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Love is Eternal   Leave a comment

Love Never Fails
(13:8-13)

Love never endsBut if there are propheciesthey will be set asideif there are tonguesthey will ceaseif there is knowledgeit will be set aside. For we know in partand we prophesy in part,  but when what is perfect comesthe partial will be set aside. When I was a childI talked like a childI thought like a childI reasoned like a childBut when I became an adultI set aside childish ways. For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to faceNow I know inpartbut then I will know fullyjust as I have been fully known. And now these three remain: faithhopeand loveBut the greatest of these is love.  (1Corinthians 13:8-13)

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul set out to show the superiority of character over charisma. Christian love overwhelms spiritual gifts.

  • Verses 1-3, Paul stated even the most highly prized gifts, exercised to the ultimate level of success, but without love, are of little value to the one who is gifted or to the one who is the recipient of his ministry.
  • Verses 4-7, Paul described love in a way which defines it in very practical terms and also shows the Corinthians’ lack of love.

In our subject passage for this week, verses 8-13, Paul reasoned love is superior to all the spiritual gifts because love outlasts them. Love never fails; spiritual gifts do fail.

The statement, “love never fails,” nicely links Paul’s words in verse 7 with those which follow. Love “never fails” because it always bears up, always has faith, always hopes, always endures (verse 7). Furthermore, love “never fails” because it is eternal.

The word “fail” is the translation of a word which literally means to fall. This same word is used to describe the fatal “fall” of the young man from the third story window during Paul’s really long sermon in Acts 20:9. Ananias and Saphira both “fell” dead when confronted by Peter (Acts 5:5, 10). Paul employed this term when he spoke of the 23,000 who “fell” dead in the wilderness due to their immorality (1 Corinthians 10:8; Exodus 32:28). In other words, love does not die; it does not come to an end. Love is like the Energizer Bunny that keeps going and going and going …

In contrast to love, which does not come to an end, spiritual gifts do come to an end. Paul said they fail. He wrote of the demise of the three spiritual gifts considered most valuable by the Corinthians. Gifts of prophecy will be done away with; tongues will cease; knowledge will be done away (verse 8). Knowledge and prophecy in this age are partial and incomplete. But when “the perfect” comes, this will render the “imperfect” obsolete.

My husband is a repairman. Often when he is called out in the middle of the night because someone has no heat, he will repair the boiler/furnace temporarily. He keeps used parts on hand to effect those repairs. He will then return the next day when he has secured the brand new part to make permanent repairs. Consider the late night repair to be “imperfect” until he makes the “perfect” permanent repairs.

Paul contrasted the permanence of love with the temporary nature of all spiritual gifts. I know there’s debate about how some gifts may be temporary in nature, but I don’t see that in Paul’s writing … and neither do the Bible commentators I read in research here. I guess the gift of tongues is singled out because of a subtle distinction in the Greek text. One Greek word is employed to refer to the passing of prophecy and knowledge, translated in the NASB by the expression “done away.” The cessation of tongues is depicted by a different term, rendered “cease” in the NASB. While the verb employed for the passing of prophecy and knowledge is passive in voice, the term used in reference to tongues is middle in voice. This subtlety is interpreted by some scholars to mean tongues will cease after the days of the apostles before the cessation of prophecy and knowledge.

“They shall make themselves cease or automatically cease of themselves.” A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), IV, p. 179.

All Christians should be knowledgeable and honest enough to say that the so-called “cessationist” position (certain gifts—especially tongues—came to an end at the close of the apostolic age) is based upon inferences rather than upon clear statements. Yes, I am a Baptist who does not speak in tongues, but I don’t agree with the “cessationist” position. It is one thing for the Bible to say tongues will cease; it is quite another to say tongues have ceased. Doctrine based upon clear, uncontradicted statements is to be held more dogmatically than doctrine based upon inference. I too hold certain beliefs based upon inference, but I desire to acknowledge them as just that. In 1 Corinthians 14:39, Paul pointedly prohibited us from forbidding others to speak in tongues. This is not an inference but a command. So, there you have it. I don’t speak in tongues because God hasn’t given me that gift, but I believe He has given others that gift. I’ve seen very.few people who exercise the gift do it properly, but the only argument I have against that is 1 Corinthians 14, which also tells me not to forbid others from speaking in tongues. Therefore, ….

I don’t embrace the cessationist position, but I also believe God is not obliged to give the gift of tongues anyone today. There are certain vital and necessary functions in the church, for which there are accompanying general commands. All are commanded to give, to help, and to encourage. All may not be gifted in these areas, but it seems necessary that there be some who are thus gifted. All are not commanded to prophesy or to speak in tongues. I don’t think tongues are necessary for the work of God, but I don’t deny the possibility of tongues. I also question the practice of tongues by some Christians. Not all that is called tongues is biblical tongues, and much of what is practiced as tongues (whether genuine tongues or false) is not practiced as the Scriptures require. In spite of this, a blanket rejection of the possibility of tongues cannot be biblically sustained.

Paul showed love to be superior to all spiritual gifts because it is permanence. Spiritual gifts are not permanent because they are not perfect. Spiritual gifts are partial. We know in part, and we prophesy in part. Prophecy is never wrong or inaccurate; it is simply incomplete. Peter wrote of the prophets of old who spoke of the sufferings and glories of the Messiah who was yet to come and whose own writings puzzled them because they were incomplete (1 Peter 1:10-12). Paul was privileged to fill in some of the gaps of the Old Testament Scriptures by unveiling certain mysteries (Ephesians 3:1-13). Nevertheless, his revelations were partial. He did not reveal all that we would like to know. Because of this, his letters raised unanswered questions, and false teachers were quickly on hand to distort his writings (2 Peter 3:14-16).

God used th prophets of old to reveal all He wanted us to know—but not all there is to know nor all that we would like to know. When “the perfect” comes, the imperfect will no longer be necessary. The imperfect will be done away with. I doubt the completed canon of Scripture is “the perfect” which will come (13:10) is the completed canon of Scripture. More likely, Paul meant the kingdom of God for which we eagerly wait. Only then will we know fully, just as we are now fully known (see verse 12).

In verses 11 and 12, Paul told the Corinthian Christians, and us, that we should view spiritual gifts as we do the toys of our childhood. We kept some of our kids’ toys for when friends bring their children to our house and while they still delight small children, our kids themselves have moved on to other “toys” … musical instruments, cars, etc. Childish toys are great when we are children, but they should hold little attraction for adults.

Paul’s illustration taught an important lesson to the Corinthians and also gently rebuked their pride and arrogance. Did they think they were wise? Of course, they did (see 4:6-21)! But their wisdom and understanding were partial. In the light of eternity, such knowledge will be set aside as imperfect. Did the Corinthians believe they saw things clearly and that their perception of matters was accurate? Paul let them know their knowledge was sketchy compared to the perfect knowledge which will be ours in eternity.

Our perception of truth and reality is like looking in a cheap, old mirror which only imperfectly reflects reality. Our modern mirrors are so much better than those of Paul’s day. His mirror was probably like the “mirrors” at a highway rest stop. Many states use metal “mirrors” in their restrooms to cut down on vandalism. Those mirrors make it very difficult to see yourself clearly. The Corinthians did not see as clearly as they thought, either. At best, their knowledge was partial. They shouldn’t have clung to their spiritual gifts with pride and thought too highly of themselves. They should have possessed and appreciated all the gifts as temporary provisions of God, seeing them as partial and inferior to what eternity holds for us.

Paul declared love is not only better than any or all of the spiritual gifts, but that it is even greater than faith and hope. Spiritual gifts fail, while love lasts. Faith, hope, and love all “abide” (verse 13). While love is greater than spiritual gifts which do not last, love is also greater than faith and hope, which “abides” and “endures.” Faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). It won’t be necessary in heaven because we will be with God face-to-face. Hope too seems to be temporal.  “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it” (Romans 8:24-25). Faith is necessary for salvation because it waits for God to reveal His plans, but that level of trust in the unknown will be unnecessary when we’re with God in Heaven. We won’t need to hope for eternity any longer because we will already have received it. But love will still be there. Love is not something to look down upon as inferior to spiritual gifts and wisdom. It holds greater value than anything else.

Something of such great value must not only be esteemed, it should be sought. Jesus told the parable of the “pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:45-46). When the merchant found the one pearl of great value, he gladly sold all he had to purchase it. Paul told us that love is that “pearl of great price.” It is the thing of great value. The Corinthians, knowingly or not, sacrificed love in their pursuit of certain spiritual gifts (see chapter 8). Paul showed this was contrary to eternal values, since love is the greatest. One does not wisely sacrifice that of the greatest value for something of lesser value.

The first verse of chapter 14 is Paul’s “bottom line,” the application he wants his readers to accept and accomplish. In saying love is the greatest, Paul is not belittling spiritual gifts. He merely seeks to put spiritual gifts into perspective. Spiritual gifts are a gracious provision of God, but they are never to be pursued or practiced at the expense of love. Love is to be pursued as the “pearl of great price,” but the spiritual gifts are not to be neglected. Love is the attitude of heart which adds value to the gifts.

A former pastor of mine was descended from the Bach family of musicians, so it was a family requirements that he learn to play an instrument and many of the men in his family were accomplished fiddlers (he grew up in the Ozarks). He learned the notes and fingering and bow work, but he just wasn’t that good. He tried (and his sons wished he wouldn’t), but he couldn’t make a good violin “sing purdy.” Spiritual gifts are like the violin. They are good. When employed by immature, carnal, self-seeking Christians, however, spiritual gifts produce an unpleasant sound. When spiritual gifts are employed by spiritual Christians, those who walk in love, the gifts they exercise are beautiful; they are edifying to others. Love is one ingredient that can never be absent without being noticed. The Corinthians might have professed to pursue and practice love, but they were lacking in it.

Christian love is a huge topic, but you can summarize Paul’s teaching on the subject with two main statements:

  1. Love should be our priority
  2. Love should be pursued

Love as a Priority

Spiritual gifts have little value apart from love. Spiritual gifts do not abide, while love does. Love is even superior to faith and hope, which do abide.

This truth is not unique to Paul. The teaching of the entire Old Testament and of our Lord Jesus Christ can be summed up by one word—“love.” (See Matthew 22:34-40; Romans 13:8-10; John 13:34-35; John 15:12-13; John 15:17).

Love was the goal of Paul’s instruction:

But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (1 Timothy 1:5).

Peter and John referred to love as the highest level of Christian growth, and Paul spoke of it as the basis for edification (see 1 Peter 1:22-23; 1 John 4:7-11; 2 Peter 1:5-7; Ephesians 4:1-3, 14-16).

Love is to be a high priority for the Christian, but it is so quickly and easily lost. Certainly love was lacking in the church at Corinth. The church at Ephesus all too quickly lost its first love and did not even seem to know it (see Revelation 2:1-5.

THE PURSUIT OF LOVE

Love is not automatic. It’s quickly lost, and it comes about only when we make it our priority and pursuit. How does one pursue love? We begin by reading God’s Word and meditating upon it. This epistle was written not only to the saints at Corinth but to all the saints, including us (see 1:1-2). The first thing we gain from God’s Word is an accurate definition of love. Our society does not have the same definition of “love” as the Bible says Christians should hold. The Bible is the only source of truth which defines what love is and does.

As the Word of God speaks to us of love, we should recognize our lack of love, and repent of it. Surely as Paul’s description of love’s conduct begins to unfold in verses 4-7 of chapter 13, it became increasingly clear the Corinthians lacked love. As we meditate on these verses and many like them in God’s Word, our lack of love must be recognized and repented from as the serious sin it is. This is what Jesus called for in His letter to the Ephesian saints in Revelation 2 and it is what He requires of us today.

Having recognized our lack of love and repented of this deficiency, we must now look to God alone as the source of love. Love does not originate within us. We love as a result of God’s love for us. We are to keep ourselves in this love (1 John 4:19; Jude 1:20-21). 

If we are to keep ourselves in the love of Christ, we must never stray from the cross of Christ, because that is where God’s love for us was poured out (Romans 5:3-8).

The love we have received from God came in the form of a cross—sacrificial love. That is the kind of love we are to manifest toward others (John 15:13; Ephesians 5:25-27).

The way we demonstrate love toward God and toward others is by obeying His commandments. This is why the Old Testament law can be summed up in two commandments, both of which are the expressions of love. Legalism is man’s attempt to keep God’s law without love. Love is that state of heart which seeks to please God by keeping His commands. In chapter 14, verse 1, Paul instructed his readers to pursue love, and the rest of the chapter tells us how that is to be done. We pursue love by exercising our gifts in a self-sacrificial way that endeavors to edify others. If most of the church today ignores the instructions Paul laid down here, we can conclude the problem begins with a lack of love toward God and toward others. Love is not so much a warm and fuzzy feeling as the grateful disposition to please God and others at our own expense, by keeping His commandments as initially laid down in the Old Testament and clarified in the New.

Just a reminder that I’m speaking primarily to Christians because this epistle was written primarily to Christians, but now I want to say something to those who have not yet acknowledged their sin and trusted in the sacrificial death of Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. You cannot express the love of God until you have first experienced it. This is why some Christians scoff at you when you try to lecture them about love. Christian love is impossible for those who have not yet accepted the love of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ. I urge you to consider the awesome reality of God’s love, expressed toward you in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. Even while we were sinners, Christ died for us, to bear the penalty for our sins, and to give us His righteousness, as we place our trust in Him by faith. May you trust in Him this very hour and thus come to experience His love.

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Gifted versus Talented   Leave a comment

If you’ve ever been involved in church events, you are familiar with the jockeying for positions of leadership and power. Yeah, you know what I mean. The average pewsitter may think pastors and Christian leaders are so spiritual they would never compete with one another for position and power, but anyone who has been in church leadership knows better. Christians remain humans and so we see that part of our human nature in the church. Jesus called it out in the scribes and Pharisees, but He also saw it among His disciples.

Image result for image of spiritual giftsThe Corinthian Christians were no different. They sought status and judged themselves and others on the basis of their spiritual gifts. We know from the early chapters of First Corinthians that divisions existed in the church. The Corinthians divided over different leaders, and probably the leaders who seemed to possess the most highly regarded gifts were the ones with the largest followings. Paul wrote to the Corinthians to clarify the relationship between spiritual gifts and true spirituality. The Corinthian church was highly gifted. Paul said they did not lack any of the gifts (1:7). Yet these saints were far from spiritual. Paul informed them that they were so fleshly he was hindered from teaching them all they need to know (3:1-3). 1Corinthians 12-15 corrects many misconceptions regarding spiritual gifts and their relationship to spirituality. These words were needed in Paul’s day as well as in our own. Nearly every church, denomination, and Christian organization has its own spiritual “pecking order” regarding spiritual gifts and spirituality. Each of us needs to hear what Paul has to say on this subject. Let us study then with open hearts and minds, not to confirm what we already believe, but for correction in those areas where we may be uninformed or disobedient.

Let’s start by defining “spiritual gift”. A spiritual gift is a supernatural ability sovereignly bestowed upon every Christian by the Holy Spirit, enabling him or her to carry out their divinely assigned function as a member of Christ’s body, the church. Definition in a nutshell:

a spiritual gift is the supernatural ability to carry out the work of Christ through His church.

Spiritual gifts are dealt with in more than one New Testament passage:

Romans 12:3-8

Paul introduced the subject of spiritual gifts immediately after he called upon every Christian to present their bodies as a living sacrifice, the reasonable service of worship of every Christian (12:1-2). At Romans 12, Paul began to apply the doctrinal truths he had set down in the preceding 11 chapters. Spiritual gifts are the divine enablement which empower the Christian to worship God through serving Him as a part of the church, the body of Christ. The gifts enumerated in verses 6-8 are largely the “bread and butter” gifts, those gifts necessary for the on-going ministry of the church. Though addressing the Christians at Rome, Paul exhorts every Christian to exercise their spiritual gift, to do what God has equipped them to do. He also indicates the dangers which accompany each of several gifts.

1 Corinthians 12:8-10

Paul seems to have focused on the more unusual spiritual gifts. These gifts probably represent those gifts most highly valued by the Corinthian saints.

1 Corinthians 12:28-30

Paul provided us with another list of spiritual gifts, not identical with the list given in verses 8-10. Apostles, prophets, and teachers seem to emphasize a particular function or office in the church, while there are the more unusual gifts of tongues and interpretation of tongues, miracles, and healings named as well. In verses 8-10, Paul named gifts which some have, while in verses 28-30 Paul stressed that while some may possess a particular gift, not everyone does, nor should they be expected to possess it. Each gift listed is a possibility for all and a reality for some.

Ephesians 4:11

Paul again wrote about spiritual gifts. This short list of gifts was given in the midst of Paul’s exhortation for Christians to walk their talk, to practice their position and possessions in Christ (4:1). In the context, Paul emphasized Christian unity and its corollary, humility. The gifts of “apostles,” “prophets,” and “evangelists” refer to offices or functions which could be for the benefit of the church at large and are not restricted to a particular local church.

1 Peter 4:10-11

Peter spoke of the gifts in two major categories, those which are speaking gifts and those which are serving gifts. Peter emphasized the need for all who exercise their spiritual gifts to do so by divine enablement and not in the power of the flesh. Those who speak are to speak as though their words are the utterances of God. Their words should be God’s words and not their own. Those who serve should serve in the strength which God supplies. It is very easy to serve in the strength of the flesh and not by the power of the Spirit. If spiritual gifts are to produce spiritual fruit, they must be functioning by means of God’s power and not our own strength. Spiritual gifts, whether speaking or serving gifts, are a stewardship. We should employ these gifts as if they belong to God, because He entrusted them to us to be used for His glory, and for the advancement of His kingdom. Peter’s epistles were written in the context of suffering persecution for the sake of Christ. Peter urged his readers to live out Christ’s life and His sufferings (1 Peter 2:18-25). This is done, then and now, in part, as we exercise those spiritual gifts He has given us through His power and to His glory.

These are the only texts which actually list certain spiritual gifts. There are other texts (e.g., Acts 4:36) which refer to certain gifts individually. Paul’s words to Timothy are instructive to us on this matter of spiritual gifts.

2 Timothy

Image result for image of spiritual giftsPaul had at least three lessons for Timothy and for us. First, in 2 Timothy 1:6, we learn that spiritual gifts must be developed and maintained. Since spiritual gifts are sovereignly given, we are responsible to employ them in the most beneficial and efficient way. Second, in 2 Timothy 2:2, we see that spiritual gifts are to be reproduced. Timothy was to commit himself to faithful men who would also be able to teach others. Third, spiritual gifts are not an excuse to sidestep our responsibilities in areas where we are not gifted. In 2 Timothy 4:5, Paul instructed Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist.” Some might argue that Timothy was an evangelist. Perhaps so, but it seems that teaching was his primary gift. If Timothy had been a little slack in employing his spiritual gifts (1:6), he may have been slack in other areas which were not the area of his gifts and strengths. Nevertheless, evangelism was important and necessary, even if it was not his gift.

Our brief survey of the New Testament teaching on spiritual gifts allows us to make some observations regarding spiritual gifts. No list of the spiritual gifts includes all the gifts mentioned in the New Testament. Each list of gifts includes some of the gifts mentioned elsewhere but has its own unique elements. There are significant differences in the way gifts are viewed, even by the same writer. In every listing of the spiritual gifts where tongues is included, it is listed last. I’m not sure that is coincidence. I think it might be an important signal to those who think tongues are the most important gift. Finally, it seems the spiritual gifts listed in the New Testament are not a complete list but only a partial listing.

Common Characteristics of the Spiritual Gifts

If there may be other spiritual gifts than those specifically identified in Scripture, how would we know them? What sets a spiritual gift apart?

(1) Spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12).

These abilities aren’t not native within us; they are transmitted to us. I know some speak of a close relationship between natural abilities and spiritual gifts, but I am unconvinced by their arguments. Spiritual gifts are given to us to enable us to do what we cannot do in and of ourselves. We hear people speak of how this or that person could do so much for the Lord if they were saved, as if they think the natural abilities of men are simply baptized into one’s spiritual ministry. I see the human “strengths” of spiritual men like Peter and Paul who were set aside (perhaps even crucified) so that they ministered out of their weaknesses rather than out of their strengths (see 2 Corinthians 12:1-13).

(2) Spiritual gifts are divine enablement for service to and through the body of Christ.

Spiritual gifts are not given primarily for our own edification but for the edification of the body of Christ. Spiritual gifts are divinely bestowed strengths through which we may minister to the weaknesses (and needs) of others.

(3) Spiritual gifts produce spiritual results.

Spiritual gifts may be exercised through rather normal and mundane activities, but they differ from natural abilities in that they produce spiritual fruit. Spiritual gifts build up the body of Christ. A family may be facing a time of crisis or sorrow, and spiritual gifts may be exercised in ministering to them in their time of need. Someone may go to their home and clean; another may visit in the hospital; another may mow the grass. Sometimes that is just people being nice, but sometimes these activities are enabled by spiritual gifts. You can tell the difference when the use of spiritual gifts enables a spiritual result. Granted, the family in crisis could call a commercial lawn service to tend the yard, but the spiritually-inspired ministry of a Christian mowing the grass may produce encouragement for a Christian family or may result in evangelism if someone is unsaved. Spiritual ministry may look much the same as mere human service, but the result of spiritual service is spiritual.

(4) A spiritual gift is also a divine enablement which goes beyond the enablement the Holy Spirit gives other saints not gifted in the same way.

Jesus said, “apart from Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Apart from the miraculous working of God’s Spirit in us, we can do nothing. In this sense, nothing any Christian does will have a spiritual impact apart from the Spirit’s enablement. So when any Christian shares the gospel, the only way the unsaved person will be saved is by the working of God’s Spirit. Every Christian has a certain measure of enablement in every area of his or her Christian duty (i.e., keeping our Lord’s commands). Those spiritually gifted in an area show a greater measure of enablement than those who are ungifted in that area. Some seem even more gifted than others. It may well be through the prayers of a Christian who does not have any particular gift in this area that one dying of an illness may be cured. In the ungifted person’s life and experience, a healing would be an unusual event. We should expect the one who has the gift of healing to see healings more often. It may be that this is why we find “healings” in the plural in 1 Corinthians 12:30.

(5) A spiritual gift is the divinely provided enablement to carry out a task which God has given us.

I suspect that most of us have been taught that the first order of priority is to discover our spiritual gift(s), then to develop them, and finally to find a place of ministry where these gifts can be put to use. It may be the opposite in some, if not many, cases. In the Old Testament, men were divinely gifted to carry out the task God had given them to perform. Bezalel and others whom God designated to be craftsmen for the construction of the tabernacle and its fixtures were gifted by God to carry out this task (Exodus 31:1-11). The 70 elders, who were to help Moses judge the people of God, were given a portion of his (Moses’) spirit to enable and equip them for their ministry (Numbers 11:25). Elisha was given a double portion of Elijah’s spirit (2 Kings 2:9-15). Saul was chosen by God and designated as the king, and then he was endowed with the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Samuel 9:15–10:13). The same could be said of our Lord on whom the Spirit of God descended and remained at His baptism, equipping Him for His messianic ministry (Mark 1:9-13Luke 3:21-22; 4:1, 14John 1:29-34).

So What Did the Corinthians Get Wrong?

The church at Corinth was a troubled church and we can learn a great deal about Paul’s teaching on spiritual gifts if we pause to ask “What did the Corinthians get wrong in this area?”

You know they got something wrong, else Paul wouldn’t have spent so much precious ink and paper on addressing the topic. \

The Corinthians are proud and arrogant (1 Corinthians 1:18-31; 4:7-13, 18-21; 5:2; 8:1; 2 Corinthians 10). From what Paul wrote in chapters 12-14 (see 12:21), we know some of the Corinthians’ pride lay in the possession of certain gifts or the following of some with more esteemed gifts. We know the Corinthians prized certain gifts and disdained others. This resulted in many seeking to obtain gifts God had not given them and those possessing certain “lowly” gifts feeling they had no contribution to make. Those possessing the visible, verbal gifts seemed intent upon showing these gifts off in the church meeting (see 14:26). Those with the “best” gifts felt independently self-sufficient and didn’t sense their dependence on less visible members of the body (12:21). Paul had some well-chosen words for these carnal Corinthians about the relationship between spirituality and spiritual gifts, words which knock the props out from under their pride and self-sufficiency.

Unity in Diversity
(12:4-6)

Now there are different giftsbut the same Spirit. And there are different ministriesbut the same Lord. And there are different resultsbut the same God who produces all of them in everyone. (1Corinthians 12:4-6)

The Corinthian church had short-changed itself by buying into the error that really significant ministry occurs on a very limited band width. They believed the important ministries were carried on by a very few elite leaders whose gifts everyone else covets. Less than a handful of gifts, and the same number of ministries, are considered significant by the Corinthian Christians. If any Corinthian Christian wanted to play an important role in the ministry of that church, he or she would have to imitate the gifts and ministries of a very small group. The end result was a large group of people discontent with their gifts and ministries, who sought to emulate or imitate the gifts and ministries of those most highly regarded in the church.

Knocking the props out from the “elitist” view of ministry, Paul contended that the gifts of God which equip men and women for ministry are many-splendored things. There are diversities of gifts (verse 4), diversities of ministries (verse 5), and diversities of effects (verse 6).

Varieties of gifts.

I always understood this expression to mean that there are different gifts, but I now realize these numerous gifts are also numerous in kind. Consider this illustration of what Paul means. We know that in the days of Moses, God “gifted” Bezalel as a master craftsman so that he could oversee the task of fashioning the furnishings and equipment for the tabernacle (see Exodus 31:1-5). This man was a master craftsman with skills that surpassed any other living craftsman. Another gift in the Old Testament would be prophecy (see Numbers 11:25). Kings like Saul were given gifts of the Spirit to equip them for their ministry (1 Samuel 10:10-13). In the New Testament lists of gifts, we find some gifts are linked with official functions like apostles, prophets, and evangelists (see Ephesians 4:11). Some gifts are spectacular and are not necessarily on-going gifts or ministries. Other gifts, like the gift of helps, may seem more mundane but are very much needed.

A very wide range of gifts is possible, and not all of these gifts may be included in the lists provided in the New Testament. I further suggest that Christians may possess more than one spiritual gift and that our gifts may in fact be a blend of gifts. This means there can be an almost infinite manifestation of “gifts” in the church. Christians, I believe, are bestowed with a unique blending of gifts which perfectly equips them to serve in the body of Christ where God has placed them.

Image result for image of spiritual giftsI also believe that some spiritual gifts may be evident at one period of our life but not necessarily another. One may not appear to possess a certain gift at the present time, but may suddenly manifest that gift at a later time when that ability is required. Our Lord trusted in His Father from the beginning, but He was not empowered by the Spirit until the time had come for His ministry to commence (see Luke 3:21-22; 4:1-21). Paul was called as an apostle in eternity past, but he did not begin to function as an apostle until a number of years after his salvation. Not until the Holy Spirit set Barnabas and Saul apart for their apostolic ministry (Acts 13:1) did Paul begin to function as an apostle. The Spirit came upon Him in a unique, unexpected way, and from that time on, Paul was designated as the leader (see Acts 13:6-13). Paul might have been gifted by God to be an apostle at the time of his conversion, but his gift was not evident until the time came for him to function as an apostle years later.

There are more than a few gifts and, when given to us in a wide variety of blends, no two Christians look or function alike. There is great diversity among Christians regarding their spiritual gifts. But, in spite of this broad diversity, there is one Spirit who empowers all, and He is the basis for the unity which we all should expect and experience in this great diversity of giftedness.

There is also a very broad spectrum of the ministries in which these gifts are deployed. All too often the gifts are stereotyped, usually in terms of a characterization which fits a well-known evangelical personality. When we think of the gift of evangelism, we think of Billy Graham or Luis Palau. When we think of the gift of teaching, we think of John MacArthur or Beth Moore. When we think of mercy, we may think of Mother Theresa. When we think of faith, we perhaps think of men like Dietrich Bonhoeffer. These individuals may indeed possess these gifts, but there are an infinite variety of ways in which a particular gift may be employed. The spiritual gift is the God-given ability; the ministry is the sphere in which our divine enablement is exercised.

Evangelism need not occur in a large stadium and need not be practiced by a one-time exposure. It may occur in a living room, around a coffee table, and over a sustained period of time. Teaching may be done formally or informally. It does not always happen in a classroom or from behind a lectern. Not only is there a wide diversity of spiritual gifts, there is also an even broader range of ministries through which these gifts are exercised. But in the midst of this diversity, it is the same Lord who orchestrates our lives so that each of us ends up exercising our gifts in the context which He has purposed and provided.

Our ministries may also change over a period of time. This was certainly true for the apostle Paul who ministered effectively for years before functioning as an apostle. Not until after his first missionary journey did Paul begin to exercise his gifts through writing epistles. Joseph appears to have been given the gift of administration. It begins to emerge when he is still a youth of 17, working for his father back home, and far surpassing his brothers in skill. His administrative skills emerge in the household of Potiphar and in the prison and finally in the service of Pharaoh. Not only does my ministry differ from that of others who have similar gifts, but my ministry ten years from now may be very different from what it is at this moment.

Gifts will have a variety of effects. I always understood these effects to be in terms of success, but I now think I was wrong. Some teachers draw larger crowds and seem to be more effective at communicating the truth than others. Some evangelists see thousands saved in one exposure; others but a handful. There are different levels of effectiveness or success, and these levels have nothing to do with our natural skills or abilities. They are the result of God’s sovereign will, Who determines how successful we will be. And this “success” has little or nothing to do with our spirituality. Jonah was one of the most “successful” prophets who ever lived; Isaiah was one of the least successful. But I think we must agree that Jonah was not “spiritual,” and Isaiah was. Billy Graham was the only person in the congregation to go forward the night he was saved. I don’t think we can claim that country preacher was unsuccessful that night.

Effects doesn’t just refer to the success of a particular person and ministry but to the nature of the result. We think far too simplistically here. We suppose the gift of teaching takes place in a ministry where there is a class, a classroom, and a podium. We suppose the “effect” of this gifted teacher’s ministry is learning. But the goal of Christian instruction is obedience (see Matthew 28:18-20). Paul linked teaching or instruction with love (see 1 Timothy 1:5Philippians 1:9-11). Evangelism is not some special way of presenting the gospel as much as it is the proclamation of the truth of the gospel. As I look at the ministry of our Lord, I see Him teaching, not “evangelizing.” Paul told the Ephesian saints they did not “learn” Christ in a fleshly way (Ephesians 4:17-20). In the ministries in which I have been involved, many of those saved have been saved through a teaching ministry.

What the Corinthians Needed to Know About Spiritual Gifts
(12:7-11)

To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the benefit of all. For one person is given through the Spirit the message of wisdomand another the message of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spiritand to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another performance of miraclesto another prophecyand to another discernment of spiritsto another different kinds of tonguesand to another the interpretation of tongues. It is one and the same Spiritdistributing as he decides to each person, who produces all these things. (1 Corinthians 12:7-11)

Image result for image of spiritual giftsPaul began his instruction concerning spiritual gifts by indicating the Corinthians were ignorant of a number of truths which they needed to know. Please note what Paul did NOT say before we address what he did. Paul didn’t try to convince the Corinthian saints that there is no gift of tongues, or gift of interpretation of tongues, or faith. Paul wasn’t trying to distinguish between so-called “temporary” and “permanent” spiritual gifts, because all of the gifts are evident in the Corinthian church in that day (see 1 Corinthians 1:7). Yeah, we could debate about it. Charismatics and Baptists often wrangle on this subject. It’s a topic of disagreement in my own household. But let’s not let that debate dictate what the text says. This text is not about temporary and permanent gifts; it is about misconceptions regarding all gifts. Cessationism was not an issue at Corinth in Paul’s day.

Spiritual gifts are divinely bestowed upon every Christian.

No one is “ungifted” in the church of Jesus Christ, for each Christian has been individually given certain gifts (“each one,” 12:7; “individually,” 12:11). The work of the body of Christ is a supernatural work, and every believer has a place in the body and the spiritual enablement to perform their ministry.

Spiritual gifts are for the “common good” . 

Spiritual gifts are divine empowerment for service to and through the body of Christ. They are not primarily for the benefit of the one gifted by God. It is not our glory but His which we seek. We do not strive for our edification and building up through the exercise of spiritual gifts, but for the building up of the whole body of Christ (12:7; Ephesians 4:11-16). Those who seek certain gifts for the benefit they gain have already fallen short of the mark. Self-edification may be a fringe benefit, but it is not the major focus.

Spiritual gifts are a manifestation of the Spirit.

By direct statement or inference, Paul is clear that every spiritual gift possessed by the Corinthians is one given “through the Spirit.” It is the Spirit of God who lives out the life of Christ in and through us. Spiritual gifts are not an evidence of our spirituality but an evidence of the Spirit’s presence in our lives.

Spiritual gifts are a manifestation of divine grace.

In verse 1, the expression “spiritual gifts” is a translation of the original term meaning “spiritual.” Whether this means “spiritual things” or “spiritual people” is a matter of discussion, but the term “spiritual” is translated “spiritual gifts” in the NASB. When Paul gets to verse 4, however, he leaves the term “spirituals” behind and employs the Greek term whose root is Charis, the word for “grace.” Spiritual gifts are spiritual “graces.” They are not an indication of our merit or worth, but a manifestation of God’s sovereignly bestowed grace. There is never any basis for boasting in those things which are by grace, other than in the God Who graciously gave them (see 1:30-31; 4:7).

(5) In verses 8-10, Paul seems to list those gifts in which the Corinthians are most likely to take pride. The fleshly Corinthians are into wisdom and power. The gifts Paul sets down in verses 8-10 almost certainly reflect those manifestations of the Spirit in which the Corinthians take pride. Paul does not seek to precisely define each of these “gifts.” Some gifts are not mentioned elsewhere, and we could only conjecture as to where some of them may be illustrated or exemplified. If Paul did not find it necessary to precisely define each gift, I do not feel guilty for not doing so either. But there are many who would have us believe they know what each of the gifts named are. In particular are those two gifts, the “word of wisdom” and the “word of knowledge” in verse 8. I frankly do not have a handle on these two gifts (and some others). But I would point out that wisdom and knowledge are very important to the Corinthians. Perhaps Paul is simply reminding the Corinthians that whatever words of “wisdom” or “knowledge” they may seem to possess, they are the evidence of God’s gracious gifts sovereignly bestowed upon some of the saints.

Paul does not attribute the possession of any of these gifts to the recipient, but to the sovereign will and purpose of God the Spirit. 

These gifts are not described as the “gift of God” which results from agonizing hours of seeking on the part of the one thus gifted. No, these gifts are sovereign graces bestowed upon the believer “just as He wills” (verse 11).

I suggest we reverse some of our thinking on spiritual gifts and reject much of the remainder. God has given us a number of clear commands such as those outlined by Paul in Romans 12:9-21. Let us begin by focusing on these commands, and obey them in whatever circumstances God brings our way. In the process of obeying His commands, we will discover that God has given us a place of service. Rather than waiting to know our gifts and then seeking to serve God and His church, let us do the things God has commanded, trusting Him to empower us and produce supernatural results through His Spirit. We should give priority to those aspects of ministry which God has given us in which the power of His Spirit is evident. This does not always mean “success” as the world defines success. It is where spiritual fruit has been produced, where the gospel has been proclaimed, and where God has been glorified. Let us not agonize over the name or the label of the gift, but let us strive to develop the gifts God has given us (2 Timothy 1:6), and employ them as good stewards of the grace of God (1 Peter 4:10-11). Let us never take credit for what God has accomplished or take pride in God’s work in us or measure spirituality by one’s gifts.

Let us be confident that if we are a Christian, God has an important place of service for us, and He will provide us with all the means necessary to fulfill our calling. Spiritual gifts assure us that the body of Christ needs us and will suffer without us. Spiritual gifts enable us to do what God requires of us.

On the Potter’s Wheel   1 comment

What Life Events Shaped You Into Who You Are?

If you could think about all the events that unfolded in your life, which ones shaped you into who you are now?

ALL of the events? How about just the highlights? I suspect I am shaped even by the minute interactions I have with people in the grocery store line … I’m just unaware of it.

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When I was six years old, Fairbanks Alaska experienced a 100-year flood. It’s such a big deal here that people still date things as pre-Flood and post-Flood. A lot of us spent a couple of weeks living out of the backs of cars and eating WW2 K-rations salvaged from the flooded bomb shelters. My parents struggled with housing after that due to a string of rental houses with ruined furnaces and I ended up spending the winter with a friend of theirs who had a bunch of kids and a working heating system.

Image result for image clay on potters wheelThat experience taught me a lot about being tough to get through something because the water will eventually go down and your parents will eventually stop moving and you’ll get to live in a house with a bedroom again. But it also taught me to not really trust that this reality will be permanent and good. It won’t be. Rivers can raise again. Don’t get too comfortable. Keep some food in reserve and be ready to move what you care about to higher floors. Borrowing from a blog hop post a couple of weeks ago … winter is coming. Be prepared.

When I was 11, a teacher made me write a story for a class assignment. I HATED it. It was way too regimented for my tastes. But it set something off in me that made me the writer I am today. It certainly didn’t turn me off writing. It made me want to do a better job. Maybe I would have become a writer anyway, but I count that as a formative event.

My dad died when I was 12 and my mother promptly remarried her ex-husband. Earl had always been around. He was my brother’s father and Fairbanks was a small town. My dad tolerated his woman’s ex. I have a photo of them sitting on the bleachers at a baseball game. I guess they were friends … sort of. My brother says my dad was his model for being a stepfather … not bad considering he never lived with us. Earl had just moved back to town and happened to have his trailer parked in our back yard when my dad died of a stroke at a young age. He was supportive during a tough time. He still loved my mom. She may have felt she needed a man in her life. He wasn’t a bad guy … mostly. But I swore to myself that I would never be as faithless as my mother had been. I didn’t hate my mom for her decision. I didn’t hate Earl. I simply didn’t agree with their actions in that area and that meant that I have been much more careful in my relationships than they were. I noted their path and have tried very hard not to walk it.

When I was 16, I accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of my life. It wasn’t something we did as a family. I started going to church on my own and my parents thought I’d lost my mind when I tried to tell them about it. More than anything else, this changed my perspective on the world and my life choices. I’ve skipped a lot of rough roads that were options for me because I would pause often and ask if this was something a Christian ought to be doing. It has shaped many of my choices in my adult life.

I chose to work my way through college rather than take out student loans. My parents came from a debt-adverse generation. My father turned 16 the year the Great Depression started. My mother was six. They were careful with their money and only took on debt for houses and even then, the longest mortgage they ever took out was 10 years. They saved a little bit for me to go college, but I had to pay 75% of it. When the high school counselor was talking about student loans, I felt this big lump in my chest … like a lead weight threatening to drag me to the bottom of a deep, dark ocean. I decided to get a job and work my butt off to pay for college. I had help from Pell grants, but mostly, I paid my own way, either working while I was in school or working 2 or 3 jobs seasonally so I could concentrate on school during the winter. Except for two years when my daughter was little, I’ve been gainful employed since I was 14 years old, sometimes with more than one job. There is a great deal to be said about paying your own way and understanding your own value. It has a lot to do with why I view the world as I do.

I married Brad when I was 25. He makes me laugh until I can’t breathe and almost wet my pants. He has also made me cry … a lot. When our daughter was little, her dad and I went through a very rough time in our marriage when we decided it would not end in divorce, but we were separated for a while. I learned that you can’t change someone, but you can change your response to them so that, if they want to be with you, they will (sometimes) choose to change themselves. And if they don’t, then the choices you make won’t be fun, but God will be with you even then.

My life is not a field of clover today. Life will always hand you challenges. My daughter is a gypsy bluegrass musician who appears to be hiking through Canada with low-lives. It’s not my choice and I wish I could step in and intervene, but my own past teaches me that I can’t. People have to learn on their own and a long walk through Canada is maybe just what my little vagabond needs to grow up. She needs her own formative experiences. I have to trust God that He has a plan in all of this and I’ll understand it next year or a decade from now. Or maybe Bri will in 30 years.

We are the sum total of our experiences. God is the Master Potter Who has tossed me on His wheel and is shaping me to His purposes. “A potter has the right to do what he wants to with his clay, doesn’t he? He can make something for a special occasion or something for ordinary use from the same lump of clay.” Romans 9:21

Judging the Church   Leave a comment

The first four chapters of 1 Corinthians focus on the problem of fleshly divisions within the church. Little factions, each with their own leader, had arisen. Worldly wisdom was embraced in place of the wisdom of God in Christ. Pride was a distinguishing feature of these Corinthians. In their false pride, the Corinthians began to judge Paul (and other apostles) unfairly, and to look down upon him, his ministry, and his message. Paul had gently rebuked these saints, and at the end of chapter 4, he urged them to heed his admonition so that he would not have to come to them “with a rod” (4:21).

Image result for image of christian courtsWhile the Corinthians were wrongly dividing over petty distinctions, they were unwilling to separate themselves from a church member who persisted in a sin so abominable that even the pagans of very rowdy Corinth were shocked. Paul rebuked the church for failing to exercise church discipline on a man who was living with his father’s wife. Paul informed the church of his action, even from afar, and urged them to follow his example. They had somehow misunderstood his previous letter, supposing that he was teaching that Christian separation is separation from unbelieving sinners. Paul corrected this misconception not just for them, but for us as well.

The divisions Paul spoke of theoretically in chapter 4 are now addressed specifically in chapter 6. Paul sought to show the Corinthians the “higher road” of morality, which doesn’t come from civil laws but from the gospel.

When any of you has a legal dispute with another, does he dare go to court before the unrighteous rather than before the saints? 1 Corinthians 6:1

Paul had been exceedingly gentle in the previous chapters, only indirectly introducing the problem of divisions in the church. How dare the Corinthian Christians air their disagreements out before the unrighteous rather than go before the church!

Paul was distressed on many levels in this topic:

  • Disputes were erupting between believers in the church. Christians were at odds with one another.
  • These disputes between believers were being taken to the secular courts by these Corinthian believers.
  • Unbelieving judges were being asked to arbitrate between Christians.
  • When these disputes were taken before unbelieving judges, the whole ugly ordeal was carried out before the curious eyes of unbelieving spectators. The world gets to watch these Christians fight with one another in court.
  • These disputes had not been taken to the church, where they belong.

Remember what Jesus said about church discipline in Matthew 18? Disputes between believers should be resolved as privately as possible within the church, unless the wayward saint chooses to disregard the church, in which case that individual should be publicly disfellowshipped. Instead of these two individuals at Corinth going through this process, they took their grievances to the local courts to seek a judgment from an unbelieving judge. Paul was flabbergasted.

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 ChristiansInstead, does a Christian sue a Christian, and do this before unbelievers? 1 Corinthians 6:2-6

Paul asked a sequence of questions which indirectly exposed the pathetic condition of the saints at Corinth. Five times in this chapter Paul asks the question, “Do you not know…?” This strikes a very hard blow at the pride of the Corinthians, who think themselves so very wise, and Paul so very naive and provincial in his thinking. I suspect Paul had already taught on these subjects and was flabbergasted that they had forgotten.

Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” (see Daniel 7:21-22, 27;  Matthew 19:28; Revelation 20:4.

Paul assumes they do know it, and that their actions are completely contradictory to their theology. If Christians are going to reign with Christ and participate in the judgment of the world, how in the world could these Corinthians turn to the unsaved for judgment? If the righteous will judge the unrighteous at the Second Coming, how could the Corinthian Christians look to a heathen to judge the righteous

Do the Corinthians not know that they will be judging the angels? (See Isaiah 24:21-22; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Revelation 20:10)

If they know, why would they feel they are unable to judge in trivial matters of this life?

Both the Old and New Testament scriptures are clear that the saints will judge the world. However, there is no clear statement in the Old or New Testaments (other than this statement by Paul) that the saints will judge the angels. It is not a great reach to infer this, however. The saints will reign with Christ when He comes and establishes His kingdom. When Christ judges the world, we will participate. Through Jesus, God will also judge the angels . If this judging of the angels is also a part of Jesus’s reign, and if we shall reign with Him, then we too will judge the angels. Furthermore Paul, as an apostle, was given the authority to reveal that which is a mystery in the Old Testament. If the Corinthians had begun to trust in other (false) apostles, then perhaps it was time they reconsidered their source of authority and revelation. If they were listening to Paul, they would know such things.

Verse 4 is understood in a number of different ways, depending upon the translation. I prefer the translation (paraphrase) of J. B. Phillips: “In any case, if you find you have to judge matters of this world, why choose as judges those who count for nothing in the church?”  If the saints will judge both the world and the angels at the coming of Christ, why in the world would they turn to the world’s judicial system to pronounce judgment in a dispute between two believers? Paul had just written in 1 Corinthians 2:14-16, that natural men cannot understand thing Spirit of God, so why would church members turn to them for judgment in spiritual things?

Wasn’t there even one wise person among the Corinthians who was qualified to judge the dispute between these two believers? This church thought it was very wise. They were so quick to judge Paul and find him wanting. They proudly followed one leader and condemned the rest. Where were these Corinthian “wise men” when they were needed? They were very good at judging when they wanted, so why was no one able to judge such mundane matters? Believers were at each other’s throats before the world.

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!

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, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God. Some of you once lived this wayBut you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:7-11

For the competitive Corinthians, life was all about winning and losing. Lawsuits are certainly about winning and losing. Paul argued that any Corinthian Christian who took another believer to court had already lost. Going to court with a fellow-believer is a no-win situation. The better way is to take the loss. Yeah, Paul is telling us that it is better to be a victim than a victor. We want to argue against that because we don’t want to take a loss because of our pride. We don’t want to let the other person get the better of us. We don’t want to lose — money, possessions, prestige …. We protect and exercise our rights, no matter what the cost to others. Our rights are unlimited … the other guy’s can be limited.

Christians are supposed to have an utterly different value system from the unbeliever. When Jesus invited men to follow Him, they were instructed to “take up their cross daily” to follow Him. Thus, the Christian is a person whose life is dominated and directed by the cross of Calvary. It was on the cross of Calvary that Jesus was wronged to bring about our salvation.The wrongful death of Christ is the model for the Christian (see 1 Peter 2, 18-25). This is the reason Jesus taught His disciples not to retaliate, but to return good for evil (Matthew 5:43-48). Paul teaches us similarly (Romans 12:17-21). Jesus taught that if a man forces you to go a mile, you should go two miles instead (Matthew 5:41). The one who asks of us should receive from us (Matthew 5:42). Our goal in life is not to accumulate possessions or to protect and preserve them. We are to give all these things up, gladly. Our attitude should not be to seek our own interests ahead of others, but rather to seek the interests of others ahead of our own (Philippians 2:1-8). This being the case, we should be willing to be wronged and defrauded, especially for the sake of the gospel and for the testimony of the church.

Yes, I am an individual rights advocate, but the non-aggression principle teaches that my rights are not more important than the other person’s rights.

It is a terrible thing for a Christian to take another Christian to court. In verses 1-7, Paul addressed the plaintiff, the one who felt offended or ill-treated and urged him to take his grievance to the church and to risk suffering loss rather than damage the reputation of the church and hinder the gospel by exposing the sins of a brother to the world. Love covers a multitude of sins (Proverbs 10:12; 1 Peter 4:8). Paul then turned to the defendant, who might have been feeling self-satisfied at that moment, comforted by Paul’s rebuke of his adversary. Paul didn’t left him off the hook, though.

If the plaintiff must be willing to be wronged and defrauded, it’s not an invitation for others to wrong and defraud. Some of these Corinthians Christians are crooks, and they prey upon their fellow Christians. Paul warned them that heaven is not a haven for sinners, but a blessed sanctuary for those who have been saved, whose sins have been forgiven because they have forsaken their sins. Some Corinthian Christians were once sinners with sinful lifestyles, but that was the past, and this was the present. Paul provided a broad and all-inclusive list of their sins that include:

  • those who commit sexual sin outside of marriage (idolaters),
  • those who serve other gods of various kinds (idolaters),
  • those who commit sexual sins against their partner in marriage (adulterers),
  • passive (effeminate) and active (homosexuals) sexual deviates.
  • thieves
  • those who lust for what others possess (the covetous),
  • alcoholics (drunkards),
  • those who speak against others (revilers), and
  • con artists (swindlers).

This is a sampling of those who won’t make it into heaven because heaven is a holy place, because God dwells there. Consequently, unholy people will not be there.

The Corinthian church included people who had previously lived such sinful lives, but when they were saved, this became a past, which should be forgotten and forsaken. Salvation includes repentance. Repentance means that we not only agree with God that we are sinners, doomed to eternal torment, and that Christ’s righteousness will save us, but also that we turn from a life of sin to a life of righteousness. Of course this does not mean that we will live a life of sinless perfection. It means we can’t keep on living in sin, as we once did while we were unsaved. Salvation is the process of turning from darkness to light, from death to life, from sin to righteousness. Salvation means that we should never consider continuing on in sin, even though God’s grace is greater than all our sin (see Romans 6:1).

That’s a sobering thought! The gospel is about sinners who are turned from sin to righteousness. It is one of the greatest comforts for the Christian. What we were as unbelievers, we are not now as Christians. Our sins of the past are not only forgiven, they are forgotten by God. God doesn’t treat us like felons on parole. The Christian who was once a thief is not just an ex-thief; he is a new creation. Old things have passed away, replaced by a new person (2 Corinthians 5:17). What we once were as an unbeliever, we will never be again. No sinner is too far gone for God to save.

Paul had a very different view of the relationship of the past to the present than that popularly held by many psychologists and psychiatrists today. In the psychological world of our day, what one was in the past determines what he is in the present. This is why so much time and money is spent digging up the past. It makes a great excuse for sin in the present. Paul’s thinking was just the opposite for Christians. What we were in the past does not determine what we are today, because the cross of Christ separates us not only from our sins but from our past. Christ stands between us in the present and us as we were in the past. What we were is not what we are. The cross of Christ is the reason why we can be now what we were not then. Christians cannot and must not be crooks. It is not because Christians cannot sin, but because they must not sin. For a Christian to be a crook is for a person to return to that wicked state from which he or she was delivered by the grace of God in Christ.

When we were saved, we were completely saved, severed from our past identity and given a new identity. We were washed, cleansed of our sin and our guilt. We were sanctified, set apart from sin unto holiness. We were justified, legally declared righteous through the righteousness of Jesus Christ, imputed to us by faith. All of this transpired in the name of Jesus Christ.

Paul rebuked the Corinthian saints for failing to resolve their disputes with one another within the church. Paul wanted his readers to see the folly of taking spiritual matters before unbelievers, who have no grasp of the real issues. Paul knew, as the Corinthians should have known, that the legal system deals with the protection of men’s rights and the seeking of one’s self-interest, while the gospel is about the surrender of one’s rights and the seeking of the best interests of others. If the dispute cannot be resolved within the church, Paul advocated that the offended party suffer the loss, for the sake of the gospel. In no case should any Christian think that breaking the laws of man or God is something a person can continue after coming to faith in Christ, as though this doesn’t matter. Crooks do not go to heaven. Only saints do.

Why did Paul take this situation in Corinth so seriously? He was gentler with them over condoning sexual immorality in the church than he was about lawsuits between Christians. The issue is the unity of the church, the body of Christ. The church is one body, and believers are all brothers. The focus of each believer is to build up the body of Christ, which means that he must build up individual believers. Taking a fellow-believer to court is not what building up is about. Generally, we take another person to court to take him apart. The church is a temple, the dwelling place of a holy God. To destroy the temple by attacking its members is to invite divine destruction (3:16-17). Lawsuits in Corinth were a denial of the gospel. To continue to act as we formerly did as sinners denies the radical change the gospel makes. We were sinners; we are now saints, a holy nation, declaring the excellencies of Him who saved us (1 Peter 2:1-11). As Christians, we cannot persist in thinking and acting as we formerly did, apart from Christ.

Introduction to 1Corinthians   Leave a comment

Brad and I have been renewing an acquaintance with a man who used to be a good friend and in doing so, we’re confronting a lot of our beliefs and his. This man claims to be a Christian. In fact, he used to be our Sunday School teacher. But he went seriously off the rails a few years back, which contributed to the church we were attending at the time going seriously off the rails and our family deciding to attend another church. He no longer attends our old church either, which is probably a good thing … for that church and possibly for him. He still comes around to us now and again and we still care about him, so we’ve been discussing our appropriate response toward him. As always, we turn to the Bible for guidance.

First Corinthians is a tough book in modern times because Paul might as well be preaching to 21st century Christians. In other words, it is a perfect book for today when Christians have so many voices trying to tell them how they should live. Early Christians, some of whom had met Jesus in the flesh, recognized Paul’s letters as something special, worthy to be preserved, copied and distributed. Peter himself alludes to Paul’s writings as “from God”. We ought to pay attention to what those who knew Jesus personally thought was scripture because these people would have objected if it ran counter to what Jesus taught.

Before we begin our study of the first chapter of 1 Corinthians, it would be good for us to view the book as a whole. Why? Because 1Corinthians was not written as a series of disconnected verses or passages that someone stuck together into a book, but as a letter to a specific group of believers — people Paul knew — about specific circumstances. as summarized in this outline:

The letter can be outlined in this way:

1:1-9

Introduction: Salutation (verses 1-3) and thanksgiving (verses 4-9)

1:10–4:21

Dealing with divisions within the church

5:1–6:20

Dealing with sin that separates believers from God

7:1–10:33

Questions answered

11:1–14:40

Church Conduct—Diversity without divisions

15:1-58

The Doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus Christ

16:1-24

Conclusion—Getting Personal

I wonder how most Christians would feel about being sent to a church like the one in Corinth, as described in the two epistles of Paul to the Corinthians. I suspect most of us would hesitate to be planted there because, from a purely human point of view, the church in Corinth appears to be hopeless.

Yet, Paul’s introductory statements were positive, upbeat, and optimistic. His prayers concerning this church were filled with expressions of thanksgiving. That doesn’t make sense. How could Paul be so positive and optimistic as he communicated with this church? Some would like to say that Paul actually was commending this church for its attitudes, but when you read his actual works, it’s clear that he didn’t condone the conduct of many of its members.

It’s tempting to skip over Paul’s salutation, as if it were just a boiler plate greeting that means nothing, but in our studies, Brad and I realized that Paul began to lay out a theological foundation for his ministry and the teaching he presented throughout the letter.

With the elaborations of this letter Paul begins a habit that will carry through to the end. In each case the elaborations reflect, either directly or subtly, many of the concerns about to be raised in the letter itself. Even as he formally addresses the church in the salutation, Paul’s mind is already at work on the critical behavioral and theological issues at hand. Gordon D. Fee, “The First Epistle to the Corinthians” (Grand Rapis, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993), page 28

Paul’s letter was written within a certain context. It fits into history which comes down to us in the Book of Acts. At the end of the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas, the Jerusalem Council met to decide just what should be required of Gentile converts (Acts 15:1-29). When Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways, Paul took Silas with him and set out on a second missionary journey (Acts 15:36-41) while Barnabas went on a separate journey with John Mark. Paul and Silas began by revisiting some of the churches that had been founded on the first journey, primarily delivering the decision of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 16:4-5).

After being divinely prohibited from preaching in Asia (Acts 16:6) and Bithynia, Paul, Silas, and Timothy ended up at Troas, where Paul received the “Macedonian vision” (16:9-10), which brought them to Philippi where a number were saved and a church was established. From Philippi, Paul and his party went to Thessalonica, then to Berea, and finally to Athens (Acts 17). From Athens, Paul went to Corinth, the seat of government of the Roman province of Achaia. Paul met Aquila and his wife Priscilla in Corinth. Like Paul, they were tentmakers. They had fled from Italy because of a command from Claudius that all Jews must leave Rome (Acts 18:1-3). Every Sabbath, Paul went to the synagogue, where he sought to evangelize Jews and Greeks (Acts 18:4). Eventually, Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia to join Paul at Corinth. Apparently, they brought a gift from the Macedonians which enabled Paul to fully devote himself to the Word, so that he gave all of his efforts to preaching Christ (Acts 18:5).

Paul’s preaching prompted a hostile reaction from the unbelieving Jews, so he left the synagogue and began to concentrate on evangelizing Gentiles (Acts 18:6-7). Paul moved his headquarters to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a Gentile “God-fearer” who lived near the synagogue (Acts 18:5-7). Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, became a believer and brought his household to the Lord. Many other Corinthians were also being saved and submitting to baptism (Acts 18:8). The Lord appeared to Paul in a vision, assuring him that there were many more souls to be saved in that city and that he was not to fear. He was to speak out boldly and not hold back for fear of trouble (Acts 18:9-10). As a result, Paul extended his ministry in Corinth, staying a total of 18 months, which was a longer period of ministry than in almost any other town.

Paul’s lengthy ministry was facilitated, in part, by a ruling of Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia (18:12-17). The Jews seized Paul and brought him up on charges before Gallio, accusing him of being neither a faithful Jew nor a good citizen, that he was speaking and acting against the Law of God and the law of Rome. Paul wasn’t given the opportunity to speak in his own defense. Gallio simply gave his ruling, seeing this strife between Paul and the Jews as yet another instance of the in-fighting which was so typical of the Jews. Fed up with this situation, Gallio refused to be used by these Jewish zealots to prevail over their Jewish rivals. He threw them and their case out of court.

Gallio was a pagan who cared nothing for the Jews, the gospel, or Paul, but his ruling was a landmark decision, officially legitimizing and protecting those who preached the gospel throughout the entire Roman Empire. Judaism was an official religion, recognized and sanctioned by the Roman government. The Jews were seeking to convince Gallio that Paul was really no Jew and that the preaching of the gospel was not the practice of Judaism. They inferred Paul was a threat to the stability of Roman rule and that neither Paul nor any other Christian should be allowed to preach the gospel under the permission and protection of the Roman law. When Gallio refused to rule on this matter, calling it a Jewish squabble, he declared Paul’s preaching of the gospel to be a practice of Judaism. As far as Gallio could see, Christianity was a Jewish sect and thus protected by Roman law. This meant Paul’s ministry was legal, and any Jewish opposition could not claim Rome as their ally.

The Jews were furious. In retaliation, they seized Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and began to beat him in front of the proconsul, who looked on with disdain, mostly unimpressed and thoroughly unconcerned. This Sosthenes seems to be the same person who is with Paul as he writes to the Corinthians (1Corinthians 1:1).

 After about 18 months of ministry in Corinth, Paul set out for Syria with Priscilla and Aquila. On reaching Ephesus, Paul ministered for a short time, promising to return if the Lord willed (Acts 18:19-21). He left Priscilla and Aquila there and journeyed on to Caesarea, Jerusalem and Antioch (Acts 18:18-22). After visiting the churches in Asia Minor, Paul returned to Ephesus, where he taught in the school of Tyrannus for two years. While in Ephesus, it appears he received unfavorable reports about the Corinthian church which prompted him to write his first letter to this church. This letter was not preserved as a part of the New Testament canon (1 Corinthians 5:9-11). We don’t know why or what became of it. It’s one of the questions I want to ask when I see Paul in heaven. Given the overall consistency of Paul’s entire body of writing, it is unlikely that this letter would vastly change his message to the Corinthians … or to us in the 21st century.

Later, while Paul was still ministering in Ephesus, he heard from some of “Chloe’s people” that divisions were emerging in the church at Corinth and that there was a case of gross immorality in the church. Instead of feeling shame and sorrow over this sin, at least some of the Christians in Corinth were proud of their tolerance (chapter 5), which might sound somewhat familiar to us today. Paul also heard of Christians taking their fellow-believers to court, seeking to have pagans pass judgment on spiritual matters (chapter 6), of unbecoming conduct at the Lord’s Supper (chapter 11) and of doctrinal error concerning the resurrection (chapter 15). A three-man delegation consisting of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus arrived from Corinth (1Corinthians 16:17) bringing a letter which asked Paul about marriage (1Corinthians 7:1), virgins (7:25), food sacrificed to idols (8:1), spiritual gifts (12:1), the collection for the saints (16:1), and Apollos (16:12). Paul then wrote 1 Corinthians in response to the reports and questions he had received.

Posted January 22, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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This is Love   Leave a comment

When Jesus was asked to love the world composed of individuals, He carried His own cross the Calvary. For those of you who think God is a cosmic meanie who delights in abusing mere mortals, just take a pause and consider that for a moment. Jesus was God Incarnate – God in the flesh — and He chose to go to the cross for your sake, even if you hate Him.

In 1945 Roddie Edmonds, a 26-year-old US Army Master Sergeant, was the highest-ranking soldier among the 1292 American POWs in the camp. Circumstances had made him their commander, responsible for their well-being. He’d been in the camp for a month when the German commandant ordered all Jewish American soldiers to line up outside the barracks the next morning.

Edmonds told his men “We’re not doing that. We’re all falling out.”

Image result for image of grocery checkout hellThe commandant knew all 1300 men could not be Jews. He knew there were about 200. When he ordered Edmonds to identify them, Edmonds, an evangelical Christian, insisted they were all Jews. The commandant put a pistol to his head and again demanded that he identify the Jews.

 

Somehow, when most men couldn’t think, Edmonds rattled off his name, rank and serial number. He then reminded the commandant that if he shot Edmonds, he’d have to shoot the entire 1300 and that would assure that the commandant would be tried for war crimes since everybody knew it is was just a matter of time before the Americans won the war. The commandant walked away. Months later, Edmons and his men were rescued.

We’d all like to think we would show the same resolve as Edmonds did in similar circumstances. I suspect I’d wet my pants. Would I have started identifying the Jews? I don’t know. Survival is a pretty high ideal of mine. With a gun to my head, I’m not sure if I could have thought so clearly.

Pastor Chris Edmonds, who only recently learned of his father’s bravery, points out that none of the men under Edmonds’ command pointed out the Jews. “They all stood together.” Chris Edmonds adds that his father’s story “is a clarion call to love one another regardless of our choices or faith. He stood against oppression. He stood for decency. He stood for humanity. This thing we call life – it’s about all of us, not one of us.”

Jesus gave up His human life for all of us, though we still come to Him as individuals. In the Western world, we think of love as a personal relationship with another person, but that “love” appears dependent upon what the other person does for us. The Greeks had a whole vocabulary for “love” that included mere lust, friendship love and agape love, which is the big expansive love for our fellow human beings that can express itself as caring for the well-being of another group of people without thought for our own well-being. It’s more than a personal love. Edmonds showed that love in practice.

That day in 1945, Edmonds’ decision was to love the men under his command with his own life. He didn’t choose to be an individual that day, but to live or die as a member of his troop. Maybe the commandant was actually bluffing that day, but I suspect the authority of agape love somehow overwhelmed his own authority. He couldn’t pull the trigger because he too recognized the love that Edmonds was representing.

Agape love doesn’t just happen on the battlefield. Christians are called to express it in every circumstance. Yeah, the world is full of jerks, but that doesn’t mean we have to become jerks ourselves. Brad absolutely hates to go through the checkout line at the market because there’s always someone there doing something stupid. They can’t figure out how to scan one item or they are in the “less than 15” line with 30 items or they can’t find their POS card. He gets himself all worked up inside his head and he carries that anger with him after he leaves the store. He tends not to say anything aloud. That would be me, but I’m irritated far less often … not that it makes a bit of difference to our relationship with Jesus, our fellow shoppers or with ourselves. The thing about sin is that it occurs within us before it leaks out to the surface. It’s our thoughts and actions that cast a shadow on our day, not the actions of the other shopper. Oh, yeah, we justify our irritation. We were right and they were wrong.

And yet, as we drive away, we may be tense and fuming, causing damage to our own bodies. We blame the world for not yielding up the perfect set of circumstances. We comfort ourselves that the other shopper was at fault, not our weakness of character. We tell ourselves that people like Roddie Edmonds are special and that the range of human choices is different for us than for them.

People like Edmonds will seem rare until more of us honor our mutual interdependence as we encounter the small things in life. When faced with a big challenge our self-serving behavior may kick in because our muscles to practice agape are flabby. There’s no reason to hate ourselves for that. We just need to learn to see the world through Jesus’ eyes. When we give into the anger that the world seems to bring about, then we only hurt ourselves and our witness as Christians.

Take a moment. Take a deep breath. Resolve to do better next time. Remember, we’re all in this world together … and God no doubt had a reason for doing it that way.

Posted January 15, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Examined living

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A Thought for the Season   Leave a comment

It’s a basic point of fact that you don’t miss what you’ve never had. I don’t miss palm trees at Christmas because I’ve never experienced Christmas somewhere warm. My friend Sylvia is from Australia. She finds snow at Christmas a really odd concept that interferes with the picnic at the beach.

Image result for image of merry christmasSimilarly, because I was raised in Alaska before the Carter administration, by people who were born well before World War 2, I understand something of freedom where many folks … like my blue-bubble-dwelling sister-in-law (whom I love!) do not.

“I’m just about as free as I want to be,” Ana proclaims.

Here’s the problem. How can she really know what she’s missing if she’s never had experienced it before? The less free we are, the less we know what freedom feels like and and the less we understand how it shapes who we are. The more dependent on government we become, the less we crave independence. This is why it is important to find literature that takes us out of our present moment and introduces us to different ways of thinking.

We have to imagine a different ideal, or read an author who did it for us. I’m now reading a book that came out right at the end of the Gilded Age, just before the US adopted the permanent income tax and the Fed and became entangled in World War I. It is the last unclouded look at the mindset of what should be called the real “greatest generation.”

Orison Swett Marden (1850-1924) is the author of The Joys of Living. You can download an epub his book on this link.

I first bumped into his writing when researching the entrepreneurs of the Gilded Age. He turns out to be the great psychologist and sociologist of the generation that built the modern age in America. He was a physician, a hotel owner, and a fantastic thinker and writer. He was the editor of Success magazine, a hugely influential publication during the age when Americans adored their inventors and entrepreneurs.

I admire the time he lived in because it was built by unleashing of the capitalist spirit in the second half of the 19th century. It was the height of the age of laissez faire. Slavery was gone. Women gained authentic rights. Upward social mobility was a common expectation. Lives lengthened. Infant mortality fell dramatically.

In one generation, creative and motivated people could move from poor immigrant to wealthy benefactor of museums. The rich of yesterday became the middle class of today, even as tomorrow would mint the newly rich, and the process continued without end, each advance touching everyone throughout society with new products, new services, and new forms of communication and transportation. It all seemed to point to a future of peace and prosperity. Such inventions were celebrated in great public spectacles called World’s Fairs.

It was a time when incomes were not taxed — a major factor in why it could be accumulated to become powerful investment capital. Most schooling was private or community based. There was no professional licensure. There were no passports. There was not a single regulatory bureaucracy in Washington. There was no welfare state. No one had yet experienced a world war.

Orison Swett Marden was the public intellectual who made sense of it all. A serious journalist, a great thinker, and a wonderful writer, his outlook embodied the ebullient optimism of the Gilded Age. He studied the phenomenon of progress, trying to discern its causes. He located them in the hearts and minds of the men and women who made the difference. He devoted his life to chronicling their lives and the lives of those they touched with their creativity and generosity.

“The greatest conqueror of age is a cheerful, hopeful, loving spirit.”

The point was not to celebrate privilege, but rather to see the possibilities available to every person. Marden himself was like many of the first-generation rich of this period. He came from poverty and had faced family hardship as he worked his way out of difficulty to find promise and reward. He saw how the sacrifices made in youth turn to a bounty in middle age. He understood the cause and effect operation of the universe — hard work, dedication, determination, and dreams could remake one’s world and the world around them.

The greatest discovery of the time was not a technology, but a philosophy that understood the individual human mind was the most productive resource on the planet — more powerful than all natural resources or man-made machinery. The human mind was the real engine of progress and prosperity.

Previous generations believed they were trapped by fate, class, social position, or forces more powerful than themselves. The Gilded Age generation saw the truth that nothing could contain an idea whose time had come, so long as there were great men and women around who believed in it and acted upon it. This is why so many notable men of his time cited Marden as their inspiration:  Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone and J.P. Morgan.

Marden’s recipe came with three ingredients: seeing, emulating, and acting. Nothing was impossible. No one was faced with circumstances that would invalidate them from doing something in life. The source of joy is around us, but we have to seek it, see it, embrace it, and expand upon it.

Daily discouragements and obstacles are unavoidable features of life. They exist in all times and places. You can never get rid of the enemies of your personal progress, but you can make the most of things as they are. We all blunder, make mistakes, and have plenty of reason to criticize ourselves, but that is very unproductive activity. You can’t accomplish anything for the future if you’re always looking over your shoulder to the past.

“Nothing is more foolish, nothing more wicked, than to drag the skeletons of the past, the hideous images, the foolish deeds, the unfortunate experiences of yesterday into today’s work to mar and spoil it.”

The right entrepreneurial spirit is to think of the past as dead and tomorrow as not yet born. The only time that really belongs to us is right now. By making the president the best we can one decision and action at a time, we can make a great future for ourselves. The art of living is the art of living in the temporary moment.

Marsden’s book was unapologetically designed to inspire, and it does this as few books I’ve ever read. It really amounts to spelling out a life philosophy, one that is deeply practical and actionable in every way on a daily basis. He stays away from the larger questions of who we are, how we got here and what we should seek as the purpose of life and focuses instead on the smaller questions that are more interesting and effective, the more mundane aspect of philosophy, like how we should approach each day in order to get the most out of life, no matter what are calling is.

Do everything with a sense of joy, a spirit of awe, and an ambition to drive forward the engines of progress.

I don’t think this book could be written today. We lack the social template that could produce it. People today are too vexed, burdened and distracted to see these things as Marden saw them. We are too often blind to the reality that he illuminates in these pages, but that doesn’t mean that it is not our reality too.

Nowhere does he talk of storming Washington, agitating for our rulers to overthrow themselves or sending institutions into upheaval. He doesn’t agitate for societal transformation and uplift. He speaks instead to the individual. He tells you what you can do in your time, right where you are, to bring happiness to your life. Social and political change is an effect. It comes only after we change ourselves.

His values: work, creativity, seeking out joy, feeling happiness, letting go of the past, living in the present, never regretting mistakes, never feeling fear, always being loyal, spreading good cheer, looking past obstacles, being kind to others, staying out of debt, keep life balanced between the need for money and the need for beauty, and never losing one’s ideals. This is the essence of the Marden world view.

“No one can be really happy or successful unless he is master of his moods.”

My whole experience suggests that personal inspiration is the ingredient lacking in the current generation of people who have come to love liberty. They have access to texts, knowledge, and theory as never before in human history. What they lack is a method for using what they know and the personal drive to do so.

People are too quick to blame outside forces for failure without realizing that outside forces conspiring against progress are part of the structure of all environments in all times and places. This book provides that missing element, that key to brush away despair and unlock the inner drive to make a difference.

 

Here are some choice passages –

“The golden opportunity you are seeking is in yourself. It is not in your environment; it is not in luck or chance, or the help of others; it is in yourself alone.”

“The trouble with many people who lack imagination is that they have no utopia, no vision, and life is a hard, monotonous grind. Everyone should have a utopia and should live in it much of the time — a place where everything is ideal, and where everybody and everything is what they ought to be.”

“Man was made for growth — to realize poise of mind, peace, satisfaction. It is the object, the explanation, of his being. To have an ambition to grow larger and broader every day, to push the horizon of one’s ignorance a little further away, to become a little richer in knowledge, a little wiser, and more of a man — that is an ambition worthwhile.”

“Books make it possible for every person born into the world to begin where the previous generation left off.”

“Debt is one of the greatest sources of unhappiness, especially with young married people.

“One of man’s greatest passions is that of achievement, the passion for doing things, the ambition to accomplish.”

“No one can be really happy or successful unless he is master of his moods.”

“Do not flatter yourself that you can be really happy unless you are useful. Happiness and usefulness were born twins. To separate them is fatal.”

“Nothing else more effectually retards age than keeping in mind the bright, cheerful, optimistic, hopeful, buoyant picture of youth, in all its splendor, magnificence; the picture of the glories which belong to youth — youthful dreams, ideals, hopes, and all the qualities peculiar to young life.”

“The greatest conqueror of age is a cheerful, hopeful, loving spirit.”

Sherry Parnell

Author of "Let the Willows Weep"

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