Come to the Table


“So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together.”

1 Corinthians 11:33 (NIV)

I’ll have to admit sharing a table at a restaurant with total strangers is not something I usually relish.  But sometimes it turns out to be a delightful experience.  I can remember one time we shared a table with a woman that started her career as a teacher in a one room schoolhouse and had taught for fifty years.  I can remember telling my wife who, at the time had been teaching for twenty-three years, “Just think Honey, in another twenty-seven years you can retire.”

When we’re sharing a table we often seek those with whom we are most comfortable, typically our family and friends.  We are most comfortable with those who think like us, and act like us, and look like us.  But our desire for comfort can cause division.

“So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat,”

1 Corinthians 11:20 (NIV)

The Lord’s Supper is intended to be a visible display of the unity of the church.  In Corinthian society, the host of a meal typically sat people according to their social status.  The more favored guests—those of the highest social standing—received the most prominent seats and the best food and drink.   Paul teaches us that the church body and the Lord’s Supper must be held to a higher standard. 

When we diminish or exclude other believers from the table we sin against Christ by not proclaiming His death. 

Jesus gave his life for all people.  Come to the table.


If you need a haircut...


I admit there are certain passages of scripture that seem really puzzling to me. Maybe it’s just a difference in culture and history. 1 Corinthians 11 is one of those. The verses spend what feels like an inordinate amount of time on hair and head coverings. This is the kind of thing that leads to all kinds of weird human behaviors and rules. When my mom was a college student...she literally felt compelled to get permission from her pastor to get a haircut! Wow...just wow!

This is also the kind of passage that can lead women and men to challenge each other about who is in charge and who has the right to lead and who is expected to submit. Another lovely subject area in present day terms...not.

I strongly doubt that the pastor is going to talk this week about the length of your hair or whether you wear a head covering or not. If you need a haircut...go get one! I think the point is far more about respecting authority and honoring God.

What does that look like in 2019? That’s what we need to ponder. 

Submission is not a word that any of us probably feel wonderful about. But the reality is...sometimes we lead and sometimes we submit, and we need to understand and accept the reality of how that process works.

Growing up in the church...I’m sure I developed a bit of a negative response to this whole thing because of the man-made rules that were made to keep certain people in their place. We have to be able to recognize what matters to God and what doesn’t. From everything I read and have experienced in my own life I know the heart issue of surrendering to Jesus and making Him the Lord of my life is what matters. 

Get that right and everything else will fall into place just fine.

-Ruth Spencer

I googled it.


“How do Americans make decisions”?

“Americans are not making decisions by consulting clergy”, I am informed by the first site.  Not even those who attend church weekly, and not even when making major life decisions, do Americans consult their Pastors.  Who do we go to? Where are we finding the information we need to make potentially life-altering decisions?


The first century Christians in Corinth obviously did not have Google, so when faced with the decision of whether or not to eat meat that had previously been sacrificed to idols while dining in the home of an unbeliever, how did they make a choice? This is a very specific scenario, one that the average American will likely never find him or herself in, but with Paul’s directive to the church at Corinth, the church of God in all places and times may find a better filter for decision making than Google or the mores of the surrounding culture.

“Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”.           

  (1 Corinthians 10:31)

-Does this action I am about to take bring God glory? This question presupposes that I am well enough acquainted with the Lord as He has revealed Himself in the Bible to know whether an action will glorify Him or not. Am I? (Note: don’t Google “how to bring God glory”, it’s not that helpful. I checked.)

Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” (1 Corinthians 10: 32-33)

-Am I making a decision that is in my own best interest or the best interest of others? This standard sounds decidedly un-American. I’m an American. I am not certain I know how to make a decision that is not in my best interest. Lord, teach me how to think about the interests of others over myself, and give me a heart that desires to seek the good of others so that they may know You, even when it costs me greatly!

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

-Is the choice I am about to make in accord with Scripture? Do I know what Scripture says on this matter? Am I committed to following the example of Christ even if it is at odds with what my heart wants?  Am I willing to allow the Word of God to shape my mind and influence my choices? Lord, give me a hunger for Your Word and a passion for Your glory!

Church, Google has its place, but only Jesus has the words of eternal life. May we increasingly look to Him for all of life’s answers, as the Spirit of God conforms us to the image of the risen Christ.

-Natalie Runyon

The Way of Escape


The Way of Escape (1 Corinthians 10:1-22)

After speaking extensively about the pitfalls of idolatry, the Apostle Paul states, “Therefore, let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”  Paul has just referenced the Old Testament Israelites that were laid waste in the wilderness for sinful practices related to their idol making hearts.  And the scariest thing about it is that all of this idolatry was done in the direct face of God’s glorious presence and provision among those dear people.  Paul is warning his “beloved” in Corinth to take that Old Testament example very seriously and flee from their own 1st century idolatry.  They had heard the message of the gospel and believed, but continued to wrestle with following Jesus or their own selfish ambitions.

Does any of this feel familiar? How serious do you take your sin?  How serious do you take Christ Jesus as your rescue and source of life? Sin is the most dangerous thing in the world because it convinces us that we don’t need God.  And choosing sin has destructive consequences.  Jesus wants to save us from our sin and daily free us to live in His will.

As a kid, I used to try walking the length of the swimming pool from one end to the other starting in the shallow end.  Everything went smoothly until I started to slope into the deep end of the pool.  At that point, I would begin floating up and flailing about trying to stay grounded on the bottom of the pool.  I’ve tried the same thing at the beach and it was impossible for me because I was no match for the force of the water and waves.  Sin is a force that we cannot overcome on our own power. Sin deceives us to think we have everything under our control when it’s more like trying to do that pool trick in the deepest and most violent part of the ocean in the midst of a storm while being completely unaware of the danger surrounding us.  Sin will leave us flailing about out of control in a destructive mode that we can’t even see for ourselves.

The hope that Paul offers to the Christians in Corinth is still for us today as he reminds in verse 13 that “God is faithful”.  And that while temptation is common to every human being, God “will provide the way of escape, that you would be able to endure it”  without falling into sin.  Jesus tells us in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it more abundantly.” And in John 14:6, He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the father except through me.”  As Christians, Jesus is not only our Savior but also our Standing before God.  To think any other way is to believe that we stand on our own and that is the start of making idols of ourselves.

How seriously you take your sin will likely determine how seriously you consider your need for a Savior.  In Christ, as our Rock, we have the way of escape and a secure foundation.

May we fix our eyes on Jesus today and trust Him for everything because He is the rock of our salvation and source for living.  May we find our way in Him alone.  Let us pray for one another to find our ultimate security in Jesus as THE Rock & Rescue.

Grateful and hopeful in Christ,


Run to Win


Read this slowly:

19-23 Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!

24-25 You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.

26-27 I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.

1 Corinthians 9:19-27 (The Message)

These four things stood out to me:

1. I kept my bearings in Christ - but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view.

Jesus did this.  He kept His bearings in His Heavenly Father, but He became both God and Man so that He would experience things from our point of view.  Who is it that you think you can't understand?  Have you imagined what it would be like to walk a day in their shoes?  Are you willing to walk a day in their shoes?  

2.  I didn't just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it.

Are you experiencing the Good News you share with others?  Have you decided to "taste and see that the Lord is good"? (Psalm 34:8).  Our faith is not just intellectual.  It is meant to be experiential.  Peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7).  A joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 Peter).  A living hope (1 Peter 1:3).  A love that will not let me go.  We are invited to know these things in our mind, but also experience them in our lives. do we experience this?

3. Everyone runs; one wins.  Run to win.

There is a big difference between being a spectator and a participant.  And there is a big difference between going for a leisurely jog and running with the aim to win.  Athletes who run to win train.  They are careful about what they eat and drink, how much sleep they get, how often they train.  They mentally prepare.  And as Christians we are called to do the same.  We have a call to "train" - to pray, to worship, to read the Word, to fellowship with others, to share our faith in word and deed.  Peace and joy and hope and love are gifts from our Heavenly Father, but we experience them more fully when we are training to run to win.  And it is a lot easier to train with a team than by yourself.

4. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.

Missing out myself...makes me wonder what I have missed that God has handed to me because I am not training to run to win.  But every day His mercies are new, and He reminds me even when I fail and miss out that there is One who came, and He ran to win. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

May we be those who know in our head and experience in our lives the Gospel.

May we be those who love people enough to see things from their point of view.

May we train in a way that causes us to run to win.

May we look to the One who already won guaranteeing our victory!

See you Sunday,


Paul's Call


I recognize Paul’s tone of voice in chapter 9 of 1 Corinthians. It reads like a parent talking to his children trying to explain to them the principle of the matter. He tries to clarify that he’s not irritated with them, but you can’t help but pick up on the reality that as a human he is irritated. Kind of like those moments when someone says they’re fine and you pretty much know they’re not fine.

The principle of the matter is “those who spread the Message will be supported by those who believe the Message.” This probably translates differently at different times in history and in different cultures.

Clearly, Paul is feeling a lack of support. He goes on to explain that he is compelled to share the Message regardless of how he is treated and is not expecting to get something out of it for himself, but you can’t help but pick up on the fact that there is some hurt and frustration expressed.

Who is it today that spreads the Message? Is that just a call to support pastors and missionaries? I think at one time I would’ve thought so, but at this point...I think it should be/needs to be all of us who believe. At one time this was solely placed on the Levites' shoulders...but it’s not just the pastor’s job in present day. It’s all of us.

So, this section of scripture to me seems to be saying...all of us who believe, need to spread the Message and we need to support one another in doing so...generously. Period.

Do you believe the Message? Are you spreading the Message? Do you feel supported by others who believe the Message? Do you have hurts that need to be brought to the light and healed by the Message?

If you’ve been around church life for any length of time you know these are valid questions and issues that need to be reflected on and dealt with.

Ruth Spencer

Knowledge Surpassed


“Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.  But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” 1 Corinthians 8:1-3 (ESV)

I love learning.  I love researching, seeking knowledge, and problem solving.  Sometimes while I work out at the gym, I’ll listen to a sermon or podcast seeking knowledge and better understanding.  One recent morning I was on an elliptical exercise machine listening to a sermon on 1 Corinthians 8.  Sometime later a person comes in and starts exercising on a machine two machines away.  Above the sermon coming through earbuds I suddenly hear loud exuberant laughter.  I look over and see it’s the person two machines down staring intently at the television on their exercise machine.  A short time later I hear, “Run run…Ohhh!” 

In my mind my first thoughts (thoughts of which I’m not proud) are, “That person is interrupting my ability to understand this passage.  Don’t they know that I have to facilitate a Bible study and reflect on this passage in an email for an entire church?  They’re probably just watching a trashy sitcom.”  I realize the Lord has taught me more in an instant than I likely would have gathered from an hour long sermon.  Talk about knowledge puffing up, imagining that I know something, and not knowing as I should.

How do I love my brothers and sisters and what should this love look like?  It’s not about me willing myself and resolving to love others more.  In fact it’s not about me at all; it’s about loving God first and foremost. 

“I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—  that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.  For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” Romans 9:1-3 (ESV)

These incredible words were also written by Paul and I’m absolutely stunned each time I read them.  Surely Paul must be exaggerating, but verse one clearly tells us he is not.  The whole thing is unexplainable apart from Christ.  How does Paul go from persecuting Christians to a place where he’s willing to be cut off from Christ for the sake of his lost brothers?  Have I ever loved like this?

Father God fill us with a love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.


Ode to the Simple Life


“There is no time to waste, so don’t complicate your lives unnecessarily. Keep it simple in marriage, grief, joy, whatever. Even in ordinary things-your daily routines of shopping, and so on. Deal as sparingly as possible with the things the world thrusts on you. This world as you see it is on its way out. I want you to live as free of complications as possible.” (The Message translation, 1 Corinthians 7)

Paul spends a lot of time in this passage trying to stress a simple way of living and in his mind that means singleness vs. marriage. I can’t help but wonder what would be written about living a simple life today!

I’ve lived long enough now to have some hindsight and realize that there have been times when I’ve over complicated my life, whether that’s in my scheduling of activities, spending, relationships, accumulation of stuff, or however else I’ve been able to finagle complicating things. It’s an easy thing to do as a young adult and a young parent. We are prone to seeing what others are doing and feeling the pressure and desire to want to fit in and do the same.

Over time...I’ve realized the simple life is where it’s at. I’ve also realized the simple life doesn’t just happen, it’s a very deliberate choice daily, it’s learning to slow down, be silent and stop the activity and hum of stress and business that seems to so easily become our daily soundtrack.

I think the simple life will look a little different for each person. And that’s part of the beauty of it too. Imagine that Jesus would want us to live in a way that is tailor made for our personality and soul. Why would we choose anything less? But, we do it all the time when we aren’t in touch with our deepest desires.

We will be prone to satisfy for lesser things every time without the help of Jesus.

Every time we sing the words “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.” I am struck by the reality of that pull in me even though I love God. much as you can, step into self-reflection and actually listen to your heart and soul, listen to the voice of Jesus within you. Take the time to be so in touch with Him that He will be the One you rely on to guide you in all the decisions of your life. I think you will naturally find yourself craving simplicity.

For me...going for a walk...enjoying a cup of coffee...eating a home cooked meal with my family...getting rid of stuff I don’t use or enjoy...helping others...reading a good book...noticing nature...feeling the breeze, warmth of the sun or even the rain on my skin...homemade gifts and just realizing over all that less is always more, making do with what I have, and I could go on and on. These are all ways that I find simplicity, and this is just the beginning. Simplicity will affect your calendar and your checkbook right away. It’s the ability to say yes to the things that are best instead of just saying yes to anything and everything.

Leave room for Jesus. Simplicity allows you to do just that.

Ruth Spencer

Lighting the Way


In my line of work, a strong flashlight is a handy tool to have available to light up a scene.  Nowadays, most of us use our phones when we’re in a pinch for some extra light but it’s just not quite the same as a faithful sturdy flashlight.  Think about all the times you’ve wished you had a strong flashlight at your disposal.  And where would you most likely use such a thing? 

Do you really think it would be of much use in a clearly lit place?

In the passage we are studying as a church this week, Paul is charging the Christians at Corinth to be faithful in their call to Christ.  Like many today, some at Corinth were misinterpreting their call as something other than the life they were already a part of.  Paul is reminding them to be faithful to Christ in their current relationships and livelihoods.  While they have been called out of walking in darkness, they are not called out of the dark places - because they will be the light of Christ among the people and places where they’ve been planted by God. 

There is still a misconception for some in the church today that when they experience saving faith in Christ Jesus they will leave their former lives for shinier opportunities and shinier relationships.  And while it is certainly true that followers of Christ will experience greater things as we walk with Jesus by His Word and Spirit, this does not usually mean that we are called to leave our current roles and relationships that God has placed us in.  As Christians, we are called out of walking in darkness in the futility of selfish thinking and acting out on sinful impulses.  Simultaneously, we are called to be led by Jesus into His marvelous light that guides us in all truth and the grace to transform our desire to be for His desires. 

In a very real sense, the church is to be like a faithful sturdy flashlight at the ready to a world in spiritual darkness.  We do this by knowing Jesus and making Him known in the places we’ve been planted. And we do this by remembering that God promises to be with us in it all.

While we are called to gather and encourage each other in the faith, we are just as much called to dispatch into the world for God’s good purposes to be served outside the church.  Think about it, would you likely need to use a flashlight in a clearly lit room?  So how do you think God might want to place His people in the world?  His plan is for His people to be light in the dark places. 

May we walk in the light as He is in the light.  May we so let our lights shine before others that they would come to know the light of Christ for themselves.  May we corporately encourage each other in our personal callings for the glory of God and His Kingdom through Jesus!

Grateful and hopeful in Christ,


Check Mate


“Marriage is a decision to serve the other, whether in bed or out.” (From 1 Corinthians 7 The Message translation)

My husband loves the game of chess. He plays with people from all over the world daily on an app on his phone. I’ve tried to play with him here at home, but I just can’t quite get the hang of it. The crucial thing is being able to see the board and strategize in such a way that you’ve anticipated 3 or more steps in the future for both you and your opponent. You’re hoping they’ll fall into a trap you set and that you’ll avoid the traps they set. You exchange pieces back and forth and play until one person can play no longer and must accept defeat. There is a clear winner and loser. In a game of chess - this is good and actually a great way to intellectually stimulate the brain. But in life, especially in marriage, it’s not the way we should be living.

Marriage is not about strategizing what your next move will be or thinking ahead 3-5 moves to figure out how to get your partner to fall into a trap. It’s not about I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine. It’s not about competition. It’s not about winning and losing. Marriage is not about you on one side of the table and me on the other plotting a win.

It’s easy to see this is true, but how often is that the way people live out their marriage relationship? Marriage is a place where we choose to serve one fact delight in it. We don’t keep score. In fact, we realize we are on the same team with the same goals and vision. Instead of competition, it’s about cooperation.

Not everyone is going to get married and Paul addresses this in this chapter, too. From his perspective it’s easier to be single, which shows me his humanness. We tend to view the world through our own set of circumstances. Either way...whether you’re single or’s pure gift.

Delight in serving one another. Discover new ways to show your love to one another. Never lose the spark. Marriage is not a chess game - it’s a double’s tennis match or a canoe trip, it requires us working together, helping one another, encouraging each other on. Marriage requires us to recognize that we win together and we lose together, and as long as we’re will be alright.

Ruth Spencer



A pigtailed girl, barely six years old, sits in a hard-backed pew with avocado green seats. Her feet don’t quite reach the floor, and she doodles on the offering envelope while the preacher talks long. 

Then Jesus knocks on the door of her heart. 

When she hears His voice, she says “come in”, but doesn’t yet know He won’t be content to dwell in the little compartment of her heart she has reserved for Him, but instead wants all of her. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you?” (1 Corinthians 6:19)

Through the years, whether explicitly taught or tacitly implied, the lesson caught is that she must work hard to be pure and holy, a place worthy for the Spirit of God to dwell. Yet, the siren song of sin beckons, and holiness seems an unattainable goal. It’s hard to live as a princess, when a pauper is all you have been. 

The striving and the trying were only a dead end. She could never work hard enough to create a temple worthy of Him. Defeated and dejected, she surrendered to her sin.

But Jesus is the lover who won’t let go. His kindness leads to repentance. And so, it was, the pigtailed girl grew up, and came back to the One who had set His love upon her before the beginning of time. 

Washed in His Word, the Spirit showed her what was true all along. She was not an object of (His) wrath, but a vessel intended for righteousness. She was not dressed in pauper’s rags, begging and stealing for clothes to make her worthy of the King. Yes, the Prince had found her destitute, but it was He who had clothed her shame. He brought her to His table and gave her a new name. When the Father looked at her, He did not see who she had been. He did not demand for her to try harder to be worthy of the Son. He only saw the beauty granted through her union with Him. 

Beloved believers in Christ, our bodies are not meant for sexual immorality. All of our heart, every bit of strength, and each thought of our mind is intended for His glory. Our bodies, they belong to Him. We are HIS body. Would the bride of a Prince disgrace Him by using her body for prostitution, defiling both herself and Him? Never! And why? Because she knows whose she is.

Believer, you were bought with a price, that precious blood of Christ. As He breathed His last breath, the temple curtain was rent in two from top to bottom. No longer would the presence of God dwell in anything built by human hands, but His Holy Spirit now lives in His ransomed children. Beloved, you are not your own. You are His. You were made for Him, so now glorify God in your body.

Natalie Runyon

What Do I Believe?


 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (ESV)

What do I believe? 

Do I believe each of these is a sin?  Do I believe Paul made a mistake?  Do I believe I must not understand properly?  Do I believe this doesn’t apply to me today?   Do I believe this is just the way I am?  Do I believe I’m better than them?  Do I believe there is no hope?  Do I believe my sin is not sin?  Do I believe I cannot change? 

Do I believe I’m a hopeless sinner?  Do I believe in a loving creator?  Do I believe the bible is the inerrant word of God?  Do I believe the Son of God died for my sin?  Do I believe in the resurrection power of Jesus?  Do I believe there is hope?  Do I believe I can be changed?  Do I believe I should change?

What do I believe? 


Grace is Power, Not Just Pardon


“You are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord."

1 Corinthians 5:5 (ESV)

Do what now?  The church is supposed to deliver someone to Satan?  How is this loving one another? 

The instruction to deliver someone to Satan means to expel that person from the church body.  This sounds like the Pharisees; aren’t we supposed to welcome sinners into the church?  Absolutely, all are invited to come and meet the grace, love, and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.  This church discipline is not meant for all sinners, but for professing believers committing ongoing and unrepentant acts of immorality.  Church discipline is to be administered by church leaders by the authority and power of Jesus Christ and His word.  This discipline is to be a solemn and heartbroken response to the sinner’s broken relationships with God, self, others, and the rest of creation.  Putting the sinner out of the fellowship makes them more vulnerable and more likely to have to deal with their sinful nature, with the hope that they will repent and be restored.  Paul warns that unaddressed sin can permeate and destroy the church body like a small amount of yeast leavens a whole batch of dough.

“Judge not, that you be not judged.”  Matthew 7:1 (ESV)

Who are we to judge?  In chapter 4 Paul tells us he doesn’t judge himself and then in chapter 5 he writes, “I have already pronounced judgement on the one who did such a thing.”  The key to this seeming contradiction is competency.  There are some areas the church has no competency to judge.  The church has no right to judge a person’s motives or service (1 Corinthians 4), but the church is competent and has a responsibility to judge sin within the church body (1 Corinthians 5).

“But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. “

1 Corinthians 5:11 (ESV)

Don’t even eat with them?  This seems too harsh.  At Passover a lamb was sacrificed so others might live.  The relationship with the professing unrepentant believer is being sacrificed so that the church body might live.  This serves as a reminder that the Lamb of God has died in our place so that we might live a life of obedience and gratitude to Him.

“And you are proud!  Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of the fellowship the man who has been doing this?”                                

1 Corinthians 5:2 (NIV)

How can the Corinthian church possibly be proud?  They take pride in their ability to tolerate this man’s sin. They have an improper understanding of grace and unconditional love.   John Piper sums up a proper view of grace this way: “Grace is not simply leniency when we have sinned. Grace is the enabling gift and power of God not to sin. Grace is power, not just pardon.”  The Corinthians are solely focused on the pardon while ignoring the power of the cross.  In the safety of unconditional tolerance and love, this man will never feel his sin is wrong.

By the pardon of grace, I get to write this message. By the power of grace, I want to.


Motivated by Love


Motivated by Love (1 Corinthians 4:14-21)

Paul has some hard truths that he is preparing to convey to the church at Corinth.  In our text this week, he continues setting the tone for the 1st century audience to understand that his motives are guided by the love he has for them as a spiritual father.

I’ve been blessed with a daughter and son that I love dearly.  I’ve known them since their infancy and bonded closely with each of them.  Over the years, I’ve sought to train them up in the way that they should go.  That process required me to admonish them at times when it was not easy for me to do or for them to receive.  But my love for them required me to take action that would serve their growth.   Sometimes, the correction I offered was unwanted and seemingly redundant, yet I gave it with the big picture of God’s kingdom in mind. I’ve taken my role as their father seriously because their very lives depend on it.  By the grace of God, I’ve watched as they’ve matured into adulthood, and although I really doubt that my paternal instinct for them will ever subside, I am most comforted in knowing that their Heavenly Father is faithfully caring for their souls.

Paul loved the Christians at Corinth.  He’d taught them the mysteries of God through the Gospel of Christ and Him crucified.  Paul observed them when they responded as infants in their Christian faith.  He felt deeply committed to their spiritual growth as he’d been a part of their spiritual birth through the Gospel.   He writes this letter because he cares deeply about them as disciples of his Savior and Lord, Christ Jesus.  He addresses them as “beloved children”.  His tone is important to note because Paul is about to unleash a wide arch of correction on them.  He loved them too much to leave them alone in their sinful patterns, and so he sent Timothy to remind them of the way in Christ.  Paul often described Timothy as being like a dear son or child to him in the faith.  It was a gracious act for Paul to share Timothy with the Christians at Corinth, and to offer his admonishment in this letter.  He was acting on their behalf.

Today, we have a heavenly Father that loves us too much to leave us alone in our sin and so he graciously shared His dear Son, Jesus, with us to show us His way and will for our lives.  John 3:17-18 tells us “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

The words of Paul’s letter and John’s Gospel are also for us today as a church family.  Like then, we still need to remember the heart of God behind His inspired Word—God loves you and me too deeply to let us wallow in our sin.  God’s love is not silent.  He still speaks to us through His Word and Spirit.   He has acted on our behalf through Jesus!  And this is the power of God - to transform our life and actions to serve His kingdom for His glory.  How will you receive His Word and correction in your life today?  God invites us to turn from our sin and trust in Jesus.  In Christ, there is no condemnation, but because of His love there will always be corrective admonishment.  This is a reminder of God’s steadfast love and care for the souls of His children.

May we be a people that revere our Heavenly Father and live for His kingdom and His glory!

May we be a people that speak the truth in love in our God given relationships!

May we remember that God loves us too much to leave us alone in our sin and has made a better way through the power of the Gospel of Jesus the Christ!

Grateful and hopeful in Christ,


Stewarding the Mysteries of God


“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” 1 Corinthians 4:1

How do you want people to regard you? Smart, athletic, pretty, wise, humble, rich, influential, powerful, kind?  

We spend a lot of time thinking about our image. Why do we do this? We are "created in the image of God" (Genesis 1:26) and we are "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14). But often we think being created in the image of God is not enough. Sometimes we want to be the Creator. Sometimes we want to be the Master and not the servant. Sometimes we want to be the owner and not the steward.

The Corinthians Paul addresses in this passage struggled with this also. They have self-appointed themselves into positions of leadership and influence, and the power has begun to go to their heads. Paul lovingly, and with a bit of sarcasm (ok, maybe a lot of sarcasm), asks them a rhetorical question, "What do you have that you did not receive?" (1 Corinthians 4:7).

What if every gift, every skill, every talent, every dollar, every breath we have is something we receive? It is not ours. We do not own it.

All we have, all we own, has been given to us by our Father in Heaven. He hands it to us, invites us, calls us, and commands us to serve Him by stewarding all He has given us for His Kingdom. 

May we be those who delight in being servants.  May we rejoice in stewarding the mysteries of God. 

See you Sunday,


Building the Temple of God's Holy Spirit

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Have you ever traveled past a building plot and imagined an amazing structure in that place?  How would you feel if someone came along to build something there that was unworthy of the site or the foundation?  That is a point of concern for the first century church at Corinth.

To the Church at Corinth, Paul reminds them that they have a perfect foundation already laid in Christ Jesus.  But the Apostle follows with a stern warning that the church must build on it properly, with great concern for their spiritual legacy, and how it will impact the rest of God’s people.  This is still a point of concern for all of the Church today that demands us to walk in God’s spirit rather than our own selfish ambitions.

Paul offers another reminder,

Let no one deceive himself.  If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.                              1 Corinthians 3:18

Then, as now, it was hard to stay gospel centered.  But Paul has reminded the church of their foundation, and now they are to build on it with materials that fit the quality of the foundation.  These materials will be provided from God through the power of His Spirit.  Those first Christians were told to resist building on the world’s wisdom, and instead seek the will of God in all things which were revealed through Christ and His crucifixion.

The concerns for the 1st century church at Corinth are much the same for us today.  The concern is not about physical structures, but about spiritual people called to follow Christ together. The church was made up of broken, sinful people then and still today.  The good news in Christ Jesus is that then and now, we are not left to our brokenness, but are redeemed in Christ, His cross, and through the Spirit of God indwelling us; we are being restored daily to God’s will and purposes!

Do you know that you need God’s wisdom to live for Him?  Do you know that you have everything you need to live for Him by the power and indwelling work of His Spirit in your life individually and the church collectively? 

In this week’s passage, Paul goes on to say that he, Apollos, Cephas, life, death, the world, the present, and the future are all for the benefit of the church.  The Apostle wants the church to hold onto the truth of Romans 8:28 and remember that God will use everything in the church, world, life, death, present, and future to restore His people - His building - to perfect completion in Christ Jesus.  Everything for the Christian and the Church family starts with Jesus.  We must continue to abide in Him.

Let us remember today…If we build on shoddy materials, the tests of life will reveal their shoddiness.  If we build with materials fitting to God’s Holy temple, then the tests of life will reveal their quality. 

As we follow Jesus together, may we live with our trust CENTERED on the Gospel of Christ.

May we ask God to give us wisdom so that we will be about His Kingdom.

May we surrender to the work of His Spirit to equip us to honor Jesus and live for Him.

I thank God today for the people that He has used to build my life as a Christ follower, and I look forward to how He will do the same through us going forward!

Grateful and hopeful in Christ,


Milk & Hope

Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ.  I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.  Indeed, you are still not ready. 
1 Corinthians 3:1-2 (NIV)

Often when I read a passage, like the one above, I almost immediately place myself into one group or the other.  Many times the thought is something similar to, “at least I’m not one of those milk people.”   The reference to milk catches my attention and triggers a vague memory of another passage which I later locate in Hebrews chapter five.

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.  For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God.  You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.  But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
Hebrews 5:11-14 (ESV)

Dull of hearing describes my recent condition.  Not a problem of hearing with my ears, but rather a problem hearing with my heart.  How did I arrive in my dull of hearing need for milk state?  I believe the dullness is a gradual erosion of my heart.  Like the Corinthians chasing after and quarreling over Paul and Apollos, I too chase after and quarrel over my leader.  But unlike the Corinthians my leaders are many.  My leaders include desires to perform acts of service, to improve my fitness and eat better, to complete household tasks, to relax and watch sports, and to read a good book.  To catch up on the latest news, to pray more, to spend time with my family, to spend time reading the Bible, to do something more important, to find a better solution, and a desire to do less.

None of these “leaders” is bad in itself, but I allow the totality of these competing desires to weigh me down creating within me a joyless spirit of impatience and frustration.  My effort to try to follow all of these leaders causes me to unknowingly take my eyes off of the one true Lord.  

I receive a text asking me if I’m willing and able to facilitate a Tuesday morning men’s Bible study in two weeks.  My impatient spirit wants to immediately decline this invitation, but I reply back that I need to check my work calendar secretly hoping for a conflict.  Seven hours later, out of an obligation to help a friend, I reluctantly agree to facilitate 1 Corinthians 3:1-9.  A few days later I’m sitting in Sunday worship, not because I want to be there, but because I feel I need to be there for my family.  Hymn after hymn and word after word bounces of off my unhearing heart.  I think these specific songs and words don’t really apply to me now and I should be out doing things rather than sitting here.  And then Pastor Steven drops the bomb on me when he says, “If the cross itself is not central to everything that you do in life, if Jesus dying on the cross for you doesn’t equate some kind of emotion of thankfulness and gratitude, you need to ask God, God restore to me the joy of my salvation, I need help.”

A shockwave hits me and I feel tears well up in the corners of my eyes.  I immediately begin praying: “God restore to me the joy of my salvation, I need help; I believe in the Holy Spirit; God restore to me the joy of my salvation, I need help; help me to hear from the Holy Spirit.”  

It was like the proverbial weight had been lifted off of me and I no longer labored under the dullness of hearing.  Oddly struggles can increase hope and faith.  Hope doesn’t come from understanding why God allows a struggle to occur.  Hope doesn’t result from toughing our way through.  True hope only comes from the presence of God. God is with us, for us, and in us; even when we do not deserve Him.  Now that’s a reason for hope. 


"Adults don't change..."


But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. – Acts 7:55-58

During a conversation earlier this week, someone said to me – quite confidently – “Adults don’t actually change.” 

Adults don’t change.

This phrase has haunted me ever since. Though I knew it to be untrue as soon as she said it, I wonder how often we act as though it’s true. How often do we hopelessly look in the mirror and think, “This or that thing about me will never change. I’ll never experience freedom from that sin. This is just who I am.” How often do we look at others and make the same judgments? 

In Acts 7, a young man named Saul witnessed the stoning of Stephen. He was there in full support of the violent murder of this Spirit-filled Christ follower who would not stop preaching and teaching the Gospel. 

One can only imagine the mocking, angry, confused faces of those who watched Stephen – full of the Holy Spirit, face aglow – in his final breath say, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” It must have seemed so foolish! To die for the sake of a man named Jesus who had claimed to be the Savior of mankind!

Through the power of the Spirit of God, Stephen understood the wisdom of God. 

Saul did not.


Over the next two years, Saul ravaged the church in Jerusalem, persecuting Christian after Christian, hating the Gospel and believing it was foolish, in the name of a God he thought he knew.

And then, on the road to Damascus, Saul was changed forever.

A murderous, zealous adult…changed forever by the Holy Spirit. 

I have to wonder if Stephen’s glowing, peaceful face flashed through Paul’s mind as he was writing parts of 1 Corinthians. 

…we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  However, as it is written:
What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him — these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. - 1 Corinthians 2:7-10

Do you see how miraculous this is? Paul came to understand that which Stephen knew to be true – that God’s eternal reality was infinitely better than anything his mind could conceive!

The entirety of Scripture – and the story of the Gospel at work in the world since the Bible was written – tells us that adults DO change.

The Spirit of God changes us! When we receive the Spirit of God through faith in Jesus, He transforms us through renewing our minds to make us more and more like Christ.

When we, as Christians, struggle with sin, it’s often because we lack faith. We fail to believe that God truly has prepared something extraordinary for us. We think something right in front of our faces might be better. Or we believe the lie that adults can’t actually change.

But we serve a God who – even in our sin – pursues us and uses our failures for our good and His glory. (Thank God for this truth!) Stephen’s death and Saul’s persecution of the church resulted in Christians fleeing Jerusalem and taking the message of the Gospel to people and places far away from home. Even in the looming darkness of that time, God was building His kingdom, and in the process, lovingly took Stephen home and adopted Paul as a son, filling him with His Spirit.

It seems fitting to end with this message Paul wrote to Timothy: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason, I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Adults do change, because we serve a never-changing God who changes us through the power of His Spirit. We are not merely human. We have the mind of Christ. This is the impossibly good truth of the Gospel.


Knowing Jesus

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For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

1 Corinthians 2:2-5

After walking the Christians in Corinth through the nature of God’s kingdom – in which the wisdom of the wise is destroyed, the intelligence of the intelligent is frustrated, the weak things are used to shame the strong, and the lowly and despised things are raised up – Paul says something that I pray would be our anthem.

“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

Paul longed for the believers at Corinth to know Jesus as He knew Jesus.

He yearned for their faith to rest on God’s power, and God’s power alone.

You know what I realized this week as I sat with this passage?

I have a tendency to overcomplicate the Gospel.

Often I do so out of a desire to make myself seem wiser, more intelligent, or more acceptable in the eyes of man. Sometimes I do so out of fear. Sometimes I do so out of a lack of faith that the Spirit of God opens people’s minds and hearts to His truth…and I think deep down that I have to convince them!

Guess what?

We need only to know Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The Spirit of God changes hearts and minds. After all, He changed mine.

Do you know Jesus? If so, take a moment to think back to when you first believed the Gospel was true…when your heart was overjoyed that God loved you in the midst of your sin and shame! Or think back to a time when you found yourself in awe of His grace. Remember when you loved His Word and couldn’t get enough of it? Remember when all you wanted to do was worship? 

This part of 1 Corinthians invites us to go back…not to immaturity or a lack of knowledge…but to the simplicity of the moment when we first believed. To know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified through His Word and the Holy Spirit. To stand amazed by His grace. To remember His faithfulness.

Tomorrow morning at 10 AM, we’ll gather together to be reminded of the beauty of the Gospel. We’ll sing and pray and open His Word so the name of Jesus Christ will be lifted high, and God’s power – not ours – is magnified. I hope you’ll join us. 

Whose Kingdom Are You Building?

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Whose kingdom are you building?

This question was posed to me a few years ago, and it was one of the most challenging questions I’ve ever been asked. 

 In this week’s passage, Paul appeals to the church at Corinth to drop their loyalties to church leaders and be unified by Christ alone. They were divided because they were paying homage and forming tribes based on human leadership, rather than the Gospel itself. They were boasting and fighting over who had been baptized by whom!  

Then Paul explains why he chose to baptize only a few – because he didn’t want to take the focus away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ or give them an opportunity to align with him above Christ. 

Paul isn’t downplaying the need for baptism here, but rather the way the focus has shifted from the Gospel to people. He’s frustrated because the Corinthian Christians have lost sight of the main thing, and their focus has shifted from building God’s kingdom to building their own, or building those of Apollos or Cephas! 

Oh how easy it is to lose sight of the kingdom of God and build our own kingdoms…to hold what we’ve been given with white-knuckled fists and attempt to construct a life we deem acceptable by our own standards or those of the world around us. 

How easy it is to lose sight of the kingdom of God and build the kingdom of those we follow – political leaders, celebrities, or even pastors…to devote ourselves to their causes and passions…to make secondary things the main thing.

It happens all the time in the church today. And it still causes division.

 Paul is interested in one thing – preaching the Gospel, not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

At The Bridge, we often use the phrase, “Let’s make much of Jesus.” This is Paul’s plea to the church in Corinth. 

He was interested in building the kingdom of God on earth – the upside-down kingdom of God, where the weak are made strong, the last made first, and the intelligent frustrated by that which seems foolish to them – a kingdom marked by righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit which cannot be shaken

When we seek this kingdom – launched, deployed, and transformed by Jesus – we taste the goodness and faithfulness of God. We experience life as He intended. It’s not always easy, and it often requires great sacrifice, but it leads to life. And the unity we experience when we’re all serving Christ alone and building His kingdom shows the world the glory of the Gospel. 

So, friends, let’s make much of Jesus.