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AUTHOR: Larry Locke

Our Very Own Medals

Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other.  For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?  1 Corinthians 4:6-7.

It is the nature of humankind to revel in our own accomplishments.  We take pride in the titles we accumulate at work like vice president, partner, or director.  We may brag about the money we have made or the exotic trips we have taken.  We may flout our academic degrees or the awards, medals, or trophies we have won.

All of these things of which we are so proud may be good things indeed.  Lofty titles at work may be an indication of having been faithful in past responsibilities.  Wealth of money or experiences may be (though is not always) an indicator of good stewardship.  Our other achievements may be indicative of contributions we made to important causes or events.

Our problem may not be in seeing these as good but in seeing them as somehow our own.

I have known people who worked harder than I ever have for many years longer than me but who were never rewarded with important sounding titles.  There are whole people groups in the world who have stewarded there resources with extreme fastidiousness and yet remain in poverty.  Some people have saved 100’s of lives at great risk to themselves, and never been recognized for it.

Nothing that we have accomplished would be available to us but for the grace of God.  It was all received from God, both the opportunity for the accomplishment and the rewards or recognition that followed its completion.

This is true even in the spiritual realm.  Paul’s words might be directly applied to scriptural knowledge, holy wisdom, and theological understanding.  If you are blessed with each of those, I promise none of them came to you by your own hand.

Rather than reveling in our own accomplishments and celebrating our own aggrandizement, let’s praise the God who gifts all good things to us and glory in His mercy.

A New Kind of Genesis

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.  Revelation 21:4

As a father of three, I witnessed my wife bringing each of our children into the world and was always incredulous at the effort and discomfort involved.  They don’t call it “labor” for nothing.  My wife assured me that the pain was of a whole different kind than anything I had ever experienced and I believed her.  I knew, also, that when the Bible wants to describe a particular pain as really horrible, it refers to it as “pain as in childbirth”.

My wife’s situation was harsh but hardly unique.  Women all over the world can identify.  But children aren’t the only things we bring forth with pain.  New countries often require considerable “labor” to bring them into being.  New business ventures, new careers, even new marriages generally require substantial work to be launched.

It was not intended to be so.  From the creation, man was supposed to work alongside God stewarding His world.  But ever since Genesis 3, creating with pain became part of the curse.

God does not create this way.  When He brings something into being He does so with power, not with pain.  In Genesis 1, God brought forth the whole universe by merely speaking it into existence.  When God created the nation of Israel, He struck down the Egyptian gods, parted the Red Sea, and led the Hebrews forth with fire.  When God formed His church in Jerusalem, He created it by releasing the power of His Spirit on the handful of Christ followers.

Our text for today speaks of a new development in the story.  A day is coming when we will work as God does, hand in hand with Him, as we were intended to.  In that day the Lord will bring forth a new heaven and a new earth and there will be no more pain.  We will join Him in His work and serve Him with power, not with pain.

Come quickly Lord Jesus.

 

Mine!  Mine!

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, to the church of God in Corinth…. 1 Corinthians 1:1-2a.

This letter by the Apostle Paul, like many of Paul’s letters, is addressed to “the church of God” in his target city.  Paul need not have opened most of his letters in that way, including this one.  Having founded the Corinthian Church in Acts 17, Paul might very well have written the letter to “my church” in Corinth.

Of course, Paul understands that none of the churches he founded were his.  He knew that they only grew by the activity of God.  If the churches were to flourish, it required the involvement of the Spirit.  Paul knew this and most of us would certainly agree.

What is less obvious to many of us, is the extent of God’s ownership.  If God owns the church, it can only be because He owns all the families that have committed themselves to one another in the formation of that church.  If God owns your church, He owns your family.  The activity of God in our churches must necessarily begin with His activity in the families that compose it.  If your family is to flourish, that also would require God’s help.

If God owns your family, it must be because He owns each member of your family, including you.  The activity of God in your family must necessarily be mediated through you and the other individuals who make up your family.  You and your family members can only thrive with the intervention of the Spirit of God.

And if God owns you, it must be because He owns the elements or aspects that make up you.  He owns your body.  He owns your mind.  He owns your future and your past.  He owns your options and your choices.  If you are to flourish, it must be because God is going to work through various moments and elements of your life to engage His Spirit.

How often do we instead prefer to relegate God to some portion of ourselves, our families, or our church?  We somehow seem to think that God’s ownership and intervention in our lives will produce inferior results to what we can do on our own.  This is foolishness.  None of us has the wisdom, power, or love that God brings to engineering our lives and the lives of those around us.

God has a better plan for your life than you do.  If you want to know the fullness of God in any aspect of your life, begin by surrendering it to him.

What would God name you?

No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.  Genesis 17:5

We delight in naming things.  One of the major perks of discovering a new species of animal or a new plant or a star is the privilege of naming it.  One of the first things we do when we acquire a new pet is to give it a name.  And then of course, there’s our children.  After they became engaged to be married, each of my own children kept a running list of names for potential offspring with their fiancée.  There were actually 3 lists, names for possible future boys, possible future girls, and names that were absolutely off limits because one or the other of the prospective parents didn’t like them.

One of the first things we teach a newborn is to respond to their name.  It is often one of the first things we teach them to write.  For most of us, they are the only words we will ever write by hand to authenticate documents, to make vows of marriage, to enroll in military service, to pay or receive funds, or to bequeath our fortunes when we are gone.

But for all our focus on them, names have much less meaning to us than they did to ancient peoples.  In many cultures today, our last names reflect our heritage.  I’m a Locke because my father and grandfather were.  What it actually means to be a Locke is up for every single holder of the name to interpret.  Our first names also tend to reflect family members or others that we hold dear.  In Texas you meet a lot of people named Houston, Austin, and Dallas.  Its funny but I never met anyone from Boston with those names.  But naming someone after a family member or a historical figure doesn’t mean they will have anything in common with that person. It’s just a name.

God sees names differently.  When God grants a name, it is rich with divine meaning.  When he names people or things it reflects His view of them, His will for them, or maybe His promise to them.  When God’s will begins to unfold in someone’s life He may change that person’s name, as we see with Abraham in our text for today.

What would God name you?

The good news for us today is that God has told us the names He has for us.  Check out just a few:

Galatians 3:26 – Child of God

Ephesians 1:14 – God’s Possession

1 Peter 2:5 – A Holy Priesthood

2 Corinthians 6:16 – Temple of the Living God

1 Corinthians 2:16 – Possessor of the mind of Christ

Colossians 3:24 – Inheritor from the Lord

These are deeper names than any our parents gave us my friends.  Let’s live in the identity God gave us and enjoy all the benefits that come with it.

The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.  1 John 2:17.

Those of us in business are painfully familiar with the concept of obsolescence.  You buy a case of business cards and name tags for every one in your department, a week before the company logo gets changed.  Even as a consumer, my father learned he had made a mistake six months after he bought a Sony Betamax video recorder.  Some products might last forever except that they turn out to be useless.

There are different strategies for dealing with products that are on their way out.  One approach is to do nothing and keep using the outmoded product as long as possible.  My father tried that one.  He watched the three or four videos he was able to get for his Betamax machine over and over, all while new titles were appearing daily for the dominant VHS format.

This strategy provided him with some very real psychological benefits.  First, he didn’t have to change anything.  That tends to make a person more comfortable.  Second, he got to affirm his own choice.  We all prefer to think we make good decisions.  Of course there were some real costs, too.  The opportunity for watching all the movies and shows that were becoming available in VHS was lost.

The opposite strategy for dealing with an obsolescent product is to switch to the new, replacement product immediately.  That approach will cost us the discomfort of change and the pain of knowing we might have made a bad choice.  But the benefit is that our investment in that new product will provide immediate benefits and ultimately pay off big.

Applying that same logic to our verse for today indicates an important decision faces us.

There are things we love about this world.  I love the feeling of accomplishing the tasks I set for myself.  I like it when I get affirmed by the people I work for.  I appreciate being able to purchase something cool that I have wanted for a while.

The problem of course, is that all those things I love about the world are already obsolescent.  They are passing away.  My walk with the Lord and His activity in my life are all that is going to survive into eternity.  Should I continue to invest in the things I love about the world or dump them now in favor of the things that will last?

I don’t know about you, but I am hoping to transition to the Kingdom of God as quickly as possible.