1 Corinthians 16:1-24 – Everything in Love

Read 1 Corinthians 16:1-24

Paul concludes his first letter to the Corinthians in this chapter.  He is wrapping up his teaching to them on practices for worship and an understanding of the truth.  He is winding down and bidding them farewell.  He lets them know what to expect from him and other believers.  There is an open line of communication and he is being totally transparent.

Are we transparent in our faith?  Do we tell it like it is, that Jesus was crucified, dying for our sins, and then rose from the grave victorious over death so that we, too, could live forever with him.  When we say those words, do you imagine what our God did for us?  Does it rock you to your core?  Think on that for a moment.  We’ve heard it before, but let the truth resonate with you.  Jesus died for YOU! Powerful.

Amidst the farewell and wrap up there is as gem of a passage (vv 13 and 14) nestled here in today’s reading.  It grabbed me.  Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love.” I love it!  Simple.  Direct.  Brilliant!  That’s a good passage to memorize, don’t you think?

Be on guard for the evil one.  He is crafty and is waiting to pounce, waiting for us to be weak and distracted.  Stand firm in the faith because it’s too easy to be wishy washy when we let the voices of the world into our heads.  Be courageous goes beyond not being afraid, it is taking a bold stand when it isn’t comfortable.  Be strong when forces push and pull at us.  Remember 1 Corinthians 12:9, “’My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”  We can be strong when we call on God.  Do you do everything with love?  Love God and Love Each other, so before you act, think – am I being loving?

What if we started every day reciting those verses, and perhaps recited them with our meal prayers, our evening prayers, and anytime during the day we were feeling weary?  What if?  I’m going to try it, and I encourage you to do the same.

Let’s pray.  Father God, you have come to me again in my weakness. Help me lean on you and rely on your grace and mercy.  Help me to internalize this great message today and be on guard, be faithful, be courageous and bold, and do everything in love.  Show me those that are ready to hear from you, and give me the message they need.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

1 Corinthians 15:1-58 – Resurrection

Read 1 Corinthians 15:1-58

This was a little longer reading than most days, but it all seemed to fit together so I chose not to split it up.  Resurrection is a big deal, so let’s see if we can unpack it a little bit together.

Paul stumbled upon something – the Corinthian church did not believe in the resurrection!  He had to nip that one in the bud.  They denied that their flawed bodies were indeed loved by God, and taking care of them was not in their agenda.

There are some key issues here in thinking about resurrection.  You can think of it as the glue that holds creation and redemption together.  We are God’s creation, and our bodies are resurrected when we are redeemed.  When we are resurrected, we are finally made whole.  But doesn’t the whole idea of resurrection just seem to good to be true?  I’m not sure I’ve ever totally grasped the enormity of what will happen after death.

Was there a verse or two that either resonated with you today or caused you some confusion?  You can share those in the comments below.  It’s always a safe place to ask questions.  Verse 43 really resonated with me.  “Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength.”

One thing I know for sure is that God has it all figured out.  His plans are better than we could even dare to fathom.  When our bodies are resurrected to be with Jesus, it will be glorious!

Let’s pray.  Father I look forward to the day when I can stand in your presence with a new, resurrected body.  I don’t have it all figured out, and that’s okay because you do.  I thank you for this promise and assurance.  In the hear and now, help me to live for you and help others yearn to do the same.  In Jesus’ n

1 Corinthians 14:26-40 – Orderly Worship

Read 1 Corinthians 14:26-40

This passage has some interesting and troubling things to say. Having grown up Lutheran (not charismatic Lutheran), I didn’t have much exposure to speaking in tongues.  There is a lot of emphasis here on that, and I think that is helpful for the whole church.  The gift of tongues is a precious gift, but not all have it, and when we hear such a beautiful, unknown language being spoken, it is impossible to be strengthened when you don’t have an understanding.  For the person speaking, there is a true manifestation of the spirit, for it is the spirit within us speaking, so the benefit is limited to the speaker.

Even  to this day, I have only been to a couple worship services where the spirit was speaking through others and manifesting itself in many different ways.  Those are powerful moments for all  believers to watch the Spirit come alive in ways we are not accustomed to allowing it.  It can even be frightening to those who have not seen such things happen!

So, Paul is trying to set some boundaries here, it would seem, to benefit the whole church on a continuing basis.  Having order to worship is helpful for those leading for those in the pew.  Having an expectation of what is coming can be reassuring and comforting.

What did you think about the part about women being silent in worship?  I thought that was an abrupt segue from talking about the order of worship and to be careful about speaking in tongues.  Where did that come from?  Thanks to my curiousity, I checked with one of David’s commentaries, and there is speculation that Paul didn’t actually write those verses, that they were inserted sometime later. It would seem that it contradicts what Paul had said before, and historically there were plenty of women in pastoral roles and leadership within the early church (Phoebe, Prisca, Junia, etc). Instead of forbidding women to pray or prophesy in church, it may be more of don’t let them speak (gossip, whisper, disrupt) or even ask questions, which would also distract.

God’s word speaks to us differently.  What were your thoughts?  I’d love you to leave a comment below?  Conversations about this passage, or any of the posts would be great fun!

Let’s pray.  Heavenly Father I thank you for another beautiful day and an opportunity to live in your world.  Help me to live a life of worship, beyond Sunday mornings.  You are worthy of our praise and I love to sing your praises.  Lift me up today and shine through me as I encounter others.  Shine down your healing power on those walking with affliction today.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

1 Corinthians 14:1-25 – Be Careful

Read 1 Corinthians 14:1-25

How we handle our spiritual gifts is very important.  Paul cautions us here to be careful in how, when and where we use our gifts. He places a lot of emphasis on the gift of prophecy being a very helpful gift, and those who can speak in tongues must watch that they don’t exclusively talk in the Spirit lest those around them that cannot speak or cannot understand are left out.  It is not God’s intention  that we set ourselves apart because of our gifts.  To the contrary, we are to use our gifts to glorify him and help each other.

As I read through this passage today, I couldn’t help but understand Paul’s counsel in a new way.  After retiring to Mexico, I am constantly surrounded by the native speakers, and many times I do not understand a single thing I hear.  I am always relieved when after my feeble attempt to speak, the native speaker asks me, in English, if I would rather ask that again in English.  I may turn several shades of red, but until I have a better understanding and grasp of the language, which is my intention, I am often frustrated, or unsure of myself in some situations.

In this same way, if we were attending a church service where people were speaking in tongues the whole time, unless there were also people gifted with interpretation present, there would be a sense of confusion among the people.

So this is a good reminder to us that our gifts are meant to help other people, and if we are seeking self gratification or some other personal gain, we are misusing the gifts God so richly lavished on us.

Again, if you haven’t ever done a spiritual gift analysis, I would encourage you to do so.  You don’t want to live another minute without being in God’s will or leaving his gift unopened.

Let’s pray.  Father God thank you for the gifts you have given me.  I pray that I don’t misuse them in any way.   Please give me a clean heart so that I can enter into a time of worship to you.  You alone are my source.  May I empty myself of me to be ready for you to move.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 – Love Indeed

Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

We’re here!  The “love” chapter.  I bet you can’t even count the number of times you’ve heard this, whether it be at a wedding or elsewhere.  Maybe you even had it read at your own wedding (if you’re married).  There are some really beautiful passages in this chapter.

Let’s look at it anew today.  Read it through (it’s short) one more time and this time let each phrase resonate with you.  Did something new speak to you today?

What meaning will this chapter have if we look at the context in which Paul is writing.  This more than a lovely exposition on love.  In the preceding chapters, and those that will follow, Paul has been trying to provide the Corinthian church with guidelines for practice, particularly in worship.  Here, in speaking of love, he doesn’t refer to the greatest love of all, that is how God sent his Son to die for our sins.  He is referring to an attribute of believers, how we should act towards each other, particularly as it applies to our spiritual gifting.

There is no room here for selfishness.  Love is what should manifest itself as a manner of life that we all live.  If we have a loving heart and spirit, all other gifts and acts of service will fall into place.  Paul says that our gifts mean nothing if we do not love.

But what is love?  Paul eloquently states here what it is and what it is not.  Looking at the Corinthians and their behaviors, Paul is all but saying they aren’t loving.  When you read through his list, where do you feel the urging to do better?  Are you a jealous person?  Do you feel like giving up on a relationship? Do you need some patience with a loved one?

Our two main commandments are to love God with our whole heart, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Here again, we are called to love, and love is the “requirement” for our behavior.  If we don’t love, we are worthless.  Take a moment to step back from a project you are working on.   Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?”  If your answer is anything other than “Because I love….” or “I am doing this for love”, then maybe you should rethink the project.

Love is a commitment, a learned behavior, one that is cultivated over time and nurtured with care.  We aren’t just patient overnight, we have to work at it.  In the context of your church family, how are you doing at being loving with your brothers and sisters?

Let’s pray.  Lord you are the author and perfecter of love.  You have given us the best example of what it means to love.  May I be more in tune to your leading, and help me to grow in character.  May all I say and do be done in love.  Work in my heart to draw me closer to you. In Jesus’ name.  Amen.