What are we to do with those around us who do not believe?
Since in my absence I didn’t have time to give you any commentary, I’d like to take a moment to briefly tell you about the background of the book of Ezekiel before commenting on today’s reading.
The name Ezekiel means “The Strength of God” or “One Strengthened by God”, and it’s a good thing he was, because like Jeremiah the message that God gave him to deliver was a biter one for the children of Israel. But it also was ultimately a message of encouragement for them, too. You see, it was during their captivity in Babylon that Ezekiel’s ministry took place.
The first part of the book (chapters 1-3) told of Ezekiel’s preparation, the second part (chapters 4-24) told of Israel’s sins, and the last part (chapter 25 through the end of the book) tell of Israel’s restoration.
In today’s chapters, we read of the different nations that God would bring judgment upon, except in chapter 28 Israel learned of some of the ways God would restore them, as a way to encourage them even in their captivity.
God loves his chosen people as a father loves his children. I know that as a father, it was important to me that when I punished my boys, they should know that I still loved them. How terrible it would be if they thought I no longer loved them when they disobeyed me. The punishment would be cruel, and would not bring the result I wanted if they thought my love was lost to them forever. Without love, they would be crushed.
God never punishes his people without love as the motivation. His purpose is always to bring us back to a restored relationship with Him. And of course, the ultimate fulfillment of that is the punishment Jesus took upon Himself for our permanent and eternal restoration.
Some comments on Philemon, and a little about my trip with my youngest son to North Carolina, including a run-in with Hurricane Matthew!
In chapter 8, Paul talks to the Corinthian church about food offered to idols, and whether a believer should eat it. This subject seems sort of strange to us today, but in Greece, where the city of Corinth is, the worship of many different gods and idols was common. And often, certain foods were sacrificed to these idols before it made its way to the marketplace to be sold.
So the question for some in the church of Corinth was whether or not this food should be eaten. Some felt that food offered to idols was tainted or unclean. Certainly the Jews who were there avoided it for this very reason.
Paul’s teaching on this was surprising to those who thought they should not eat this meat. He said, “Look. Idols are nothing. They aren’t gods. They are just inanimate objects. So eating food offered to them will not separate you from God. He said, “Food…will not improve our relation with God; we shall not lose anything if we do not eat, nor shall we gain anything if we do eat.”
But Paul didn’t leave the subject there. There’s more to it than just eating food. Some of the believers in the church in Corinth had previously been idol worshippers. They had participated in offering meat to these false idols. And they felt that this meat was defiled. So, instead of forcing them to violate their consciences, Paul said that believers who would otherwise not have a problem with this meat should not eat it if doing so would cause one of these other brothers or sisters to stumble. Because for these who had been idol worshippers, it was a sin, since it went against their conscience.
Personal freedom is a gift of grace. But if your freedom causes someone to violate their conscience, thus causing them to sin, then you too have sinned.
It’s all about love, my friend. If I love you, I won’t insist on having my way.
Chapter 9 has some language in it that causes difficulty for some people. Did it get your attention? Here it is again. Paul was quoting Malachi 1:2-3. He said, “As the Scriptures say, ‘I loved Jacob, but I hated Esau.’”
What? God hated Esau? What’s up with that?
Well, as it turns out, this type of language in the Hebrew was used more in the comparative sense. God was comparing his affection of the two boys, Jacob and Esau. When God said he hated Esau, the meaning was that He loved Jacob more. It was not an active hate.
There are other examples of this language in the scriptures. You’ve heard, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son; but he that loveth him chasteneth Him.” That’s Proverbs 13:24. In Matthew 6:24 we read, “No man can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other”. And the verse that so many misunderstand is when Jesus said in Luke:14:26, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother”.
All of these are comparative. Obviously a parent does not actively hate his child by not disciplining him. Of course, withholding discipline is not at all a good way to raise a child, but often times a parent does this because he loves the child too much. Again, this is misguided, but it is not active hate.
Also, I wear many hats as far as the work I do. When I first began podcasting, I had a windshield repair business. I still do. But now I do podcasting, which is another “master”. I am also a professional voice artist. Another “master”. And I have this great new book. Marketing that is another master.
Guess what. I don’t have the same amount of enthusiasm for each of those things. I enjoy them all, but truth be told, I do have a favorite. That doesn’t mean I hate the others.
And you know Jesus does not want us to hate our parents in the way that we use the word “hate”. He just meant that we must love Him more than our parents.
Now, as for why God loved Jacob more than Esau, Paul addressed that as well as it can be in the following verses of chapter 9. It sort of boils down to “God is God and we are not.” We really cannot fully understand God’s reasoning, because our minds are so much less than His. As people who trust that God is love, we have to accept His goodness as a matter of faith. And in my own life, He has demonstrated countless times that He is worthy of my faith. So I’m ok with His decisions.
As Paul closed his letter to the church in Corinth, he found several ways to gently try to move them in the direction of unity within their ranks.
As he opened, he mentioned that they should give in the same way as he had encouraged the Galatian church to give, in a way challenging them to come together and not be outdone by the Galatians.
But then, after all the things he wrote to them about how there were problems there, he told them how much he wanted to be with them and even spend an extended time with them, if the Lord permitted.
And he told them that Timothy was coming to them at his bequest, and that they should treat him well. Timothy was young, and it would’ve been easy for them to mistreat him. But Paul let them know that he would be given a report on Timothy’s treatment there.
And then he demonstrated that even though there were some in the Corinthian church who seemed to favor Apollos, he (Paul) had no animosity towards a fellow laborer in the faith. Apollos knew about the issue going on, and he didn’t want to make the problem worse by going to them at this particular time. He would wait until things calmed down a bit.
Paul then urged them to step up their spiritual game. In verses 13 and 14 he said, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” And he tells them to follow the lead of Stephanas and his family, who had faithfully given themselves to serving the believers, including even Paul.
And he again encourages them with the assurance that the churches in Asia sent their greetings.
And to wrap up, I’m sure with all their divisions and problems in mind, and thinking of his writing on love and how it is acted out, he tells them to greet one another with a holy kiss. In essence reminding them that they are all a part of one body, the body of Christ.
His last sentence puts the bow on the package. “My love be with you all in Christ Jesus.”
This is a wonderful example of Godly leadership, showing by example how we are to love one another, despite our differences and our failings. This is good, not just for churches but for our everyday lives. How many divorces could be avoided, broken friendships mended, and a myriad of other problems, if we would follow this example?
Today we’ll read two of my favorite chapters in the entire Bible. Of course, if you’ve been listening to the LSFB for long, you know that I have several favorite chapters, right?
Let’s discuss both chapters just a little.
In chapter 12, Paul is addressing another issue that is bringing this argumentative Corinthian church another reason for divisions. And unfortunately, the division of a church over disagreements about spiritual gifts didn’t end with them.
When I was a teenager, I give my heart to the Lord when I was attending a very traditional Southern Baptist church. I loved the people there, and I loved the pastor. But I don’t remember ever hearing a word about spiritual gifts. When I first got married and moved away from home, I began attending a little community church in the city of Mammoth Lakes. This church had just undergone a split over disagreements about spiritual gifts. I had no idea what they were even talking about. But the new pastor, who had been brought in to replace the pastor who left, preached a series of sermons about the various gifts of the Spirit. He did such a great job, backed up by scriptures like 1 Corinthians 12, that my own theology on the subject was shaped then and hasn’t changed a lot over the ensuing years. In a nutshell, Paul taught the Corinthians that the Holy Spirit gives gifts to different people as He chooses. They all have value, just as each part of the body has value. He taught them that it is silly to argue about what part of the body is better, and it’s silly to fight over what gift is better.
And then in the 13th chapter, which is often called the “Love Chapter”, Paul continues addressing the church in regards to division and gifts. What he tells them is that it doesn’t matter what gift you have if you don’t have love. If there is love, you won’t have the problem fighting over who has what gift or which gift is better. And to make it clear, he delineates what love looks like. Love is not that mushy feeling of butterflies in your stomach you got with your first high school crush. Love is much more that that, and Paul is very specific about what it is. I hate to even begin to boil it down into just a few words, because his description is so dead on, but I’ll do it anyway. Love is not about what makes me feel good. Love is about what I can do for the benefit of the object of my love. Even when it’s difficult, or when that other person is unloveable. Love keeps going.
And I could keep going on this subject for an hour. But my agreement with you is that the show is around ten minutes. So, I’ll just say that I pray your weekend will be filled with love. The kind of love that benefits others. And I pray that you might be the object of that kind of love from someone, too. Already, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that our Savior loves you that way. He always has, and He always will.
Have a comment? Tell me your thoughts below.
Big thanks to
I was really affected by this film, and had the pleasure of welcoming Dan into my home just a few days ago to talk about it.
Please note that the DVD release date is April 20, 2010.
Where’s The Evidence?
I was recently having a fatherly discussion with one of my sons…whose identity will remain anonymous for reasons that will soon become crystal clear. At times the discussion became, shall we say, animated. You see, report cards came out in the weekend mail.
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What is the evidence that we truly are followers of Christ?
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Music in today’s show:
Well guys, it’s time for one of those conversations that some call “a heart to heart.” This is a conversation that I’ve been thinking about for a long time, but didn’t quite know how to broach. And by the way, I’m talking primarily to those of you who have been with me for awhile. If this is your first time listening to the show, or if you’re new and still just checking out the Lifespring family, then you’re welcome to listen, obviously, but you’re not who I’m mainly addressing myself to…(Listen to the show for the entire message.)
I also talk about Eliot Spitzer, Easter, and a Grandma’s interesting take on the way some fairy tales begin.