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Part of the FBCS 2010 Read Through the Bible Project: Enter the Story. Join the Song.

Archive for July, 2010

Thanks Be To God!

1 Corinthians 15:35-58    2 Kings 11    Micah 2

“Athaliah reigned over the land” (2 Kings 11:3). The result of a violent power-grab. And the rightful heir to the throne is hidden from her — in the house of the Lord — for six years . . .  And Micah speaks of those who devise and carry out evil “because it is in their power” (Micah 2:1). And, as we have read, the believers in Corinth are divided, like children, into competing factions. What a mess! Could there be any clearer window into the sting of death and the power of sin? But, lest we become discouraged by these images, hear the word of the Lord:  

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).  Jesus has conquered death and so shall we. He been raised from the dead, and so shall we. There is more to this story — so very, very much more — than the deadly cycle of grabbing and taking and holding on to dust. Listen, beloved of God; listen and give thanks: Sin and death do not have the last word. We will be changed (1 Corinthians 15:51,52).  These perishable bodies will put on imperishablity, and death will be swallowed up in victory (v.54). And the kingdom of God comes. Life follows death (v.36). Thanks be to God, indeed!

“Therefore . . . be steadfast” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Faithful. Immovable. Unshaken. And be about the work of the Lord. “Therefore.” That is, live as people who “bear the image of the man of heaven” (v.49). The promise of resurrection frees us to focus on the rest of the story. And those who believe that life follows death will give themselves over to the work of God’s eternal and victorious kingdom. To do otherwise is to miss the point altogether. 

“Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the works of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
     — 1 Corinthians 15:58

Good News

1 Corinthians 15:1-34    2 Kings 10    Micah 1

“If with merely human hopes I fought” (1 Corinthians 15:32). Merely human hopes. Where are we — what are we — when left with nothing but our human hopes and plans and devices? Well, Jehu shows us, he who consolidates his power through violence and does so in the name of God (2 Kings 10:16). And Paul does, as well, persecuting the church. Also in the name of God (1 Corinthians 15:9; Acts 8 ) . . . Jehu’s actions, later condemned by the prophet Hosea (Hosea 1:4,5), and Paul’s campaign of terror, which made him, in his own words, “unfit to be called an apostle” (v.9), illustrate that, left to write our own stories, we are locked in a futile cycle of sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:17-19,22,32). But, as Paul reminds us, there is, by the grace of God, good news . . .

“But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10). By God’s grace, Paul is an apostle, made alive in Christ. And, by the grace of God that is with him (v.10), he becomes a messenger of life. “As all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ” (v.22). Even Paul. And you. And me. Good news: we are not left with merely human hopes. Good news: “Christ has been raised, the first fruits of those who have died” (v.20). Good news: the power and ways of death have been defeated and will, ultimately, be destroyed (v.26). Good news: Jehu’s story is old news. Jesus lives, and so do we. By the grace of God.

“As of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3). Be reminded: Christ died, was buried, and was raised. This is the message of first importance. Through this good news you are being saved, if you hold firmly to it (v.2). Through it you are invited to enter the story of hope and life and purpose. Through it you and I are given the opportunity to be good news to others. Through this good news, by the grace of God, all will be made alive. So may we all hold firmly to this good news. May we work hard to proclaim the message to others. May we live lives of hope and courage. And may God be all in all. Amen.    

“For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn received:
that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”
     — 1 Corinthians 15:3-5

A Gracious God . . .

1 Corinthians 14:26-40    2 Kings 9    Jonah 4

“You are concerned about the bush” (Jonah 4:10). In the midst of the chaos of 2 Kings 9 and Paul’s call to order in 1 Corinthians 14, it is the conversation between Jonah and God in chapter 4 that catches my attention this day. Jonah is angry; furious with God for sparing Nineveh and not sparing his shade-bush. What’s up with that? Well. Underneath and around it all is a basic conflict in agendas. Jonah knew God’s character well enough to know that God’s agenda was love. And Jonah wanted Nineveh to be overthrown. This is why he ran in the first place (v.2). It was a matter of prejudice and pride. And personal comfort . . . And it occurs to me that such things are at the root of the chaos seen in 2 Kings and 1 Corinthians. And?

“And should I not be concerned about Nineveh?” (Jonah 4:11). The story is consistent: God is love. And, amazingly, we sometimes have a problem with this. Oh, sure, we love it when God’s grace is applied to us. Mercy. Patience. Good things all . . . when it comes to keeping the shade over my head. But isn’t it true that we kind of enjoy seeing the Jezebels and  Ninevites of the world “get theirs?” And might it also be true that we’re not so keen on God loving the likes of them? Different agendas? Perhaps. But here’s the truth: God’s agenda trumps ours. God is concerned about Nineveh and Corinth and . . . God’s desire is that we unite our hearts with his in loving his precious and broken world. And all who live therein. The message is clear: This is the only way to end the chaos and establish peace.

“God is a God not of disorder but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33). God’s character; God’s agenda. And our assignment. May we move beyond prejudice and pride this day. May we embrace the loving character of God toward all. And may our agenda be mercy and peace. Amen. 

“You are a gracious God and merciful,
slow to anger,
and abounding in steadfast love,
and ready to relent from punishing.”
     — Jonah 4:2

Beyond Ourselves.

1 Corinthians 14:1-25    2 Kings 9    Jonah 3

“Then the man of God wept” (2 Kings 8:11). In today’s readings, we see Elisha completing tasks left undone by Elijah (2 Kings 9:13; also 1 Kings 19:15,16), Jonah proclaiming the word of the Lord to Nineveh (Jonah 3:4), and Paul urging the believers in Corinth to “pursue love and strive for spiritual gifts” (1 Corinthians 14:1). In each case, these folks are called to do that which is beyond their own interests and zone of personal comfort, as evidenced by Elisha’s tears, Jonah’s reluctance, and Paul’s relentless focus on the building up of the church (v.3,5,12,17,26).

“So that the church may be built up” (1 Corinthians 14:5). “So that.” Well now. Paul speaks clearly: individuals are endowed with spiritual gifts for a purpose beyond themselves. And prophets like Elisha and Jonah illustrate this truth . . . It is worth noting, for example, that the word of the Lord is effective in Nineveh despite Jonah’s grudging obedience (v.5). “So that.” Hear the word of the Lord. Those who enter the story of God are not in it for themselves.  The gifts we are given? For the building up of the church (1 Corinthians 14:12). The tasks we are assigned? For the doing of God’s will (see Elisha). The mission to which we are called? Leading others to believe God and enter the story (Jonah 3:5 and 1 Corinthians 14:25).  You and I are called to live beyond our own interests and comfort zones; to live our lives for God and others . . . Paul calls this grown-up thinking (1 Corinthians 14:20). So just how grown up am I? How grown up are you? The answer is found beyond ourselves . . .

“God is really among you” (1 Corinthians 14:25). So speak others of a church given to upbuilding and encouragement and consolation (v.3); those who are led to “bow down before God and worship him” (v.25). May we hear the word and act upon it. May we pursue love and strive for spiritual gifts. And may we live beyond ourselves for the building up of the church to the glory of God. Amen.

“Since you are eager for spiritual gifts,
strive to excel in them
for building up the church.”
     — 1 Corinthians 14:12

The Way of Love . . .

1 Corinthians 13    2 Kings 7:3-20    Jonah 2

“And I will show you a still more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31). These words, read yesterday, introduce and frame the readings for this day. As we read and reflect upon Paul’s beautiful and familiar song of love, let us keep before us the main characters in today’s stories: Four desperate and outcast men living outside the city gate because they are afflicted with leprosy (2 Kings 7), Jonah sitting in the belly of the big fish following his attempt to flee from God (Jonah 2:1), and the jealous and quarreling — childish — members of the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 3:3; 13:11) . . . With these we are invited to enter the way of love.

“Love is . . .” (1 Corinthians 13:4). The love of which Paul writes is love for others, which is, by God’s design, to be the way of life for the people of God together. And just how might this love look? Well . . . consider those four outcasts, who, with no conceivable reason to do so, decide that keeping good news to themselves is wrong, and “go and tell the king’s household” (2 Kings 7:9). And see God’s way as he delivers a rebellious and slow-to-come-around prophet  (Jonah 2:1,7). Or notice with care the way in which Paul seeks to guide the Corinthians into maturity . . . Love does, indeed, bear, believe, hope, and endure all things (1 Corinthians 13:7).

“I put an end to childish ways” (1 Corinthians 13:11). It may have been understandable if the four leprous men had decided to keep their good news — and spoils — to and for themselves. But it would have been childish. And, ultimately, self-destructive (2 Kings 7:9). The same can (and must) be said of our own impatience and selfishness and resentments when it comes to our relationships with one another (1 Corinthians 13:4-6). Such behavior is childish. And destructive. And unworthy of people beloved of God. And so it is that God’s word calls us to embrace the more excellent way of love; patient, kind, enduring love. May we choose the way of maturity this day. May the love of God, poured so freely upon us, flow through us to others. And may we, together, become the embodiment of this more excellent way. Amen. 

“And now faith, hope, and love abide,
these three;
and the greatest of these is love.”
     — 1 Corinthians 13:13

Monday, July 26

1 Corinthians 12    2 Kings 6:1-7:2    Jonah 1

While I am in the “internet free zone,” I will be reading with you, but not posting. So how is God speaking to you in these texts? Remember: Keep reading!

Scroll down for Thursday’s post.

Pride vs Wholeness . . .

1 Corinthians 11:17-34    2 Kings 5    Obadiah

So. Check out the problem of pride that runs through these passages. Note, especially, 1 Corinthians 11:21, 2 Kings 5:11, and Obadiah, v.3. 

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