and when all earthly government and powers have been done away with, God will be all in all. Death will have no more power, and Christ will be submit and be subject only to God the Father.

If this is not true, being baptized in the name of Christ is pointless because he died, and can no longer do anything for us. It is pointless even to bother being baptized if there is no resurrection, and Paul’s risking his life every day to preach the gospel, even to the point of being thrown into the arena to fight with animals because of his belief makes no sense. It is promoting a lie and cannot produce any benefit.

“Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead? And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die. Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame. ” (I Corinthians 15:29-34)

If Christ was not raised, then the worlds idea to eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die would be the only logical course. Association with those who hold such beliefs will weaken our faith. We are instructed repeatedly to take not of and avoid those who teach contrary to the word of God. The best you can get out of this life is the best you will ever have. Association with those who hold such beliefs will weaken our faith. We are instructed repeatedly to avoid those who teach contrary to the word of God. All those believers who died before us sacrificed earthly pleasures because They believed in something better than the world had to offer.

“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:13-16)

Our actions are determined primarily by what we actually believe. A genuine belief in God’s promises will impel us to do what he commanded. Failure to obey implies we really don’t believe or love him. God must really be ashamed of some who call themselves Christians because they have allowed others not to know of him.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A More Sure Word

I Corinthians 15:1-11

The resurrection of Christ has always been the main point of attack by nonbelievers, as it is the key to Christianity. Matthew 28:11-15 describes the first effort to discredit his resurrection. The historian, Josephus, questioned why the Guards publicly proclaimed that they had gone to sleep on duty, allowing his disciples to steal the body, and were not even arrested, when in every other case sleeping while on duty resulted in execution. Matthew explains that they were told to make the claim and they would be protected from prosecution.

The attacks on the validity of the resurrection continue unabated. The most damaging attacks come from theologians and preachers. Men in such positions have an appearance of authority that deceives many, and II Peter2:1-2 warns that they will be among us. “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.”

There is no group that do not have these false prophets, and they get followers. Proclaiming themselves Christians, but not believing, they do things that cause unbelievers to hate Christianity, either in the name of Christianity, or in repudiation of it. I John 2:19 explains why they reject Christ’s death. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”

James 2:14-26 make it clear that just a simple belief in God is not enough to produce salvation. Matthew 16:24-26 makes it clear that an actual commitment to Christ is required. Paul reminds the Corinthians that their faith rests in truth of the gospel, and their commitment to it. Abandoning it implies that there was no real commitment, and thus no salvation.

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.” (I Corinthians 15:1-2)

Next Paul gives assurance of the facts of the record of the gospel. Jesus is who wh is proclaimed to be because he has fulfilled the prophecy about him. Without that fulfillment, we could have no evidence of who he was. His resurrection is the final proof, and must be verified for him to be the Savior. Paul reviews the evidence.

“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 1co 15:4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.” (I Corinthians 15:3-11)

With more than 500 witnesses, there can be little doubt of the validity of the claim of his resurrection. Although some had died, most were still available to confirm the facts. Finally, Paul himself, one who had vigorously opposed the faith had seen Christ for himself. As a result, he became the most vigorous proponent of the faith. He was assured of the truth of the resurrection.

Peter makes it clear that he witnessed the proof of who Jesus is, physically observing the events, “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.” (II Peter 2:16-18) It was not some story they made up.

John emphasizes the personal experience as well, in I John1:1-4. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.”

Despite claims to the contrary, there is no reason to believe the gospel is false. The minor discrepancies many point at demonstrate typical human witnesses. No two people remember an event exactly the same way. A lack of these differences would indicate collusion between the writers to get the story straight. They wrote based on personal observation, and the memories of others, not copying each others writing.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Only Ones

I Corinthians 14:36-40

The Catholic Church. The Disciples of Christ. The Church of God. The Full Gospel Church.

The names imply that these churches are the only ones. Some Baptists say only Baptists will be in heaven. Others say not even all Baptists will make it. The attitude that we are the only ones is very common. Apparently, the church at Corinth had this attitude as well. Despite all the problems Paul has been forced to address, their unspiritual state led them to believe they were the only ones who knew the truth.

“What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order.” (I Corinthians 14:36-40)

The church’s actions imply that they think they are the only ones who have the truth. Perhaps even the Apostle Paul doesn’t know since he didn’t do it the way they do. Paul brought the gospel to them. He did not take it from them to the Jews in Jerusalem. Their differences suggest that they need to examine what they are doing.

Anyone who is truly spiritual will recognize that what Paul has written here about how the church is to do things are actually God’s commands. Refusing to follow them is disobeying God.

The terminology about the one who is ignorant is much like the terminology in Matthew 18:17, when Jesus says that if a man refuses to hear the church, we are to let him be as an heathen man and a publican. That rebellious man is to be considered as a sinner, and not a Christian. The man who doesn’t recognize Paul’s directions as being from God is to be considered ignorant about the things of God. He’s not qualified to teach or lead others.

The truth is available to all Christians. Romans 8:9 makes it clear that every Christian has the Holy Spirit. “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” It is impossible top be a Christian without him. If he is there he will teach us what we need.

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26)

"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.” (John 16:13-14)

Everyone who allows the Spirit to lead them will come to the same conclusions as they study the word of God, because they will all have the same teacher.

Our biggest desire should be to share the word of God. We are not to forbid people to speak in tongues, but it must be done properly, in accordance with God’s command. Everything in the church is to be done in an orderly, proper manner.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Woman's Place

I Corinthians 14:34-35

Do women have the right to preach or pastor the church? This is one of the most controversial issues of our day. Is God prejudiced against women, or was Paul, just writing from that prejudice? Have times changed, and thus the standards?

Before we answer those questions, we need to address some others. Is God the creator, with perfect knowledge and control of every thing? If he is not, then the other questions are pointless and there is no use continuing, If he is God, then he is the final authority, and his decision is absolute, and must be followed.

If he is God, is the Bible his word, or just some men’s opinions about God? According to II Timothy 3:16-17, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” God inspired what was written in order that we could know exactly how to do everything properly.

Peter tells us that we can depend on the scriptures as more dependable than other writings because God directed the writing, and we need to pay attention to them.

"We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (II Peter 1:19-21)

If we believe that the Bible is truly the Word of God, and that God is the ultimate authority on how things are to be done, we must accept his command as the proper way. Since he says he does not change in MalachI 3:6. To ignore it is to imply that God has no right to tell us what to do. So what does the scripture say?

“Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” (I Corinthians 14:34-35)

Paul tells us a little later that this is God’s command. Why does God give such a command? Paul will explain the basis for this position in I Timothy 2:11-15. It has nothing to do with women being inferior, but rather with the responsibility for sin.

Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. 1ti 2:15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” (I Timothy 2:11-15)

It was not Eve’s sin that made mankind sinners, it was Adam’s. The man is responsible for sin in the earth. Eve was deceived because Satan lied to her. No one lied to Adam, he sinned because he chose to. His sin was deliberate, while hers was not. His decision brought sin into the World according to Romans 5:12. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”

By taking that authority over the man, the woman is taking responsibility for something she didn’t do. She is also allowing the men to shirk their responsibility, by doing their job for them. As I Corinthians 14:35 says, it is a shame for the women to speak in the church. The men ought to be doing their job. It is shameful when they do not. Paul refuses to allow men to get by without taking responsibility, and God forbids women to let them get by with it. Ladies, don’t do it for them! It doesn’t matter that you can do it better. God knows how men like to avoid taking responsibility.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Read The Instructions Before Use

I Corinthians 14:26-33

"Always wear eye protection when using the hammer to prevent eye injuries..
Never strike hardened surfaces as this may cause chipping and flying particles.
Never use hammer if handle is loose to avoid injury."

Do they think I’m some kind of idiot and don’t know how to use a hammer? When I bought my new hammer, the warnings were ridiculous. I’ve been using hammers since I was 4 years old. Then as I read through the list, I realized that over the years, I had fallen into a habit of doing things without considering the danger and had developed bad habits. I needed to be reminded of these things for my own protection, and that of others.

Paul gives the following guidelines for how the church is to conduct it’s business to accomplish the purpose it was designed for in an effective manner, and prevent harm to the church. Misuse can result in an unspiritual condition, judgmental attitudes, driving away those who do not understand, and disobedience to God. Because of habit, or tradition, the church can unintentionally begin to misuse God’s gifts, and bring reproach on itself.

"How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.” (I Corinthians 14:26)

Everything is to be done for the purpose of edifying or building up the believers. We are not to be showing off our abilities to impress one another, as the church at Corinth apparently had begun to do. Not everyone has a meaningful testimony, or a song that will be a blessing every time.

“If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.” (I Corinthians 14:27-28)

Unknown tongues are to be limited to 2 or 3 speakers, speaking one at a time, for the sake of the church’s testimony to unsaved people and new Christians. Tongues are not to be allowed if there is no one available to interpret as they will have no real benefit in edifying. If God is the only one who will understand, he does not need it spoken aloud.

“Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.” (I Corinthians 14:29-31)

Two or three preachers and teachers may speak, in their turns, but the others are to be listening. By doing so, false doctrine can be prevented, and areas spotted where additional study is needed. If God lays something on someone besides the preacher’s heart, he is to be allowed to speak, because God doesn’t limit who can share his word. The purpose is that all may learn. Sometimes a question or comment by someone else will open doors to things the preacher never thought of. God may use these things to accomplish his plan.

And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” (I Corinthians 14:32-33)

Confusion and disorder are evidence that God is not in control. He produces peace and order. Everything should be done decently and in order, There should be a willingness to take turns and listen to the others. The inability to control oneself is an indication that the Holy Spirit is not the one in control. Demonic spirits, on the other hand, take control from the person, as demonstrated in the story of the demon possessed child in Mark 9:17-22.

And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not.

He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me. And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming. And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child. And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.

The child did not choose to throw himself into the fire, the demon took control. People who cannot control themselves are under something besides the Holy Spirit’s control, possibly demonic. Uncontrollable anger, physical actions, speech, fainting, or any condition where the person cannot control themselves, indicate that the Holy Spirit is not the controlling power. Test the spirits. If they won't follow the guidelines, it isn't pleasing to God.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

You Must Be Crazy

I Corinthians 14:20-25

A Chinese missionary visiting one church heard a man speaking fluent Chinese, but was shocked at the blasphemy that was spoken, denying that Christ was the only natural son of God, and that he was the Savior. Upon inquiry, he was informed that the speaker had no understanding of what he had said. How can one know that he is not saying something similar if he doesn’t know what he is saying.

I John 4:2-3 gives instructions on how to identify whether a spirit is fro God or satan. “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” Clearly in the example cited, the man was not acting under the Holy Spirit’s power, but how is one to find out if he doesn’t understand what is said.

“For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.” (I Corinthians 14:14-17)

If God is the only one who understands me, how are other people to know whether to say amen in agreement with what I have prayed or not, since he doesn’t understand. If I pray in a language I understand, I can benefit, although no one else does, but if I’m praying in a language I don’t understand, even I get no benefit. I don’t understand what was said to receive any benefit, and can only hope it was pleasing to God. As a result, Paul chose only to pray or sing in a language he could understand, especially in public, but apparently in private as well.

We know that Paul spoke several languages fluently, and spoke constantly to those of other countries. How many times did he need a language he had not already learned? God met that need many times from what Paul says.

I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.” (I Corinthians 14:18-19)

Though Paul was certain his gift came from God, speaking in an unknown tongue would be of little value, so little that 5 understood words are worth more than 10,000 words that are not understood. A complete sermon that no one understands is just noise, as far as the people are concerned. No one learned anything. The time was wasted.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What' a Hypostatic Union?

I Corinthians 14:1-13

As a plumber, I was occasionally sent to homes where the only person home didn’t speak English. Since I speak some Spanish, and understand some Navajo, I could sometimes figure out what the problem was, or at least get them to show me where things were. Sometimes, I had to call our parts man for help with Spanish, or one of the secretaries for help with Navajo speakers. In such cases, frustration became a problem for both sides.

The early church was in contact with many ethnic groups, and needed to communicate in the different languages. While the gift of tongues, like the other spiritual gifts, was very valuable, it was becoming a problem in the church, and Paul addresses the problem.

“Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.

I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying. Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?” (I Corinthians 14:1-6)

Love is essential for every Christian, and all need to practice it. Spiritual gifts are needed, but the most valuable was that of telling people what God had said. Speaking in a language the others did not understand did not benefit any one except the one who spoke unless it was interpreted for the benefit of the others. Giving people a revelation from God, a prophecy, imparting some relevant knowledge, or teaching them what these things meant had value, but only if it was understood. If everyone spoke in other languages, they would be able to talk to everyone they met, but it would be better for everyone to share God’s word.

Unless a person is able to distinguish what a sound means, he has no clue what action to take. In towns where tornados are common, there is usually a siren sounded to alert people of the danger. Sirens are also sounded by police and fire trucks. If the people cannot tell which is which, they don’t know whether to get out of the way for a fire truck, or to run for the tornado shelter. The difference must be easily identifiable to prevent confusion and frustration.

“And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.

There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me. Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.” (I Corinthians 14:7-13)

When I first started to college, I had no car, so I attended a church within walking distance my first Sunday. When the preacher stood up to preach, he said “I feel like the Lord wants me to preach about another subject, but since I announced this other, that’s what I’ll be preaching about.” If he wasn’t going to preach what God told him to, I really didn’t see any need to go back, so the following Sunday, I caught a ride to another church I had heard about.

The preacher preached about the Hypostatic Union, using a large number of words I had never heard. After church, one of the people asked “wasn’t that a wonderful message?” I had to admit I didn’t have a clue, because I didn’t know what he was talking about. The next Sunday I went back to the first church. At least I understood them. I might get something out of their service, and they didn’t make me feel stupid.

After graduating from FLC, I went to Baptist Bible college, and finally learned that Christ’s being both God and man was sometimes called the Hypostatic union. If the second preacher had cared enough to explain that in his message, I’d probably have continued to attend his church.

The goal is to edify the church, not to impress them with our linguistic skills. If we are going to have to speak in language they don’t understand, we need to pray that God will give us the ability to interpret it so that they can understand as well.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Growing Up

I Corinthians 13:8-13

Have you ever seen a child of 5 or 6 walking around with a baby bottle in their mouth? Occasionally I have, and it is a little disconcerting. A child that age ought to have been weaned, eating and drinking adult food. In our area are a few parents who will not take the bottle away from their children. The children are usually quite spoiled and self centered, and tend to be fat. Doctors tell us that they tend to have health problems as a result of not eating properly.

Using the bottle encourages them not to eat properly, and to continue to act as babies. They substitute milk or juice for food requiring chewing, resulting in weakened jaw muscles and poor tooth development. Because they do not get a full spectrum of proper nutrients, their physical development is somewhat distorted, and muscles are weak. Disuse tends to make the digestive system sluggish as well. Only when the bottle is put away will proper development occur. Once the bottle is not needed, it becomes a hindrance rather than a help.

Before the Word of God was complete there was a need for prophets to get their messages directly from God and share it with the people. Before the teachings were written down there was a need for a miraculous form of knowledge. Before there were Christians of various cultures, a miraculous gift of tongues was needed to share the gospel with those of another language. Paul is very specific that when the need is gone, so will each of these gifts. He specifically names prophecy, tongues, and knowledge.

“Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” (I Corinthians 13:8-13)

The need for all 3 has been greatly reduced, and we should not be surprised that we see few examples in our day. There will never be a time when love is not needed, however, and there will never be a time when love ends. Faith, hope and love will all continue when all the spiritual gifts have been eliminated. They are far more important than the spiritual gifts, and should be cultivated. All three are essential to the Christian life, with love being the most important.

Monday, April 6, 2009

True Love

I Corinthians 13:1-7

Every election, politicians promise to reduce the deficit and make life easier for the American people. As soon as the election is over, they start spending money for the things they want and the deficit grows, resulting in a tax increase. Even tax cuts or refunds actually cost extra because of the way they’re done. The fabulous speeches were just words.

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” (I Corinthians 13:1-3)

Without love, the wonderful promises will never be fulfilled because they were only a way to get people to do what you wanted. Whatever action is taken will be for the purpose of attaining future cooperation, rather than interest in helping others.

Many of those with the greatest intellectual ability spend all their time designing puzzles to prove they are smarter than those who try to solve them, rather than trying to solve problems that those less gifted have not been able to solve, because they don’t care about other people. When their efforts are devoted to other peoples problems, it is only to those which will pay a quick big return. More demanding problems tend to be ignored as not providing sufficient return quickly enough. Such ability is worthless to God used in such a fashion.

The person who gives to charity because it is a tax deduction, or to build his reputation, rather than because he is genuinely concerned for the people who receive the help, has wasted his gifts, as far as God is concerned. Much philanthropy is nothing more than a way of relieving a guilty conscience or obtaining some personal benefit, and God is not pleased with it, because it is not based on love.

Several years ago, I knew a woman who always insisted on greeting everybody with a hug and a kiss. Such is greeting is very pleasant from some people, but from her, it made me very uncomfortable, Everything in her home had one of her children or grandchildren’s names on it. Each person was told how much they were loved and which items were for them. Anytime they did anything that displeased her, she would switch the names to show her displeasure. Her hugs and kisses made me uncomfortable after learning this. Clearly her love was a conditional, and manipulative.

Paul gives a list of characteristics of real love to enable us to distinguish the real thing. The fake confuses a lot of people who end up wondering why love is so unsatisfactory. Often those who have never experience the real thing reject it because it is not what they have come to expect, and don’t trust it as a result.

“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” (I Corinthians 13:4-7)

Charity, or love remains kind, even when it is suffering. It does not try to make others feel guilty or hurt because of it’s suffering. It doesn’t lash out at others.

Love doesn’t envy. It doesn’t get jealous over gifts or compliments others receive. It doesn’t disparage what the other has done, or complain that someone else should have gotten it instead. Love rejoices in what the loved one received.

Love doesn’t consider itself superior to the other, and doesn’t treat the loved one as inferior, but as an equal, It doesn’t make slaves or demand service.

Love doesn’t humiliate those it loves, either by actions, or by talk. It doesn’t rail on people, or abuse them. It isn’t offensive.

Love is not selfish. It’s focus is not on what it wants, but is concerned about the needs of the other. It doesn’t use loving actions to get it’s own way, nor threats to withhold them.

Love isn’t easily angered or upset. It is patient and forgiving.

Love doesn’t assume the worst of it’s mate, doesn’t look for something wrong.

Love isn’t pleased with wrong doing by those it loves, but it also doesn’t ignore it either. It has a realistic view of the other person, and wants to know the truth. Real love isn’t blind.

Love takes whatever hurts it receives without undue complaints or quitting.

Love keeps on believing in the person, keeps on hoping, even though there is no visible reason for hope.

Love survives everything. It cannot be killed, though it may go into hibernation. A little warmth will bring it back out.

Such love is the natural result of the Holy Spirit in our life, and will automatically be manifested when he is in control. It’s lack is evidence that he is not in control.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Why Do We Need Gifts?

I Corinthians 12:28-31

"And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” (I Corinthians 12:28)

Here Paul gives a partial listing of the Spiritual gifts. In Ephesians 4:11-13 he gives a similar list, and explains why these gifts are given. Understanding what these gifts are and why they are given is critical to understanding I Corinthians 13 & 14.

“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:” (Ephesians 4:11-13)

These gifts were given for the perfecting, or preparing the saints, for doing what the ministry required, and for edifying or building up and strengthening the church on both the individual and corporate levels. The end result is to be a unity of faith and knowledge of Christ. The Holy Spirit will use them to teach us everything, and when he does, there will be no conflicts in our understanding, or our faith. Every Christian will measure up to the standard of Christ, as a perfect or completely matured copy.

The apostles were special messengers from God, to bring the whole message to the world. From the requirements in the book of Acts, it is clear that there would be no other apostles, with the exception of Paul, an apostle born out of due season. Paul talks of those who claim to be apostles, but are not, not meeting the qualifications.

Prophets told people specific points of what God said. I Corinthians 13 said that the gift of prophecy would cease when the word was complete, although it was still in effect when Paul wrote. Evangelists are ones who announce the gospel to those who have not heard. Philip is the example we are given, going where the gospel had not been heard.

The word pastor means sheep herder, and refers to one who tends the sheep, leading them to food and water, doctoring sicknesses, protecting them and accompanying them. Teachers are just what the word means, teaching them what is needed. Miracles were things possible only to God. Similarly, gifts of healing were for things doctors were not able to heal. Helps demonstrated concern for individuals, and governments were closely related to the job of the shepherd to protect and maintain peace. Different tongues were needed to communicate with people who spoke other languages.

The Holy Spirit puts these gifts into the church as it pleases him. None of the gifts are given to every one. As Paul asks, “Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?” (I Corinthians 12:29-30)

Clearly, the answer is no. Not everyone can be an apostle, or any of the other gifts. As I Corinthians 12:17 asks, “If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?" A body that was just an eye, or even had an eye on each hand and foot would not work very well. Thankfully, God did not put eyes everywhere on our body, nor did he do the church that way. “But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.” (I Corinthians 12:18)

A person can live missing one or both eyes, or even the hands, but not without a heart. In the same way there are parts of the church that are more critical than others, and we ought to desire those most critical parts, but there is something more important than any of the spiritual gifts that Paul wants to show us. “But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way.” (I Corinthians 12:31)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Is Surgery Needed?

I Corinthians 12:12-27

A friend of mine was having some uncomfortable and embarrassing health problems. He went to the doctor to find out what was causing them and was told that his Thyroid was not functioning properly, producing too much of certain hormones. There advice was to have a series of treatments which would destroy the thyroids functioning completely, then take supplements to replace the necessary hormones. It would be essential to replace certain of the hormones as they regulated fat storage in the body and thus helped control weight. Without them , excess weight, heart problems, type II diabetes and heart and artery trouble were almost a certainty. The treatments were successful, and his Thyroid stopped functioning, eliminating the original problem.

A hormone replacement program was instituted and for a short time everything appeared okay. Within a few days, his eyesight began to deteriorate and within about a month, he had to take off work to have his glasses changed, he was unable to drive until new glasses were finished. Less than a month later it happened again, and was repeated several times, at great expense. A new optometrist recommended special stick-on lens adapters which could be replaced within a few minutes at much lower cost. They worked, but before long they were needing replacement every other week, and were costing almost as much as the new prescriptions,

A trip to the Mayo clinic revealed that the lack of one of the hormones produced by the thyroid was causing abnormal growth of the muscles around his eyes, distorting his vision. Additional hormones and surgery corrected the problem temporarily, but as it will be impossible to exactly control the hormone level, future surgeries are likely to be needed. Other problems are also beginning to develop. While it is possible for him to live with a non-functioning thyroid, my friend now wishes he had put up with the original problem, as it was less a problem than his current state. Sadly, new treatments have been developed that might have restored normal function to his thyroid if not for the treatments he was given.

My friend’s thyroid was a needed part of his body, and the church is a body with many needed parts, as Paul explains. “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.” (I Corinthians 12:12-14)

Sometimes people get the idea they want to perform a certain function in a church that someone else is doing and leave the church if they aren’t given the position. I Corinthians 12:15-20 describes this situation. “If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body."

God has put every person in the church where he wanted them. A piece which separates itself from the body soon dies. It’s loss also hampers the body from functioning properly. The separation is an act of rebellion against God. Going to another church is like trying to put a transplant into a human body. It should only be attempted by a qualified surgeon. The Holy Spirit is the only qualified surgeon. When he moves someone, the side effects will be minor.

My friend decided he could get by without his thyroid. Today he wishes he had tried a different treatment. He now realizes how valuable the thyroid is, even when it doesn’t function exactly as it should. To have corrected the problems would have been much better than eliminating it. Sometimes a pastor or church decides they’d be better off without a particular member, for whatever reason. They ignore the fact that God put them there because he wanted them there for a reason.

And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.” (I Corinthians 12:21-25)

What a wicked attitude that we have the right to eliminate what doesn’t please us, when God placed the person there to accomplish his purpose. Cutting off that part will nearly always destroy the part that is cut off and hurts the body from which it is removed. It is always better to heal a malfunctioning part if possible, than to amputate it, and Matthew 18:15-17 and I Corinthians 5 give directions in how to approach a situation where amputation may be needed. What affects one part affects the entire body.

“And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (I Corinthians 12:26-27)

Hurting or eliminating a member who doesn’t please us will hurt the entire church. Surgery in the church should only be done in the Holy Spirit’s power and direction. Too many people and churches have died as a result of unnecessary or improperly done surgery.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Different Strokes Fo Different Folks

I Corinthians 12:4-11

Back in the late 1920’s the U. S, Government funded a solar housing project in New York. Solar energy was proposed to be the way of the future, and this project was to be the model. A thousand homes were built, and records of their performance were kept.

250 homes performed flawlessly, requiring no additional heating. Another 500 homes required approximately the same amount of additional heat as comparable homes in the area, but had over heating problems at times. The final 250 homes required nearly double the amount of additional heat as standard homes. Solar energy fell out of favor, and was not seriously considered again until the early 1970’s. Why?

Every house was identical in construction, but because of lot alignments, and for aesthetic reasons the houses were turned facing different directions. Houses on the south side of east west streets faced north while those on the north side faced south. Houses on north south streets faced east and west. This resulted in some of the solar collectors being properly oriented, and properly heating the homes while others were facing different directions. Those facing east or west received excessive sun in the morning or evening, and none the rest of the day. Those facing north received none, and acted to remove heat from the home. This was not reflected in the records that were kept. Realigning the collectors to meet the conditions would have prevented all the problems.

Different groups of people, in different locations have different needs. What works perfectly in one place may be ineffective or disastrous in a another location. This has been repeatedly demonstrated using prepared teaching curriculums in public schools and in churches. A program that worked very well in inner city New York, may be ineffective in Farmington, New Mexico and a total disaster in Toadlena, New Mexico.

Just as a cookie cutter approach ignores the needs of the specific home, a cookir cutter approach to building a church ignores the needs of a specific church, producing erratic results. The Holy Spirit understands the specific needs, and provides what is needed for each church to accomplish what is required so that no church comes behind in any area according to I Corinthians 1:4-7.

“Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” (I Corinthians 12:4-7)

The Holy Spirit may lead one church to do things one way and another to do them another. For example, one group may support individual missionaries while another puts their money into a fund which then distributes evenly. Both methods have advantages and disadvantages, and God did not specify that only one was acceptable. It is to be done according to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. It is the same Holy Spirit leading in both cases.

The Holy Spirit also sets the different people in the church that he wants there and gives them the gifts they need to do the job God wants done. The gifts may be permanent or temporary, and may be spread among a large number or concentrated in a few, This is the Holy Spirit’s choice.

“For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” (I Corinthians 12:8-11)

Since it is the same Holy Spirit, there will be no conflict between those who are walking in the Spirit. There will be a unity of purpose, working together to get the job done. To demand that others do things exactly as we do indicates an unspiritual condition. The Holy Spirit knows what is needed. We don’t.