Monday, August 31, 2015

Hats of Humility

Good morning,

When I was a child I attended a small, country church, called Harmony Baptist.  In fact, one of the men who pastored that church in my teens was at my church's dramatic production this past Saturday. He is 85 and, although no longer the pastor, still loves on his former "sheep".  He traveled for over an hour each way today to come see me in the play.  And, he and his wife gave me a great big hug. What a blessing!

At any rate, the point I was getting to was that, when I attended this little church as a child, there was a hat rack on both sides of the wall, in the tiny vestibule.  There was also an old water fountain.  (I used to love to drink water out of that fountain, although it tasted pretty awful.)  The older men of that day (in the early 1960s) would wear their hats to church.  But, they would take them off when they entered the sanctuary, and hang them on those pegs on the wall.  A few women still wore hats to church, and they would leave theirs on.  (I'm describing the older members of the congregation of that day - - my grandparents' generation.  Neither my mother nor my dad wore a hat to church at all.)

Back then, I never thought about these customs being based in scripture.  It was just the way things were done.  It is plain to see, though, when you read the first part of 1 Corinthians 11 that Paul's instructions there underlaid the societal customs I just described.  Let's take a look at the passage in The Message version, verses 1-16:

 1-2 It pleases me that you continue to remember and honor me by keeping up the traditions of the faith I taught you. All actual authority stems from Christ.
3-9 In a marriage relationship, there is authority from Christ to husband, and from husband to wife. The authority of Christ is the authority of God. Any man who speaks with God or about God in a way that shows a lack of respect for the authority of Christ, dishonors Christ. In the same way, a wife who speaks with God in a way that shows a lack of respect for the authority of her husband, dishonors her husband. Worse, she dishonors herself—an ugly sight, like a woman with her head shaved. This is basically the origin of these customs we have of women wearing head coverings in worship, while men take their hats off. By these symbolic acts, men and women, who far too often butt heads with each other, submit their “heads” to the Head: God.
10-12 Don’t, by the way, read too much into the differences here between men and women. Neither man nor woman can go it alone or claim priority. Man was created first, as a beautiful shining reflection of God—that is true. But the head on a woman’s body clearly outshines in beauty the head of her “head,” her husband. The first woman came from man, true—but ever since then, every man comes from a woman! And since virtually everything comes from God anyway, let’s quit going through these “who’s first” routines.
13-16 Don’t you agree there is something naturally powerful in the symbolism—a woman, her beautiful hair reminiscent of angels, praying in adoration; a man, his head bared in reverence, praying in submission? I hope you’re not going to be argumentative about this. All God’s churches see it this way; I don’t want you standing out as an exception.

{We are going to skip over verses 1-2 for the moment.  And, in my next post, I'll come back to those.}

Apparently, in Paul's day, it was customary in the early churches for women to attend worship wearing head coverings of some sort (vs. 16).  I don't know if these coverings were veils or hats or a cloth of some sort worn over the head.  It really does not matter, because it was a cultural thing.  The wearing of a head cloth, or the type of covering it was, is largely irrelevant.  At the moment in America , it is not a cultural custom for women to cover their heads when they go to worship. Customs are not doctrine; and, when we try to make them so, we veer off into legalism.

Paul is using this illustration, however, to remind the Corinthians about spiritual authority, something he writes about a lot.   Christ is the Head of all His children, male or female.  Neither men nor women were meant to "go it alone".  Christ in our hearts means that we are never "going it alone".  Beyond that, God created male and female such that together they make a complete unit, a glorious reflection together of the nature of God Himself.  Both men and women are designed to be complementary and mutually interdependent.  So, although the man is the head of the family, receiving that authority from and through Jesus Christ, all men must of necessity be born from women (their biological mothers).  Spiritual authority transcends custom and is not open for debate.  "Superiority" routines are a distraction and a waste of time, as Paul points out in verse 15. While there is a clear, God-ordained chain of authority, no one can claim superiority, or should, anyway.

When I think deeply about it, all sin is a rebellion against the spiritual authority that God established for us.  Sin began when Satan bucked God's authority in Heaven.  Sin began in humankind when Adam and Eve rebelled against God's authority over them in the Garden of Eden.  When we sin, we are rebelling against God's ways and playing right into the Enemy's hands.  So, we must be "edumacated", as my friend Ali says, about how God means for authority to flow, and submit to that. In godly submission is freedom, peace and joy.

Right now, in our country, peace is becoming increasingly scarce.  Just this weekend, someone shot a law enforcement officer, apparently merely because he was a law enforcement officer!  It was a move that flew in the face of societal authority, not to mention being a "hate crime".

As Christians we need to be very careful about issues and people against which/whom we choose to rebel.  We are to fight and rebel against ungodliness, for sure; but, whenever possible, we are to battle sin within God's established order - - - for the family, for government, for the Body of Christ.  And, we are to make sure we are clothed in robes of righteousness ourselves before we go forth to do battle.  Only a clean heart can the Lord fully use.

James 4:7 says this:
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
The key to spiritual victory is to submit to God.  Some Bible versions say, "humble yourself before God".  Hats of Humility, so to speak.  We must do this necessary step before we begin to resist the Devil.  In Jesus Christ, God the Father has crowned us with glory and honor (Hebrews 2:7).  We should then add humility, submission to our heads.  When we submit to God, HE gives us the strength and power we need to be victorious against Satan.  This is the type of supernatural warfare that makes the enemy flee.

On a lighter note, we women of God can enjoy having "hair reminiscent of angels".  Verse 16 says that our hair is of glorious beauty to us!  Amen!

Good morning, Father.  I am grateful for the spiritual authority that you set down and ordained for us. You did this in the physical as well as in the spiritual realms.  I am convinced that very few of us (especially me) have a full understanding of the extensive warfare that goes on in the spiritual realm, all around us.  But, I do trust in Your Word, Lord, which will stand forever.  And, I choose to put on humility today, Lord Jesus, to submit myself to You, in loving service.  In Your Holy Name, amen.

Friday, August 28, 2015

WhatEVER You Do...

Good morning,

This evening and all weekend, I'll be in a play, one that I've rehearsed since January of this year.  It is the first production I've been in, in a long time....about 30 years, to be exact.  I know that they call it "acting", but I play such a reprehensible character.  I literally come on stage for the first time screaming, and I'm screaming when I leave the stage for the last time.  It's a very exhausting role.

Anyway, why did I decide to pursue this?  Well, I did it for several reasons.
First of all, I enjoy acting.  It is a way to use my God-given verbal gifts, and my natural dramatic flair, for God's purposes.
Second, I wanted to do it so that people might come to know Jesus Christ as Savior, through attending the play.  The message of my character, and others, is quite powerful.  It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit will use it to work in the hearts of many.
Third, it is the first production of a new ministry at our church; and, I wanted to help it get started.

Someone began telling me this week about other acting opportunities; but, I said I wasn't interested unless those opportunities would be in a Christian ministry context.  At my age, I really have to be thoughtful about allocating my time.  I'm increasingly conscious that I don't have all that much left, most likely.  So, I want to spend it well.

What does that mean, to a Christian?  To spend it well?

I think about those two news employees who were gunned down in cold blood this week.  I doubt that either of those young people woke up on their last morning alive and thought, "This might be the last day I have on earth."  Most of us don't think about that.  But, it's true.  Today could be the last day for any of us.  As Francis Schaeffer asked Christians, "How Should We Then Live?"

In 1 Cor. 10:31-33, Paul gives us the answer:

31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.32 Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

At one point in the play, my character, Viola James, is talking about her spiritual gifts.  She says, "I believe I'll keep this one.   I didn't like the last spiritual gift I had; so, I sent it back."  The line is funny to Christians, because we know that it is so blatantly false!  We don't get to choose our spiritual gifts, or to "send them back".  The Holy Spirit confers them on us when we are converted, when we accept Jesus as Savior. Then, He urges us to use them! What we DO get to choose is how we use them.

"Whatever you do..."  My beloved friends, whatever we do, let us all resolve to do it for the glory of God.  And, if it does not bring Him glory, let's not do it.  Let's not be offensive.  Let's not seek our own glory.  Let's seek men and women, boys and girls, to bring to Jesus.  Let's disciple each other after we come to Christ.  Let's use our God-given gifts for His glory, only for Him!

I love to share songs with you, here in the blog.  The one I have in mind today is an old one, but one that inspired me as a teenager.  (So, you know it's a "moldy-oldie"!)  The title is "Let Me Burn Out for Thee, Dear Lord", by Bessie Hatcher.  The chorus goes like this:

Let me burn out for Thee, dear Lord,
Burn and wear out for Thee.
Don't let me rust, or my life
Be a failure, my God to Thee.
Use me and all I have, dear Lord,
And get me so close to Thee
That I feel the throb of the great heart of God,
Until I burn out for Thee.

Father, use me up, until I am utterly lost in You.  Whatever I do, let it be only for Your glory.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Honors Day

Good morning,

I'm going to be honest, as I usually am....Maybe I should say, "I'm going to be transparent."  I am highly distracted this morning by the play that we are doing this weekend at FBCCanton.  I'd greatly appreciate your prayers to the Lord Jesus that He will receive the glory from our efforts this weekend.

You remember Honors Day from school, right?  For some, it was a very happy day.  Those kids knew they had done well, and they looked forward to that day with great anticipation.  Others dreaded Honors Day.  They knew that if they received a single certificate of award, they would be lucky. There is going to be an Honors Day in Heaven for all those who believe in Jesus Christ.  And, no Christian will be "thrown out" or leave empty-handed.

Ok, so...the Bema seat.  What a strange name, right?  This is the more unusual name for what is also called in scripture "The Judgment Seat of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 5:10).  (See also Romans 14:10-12.)

10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be paid back according to what he has done while in the body, whether good or evil.  

2 Cor. 5:10

Picture this:
You are at the Olympic Games.  It is time to present the medals to those who ran one of the long-distance races.  The winners step up on a dais; their names are called along with the degree to which they placed.  A medal is hung around each winner's neck.  There is thunderous applause!

Paul, writing in Greek TO Greeks, used this well-known analogy to explain the Bema seat of Christ. Bema means "tribunal for rewards."  You see, Greek, like the English language, renders "judge" or "judgment" in two different ways.  One way is for commendation and the other is for condemnation. (We typically think of the latter, don't we?)

At any rate, the Bema judgment seat is a "rewards seat".  It is not a judgment seat where Christ tells some Christians that they are consigned to Hell.  At the very least, all true believers in Jesus Christ (not just those who call themselves by that name - - - see Matthew 10:32 and Matthew 7:21) will be with Him in Heaven forever.  This is the baseline reward, but it is also the greatest of them all.
John 5:24 - - the words of Jesus - - -
“I tell you the solemn truth, the one who hears my message and believes the one who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned, but has crossed over from death to life.
(See also 1 John 2:2).

However, fire will be present at this judgment seat, and our "works" (those actions we took, those choices we made after accepting Jesus Christ as Savior) will be evaluated.  Our eternal rewards will be given by our Savior based on our faithfulness to Him after our salvation.  In the Bible, fire is often used to characterize purification, holiness and/or judgment.  For example, when Jesus Christ is described in His glorified body, by the apostle John (see Revelation 1:14), Christ's eyes are as a flame of fire.  You may also be familiar with God using fire to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for their sins. "Your God is a consuming fire..." (Deuteronomy 4:24)

In a similar manner, our "good works" of service to Jesus will "pass through the fire".  Those that are made of inferior materials (that is, done out of selfish motivation) will "burn up."  Those are described as "wood, hay and stubble".  Those that pass through the judgment fire and remain ("gold, silver, precious stones") will add to our heavenly reward. See 1 Corinthians 3:10, 12, 13 - -

According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it . . . Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become manifest; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and fire will try each one's work, of what sort it is. 

Seems like we'd better give serious attention to how we are "building the house", doesn't it?  The apostle John in 1 John 2:28 and also in 2 John 8 exhorts us to live in a manner that will keep us from being ashamed at the Bema seat.

And now little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.  
Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we have worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.
And Jesus issues a similar warning in Revelation 3:11.

Well, let's go on.  What will these rewards look like, be like?  In various places in scripture they are pictured as "crowns", "fine, white linen garments" or "positions of authority".  Let's take these one-by-one.

1.  They are described by Paul as "crowns" in his 2nd letter to his young protege, Timothy:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.
2 Timothy 4:7
(There is that "running the race" metaphor again!)  Paul also expounds on this in 1 Cor. 9:4-27, which we looked at a couple days ago.  James, the half-brother of Jesus and leader of the Christian Church of Jerusalem, was martyred for his faith in Christ.  He speaks of these crowns in James 1:12. Peter also speaks of crowns in 1 Peter 5:4.

2.  In the book of Revelation (19:7-8), the apostle John describes the Church after it has been through the Bema seat judgment. The saints are dressed in white linen, which symbolizes their rewards, "their righteous acts".

Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear."
(See also Revelation 3:4-5 for a similar passage.)

3.  And, finally, we have the words of Jesus in His parable of the "talents", Luke 19:17-19, where He seems to indicate that our rewards will be in the form of differing levels of authority or service throughout eternity.

17 And the king said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because you have been faithful in a very small matter, you will have authority over ten cities.’ 18 Then the second one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has made five minas.’ 19 So the king said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’

You know, on Honors Day at school, it was "all about me".  But, on that great judgment day, it is going to be "all about Him".  The Bible tells us that the 24 elders who surround God's throne, constantly worshipping Him, cast their crowns before Him in holy adoration (Revelation 4:10).  It makes sense that we will do the same.  HE is our greatest reward, and our "good works", those "love backs" we do for Him here?  Well, they are just ways to thank Him, praise Him, love Him until we get the amazing privilege to see Him, face to face.

Let's have our own personal time of prayer as we adore Him this morning!


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Running From ...

Good morning,

Are you a student of history? World history?  Your history?  I have relatives who love to study geneology.  Why?  It gives them insight as to who they are, when they learn about those from whom they sprang.  Unfortunately, sometimes, we ignore our history and the lessons it tries to teach us.  We have all learned things from our parents, family members, teachers or acquaintances.  Some of them are profitable; others are not.

Paul was pointing out to the Corinthians at the beginning of chapter 10 that they needed to learn from the negative examples set by their forefathers generations ago.  As the saying goes, "Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it."  There are times that we make choices to do what we know is not beneficial to our Christian walk.  We fool ourselves into thinking, "Oh, it's just a small thing."  or "Just this once won't matter."  But, it does.  We may not see the long-range results immediately, but no action is without corresponding consequence.

Our focus this morning will be on 1 Corinthians 10:11-14 (The Message version):

11-12 These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.
13 No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.
14 So, my very dear friends, when you see people reducing God to something they can use or control, get out of their company as fast as you can.
People, especially young people, are susceptible to pride.  They believe that they are "untouchable", that they will be immune to the traps of various sins, that they are "better" or "stronger" than their ancestors.  And so, they dabble in sin.  Before they know it, they are totally ensnared, trapped, taken captive.  Sin will take you farther than you want to go, make you stay longer than you want to stay and make you pay more than you want to pay.  As Paul said in verse 12, let the one who thinks he is standing pay attention so that he won't fall down.

Humility about our weakness is essential to living a discipled life, to walking the resplendent walk. Anytime we are beguiled into believing that our successes, our strength comes from any other source than Jesus Christ, we are committing idolatry.  When young, I used to think that "idolatry" was a bunch of people bowing down to some little statue.  That is a very narrow and dangerously naive definition.  Idolatry is anything that draws a person farther from his or her relationship with Jesus Christ.  An "idol" can be a "good" thing, under ordinary circumstances.  But, if it is allowed to assume a place only meant to belong to Jesus, then it should be repositioned, at best, and avoided at worst.

A couple of examples:
1.  There are people who worship their children or spouse or girl/boyfriend or pet.  (Today is National Dog Day!  Love ya, Charlie!)  Oh, if you asked them, they would say, "That is ridiculous!"  But, look at how they interact with their loved ones. The question is not: "Does their devotion go beyond what is normal?"  The question is (as it is with all idols), "Is this relationship coming between me and my Savior?"  Jesus wants to be #1 in our lives.
2.   How do we spend our time?  Someone said once, "You can look at someone and see what she loves, because she lavishes both her time and resources on that beloved person or thing."  Well, whoever said that said it much more eloquently than I just did; but, you get the drift....

Let's be honest in our self-examination, Folks.  Are we worshipping any idols?

If you are like me, you want to cling frantically to your idols with statements like, "I just can't help myself!  I just can't resist!"  "Nonsense," says Paul.  In verse 13 he says, "Don't think you are some special case!  There is no temptation out there that hasn't already occurred many times over to other people.  With every temptation, God in His faithfulness will provide an escape hatch for you.  Take it!"  I'm both glad and devastated that this verse is in the Bible.  It knocks all my excuses right out from under me.  (Dang it!)

Then,  Paul gives his best strategy for dealing with temptations and idolatry.  RUN!  Yes, get away from the source of temptation.  Recovering alcoholics stay away from liquor or beer.  Recovering smokers do not keep cigs nearby.  Dieting people do not keep "Frankenfood" within reach.

The best example/application of this "running strategy" is from the life of Joseph.  He found himself alone with his master's wife, somewhere there on the homestead, while the master was on a business trip.  She made a move on him, and he ran outta there.  In fact, he escaped so quickly that she was left holding his outer garment.  (See Genesis 39:6-12).

It may seem that some "idol" has got it's claws in you, got a hopeless hold on you.  But, God is faithful.  He will rescue you, if you call out to Him.  He.Is.Faithful.  (vs. 13)  He gives us His "God-confidence."  Sometimes, we need earthly help to break the grip of some idol, and that's okay.  God provides for us help in the form of other believers, programs, counseling, deliverance, etc.  Some addictions and spiritual bondages are so very strong that spiritual intervention of another is needed. That's what the Body of Christ is for, to help each other in times of great need.  You may not be "the runner" concerning some particular idol, because it may not now have a hold on you.  But, you may be called to be "the sanctuary", the place of refuge and peace.  You may be called to embrace the desperate brother or sister who is running to you for help.

In closing, let's consider the personal testimony of Paul, whom we so admire, from his second letter to the Corinthians.  2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NET) - -

Therefore, so that I would not become arrogant, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to trouble me—so that I would not become arrogant. I asked the Lord three times about this, that it would depart from me. But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me. 10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

Father, there is no temptation chasing us that You cannot overcome.  May we run from our idols, and straight into Your loving arms of refuge.  "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit", says the Lord! (Zechariah 4:6)  In the name of Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, amen.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Running for Rewards

Good morning,

I am not a "runner".  There is a reason that I don't talk about "the resplendent run" and talk instead about "the resplendent walk".  I do love to walk briskly, though, for exercise.  Running is fine for some; I just prefer to keep my knees intact, thank you very much!  It is interesting to me that Paul, though, compares the Christian life to running a race, not to a leisurely, meandering walk.  We must not be "tiptoe through the tulips" Christians. Our text for this morning is 1 Cor. 9: 24-27 (NKJV)

24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

Since this is a short passage, here it is in The Message version:

24-25 You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.
26-27 I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.

It is common knowledge that the Greeks were a very athletic people.  They are the originators of the Olympic Games, after all.  Perhaps this is why Paul uses a "running" or "competing" analogy in these verses.  He had just finished urging the Corinthians to set aside their personal preferences for the purpose of winning supporting a weaker brother.  Here, he is going on to exhort them to live the Christian life as if they were running a race in which there is only one winner.

The thing is that, as disciples of Jesus Christ, we have already won salvation, eternal life.  The prize Paul refers to here is a crown of reward.  Elsewhere in scripture, we are told that Christ's followers who live faithfully, doing good works ("love backs") for Him, will receive commendations at that time when Jesus Christ gives them out to His own.

I'll go into this, the BEMA seat of Christ, in more detail in tomorrow's blog post.

For now, what does Paul say here about finishing the race successfully?

1.    The first thing is to "keep our eyes on the prize".  When men have used horses for various tasks, they have sometimes put "blinders" on the animal.  These are devices that limit the horse's visual perspective.  They help the horse to remain focused on a specific task or to walk a specific path, and not to become distracted by all manner of things to the right or to the left.  That is what we must do in our following Christ, to "keep our eyes on Him, the Author and Finisher of our faith", as it says in Hebrews 12:2.  Keeping our eyes on Him is our purpose.  He IS "the ultimate prize", crowns of reward notwithstanding.

2.  Paul's second key for success is to "be temperate in all things".  The way The Message says it is "no sloppy living"!  Temperance is the opposite of overindulgence, and it is not a popular word at the moment.  Temperance goes against the natural inclinations of our flesh, which are to gratify it by doing whatever feels good at the moment, whether such actions are actually beneficial for the body, soul and spirit or not.  Some of us have such a challenge being temperate in some areas that we just have to avoid them altogether.  Drinking alcohol is one of those areas.  My husband has never touched alcohol.  His father found it impossible to be temperate with alcohol, and it made my husband's childhood pretty miserable at times.  So, my husband chose to avoid that particular trap altogether.  So, what Paul is saying here is that we should not let anything of this world control us. We are to be directed and controlled by the Holy Spirit and nothing else. Galatians 5:16 says "Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh." Likewise, verse 27 in today's passage refers to disciplining our bodies, bringing them under the subjection of the Holy Spirit.  If we are allowing ourselves to be hindered in our ministries by something else, which exerts undue control over us, we need to do whatever it takes to get released from that, so that we can fulfill our calling and win Christ's commendation at the BEMA seat.

What does it mean to "become disqualified" from the race (vs. 27)?  There are times when our choices take us out of the race temporarily.  God allows us free will.  That includes ignoring the Holy Spirit's urgings and indulging our fleshly desires on occasion.  In 1 Thessalonians 5:19, Paul refers to this as "quenching the Holy Spirit".  These types of worldly decisions are not pleasing to God, nor do they advance His kingdom.  By choosing temporary pleasure over eternal gain, we set ourselves on the sidelines.  Unfortunately, the prevalence of this behavior has kept the Gospel from being preached around the world, which is heartbreaking, really... except to Satan.  He is laughing.

So, salvation through Jesus Christ is free, but the "love backs" we give to Him will cost us.  They will require us to deny ourselves and our flesh's desires, in order to run.  They will ask us to (in the words of Jesus) "take up your cross daily and follow Me." (Luke 9:23).

Lord Jesus, I love You.  I really do.  But, I find it so hard to "take up my cross daily".  The thing is: in order to pick up that cross, I have to lay down my pride and my selfishness and my fleshiness.  I can't carry the cross while holding on to all those other things.  I confess that I often quench Your Spirit, whose loving voice is telling me how to follow You.  I choose "lesser things".  For this, I apologize and (again) repent.  It is just a constant, cosmic battle.  However, Lord, You are matchless.  I would not want to follow anyone else, other than You. Why? Because You will show me the path of life: in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11).  In Jesus' name, amen.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Becoming Weak

Good morning,

I'm unsure what the question or accusation was to Paul in the letter he received from the Corinthians. You know, the letter they wrote to him which, in part, prompted the response we know as "1 Corinthians".  We aren't given the letter to Paul, only his letter of response.

From the context here, it seems that the Corinthians had been criticizing Paul and other missionaries because the local body of believers had been asked to help support their ministries.  Warren Wiersbe, in his commentary, points out that the Greeks (this included the Corinthians) were a society of "haves" and "have nots".  The "upper" tier disdained manual labor, hiring people to do it for them so that they could devote themselves to more intellectual pursuits.   The Jews, in counterpoint to that, esteemed manual labor so much that even the priests learned a trade to support their families.  (You may remember from an earlier blog post that priests served in the Temple for only a few weeks a year.  The rest of the time, they were working to earn their living.)

Paul did not refuse financial gifts from churches.  This is plain from his other letters. (See Philippians 4:15-16, for example.)  However, he did not require it.  His trade was that of tentmaker. In 1 Cor. 9, he defended his right to take support (vs. 3-7) or to refuse it (vs. 15-18).  Earlier, he had been talking about refraining from behaviors that would "trip up" others.  I wrote about this last week.

Paul emphasized that he was willing to "become weak" in order to more effectively spread the gospel.  Look at verses 19-23 (NKJV):

19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.

What he is talking about here is modifying his behavior, giving up his freedom in order to build up someone else.  Here's an example that all women will understand, (haha)!  You are out to dinner with a friend who is on Weight Watchers.  The two of you are at your favorite restaurant, where the caramel layer cake is simply divine!  You long to order dessert, but you don't, because you love your friend and don't want to cause her to "fall off the wagon".  It is the same thing here with Paul.  Paul is not saying that he compromises doctrinal truth in order to make the gospel more palatable to unbelievers, not at all!  He was a "stickler" for truth and sound doctrine.  He is talking about individual preferences concerning non-doctrinal matters, as each individual is led by the Holy Spirit.

Now, moving on... Some people abuse this passage by saying that all pastors should be bi-vocational. Or, they criticize the pastor's schedule and so forth. Many begrudge paying their pastor because they don't think he works very hard.  I know that, although in any profession, there are always some "slackers", this is not usually the case.  Most who make these kinds of criticisms are uninformed, making assumptions from limited (and often also erroneous) information.  Most who make these kinds of arguments do not tithe.  How is that for unvarnished truth?

One thing we have to remember is that, in those early days, the churches were very small, often meeting in each other's homes.  A bi-vocational pastor or even having no single pastor, instead letting various men of the church lead....was appropriate to that day.  Today, churches range in size.  In my home church, the pastor IS bi-vocational; but, that is because the church is so small (less than 100 people).  I'm not a fan at all of "mega churches".  But, when the local church gets to be several hundred people, it is unreasonable for there not to be a church staff.

We need to adequately compensate our ministers and church employees, many of whom work long after their legal "workday" is over.  Here in 2015, we have endured several years of economic recession in America, and many pastors have not had a raise, not even cost-of-living, for many years. Meanwhile, inflation has increased exponentially. That is not right.  A spiritually healthy church is a church that has accurate Biblical truth preached from the pulpit (and in its discipleship classes) and also gives generously.  The two should go together.  If a Christian hears the truth from God's Word, he or she will want to respond generously by opening his or her hands and giving back to God what is rightfully His in the first place.  All good and perfect gifts come from Him (James 1:17).  This is not an area in which we should ask our pastors to "become weak".  Godly ministers won't abuse their finances and buy multimillion dollar "evangelistic team jets".  (You know I am not talking about that!)

Paul was a humble man.  He presented this scenario, this personal testimony, as an illustration of what he began to talk about in the previous chapter, and what he will continue to speak on in chapter 10 - - - individual preference and individual license.

Father, help me to carefully consider my individual preferences, praying to be sure that they are sanctioned by Your Holy Spirit.  These include how I spend my time and my resources, how I treat others, how I care for what you have entrusted to me in this earthly life.  May I be "weak" when I need to be, for the sake of Your kingdom, for the sake of the gospel.  My life is yours.  I lay it down again today.  Use it, to bring glory to Your Son, my Savior, Jesus.  In His name I pray, amen.

Wiersbe, Warren W. The Wiersbe Bible Commentary. 2nd ed. Colorado Springs: David C Cook, 2007. 478-479. Print.

Friday, August 21, 2015

To Build a House

Good morning,

No, I'm not going to literally build a house, or am I even contemplating such a venture.  Been there, done that (2x) and "got the tee shirt".  I've been reading 1 Corinthians 8 and studying the concept of "edification".  The original Greek word is "oikodomeno", which translates as (you guessed it) "to build a house".  From it comes another English word: "edifice".

In chapter 8 Paul is addresses a surface issue of whether or not the Corinthian Christians should eat meat that had previously been offered to an idol.  Pagans of that day commonly offered both meat and wine in acts of worship to false gods.  Afterwards, the same foodstuffs were sold in the marketplace.  One argument in favor of eating these items with a clear consciences was that it was "only meat".  Since the idols were false gods anyway, the meat was not imbued with any special powers or any taint.  Paul agreed that this was true (vs. 8).  However, he also pointed out a different, deeper issue.  The Corinthians were asking him the wrong question.  Look at vs. 10-13 (MSG):

10 For instance, say you flaunt your freedom by going to a banquet thrown in honor of idols, where the main course is meat sacrificed to idols. Isn’t there great danger if someone still struggling over this issue, someone who looks up to you as knowledgeable and mature, sees you go into that banquet? The danger is that he will become terribly confused—maybe even to the point of getting mixed up himself in what his conscience tells him is wrong.
11-13 Christ gave up his life for that person. Wouldn’t you at least be willing to give up going to dinner for him—because, as you say, it doesn’t really make any difference? But it does make a difference if you hurt your friend terribly, risking his eternal ruin! When you hurt your friend, you hurt Christ. A free meal here and there isn’t worth it at the cost of even one of these “weak ones.” So, never go to these idol-tainted meals if there’s any chance it will trip up one of your brothers or sisters.
Paul also addressed this matter to the Romans (see ch. 14), as he wrote that book while he was in Corinth. Romans was written a couple of years after the letters to the Corinthians.  How does this chapter apply to us today?  Idol meat is not generally an issue, strictly speaking. However, there are other matters of Christian conscience that apply, in a broader sense.  Romans 14:14 says this:

“I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.”

I'm not talking about doctrinal teachings on which the scriptures are clear.  I'm talking about matters of individual conviction from the Holy Spirit.  Let's say that you have a friend who is a recovering alcoholic.  Your conscience says that an occasional alcoholic beverage is permissible; according to your personal convictions, your "knowledge" as Paul calls it, taking an occasional drink is not going to negatively affect you personally because this is not an area of weakness for you.  So, you invite your friend over to your house and drink in front of him.  Does flaunting your strength in the face of his weakness help to "build his house"?  What about the friend who is struggling with a gambling addiction.  Do you take her to Harrah's or crow about how you won $1000 on an instant game last week?

I'm not trying to throw all of us back into a world of legalism here, because that is not what the Bible teaches.  I am pointing out, though, that God expects us to "build into" our Christian brothers and sisters and that sometimes that means giving up something in our own lives that hinders their Christian growth.  The question is: do we love them enough to make that sacrifice?  Do we love Jesus enough to make that sacrifice? (vs. 12)

Are you familiar with the structural properties of the architectural feature known as "the arch"?  It is often seen in buildings, especially ancient buildings of renown.  Perhaps one of the reasons these buildings have stood over the centuries is because of their strong arches.  In the arch, each stone leans on the one adjacent to it, providing a system of mutual support.  Like in the arch, edification is a corporate system of mutual support.  We edify each other in the Body of Christ by encouraging one another, exhorting each other, holding each other accountable and, yes, sacrificing our own desires for the sake of another. (vs. 13)  See also Romans 14:21.

Paul was not only a tentmaker; he was a master builder in the kingdom of God.  No matter our earthly occupation or work career, the greater question is whether or not we are building God's house in the spiritual sense by edifying our Christian brothers and sisters.  One thing is sure:  there is no middle ground.  Either we are tearing down, or we are building up.

Dear Lord, you are kicking my spiritual butt lately.  You and I both know what I'm talking about. Too often I fall prey to the prevalent cultural meme: "It's all about me!!"  That justifies doing exactly what I (selfishly) want, regardless of whether or not it harms a brother or sister in Christ.  Please transform me into the strongest possible "living stone", so that the beautiful arches of my Christian community will be strong.  This is only possible through the strength that comes from You, O Lord.  Through my weakness, show Yourself mighty!  In Jesus' name, amen.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Gettin' Hitched...or Not?

Good morning,

Did you wake up this morning, just grateful for another beautiful day?  I think that the older we saints become, the more likely we are to develop gratitude for the blessing of another day in which to love and serve King Jesus.  Don't get me wrong - - there are plenty of times that gratitude leaves my building.  But, the morning is my favorite time of day, when the day is new and full of possibilities.

A new marriage is like that, full of possibilities.  Last night, I sat down and watched the one-hour Duck Dynasty special about Korie and Willie's son, John-Luke, getting married.  He and his new bride were 19 at the time, as I recall.  It was precious to hear the various Robertson couples reminisce on their own marriages and what they found precious about their years together.

Well, today's passage is 1 Corinthians 7.  Apparently, the Corinthians had sent a letter to Paul and it was this that, in part, prompted him to write 1 Corinthians.  The congregation must have posed several questions. First of all, they were uncertain what to do about the various problems resulting from pagans becoming Christians and the effect such a cataclysmic change was having on family structure.  I invite you to go read chapter 7 in its entirety, because I'm not going to reprint it in full here.

There are a couple of factors in play in chapter 7, as Paul begins to deal with the Corinthians' questions, the first being about marriage.  The first to keep in mind is this:  Paul is answering their specific questions about marriage.  He is not laying out a complete treatise on marriage.  When considering a topic such as this, it is important to determine what the rest of scripture says on the subject, particularly the New Testament and the words of Jesus on the matter.  The second is this: Paul's advice was, by his own admission, tempered by the Corinthians' circumstances, namely that they were perhaps living in the "last days", with Jesus' return being imminent.  This was a prevalent belief in those days, and rightly so. We all ought to live our lives as if Jesus was going to return tomorrow.  The Corinthians were also living in an environment/culture very hostile to their faith.  It was a precarious time for a young family.

So, in looking more closely about what Paul actually said, he was speaking to three separate groups of people:  the Christians married to Christians, the Christians married to non-Christians and the unmarried Christians.  Let's take these one by one.

1.  The Single Christian and Celibacy (vs. 9, 25-40)
     A.  Paul had the gift of celibacy.  However, while he believed that he could do more for the Kingdom of Jesus Christ and the spreading of the gospel by remaining celibate, he did not exalt celibacy over marriage.  In fact, he said that it is better to marry than to claim celibacy and be eaten up with lust for a spouse.  He cautioned the unmarried folk, though, to count the cost of marriage, and he is not talking about merely the financial.  Marriage isn't easy, under ideal circumstances (what are those, anyway?!)  People should consider whether it is better to dwell in singleness and draw near to God in the loneliness that sometimes accompanies that state; or, to marry and face the possibility of a lifetime of misery, drawing near to God under those circumstances.
      B.  Fathers and Virgin (Unmarried) Daughters (vs. 36-38)
In those days, in that culture, the families, usually the Daddy, arranged his daughter's marriage. Fathers were wondering whether they should "marry off" their daughters.  Paul gave fathers the freedom to use their good judgment in such matters.  Neither decision was right for every one of these circumstances.
      C.  Widows and Widowers (vs. 39-40)
If a person's spouse died, could they remarry?  Paul's answer was "yes", but that they should marry only another Christian, not an unbeliever.  And, it would be best, in his opinion, if they remained a singleton.

2.  Christian married to Christian (vs. 10-11)
Stay married.  Don't divorce under some pretense that celibacy is better or more holy.  It's not.  If you feel that you absolutely must separate for a time, or divorce, don't marry someone else.  Either live singly or be reconciled to your spouse.

3.  Christian married to non-Christian (vs. 12-16)
This situation would come about when one partner converted to Christianity, but the other did not. Paul's instructions were to stay married.  By the life testimony of the Christian, the non-Christian could be won to Christ and their children could come to know Christ as well.  This is not a guarantee, of course, but a strong possibility.  Paul did say that if the marriage became intolerable, the unbelieving spouse could be released.  The implicit message there is that the Christian spouse would remain single.

Overall, Paul makes two overarching points:
1.  He asks each Christian to consider his or her calling.
Some are called by God to ministries that do not lend themselves well to marriage.  Warren Wiersbe points out the fact of history that perhaps John Wesley and George Whitefield, both prominent theologians of the 18th century, would have been better suited to a life of singleness/celibacy. Wesley's wife left him, and Whitefield traveled so much that his wife was left alone for long periods of time.1
2.  He recommends that, wherever possible, married couples remain intact.

How does 1 Corinthians 7 "jive" with the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 19:1-12?2
1.  The first point Jesus makes unequivocally is to echo Genesis 2:24 - - emphasizing that marriage is to be between one man and one woman.  (When I was young, I could not understand why it was necessary to emphasize this, as it seemed like a foregone conclusion.  Now, in this present day of illicit sex and rampant sexual immorality, it truly resonates.)
2.  Second, Jesus emphasizes that God does not like divorce, but He permits it in the case of sexual immorality (ongoing, unrepentant adultery) on the part of one of the spouses.  God's desire, however, is that there be one marriage and that it last for life.
3.  Jesus then says that if a person has been released from marriage because of his or her adultery, no one is to enter into a second marriage with that adulterous person.  Those are to remain single.  He also, like Paul, emphasizes that there are some who are called to a life of singleness.
4.  When Jesus was teaching on this, many in his audience might have been getting puffed up with a sense of pride.  Then, Jesus drives the dagger home.  He states that "heart adultery" is just as bad as committing the physical act.  He points out that adultery begins in the heart, in the emotions, and very often through the eyes.  That is why this is often called "lust of the eyes".  We see another person, and in our hearts, we desire them for our own purposes.  This is why pornography is so destructive.  It is adultery, and it tears relationships apart.

As I blog about this, I am overwhelmed with sadness, reflecting on how far our modern, American society has deviated from God's standard.  There are so many, many destructive phenomena at work --- things the devil has used to destroy this once-great country.  One of them is the abortion holocaust. If sex was only exercised within the boundaries of Christian marriages, over 55 million murders would not have been committed.  The "breakdown of the American family" has been absolutely devastating.

Oh Believers!  We do not help our fellowmen/women by failing to speak the truth in love on matters of the God-ordained family and God's purposes for sexual unions.  It is not kind or loving to sanction unions that God forbids.  We are not called to be mean or hurtful.  But, we are called to sometimes exercise "tough love", to put our arms around our fellow man and say, "Beloved, this behavior is hurting you.  Leave it behind, and turn to God."

Father, like me, many Christians have been impacted to varying degrees by the destructive misuse of sex in their relationships.  This precious gift and the institution of marriage have been so perverted by Satan, in his efforts to destroy the Church.  Oh Father, please help us!  Guard our marriages and deliver us from the evil that so pervades our society today.  Help our children to choose their forever mates wisely.  Please give them an extra helping of Your wisdom.  Please raise up more and more godly families who are on fire to serve You, to be Your light, shining resplendently in this very dark world.  In Jesus' name, amen.

1  Wiersbe, Warren W. The Wiersbe Bible Commentary. 2nd ed. Colorado Springs: David C Cook, 2007. 472-474. Print.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Eyes Wide Shut

Good morning,

We need to keep in mind that in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul was dealing with and addressing specific sins that he had learned were being practiced/permitted in the Corinthian church.  It was a highly personal letter.  It should not be interpreted as an "all-inclusive sin list".  Elsewhere in the Bible, there are also lists of sins, again, pertinent to each situation.  But, the bottom line is....sin is sin, and all of it separates us from God.  If a person is an unbeliever, he or she is spiritually dead, because of his or her sins.  If a person has become a Christian, he or she has (positionally) had all his or her sins washed away; he or she is justified (positionally forever made right with God), and is in the process of being sanctified ("set apart", consecrated for Christ's kingdom work).

Even with that very verbose last statement, Christians sin, and are in need of regular confession, repentance and restoration through the Holy Spirit.  Positionally, Christ's finished work on our behalf makes us right with God forever; in this present reality, however, our flesh continually wars with our new nature.  This titanic struggle often results in the flesh's triumph.  With that in mind, let's consider
1 Corinthians 6:9-20.  As I did yesterday, I'm using the New English Translation (NET) here.

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals, 10 thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Some of you once lived this way. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
12 “All things are lawful for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “All things are lawful for me”—but I will not be controlled by anything. 13 “Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both.” The body is not for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 Now God indeed raised the Lord and he will raise us by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that anyone who is united with a prostitute is one body with her? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But the one united with the Lord is one spirit with him. 18 Flee sexual immorality! “Every sin a person commits is outside of the body”—but the immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.

So, in the Corinthian society, there was a very permissive attitude toward sexual sin, much as it is in American society today.  In addition, sexual acts were often linked with acts of "religious worship". The pagan Gentiles combined prostitution of various kinds with their pagan worship.  This was, of course, diametrically opposed to the will of God and to the Way that the new Corinthian Christians had been taught by Paul and other Christian leaders.  Still, the pull, the allure of that pagan society's accepted practice was great, even as it is today.  As a result, sadly, some in the Corinthian church were practicing not only yesterday's blog post "sin-of-the-day" (suing each other, that is GREED) but also various forms of sexual immorality.  In today's scripture passage, Paul addresses both.  Since I exhausted the former in yesterday's post, today I'm honing in on the latter.

The bottom line here, if you'll excuse the, pun, is that ALL sexual immorality is wrong.  We must not be deceived by cultural sensations, such as "the Caitlyn Jenner phenomenon". We must not allow ourselves to be deceived (vs. 9) into thinking that such practices are "ok" or even righteous. These are powerful deceptions of the Evil One.  Instead of considering or (worse) embracing such behavior, we should run from it (vs. 18).  Paul mentions two types of sexual immorality here in (vs. 10): adultery and homosexual practices.  Again, however, this is not an inclusive list, merely what was troubling the Corinthians at that moment.  Paul goes on to emphasize that God's ordained and sanctioned use of our bodies for sexual enjoyment is one: and that is between one man and one woman (vs. 16).  Any and all sexual practices outside of God's clearly prescribed way are sin.  And, when we fall prey to them, we are sinning against not only Jesus Christ, but against our own bodies.

This is not a popular teaching in today's American society.  It was not a popular teaching in the day Paul wrote this letter either.  In fact, today, those who take a scriptural stand against sexual sin are vilified, called "haters", intolerant, etc.  I need to emphasize that love and truth cannot be separated. The former is built upon the latter.  Jesus Christ was the very essence of God's love, and because of His being God-With-Skin-On, He was also utter and complete Truth.  He was thoroughly "intolerant" of people's sins, while at the same time loving them completely.  The most unloving thing we, His Truth-bearers, can do is to cower under the criticism of the unbelieving world and refuse to take a stand for Truth.

Now, I want to highlight for just a moment verses 12, 13 and 20.  These verses sum up our overall and entire treatment of our bodies.  Paul uses the topic of nutrition to illustrate that even the food we eat should be consumed for God's glory.  Just because as Christians we are positionally right with God forever, through our acceptance of Jesus as Savior, we still must be on our guard against sins that defile our bodies, whether it is sexual sin or other mistreatments of our bodies.  Our bodies are to glorify God. Period.  If we are doing something to or with our bodies that does not bring Him glory, but instead brings ourselves glory, it is a misuse of a substance, practice, our bodies, etc.

Let's be honest here, my beloved friends.  You know when something is controlling you, when a substance or practice is "out of control", whether that be alcohol, vaping, piercing, overeating, immodesty, smoking..... I'm not trying to pick on a particular practice here, because that is not the point.  WE KNOW when we are doing something with our bodies that is wrong.  The Holy Spirit, who continually lives within us Believers gives testimony to it in our hearts.  He tells us.  You know this.  So, let's not dishonestly continue to deny that there is a problem, if this is a besetting sin area for you.  Let's not allow ourselves to be deceived.  We must be honest before God in these areas.

Y'all, this is hard to write about.  It's convicting to me personally.  The resplendent walk....sometimes, it isn't so very resplendent!  But, remember, God's very Spirit lives inside each and every believer. He is there to walk beside you, comfort you, and give you peace.  He knows every struggle we face and has compassion on us.  He prays to God the Father on our behalf, when we don't even know what to pray.  We are SO loved by God!  He knows our hearts. Don't feel as if your particular sin struggle is a "hopeless case", because it is not.  Don't give up.  God has not and will never give up on you.

Dear Father, open the eyes of our hearts so that we can more fully know the fathomless depths of Your love for us. We have been "bought with a price" (vs. 20), a price we could not even begin to pay, that being Your precious blood, Your very human life.  Help us, Holy Spirit.  Plead for us. Show us how to tap into Your everlasting strength, Your bottomless grace, that is ever-present to help us in our times of greatest temptation. There is no beauty like Your beauty... such that we can only begin to see.  What an eternal "smack-down" we will experience when we are face-to-face with You in all your beauty and holiness, on that glad day.  We will be flat on our faces in worship so fast....we won't even know what hit us, because Your amazing love will overwhelm us.  Thank you, Jesus, for eternally rescuing us, that we have no need to fear the future, because our eternal security is in You. In Your Name I pray, amen.  

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Making Whole

Good morning,

When I was growing up, I expressly remember my parents telling me that it was wrong to sue another person in court.  It was a pervasive belief in my small community, of whom most members were church-goers.  That belief stemmed from today's scripture passage, 1 Cor. 6:1-8.

When any of you has a legal dispute with another, does he dare go to court before the unrighteous rather than before the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you not competent to settle trivial suits? Do you not know that we will judge angels? Why not ordinary matters! So if you have ordinary lawsuits, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame! Is there no one among you wise enough to settle disputes between fellow Christians?Instead, does a Christian sue a Christian, and do this before unbelievers? The fact that you have lawsuits among yourselves demonstrates that you have already been defeated. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? But you yourselves wrong and cheat, and you do this to your brothers and sisters!

Two things jump out to me in this passage, the first being that we will judge the world (vs. 2) and the second being that we will judge angels (vs. 3).  My current understanding is that this will take place after the true Church is removed from this world during the Rapture, and after the Antichrist/Beast has been destroyed.  Elsewhere, we are told that we, His children, will "possess the Kingdom" and rule and reign with Him.  The Holy Ones' rule/reign will begin during the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ.  Here are some verses that support that assertion:
1.  Daniel 7:17-18, 21-22
17 ‘These large beasts, which are four in number, represent four kings who will arise from the earth. 18 The holy ones of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will take possession of the kingdom forever and ever.’ 21 While I was watching, that horn began to wage war against the holy ones and was defeating them, 22 until the Ancient of Days arrived and judgment was rendered in favor of the holy ones of the Most High. Then the time came for the holy ones to take possession of the kingdom.
2.  Revelation 20:4
Then I saw thrones and seated on them were those who had been given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. These had not worshiped the beast or his image and had refused to receive his mark on their forehead or hand. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

3.  Luke 19:17-19  In the parable of the talents, Jesus indicates that His own would rule over cities:
17 And the king said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because you have been faithful in a very small matter, you will have authority over ten cities.’ 18 Then the second one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has made five minas.’ 19 So the king said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’

4.  Psalm 149:6-9

Let the high praises of God be in their mouth,
And a two-edged sword in their hand,

To execute vengeance on the nations,
And punishments on the peoples;

To bind their kings with chains,
And their nobles with fetters of iron;

To execute on them the written judgment—This honor have all His saints. Praise the Lord!

5. And, finally, 2 Timothy 2:11-12
11 This saying is trustworthy:
If we died with him, we will also live with him.
If we endure, we will also reign with him, 
If we deny him, he wlso will deny us..

Positionally, in eternity --- that state of being in which there is no time, no past, no present, no future - - - we are already kings and queens, based on what Jesus Christ has forever settled on our behalf. Our sin debt, our account before God, is settled.  Done!  He has made us whole.  Oh, if only we could embrace what we already have in Him!  How the Church could revolutionize the world for Jesus Christ.  His kingdom, which lives in each of us now, would truly come, on earth, as it is in Heaven. And, one day, that will happen....not because we have willed it so, but because God has declared it.

With all of this in mind, Paul is terribly agitated about the carnal behavior of the Corinthians.  Instead of living out their birthright in Christ, they were wallowing in their sin, like pigs.  Specifically, they were suing one another in the civil courts, over what we are not told.  But, it really does not matter. Paul's injunction to not sue is directed to Christians who sue one another.  He does not prohibit a Christian from suing a non-believer.  Paul's point in reminding the Corinthians about their position in Jesus Christ is that they need to settle their disputes among themselves, within the Christian community - - - that when they sued one another they brought ridicule and scorn down on their heads from the unbelieving world.  Such behavior tarnished their testimony of Jesus Christ.  They had lost sight of who they were and more importantly, WHOSE they were.

There will be disputes among people of faith.  We all struggle with our sinful nature in what I call "the nasty now-and-now", even while positionally, we are Christ's and are "new creatures".  (I want to blog about that later.)  The answer is NOT to simply "swallow it down" when we are wronged or perceive ourselves to have been wronged.  This "solution" only produces bitterness and suppressed rage.  The answer is found in Matthew 18:15-18, 21-22...Jesus' words!

15 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you, so that at the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. If he refuses to listen to the church, treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector.
21 Then Peter came to him and said, “Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother who sins against me? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, I tell you, but seventy-seven times!

Furthermore, when we realize we've wronged a brother or sister in Christ, when the Holy Spirit convicts us of such, we should be quick to run to them and apologize, make restitution, and basically "make whole".  Again, Jesus' words (Sermon on the Mount):

So then, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother and then come and present your gift. 

"Make whole" is a term used in reference to compensating a party for a loss sustained. The precise definition varies, according to contract terms and local laws. It may include either actual economic losses or to actual economic and non-economic losses, and not necessarily to the settlement value of the case. In the context of a loan, it typically refers to the amount left owed to the lender under the terms of the loan.1
Sometimes, "making whole", reconciliation, requires giving selflessly to make things right with a Christian brother or sister.

Making whole....isn't that what Jesus Christ did for us?  He has made us "whole", forever and ever.
Should we do less for one another?

Whew!  All of this prescribed behavior requires swallowing a big old "pride loogie", doesn't it?  I declare to you that if we, the Church, practiced this, there would be far fewer schisms and fractures in the Church.  The non-believing world would be astounded!  Jesus Christ would be glorified, as opposed to our own self-aggrandizement; and, the world would be drawn to Him.

Father, I confess that I'm not terribly fond of 1 Corinthians.  It is hard to study these teachings and even harder to embrace them.  Coram Deo, Lord!  As R.C. Sproul says2 : "To live coram Deo is to live one's entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God."  May we live as though we walk in your presence every moment, because that is our present reality and our future as well.  You live in us, and are with us at every moment.  Lord, make coram Deo so, in my life.  In Jesus' name, amen.