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Verse 11: “To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless.”

I was recalling the first time I went through the Corinthian books, and I saw a small notation on this passage. I did a series before on the 4-1-1; verses of the New Testament that were chapter 4, verse 11. But God struck me with some insight on all those references He led me too.

As much as we don’t like to repeat ourselves…well, I’ll put it the way a Christian brother put it to me through a devotional one time. He detoured off the main point to “chase a rabbit…but this is a good rabbit to chase”! This was the post from the 4-1-1 series, and is even more appropriate today.

Paul above is describing what he and his fellow apostles are going through in proclaiming the faith. Many Christians were persecuted in the days of the Roman Empire, not just by the Romans, but by the religious leaders who rejected Jesus.

Well, yeah, that’s way back then…that doesn’t happen in the 21st century now.

In the words of the stereotypical addicted gambler, “want to bet?”

Ask the Christians in northern Iraq today who are being hounded out of their homes by Islamic militants.

Ask the Christians in heavily Muslim countries who are targeted and martyred just because they are Christians.

Ask Christians in the United States: have someone make a statement that is somewhat derogatory toward any other religion and watch the outrage and backlash on the news…let the derogatory remark be about Christians and listen to the silence or the apathy.

Persecution still happens today to Christians. Take heart; Jesus said in Matthew 5:10-12: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Something to think about today.

Verse 7: “For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”

There once was a little boy who lived on a farm. When he began attending elementary school, his mom (like most parents) made his lunch and put it in his lunchbox. Every day, he’d open his lunch to discover as the main entrée, a small Thermos container with a hot vegetable that his family grew on the farm (sometimes it might be butter beans, or black-eyed peas, or even homemade soup). The little boy later on noticed that all his other classmates seemed to have sandwiches, and he began to feel…different.

He asked his mother and she explained it was more nutritious for him to eat something that they grew on the farm rather than have to buy sandwich meat and the fixings to go with it from the store. Finally he confided in his friends one day, that he wished he could have a sandwich like they had. Astonished, his friends told him that they wished they could have hot vegetables like he had!

Now, he could’ve bragged about having hot vegetables, but what would have that have gained? He didn’t fix the lunch, his mother did! Having a hot meal didn’t make him any better than his classmates. All that he had in his lunchbox had been prepared for him; he didn’t fix his own lunch (granted, I know this is a small child we’re talking about!)

Paul was admonishing the Corinthian church along the same lines. Apparently, they were feeling a little “superior” to non-believers, and that wasn’t good! (I think about the old Church Lady character of Dana Carvey’s on Saturday Night Live, doing her “superior dance”). Paul reminded them that what they had was by grace given; they didn’t possess it from the start. Rather than brag, they needed to reach out to the unbelievers and tell them of Jesus’s gift of God’s grace, that they could have it too! The church is not an exclusive club in this case; everyone is welcome to join.

Something to think about.

Verse 2: “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.”

During the 2016 Presidential election, I heard a term that I was not familiar with: faithless elector. I was familiar with the term elector and the Electoral College, whose votes are the ones that determine the presidential and vice-presidential election. However, I had never heard of a “faithless elector”. According to Wikipedia:

“In United States presidential elections, a faithless elector is a member of the United States Electoral College who does not vote for the presidential or vice-presidential candidate for whom they had pledged to vote. That is, they break faith with the candidate they were pledged to and vote for another candidate, or fail to vote. A pledged elector is only considered a faithless elector by breaking their pledge; unpledged electors have no pledge to break.

Electors are typically chosen and nominated by a political party or the party’s presidential nominee: they are usually party members with a reputation for high loyalty to the party and its chosen candidate. Thus, a faithless elector runs the risk of party censure and political retaliation from their party, as well as potential legal penalties in some states. Candidates for elector are nominated by state political parties in the months prior to Election Day.” I found this at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faithless_elector .

Paul was stating here that Christian leaders should be considered “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God”. (verse 1) Paul then stressed that stewards need to be found faithful. According to the Holman New Testament Commentary on I & II Corinthians, page 60: “Stewards were high-ranking servants entrusted with the oversight of households. They were especially responsible for the management and distribution of household resources.” Paul used this office as an analogy for church leadership because both stewarded the secret things.”

You definitely would want someone trustworthy and faithful to be in charge of your affairs, especially your most closely-held and prized things. So, imagine how hurt a person is when they find someone that they trusted is faithless. I’m sure faithless electors have “lost the trust” of those people who thought that the electors would vote the way that they were elected to (whether that was the right choice or not…this isn’t a discussion about electors, per se). Imaging the brokenness of someone who is not faithful to someone else as they are supposed to be (marriage is the perfect example…the hurt that is felt when that trust is broken).

Thus, Paul’s stressing that a steward should be faithful is the point he makes here to the Corinthian church. Those Christian leaders had been faithful to the cause of Christ, and he wants the church to emulate that same type of faithfulness to Christ, too.

Something to think about, today as well. Like the song states “may all who come behind us find us faithful”.

Verse 16: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”

What does it mean to treat your body, to treat yourself, as a temple of God?

Well, for instance, how convincing is it to watch a physical fitness instructional show, and the “expert” who is supposed to have been doing the exercise all this time…doesn’t look like the exercises did them any good? (Now, I’m not talking about other people behind the instructor who are beginners or intermediates…but you expect the expert to look like that all the physical fitness works!)

In the Scooby-Doo episode “Spooky Space Kook”, the gang was at an abandoned airfield, looking for the outer-space ghost. Shaggy peered into a window of a building that the ghost’s footprints led into. When Fred and Velma asked what he saw in the window, Shaggy said, “Doesn’t matter anyway…the windows are too dirty to see into.”

You’ve often heard me quote that sometimes, “we are the only Jesus some people see”. Being a temple of God, the Lord can’t shine through us without “clean windows”. We are changed by Jesus coming into our lives…do we show it? Unless we let Him “clean the windows” from the inside, He can’t shine through to let everyone see Him in us. (My thanks to my wife for providing that analogy!)

So, are you living for Jesus today? Do others see a temple…or an old building with dirty windows?

Something to think about.

Verse 9: “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.”

The first time our Carpenters for Christ group had heard of the Church of the Brethren, it was on a mission trip to help a COTB church in Erwin, TN. One of the church members was telling us about the history of the church, and said something that struck me interesting. Whereas a lot of us call the building we worship in “the church”, the congregation up there called it “the meeting house”. The church member said it is because the congregation is the church…and he is right.

We may worship in a building, but God’s people are the church. The day after the deadly tornadoes that struck North Alabama some years back, one of our CFC “churches” was worshipping on a slab that was the only thing left of their “meeting house”. But they worshipped and praised God; as I recall, there were even some baptisms that day that had to take place in a church member’s pool!

In Matthew 18:20, Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Sometimes it’s good to bring a visitor to the meeting house, but if you can’t bring them to the house, take the church to them! The church is to serve God! We are to be God’s tools to deliver the Gospel and to minister and serve others.

I close today with a good quote from our pastor, Bro. M. R. Hamilton: “if you don’t like the lot in your life…build a service station on it!”

Something to think about.

Verse 7: “So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.”

While in college, I took care of my grandmother’s yard. Among all the different plants and bushes (potted or rooted), she had a hydrangea bush that wasn’t doing too well. It often got knocked into or broken, and even got run over by the lawn mower (I don’t recall it being me!). She was ready to give up on it. I asked her to let me take a try at “saving” it. First thing I did was make a border of big rocks around it to protect it. I’d water it, especially during the hot summer days. Slowly but surely over the next few years, it made a comeback and developed back into a nice sized bush that blossomed some beautiful flowers.

Now, for the rhetorical question: did I cause the plant to grow? Of course not. Did I help care for it and water it? Yes. But the actual growth was caused by…God (of course!)

This is what Paul is trying to drill into the Corinthian church. All argument about who brought someone to saving grace through Christ Jesus (whether Paul, Apollos, or someone else) doesn’t matter in the importance of things. What matters is that Jesus saved them! It is only through Him that we are saved. Paul couldn’t get them into Heaven; neither could Apollos. They were tools in the hands of God to spread the Gospel. The verses go on to mention that those who helped plant and water would “receive his own reward according to his labor.”

Remember what a wonderful feeling it is to be used by God!

Something to think about.

Verse 1: “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.”

Reed Richards awakened in a predicament. He and his family in the Fantastic Four had defeated their enemies, the Frightful Four, despite the fact that Reed had lost his stretching powers. But in a brazen move, the Brute dragged Reed into the Negative Zone chamber of their Baxter Building headquarters, knocked him out, took on his costume, and cast him into the Negative Zone. You see, the Brute was really the Reed Richards of Counter-Earth, who had been rendered evil by a concussion when he received his brutish form and strength via cosmic rays. He had stolen Reed’s costume to impersonate him on this Earth, since he could change back to his lookalike appearance (this took place in the Marvel comic Fantastic Four, Vol. 1, issue 179, the synopsis can be found at http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Fantastic_Four_Vol_1_179)

Fear and panic begin to grip Reed, but he snapped out of it, calling on his military survival training. Making his way to a floating asteroid, he managed to start a fire with some flint-like stones. Attracting some of the flying bat-like creatures of the zone with the fire light, Reed was able to use a rock to knock one down, kill it, and cook it on the fire. As he surmised, now that he had taken care of basic needs like food, warmth, and protection by the fire, he could now train his great intellect on what had happened…and how he could escape his predicament.

You see, in order to tackle more difficult topics, Reed Richards had to take care of basic needs first. The word carnal has several definitions, but the basic one has to do with things of the physical body.

Paul was explaining here that he truly wished to speak with the Corinthian church on spiritual matters and issues, but they weren’t mature enough yet. He called them carnal, like spiritual babes. Even though he had brought them to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, they were still too carnal, too not-ready, to receive Paul’s teachings on spiritual things. They still were behaving with “envy, strife, and divisions”…thus were they still carnal. He repeated the point that some still argued their allegiances to him and others to Apollos, instead of to Christ. You might say he was telling them, “you haven’t graduated yet!”

You see, in order to tackle more spiritual teaching, Paul had to get the church past the carnal stage.

As we begin this new year of 2019, I pray that you all (myself included) would seek God and His wisdom to grow in Him, and graduate from church kindergarten, so to speak.

Something to think about.