Tag Archives: Corinthians

Something New

Note: As you read this post, you might ask yourself why I am telling you so much about my hair dyeing experiences. Trust me, there’s a purpose and a lesson to follow my seemingly rambling story.

In early July I decided to color my hair with a box of auburn hair dye that had been in my hall closet for about five years. We were on vacation for two weeks but didn’t go anywhere and I was starting to go stir crazy so it seemed like a good thing to do. The dye was more like a bit of highlighting, only slightly changing the color of my hair. A few people noticed but not too many. Within six weeks the color had faded significantly because it was the kind that washes out in 24 shampoos.

Then over Labor Day weekend I decided I wanted to do it again because I liked the slight red hint to my hair color, so I went to the store to get a box of the same dye. Unfortunately, that brand and color were no longer available (it having been five years or more since I bought it). So I selected another shade of red in another brand, though still the non-permanent kind that is supposed to wash out, this time after 28 shampoos. I took it home and dyed my hair the Sunday before Labor Day.

The color change was much more dramatic this time. I really wasn’t sure I liked it at first and was reluctant to go out in public as a redhead. Even my color blind husband could tell it was a very different color when he returned home from a backpacking trip at the end of that week. Many people have noticed and commented on my new hair color, and a number of them have taken to calling me Red. Even now, several weeks and many shampoos after dyeing it, my hair is still strikingly red. Today at church I had someone I barely know come up to me for the express purpose of telling me she really liked my hair color. Because the many comments I’ve gotten have all been positive, the new color is starting to grow on me and I think I will probably re-dye it when it fades.

On my way home from church I was thinking about how many more comments I’ve gotten with this dramatic hair color change then I did when I just highlighted my hair. It occurred to me that these experiences are a great analogy for the Christian life.

Scripture tells us that faith in Christ will change us. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV). But sometimes we are afraid of a bold new creation that God has called us to be. Instead, we allow little highlights of the new to show through. The change in us is subtle and noticed by only a few, just like my first experience of dyeing my hair with a subtle red highlight.

But if we allow Christ to truly change us and boldly allow His light to shine through, others will notice, even many people we don’t know well. People may even comment on the change. As Christians, as we see this new creation in others, we should comment on this change and provide them with encouragement. Just as receiving positive comments about my new hair color has made me feel much more comfortable with this change, the new Christian will feel much more comfortable with the changes Christ makes in them if they receive positive encouragement.

The apostle Paul taught us to encourage one another when he wrote, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Romans 1:11-12 (NIV). Let us, then, mutually encourage one another to let the Light of Christ shine so that others may see the change He has made in our lives. Let us share the great peace and love He has placed in our hearts. Let us never be ashamed of the new creation that we are in Christ, even when the world scoffs at our faith. Just as I have come to appreciate the nickname Red, let us appreciate and rejoice in the name Christian, followers of Christ, His new creation.

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Bridging the Distance

A couple of weeks ago my husband and I went to see Dwight Yoakam in concert. It was a great concert — but then Dwight always puts on a great concert. True to my nature, I’ve listened to a lot of Dwight both before and after the concert. He sang one of my favorite songs called “If There Was a Way” and I realized that I did not have that album on my iPod. I quickly remedied that a day or so after the concert and have been listening a lot to that album.

There is another song on that album that has me thinking. It’s called “The Distance Between You and Me.” It’s a sad song about a couple that has grown apart. The chorus says:

I lie awake and hear you breathing
Only inches from me in this bed
Not much space but it’s all that we needed
To live alone now that our love is dead

This song is particularly sad because it describes so many couples in our society today. They start out their marriages happy and blissful, but somewhere along the way a distance grows between them, sometimes so big it’s immeasurable. The distance leaves them alone even as they occupy the same house, the same bed. Many wonder what leads to such aloneness.

But it’s really no mystery. Quoting Psalm 4:4, the apostle Paul advised, “‘In your anger do not sin’ Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Ephesians 4:26-27 (NIV). Sadly, so many people do not heed this advice. Pride, anger, and lack of forgiveness cause the distance. One spouse says or does something that hurts the other, maybe intentionally but maybe not. And the other spouse refuses to forgive, holds a grudge. Then another incident leads to another grudge, and on and on it goes. Each grudge separates them and eventually enough anger and unforgiveness destroys the love and intimacy they once enjoyed.

Another problem that causes a distance between husband and wife is when one or the other uses sex as a weapon, when because of anger one refuses the other’s advances. Paul also warned against this situation when he gave his “Instruction on Marriage” in 1 Corinthians:

The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife. Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 (NLT).

Thankfully, there is a way to bridge the distance and loneliness, and heal the hearts of estranged love. Honesty, love, and forgiveness will heal all wounds. Live together with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV).

The best option is to live by God’s design for a healthy marriage as revealed in His Word and thereby prevent Satan from getting a foothold in your lives and creating that distance that destroys love and intimacy. But where Satan has already gained a foothold and a distance has grown, that distance can be bridged by love and forgiveness. Love that appears dead can be given new life by God’s grace.

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Life Is Fragile – A Poem of Hope

This mortal life is fragile
housed in these jars of clay

Here we are living the good life
then at the end of the day
we may be struck down, bewildered
by the impermanence of our stay

Yet we know we are not abandoned
by the Truth, the Life, and the Way
The life He promised is eternal
as for grace and mercy we pray

This mortal life is fragile
yet He lives in these jars of clay

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 (NIV).

A dear friend is in the hospital in critical condition due to complications from a routine surgery. He was supposed to be in and out in a day, but he is likely to be in the hospital for 2 to 3 weeks. It got me thinking about the fragility of life, and this passage from Corinthians came to mind. As I read it, I was reminded of my friend’s strong faith in Jesus and the comfort that comes from knowing he is in the hands of the Great Physician.

9/24/13 Update: My friend is now home after 10 weeks in the hospital and rehab. He still has a long way to go, but has made great progress. I’ve decided to share this poem for dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night today in celebration of the power of prayer in my friend’s recovery.

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Bundle of Rights – A Poem

In law school property class
we learned about
our bundle of rights

It’s not much of a bundle
compared to Jesus’ divine
bundle of rights
—His omniscience
—His omnipresence
—His matchless glory

My bundle, your bundle,
is more like a hobo’s bindle
tied up, hanging from a pole

We cling to our rights
as if they were our precious,
our most precious possession

Though he was God,
Jesus did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges
¹

He calls us to give up
our bindle for others
to become as a servant
following His example

And in the process we will discover
faith, hope, and love—and
the greatest of these is love
²

Not a bad trade, really,
a hobo’s bindle
for the greatest love
the world has ever known

 

¹Philippians 2:6-7a (NLT)
²1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT)

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It Is Finished Even as It Begins

A new year begins today. It’s another year to live and work and play, and to make resolutions to be better than last year. It’s another year in which many will again strive to earn God’s grace and their own salvation by singing in the choir, volunteering for the altar guild, giving to the poor, attending church or mass each week, or any number of other good deeds.

But why do we work so hard to add to what Jesus has already done? Why do we try to earn what has been given as a gift from God? On Calvary Hill Jesus said, “It is finished.” John 19:30. Paul wrote that Jesus said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you.” 2 Corinthians 12:9. There is nothing more that we can or need to do for our salvation.

Even the act of believing in Jesus, the ability to have faith in His saving grace, is a gift from God: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV).

So as you begin 2013, rest in the grace of Jesus assured of His mercy and your salvation.

Go forth and sing in the choir out of gratitude for what He has done, but do not fret if you miss a practice or are unable to sing for a Sunday service.

Help out with the altar guild to share the blessing of God’s grace with others, but do not allow yourself to grow weary with the work.

Give to the poor out of thankfulness for the bounty God has bestowed on you, but do not give out of mere obligation and with resentment.

Attend church or mass because you desire to fellowship with God and other believers, and to worship the Lord in community, but not because you think you will lose points with God if you do not.

Perform good deeds as the Spirit leads, in the power of Jesus, so that God might be glorified, but don’t be deceived into thinking such deeds are necessary for your salvation.

For centuries Satan has tried to strip the children of God of the peace of knowing His love and grace. The Accuser engenders fear and doubt in the minds of believers, trying to deceive us into believing that God hates us and requires us to pay for our own sins and earn our own salvation.

But God’s Word is clear on this point: It is finished. The atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ is the embodiment of God’s love and mercy; His grace is sufficient to cover every sin and grant us eternal life with Him. Nothing Satan says or does can change this truth.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8.

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The Blessing of Generosity

Today is the first day of the Advent season. This is the season leading up to Christmas when we look forward to the coming of the Christ child into the world.

This year my church put together an Advent devotional and I was asked to contribute two entries. I previously shared on of my contributions, and I decided for the start of Advent to share the other. The scripture readings this devotional article is based on were chosen by our pastor. I encourage you to click on the links to read them before reading my thoughts on how they are connected.

Scripture References: Amos 6:1-8; II Cor. 8:1-15

Devotion

The prophet Amos warned those who had plenty but failed to care for those in need. Though they enjoyed the lap of luxury, they would “be among the first to go into exile” because of their complacency.

By contrast, Paul writes of the Macedonian church that lived in extreme poverty and yet exhibited a generosity towards others that was beyond their own ability to give. He then urges the Corinthian church (and each of us), “as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”

It is easy when we are blessed with material possessions to spend all our time enjoying them and forget about those in extreme need. Perhaps the reason the Macedonians were so generous is because they never forgot what it was like to be in physical need and had compassion on those in similar circumstances. As a result they were blessed with spiritual wealth and the grace of our Lord.

God is honored by our desire to give and to help those in need; He is honored even more by the fulfillment of that desire. He does not expect us to give beyond our ability, but to give out of the grace we have known in Christ. The spiritual wealth we gain through a closer walk with Jesus and sharing with others is better than all the gold and jewels in all the earth.

Thought to ponder/challenge

We must guard ourselves that we not allow wealth and material possessions to be our comfort, forgetting those in poverty. We must remember to always give out of the grace we have been freely given.

Prayer

Our gracious Lord Jesus, help us to not grow complacent because of the wealth you have blessed us with, but well up within us a desire to be generous and share your material and spiritual gifts with those in need.

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That the Blind Might See

My church is putting together an Advent devotional for this coming Advent season. I was asked to write two of the devotions for the booklet. I am really looking forward to seeing what the other contributors wrote. I always like reading through a devotional for Advent and I think it will be extra special this year because I know all of the people who are writing them.

I finished one of my two assigned devotions yesterday. It is based on Isaiah 35:3-7 and Luke 7:18-30. I was limited to 250 words for the devotion section and the assignment called for also including a thought to ponder or Challenge, and a prayer. It was really hard for me to only write 250 words. I had to go back and cut some, but the final devotion was 249 words. I decided I wanted to share what I wrote here, but add back in some of the thoughts I didn’t have room for.

Devotion

Isaiah gave us many prophecies of the first Advent of our Lord Jesus. Many of those prophecies serve also as a promise of Jesus coming into the life of each believer as well as of His Second Coming. Isaiah admonishes us to not be afraid because we know the Lord will bring forth His promised blessings of sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and youthful agility to the lame.

John the Baptist continued the prophetic message of Isaiah, but unlike Isaiah he saw the fulfillment of God’s promises in Jesus. Not only did he hear his disciples’ recounting of the great healing work of Jesus, John saw it with his own eyes. What John witnessed was that the blind could see, the deaf could hear, the lame walked, the sick were made well, and the Good News was real.

Today Jesus continues to fulfill the prophecies about Him as He give spiritual sight to those who believe in Him and are baptized in His name. The Holy Spirit gives wisdom and hope to those who trust in Jesus as their promised savior.

But like the Pharisees and experts in the law, many people today reject God’s purpose in their lives because they have not believed in the saving grace of Jesus. They try to do what is right in their own eyes and by their own power. They try to live by the letter of the law, but they do not see the truth of God’s love and the wonder of His mercy. These people are spiritually blind.

We must not forget that we were once spiritually blind, too. Our place is not to judge, but to remember that Jesus came to give sight to such as these. He came to save the whole world if only they will believe. He came to remind us of our purpose, which is to be in relationship with our Creator. He came that we would have no need to fear.

Thought to ponder/challenge

Just as John the Baptist was a messenger paving the way for the first Advent of Jesus, we are called to share the Good News of how Jesus gives sight to the spiritually blind and purpose to everyone. “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” 2 Corinthians 3:6 (NIV). How will you share the Good News today?

Prayer

Heavenly Father, bring to final fulfillment Your promise to bring spiritual sight to all who are still blinded by this world and who reject Your purpose for their lives. Give us wisdom to be as John the Baptist, preparing Your way into the hearts and lives of those around us.

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My Faithful Savior – A Triolet

Many things in this life are uncertain, causing even the faithful to struggle and doubt. Even at such times, or maybe even more so then, I am thankful that God has promised that He will never leave me or forsake me.

I am reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV).

For Thankful Thursday today I have written another triolet, this one about the faithfulness of my Savior and my God, Jesus Christ.

My Faithful Savior

My faithful Savior will always be near
In my struggles and pain, when I doubt
that anything will ever change
My faithful Savior will always be near

I know someday He will exchange
the tears I cry for a glorious crown
My faithful Savior will always be near
In my struggles and pain, when I doubt

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Be Careful You Don’t Fall

This weekend I was out camping, and one of my favorite things about camping is that it affords me a great deal of reading time. I started a book last week and was able to finish it before we headed home from the camping trip. It is a book I have read before and is the first in a fictional series call The Chronicles of Brothers by Wendy Alec. The first time I read it was many years ago before books two and three of the series were released. I recently purchased books two and three, and am anticipating the release of book four later this year, so I decided it would be a good idea to re-read book one.

The first book in the series is called The Fall of Lucifer. It is the story of how Lucifer, the light-bearer and chief archangel of heaven, God’s first and most beautiful creation, was overcome with jealousy and pride resulting in his expulsion from the presence of almighty God and the heavenly realms. The series title—The Chronicles of Brothers—is based on the three main archangels mentioned in the Bible: Lucifer, Michael, and Gabriel.

There is definitely a Biblical basis to this book, though the author does use a great deal of creativity and imagination in describing the terrain of the First Heaven and the relationships among the various angelic hosts of heaven. The Bible does not tell us of how much Lucifer adored and worshipped Yehovah before his fall and banishment, but such adoration and worship is what the light-bearer was created for. And so Alec’s description of Lucifer’s relationship with God, with the Christ, is well within the realm of Biblical truth.

As I read this book, I kept thinking of a verse from one of Paul’s epistles: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” 1 Corinthians 10:12 (NIV).

There is a great lesson to be learned from The Fall of Lucifer. He was the highest of the angels of heaven, second only to God himself. He walked in the very presence of God, communed with God, and was privy to the wonders and majesty of all of heaven. He had everything to live for and everything to lose.

And yet Lucifer allowed pride and jealousy over God’s love for man, the creation in God’s own image, to lead to his fall. He allowed iniquity to dwell in his heart and refused to repent. As Alec portrays the story, there were opportunities for Lucifer to repent and God, in His mercy, would have blotted out his iniquity. The prophet Ezekiel recorded God’s description of him:

You were the anointed cherub who covers;
I established you;
You were on the holy mountain of God;
You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones.
You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created,
Till iniquity was found in you.
Ezekiel 28:14-15 (NKJV).

It occurs to me that we all must heed the lesson of Lucifer’s fall and the admonition of Paul. We may think we stand firm in the truth and grace of Christ, but we must always be careful that we do not let iniquity dwell in our hearts and cause us to fall. None of us is immune from temptation.

But after his admonishment, Paul provided this encouragement:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV).

Now it’s on to book two in the series: Messiah – The First Judgment.

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A Glimpse – A Poem

Yesterday on my way to work I was pondering a poem inspired by my new Trevor Morgan CD. I jotted down part of it on a piece of paper planning to finish and post it later.

As I was leaving work I started thinking about the fact that today was Thankful Thursday and that I needed to write a poem to post. As I walked out into the sunshine I smiled that I have so much to be thankful for. But I needed to narrow it down for a Thankful Thursday poem.

Then I realized that the poem I had jotted down earlier in the day was perfect! It’s about the change God has made in my heart, and that is definitely something I’m thankful for. So when I got home from work I finished the poem and here it is.

A Glimpse

I catch a glimpse
of who I was
who I used to be

A stranger now
but still so close
lurking inside of me

The invisible God
has been changing me
into someone new

When it happened
I do not know
I only know it’s true

The stranger inside
my sinful self
desires to rise again

Such misery
I can’t allow
so I hold fast to God

The new creation
God has made of me
is all I desire to be

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 (NIV).

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