Thursday, March 1, 2007

“Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything. 1st Cor. 6:12

We got into a great discussion in Bible Study last night about living by rules or living under grace. It is our inclination as people to want to make rules. In fact, rules are much easier to keep! I think that it is much harder to discern the will of God and understand the leading of the Holy Spirit than to keep rules. Rules make us into little gods ourselves. We decide what is important. We decide where our values will be. A life led by the Spirit of God is a life that has a much different attitude.

So then—there are no rules—right?

Well, yes, that is right. But just because everything is permissible doesn’t mean everything is good. That’s the point that Paul is making here to the Corinthian church. Not everything is beneficial, and I will not be mastered by anything. I love the plain language of The Message, “Just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean that it’s spiritually appropriate. If I went around doing whatever I thought I could get by with, I’d be a slave to my whims”

The church that I am a part of has in its history a time of legalism. There are times when we still battle that legacy. But in our desire to move away from legalism may we not lose sight of our responsibility to one another and to God. We don’t need a huge list of rules to keep us “holy”. I completely trust the leadership of the Spirit to lead us into all truth. Our desire should be to live in such a close relationship with God that it becomes my habit to choose to do the right thing.

People will not be attracted to our faith because we our good rule keepers, but because we have a wonderful, warm, attractive relationship with our God.

Friday, February 23, 2007

1st Corinthians 6:4, “Therefore if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church!”

I love Paul’s high regard for the church. Even people in the church who he describes as being of “little account” should be better at judging disputes among believers than non believers. Why is that? Because our entire attitude towards life should be different than that of the non believer. Two Christians who have a dispute should be able to settle things differently than non believers.

In fact he goes on to say that in the church it would be better to be wronged or cheated than to cause division or disputes. But what do we do? Well—Paul’s words to the Corinthians is still pretty good stuff for us today—we ourselves cheat and do wrong and we do this to our brothers!!!!

But our high ideals for the church should not be cast aside. We don’t have to be this way.

I know people who will not do business with other people in the church. Why? Because they are afraid that their might be some kind of a disagreement and they would have a falling out and they don’t want that to hinder the church. That almost sounds reasonable—if it wasn’t Christians that we are talking about in the first place. Our faith, and our God is not big enough for us to work things out in a manner that brings honor to our faith, our God and the church? Come on—where are our high ideals?

Our old way of life has been washed away, we have been set apart through the precious blood of Jesus Christ, we have been justified through the name of our Lord and by the Holy Spirit. We don’t have to live in that kind of bondage anymore.

Will there be disagreements among believers? You bet—as long as we’re still breathing. But when we have those disagreements why do we so often revert back to our fleshly way of thinking and behave like the degenerates that we USED TO BE? Hasn’t our faith walk with God changed all that?

We need to return to a higher ideal for the church. We need to live with that ideal clearly in focus. God is able to help us through whatever conflict may arise. We need to stop acting worldly and start acting spiritually.

I’m frankly weary of hearing about all the nonsense going on in the church—over supposedly spiritual stuff. People refuse to work together, won’t speak to each other, have hard feelings for one another, and the list could go on. I say, in my most compassionate spirit—GET OVER IT! The kingdom of God is more important than junk like that. First of all we need to talk to each other. Truthfully that would end 99% of all misunderstanding and disputes. If you can’t work it out between the offended parties then go to some trusted Christian friends that have the same Christian values that you have and let them arbitrate between you. Hey imagine that—that’s Biblical.

Sometimes we just won’t to say-God save us from ourselves. Forgive us when the church gives the world a reason to sit back and laugh at us.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

1st Corinthians 5:9-11

I have written to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.

Where do we find the balance between judgment and grace?

When I am reading this chapter it almost sounds harsh. Instructions such as, expel the immoral, and don’t even eat with that kind of a person, sound really harsh. In the culture of the church today we seem to really struggle with confrontation, even over sin. We tend to focus more on grace than judgment.

I think the distinctive here is really important. This is talking about someone who “calls himself a brother”. This is not talking about someone who has realized their failures, confessed their sins and is seeking healing, etc. This is a person who is still putting on in their life as if their testimony is pure and yet underneath the surface there is unconfessed sin and immorality taking place.

You know, there are probably people that know the truth, and when they see the church doing nothing it looks as if the church is condoning the sin by ignoring it.

What does this do to the church? Paul says here “that a little yeast works through the whole batch”. Ignoring sin among people who are claiming to be our brothers and sisters, dumbs down the severity of sin. Suddenly sin just isn’t quite the same big deal that it really is! I ask myself this question often, “Have we lost the seriousness of what sin really does to the lives of people?”

So, what should we do?

I think scripture gives us some pretty clear instructions…

Galatians 6:1, “If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.”

In Matthew 18…

Go to your brother or sister and seek to understand their fault, just between the two of you. Many times issues could be resolved at this level—but far too often we don’t go to our brother or sister, we go to everybody else with this “hot nugget of gossip” about someone else’s faults.

If step 1 doesn’t work, go back and take someone else with you. So that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses

If that doesn’t work then the matter needs to be brought before the church. Remembering always that the intention in this matter is restoration, not destruction. We are not here to cast stones. We are here to extend grace.

Does the church do a good job at this generally? What say you?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

1st Corinthians 3:5-6 & 18-19

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.

Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a "fool" so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.

Does my pride get in the way of God’s desires?

You know, its Paul who is writing these words—“What is Paul?” He speaks of himself as only a servant.

So many times we just say what is expected of us to say. But do we really mean it? Do we really see ourselves as servants? Look at the posture of a servant. Servants don’t set vision. Servants don’t question the task. Servants serve.

Yet we are told that as pastors that our primary task is to be the vision caster. I do not misunderstand the calling here, but I do think that questions about motives need to be closely examined. Who’s vision am I casting? The vision that I cast must be the vision of the Master—not mine.

I should be reading all that I can read. So that God can speak to me and I have the wisdom to understand. I should be staying in his Word, so that he can direct me through the incredible truth of the Word. I should be broken on my face before him, so that my will is completely conformed to his will.

It is so easy for us to begin to compare ourselves among ourselves. It is also so easy for us to see what God is doing in our own ministry and begin to think that it was because of what we are capable of doing. When that happens I think that God will do whatever it takes to bring the glory back to him.

This is not about me. This is not about any personality, or ability, or plan. This is all about God.

My hearts cry today is that it stays that way!

So God, keep me broken before you, realizing that I am reaping what someone else has sown. I may be watering and fertilizing, but it is You—and ONLY YOU who makes it grow.

Keep me in that place!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

1st Corinthians 3:1-4

Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men?

The church needs spiritual people. I’m afraid we have too many infants.

Do you get the idea that this thing called faith in our lives lifts us up above ourselves? Lifts us up to a higher level than the natural, “worldly” man that we tend to be when left to our own inclinations.

When we allow jealousy and quarrelling to be a part of our lives. When we begin to argue over who’s the best teacher.

Paul says when we are behaving like this we are acting like mere men. As opposed to acting like what? Well… spiritual people!

What is this saying about the way spiritual mature people should behave themselves? One of the commitments that I teach in membership class at our church is the membership commitment of, “I will give up my right to demand my rights.” That doesn’t mean that you are not entitled to an opinion, or that you are not going to have your own personal taste about many things. But what it does teach is that for the good of the kingdom of God, I will not stomp my foot and stick out my lower lip and demand that things be done my way, or I’ll hit the highway. It takes spiritually mature people to behave that way!

When infants don’t get their way—well, they be come jealous, they fuss and fight, pull each others hair—you know the drill. Now we have become much to mature to behave like that—right?

I must admit that I still have to fight the urge at times to act down right childish! I want my way. After all, I think my way’s right! But I am a part of something that is far bigger than my own personal taste, I’m a part of the church, and the church needs spiritual people. People who see beyond themselves to the people that need to be reached with the message of the gospel.

Spiritual people eat spiritual food. So I must stay in his Word. I must stay broken before him in prayer. I must worship and listen to the Spirit as he teaches and guides me.

When God looks at my life—may he see a spiritual man. Not a juvenile.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

I think 'm getting old! We took a awesome group of young adults to the Winterjam concert last night. A) I didn't even know some of the artist B) I thought the music was mostly to loud and C) We didn't get home until 1:00 AM and that was way past my bedtime!
But how great it was to see this incredible group of young adults as they worshiped and praised the Lord.
My favorite artist of the evening was Stephen Curtis Chapman--I guess that's showing my age again! He sang a song that really spoke to my heart. It was one that I have heard many times before, but in the light of what God has been sharing with my heart it just seemed to fit so well. It is called, "My Magnificent Obsession" Check out the lyrics...

Lord, You know how much
I wanna know so much
In the way of answers
And explanation
I have cried and prayed,
And still I seem to stay
In the middle of life’s complications
All this pursuing
Leaves me feelin’ like
I’m chasin’ down the wind
But now it’s brought me back to You
And I can see again

This is everything I want,
This is everything I need
I want this to be my one
Consuming passion
Everything my heart desires
Lord, I want it all to be for You,
Be my magnificent obsession
Yeah-yeah, yeah, yeah

So capture my heart again,
Take me to depths I’ve never been
Into the riches of Your grace and Your mercy
Return me to the cross,
And let me be completely lost
In the wonder of the love
That You’ve shown me
Cut through these chains that tie me down
To so many lesser things,
Let all my dreams fall to the ground
Until this one remains

This is everything I want,
This is everything I need
I want this to be my one
Consuming passion
Everything my heart desires
Lord, I want it all to be for You,
Be my magnificent obsession
My magnificent obsession
Yeah-yeah, yeah, yeah

You are everything I want
And You are everything I need
Lord, You are all my heart desires,
You are everything to me

You are everything I want,
You are everything I need
I want You to be my one
Consuming passion
Everything my heart desires
Lord, I want it all to be for You,
I want it all to be for You
‘Cause You are everything I want,
You are everything I need
I want You to be my one
Consuming passion
Everything my heart desires
Lord, I want it all to be for You,
Be my magnificent obsession

I am reminded again of that verse--But you have the mind of Christ

Friday, February 16, 2007

1st Corinthians 2:16

"For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.

Do I really even begin to think that I have the mind of Christ?

This seems to be completing a thought that Paul began all the way back in chapter 1. In 1:4-7 he says, ‘In him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge—because out testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore, you do not lack any spiritual gift…”

He speaks of God taking what is foolish—the foolishness of the cross, of wisdom, strength, etc and turning it all upside down. He talks about the Holy Spirit revealing the spirit of God to those that are spiritual. And then the conclusion is—“But we have the mind of Christ.”

And I want to scream—hold on, not me!

I mean if I am honest I find myself worrying and fretting and seeing things just the way that I think they are—thank you very much! This is a matter of focus. This is a matter of passion! Honestly, some days I feel that I have allowed my culture, the expectations that others have of me, to shape me. When that happens my focus and my passions are missing the mark. In the process I am missing the mind of Christ.

Frankly, that is something that I don’t want to miss!

If I take a look at my world today there are some questions, for sure!

Ø What is the mind of Christ for my family? There are things going on right now that don’t seem to have a outcome that I yet understand.

Ø What is the mind of Christ for our church? The mind of Christ isn’t just about the final destination, but the next step in the process. I kind of need to know that for sure!

So God, help me to push other things aside! There is nothing more important than hearing from you. What I think about stuff really doesn’t matter. Until You have spoken the rest is just noise.

Get me out of the noise God! I want to hear your heart and know your mind.