Gift’s are for God’s Glory

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I have taken many kinds of strength profiles, and career assessment tools over the years. There are two that stand out. The first is the one I took through the high school. What stood out in this skills assessment that was given to all of the students were the results. It provided job and career ideas related to the category one fit within. I remember this because one of the job suggestions was Mineralogist. I was the only person that got this recommendation. I did not even know how to get into this field or what it would involve. It is certainly not something that any high school person I knew wanted to grow up to be. The second profile test that I remember was in college. The pastor of my church was taking the smaller Wednesday night crowed through a biblically based spiritual gifts assessment and to my surprise “teacher” was on the top of the list. At that time teacher was the last job that made up my passions. I showed the results to the pastor and told him the test was broken. Every person is given skills and gifts. The science behind tests like these can be informative about our personality and what we might be good at and bad at in life. Both of those tests were not wrong in their suggestions even if I was unaware of my own self at that time. We all have gifts and skills the question is to what end will we use these gifts?

In some Church cultures, there is a powerful desire to speak in tongues or speak prophecy. These miraculous type gifts are elevated to a high standing and become a mark of someone who has attained significant favor from God. While these gifts are included in the Biblical narrative and may be true in contemporary society the real question I want to know is to what end are these gifts sought and used? Paul clearly states that the Holy Spirit gives gifts for the good of the Body of Christ so that the Church will be equipped to carry out God’s will.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 ESV

Whatever gifts the Spirit has given whoever God has created an individual to be then in turn Christians must not be proud about that strength and one should not seek visible gifts for status or control. Just a few lines later Paul gets specific to warn the Corinthians about the role of these gifts.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV

Those who are saved and part of the body have a purpose in the Church. The Holy Spirit will gives a desire and skill to accomplish that roll. These gifts work together to accomplish God’s plans. When people attempt to use them in the strength of man or for a selfish purpose then how does God get the glory for what is accomplished? Lecrae in his song Chase That speaks of the worst type of sin and that is the sin of selfish ambition while claiming to do it for God.

[the Devil] lies to us all, told Adam he could ball
“why you following God when you can go get it all?”
I tell you what’s better, or better yet worse.
chasing your own glory while doing the Lord’s work,
so holla if it hurts, but we were made for greater
our greatest satisfaction is making His name famous

The mark of someone serving God is Love. They have a love for God and a love for their fellow man.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love 1 Corinthians 13:13 ESV

Love makes the gift useful. Service inside the body with Faith, Hope, and most importantly Love is used by God for His purpose. Do you love God? Are you broken to love others more than yourself? If so then go and obey what God has placed on your heart for His Glory.

* Revised and Edited. Originally published on Human Effort May 2014.

Tithes, Gifts, and Offerings Oh! My!

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The United States as a country that consistently ranks at the top of the list of most generous countries and rightfully so since America is also one of the most wealthy countries in the world. Americans give freely for all kinds of causes and plights the world over.

The city of Corinth was an economic hub and a wealthy city so it should be expected then that this church would be called upon to support their brothers and sisters in other less prosperous areas like Jerusalem. Christians in Israel when the church was founded faced an enormous personal cost to conversion. They could be removed from the Jewish Synagogue as well as from the marketplace. The other Churches had an obligation to support their fellow church members. Paul at the end of his letter to the Corinthians organizes a fundraiser and envoy to present the donation to the hurting members of the fellow church.

Regarding the relief offering for poor Christians that is being collected, you get the same instructions I gave the churches in Galatia. Every Sunday each of you make an offering and put it in safekeeping. Be as generous as you can. When I get there you’ll have it ready, and I won’t have to make a special appeal. Then after I arrive, I’ll write letters authorizing whomever you delegate, and send them off to Jerusalem to deliver your gift. If you think it best that I go along, I’ll be glad to travel with them. 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 MSG

So what is the obligation of a believer in regard to “being as generous” as one can? I will first speak on perspective when giving and then follow up by defining tithes and offerings.

Offerings are gifts that an individual decides to give that are completely personal between themselves and God. Rick Warren a pastor of a large church wrote a bestselling book. This book made him rich. So between himself and God he felt led to do something bold. He paid his church back every dollar of salary he had ever taken and then decided that he only wanted or needed to keep 10% of the income from his book sales. Rick Warren in effect gave away more than 90% of his income. There is no law, rule, expectation, or biblical mandate that he do such a thing but he meets the challenge of Paul to be as generous as one can be. But most importantly he did this with humbleness, gratefulness, and joy. It was not imposed on him and he did not do this out of some sense of duty. He did it simply because he wanted to do it. While that is an extreme example there are many everyday people who give generously in this way but keep quiet because it is a personal offering between them and God.

7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV

The second thing we must know about the collection Paul was asking for is that this was an offering above and beyond the individual’s duty to support the local church. Typically in current Christian culture this support is called a tithe and it is the first 10% given to the church to support the local community of believers. So how is the tithe different than a gift and offering? The Tithe is an Old Testament law that demanded 10% of the first fruit of, income, crop, or cattle. God asked for the first and best of whatever was earned. (God is right to ask for this since it is by his grace and mercy that there is any crop at all. Giving back in this way is a formal way to honor and acknowledge that God is in control of all things)

“Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord. Leviticus 27:30 ESV

The tithe was given to the priestly cast of the Jewish community and so today Christian Churches operate in similar fashion by asking for a tithe that would be given to the local church where a believer has membership. The tithe is in that regard the first phase of giving within the church. Anything above the tithe would be a gift and offering. Rick Warren arrived at his 90% give away number by calling it a reverse tithe. He “tithed” 90% and kept 10% for himself.

Now shockingly there is nowhere in the New Testament that prescribes a church to collect or receive a tithe. Ultimately like a gift this is between the believer and God. A mainstream biblically based Church will not deny membership and fellowship to someone who does not give.

In regard to giving, the tithe is a normal and accepted starting point, but ultimately that amount is based on ability and the relationship that the individual has with God. God wants that gift given freely and out of love toward him. Jesus expected and encouraged his followers to be generous to everyone around them.

38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38 ESV

SJW is not Love

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SJW = Social Justice Warrior. This term is used to identify the zealous drive that has become popular in western culture to make the world right because of injustice. While noble on the face many times this zealous undertaking includes obnoxious, violent, and manipulative ends justify the means tactics. SJW comes in all kinds and degrees. Pet rescue, Climate change, champion for homelessness, LGBT rights, minimum wage, denouncing white privilege, Black Lives Matter, equal pay for women, vegetarian, immigration, alt-right, and the list could continue. Society is breaking down into social tribes of people who are at war with each other and seek only to champion their own cause. In all of this yelling the real injustice that should be addressed seems to be lost. Jesus speaking of the signs of the end of the current Church age describes a world where hate rules and people stop loving others.

10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. Matthew 24:10-12 ESV

While society may not be at that point Christ described a case might be made that we are seeing the frothy edges of an unloving bubble. Images of people attacking and saying despicable things at each other over the presidential campaign is illustrative that at the heart of man is a great evil. Very little love is on display in the current social climate. A battle to control the sword of government is underway. Forcing people to bake cakes for weddings or chants of lock her up have become the preferred rally cries. Will the sword of government be used to force people to help the poor? Can the country survive such division? Paul in his letter to the Church in Corinth provides a detailed description and definition of love. True love. Not selfish lustful love that the world champions. Paul describes the nature of God in this famous chapter. Love is patient, love is kind. But at the intro he provides why love is needed in any action and in our SWJ world this is something to dwell on.

3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:3 ESV

If one finds themselves sucked into taking part in an SJW protest my question is why and for what purpose. Why does one protest? The answer might be because of the injustice against those who are poor or disenfranchised. But what motivates one to champion that cause? Anger at the people who ignore poverty? Anger at the corporation that supposedly stole from the impoverished person? Or can an SJW movement claim to be genuinely broken and hurting because of love for the person in need? Does the SJW movement love the person that they want to help? Paul says you can give up your very life for people in need but if you do not love then you gain nothing.

So where does love come from and how do I champion justice in love verses frustration, anger, and manipulation? Love that Paul speaks of can only be sourced from one place. That kind of love cannot be manufactured in the heart of a man. That kind of love cannot be purchased at any price affordable to mortals. Love that Paul speaks of can only come from an overflow of its original author.

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7-8 ESV

Not only is true love sourced from God Himself it is the essence of who our Creator is. God is love. Love comes from God alone. This is why Paul tells the church in Corinth that if they die for a cause but do it without love, without God, then they have gained nothing. It is a harsh truth about our nature and relationship with God. He created us to be loved by Him and to then in turn love others. We however take up the SJW cause not in the love of God but in the selfishness of man.

10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:10-11 ESV

We stand at a crossroads all who are reading this. Do we move forward in love or do we stay unaccomplished fighting against oblivion. If you do not have a relationship with the author of love then it is time to submit to Christ, who is the ultimate act of love, who died for our naked hate in order to establish a relationship with God the original source of love. If you do have the saving faith from God and are living a life of selfish anger at the world, then now is the time to seek Christ about breaking your heart to love your neighbor in an honest, faithful, and giving way.

37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:37-39 ESV

 

Kindergarten Leadership

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Leadership and leadership training is a high value topic in the world we live in. Managers in the business universe spend a significant amount of HR training on how to lead effective highly motivated workforces. The military places high value on leadership. And schools place a high value on training the leaders of the next generation. My first foray as a volunteer Sunday school teacher of sixth grade boys started on the topic of leadership. I was paired with a more seasoned teacher and he spent a significant amount of time lifting up the value of leadership. He would tell this group of immature boys that they needed to be leaders. They needed to live moral lives because others would look to them. As Christians they needed to lead the next generation. I pondered this line of teaching because it was a surprise to me. I expected to teach theology and apologetics. I wanted to answer questions about God and why He created. I remembered that transition at 11 years old myself from thinking as a child to questioning everything. Is God even real? How would he have created? Jesus born of a virgin? What is the point and how can I believe that? I wanted to dive into those topics with these kids but the class direction was leadership and I pondered on this.

Around that same time my oldest daughter was wrapping up kindergarten. She was younger and smaller than all the other kids because she had a late summer early fall birthday. I had pushed for her to get started early because my wife and I felt she was ready. At the end of the school year the teacher wanted to meet with us and discuss next steps. At the meeting the teacher recommended holding our daughter back one more year before moving on to the next grade. At the parent meeting I asked pointedly if my daughter was lacking in reading, math, or verbal skills. The teacher confirmed all academic scores were sufficient for moving forward. So I asked for the reasons to hold back. The teacher’s response was that my daughter was younger than the others. She struggled to fix her belt (part of school uniform) after restroom breaks, and wait for it, she needed to mature more as a leader before moving on to the next grade. I was not pleased with the recommendation based on those reasons.

Leadership is an interesting and important idea. We can and will all lead in something in some way. However not everyone will be or will want to be class president. Not everyone wants to be a Manager. Very few will be CEO, Principle, or Senator. Not everyone is capable of leading men into battle. So are you a failure if aspirations or ability are not in the formal realm of leadership? I had to ask these questions of myself when I was taking seminary classes. The school wanted to train these future pastors to be leaders. Was I not cut out for future ministry if I did not want to be a leader?

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 1 Corinthians 12:4-5 ESV

God is a creative and wonderful God. While all humans are equal in that we are all created in His image. We are not all equal in opportunity and ability. God has done this according to his own purpose. He has made us to serve him and each of us has our own path.

I do not teach leadership in my classes today. I desire to teach real life truth and practical answers to the things that make life hard. I pray that my students are equipped with the knowledge of who God is and how to distinguish Him from the lies of the world. Each student needs to find their gifts and those that want to lead will have an opportunity and I encourage it.

31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. 1 Corinthians 12:31a ESV

My kindergarten daughter and those 6th grade boys need not worry about leadership. They needed truth poured into them. They need a foundation of core principles and knowledge that they can use in the future. Leadership is not something to be desired for the sake of power. Leadership is needed for those that have vision and truth at their feet. Leadership is to be used in submition and service to Christ who is the head of all authority. I teach truth, give opportunities to dwell on that truth as it relates to the world we live in, and I pray that we would then leverage that knowledge in whatever role God has called.

15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 1 Corinthians 12:15 ESV

Today is the day to embrace who God made you to be. If you are a hand then grab hold of God’s world. If you are a foot then rush toward the fight according to God’s plan. If you are eyes then see what God wants to show this sinful world. But whatever you do don’t try to be the head of something because the world tells you that is where virtue lives. There is only one head and one leader.

9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Romans 10:9-10 ESV

 

Head Coverings and Authority

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At work one day I had an interesting conversation with a “liberated” young lady. She asked me what kind of life and job I wanted for my daughter when she grows up. I choose to answer thoughtfully in an honest way knowing that my world view and hers would likely not align. There are certain things I want for my daughter but in the end she will be her own person. My hope and prayer is that she will listen to the vision and plans that God would have for her. As a father I am an authority in my daughter’s life. While I am responsible for her there are certain things that will not be acceptable for her that I would not think twice about for my son. For example I told this coworker that I would not allow my teenaged daughter to take a part time job as a pizza delivery driver but I would not object to my son if he wanted to take that job same job. Presenting any kind of inequity in jobs or opportunity does not match the world view preached by the world.

My wife and I have talked about how the college expectations work and if we could be on board with sending an 18 year old daughter without escort into a college campus to live. Turning a young lady over to the protection of the campus with other teens from who knows what kind of background is a scary thought. Another coworker, a young woman, loves to be in the mountains and regularly hikes mountain trails alone. When I asked her if that was wise she became frustrated because I clearly was not the first to ask the question. Why should she limit her desires just because there was no man around? I at the very least encouraged her to carry a gun but she declined for political and world view reasons. This kind independence and liberation for women is only even possible in western society due to the stability of the rule of law. That is a testament to just how good our society has life, but we should not be oblivious to the reality that women need to be protected even in such a society where law and order are the norm and abuse is the exception.

14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 1 Corinthians 11:14-15 ESV

The Corinthian Church also dealt with this issue of authority and submission in regard to men and women. Paul reminds the church of their own societal customs regarding the head covering. While these rules for head covering do not directly apply to western society the larger spiritual points of authority do apply.

6 For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. 7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 1 Corinthians 11:6-7 ESV

Even today some societies require women to be covered in public. This covering is a protection and a separation of the lawless assaults from the outside world. In western society modesty is not a virtue and women are encouraged to show all their splendor and draw attention. This is only possible because of the rule of law and one should always be aware of situations that might leave an opening to a crime of opportunity.

In Corinth however the custom was for women to cover their head in public. This covering was symbolic of the fact that the woman was to be respected because she fell under the authority of a man. Her father, husband, or even some relative. Women moving to a city alone to live as they please was practically impossible. Even today tragedies are told of the young woman who moves to New York alone and is destroyed by the ugly side of the city. Today while such a right exists and is taken by many single women that same woman still falls under the authority and protection of the government at the very least.

When Paul notes the held belief of the Corinthian society that the woman is the glory of man and the man is the image of God he is highlighting an established norm of the day. To western society this norm is less pronounced and less relevant but the point of Paul’s argument is very relevant today.

11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. 1 Corinthians 11:11-12 ESV

All men and women are equal before God. While the woman was made to be a helper for man and therefore woman came from man it is also true that every man came from a woman, his own mother, making him subservient as well. Paul’s conclusion then is that it is not for men to lord over women or control women because they are inferior but that men are to serve and women are to serve because all are from God who is the actual creator and sustainer of life.

The young lady that wanted to know what kind life and job I wanted for my daughter asked a question that is important to the world. My daughter will grow old like myself in just a few short years. This young lady should be asking what kind of future eternal life I want for my daughter. The daughter that God has given to me to raise is a smart and capable person made in the image of God. She can be and do anything God places on her heart. She does not need to cover her head any more than I need to uncover my head before God (He sees the heart). But what I do want for her more than anything is to acknowledge that everything comes from God. He is the Creator and author. What I want for my daughter and son equally is that they would know and be reconciled to perfect authority, the Father, through Christ.

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 ESV

Eating at the Table of Demons

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Who do people eat with the most outside of family? Eating with friends is fun. Coworkers can be fun or at the least expected since so much time is spent with them when working outside the home. But do people ever stop to realize they fellowship at a spiritual level and not just the physical means of eating food? Living in a physical world without easily visible means to experience a spiritual plane leaves people naturally to focus on the physical while forgetting about the spiritual. Most people in western society are almost completely cut off from recognizing the spiritual aspects of interactions with other people and the world. People rarely stop to ask questions like “Is there a God”, “Where will I go when I die”, or “Is the physical reality the only reality”? When I ask those questions to people I meet there is most certainly an awkwardness that comes over the conversation. The answer to those questions is yes there is more to life than the physical. So why do people avoid it? Not only is there a spiritual world but people need to realize that this world is at war spiritually speaking. Paul reminds his congregants of this fact.

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 ESV

In the same way that I prayed for President Obama I will pray for president Trump. My issues whatever they may be politically are not against the person. I have a charge to love all people and to pray for the leaders of the country. My issues are against the true ruler behind the person. I pray that the leaders and those in authority would be servants to God (even if it is clear they are not). This is part of my duty in this war of the heavens. Jesus died on the cross to break the god of this world’s grip on humanity.

31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” John 12:31-32 ESV

Even if one lives unaware and distracted from the fact that the physical is not all there is the truth remains that God created everything both spiritual and physical. He is the author and the spiritual world is there with humankind because God created people to live forever in both spirit and body. He has recorded events by way of the Bible to highlight the creation from His perspective. God has chosen to open the eyes of his children to the spiritual world. Do not shy away from this reality. Look past the physical frustrations and temptation to be angry at a fellow human being and know that evil is directed from the spiritual plane.

15 When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16 He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6:15-17 ESV

God is in control of both the physical and the spiritual. The duty of followers of Christ is to pray for His will and actions in the events of History.

19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 1 John 5:19-20 ESV

In the spiritual war with the evil ruler of this world, the evil ruler who is controlling what he can, a question rises up “What are those who have eyes opened to do?” “Do we continue on as before?”

No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 1 Corinthians 10:20-21 ESV

“Do we continue on eating at the table of demons?” No we must no longer be who we were. When we verbally assault fellow human beings. When we relish in the tears of those who have lost. When we champion unity over truth. When we seek selfish lusts over self-denial and self-control. When we want all religions to be a source of truth… THEN we are eating at the table of Demons. Saying no to the table of demons will cost friendships because it is where most people fellowship and fellowship is both physical and spiritual. Saying no to the table of demons may cut some out of the market square because that is where business occurs. Saying no to the table of demons may cost an opportunity for power or leadership because the ruler of this world will not give up his control to anything from God. Saying no to the table of demons leaves only one table from which to eat and that is of the Lamb of God. This table requires only that we serve Christ by sharing the good news of the gospel to this world. That may be a simple question of “Tell me who is God to you?” worked into the next conversation. Eating at the table of God means we give way to the needs of others. Eating at this table means we pray for enemies and we love those who hate. It means trusting Christ and not falling back to the selfish lust of this physical world. The light of Christ must shine into the darkness of demons.

3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 ESV

 

A Gift to be Free

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Is singleness a “gift”? Is a lack of desire to party and drink a gift? What about the person who has no desire or need for a drug fix? Would that be a gift? Have you ever personally known someone who was a compulsive liar? They just could not help themselves and were always inventing stories and lies as a habit of life? Would it be a “gift” to not have that burden? The fact is restraint and personal boundaries come easy for some but are much more difficult for others. In the middle of Paul’s practical rules for marriage, relationships, and sex he makes an obvious but seldom realized point about the nature of people. We all have different strengths, weaknesses, and “gifts” from God.

7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. 1 Corinthians 7:7 ESV

The “gift” Paul is talking about here is a lack of desire or need for a sexual relationship in his life. Paul wishes right before this statement that all men would remain single to focus on their relationship with Christ alone, but he knows in real world practicality that is not possible. William Barclay in his commentary on Corinthians provides solid evidence that Paul most likely was married at one time. Unknown is what happened to his wife. Did they split up over his conversion to Christianity or maybe an untimely death? Whatever the reason the result is that Paul living the brutal road life of a missionary sets an example and he views as a “gift” to be single and singularly focused on God’s priorities.

For me I wanted to be married and I wanted it at a young age. A partner for life to have my back, someone to be relationally and emotionally invested in, and of course the want of sex made it all the more desirable. Restraint and the mercy of God helped me wait until college was complete but it was not easy. If because of religious reasons I followed a path of singleness it would have ended in failure. My strength and my “gift” at that time was not celibacy. So what is the real application here? What point should one take way?

Freedom. God has given us a freedom to be something other than what the world demands we be. The world would tell us that Paul’s “gift” was a curse. How could he live a life of singleness? Sex after all is the most desirable pleasure one could seek after. There must have been something wrong with Paul or he was lying about his own sex life the world will argue. But what Paul is really talking about is Freedom.

In recent years I have noticed Christians embracing things that were culturally taboo a generation ago. Some Christians proudly show off tattoos, others piercings in odd places and social beer clubs through a church. These Christians champion that Christ has made us free to be and do what we want. Paul on the surface seems to advocate the same but it is really a misunderstanding.

12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12 ESV

I am a Christian now I can live and be anything because the law no longer has power over me. Through Christ I am alive. If I want to drink then I will drink. If I want to watch Game of Thrones then get out of my way. If I want to use profanity at that right moment when it will have the most effect to get my point across then *%$ I will. I have freedom in Christ. Sounds not so wonderful this kind of attitude. But freedom of this kind is practiced in subtle ways throughout the church. The rationalization is that one should relax that legalism is creeping into one’s worldview and that this act, this language, and these images are not hurting anyone.

But this is not the kind of practical freedom that Paul was talking about. Paul’s freedom, his “gift” is the strength and desire to no longer conform to this world. Paul’s freedom was to be removed from the temptation to lust and seek after sexual pleasure. He became transformed through Christ to be a new man.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 ESV

Now Paul’s gift of freedom may or may not apply to the reader. So in all practicality Paul then reinforced the natural plans God had already laid down. God created Men and Women to be supportive loving relationships. Those relationships also allow one to flee sexual immorality by having a spouse to support that ability. Some have one gift others have another.

Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 1 Corinthians 7:1-2 ESV

I do not need to be what I once was because I have now been given the freedom and the gift to flee and turn away from that life. That gift comes from faith and submission to the love Christ has for me. Freedom is not something to be abused for my own selfish gain as if I were still living as one not transformed. Freedom in Christ is the gift and desire to seek holiness in the presence of God.

9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11a ESV

Sex – Restraint = Spiritual Death

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With Donald Trump, the Kardashians, Caitlin Jenner, and Pornography saturating the daily lives of everyone it is time to stop dancing around the subject and just put it out there plainly that sexual immorality from the perspective of Christ and God is evil and destructive. Paul addressing the church in Corinth reminds the church that even though they once were sexually immoral they are now free to run from that death because of Christ.

18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 1 Corinthians 6:18 ESV

Sex is an awesome and powerful experience but society encourages the youngest among us to explore the pleasure without guilt or shame regardless of consequence. Contemporary society has embraced sexualization of the public square and in the process lives are being twisted and destroyed. Pleasure at the expense of others, those we abused to gain our pleasure or those that needed to be killed in the womb so the pleasure can continue without responsibility, is not who God designed us to be. Restraint and work to earn pleasure and satisfaction are His created order. Sex according to His plan is also uplifting and producing of love which is more valuable to our soul and body. As I said before it is time to stop dancing around the topic and explore the rules and boundaries of sex that are the most beneficial to the body and for our souls.

Sex is wonderful however it is an easily abused act impacting both the abuser and the abused. If you dear reader have been abused then known that Christ is for you and you can put your trust in him. Know that he can restore what was taken and he can heal what was wounded. In Christ the future is bright. Trust Him.

The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 1 Corinthians 6:13b ESV

Sex that is moral as designed and desired by God for His Creation is inside of marriage between a single man and a single woman. I have written in the past in detail on this topic including why the Bible seems to support men with multiple wives and why this is not the order that God wants.

Christian Marriage is defined by God exclusively. The nation may change the rules of marriage but the church cannot follow and still remain Christian. God has clearly spoken on this issue. Homosexuality, transgender issues, adultery, rape, prostitution, and lust (porn) are not new explorations for humans. Additionally the Bible is not silent on any of these topics in regard to God’s standards regarding these lifestyles.

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? Numbers 23:19 ESV

Recently the Intervarsity organization that has chapters on hundreds of college campuses has announced that in order to hold positions in the organization the employee must align with and teach traditional biblical standards in regard to sex. Mainly that sexual relations outside of the covenant of Marriage are outside of God’s will. This is not a question of restrictions and backward thinking this is a question of restraint and freeing oneself of the slavery of worldly passions. Here are few examples of restraint that are applauded as noble and right by God even if it cost the person in the here and now.

King David had an affair with another man’s wife. When he found out this woman was pregnant he sent for this soldier to return home so that the sin might be covered up. However the soldier having restraint and being noble refused to go home.

10 When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?” 11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.” 2 Samuel 11:10-11 ESV

Here is the servant Joseph who is approached by the wife of his Boss. He fled the situation and did not stay to even consider the offer. Would we be so willing to flee sexual immorality?

11 But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, 12 she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house. Genesis 39:11-12 ESV

Finally the words and action of Job regarding lust. It this even possible in the culture of today?

I made a solemn pact with myself never to undress a girl with my eyes. Job 31:1 MSG

When Trump’s “locker room talk” was made public we must all recognize that he is a slave to his sexual passions and they will be his undoing. And despite the media and Christian community moralizing how that is not normal conversation I think most of us know it is normal conversation because we hear it and see it regularly. I have been walking away from conversations just like that inside and outside of the church my entire teen and adult life. One cannot serve both God and sexual immorality so when we do not live in Christ then we live in the world and the world pushes for no standards in regard to sex. When you are around others who talk about lust and sex, refrain and walk away. Do not participate.

For those reading this that have same sex attractions or struggle with body image in regard to male and female I would challenge you to think deeply about priorities. There is more to life and eternity than sexual identity. For those having premarital sex, are in adultery, or using porn know that lust of this flesh is but a moment and that moment could destroy your life. The love and sacrificial death on our behalf of Christ is for eternity. There is a choice to be made on what is more important. Not everyone deals with the same struggles (but we all have struggles) giving in to them, rationalizing, or normalizing them is not going to change God’s perfect standards.

9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV

1 Corinthians 5:13 | Excommunication is that a Real Thing?

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Excommunication sounds painful and is always portrayed in a negative way. To be sure the very idea and the process could in no way be fun for anyone involved. In fact I imagine it would be recieved with tears and grief if practiced in real life.

“Excommunication is the exclusion of an irrevocably rebellious sinner from the communion of the faithful. Excommunication has been understood primarily as a medicinal measure, to recall to repentance and obedience. A secondary purpose is to safeguard the community’s purity. (Elwell, 422)”

Kicking someone out of the church based on this definition is done for two reasons. First as an act of discipline for an unrepentant member who is violating the standards of the church community. Second as an act of protection against an unrepentant member of the Church that could pull others away from the obedient life of service to God. So what is the real expectations and process of judging and condemning someone in such a way? Should it ever be done? How should the church approach the quickly shifting cultural standards of America and western society that require unending support for nontraditional lifestyles?

Paul in his letter to the Corinthians addressed just this issue in a Church that lived in a wealthy and sexually progressive society. Corinth being a hub for a major trade route would not have been an easy place to start one of the early Christian Churches.

9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 1 Corinthians 5:9 ESV

Such a request would be impossible when the society itself has sexually immoral people in every stratus. Much like contemporary life where marriage is becoming an exception and who one has sex with can float between same or opposite sex at a whim. Where living together is more common because society champions selfishness by postponing family and children to much later in life if at all. Sexually immoral lifestyles are not only accepted but expected. Such a request from Paul would create a church so inwardly turned and cut off from the world that it would be almost impossible to share the gospel. Thankfully Paul clears up any confusion in the following verse.

11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 1 Corinthians 5:11 ESV

Anyone who bears the name of brother is the target of Paul’s call to not associate. When Paul says to not even eat with such a person he is in effect calling for excommunication of someone in the church. Before diving into that it would be appropriate to spend just a moment recognizing that this clarification also means that the Church must continue fellowship with the sinners who are not part of the church.

12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 ESV

The church has a completely reasonable and appropriate authority to discipline those who submit to Christ’s authority but those outside the church are the concern of God himself. This is why the Church can be out in the community serving those who do not know Christ in love and acceptance without judgment or condemnation. If you as a Christian like the idea of standing on a street corner with a sign condemning in unflattering terms certain groups of people then Paul is in effect telling you to stop it. That is not your job. Your job is to build relationships and interact with that community to share the gospel.

Paul’s intent in this letter however is really focused on the discipline within the church and why the Corinthians were accepting of a man who was living openly with his Father’s mother. Paul in no uncertain term makes it clear that this man should be removed from the fellowship in the church. “Let him who has done this be removed from among you”, “Cleanse out the old leaven” and ”Purge the evil person”. While this sounds harsh this person was openly living a life contrary the standards expected of someone born again who should be living for Christ. This man was championing himself not Christ. While the church is full of sinners the church cannot be full of unrepentant sinners. I know my shortcomings and I would in no way want to champion and justify those inside the community of believers. The Christian life assumes a few things namely that all the selfish ambitions of this world and the self-gratifications that are outside of God’s perfect standards be laid down.

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1 John 2:15 ESV

There are two domains. The “World” where Satan and sin rule and the “Church” where Christ and obedience to his standards rule. Bringing the world into the church is not acceptable any more than Christians bringing light into the world is wanted or desired by those who are hiding from their Creator. While is seems harsh that Paul would want them to remove this person from fellowship in the church it was not done in anger or spite. His goal was in hope that such discipline would change the man’s heart (notice the woman is not spoken of in the same way because most likely she is not part of the church) and he might leave this godless lifestyle and return in repentance to Christ.

5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 5:5 ESV

Paul by turning the man back out into the world where Satan has domain it hopeful that he will be saved because otherwise continuing in unrepentance the alternative is Hell. Is excommunication a real discipline that the church should be practicing? Yes but mostly this happens already in a kind of self-selection because an unrepentant individual is not going to be comfortable in the light that is natural within a church living through obedience to Christ. However there are times that someone who has intent to infiltrate and challenge the standards of God’s word from within the church must be removed publically in the manner that Paul asked of the Corinthians. The Church must be and remain a place of truth, trust, and togetherness in Christ Jesus.

2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2 ESV

 

1 Corinthians 4:1-2 | Jesus will not Tolerate Mutiny

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What makes a Christian? Western Government and non-Government institutions are busy purging Christianity from the public square and from the history books. Mainline denominations are trying to modify Christianity to align with the new moral standards that are acceptable to western society. And then there are some religious organizations that want to claim the mantel of Christianity but have not historically been associated as Christian. So what makes a Christian Christian? Can an individual define Christian to be anything or can Christianity be modified to be acceptable in polite society?

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 ESV

Paul identifies who a Christian should be in addressing conflicts within the Corinthian church. The church was dividing into political camps with one group following one leader and another group following another. Paul tells the church that this is how they should approach being Christians. Christians should be “servants” and “stewards of the mysteries” moreover they must be found faithful to that role and that stewardship.

First we can take a look at “servant” and the obvious question is servant to whom? The government? Media approval? Who should a Christian, identified by a name that by definition should be a follower of Christ, be servant to? The simple answer from Paul is Jesus Christ. Paul is a servant to Christ but this is more than a simple servant cleaning toilets. Paul is an officer of Christ commissioned to serve not unlike a commander in military or law enforcement. Paul as a follower of Christ is not just watching from the sideline listening to the wonderful speaker on Sunday morning. Paul is actively involved organizing, training, executing orders on behalf of Jesus. Here this same word translated servant in Paul’s letter is translated officer in the Gospel of John to identify the law enforcement servants that report to the High Priest.

So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. John 18:12 ESV

Who did the officers serve? The High Priest of the Jews. They were bound to carry out those orders and they were bound to serve in an official capacity. The officers are not the decision makers on the need to arrest Jesus but they did know how to arrest him and what was necessary to carry out their orders when the time came. What if the officers serving the High Priest rejected the plain training and expectations of their role? Could they rightly be called officers of the Jews? Not for very long.

The second identifier that Paul used is “stewards of the mysteries” of God. Now this is an intriguing description. Much has been read into this and because Paul in his letters frequently speaks of “mysteries”. Some scholars have called Paul a “mystic” because of this. A mystic is someone who turns inwardly or receives inwardly some mystical revelation that could not have been divined in any other way. For example when someone says God told them to do it that could be viewed as a mystical revelation.

Christianity is not a mystical religion because Jesus the defacto leader had His words and teaching recorded. Any revelation an individual receives must be consistent and aligned with the entire recorded teaching of God and that is found in the Bible. Paul however as an apostle in that first generation did receive additional information from the resurrected Christ. For example Paul says that Christ revealed through the Holy Spirit the new order that all men not just the Jews are “partakers of the promise” which is the gospel of Jesus Christ

For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Ephesians 3:1-6 ESV

Because of this some scholars have dismissed Paul as creating his own version of Christianity separate from the Disciples of Christ. However Peter a leader of those disciples accepted Paul as a peer and acknowledged His ministry to the Gentiles. Paul and Peter would have received consistent instructions and were in agreement that those instructions came from Christ.

15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him 2 Peter 3:15 ESV

Paul then revealing the gospel of Jesus Christ and being a steward of those mysteries is much more than a servant or even an officer. Paul and Christians who are called by Jesus Christ are managers and caretakers of the ministry while the owner is away. Paul is not the leader that is to be followed any more than Peter or insert your version of the Pope in the modern world. Those servants and stewards to be rightly called Christian must be working directly for Jesus who is present by way of the Holy Spirit.

I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 1 Corinthians 4:6 ESV

To conclude a Christian then by definition is a commissioned officer and a steward of the gospel message. That gospel is unchanging and contains the facts that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, born of a virgin, lived a sinless in life, was crucified on my behalf, and was raised to life on the third day thus robbing death of its victory. If this is not who you serve then when that King returns in an unknown hour how will you answer. That you were a faithful steward of the gospel message or that you were not faithful to the gospel because you choose to serve men, governments, and money?

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 7:7 ESV