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Archive for May, 2009

verses 8-10: “and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit 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 toward me did not not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”

Our church had a memorial devotion service the Wednesday (I think?) after 9/11/01. Everyone was still in shock, of course, over what happened in New York and Washington. We came together as a church to pray and to seek God in the midst of all that evil and tragedy that happened. Our pastor asked certain deacons to pray for specific things from the pulpit; one of them was to pray for our enemies. I’m the one who chose that subject, I guess because I really had to pray in the love of Christ on that one!

I remember praying that even if Osama Bin Laden walked through our doors that night, and if he sincerely and earnestly asked God to forgive him, and if he accepted Jesus in his heart, that he would be a Christian and go to Heaven….yes, even him. I drew upon the parallel of Paul; while he was not called a terrorist to my memory, that is what he did prior to his conversion….he was terrorizing the Christians of that day, and persecuting the church.

Yet God used that “chiefest of sinners” and turned him into the greatest missionary the world has ever known. The tone that resounds in Paul’s words is that of humility. He wasn’t Pharisee-prideful over how religious he was…he called himself the “least of the apostles”. However, he didn’t stay stuck in the past…he said “by the grace of God I am what I am”. Simply put, it’s about his second chance. The same second chance that Jesus gives you and me when we accept him.

By the grace of God…

Have a blessed day!

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verses 3-4: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,”

The above verses are one of the many verses our AWANA kids program uses for memorization. It’s also the linchpin, the crux, and the promise and hope we have in Christ as our Savior.

Christ did die for our sins. He was buried. He was raised from the dead; He was resurrected! He lives today!

Without the resurrection, Jesus goes down in history as a good man and a good prophet and teacher. But He is more than that, of course! He is the Son of God, and was the perfect sacrifice for our sins…once and for all! He lives and reigns today, sitting at the right hand of God the Father.

Paul is reminding his Corinthian church members (and by his letters, us today), that this is of first importance and is of indisputable fact!

Sometimes amidst all the hustle, bustle, and confusion of our daily lives, it’s good to be reminded of (as Sgt. Friday says on Dragnet): “just the facts”.

Have a great day in Him!

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verse 22: “So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe, but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers, but to those who believe.”

When it comes down to it, how do people know that we are Christians? You could say, as the hymn does, “they will know we are Christians by our love”. They will also know by our walk and by our talk.

The Holman concordance I’ve been using states some background about this verse. It seems that God used Gentiles to spread the Word, since the Jews were in exile and being disobedient. Thus, tongues became a sign to cross linguistic boundaries.

An analogy that comes to mind concerns the Carpenters for Christ group I serve with. When we travel, we wear our CFC shirts, so that folks will see that we are together, and maybe even ask who we are and what we are about. The shirts, all with the same logo, are a sign to folks, whether they are Christians or not. They “speak” even if no one asks us who we are…they state that we are representing Him.

Our lives, though, to fellow believers should proclaim Jesus. Yes, we sin daily and make mistakes; we should always ask forgiveness and seek repentance. Some examples of our “walk and talk” should be our speech, our actions, places we frequent, behaviors we engage in…do they glorify God? Would they cause a fellow Christian to be concerned about us?

I guess what I’m saying is that you should be a mirror every day…and reflect Jesus. Unbelievers might not understand the image, but they’ll know it’s different. Believers will know the image, and hopefully be encouraged and edified by what they see.

May you be a blessing to others this week in Jesus’s name.

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verse 20: “Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be babes, but in your thinking be mature.”

There is a phrase that goes something like this: “Experience is the best teacher.” There is some truth to that. Just like a chameleon changes color to blend into its environment, it can be extremely hard to stay holy in a sinful world by yourself. Unless you immerse yourself in study of the Bible, and prayer, and fellowship/corporate worship with other Christians, it can be very hard to resist the pressures of this world (Remember, there are no Lone Ranger Christians, as a pastor once put it).

The Lord Jesus set this example Himself…at times during His earthly ministry, He would withdraw from the crowds to pray and to have time with the Father.

Our physical muscles don’t grow strong simply by eating right; we need activity to develop and use those muscles. Likewise, our spiritual muscles need development and growth too. God gave us the instruction book for life in the Holy Bible; make sure you read those instructions more than just “once in a while”.

Its’ something I need to remind myself daily!

Have a blessed day!

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verses 13-17:  “Therefore let one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. What is the outcome then? I shall pray with the spirit and I shall pray with the mind also; I shall sing with the spirit and I shall sing with the mind also. Otherwise if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying? For you are giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.”

Though we’re still talking about tongues here, I see an application to any use of spiritual gifts. If you use your gift only for your own benefit or your own worship of God, you may be edified, but what of your neighbor? Isn’t this a strange form of selfishness?

I know of many blessings I wouldn’t have received in the way God meant, if the deliverer of that message hadn’t shared their gift! I think of pastors who I have heard preach; they didn’t do it for their own glory, but to be “microphones” for God’s voice to us. I think of singers, instrumentalists, and music leaders who share their talents in “preaching” God’s message in music, and of the times I have been blessed or refreshed by that. (My wife and I especially worship in music).

I think of those with the gift of acting, whether serious or with a humorous effect, and the simple but profound word they communicated in a skit or sign-language-like delivery, and the “wow” when I got the point they were talking about.

It doesn’t have to be on the pulpit of a church either. Sometimes it can be in a Sunday school classroom, or a Bible-study, or a fellowship…or even a Bible devotional blog. 🙂

It’s always my prayer (and God forgive me when I forget to pray this!) that when I sing, or play my trombone, or act in a skit, that I do it for His glory, not my own. Sure, I like to hear someone say, “you sang great”….and it’s okay to compliment someone when they use a gift. But I get a return blessing when they say, “your song really blessed my heart today”…and my response is, “thanks, but to God be the glory!”

One more comic book reference to close this thought today: Peter Parker (Spider-Man)’s Uncle Ben said it well: “with great power, comes great responsibility.”

May God bless you today!

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verses 7-9: “Yet even lifeless things, either flute or harp, in producing a sound, if they do not produce a distinction in the tones, how will it be known what is played on the flute or on the harp? For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle? So also you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air.”

My oldest son took up playing the trumpet in intermediate school. He was pretty faithful on practicing his scales and his prepared pieces, but the hardest thing to drum into him (haha) was the understanding about what “tempo” and “note-reading” meant. He’d try to imitate things he had heard me or some of our orchestra members do, like jazzing up a piece of music. I told him, that was fine….after he learned to play the song as written, else no one would know what he was playing! He insisted it was music to him. Fine, I said, but no one will want or understand what you play if they don’t recognize it.

This goes along with yesterday’s thoughts on interpreting tongues and edifying members of the body of Christ. We have to be careful our witness or the thoughts we share about Jesus glorify Him and tell others about Him…in plain language, that the hearer may understand. Else it will be…noise. Now, yes, it does say in the Bible “make a joyful noise”, but don’t let it be noise when you’re telling others about Him. You want to make sure that the message was received, loud and clear….you want it to be “sweet music” to their ears.

From a Batman episode I saw once, as the Penguin told his co-conspirator, the Riddler, when the latter was going to prepare a ransom note: “…and none of your whimsical embellishments! Make those messages clear!” 🙂

Have a blessed day!

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verses 2-4: “For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men, but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church.”

When I was in the 10th grade, I transferred to a private military academy. I had a math teacher who was a native New Englander with a strong New Hampshire accent. During geometry, I managed to comprehend that when he said, “you swing an ahk, then mahk the ahk”, he was actually saying “swing an arc, then mark the arc”. Yet one day, I couldn’t fathom what he meant by “the lair of sine and cosine”. Now, I know I wasn’t stupid, but I didn’t understand. I finally raised my hand, and asked, “Sir, what is a lair”? The teacher, puzzled, then said, “you know, lairs…like the traffic lair against jaywalking in an intersection.”

“You mean LAW?” I gasped out! “Yes, a lair.” he said calmly. My best friend, who went to that school, was suppressing a major laugh beside me, looked over at me, while I looked back to him, and I whispered, “why didn’t you tell me this guy can’t talk?!”

Paul here is not deprecating the use of tongues (a statement from the Holman commentary), but is pointing out that without an interpretation, one who speaks in tongues only edifies himself. He who prophesies edifies the whole church body. We, as Christians, must make sure that when witnessing to non-believers, we make our speech understandable…it is possible to use “churchy” words that a non-believer might not comprehend. Make sure to take steps today when witnessing to someone or talking about a Christian view on a topic, that you don’t sound like you are “speaking in tongues”; don’t water down the Gospel either, but make sure the message…is communicated clearly.

Have a blessed day!

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verses 11-13: “When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully, just as I also have been fully known. But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

These verses tie into the previous post’s verses about maturity. When we grow up, we naturally don’t act as we did when we were kids (some might argue otherwise about people in today’s society! 🙂 ) As kids, we want to be adults so we can do things that require more responsibility and maturity. Jesus wants us to grow as Christians; for one thing, that’s how we become disciple makers…we have to grow as a disciple first. Even when we become a mentor or disciple maker, we still grow. You never stop learning at the feet of Jesus!

And just as “we see in a mirror dimly” now, through our study and gifts, one day, we “shall know fully, just as (we) also have been fully known”. Have you ever read a good mystery, or seen a good movie, only to never find out how it ended? And then the satisifaction (or disappointment) that you had when you finally, finally found out what happened? I guarantee you, you won’t be disappointed in the final pages of Jesus’s story!

May faith, hope, and love abide in you today; but the greatest of these is Love!

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verses 8b-10: “but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.”

Why do most folks need training wheels to learn to ride a bicycle? Why do most starting drivers need a learner’s permit (and the accompanying licensed driver) to begin driving a car? Why is a beginner official (referee) started on junior high football games instead of calling the Super 6 championship?

Because they are not mature, experienced, or ready enough at the start of these activities.

According to information in my Bible and my Holman commentary, the young New Testament churches needed the gifts that were sent (prophecy, tongues, etc.). But when Jesus comes again, it will complete and end the maturation process.

Think about it: there won’t be any need for prophecy, for Jesus will be here! There won’t be any need for tongues, for when Jesus speaks, all will listen and understand! There won’t be any need for more knowledge, because the Source of that knowledge will be here!

Whether this happens in our lifetime, or further down the road, doesn’t matter. It will happen in the future, and what a day that will be!

Have a great and blessed day!

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verse 8a: “Love never fails…”

Some of you on this list have been through divorces…the love of which this verse speaks is not that love.

Some of you may have been through trials in which friends or family let you down…the love of which this verse speaks is not that love.

Some of you may have been “done wrong” by friends or family or workplaces…the love of which this verse speaks is not that love.

Love never fails…is the love of Jesus, called agape love (pronounced uh-gah-pay) It is the ultimate love, love that never quits, love that loves in spite of everything…and it is the love that kept Jesus on that cross, taking the punishment for our sins.

We can’t love in that kind of love on our own; turn yourself over to Jesus today so that you can love with a love that never fails.

Remember Easter…after all, that was the greatest act of love ever.

Have a blessed day!

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