Tag Archives: 1st Corinthians

Blog Year in Review – Best of 2014?

31 Dec

best-of-2014I think I’m going to have to “grade on the curve”.  You know how a teacher removes the highest and lowest student grades, and then regrades a test best on the remaining results?  One post was the most popular for the second year in a row.  In fact, this post received more than twice as many views as the second place post.  Here are the top three from 2014.

Reflections on a month of free coffee from Starbucks – 520 views

Why I dislike church worship surveys very, very much – 218 views

How and why we surprised our congregation – 184 views

This is a blog about Faith Church sermons, but the first two posts were not originally written about any sermons, nor were they written in 2014!  That’s why I might have to grade on the curve…

But once we get to third place, we start to see what was a major focus for us in 2014 at Faith Church, our sermon series teaching through 1st Corinthians.  Third through eleventh place were all posts about the 1st Corinthians series.

The third place post up there was a fun morning for us at Faith Church.  Aren’t surprises always fun???  Check it out and see what you think!

The fourth place post had 167 views and was also the top single day post with 105 views on April 16th.  Does it surprise you that it was this post: Is 1st Corinthians 6:9-11 really about homosexuality?

The sermon on 1st Corinthians 11:2-16 referring to the role of women in the church was also quite popular, with the intro post (7th place) and follow-up post (5th place) combining for 242 views.

Here’s looking forward to 2015!  We’ve started studying the Gospel of Luke, as we really want to spend time getting to know Jesus better.

 

How to submit to leaders and not hate it – 1st Corinthians 16:5-24, Part Two

5 Nov

In this final section of 1st Corinthians, Paul mentions a bunch of leaders that were familiar to the church in the city of Corinth.  At one point, he urges the church to submit to it’s leaders.  Submit is such an ugly word.  It has definitely been abused by many leaders.  As a leader in a church I can hardly stomach hearing those words on my lips.  “Submit, you peons!”  It’s so brutal.  obey

I know that it is much easy to submit to leaders who are awesome leaders.  Paul describes the leaders that way. They were mature, faithful, caring leaders, and as such, the people should submit.  I don’t know that good leaders will make it easy to submit for all followers.  Some of us just have a hard time submitting to anyone.  I think Paul is saying that it is possible to submit to leaders and not hate it.

What does it look like to submit to leaders?  Here are some thoughts.

Pray for them! Regularly. Make it a part of your daily practice to pray for the leaders in your church. Pray that they will be able to depend on the Spirit’s power to serve as leaders, that they will have wisdom and guidance.

Submit to their decisions, even when you disagree. It is possible to disagree with leadership and still humbly submit and follow their lead.

Talk with them about your concerns. It is possible to present ourselves when we are concerned and disagree with leaders, in a loving way.

What do we do when we disagree and are concerned about a decision that our voted on leadership has decided on?

First, we need to ask ourselves humbly and honestly (and we need to get wise mature people to evaluate us in this as well): Are we being influenced by consumer culture? Consumer culture is the water we swim in. We get to consume, we get to have choices about what we consume. We don’t like one brand, we go with one of the 15 other brands. We do that for everything. We have learned a sense of entitlement that has us thinking that we deserve choices. And it is our right, and what is best for us, when we don’t like what we get, that we can make another choice. The same goes for churches

But what about learning to submit to leaders, and allowing them to fulfill their God-given role of leading? Even when we don’t like how they are leading? Even when we disagree? Yes, it is possible!  Maybe we just need to try.

Leaders worth following, and followers worth leading

1 Nov

leader 04Are you a leader worth following?

Are you a follower worth leading?

Churches are made up of leaders and followers.  We are at the end…it has taken us 38 sermons to work our way through 1st Corinthians. Along the way, we have hit a lot of tough topics, and it has been good.  This was a letter written from one man to a church he started, to people he loved. He was their first leader.

It takes more than just Paul to build and sustain this church. Today we meet some of the others who were involved.  We have all been in positions, whether church or work where we have different leaders in our life. Some we easily respect and some are more difficult. What does it mean to be a godly leader that people will follow? What does it mean to be a godly follower?

 

Let’s see what is going on with some of the key people in the development of this church! Prepare for tomorrow’s sermon by reading 1st Corinthians 16:5-24. Last week we looked at this same section of verses, but we were focusing on the teaching sections. Tomorrow we focus on the people.

When Christians Aren’t Gracious – 1st Corinthians 16:5-24, Part 1

29 Oct

Paul closes the letter where he began it. Grace.

Back in 1 Corinthians 1:3-4 he said “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.”

And now in 16:23 he says “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.” This is a fairly typical closing for Paul, but it is well worth out attention.  Even our close attention.  Here’s why:

Do you feel the grace of the Lord Jesus is with you? In you. Flowing through you?  Many don’t.

vanishing gracePhilip Yancey just came out with a new book, Vanishing Grace. I’m looking forward to reading it. I thought about it this week at our Ministerium Bible study when the pastor leading discussion was talking about the salt of the earth passage from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”

So you and I are the salt of the earth. In our day and age, salt is primarily a flavoring. That is a good comparison to how Christians could be the flavor of Jesus in this world. But in Jesus’ day salt was also used for healing and preserving. It was very, very valuable. Soldiers in the Roman army were often paid in salt, and in Latin this practice was called salarium, which is where we get our English word salary. Salt could help heal wounds. It could preserve meat. So there we have some more parallel to how Christians in the name of Jesus can heal and preserve our world.

But how do we do this? One pastor at the Ministerium admitted that in his bi-vocation in the business world, his conversations about church, about sin, about Jesus, were not viewed as good salt. They were repulsive.

I wonder if that is because grace is missing. Is grace missing from your life? From your attitude? From your words?

Our world needs grace. We need grace. The message of Good News in Jesus is a wonderful message of grace. One way we are the Salt of the Earth is by being gracious!

Think about it: We live in a cutthroat world. A world where grace is oftentimes missing.

Our family has been watching old episodes of the reality TV Show Survivor. It is a game with lying, strategies of double-crossing, staying true to alliances only as long as they are self-serving. There is little grace.

About his book, Philip Yancey says something that might be hard for us to hear. I urge you now to prayerfully ask the Lord if you need to hear this. He says “One reason the broader world does not look to Christianity for guidance is that we Christians have not spoken with a credible voice. Churches in my childhood focused on lifestyle issues such as hair- and skirt-lengths, movies, dancing, smoking, and drinking. Meanwhile, conservative churches said little about poverty, racism, war, consumerism, immigration, the treatment of women, and the environment. With some significant exceptions, the church sat on the sidelines of movements that addressed these important causes.

He goes on: “Some further muddle the message of grace by piously casting judgment on society. I heard an all-too-typical example as I was writing this chapter. In the aftermath of historic floods in Colorado that damaged eighteen thousand houses, a Christian radio personality blamed the floods – and also our wildfires the same summer – on legislators who “encourage decadent homosexual activities, vote to kill as many babies as possible, and pass laws approving abominable idolatries such as marijuana.” Listening to those words as I watched water creep within inches of flooding my downstairs office, I easily understood how Christians alienate people. I could list scores of such moral pronouncements that foster an “us against the world” mentality rather than “us bringing grace to the world.”… How differently would the world view Christians if we focused on our own failings rather than on society’s?

Yancey asks the question: “Why does the church stir up such negative feelings?” As the promo material for the book says, “He has been asking this all his life as a journalist. His perennial question is more relevant now than ever: in a twenty-year span starting in the mid-nineties, research shows that favorable opinions of Christianity have plummeted drastically—and opinions of Evangelicals have taken even deeper dives.

“But people inside and outside the church are still thirsty for grace. What the church lacked in its heyday is now exactly what it needs to recover to thrive. Grace can bring together Christianity and our post-Christian culture, inviting outsiders as well as insiders to take a deep second look at why our faith matters and about what could reignite its appeal to future generations.

“How can Christians offer grace in a way that is compelling to a jaded society? And how can they make a difference in a world that cries out in need?”

When you’re appalled at the news coming out of Washington, out of the Supreme Court, will you ask God to fill you with grace?

When the results of the election next week come in, whether you are cheering or moaning, will you ask God to fill you with grace?

When your neighbor’s leaves blow onto your yard because he didn’t cover them, will you ask God to fill you with grace?

When that kid at school is acting like a jerk yet again, will you ask God to fill you with grace?

What does grace look like in a world without it?

Reach out to the person who is being bullied. Sit with them at lunch. Talk to the office gossip who everyone can’t stand.

As a church we show grace to our community especially by reaching out to those in need, even if they have made poor decisions, and it would be easy to say “Well they got themselves in this mess.”

We show grace by active and sustained involvement in Conestoga Valley Christian Community Services, where needy community people can come for food and clothing. Our CVCCS stand in the lobby can start to fade into the background and become part of the décor unless we actively seek to show grace.

We show grace by preaching the Gospel of grace in both word and deed.

  • If you know you are not filled with God’s grace, I encourage you to start doing gracious things: Forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it, remembering God forgave you.
  • Treat someone with kindness when they have treated you poorly, remembering that God treated you with amazing kindness though you have sinned against him.
  • Serve at CVCCS, a place oozing with grace for those who haven’t had a whole lot in their lives. Have you looked at all the opportunities to serve at CVCCS in the bulletin?
  • Help pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child on November 5th. Show grace to kids around that world that may have never experienced the grace of Christmas.
  • Fill Christmas stockings for the kids Joe Toy works with in Philly, and then join the group going to Philly on December 13 to interact with the kids.

Let us be a people that love God, love one another, filled with grace.

Feel free to listen to the whole sermon here.

A 1st Corinthians Smorgasbord

25 Oct

Tomorrow we begin the end of our 1st Corinthians series.  We’ll be spending two Sundays finishing it up by looking at chapter 16 verses 5-24.  In these verses Paul talks about his itinerary, updates them about a bunch of people the Corinthian church knew well, and then gives them a bit of a smorgasbord of teaching.

In this final section, tomorrow we’ll look at the smorgasbord of teaching.  Then next week we’ll see what he has to say about his itinerary and the people he mentions.  SmorgBanner

So let’s get ready for the smorgasbord!  At least that’s what we call them in Lancaster County.  If you’re not familiar with that term, you may know them as a buffet.  At a buffet you don’t order off a menu, you get the chance to go up to the buffet tables and select from a variety of choices, and you can go back as often as you like, trying them all if you like.  Paul gives us a buffet of teaching this week.  It could seem random, but perhaps he has a method to his madness.  When you’ve just spent a lot of time and energy writing what is a very long letter, how do you conclude?  Paul chooses to review much of what he already taught, giving them little tidbits in areas he thinks they need just a little reminder.

As you look back over the last year, what parts of the 1st Corinthians series impacted you the most?

Oh Geez…Not another sermon about giving…

17 Oct

offering plate A few years ago my family attended my son’s middle school soccer team’s end-of-year pizza party in the school cafeteria.  We were brand new to the school district, and in fact had not even moved there yet.  But we had a sales agreement on our new house, enough to meet school board requirements to let kids start the year with their class rather than having to change schools a month after the new school year begins.  What that meant is we barely knew anyone.  You know that feeling of being alone in a crowd?  That was us.

We got our seats, and soon enough I began overhearing a conversation from a couple other dads at the end of our table.  It went something like this:

“What did you think of the sermon this past Sunday?” (That piqued my interest!)

“I hate sermons about giving.” (Uh-oh, I thought…I bet I see where this is going.)

“Yeah, give, give and give some more.  Doesn’t he know that life is tough for us?”

On and on the discussion went from there.  I remember thinking, if only those guys realized what it was like from the other side of the pulpit.

Maybe there are some pastors who love to talk about giving, but my guess is that most feel just as awkward about it as the people listening feel hearing it.  When a pastor preaches about giving, the pastor knows how self-serving the sermon can seem: “Give…because I need my salary checks to keep coming!”  At least that is what we can imagine you are thinking as you listen.  We know that in reality you are hearing this sermon wrestling with the tension between wanting to be faithful to the Lord, to be generous, and knowing how expensive life is.  We know that many of you are wondering how you’re going to pay off debt or how you’re going to pay the bills.  We know some of you are living paycheck to paycheck. We know that because some of us are wondering those same things, as we live paycheck to paycheck.

I guess it is one big awkward mess.

Why do we keep preaching about giving then?  Do we really need to talk about it?  Do pastors fear that people will stop giving if they, the pastors, stop preaching sermons about giving which leave people feeling guilty?  Is it possible to talk about giving without guilting people into giving? As we continue in the 1st Corinthians series, Phil Bartlet will be preaching on 1st Corinthians 16:1-4.  There you’ll notice that Paul talks about giving, and he does so pretty specifically.  I wonder if he felt awkward about it? Something tells me he didn’t.  He talked about giving a lot, actually.  If Paul talked about it, then we need to talk about it.  Perhaps there is something inherently beneficial about giving that we don’t realize?

So…yes, we’re having another sermon about giving on Sunday.  But don’t stay away.  Maybe even come with an expectant heart and mind!  Join us at Faith Church on Sunday!

How to grow as a disciple of Jesus in an already busy world – 1st Corinthians 15:58

15 Oct

WaldoJesusLast week I introduced Sunday’s sermon on 1st Corinthians 15:58 by asking what we do if we want to serve God more, but our lives are so busy.  Out of that question comes another one: isn’t okay to just believe in Jesus, or do we need to be radicals?

1st Corinthians 15:58 closes out a long discussion Paul is having about the resurrection.  Because the resurrection is true, he says, it is a world-changing event that begs us to give our lives in response. The problem is that we haven’t often heard what it means to be a disciple. Instead we have bought in to the idea of levels of commitment to God, as I mentioned before.

An article was published recently that describes in more detail how Christians in our country have looked at commitment to Jesus, and it is scary. The author, Ed Stetzer, says that Christians in our country can be divided nearly evenly into three groups, each making up about 25% of our nation’s population. As you hear me describe Stetzer’s three groups, I want you to think about which one you are in.

First, he says there are “Cultural Christians, [who] are simply those who, when asked, say they are a Christian rather than say they are an atheist or Jewish. They are “Christian” for no other reason than they are from America and don’t consider themselves something else.” Does that describe you? Not sure? Here’s the next group.

He calls them “Congregational Christian[s]. This person generally does not really have a deep commitment, but they will consider themselves as Christians because they have some loose connection to a church—through a family member, maybe an infant baptism, or some holiday attendance.” How about that group? Does describe you? Maybe you are in the…

The final group he calls “Convictional Christians, [and they] are those people who self-identify as Christian who orient their life around their faith in Christ. This includes a wide range of what Christian is—not just evangelicals, for example. It means someone says they are a Christian and it is meaningful to them.”

If we apply these three designations to what Paul has just taught us in 1st Corinthians, Paul is saying that we need to be last group, Convictional Christians.  Stetzer goes on to explain that the first two groups are what he calls nominal Christians, meaning they are Christians in name only. As we have been talking about for the last few weeks, people in those first two groups, the Cultural or Congregational Christians might have a semblance of belief in the content of the Gospel, but they do not have the commitment.

Stetzer predicts that “The nominals will increasingly become nones…They’re simply calling themselves Christians because that’s who they consider themselves to be, not because of any life change or ongoing commitment. Those types of Christians, about half of the population now, will become a minority in a few decades.”

So what we do about this? We do exactly what Paul says. If you feel you are in Group 1 or 2, Paul is saying that we need to be in Group 3, the group that stands firm, lets nothing move you, in your belief and commitment to the resurrection and mission of Jesus. He says that we should always give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord.

So what will that look like this afternoon, tomorrow at work, in the cafeteria of your school, or as you rake your leaves or watch TV?

Here are some practical steps that another writer suggests.

In a busy, busy world, it is possible to “always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord.”  So what does that mean for you?