Have you ever been in a place where the aroma (good or bad) overwhelmed everything else? We’ll skip the conversation about your grandfather’s bathroom but like many things the smell of a given area can change the atmosphere. If you grew up in the Dallas/ Ft. Worth area in the 70’s, a trip down I-30 just south of downtown Ft.Worth meant driving by the old Mrs. Baird’s bread factory. The aroma was unmistakable bliss. It filled the air for miles around. It was so wonderful that anyone within smelling distance had to be put in a very good mood.
In 2 Corinthians 2 Paul is speaking through his letter about his ministry and how he persevered through many trials with the goal to always expose others to the gospel of Jesus in a pleasing manner. We’ve all seen our share of Bible thumping Christians, you know the ones that are telling us to get right with God. Their approach is to tell you what you need to be doing without relational context. Lots of well meaning talk that is derailed by the delivery. I’ve found that God would rather use us as more of an example than a mouthpiece. That through our actions and the way we interact with those that don’t know Jesus, we offer them a glimpse of what he has done/doing in our lives. Then when the opportunity arises we can share our story. If the old adage “you can catch more flies with honey” applies anywhere, it’s in sharing our faith with others. My story is one of God constantly pursuing me by putting others in front of me to observe. My prayer is that we all can be this to someone someday, a gentle, pleasing aroma of God’s love! 2 Corinthians 2:14 – But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.
Last Sunday I was standing in the foyer at church and I observed a woman I know enter with one child on her hip and another by the hand “in tow”. To me it seemed like a lot to manage but she was smiling as if it were nothing at all.
A big part of the Christian life is sharing it with others. By this I mean, as our faith grows, we can be of comfort to others who may be in a season of doubt.
After service I was going forward to pray with others and I spotted a young woman I had prayed with before. She was heading out the door but I noticed she was crying so I stopped her to say hello and asked if she needed prayer. She shook her head yes and we went to the front to talk. She began to tell me how she was just overwhelmed by life. She has two children, six months and three years old. Her husband works and goes to school, oh and by the way she works as well. As we were speaking, to my right just happened to be the woman whom I saw enter the church with her two children earlier that morning, as she is part of our prayer team. Being a 55 yr old man as much as could definitely pray for the young woman, there is no way I could relate as well as another woman who was walking in her shoes. I pulled the two of them together and to make a long story short you could see immediate relief in the situation. We prayed and they exchanged phone numbers for future conversations.
God works miracles everyday. He lined up so many things for these two women to connect, it wasn’t by happenstance. Now the woman who has already experienced this tribulation, can comfort the the other, like none other! All the glory to God!
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
As Paul concludes his first letter to the Corinthian church he attends to some business, giving them instructions and when they might expect him. He also reminds them of their responsibilities but more importantly the way in which they should carry them out.
I’ve just returned from another visit with my brothers and sisters in the Dominican Republic, where there are some treasures to be found. The fruit over there is so much more vibrant. The Mangos are indescribably juicy and the Pineapple has a crispy taste that I’ve never experienced here. I enjoy a smoothie there made from Zapote which is best described as a cross between a Mango and a Strawberry. The coffee is over the top awesome! Strong but smooth and served with an equal amount of milk, it is a true national treasure. I could go on and on about the food we were served but it was the manner in which it was served that really stays with me.
Love is something they treasure. You see it in what they do for one another and you experience it in how they serve you. From what I’ve seen over the last four years they overlook petty differences for the greater good. They depend on and in turn, serve their neighbors. The local churches see a need in their community and they go meet it. They do this all not expecting anything in return. I always come back refreshed and with a different outlook for my world. I pray that God would instill that in our hearts. In word and action, we would above all else LOVE. 1 Corinthians 16:14 – Let all that you do be done in love.
Does one bad apple really spoil the whole bunch? This is used as a metaphor in speaking about how a person of bad character can corrupt otherwise good people. However, scientifically it is a true statement. Plants located adjacent to others that have a disease or infestation of pests stand a good chance of succumbing as well. An over ripe piece of fruit produces a greater amount of ethylene gas which acts to accelerate the ripening of the fruit around it. If the actual statement is true what about the metaphoric comparison?
We are affected by everything around us. If we expose our selves to good things and good people there’s a fair chance we’ll be the same. Conversely, if we are exposed to things and people that conduct themselves in a iniquitous manner we’re apt to begin acting the same. This is a very simple concept yet we continually try to circumvent this system. It’s our choice, so we shouldn’t be surprised by the out come. Someone once said, show me your friends and I’ll show you your future. Recently I’ve also heard show me your Google browsing history and I’ll show you your character. Lastly, show me your check book and I’ll show you where your heart lies. While that last one may be a tad outdated they all point to the same place …….. 1 Corinthians 15:33 – Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”
A few years back while working in Commercial Sales for TruGreen. I had a fairly tight knit group of guys I worked with. When one of us had a particularly good sales week and/or month it was generally brought up by our VP of Sales. The others would then “dog pile” on the acclaimed Sales Manager. One of our favorite jabs was the phrase, “look at me”. As in, “look at me, I’m the sales king”, parading around so that everyone knows it. It was all in good fun but it brings up the subject of our motivation for doing what we do. Is it nice to be recognized for doing a good job? You betcha! But if your only motivation is being recognized, you’re probably not going to be content on a regular basis.
Such was the subject of Paul’s discussion on speaking in tongues in 1 Corinthians 14. It seems that the Corinthians loved to hear them selves babble on with seemingly no other purpose than being recognized for having this spiritual gift. Paul clearly states that such a gift should be revered and used in public worship when appropriate but generally speaking, this is something reserved for time alone with God. Here he points out much the same thing Jesus did with the Pharisees in Matthew 23, “if you’re doing this for show, you might as well not be doing it.”
So how does this relate to us? In terms of your time with God are you earnest in your worship or is God your safety net when all else fails? Are you attending church to be seen or are you truly seeking a lasting relationship with God? Our only motivation, our greatest hope in our time with God should be that when people do, “look at me”, they see and want to know Him.
1 Corinthians 14:19 – Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.
We recently received the news that another entertainer apparently thought ending their life was the only option left. I can’t pretend to understand the depths of such a decision but one thing that I am sure of is that it was void of love. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul goes to great lengths to put love in its proper perspective. This is a love that requires nothing in return. This is a love that moves us to put others before ourselves. It is sacrificial love born of God and exampled by Jesus in order that we may live. Spurgeon delivers an amazing relative comparison: “I would, my brothers and sisters, that we could all imitate the pearl oyster. A hurtful particle intrudes itself into its shell, and this vexes and grieves it. It cannot eject the evil, and what does it do but cover it with a precious substance extracted out of its own life, by which it turns the intruder into a pearl. Oh, that we could do so with the provocations we receive from our fellow Christians, so that pearls of patience, gentleness, long-suffering, and forgiveness might be bred within us by that which has harmed us.”
Love in this form allows us to see people as Jesus saw those who nailed him to the cross and asked God to forgive them. It cannot exist in us unless we exist in Him!
1 Corinthians 13:7 – Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
We all have gone through times in our lives when we have felt insignificant. There could be a myriad of reasons to feel this way, regardless, it is not of God. There is nothing insignificant to God, everything has a purpose, especially his children. Regardless of your view of your place in this world, God wants you to know that you matter. Matthew 6:26 – Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
God has put you here for a reason, you are vital to his bigger story. I invite you to rest knowing his love for you usurps any set back you may be facing. You matter to him and my guess is you also matter to whole bunch of people here too.
1 Corinthians 12:18 (ESV) But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.
I was blessed to grow up in a neighborhood full of children. When we played hide and seek it was not uncommon to have 20 or more kids. During this period things were different. We were all over the place from one house to another. Because of this, It was also not uncommon for me to be disciplined by another parent or my parents to another kid. Mr Wilson was a fairly large man with an even larger presence. He was not to be messed with and it would be safe to say that I had a healthy fear of him. We were taught to respect authority, from our parents, to coaches, teachers and yes, other parents.
In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul makes it clear that God has established principles of order, authority, and accountability. For whatever reason, these have diminished from our society. Children ignore their parents, defy their teachers and thumb their nose at just about any authority. I have stated before that children learn much more from our actions than our words, so while we sit and ponder why kids are so defiant, need we look further than ourselves? Our ultimate authority is God. Everyday our society defies what he has laid out for us. We resist everything from the laws of the land to an expectation from our boss. Exacting discipline is not fun but it’s clear that without it, we are quickly approaching a state of anarchy. We must get back to establishing this order to our children but first we must respect and submit to it as well. 1 Corinthians 11:3 – But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.
They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. We’re innately clever beings. Look at the marvelous things we have created. Most inventions go through a trial and error process. The inventor works diligently, changing this or that, until it is refined and perfected to work as intended. So the question here is, if we are so clever, why do we not learn from others or our own behavioral mistakes? From the child who continues to get punished for not cleaning their room to the adult who’s just been arrested for their 3rd DWI, we seem to have issues perfecting us.
Well the problem is us. We’re not perfect beings and many times our flesh is the motor that drives the “us” engine. Thus, regardless of previous experience, as Paul so eloquently stated in Romans 7, we continue to do the things we know aren’t good for our well being. He addresses this issue with the Corinthian church by pointing out the numerous instances when the people of Israel disobeyed God. I’ll paraphrase again, hey guys, remember what happened to the Israelites in the desert when they made that idol? We should probably make a mental note of that. God knows our weakness and forgives us through blood of Jesus but we would be wise not to take license with it. He provides a way out through these examples. If God’s chosen people could not get away with it why would we think we could? That my friend would be considered insanity …….
1 Corinthians 10:11 – Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.
Just last week I read an article that someone had posted on Facebook claiming that Hillsong Church was a cult. The author attempted to dismantle every aspect of this church including the immensely successful music ministry.
Before I get too far here, this is not a defense of Hillsong. I’ll let the hundreds of thousands of people all over the world, who have come to know Christ through them, make that case. I know much of what Hillsong does would be considered unconventional to many Religions especially strict legalists, is that a double negative? Does that make them a cult? Frankly there is a lot of debate going on in “the church” about some of the more contemporary methods being used to reach people. Fortunately, we have precedent to guide us here. In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul goes through the many methods he used to reach people for Christ. He basically says he’ll be whoever he has to be for the sake of the Gospel. This in no way gives anyone, including Paul, editorial authority. He made that clear in 1 Corinthians1:22-23. Doctrine must remain intact but the method in which it can be delivered, can and should fit its audience. In closing, Paul states, if the end truly justifies the means then that is what I will do. Paul sought to win people to Jesus Christ by being sensitive to their needs and identifying with them, sounds a little like Jesus, doesn’t it? We should try to reach people where they are today. As they learn and grow closer to Jesus, God willing, the changes will come. I know without the former, we’ll never have the latter. 1 Corinthians 9:22b – I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.