1 Corinthians Chapter 15–What Stands Out

“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you,…”1 Corinthians 15:1.

As I read chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians, I reflected on why Paul would need to remind Christians of the gospel –a message he had already delivered to them. The answer is in a quote often attributed to Martin Luther:

We need to hear the Gospel every day, because we forget it every day.” 

Yes, how quickly we forget the good news. It’s drowned out by the world in so many ways. In the last talk on Via de Cristo weekends, we learn that there are two ways we can forget the gospel.

1. We start to believe that we are something.

This most often happens when things are going well for us. We are prospering, so we must be “good” people, right? We are in control, making the right decisions, we can take care of ourselves. In this case, we are forgetting that we are tainted with original sin, and eventually that sin will get the better of us. (Guess what, the sin of pride already has!)

2. We believe that we are nothing.

In this case, because of something or some things that we have done, we are not worthy of God’s love. The Holy One could never save the likes of us! Our sin is simply unforgivable. In this case, we are failing to trust God or believe in His Word.

Paul was “apt to teach” — one of the qualities needed by every Pastor. And he had just one thing to preach, over and over:

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

You and I still need to hear this every day.

1 Corinthians Chapter 13–What Stands Out

You probably recognize this as “the love chapter” of the Bible, often used at weddings. As the section of Scripture I read during my recent morning devotional time, here’s what popped out for me:

“Love never ends.” 1 Corinthians 13:8

That’s an amazing claim, isn’t it? After all, we’re mortal and at some point, each of us will die–so how can love, a human emotion, continue after death? Here’s what I think. Just as original sin passes down through the generations, so does love. I remember hearing James Dobson speak about how he felt when his father died. He said he didn’t remember the things his father accomplished, what he remembered were the times they spent together, the love he felt.

When we receive love from another person, whether it is a parent, a teacher, a pastor, a friend or a spouse, it affects us for the rest of our lives. It gives us a sense of confidence and self-worth. Research has proven that children who are deprived of love do not thrive. That’s how important it is to be touched and cared for in a loving way.

Love never ends because it is continually passed on. It doesn’t just affect the one you love –it affects the way they relate to their own family, and everyone they are in relationship with. Love inspires us to be kind, to be patient and courteous, to think the best of others. As the Bible says:

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”1 Peter 4:8

For more about love see these posts:

Charity = Love

God is Love

Perfect Love

Flannery O’Connor on Habits

I recently posted about the importance of developing good spiritual habits. Then I came across this Flannery O’Connor quote, about why habits are important to writers. The same applies to all of us, whether our God-given vocation is writing, or some other activity or ministry.

“I’m a full-time believer in writing habits, pedestrian as it all may sound. You may be able to do without them if you have genius, but most of us only have talent and this is simply something that has to be assisted all the time by physical and mental habits or it dries up and blows away. I see it happen all the time. Of course, you have to make your habits conform to what you can do. I write only about two hours every day because that’s all the energy I have, but I don’t let anything interfere with those two hours, at the same time and place. Sometimes I work for months and have to throw everything away, but I don’t think any of that was time wasted. Something goes on that makes it easier when it does come well. And the fact is if you don’t sit there every day, the day it would come well, you won’t be sitting there.”

Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being

So, don’t bury your talents (remember the parable in Matthew 25). Form a habit to develop them.

For more on the topic of vocation see:

What’s Your Vocation?

Are You Called?

Spend Yourself

The serpent on the pole

In Numbers 21:4-9 we find this peculiar story. The people who came out of Egypt were constantly worried about their future and they were always mumbling and accusing Moses of taking them out of Egypt to starve to death in the desert. With that, God sends serpents to attack them. Then he orders Moses to make a bronze serpent and put it on a pole so that everyone who looks at it would live.
In the same way, the Son of Man was lifted up on a cross so that everyone who lifts up their eyes to Him will live!
However, you’ve probably asked yourself “Why did the pure and holy God use the image of a serpent to represent Him, when the serpent was seen negatively since Eden? Why not a Lion? or a Lamb to represent Him?”
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Warren Wiersbe, in his commentary on this text, will tell us that “on the cross, Jesus became a curse”. That was the meaning of the serpent. Jesus took upon Himself, on the blessed tree, the sin which attacks the human race and destroys it with its deadly poison.
Therefore, all you who are afflicted by the serpent’s bites, you who are paralyzed by the poison of sin, look to the Cross! God does not require of them any very articulate and difficult movement for their salvation. Just turn your eyes to the Cross and believe in it. Believe what Christ did there, believe that He became a curse and took sin upon Himself that you might be cleansed and healed! By this faitu you receive salvation. How wonderful is the grace of Christ Jesus. Rest your muscles, lower your arms, stop struggling with your strength. Just look to the Cross and believe and you will be healed from the curse of sin.

Always Amending, YBH?

Many Christians will agree with the idea that we should be “always amending” our lives, but there is still what I call the YBH question — yes, but how? In order to become a better person, a more worthy disciple, we must take some action. What should we do and how?

I think the key is to form habits. If you’re dissatisfied with the time you spend in prayer, reading your Bible, or serving others, you can work to make these things habitual parts of your daily routine. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Start small. Read a chapter of the Bible a day, pray for ten minutes, take on one ministry that really interests you.
  2. Have a “cue.” For example, tie your activity to something you already do regularly — for example, I will read the Bible while I enjoy my morning coffee, or I will pray every evening right before I get in bed.
  3. Need to make time? Some people get up earlier, stay up later, or use their lunch hour. If you start with a small goal, this will work.
  4. Have a Plan B, if you miss your regular “cue” when will you fit the activity in?
  5. Do it with friends. A Bible study group, prayer or ministry team, or an accountability partner will help you not just have a plan but stick with your plan.
  6. Don’t give up! When you fail (and you will), just get back to your routine as soon as you can.
  7. Don’t expect immediate results. Take stock after six months or a year, and you will probably see that some things have changed. Then you can set a new goal.

We all have limitations, and we’re not perfect. We won’t be able to achieve complete sanctification in this life. but we can always improve. Thankfully, our salvation does not depend upon our works, but on God’s grace! He loves you and so do I!

For more about developing spiritual disciplines see these posts:

What Do You Practice?

Fanning the Flame #16 Personal Spiritual Discipline

Prayer Disciplines Part 1

Always Amending

Ecclesia semper reformanda est (Latin for “the church must always be reformed”) is a phrase that has been much used by theologians over the years. I picked up a related idea from the examination of conscience I’ve been using recently — the exact words are:

“...make a firm resolution to be always amending your life and making progress in all that is good.” Thomas a Kempis, Of the Imitation of Christ

To me this simply means growing more mature in our faith; becoming more Christ-like in our attitudes and behavior. I’m puzzled by the number of Christians who seem to resist this. They have certain routines which include attending worship services and maybe even participating in certain ministries. However, they have no desire to learn more, to try something new, to progress. As my husband (a pastor), puts it, they are comfortable with a Sunday School faith. The apostle, Paul, recognizes this problem in his first letter to the Corinthians:

“Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.” 1 Corinthians 3:1-2

Life with God is such an amazing adventure. I’ve done things I never imagine would be possible; I’ve met interesting and inspiring people; my life has been changed and blessed. I wish these things for everyone I know and love. Tomorrow I’ll address the question I call YBH (Yes, but how?). How do we go about amending our lives (the process of sanctification)?

For more about sanctification see:

Trust God’s Process

Which One are You?

Is Union with Christ a Process?

1 Corinthians Chapter 11–What Stands Out

As I’ve continued my devotional reading of 1 Corinthians, this is the phrase that stood out for me in Chapter 11:

“...all things are from God” 1 Corinthians 11:12b

As Martin Luther liked to put it, “this is most certainly true,” but how often do we stop to think about it? Everything we have is a gracious gift from God — our spouse, our families, our friends, our home. In addition, we owe everything we are to God. Psalm 139 tells us:

“For you (God) created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13

God gave us the abilities, the talents, and the personality that make us the person we are. Gratitude should be our overwhelming response. Even when difficult things happen, God allows them and uses them for our good and the good of others.

“And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

Whatever is going on in our lives, we can be assured that God has a good purpose. He loves us, He blesses us, He uses us to bless others. It’s hard to give thanks for suffering, but this is comforting and consoling.

“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” 1 Timothy 4:4

For the things that are ours, we should give thanks. When troubles come, we should pray and wait to see God’s plan at work. Nothing is random. We’re in His hands. We can trust Him.

For more about God’s plan see:

Your Dream. God’s Plan. by Tiffany Smiling — Book Review

Everything According To God’s Plan & Timing

Taking Care of God’s Stuff

Examination of Conscience, Again

This is a topic I’ve posted about before (Examination of Conscience) and it’s an important exercise that we should all do regularly. Basically, it’s pondering and confessing our sins. Of course, we do this corporately, when we attend worship, but it’s also good to make time to think about how we’ve fallen short in very specific ways. Recently when I reread Of the Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis (Of the Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis–Book Review) I came across a format that I found really helpful. I’m going to include it here today for others who might like to use it:

(Imagine Christ is speaking to you)

Diligently examine your conscience, and to the utmost of your power purify and make it clear, with true contrition and humble confession; so you may have no burden, nor know anything that may breed remorse of conscience, and hinder your drawing near. Think with displeasure of all your sins in general, and more particularly bewail and lament your daily transgressions. And if time permits, confess to God in the secret of your heart all the wretchedness of evil passions. Groan and lament that you are yet so carnal and worldly, so unmortified from passions; so full of the motions of concupiscence, so unwatchful over your outward sense, so often entangled with many vain imaginations. So much inclined to outward things, so negligent in things inward. So lightly moved to laughter and unbridled mirth, so hardly to tears and contrition. So swift to ease and pleasures of the flesh, so dull to zeal and strictness of life. So curious to hear what is new, and to see what is beautiful, so slack to embrace what is humble and mean. So covetous of abundance, so niggardly in giving, so close in keeping. So inconsiderate in speech, so reluctant to keep silence. So unruly in manners, so fretful in conduct. So eager about food, so deaf to the Word of God. So swift to take rest, so slow to labor. So wakeful after gossiping tales, so drowsy at the sacred services of night; so hasty to arrive at the end, so inclined to wandering and inattention. So careless in observing the hours of prayer, so lukewarm in celebrating, so dry in communicating. So quickly distracted, so seldom thoroughly self-collected. So suddenly moved to anger, so apt to take displeasure against another. So ready to judge, so severe to reprove. So joyful at prosperity, so weak in adversity. So often making good resolutions, and yet bringing them at last to so poor effect.

These and other defects being confessed and bewailed with sorrow and great displeasure at your own infirmity, make a firm resolution to be always amending your life, and making progress in all that is good.

Then, with full resignation and with your entire will, offer up yourself to the honor of My name, on the altar of your heart a perpetual whole burnt offering, even your body and soul, faithfully committing them unto Me.

For more about confession see:

Samuel Johnson’s Prayer of Confession

Confession — It’s Good for the Soul

A Via de Cristo Prayer of Confession and Forgiveness

1 Corinthians Chapter 10–What Stands Out

In my morning devotions, I’ve continued my lectio divina reading in the book of 1 Corinthians. Here’s what stood out for me in Chapter 10:

“…that rock was Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10:9

In the preceding verses, Paul is speaking about the time of the exodus, when their forefathers were rescued by God from slavery in Egypt. God provided for them miraculously, by giving them manna to eat. When thirst became an issue, Moses struck a rock and fresh water gushed forth.

All of this was a foreshadowing of Jesus, the Messiah, and the way He provides spiritual food for His people in Holy Communion. The Israelites didn’t know His name, but He was still the rock, the foundation of their faith. And yes, He is our rock today. They were looking forward, we are looking back, but the same person unites us. He continues to feed us and to free us from slavery to sin and death. What a blessing!

Rest on the rock that is secure and is sufficient for all of your needs — Jesus Christ! He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

For more lectio divina studies see:

1 Thessalonians 4–What Stands Out

What Stands Out–Nehemiah

James Chapter 5–What Stands Out


Flannery O’Connor–a Quote

As I mentioned before, I’ve been reading a book of letter by Flannery O’Connor. I came across this quote which I found both interesting and correct (at least in my opinion). She is writing to someone who has difficulty accepting that Christ is both God and man.

“To see Christ as God and man is probably no more difficult today than it has always been, even if today there seem to be more reasons to doubt. For you it may be a matter of not being able to accept what you call a suspension of the laws of the flesh and the physical, but for my part, I think that when I know what the laws of the flesh and the physical really are, then I will know what God is. We know them as we see them, not as God sees them. For me it is the virgin birth, the Incarnation, the resurrection which are the true laws of the flesh and the physical. Death, decay, destruction are the suspension of these laws.”

In other words, the world as we know and understand it, is not how God meant it to be.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

Sin distorted all of creation.

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” Romans 8:22

What do you think, readers? Can we judge according to our understanding?

For more about sin see:

Martin Luther on the First Sin

Sin Consciousness– Why We Need It

Sins and Sermons