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After Love

Click here to read I Corithians 14 on BibleGateway.com


Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy – I Corinthians 14:1

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K.i.s.s.i.n.g
First comes love,
then comes marriage
Then comes what’s-his-name with a baby carriage.

Is there any higher form of ironic mockery in the first grade repertoire? Many times was my face flushed with the fiery crimson of embarrassment at the jeering. And only half of it was because I was secretly hoping there might be some actual smoochaliciousness happening. Alas, much to the disappointment of my elementary self, there was very little lip action until much later in life.

Funnily enough, I never really thought about what came next. I think I pretty much stopped after the thought of locking lips, and never thought about what one did with love afterwards (no, not that. That’s for the grown up post). What I mean is, what happens after love?

THEN COMES….

I Corinthians 13 is quoted almost universally in wedding services (love is patient, love is kind, and so forth), but we all know that the original book of First Corinthians didn’t have chapters, so really chapter 13 just flows right into chapter 14. So if we look at chapter 14, the first thing is “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.”

True love doesn’t stop with love. It is not an end to itself. Does love just stop with acceptance no matter what? Does love just let us do whatever we want, to ourselves and to our beloved? Of course not. No one would suggest that. Love leads into something else. It leads into spiritual intimacy, it leads into gifts of the spirit, it leads into prophecy.

Fair enough, what is prophecy then? We tend to have this vague idea that prophecy is about telling the future, but that’s only a small part of it. Looking at First Corinthians 14 again, we see that prophecy is for building up others, specifically as “the secrets of their heart is laid bare.” I’m not going to get into all of the gifts of the Spirit here, but let’s paraphrase by saying that a believer filled with the Holy Spirit and God’s Word have a sense of reality and wisdom, and it helps us builds up others at their very heart, the very center of who they are.

GOD IS PROPHECY

So if that is the case, and God is love, what comes next? Because God is love, and God loves us, prophecy must follow. The point of prophecy is edify us and to make us more Christlike – hence the point of love is to draw us closer to Christ, otherwise it is just self-serving or uncaring. Thus because of God’s love, He doesn’t just stop with us how we are, but works with us and in us to make us who we were created to be (this is also how love in marriage is supposed to work, but we are less awesome at it because of our own selfish sin, which God doesn’t have to deal with. Which is why the the best way to love your spouse is learn more about God’s love.)

People ask “why doesn’t God just accept how I am?” The answer, as it always is, is because He loves you. Loves you so much, that He won’t just stop at a shallow acceptance, but will draw you closer to who you are meant to be, and ever deeper into Love. True love will challenge you, it will build you up, and bring out the best in you, even the best you don’t see in yourself.

Anything less is not Love.

The Maybe

Click here to read I Samuel 27 on BibleGateway.com

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I’m often fascinated by Abigail in the story of King David. If you don’t know her background, quick sumup is she was married to a rich doofus named Nabal who tried to stiff David on some back pay. David gets ready to teach him a lesson, Judean wilderness style, but Abigail intervenes with food and some straight-up flattery of David, and he decided to forgo his revenge. When Nabal finds out, he promptly has a stroke and dies, after which David marries Abigail.

This story is always interesting to me because of the Maybe’s. Abigail was described as beautiful and intelligent, so right away we know she’s all that and a bag of chips. She’s clever, and yet remains loyal to her chumpweasel of a husband despite his stupidity and foolishness.

So here’s the Maybe’s – what if David had just married her and none of his other wives? Sometimes David’s story is seen as God’s blessing on polygamy, but what if it’s more of a warning? Abigail is probably David’s first wife (there’s some dispute here with Michal and Ahinoam, so I won’t be dogmatic about it), and she appears to be the one he married with the purest intention. Most of the others were either political marriages (that David used to solidify his claim to the throne) or flat-out wrong (Bathsheba).

Many of David’s problems later in life were a result of the in-fighting within his own family. What if David had just married Abigail, and trusted God for the political strength? Maybe there would be no Bathsheba. Maybe there would be no Tamar and Amnon, Maybe there would be no rebellion from Absalom. Maybe maybe maybe.

I think often we create a lot of problems for ourselves by trying to solve problems that wouldn’t even be problems if we just followed God’s leading. We worry ourselves sick worrying about getting sick. We create fights with people because we worried that they are thinking bad about us. We create the the very situations that we have to focus our time on.

What if we instead just focused on following Christ, and let the problems come as they will? What if we just spent each day actually being with Jesus, instead of worrying about what tomorrow might bring. Could it be that the thing we are worrying about might not actually happen at all? If David hadn’t been worried about losing his throne, he might never have had to fight for his throne later on.

What problems might you be creating today in your effort to outplan God?

Mystery Seeds

Click here to read Mark 4 on BibleGateway.com

Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head – Mark 4:27-28

Jesus’ parables are some of the most famous passages in the Bible, especially the Good Samaritan, the Sower, and the Prodigal Son.  But Jesus gave us many parables, so why do we choose to just focus on a few?  Is it just because they’re familiar?  Why do we think of these as the “good” parables and others as the “minor” parables?  I suppose we could argue that we tend to focus on the longer parables, but we also like the wheat and tares story, and that’s fairly short.  So why is it we skip over some parables, like the Shrewd Manager or the Growing Seed?

Ready for my theory? Perhaps it’s because we don’t like parables that confuse us (the manager is good because he cooks the books?), or maybe because it doesn’t fit our own worldview.  We want to read the stories of how God forgives our worst sins, or “safe” parables like the Sower (“safe” because we know we’re the good seed, right?), but not the ones that make us re-evaluate ourselves.

ONLY GOD CAN MAKE A TREE

 In our chapter for today, we find the story of the Growing Seed. Without claiming any deep theological insight here, it seems like God is telling us that ultimately, everything is outside our control.  We can plant, and water, and fertilize, and weed, and all this, that, and the other, but nothing we do can force a seed to grow.  It just grows.   

Moreover, it takes a process.  The seed doesn’t turn into the full-grown plant overnight.  It goes through a slow process of foundation (the stalk), maturity (the head), and finally production and reproduction (full kernel).  No matter how much you encourage and yell and prod a plant with electrodes, it will still take time for that plant to grow. 

And that makes us uncomfortable. Assuming the Seed is the Word, we don’t like the idea that growing in Christ takes time.  We want to have a process of growth that is under our control, on our schedule. We love the stories of our transgressions being forgiven (the Prodigal), but we’re a little less excited to dwell on the idea that ultimately we need to depend on God for everything, or that things may take time rather than respond to our demands for speed.

NOT YOUR FIELD

And it’s not just growth in ourselves. Many of us desperately want to “force” the Seed to grow in someone else, to make them get saved.  We preach on hellfire, we cajole with God’s love, we may even use excommunication or affection to try to convince someone to trust God.  But ultimately, the growth of the seed in others is outside our control. 

If I may, my friend, let me put your mind at ease.  You can’t force that friend of yours to get saved.  You can’t make that relative fall in love with Jesus.  That’s not your calling.  Your calling is to love them with Christ’s love, and to pray.  The Seed does its work as we do ours.  You might be planting that seed (like Paul), or watering the Seed (like Apollos), but ultimately only God makes it grow (and for the free will people, we also choose how the seed grows in us.  But not in others.)

We want so desperately to have Christian maturity under our control, but the heart of the gospel is giving up our control to the Lordship of Jesus.  And that includes our own growth and the growth of others. We have to trust that growth is happening, even if it’s below the surface, just out of sight.

Take heart.  Sometimes that Seed is growing; it just takes time.