Sunday, 25 May 2014

Love - 1 Cor 13

The way of Christ is the way of love, and is the 'most excellent way'. It lays down human strength and power. It waits for God to raise up.

Human strength will bash its way through, drawing attention to itself, boasting and being proud. It will pick on weaknesses, re-surfacing past incidents in the other and capitalising on opportunity to do the other down. It will quickly and easily flare up, horns ready to be locked in combat.

Even apparently helping and serving others can carry these traits of human strength, undermining the very thing being offered. With such traits operating underneath the way of love is not seen.

Yet with all our pretence laid down, with kindness patiently holding out for the best in others, looking for truth, hoping and persevering for what surely 'can be' with God, the way of love becomes visible. God and the love that He had for the world that caused Him to come down, to die, to be raised to new life, is brought into view through our own actions.

This way of love is the most excellent way. It does not fail.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Wisdom of Christ - Teaching Resources

Here is the full resource pack of teaching resources on Love, Spiritual Gifts, Leadership, Giving and New Life New Lifestyle that were used with this the Wisdom of Christ Part II message.

Wisdom of Christ - Part 2 - 2 Cor 1:3 - 11

Last week we considered the incredible power dynamic that God uses: laying down power in human terms - going even to death on a cross - for God to raise up again. This confounding principle runs through both letters and is seen here in the first chapter of the second letter, only this time seemingly in Paul's own life.

Paul talks of sharing in the sufferings of Christ for the benefit of the Corinthian Christians and others, and yet also the comfort from God. Paul is no stranger to hardship. Later in the letter he will spill out a whole list of times, many of which taking him close to death.

Yet each time God brought him through, and Paul is convinced that it all has a purpose: to show the world the power of God. Paul is a living parable, a story-told-through-life, telling the story of power-laid-down-for-God-to-raise over and over. This is for the benefit of others, so that they may come to believe. They can then share in the sufferings too, i.e. also become living parables.

So the Key Qn introduced last week remains pertinent. If we are not prepared to lay things down, even through suffering, we will not be able to live the story, and thus not tell the story.

This is why this principle underpins every aspect of teaching we can get from these important letters. Whether it is love, spiritual gifts, giving, leadership, or living the 'new life' in Christ, all of it is informed by this same principle of life laid down for God to raise. For it is in this principle that the power of God is revealed, i.e. the ability to 'get things right' in all the various departments of Christian life.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

The Wisdom of Christ - Part 1 1 Cor 1:18-2:5 and 2 Cor 10:1-18

The King of Denmark stands out in World War II as one who quietly defied the Germans, by riding un-guarded through Copenhagen each day, and by suggesting that should the Jews be required to wear badges then all Danish people should wear the same badge too. This was simple non-violent opposition, laying down power.

This and other examples echo the principle Paul writes of in Corinthians: that God came down and allowed himself to be taken to death, even death on a cross, to be raised again by God alone. This is the power of God - totally different to the power of the world.

Its a nonsense message for most ('foolishness' 1:18). For Greeks and Jews alike it just didn't compute. Today, for Secularists and Muslims to name a few, it also simply does not add up. Yet this is the power of God all the same. So much so that Paul resolved to nothing but this power (2:2). He didn't need clever words, just this basic power (2:4-5).

We too must return to this principle in our churches. Like us the Corinthian church had various issues - the pair of letters makes this clear! Yet see Paul's approach - in the 2nd letter he appeals with the 'meekness and gentleness of Christ' (10:1). He will not use the world's ways, but instead looks again to the power of God, i.e. the power of Christ crucified-yet-raised (10:3-4).

Rather than wading in with fists, law-suits, tribunals, or plain institutional authority, he lays his apostleship on the line, seemingly prepared to give it all up ... in the hope that the church members can be 'built up' rather than torn down (10:8). Don't forget Paul had every right to lay into them, but instead he lays down his right to power.

We must surely do this too. Its not about appearances (10:7), or cleverness. In fact as per the 1st letter chapter 1 God is pleased to use the 'lowly, despised' for His work (1:26,28). So no matter how uneducated, how messed up you feel, you have a role to play. God laid down everything for you, so that you can be raised with Him in His purposes. Hence the key question:

Key Qn: [UP] Where is God calling you to lay things down and trust Him?
Key Challenge: Offer to pray for someone, knowing the power is from God

Let us resolve to know nothing but God's power made available through Christ crucified and then raised. Paul urged the Corinthians to be a spent people, lives laid down for others. Let us be the same for Ely and whoever we meet. As we encounter people, we do not bring our CV, our cleverness, our strength ... but our own experience of the risen Christ. We can offer this for people, praying in their situation to know this same power - the power of the Spirit made available when human power is laid down.

[UP] Where is God calling you to lay things down and trust Him?

Key Challenge: Offer to pray for someone, knowing the power is from God