Saturday, January 31, 2015

2 Corinthians 3:7-18 Glory

2 Corinthians 3:7-18 NIV
Paul was not afraid to proclaim the gospel. He faced persecution and death; yet, that would not stop him from proclaiming the good of news of Jesus Christ. In Jesus, the veil that left the people in the darkness; that is the veil that had shrouded God glory, had been lifted. Paul wanted everyone to contemplate the glory of God. He was willing to do all that he could that everyone would live in the hope of knowing His glory.

Have you seen it? Do you know it? Has the veil been lifted for you. Do you know Jesus the Christ? Do you contemplate the glory of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Be not afraid. Be not afraid to share the glory of God in Christ Jesus with others. For He is the source of all hope.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, January 30, 2015

2 Corinthians 3:1-6 Commending Ourselves

2 Corinthians 3:1-6 NIV
Sometimes when I attend meetings, I end up doing something that I am not particularly fond of. That is that ice-breaker where we go around the room and everyone introduces themselves by giving their names as well as telling something about themselves. Usually the leader wants us to add something wonderful we do or have done - kind of a pat on the back for ourselves.

Paul asks in his letter today (quite sarcastically, I imagine) "Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you?"

You see, in these small groups, my name should be enough so people know how to address me. It's not that I am shy. It just makes me uncomfortable talking about "me" rather than the One who sends me. Who I am really is not important. Who the great "I Am" is of the most importance. After all, I can do nothing; I can accomplish nothing good without Him; without the Spirit of Christ that dwells within. It is the Spirit that gifts life and directs us. He even directs us to such meetings where we end up commending ourselves. I would much prefer that my life be a testimony to the Spirit of Christ than to who I am.

I do indeed have confidence in the life I live. However, that confidence is not in myself; but, in the God who has delivered me from myself and called me to Himself. I am confident that my life is in His hands.

May we all be living testimonies of His love.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, January 29, 2015

2 Corinthians 2:12-17 Walk Through The Door

2 Corinthians 2:12-17 NIV
When God opens a door for us, it is a wise thing to walk through and preach the gospel of Christ. He wouldn't open the door for us if it wasn't His will for us or for others.

Paul says that God "uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life."

Proclaiming the Word of God will assuredly make us a few enemies. Not everyone wants to hear the truth. But, the Word will bring life to the many who would hear. Do not be afraid. When God opens a door, walk through it sharing the aroma of knowledge of Christ our Lord.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

2 Corinthians 2:1-11 Division Pleases Satan

2 Corinthians 2:1-11
St. Paul urges the church at Corinth to forgive the one who has had to be confronted for their sin. They must, he says, in order that Satan might not outwit them. Forgiveness reconciles us to one another and to God in Christ. Satan is not so keen on us working together for the sake of Christ. His aim is to divide us; to turn us against one another; to keep us from proclaiming the gospel.

Sin causes separation and division. Division switches our focus to things other than the love of God in Christ Jesus. May God help us to forgive our neighbors, our brothers and sisters in Christ that the mission of the church be not hampered by the schemes of the devil.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

2 Corinthians 1:12-24 Yes

 2 Corinthians 1:12-24
Sometimes we plan to do way more than we can physically do. I tend to "overbook" myself and end up changing one or more of my plans as to what I will be doing on any given day. I thank God that my congregation and community understands what flexibility is. Sometimes I say yes to something and because a greater priority or emergency arises I will have to change the schedule and say "No, I cannot go," at the last minute.

Paul planned to go to Corinth twice. At first he said yes. But, his travel plans changed and he had to say no. That's the way it is sometimes. Plans change, but God does not change. His plan for us does not change. Sometimes His plan is difficult for our sinful minds to discern. The message of Jesus the Christ does not change. That message is always a yes. Whether we are with you personally or not, the Lord is and He says yes to all who would believe, Yes. you are my beloved child. Come to me all who are weary. Come to me and I will give you rest in my Son, Jesus Christ, your Lord.

God's peace - Pr. J

Monday, January 26, 2015

2 Corinthians 1:1-11 Trouble Can Be A Good Thing

2 Corinthians 1:1-11 NIV
There are times when we come to a point of feeling totally helpless; like we have fallen into the most miry pit.

Like Jonah being swallowed by a big fish this helplessness is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, if it had not been for that big fish, Jonah would have drowned. God sent that big fish to save Jonah from death so that Jonah could and would go and proclaim the message as God had directed him to.

It is when we are at our lowest point; when we have no reasonable way of helping ourselves, that we must accept our helplessness and rely on God.  Like Paul, when it feels like everything is lost, our hope remains in God who delivers us. We understand that there are those who wish our hope to die. They would desire that our message of the Kingdom of God in Christ Jesus would die. But, it will not die. Our hope, our desire for the Lord, will only be strengthened in the persecution received at the hands of those who reject our faith; by those who reject God.

May the peace of the Lord be with you in all circumstances. God is with you.

Pr. J

Sunday, January 25, 2015

1 Corinthinians 16:19-24 Blessings or Curses

1 Corinthians 16:19-24 NIV
So much for being sweet... St. Paul can be quite tough. He sends warm greetings to the church in Corinth. He sends his love to them. He blesses them saying, "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you." He also curses those who do not love the Lord. "If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed!

St. Paul's a bit tough. Not sure if I'd go there. Not that it hasn't crossed my mind. My mind, on a few occasions, has considered how the prophet Elisha cursed the boys that called him baldy and God's response to the curse. (2 Kings 2:23-25)  Now, that was a serious curse! Those bears came out of the woods and mauled 42 of the boys and not because they did not love the Lord; simply because they were disrespectful to his prophet.

St. Paul cursed those who did not love the Lord. But, I'd rather ask God to soften their hearts to Him; to open their minds; to help them receive their salvation. I'd much prefer to ask for a blessing so that I might live in peace. Yes, I know. That's a little selfish. But, I can get real weary living among a cursed people. Blessed people are much easier to live with.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, January 24, 2015

1 Corinthians 16:5-18 An On The Move Bishop

1 Corinthians 16:5-18 NIV
Paul's first letter to the Corinthians is about to close. I would characterize Paul, among other things, as an on the move Bishop. He was out there moving among the people proclaiming the gospel, teaching and encouraging the followers of Jesus. As far away from someone as he might be, without the use of phones or internet; without the use of cars or planes, he stayed in touch with those whom God had called him to serve. Where he could not be, he sent others.

The early church grew because of men who were willing to reach out across the miles to all people. They were willing to set aside the comforts of a home. They were willing to be persecuted by those who hated them and Jesus. They were willing to give it all for the sake of the Gospel.

Go and make disciples of all people, of all nations. But, in order to do that you must first be a disciple willing to take up your cross, die to self and follow Jesus.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, January 23, 2015

1 Corinthians 16:1-5 Sunday Worship

1 Corinthians 16:1-4 NIV
Paul instructed the Corinthians to set aside an offering to be used for the mission of the church on the first day of every week, on Sunday. They brought their offerings when they gathered together on Sunday to break bread and to remember all that Jesus had done for them.

More than once, I have heard the excuse not to come to worship because worshipping on Sunday is a man-made ritual taken from a pagan custom of worshipping the sun. We worship the Son, not the sun, and He was indeed risen on the first day of the week, Sunday. Excuses like this in no one way justify anyone gathering with members of the Body of Christ to hear the Word, to join in the breaking of the bread, or to fellowship with other believers.

We know that the Sabbath, the day of rest, is Saturday. But, the gathering of Jesus' followers happens on Sunday. This "ritual" was not created decades later by an institutional church. It began on the day that Jesus was resurrected when he went to the disciples who were gathered together in fear in that room behind locked doors. Those first disciples continued to gather together for worship on the first day of the week, on Sunday, in remembrance of the Lord's first appearance to them after his crucifixion.

"On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight." (Acts 20:7)

Only one or two hours on Sunday to celebrate what our Lord has done for us? Rejoice! for the Lord is risen! Rejoice too that, most probably, none of your pastors have the habit of preaching 'till midnight, unless of course the service doesn't begin until 11 p.m..

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, January 22, 2015

1 Corinthians 15:12-58 Death, Grief, Comfort; The Word of God

1 Corinthians 15:12-58 NIV
In our reading today we have a couple of readings that are often used for funerals. At a church conference a few years ago, I remember hearing a pastor, who was also an author, tell us that we need to remember that the "dead are dead." She was confident that scripture would not bring anyone comfort. I beg to differ with her and am amazed that she professed to be a Christian and a pastor at that. I am not sure what she was suggesting we should do or say then to comfort others in their grief. I see no purpose for funerals or memorials if there is no chance for hope to those who are dying inside while yet in this world.

The Word of God is our only real comfort in times like these. Scripture would remind us that even though we die we shall live. It is a great mystery. We cannot totally understand it; but, those who believe that Jesus died and was risen from the grave are confident that they and all who believe will follow in his footsteps though the gate of death into eternal life. Death does not have the victory over us. Jesus has victory over death for all who would follow him.

He is risen and ascended! So shall we!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 Good News

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 NIV
I check the local news every morning at Some mornings the news is usually just lists of scores from sporting events. I am probably one of the few in this country who does not consider sporting events as news. Those things worthy of news should be those things that happen on a very infrequent basis or is a one of a kind event. Sporting events just don't fit into the category of unique. 

It would be good if we could get as excited over the "Good News" as we do when our favorite team makes it to the Super Bowl. Where's the enthusiasm for the new of Jesus Christ? Where's the enthusiasm when we hear or share the news "...of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep." (vs 3-6)

Jesus died for you and yet he lives! Because he lives so shall all who believe in him! Do you really believe it? And, if we do believe; is it not enough to get us up from our couches and share this marvelous news; this news of first importance, with others?

Get excited! There is no other news of more importance. Jesus lives for you! He has won the race! He has triumphed! He has done this all for you!

May the grace of God that is within you share the news that He loves the world so much that He was willing to die that we might live.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

1 Corinthians 14 NIV Good Order

1 Corinthians 14 NIV
"But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way." (vs 40)

Although, it has not happened often, I have had people blurt out a question or a story during the middle of a worship service. The incidents have been rare and they really did not interrupt the service. Seemed a bit odd, but nothing that switched our focus from worshipping.

It appears though that St. Paul had to address too much talking in the church; too many interruptions. There were those who were gifted in speaking in tongues who appear to have been monopolizing the service. There also appears to have been women who were constantly interrupting.

Now there is probably nothing wrong with speaking in tongues during Worship if the service is designed to do that and if everyone is aware of it. However, if there is no one there to interpret so people can hear and understand what God has to say then they are just making noise; noise that switches the focus from God to self. As for asking questions; questions are good. But, often we will find that if we listen long enough and intently enough the question will be answered anyway. If not... you can write it down and ask the pastor or speaker or a friend or your spouse what they meant later.

Paul exhorts us to good order when we gather together to worship God. Worship is not about the individual. It's about God. Whenever we do or say something during worship it should glorify God, not us. Speaking out of turn in any language is distracting. It turns the focus away from God to the individual. That goes not just for talking out of turn; but, for things we would add to or take away from the service. I have actually had people question why we pray the Lord's prayer at every service instead of letting the Holy Spirit guide our prayers. They thought the Lord's Prayer was too rote. Some of you may get that question. Some may not. I frankly didn't understand why anyone who professed to be a Lutheran Christian would even ask the question. Not long ago, I worshipped with a mission congregation. The first words in the sermon reminded us to "not mess with the liturgy." The pastor said that we should not mess with the liturgy because even when the pastor totally messes up the sermon (and we surely can at times when our egos or certain personal agendas take over) the liturgy feeds the people because it is the word of God.

So, for us Lutherans, we (most of us, at least) stick with the liturgy. We stick with good order in the service of God.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, January 19, 2015

1 Corinthians 13 Love Never Fails

1 Corinthians 13 NIV
One of the most often requested readings for weddings is found in the reading today.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." (vs 4-8a)

Good advice for two people who are about to commit their whole earthly lives to one another. Love does not fail; however, due to our sinful natures we often fail to love. Marriages fall apart because we love ourselves or someone or something else more than the one we have committed to spend the rest of our lives with. Other relationships fail; as well, because of a lack of love.

The greatest gifts, says St. Paul, is love. God has given us love in His Son, Jesus Christ. There is no greater love than a love that is willing die for others, as Jesus died for us. We respond to His love by giving that love to others. That love from God does not fail. It can move mountains and crush molehills. The love of God inspires us to inspire others with His love.

As a friend of mine often says: "Share the love!"

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

1 Corinthians 12:4-31 Gifts In The Closet?

1 Corinthians 12:4-31
Every Christian; every member of the body of Christ, has received gifts from God to use for the good of the whole body.

I have heard way too often that when a person retires they will have time to use those God given gifts to serve Him; to serve the church; to serve others. The gifts of God end up being put on a shelf and the closet door shut on them until the person who receives them has time to make using them a priority.

I don't know about you; but, as I age, my ability to use some of the gifts have waned just a bit. I am a bit slower and my ability to serve as many as I once did is not quite as proficient. However, since I have actually used some of those gifts my ability to use them has actually gotten better with practice.

My husband purchased a drone last summer so that he could fly over the forest and lake and take pictures of wildlife. His intentions were to do this with our youngest granddaughter. He had hoped that the gift he was giving her was time with him and the opportunity to learn about a new technology and art form as she likes both technology and art. He convinced her to sit still long enough to help put it together. But, they only attempted to fly it once. It sat on a shelf thereafter. It sat unused until he gave it to our son who also appreciates technology and art. (He's a photographer - John Arthur Photography) The drone is a bit difficult to maneuver; but, he is working on it. Sometimes, it takes time and practice to use a gift proficiently.

The time is now! Don't put those gifts on a shelf. God gives them to us a for a purpose. They are for the common good of the whole body. Use them or lose them! And, thank God that He has equipped you to serve Him according to the call He has called you to.

By the way, in regards to answering the call to serve. Don't bother telling Him no. You're wasting precious time in doing so. He will keep calling. How long are you going to keep telling Him no?

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, January 17, 2015

1 Corinthians 12:1-3 Cursing the Name of Jesus

1 Corinthians 12:1-3 NIV
I am not sure what to make of this. I have heard people say Jesus is my Lord; Jesus is my savior and the very next day they will be taking his name in vain, "cursing up a storm." So how is it that they can be speaking by the Holy Spirit in one instance and definitely not the next? How quickly the tide can change!

We are all sinful human beings. We all are led astray from time to time. May God help us to stay in "His Way" so that we are not led by other spirits; by false idols, to take the name's Lord in vain; to curse the name of Jesus. May God help us to profess and glorify His Holy Name!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, January 16, 2015

1 Corinthians 11:17-34 Discern The Body of Christ

1 Corinthians 11:17-34 NIV
 "For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep." (vs 29-30)

It is necessary to discern the context in which we are reading this reminder to discern the Body of Christ. Paul is reminding the people that when they come together their are divisions among them. Some think of themselves more highly than others. They lift their own desires and needs before others.

When Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper he said, "This is my body. This is my blood." We believe this. We receive His Body when we receive the Sacrament. Also, it is good to keep in mind is that each member who receives this Sacrament is a member of His Body. When we receive His Body in the Sacrament without discerning that these others with us are members of His Body; that He resides in them and they in us, we are disrespecting Jesus (Big Time!). We are eating and drinking judgment upon ourselves.

Therefore; if you have something against your brother or sister in Christ make every opportunity to be reconciled before you come to the Table. For we are one in Christ. We, who receive His Body are the Body of Christ. Do not disrespect His Body. It is as simple and as mysterious as that.

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. Sorry, woke up late this morning and on my way out, already. Martin Luther had a lot to say on this and I wish I had more time to elaborate. This lesson requires much more time and effort. If members wish for me to elaborate, we could do a class or workshop on this. Let me know if any are interested...

Thursday, January 15, 2015

1 Corinth 11:1-16 Long or Short Hair?

1 Corinithians 11:1-16 NIV
Here is a very confusing reading. It has been and continues to be debated as to what it actually means. Should men wear short hair and women long? St. Paul asks: "Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has a long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given as her covering."

First off, I'm thinking that most men in Jesus' day wore their hair a bit longer than many today. so what does Paul mean? Is there a length that he considers too long? Is there a length for women's hair that is too short? It is also difficult for me to grasp whether this is from God or Paul for the sake of respect toward local customs. After all, there is the Nazirite vow to consider. Those who made this vow were/are not allowed to cut their hair, as in the case of Samson. Numbers 6:5 says: “During the entire period of their Nazirite vow, no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the Lord is over; they must let their hair grow long." In Leviticus (19:26-27) we read:  “Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard."

I think that it is important to note that this Paul's discourse on the hair comes immediately following Paul's exhortation to be all things to all people and not to do things that might cause weaker consciences to stumble and fall. It comes in the midst of Paul's exhortations to not do anything that would bring division. Were the Corinthians resorting to arguing about the length of hair others should have rather than sharing the gospel? Is Paul attempting to stop divisions that are brought about by personal customs on length of hair so that they would focus on the more important things; you know, like the gospel? If so, he appears to have possibly made the length of hair even more divisive, as we sometimes still waste time debating it today.

As for me and my weaker conscience, I wear long hair. I don't have much time in my life for that type of vanity. I don't have and am unwilling to give up precious time to groom my hair so that it conforms to the way people around me might think the hair of a woman of my advancing age be. I am not going to a beauty parlor every couple of weeks for a trim or dye. Gray is good. Usually, when people suggest I should cut it my response is something like "Actually I was thinking about natural dreadlocks. It would only take a few days for this mess." After comments like that my family usually says nothing more about my hair for awhile. I think they may fear that I would do it.

Whether we wear our hair long or short makes little difference to our salvation. We are saved by faith alone. As for women wearing a head covering, I confess, I take comfort in Paul's words: "...if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God." (vs 15, 16)

Have a blessed day...

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

1 Corinth 10:14-33 Everything Not Beneficial!

1 Corinthians 10:14-33 NIV
Yup! We have the right to do anything, but not everything is beneficial, according to St. Paul. We who are of the body of Christ, should think first of what is good for others and not so much for ourselves. If what we eat or drink; what we do, would be damaging to others then we ought not be doing it. It is as simple as that.

I know that the world teaches that we have rights. But, so does everyone else around us. As we're busy thinking about our own rights to do whatever we please; let us all consider how we might be trampling on the rights and the lives of others.

We have the right to do anything; but, is that anything that we choose to do building up others; building up the body of Christ, glorifying God?

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved." (vs 31-33)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

1 Corinthians 10:1-13 Through The Wilderness

1 Corinthians 10:1-13 NIV
The Israelites wandered through the wilderness for many years. God led them in a pillar of fire. According to St. Paul, the rock who is Jesus the Christ was with them. But, not all of them made it through to the promised land. There were those who were idolaters; those who indulged in revelry. Some testes Christ and were killed by snakes. Others grumbled and were killed by the destroying angel. Not all of them made it through. Although, they followed that pillar of fire through the wilderness; there were those who turned their back on Christ and lived according to their own desires.

St. Paul tells us this to remind us that these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as we journey through our own wilderness. There will be temptations; but, God does not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear.

The wilderness can be a rough place; but, Christ is with us. May God grant us the wisdom, the strength, and the courage to follow in His Way to the promised land, the Heavenly Kingdom.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, January 12, 2015

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Self-Discipline; Running the Race

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NIV
My husband is a Detroit Lions fan. Most everybody else that I know belong to the Green Bay Packers club. Personally, the only sport I am interested in is the race that St. Paul is talking about in today's reading. "Run in such a way as to get the prize," he says.

No matter what sport one participates in, one must practice. Those who don't play and only observe practice sitting on the edge of a couch or stadium seat. (Sorry, I couldn't help myself) That would take a lot of self-discipline on my part to sit for that long and watch others play. But, no matter what it is that we desire; we must discipline ourselves to reach for what we desire. That goes, not just for sports, but for all areas of life. Toini Heikkinen, a neighbor and a former music teacher (she has since reached the end of the race.) use to insist that her students practice every day. It was not an option. She expected them to discipline themselves if they truly wanted to play the piano well.

All these things are well and good. But, remember they only satisfy for a time here on earth. If our ultimate goal is living in the presence of God; in His eternal Kingdom, then we might want to discipline ourselves in our journey (race?) for that goal.

In reality, we cannot run the race and win; for life in the Kingdom of God was already won for us on the cross by our Lord and Savior, Jesus. I feel justified in calling it a race only because some days I seem to be in a pretty big hurry to see that Kingdom in all of God's glory.

May God bless your journey...

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, January 11, 2015

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 NIV A Servant's Heart

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 NIV
We are free to do as we please. St. Paul chose to use his freedom to become a slave (servant) to everyone to win as many to Christ as possible. He did not lord it over others. He became like them so that they would be open to hearing the Word.

If proclaiming the gospel is a priority for us in this world then sometimes we have to give up a few things (die to self) in order that others might be willing to listen and hear. Those who would serve others need to be willing and able to walk, as the saying goes, a mile in the shoes of others.

My husband and I own an adult foster care. Direct care is not one of the easiest professions. Not everyone is called to the health care profession. It takes a lot of patience as well as a lot of compassion and empathy. It takes a bit of dying to self for the sake of others. My husband does the hiring after I review the applications. Since you cannot work in health care if you have certain things on your criminal record, that is one of the primary things I look for along with experience. I check the Michigan Corrections web-site to see if they have spent any time in prison or if they have any arrests for sexual misconduct that they did not report on their applications. They will have to have a more thorough background check later if we decide to hire them. I also always check (I believe most employers today do) Facebook and other social media. I want to know if the attitude I see on their page is all about "me" or if they have a servants heart. If you want to serve the elderly, the physically or mentally disabled know that you cannot do it well unless you are willing to give up a part of yourself and walk a mile in their shoes. Compassion, empathy, and integrity are all necessary attributes for one who would serve others.

We are free to do as we please. But, servants are willing to die for the sake of others. Jesus did.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, January 10, 2015

1 Corinthians 9:1-18 Freedom In Christ

1 Corinithians 9:1-18 NIV
St. Paul's ministry is not only questioned by people outside the church; after all that he has done for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of the people of Corinth, he and is authority are questioned by the people of the church as well. This seems to be a common problem within the church today as well. If we don't like what is said or done; we would like to be freed from our leaders. Get rid of them...

Sometimes, it is necessary remove a pastor as in cases of wolves in sheep's clothing. However, most of the time it is merely a personality conflict or a control issue. I have a friend who when talking with me will, at times, refer to "the boss." By "the boss," he is not referring to me. He is referring to our heavenly Father, the one to whom we are accountable. He is "the boss." We will all ultimately answer to God for what those things that we have said and done; those things that we have left unsaid and undone. Thanks be to God for Jesus the Christ, the one we proclaim has granted us freedom to serve our heavenly Father by the giving of his life for us!

Through Jesus Christ, God our Father granted us the freedom to proclaim the Gospel, by the power of the Holy Spirit. The world may not recognize this freedom; but, God our Father does and that's the only thing that matters. We may suffer and die in this world because we make use of this freedom in Christ to proclaim the truth. But, it is better to suffer and die so that the Good News of the Kingdom of God may be advanced in a world that rejects Him than to deny this freedom purchased for us by the blood of Christ.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, January 9, 2015

1 Corinthians 8 What We Eat Or Don't Eat

1 Corinthians 8 NIV
St. Paul said we should not worry about eating food sacrificed to idols. "Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall." (vs 13) But, let us consider that not eating meat might also cause them to fall.

Now, I have nothing against a vegetarian diet. I personally prefer only vegetables; but, I do eat meat for convenience sake. No one else in my family has ever been willing to eat only a vegetarian diet and definitely not a vegan diet!

I once knew a woman serving in her pastoral internship. She was a vegan. She served as a mission developer in a remote area. Needles to say, she knocked on more than a few doors and ended up at a lot of tables and community meals where she refused to touch most of what was on the menu. People indulged her; but, they also talked about her. It hampered her ministry and ultimately she did not make it through her internship. Now, some may think that the people who judged because of what she would not eat were petty. But, we also need to understand that she was trying to become one of the community and was acting totally alien to the community; rejecting their culture and ultimately, in their eyes, rejecting and judging them because they ate meat. Her diet kept them from hearing the Word of God. May sound petty, but it is true. They did not listen to her. They shut their ears to her. She was proclaiming the Gospel; but, no one was listening.

Now, this is not to say that vegetarians and vegans have no place in the ministry. There is nothing wrong with a vegetarian diet. It is probably a good thing for many. What we eat or don't eat should have no bearing on our ministry. But, sometimes it does. We have long recognized that it is a good thing for there be some kind of compatibility between the pastor and congregation for mission to be able to occur well. Usually, it is necessary to accept the culture of a community that we are serving before the people of that culture are going to receive us or anything we have to say. Now, I know that this intern did not consider meat to be a false god that just us pagans eat. However, her adherence to such a strict diet was such an issue for her that it appeared to others to sometimes take precedence over the Gospel. Her diet; not theirs, was the false god in the eyes of those she was trying to introduce to Jesus.

"But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do. Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak." (vs 8, 9) So, keep in mind the context of the community that you are called to serve. Since, eating is something that occurs daily, it is a huge part of a community's culture. No two communities are completely alike. Accept them for who they are. God does!

One of my pet peeves pertains to training that churches often have on how to minister to specific ethnic groups. I had attended more than one in my previous denomination. The problem is these classes tend to generalize people. No two people are alike. No two communities are alike. I have served a community on and near an Ojibway Reservation for sixteen years and I can tell you that you cannot get to know what a person or community is like until you get to know them personally. The Ojibway culture is different than other Native American cultures. Someone who lives in the Southwest lives in the different culture than someone who lives in the Midwest; regardless of their ethnic backgrounds. There are similarities, of course; but, no two are so alike that we can take a class and actually know everything. I have also seen pastors of various denominations fall when it comes to serving Finnish Americans. We have a culture all of our own here in the U.P.. I've known pastors who have come here and have actually tried to "fix" us! Doesn't work... You're here to proclaim the Gospel. Jesus fixes. He saves. We don't.

There are no classes that can teach you what someone is like. "We know that 'We all possess knowledge. But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.'" (vs 1) Sit down at the table and eat with those whom you would serve; talk with them and even more importantly, listen! And... please, don't turn your nose up at anything that your host would serve. 

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, January 8, 2015

1 Cor 7 Marriage or Not?

1 Corinthians 7 NIV
To marry or not to marry, that is the question.

Paul's concern is that whatever it is that we choose that it does not hinder us from serving the Lord. The married person has a family to care for and sometimes that will be the priority. Sometimes, family can be a distraction. Fortunately, most of the time it seems to be a blessing. The unmarried person may be distracted from focusing on service to the Lord by lust or not even always lost; but, just the desire to have someone to share life with.

I have been married for 43 years. And... yes, sometimes my family has distracted me from the ministry to which I am called. But, I was married and had a family long before I accepted that call to serve God as a Pastor in His Church. Paul exhorts us, in such circumstances to remain as we are.

Fortunately, my husband does support me in my call as I try to support him in his call as an administrator at our adult foster care. The main thing is that we both try to be faithful to our call and to the One who calls us.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

1 Corinthians 6:12-20 Promiscuity

1 Corinthians 6:12-20 NIV
Well, today we get to talk about promiscuity... Just cut it out, hey!

Just because you think you can do what you want doesn't mean that everything or everyone you want is good for you. Get this: promiscuity leads to many problems; some of which can be deadly to both body and soul.

When we get to "Thou shall not commit adultery" in confirmation classes, we discuss this concept (reality) of two becoming one. When we are joined with anyone, we are united with them forever. No matter if the relationship lasts one night or one decade we will always be connected to that person spiritually and emotionally. Choose well with whom you sleep (or choose none), not everything and not everyone is beneficial to your life in Christ.

May the relationship that is of prime importance in your life be your union with God the Father, through Jesus the Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

1 Corinthians 6:1-11 Settle Out Of Court

1 Corinthians 6:1-11 NIV
So far I have managed to stay out of the courtroom due to any lawsuits by or against me. But, I have been in the courtroom when other's have been on trial or trying to have a judgment settled. It does not give one much comfort as you sit in a courtroom waiting for someone to be judged. In fact, it is quite unsettling.

St. Paul gives us good advise in that we, as Christians, should settle our differences out of court. Even if we have to humble ourselves a bit in order for that to happen; what is that? After all; we have been washed, we have been sanctified, we have ultimately been justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God.

Save yourself the stress (and a lot of money); settle your differences out of court.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, January 5, 2015

1 Corinthians 5 Representing Jesus

1 Corinthians 5 NIV
So much for the commonly accepted notion that we are not to judge one another.

Today we find Paul exhorting the Christians in Corinth to expel the immoral from among them. He is not saying that they are to be judging the world; those who do not know Christ. He is saying that we are to confront those whose are sexually immoral; and the greedy and swindlers; the idolaters; slanderers; and drunkards and yet claim to be a brother or sister in Christ. We are to remind them, as Paul has, that this is unacceptable for one who claims to be a Christian. Paul tells us that we are to expel that person from among us.

No, the Christian should definitely not be judging the world's morality; not when our own house is such a mess. Sadly, the morality of the world crept into the church from the very beginning and is still there. It appears totally acceptable to live with various lovers and have children by various fathers none of whom were actually married to the woman. It is acceptable to prefer false idols; whether they are money, substances that make you drunk or high, or any of the multitudes of things we seek for self-pleasure over worshipping and serving the one true God. It's just the way it is. But, that is not the way it is suppose to be - not for the one who claims to follow Jesus. It is the beginning of a new year. It is not too late to resolve to change how we live and represent Jesus.

When I worked at the Juvenile Correction Facility I could tell which gangs which youth belonged to; which gang they "represented," just by observing them a little. It didn't take much. The tattoos, the clothes they wore; even how they tied their shoes were dead give-a-ways  as to who they were "representing." But, even more telling than what they wore were the actions that betrayed who they were loyal to. Who are we loyal to? Can the world tell or do we look and sound and act just like any other non-believer to them? To young readers and the old who insist on misrepresenting Christ; instead of gang signs try making the sign of the cross.

May God help us all to remember that it is Jesus whom we are to "represent."

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, January 4, 2015

1 Corinthians 4:6-21 Rod of Discipline or Love?

1 Corinthians 4:6-21
Rod of discipline or love and gentle spirit; which would you prefer? Actually, the only thing I can think of this morning is that if we don't like the rod of discipline then maybe we ought to straighten out our lives and walk in the way that has been set before us. There are not many ways. There is one way. That way has been testified to us by the witnesses of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. Let us listen to them. Let us learn the way in which we are to go and follow Him.

Beginning with those first disciples the church has come a long way. We have strayed often. We have been disciplined often. Yet, there is always love and a gentle spirit to greet us when we return to the way in which we are to go. There is forgiveness.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, January 3, 2015

1 Corinthians 4:1-5 God Knows

1 Corinthians 4:1-5 NIV
There are times when things just don't seem to be going as they should be. It is times like these when it is good to remember that what we think we see isn't always how it actually is. Do not be too quick to judge. We may not be able to figure out how good will come from it all. But, be assured God knows what good He can and will bring from these circumstances. Do not lose heart. God is with you and He has a plan for you. (Rom 8:28)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, January 2, 2015

1 Corinthians 3 Try Meat! Milk Is For Infants!

1 Corinthians 3:1-23 NIV
I have no major objections to dairy products; but, personally, I prefer some meat and potatoes and maybe a few other vegetables appropriately seasoned. Something that I can sink my teeth into.

Paul addresses the Corinthians, not as mature Christians, but as mere infants in Christ who still need to be bottle fed. No meat for them, yet. Are you ready for meat? Not everyone wants it, you know. Some would prefer to be fed only milk. They are just not ready to sink their teeth into the full gospel of Christ because the full gospel of Christ reminds us that we are to deny ourselves and follow in his footsteps. Some would prefer to follow in the ways of the world. The ways of the world are usually contrary to the ways of God. They involve ego and greed. The ways of the world attempt to build man up. Even while having the pretense of worshipping God, it is often apparent that we are lifting up our own good works; building up our own egos. And... so it is desirous to continue being fed with milk. The stuff of God that you can sink your teeth into can be a bit more of a challenge than many would desire.

Try meat! Milk is for infants.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, January 1, 2015

1 Corinthians 2:6-16 United With The Mind of Christ

1 Corinthians 2:6-16 NIV
Others may not have a clue to the mysteries that we have comprehended and sometimes we may forget that they don't. We expect them to understand what we might even call "common sense." But, it is not common sense that leads us to follow Jesus and to discern God's will for us. It is the Spirit of God who does this.

By the Spirit of God we are united in Christ. We are one. We who are of the Body of Christ have the mind of Christ. He is our head. Is it any wonder that we should be able to discern the things that come from God?

My prayer this New Year's Day is that God would open eyes, ears, hearts, and minds that all whom we love would be able to discern God's gracious and loving will for them and for all people.

God's Peace - Pr. J