Beehives buzzing . . .
Ant colonies colonizing . . .
Geese migrating . . .
Fish schooling . . .
Parents nurturing . . .
Teachers educating . . .
Artists creating . . .
Chefs preparing . . .
Architects designing . . .
Construction workers building . . .
Actually, it is all of the above; yet none of the above.
It’s a body: many parts, many functions . . .
lungs breathing, heart pumping
stomach digesting, muscles flexing.
By analogy, it’s the body of Christ—the worldwide community of believers—doing what bees, ants, birds, fish, parents, teachers, artists, chefs, architects, construction workers do—each fulfilling their roles.
Paul concludes his letter to the Corinthians giving specific examples of roles that parts of the body play, similar to what he had described earlier about feet, hands, ears, eyes. “God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be” (1 Cor 12:18).
What’s a healthy body look like? According to the examples in 1 Cor 16:12-24, it’s members of the body doing things like . . .
* assisting and encouraging others
* sharing what others lack
* yielding to one another
* greeting one another warmly
It’s the air we breathe, the blood our hearts pump, the food we live on, the exercising we do. It’s LOVE. Without it, this unique body of Christ wouldn’t be unique at all. We would fail to demonstrate that Jesus came from God into the world and loved us all the way to the cross so that we can continue the mission of love (see John 17:23). “Now the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13).
APPLICATION: Are some people members of the body of Christ only in the sense that they consider themselves Christians? True members of the body are Christ-followers who lovingly devote themselves to assisting others in every way possible, who share with others generously, who yield to one another willingly, who greet one another warmly? This is the way the community of believers is designed to function. It’s similar to the parts of our physical bodies functioning as efficiently and harmoniously as possible so we can be as healthy as possible; and we give a lot of attention to having healthy physical bodies. Shouldn’t we be even more focused on the health and harmony of the body of Christ?
“For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits.” -1 Corinthians 16:7
1 Corinthians 16:5-11 is a beautiful example of waiting on the Lord’s timing and living with an “if the Lord permits” attitude. In verse seven we see Paul make the choice to wait on seeing the Corinthians. He had a brief opportunity to see them now but also had an opportunity later on that would allow him more time. Whatever his reasoning behind it he decided it was best to wait until he had more time to be with the church. Instead of being focused on the wait and what he hoped to accomplish in Corinth he set his focus on what was before him. Verse nine tells us that God opened doors to keep Paul where he was, wide doors for effective service.
I don’t know many people who are a fan of waiting for much of anything. I count myself among the top in need of prayer for patients. But while we sit in the waiting rooms of life waiting for God to open that next door our time is not wasted. His timing is absolutely perfect, and He will open that door when the things behind it are lined up where they need to be. But more than that, He will open that next door when our waiting room time is finished. Paul relied on the timing of the Lord which is why he held back on visiting the Corinthians, but he also kept his focus on where he was while he waited. And sure enough, the Lord opened that wide door for effective waiting room service.
Don’t rush the wait, and don’t focus so much on the door that your tunnel vision blocks out all that He has for you in this time of wait. He is not wasting your time or His. When the enemy fights for your attention stop and look around for what he wants to take your focus off of. What is God doing that the enemy does not want you to see?
Live with an “if the Lord permits” kind of attitude. “Instead, you ought to say ‘if the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” -James 4:15
The doting grandparents were observing the play of their granddaughters. The nine-year old was blowing bubbles, and some of them—large and sparkling—were landing on the head of the two-year old, much to the delight of her younger sister. After about a dozen or so of the bubbles had been dropped on her head, she put up her hand to take them down so she could look at them, supposing they were all still there.
But when she reached up, all the bubbles had broken except one, and that one disappeared when she touched it. As you can imagine, she was astonished and disappointed. She was about to cry but the older sister blew another bubble and they both laughed.
The wise grandfather commented to his wife, “People are like our young granddaughter. They’re always fooling themselves that all the soap bubbles they have ever blown were durable, and it just isn’t so; they endure but for a moment.”[*]
Story-tellers like to end with “The moral of the story . . .” The bubble story reminds us that many of the things we enjoy or treasure in this life are often only temporary. It’s not smart to put too much stock in such things. This reminds us of the words of Jesus, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19 NLT). Or, could we paraphrase, “. . . where they disappear like soap bubbles”?
Note the clear instructions of Paul, encouraging his young follower to challenge his congregation: “Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future . . .” (1 Timothy 6:18-19 NLT).
Today’s Bible reading from another of Paul’s letters paints a beautiful picture of laying up eternal treasures. How? Through generous, cheerful giving. He says it’s beneficial both to the giver and the ones receiving the gifts (in this case, needy believers in Macedonia). Both will experience God’s provision, having their needs met (vv. 8, 12), and will be enriched (v. 11).
The church at Corinth is commended for their generosity, which is an evidence of their obedience to the gospel (v. 13), and of God’s grace in their lives (v. 14). What’s more, generous giving results in a generous harvest. “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (v. 6).
These donors were eager, ready, and enthusiastic about their giving (v. 2), in spite of their own needs, which Paul described in the previous chapter:
In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us 8:2-5).
Out of our much greater abundance today, we would do well to emulate those early Christians as they gave as Paul urged: “don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure For God loves a person who gives cheerfully” (9:7). Our giving will not disappear like bubbles, but will be a living testimony to God’s grace and reap eternal benefits, as well. jbd 4/24/19
[*] Adapted from William E. Barton, The Millionaire and the Scrublady
Most financial planners have a core belief that we should “pay ourselves first.” The idea is that once you’ve paid your bills, your top priority with the money that’s left is to put some into an emergency fund, some into savings and some into a retirement vehicle like an IRA or 401k.
How does that match up with what the Bible tells us? In the first four verses of 1 Corinthians 16, Paul addresses a question posed by the believers in Corinth about collecting money for the needs of other Christ followers. The believers in Jerusalem at that time were struggling. Acts 6 tells us there were a number of widows that needed the local church’s assistance, and later in chapter 11 we learn that the region was bowing under the weight of famine. Getting aid to them must have been a widespread, on-going mission because Paul refers to it in Galatians (Ch. 2), Acts (11, 24), Romans (15) and twice more in his second letter to the Corinthians (8, 9).
In today’s passage, Paul is giving instructions to the Corinthians and others in the region to help them coordinate fund raising and aid distribution to people in Jerusalem. In these instructions, he tells the believers in Corinth to save some money each week to give to the local church for the purpose of sending it to Jerusalem. He tells them what they give should fall in line with their normal weekly income. He also is clear that these collections should be taken up “now,” and regularly, so they could respond to those needs quickly.
In addition, heurges them to select trustworthy men to collect, administer and deliver that aid.
How does this apply to us today?
We should, in proportion to our resources, be cheerfully and intentionally setting aside money for the specific purpose of helping people around us (2 Cor. 9:7). It could be a special offering for one of our global partners, for supplies for We Care Warsaw, or for investing in “your one.” Even though we don’t have equal resources, Paul is reminding us that we have a responsibility to share what we have with those who need help.
Perhaps the most important resource each of us has is time. Consider this: if someone came to you and asked you for either an hour of your time or $20 to help with a project, would you instinctively reach into your pocket? We may not have significant amounts of money, but we do each have 24 hours-per-day to invest in the lives of those we are called to minister to.
Whether in money, in time, or both, our return on our investment is not only the good feeling the Holy Spirit gives us for knowing that we did a good thing here on earth, but also the realization that our reward in Heaven is guaranteed for all of eternity.
No earthly stock or mutual fund can ever promise that.
On Christmas Day, 1868, President Andrew Jackson—with the following declaration—pardoned thousands upon thousands of southerners who had fought in the Civil War:
“Now, therefore, be it known that I, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, by virtue of the power and authority in me vested by the Constitution . . . do hereby proclaim and declare unconditionally and without reservation, to all and to every person who, directly or indirectly, participated in the late insurrection or rebellion, a full pardon and amnesty for the offense of treason against the United States . . . with restoration of all rights, privileges, and immunities under the Constitution and the laws which have been made in pursuance thereof.”
Amazing! That was President Jackson’s Christmas gift to a nation still deeply divided and in need of much healing. Many who had fought against the north paid a huge price and still faced the possibility of years of drawn-out court proceedings, convictions, imprisonment, and even execution. Did the presidential pardon solve all the problems of a nation trying to recover from the bitterest of civil wars? No. But it was a brilliant step in the right direction. (President Abraham Lincoln and President Ulysses Grant were also involved in granting pardon to leaders of the Civil War.)
A presidential pardon gives offenders, who face almost certain imprisonment—or are already in prison—reprieve from years of feeling that they, on the one hand, are citizens of a free country, but on the other, are incarcerated behind bars that offer no freedom. Such prisoners long to rejoin the country of which they are truly citizens.
So it is with Christians. We were guilty of insurrection and rebellion against the President of the Universe (God Himself). But we were granted pardon and amnesty and declared full citizens of heaven, with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto. (In our case, the pardon is based on being willing to lay down our arms of rebellion and disobedience and in faith to cooperate with the President’s policies.)
There is a small problem, however. Even as the world was not all it should have been after President Jackson’s presidential pardon, our world is not all it should be either. We’re not in heaven yet. We long for that, but there’s a delay—we need to live out our days on this earth. It’s one of the President’s policies that we accept, even though it means being confined in a culture where we don’t fully belong.
For some of us, unfortunately, we can become too comfortable in the clothes of this life, including the shabby garment of sin. We lose sight of the new robes of righteousness awaiting us (Rev 19:8). We can lose hope and grieve too much over those who have passed away (1 Thess 4:13). We can become discouraged about the delay (1 Thess 4:18).
Add to that, the whole idea of a sudden return of Jesus and a miraculous change of location for Christians from earth to heaven is poo-pooed in modern society. “Jesus come back? Really? If it hasn’t happened in 2,000 years, don’t bank on it in your lifetime!”
All of this can lead to Christians not thinking about this glorious event very much and not longing for it very urgently. We become almost numb to the notion. We don’t pray, “Hurry up, Jesus! We need you to come back asap.” (Maybe the absence of such prayers is part of the reason for the delay.) And we don’t think of ourselves as being in the dress rehearsal and getting everything ready for the grand finale.
APPLICATION: It’s Good Friday. Let’s commemorate the huge price that was paid and the battle that was won to secure our pardon! It’s Easter Sunday. Let’s celebrate the resurrection, and the assurance that the trumpet will sound, the Lord shall descend, and so shall we ever be with the Lord! Hallelujah!
The first time I can clearly remember being thankful that these earthly bodies are not our eternal home I was tucking my 90-year-old grandmother into bed. It had been a long and hard day of caring for her though I count it as one of my greatest joys. I held her hand, said our prayers and kissed her goodnight. As she stuttered “I love you” I thanked God that this body was not her eternal home, but that she had a house not constructed by hands as described in 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 waiting for her.
One thing was evident in her life though, and that was that whether here on earth or in Heaven with her Savior her aim was to please Him. I believe our aim should be the same. Whether it comes with age or a chronic illness we all have moments when we come face to face with the reality that our earthly bodies are not our home and we couldn’t be more thankful for it. We long to be in our Heavenly home with our Savior free of all pain and discomfort. But while we remain here in our earthly bodies we have work yet to do.
For we live by faith and not by sight, knowing that one day when we reach our eternal home we will stand before the Lord ready to be judged. This knowledge should affect the way we live our lives. It should push us to strive every day in every way to please Him here on this earth. When the days are hard, and this world weighs heavy on us we can take courage and know that this will not last.
My grandmother passed away just two months after that night. As much as a miss her deeply I am thankful that she is no longer suffering but is whole in her eternal home. I have no doubt that she heard “Well done My good and faithful servant” as she strived her whole life here to please her Savior. I long to hear those words too, but it starts with today. It starts with this moment; how will you strive to please Him?
Been to the doctor lately? Trying to lose weight …again? Wondering if you’re going to have cancer or a heart attack? We are all very much aware of our physical bodies. The aches and pains of life are all too real. We spend lots of time and money to keep these bodies working well and do our best to stave off the inevitable signs of aging. Most people are aware, however, that there is more to life than just the physical. Many are trying to “get in touch” with their inner self or are dabbling in all kinds of spiritual exercises to find ways to live in harmony with themselves, nature, and other people.
God’s Word has a great deal to say about the physical and the spiritual. Both are important and the Bible is clear about the differences. In today’s reading, for example, note the contrasts between the natural man and the spiritual. The descriptions list the contrasts in origin and characteristics.
First Adam// Last Adam
Living being//Life-giving Spirit
From dust, earthly man//From heaven
Sinand death//Victory through Jesus
In a later letter to the Roman church Paul explains further the relationship between the one man, Adam, and the one man, Jesus. Adam was responsible for the entrance of sin into the world (see Genesis 3) and, consequently, death. But as tragic as that is, the grace of God is greater through the second Adam. Paul wrote, “But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:15).* Again, “For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ (v. 17). If repetition is the key to learning, here’s the additional text: “Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous. (v. 19)
So, should we ignore the physical? No! Christians should takegood care of themselves physically. And we should give even more attention to our spiritual health. We’ll have new bodies — won’t that be great? But, until then we need to be spiritually “healthy” (mature) to serve the Lord and his church effectively. jbd 4/17/19
*The verses from Romans 15 are from the New Living Translation
Tuesday, April 16, 2019
My four year old grandson asked me, “Gigi, are you going to heaven?” “Yes, I am,” I answered, “I asked Jesus into my heart just like you.” With my eyes twinkling, I added, “If I get there before you, Jesus and I will be waiting for you.” Looking at my knee brace, he furrowed his brow and asked, “Will there be chairs in heaven?” In 1 Corinthians 15: 35-44, we get to hear Paul’s response the Greek Corinthians’ questions about the resurrection of the dead. Walk a few miles with me in a Greek Corinthian’s sandals. The Greeks did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. Most Greek philosophers considered the human body a prison and welcomed death as a release from bondage.
In Acts 17:32, we find Paul in Athens. Paul explains that God calls everyone to repentance through His Son, who has been raised from the dead. Some of the Greeks sneered at what they perceived to be an absurd assertion of the resurrection of the dead. Paul had to face the Greek Corinthian believers questions in 1 Corinthians 15:35 because they had doctrinal and practical implications.
Now slip off your Greek Corinthian sandals with me, let’s wash our dusty feet, and think about people today. They are still asking these same questions about the resurrection with skepticism in their voices. It is easier to talk about the Cadbury bunny and Easter Egg hunts than it is to explain the foundational truth of Jesus’s resurrection and the resurrection of the believers.
The Greeks reasoned that the resurrection of the human body was impossible. The human body could be observed after burial, it turned to dust and became soil and the proof was in the deceased person’s tomb. How do we answer that with the empty tomb of Jesus? In 1 Corinthians 15: 36-37, Paul talks about planting a seed that dies but comes to life with an appearance that is not the same as the seed that was planted. Tulip bulbs are not attractive. They are brown and lifeless in appearance .The gardener must dig holes, expertly place them in those soil graves in the fall and cover the bulbs up. Spring brings a floral resurrection of sorts, (in Indiana, sometimes, we wonder if Spring is ever arriving), green shoots give way to riotous color that does not look anything like the bulbs that were planted and resided in the soil all winter. In John 12:23-28, Jesus speaks about his own death, “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
In 1 Corinthians 15:1-2, Paul again asks the Corinthians to focus on the gospel “… hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise you have believed in vain.” Throughout scripture we find people asking questions that seem beyond our human answers. Habakkuk questions the will of God, Jonah questions the mercy of God, Job questions the way in which God works. The Corinthian believers were asking questions that diverted the focus of the believers from the gospel to philosophical meanderings. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:47, explains, “The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man of heaven.” When the resurrection of the dead happens, it will not be the resuscitation of corpses, but the transformation of physical bodies. Philippians 3:20-21 states, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there…who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so they will be like His glorious body.” Resurrection is not reconstruction of our earthly bodies. In 1 Corinthians 15:42, we see that, “So it will be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable.”
Just like the Corinthians, and others in the Bible, we have a lot of tough questions that don’t seem to have satisfactory humanly explainable answers. Eternity with Jesus is part of God’s salvation plan, but how that fleshes out is still a mystery that we will one day know fully. Are there chairs in heaven? I don’t know the answer, but knee braces are not required apparel. In 1Corinthians 15:58, Paul refocuses our spiritual gaze with a therefore, “…stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord because your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Is your focus on the most important thing during this Easter season?
Our comments on today’s reading will be brief and direct.
The guarantee of our resurrection is clearly based on the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. Therefore, we should rejoice and live in light of what Christ has won for us.
“Let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. . . . For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. . . . ‘But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless (vv. 51-58, NLT).jbd 4/15/19
A German and a Frenchman; both left an indelible mark on history—one a black mark, one a bright mark. One a feared dictator, one an admired microbiologist and professor. One died in infamy, one in fame. One took the life of millions, one saved the life of millions.
Nothing remains that had been named “Hitler,” except for a blind cave-beetle discovered during Hitler’s rise to power, found only in caves in Slovenia (“Anophthalmus hitleri”). While as Führer, however, Hitler’s name had appeared on many streets and city squares. But after WWII, such places were promptly “de-hitler-ized.”
For Pasteur, it’s the opposite. In many places around the world, streets, squares, hospitals and even universities bear his name. Why? His scientific and medical discoveries—with his wife Marie’s assistance—have changed the lives, and saved the lives, of untold millions, especially in discovering how to inoculate against disease. Probably his most famous invention was a way to stop bacterial contamination, hence “pasteur”-ized milk.
Hitler, on the other hand, is credited with creating 1,200 concentration camps, where millions of ordinary people and so called ‘racially undesirables’ were enslaved, used as forced labor in the war industries, then brutally murdered in mass numbers. Almost six million Jews—men, women, and children—were incarcerated and exterminated. In his book Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”), Hitler equated Jews with germs and considered them to be the international poisoners of society. In addition, an estimated five million others died in the Nazi camps: Polish, Romani (gypsies), disabled—anyone who didn’t fit Hitler’s warped view of a master Aryan race, “sub-humans,” in his estimation.
Now it may seem like an unfair comparison, but the Bible presents a striking contrast between two men too, between the first Adam and the “last Adam” (1 Cor 15:45). The actions of one led to the death of untold billions, including millions of Jews. The actions of the other offers life to millions and billions. They both left an indelible mark on history—one a very black mark, one a brilliantly bright mark. “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive! (1 Cor 15:22).
Where did Adam go wrong? He believed a lie and acted in disobedience. One of Hitler’s infamous quotes was, “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.” Hmmm. That sounds like the manifesto of a dictator, a despot, of the devil himself.
Where did Pasteur go right? It is reported that he had an absolute faith in God and in eternity, a conviction that the power for good given to us in this life continues beyond it. For him the virtues of the gospel were his primary motivation.
The most important question is, Where did Jesus go right? Paul nails it when he quotes Old Testament poetry and reports that Jesus “put everything under his feet” (1 Cor 15:26). By His resurrection Jesus triumphed over every enemy of the cross, over the devil’s dominion, authority, and power, and over every earthly expression of that evil. One day Jesus will victoriously hand over the kingdom to the Father and all the wrongs of this world will be made right.
APPLICATION: What can we learn from the extremes of human existence? What not to do—from such as Adolf Hitler, and what to do—from such as Louis Pasteur, and especially from Jesus. Let there be no middle ground—never part way between Hitler and Pasteur, between the devil and Jesus. But all the way to and under Jesus!