Paul says we Christians are running a race. Here's what I'm looking at on my run toward Christ.

Monday, September 30, 2013


Please take time to read 1 Corinthians chapter 4.  When you do, here's a little tip that will keep you from missing the meaning.  Read verses 7 through 13 as though Paul is writing it facetiously.  It's actually quite funny when you do, not to mention it's the correct way to read it.

One verse that stood out to me from this chapter was verse 16.

"Therefore I urge you to imitate me." 1 Corinthians 4:16

Paul asked the church at Corinth to imitate him.

This made me think, "Could I implore others to imitate me?"  "Could I say, 'I urge you to imitate me?"

This is a good question.  We should ask ourselves if the life we are leading is worth imitation.  We should ask if people would be living a Godly life if they imitated us.

But I'll let you in on a secret about that great question.

It doesn't matter.

"Could I ask someone to imitate me?" is a pointless question because it doesn't matter if you think someone could imitate you because someone is imitating you.  I can guess that there is someone in your sphere of influence that imitates you at least in part.  And if you are in any position of leadership I can guarantee there is someone in your sphere of influence that is imitating you in at least some fashion.

So, the better thing to ask is this:  "Someone is imitating me.  What should I do to be a better model for them?"

But you may say, "No one is imitating me.  I've never heard once that someone wanted to be like me in any way."

I've felt that way before, but that thought is a lie.  Whether you like it or not, or know it or not, your life is on display and someone is watching you.  Be worthy of imitation.

Another thing I want you to think about is this.  "Who should I imitate?"

Don't get fooled into thinking that you've got it all figured out.  Imitate some of the great men and women of God around you.  Find a Godly father that models what you want to be some day.  Find a Godly woman that is the prayer warrior you want to be.  Find someone worth imitating and watch them closely as they model what it looks like to follow God in the real world.

Finally, if you have someone that you imitate, please tell them.  I'm sick of going to funerals where this line is spoken: "You know I never told them but..."  Tell people in your life what an influence they have been on you.  Encourage them to continue to be a person in the church worthy of imitating.

Be worthy of imitation today.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Magnificent Temple

Take time to read 1 Corinthians chapter 3.

"Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?  If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple." 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

These verses are two of the most misused verses I can think of in the Bible.  Popular interpretation of this passage is as follows:

"Work out and stop eating McDonald's because you are God's temple, He lives in you and you should stop making His temple so dadgun flabby!"

This is not at all what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote this to the church at Corinth.  Take time to read 1 Corinthians chapter 3.  In the chapter Paul addresses the local church at Corinth as a whole.  At no point is he writing to them as individuals; rather, he writes to the church as a whole.  Therefore, verses 16 and 17 are written to the church as a whole as well.  In fact,  (surprise, surprise) the verses quoted above stay on topic with the verses before them.

To understand what Paul's original intent was you need to know a little something about Greek temples.  The purpose of Greek temples wasn't entirely the same as the purpose of the Jewish temple.  A Greek temple was primarily a monument to the god for which it was built.  The Parthenon in Athens was built magnificently to show the greatness of the goddess Athena.  The temple of Apollo in Corinth, with its 38 columns, was built magnificently to show the greatness of the god Apollo.  Thus the Greek thinking was, "show me a great temple and I'll show you a great god."  The greatness of a god was known by the majesty of its temple.

"Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?  If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple."

This passage is preceded by verses denouncing divisions in the local church at Corinth.  So, Paul is saying that divisions and quarreling in the local church cause the temple of God to crumble.  Divisions cause the columns to tumble and the roof to cave in.

Again, please don't misunderstand Paul.  Paul does not mean that divisions in the local church cause the temple of God to crumble and therefore hurt our God who dwells there.  Absolutely not!  We are incapable of hurting the God of the universe.  We are incapable of stopping, bruising or thwarting God even with the worst of infighting.

Rather, the metaphor of the destroyed temple is to warn us that church divisions can keep us from fully displaying God's glory to our community.  If the greatness of a god is evidenced by the magnificence of the god's temple, then when we, the temple of God, have divisions we don't accurately reflect the glory of our great God.  People in our community see our crumbling temple and think, "That must not be a very great god."

Friends, our God is great!  He is the God above all gods!  He is worthy of a great temple!  So, stop destroying God's temple.  Your local church is sacred... treat it as such.  Don't have God destroy you.  Strive for unity.  Strive to build a great temple on the foundation which Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter 3 is Christ Jesus.  Build your local church on the great foundation and use only what's of eternal value to build upon that.

Our God deserves a magnificent temple.  Work hard together to be that magnificent temple.  Fight for unity in your local church today.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Christ and Christ Crucified

Take time to read 1 Corinthians chapter 2.

I have the awesome privilege of teaching the Word of God to high school aged youth.  On a weekly basis I get the opportunity to open the Scripture and speak about our great God.  This is an awesome privilege and an awesome, heavy responsibility.

"Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly."  James 3:1

Teaching youth, or anyone for that matter, is a grand and heavy task.  So, one must examine what good Biblical teaching is so as not to be judged as doing a bad job.

What is good teaching of Scripture?

This is the question I'm left asking because I don't want to stand before God and be found to have taught incorrectly.

I think Paul answers what good teaching and good scriptural interpretation is.

"For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified."  1 Corinthians 2:2

This statement describes good Biblical teaching in a nutshell.  We who teach are not to only look for moral lessons from the Bible.  That's not the primary goal of Scripture.  Now, moral lessons can be found all over the pages of God's Word.  All over the Word we see God's way versus man's way.  All over Scripture we are given good, moral lessons.  But moral lessons are not the goal of Scripture.

The focal point of Scripture is Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  The entire Old Testament points forward to Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  The Gospels describe Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  And the rest of the New Testament points back to Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Jesus Christ and Him crucified therefore must be the focal point of our teaching.  Teachers, we must not stop at moral lessons and fall short of giving our students what they need most... Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  Teachers, if we help our students, whether youth, adult or children, become moral people but miss teaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified we could and should be judged more strictly.  We could be teaching our students to be good, decent, damned people.

So, our call as teachers, if we want to be good teachers that is, is to have Christ and Christ crucified in every lesson we teach.  When we read David and Goliath we must see Christ and Christ crucified in the story... because it's there.  When we teach the 10 Commandments we must see Christ and Christ crucified... because it's there.  Teachers we must resolve to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified as the focal point of our teaching.

Teach Christ and Christ crucified today.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Twelve years ago today my country was attacked on its own soil.  Twelve years ago today terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and had one crash in a field in Pennsylvania.  Twelve years ago today my world and yours was changed.

We watched in horror as we saw specks floating off the side of the Twin Towers.  We were chilled to the bone when we realized that those specks were people.  We trembled as we watched the towers collapse over and over as the scene was replayed on our television screens.

Twelve years ago today we wondered who "they" were.  We questioned who we were supposed to fear and hate.  We desired a face to the enemy because we were angry.

We soon were filled with patriotism, national unity and a communal desire for revenge.  We cheered out loud or in our hearts when on a pile of rubble George W. Bush said as he responded to a rescue worker who shouted that he couldn't hear the president, "I can hear you!  The rest of the world hears you!  And the people... the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!"

I remember twelve years ago feeling lost and confused.  "Where was God on September 11th?" was the question of the hour.

I remember huddling for a few people at Fairview Baptist Church praying that day.  I don't remember what we prayed but I remember the church seemed to be the only logical place to go that evening.

So, to this day the questions are, "Where was God on September 11th, 2001?" and "Why did God let this happen?"

I can't tell you why God let thousands of people die on September 11th, 2001 or recently in Syria or for the last several years in Darfur for that matter.  I can't answer why God lets tragedies occur.

I can, however, answer the question of "where was God on September 11th, 2001?"

God was on His throne ruling.  God wasn't surprised by the attack.  He wasn't scrambling trying to figure out what was going on down here.  God wasn't overpowered by fear.  God was on His throne in charge of the universe and He's there today, too.

That is a comforting and a scary thought.  It's comforting because my God is reigning and He is doing things for His glory and my good.  It's scary because somehow even the tragedies of 9/11 fit in that realm of "things".  Even with God enthroned in heaven life will not be easy or even pleasant sometimes.  I'm left having to trust God even when everything hurts.  That is faith and that is why faith is so hard sometimes.

I'm sorry the answer to the question doesn't seem like "...and they lived happily ever after."  But I'm glad God was on His throne on that day.  I'm glad because I'd rather follow a God who is always in control than a god who desires things to be easy but can't do anything about it at times.  I just need to trust that my God who is in control is also the God who says He does all things for His glory and our good even when we can't figure out how.

Take time today to remember those who lost their lives twelve years ago today.  Take time to pray for those who are still living without a loved one.  And remember that God is on His throne today.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Not Lacking Any Spiritual Gift

Beginning with this post I will be spending a lot of time in the books of 1st and 2nd Corinthians.  My Bible study and I are going through these challenging books together and I will try to post on each of the chapters in the books.  I will not be writing about everything that is covered in each chapter.  Rather, I'll try to write about something from each chapter.  I hope you enjoy this walk through 1st and 2nd Corinthians.

Please take time to read chapter one of 1st Corinthians.

"I always thank God for you because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus.  For in Him you have been enriched in every way... in all your speaking and in all your knowledge... because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you.  Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly await for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.  He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful."
1st Corinthians 1:4-9

In this, the opening of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, he spent time giving thanks for the church at Corinth.  This is amazing, especially when you consider what Paul had to deal with in this church.  Corinth was a wicked city.  It was full of mystery religions where you were devoted to the person who converted you.  They had 26 places in town devoted to some sort of god.  They had more than a dozen temples that employed thousands of temple prostitutes.  In fact, the term "Corinthian girl" was slang throughout the Roman world for prostitute.  Not only this but the church itself was full of infighting, immorality, people suing each other, people getting drunk at communion, and more.

Paul gave thanks for this church!  I think that gives all of us the ability to give thanks to God for our church.

Paul says, "... you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed."

When most of us read this we think, "Awesome!  I don't lack any spiritual gift!"  To be honest, I've read those words and thought the exact same thing most of my life.  But I think this interpretation is wrong.

Last night as we were reading this passage my wife made a great point.  In a nutshell she said that Paul wasn't talking about individuals, rather he was saying that the church at Corinth lacked no spiritual gift.

Aha!  That makes much more sense.  In fact, that is the way most people across the world will read it.  We Americans/Westerners love our individuality.  The U.S. Army's slogan was "Army of One", we love D.I.Y. projects, we love individuality to the point that we have forgotten to know our neighbors.  But this passage is not talking about us alone, but about this local church.

See, Paul was thanking God for them because God had given them every spiritual gift they needed to stay strong until the end.  We can thank God because He has given our local churches this too.  I don't think this is a passage that applies to the church at Corinth only.  This passage applies to my church and yours, too.

So, we need to stop thinking that A) we can do it alone and B) that our church is not good enough.

First, we can't do it alone.  Only together do we have the collective spiritual gifts to stay strong to the end.  We need each other to persevere.  You need the local church.  I need the local church.  Staying faithful to Jesus is a community project.

Second, quit comparing your church to another.  "Our church is okay but our worship team does sound like the church in the city" "My church is nice but we don't pack an arena full of people".  Statements like this only keep us from enjoying what God has given us.  He has given our local churches everything they need.

And get this, "God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful".  This means that when God says we lack nothing He is faithful to make His statement true because He is faithful and cannot lie.

So, whether your local church is big or small... Baptist or Lutheran... give thanks to God for it.  After you're done giving thanks go out there and with your church make a difference in the Kingdom because together you lack no spiritual gift today.