Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Most Excellent Way

If you are Bible quizzing this year, you probably know that I Corinthians 12 talks about spiritual gifts; Paul gives several examples of abilities that God gives believers: healing, teaching, speaking and interpreting tongues, prophecy, and discerning spirits, to name a few. He specifically points outs that just as a body has many parts that have different functions that are each necessary, the many gifts of the members of the church are all important, and should work together to form a cohesive whole. Paul goes on in chapter 14, explaining how tongues and prophecy are best used.

But wait; chapter twelve… chapter fourteen. What’s missing from this picture? Chapter thirteen, of course! EVERYONE knows I Corinthians 13 – the famous “love chapter,” that you’ve heard at every wedding you’ve ever been to!

Now, why would Paul put the love chapter right in the middle of talking about spiritual gifts? Maybe part of the reason is that, in the first place, the spiritual gifts are “given for the common good” (I Cor 12:7). We have them in order to build each other up, and bond us together; and what is more for the common good than to love each other?

But Paul goes beyond this: as he introduces the love chapter, he calls it “the most excellent way.” The reason he puts love sandwiched between chapters twelve and fourteen, is that love is a spiritual gift. Not only that, but he says love is the greatest spiritual gift. This was a revelation to me when I first read it. We don’t tend to think of love as a spiritual gift; in fact, just the word love gets so overused in our cultural, that it often gets overlooked altogether. Do we really think of love as "the most excellent way?"

We have a tendency to look at people with other gifts and think how spiritual they are; if you have ever heard someone prophesy, or heal, or know someone who has given everything up to minister to the unsaved in a far-off country, then you know how easy it is to look at that person and think, "Wow.  If they can do that... they must be right with God."

Skip to John 13:35 for a moment.  To set the stage, Jesus is at the Last Supper with his disciples.  He has just washed their feet, he knows that he is about to be betrayed and crucified. It's a critical moment; the words he chooses just before he gives his life will carry special weight when his disciples look back on it later.  "By this all men will know that you are my disciples," he says, "if you ___________________.” What?  Have perfect theological teaching? Demonstrate miraculous powers?  NO! "If you love one another."

And decades later, what does Paul say?  Paraphrasing, he says, "So what, if I could speak the language the angels speak? Or if I could understand all of God's mysteries, or if he gave me so much power I could lift a mountain?  Or, if I gave away every single thing I own... what good is it?  Unless I have love, it counts for exactly ...NOTHING!”

After a description of exactly how love looks, he concludes: "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."  Why these three, and why is love the greatest? Because they are what is really necessary to be alive in Christ in this life, but only love will last forever:
  Faith is that we believe and trust without having seen (Heb 11:1); when we join the Lord, faith is no longer needed! 
  Hope, not in the sense that we wish for something to happen, but like a trapped man has hope when  rescue is coming  (Eph 1:18); in this life, we hope as we wait for the great promises God has for us -- but when those promises are fulfilled, our waiting will be over! 
  Love will continue to grow after everything else has been fulfilled.  In heaven, the love we experience from God and show towards others will be ever more perfect, building upon itself over and over for the rest of eternity.

This devotional was delivered by Adam Borries 
at the Oct 10, 2009 Bible Quiz meet.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Introducing the online Question Box

Ever had a question you wanted to know the answer to, but didn't want to ask?  We are taking an old concept and making it new again.  Every now and then at TFC's Monday night youth meetings, we will pass around blank paper,and students can write whatever question is on their mind. It might be a question about God or the Bible; it might be an ethical issue they are facing; they might need advice on a relationship.  Whatever it is, they can ask in complete privacy, because when the question goes in the box, we never know who wrote it.

Now introducing the online Question Box!   You can submit any question you want an answer to, without having to reveal who you are, and I will do my best to answer it honestly and accurately.  We got our first question yesterday:
 10/29/2009 5:20pm    what day is it?
Well, just to show you that it works -- It was Thursday. =) 

Now, understand that this is not an automatic response kind of thing; there's no web robot on the other end that's going to chat with you.  It more like you are sending me an anonymous email.  That means an actual human is responding to you, which means that you will get a better answer (hopefully), but you may have to wait a day or three before it shows up here on the blog.  So bring it on -- I'm ready for a challenge!
-- Adam

Thanks to Mark French for the online Question Box idea!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Biblical Priorities

Saint Augustine[1] defined virtue as rightly-ordered love.  That is, our lives are good and virtuous when we the things we love are put in the right order: the best, most excellent things deserve our highest devotion, and the least important things should get the least attention.

What is the most excellent thing in the universe?  Therefore, how much love should that get?  How much attention do you spend on unimportant things -- video games, movies, texting, Facebook?

Here are the notes from the discussion Zac and Micah led on Monday:

  1. What should be our #1 priority? A strong relationship with God. John 17:3
  2. What are things that make your relationship with God stronger? Time, obeying him Mark 1:35
  3. How do you make time to spend with god? Set a time that works good for your schedule, and try not to let anything else get in the way of that! Give some examples of how to spend time with God.
  4. What does obedience look like? Having a willingness to go out on a limb and do anything for God. John 14:15 John 14:21
  5. How do you know how strong your relationship with him is? We don’t know but we should pray that God would show us. (Look at the spiritual fruit you are producing.)
  6. Why is a good relationship with God important? Because it is the only way for us to be transformed into a Christ like person. Phil 3:21

[1] St. Augustine was a Christian philosopher and theologian who lived only 400 years after Christ, and who had an huge influence on the thinking of the Church in the Western world.