5 Point Checklist

1 Corinthians 16

1 Corinthians 16 13 14

 

At first this chapter seems to be a hodge-podge mixture of final instructions and greetings regarding several people we don’t know in a church we’ve never been to.  And yet, could Paul really just as well have been writing to us regarding our church?  Where would he insert your name today?  Let’s see what we find…

 

Paul begins by instructing the Corinthians to each be setting aside a weekly gift offering (in accordance with their income) on the first day of the week (not just giving some left-overs at the end of the week – if there was anything left).  This money would then be collected when Paul arrived and sent with responsible men to the church in Jerusalem which was experiencing great poverty and famine as well as persecution.  Generous, scheduled/weekly, repeated giving to help the Christian brothers and sisters in need.  Are we called to do any less?   How are you and your Christian community giving to support a church in need?  I think immediately of the needs in Malawi and Mozambique which have been hit so hard with recent cyclones and flooding resulting in the loss of crops, homes, churches and lives.  http://www.lhicog.com/images/Africa_Disaster_Relief.pdf.

 

I was struck with the reason Paul said he was going to stay in Ephesus until Pentecost: “For a wide door for effective service has opened for me, and there are many adversaries.” (1 Corinthians 16:9).  How exciting to have a WIDE door for EFFECTIVE service OPENED for ME!  Have you been testing doors to see which ones will open – even a crack?  I am quite sure Paul hadn’t been sitting on his couch watching Netflix when suddenly a door opened wide for him.  It often takes time, sacrifice, trials, perseverance, and ordering priorities to seek and find the open doors.  And when that door did open wide – it was still far from easy – in fact he found he had many adversaries!  But, rather than high-tailing it out of there and looking for an easier way – he was scheduling his priorities to stay where he was for that time because he saw how he could be used by God for effective service.  Would I recognize the open door?  Am I testing doors?  Am I not scared away at the possibility of gaining a few adversaries?  Let’s pray today (and daily) for “wide doors for effective service” to be opened for each of us – even if it comes with some adversaries.  And then – for the courage and wisdom to advance through the door.

 

Paul leaves a concise 5 point checklist for the church – of any century (vs. 13 & 14).

  1. Be on your guard

Watch for spiritual dangers – they are sneaky, real, powerful and deadly.  Apathy, busy-ness, worldliness, sin, a different gospel, and pride (to name just a few) can easily creep in when you aren’t standing guard against them.

  1. Stand firm in the faith

Remain steadfast in what matters most – your faith will be attacked (by others, by the enemy, by trials).  Keep it the priority.  Don’t be swayed.  Believe in God and the truth He gives.

  1. Be courageous

Troubles will come – be courageous – keep following God into the battle.  Gain courage knowing you are dressed for success with the Armor of God.

  1. Be strong

It will be hard– be disciplined in your spiritual training which will grow your spiritual muscle power.  Rely on His strength knowing you can’t do it alone. Stay connected to your church – there is strength in numbers.

  1. Do everything in love

In the midst of the spiritual battle, don’t grow cold-hearted – love, every time.  What does real love look like?  Self-sacrifice, giving, do onto others, sharing truth and the saving message of salvation, and love even when they haven’t earned it. (Refresh your love checklist with 1 Corinthians 13 again.)

 

These two short verses (Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love – 1 Corinthians 16:13,14) would be great to post on your bathroom mirror to see every morning as you prepare for the day.  Examine yourself daily – not just your hair, teeth and physical appearance.  How are you looking spiritually?  What do others see when they look at you?  What grades would you earn for your watchfulness, steadfastness, courage, strength and love of the day before?    What will courage look like today?  What spiritual dangers are lurking around the corner?   Who is God putting in your life to love in a special way?  Pray for these qualities in yourself and others, surround yourself with those developing and demonstrating these attributes so you can mutually encourage (and sometimes even admonish) one another.

 

Be the church Paul longed to see.

 

It’s not easy – but it’s always worth it.  (Refresh your resurrection recall with 1 Corinthians 15).

 

There are so many other great nuggets in this chapter.  Take the time to read it today and see where Paul would have put your name.

 

Praying for God’s Church,

Marcia Railton

 

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Work while Waiting for the Trumpet

I Corinthians 15

 

1 Corinthians 15 58 (1).png

So, two chapters ago we got to hear from the wise and lovely Susan Landry on the Love Chapter.  Today – we get to look at 1st Corinthians 15 – the Resurrection Chapter.  I find it just a little interesting that when chapters and verses were inserted it ends up being 13 powerful verses on love in the 13th chapter.  And, a mere 58 verses on resurrection in the 15th chapter of Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth.  There are definitely some Important things that Paul wants to pass along regarding resurrection.

 

He starts right off saying that the gospel he preached to them IS what saves – IFFFF and only if they continue to hold firmly to it.  He tells how he passed along to them what he heard of Christ, “of first importance” – his death for our sins, burial, and resurrection.  What do we pass along of first importance?  Hopefully it’s more than the weather report, sport scores, family activities, or Hollywood gossip.  There is a gospel that saves – but only for those who hear it and believe and hold firmly to it.  I appreciated Jake Ballard’s writings here on the devotions blog (following Easter – April 23-26) on proving the resurrection – first Christ’s, then the coming resurrection.  If you know someone who could use some help in believing (even yourself?) it would be time well spent to do the research, ask the questions, pray for understanding, surround yourself with believers, find the answers, and seek ways to defend the faith and the resurrection.

 

For, as in Paul’s day, there are still many who will mislead (vs. 33).  Don’t be one caught going in the wrong direction.  There are many who are still ignorant of God – to our shame – we have work to do (vs. 34).  While we are preparing for the trumpet sound, we have work to do.  Looking forward to that great moment when we will be changed in the twinkling of an eye (vs 52)!  Looking forward to that moment when death is swallowed up in victory (vs. 54)!  And because of this . . . “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

 

-Marcia Railton

Seeker Sensitive?

1 Corinthians 14

i Corinthians 14 25

Any Princess Bride fans out there?  There’s a scene in the movie where one character keeps using a word and another character says to him, “You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.”

There’s a lot of talk about whether churches should make their services more ‘seeker sensitive’ or ‘seeker friendly’.  Believe it or not, Paul actually addresses this issue in 1 Corinthians chapter 14.  And I believe his view is a resounding ‘YES’ to the question of seeker friendly churches.

However, I think our definition of seeker sensitive and Paul’s definition are vastly different.

Typically, a seeker friendly church service does anything possible to avoid causing guests to feel uncomfortable.  We want them to come back, after all.

Here’s what Paul thought,

“If an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in…he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged…So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!’” (1 Corinthians 14:24-25)

Understand that this teaching comes in a section of Paul’s letter in which he’s digging in to exactly how the Corinthian church should ‘do’ church services.  He talks about speaking in tongues, sharing prophecies, and what an orderly service might look like.  While specifics of church services may have changed over the years, I believe the principles that Paul is teaching remain true.

I’ve heard the opinion that in order to be more seeker friendly, churches should not mention the names of God or Jesus.  The Bible may be referenced, but only generally because giving verse references may cause outsiders to feel…well, like outsiders.

How can God convict someone that they are a ‘sinner and will be judged’ if we aren’t clearly and boldly preaching the Bible?

Churches should be the most loving, welcoming, friendly places in a community.  But there should be no doubt when entering that one is in a Christian environment, surrounded by people who live their lives by the instruction of God’s word.

Wouldn’t it be cool if we could master the art of boldly yet kindly speaking truth?  Maybe if we did, we’d have more visitors fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”

-Susan Landry

 

 

Ahhhh, Love

1 Corinthians 13

1 corinthians 13 4

I Corinthians 13.  The ‘love’ chapter.  Has any passage of Scripture been read at more weddings?

Let me ask you, what’s the difference between the wedding and the marriage?  We typically spend years planning and orchestrating one to be perfect and we waltz into the other without a thought and expect it to go off without a hitch.  And that’s sad.

It’s sad that this passage that so eloquently captures what real love should be is relegated to a romantic poem.

This description of love is raw.  It is get your hands dirty, give up your ‘rights’, lay down what you want, doesn’t feel good kind of real.

Patient

Kind

Trusting

Humble

Not rude

Not selfish

Not angry

Doesn’t bring up past wrongs

Protective

Never gives up

Who wouldn’t want to be married to THAT person?!  Right?  But being that person, well, that’s a big ask.

I think it’s great if you want to read this passage at your wedding.  (Pro tip if you do: Rehearse)  But remember to take the time to dig in to each one of these descriptors that Paul gives us.  You know which ones are hardest for you.

Think about how many hours you put into wedding planning.  Does your marriage deserve any less?

Check out this post that includes some helpful resources for building a strong marriage as well as advice from a number of married couples that have stood the test of time:  https://thesparrowshome.com/marriage-resources-advice/

 

-Susan Landry

 

 

 

But how do I know what my Spiritual Gift is?

1 Corinthians 12

1 Cor 12 27

Do you ever think God sits up in heaven, listening to us, and just smacks his forehead?  I do.

Think about this:  He is so amazingly gracious and wonderful that He supernaturally equips believers with gifts to make life better for all of us.  But instead of doing that…we sit around and take Spiritual gift inventories.

Head smack.

1 Corinthians 12: 4-7

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

Want to know how God has gifted you?  Here’s the super-complicated, algorithm-created, surefire way to find out.  Ready?

Try stuff.

Ta-da!

Seriously.  Try stuff.  See what fills your bucket.  What makes you light up.  What energizes, instead of drains you?

All believers are called to serve in lots of ways.  We’re all expected to demonstrate some amount of wisdom, knowledge, faith and discernment.  We are all supposed to serve through giving, helping, teaching, and working.

While I can serve by mowing the lawn or doing dishes, I don’t feel particularly pumped after doing so.  But my friend Cheryl does.  Serving others in these ways invigorates her and motivates her to do more.

Cheryl will step in and lead a class if needed, but she doesn’t love it.  I love (insert many hearts here) it.  Teaching fills my bucket, it drains hers.

So put down the Spiritual gift inventory and start doing.  Ask God to help you find your sweet spot.  I’ll bet He won’t say no.

“you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

 

-Susan Landry

Baby Spit-Up – Really?

1 Corinthians 11

1 Corinthians 11 26

Transubstantiation.  It’s a big word that means the belief that when communion bread and wine are taken, they literally become the body and blood of Christ.  The Catholic church holds this view.

A friend of mine was sharing a story recently of a visit to a Catholic church in which he discussed this with the priest.  The priest explained how it was because of this belief that the Catholic church began the tradition of priests placing the communion wafers directly into the mouths of parishioners.

You see, if the bread literally is the body of Christ, how awful if it were to fall and break on the floor.  The lay people of the church did not want to bear this responsibility.  They felt more secure in only having priests handle such a precious treasure.  And thus began this now common tradition.

My friend went on to share how he had asked the priest how this played out when they administer the tiny morsel of communion bread to babies upon baptism.  What if the baby spits the bread up?

The priest has to eat it.

Yup.  Let’s just leave that there and read a couple of verses from our chapter in Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 11: 27-28

Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.  A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.

Have you ever felt that taking communion can become rote?  Something you do without really thinking?

Clearly God cares that we take this exercise seriously.  But can we agree that we should find a happy medium between mindlessly consuming the bread and the cup and having to eat baby spit-up?

What this passage encourages me to do, and I encourage you to do, is to be mindful during the communion service.  How?

  • Always always always take a moment to pray and examine your heart before the Great God of the universe.
  • Humble yourself.
  • Be quiet.
  • Look around your church and ask God how you can build unity among the body (this instruction from Paul comes, after all, in a section of his letter instructing the Corinthian church on getting along at church).
  • Think about the fact that the last time Jesus participated in this it was the night before he died for you. Maybe thank him for that.
  • Realize that the next time Jesus participates in this he will have come again. Wow!  Maybe ask him how you can get ready for that.

 

-Susan Landry

Remember the Snakes

1 Corinthians 10

1 corinthians 10 10

Even though chapter 10 of 1 Corinthians is titled by Bible editors as ‘Warnings from Israel’s History’, I still didn’t expect the likes of this:

We should not test the Lord, as some of them did – and were killed by snakes. (verse 9)

Not getting eaten by snakes sounds like an outcome I’d like.  Don’t test the Lord–check.

But let’s take a minute here, what does that mean—don’t test the Lord?  In Malachi 3:10 God invites the people to test him and see if He’s faithful in what He’s promised.  Must be a different kind of testing.

What Paul is referring to here is recorded in Numbers 21:4-6.  The events took place while the Israelites were wandering in the desert.  We’re told that the people grew impatient and complained.

“Why did you…”

“We don’t have…”

“And we don’t like the food.”

So, like any good parent, God sent snakes.  hahaha   Seriously, though, he got their attention and the rest of the people repented.  Definitely good parenting.

Paul gives another example of the kind of testing that we’re not to do when he goes on to say,

And do not grumble, as some of them did – and were killed by the destroying angel. (verse 10)

Grumbling.  Complaining.  Apparently God doesn’t like these things.

Paul goes on to tell us why he’s bringing these examples up:

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us… (verse 11)

The people of Israel had seen far larger acts of God than most of us can claim.  They had walked through a sea and eaten bread that appeared spontaneously.  And yet they questioned God’s care for them.  We can look at that and shake our heads at how fickle they were.  But how different are we?

Because we don’t have a map of the future, it can be frustrating to not see things lining up or happening as we think they should.  It can also become easy to question God’s care for us.

“Why did you…”

“I don’t have…”

“And I don’t like…”

Please remember today that God is big enough to handle our questions.  He invites us to test Him so we can be assured of His faithfulness.  But be intentional to catch yourself if you start to feel that God owes you something and is not coming through the way that He ought.

Remember the snakes.

 

-Susan Landry