The Apostle Paul and Popeye the Sailor

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I Corinthians Chapters 14 through 16

This week’s reading is found in I Corinthians 15:18, Paul says, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” Paul is saying that he had finally come to a place in his life where he could say he was comfortable in his own skin. How sad that many people live their entire lives trying to be something they are not. When I was younger I used to watch the cartoon Popeye the sailor man. His favorite song that he used to sing was, “I’m Popeye the sailor man. I yam what I yam.” He knew who he was and was comfortable with that.

God has made each of us unique. Not one of us has the same fingerprints. Each of us has been created by God with different personalities, different passions, and different giftings. The key to coming to a place where you can say that you are comfortable in your own skin is surrendering your entire life to God and offering all that you have and all that you are to Him. The latter part of this passage Paul says, “His grace towards me was not in vain: but I labored more abundantly than they all.” Paul realized he was not like the other apostles. He did not get to hang out with Jesus. He had a different ministry. He had a different call. Rather than constantly trying to measure up to a standard that he had created in his mind, he decided to accept who he was and give it all to God in service to Him. Until we come to the place of accepting who we are, life will be a constant struggle. Each of us has some aspect of ourselves of which we are ashamed or that society insists we should be ashamed of. It might have something to do with our heritage, such as being illegitimately born. It might have something to do with our lifestyle; if we are geeky or overweight or underweight. Or maybe it’s an obstacle we face, like being handicapped, or dyslexic. When we compare ourselves with others it is so easy to feel like we got the short end of the stick. I may not be the brightest. I may not be the strongest. I may not be the most organized but what I am I dedicate to God. It is good to seek to constantly improve, but that is different that not accepting who we are by the grace of God. Can you agree with Paul and Popeye and say, “By the grace of God I am what I am?”

I don’t want my life to sound like fingernails scraping a blackboard!

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I Corinthians Chapters 11 through 13

This week’s reading comes from I Corinthians 13:1, “…If I have not love, I have become a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.” If you read this in Pastor Dave’s translation it would read like this, “I don’t want my life to sound like fingernails scraping a blackboard!” What a terrible sound! Yet this is what Paul is talking about. If we go through life doing good things but we don’t have love, our life is making a terrible sound. It does not matter if we are doing very nice things, helping others, or giving to those in need, if we are not motivated by love it is a terrible sound in the ears of God.

This is all about doing the right thing the right way. Sometimes we lose sight of this. We convince ourselves that as long as we are doing the right thing, it does not matter that we do it the right way. But it does matter! The right way to do everything is to make sure our motivation is love. Paul says here is that walking in love is more important than having spiritual gifts. It is more important than being wise and educated. It is more important than having great faith. It is more important than being very generous. It is more important than all the things that you might accomplish for the kingdom of God. Without love, they are all empty and worthless!

But what is love? We talk about it, sing about it, and search for it, but exactly what is it? This chapter is the best definition of love I have ever come across. Of course, there are different degrees of love, but these verses give a good general definition. The Biblical definition of love is that ‘love is a decision.” For most of us in America today, we think of love as a feeling, a romantic feeling. Well, that may be part of it, but for it to ever mature and last, it has to be a decision. A decision we make even when the feeling is not there, even when we are tired, even when we don’t want to. Loving people is respecting them, listening to them, giving them space. Loving people is honoring them.

The reason walking in love so important is that according to verse 8, “Love never fails!” This is where the power of God is! Love is permanent. It is forever. It ALWAYS wins! Do you want to be a winner? Practice love every day. It goes the distance, and never gives up. Love is not something that happens to us. Choose to love today!

Can I eat a Big Mac to the glory of God?

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I Corinthians Chapters 9 and 10

This week’s reading is in I Corinthians 10:31, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” What a liberating passage of scriptures this is. Instead of living some kind of divided life, part of it doing things that I think are “to the glory of God” and part of it “just stuff I do.” Paul says everything I do can be to the glory of God. So if I am cleaning the house, or washing the car or eating a big Mac I can do it to the glory of God. According to what we read here everything we do can be sacred if we learn how to do it to God’s glory. One of the great hindrances to living a balanced life is the common habit of dividing our lives into two areas: the sacred and the secular. We think there are some things that we do that are pleasing to God and help us to be more spiritual and then we think there are things that we do that are not really spiritual, sort of worldly. Yet we read here that Paul says we can do “all things to the glory of God.” This makes my entire life meaningful. My work is meaningful if I do it to the glory of God, doing laundry is meaningful if I do it to the glory of God, cutting the lawn, going fishing, singing songs, visiting with my friends, playing a sport and even going to sleep can all have significant meaning if I understand that everything I do can be devoted to God’s glory. Wow, let’s live it up today and do it to God’s glory!

Who does not get to heaven

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I Corinthians Chapters 6 through 8

This week’s reading in found in I Corinthians 6:9-11. Paul makes a list of the kind of people that will, for sure, NOT be in heaven. In today’s ‘be nice’ society this would not be acceptable preaching! Poor Paul, he would be so politically incorrect! In Paul’s list of who does not get to heaven we find adulterers, sexually immoral people, idolaters, thieves, homosexuals, sodomites, covetous, drunkards, slanderers, and swindlers (people who promote pyramid schemes). Paul’s list does not make one sin greater than another but he does make it clear that anyone who is giving themselves over to these sins will not get to heaven. If we are honest with ourselves and with God, all of us have had to battle with these sins at least that is what Paul says in verse 11, “But such were some of you.” But the important thing is that we don’t surrender to these sins but instead we recognize that they are wrong and we repent and ask God to forgive us when we do fall.
It is sad that there is so much confusion today, even among God’s people, knowing what is sinful and how we should deal with sin in our lives. It would help if today’s pastors would be a little more courageous and let their flock’s know what is right and what is wrong! It is so sad that many of today’s pastors will not talk about anything that might offend someone and hide behind the thin veil of saying it is ‘too political’ or that it might offend someone! Right and wrong are always going to be offensive and will often be called political but people need to hear the truth, especially from their pastors. I agree with Paul, “Don’t be deceived.” Stay close to God; listen to His Holy Spirit, read His Word. Everyone does not go to heaven when they die! Have you asked God to forgive you of your sins? Do you know where you are going?

Imitate me!

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I Corinthians Chapters 3 through 5

This week’s reading is found in I Corinthians 5:16. “I urge you, imitate me.” Have you ever urged someone to imitate you? What would the church be like if everyone did imitate you, or the world? It is a bit intimidating to think about encouraging other people to follow your footsteps, to follow Jesus the same way your follow Jesus. This whole idea of imitation works two ways. First, who are we imitating? Then second who is imitating us or who are we influencing.

Imitation isn’t only a sincere form of flattery. It’s also a fantastic way to inhabit someone else’s shoes and to grow your own self as a result. Imitating another person whom you admire or treat as a role model is the fastest way to learn anything. As babies, it is how we learned about the world and how to speak, walk, and interact with others. The imitation Paul is talking about here is being attracted to qualities that an admirable person has that you would like to polish up within yourself. Imitation is about character building and refinement. You remain essentially you, you are simply seeking to improve some elements in your character. The key to this is making sure who you are imitating is worth imitating.

When it comes to encouraging others to imitate you we often shy away from this. But we ought not to do so. The fact is, we all influence people and it is good to encourage people to try to do things that have proven successful in your life. No one is perfect and we all have flaws, but God has given each of us, certain gifts and talents, victories and insights that we ought to share with others.

Be shameless in your imitation of people you admire, for that is how we grow. Be intentional about encouraging others to imitate you, for that is how we can make a difference! Who are you imitating? Who are you influencing?