15 Questions from I Corinthians 13 (Love Chapter) For Self-Evaluation

Most people have heard 1 Corinthians 13 at weddings and maybe a sermon at church.  But it’s also a great parameter to assess our own “love” for others.

#1 – “Love Is Patient” – Am I giving others the same room to make mistakes as I want them to give me?

#2 – “Love Is Kind” – Do the people that I spend time with actually like being around me?

#3 – “It Does Not Envy” – Am I automatically jealous of anyone who has a great idea?  Do I rejoice when others are rejoicing or do I wish they would be struggling like me?

#4 – ‘It Does Not Boast” – Do I feel like I always need to remind people of my previous victories?  (If we are obsessed with the past, then we’re not advancing towards the future!)

#5 – “It Is Not Proud” – Do I feel that I am the only one that has all of the answers?

#6 – “It Is Not Rude” – How am I treating those who serve me?  Do I treat the waiter/waitress, customer service rep., and others with the respect I would show my own family?

#7 – “It Is Not Self Seeking” – Who is this about–really?

#8 – “It Is Not Easily Angered” – Are people afraid to bring me information that is true and accurate because they know I will lose my mind and begin to yell?  (Don’t shoot the mailman!)

#9 – “It Keeps No Record of Wrongs” – Do I remind people of their past failures or encourage them in their current condition?

#10 – “Love Does Not Delight in Evil but Rejoices in the Truth” – Can people be honest and open with me?

#11 – “It Always Protects” – Do I have the back of my co-workers and friends?  It’s very discouraging to have a relationship with someone who demands loyalty but will not extend it.

#12 – “Always Trusts” – Do I believe others (the staff at church and my wife at home) can make day-to-day decisions without my input?

#13 – “Always Hopes” – Do I always automatically assume the worst or the best about people?

#14 – “”Always Perseveres” – Am I quick to give up on people after they make one mistake, or am I willing to teach them through it?

#15 – “Love Never Fails” – Am I failing others?  Or am I loving them?

Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing

Romans 14:1 says,

Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.

The perfect verse for a conflict avoider! But seriously this is important to me because it reminds me to focus on essentials and not non-essentials. 99% of the arguments in the church are about non-essentials. We have to open our arms and mind to accepting them.

What It Means To “Pray in Jesus’ Name”

Jesus wanted us to pray in His name. What a privilege! He is trusting that His honor and interests are safe in our hands. Consider what it would mean to place your interests, money, home, EVERYTHING in the hands of another?

3 phrases in particular help us understand what it means to pray in Jesus’ name:

  1. We are authorized to be Christ’s representatives. We really are ambassadors of Christ. That’s a privilege and honor and great responsibility.
  2. We come to God on the basis of Christ’s merit. Our access depends solely on what He has done.
  3. We come asking in accord with Christ’s will. We have the mind of Christ in us, so what we ask is what Jesus would ask.

Your Identity comes from where you place your Security

Isaiah 28:16,

So this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone,
    a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
the one who relies on it
    will never be stricken with panic.”

Identity is so important. What are you first and foremost? Is it defined by a role or a relationship? I think our identity (whether we can admit to it or not) is found in where we place our ultimate security.

How can you identify where you put your security? The answer lies in knowing what you fear. A job loss, death of a family member, loss of independence? Each of those can chip away at your “God security” when it is perceived to be vulnerable. Begin to place your hopes and dreams in Christ by orienting your life more towards your relationship with Him. Let Him be your all in all.

Lights in the Darkness to Understand Suffering (Part 5)

You can go to part one here

and part two here

part three

part four

The loveliest thing about the creative attitude towards suffering is that not only do you develop your own character but you become a source of blessing and strength to others.

Someone may say, “I see now that suffering is not so much a problem to be explained, as a challenge to be met; but how am I to meet it?”  There’s the rub. By what power am I to emerge victorious over every evil that threatens to defeat me?

Fair question.

The only answer that can suffice is God incarnate on a cross, there facing the very worst that suffering and evil have ever done upon the earth. Still He comes to us victorious over all the mystery of suffering and evil, and offers to make His triumph ours!

None of what I’ve said about suffering is adequate without the cross.  None of those lights will meet the need of a grief-stricken mother.

The answers so far have difficulties. If suffering brings blessing, why work for its abolition? Couldn’t have God brought us to the same goal by some less tragic road? Suffering may produce character but its obvious that it doesn’t always happen.

So ultimately no explanation sufficiently explains because that’s not what we need.  We need VICTORY over it. It is not to elaborate a theory; it is to lay hold upon a power. An explanation cannot bear the pain itself. And that is why God gave us Christ.

So how does the cross transform this age-long mystery? God is in it with you! Christ stands besides you through the darkness. And in fact is so much closer to you than the closest friend. He is IN you! Your sufferings are his sufferings.

Remember this: if God is in it with you, sharing your suffering, it is also true that you are in it with God, sharing His redemptive activity and His victory.

So what suffering does, when it comes to you, is to give you a chance to cooperate with God. Every person that takes their personal griefs and troubles and offers these things up on the altar alongside the sacrifice of Jesus, is sharing constructively in that eternal passion of God by which all humanity shall at last find healing and peace.

There was victory at the cross for Christ; and God wants you to know that there can be victory at every cross for you.

Lights in the Darkness to Understand Suffering (Part 4)

You can go to part one here

and part two here

part three

3) It takes a world with trouble in it to train us for our high calling as children of God.

It’s hard to see a child grieve a broken toy but we know it’s the first step towards a more mature life.  We have to learn to deal with loss.

Jesus “learned obedience from what he suffered.” Hebrew 5:8

Here lies the clue to this–that the problem of evil is raised far more often by the spectators of life than by the actual combatants. You will hardly find that the great sufferers are the great skeptics. The fact is that it is the world’s greatest sufferers who have produced the most shining examples of unconquerable faith.

They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.  -Hebrews 11:37-38

How can this be? Suffering initiates the soul into secrets which the more onlooker can never know. Do not think trials and troubles are meaningless: one day you are going to look up into the face of God and thank Him for every sorrow.

 

Lights in the Darkness to Understand Suffering (Part 3)

You can go to part one here

and part two here

There is a fifth beam, perhaps the greatest, namely the power of sorrow and trouble to chisel the spirit and deepen the whole tone of life must temporarily wait.

First we admit that these beams of light can’t brighten the day of someone in the midst of suffering. For what people want most in the hour of trouble is not an answer to a problem, but a power to carry them through.  Even if a satisfying solution to the problem of evil were presented that would not alter the fact that the actual suffering must still be endured.

There is a deeper question than “why?”  It’s not “why has this happened to me?” but “How, seeing it has happened, am I to face it?” The New Testament is not concerned with “why?” but is desperately and magnificently concerned about “how?” It does not offer a theory and explanation: it offers you a power and a victory.

Suffering has a positive and creative function to fulfill.

#5 The gift which suffering brings to character, the molding and shaping and beautifying of the soul.

1) It takes a world with trouble in it to make possible some of the finest qualities of life. If there were no risk and danger in life, where would fortitude and chivalry be? If there were no suffering, would there be compassion? If there were no hardship, would we ever learn patience and endurance? A universe with no troubles banishes some of the finest qualities of character and life.

2) It takes a world with trouble in it to satisfy man’s demand for a dangerous universe. The human heart has an instinct for adventure. We know that a hazardous universe is better than any land of flabby and monotonous ease.

Lights in the Darkness to Understand Suffering (part 2)

Read part one here

#3 Wisdom of divine impartiality.

We think it’s cruel that the cruel sting of evil falls indiscriminately on sinner and saint alike. It’s indifferent to those who deserve/don’t deserve. This appalling impartiality baffles us! What are we to say of a world which enthrones a Herod, and crucified a Christ?

At first sight the gospel has very little comfort to give. It does not suggest that if two parents follow Christ that death will never rob them of a child. There is no promise of supernatural intervention. We wonder, would not the world be far more just and divine if evil got its desserts and goodness went immune?

Would it? On second thought it would be decidedly less divine. The laws of the universe would have to be suspended often and would lead to chaos. For if a Christian escaped the troubles that visit other folk, if religion got you out of all troubles, faith would become just a gigantic insurance policy, a quid pro quo–and that would be the ruin of faith and character forever.

Righteousness is and should be its own motive.

#4 The awakening of the conscience of humanity.

The reality of suffering stabs the human conscience wide awake and sends us out crusading for a better and happier tomorrow and a world nearer the will of God.

If poverty, unemployment and war were the will of God, then, of course, we should simply have to accept them without trying to improve them (i.e. karma in Hinduism). But if these things are not the will of God at all but simply the product of selfishness and sin then clearly we are not meant to lie down under them and accept them with resignation.

What do we expect to happen? God expects his hands and feet in the world to touch it and try to make it right.  That is OUR responsibility.

There is a fifth beam that is perhaps the greatest…

Lights in the Darkness to Understand Suffering (Part 1)

Seventy-five years ago, Pastor James Stewart outlined some “lights in the darkness” as it pertained to the mystery of suffering and sorrow in our world.  He admitted that it was nearly impossible to solve the mystery in  way that compelled everyone BUT if asked, “Do you see any places where it’s not as dark, where there might be beams of light to illuminate the mystery?” he said yes.

#1 The beneficence of inexorable law.

A good deal of tragedy is due to the working of certain uniform principles which govern the universe. Gravitation, for instance. An airplane whose engine fails may crash. But the point to notice is that the same laws which are responsible for human suffering are also the indispensable sources of most of the things that make like worth living.

If we lived in a universe without these laws our predicament would be infinitely worse.

Gravitation may mean a crash of a plane but remember that without gravitation you could not walk along the street, not travel by car, not launch a ship.  Life would become unlivable.

Think about the properties of fire that give out heat. Some days those properties mean that 100 people, trapped in a blazing building, are burnt to death. Do you wish that fire would not behave like that? Then it would cease to be fire and all its well-being would be lost.

You cannot love all the assets of life and refuse their liabilities.

Stewart then illustrates his point with a football game where the goal line was movable. The whole game depends on the goal lines being fixed to one consistent spot even though there are times we prefer it to be closer or farther away.

#2 Our membership of one another.

Much of innocent suffering is due to the fact that we are mixed up together. If a man plays the fool, others are ruined. If one country breaks faith, others are plunged into war.

Would we be better off an island to ourselves with no human interaction? Think of what we owe to human fellowship. The bread we eat, the clothes we wear, the car we drive, the books you read, the medical help we need are all available because of others’ labors.

 

What the Scriptures are

Romans 15:4,

Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

  1. The Scriptures are entirely applicable to today. “The past was written to teach us….”
  2. The Scriptures are centered in Christ. Paul’s ability to quote Psalm 69 and apply it to Christ reminds us that basically all of Scripture is ultimately about Jesus. See Luke 24:27.
  3. If used properly, the Scriptures will increase “hope” in us. This happens through endurance (hard work and discipline) and encouragement (incredible and precious promises).