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Verse 8: “Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of time.”

In the movie The Avengers, in the scene where Captain America first faces off against Loki in Stuttgart, Germany, Loki addresses him as “The soldier. The man out of time.” Those who know the origin of Captain America will remember that, although he fought in World War II, due to a freak accident, he was frozen into suspended animation, and thawed out alive in the modern day. I was reminded of that scene when I read today’s verse.

My wife and I have sometimes discussed how, compared to a lot of modern society, we feel out of place due to our old-fashioned upbringing and morals. Sometimes, we have reminisced about how it be interesting to go back in time and see how society was: the society where our morals and standards would fit in more.

Paul is reciting to the Corinthian church about all the eyewitnesses to seeing the risen Savior. He mentions he was last to see Him, as if he was born out of time (the NIV translation says of one being abnormally born). He goes on to mention that he considers himself the least of the apostles because of his history. But, remember, Jesus forgave him. He used Paul to become one of the greatest missionaries to ever walk the earth (literally walk!)

The next time you feel like someone who’s “out of time”, remember God has you at the exact point in history that He wants you. Especially in the strange times in which we are living, remember: we may be the only example of Jesus others need to see…a light in a dark world.

Something to think about.

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Verses 7-9: “Even things without life, whether flute or harp, when they make a sound, unless they make a distinction in the sounds, how will it be known what is piped or played? For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle? So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air.”

Set the time machine of your memories back to 1974-1981: do you remember a game show called “Name That Tune”? Hosted by Tom Kennedy, this game show offered a musical twist to its questions. (Now the show is actually older than this and had a handful of different hosts, but I remember this one specifically.) Contestants had to name musical pieces through a series of rounds and games, but I remember the Bid-a-note challenge: this was between two contestants and had as its clues a spoken Jeopardy-like hint. Based on the hint, the two finalists would bid down how many piano notes of the answer they needed in order to guess the song. The starting bid was seven notes, but contestants could bid down to one note, at which the other contestant would challenge them to “name that tune”. (Now granted, if they stated they could name it in one note, chances are they knew the answer from the clue, not the notes!) In most cases, the contestant winning the bid would have to recognize the song from several notes…just enough notes to hopefully name that tune.

Did you ever go somewhere and didn’t know what people were saying? The obvious example is to travel to a foreign country and not know the native language. If you were in that situation, you had to have an interpreter: one who knew what was being said and could tell you what it means. Paul here is advising the Corinthians that while it’s good to have the gift of speaking in tongues, he urged them to pray to ask for the gift of understanding/translation as well, whether personally or for someone to be there to interpret. Non-Christians would see someone speaking in tongues and conclude they had a gift, but to Christians in church who heard only the tongue being spoken, it was useless unless someone stood up to interpret. (Look up the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:27-39 for a good example!)

While the gift of tongues is not commonly heard today, Christians still need to tell others about Jesus. Sometimes they need to give their testimony without “churchy” words. Because, believe it or not, there are still those who seek to know who Jesus is, and we have to tell them in a way they’ll understand. Sometimes, we may need to do it in more than one note!

Something to think about!

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Verse 13: “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

My wife and I have shared many Valentine’s cards over the years, but this year’s one from her is priceless, if just for the “old married” truisms that are found in it. This comes from the Connections collection by Hallmark. See if some of them resonate with your marriage:

STUFF ONLY BORING OLD MARRIED PEOPLE LIKE US UNDERSTAND
• That Friday night is actually the PERFECT TIME to go grocery shopping.
• That no one else can drive you crazy quite like the person you LOVE most in the world.
• That it’s wonderful to have someone you can always LEAN ON…and possibly fall asleep on.
• That it’s hard to beat waking up beside the person who’s given you so many of the BEST DAYS OF YOUR LIFE.
• That “DATE NIGHT”, although a nice idea, bears little resemblance to an actual date.
• That the TEN-THOUSANDTH KISS in its own quiet way is just as sweet as the first.
• That “FOR BETTER OR WORSE” really means “for better or worse”.
• That LOVE takes work. And time. A lifetime, to be exact.

Paul is sharing with the Corinthians the perfect exposition on agape love…the same love that Jesus loves us with, and the same love that we as Christians should share with the world. If we all did that…I think it would make a world of difference!

Something to think about.

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Verses 4-7: “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:”

Four different people, united on a doomed mission to the stars.
Brought crashing to Earth by the bombardment of mysterious cosmic rays.
Four different people; one cosmic storm. But look at how it changed them:

Reed Richards became the super-stretchable Mr. Fantastic!
Sue Storm (later Richards) became the disappearing, force-field creating, Invisible Woman!
Johnny Storm became the fiery flying Human Torch!
and Benjamin J. Grimm became the superhumanly strong, rock-skinned Thing!

Four people…one cosmic storm…but one team!

This was the origin of the Fantastic Four from Marvel Comics. But recounting their first story brings forth an interestingly strange parallel to today’s passage.

Paul is telling the Corinthians that although there are diverse gifts and ministries, it is through the same Holy Spirit that those gifts and ministries are to be used to profit the body. Just like all the parts of the body function to serve the whole body, we are to use the gifts God gave us for His glory! Not everyone can preach like Billy Graham; not everyone can sing like Sandi Patti. But every gift is useful, especially when used to glorify God. We shouldn’t fall victim to jealousy or envy, wanting someone else’s talents. We need to seek out what God has given us, and use it in His service!

Many Christians…one Holy Spirit…but one team!

Something to think about.

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Verse 1: “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.”

My wife and I got involved in a puppy-raiser program for a guide dog school; this school would breed puppies to become guide dogs for blind people. From 3 months old to 1 year, families would take the puppies into their homes, raise them, care for them, teach them basic obedience and commands (with school help, of course), socialize them, and love them. We had a 3-month old Labrador puppy named Elcon to raise; Elcon had plenty of personality! We were despairing if we would make it through the nine months as Elcon just wasn’t “getting” the basic obedience part. Our best friends were a couple who were raising a puppy as well alongside the wife’s guide dog (the wife was blind). They suggested we bring Elcon over and have a group obedience session. When they would give their dogs a command, they would obey. Elcon began seeing this and started imitating their behavior. It wasn’t long before Elcon started obeying commands very well…the trick was his imitating the behavior of other dogs doing the same commands.

Paul was concluding the previous chapter in his letter to the Corinthian church, encouraging the flock to serve Christ and live their lives as Christ lived His on earth. He wanted them to be concerned with the salvation of others, and to live their lives to reflect that. Having done that himself, he was urging them to imitate the way he lived his life, because he lived his life to imitate the life of Christ.

Remember, we may be the only Jesus some people see; these same people may never enter a church building or open a Bible. So whom do people see? Do they see you…or do they see Jesus?

Something to think about.

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Verse 13: “”No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

In the movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Lt. Saavik, a Vulcan-Romulan Starfleet cadet, is questioning Admiral Kirk about a leadership test she feels she failed. The Kobayashi Maru was a battle scenario designed to be “the no-win situation” and test cadets on how they respond to it. Captain Spock, later in private conversation with Kirk, reminds the admiral that Kirk took the test 3 times, before his 3rd try was graded passing. Later on in the movie, on an actual mission, Kirk and his landing party have been seemingly marooned by Kirk’s old enemy, Khan Noonien Singh (brilliantly played by the great Ricardo Montalban). Saavik again questions Kirk on how he did on the test when he was a cadet.

Dr. McCoy: Lieutenant, you are looking at the only Starfleet cadet who beat the no-win scenario (points at Kirk).
Lt. Saavik: How?
Admiral Kirk: I reprogrammed the simulation so that it was possible to rescue the ship.
Lt. Saavik: What?
David Marcus: (scoffs) He cheated.
Admiral Kirk: Changed the conditions of the test. Got a commendation for original thinking. I don’t like to lose.
Lt. Saavik: Then you’ve never faced that situation…faced death.
Admiral Kirk: I don’t believe in the no-win scenario.

The scene continues with Kirk proving his point by surprising everyone with contacting Captain Spock and getting rescued, which they alluded over an open channel would take days to accomplish (since they knew Khan would be listening in on communications).

The devil loves to use temptation against Christians, especially to make them think they’re strong enough to resist on their own. He delights in watching trapped Christians wallow in what they think is a no-win situation, that there is no way out. As Paul stated to the Corinthians (remember, he was admonishing the Corinthian believer who might think he was strong enough to participate in pagan religious functions, yet not compromise his Christian walk) that God was and is always faithful to provide a way out. Sometimes that way is another combative technique or a strategic maneuver. Sometimes, like in Joseph’s case, it’s just to run like the wind away from the temptation! But there’s never a no-win situation: God provided a way out for us.

His name is Jesus Christ.

Something to think about.

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Verses 22b: “”…I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”

Little Bird loved to sing, especially Christmas carols. During December, she would greet the members of the church (whose bell tower her nest resided in) with carol after carol as soon as the sun rose. Most all the members appreciated Little Bird’s carols. She not only sang to put people in the Christmas spirit, but did it as her way of worshipping the Creator, especially at this time of year. Not too long after the Christmas season started, Frankie the owl swooped by after his nightly rounds to chat with her.

He made Little Bird aware of an older man who lived across from the church. This older man lived alone, had to work 6 days a week, and was only able to sleep late on Sundays. Frankie also knew the man didn’t know the Creator in a personal way. His sleep was being disturbed by Little Bird’s early singing, and Frankie was concerned this might drive him further away from wanting to know the Creator in a personal way.

Little Bird was crestfallen. As much as she loved to sing, she certainly didn’t want to keep anyone from knowing Christ in a personal way. But her very nature was to sing; after all, she was a songbird. Frankie provided wise counsel: “Why don’t you just start later in the morning when the man wakes up? You can still sing, just not so early.”

So Little Bird did the unusual thing for a songbird to do; she didn’t sing before mid-morning from then on. She would perch on a branch outside the man’s window and keep watch while he slept. When he would awake, she would chirp a few notes quietly to see the man’s reaction. In most cases, having gotten the sleep he needed, he would smile and “tweet” back to Little Bird. She then would begin singing her Christmas carols happily.

Paul is continuing his message to the Corinthians by stating that even though he is a free man and has certain rights, he gives up those rights to reach people for Christ. “…to the Jews, I became as a Jew…to those under the law, as under the law…to the weak I became as weak…” Paul was sensitive to the audiences that he might reach for Christ, and thus would accommodate his audience (without compromising Christ’s law…let me reiterate what Paul stressed here), in order to reach them, not push them away by his behavior or clinging to his cultural norms.

How about you, Christian? Aren’t there audiences you can reach today outside of the church building? How about co-workers? How about your neighbors? How about those who you engage in hobbies or sports with? Our God wants to build relationships with them too…it just might mean you reach out in a way that you’re not accustomed to.

Something to think about.

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