Temptation Superhighway

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Temptation Superhighway

Temptation and sin suck.  Let’s just start with that thought today.  Nobody likes the feeling they get when convicted of sin.  No one I know likes the weight of temptation pressing down on them.  Sin has a way about it that makes you feel like dirt.  It makes you feel like you are alone – the only one to have ever blown it.  Why the feeling of loneliness in the midst of sin?  Why the isolation?

Sin separates us from God.  In his presence, sin cannot be.  Don’t get me wrong, God doesn’t turn His back on us.  But sin does make us feel that way.  There is nothing more the enemy wants than to make us feel apart from God.  Sin has a knack of doing that.  I find it interesting that the only time in his life Jesus felt the effects of sin – which was when he took the sins of the world upon himself at the cross – he spoke these words: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  (Matthew 27:45)  I am certain that God didn’t leave him, but sin made it feel that way.  I probably don’t have to convince you of this, you probably know the feeling.

What I love about 1 Corinthians 10:13 is that Paul exposes sin; he brings it into the light.  He says that we are all in the same boat.  Every temptation that you have walked through is common, he says.  The devil doesn’t invent new and creative ways to tempt you.  He’s been up to the same old stuff forever.  This is good news… in a weird and twisted way.  When we feel alone, we get embarrassed.  We can’t bear to confess our sin to someone because they won’t possibly be able to relate.  The truth is, what you are experiencing is probably pretty common.   Armed with that truth, we should be able to bring it into the light and know that we are not alone.  Crazy isn’t it to think that your deepest, darkest secret might just be common?

But there’s even better news: God is faithful! He has provided a way out of every temptation.  I think that way out can be a variety of things.  It can be a prompting of the Holy Spirit to walk away from a situation.  It can be a power button on a computer.  It can be a friend showing up at just the right time.  Regardless of the situation, God always provides an off-ramp from the temptation superhighway.  It’s up to us to take the exit.  I hope that whatever situation you are walking in today, whether it be an area of life full of sin or and ongoing area of temptation, you will not remain in it.  God is bigger than that temptation and His grace covers the sin.  Bring it to the light; bring it to Him.  Let’s not live life burdened by our own guilt and shame.  Instead let’s pursue the way out.

Just Finish?

1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

Just Finish?

I just want to finish.  Those are the words of someone who is out of shape running in a race.  While there is a certain sense of self-accomplishment with finishing, the feeling of winning is much better.  Imagine an Olympic athlete being interviewed before the big race.  “Do you think you can win?” the reporter asks.  She replies, “I didn’t really train hard enough to win, I just hope to finish.”

As ridiculous of a notion as this is, this type of thinking is far too prevalent in the lives of many Christians.  Paul compares our Christian life to a race.  We all run in the race but it seems that far too many people are just hoping to barely make it; they just want to finish.  They don’t engage in any personal training.  They don’t work to strengthen their heart or strengthen their muscles.  They just hope that when they die, they will have arrived at the correct finish line.

This is no way to live.  We are to run in such a way as to get the prize. We are to work on our speed, our endurance, and maybe even our hurdling skills.  Yes, it will require some work and it will require that we run. But we need to run.  We need to have our eye on the prize and live this life like everything is on the line.  We should want to win!

Winning takes focus.  Winning takes discipline.  Winning takes continued effort throughout all parts of the race.  It takes strategy and thought.  It takes knowing your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses.  It takes a lot to win.  But we must have a winner’s mentality.  We must make a decision to pursue victory.  I want to do so much more than just finish; I want that prize!  I want to hear, “well done.”  So today I choose to pick up my pace.  I will choose to get in the race and run for all that God has for me.  Join me in the race, will you?  Just know that I plan to win. 🙂

Trippin’

1 Corinthians 8:9,12  9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.  12 When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.

Trippin’

I chose these two verses today because I found a certain irony in what Paul was saying.  In essence, your freedom in Christ can lead to sinning against Christ.  That seems problematic.  This whole topic really links to my blog entry the other day about Peanut Butter and Pickle Sandwiches.  When liberty in Christ leads to trouble, then you are missing the spirit, or the heart of the matter.

Here’s the deal, let’s say that you and a friend are taking a walk together.  If you are athletically inclined you can substitute a nice run in this scenario.  I’m just going to keep it real in regards to my exercise level.  Okay, so you are on a walk.  The conversation is nice; the air is crisp.  Then out of nowhere, your friend sticks his foot out and trips you… on purpose.  You have got to be kidding me.  Why in the world would you trip me on purpose?  Is it because I was walking too fast?  Or maybe I was walking too slow?  That’s just not right. You be trippin’, fool!

Let me put it in other terms.  You have a friend who is not saved.  In fact, she often tells you how judgmental Christians are.  You try to convince her otherwise, but she has made up her mind: Christians are self-righteous and judgmental.  Geez, self-righteous too, huh?  You can’t seem to convince her that not all Christians are like that and she is starting to believe you.  She is watching your life and is starting to soften.  Then it happens.  A mutual friend does something that you don’t approve of and you tell this first friend (with the hangup) all about it.  You give her your opinion of this other friend and then you’ve done it.  You’ve tripped her.  She was right – Christians are judgmental.

Paul tells us that when we make someone else trip, we are sinning against Christ.  In fact, we not only sin against Christ, we work against Him as He is trying to get to their hearts.  In the case of the Corinthians, it was about eating food sacrificed to idols.  But the lesson goes far beyond food.  It can span into any area of weakness.  When we are a stumbling block for someone else, we’ve now got a problem.  Because not only do we wound others, we sin against Jesus.  I don’t know about you, but that is territory I would like to stay away from.

Making sense of 1 Corinthians 7

I chose not to pick a verse today or maybe it was that a verse chose not to pick me.  This section of scripture has always been a baffling one for me as it seems Paul carries on and on about the topic of marriage and sex.  He says it one way, then another, then another, then another…. and so on.  When I read this I wonder why felt he needed to break it down for these people.  I wonder why such an in depth teaching was so necessary.  And it doesn’t even have much that is helpful.  He ends the whole thing by saying either way is fine, really.  You can get married or not – it is not a sin issue.  He just happens to think being single is the way to go.  How is this at all helpful?

In order to answer this question we need to look to the context of this chapter.  First, we need to remember that the words Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 7 were not written to be scripture bound in a book – at least not by Paul.  Rather, 1 Corinthians is a letter to the church at Corinth and it seems that this letter is a response to a letter that they sent him:

1 Corinthians 7:1-2 1 Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. 2 But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.

I just wonder what that letter to Paul said.  “Paul, lot’s of people in the church are having sex with each other.  What do we do?”  Or maybe, “people in the church are trying to stay unmarried like we know you want, but it is getting them into some trouble.  Now what?”   We will probably never know what the question was, but we do know it led Paul to give a VERY lengthy response to this whole sex and marriage topic.  We need to keep that in mind when reading a chapter like this.  I find it hard to believe that Paul really felt people should get married just because they couldn’t – how do I say this – contain themselves.  Is that really why someone should get married?  Well, in the case of Corinth, it seems that marriage was a necessary escape for all the mess they had got themselves into.

Marriage is the avenue in which God intended our sexual nature to be expressed and fulfilled.  And for those who have the need to have that area fulfilled, Paul writes, they should get married.  Not only that, if you are married, it is the only avenue in which you should be fulfilled.  You shouldn’t be looking elsewhere for it, because God created man and women to fulfill each other.  Paul writes that you should be freely giving yourselves to each other as husbands and wives.  Doing so will keep sinful desires in check.

So if you wonder why Paul didn’t give other reasons for getting married like, “companionship” or “it’s God’s design for a family,” keep in mind that he was answering a question.  He needed to help straighten out a mess.  Hopefully through this lens, 1 Corinthians 7 will make a little more sense.

Peanut Butter and Pickle Sandwich

1 Corinthians 6:12 “Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything.

Peanut Butter and Pickle Sandwich

Sometimes we let our kids make their own sandwiches and I must admit it can get a little weird.  Today, Anthony had a ham, summer sausage, and cheese sandwich.  Not too strange I guess.  Once he made a beef jerky and cheddar one.  When it comes to sandwiches, we are pretty boring in our house.  We don’t deviate much from the ham ‘n cheese or the PB & J.  But there are some folks out there that make some weird ones.

Like a Peanut Butter and Pickle Sandwich.  Really?  I’ve heard of the fried bologna and ketchup or peanut butter & miracle whip.  (gag)  It seems to me that there should be sandwich laws that clearly state which ingredients are not allowed to coexist on bread.  It’s a free world, I guess – to each his own.  When it comes to sandwich making, everything is permissible, it’s just that not everything is beneficial to the taste buds.

And such is life.  As Christians, we have the freedom in Christ Jesus to live life without trying to follow a bunch of rules.  The 10 Commandments don’t rule our life, the Holy Spirit does. (I am pretty sure the Holy Spirit agrees with the 10 Commandments, however.)  Therefore, just about everything is permissible.  And there you have it, the very thing that gets a whole mess of Christians into a mess. Let’s take alcohol consumption for example.  If you are over the age of 21, it is permissible to drink it.  However getting drunk and passing out isn’t what I would call “beneficial.”

You see, when we engage in things that God clearly guides us to stay away from, we are led to a place of trouble.  We know that sin entices and that it eventually leads to death.  And when you entertain things that you ought not to be entertaining, those things eventually master you.  You may think you are strong enough to engage in questionable activities without being affected, but you aren’t.  None of us are.  And while God has placed the whole world in front of you, it is up to you (with the leading of the HS) to decide what you will do with it. You’ve got some decisions to make.  Put simply:

Just because you are free to make a peanut butter and pickle sandwich, doesn’t mean you should.

Booger in the Punch Bowl

1 Corinthians 5:6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?

Booger in the Punch Bowl

What timing for a blog title like this.  There will be many social gatherings as we celebrate Christmas and New Years and there will most likely be bowls of punch to be enjoyed by the guests.  But after you read this today, maybe you will look at the punch bowl differently and, well… carefully.

The setup for this passage of scripture is Paul’s admonishment and pure disgust over what is happening in this church.  There’s this dude who thinks it’s pretty cool to “have” his dad’s wife.  Not cool.  For some strange, twisted, and bizarre reason this guy is getting celebrated.  After all, he is living out freedom in Christ.  There’s no rules anymore; we’ve got the grace of God baby! Holy smokes, that’s a serious misinterpretation.  Paul has to set them straight on this matter and goes as far as to tell them to kick this guy out of the church.  Talk about going from hero to zero.

Now Paul realizes that people sin, but he also recognizes that this man’s flaunting of sin is gonna mess some other people up.  It is going to give the false impression that God somehow approves of this kind of behavior.  Chances are, there will be some more bone-headed guys who think they should do the same thing.  Not so much.  So this guy needs to be dealt with.  Because when there is sin in the camp, it affects more than just one person; it affects the whole camp.

Paul uses an analogy about yeast and dough.  It’s a pretty good analogy really, but I like the modern day analogy that my youth pastor came up with.  He called it the Booger in the Punch Bowl.  Here’s the scenario: you are at a party.  You are dancing and really quite thirsty.  You make your way to the punch bowl, grab the ladle, hope it’s spiked (hey now, just kidding), and go to fill your cup.  Then you see it.  Alone.  Floating.  What the heck is that? No, it can’t be.  But yes, it is.  A booger. In the punch bowl.  You’ve got to be kidding me.  Suddenly you are not thirsty; someone ruined the punch.

Now Pastor Doug asked us this question: would you drink the punch?  Of course our answer was no.  He persisted: why not just dip into the punch where the booger is not?  Just avoid it.  The answer was still no, ’cause that’s gross.  Who cares if the punch is mostly booger free, that one booger pretty much contaminated the whole thing.  And thus he taught us the lesson: A little bit of yuck messes up the rest.  And this is how we should treat sin both in our lives and in our midst.  We should avoid it like we would avoid a booger in a punch bowl.  We shouldn’t be following the examples of people who are… how do I say this?  Boogers.  That, essentially, is what this guy in Corinth was.  So he had to go before he ruined the whole batch of punch.   What really needed to go was the sin.  And by the way, the same goes for us.

I hope you’ll never look at punch the same.  I sure don’t.

The Kingdom of Oprah

1 Corinthians 4:20 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.

The Kingdom of Oprah

What if the kingdom of God was a talk show?  That would be messed up.  “Today on Sally Jessie Raphael, we will talk about how the kingdom of God will be expanded by our conversation.”  “Tonight on Larry King: God, talk, and me.  Get the kingdom going.”  Or how about this one: “tomorrow on Oprah, the kingdom of God will advance by the power of Oprah’s words.”   That’s getting close to sounding like the kingdom of Oprah.  Oh boy, we are in a lot of trouble here.

So these are far fetched ideas, really, and I am certainly glad that is the case.  I mean, no one would ever just sit around and ramble on and on about the fine points of theology.  No one would ever have a debate on the consistency of the canonization process and the legitimacy of translations derived from the textus receptus versus the Septuagint.  No one would ever place greater importance on a single word in scripture than on a single person in scripture – that single person being Jesus.  If you haven’t picked up on the sarcasm of this paragraph, go ahead and do that now.

Why does this happen?  Why does all the talk end up being more important than all of His power?  The kingdom of God is power.  It is the life of Jesus, the Holy Spirit He gave us, flowing through our spiritual veins.  The kingdom of God is us, His people, responding with life action.  It is us responding to His heart.  It is not empty words, banter, and disagreements.  It is power – His power at work in us.

But wait, don’t get mad at me.  I am not undervaluing the Word of God.  I am not saying that we shouldn’t know what we believe.  I am not saying that our salvation shouldn’t be worked out.  We should strive to be perfected and we should strive to know God’s standards.  It’s just that when our Christianity becomes more about the words and the study than the relationship and the power (or action), we aren’t really doing the kingdom of God any favors.

Think McFly, think.

1 Corinthians 3:16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?

Think McFly, think.
Paul’s not to amused by the Corinthians today.  He actually seems a little peeved.  When you open up a section calling people a bunch of babies, the rest probably isn’t going to go that well.  And while the verse I choose today has some profound meaning, the tone of this entire section is what really gets me.  Paul’s got to be frustrated at the lack of these people “getting it.”  It reminds me of an interaction between Biff and Marty McFly in Back to the Future.  Watch this:

Hello? Hello?  Think Corinthians, think. So Paul is giving some correction and instruction to these guys and hoping that they will get the hint he wants them to make some changes. The one that jumped out of me was verse 16: Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? Don’t you guys know that? Isn’t this what I have been teaching, that Jesus sent His Holy Spirit to live in you?

Yet somehow we think that God is fills a building. We think we have to go somewhere to find Him. If we could just get ourselves inside the temple, God will be there. Well Paul has got news for you – you are the temple. God choose to dwell in man, not in a building. Don’t get me wrong, God can and is present in the church – at least we hope so. After all, it is a good place to grow, learn, laugh, cry, and share life. But the presence of God is also in you. Jesus said He would send the Holy Spirit to dwell IN us and Jesus is no liar. He did it.

I really think the Corinthians already knew this, which leads to Paul’s frustration. Because if you know that the Holy Spirit lives in you, why does your life look like He doesn’t? That’s what Paul wants to know. It’s the heart of this chapter really. Paul’s not just some cranky apostle with unrealistic expectations. He simply wants to know how you can understand you are the temple of God, the dwelling place of God, and live a life that appears to be devoid of Him.

I wonder what Paul would say to us. We know that we are the temple of God. We know that the Holy Spirit lives in us. I just hope Paul wouldn’t have to call us a bunch of babies… ’cause I might just have to sit down and cry about that.

I did that on purpose

1 Corinthians 2:3-5 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

I did that on purpose

I think it’s funny when someone trips and then tries to make it seem like they did it on purpose.  You have probably seen it too.  It happens very fast so you have to watch closely.  First the shoe catches on something causing it’s victim to stagger and almost fall.  But the too-cool-for-words dude tries to play it off like it was part of some funky limp walk.  It goes like this: trip, catch balance, dip, walk, sway, dip, walk.  It’s a cool new strut!  And just in case anyone was looking – I did that on purpose!

Unfortunately, I think I have done that.  Paul might have done it too, except in the more spiritual sense.  When I was reading this today, I had to wonder – did Paul really preach a weak, fearful, unpersuasive and pretty much lame sermon on purpose?  Would he really have dumbed down a message so much that people thought he was really dumb?  Did he trip and say, “I did that on purpose?”  I don’t think I will ever know.  Maybe it was that when he came to them the first time he just wasn’t that great at teaching yet.  Maybe he has learned alot since then.  By the time he wrote this letter, he had figured some things out.  Who knows?  But he claims he did it on purpose, so I guess I will just have to believe him.

Don’t get me wrong, the sermon was effective; it worked.  The reason it worked was because Paul was full of the Holy Spirit and God’s power came through (see yesterday’s blog).   Whether Paul totally stunk it up at the pulpit or he dumbed it down on purpose, it worked.  It doesn’t matter really, I guess.  The whole point is that Paul let the Holy Spirit be the one to do the talking.  This man, a man full of intelligent ramblings, a man who has written some of the deepest theological thoughts of all time, tripped on purpose.  And he did it so that people would not believe the man, but believe by the power of the Holy Spirit.  The power of God was present in his conversations and his sermons.  The power of God came through because he got himself out of the way and let God shine through.

Many of us don’t have the liberty of pretending we aren’t that smart in order that the Holy Spirit takes the lead.  No, we don’t have to pretend at all; we just aren’t that smart.  But whether we trip on purpose or not, we have the same ability that Paul had to let the power of God take the lead in our lives.  If we could just get us and our words out of the way and let Him take the lead, we would be more effective leading others to him.  I think Paul had his approach dialed in quite well.  You see, it is not a persuasive intellectual presentation that draws people to God – it is the Spirit and power of God that does that.  If we are willing to be used by Him in such a way that we get out of the way, the results will be staggering.

Foolishness or Power?

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Foolishness or Power?

I have read this verse many times.  It’s application to me has always been about telling the difference between two groups of people: the unsaved and the saved.  However, as I read this today, it struck me in a different way.  It struck me in a more, well, grammatical way.  Bear with me.  The subject of this verse is not the people; it is the message of the cross.  Well, technically “of the cross” is a prepositional phrase so the message would be the subject.  Right now I am cringing at the potential of English instructors reading this and me being wrong, but I think I am mostly correct.  Oh boy, I am quickly losing the point here.

The message.  It is something and it leads to something.  It is either foolishness or power.  It was never intended to be an idea.  It was never intended to be theology.  It was never intended to be spiritualism.  It was intended to be power – that is what should be produced from the message of the cross.  Power.   And it leads to something.  If it is considered foolishness, it leads to death (perishing is a nice way of saying dying).  It if is power, it leads to being saved. And not just a rescue.  Think of this word saved like the word preservative.  A preservative doesn’t just keep food from spoiling today, it is in an ongoing state of keeping the food from being spoiled.

So it’s either one thing or the other.  Either the message of the cross is foolishness to you and you are perishing or it is power to you and you are being saved.  There isn’t much middle ground.  In fact, this is a theme throughout scripture that following Christ is pretty much an “all in” kind of decision.  And when you make that decision, there should be a power of God accompanying it.  It’s a hard pill to swallow really.  So there are questions to be asked:  Am I on the fence?  Do I think some of what God expects is just foolish?  Do I see the power of God present in my life?   They are good questions to ask though because they will bring us to a place where Christ becomes real in us and the power of God will be ever present in our lives!