Cloud, Sea, Food, and Drink in 1 Corinthians 10

"Pillar of Cloud, Pillar of Fire" by Isaac Brynjegard-Bialik. Check out more of his papercut art by clicking the image above.

“Pillar of Cloud, Pillar of Fire” by Isaac Brynjegard-Bialik. Check out more of his papercut art by clicking the image above or go to his blog: http://isaacb2.blogspot.com

Paul begins 1 Corinthians 10 drawing out four parts of the Exodus story: the cloud, the sea, spiritual food, and spiritual drink. God’s presence was made known to his people by the cloud. The sea is what was the means of deliverance when the Egyptian army came charging after the Hebrews. The food was the manna and the drink was the miraculous water that sprang forth from the rock. These are signs of God’s provision in freeing his people from bondage and leading them to the promised land. But we are then reminded, that nevertheless God was not pleased with them.

These four parts parallel the presence we have in God’s Holy Spirit and the sacraments of the church in the New Testament, baptism and communion. In drawing these parallels Paul is framing the church as a new people of the Exodus. But his warning is also clear. Just because you are God’s people and recipients of his presence and partakers of the sacraments, don’t presume that all you do pleases God. Corinth was a church that we know of its faults from previous chapters. They are defrauding their fellow believers, using their freedom in Christ to return to sin (like returning to slavery in Egypt), and exercising their rights in a way that causes others to stumble. Paul wants them to know, and to learn this lesson from history, that like the people of the Exodus, the blessings of God did not give a blanket approval of all that was going on. If you come to church, take communion, and are baptized, that does not mean God is satisfied. God wants us to press on and, like we read in 1 Corinthians 9, we discipline ourselves pursuing a goal. Paul wants his church to learn from their forebears and not repeat the mistakes that lead to them missing out on further blessings.

Recommendation for Lent on Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday - Carl Spitzweg, c.1855

Ash Wednesday – Carl Spitzweg, c.1855

People are often giving things up for Lent like chocolate or other foods. While this may not be a bad decision, Lent is to prepare us for Easter, and simply removing something like a candy bar may not get us to that goal. Instead of just taking something out and leaving that hole empty, fill it with something good. Give up something and then seek out a new habit to build up in these forty days.

For example, if you give up TV of Facebook, it doesn’t do you any good to sit around for an hour staring at the wall instead. Take that time to read the Word. If you’ve already been reading all of our reading plan for Year in the Bible, keep going. If not, join in. Join in today.

Since the week is half over, just read 1 Thessalonians. You could keep with the New Testament readings if you want to start slower. That’ll have you read 1 & 2 Thessalonians and finish with Revelation. That may not sound like a normal Lenten reading, but in Revelation we do see signs of the victory won by Jesus–a victory that he won on the cross. We finish the Bible on March 24th, which is a little bit before Easter, so you can use that last week to reread a gospel and focus your attention on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In summary: give up something, and fill it with Christ. May Lent be a great time of preparation for you. I hope it is a time when you carve out new space for Christ in your life.

PS – If you’re coming to our service tonight and have to errands to run today, think about putting them off until after the service. That way you can go out to the grocery store having been marked with ashes, as a sign of the season for others to see.

As a Hen Gathers Her Brood

When I was on vacation after Christmas I went to church and heard a sermon that was on Matthew 23, with great focus on the image that comes at the end. Jesus laments for Jerusalem saying:

How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

The preacher referenced a mosaic that depicts this, so I wanted to track it down to share it with you. It is found at a church called Dominus Flevit, which means ‘the Lord has wept.’ It is located on the Mount of Olives, where Jesus wept over Jerusalem, and its architecture designed to resemble a tear drop.

It is humbling to think of the care Jesus has for us and how it extends even to those who reject him. He is brokenhearted over Jerusalem and only desires to protect and love its people.

Dominus Flevit Mosaic

Solomon’s Temple

Solomon’s Temple is given great attention in our readings this week. As I write that it looks a bit wrong to call it Solomon’s Temple. It’s not his. He had it built, but we don’t always name a building after its architect or patron. It was for God.
Anyway–that’s what it is known as and I thought y’all might like to see some artist’s renditions to get a sense of what it may have looked like.

Enjoy. (My favorite is the second one. Be sure to click on it and read all the extra info!)

Interestingly, an Isaac Newton sketch of the temple

Click to see enlarged version (ESV Study Bible Illustration – another good example of why study Bible’s are great!)

And here is a video that is another interpretation (and the only one I found with such a tall front to the building–not sure how they did that math… but still interesting 3D look into things).

More on Colossians 1

I put up the picture inspired by Colossians 1 on Monday, but I did so without explanation. So I thought today I’d talk more about what I see going on in the opening of the chapter. Paul writes beginning in verse three:

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

You may have noticed by now that Paul likes to use long sentences. This is one good reason to slow down and make sure you’re understanding what he writes. The picture from Monday centers in on ‘hope’ and I did this because although it comes later in the passage, we hear that it is a cause for the faith and love about which Paul has heard. Their hope–their goal, their promise–spurs them on to have greater faith in Christ and to spread his love to others. Christians who journey toward the goal, who are bound to the hope we have in Christ, should exhibit in that journey the characteristics that arise from that hope: love and faith.

Later in verse five Paul tells of where this hope is found, that is in the word of truth, the gospel. These words have power as they have not only taken hold in these Colossian believers, but in the whole world. Where the gospel is sown it bears fruit and this fruit is faith, hope, and love.

The Colossians know what their end will be, they have their hope, and they are exhibiting the marks of followers of Christ, faith and love. But Paul then goes on to pray for them so that they may know best how to live. They are already trusting Christ and loving the saints, but he wants them to excel in it. Paul wants them to know what faith and love will continue to look like, so he writes:

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

Christians surely know we should have faith, hope, and love. What can be difficult is having the wisdom to know not only the what but the how. This is Paul’s prayer. He wants them to know God’s will for them and to have the wisdom to discern how to follow his will. This is not an endeavor to begin alone so we need the strength of God’s power to endure this life, and to do so with patience and joy.

Even though Paul gives thanks to God when he thinks of his fellow Christians, for their love and faith, he reminds his reader that this is not something we’ve achieved on our own, rather it is the Father who has qualified us to receive all we have.

Keep reading Colossians and you’ll see a beautiful picture of Christ and what he has done for us, and how what he has done is sufficient for all we’ll ever need.

A man fully consecrated to God

Ludolph Backhuysen – Paul’s Shipwreck

In 2 Corinthians we see a long list of Paul’s sufferings that have come his way during his time as a minister of the gospel. Starting in 2 Corinthians 11:24, Paul writes:

Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

Paul was so committed to the call God had placed upon him that he continued the work even as he faced such pains. Knowing the cost did not deter him. Christ was more precious to him than anything else.

This passage about Paul reminds me of the quote that Henry Varley spoke to D.L. Moody, “the world has yet to see what God will do with a man fully consecrated to him.” That certainly was Paul’s desire–to live his life for someone else, no matter the cost. As he pursued this goal, being used by God, Paul helped to change the world. And that is just what will happen when one gives themselves fully to God.