Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Bethany Bullet - August 27, 2013

By 8:30AM or so next Sunday I will be finished.  I will be exhausted, but I will have completed the task…13.1 miles, at least I hope to finish.  You see I have been in training for a while now.  Next Sunday in Anaheim, I will run through the Magic Kingdom, and Angel stadium for the prize of a medal, and the accomplishment of persevering and struggling to do what was once an impossibility. The real goal is to make sure the slow bus does not pick me up with the other stragglers.

To run such a race well, it takes a lot of endurance. To have that endurance, it requires a disciplined approach to training. To train well, there needs to be a proper balance of exercise, nutrition, and rest. All of that goes into an athlete's training to move forward for 13.1 miles.

But, at its most basic level, a run is about keeping moving, about pushing forward, about making every effort to reach the goal and to be disciplined to the very end. 

I am sure there will be some pain and agony but two years ago, I would never have thought I would be in a position to even attempt something like this.  Now, don’t misunderstand me, I do not consider myself a runner.  I have never experience a “runners high” and I never find it easy to go for a run; every stride is a struggle and every moment monotonous, but back then I could not run to the end of the block, let alone go for a mile or more. 

I use an app on my phone to track my progress and log my miles and it helps encourage me along the way.  It posts to Facebook when I begin a run and when people like my status or comment it gives me a cheer in my ear buds.  At the end of my run I get a mini pep talk from famous athletes motivating me to continue and praising me for my accomplishments.  I need the encouragement.  In fact, on my runs as I pass a house with a dog that begins to bark I pretend that they are cheering me on.

I think that running is like life.  It is a daily struggle, something that takes effort, discipline and encouragement all the time.  Some of the big questions in life are what happens when the race is over? Is paradise waiting for me?  How can I get there?  It is what is behind the question asked of Jesus in our Gospel reading for today. 

From Luke, the 13th chapter, starting at verse 22, “Then Jesus traveled and taught in one city and village after another on his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Sir, are only a few people going to be saved?” (Luke 13:22-23a)

It is a loaded question and not unlike the questions that come up as we run the race of life.  Jesus gives an answer that on the surface does not seem to make sense.  “He answered, “Try hard to enter through the narrow door. I can guarantee that many will try to enter, but they won’t succeed.”  (Luke 13:23b-24)

Try hard…try hard?  How do I know if I have tried hard enough?
The word Luke uses here is related to the word agony and carries with it the meaning of entering a contest or to contend or fight with an adversary, to endeavor with strenuous zeal, to strive, to struggle.

“Try hard” seems kinda wimpy to me. 
The NIV translates this as “make every effort.”
Paul uses a related word in 1 Timothy 6:12, “Fight the good fight of faith.”

I don’t think Jesus was saying that moral effort is necessary to enter the kingdom of God.
I also don’t think he meant that the entrance to heaven is gained by human responsibility.

Scripture clearly teaches that it is by the gracious action of God in the person of Jesus that we are granted entrance to heaven.  God is rich in grace and in mercy; no human effort can make us right with God. 

In a letter to his antagonist Erasmus, Martin Luther wrote, “Grace is freely given to the most undeserving and unworthy and is not obtained by any strenuous efforts, endeavors, or works, either small or great, not even by the efforts of the best and most honorable who have sought and followed righteousness with a burning zeal.”

What are we to agonize about then?

When God’s Word confronts us and his law condemns us, that is the beginning of our agony.  It is what happens in our life of faith. 

The writer of the book of Hebrews knew a little bit about this from our assigned reading for today, “Endure your discipline. God corrects you as a father corrects his children. All children are disciplined by their fathers. If you aren’t disciplined like the other children, you aren’t part of the family. (Hebrews 12:7-8)

We agonize over our actions, those things done and left undone.  We struggle with our insecurities and inadequacies, and our sinful flesh. We strive to put on a good appearance and try hard to get it all right, but we fail.  We reject the discipline of the father and we not worthy to be called his children.

In the agony of life we come in last. 
“Jesus went out of the city to the Mount of Olives as he usually did…he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if it is your will, take this cup of suffering away from me. However, your will must be done, not mine.” Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. So he prayed very hard in anguish. His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:39-44)

Jesus was in agony in the garden, knowing what was coming, he prayed for strength.  He knew that he must make his way to the cross because we had failed.  The perfect, sinless son of God agonized for you.  His agony was necessary, because not matter how hard we try, we can’t get it right.  It was a great reversal.

The Gospel of Luke is about great reversals. 

Mary sings of it in the Magnificat in talking about what God has done:
“He pulled strong rulers from their thrones.
He honored humble people.
He fed hungry people with good food.
He sent rich people away with nothing.” (Luke 1:52-53)

Jesus teaches about it in the Sermon on the Mount:
“Blessed are those who are poor. The kingdom of God is theirs.
Blessed are those who are hungry. They will be satisfied.
Blessed are those who are crying. They will laugh.” (Luke 6:20-21)

And when he spoke in the home of a Pharisee: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)

His parables in Luke 15 of the lost sheep, lost coin and lost son all have this theme of a great reversal and culminates in these words, “This brother of yours was dead but has come back to life. He was lost but has been found.” (Luke 15:32)

And it’s in our text for today: “Some who are last will be first, and some who are first will be last.” (Luke 13:30)
The greatest reversal took place on a hill outside of Jerusalem when the Son of God exchanged his life for yours, when he took on your fears and failures and fashioned for you a finisher’s medal engraved with the promise of life eternal.   

Originally the word agony was used to describe what an athlete goes through when training for an event or contest.  As we strive in this life, as we go through agony, perhaps we can use it to help our life of faith. 

A- Admit that you can’t do it alone.  In your walk of faith, as you train, you need to lean on others, drink deeply from the well of God’s Word and be encouraged by the faithful when you come into God’s house for worship and listen to God’s discipline. 

G- Give it your all.  Don’t sit back and relax.  Make every effort to bring glory to God in everything you do.  Live out that phrase, “Pray as if everything depends on God and work as if everything depends on you.”

O- Offer your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.  This gets into what we talked about last week to live a life by faith, knowing that God has it all under control.

N- Notice the areas that need work.  You should always be looking for ways to improve.  Get feedback from someone you trust, and when you mess up, come to the one who worked out your salvation on the cross.

Y- Yearn for the harvest of righteousness and peace that comes when we strive for God, when we agonize for the holy one.

And remember, it will take training and effort and time to get to where you want to be, where God desires you to be. 
When the way seems difficult, when the discipline seems harsh, remember that one day we will all run through a kingdom, not magical but eternal, surrounded by the Angels in the stadium of heaven cheering us as we confess, “I have fought the good fight. I have completed the race. I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7). The prize is not a medal, but the words of the Master, “Well done, good and faithful servant” and an eternal banquet in heaven. 

-Pastor Seth Moorman

Monday, August 26, 2013

The One Year Bible- August 26th

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
There are so many different interpretations of the book of Job that it can be rough trying to figure out what this book is all about. I could give you my two cents from my studies but I came across the following passage in a commentary on the book of Job and I want to share it with you all toady.

Rudolph E. Honsey, in his commentary on the book of Job says the following:

In order to understand and profit from a study of Job, we must come to grips with the question: “What is the theme?” Many suggestions have been given. A common one is “Patience in Suffering.” A more specific theme is “Why Does a Righteous God Permit a Good Man to Suffer So Intensely?” One can also see a three part theme (1) God is worthy of love even apart from the blessings He bestows; (2) God may permit suffering as a means of purifying and strengthening the soul in godliness; (3) God’s thoughts and ways are moved by considerations too vast for the puny mind of man to comprehend.

All of those themes are prominently set forth in the book of Job. Job surely suffered severely, and the troubles he experienced must have taxed his patience to the limit. But we must not overlook the important conversation between God and Satan in the two opening chapters of the book. When God commended Job and referred to him as a God-fearing man, Satan challenged him and asked permission to test him to the limit with severe afflictions. God consented to allow Satan to afflict Job, but added the condition that he must spare his life. God was confident that Job would not loose his faith in him even though he would be severely tried. Job’s faith in God might frequently falter and waver, but in the end it would stand up even against the strongest assaults of Satan.

We must not forget that in the opening verse Job is described as a man who was “blameless and upright” and who “feared God and shunned evil.” In his great suffering and pain Job said things he should not have said and would not have said under other circumstances. He spiritual condition had its ups and downs. But in the end Job humbled himself before God and submitted to his will. He was truly a man of faith and God later blessed him more richly than he had earlier blessed him.

Although Job’s message was originally proclaimed centuries ago, it is a message that continues to fit the conditions of mankind. We can benefit from reading and rereading this book.

Ever since our first parents fell into sin in the Garden of Eden, sin has been very much a part of our experiences. Sin has brought with it many consequences: misunderstandings, troubles, grief, pain, sickness, and death. All of us as sinners are inclined to be judgmental and to point a finger at other as did the three friends of Job. Like them we may be tempted to draw the conclusion that great suffering is a direct consequence of some special sin, which is not necessarily the case. All of us are tempted to make ourselves look better by making others look worse. While it is often true that a person who commits a certain sin may have to suffer the consequences (for example, a drunken driver who has an accident and maims or kills himself), it is also true that God uses troubles and afflictions to test and strengthen the faith of a Christian. That was pointed out by the young man Elihu, who spoke after Job’s three other fiends had stopped speaking.

For Christians today as well as for Old Testament believers the afflictions that God permits us to endure are not punishment but wholesome chastisement, a disciplining exercise to strengthen our faith.
There is more to the book of Job than the story of a good man who suffered many things and engaged in a prolonged dialog with three friends who actually did more harm than good in their attempts to comfort him. This book also has a Messianic content in a number of passages that point to the coming Savior, Jesus Christ. The most notable of these is the great “Redeemer” passage (19:23-27). [See also 17:21]
The book of Job, as does all the Old Testament, points forward to Jesus Christ, who not only frequently quoted from the Old Testament but also stated that those Scriptures testified of him (see John 5:39). Apart from God’s love for us in Jesus Christ we will be unable to grasp the real message of this book. The real contents of the book of Job is the mystery of the Cross: the Cross on Golgotha is the solution of the enigma of every cross; and the book of Job is a prophecy of this final solution.

It is our hope and prayer that God the Holy Spirit will work in our hearts as we read this precious book, a book that is not read as thoroughly or as frequently as it deserves to be read. The apostle Paul’s words about the Old Testament are true also of the book of Job: “Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

From: The Peoples Commentary Bible: Job, Rudolph E. Honsey, Concordia Publishing House, p.p.6-9.

What a great way to end our look at Job this week.

The New Testament
I will try to keep this section short since we are heading to a long post already. In our readings this week Paul continued talking about the resurrection of the dead and his words provide confidence that not only has Jesus been raised from the dead, we too will conquer death because of Jesus. Paul quotes from the prophet Hosea when he writes, "Death is swallowed up in victory."  "O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?" (1 Cor. 15:54b-55 ESV) What a great gospel message for us. We tend to read this passage at Easter, but its effects are for every day of the year. Thanks be to God!! Just a few other things; I like the encouragement we read from Paul in chapter 16. It reminds me of what was said by Moses to Joshua in the Old Testament, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men,  be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” ( 1 Cor. 16:13-14 ESV). Thanks for the great words Paul. Verse 21 of that same chapter is pretty cool. It was the custom in Paul’s day to have a professional scribe write your important and official letters. Paul does the same thing but in 16:21 Paul takes the pen and gives a greeting in his own handwriting. I would love to have seen it. This is a very personal touch and shows the love Paul has for this Church. I also found it quite interesting that we read at the beginning of  2 Corinthians about comfort in our troubles. It would have been nice to share this with Job, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God”. (2 Cor. 1:3-4 ESV). Paul spends some time talking about the “Old Covenant”. This is not a simple reference to the Old Testament. It is more about the newness that is in Christ. Many Jewish believers had a difficult time letting go of the Law. To them it was what saves. Paul tells them that even though the Law is good, the new covenant in Christ is much better. I once again thought of Job in the reading for today. Paul’s words give me hope, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” (2 Cor. 4:8-10 ESV). WOW!!!! That is some AWESOME stuff. AMEN!!!!!

Bits and Pieces

The Old Testament
We will finish up Job this week and then head on into Ecclesiastes. Here are the vital stats for the book:

PURPOSE: Life without God (i.e., “under the sun”) is empty; the only rescue from such emptiness comes from God as He brings us to fear, love, and trust in Him and His word.
AUTHOR: Solomon
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Solomon’s subjects in particular, and all people in general
DATE WRITTEN: Probably around 935 B.C., late in Solomon’s life
LAW THEMES: For natural man, life and success have no real significance; foolishness hastens destruction; life is dissatisfying.
GOSPEL THEMES: Favoring us on account of  Christ, the Creator graciously provides for us in every season and time; by bringing us to fear, love, and trust in Him, He gives us true wisdom.
SETTING: Solomon was looking back on his life, much of which was lived apart from God
KEY VERSE: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (12:13 NIV).

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bethany Bullet - August 20, 2013

A man fell off a cliff, but managed to grab a tree limb on the way down.
The following conversation ensued:
"Is anyone up there?"
"I am here. I am God the Lord. Do you believe me?"
"Yes, I believe. I really believe, but I can't hang on much longer."
"That's all right, if you really believe you have nothing to worry about. I will save you. Just let go of the branch."
The man paused then said: "Is anyone else up there?"

Today we will look at the concept of faith.  We talk a lot about it, we throw the word around all the time, but what does it mean to live a life by faith?

 “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  (Hebrews 11:1) This is how the writer of the book of Hebrews describes faith.  What is faith?  You have heard the word in church an in society, but what does it mean? 

Let me add to the conversation about what faith is NOT. 
  • It is not blind optimism 
  • It is not a manufactured “hope-so” feeling 
  • It is not an intellectual assent

This is how others have tried to describe faith:
  • “Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.” -Martin Luther King, Jr 
  • “God does not expect us to submit our faith to him without reason, but the very limits of our reason make faith a necessity.”  -Augustine 
  • “Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man's power ends.” -George Muller 
  • “Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.”  ― J.R.R. Tolkien 
  • "To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible." - St. Thomas Aquinas

Are there times where you seem to be going through trials and temptations do you find yourself in circumstances where the future doesn’t seem very bright; where the promises of God seem so far away?  Is faith sometimes a difficult thing?

You are not alone.  Faith is not easy and at times it makes no sense. 

Take Abraham for example.  To say his life was hard is an understatement.  Abraham had to rely on faith to get him through.  There is no other explanation.  Consider the events of his life: 
  • He was called away from his home to live in a foreign land because of the promise of a God he did not even know. 
  • He was given a promise of land, family and a relationship with God but years went by and the promise remained just that, a promise. 
  • He was given the promise of fatherhood but mocked with a name that meant “the father of many” as he remained childless late into life. 
  • Famine forced him to leave the land of promise for food in Egypt. 
  • His wife was taken by a foreign king to be part of his harem, not once but twice. 
  • Finally after many years, and many doubts, Sarah gives birth to a son.  His name is Isaac which means laughter.  Was this bundle of joy to be the end of his trials and temptations? 
  • God told him to sacrifice that son, his promised son, his only son; a son for whom he waited so long, whom he received in so extraordinary a manner upon which his heart was set, to have this son offered up as a sacrifice, and that by his own hand; it was a trial that would have over set the firmest and strongest mind that ever informed a human body. 

What kind of cruel joke is this? Why would God raise his hopes only to dash them on the rocks?  Is God some sick deity who takes pleasure in seeing His children suffer?  Does not God not care about my pain, my problems, my predicament?  What about your promises God?  Why is this happening to me?

Have you been there?

Abraham found himself in a place that must have seen as not only incredible but completely contrary to all God had promised.  Why would God want Abraham to sacrifice his son when it was God who was fulfilling a promise by giving him that son? It didn’t make sense. 

Genesis 22 tells the story if you want to read it in detail.  Abraham, a man of faith saddled his donkey, took his son and two servants, cut some wood and heads off to sacrifice his son, the promised one.

We have the gift of hindsight.  We know how the story ends, but put yourself into Abraham’s position.
If it was me, I wouldn’t have left the tent.  I would have argued with God, I would have tried to talk my way out of it or buy my way out of the situation.  A heated bargaining session would have taken place.

I know you have been there, the situation is bleak, you can’t see a way out, and so you try to buy your way out.  With money or words or works, the currency of the flesh attempts to rationalize a solution.  But you cannot buy faith.

But friends you HAVE been bought!

Abraham is not alone when it comes to offering up his one and only son.  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16) 

The word translated here as believes could be translated as “has faith.”

We have been saved by faith.  Hebrews 11 starting at verse 17, “When God tested Abraham, faith led him to offer his son Isaac. Abraham, the one who received the promises from God, was willing to offer his only son as a sacrifice. God had said to him, “Through Isaac your descendants will carry on your name.” Abraham believed that God could bring Isaac back from the dead. Abraham did receive Isaac back from the dead in a figurative sense.”  (Hebrews 11:17-19)
Abraham lived by faith, even when he did not know why God was working the way he was.  Abraham trusted that God would resolve the problem.  Abraham believed in the power of the resurrection. 

Generations before Jesus would walk the earth, Abraham believed in the power of the resurrection, by faith!
You see, faith enables the believer to treat the future as present and the invisible as visible.  Faith apprehends as a real fact what is not revealed to the senses. 

He is not the only one.  In the 11th chapter of Hebrews there is a long list of the saints that have gone before us, and how they lived by faith.

Abraham along with many others looked beyond their present circumstances to a future shaped by God’s promises.
  • “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” ― Corrie ten Boom

What present circumstances are you focused on and see no hope, no end?  Does the future seem uncertain to you?  Do the promises of God seem distant?

The promises of God find their climax at Calvary, in an event that doesn’t make sense, that is contrary to reason, where the Almighty God sacrifices His only Son to buy us miserable sinners back so that we can with a sure and certain hope confess, (say it with me if you remember it) “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.” (Meaning of the Second Article of the Apostles Creed: Luther’s Small Catechism)

This comes to us by faith, a gift of God, not something that we come up with but that came to us when we experienced the Gospel, and continues to strengthen us when we encounter the word of God, partake in his meal at the table, and brings us to eternal life in heaven.

There was a tightrope walker, who did incredible aerial feats. All over Paris, he would do tightrope acts at tremendously scary heights. Then he had succeeding acts; he would do it blindfolded, then he would go across the tightrope, blindfolded, pushing a wheelbarrow. An American promoter read about this in the papers and wrote a letter to the tightrope walker, saying, "I don't believe you can do it, but I'm willing to make you an offer. For a very substantial sum of money, besides all your transportation fees, I would like to challenge you to do your act over Niagara Falls." Now, the tightrope walker wrote back, "Sir, although I've never been to America and seen the Falls, I'd love to come." Well, after a lot of promotion and setting the whole thing up, many people came to see the event. The tightrope walker was to start on the Canadian side and come to the American side. Drums roll, and he comes across the rope which is suspended over the treacherous part of the falls -- blindfolded!! And he makes it across easily. The crowds go wild, and he comes to the promoter and says, "Well, Mr. Promoter, now do you believe I can do it?" "Well of course I do. I mean, I just saw you do it." "No," said Tightrope, "do you really believe I can do it?" "Well of course I do, you just did it." "No, no, no," said Tightrope, "do you believe I can do it?" "Yes," said Mr. Promoter, "I believe you can do it." "Good," said Tightrope, "then you get in the wheel barrow."

Are you ready to ride in the wheel barrow?  That is faith! The journey may be filled with fear, but faith trusts in the one who is in control, who sees the finish line, who has mapped the course, who is right beside you every step of the way. We live by faith, the only way.

Lord, give us such a faith as this, a faith which not only can move mountains, but also defy death, a faith which because of the death and resurrection of Abraham’s greater offspring, Jesus, we can shout with St. Paul, “Where, O death is your victory?  Where, O death is your sting? …Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Amen.

-Pastor Seth Moorman

Monday, August 19, 2013

The One Year Bible- August 19th

When I was in fourth grade I was in a school musical called “Esther and the King of Persia”. Now I was only in the chorus, but I had a ball. It was my first time on stage and the first time I remember hearing about the story of Esther. I remember an eighth grader named Johnny, who played to part of the king was awesome and I was scared of the guy who played Hamen. Since that day I have loved the story of Esther. I can still recall many of the songs we sang and some of the hand motions too. It was great to read an entire book in just a few days this week. This will happen again when we get into some of the smaller books of the Old and New Testaments. On to the study...
Seth’s Thoughts
The Old Testament
Like I mentioned last week, the events in the book of Esther take place before Nehemiah. This book was hotly contested when it was time to determine what books were in and out of the scriptures. In about 200 BC, Esther was almost taken out of the scriptures by Jewish theologians. There is no mention of YAHWEH or overt mention of God at all. Many believed it to be a secular historical account of the beginnings of the festival of Purim. One of the big things in the book of Esther for me is the idea that God is moving in history. By His guidance, both Esther and Mordecai were in the right place at the right time. They were used by God to bring about the deliverance of the chosen people and made for sure that the remnant would return. This took place so that prophecy about the Messiah would be fulfilled. Esther gives us insight into how God continues to act in this world for His will to be done. A lasting event from the story of Esther is the celebration of Purim. I found this on Wikipedia:
Purim (Hebrew: פורים Pûrîm) is a joyous Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of Persian Jews from the plot of the evil Haman to exterminate them, as recorded in the biblical Book of Esther. It is characterized by public recitation of the Book of Esther, giving mutual gifts of food and drink, giving charity to the poor, and a celebratory meal (Esther 9:22); other customs include drinking alcohol, wearing of masks and costumes, and public celebration. Purim is celebrated annually on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar. As with all Jewish holidays, Purim begins at sundown on the previous secular day.

We started the book of Job this week as well. I will spend more time in the coming weeks on this book. The one thing I want you to watch out for is you need to know who is speaking. At times it is Job but other times it is his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar or others. Make sure you know who is speaking while you read. We did read about why Job is the way he is. He was a rich man with a big family and a good life. In one day all of that is taken away. This was not by chance, but by a character named Satan (the accuser). Satan talks with God and gets the O.K. to test Job. In Job 9:33-35, I wonder if Job is thinking of Jesus. Read it and let me know what you think. I don’t want to give away too much today but pay attention to how Job reacts at the beginning and how he reacts towards the end of the book.
The New Testament
In our readings from 1 Corinthians, Paul addressed some big issues. Paul warns the church about the divisions that are in it. He mentions that the meal that they share together (called the Lord Supper here) is causing divisions. It is unclear if this was a full-blown meal that the believers shared or if it was just communion. It seems as if Paul thinks it is a full meal. Paul tries to set them straight by reminding them what the Lord’s Supper is all about. He tells of its importance and it is not something to be done lightly. Paul then continues on answering the questions that the church has brought to him. Paul then spends a lot of time talking about spiritual gifts. I think the key comes in when Paul writes, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:7 NIV). That is indeed what they are for. They are not to show that one believer is better than another. They are all useful. To show his point, Paul uses the analogy of the human body. This would have worked well for the Greek thinkers in the Church. Like the parts of the body, we all have our place, our unique function within the whole. But most importantly, we need to have love. 1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most famous passages in the New Testament because of its content. Love is the key to how we live our lives. It was what drove Jesus to the cross, and what motivates us today. Two more things Paul addresses: speaking in tongues and the resurrection of the dead. It seems like the Corinthians had some sort of obsession with the gift of tongues (some in the church today to as well). In one of the best one-liners in the New Testament, Paul lays out his belief on the subject, “But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.” (1 Corinthians 14:19 NIV). Way to go Paul!! I can’t agree more. On to the resurrection of the dead; it seems that there was some influence from either the Sadducees or some Greek thinkers who do not believe in the resurrection of the dead. Paul tackles this issue with some good logic. “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.” (1 Corinthians 15:13-15 NIV). Good point Paul.
Bits and Pieces
The New Testament
We will finish off the book of 1 Corinthians and move on the 2 Corinthians. Here are the vital stats for the book:
PURPOSE: To affirm Paul’s ministry, defend his authority as an apostle, and refute the false teachers in Corinth.
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The church in Corinth, and Christians everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 55-57, from Macedonia
SETTING: Paul had already written three letters to the Corinthians (two are now lost). In 1 Corinthians (the second of these letters), he used strong words to correct and teach. Most of the church had responded in the right spirit; there were, however, those who were denying Paul’s authority and questioning his motives.
LAW THEMES: Divisions in congregations; false apostles; human frailty; poverty in sin; generosity; suffering; self-examination.
GOSPEL THEMES: Comfort in Christ; restoration through forgiveness; reconciliation; wealth in Christ; God’s sufficient grace.
KEY VERSE: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20)
KEY PEOPLE: Paul, Timothy, Titus, false teachers
KEY PLACES: Corinth, Jerusalem
SPECIAL FEATURES: This is an intensely personal and autobiographical letter.

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