1 Corinthians 13 Young Adult Remix

If you want to reach 20 Somethings, here is the key – Love them and let them know it. You may not have all the “right” programs (as if there is a giant cookie cutter you can press into your congregation and make it work). Your worship may not be flashy. Your members may be aging. The nursery may be empty. You may not know all the right things to say, the questions to ask or be up on all the latest cultural trends, viral videos or newest songs…but if you can just have a heart for this generation and reach out to them in love…embrace them and give them space to explore faith in a non-threatening, non-judgmental way…you will be amazed what will happen.

Here is why this works. You spend time with the people you love. That generates a connection greater than giving them the next great program or ministry. You give attention and affection to the people you love. That will build their trust. You will gain and earn the respect to speak words of truth into their lives, give them the guidance they need and be there to pick them up lovingly when they make a mistake. Love is key because love shoots right through all the surface issues of why they leave and why we don’t keep them around.

Do we love them like we should and do they know it? Is our love for them at least as evident as our love for doctrine and tradition? If your answer to that is no, then I would ask you to read what Paul told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 13. Today it might sound something like this…

1 Corinthians 13 Young Adult Remix

“If I speak all the true doctrines of the church, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where it is silent, take the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess in the Sunday morning offering plate and worship a capella, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are traditions of the church, they will cease; where there are tongues that teach church doctrine, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part,10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

If you read 1 Cor 13 in context going back into 1 Corinthians 12 you will see that Paul didn’t think any of these gifts were bad things. In fact, he said to seek them out. Same for us. Doctrine is important. Even our traditions can be important to us. We just have to make sure that all of these things are seen and done through the lens of what will remain and the greatest thing that will remain, is love. So please don’t read my re-write as any slam on the church. If it is a slam on anything it is on those who take perfectly good things and use and abuse them and run people off (especially young people) because they “have not love” in how they use and practice those things. I just want to be clear on that.

Glimmers of God’s Perspective

Two years ago last month I got an email from my mother. She had forwarded an email from the church office back in Alabama that a dear friend had passed away. I was stunned. Sammy couldn’t have been much more than 40 years old. I checked my email later in the day and the strangest thing happened, my mother had forwarded to me all the past emails that had been bouncing around since Sammy’s accident all the way up to the last email about his death that I had already read.

The first email said he was in a wreck and that the whole congregation needed to pray that he would recover.  There were more. One email said he was getting better and that doctors were hopeful. The next would say he had taken a turn for the worse. Up and down his struggle for life went and the emails chronicled his journey toward death. There were moments of hope and there were moments of sorrow. I am not usually much of a crier but reading all of that certainly did a number on me.

I cannot tell you how strange it was to know your friend had died and read that initial emails with that in mind. Usually you read these emails as the events unfold but this was different. I was listening back in on emails that had been sent in the days prior already knowing that the end result was his death. It got me thinking about God’s perspective on everything. When we go through these things, God already knows how it is going to turn out. He already knows how the last email is going to read (more on that in a minute). There isn’t anything that is going to catch God off guard. He already knows everything. Psalm 139:1-4 says,

O Lord, you have searched me
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O Lord.

Isaiah 55:8-9 puts it this way,

“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.”

God is amazing and incredible. What am amazing blessing it is to be made by God, loved by God and sustained by God. God is answering prayers we don’t even know how to ask! (Rom 8:26-27). Paul says the end result of it all is that God will work good for those who love Him! (Rom 8:28). So let us live with confidence that God knows how this whole thing is going to turn out and while some times seem like they are full of despair Psalm 30:5 tells us that mourning may last for a night but rejoicing always comes in the morning. Let us remember that in Christ we are new creations, a new dawn has come and we are to be people who find joy in the midst of suffering and who find peace in the middle of the storm because God already knows how it is all going to work out. Not even death can stop Him!

Let me let you in on a little secret…I want to tell you how the last email regarding this whole messed up world of sin and death reads. Here is what it says…

“Death has been swallowed up in victory” – 1 Cor 15:54

What if we read these words and then started living our lives through that lens? We can conclude the same thing Paul concluded a few verses later…” Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

Seeking Simplicty

When we lived in Memphis we used to knock doors on Saturday mornings for the bus ministry at an apartment complex in Millington called Flag Manor. One door we knocked on a regular basis was the apartment of an older couple who had an adult son who was mentally challenged. His name was Ricky. Ricky came on the bus for a while. He didn’t understand too much of what was going on but he sure enjoyed being with everyone. One day Ricky told us he wanted to be baptized. We weren’t really sure how much Ricky understood so another minister and I sat down with Ricky and talked with him about his faith, Jesus Christ and what baptism meant. The best we could do to find out what Ricky believed was to ask him some yes/no questions. What he made clear was that “yes” he understood Jesus was the Son of God, “yes” Jesus died for his sins and third – “yes” he wanted to be baptized. How do you argue with that? So we baptized him.

I am positive Ricky will never have a doctrinal debate with someone and I am sure Ricky won’t understand why we do all the things we do. I am also positive that Ricky has a love for God and trusts God to see him through. What amazes me is that Jesus doesn’t call us to be like the teachers of the Law, who knew every intricacy of scripture but whose knowledge didn’t always translate into a closer walk with God. In Matthew 18, Jesus called his disciples to be like the little children, really…like Ricky.

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

The first thing that jumps out at me is that Jesus uses the word “change”…that implies most of us aren’t there yet. Something needs adjusted in order to obey Christ on this one. I think what Jesus was getting at when he said that wasn’t about knowledge. I think it was about the heart. Jesus wasn’t condemning Bible study or growing in your faith. Jesus was warning against having a heart of self-sufficiency and self-righteousness instead having the heart of a child, one of total dependency upon God even for our daily bread. So we have our discussions, we fine tune our doctrine, and we work out all sorts of details on things from scripture and write lengthy commentaries detailing all sorts of interesting minutia…but at the end of the day God uses the simple to shame the wise. So don’t get caught up in the complex…seek the simple.

Let me conclude this post with some words of wisdom from Paul in 1 Corinthians 1,

27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not —to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 13…the Best Chapter on Spiritual Gifts in the Bible

Whenever I do a wedding there is this feeling that somehow you have to fit in 1 Corinthians 13 because the word “love” is mentioned so many times. Love have made this chapter one of the best known in the whole Bible. Really, I do my best to avoid that chapter at weddings. When you preach or teach 1 Corinthians 13 as if it were about love it really sounds kind of strange. I mean what’s love got to do with speaking in the tongues of men or of angels? What’s love got to do with prophesies? What’s love got to do with wisdom and spiritual insight? What’s love got to do with it? The follow up question to that is, Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken? Anyone?

The problem people have with 1 Corinthians 13 is a problem that people have with many verses in the Bible. It is a problem of stripping verses from their context, examining them in that isolation and coming to conclusions that were never intended by the original author. Read 1 Corinthians 11 through 13 all at once and see what chapter 13 is about. The NIV heading is “Love” but it is actually about the primacy of love in using our spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts in the early church were gifts given to people by the power of the Holy Spirit to do things they could not do otherwise. This included things like speaking in tongues, prophesy, extra wisdom, interpretation of those who speak in tongues, and many more. In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul talks about problems of disunity and hostility in the church. Then in chapters 12 and 13 Paul gives us two things that, when properly understood, should bring unity and purpose back to God’s people. In 1 Cor 12 Paul writes about the unity of the body and how we all have different gifts but the leadership comes from the head of the body, Christ, and not ourselves. In 1 Cor 13 Paul talks about the fact that many people have gifts but they are all meaningless unless they are done lovingly. The point is, don’t get caught up in the gift. Get caught up in the one who gave the gift, God, and how He wants us to use those gifts in loving ways. Having great gifts is no excuse or substitute for treating people right. Do treat others poorly, no matter how great the gifts makes you nothing (1 Cor 13:2-3).

The whole spiritual gifts discussion in 1 Corinthians is a call back to love. While all the gifts they had may not be present in the same form as they were in the first century we still have something greater than all of that…we can still love. When we do the life and love of Jesus flows in us and through us and is more powerful than speaking in a tongue or having some great gift of wisdom. Christ is living in us and it will show. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Cor 9:15).

Transcendence and Immanence – Holding the Two in Tension

There are some things we learn best about God when we hold two seemingly opposing characteristics of God in our minds at the same time. One of these pairs is God’s transcendence and His immanence. God’s transcendence means God is very much unlike us. He is so much greater and so high above us that we can’t even begin to comprehend the glory of God. When Solomon built the temple in 1 Kings 8:27 he prayed,

“But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you.
How much less this temple I have built!”

He went on to pray,

“Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.” – 1 Kings 8:30

Solomon understood God’s transcendence. He was humble enough to recognize that mankind cannot build something so magnificent that it can contain God. But to fairly answer Solomon’s humble question, “Will God really dwell on earth?” The answer is “yes!” God is also immanent. John 1:14 tells us that God became flesh and made his dwelling among us. But God took it one step further. 1 Cor 3:16 tells us that not only did God dwell on the earth but He made the dwelling place of His Holy Spirit right here inside of us!

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?”

Jesus lived in the flesh on the earth. God’s Spirit lives among His people. That is God’s immanence at its very best. God is so high above us, greater and more powerful than anything we can imagine. Yet he became a man. God is divine and immortal and yet became a servant and was crucified.

If we are really going to appreciate who God is, it is helpful to hold these seemingly opposite characteristics in our minds at the same time. He is One willing to live among us and yet He is so much greater than we are. He is great and yet approachable. He is approachable and among us and yet so far greater and more glorious than we are. When we hold these two things up next to each other it helps us find balance between extreme immanence (“buddy Jesus”) and extreme transcendence (God so far removed from us that we are approaching deism). This should also inform our worship. Until the last few decades our worship songs were more transcendent. Now they are heavily weighted toward immanence. We certainly need balance.

Just Stuffing Our Faces

I was baptized by Stan Webb when I was 11 at the Lafayette Church of Christ in Ballwin, Missouri. One of the first questions I had was what I was supposed to do when communion was passed. I got some really good advice. I was told that it was a time to remember what Jesus did and to think about forgiveness. For many years that is exactly what I did. I would think about Jesus dying for my sins. I would imagine him on the cross. I would ask him to forgive me. Those were very personal and healthy times.

But somewhere along the line my thinking has changed a bit on this. I am sure my thinking on a lot of things has changed since I was 11. I think it was Monte Cox in a missions class at Harding who first brought to my attention the context of 1 Corinthians 11 and that communion was a three party event. I had always thought it was so personal, so private, and just between myself and the Lord. But Dr. Cox opened my eyes to see that Paul’s view of communion was, well, communal.

Any communion presider worth his salt knows that when you read 1 Corinthians 11 at the table you start in verse 23 and end at verse 29. That is just what you do. Don’t start before verse 23 because then you are in some discussion about divisions and not the Supper. Don’t go past 29 because then you have to try to explain how our physical illness might be coming from improperly taking the supper and the judgment that results.

But if you take the time to go back to 11:17 and read through 11:34 you find some really nice bookends that form parentheses around Paul’s recalling of the events at Jesus’ institution of the Supper. What you find is a church divided. They were angry with one another, jealous of each other, and were constantly trying to get ahead of others in the church. Paul tells us the Lord’s Supper is not just taken if there is the right kind of bread, right kind of juice and taken separate and apart from the offering and just prior to the sermon. (Sidenote, I have heard far more people get upset over one cup or multiple or what kind of bread or juice it is than I have heard over the attitude in which it is taken…that just misses the point entirely). The Supper is taken or not taken based upon their attitudes toward each other, the third party…the community of faith that eats this meal together with the Lord. The Supper is only the Supper if it is taken communally, recognizing the personhood and value of all those who partake. If we take it with 100% proper form but hate our brother, hold grudges against the song leader or are angry about what was said in Bible class, chances are we are just stuffing our faces…well, as much as you can stuff with tiny pieces of bread and thimble sized cups of juice.

Summaries of the New Testament Books

To follow up on this post summarizing the books of the Old Testament, here is the list for the New Testament. Here is this list in pdf. These are just quick helps to help people get a feel for these books and see how they connect with each other.

Bible Study Helps – New Testament

Like the Old Testament, the New Testament is also divided into sections that help keep similar writings together. Here are the four sections that divide the Old Testament:

1 – Gospels

  • Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
  • The Gospels are ordered by the date some people believed they were written. You don’t have to put a name on a Gospel until there are more than one and only Luke is the only one of the four to identify himself. A few hundred years after these were written false teachings entered the church that forced the church to decide which writings were inspired/from God and which were not. It was during this process that the New Testament was laid out in its current form.

2 – Historical

  • Acts of the Apostles
  • Acts is the history that all of Paul’s letters fit into. You read about Paul visiting the churches he wrote letters to in the book of Acts (the cities of Ephesus, Galatia, Corinth, etc)

3 – Paul’s Letters

  • Romans – Philemon
  • These are ordered from longest to shortest with Romans being the longest and Philemon the shortest of Paul’s letters
  • These are some of the earliest writings in the New Testament with Galatians being the earliest book written (48 AD)

4 – General Letters

  • Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2, & 3 John, and Jude
  • These are all the letters written by people other than Paul

5 – Apocalypse

  • Revelation
  • This is the last book of the New Testament to be written, nearly 60 years after Jesus’ ministry

Gospels

Matthew

Date written – 60s

Author – Matthew

Summary – All four gospels tell about the life of Jesus from the time before his birth to the time after his death and resurrection. Yet each Gospel has a distinct emphasis. It is like hearing the same story from four different points of view. Each writer is remembering and focusing on different aspects of who Jesus is and what he came to do.

Matthew’s emphasis – Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy. Matthew also emphasizes Jesus as King as prophesied Messiah and descendent from David’s throne.

Mark

Date written – 50s

Author – Mark

Summary – Mark is about who Jesus is. At first Jesus is more secretive about who he is because he doesn’t want to fulfill the wrongly directed hopes of who the Messiah was supposed to be and what he was supposed to do. In the first half of Mark (1-8) It is not uncommon in Mark for Jesus to tell people to keep who he is a secret. Once Peter confesses Christ in Mark 8 Jesus speaks much more freely about who he is and what he came to do. Like Matthew, Mark ends with Jesus commissioning his disciples to spread the Gospel all over the world.

Mark’s emphasis – Jesus as Redeemer

Luke

Date written – 60s

Author – Luke

Summary – Luke and Acts are both written by Luke and tell the story of Christianity from the birth of Jesus through the growth of the early church. There are many teachings and miracles in Luke that points us right to the heart of God and just how compassionate he is toward mankind.

Luke’s emphasis – Jesus as compassionate and uplifter of the oppressed

John

Date written – 80s

Author – John

Summary – The Gospel of John tells the story of the life and ministry of Jesus through an insider point of view. Matthew was a disciple of Jesus but not in his “inner circle” like Peter, James and John were. Luke and John were not part of Jesus’ 12 disciples. So John holds a special place in teaching us about God and Christ as an “insider.” One things you will notice in John are a lot of double meanings that often leave people confused (being born again is one example from John 3). Like the other three Gospels, John shows Jesus on his way to a cross. Like the other Gospels Jesus defeats death through his resurrection and shows us that there is hope beyond the grave.

John’s emphasis – Jesus as the Son of God and his unique relationship with His Father.

History

Acts of the Apostles

Date written – 62

Author – Luke

Summary – Luke wrote the book of Acts to tell the rest of the story. Acts covers the first thirty years of the church and tells how the Gospel went from being believed by just a few disciples waiting in Jerusalem to the Holy Spirit inspiring them to convert thousands and take the message all over the world. In the book of Acts we see missionaries including Paul, Barnabas, Mark and Luke (who both wrote the Gospels) travelling around the world, spreading the message of Christ to Jews and Gentiles. They travel to many of the cities Paul later writes the letters that follow.

One major dividing line in the book is Acts 10 where God allows the message of Christ to be preached to the Gentiles for the first time. This had been God’s plan all the way back to Abraham when he promised Abraham he would be the “father of many nations” (Genesis 17:5).

Paul’s Letters

Romans

Date written – 55

Author – Paul

Summary – Romans was written to a racially divided church. The Jew and Gentile Christians were struggling to find unity. Paul writes Romans to reconcile their relationships and to understand that the message of Christ should act as a common bond across all nations just as God planned for it to do from the beginning.

1 Corinthians

Date written – 54

Author – Paul

Summary – Corinth is a town in Greece where Paul visited in Acts 18. The Corinthian church was also very divided (1:10-17). Paul sets them straight by talking about how true leaders should bring unity and not division but that ultimately our leader is Christ and not any earthly leaders. Paul also deals with many of their specific concerns as a congregation including marriage (chapter 7), the eating of food sacrificed to idols (chapters 8-11) and issues in worship (chapters 11-14).

2 Corinthians

Date written – 55

Author – Paul

Summary – 2 Corinthians seems to be about Paul’s defense of his ministry to those hostile toward him at Corinth. He upholds his integrity and commission from God and defends many of his travel plans in this letter.

Galatians

Date written – 48

Author – Paul

Summary – Galatians was written to address a specific concern among the Christians in the region of Galatia. It seems those who were Jewish Christians were beginning to enforce various aspects of Judaism (circumcision for one) on the Gentile Christians. Paul writes this letter to assure them of the sufficiency of Christ apart from the Law of Moses (Genesis-Deuteronomy) and to help mend the broken relationships left behind between the Christians in the Galatian churches.

Ephesians

Date written – 60

Author – Paul

Summary – One of four letters Paul wrote from prison. Normally Paul’s letters have a specific occasion that prompted him to write these churches. Ephesians is the hardest to pin down. What stands out in Ephesians is the connection between knowing God and what he has done for us (Chapters 1-3) and the resulting actions that should be in our lives in response to all God has done for us (Chapters 4-6).

Philippians

Date written – 61

Author – Paul

Summary – Paul invites the Philippian Christians to live their lives for Christ even if it includes suffering (Phil 1). He encourages them to imitate Christ’s humility (Phil 2) and to keep in mind the importance of Christ (Phil 3). Even though in jail, Paul has found contentment (Phil 4:11-12).

Colossians

Date written – 60

Author – Paul

Summary – One of four letters Paul wrote from prison. Colossians was written to help combat some false teachings that were taking place in the house churches of Colossae. It seems some believed that it was necessary to appease angels by doing certain religious ceremonies in order to gain entrance to the presence of God (see especially Col 2). Paul assures them, as he did the Galatians, that we don’t need anything more than Jesus Christ to be in the proper relationship with God.

1 Thessalonians

Date written – 50

Author – Paul

Summary – 1 Thessalonians may have been written to Christians in Thessalonica who struggled with understanding the second coming of Christ and what that meant for Christians who died before his return. Some believed in the early church that Christ would come back within a generation due to some of Jesus’ teachings (like John 21:22). Paul encourages them toward purity, love and responsibility.

2 Thessalonians

Date written – 51

Author – Paul

Summary – Paul wrote this letter to alleviate even more concerns they had about the return of Christ. It seems some had taught Christ has already come back (2 Thess 2:1-2) and that there were false teachers in their midst (2:3-15). Paul writes this letter to inform and encourage them toward faithfulness so that they will not be led away from God through false teaching.

1 Timothy

Date written – 62

Author – Paul

Summary – 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus are called the “Pastoral epistles”. They were written by Paul to help equip these men of God toward a more productive ministry. They were also written to help these ministers of the Gospel (Timothy and Titus) to effectively lead in the congregations they were a part of. These three letters are very practical covering everything from how to dress to qualifications of elders and deacons and how to treat others in the church.

2 Timothy

Date written – 63

Author – Paul

Summary – Written as Paul nears the end of his life in Roman prison. He writes this to ensure the faithfulness of Timothy and to encourage him to finish strong just as Paul is doing himself. The most famous verse in this book is found in 2 Timothy 3:14-17 where Paul encourages him to study the scriptures and explains the extent of their usefulness.

Titus

Date written – 62

Author – Paul

Summary – The last of Paul’s pastoral letters, this letter is written to give instruction to Titus on how Christians are to live and what should be taught to those in the church. Another very practical letter.

Philemon

Date written – 60

Author – Paul

Summary – One of four letters Paul wrote from prison. This letter was written to reconcile the relationship between a slave and a slave master who were both Christians in the church in Colossae. The slave, Onesimus, came to Paul so he could help him make things right again with his master, Philemon. Paul put the pressure on Philemon to make things right, even if it wasn’t easy.

General Letters

Hebrews

Date written – between 60 & 70

Author – Unknown

Summary – Hebrews reads more like a sermon than a letter and that may have been how the book of Hebrews started out. Hebrews is about the sufficiency of Christ and his exaltation above all others in all creation. The book proves that by showing his fulfillment of many things found in the Old Testament including the priesthood, sacrificial system, and many other things. This letter was undoubtedly written to a Jewish audience, who would have readily seen the connections the writer of Hebrews makes with the Old Testament.

James

Date written – 44

Author – James

Summary – James was the half brother of Jesus, sharing the same mother, Mary. James is often thought of as the Proverbs of the New Testament. It is very practical and easy to understand. This is a great place to start studying the Bible if you are looking for something practical and easily applicable.

1 Peter

Date written – 65

Author – Peter

Summary – 1 & 2 Peter were written to remind Christians of their special status with God so that they could endure some pretty intense persecution. Peter speaks to unjust suffering and living as a Christian in a hostile world.

2 Peter

Date written – 65

Author – Peter

Summary – 2 Peter was written near the end of Peter’s life and he is calling them to the truth and reminding them of the legitimacy of the Gospel, that what Christ had done for them was real. As an eyewitness who is about to die defending his faith, he wants to make sure those he is leaving behind will hold true to the Gospel because Christ will return and Christians are called to live with that in mind.

1 John

Date written – 90

Author – John

Summary – If Timothy and Titus are pastoral letters to individuals, 1-3 John read like pastoral letters written in love to help them grow closer to God and to other Christians. In 1 John, John tells us what it means to walk in the light and just how connected our love of God is with our love for others (1 John 3). We also get more “insider” facts about who Jesus is and what he has done for us.

2 John

Date written – 90

Author – John

Summary – This letter is addressed probably to a local congregation in order to help them combat false teaching. That false teaching had to do with whether or not Jesus really came in the flesh. John, who knew Jesus first hand, assures them that he did.

3 John

Date written – 90

Author – John

Summary – 3 John is written toward a specific problem in a specific church. A man named Diotrephes was causing a problem in the church and John writes to Gaius, a leader in the church, in order to help him deal with this issue.

Jude

Date written – 70

Author – Jude

Summary – Jude is very much like 2 Peter and is written to combat wickedness in the church. Jude uses several examples from scripture and Jewish tradition who did the same things and were punished by God.

Apocalyptic

Revelation

Date written – 90s

Author – John

Summary – Revelation is an often misunderstood book. It was written to Christians who were undergoing some severe persecution in order for them to have the courage to hold to their faith, even if it meant they would die for Christ. Much of what is found in the book has already taken place but a few things still have not. The book concludes the New Testament with a beautiful picture of how this world will end up. Everything will be made right and whole again and there will be no more pain, tears or death as we live in perfect relationship with God.

The Sacred and the Secular

In the Old Testament there was a view that things fell into one of two categories. Either it was sacred or it was secular, holy or profane. Those categories did not mean things were either good or evil but that they were either set apart for special purposes or that they were ordinary or common. This distinction has to do with how something is used or what its purpose is. For instance, the articles used for temple or tabernacle worship were holy. That means they were only to be used for sacred purposes as defined by God. They wouldn’t go into the temple and throw a big BBQ bash using the tongs, altar, etc…all seemingly great for a nice dinner gathering. But using it like that would be taking something holy and sacred and using it for common or ordinary purposes. It would be using those items and that location in a way inconsistent with what God prescribed in scripture.

In the Old Testament the holy or sacred could be broken down into three categories: people, things, and places.

People – In Leviticus 20:26 we see the Hebrews were to be set apart as a holy nation. This meant God’s people aren’t supposed to act like the other nations because they are holy, set apart, and on earth for a different purpose. We see that in the New Testament in verses like 1 Peter 2:9 – God’s people are still a holy nation. Though now that nation contains both Jews and Gentiles

Things – In Exodus 29:37 the altar is called holy. Lev 5:15-16 tells what offerings to make if someone violates God’s holy things. The point is, you don’t use the objects of worship in the tabernacle or temple however you want and for whatever purposes you want. In the New Testament there is not as much a connection with holy things as it was in the Old Testament.

Places – There were several holy places mentioned in the Old Testament, each of these represented at one time or another the presence of God on earth. Bethel (which means House of God) was considered holy by Jacob in Genesis 28 where he had a dream of angels ascending and descending from heaven – Jacob’s ladder. Sinai was holy (Exodus 19:23). Sinai was also called Horeb and this is where Moses first encountered the Lord and was told it was Holy ground (Exo 3:1-5). The tabernacle and temple were holy. Exodus 26:33-24 mentions the Holy Place and Most Holy Place. You don’t walk into the Holy Place when you want and do whatever you want. It is a holy place to be used for holy purposes.

In the New Testament we see a shift from places to people. Jesus said he was the replacement of the temple in John 2:19-22 when he cleared the temple and said he would destroy it and rebuild it in three days. Jesus also compared himself to Bethel, the house of God in John 1:51 when he said his disciples would see angels ascending and descending on him. Jesus was God in the flesh, the presence of God on earth. After Jesus went back to the Father, we are considered God’s holy place present in the earth (1 Cor 3:16). In that verse we are called a temple where the Holy Spirit dwells. In 1 Cor 6:18-20 we see what it means to be holy today. Because we are God’s holy temple we don’t do things to our bodies that are out of character of a holy place, specifically sexual immorality in this verse. Just like they weren’t to use the temple or tabernacle for common or profane uses, we aren’t to use our bodies for things that are not in line with God’s purposes for our lives.

Because we are God’s temple we are to be used for holy purposes. Just like how they couldn’t go in the tabernacle or temple and treat it however they wanted and disrespect God’s wishes, we are not to use ourselves, as God’s temple, in a way that would desecrate that temple. If forsaking the temple regulations was punishable by death (Exo 28:35, 43; 30:21) how much more serious are we to treat our own bodies that were made holy, not by washing with water, but by washing by the blood of Jesus Christ?

“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy;
without holiness no one will see the Lord.” – Hebrews 12:14

How Much is There Left to Say?

With thousands of Christian blogs, thousands of sermons, classes, and lectures being presented every single week, small group studies, personal studies…is there anything left to say? Blogging ideas used to jump into my head all of the time and it seems like lately they are fewer and further in between. I am sure that has something to do with trying to balance having a 15 month old, a marriage, a job/ministry, and just life in general that I haven’t had enough “left over focus” to put into the blog. I am sure that old pace will return and in some ways maybe you never even noticed it, but I have.

While I know there are still many more things to say, hundreds more blog posts to write, and profound insights being shared, more in the comments of the blog than the actual posts, of course. Today I just feel like resting in the simple yet not so ordinary words of the Gospel that most of us have already heard thousands of times that its almost like you eventually get this John 3:16 callous on your heart. But maybe there is a reason some things get repeated so often. Maybe they are some of the most valuable truths the world has ever heard and they are worth repeating. Actually, there is no maybe about it. The core of the gospel is the best thing the world has ever heard.

So in the race to find something new to write about I will instead mention something old and maybe we can hear it again not with new ears with new perspective but with old ears and old perspective, timeless perspective that reaches back before how old a scripture or a song was could even be considered. Here are a few I personally need to be reminded of”

“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him
will not perish but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:13

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.” – 1 Cor 13:4-8

While it has already been said before, what simple truth do you need to be reminded of today?

Adventures in Missing the Point

After hitting myself on the head twice in two weeks, the first time walking into the edge of a metal sign, I ran across this picture and thought it was pretty fitting. Don’t miss the subtitle. It is priceless.

I think two questions are important to answer when it comes to faith and religion:

1 – What themes, doctrines, and traditions do you focus on, putting it in big letters in the middle of the sign, and which would you relegate to the subtitles?
2 – What themes, doctrines, and traditions does the average person in the pew hear the most and which are kept to the periphery?

These answers need to line up. If Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor 2:2) is the central message of our faith, any given person who comes through the doors on any given Sunday should leave that morning getting it. That doesn’t mean every week we preach on the crucifixion and resurrection but it does mean that the message is still present in as many ways as we can come up with. I wonder how many times I have put the headline in the subtitle or off the sign completely and spent too long focusing on minutia. Just because something is interesting to me doesn’t mean it is a rabbit trail to take a whole congregation down in a sermon, Bible class or small group lesson. That is a difficult one for me because I love the details.

If we are going to succeed in making the main thing the main thing we need to analyze the sign posts we have erected and make sure that the signs we raise before people match what this is all about in the first place. If we notice the main point can only be found in the small print then it is time for an overhaul.

What is more, this type of thinking is one thing that can bring unity to various groups of Christians. When we look at our signs we will often notice that many have the same thing in the big letters with all sorts of different things in the subtitles. Unity comes when we notice the core aspects of our faith are the same, while many of our disagreements are over some very small and negotiable aspects of our faith (this is not always true, some disagreements can certainly still be major!).

What is sad and frustrating is that many splits and divisions have occurred over people who transposed their faith headlines with the negotiables and then got mad at other people who were not willing to also flip their signs around. The results are just as deadly as the sign pictured above. How many people would read that sign and thing they were safe as long as they don’t get cut on that sign, only to drive past it and fall to their death over a collapsed bridge? If people read your sign, will the road ahead be any safer for them?

What does your sign say vs. what should your sign say? Do they match?