Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A meaningless life...

When I was a teenager, I went to a national conference for teens in the Quaker denomination. For a small-town farm boy, this was was quite an eye-opening experience. It was there that I had my first encounter with a theologian who actually believed that Christ was merely a "good moral teacher."

"How silly!" I thought. Hoping to show him his error, my simple response was, "So, then how do you get to Heaven?" This was not a difficult obstacle for his logic, as he explained that he did not believe in a heaven, nor a hell, but merely "worm food" as he so aptly put it. Puzzled, I asked one more question. "So, why do you obey the 'moral teachings' of Jesus at all?"

Nearly three thousand years ago, a wise teacher and king in the house of David had pondered the same question. I would encourage you this week to read through the book of Ecclesiastes and consider how meaningless our lives would be—our jobs, our relationships, even our religion—if it were not for the truth of the very last verses, 12:13-14. Praise God for the reward He has promised us all.

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Wrapping-Up a Year and a Half in Corinth

Well, this weekend marks the end of an era for our group. It was September of 2006 when we first opened our Bibles to 1 Corinthians 1:1 and began to study the intricacies of Greek culture, the problems in Corinth, and how Paul's instruction to them transcends the millenia and applies directly to us today.

Tomorrow in class (sorry I once again waited to post the blog entry 24 hours before the class) we will review the final summary and benediction that Paul gave to the Corinthians. Then we will spend the class period reading the letter through once more in the same way that it was originally intended to be delivered. Originally, this letter was written to be read aloud before the church, not necessarily dissected word by word by a class of Bible believers.

I invite you (if you get this message in time) to read the letter cover to cover before class tomorrow. It will only take you 10 minutes, tops. Everyone has missed a week from time to time, and many have joined us in the middle of our study. Post any questions from any part of the letter here in the blog (anonymously if you prefer) and we can discuss together to bring clarity and closure to this book, and this phase in our class history.


Thursday, February 7, 2008

Who's the boss?

Our passage this coming Sunday is the dramatic conclusion to Paul's tyrade about his own authority in Christ. Here's where he finally lays it all out there and tells it to their face, right? Paul says to his rebellious children, "by God's power we will live with Him to serve you" (2 Cor. 13:4)

... In the famous words of Scooby Doo, "Whaaaaaaaa?"

C'mon Paul, where's that "kick 'em into shape" authority you're supposed to have? This Sunday, we will take a closer look at the authority that God gave the Apostles, and that He gives today to leaders in the church. Why is authority granted? How should it be administered. Reflection on Christ's own exhibition of His power on earth reveals a lot. Considering the failures of other would-be authorities in Bibilical history will also be a fun exercise.

Despite the disdain for authority that we have in our flesh, we need to come to God's Word in passages like 2 Corinthians 13 with an attitude of submission and understand the God-honoring reasons for authority.

See you Sunday!

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Monday, February 4, 2008

The inferior church

In the passage we studied yesterday (2 Cor. 12:11-18), Paul charged the Corinthian church in verse 13, "How were you inferior to the other churches?" He goes on to answer his own question, "...except that I was never a burden to you?" As we reflect on what he's saying, the obvious question becomes: why didn't Paul take a collection from Corinth?

Was Corinth poor? We learned earlier in his letter (chapter 9) that they have excess money to share. Did Paul not deserve to make a living from the church in Corinth? In his first letter to Corinth, he gives a lengthy discourse explaining precisely why he had the right to collect (1 Cor. 9). Yet, he claims that to collect from them would hinder the gospel. Why?

As we have discussed, the Corinthians were accustomed to paying their teachers. The better the teacher, the more they paid. Paul felt that if he became a "burden" to the Corinthian Christians, then they may think as though they contributed something of value to the Gospel by their giving, thus enabling themselves to have received it. Indeed, with Paul's refusal to take their financial support, the Corinthians' pride was hurt. They felt inferior to other churches, and yet Paul continues in verse 14 to tell them that he would still not take any offering from them. For, despite their attitude toward wealth, Paul states, "what I want is not your possessions but you."

God wants us to receive his Gospel as empty vessels, fully aware that we have nothing to offer. For Corinth, they wanted to offer their wealth to help God. For us, could it be our knowledge, our skills, our good deeds? God asked Job, blameless as he was, what he had done that God should repay him (Job 41:11). All our knowledge, our skills, even our righteous behavior and any good work is only a gift of grace from God the Father. We are empty vessels that God chooses to fill, and then use. We should rejoice that we are "inferior" so that God alone may glorified.

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