Being Still

Ripples

A lazy Sunday afternoon we sit

In side by side a hushed companionship

As leaves spiral to autumn’s bluesy beat

In this restful place on love’s wine we sip

You freely to me did your life commit

And knowing this I am in grace’s grip

We speak of things that no one else can hear

You hold me, touch my heart and wipe my tears

 

This time with you is treasured, honored, prized

We each attend the other, first and first

No veil between us, just the space comprised

Of love, compassion, hope and trust immersed

In faithfulness and joy, so undisguised

So filled with you I think my heart would burst

These precious moments cannot be replaced

Until forever, they must be embraced

 

As life does pull me toward things I must tend

I’m saddened and dismayed, I must confide

I know our time together now must end

Yet knowing, I perceive you still abide

As life surrounds, on you I will depend

Your love is vastly high and deep and wide

Love’s grace and mercy present each new day

Be still, so I can give it all away

Indicatives & Imperatives 4

2 Corinthians

Second Corinthians is the fourth letter Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, around 56A.D. Much of it is in defense of his apostleship; the remaining chapters repeat the themes of Spirit living and repentance he wrote in his first letter.

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©susanirenefox

This is perhaps the most personal of Paul’s letters. In it, one can see his humanity. Because he is being accused of being a false apostle, he pleads his own case. But his writing is deeply personal. He shares with them about a time of deep depression, of fear. He lets them hear his anger and sarcasm. He opens his heart and shows his vulnerability and love.

Yet through it all, he retains humility. When he boasts, he boasts in the Lord. He continues to lay out a convincing case for the new covenant (Chapter 3), but his main subjects are his apostolic authority and the authority of Christ in a believer’s life.

As he uses the word “we,” for himself, I believe you and I are to understand he also refers to us, for these are overarching themes in all of his letters.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. (2:14-16)

The Imperatives (The Commands)

  • Rely not on ourselves, but on God, who raises the dead. (1:9)
  • We behave in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom. (1:12)
  • Turn to forgive and comfort anyone who has caused to pain; reaffirm your love for him so we would not be outwitted by Satan nor ignorant of his designs. (2:5-8,11)

And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (3:3)

  •  For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. (3:9-10)
  • We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word. What we proclaim is not ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord (4:1-2,5)
  • So we are always of good courage. We walk by faith, not by sight. We make it our aim to please Him. (5:6-7,9)
  • We appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. (6:1)
  • Excel in the grace of generosity. Each one give from his heart, not reluctantly or from compulsion. (8:7, 9:7)
  • Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith. (13:5)
  • Rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. (13:11)

Even though Paul defends himself in this letter, one of the first things he insists upon is forgiveness and restoration of the church member who has caused the trouble. He sees it as not so much causing him personal pain, but creating the church pain, and he wants the gaping wound to be healed (2:5-11)

Because he has been through many trials, he is able to encourage and comfort because God first comforted him. He now encourages them to pay it forward.

As we examine our lives in Christ, we will be reminded of the grace we have been freely given, the difference between the old and new covenants, and our call to love others as God loves us.

The Indicatives (Truths in Christ)

  • God delivered us from peril once; we rely on Him to deliver us again. (1:10)
  • We behave righteously by the grace of God. (1:12)
  • God has put His seal on you and given us His Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (1:21-22)
  • Our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (3:5-6)
  • Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image, from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (3:17-18)
  • But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (4:7)

So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. (4:16-18 NRSV)

  • He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. (5:5)
  • If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. All this 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.(5:17-19)
  • He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way. (9:10-11)
  • My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (12:9)
  • Jesus Christ is in you. (13:5)

If Paul is correct, that our ministry is to reconcile the world to God, how to we do that without love? Without compassion? Without relationship?

As some claim the right to admonish as Paul did, or overturn tables as Jesus did, we must remember we are neither apostles nor the Christ. We are disciples; as such our calling has been made biblically clear. We can possess gifts, prestige, knowledge and money. But I refer back to 1 Corinthians, because Paul said it best:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

Peace

Dedicated to D.J. Heath

©susanirenefox

©susanirenefox

To those whose grief does overtake

And faith does drift as you redound

When your heart bursts with mourning’s ache

His love extends a peace profound

 

As clarity becomes opaque

And you can’t hear His voice’s sound

Oh, trust that He does not forsake

His love extends a peace profound

 

Let His sweet fragrance you awake

As tender mercies do abound

His lilting song greets each daybreak

His love extends a peace profound

 

This task He wills to undertake

Allow His love to heal, surround

It’s your heart for a balm He makes

His love extends a peace profound

 

He offers freedom’s food – partake

His grace, His peace is not earthbound

His water your parched thirst will slake

His love extends a peace profound.

 

Indicatives & Imperatives 3

1 Corinthians

The Three

The letter we know as 1 Corinthians is actually the second of four letters Paul wrote to this church. It was likely written in 55 A.D. near the end of his three-year ministry in Ephesus. Although there are several sub-themes addressed, Paul’s primary theme is for the church to work together and put Christ first for the advancement of the gospel.

Members had been promoting themselves and their spiritual gifts, creating an internal hierarchy which divided the church. Men and women were disruptive and argumentative during worship, arriving early to indulge in the bread and meat and get drunk on the wine. Those advanced in biblical knowledge, rather than uplifting newer believers, often used that knowledge to act as a stumbling block to those seeking Christ. And many had not transformed their own cultural worldviews of sexual and ethical immorality. Paul writes this letter to call them to task because they had not responded with repentance to his first letter (5:9).

The Imperatives (The Commands)

  • I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. (1:10)
  • Let each one take care how he builds upon the foundation of Jesus Christ laid by me, by Apollos, and by other servants of the Lord. (3:10)
  • Do not worship or boast in men, whether Paul, or Apollos or Peter. We are all Christ’s, as Christ is God’s. Regard us as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. (3:22-23; 4:1)
  • Do not favor one leader over another; do not puff yourself up if you are a leader over another who leads. Do not add to Scripture; it is sufficient on its own. (4:6)

(emphasis added) I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brothers or sisters if they are immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? God judges those outside. (5:9-13)

  • Let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. (7:17,20,35)
  • Take care that your “rights” do not become a stumbling block to others. Do I not have the right to eat and drink? Yet, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make him stumble. (8:9,13; 9:4)
  • Do not worship idols; do not indulge in sexual immorality; to not test Christ; do not grumble; do not think you are beyond sin, less your pride causes you to fall. (10:6-12)
  • All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. (10:23-24)
  • So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (10:31)
  • Pursue love (14:1)
  • Strive to excel in building up the church (14:12)
  • Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like adults, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. (16:13)

Paul was exhorting members of this church to always put Christ first and others next. It frankly didn’t matter to Paul what their rights were. He admonished them to be selfless, to not demand their rights, particularly if their rights might have even a small chance of being a stumbling block to anyone receiving Christ.

He also made it clear we in the church were to monitor ourselves, not those outside the church. If only we would engage in cleaning out our own houses first, we might set the example Paul seeks us to set when he reminds us that things may be lawful, but they may not be helpful or they may not build others up.

As we seek to do everything for the glory of God, we automatically pursue love.

The Indicatives (Truths in Christ)

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind—just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you—so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1:4-7 NRSV)

  • Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the World? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1:20-21, 25)
  • Because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1:30-31; Jeremiah 9:23-24)
  • As it is written, “What no eyes has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him,” these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. (2:9-10; Isaiah 64:4)
  • Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (3:16)
  • If anyone loves God, he is known by God. (8:3)
  • No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (10:13)
  • It is the same God who empowers all the gifts in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (12:6-7)
  • All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit who apportions to each one individually as He wills. (12:11)
  • For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, thought many, are one body, so it is with Christ…that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. (12:12,25)
  • God is not a God of confusion but of peace (14:33)
  • For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (15:22)

In a large nutshell, Paul tells us we have no right to be spiritual elitists since God most often chooses those who the world considers foolish, weak or shameful to receive wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. These are the people who carry His true message. We must continually work to cleanse ourselves of sexual and ethical immorality because we have no authority with those outside the church. The more we focus on this, the less we’ll be called hypocrites by the world.

Sexual immorality includes things we’d prefer to ignore within the church, like domestic abuse, child abuse and incest. Ethical immorality includes those mentioned by Paul and those things we sweep under the rug; greed and coveting; those who mock God and use His name in vain; alcoholism and drug addiction; deception (which Paul combines with coveting). How many families and business people do you know in your own church who are guilty of these offenses and need firm, loving, guiding hands to come alongside them?

We all must allow Christ to keep us alive in His love through abiding in the Spirit. We are people who, if not lived in sin, lapsed temporarily into sin, and we were washed, sanctified, and justified. And it is possible, with God’s grace, for them to be saved as we were saved.

And, as Paul so eloquently and memorably said, “So now faith, hope and love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love.” (13:13)

Daily Bread

Orange Tree.small

I am a tree, roots down below

reach strong and firm as deep they grow

enriched by soil, the anchors spread.

Your Word and grace my Daily Bread.

 

While up above each shoot starts slow

embers of pollen pistils stow

nuggets of tasty fruit ahead.

Your Word and grace my Daily Bread.

 

Each branch attached so long ago

to strength of trunk from which I owe

my life; the love from which I’m fed.

Your Word and grace my Daily Bread.

 

There’s nothing I need do or show;

Abiding in this constant flow

produces fruit for which you bled.

Your Word and grace my Daily Bread.

 

The Spirit in me now does sow

weeds you planted long ago;

to you I am forever wed.

Your Word and grace my Daily Bread.

Indicatives & Imperatives 2

Thessalonians

Although some scholars believe Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians were the first letters written, most scholars and Bibles date the writing of the first letter between 49-50 A.D, and the second letter between 50-51 A.D., during Paul’s stay in Corinth. This was his second missionary journey recorded by Luke in chapters 17-18 of the book of Acts.

Paul was forced to leave Thessalonica within a few weeks of establishing the church. Opponents, who hired rioters to find Paul but failed, charged his host and other believers of treason against Rome. Believers hustled Paul, Silas and Timothy from Thessalonica to Berea, where the people “were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica.”

New believers in Thessalonica were left with incomplete knowledge of the gospel and erroneous views* of the second coming of Christ. These erroneous views were partly due to a forged report to the church in Paul’s name declaring that Christ had already returned. As a result, some believers had an indifferent attitude about remaining godly; others were concerned about friends who died and were worried about their entry into heaven.

Enemies in Thessalonica, not satisfied that Paul was in Berea, went there and “stirred up trouble.” Believers in Berea acted at once, escorting Paul onto Athens. They then returned to Berea with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him there.

map

The Imperatives (The Commands)

Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances. (1T 4:13-18)

Although Paul sent Timothy Thessalonica to support the believers, they needed both reassurance and exhortation from the man who they relied upon as their mentor and pastor.

  • We exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God. (1T 2:3)
  • Keep yourselves from sexual promiscuity, keep control of your own body, and do not take advantage of those who do not know God.” (1T 4:4-6)
  • Now, concerning brotherly love…we urge you to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you (1T 4:9-12)
  • Respect those who labor among you and guide you in obedience to Christ. Do not quench the Spirit, but test everything. Keep what is good and toss out everything that is evil. (1T 5:19-22)
  • Do not be shaken, alarmed or deceived by a spoken word or letter that appears to be from me. (1T 2:2-3)
  • Stand firm and hold onto what you have been taught by me, either in person or through my own letters. (2T 2:15)
  • Keep away from anyone walking in idleness; in fact, if you’re not willing to work, then don’t eat. I can’t say it strongly enough: stop being idle, stop gossiping, and earn your own way. (2T 3:6, 10-12)
  • Don’t grow weary of doing good. (2T 3:13)
  • If you notice a brother not following any of these commands, warn him, because he’s not following Christ. (2T 3:14-15)

The Indicatives (Truths in Christ)

As Paul makes a strong case for being obedient and following what he has already told them, he also reminds the Thessalonians of the strength they possess in the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t want them to be swayed by unbelievers, or by those who take parts of the gospel or other Scripture* and twist it to their own ends.

For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that He has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 1T 1:4-6

While the Thessalonians were new believers and susceptible to false teaching and unfounded fears, they had forgotten the strength of their initial faith and conviction through Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. They allowed fear and doubt to outweigh their love of God and their confidence in His faithfulness.

  • Brothers and sisters, we know you are loved by God; he chose you because the gospel came to you not only in word but also in power and in the Holy Spirit with full conviction. (1 T 1:4-5)
  • Through faith and the Holy Spirit you became imitators of us and of the Lord, and you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. (1T 1:6)
  • Through faith and the Holy Spirit you became examples to believers all over Macedonia, and you anxiously wait for Christ’s return from heaven whom he raised from the dead. (1 T 1:6, 9-10)
  • You yourselves have been taught by God to love one another (1 T 4:9)
  • This is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 T 5:18)
  • God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 T 2:13-14)
  • The Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. (2 T 3:3)

Again, Paul encourages us to be present in the Spirit. He urges us to be wise in who we follow, and do our own thinking and reading of Scripture and the words of Jesus. He strongly urges us not to simply take from our fellow believers, but to give back so that we contribute to the body of Christ. He admonishes us to live holy lives now, understanding that we don’t know when Christ will return; yet we should live in expectation, rather than thinking he won’t return until after we are dead and gone.

~ ~ ~

*I wanted to address briefly the “rapture” theory that stems from a misreading of two verses of 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (I’m not getting into the whole dispensational pre-millennialism/post millennialism argument.)

Paul is responding to those Thessalonians who are concerned about those already dead (fallen asleep): will they be included in the resurrection when Jesus returns. Paul comforts them, and uses the term, Parousia, meaning, the coming of the Lord.

In his explanation, Paul uses military terminology as an analogy for how we will greet Jesus when he returns. It is the way those would come out from the city to meet a royal officer or king. The first who go outside the city gates to greet the officer are the dignitaries (those already asleep). The next in line to greet the officer are the rest of us who go out to greet the king to escort him back into the city to welcome him.

As verse 17 suggests, “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them [the dead] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”

This doesn’t mean we’ll be swept up and away; it simply means we escort him back to earth, to welcome him to the New Jerusalem, as it is detailed in Revelation 21:1-4.

If you read Matthew 24:36-44, Jesus tells us two things: 1) the only one who knows when he will return is the Father, and 2) it is not the believer who is “taken up,” it is the wicked. Believers are left behind to care for one another.

The Caterpillar

Grace Rejected

Butterfly on leaf

 

A crawling caterpillar found

A verdant leaf to perch

O long had he endured travails

In this intended search.

 

Upon this bed in weariness

He left all cares behind

And nestled into hopes of all

The peace that he would find.

 

His thoughts would not surrender, though

As restlessly he slept;

Restraints of caterpillardom

Did leave him quite bereft.

 

“Out of here!” he yelled and screamed

He could not move a hair;

He did not want this change at all

He cried out in despair.

 

The waiting overwhelmed his soul

Its promise lost his trust;

His crawling ways had served him well

So cling to them he must.

 

He felt a metamorphosis,

A change he could not stop;

Then panic overtook his heart

And oh, a tear did drop.

 

Then suddenly he saw a crack

Of light begin to show

And air – o precious air arrived;

The crack began to grow.

 

As something foreign stirred inside

A wet and fragile thing

Appeared to loosen and unfurl;

This object was a wing.

 

Another yet uncurled itself

Prismatic filigree;

Once dry, these lacy filaments

Guided him to safety.

 

His comfort back, on spindly legs

He walked without concern

Wings folded tightly down on back,

To fly he would not learn.

 

For though he was a butterfly

Most beautiful and free

A caterpillar he’s remained

With wings refused to see.