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

Monday, January 27, 2014

From Acorn to Oak

1 Corinthians 15 is perhaps my favorite chapter of Paul's letter.  Please read it as it talks about the resurrection of Christ, the dead and the body.

Paul gives this as the bare bones definition of the Gospel:

"... that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to Scriptures..." 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

I am going to assume that you believe that Jesus was raised from the dead.  I'm also going to assume that you know that believers will be raised from the dead and given eternal life.  This is the promise of the Gospel.  This is the truth we are told to stand firmly upon.  Without this our faith is useless and should be abandoned.

But what about our heavenly bodies?  Paul says we we rise again with heavenly bodies.  What will these be like?  Why do we need new bodies?  Is my current body ugly?

Paul writes that we currently have bodies with splendor.

"... the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another." 1 Corinthians 15:40

Our bodies have splendor.  We are made in the image of God by a skillful, artistic creator God.  Don't ever say that you aren't beautiful and wonderfully made because the Bible says you are.

So, why then will we need heavenly bodies if our earthly bodies have splendor?  Paul says that our heavenly bodies will have a different kind or different level of splendor.  We are made in the image of God now, but that image is cloudy.  Remember that in those days they didn't have mirrors like we do. To see one's image one might look in the water or in the reflection on metal.  The image is a reflection but not a perfect reflection.  So, our heavenly bodies will be a splendorous reflection of the glory of God.

"Just as we have born the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven (Jesus)."  1 Corinthians 15:49

What will our heavenly bodies be like other than that?  Will we all be little Jesus clones?  Absolutely not.  We will reflect His character but retain the essence of who He created us to be as individuals.

Think of it this way.  An acorn is a beautiful part of nature.  But put the acorn in the ground and it will grow into a towering, beautiful, majestic oak tree.  The acorn will never turn into a pine tree or a palm tree.  The acorn of an oak will only turn into an oak.  And we can always look at an oak tree and know what it used to be.  The oak tree has the same essence as the acorn, the same genetic makeup but a different type of splendor and there is no arguing which splendor is better.

We are like that.  In heaven we will keep our essence while enhancing our splendor.  In fact, in heavenly we won't be less like ourselves we will be ourselves as we were designed to be.  In the end of time our friends and family that we will meet in heaven will be recognizable yet completely morphed into their splendid heavenly form.

We will be changed like an acorn into an oak.  We will be raised from death to eternal life because of the death and resurrection of Jesus!  This is our hope.

"'Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?'

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."  1 Corinthians 15:55-58

We have immense hope. We will rise again.  We can laugh at death.  We will receive heavenly bodies that will not have aches and pains.  Because of our hope we can and must stand firmly on the Gospel. We can and must be fully devoted to the work of the Lord because if God can give us this hope how much more can He ensure that our work in Him is not in vain?

Stand firm on the Gospel.  Be devoted to work of the Lord because your labor will not be in vain today.

Monday, January 20, 2014

You Can Prophesy

Please read 1 Corinthians chapter 14.  The chapter is full of great insight and some confusing topics.  I will not be addressing the section on orderly worship because I cannot do it justice in a short blog.  However, I will look at the topic of prophecy.

When reading the Bible we can never read it chapter by chapter as if one chapter of a book is completely independent of another.  So, when we read chapter 14 we must remember that chapter 13 came before it.  And when we read the passage about women in the church we must remember that chapter 11 is of the same book.

Chapter 13 is aptly described as the Love Chapter.  The focus of the first part of chapter 14 flows smoothly out of chapter 13.  Let's look at the first few verses.

"Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.  For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God.  Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.  But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.  He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.  I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy."  1 Corinthians 14:1-5

If you want to learn more about why tongues are good but prophesy is preferred, go ahead and read Paul's chapter.  I want to look more at how we can have the gift of prophecy.  If prophecy is to be especially desired and beneficial to the church then we should find out how to have this gift.

Prophecy is speaking the words of God.  Throughout the history of the Church and the nation of Israel prophets have spoken the words of God.  Sometimes as warning, sometimes as predictions of the future, sometimes for encouragement and always for the benefit of others.

When we think of prophecy we get stuck on the predicting of the future.  I want us to believe that that can and does happen, but I don't want to spend much time with that.

You can prophesy.  I guarantee you.

You can prophesy from your computer, phone, in person... you can prophesy with the equipping you have now.

Remember prophecy is speaking the words of God.  You are incredibly fortunate to have a copy of the Word of God.  Even if you don't have a physical Bible I know you can download the Word of God for free on whatever it is you're reading this on.

Prophesy today by sending a text with a scripture on it.  Make your Facebook status an encouraging word from the Word.  Remind a friend of one of the promises in Scripture and that the promises in Scripture are for them in their life today.

Let's say your friend is battling depression.  Google "Bible verses for people with depression" and tell your friend to look them up.  Or restate the verses as a prayer for them and send that prayer in writing to them.

The well of prophecy is deeper than this for sure, but it starts at this level for us all to take part in the most loving gift of the Spirit.  Think of ways to use the Word of God to strengthen, encourage and comfort those around you today.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Are You Ready for a Serious Relationship?

Last week I wrote about love from 1 Corinthians 13.  We studied that passage in our Bible study group.  Some of those in that group, the youth group at church and many other people I know long for a serious relationship.  They long to be married some day.  They long to have a boyfriend or girlfriend.  They long for companionship and love.

This longing is good and has existed even before sin was in the world.  Adam had this longing.  I had this longing.  You may have this longing.  But I want you to be ready for a serious relationship.  I'm so glad I didn't enter one until I was ready (not entirely by my choice, but some of it was).

Below are some signs that you are ready for a serious relationship.  These signs are written for men but may be helpful for women, too.

You're ready for a serious relationship if:

1) You know your strengths and weaknesses.
I believe you should discover who you are in Christ and how you were created before jumping into a committed relationship.

2) You can provide for yourself.
Men are to be providers.  How can you provide for another if you can't provide for yourself?  I'm not saying that you need to be rich by any means, but you should know how to take care of yourself.  If you're sitting in the basement of your parents' house playing video games this afternoon you might want to wait to date.

3) You are spiritually well.
You will not be perfect until heaven, but you should be in a healthy relationship with God before you date one of His daughters.

4) You can lead yourself.
Men are called to be the spiritual leaders of our families.  How on earth can you lead others if you cannot lead yourself?  Are you disciplined?  Do you pursue God?  Don't pursue one of His daughters unless you're pursuing Him.  Ladies, don't let a man love you unless He loves God more.

5) You want a Godly woman.
Boys chase after easy girls.  Boys want girls.  Men want Godly women.  Men, pursue women like the one described in Proverbs 31. Women, be the Godly woman that Godly men want and watch how the boys stop pursuing and the Godly men start noticing you.

6) You want to love NOT be loved primarily.
This was a huge sign in my life that I was ready to find my wife.  In my immaturity I wanted someone to love me.  When I started wanting to love someone I knew I was husband material.  See, God poured His love into me so that I was overflowing.  I don't need to be filled by someone else.  I need someone to share my overflowing love with.  Do I desire to be loved?  Yes.  But that wasn't my primary desire.  Desire to give love more than to get love.

7) You are willing to die for someone.
Men, could you potentially die for someone that you love?  If you can't, then don't get into a serious relationship.  Now, when you begin to date you don't have to be willing to die for them.  But you should be prepared to reach that point with someone.  I didn't say "I love you" when I was dating until I knew I could die for my wife Christine.  She's the only woman I said that to, or will ever say that to, romantically.

8) You aren't scared by marriage.
Dating relationships end in one of two ways: you break-up or get married.  Don't enter a serious relationship if you are petrified by the thought of marriage.  Now, you don't have to be positive that you'll marry someone before you seriously date them.  That's ridiculous.  But you should be in a place where you could see yourself getting married soon.  If you think, "Marriage is waaaay in the future."  Maybe a serious relationship should be waaaaay in the future too.

The eight signs above are neither comprehensive nor perfect, but I believe we should be level minded when thinking about entering a serious relationship.  If you've read this and feel that you aren't ready to date, then don't date.  It's not that weird, in fact it will give you a lot of time to serve God and others and do some things that you want to do.

If you've read these eight signs and are more than ready to not only date but be married, I implore you not to lose hope.  If you desire to get married you desire a good thing.  Don't lose that desire, but don't be controlled by it either.  Keep trusting God.  Whether you're married, dating, not wanting to date or desperately desiring romance your charge is to trust God today.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Love is Supreme

Please read 1 Corinthians chapter 13.  This is an incredibly familiar passage of scripture and it is often called the love chapter.  I'm sure if you've been to a wedding you've heard this passage read.

Believe it or not, Paul did not write this passage for the Corinthians to use in their wedding ceremonies.  Paul wrote this letter because the church at Corinth was a screwed up, divided community living in the midst of extreme sin and paganism.  In the midst of all this Paul was teaching them the most excellent way.  Love.

Paul wanted the church at Corinth to know, and God wants you to know, why love is supreme.  Below are some reasons why love is supreme that can be found in the thirteen verses of the chapter.

1) Love is essential for our lives to have meaning.

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophesy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing." 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

These are strong words.  All the gifts of the Spirit listed in the previous chapter are pointless without love.  Giving to the poor is pointless without love.  Good things done without love are without purpose.
So, we must ask, "What is love?" (If you said 'baby don't hurt me' in your head you're not alone.  That song's stuck in my head now, too.)

"Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."  1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Do things in that definition of love and you will leave a Christ-like legacy.  Your life will have immense meaning.

2) Spiritual gifts will fade but love remains for eternity.

"Love never fails (ends).  But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.  Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."  1 Corinthians 13:8-12

The gifts of the Spirit point to the Almighty God.  They point to Yahew and His character.  When we see God, the three in one, face to face we will not need the gifts of the Spirit.  The gifts act as a mirror.  Why would we look at a reflection of God when we will have the ability to look at Him and His glory face to face?  We won't.

Love, however, is an attribute of God.  1 John tells us that God is love.  That doesn't mean that God is only love, but that God is the definition of love.  He is love and He is eternal, so love is eternal.  The gifts of the Spirit will fade but love remains for eternity.

3) Love is superior to faith and hope.

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.

(I'm stealing the next to points from my study Bible and a Bible Gateway commentary.)  Faith is the foundation and content of God's message.  Hope is our attitude and focus as Christians.  Love is the action that emanates from our hope and faith.

In heaven faith will be swallowed up in actual sight.  Hope will be swallowed up by enjoyment.  But love will not pass, rather our love will be made perfect.

Love is supreme.  Love is the most excellent way.  It will never fade.  It makes everything we do have meaning.  It will one day be made perfect in us.  And the bottom line is "We love because He first loved us."  1 John 4:19.  Live your life in the most excellent way.  Spread the love given to you by God today.