Friday, May 31, 2013

1 Corinthians 8 - Liberty with Meat

LINK: 1 Corinthians 8 


BACKGROUND


1 Corinthians 8-11 deals with liberty as it relates to pagan worship. Meat sacrificed to idols is covered in both chapters 8 and 10. Greeks and Romans burned portions of their animal sacrifices but retained the edible parts for banquets that celebrated the sacrifices. Sometimes, these parts were even sold in the marketplace. The Corinthians wondered if it was permissible to buy and eat these portions or to attend a meal celebrating the pagan sacrifice. Paul's principle regarding this is simple: love is more important than knowledge (we will hear more about that in 1 Corinthians 13). Since there was only one true God and idols were "nothing" (Psalm 115:4-8), their knowledge of this gave them freedom to eat the meat; but if their freedom caused another less knowledgeable person to stumble in their walk with God, then they needed to refrain from eating so that they were not a stumbling block to the weaker believer. Brotherly love was more important than knowledge.


REFLECTION


This chapter caused me to have a flashback to 1988 in a little restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand where my good friend, Somnuk, offered me oranges that had been put on the Buddha shelf in the restaurant earlier that day. I remember being in a quandary about what to do and finally decided not to eat them. This passage made me smile in remembrance. 


APPLICATION


Are there any things that you practice because you are free from their hold on you but may be causing your younger brother or sister in Christ to stumble?


PRAYER


I pray we would do all in love because Jesus did everything in love. Amen. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

1 Corinthians 7 - Marriage

LINK: 1 Corinthians 7


BACKGROUND


In 1 Corinthians 7:1-16:12, Paul answers a series of questions raised by the believers of Corinth.  1 Corinthians 7-10 involve personal questions:
Chapter 7 - Is singleness better than marriage? What about divorce and remarriage? 
Chapter 8 - Is it acceptable for Christians to eat food offered to idols? 
Chapter 9 - Is it proper for a person who ministers the gospel to get his living from it? 
Chapter 10 - If an action is lawful, is it profitable or beneficial?
In this chapter, Paul is talking about marriage in a city filled with sexual temptation. Corinth had a reputation in the pagan world for sexual immorality and religious prostitution. The Corinthians needed special instruction. We need special instruction today as well!


REFLECTION (all quotes in this reflection are from http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_dira.htm)

Here are some results about marriage from the Barna Research Group:

Barna's results verified findings of earlier polls: that conservative Protestant Christians, on average, have the highest divorce rate, while mainline Christians have a much lower rate. They found some new information as well: that atheists and agnostics have the lowest divorce rate of all.  George Barna commented that the results raise "questions regarding the effectiveness of how churches minister to families." The data challenges "the idea that churches provide truly practical and life-changing support for marriage." 
Right now, I am looking at a picture of a 2002 gathering of 17 friends that I met through a homeschooling internet forum. Since that gathering, ten have divorced and one has divorced twice. Of the remaining seven, two were already on their second marriage (but now happily married) and two more have contemplated divorce since that time. This does not include another three women who could not make this 2002 gathering who have also divorced since that time. On a happy note, one remarried her husband after years of being divorced. These people are not a statistic to me. They are people I love.

It is interesting to note that nine out of the sixteen people were from the South.  Of those nine, at the time of the picture, two were on their second marriage, and five divorced (but one remarried her husband). The South is the Bible Belt; but according to the Barna Research Group, the South has the highest percentage of divorces:
The data showed that the highest divorce rates were found in the Bible Belt. "Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama and Oklahoma round out the Top Five in frequency of divorce...the divorce rates in these conservative states are roughly 50 percent above the national average" of 4.2/1000 people. 
bullet11 southern states (AL, AR, AZ, FL, GA, MS, NC, NM, OK, SC and TX averaged 5.1/1000 people. (LA data is not available; TX data is for 1997).
bulletNine states in the Northeast (CT, MA, ME, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT) averaged only 3.5/1000 people.
Some of the factors that contribute to a high divorce rate in the Bible Belt, relative to Northeastern states are:
bulletMore couples enter their first marriage at a younger age.
bulletAverage household incomes are lower (OK and AR rate 46th and 47th in the U.S.)
bulletThey have a lower percentage of Roman Catholics, a denomination that does not recognize divorce. Anthony Jordan, executive director of the Southern Baptist Convention in Oklahoma commented: "I applaud the Catholics," says Jordan. "I don't think we as Protestant evangelists have done nearly as well preparing people for marriage. And in the name of being loving and accepting, we have not placed the stigma on divorce that we should have."
bulletSome factors in conservative Protestantism -- which is prevalent in the Bible Belt -- may causes a higher level of divorce.
The women in my picture are not statistics, they are friends who I have prayed and wept for and with. I have walked with some more deeply than others, but I know that none of them have entered the divorce process lightly. 

What is to be done in our marriages today?  Here are some suggestions from the article:
Some of the approaches being used by governments and religious groups to reduce the divorce rate are:
bulletPre-marital counseling for engaged couples. Some clergy now refuse to marry a couple unless they have completed such a course. The Roman Catholic church has done this for many years.
bulletEncouraging couples to accept mediation before deciding to divorce. 
bulletAdding public school courses that discuss values and relationships.
bulletIntroducing covenant marriages which are more difficult to get into and more difficult to get out of, in comparison with regular marriages.
I would also add that based on 30 years of discipling women and doing pre-marriage and marriage counseling, that most couples are/were not ready for marriage.  

My husband and I give a message on marriage in which we emphasize that we should know these things before we marry: 

Our Master - This involves a rock solid intimacy with the Lord to where He is our first love before our mates. It is not impossible to develop intimacy with the Lord after marriage, but it gets really dicey when one partner wants to grow, and the other one does not. If we have a rock solid intimacy, we are more likely to choose well when it comes to a mate. Also, without a security in the Lord, we might look to our spouse to meet our unmet desires, and those desires become demands! Then, the fireworks can fly!
Our Mission - These are those God-breathed heart passions that drive us into a meaningful and purposeful life. When one spouse gets a calling to something while the other one does not, it can cause conflict. Like-hearted purpose and direction is so important in marriage, and when we have a direction, we can also choose well when it comes to  . . .   
Our Mate - Who will complement and partner with us in our mission for our Master!
It is interesting that I am writing this post after just having read a Victorian novel that follows the lives of people in the English town of Middlemarch. Two of the main characters, both with noble life purposes, chose spouses who did not partner with them in their life passions. One of the main themes of the novel involves the consequences of those choices. It is definitely a cautionary tale.

APPLICATION



Several years ago, I led two classes called Marriage without Regrets. We covered all the major passages related to marriage, prayed for one another, and kept each other accountable. The class was life-changing for all of the participants! I highly recommend it. There is also a book written by Kay Arthur on the subject, but I recommend you "dig" for yourself in the Word of God (because this relates to what I said in the 1 Corinthians 3 post).

PRAYER


Lord, marriages everywhere are in turmoil. I pray that You would strengthen them, drawing each partner to You in a deeper and more intimate way. I ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

1 Corinthians 5 & 6 - Discipline:Such a Strong Word

LINK: 1 Corinthians 5 & 6

BACKGROUND


1 Corinthians 5



"Church discipline is not a group of 'pious policeman' out to catch a criminal. Rather, it is a group of brokenhearted brothers and sisters
 seeking to restore an erring member of the family." 

(The Bible Exposition Commentary, 1 Co 5-6)

Members of the church in Corinth did not want to face the sin of the incestuous relationship between a man and his stepmother. In addition, they did not mourn the sin! This sin is condemned in Leviticus 18:6-8 and 20:11. Even the pagan Gentile nations had laws against it (Cicero Cluentes 6. 15 and Gaius Institutis 1. 63)!

The first steps in confronting a brother or sister had already been given them by Jesus. Here is what I wrote when we covered the book of Matthew earlier in the year: 
Jesus teaches how to treat a believer who sins: Matthew 18:15-20 
This is what Jesus teaches us to do when another believer sins against us or causes us to stumble:
  • Go in private and seek reconciliation by gently correcting (Matthew 18:15, Galatians 6:1).  
  • If the person absolutely refuses after many attempts at reconciliation, get help from one or two others (Matthew 18:16).
  • If the person refuses to seek reconciliation with God and others after exhaustive attempts, ask church leaders to intervene in order to have them hold the person accountable to Scripture (Matthew 18:17, 1 Corinthians 5; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-16; 2 Timothy 2:23-26; Titus 3:10).
The goal is NOT to win an argument but to win a brother or sister!
In this chapter, Paul followed up with what happens after the church leaders intervene: 
  •  Remove the one in sin from the fellowship (1 Corinthians 5:2-13).
We will learn later steps as we continue in the New Testament:
  • Reject a factious man after two warnings (Titus 3:10). 
  • Do not associate with the disobedient person so that he will be put to shame; if you cannot avoid him, admonish him as a brother and not an enemy since the goal is that he come back into fellowship (2 Thessalonians 3:14,15).
  • Forgive, comfort, and reaffirm your love to the one who was in sin but has repented (2 Corinthians 2:5-8).
The goal is always love and restoration of the person in sin! Read the Warren Weirsbe quote at the beginning of this post again!

1 Corinthians 6

Paul did not think that believers should take other believers to court because: 

  1. If the judge and jury are not Christians, they are not likely to be sensitive to Christian values.
  2. The basis for going to court is often revenge which is not a Christlike motive.
  3. The church's reputation is damaged in front of a watching world.  (Adapted from The Life Application Bible, p. 2069)
Paul suggests arbitration before a church body. See the link in the Reflection section below for more about this and other peacemaking responses. 

The last part of 1 Corinthians 6 contains a list of immoral behaviors. There is no hierarchy of sin on these behaviors. No sin is worse than the other. The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God, and none of us would be righteous, washed, and sanctified if not for the blood of Jesus Christ! We need to pray for those lost in sin!

REFLECTION/APPLICATION

Church discipline is so yucky. I don't think anyone "enjoys" it! 

As I already did in 1 Corinthians 1, I urge you to read The Peacemaker. It is on my top five books every follower of Christ should read!


Here is also a PDF of a pamphlet I use when I do peacemaker counseling:


http://bookstore.peacemaker.net/html/Peacemaking_Principles_Pamphlet.pdf

The second page on the PDF has an explanation of different "Peacemaking Responses" that were covered in the post from today. It is a great guide to carry with you and share with others. I hand them out like candy!

PRAYER


Lord, I pray that we would all have a humble attitude for those in sin. Teach us how to lovingly confront in a way that will bring about reconciliation with You and others. Help us to not be resistant to confrontation, knowing that it is Your intervention of love in our lives because You want to be close to us and each other.
 Amen. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

1 Corinthians 4 - Be Humble

LINK: 1 Corinthians 4


BACKGROUND


Paul wanted the Corinthians to see their leaders as servants; subordinate and responsible to God, their Master, who will judge them in the end. The Corinthians were not to take pride in any one spiritual leader and to walk in humility. This would be the cure for the division that existed among them.


Humility was a difficult concept for the Greeks because humility was believed to be a trait of a slave and a sign of weakness (Plato Laws 6. 774c). Paul called on them to "imitate" him as an example of humility (4:16) and to listen to his spiritual child, Timothy, who would show them how to walk in Christ Jesus. 


REFLECTION 


The Corinthians thought they were "hot stuff" like the church in Laodicea: 

 Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, 
and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are
 wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked,
Revelation 3:17

Praying we can all walk in humility and dependence on God today realizing we are nothing without Him!

PRAYER

We are nothing without You God. We repent of our pride. In Jesus' name, who humbled Himself to the point of death on the cross. Amen. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

1 Corinthians 3 - Grow Up!

Corinthian Column
(see attribution below)
LINK: 1 Corinthians 3


BACKGROUND


The message of Jesus is not just about being saved (redeemed and justified). It is about going through the process of maturity from infancy to adulthood and from being controlled by sinful desires and belonging to this world to being controlled by the Spirit and living in light of an eternity with God. This is the process of sanctification. Paul used the analogy of going from milk to solid food. 


In Paul's metaphor, the field represented the church, Paul planted the seed and laid the foundation of the church in Corinth, and Apollos was watering by building upon that foundation, but the Corinthians were still infants, worldly and divided. They focused on the ministry of men rather than God and were dividing into camps based on their loyalty to Paul or Apollos.


Paul switches metaphors from a field to a temple with Jesus Christ as the foundation and the place where God's Spirit dwells (3:16). The teachers that came after the foundation was laid were to build with materials of enduring quality and not with "wood, hay, or straw" that would eventually crumble. Sound doctrine "built" into people's lives is what is implied by materials of enduring quality, and false doctrine is what is implied by the valueless work materials. The doctrine that comes from the Word of God is the food for the family of God, the seed for God's field, and the material for God's temple!


Paul concluded by saying that no one can boast in the men who lead them but that their boast must be in God alone!


REFLECTION


My mom and dad were excellent mentors when it came to buying things. While other moms and dads would buy cheap things that would eventually break or wear out and need to be replaced, my parents would buy good quality products that were a little more expensive but lasted a lot longer.


The only way we can have a walk with Christ of enduring quality is by "spending" our costly time digging deeply in the Scriptures and mining out the precious jewels it offers.  As my friend Beth says, "If you want to have a godly life, you must log the time in God's Word."  It is the only way to grow, and it will definitely cost you something. There is no "cheap" way to do it. 


And do not be fooled into believing that you can grow through "predigested milk." Hebrews 5:12-14 says: 
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
I just read a book by a very popular Bible teacher talking about insecurity. The concepts were biblical but elementary, and it was mostly her thoughts from her time in the Word. It was "predigested" advice for her readers.  Wouldn't people be better off spending time in God's Word and asking Him to heal them of their insecurities rather than reading her material as a substitute? He has wonderful things for us if we will soak deeply in His Word rather than relying on someone else to do it for us. We sometimes forget that it is GOD who causes the growth and not the "Apollos" of the day (3:7). SIGH!
"Because some haven't paid the price of time and discipline to study God's Word for themselves, they are babes and followers of men. Their doctrine comes from men, rather than from the Word of God. Therefore, they value one teacher above another, or pit one person's teaching against another's, without taking the time and making the effort to study God's Word themselves." (Kay Arthur)
APPLICATION


Are you willing to pay the price of time and discipline to study God's Word for yourself and not just rely on the wisdom of others?  What will be your plan for Bible study this summer?  


PRAYER


Lord, thank You for the precious quality of Your Word. Help us to grow to full maturity in You by spending time in it. Amen. 

Picture by David Bjorgen (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, May 23, 2013

1 Corinthians 2 - Wisdom from the Spirit

Corinthian Column
 (see attribution below)
LINK: 1 Corinthians 2


BACKGROUND


Paul continued his points on the futility of human wisdom compared to the power and wisdom of God. Paul could have wowed the Corinthians with persuasive words because he was a brilliant teacher, but his plain message of salvation in Jesus Christ was guided by the Holy Spirit, demonstrating God's power rather than his eloquence and human wisdom. 


The "secret wisdom" (2:6) was God's plan of salvation through Jesus Christ for all peoples. It had been His plan from the beginning and was made clear when Jesus rose from the dead.  This plan was revealed by the Spirit (2:10). 


REFLECTION


Back in the early 80s, I distinctly remember walking down one of the main thoroughfares on the University of Oregon campus trying to memorize verses on the Holy Spirit, and it seemed impossible! I had a mental block; and on top of all that, I kept misplacing the cards! In addition, they went through the washing machine at least once (because I am looking at them right now!). There were many roadblocks to getting through those verses on the Holy Spirit!


I had been memorizing verses for several years, and it had always come quite easily for me until those verses. I was ready to just skip them and move on to other ones until the Lord encouraged me to fight through it and hide them in my heart (Psalm 119:9, 11). He revealed to me that the enemy did not want me to understand the work of the Holy Spirit in my life because if I understood this and relied on the Holy Spirit rather than my flesh (talents, abilities, persuasive words, human wisdom), I would become a powerful tool in God's hands, and a threat to Satan's plan. Needless to say, I memorized those verses, and they sit next to my computer this morning as a reminder of a battle won for the Lord!


It is interesting to note that five out of twelve of the verse cards on the Holy Spirit are from the book of 1 Corinthians, and two of those five are from the chapter you have read today. Learn them well. Understand the work of the Holy Spirit in Your life and walk in that knowledge. Your life will be changed forever!


APPLICATION


Here are the verses printed on those cards:


The Holy Spirit . . . 


1) Testifies - John 16:13-14, 1 Corinthians 12:3
2) Indwells - Romans 8:9; Galatians 4:6
3) Controls - Ephesians 5:16, 18
4) Reveals - 1 Corinthians 2:9-10; John 14:26
5) Empowers - 1 Corinthians 2:4-5; 1 Thessalonians 1:5
6) Gives Gifts - 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, 11


I suggest hiding them in your heart! This particular pack with verses on God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is not in print anymore, but if you want to learn a nice system for memorization, I suggest . . .

The Topical Memory System

I have recently discovered a nice iPhone/iTouch App called Versepack that might prevent you from losing (or washing) them! 

PRAYER


Help us to understand the work of the Spirit in our lives so that we may walk in newness of life. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. 

Picture By David Bjorgen (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

1 Corinthians 1 - Hope for the Struggling Corinthians

LINK: 1 Corinthians 1

BACKGROUND

1 Corinthians



You might remember from reading Acts 18 that Paul came to Corinth on his second missionary journey which was probably the spring of A.D. 51. Corinth was the most important city in Achaia (present day Southern Greece). The north-south highway that linked the rest of Greece with the southern Peloponnesus ran through it making it a key trade center. It contained the temple of Aphrodite - goddess of love and fertility. Corinth was well known for its sexual immorality. I have heard it called the "Las Vegas of the New Testament" because merchants and sailors from all over the Mediterranean went there to gamble and engage in seedy activities like sexual immorality with temple prostitutes. There were 1,000 of them!

Imagine trying to live a life of godliness in the midst of this culture! The followers of Jesus in Corinth were struggling! They needed to know how to live with the idolatry and immorality. They were also divided because they were immature believers. Paul heard of their struggles and wrote 1 Corinthians to address their problems, answer their numerous questions, and to heal their division. He also confronted them on their sin and called them to live a life committed to Christ who had called them out of darkness into light.


He wrote this letter in about A.D. 54/55, near the end of his three years in Ephesus (Acts 19), during his third missionary journey. It is the second letter he wrote (1 Corinthians 5:9), but we have no record of the first. This second letter is in response to questions on issues that were causing division in their church. It was brought to Paul by Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus (16:17). 


1 Corinthians 1




After a brief introduction (1:1-9), Paul immediately turned to the problem of dissension in the Corinthian church 1:10-4:21. You can see from the chart the the left that division, quarrels, jealousy, and strife were problems.

He exhorted them to "be made complete in the same mind," but this did not mean they were to be the same. There was room for diversity of gifts, but they needed relational harmony in the midst of that diversity. Just as Christ could not be divided, neither could they be divided. They were dividing up over the leaders who baptized them rather than realizing that their baptism was in Christ alone! Christ is not divided. He is the one who is our head, not the leader of the day.


1 Corinthians 1:18-2:16 contains the message of the meaning of the cross. He summarized Isaiah 29:14 to point out that God's wisdom is different from the world's wisdom. Jesus suffering and dying on a cross seemed so foolish by human standards. The Corinthians were trying to live their lives by human standards that promoted self-preservation and self-centeredness instead of Jesus' way that involved giving His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).  


The key word in 1:18-2:16 is wisdom. it is used eight times. Mark them if you can. There are several contrasts between God's wisdom and man's. "Christ Jesus . . . became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption" (Colossians 2:3; 2 Corinthians 2:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7, Mark 10:45). We do not need worldly wisdom to enter the kingdom of God, we just need faith in Christ. 


Click on the hyperlinks for a review of the meaning of these words: 

Righteousness - Romans 3
Redemption - Romans 3
Sanctification - Romans 8

REFLECTION


One of Paul's major goals in writing this letter to the Corinthians was to address the issue of disunity in the church. We can learn so much from reading it in dealing with disunity in the church today!


I was part of a church culture for many years that had constant conflict with no biblical resolution. When people became disgruntled with a pastor or leader, there would be gossip, back-biting, and slander (even on the part of the elders) followed by a forced resignation and a church split. Hordes of families, who supported the pastor who was forced to resign, left our church to be a part of the church he had joined or joined the new church he started as a result of the forced resignation. It was heart-breaking and happened too many times over my 28 years of attending this church. 


Sadly, I was not always part of the solution. While I usually was not directly part of anything, I made the mistake of listening to people's disgruntled thoughts (the counselor in me) instead of directing them to talk to those they were disgruntled with. There was never any mediation when conflicts were not resolved. So, things were always left to stew until everything blew up.


That all changed when I went to a training on peacemaking in Arizona in 1994 and was part of a group of people overseas that applied the biblical principles of peacemaking in this setting. It was wonderful! It reminded me of how it used to be when I was involved with a wonderful ministry starting in college and into my early 20s. This ministry practiced biblical peacemaking naturally even though they never gave us any formal training in it. We were just taught to obey Scripture and peacemaking followed!


I think returning to my old church after two years of biblical peacemaking overseas made me realize the problems. Within days of coming back, I was given a tour of the new church remodel where a woman sat me down in a remote room, far from the listening ear of the head pastor, and gave me all the "dirt" on how frustrated everyone was with him! Oh my!


Then, I went on a trip to Boise with one of the elders wives who told me all the things wrong with the women's ministry director! I listened and asked questions (like a good counselor would), but two weeks later I was pulled into the women's ministry director's office where she had pen and paper out to take notes on all the things I thought were wrong with the women's ministry! Apparently, this elder's wife whom I listened to on that very LONG trip to Boise had gone to the women's ministry director to tell her that I agreed with all the problems that she had also seen.

Say what?

I was getting sucked into the "vortex," and I had just gotten off the plane. HELP! Thankfully, I did know that there was a better way to live from my experience overseas!

My journey continued when I had a minor conflict with that same women's ministry director. I wanted to handle it well, and an online friend recommended Peacemaker Ministries. I went on their website, and ordered everything I could find including the book The Peacemaker by Ken Sande. I applied the principles, and there was peace with her and her Bible study director! (Providentially, that same women's ministry director just called me on the phone while I was writing this post. She is now the women's ministry director in a peaceful church in another city, and we are friends.) 


After I had found resolution in that conflict, there was a major blow up because of all the back-biting and gossip about that head pastor.  I bought The Peacemaker for all the elders and staff, but only one administrative staff member (who had no part in decision-making in the church) read it and thanked me for what he learned. The head pastor that they forced to resign also read it and thanked me, but none of the elders who were part of the decision-making and had listened (and participated in) gossip and slander of this pastor even acknowledged that I had given them the book.


The character assassination of this pastor and the deep rejection he felt led to him being crushed in spirit. He ended up making poor choices that led to alcoholism and major family turmoil. He had choices to make, but I believe that the way the church handled his dismissal was a devastating trigger. I still grieve over the poor way it was handled. 

Three more staff members were treated in the same way after this staff member. Then, it happened to ME!  I was in ministry with a woman who repeatedly lied to me. After so many times in an 18 month period, I thought it was important to talk to her. I read my book, I prepared in love. I thought the interaction went well, but she began a smear campaign with our staff and elders that went on for six weeks.  The relationship deteriorated more, and the pastor in charge of us was not willing to sit down with us and help. I found an outside church trained in mediating church conflicts, but this pastor would not even answer my inquiries about that possibility. I think the whole conflict was being blamed on me. Actually, I will never know what was said about me, 
but I do know that this pastor interrogated women in my ministry to see if they had ever had any conflict with me.
 
The final straw was when a pastor blatantly lied to me with my husband present. We walked out the door, and my husband said, "We are leaving." After we left, I heard what elders were saying about me (slander). Not one person in authority approached me to tell me what I had done wrong. I still do not know other than one thing that I apparently did that I did not do. 


When we left that church, we made a list of all the things we were looking for in a church. Guess what was at the top of the list? BIBLICAL PEACEMAKING.

On our second visit to the church we now attend, the pastor's sermon was on that exact subject. At the end, he recommended (you guessed it): The Peacemaker by Ken Sande! We knew we had found our church home. 

When it comes to church conflict, I use the analogy of a kitchen that generates a lot of heat from all the cooking. My old church generated so much heat in conflict, and you know what they say:



"If you cannot stand the heat get out of the kitchen!"

I had to get out. I was burning up, and my health suffered. 

But you may say, 


"You are never going to find a perfect church!" 
(Something constantly said to me when 
I questioned the practices of my old church.)

So true! Conflict generates heat, and there is conflict every place people exist. My present church generates just as much heat as my old one because it is made up of imperfect people. Conflict in families and between church members is rampant, but the conflicts are resolved biblically! Keeping with the kitchen analogy, I like to say it has a "well-ventilated kitchen"!  There are vents for letting the heat escape and those vents are BIBLICAL PEACEMAKING! 

People even get disgruntled with staff, but there are avenues for sharing this without backbiting and annihilating the person's character. There is no need for firing or forced resignations. In fact, the one staff member that was let go in the seven years I have been in our new church, was let go in the loving context of trying to find a better fit for his unique gifts, talents, and abilities that did not seem to fit in our church. He was released with blessing and not cursing. What a way to go!


There is a way to have unity in a church in the midst of diversity and even conflict. Conflict is normal. It is what you do with that conflict that counts. 


APPLICATION 


Read The Peacemaker!


PRAYER


Lord, help us to obey You when you tell us to live in peace with all people. Amen. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Put Romans Back on the New Testament Shelf

BibleBookcase

WOOHOO! You're done with the first Pauline Epistle! You are now 92% through the Bible!

Romans 16 - Fully Preach Where Christ Is Not Yet Named

LINK: Romans 15:14-16:27 

BACKGROUND

Paul has accomplished his goal in his letter to the Romans by explaining the essence of the gospel and how one who embraces the gospel can live that out. Now, he bids the Romans farewell by revealing his philosophy of ministry. 


In his concluding remarks, he expresses his confidence in their ability to understand the basic truths of the gospel that He has laid out in this epistle. He felt they were mature and able to teach, but it never hurts to be reminded of these basic principles of grace (15:15)! They never grow old and are the foundation of our faith. Romans is a foundational book that never gets old no matter where we are on our journey of faith. 


Paul stated that he was a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, fully preaching the gospel of God according to His plan and for His glory, and serving in the power of the Holy Spirit (15:16-24, note the trinity). 


Paul specific calling was to preach the gospel where Christ was not yet named (15:20). It is not wrong to build upon another person's foundation (John 4:38; 1 Corinthians 3:10), but continuing to expand the gospel is very high on God's list of priorities (Matthew 24:14; Isaiah 52:15).  Paul was so busy with his calling that he had not been able to get to the Romans on his way to Spain, which was the western limit of the empire. He was ready to go there after dropping off a gift from the churches in Asia Minor to the poor in Jerusalem. There is no historical record that says he ever made it to Spain though, even though he wanted to. He did get to Rome, but he arrived as a prisoner (Acts 27-28). 


Paul asked for prayer from the Roman Christians because, in delivering the gift from the Gentile Christians to the poor Jerusalem believers, he knew he would encounter hostile Jewish unbelievers (Acts 20:22-23). We know from Acts that he was able to deliver the gift and barely escaped flogging by Roman authorities (Acts 22:25-29). 


Romans 16 began his farewell to many people. First was Phoebe, who is believed to be the carrier of the letter to Rome. Then he mentioned an extremely diversified list of 28 individuals (26 by name) with whom he shepherded. I love how relational Paul was! He mentioned women and house churches. I believe these both figured prominently in the early church. The early church valued women, and churches were intimate and relational.


Paul gave a final warning to those who caused dissension through false teaching. These were probably the Judaizers whom I mentioned at the beginning of our study of Romans and had been a problem in other churches (Philippians 3:17-21). 


At the end of the letter of Romans, he mentions several saints who were with him in Corinth: Timothy (Acts 16:1-3; 20:4, Phil 2:22; 1 & 2 Timothy), Lucius (perhaps of Acts 13:1); Jason (perhaps of Acts 17:6-9); Sosipater (probably the same as in Acts 20:4); Tertius, who penned the letter and acted as Paul's scribe; Gaius (Acts 19:29;20:4; 1 Corinthians 1:14; 2 John 1; and perhaps in Acts 18:7); Erastus, a Christian public official who has been identified in archaeological ruins in Corinth (perhaps of Acts 19:22; 2 Timothy 4:20); and unknown Quartus, the brother. 


His final doxology sums up so much of what we have learned in our reading and studying of Romans and in the Bible Book Club as a whole. The mystery is that God intended for the Gentiles ("all the nations") to come to obedience of the faith too (16:25-26)! Glory to Him forever!!!


REFLECTION 

Paul's priority was to preach in places where Christ was not yet named. We lead a group of people who want to do just that. It is interesting because I had a friend who recently expressed how much she did not like that. She said, "There is so much they can do right here where we live!"  (I cannot wait until we get to this chapter since we are studying Romans together over the next couple of years!)


While I agree there is plenty to do right where we live, we are "building on someone else's foundation."  There is nothing wrong with that, but I think that God places a high priority on reaching those who have not yet heard; who do not have anyone who has ever "moved into the neighborhood" and been a living example of the living Christ. My family did that once, and so many of my friends from this people group said they had never met a follower of Jesus, and how pleasantly surprised they were!  (Before they met me, they thought all "Christians" dressed immodestly like the women on Baywatch!)


Out of the 6.8 billion people in the world, 2.8 billion are unreached people groups with little or no access to the Gospel. Of those unreached, there are 418 unengaged, unreached people groups with populations of over 40,000, numbering about 130 million people with no Gospel witness. Someone has to make it a priority if they are going to follow Jesus' words:



This gospel of the kingdom 
 shall be preached in the whole world 
as a testimony to all the nations, 
and then the end will come.
Matthew 24:14
And I ask you . . . 

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? 
How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? 
And how will they hear without a preacher?

How will they preach unless they are sent? 

Just as it is written, 
"How beautiful are the feet of those 
who bring good news of good things!"
Romans 10:14-15


Did you know that less than 10% of outreach is done among the unreached with an even lower number among the unengaged, unreached

So what will you do about this?

"Remember you are God's sword, 
His instrument -- I trust a chosen vessel unto Him to bear His name. 
In great measure, according to the purity 
and perfection of the instrument, will be the success. 
It is not great talent God blesses so much as likeness to Jesus. 
A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God." 
Robert Murray McCheyne

How can you be an "awful weapon in the hand of God" for the unengaged, unreached millions He wants to draw to Himself?


APPLICATION


Your first step might be to . . . 


PRAY


Since we are headed into the "lazy days of summer," what about taking just 1 minute a day to pray for an unreached people group as you see the sunshine? Let the shining sun remind you to pray that the SON will shine among the darkness of the unreached?


I like to pray for specific unreached people groups because so few are going to them, and many of them do not have anybody "in the neighborhood" praying "on site with insight"!  Your prayers can change that.


Here is a great site to sign up for emails or Apps to help you: 


Pray for the Unreached People of the Day


One year, I committed myself to praying for one unreached people group for every mile I "walked for the world." I would receive daily email and send them to my iPod or print them on paper so that I could read them while I walked and prayed, but now they have an App for iPods, iPhones, and Androids that make it even easier!

It was such an enriching experience for me! 


Your next step might be to . . .  


GIVE


I know many people going to the unengaged and unreached. If you are looking for someone, contact me, and I can connect you!


Your next step after that might be to . . . 


GO


There are many short-term opportunities available for people who want to go to unreached peoples. Contact me!


Maybe God is tugging at your heart to GO and "move into the neighborhood" of one of these groups long term! 


Contact me if you need any help on these next steps!



PRAYER

Lord, teach us what You would have us do to be part of Your plan for all the nations. Amen.