Tag Archives: training

How not to become a bitter old maid – Titus 2:1-10, Part 3

17 Jul

I’ll never forget the time, as she in hospice and weeks away from passing, when my maternal grandmother admitted to me, through tears, that she was afraid she was becoming a bad Christian. She was referring to the aging process, and how she could become impatient and angry, or judgmental. No doubt she was always a rather intense person, but she was concerned in a new way. I am fully confident that my grandmother remained a faithful Christian to the end, but she was pointing out something that many others going through the aging process can identify with. As we age, we can struggle. Sometimes we hear about an older person who “has no filter,” or “doesn’t care anymore.” Do you have an older relative that no one wants to be around because they are so negative? How can you avoid becoming that person?

In the previous post, we saw how men can age with grace and dignity. But what about women? As we continue looking at what Paul has to say to various groups in the church in his letter to Titus, in chapter 2, verse 3 he talks to the older women.  What that means is that, older women, you matter!  How you live will be an example for the younger people in the church. 

First, he says the older women should be reverent in the way they live.

Reverent?  This is pertaining to being devoted to a proper expression of religious beliefs—devout, pious, religious.” (Louw & Nida)  Just as he did with the older men, note how Paul is connecting their beliefs to the way they live.  In both cases, there is a direct and important relationship between their belief and their life choices.  Sound doctrine leads to right living.  Or in this case, reverence.  They are to practice their faith in Jesus.

And when they do, Paul goes on to describe what they will look like.

They will not be slanderers.  This is the Greek word diabolos – which is a word that has a connotation of something being of the devil. In this context it is referring to speech, such as slander, gossip.  Gossip can ruin a group.  Older people should set the example by keeping confidences, by being encouraging and uplifting in their speech.

Next he says that the older women should not be addicted to much wine.  Clean water in that society was hard to get, so wine was everywhere, and as with our society, people could overdo it. Some people have said that Jesus changing water in wine or starting the practice of communion must not have been using alcohol, but grape juice, something with little or no alcohol content.  But clearly it was addictive and could lead to drunkenness.  So the point is not the wine, but the addiction.  Christians should not be addicted to anything.

Finally, a great summary for the women.  Teach what is good.  There’s that word “teach” again. This is a theme popping up numerous times as we have seen in the previous posts about Titus 2:1-10.  Older women, you are to teach.  And when you think of teaching, Paul is not thinking of creating lessons for Sunday School classes.  Some of you might think, “I’m not a teacher.”  But the reality is that you all teach.  Yes, some teach in a more formal way in a class setting, but everyone teaches in many other ways, especially through your life choices, your example.

So who are you teaching?  The church needs you!  Who do you mentor?  Who is your Titus?  Who are you having an impact on, even in a very informal way?

In 2:4 Paul describes what they should teach, and as you’ll see, Paul is not talking about a classroom.   The NIV 1984 edition uses the word “train.”  This means: “To instruct someone to behave in a wise and becoming manner.” (Louw & Nida)  Paul is not talking about sitting in a classroom to receive knowledge.  Training implies action.

Training in our American concept can have a negative connotation of mindless obedience.  Almost brainwashing.  We do this with dog training.  We take them to obedience school so that that obey perfectly almost every time. Is this what Paul is talking about?  Creating robots?  No.  Instead, he is talking about older women helping younger women to creating godly habits, practices. 

Paul then lists what the older women are to teach the younger women. Rather than go into detail examining each point, we can summarize Paul as saying that if the older women set the example and live like Jesus, they are then to teach the younger women to live like Jesus too.

And what will that look like?  They are to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled (again the idea of being “sensible” or “moderate,” as we have seen in Titus 1 and 2). Paul says he wants the older women to teach the younger to be pure, busy at home, kind, and to be subject to their husbands. Why? So that no one will malign the word of God.  What does that mean?  “Malign the word”? 

If the Christians in the church behave according to the pattern of life of Jesus, with purity, kindness, love, self-control, and so on, not only will they be living the best possible life that can be lived, they will be practicing what they preach.  They will be consistent.  They will not be hypocritical.  And no one will be able to say otherwise.  Remember that Crete was an unruly place, and these Cretan Christians more than likely were going through a change from living the old Cretan way to now living the Jesus way.  And their friends, family and neighbors were watching.  If the Christians were hypocritical, saying they were now living like Jesus but actually living the old Cretan way, the people in their community would have cause to accuse the Christians of being hypocritical, and thus to say that the word, the message about Jesus, was a sham.  In other words, how you and I live should be in line with what we say we believe.  Our life choices are the most important way we share the good news about Jesus.  This is what Paul wants the older women to teach the younger. Don’t just believe in Jesus. Live like he lived.

I do want us to look a bit more closely at a few phrases in Paul’s list. There were two phrases that might sound offensive to contemporary ears:  “Busy at home” and “subject to husbands.”  Before we get offended, we have to remember context. Paul is speaking to a first century Greco-Roman culture that was super patriarchal.  He is not saying anything here that would have been surprising to them.  Instead, he is reflecting exactly what that culture was like, in the area of the role of women in marriage. He knows that the church is in a precarious position, as it was brand new and very different from the culture in Crete.  So the Christians in the church need to be cautious about how different they are.  For now Paul wants them to focus on being different in their behavior, choosing to live blameless lives.  It seems that Paul does not believe the Christians and the church are at a place where they could lead societal change such as equality for women, or the eradication of slavery, which we will get to later in this series on Titus 2:1-10.  Instead, Paul maintains what were cultural norms of marginalization of women and slaves, instead asking the church to focus on living blameless lives.

How to have a multi-generational church – Titus 2:1-10, Part 1

15 Jul
Photo by John Moeses Bauan on Unsplash

Actor Brad Pitt, now 55 years old, recently commented that acting has become a younger man’s game.  Increasingly, so is much about our culture in America.  Where does that leave those who are older?  Retirement homes?  Are you only worthwhile if you are young? 

For a number of years now, America has been in a phase where youth and youth culture are prominent, and thus older people want to be seen as younger than they are.  Look younger, dress younger, act younger.  Work out like crazy, diet, and get surgery. How should we think about this focus on youthfulness?

One of the things I love about Faith Church is that our church family is multi-generational.  We have young and old and everyone in between, as families normally do.  We’re not a young church, and we’re not an old church either.  We are a church comprised of all ages.

We believe that people, no matter what age they are, are equally loved and important in God’s eyes.  Today we return to Paul’s letter to Titus, and we see how deeply Paul felt about the various generations within the church family. If you’d like, feel free to pause reading this post and open a Bible to Titus chapter 2.

Before we study this section, we need to remember the context.  Who is Paul writing to?  Paul is writing to Titus, his younger ministry associate who Paul has sent to go back to the island of Crete, which is right in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.  Paul and Titus had been there previously on a mission trip, and they had preached the good news of Jesus, and people responded by placing their faith in Jesus.  Then Paul and Titus grouped these new followers of Jesus in house churches located in some of the towns across the island.  Now months later, Paul has sent Titus back to Crete with a very specific job.  We learned this in chapter one: Titus is in Crete to appoint godly leaders in the house churches.  We also heard Paul say that the Cretans had a reputation for being wild and unruly.  Further, there were people already in the churches who were behaving poorly.

Look at the very last verse of chapter 1, verse 16.  This is a crucial verse for understanding Paul’s concern in the letter to Titus.  There in 1:16 Paul says that there are people who claim to know God, but by their actions they show that they deny God.  They don’t really know God. 

So let’s summarize the context: people from Crete have a reputation for being out of control, and already in the churches, there are people who are showing by their behavior that they deny God.  In chapter one Paul tells Titus to select leaders who are blameless, and then gives Titus and those leaders the job of confronting the ungodly people in the church.  But what about the rest of the church?  What about those who are not causing trouble? How should they live?  That’s who Paul addresses next, by generation, gender and social status. Now go ahead and read Titus 2:1-10.

Right away in 2:1 he says “you must teach.”

“Teach” is a word that relates to discipleship.  Paul is teaching Titus in this letter, as he had already taught Titus when they were together.  Now Titus is to teach others.  Do you see the multiplication happening? From Paul to Titus to various groups in the church to even more people.  

So I want to ask, who taught you the faith?  Who is your example?  Titus 2:1-10 is grounded in the task of communicating with others how to follow Jesus.  How could you do this in your family?  This is a question that I’ve mentioned before, but one I sense that we Christians should perpetually be asking and answering: who is your Titus?  Who is the person you are investing in?  Who is the person or persons that you are seeking to help live like Jesus lived? 

We had a wonderful discipleship training last month at Faith Church, and our trainer presented a very clear, biblical, approach to discipleship: meet weekly with a few other people, to study and apply the Scriptures, for the purpose of multiplication. Who will you meet weekly with for the purpose of discipleship?

Check back in to the next post, as we see who the first group of people Paul says Titus should teach, and we’ll learn what he is to teach them. 

Do you need a spiritual HIIT trainer?

22 Mar

Image result for spiritual training

Have you heard of HIIT?  High Intensity Interval Training.  This winter my workout partners and I have done some HIIT workouts.  They’re really tiring.  You exercise hard for 20 secs, take a 10 sec rest, and then exercise again, rest again, etc.  We’ve done a variety of exercises and work/rest patterns, and every time we finish, I’m wiped out.  Then at night, I’m sore.

So you might like to know that we did a HIIT workout at the beginning of my sermon this past Sunday! We did 8 rounds of 20 sec exercise and 10 rest.  4 minutes.  It was great!  I invited anyone from the congregation who wanted to come up front and do the workout.  About ten people of all ages came up front, while one lady from our congregation who is a HIIT trainer led us in exercises.  That 4 minutes is all it took for me to start sweating.  When it was over, I tried to continue with the sermon, and I couldn’t catch my breath.

You do a 4 minute HIIT workout and then try to read the Bible out loud!!!  It’s hard!!!

So why would I have our congregation do a HIIT workout in a worship service?  Read the passage I was struggling to read, and see if you can find out.  It is 1 Timothy 4:6-10.

In that passage Paul teaches Timothy to do two things: Stop and Start.

Stop anyone who is involved in telling false stories.  Start training yourselves for godliness.  The word “train” where we get our English word Gymnasium. It is the Greek word “Gymnadzo” and the scholars tells us that it means “to control oneself by thorough discipline…In a number of languages the equivalent of ‘to discipline oneself’ is literally ‘to make oneself obey.’ This may sometimes be expressed as ‘to command one’s heart.”[1]

Before we look at explaining what spiritual discipline toward godliness is all about, look at what Paul says in verse 8. He says that bodily discipline does have value, but he describes it as some/little value. Godliness, though, has value for all things.  It has promise, Paul says, for the present life and for the life to come. So physical training is good.  But its value is of comparatively small value to spiritual training. Physical training benefits us for the here and now, whereas spiritual training benefits us here, now and for eternity.

Paul is saying that spiritual training, then, should be given more time and priority. How about you?

I spend a lot of time in physical training, and I do not look at my time spent running or working out as wasted time.  Not one second of it.  I think it is really important.  The question I need to ask is whether or not I give spiritual training an ample amount of time.

Let’s talk about spiritual training, then.  What does Paul mean in verse 7 when he says “train yourself to be godly”?  To try to answer that, let me first ask you: What does it take to be physically fit?

If you ask me how to train to be physically fit, that is a pretty easy question to answer.  Look at a show like The Biggest Loser, and they have it all worked out.  It involves exercising, a trainer, and healthy eating.  Then take those components and implement them consistently in your life.  What happens?  The pounds fall off your body, and your build muscle.  Ailments start to fade.  A person moves from sickness to health.   I love that show.  I love to see the transformation take place in people’s lives.

Probably because I personally experienced a bit of that myself.

You don’t have to get on The Biggest Loser to train yourself physically.  There are tons of local gyms with trainers and there are training apps.  For me it was Joe Yu.  Joe was an LBC student and pastoral intern here at Faith Church back in 2008-2009.  He also had a background in being an exercise trainer.  He was regularly asking me to work out.  I was in seminary then and never thought I had time.  Then my wife Michelle also started saying I should work out.  I knew I had gained weight over the years, but nothing out of control.  Had some back problems.

One day after Thanksgiving 2009 Joe was at our house, and he and Michelle were both saying I should starting working out.  I said “Ok, ok…but the only time I could meet is early in the morning.”  Joe was a part-time security guard late at night, and I figured it wouldn’t work for him.  So he shocked me when he said “Great! Let’s do it!”  Joe is a very enthusiastic guy.  So that next week, we met up at the gym at 5:30am.  Joe brought one of his friends along, Matt, who was a professor at LBC and also very into training.

I’ll never forget that first day.  And especially that first night.  Those guys put me through a beginning training workout that morning.  At night, I was SO sore.  I woke up in pain, and then put muscle cream on.  But I put too much cream on, and it stunk up the room.  I couldn’t sleep because of the pain.  Michelle couldn’t sleep because of the smell!

Little by little, though, through Joe and Matt training me, leading me, encouraging me, my weight came off.  I started working out four times per week, and eating less, cutting out sugar.  In about six months, I figure I lost 50 pounds.

The running started that spring when Brandon Hershey, Matt Marvin and I ran my first 5K, the Race Against Racism in the city. Now years later at Faith Church we have an informal running group that has completed 3 half marathons and 2 full marathons, and a slew of other events.  We do quite a bit to help each other out.  Accountability during training.  Entering events to give us motivation to achieve a goal.

For me it was personal, and it was communal.  I wasn’t shocked by any of the methodology it took to get fit.  And I think most of us have a pretty good idea of what getting physically fit will entail.  We might not do it, but we at least know how.

But what about training for godliness?  How do we do that?

Spiritual disciplines such as reading the Bible, praying, deeply participating in a church family, are all wonderful steps to take.  But I have to admit, those are all standard answers.  Good answers, but they bring to my mind some questions:

Do you do these things on a regular basis?  More time than you give to physical exercise?  More time than you give to TV, phone, etc.

If you don’t do them, why?

And if you do them, have you found them to be helpful in training you to become more godly?

If not, what else do you need to do to train yourself to be godly?

Could it be that something more is needed?  As I think about how I’ve experienced physical fitness, it has always been best accomplished with other people.  Especially when I’ve had people training me, leading, me, helping me see the way forward, encouraging me, holding me accountable.  So when it comes to your spiritual life, maybe you need a trainer?  Spiritual Director.

When we have done marathons and half-marathons, we have done 18 or 12 week training programs.  You run 4 or 5 times per week.  And you follow the plan.  You don’t want to get to race day unprepared.  Race day is going to be hard enough.  But if you don’t train, it might mean either the race will be super painful, or unfinishable.  So we faithfully follow the training plan, and little by little it builds you up to run 26.2 miles.

But do we give anything close to that amount of time and energy to allowing a spiritual director to train us?

Keep that question in mind.  If you know a trainer at the gym could help you get physically fit, then how much time have you spent with a spiritual trainer to get spiritual fit?

This makes me think again of discipleship.  We all should be training ourselves to be godly.  We don’t have to hire a professional spiritual director, though I suspect that for most of us hiring a spiritual director would be a good thing.

During my upcoming sabbatical one activity that I am going to seek out is a spiritual director.  There is a Jesuit retreat center that offers spiritual direction retreats for 5, 7, and even 30 days.

And here in our church family we should also focus on discipleship relationships that emphasize helping one another train for godliness. Who is helping to train you for godliness? And then after you answer the question about who is training you for godliness, the next question to answer is “Who are you training for godliness?”

Paul will say to Timothy in his next letter, in 2 Timothy 2:2, “the things you’ve heard me say, teach other also, so they can teach.”  Paul trained Timothy, and then he wanted Timothy to train others, so that others could train even more!

Have a trainer, be a trainer!

 

Go out and get a book that will coach you on how to train for godliness:  Spiritual Discipline for the Christian Life – Donald Whitney.  This is a book that is like a trainer.

I urge you to read that book, and then pick one spiritual discipline to work on this year.  But don’t do it alone.  Get a trainer to help you.  Talk with someone who is better at this spiritual discipline and have them train you!

 

Next, who is your spiritual trainer?

Who are you training?

Have a trainer, be a trainer!

 

 

[1] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 751. Print.

Does Michael Phelps have an unfair advantage? (and why it matters for followers of Jesus!) Luke 17:1-19

15 Feb

Quick trivia question: which Olympian is the record holder for the most Olympic medals of all time?

Michael Phelps is the correct answer, which if you didn’t know already, you probably guessed by the title!

But this picture only shows his medals from one Olympics. Guess how many total medals he has won? Total of 22!  See the chart below.  (Update 8/13/16 – Phelps is adding to his record total in the Rio games!  So this info is out of date.  The guy just keeps winning!)

Olympic Medal Winners Top 10When I watched Phelps swim in previous summer Olympics, I thought, he has a freakishly long torso. And he’s not this huge body-builder type. Instead he seems like he has a God-given body for swimming superiority. Anyone else every notice that? Well, it has made the news.   And because he has done so well, scientists have taken notice.

Does Michael Phelps have an unfair advantage? Scientists studied Phelps, took measurements, and they found that he does have some unique physical characteristics. The long torso, double-jointed ankles, long arm span. The scientists noted all these things, and found that compared to the average human, these characteristics are really helpful for swimming

It got me thinking about how perfect it is for Phelps that he got into swimming then. How many other people with bodies suited for swimming or some other sport never got into swimming? Maybe there are people with better-suited bodies than Phelps? It is amazing that not only does he have an amazing body for swimming, but that he got into swimming!  It’s almost not fair for the other swimmers.

My thoughts were dashed by the scientists. You know what they said? Sure his body might be better suited for swimming, but the actual advantage would be so minute as to be negligible. In fact, they suggested that his double-jointed ankles could be a disadvantage, when it comes to force and power in his kick.

You know what they said is Michael Phelps’ reason for success? Almost entirely his training. His insane training regimen is also the stuff of legends.

If you want to get your body operating at premium athletic levels, you have to fine-tune it with a commitment to daily habits.

Just like Olympic athletes, are there habits or practices that disciples of Jesus should be known for?

The answer is a resounding “Yes!”  Jesus gave us habits, practices that he wanted us, his disciples, to follow. Some of them we learn by just watching him. Then we do what he did. What did he do? In Luke we have seen him regularly getting away from the crowds, spending time alone in prayer. We have seen him make disciples. So prayer and making disciples are two things he did, and thus they are two practices that we must do.  How are you doing in those areas?

But there are other important practices that we disciples of Jesus should learn.  He specifically teaches a number of them.  In Luke 17:1-19 he teaches that disciples should have a regular habit of the following practices:

Don’t cause people to sin, confront sin, be forgiving, have great faith, serve dutifully, be grateful.

How Jesus invites us to be like Olympic athletes

11 Feb

Are you excited for the Olympics in Rio this summer?   Already you have probably been hearing about athletes who are training for the summer Olympics in Rio. I am really looking forward to the Olympics, as I always enjoy watching the competition. It is awesome to see what these athletes can accomplish, and it is a blast cheering for them. To get to that high level of performance, Olympians train, and train and train. They have many practices, many habits they follow in order to perform athletic feats at a world-class level. Olympians have habits that regulate their eating, drinking, sleeping, free time, not to mention the cardio training, weight training, and training for specific athletic events.

If you want to get your body operating at premium athletic levels, you have to fine-tune it with a commitment to daily habits.

We’ve talked a lot lately about being disciples and making disciples. Disciples make more disciples. But whether you are thinking about yourself, how you can grow more as a disciple of Jesus, or whether you are thinking about how to help other people grow as disciples of Jesus, we need to ask “What should a disciple of Jesus do?” Just like Olympic athletes, are there habits or practices that we should be known for?

The answer is a resounding “Yes!”  Jesus gave us habits, practices that he wanted us, his disciples to follow. Some of them we learn by just watching him. Then we do what he did. What did he do? In Luke we have seen him regularly get alone for times of prayer. We have seen him make disciples. So prayer and making disciples are two things he did, and thus they are two practices that we must do.  How are you doing in those areas?

But there are other important practices that we disciples of Jesus should learn.  He specifically teaches a number of them. As we continue our teaching series through the story of Jesus’ life in the book of Luke, we come to Luke chapter 17, verses 1-19.  In this passage, Jesus teaches his disciples six practices that they should incorporate into their daily lives.

So what are these six practices?  Read ahead, and you are welcome to join us at Faith Church this coming Sunday to learn more!

Full (or Fool?) Marathons & Beating Our Bodies – 1st Corinthians 9:19-27

2 Jul

Running has been an exciting part of my life for the past 5 years.  As we continue studying the letter of 1st Corinthians, in the section from this past Sunday, Paul talks about running to get a prize and the necessary training that goes into getting in shape.  I started training for the Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon which is taking place on my 40th birthday, September 6th.  So I get the training part, especially on a crazy humid morning like we had today.  And yet, as some of you have found out, there is a joy to be found in training.  Your body can grow to like it, even crave it.

Crave training? Beating our bodies?

I introduced the sermon by talking about self-enslavement to everyone.  Paul starts off the section (1 Cor. 9:19-27) by talking about self-enslavement.  Now at the end of the section, he come full circle back to this slave stuff. “I beat my body and make it my slave.” My goodness, Paul.  I think this is part of the reason why some people don’t like you.

On one hand Paul is talking about his personal practice of discipleship to Jesus. He wants his body to be in check, he doesn’t want to sin. And we should follow that pattern. Are you a spiritually disciplined person? Is your body in check? Spiritually, physically, emotionally? Disciples of Jesus, Paul is saying, surrender their bodies to a training regimen. Not because we’re into pain. But as he says at the end of the passage: “I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

As much as this passage can seem like Paul-crazy-talk, two things he refers to actually turn out to be great blessings from self-enslavement: 1. Reaching others for Christ and 2. Winning the prize.

The prize. Yeah! I want the prize. In marathon training there are a couple prizes. The first is just finishing!  When I ran my first marathon, even after having completed the 18-week training regimen, I was still nervous and could hardly sleep, wondering if I would actually be able to finish the whole 26.2 miles.  The Baltimore Running Festival includes a marathon and half marathon simultaneously.  The full marathoners are given small bibs saying “Full” to distinguish them from the halfers.  One of my friends, hurting badly after the race, wondered aloud if those bibs ought to say “Fool”!  In fact the odd distance of 26.2 miles has a scary history that could add anxiety to an already nervous first-time marathoner. Check it out on Wikipedia…the very first marathoner died after running. Thankfully the group of us that ran all finished!  Just crossing that finish line was a prize.

But when you do cross the line, you actually get a real prize!  The finisher medal. If you’re really, really good, you might win your age bracket, or the whole thing. I cross-referenced my score, and I would have won the 55 year old women’s category.  So my prizes for the two marathons and one half marathon that I ran in the past three years are finisher medals and I treasure them.2013-10-12 Baltimore Marathon

Paul is not talking about that kind of prize; he is talking about the spiritual prize. To hear about that jump back to Philippians 3:10-17. The prize of abundant life in Christ, and eternal life in heaven. That is the amazing blessing that is in store for us when we beat our bodies and make them slaves.

I wonder if there are some untrained, undisciplined, spiritually flabby people who have not beat their bodies, who have not entered into spiritual self-enslavement, and yet who are expecting to win the prize. I think Paul would say that those people never truly knew Jesus. When Jesus made himself a slave for us, we need to respond with joy, with thankfulness, with love and burst out of the gate to become slaves for him.  Jesus is the prime example of one who practice self-enslavement, beating his body, so that he might reach people.

This is a challenging section for me.

How is it challenging for you? Are you practicing self-enslavement, beating your body in order that God might use you to share his love with people in your life?  Do you know your neighbors? Do you know your regular hair dresser? Barber? Do you know the local market stand owner? How do you relate to them? The people at the gym? The parents of your children’s friends? Are you/Am I willing to sacrifice my comfort, my time, my emotional energy to be involved in another’s life…People’s lives are messy (I know this because I know my own life is messy)…and we become all things (parent, counselor, banker, taxi driver, etc …) at different times to different people – for the purpose of being like Jesus – who gave all and became all for us.

Self-enslavement? To everyone?…A good thing?

27 Jun

After a few weeks off from studying for a new sermon, I am back at it, and I have to admit I’m a bit nervous.  I almost always look forward to preaching, something that has grown on me over the years.  But there are still a few Sundays that I don’t look forward to it.  There was this one, for example, where the material was controversial, and I wondered if I was going to tick off people in the church. (Thankfully, in that case, I think it went very well, but, boy, was I sweating!)  As I look down the road in the 1st Corinthians series, I see a few more of those coming.  More on that in mid-July when we start a long sub-series through 1st Corinthians chapters 11-14 all about worship.

This week though, there is a different reason for my anxiety.  Once again it is the material, though not that it is controversial.  Instead 1st Corinthians 9:19-27, the passage I’ll be preaching, is intense.  Take a look and you’ll see what I mean.

I like the passage a lot, especially because it talks about running, and running has been a exciting part of my life for the past 5 years.  Paul talks about running to get a prize and the necessary training that goes into getting in shape.  I started training for the Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon which is taking place on my 40th birthday, September 6th.  So I get the training part.  In fact, as others of you have found out, there is a joy to be found in training.

But Paul has some other things to say that weird me out a bit.  These are the intense parts that I referred to already.  As the title of the post indicates, Paul says that one of the things he did was to practice self-enslavement to everyone.  Does anyone else read that and think, “Really?”  What does that mean?  Self-enslavement.  And why to everyone?  Isn’t he going a bit far?

slave3

In that passage Paul gives us a peak into his heart and mind.  We will be tempted to say “Really?”, doubting him, or rationalize in other ways like “Well, that’s nice…for Paul! But not for me. He was special.”  That might be fine for him, but not for the rest of us.  As you prepare for worship on Sunday, I urge you to read this passage and ask the Lord to help you avoid that kind of rationalization.  Ask him to help you receive his word.  Believe me, I’m praying that right along with you.  This passage has me quaking a bit because it describes a passion for Christ and his kingdom that puts mine to shame.  I will be preaching not from a position of saying “follow me” like Paul could say.  Instead I’ll be preaching this sermon to myself.

One of the fears I have in a sermon like this is that it will scare people off.  Paul sets the bar high.  But he also talks about blessings.  Is it possible that setting the bar high will lead to blessings?  What I mean is this, is it possible that a life of self-enslavement to everyone might actually be better than we think?  Join us on Sunday and we’ll find out.