Random Ramblings

Reflections on my walk with God


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Love

My thoughts on 1 Corinthians 11-13 for Valentine’s Day.

All quotes are from the NASB translation unless otherwise noted

When I teach I always try to get my students to see the big picture before looking at the details. The big picture here is that Paul very much wants the Corinthians to understand that although they no longer have to follow strict rules and laws about food, behaviour, dress etc., they should act in ways that demonstrate their salvation. If we bear this in mind and, as always, remember that this is a letter (no chapter or verse divisions) perhaps some of the more troubling sections make more sense.

The beginning of Chapter 11 is one of those sections of scripture that we shy away from. It seems on the surface to be undeniably misogynistic. Paul lays down the law about the behaviour of women in church. I leave delving deeply into that to the theologians. However the HCSB study Bible points out that many behaviours (for all believers) were required to avoid alienating the Jews and/or avoiding doing anything which seemed to align them with pagan practises or rituals. If I may quote an example from my Pastor. He recently told us that whilst there is nothing in scripture to prohibit him preaching to us in his pyjamas, it would be inappropriate and would certainly upset many of the congregation. It would also give the wrong message to outsiders. A trivial example perhaps, but one which helps us to see why it is so important to not only do what is right, but be seen to do what is right.

In the next section of this chapter, Paul denounces the behaviour of some of the believers with regard to the Lord’s Supper. He has heard that many take it as an opportunity to eat and drink to excess. Perhaps even worse, whilst they are feasting, some of the brethren are eating very little. Such behaviour is wrong on so many levels, they are not sharing their food, they are exhibiting glutony, they are ignoring or even abusing the poor, they are disrepecting the institution of the Lord’s Supper, and in so doing dishonouring Jesus himself. This should be a a time of sharing and fellowship, there should be no distinction between them, certainly not based on wealth.

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; (Romans 10:12)

The sharing of the Lord’s Supper should be distinct from general eating and drinking, believers are advised to eat before coming together for the Lord’s supper. We can perhaps assume that if they were celebrating communion as part of general fellowship, they would be expected to share all that they had, so that each received sufficient food. Paul urged them (and us) to make sure that they were worthy; in particular they should confess unforgiven sin and make themselves right with each other before sharing the bread and wine.

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself [herself], and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. (1 Corinthians 11:27-29)

During fellowship it would be commonplace to talk about how the Lord was working in the lives of the believers. Perhaps Paul had heard that some thought themselves better than others because they had “superior” gifts.

For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. (1 Corinthians 12:8-11)

As we share in the Lord’s Supper and share fellowship, so we should share the gifts that we have been given.

There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. (1 Corinthians 12:6-11)

The gifts are given not to glorify the individual but to allow believers all to work together. Just as a healthy body needs all of it parts to function correctly and work together, so a healthy church needs all of it’s members to use their gifts and work together. No member of the church is more important than another, though perhaps it can be argued that some are more essential. Just as the heart and brain are essential for life, so some members of the church may have more important roles, but all members are equal in their relationship with Christ.

Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:27-28)

Paul finishes this part of his letter (chapter 12) with a series of questions and then goes on to “show us a more excellent way”. Chapter 13 is such a well known passage of scripture. It is a wonderful description of what love should look like. However, if we read it in the original context, i.e. continuing on from chapter 12 with no chapter or verse breaks, it becomes even more wonderful. Paul is clearly telling us that gifts are useless, if they are not used in and with love.

All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13)

Roman13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.


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A new day

I’ve always loved the Sabbath. Time to stop and be with my family. Time to appreciate God’s goodness to us and remember His promises.

The Sabbath of Passover week is always especially a time of joy. We have remembered the escape from Egypt, we thank Yahweh for his deliverance and look forward to the coming of Messiah.

Yesterday was not like any other Sabbath. The day was empty of all meaning. Between the numbness I could not get the sights, the sounds, and the smells of Friday out of my head. How could my Lord be dead?

On Thursday when we heard that He had been taken by the temple guard, we went as quickly as we could to the temple courts, we watched people come and go. Peter was there as were other disciples, mostly keeping a low profile. Peter of course got noticed, how could he not? Big and burly, he stood out among those in the courtyard. I have never seen a man cry like that, at first it was noisy and anguished as he called curses onto his head. As the hours went on the tears did not stop, as if they could wash away the pain of betrayal. No-one could comfort him, there were no words that could bring comfort to any of us.

We felt so sure that Pilate would dismiss the scheming of the Sanhedrin, that he would see through their manipulation and not be a part of it. He chose to do just that, washing his hands of the matter very publicly. I heard that his wife advised him to let Jesus go, that she had been warned in a dream. But he just turned his back.

That night we sat and followed the ritual of the Sabbath, the candles were lit and the little food that we had prepared was eaten. The words which normally brought comfort were empty and without meaning, the food without flavour.

Yesterday I just keep looking at the sky, willing the sun to move faster for the day to be over so that I could prepare for today.

We would go to the tomb. We would wash the Lord’s body and anoint him with oils and herbs. Our last act of love for Him would be to leave Him wrapped in clean linen and anointed with the precious oils that his mother had given to us. Mary told us between tears of the Myrrh and Frankincense, brought by wise men as gifts when Jesus was a small child. Signs of death and priesthood; she had treasured them for more than 30 years, knowing in her heart that the time would come to use them.

The sun went down, and we met briefly to plan and make sure that we were ready to go to the tomb as soon as it was light.

Another night goes by, there is little sleep for any of us. I wonder if I will ever feel peace again?  I have not felt like this since Jesus freed me of the demons – part of me hopes that the demons have come back, that this is a nightmare and that I will wake up and Jesus will still be here. The peace that He poured into my shattered life that day has kept me going when times were tough. Knowing that He was always there and that I could bring my troubles to Him, that He would fill me with peace and joy just by being in His presence.

But now He is gone.

We were so sure that He was the Messiah. As they taunted Him on the cross we were so sure that He would give us the last and greatest miracle and defy death itself. We were wrong. We were so very wrong…. I will never forget the anguish of those last moments as He called out “It is finished”.

What does it all mean, what should we do now? Can we just go back to our lives as if nothing had happened?

As soon as it is light we hurry the tomb, carrying our precious loads. Who will move the stone? Maybe the Roman guards will help – or maybe they will chase us away and not let us near.

The stone has been moved; the tomb is empty.

maryatemptytomb

Where is my Lord?

I had thought that my despair could not be greater.

Inside the tomb there are two white-robed men built like warriors. We fall down at their feet, we are in the presence of Angels. One is sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. One of them speaks, “Dear woman, why are you crying?”.

“Because they have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have put him.”

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has been raised! Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again?”  

I remember Jesus saying those words – we hurry back into the city and tell the disciples. They think that we have gone mad with grief; they do not believe us. But Peter gets up and runs to the tomb, I follow as quickly as I can. Peter looks inside and leaves shaking his head in disbelief and dismay.

As I turn to leave I see someone standing there. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” “Who are you looking for?”

“Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”

He says my name “Mary!”. I look at him properly and realise that this is no stranger, this is my Jesus, “Rabboni!”. In my joy I try to hold onto Him but He stops me with a smile, “Don’t cling to me, for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

This time I run to the city and to find the brethren – if anyone has seen me this morning they will think that the demons have truly repossessed me!

Breathless I rush into the room “I have seen the Lord!”

This is a new day; this is the day that the Lord is risen. I will rejoice and be glad!

 

 


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The emptiness of absence.

“She/he’s such a good christian…
… she/he does voluntary work for a, b, c charities…
…..she/he always helps at the church lunch/barbeque/harvest …..
…….oh and she/he listens to children read at the local primary school ….
………and still finds time to visit the local old people’s home, and do Sunday school!”

She/he is always terribly pleased with him/herself …
……but always feels unappreciated…..
She/he is always sociable ….
……..but often lonely…. 
She/he fills her/his time with do-gooding..
………but never feels complete.

The emptiness of absence.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 NASB
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.   Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,  does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.   Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.


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Love

When I suggested that we might follow the hugely enjoyable #luke2acts Twitter Bible study by reading the rest of the New Testament,  I think I really didn’t know what I was letting myself in for!  The original plan was to read a chapter a day and so finish by mid-December. We are now reading and commenting on #Rom2Rev at a much more relaxed pace ;-), may finish sometime next year….   I keep getting behind due to “inconvenient” family health issues and spending a lot of time at hospitals. This post is my thoughts on 1 Corinthians 11-13, although we have just finished Galatians…..
All quotes are from the NASB translation unless otherwise noted

When I teach I always try to get my students to see the big picture before looking at the details. The big picture here is that Paul very much wants the Corinthians to understand that although they no longer have to follow strict rules and laws about food, behaviour, dress etc., they should act in ways that demonstrate their salvation. If we bear this in mind and, as always, remember that this is a letter (no chapter or verse divisions) perhaps some of the more troubling sections make more sense.

The beginning of Chapter 11 is one of those sections of scripture that we shy away from. It seems on the surface to be undeniably misogynistic. Paul lays down the law about the behaviour of women in church. I leave delving deeply into that to the theologians. However the HCSB study Bible points out that many behaviours (for all believers) were required to avoid alienating the Jews and/or avoiding doing anything which seemed to align them with pagan practises or rituals. If I may quote an example from my Pastor. He recently told us that whilst there is nothing in scripture to prohibit him preaching to us in his pyjamas, it would be inappropriate and would certainly upset many of the congregation. It would also give the wrong message to outsiders. A trivial example perhaps, but one which helps us to see why it is so important to not only do what is right, but be seen to do what is right.

In the next section of this chapter, Paul denounces the behaviour of some of the believers with regard to the Lord’s Supper. He has heard that many take it as an opportunity to eat and drink to excess. Perhaps even worse, whilst they are feasting, some of the brethren are eating very little. Such behaviour is wrong on so many levels, they are not sharing their food, they are exhibiting glutony, they are ignoring or even abusing the poor, they are disrepecting the institution of the Lord’s Supper, and in so doing dishonouring Jesus himself. This should be a a time of sharing and fellowship, there should be no distinction between them, certainly not based on wealth.

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; (Romans 10:12)

The sharing of the Lord’s Supper should be distinct from general eating and drinking, believers are advised to eat before coming together for the Lord’s supper. We can perhaps assume that if they were celebrating communion as part of general fellowship, they would be expected to share all that they had, so that each received sufficient food. Paul urged them (and us) to make sure that they were worthy; in particular they should confess unforgiven sin and make themselves right with each other before sharing the bread and wine.

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself [herself], and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. (1 Corinthians 11:27-29)

During fellowship it would be commonplace to talk about how the Lord was working in the lives of the believers. Perhaps Paul had heard that some thought themselves better than others because they had “superior” gifts.

For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. (1 Corinthians 12:8-11)

As we share in the Lord’s Supper and share fellowship, so we should share the gifts that we have been given.

There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. (1 Corinthians 12:6-11)

The gifts are given not to glorify the individual but to allow believers all to work together. Just as a healthy body needs all of it parts to function correctly and work together, so a healthy church needs all of it’s members to use their gifts and work together. No member of the church is more important than another, though perhaps it can be argued that some are more essential. Just as the heart and brain are essential for life, so some members of the church may have more important roles, but all members are equal in their relationship with Christ.

Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:27-28)

Paul finishes this part of his letter (chapter 12) with a series of questions and then goes on to “show us a more excellent way”. Chapter 13 is such a well known passage of scripture. It is a wonderful description of what love should look like. However, if we read it in the original context, i.e. continuing on from chapter 12 with no chapter or verse breaks, it becomes even more wonderful. Paul is clearly telling us that gifts are useless, if they are not used in and with love.

All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13)

Roman13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.


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Where shall I go?

The story of the woman caught in adultery is so powerful ( John 8:3-11 ). Jesus once again turning the established order of things in their head. But I have often wondered what happens next….

image

I am alive, I can’t understand how I am still alive. The silence around me is as frightening as the noise was just a few minutes ago. Did I really hear someone say
“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” ?

Slowly I look up. They have gone , my accusers have left nothing but stones forming a rough but incomplete ring surrounding me. The man who had spoken is the only one left.

“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

Looking around again in amazement I realise that there really is no one else left.
“No one, Lord.”

The man looks at me, His eyes carry the joy and sorrow of eternity. I am caught in the gaze, time stands still. He is speaking again.
“Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

The stone drops from His hand gently hitting the ground and completing the circle. Overwhelmed, I cannot understand my own feelings……..

I should be dead, no one will want me to stay here. My own family will treat me like the outcast that I am. I feel forgiven, completely, this man has liberated me from my past, but what future can I possibly have?

He is turning to leave, without thinking I speak again, “Lord, where will I go?”. Smiling he holds out his hand and gently leads me out of the circle of hate, “Follow me”.


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Love, Touch, Listen

Love the unloveable,
Touch the untouchable,
Listen to those with no voice,
Describe beauty to those with no sight,
Laugh with those who have only sadness,
Fill the empty,
Give shelter to the homeless,
Carry those with crippled limbs,

Give generously;
Give Grace,
Give mercy,
Give kindness,
Give time,
Give Hope,
Give LOVE.


If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous;
love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly;
it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails;
but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away;
if there are tongues, they will cease;
if there is knowledge, it will be done away.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part;
but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.
When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child;
when I became a man, I did away with childish things.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13)