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He Shakes The Foundations

He shakes the foundations.
 

“He makes the mountains of Lebanon jump like calves and makes Mount Hermon leap like a young bull”.

Ps 29:6 GNB

 
A few hundred years ago a man called Copernicus came out with the strange idea that the earth went round the sun. His thoughts shook the world of human ideas and challenged many previously-held beliefs. It had always been assumed that the earth was flat like a table and that it rested on foundations.
Mount Hermon is a high mountain which can be seen from most parts of northern Israel since it dominates the skyline. Mount Lebanon is close by. Before the Israelites came to the land the locals had regarded it as the abode of their gods. So violent was the storm that it seemed that God was even shaking it to its foundation as he played with it, making it jump and run like frisky young calves. The poet rejoices at God’s might in thus expressing his total superiority over other lesser gods. Whilst marvelling at what we would call the strength of nature, he revels in the thought of God’s all-dominant supremacy.
We understand much more about the working of the universe now. But the occurrence of earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and droughts brings home to us the unpredictable character of some aspects of nature, and our dependence on God. We do not worship nature but we do worship the God who created it and recognize our frailty when the earth is shaken to its foundations by some terrifying upheaval. Such an event also reminds us how normally dependable this world is that God has created. Storms come and go but God maintains a reliable system so that we can plan, use and manage it for our benefit and to his glory.

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Made To Soar

Made To Soar

When I visit the zoo, I skip the eagles’ cage. I can’t stand the pain of seeing those majestic birds sit there on their perches day after day, their burnished brown wings draped over them like an ill-fitting old coat. They were created for the heights, to dance among the clouds, not to be prisoners in a cage. Those birds were made to fly.
Many people who profess that they are Christ’s men and women are like those caged eagles. They are made to live as free citizens of heaven, but they are imprisoned by their own sin. Their condition must break God’s heart. He knows what they could become, but they have put themselves in a cage. And the irony is that it is a cage with open doors.
The apostle Paul said that we who have put our trust in Christ have died with Him to the sin that confined us in our old life. And we are now alive in Him. We are not the person we used to be. Therefore, we must stop facing life as we used to face it.
Think long about those truths. Remind yourself of them often. Through Christ, you have been set free! You were never meant to be imprisoned in a cage. Confess your sin and trust God anew. You were made to soar.
Lord, I thank You for salvation,
For Your mercy, full and free;
Take my all in consecration,
Glorify Yourself in me. —Codner, Elizabeth
Christ is the open door out of the cage of sin.

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Never Too Old

Never Too Old

Look at what some people have accomplished despite advancing age. When Grandma Moses was 100, she was still painting. George Bernard Shaw wrote a play at 94. Arthur Rubinstein gave a great recital at Carnegie Hall when he was 89. And at 82, Winston Churchill wrote A History of the English-Speaking Peoples.
The Bible tells of many godly people who didn’t let the advancing years stop them—Caleb and Moses, for instance. At 85, Caleb (one of the men who had spied out the land of Canaan) entered the Promised Land and drove out the Anakites (Josh. 14:6-15). And Moses continued to lead the people of Israel faithfully until he was 120 (Deut. 34:5-7). The secret of their success was faith in God and an attitude of steadfastness until God called them home.
There are many people who have lived far beyond the 70 years mentioned in Psalm 90:10. They are still bearing “fruit in old age” (Ps. 92:14) by encouraging others and using their energy in God’s service. Others, however, far younger, have decided to coast home.
As long as we have strength, we need to dedicate ourselves to the Lord’s service. Then, no matter what our age, we can “rejoice and be glad.”
Growing old but not retiring,
Lord, the battle still is on;
I’ll go on without relenting
Till the final victory’s won. —Anon.
To stay youthful, stay useful.

You Belong To Christ

​“Yet you belong to Christ”. 

1 Cor 3:23 NEB 
As a small child your sense of belonging will have been con- fined to your mother. Then father will have been added, with a growing sense of other attachments – siblings, a school, a city, a nation, a church, a political party, and all manner of lesser attachments. To whom you belong is important. Much of what we think and believe revolves round what groups or bodies we perceive ourselves to belong to. 
Before Paul arrived in Corinth (which is near to Athens), the people there had worshipped the goddess Aphrodite, the goddess of love. It had led to debauchery and sexual immorality to such an extent that Corinth had become a byword for filth. Then Paul came with the gospel of Jesus Christ. And some had come to believe and to give themselves to this new God – the God of a different kind of love. Those who believed had detached themselves from the worship of Aphrodite and now belonged to Christ. Then came the trouble as one great leader after another visited and ministered in the Christian community and the factions developed as a result of the contending loyalties of the three factions. Now Paul was saying, “You’ve got it wrong. You don’t belong to Paul. You don’t belong to Peter. You don’t belong to Apollos. You belong to Jesus”. 
Know who you belong to. You may be a Baptist but you belong to Christ. You may be a Catholic, a Congregationalist, a Lutheran, a Methodist, a Quaker or an Anglican. You still belong to Christ. Martin Luther used to say, “I am baptized, therefore I am a Christian”. You are a Christian, therefore you belong to Christ. 

​ALL THINGS ARE YOURS

“Everything is already yours as a gift – Paul, Apollos, Peter, the world, life, death, the present, the future – all of it is yours”. 
1 Cor 3:21, 22 EHP 
One of the most profound graces repeated before meals is the one that goes, “With all your other gifts, grant us the gift of a grateful heart, O Lord”. All too few people are truly and deeply grateful. A sense of gratitude is one of the really meaningful blessings anyone can have. Some are so given to moaning and complaining at every touch and turn that it becomes a way of life – a permanent mindset. 
In his sorting out of the problems in the church in Corinth Paul suddenly stopped his admonition of the factions being formed and switched to this wonderful expression of encouragement and joy. He was saying, “Stop being fractious by setting Paul, Peter and Apollos against one another. Remember they are God’s gift to you – so too is the whole magnificent world in which you live, life itself with all its wonderful joys and exciting possibilities, even the death you are on the way to experiencing which, with your faith in Christ, becomes a final giving of yourself to him in thanksgiving and triumph. The present that is alive with God and his salvation and love – this is God’s gift too – and the future with all the surprises it holds, the ever-unfolding realization of Christ’s grace and the dawning awareness of God’s final sovereignty in all things”. An ancient snippet of Stoic philosophy had said, “All things belong to the truly wise”. Maybe Paul had that in mind when he wrote these words. 
All things are yours too, Christian disciple. Be grateful and glorify God. Always . 

​NO BOASTING

“No one, then, should boast about what human beings can do”. 
1 Cor 3:21 GNB 
The modern world makes idols and heroes of people with outstanding achievements. The media have to find interesting subjects and people to fill their space and their time and so focus repeatedly on celebrities, achievers and powerful people. This leads to some people who want to be famous seeking out the media in order to get themselves “mentioned in dispatches”. Most people love publicity and some crave it! An opportunity to boast – in a subtle way, of course – is eagerly seized when the media afford the space or time. 
The Christians in Corinth had been dazzled by the comparative strengths of Paul, Peter and Apollos. Each had exercised powerful ministries and left their mark. But it was Christ the people should have seen, not the human leaders. And no doubt the leaders concerned did have impressive skills and gifts. But the people were led astray and, by focusing on them instead of on Christ it caused untold trouble. Paul had to go to great lengths to stamp it out. 
Christian believers today have the same temptation. It is all too easy for a priest or pastor to create the impression that he (or she) is the centre of attention and to seek praise and glory. This, of course, should be given to God, not to his servants. So beware of the subtle pride that creeps into numerous sermons that use auto- biographical incidents of the preacher’s life and show him up to be someone great! Maybe a gentle word would not be out of place from a believer to put it right – spoken in love. Always keep your own focus – and other people’s – on Christ. 

​WHAT IS WISDOM?

“The Scriptures say, ‘God catches the wise when they try to outsmart him’. The Scriptures also say, ‘The Lord knows that the plans made by wise people are useless’”. 
1 Cor 3:19, 20 CEV 
In a discussion on decision-making an experienced business manager said, “We do not expect to make the right decision every time. We consider that if we get it right sixty percent of the time that is acceptable. Then when we discover that we have made a bad decision we then make a new decision which we hope will put right the mistake of the wrong choice”. Such an attitude shows an awareness of one’s own human fallibility. 
Not all people have such a humble self-understanding. In World War II Hitler ignored the advice of his generals and attacked Russia when Britain was at his mercy. He lost vast numbers of soldiers and equipment in his failed Russian campaign and his mistake proved to be a turning point of the war. 
Paul knew his scriptures and he had observed human folly for many years. Whilst he could probably have cited instances where human wisdom had been successful, he saw how foolish many people – including strong leaders – could be and stressed that factor. 
It is a salutary reminder to all of us, especially in the twenty-first century when we have brilliant human inventions rolling out of the factories almost every month. We are still human and there are so many failures and mistakes that the world seems to be in a permanent mess, lurching from one crisis to another. In your own little world, always seek the guidance and wisdom of God in any decision you have to make. And be humble enough to admit your mistakes. 

​WISDOM AND FOOLISHNESS

“The wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight”. 
1 Cor 3:19 NIV 
People of the world often look at people in the church and wonder if they are “all there”. The Christian ways of thinking, the methods of doing things, the strange ideas of right and wrong, together with the fixation on things that are far away and long ago seem to be absurd, archaic and peculiar. They feel that the world has moved on a long way and left the church behind. What is the norm in Christian circles is foolishness to the outside world. 
Here Paul draws attention to “the futility of any kind of boasting about powerful personalities as leaders. That is certainly how the world thinks, but the wisdom of this world is folly with God. Those who are truly wise in God’s sight are those who deliberately reject such worldly wisdom and adopt an attitude to people and to things which everyone else will call foolish. This attitude sees nothing as grounds for boasting, because everything and everybody is a gift from God to undeserving sinners – including apostles and teachers like Paul , Apollos and Cephas (=Peter), not to mention the whole wide world, life and death, the present and the future. So it is totally out of place to boast about people and things which, quite undeservedly, have been placed in our laps by a lavishly generous God. Indeed,… the fact they belong to us as gifts of his grace must be held firmly in the context that we belong to Another – to Christ himself” (D. Prior, The Message of 1 Corinthians, p61). 
Be aware of God’s wisdom and his ways. Judge and make decisions in the light of Christ’s teaching on the kingdom of God. 

​COMPARING ONE WITH ANOTHER

“Make no mistake about this: if there is anyone among you who fancies himself wise – wise,
I mean, by the standards of this passing age – he must become a fool to gain true wisdom”. 

1 Cor 3:18 NEB 
Most of us admire someone with superior knowledge, wisdom or insight. We envy those whose perceptions are so sharp that they “know what’s going on” and have the courage to “tell it like it is”. And we hold some commentators or analysts in high esteem because they show us aspects of reality that we slower persons haven’t previously picked up. 
A battle royal was waging in the church at Corinth. The factions that had formed in allegiance to Paul, Peter and Apollos were comparing and contrasting their heroes. But the valuations they were applying to these leaders were misleading everyone and causing even more upheaval. They were bragging and boasting, using the ideas and standards of the world and not the criteria of Christ. This one was a fine speaker. That one knew his Old Testament. The other one was more intellectually gifted and could quote philosophers and authors off the cuff. And someone was admired because he had a great sense of humour. So the evaluations were made – but they were made according to worldly wisdom and human standards. And those making them were crowing over the other groups, thinking that they and the people they were supporting were superior to the others. 

Think very carefully about how you perceive the leaders in your fellowship. It is one thing to find someone to be pleasant, attractive or appealing. It is another thing to grow in Christ under their leadership and teaching. And be careful about those who regard themselves as superior to others. 

​THE CAUSE OF TROUBLE

“No one will get by with vandalizing God’s temple, you can be sure of that. God’s temple is sacred 
– and you, remember, are the temple ”. 

1 Cor 3:17 EHP 
Christianity has had a chequered journey down through history. It has split and fragmented again and again. It has been rocked by scandals, almost destroyed by false teachings, and the lamp of faith has frequently burnt low. It has got involved in secular politics, caused wars, and has both suffered and inflicted persecution. It has seldom been free from controversy. Still it has proclaimed the gospel of Christ, maintained Christian worship and brought light into the surrounding darkness. It has produced saints, sought for justice, and motivated many to improve the lives of poor and marginalized people. 
When Paul wrote to the Corinthian church it was only twenty two years after the death of Jesus. But already there was trouble. And the root of the trouble was the development of factions. One faction supported Peter. Another one followed Apollos and a third stuck with Paul himself. And they contended bitterly against each other. And that strife was destroying the fellowship within the church and impeding its work in the wider community. It was killing love and frustrating the work of the Holy Spirit. That means it was spoiling the outreach and mission of the church as well. 
Many churches and fellowships still experience fights. Some- times they become open free-for-alls. Sometimes they are carefully concealed. But they always damage the work of God and the people involved. “Vandalizing God’s temple” is Paul’s way of describing the devastating effect on a congregation of conflict and factionalism in a church. And the temple is sacred – because it doesn’t belong to anyone other than God.