Friday, May 13, 2016, 1:49 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Forever With Us.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Corinthians 4:1-13 (ESV). Faithful in Service (vv. 1-5) This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. If we are in Christ Jesus by God’s grace to us, through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, then we have each been given gifts of the Spirit of God, and we each have an assignment from God within the body of Christ for the building up of Christ’s body until we all reach a unity of the faith and become mature (See: Ro. 12; 1 Co. 12; Eph. 4). We are all ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for all of us are the light of the world and the salt of the earth, and we are all to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). We are all servants of Christ, and it is required of each and every one of us that we must be found faithful to God and to his calling on our lives, whether it be to the calling he has given all of us or to our individual callings to service. When we step out in faith, and we answer “Yes” to God’s calling on our individual lives, and we share the gospel of Jesus Christ with other people, and we live holy lives, set apart from (different, unlike) the world, because we are becoming like Jesus, we will be hated, persecuted, judged unfairly, criticized, rejected, and abandoned, etc., even by those who call themselves our brothers and sisters in Christ. There will always be people who will judge us by the standards of this world, and who will think we should think or behave differently than we do, even within the body of Christ. So much of today’s church has gone the way of the world, and thus the worldly church has no place for those who are sold out to Jesus and who walk in the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh. Yet, we are not to concern ourselves with pleasing humans, but with pleasing God. We are also not to worry about how we will be treated by others if truly we do step out in faith and we are faithful to the trust God has given to us. We must also be very careful that we do not judge others based upon our own perceptions, human traditions, today’s culture, or our own human-based values, personal prejudices or religious affiliations. Certainly we must judge sin, especially within the church, but we must be very cautious against making judgments about other believers whose callings we may not understand because they are merely different from us, or because it was not the way we were raised. We need to make all judgments according to the Word of God, and not according to our own thinking, and we must be careful to not judge those things hidden, for God is the judge of all things. We Received It (vv. 6-7) I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? As human beings, and as followers of Christ, we each have different upbringings. We have things that were taught us by our parents, by our church leaders, by our friends and family members, by society as a whole, and by God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We each have our own personalities and emotional makeup, too, and thus we each individually respond in different ways to the things we were taught, and/or to our life experiences. From these we form our own values and perceptions about life and about how things should be or should be done. Some of these values may be in line with scripture, and some of these may not, but may be the result of our own personal experiences and training, and how we ultimately responded to those encounters. And, we may confuse these personal values or prejudices with truth from God’s word, so we must be cautioned here to make certain we do not go beyond the Word of God in our judgments or in the exercising of those judgments. We must also guard our hearts against personal pride in thinking that somehow our way is superior to another, based again on our own personal prejudices and perceptions, not based in the Word of God. There are many within the church who pride themselves in their religious practices and who think they are superior because they do things in a way that they have decided is important to God, but it may not be what God desires at all, but it may be based solely in human tradition. We have to be so careful not to confuse tradition with truth, for they may not be one and the same. Our way may not be God’s way at all, and what we may think is not God’s way, may be, in fact, absolutely what God desires. So, we must know the Word of God and what it teaches, through the study of the Word, through obedience to what it teaches us, and through the witness of the Spirit in our hearts. And, we must be seekers of truth and be willing to chunk human traditions if they do not line up with God’s word. A Spectacle (vv. 8-13) Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. When we follow the ways of men, and we don’t make waves, and we conform to the standards of society, and we blend in with our culture, and we live to please humans and to be liked by others, instead of living to please God, we are less likely to be hated and persecuted, for if we are one with the world, the world should like us. But, when we take a stand for Christ and for his Word, and we tell people about Jesus, and we share the gospel of our salvation, and we walk in the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh, and we don’t conform to today’s culture, but we conform to Christ and his Word, there are going to be people who will not like us, and who will not want to be around us, even within the church. If we are truly following our Lord Jesus Christ in obedience and in surrender to his will for our lives, not in absolute sinless perfection, but in a consistent walk of faith in living to please him in all that we do and say, we will be an offense to the world and to the worldly church, and we may be treated with contempt; with disdain. We may also be called various things from “holy rollers,” to “religious extremists,” to “hyper-religious,” or to “crazy.” We may also be tagged as “intolerant,” “bigoted,” “hateful,” or as just plain weird because we are separate (different, unlike) the world, because we are becoming like Christ. And, we may even be put out of the institutional church because we have “strong convictions” and because we “don’t fit” with the modern church’s goals and objectives. We may, too, be encouraged to go “someplace else” where we will be a “better fit.” Basically, we will be told by the body of Christ (parts of it) that “We don’t need you, because you don’t fit.” It isn’t that we don’t fit with God and his purposes, perhaps, or that we are not in conformity with the truths of his Word, but that we don’t fit with the world or with the worldly church which has conformed to the patterns of society and has gone the way of the world in order to draw in large crowds of people from the world. So much of today’s church is more interested in entertaining the world rather than in telling them the truth about sin, judgment, repentance and genuine faith in Jesus Christ, according to God’s Word, not according to man’s teachings. And, so those who are true servants of Christ and who are living unadulterated lives for Christ and for his service will stick out like a sore thumb, and will either be persecuted, rejected, ostracized, or otherwise kicked to the curb or encouraged to compromise in order to “make nice” with the world. Yet, we should not let these things unsettle us, discourage or dishearten us, but we must remain faithful to the trust God has given to us, even in the face of strong opposition. We must be concerned with pleasing God, and not with pleasing humans, and we must remain strong in our faith and in our commitments to holy living and to sharing the gospel of salvation so many can come to know Christ, too. If we are mocked, rejected, mistreated and/or if we are judged unfairly, etc., we must return hate with love, and unkind treatment with kindness, and we must put on love, and forgiveness, and we must endure whatever comes our way for the sake of Christ and his gospel of salvation, because we love God, and because we love our fellow humans, and we want what is best for them. Forever With Us / An Original Work Based off Psalm 46 / February 5, 2016 Be still and know God is over all things. Throughout the earth, He’ll be honored as King. The Lord Almighty, Forever with us. He is our refuge When we’re in distress. Therefore, we have Not a reason to fear. Trials will come, But our God is still near. He is our helper, So we do not fall. Mountains will quake, But on Jesus we call. Joy to the Church, Even if sorrow comes. Enemies rage, But our faith marches on. God’s Holy Spirit, Now living within, Gives peace and comfort, And grace without end.