Category Archives: Corinthians

The Truth about Spiritual Gifts

Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed… to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.  1 Corinthians 12:1, 7

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.  1 Corinthians 13:1-3

I wish I could see exactly what the question was from the Corinthian church.  I mean, I wish I could know exactly how they reported their issue with spiritual gifts to Paul.  The mediator in me has watched Paul call out three of the four factions in that church in the first part of this letter (“I follow Paul”, “I follow Apollos”, and I follow Cephas”), and I wonder if the “I follow Jesus” faction was representative of the culprits here, because that is the way it comes across in so many of our church conflicts today where spiritual gifts are at issue.  Somebody is making a practice of doing something that is causing all kinds of havoc in the church, i.e., ripping the church apart, and their excuse is that “I am just exercising my spiritual gift…it is the Spirit of God Himself working through me…I am just following Jesus.”  I am troubled by that for several reasons, not the least of which is that spiritual gifts are ALL ABOUT UNITY and bringing …

Gospel Centered Worldview: All Lives Matter

 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. Romans 1:14-15

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. 2 Corinthians 5:16

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:27-28

all lives matterPerhaps nobody in Scripture went through a more radical change in worldview than the Pharisee named Saul. As a Pharisee among Pharisees, he thought he had the world figured out. He had the puzzle all put together and, though there were some inexplicable gaps in the picture here and there, it all made sense…basically, anyway. According to that worldview, the missing pieces would be filled in when the Messiah comes. And in that worldview, there were two kinds of lives in this world: Jewish lives (which mattered) and all the others (which mattered less).

Twenty years later, as a converted Christ-follower writing to churches in Corinth, Rome, Galatia, et. al., he would show astounding wisdom and a very different worldview…a gospel centered worldview. According to that worldview, the Messiah had already come and we already had all the pieces there are to have…and they all fit together more perfectly and completely than he could ever have imagined. No more inexplicable gaps. It was a beautiful and perfect worldview. And in this new worldview, all lives mattered.

In the 2,000 years since Paul’s written presentations of this new way of seeing the world, many other worldviews have come and gone. And today, in the U.S. alone, scores of different …

Help for the Hypocrites

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19

hypocritesPeople who do not want anything to do with the church often accuse it of being “full of hypocrites”.  I have a theory about why they say that…

…because we, the church, are in fact full of hypocrites.  We are bad about that.

I am certain you can fill in some of your own favorite examples of this.  Paul’s remarks to the Corinthian church above point out one of my favorite examples.

Paul reminds us in the church that we have been given BOTH the message of reconciliation AND the ministry of reconciliation.  They go hand-in-hand.  The message is shallow and powerless without the ministry.  The message (i.e., that God loves you and forgives you) requires the ministry (i.e., that we love and forgive each other as well) in order to have any power, any credibility at all.  Otherwise, it is just…hypocritical.

It makes complete sense if you think about it.  It requires us to practice what we preach.  Those of us in the Christian church have preached the message well for a long, long time.  “No matter where you have come from, no matter what you have done, God loves you and forgives you.”  But if we are not, at the same time, willing to act out the ministry of reconciliation, i.e., “…and I love you and forgive you as well…” then the message rings shallow no matter how eloquently we speak it.  All the cool videos and all the polished presentations, all the great books and all the amazing sermons, all …

Love the Porcupines…Quills and All

the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 1 Corinthians 12:22-25

porcupine quillsI’ve learned to be careful in my application of Paul’s “body parts” metaphor in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12. Once you start assigning body-part descriptions to individuals in your church, the discussion can all go south pretty quickly. The truth is, most of us would rather not know what body part many in our church would use to describe us!

I am thinking today about the “difficult” people in the church, the “porcupines” (painful to love), the ones Rick Warren describes so eloquently as the EGR people (Extra Grace Required). Paul would describe them as “seeming to be weaker” or ones “we think less honorable” or “unpresentable parts”. These are the people we generally would prefer not to be around, the ones we wish would try visiting another small group rather than ours (except that we would not wish that on any of the other leaders). These are the extremely high-maintenance folks with negative outlooks on everything and everyone. They are “projects”, needing lots and lots of attention. They are exhausting.

As I consider this category of fellow believers, my first thought is to question whether or not I am perceived as one. I think it is worth our while as leaders to examine the evidence of how influential we really are …

The Best Laid Plans

Thursday Re-mix:

When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.  1 Corinthians 15:37-38

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—  1 Corinthians 15:51

TransformationI am no visionary.  I am the first to admit it.  I am envious of those who are visionaries.  I’m pretty quick to admit that as well.  I am impressed with the leader who says, “This is what we will look like in 5 years.”  I very much believe there are people like that…leaders who know exactly what they want to achieve and who know how to cast a laser-like vision to make sure their people make it happen.  So when that leader gets to that 5-year mark and is able to look back and say, “This is exactly where I said we would be in five years, and lo and behold, we did it…” I am impressed and awed.  And if it is a spiritual venture, like a church, I am a little bit sad.

I am sad because that picture seems to leave little room for God’s transforming activity.  You see, there may be some things about the God of the Bible which are predictable, but there is very little about His creative side which lends itself to even the best plans of men.  When God gets involved in something, huge, unpredictable transformations occur…things that are not a part of anyone’s strategic plan.  If we are planning correctly in the church, all we are really doing is structuring so as to enable the organization to respond quickly and efficiently …

The Truth About Andrew’s Birthday Gift

Tuesday Re-mix –

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.  1 Corinthians 12:7

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10

I think the trick to understanding Spiritual Gifts is remembering their purpose…remembering for whose benefit they are intended.

Have you ever been so pleased with a gift you found for someone that you decided to get the same thing for yourself as well?  Should we feel guilty about that?  Do we have to tell the person that we did that, or can we just give them the gift and keep the rest of the story to ourselves?  Is that deceptive?  Does that break any gift-giving rules?  Can we please get a ruling on this?

One of my two team members (Andrew) on last year’s South Africa trip had a birthday while we were traveling.  I happened to be walking through the Waterfront at Cape Town a day or two before and saw the coolest little key chain.  It was African art, a symbol for unity (it shows two crossed crocodiles).  I thought it would be a perfect and simple little birthday gift for Andrew.  I bought it.  But I was so excited about it, I decided I wanted one for myself too!  And then I decided I wanted one for Kelley too, so that our whole Unity Ministries team could have this as a memory from this trip.  And, alas, Andrew’s birthday gift became a team gift for all of us!  I suppose the original purpose of the gift got a little blurred in the process…Very sorry, Andrew!

I think that can happen with Spiritual Gifts as well.  When the Spirit manifests Himself …

Preparing for the Wind

Tuesday Re-mix –

Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.  1 Corinthians 16:1-2

wind-in-the-sailsI am not a sailor.  Maybe you are.  So, forgive my ignorance of the whole experience, and please forgive my stealing of this illustration…but it seems to me that sailing involves a whole lot of hard work and attention to details, on the one hand, and a lot of being still and waiting on the wind to blow, on the other hand.  In that way, it is a lot like the church.

I once heard one of the important spiritual mentors in my life say: “I don’t like 5-year strategic plans for the church…I am always afraid we will reach the 5-year goal and have missed out on what God wanted for us.”  When I was a young leader in the church, that truly spoke to me.  It pretty much rocked my world.  I learned that God  does want God-sized things for His people.  He does want to show us great and amazing things of which we cannot even conceive.  We really do get so wrapped up in our planning and our business-like approach to spiritual things that we end up missing God completely…sometimes.  I think those were valuable lessons for me to learn as a young leader.  I definitely needed to expand my vision of God and of His sovereignty.

But there is another side to scripture.  There is a very practical side to it.  There is Jesus asking the question, “What kind of man sets out to …

No More Excuses

Tuesday Re-mix –

And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.  2 Cor. 8:5

I think we, as church leaders, are guilty of making excuses for our people and their occasional luke-warm commitment to kingdom activity.

I did a radio interview last year about Trusting God’s People…Again, the book I co-authored with Debbie Williams.  The interview request kind of caught me by surprise, since it had been a few years since we launched that book.  I was grateful for the opportunity to do it, because that is still very much a topic about which I am passionate (people wounded by the church).  Thanks, Shane Finch, for that fun opportunity!

Pick an excuse

It was one of the more interesting radio interviews I’ve done.  Shane asked me a few questions I was not at all ready for (I’m hoping he had the mercy not to run my answer to, “What song do you wish you had written?”–wow, how embarrassing was THAT answer!).  But one question really brought me under conviction: “What do you see the Lord doing through you in the year 2020?”  I knew what my answer SHOULD be.  It should be, “Whatever He wants to be doing through me.”  That should be how all of us answer that question, because, as Christ-followers, we should all be do totally given to Him that He is doing absolutely everything and anything He desires to do through us.

That, I believe, is what Paul meant in his letter to the Corinthians about the Macedonian believers who had given so very much out of their poverty and persecution.  They gave themselves first of all to the Lord…  I think I have a pretty fair …

Leaders Wobble But They Don’t Fall Down

Tuesday Re-mix –

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.  2 Corinthians 4:7-9

weeble3Is it just me?  Does anybody else read these words from the Apostle Paul and remember those silly Weebles ads about “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down” (with apologies to all my international friends who all think I have finally lost my marbles!)?  Weebles are those cute little Hasbro/Playskool toys with the weighted bottoms so that they literally cannot be knocked over.  They are a near-perfect illustration of this revolution we call Christianity.  No matter what the world tries to do to stamp it out, it just gets back up and keeps growing.

And it is that same “struck-down-but-not-destroyed” spirit which inhabits you and me as church leaders today.  That is the encouraging word here from Paul to us.  We are filled with this same indestructible spirit.  The question is, does it feel like that to you?  And if it does not, how can you recapture it?

It seems clear to me that this spirit of “indestructibility” which Paul talks about in verses 8-9 is very much tied to his “jars of clay” illustration in verse 7.  In other words, it is only when we lose sight of our position as flawed and fragile vessels that we begin to set ourselves up for destruction.  When we, as leaders, begin to believe people’s scouting reports on us as “amazing communicators” or “extraordinary people”, when we begin to see ourselves as being just a little bit better than most of those around us, when we tend to forget that …

The Measure of Your Ministry

Tuesday Re-mix –

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone.  You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.  2 Corinthians 3:1-3

I will be the first to admit I have validation issues…O.K., maybe not the first to admit it, but I do get to that admission eventually. 🙂  What other people think of me probably matters more to me than it should…words of affirmation are definitely how I feel loved (thank you, Gary Chapman).  Add to that my (mostly-healthy) competitive nature and then stir in my very American-public-school-achievement orientation, and you have a recipe for a man who is all about constantly assessing his successes versus his failures.  It is important to me.  Maybe it is important to you too.

I measure everything.  I measure my case load and my billings at work.  I measure my workouts and my sleep hours at home.  I measure my quality time spent with my wife and with my daughters (never enough).  I measure the conferences and speaking engagements I do, the writing time I have, the churches with whom I consult, and the budget dollars in my ministry.  I measure the attendance in The Gathering, and my teaching time there.  I measure my readership, my “hits”, my “click-throughs” and my subscriptions to this blog.  I am always assessing and reassessing and measuring the success and/or failure of all these endeavors.  I’ll bet you do as well.

The question is, in ministry, what does …