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Bits on a series of messages on 1st Corinthians; chapters 1-4, 6-7, 11 and 13.

The highest duty and delight of a christian is to behave and be like Jesus; the highest compliment one can receive is to hear, ‘you remind me of Jesus’. There is a difference between an intellectual ascent and a changed life. The Christian man prays on his knees, and practices on his feet in his life. Yet sometimes the question seems to be, ‘is Corinth in the church, or is the church in Corinth?’ If we don’t get the world out of our churches and lives, we remain stunted and thumb-sucking. The church does not feel like the church when culture > Christ. Neither idolise nor demonise church leaders, for ungodly comparisons lead to unnecessary discontentment, and then to unhealthy divisions, whether in church leadership, various teams and ministries, or small group leaders etc. Quarrels and arguments in leadership or in family come when big egos fight over small matters. There is only one cornerstone of the church, and he is Christ.

  • The counter cultural gospel – the man on a cross is the answer to my problems – God uses a foolish answer to put to shame the wise, the weak are made strong in Christ.

Having said these, let us retain a high view of our pastoral ministry, and pray for our best and brightest to go into full time, as opposed to seeing full time ministry as a place for those who cannot make it in the ‘real world’.

Getting the Corinth out of our veins is deliberate and intentional, replacing it with the blood of Christ. From the looks of it, this is a discipline, training a habit in which Christ is our first instinct and lasting action; our first thought of the day, lasting throughout the day and our last thought at night. When it comes to all the addictions and temptations our time and world offer us, I will not be mastered, which test is the question, “can I stop if I wanted to?” In our sex mad world, God is with us in sexual purity. There are at least 4 reasons for sexual purity: redemption, that Christ died for the body. We are bought with a price, and the true value of anything is known by the price God is willing to pay for it. Christ also rose for the body, and will raise us up, so he is our resurrection reason to be pure. God made the body, and has creation rights over it. Finally, the Spirit lives, or tabernacles, in the body, giving a sanctification reason for sexual purity. It may then seem tempting to interpret these as a call to asceticism, or even hedonism, but the key lessons are that it’s all about the body (of Christ), and all about unity. Relatedly, when I flee from sin, it makes a difference how I flee. I must never get used to wasting my life or my body, never give up something with a sense of deprivation. The Christian life is what we have been saved from and what we are saved to, not what we have died to or given up. Life is lived differently from these two perspectives, which may be likened to the difference between a flagging body posture and a triumphant one. Also, when I flee, I do not hide the sin. I bring it to Christ. If I hide it, or attempted to shoulder or kill it in my own strength, Christ’s death is made in vain. If I can shoulder or kill it in my own strength, Christ wouldn’t have needed to have died for me, nor the Holy Spirit need to live in me. The heart is the issue, compromising the heart is the issue- big sins come from small compromises. In the area of the marriage union, then, marriage is an invitation to utterly die to myself: my desire (or the lack thereof), my rights (to keep my body to my self), to serve the other. I exist to serve the other for his godliness. I’ll possibly note more in a separate post on marriage. Regarding our bodies and singlehood, Christ remains Lord and so do that reasons for redemption, resurrection, creation and sanctification. In hard times, we may feel like dying of loneliness, but- our true identity is in Christ and his coming. As such, then, we use our bodies to the single goal of glorifying God and his command.

A note on sexual sins, such as pornography- there are freedoms that enslave, and so, never get used to wasting your life, never get used to dishonouring God. Christ died for the body, he rose for it, God made it, and the Spirit tabernacles in it. The heart of the matter is the belief that I have the liberty, the freedom, the right to live my life my own way.

Also, regarding the Lord’s supper- the cross of Jesus is a great levelly of human separation, to keep out all forms of human pride so we do not find any security in other things except Jesus and His cross. Pride always occurs at the expense of others- humility is the glue that holds the church together, who needs to be blind and borderless, for Jesus is the peace that has broken down every wall. Blessed is the peacemaker, vs the spiritual arsonist. Let us not breed dichotomy and stratification in our culture and our church. Love is in humility and patience: what is in your heart?

More on love and lovelessness in a separate post.

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Sex, marriage and love

June 15, 2013

1 Corinthians 7:1-7
(part of a series of church camp messages, see earlier post)

A reminder of the distinctiveness of Christian marriage: marriage is an invitation to die to my self. I have been bought with a price; I am no longer my own, and am to glorify God with my body. The paradigm shift is now how I should please God.  I am to take the mind of Christ, who took on the form of a servant, in His other-centeredness. In marriage, then, I exist for service to John for his godliness.The ultimate expression of humility is love, and love is servant-heartedness- humility and love, two sides of the coin? And my body is not exempt.

Marriage is a spiritual battlefield, and the bed no less. There is a deep link in spirituality and sexuality – and in this close intimacy, satan will tempt us. Comparing the Christian and the Corinthian mindset in marriage, the former transforms attitudes in giving vs taking. My body is no longer mine to withhold or control, and I can not make my spouse beg for what is rightfully his. Gender differences are also understood- the male libido is different from the female, being visually driven and compartmentalised. It is also given to a quick spike and dive. The female, on the other hand, has her mind, soul and body tightly integrated. Actions throughout the day by her husband, such as washing the dishes and changing nappies, are interpreted by her as signs of love and encourages her. Also, an argument at 7pm is still remembered by her at 11pm, as opposed to her husband, who would have completely forgotten it when he wants to make love. Contrasting his quick spike and dive to hers which is slow to rise and takes time to settle, the loving husband then takes the time after he has fulfilled his pleasure, to give her hers. The loving christian couple also change their frequency as much as is necessary to fulfill both spouses. One, for example, may nightly wrap a towel around himself and announce his availability.

(I must emphasise that these are all notes from the message.)

Finally, there is no such thing as a celibate marriage in 1 Cor 7. They may leave off making love for a time, but there must be a specific reason, it must be mutual, and it must end.  Given that marriage is a battlefield, we must pray in anything and everything.

Notes from final message at church camp in Subang, Malaysia, 1 Cor 13.

A hundred bible study sessions led, a thousand praise and worship sessions prepared for, done without love, is zero. Our authenticity is not measured by our knowledge; our authenticity is measured by the size of our love, of which God is the source.

The supremacy of love: not what but how- the routine, ordinary, unspectacular love. Never get used to lovelessness; the loveless church, loveless christians, loveless actions, loveless thoughts loveless feelings. It’s easy to go through the motions without the meaning, to be serving in multiple ministries in church faithfully while emotionally and connection-ly absent at home. Then we think it’s normal, even fashionable, to betray our spouse with our thoughts, feelings and actions because we’ve gotten used to lovelessness, prayerlessness and uncaring.

Love is not- passive, envious or jealous, whose source is infeority. To this, only God’s soveignity can rescue- that God knew what he was doing what he gave us what we have. Nor is love boastful, persuading the self that ‘I must be petted, I must be noticed, I must be recognised. In fact I want a permanent plaque to my name’. When will we be contented, or stay with the low-grade jealousy? To write, I want to live to be forgotten, I want to serve to be forgotten. I shall purge the self-importance from my life. I would rather win the person, than win the argument and lose John.

Love is active, and longsuffering. Kindness, a willingness and quickness to repay wrong with right. Love gives the benefit of doubt- our husbands could have been mean-spirited for years, but love waits, and it waits patiently. It waits courageously. It always, hopes to be triumphant. It lives in the statement of a little boy who has been standing by himself outside the school, tearing, to his dad kneeling before him in a hug and apology, “it’s okay, dad, I always knew you’d come”. Such faith, belief and trust, such courage, is love in deed.

Do I major in the minors? Am I still feeding on milk? The currency of the kingdom is love. And  if the currency of the kingdom is love, we’d better exchange it here on earth. Yet, we are most willing to give our love and time and service to those we think deserve it. and so withdraw these when we think they don’t ‘deserve’ it. What rubbish. What standards do I have? I am a sinner saved by grace. Pray to download and express love, then Zion will be transformed.

that sweeping leaves off a courtyard with a field beside and trees overhead is therapeutic, but i’m not sure about sweeping up rubbish and bits in a flat in future. it’ll probably be sanctifying. relatedly, i would like a flat with as many windows as possible. a place feels more breathable then.

filipinos find it incredulous we have yet to pick our colour theme/motif for the wedding.

filipinos are excited about life.

sitting at the back of a jeepney, watching the world go by, talking quietly. i remember another time, sitting in these, counting out money for the team, watching hands pass the fare down. different streets.

it appears i will always come back from the philippines with a string of beads around my wrist.

pandesal; what did they taste like, really? perhaps it is the taste of home i remember. knowing that den and pea were beside me, and that if there were eggs they would always give me two, soft boiled, and i’d have a warm pandesal beside my plate. that breakfast had come from their lesiurely stroll to the baker’s just down the street, sometime after sunrise when the manila sun was soft and the streets still. there was nothing better than a freshly-baked pandesal, then.

one day, perhaps it was the jeepney day, it occured to me, i could see my children growing up in the streets of bacalod; someplace like this, where people love to sing, hospitality comes before busyness, and a butcher may stand shoulder-to-shoulder with an architect in a choir.