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How do we respond to overwhelming situations?

How do we respond to overwhelming situations; situations beyond our control? From the Job study, Job encountered God in the whirlwind proclaiming truths Job had no answer for (Job 42:3), “Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ “Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” Job understood the depth of knowledge and power found in God was certainly beyond a mortal man. Individuals, even great people of faith, find themselves at times in situations that go beyond their comprehension.

Mark 9:2-13: And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 8 And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

9 And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean. 11 And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 12 And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt?13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”

Peter, James and John find themselves in an overwhelming encounter. Their Lord finds Himself  changed (transfigured) and standing next to two of the greatest men in the Hebrew faith: Elijah and Moses. Jesus not only stands among them, but carries on a conversation with them.

The disciples seek to understand this and Peter, ever an individual of action makes his decree, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” Before considering the understanding of what Peter is asking to do, recognize Peter is caught up in a very familiar failing found in many of us, acting without understanding.

The Bible tells us, “Every prudent man acts with knowledge, But a fool displays folly (Prov. 13:16).” The Bible tells us in regards to Peter and his fellow disciples, “6 For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified.” Peter said something, because … terror, bewilderment, and ignorance provided his foundation. There are times, even when the compulsion to respond is present Proverbs 17:28 should guide a Believer’s thoughts “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent (think about Job placing his hand over his mouth to not speak Job 40:4).” The call to be quick to hear, slow to speak , and slow to wrath should provide additional direction. Peter knew SOMETHING must be done, but did not know what.

God assisted Peter with understanding 7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” Simple and clear direction for all of us, Listen to Jesus, Keep our mouths closed, and do what Jesus says.

Happy Thanksgiving

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and safe travels to those of you who are traveling to visit family and friends.

We are tremendously blessed by our heavenly Father in so many ways.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

See you Monday, Lord willing.

Sexual Immorality

Thank you, Steve Bockmiller, for writing this article on Sexual Immorality.

Sexual immorality is rampant in our society today.  It has pervaded every aspect of our lives from the internet to television to advertising to schools to businesses to government and even to churches.  We see it in a number of forms including pre-marital sex, adultery, homosexuality, and pornography.  The recent news has been full of stories concerning this subject and as more information is revealed the worse the picture gets.  It is a heinous and ugly portrait that is fraught with ruin.  As this sin surrounds us, it may seem like we are living in the most evil of times, but Solomon tells us “there is nothing new under the sun.”  Sexual immorality has been around for a long time.

When the Angels came to save Lot from Sodom, the men of the city surrounded the house wanting to sleep with them.  In Genesis 19:5 it says, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.”

Shechem raped Dinah.  In Genesis 34:1-2 “Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the women of the land.  And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he seized her and lay with her and humiliated her.”

Judah sleeps with Tamar his daughter-in-law thinking she was a prostitute.  In Genesis 38:15-16 it says “Judah saw her; he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face.  He turned to her at the roadside and said, “Come, let me come in to you,” for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law.”

Samson sleeps with a prostitute.  In Judges 16:1 it says “Samson went to Gaza, and there he saw a prostitute, and he went in to her.” 

In 2 Samuel 11 David takes a walk one evening on his roof and he sees a naked woman bathing.  Instead of looking away he summons her, sleeps with her, gets her pregnant, and then orchestrates her husband’s death in battle.

In I Kings 11 Solomon turns away from God due to his love of foreign women with whom God said not to enter into marriage with.  He had 700 wives and 300 concubines and even built high places for their gods.

In Leviticus 18:20-24 God warns his people of partaking in the sexual sins involved in Molech worship.  “And you shall not lie sexually with your neighbor’s wife and so make yourself unclean with her. You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.  You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.  And you shall not lie with any animal and so make yourself unclean with it; neither shall any woman give herself to an animal to lie with it: it is perversion. “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean.”

Sexual immorality was an issue in the Old Testament as we can see from all of these examples.  And keep in mind this includes David who was said to be “a man after God’s own heart”.  If we fast forward to the New Testament times the picture doesn’t change much.  Paul tells the Romans “let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.”  He tells the Corinthians (a place where sexual immorality was widespread) “or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality.”  He tells the Ephesians “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.”  Paul makes similar statements to the congregations in Galatia, Colossae, and Thessalonica.  The Hebrew writer says “let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”

Sexual immorality is a sin that will captivate you, control you, and consume you.  If you have eyes and ears and feelings you are susceptible to this sin.  You must have a plan for how to deal with the temptation and it needs to start with openness and honesty.  Sexual sin can captivate you and blind you from the truth.  Have you admitted to yourself that you struggle with this?  Have you looked to God for forgiveness and strength?  Have you talked to your spouse about it?  It helps to be accountable to someone who can ask you questions and help keep you in check.  This sin is also controlling.  If you don’t get yourself under control sexual sins will control you.  Peter tells us in 2 Peter 1:6 to “add to your knowledge self control.”  We talk a great deal about Bible study.  I have listened to many Bible study classes and sermons where the Preachers and Teachers drive home the point to study, study, and study.  Of course we need to read God’s word.  “They word is a lamp unto my feet” as David says in Psalms 119:105.  The problem is we don’t talk enough about discipline and self control.  Notice Peter says we need to add self control to knowledge.  You don’t need a doctorate degree to understand the concept, the history, and the scriptures about sexual immorality.  In this short article I have covered a portion of what the Bible says on the matter.  What you need to do is to control yourself.  When the temptation arises make the choice to not engage; walk away, avoid the situation, turn the TV off, or get a not-so-smart phone.  If you choose to not control yourself, this sin will consume you.  It will take you farther than you ever thought possible.  Remember the mess that David created with Bathsheba; one sin led to another.  Do you find yourself committing sexual sins and then hiding the facts, covering things up, and lying to stay out of trouble?  When we read Romans chapter 1 we are disgusted with the people who gave into sin and engaged in all kinds of evil including worshipping the creation rather than the Creator.  Verses 26 and 27 say “for their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature;  and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”  Notice it says they were consumed with passion for one another.  It filled their every thought and action.  If you don’t control yourself and give in to sexual immorality, that is you.  “You are the man” as Nathan once told David.  Notice the consequence that the Hebrew writer tells us; “for if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.”  You will be consumed by the fury of fire.  Don’t let that happen.  Sexual immorality is here to stay and will always impact us in some way or another.  Knowing this leads the Godly man to get himself under control and overcome.  Our families are relying on us to set the example and keep the Devil out.  Is your light shining or is the bushel of sexual immorality keeping you in the dark?

Spiritual Leadership Loneliness

Being a spiritual leader can be a very lonely place and in that loneliness, the devil sees a great deal of opportunity.  Let me fill you in on my current situation so you have some background and context.

Towards the end of September I accepted a promotion at work that is truly a great opportunity for my family.  Not only do I get to build and lead a sales force but it also provides us the opportunity to move back home and be closer to family.  In many ways it is an answer to prayers.  But my oh my did I understand the workload!

Since accepting the position in September, I have not been home for more than two days in a row until last week.  In addition to the travel all of my time has been taken up with the intense process of hiring a team, strategic planning, and meeting preparation.  Additionally, I’ve been exposed to a higher level of corporate politics than I expected which has added a great deal of stress.  In my “down” time I have to take care of my current position and lead my current sales team which basically means I’ve been working late into the nights.  Even when I’m home, I’m not really home.

So we take the additional workload, the higher level of responsibility and visibility, mix in a healthy dose of stress and we end up with a potentially toxic situation.  Many of the regular readers of these articles are somewhat familiar with my “troubled” past but let’s just say I’ve spent a great deal of time in the “far country” (Luke 15:13).  I always seem to be blindsided by how quickly, and how powerfully, old temptations come back to knock me for a loop.  You’d think I’d start to expect it by now.  Needless to say the last couple of months have been a struggle in a number of ways.

So let’s get back to the lonely place.  What should I do?  The scripture is very clear about where I should seek encouragement and support.  The Church was designed so that I would have a network of strong brothers to lean on.  Brothers that would listen to my struggles, show me empathy and compassion, and help me through difficult situations.  Not to mention this is the very reason God gave us marriage.  I know this, I’ve preached on this, delivered workshops on this, but I fail to take advantage of the resources God has provided.  Why?

I’m a spiritual leader, that’s why.  Will you allow me a little foolishness?  In my family, among my friends, and in the local body I’m the one with the vision.  I’m the strong man of faith that encourages and lifts others up.  I’m the one that struggling Christians turn to for advice, for prayer, for comfort.  In this position, to open up, to be authentic and admit that I can’t handle the situation would feel like I’m letting others down.  It would almost be a form of betrayal to all those people who have relied on me in the past.  How could I let that happen?  I can’t let that happen!  As a result, I isolate myself, put on a happy face, provide token responses to people genuinely concerned and…give the devil an opportunity.

All of this hit me a couple of weeks ago when I was in Michigan conducting a men’s workshop that was completely focused on the power that others play in our Christian walk (ironic).  The night before I left I was standing in the kitchen with two of my dearest friends on this earth.  We had been talking about my work and the stress it was putting on Kristine and how she was handling it.  During a pause in the conversation, Anna asked me, “And how are you doing?”  I’m sure I provided a few sentences but my response amounted to, “I’m ok”.  What I should have said is, “I’m failing!  I’m drowning!  I’m suffocating!  I feel like I’m juggling chainsaws and torches while one arm is broken and the other is tied behind my back!”  But I didn’t.  Why not?

This might be one of the most irritating articles you read all month because I don’t really have the answers.  I’m sure it has to do with fear and pride and shame and all sorts of other things I need to work on with a therapist but, in reality, I’m sure I’m not alone.  I believe there are a lot of “spiritual leaders” out there that feel the same kind of pressure I do.  Leaders that feel the weight of the world crushing them and feel somewhat helpless when it comes to opening up and taking advantage of the help God has provided through His people.

I have come to realize one thing that has helped, one thing that has given me the strength to at least write this article.  I am strong…and I am weak.  The two are not mutually exclusive.  I am the man of faith that encourages others and lifts them up and I am also the man that struggles and fails.  I am the leader that inspires and motivates and I’m the leader that gets discouraged and deflated.  Both are true.  That is why the only reliable source of strength, strength that never fails, resides in the nature and character of our God.

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”  Luke 22:31-31

When God Brings Justice

I was listening to a video by Frank Turek this week and he made an excellent point about our view of God’s justice. He said something to the effect of, “So many people wander why God doesn’t do something about evil, but when He does do something about evil we don’t like how he went about it!”

We all can probably relate. There are times, I’m sure, when you have read the Bible and came across one of God’s judgments and were tempted to think, “Man, that’s harsh.” David was angry when God struck Uzzah dead for touching the ark of the covenant. Habakkuk had a really hard time accepting that God would send a more wicked nation (Chaldeans/Babylonians) to punish the nation of Judah. Abraham was very concerned about God being a just judge and doing what was right when it came to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

There are many more examples of people questioning God’s decisions, and we can all say that at some time we’ve wondered about why God does things the way He does. It can be a real struggle for our faith, but as we come through those valleys of confusion, we can have a much stronger faith and a better appreciation for who God is.

Here are a few thoughts about God when He administers justice.

When God brings justice:

  • God has exhausted all other avenues to bring someone or a group of people to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). If you read through the pages of the Bible and see the wrath and punishment of God, you can in those same texts see the mercy and long-suffering nature of God. He waits until there is no remedy but to bring punishment.
  • His punishment is at the right time, done in the right way, and is completely free of partiality (Romans 2).  This is why mankind does such a lousy job of vengeance and punishment. We often do it at the wrong time, with poor motives and full of favoritism.
  • He sees the hearts of mankind and sees the future. Since you and I can see neither of these, we are not equipped to make God’s judgments like He is. There is a lot of information He has access to that we will never have. I remember having a hard time wondering why God struck Uzzah dead while King David lived. God sees things that I don’t see, and I need to trust that.
  • God’s heart is always ready to forgive and receive back the sinner. We just studied about King Manasseh last Sunday. Manasseh was a really wicked dude. No king was as wicked as he was. God brought punishment upon King Manasseh and the nation of Judah, and what happened? Manasseh showed great humility and repented of his sins. God forgave him.

Our hearts can be built up in faith knowing that when God makes a decision, even a decision that causes us to shudder, we can be assured that it was the right decision with the purest motives. God will do what is right, and He will do it out of love.

then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment,
(2 Peter 2:9)

Slow to Anger, Great in Power

An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh. The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; he dries up all the rivers; Bashan and Carmel wither; the bloom of Lebanon withers. The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it. Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him. The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness. What do you plot against the LORD? He will make a complete end; trouble will not rise up a second time.
(Nahum 1:1-9)

We were studying the book of Nahum last night in our Bible class. Nahum was sent to pronounce the final judgment upon Nineveh and Assyria. Jonah had been sent around 100 years prior to this, and the people of Nineveh repented. However, they have gone back into their violent and wicked ways. God was slow to anger, but now there is no remedy. He will come at them with an overwhelming flood of judgment and punishment.

The phrase I want to focus on for just a moment is that God is “slow to anger but great in power.” A question that was posed last night in class was, “What if God was fast to anger and great in power?” We all agreed that there wouldn’t be much left of us and it wouldn’t take long for God to do it. He would snuff us out in a hurry.

Look at the passage above. Nahum asks, “Who can stand before His indignation? Who can endure the heat of His anger?” When God is full of wrath, there is no place to hide nor any shelter strong enough to withstand the blast (except the shelter of the blood of Jesus, of course). “His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken in pieces by Him,” Nahum added.

Are you great in power? What I mean is, are you in authority over people? At work? At home? In organizations? How about in the church? What do you do with that authority and power? Do you run rough shod over people? Are you quick to anger, or are you slow to anger like God is? Is your wrath poured out quickly and instantly known by others (Proverbs 12:!6)? Are people around you intimidated and scared to set you off? Do others walk on egg shells around you because of your hair-trigger temper?

God is great in power, but slow to anger. He has the power to do whatever he wants to you and me, but His lovingkindness governs His power. Have you ever driven a truck that had a governor set where you couldn’t go over a certain speed? I think we need something like that with our anger and all our passions and emotions. What regulates my power and strength? Does God’s love, mercy and kindness rule my authority so that I do not take advantage of those who are accountable to me?

The people under your authority may not be able to escape. They have to endure that anger and face those blasts of wrath because they have to keep coming to work everyday or they have to live with you everyday. When you go off on a rant, they may have to just stay there and take it. But that isn’t fair to them is it? Should they have to endure that kind of abuse because you can’t control your temper?

If you are that person who has that kind of anger issue, please work with God to get to the root of the problem. Sit down with wise, godly people who can help you work through your anger and give you the tools to control that anger and put it in its proper place. It will take humility to admit you have a problem, and even more humility to seek out help to work through it.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
(James 1:19-22)

An article from Dave Ramsey about teens investing

I read an article this week from Dave Ramsey’s website entitled “How Teens Can Become Millionaires.”

A little bit of a caveat first: Our most important emphasis is for our children to invest in their eternal souls, regardless of how much money they have here on earth. Please put this article in that Biblical perspective.

That being said, the Bible is very clear in its wisdom for us to save and invest and grow the talents/opportunities/blessings that God has given us.

What blew me away, was the point in the article that if a 19 year old invested $2,000 each year for only 8 years, and then left that money alone until he was 65, that money would grow to around $2.3 million at 12% interest. That is the amazing beauty of compound interest. Boy, do I wish I had that kind of mindset at 19!

The article contrasted the 19 year old with a 27 year old who invested $2,000 a year every year until he was 65 years old. When the 27 year old turned 65 he had around $1.5 million in the bank. The 19 year old invested $16,000 over 8 years and the 27 year old invested $78,000 over 39 years. In the end, the 19 year old ended up with $800,ooo more because he started early.

Here is the chart from that article:

That’s the lesson to burn into our young men and women right now. Start early! Don’t blow all that hard earned income on fancy clothes, restaurants and miscellaneous stuff that you can live without.

Here is the wisdom from Solomon (from God) on this subject:

Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.
(Proverbs 6:6-11)

 

Because You Have Done This

So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
(Genesis 22:14-18)

“Because you have done this” – That statement could be in between a bad choice leading to a awful consequence, but for Abraham it was quite the opposite. Abraham made a choice to obey God even when it would cost him his son Isaac. Because Abraham made this choice to obey God even through extreme sacrifice of what he held most dear, God would richly bless him and his family for generations to come.

We studied this chapter last night in a Bible study at someone’s home, and it really caused us to reflect upon the faith and trust that Abraham had in God’s promises. That trust in God’s promises led him to the conclusion that if he killed Isaac, then God would raise him from the dead (Hebrews 11:19). He knew that God would provide, even if Abraham gave up the very things God promised him.

What a great example for leaders of homes, and what an encouragement to know that if we make the commitment to follow God fully, God will be there in our homes blessing us and providing us with wisdom and strength. Abraham said, “The Lord will provide,” and that is just as true for us today as it was for Abraham. Our job is to fully obey His voice. The calling for us is the same as it was for Abraham; don’t withhold anything from God. Don’t let anything be so valuable to us that we would not give it over to Jesus.

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”–and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
(James 2:19-24)

A Very Humbling Contrast

We were studying Micah last Wednesday night in Bible class, and a sister emailed me afterward with this note:

After reading Micah 7 it is interesting how in Hebrews 10 the word says if we keep willfully sinning we trample Christ under our feet. Then back in Micah 7 it says that God treads our sins underfoot and throws them to the depths of the sea. Such a neat and very humbling contrast. The great terribleness of our deeds to the great awesomeness of the mercy and grace extended from God

Here are the two passages she referenced:

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old. (Micah 7:18-20)

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins…How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:26,29)

It is truly a humbling contrast for us to ponder today. God has trampled our sins under his feet because He has delighted in steadfast love. God is compassionate and has cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. What then is my attitude and response to that grace, forgiveness and the blood of Christ?

Let us hold up that sacrifice as a sacred treasure by the way we think, the choices we make, the words we say, the places we go, etc. God has trampled on our sins, and it frees us to walk on a holy pathway of righteousness with the blood of Jesus covering our lives.

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
(Hebrews 10:21-25)

What Do You Have When the Gifts Go Away?

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13:8-13)

Love never ends, but the gifts will go away. Paul was seeking to show them a better and more excellent way, the way of love (1 Corinthians 12:31). The miraculous spiritual gifts that these brethren possessed would one day fade away. They were all in part, but the perfect word of God when completed would bring their gifts to fulfillment and would pass away. As we have the perfect completed word of God, we have no need of prophecy, tongues and miraculous knowledge. Those gifts all were part of bringing the whole revealed word to completion.

Paul’s illustration of the transition of a child into manhood helps explain the usefulness of those miraculous spiritual gifts during the infancy of the church. They didn’t have Matthew through Revelation, but now we do, and now every person can look into the perfect law of liberty (James 1:23-25). We can look into the mirror of the word and see plainly face to face the image of Christ and with the power of the Holy Spirit that word can transform us into His image (2 Corinthians 3:18).

So, the things that these brethren in Corinth were so focused on were temporary and were going to fade away. What they were not focused on was the love that never ends. They are not any different than you and me are they?

What do you have when the gifts and talents go away? If the things that you have that you really hold dear are taken away, what do you have left? Some have great looks, others have charm. Some are really financially savvy, and others are great working with their hands. There are those who are super intelligent and can solve really complex problems. Some guys are great with words, while others have incredible physical and athletic abilities. Again, what happens when those gifts and talents go away?

What do you have left? Do you have love? If all your gifts, talents and abilities are gone, what are you left with?

Go back to the earlier section of 1 Corinthians 13. Are you patient and kind, or are you arrogant and rude? Do you hope for the best or look for the worst in people? Are you irritable and resentful or do you bear, believe, hope and endure all things? Would you be described as someone who always has to be right and insists on his or her own way? Or would you be described as someone who rejoices with the truth, and does so without envying or boasting?

When the abilities go away, do you have love?

“Pursue love…” (1 Corinthians 14:1)