Truth be told, I sometimes have a little problem with Psalms like #26. Didn't Jesus encourage us to be humble in our prayers and offer confessions for our sins? In Psalm 26, however, David gives us a model that basically says, "Look at me, God! I'm holy! I'm righteous! Take care of me, Lord, because I'm one of the good ones!"
Thursday, June 15, 2017
Paul is concerned for the quality of the Corinthians' faith and their daily living. After all, we have a stark example from Israel's history that it matters how we live and worship. What should be the standard for living out our faith?
In this chapter, we get a good look at the extent of Paul's sacrifices and his calling. Paul declares to the Corinthians that he is a genuine apostle, but he also wants it known that he engages in gospel ministry with no salary drawn from his proclamation. We get a look inside Paul's head as he discloses his thinking with striking transparency. Paul has chosen to make this sacrifice because of the ability it gives him to present the gospel without any accusation of profiteering. He is so committed to the saving of souls that he will do anything, say anything, become anything - and even serve without anything. He is sold out, to the point of Olympic-level dedication to his calling. This is Paul's heart. Paul's sacrificial commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ is beyond reproach.
I Corinthians 7 is a very practical chapter, full of Paul's convictions and advice regarding marriage, divorce, and other relationship statuses. Summing it up would be the phrase: Be content to remain as you are. If you're married, don't seek a divorce (that's God's will). If you're single, don't seek to be married (that's Paul suggestion). Whatever state you were in when you became a Christian - slave or free - be satisfied with remaining that way. Yet these prescriptions don't carry the weight of a command, but sound more like a philosophical viewpoint. The important thing, says Paul, is to be heaven-minded as much as possible, remembering that earthly realities are but temporary and transitory things.
By my count (NRSV), Paul asks 13 rhetorical questions of the Corinthian Church in chapter 6. He is not honestly looking for answers to his questions - rather, he is making a point by asking them!
One of Jesus's oft-quoted statements is, "Judge not lest ye be judged." (At least, this pronouncement seems to get quoted to Christians a lot!) How does this co-exist with Paul's stern exhortation in I Corinthians 5? "Is it not those who are inside (the Church) that you are to judge?"
In I Corinthians 4, Paul interacts directly with the Corinthians, examining their situation and his own. For their part, he says, they are like his children and should acknowledge that they have received everything they have from others. As far as Paul and the other apostles, however, he considers their state to be hard-pressed. They have suffered being counted as fools in the sight of the wisdom of the world, they have endured hunger and thirst and poverty and brutal treatment, and they are regarded as the "scum of the earth." Paul has not said these things to shame the Corinthians, but to challenge them, urging them to leave the easy path and do the hard things for Christ. Finally, Paul encourages them to act in the knowledge that he will be coming to visit them...very soon.
Continuing his thoughts about wisdom and foolishness, Paul makes a breathtaking claim in the second chapter: Christians have access to the deep things of God, through the Spirit that searches all things, even God Himself! Through God's own Spirit, which also inhabits us, we have the mind of Christ. What a concept! So much for foolishness by the world's standard. I will take the mind of Christ any day!
Psalm 24 is a traditional reading for Jesus' triumphal entry celebrated on Palm Sunday. Besides being a beautiful song in its own right, it is full of messianic overtones. The world had better get ready, David says, because Something's Coming. Or, more precisely, Someone!
Welcome to a new book! Paul's first letter to the Corinthian Church is a true classic - full of deeply practical advice as well as a soaring rhapsody on the supremacy of love, with healthy doses of teaching on spiritual gifts and the resurrection thrown in for good measure as well. In chapter 1, Paul zeroes in on two issues of immediate import for his audience: sects in the church and the "foolishness" of his proclamation.
Compared to the rest of the book, Romans 16 is the most personal chapter, full of private greetings and remarks. It is Paul's good-bye to the church at Rome, until he should come there and be with them in person.
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Do Christians have to agree on everything? I sure hope not! There are all sorts of issues about which good, well-meaning Christians hold different opinions. Some that I have come across in ministry: Which is the proper day to consider the Sabbath, the morality of drinking alcohol, the best version/translation of the Bible, the correct mode of baptism, the "right" political party, recommended attire for worship, suitable activities for youth groups, the standard of the tithe, and the appropriateness of Santa Claus!
Monday, June 12, 2017
Looking for clear guidelines from the Bible about how to behave? You've come to the right place! Paul continues this very practical section of Romans with a look at how Christians ought to be obedient to authority, fulfill the law with love, and shun sinful deeds.
Even though I almost always prefer a modern-language translation for personal Bible study and public teaching, there are rare exceptions when I find myself drawn to the beautiful imagery and rhythm of the centuries-old King James Version. Psalm 23 is one of those occasions.
Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Paul completes his three-chapters-long exploration of the fate of Israel in Romans 11. He concludes that her estrangement from God is only temporary, serving the purpose of allowing the Gentiles to enter the kingdom while Israel is hardened.
Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Monday, June 5, 2017
For several chapters, Paul has been talking about the distinction between the sinful nature and the spiritual nature. This discussion reaches its climax in Romans 8 as he looks ahead to see where these differences lead. One way leads to death, the other to life - and beyond!
If you believe, as I do, that God intended to foreshadow the sufferings of His Son in the Old Testament so that prophecies could be fulfilled (thus attesting to God's sure plan for history), Psalm 22 could be submitted as "Exhibit A."