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Paul Greets the Church at Corinth   Leave a comment

Paul the apostle was well-known to the Christians at Corinth. He’d ministered there for 18 months only a few years before. Paul lived in Corinth around AD 53 and at Ephesus, where he wrote the letter we call 1Corinthians, from AD 55-56. Some of what he dealts with in the letter were concerns the church had actually asked him about while other topics were concerns Paul had heard about from believers who were from Corinth or had recently traveled through there.

Preamble
(1Corinthians 1:1-3)

Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I doubt the Corinthians were surprised to receive this letter. Paul had already written one letter which was not preserved for us. Paul was the first to present the gospel in Corinth,, so many of the members of the church in Corinth were the fruit of his ministry (1 Corinthians 9:2; 2 Corinthians 3:1-4). Paul wrote with apostolic authority. By the will of God, he had been chosen and called as an apostle, so he wrote with full authority and his words were not to be ignored.

Paul addressed his letter to the church at Corinth and then proceeded to define the church. We ought to pay close attention to that definition. Paul asserted that the church belongs to God. It didn’t belong to the pastor or the members. The church at Corinth belonged to God as our churches today should belong to God. God is the One who brought the church into existence through the shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. God is the One who sustains His church. It is God’s church.

The “church” is defined in two categories: (a) the local church and (b) the church universal. The local church is that body of believers who gather regularly in one place. The “universal church” consists of all believers in every place and in the whole course of church history. But we recognize that Paul defined the church as (a) “those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling,” and (b) “all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 2).

The first category roughly correlates with “the local church.”, but when Paul spoke of the church, he simply referred to a group of believers. Sometimes this group was a “house church,” a group of believers meeting in a certain person’s home (Romans 16:5, 19; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 1:2). These “house churches” may have met in a larger gathering, as did the saints in Jerusalem (Acts 2:46). Then, Paul referred to the “city church,”  — the group of all believers in a particular city (Revelation 2 and 3) or the church at a particular city (Acts 11:22; 13:1; 18:22; Romans 16:1). This is the way Paul referred to the Corinthian church, the “church of God which is at Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1). Finally, Paul spoke of the church as all those living at one time, who have trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation.

Our view of the church is sometimes too narrow (the local church—our church) and sometimes too broad (all those who have ever lived and trusted in Christ for salvation). We pray for our missionaries, the missionaries we have sent out from our local church, or more broadly, from our denominational group. A few churches share with those in need within their own fellowship or local church. When the new believers (the church) at Antioch heard a famine was coming upon the world, they enthusiastically began to prepare to give to their brethren in Judea. They understood, even at this early stage in their growth and maturity, that the church is bigger than the local congregation.

In this broader sense of the church, Paul’s epistle, though addressed to the saints at Corinth, was also written to the church at large. Look once again at the first two verses of Paul’s salutation: “Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.”

This broader element in Paul’s salutation is important because Paul’s teaching to the saints at Corinth is just as applicable and authoritative for the church at Philippi, Ephesus, Dallas or Fairbanks, Alaska. Too many have tried to avoid Paul’s teaching in his Corinthians letters by insisting he was speaking to a very special and unique problem found only in Corinth. This simply does not square with Paul’s words. His instructions to the Corinthians apply to every other saint, those who lived then and those who live now.

Thanksgiving
(1:4-9)

I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

It’s not a standard reaction to express thanksgiving when a church has begun to listen to false teachers and is challenging godly authority. The church at Corinth was condoning immorality and unconditionally accepting a man whose sin shocked even the unbelieving pagans of that city. This church’s personal conflicts were being aired out before unbelieving eyes in secular courts. How could Paul possibly give thanks?

The point is to understand what Paul gave thanks for. He wasn’t praising the sins and failures of these saints. He thanked God for what He had done and for what He will ultimately do for His children. Paul gave thanks for the “grace of God,” which He has given the saints in Christ Jesus (verse 4). Grace is unmerited favor, and we must surely agree that these Corinthian saints were as unworthy of that grace as we are in the 21st century. The good things which have already been accomplished, and all those good things yet to be accomplished, are manifestations of God’s infinite grace, bestowed upon those who are unworthy.

That in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God’s grace to the saints in Corinth and everywhere was boundless. He enriched them in everything. They were enriched in all speech and all knowledge, achieved through the preaching of the “testimony of Christ,” as it was confirmed in the individual believer. The Corinthians had no critical need for which God had not made provision through the preaching of Christ. Were there false teachers who indicated the Corinthians were lacking and that they needed more of something? Any who taught that were liars! God had already provided all that was necessary for “life and godliness” in Christ (2 Peter 1:2-4). No gift was lacking in the church. God had provided just the right gifts for the growth, maturity and ministry of the saints in Corinth. If the church at Corinth was failing, it was not due to any failure on God’s part to provide for their needs, but rather a failure on their part to properly claim and use those resources.

Finally, Paul expressed his thanksgiving for the faithfulness of God and the resulting assurance that He would complete that which He had begun in the Corinthian saints (verses 7-9).

These saints were eagerly awaiting the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ (7a). Their salvation had not only past and present benefits, referred to earlier, but a future hope. Their salvation and security were God’s doing. Consequently, Paul had great confidence concerning this church and the future of each saint. Paul thanked God because He would confirm these saints to the end. What God had started, He would finish. They were secure, and their hope was certain, just as Peter also wrote:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).

While these Corinthian saints weren’t consistently faithful, God is faithful. It is through His faithfulness that each believer has been called to salvation. It is because of His faithfulness that we will persevere and enter blamelessly into His kingdom in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In spite of the stumbling and sin which is evident in the Corinthian church, God had saved the saints there. He had sufficiently provided for their every spiritual need, purposing to present them faultless when He establishes His kingdom. Paul was assured that his ministry was not in vain, because the salvation and sanctification of the saints in Corinth and elsewhere are the work of God. The God who called these saints and destined them for glory was the same God who called Paul to be an apostle and to minister to these saints. Paul’s work was not in vain, for his work was ultimately God’s work.

Conclusion

Paul wrote to a very troubled church, a church which existed in the midst of a very corrupt city and culture. In spite of this, Paul had a very confident mood as he addressed the saints at Corinth and around the world of his day and ours. Despite the weaknesses and willful sins of these saints, Paul did not question the reality of their conversion, but began his letter by affirming the present and future benefits of their salvation. These saints needed to be reminded of the certainty of their salvation, the foundation of which rested not within themselves, but in the One who called them and the One who will complete all that He has begun. This certainty assured Paul that his continued ministry to this church was not in vain.

Reading this letter, we ought to reject the myth of the perfect New Testament church. The New Testament 21st century churches face many of the same challenges. We are shepherded by individual pastors, meeting in different buildings in many different cities and countries, but we recognize Christ as the only Head of the church. So often Christians look back to the New Testament times as though the church in those days was nearly perfect. If you read the Book of Acts the way I do, there is a wonderful period of bliss in the infancy of the church, but this lasted only from late in chapter 2 to the end of chapter 4. In chapter 5, a couple was struck dead for lying to the Holy Spirit. In chapter 6, there was strife between two groups of Jewish Christians over the care of their widows. By the time we get to the Corinthian church, it was far from perfect and hardly what could be called good.The final words of our Lord to the seven churches of Asia in

The final words of our Lord to the seven churches of Asia in Revelation 2 and 3 are not complimentary either. The church was not perfect in New Testament times, and it is far from perfect today. The same sins which Paul exposed in 1 and 2 Corinthians are present and evident in evangelical churches today. And so Paul’s words of admonition and correction are just as applicable to us today as they were to the saints of his day.

We deceive ourselves if we think we can retreat within the church walls to escape the evils of the world. The Corinthians letters inform us that the world easily and quickly finds its way into the church. The church is not the place where we go to escape from sin. It’s where we should go to confront our sin and stimulate each other to love and good deeds. The church should be a spiritual hospital, where we can find help and healing through the ministry of the Word and prayer.

 

Pause & Give Thanks   Leave a comment

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Posted November 24, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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Gratitude   Leave a comment

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Posted November 24, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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Happy Thanksgiving   Leave a comment

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Posted November 24, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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Thanksgiving   9 comments

Thanksgiving traditions – What are your traditions or what traditions would you like to begin. For those not in the US, how about writing about family traditions?

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Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s really got to do with the colors – green and orange are my two favorite colors (followed closely by blue, but that’s another topic). It’s also an incredibly easy feast to cook. It’s my rehearsal for Christmas Eve when we have actual guests. More than anything is that I really like the moment to pause and consider gratitude as a concept.

Image result for image of a roast turkey in black enamel roasting panFirst, I begin decorating for Thanksgiving around the first of October when the trees here look pretty dead. I just begin to crave autumn colors, so we drape autumn “silk” leaf swags over the fireplace and swap out floral arrangements and blankets on the sofa. By Thanksgiving, I’ve usually gotten everything looking the way I want it.

An ongoing family tradition has been our gratitude list. I ask the family to consider what they are actually grateful for. When the kids were little, their answers were instructive to their parents. More than that, gratitude (thanksgiving) is an act of sacrifice that Christians lift to God. There have been years when we didn’t have much and we faced the prospect of the long Alaska winter with anxiety. In the act of thanksgiving, we found ourselves content with what little we had and the anxiety stepped back into the shadows. It sometimes seems paradoxical, but blessings flow from a spirit of thanksgiving rather than the other way around. If we wait for the blessings to occur before we give thanks, we often miss the blessings entirely. If we offer thanks in the midst of our need, later we look back and see what God provided after our act of worship.

But it is so hard to remember that at the time.

I keep it simple in terms of cooking. I know a lot of people don’t consider turkey to be simple, but that’s because they don’t know how to do it. If you want to know how to cook any food without a lot of fuss, ask a diner waitress. Oh, yeah … I was raised by a diner waitress.

We buy our turkeys frozen because we live a long way away from any turkey farms and turkeys really ought to be fresh. Frozen right after desanguination is a lot safer than refrigerated for a week before it gets to my grocery store, then for however long it lasts in the grocer bin and then for the day or two I have it at home. I NEVER buy a fresh turkey, though my husband’s employer gave us one once and we all agreed — the thawed frozen turkey smelled and tasted fresher than the “fresh” turkey did.

Image result for image of fall foliage indoorsI also never use a bird that is more than 16 pounds, although I prefer a 12-14 pounder. Smaller turkeys are more succulent and moist. Roast two if you’ve got a lot of people. I rinse the bird and I sprinkle kosher salt and a spice rub of paprika, curry power, cinnamon and chile powder on the skin. I put the bird on a cradle in a black enamel roasting pan and pour a cup of orange juice and water in the bottom. I put the lid on it and pop it in the oven. My cookbook (a 1950s Betty Crocker “bible”) says to roast the bird at 315 degrees for a half-hour per pound, but I’ve learned that having the lid on the roasting pan means the turkey cooks faster, so  I always take an hour off my total calculation.

I don’t lift the lid until then. This assures a moist bird. Usually, when I lift the lid, the bird is at temperature and golden breasted. And I’ve done almost nothing, which leaves me free to do other things … like, cook the sides or watch the Macey’s parade on television.

Another tradition is to put spiced cider (the non-alcoholic kind) in a big pot on the woodstove where it simmers slowly all Wednesday night through Thursday, scenting the house with a beautiful fragrance. We dip from it all Thursday. It’s a beverage and potpourrie in one.

Image result for image of an autumn garland on fireplace mantleIt’s not exactly a tradition, but it is standard operating practice around here to have our Christmas shopping down before Thanksgiving. It just makes things less stressful.

Another family tradition is watching “It’s A Wonderful Life”. Last year we didn’t and our 16 year old mentioned it at Christmas, so we had to watch it then. Yeah, we’re still on that gratitude theme.

Usually on the Friday after Thanksgiving, we decorate for Christmas rather than go combat shopping with the rest of the “Black Friday” crowds. This is made possible by the fact that I have finished my Christmas shopping already. Can you have a tradition that is an absence of an activity?

No fuss, no muss — get into the mood for Christmas.

Posted November 21, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Watch for Thankful Thursday   Leave a comment

www.oyegraphics.comYes, we still have things to be thankful for. I do anyway. So come check out the blog hop tomorrow because we’re exploring what might happen if Gratitude went viral.

Posted November 18, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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A Brouhaha About Nothing   2 comments

So apparently there’s some sort of flap about Starbucks and a red cup. http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/nation-now/2015/11/11/itsjustacup-mocks-starbucks-red-cup-controversy/75563876/

As a Christian, I should be very exercised by this denigration of Christmas and Jesus and join a picket line outside of a local Starbucks.

AFP 546238018 A FIN USA DCBut I’m not. Here’s why:

  1. It’s zero here today and that is the worst possible time to picket anywhere.
  2. I don’t like Starbucks coffee so I rarely drink it. Don’t get me wrong. I like coffee — A LOT. But Fairbanks has plenty of independent coffee huts that make WAY better coffee than Starbucks, so I only drink it if I’m at Barnes & Noble and then only if its’ really cold outside. I can find better coffee almost anywhere else in Fairbanks and for a lower price and that helps the local economy.
  3. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet, so why should I get exercised over someone (possibly) denigrating Christmas yet? Let’s deal with the denigration of Thanksgiving first. Have you noticed that except for turkeys, you pretty much wouldn’t know that Thanksgiving is a holiday. Our grocery stores here (which are all large chains) decorated for Christmas November 1. So, if I was going to get exercised over the color of a cup at Starbucks, I would complain that it’s not orange.

There! See! Now we’re at least in the right month.

So, here’s the thing. As a Christian, I am very much annoyed that stores try to turn Christmas into a midwinter festival. When cashiers say “Happy Holidays” to me, I say “Merry Christmas” in return. It’s a deliberate choice on my part and I don’t care if it annoys you. Get over it. I celebrate Christmas. You can celebrate what you want, but you don’t have the right to force me to celebrate it with you.

I do my Christmas shopping, mostly, in September, so I don’t really notice if stores are not highlighting Christmas at Christmas, but I do try to frequent on-line stores that celebrate Christmas as Christmas, so yes, I care about the issue and encourage those Christians who actually shop during the Christmas season to choose to not shop at stores that act as if Christmas is more about Santa and reindeer than Jesus Christ. I don’t think you’re silly. If stores want to ignore the Christian aspects of the midwinter festivity, well, losing some business might be enlightening for them.

But, folks, choose your battles and weapons carefully. Accusing Starbucks of “hating Jesus” because of the color of a coffee cup just feeds their corporate PR machine and, trust me, they don’t need our help with that. Their advertising budget is enormous and now Christians — all of us and not just the useful idiots — are seen to have blown our wad on a controversy that just looks silly.

Now, maybe we can get back to celebrating Thanksgiving in November instead of looking like fools.

Enough said?

Thankful Thursday 10/29   Leave a comment

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday for various reasons, the primary one being that it causes me to think about all the things I should be grateful for.

I think the world would be immensely improved if Gratitude Went Viral.

If you want to help make that happen, join us —

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One of the problems with much of our culture today is that we are too busy coveting what someone else has to truly count our own blessings. We want, we want, we want … the new I-Phone, the smart watch, the flashy new car, the latest “thang” in kitchen counters, more money in our paycheck, the rich to give their wealth to the middle class, the government to give the income of the working to the non-working, “free” healthcare, carbon-free energy, world peace … on and on and on … we covet and do not recognize what God has already given us. All of us are guilty of it … it’s an all-too-human trait going all the way back to the Garden when Eve coveted God’s fruit.

So here is my quirky take on thankfulness —

  • I am grateful for what I have today. It is sufficient. If I had less, I’d be in want and that would make me covet in a way that most people would say I was justified in doing. Their justification of my sin would help me to feel righteous in my covetousness. I thank God that He has given me what I need to survive today, so that I do not have an excuse for wanting more.
  • I am grateful today that God has not fulfilled all of my wants. I’m not wealthy. I have to work to pay my bills. My books are not flooding my bank account with profits. Other people have more stuff and better stuff than I do. And that’s okay, because my lack of wealth has taught me to be grateful to God for the little things. If I had more stuff, I wouldn’t be as grateful for what I have today. God knows that about me and it is that intimate knowledge of me that is more precious to me than gold or silver. I wouldn’t turn down financial blessings if they came my way, but I don’t need them to be content.

Philippians 4:10-14I have great joy in the Lord because now at last you have again expressed your concern for me. (Now I know you were concerned before but had no opportunity to do anything.) I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content in any circumstance. I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing. I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me. Nevertheless, you did well to share with me in my trouble.” (Paul the apostle, writing from a Roman prison)

Stay Tuned for Thankful Thursdays   Leave a comment

This is a new season-based blog hop. Some of us authors from Open Book thought we would see what we could do to make Gratitude the focus of this holiday season. Watch for my post on Thursday.

Anyone who wants to help Gratitude Go Viral is welcome to join us.

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Posted October 27, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in #openbook

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Thankful for the Little Things   4 comments

I usually do this post just before Thanksgiving, for obvious reasons. This week’s blog hop is about Gratitude.

Thanks for reading. Have you checked out Nicole Sorrell’s blog on the same subject? Are you familiar with her book?

After you’ve visited her blog and checked out her book, you can join us by clicking the links.
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I’m grateful for so many things that it’s not always easy to pin them all down. And I’m grateful for things that other people find odd because they’re often considered challenges by others.

I believe that nothing in this life can’t be used by God for the betterment of the people going through it.

Yes, I’m grateful for my family, my home, my job … all those normal ordinary things that people ought to not take for granted. But really, we take a lot of things for granted that we shouldn’t, so I’m going to highlight some of the things I think about that usually gets odd looks from others.

I’m thankful for my heating system (s) that keeps my Alaska home warm. Trust me, when it isn’t working, you quickly realize what a blessing it is. Our system includes both a diesel-fired boiler and a wood stove and we would not want to live without either one of them. Diesel is convenient, but expensive (yes, Alaska is an oil-producing state, but our cost for fuel averages about a dollar more per gallon than the national average … and I cannot explain why because the explanations given make no sense). Wood is a lot of work, but affordable, and easier on the environment … it also smells wonderful. But our local government has been in the process of making it virtually impossible to burn, so it may inspire a “I’m grateful for being a rebel” post in the future.

I’m grateful for a freezer full of salmon and blueberries because it means that no matter what happens to the tenuous 2000-mile-long supply line that brings food to my community, we can eat. There was a winter when we ate no meat besides salmon or caribou for 103 days. That was a financial hard time when the cost of crude oil fell off a cliff and Alaskans took the brunt of it. And I am grateful to have lived through that because I learned how to be content with simple meals and not least of which because it looks like we might be headed for a similar era in the near future. I will then be grateful that my children will have the opportunity to learn the lesson of simplicity and contentment.

I’m grateful that my gypsy bluegrass musician daughter has fallen in with a group of similar gypsies who appear to take care of each other. I would rather she was home safe going to college to prepare for a paying career, but I trust God has His hand on her as she pursues the traveler life for this season of time.

I am grateful for October sunshine filtering through bare birch branches just because it is so lovely. Photos don’t do it justice.

I’m thankful for learning that gratitude doesn’t need to be for big things to be well and truly great.

I’m grateful to the One True God, Jesus Christ, Maker of heaven and earth and my often ungrateful soul, for being patient with me as I learn to be content in all things.

I’m grateful for so many things, but that’s a good start.

Posted October 20, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in #openbook

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