LET THE ONE WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD

2 Cor 10:17

         No one likes a person who brags about himself, but this is the position in which Paul uncomfortably found himself. Some who were destroying the pastoral work he was doing needed to be stopped so Paul defends what he had done, “bragging in the Lord” of his work. Boasting or bragging is still distasteful to us, but in Paul’s case, there was no one else to speak up for him but himself. Overzealous Christians sometimes present the faith to others in ways that sound like boasting when they say things like, “I used to be a drunk and a womanizer, but once I made the decision to follow Jesus I became a different person.” Although meant to be a testimony to what faith can do for us it borders on an attitude of “look what I did,” self-aggrandizement.

It’s hard to know what boasting in the Lord should mean. It will probably be a rare occasion to ever find ourselves in Paul’s shoes. Even he seemed to feel self-conscious about his boasting. But telling others about what Jesus did for them for the sake of their lives is good boasting. We don’t need to be the center of attention. It’s not about our faith. It’s not about us at all. It’s all about Jesus. Jesus was a strong personality as a man, but he also spoke the truth in love wherever circumstances demanded it. As God and man he has a lot to boast about, but instead he became as one humble, riding a donkey into Jerusalem and a week later submitted to the cross for us. Our boasting in the Lord about our lives is not necessary. Bearing witness humbly to where Christ is in someone else’s life and helping them see it, is good boasting.

Prayer: Jesus, help us to help others see you in their lives, giving your life for them. Amen

THE SPIRITUAL ROCK

With most of them God was not pleased. 1 Cor 10: 5

From the time God first formed a people for himself under Moses to the present the community of faith has had a blemished record. There is ambivalence in human nature, even in believers about remaining faithful to the true God. At Moses’ time the temptation was to follow the religions of the lands through which they traveled rather than to follow the God who saved them from slavery in Egypt. With most of them God was not pleased. At the heart of it, there is in all of us a desire to free ourselves from God and live our own lives without him. The appeal to idolatry is just the first step toward that freedom. As we grow older the appeal to create our own spiritually grows stronger. Lifestyles and values change and God’s way seems restrictive, limiting our freedom. In the end we worship and serve ourselves alone.

But thanks be to God that he is the Spiritual Rock in our wilderness that will not crumble away. In every generation God has sent prophets to lead us back to him. In the end, he sent his own Son and he was rejected as well. But the Holy Spirit continues to come to us in our vulnerability even as infants in baptism. There, when we were helpless God planted the seed of faith that it might grow and save us from ourselves. We need to nourish that faith daily in association with others who are faithful so that we might encourage one another to follow God the Father who made us, God the Son who redeemed us, and God the Holy Spirit who works faith in us. The Lord will save us if we do not reject him. That is his promise.

Prayer: Father, do not forsake us; Jesus save us; Holy Spirit live in us. Amen

GOD’S TEMPLE IS HOLY, YOU ARE THAT TEMPLE!

1 Corinthians 3:16-17

You are God’s Temple, but it’s not just you alone all by yourself. Paul uses the plural “you” here. Each of us is one brick of his Temple, the Body of Christ. The reading for today is preceded by a description of the divisions that occur within the church as the Body of Christ on earth. Divisions occur between Christians as denominations, but we also experience divisions more personally within congregations and within families. So, God reminds us again that we are, together, God’s Temple. Together, we are made holy in Christ. We must handle each other with care, with love, and with forgiveness.

One way to care, love and forgive if forgiveness is called for is to listen to the concern that prompts the other person’s action or words with which we find ourselves in disagreement. The solution enacted out of that concern may be wrong, but finding common ground for concern puts us side by side as members of the Body of Christ. Even when we disagree on the solution or conclusion we each come to, our common concern is the starting place for our recognition of our oneness in Christ. We are more likely to both listen to the other person and work through our own thoughts, helping the other to do the same in hopes of our finding a God-pleasing solution to our mutual concerns. Understanding each other is where healing can begin. Unless the other person closes the door on us, we must hold the door open and live together in forgiveness while pursuing the Truth.

Our Lord Jesus Christ came to us in his disagreement with us over sin. He did not slam the door on us, but put himself in our place even when we were wrong. He loved us, offered us forgiveness, and invited us into his life. Because of this, we follow his path in our relationships with one another. We love because he first loved us. We love even when others are wrong and we are right. Especially then! We love as Christ loved and gave himself for others. Together we are the holy Temple of God.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to love those I don’t like and those with whom I disagree, as you loved me through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

PROCLAIM THE LORD’S DEATH

This is my body, which is for you. 1 Cor 11: 24

The message in the Lord’s Supper is clear. It is a proclamation of the new covenant God has made with his people through Jesus’ death and resurrection. When we eat his body and drink his blood we become participants in that covenant. Daily we are faced with the joys and sorrows of life, but even the greatest ups an downs cannot compare with the significance of the covenant we have with God. Because Christ lives in us, his very body and blood are now part of our spiritual anatomy. Nothing can harm us that Christ in us can’t bring us through.

As we grow older the body begins to show signs of being in need of repair. High blood pressure, cholesterol levels, reflux problems and other lower digestive issues keep us medicated, on diets and bring more restrictions with every passing year. Many suffer more life-threatening diseases that are managed but not cured. All these are a reminder that we grow physically weaker as we age. But as these things happen the Lord provides us his own strength as he gives us his own body and blood in the sacrament. There, we are renewed again and again so that though our body declines, Christ’s body and blood becomes our strength.

God says with regard to the Lord’s Supper, “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” Even in our own weakness we proclaim to the world the saving death of Jesus for all the world; the Lord’s Supper is our witness to Christ. Words we speak make an important witness to others, but the presence of Christ’s body and blood in the world proclaims to the world that Jesus Christ is here, now, today! Read 1 Corinthians 11: 23 – 26

Prayer: Lord Jesus, feed me with your own body and blood in the sacrament and teach me to see is as proclamation of the Gospel to others. Amen

THE GOSPEL I PREACHED

 

When I introduced myself as a pastor to someone recently he quickly assured me, “I have my own spirituality.” He wasn’t talking about a different denomination, but about his own personal self-made spirituality that was just for him. He believed everyone had to make one for himself. The idea that previous generations could pass on something true and reliable from one generation to another is no longer acceptable to many. Consequently, do-it-yourself spirituality is burgeoning. Most of the non-Christian spirituality is a variety of the many versions of Buddhism. Buddhism believes there is no personal God. Rather, we are all a part of god. This god is the physical creation itself, not someone separate from it. It is an ancient pagan religion called pantheism. It believes that nature is god!

Into this kind of thinking Christians come with the age-old message that spirituality begins, not with self, but with the God who made the whole creation. Spirituality centers not on us, but on God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, and his eternal action on the cross for us. This is the good news or gospel by which we are saved. Paul cites all the witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection that validate Christ’s work. There is no other interpretation that works. We dare not make Jesus an equal to Buddha or Mohammed or any other human being who merely said good things. None of them were God who took on human form and did what he did for all mankind. This is the gospel by which you are saved. There is no self-made spirituality for this life or the next that is true. All but the Christian gospel depends on man, not on God. It begins and ends with Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God.

Read 1 Corinthians 15: 3 – 11

Prayer: Holy and gracious God, have mercy and hear us. Lift us out of our infatuation with personal spiritualities and help us to see you on the cross for us in Jesus the Christ. Amen

 

GRACE IS SUFFICIENT

“A thorn was given me in the flesh.”  2 Cor 12: 7

Paul was so exhilarated by his spiritual revelations from God that God had to send him a “thorn in the flesh” to keep him from being too elated. Spiritual highs are always a risky thing. New converts sometimes are so excited about the new life they have found that when the excitement begins to diminish they feel they are losing their faith. Feelings and faith are not the same thing. The substance of faith is trust in Jesus Christ, not excitement. Excitement in the name of faith takes the emphasis off Christ and puts it on our feelings. The deepest moments of faith without excitement may be those quiet moments of reflection on the word of God that sustains us even when life is dull and unexciting.

What we need in place of excitement is the grace of God at work in our lives. That means, God at work in us, for us. Grace is the free gift of life in Christ. Life in Christ may not always lift us out of the dullness or the difficulty of life. Life in Christ at times looks the same as any other life that is wholesome and decent even among non-Christians. God’s grace to his people is the gift forgiveness. God’s grace to his people is the gift of companionship with God in highs or lows. God’s grace to his people is the gift of knowing that life is not ours to conquer, but ours to live in peace and joy. God’s grace to his people is the gift of knowing that whatever we do we are the Lord’s.

God’s grace is sufficient! It is enough for all we need to live today. Tomorrow, God will supply grace to live that day as well through Christ our Lord who lives in us.

Prayer: Lord in highs and lows be there to sustain me in my love and trust in you through Jesus Christ. Amen

 

THE MIND OF CHRIST

The mind is both a terrible thing and a wonderful thing. The mind can drive us crazy and it can also hold wonderful thoughts. We use the word mind in different ways. We say in frustration, “I am going out of my mind,” meaning I can’t stand this any more or, when we are indifferent, “I don’t mind,” meaning we don’t care one way or the other. Sometimes “mind your own business” is a warning to others to keep your distance, and asking, “Do you mind?” can be a rebuff or a courtesy depending on the tone in which we say it. But the Mind of Christ is not a mood as are these other states of mind.

The Mind of Christ is a new way of thinking that transforms our prior way of thinking. As faith grows, the mind of Christ grows within us. Our own thoughts are cut short by the influence of Christ on our thinking. The human mind without Christ is filled with fear, anger, anxiety, dullness, and with emptiness as well as thoughts both good and bad. The mind of Christ is not a state of mind we create for ourselves. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit to all who are in Christ and we access it by handing over to God all the foolish mindlessness that blocks the way of the Mind of Christ.

No one understands the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God and God reveals spiritual truths to those who are given the mind of Christ. His thoughts are not our thoughts, until he makes them ours by faith in Christ. The Mind of Christ is a peaceful state of mind in the midst of conflict when we let go of our fears, worries, and meaningless speculations. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, but we have the Mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2: 11-16

Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me the mind of Christ always. Work in me to let go of things I cannot solve and to put them confidently into your hands, through Jesus Christ our Lord.