Tag Archives: 1 Corinthians 9

Pesky Pessimism & Rose Tinted Ray-Bans

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me.
1 Corinthians 9:1-3 (NIV)

Wendy and I read a fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal this weekend. The premise of the article was that while it’s very popular to moan, groan and wax pessimistic about humanity’s rapid descent towards doomsday (a glance at your Facebook feed or a 24 hour news channel should prove this point), a look at actual data shows that life for human beings around the globe are better than they’ve ever been.

I have confessed in previous posts to having a pesky, pessimistic spirit. Ask Wendy and she can give you plenty of examples. It’s very easy for me to slip into doomsday mode with little justification for doing so. I have lived much of my spiritual journey in a form of holy pessimism. I don’t think I’m alone in this.

I’ve typically found that my fellow believers eagerly buy-in to the notion that things were spiritually so much better for the apostles and Jesus’ followers in the first century. They saw the resurrected Jesus with their own eyes. They had all these miracles happening everyday. They were living in the socialistic bliss of their local Acts 2:42 commune. In contrast, things seem spiritually worse today than ever. We’re accustomed to hearing this regularly from the pulpit and the media, and it’s a popular mindset. We’re going to hell in a hand basket. So my preacher and the news stations tell me so.

What’s fascinating is that the further I get in my spiritual journey and the more I study God’s Message the more contrarian I find myself becoming in these matters. I think I’ve spent most of my journey looking at the past, even the Bible, with rose-tinted Ray-Bans.

In today’s chapter Paul hints at a conflict that’s been simmering in the leadership ranks of the early church. The term “apostle” was not a title given lightly to the early believers. It generally referred to “the twelve” whom Jesus had chosen, trained and commissioned. There appears to have been some criteria for claiming the title (i.e. having seen the risen Jesus, having been sent by Jesus, performing signs and wonders, and etc.). Paul claimed to be an “apostle” in all of his letters. He begins today’s section of the letter basically citing his resume for being an “apostle” after admitting that some claim that he’s not. In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul somewhat sarcastically refers to the other apostles as “super apostles.” He gives a similar sarcastic tone to the term “esteemed apostles” in his letter to the Galatians (before calling Peter out and saying that Peter “stands condemned” for his hypocritical actions).

Something smells rotten in the early church” Shakespeare might have written. I think I gloss over how hard things were for the early believers, how much conflict and strife there was, and how miraculous it is that this fledgling movement even survived.

This morning I’m simply mulling over my own natural pessimism. This past weekend I’ve been thinking long and hard about my penchant for buying into “the past was better, the present is certainly worse and getting worser” line of thinking. I’m not sure the evidence supports that notion. In fact, I’m pretty sure there’s a glass that’s half-full with my name on it within easy reach.

Trust me. You won’t like it,” my pessimistic spirit whispers to me.

Arrrrrghhh. Happy Monday every one.

 

“I Do Not Run Aimlessly”

“Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly….”
1 Corinthians 9:26 (NIV)

As Wendy and I journeyed back from the lake this past Friday, we had some good conversations about our own life journey. The past 10 days have been a bit of a hiatus for me, as those who follow my blog regularly may have noticed. I worked remotely last week, but the focus for Wendy and me was on getting our summer place cleaned up, supplied, and organized for the season. I was out of my normal routine, and that’s sometimes good for the soul. Getting out of routine can often lead to new perspectives.

The conversations on the ride home centered a lot around where we find ourselves on life’s road and where we see ourselves going. We cannot predict the future, but we can certainly plan our steps. It was good for me to step back, look forward, and get my bearings. I’m getting back into my routine this morning with greater clarity regarding my aim.

In today’s chapter Paul continues to illustrate his point from the previous chapter: though he has a right to certain things, he chooses not to exercise those rights for the good of the whole community of believers. While he had a right to expect the fledgling community of Jesus’ followers to help provide for his material needs as payment for his spiritual leadership, he chose not to exercise that right. Paul had made this decision because he had a clear aim. He did not want issues of finances and material support to be a distraction or obstacle to his spiritual purposes.

This morning I exit a holiday weekend and enter a new week and a new month. I don’t want to slip aimlessly back into routine, but apply the clarity of aim that my hiatus has afforded me.

My Payment for these Posts

hired.
(Photo credit: jakebouma)

Chapter-a-Day 1 Corinthians 9

If I were doing this on my own initiative, I would deserve payment. But I have no choice, for God has given me this sacred trust. What then is my pay? It is the opportunity to preach the Good News without charging anyone. That’s why I never demand my rights when I preach the Good News. 1 Corinthians 9:17-18 (NLT)

Four or five years ago I was approached by a publisher who wanted to make a book out of my chapter-a-day posts. I won’t lie to you. I was thrilled and flattered. Being an author has always been a bit of a dream. At that point in this blogging journey I’d just about blogged on every chapter of the New Testament, so I quickly made plans to package that for publication as a book of devotional thoughts. I made preliminary arrangements with the publisher, hired an editor and began the task of compiling and cleaning up the material.

When the contract came from the publisher and I began to read it through, I suddenly woke up to the hard reality of the situation. I would be signing over the rights to the material in all of those posts to the publisher. I would have to delete each one from my blog and take them off-line. I would no longer have any control of the content. It would be the publishers material to package and sell as they wished, and it would no longer be in my hands.

I will never forget the conversation Wendy and I had that day. It was Wendy who saw the obvious and did not hesitate to answer. “I think your posts reach far more people than you realize,” she said to me. She then told me directly that she felt that it was the wrong decision to package and sell what has been, and should be, freely given. She was right and I knew it as soon as the words left her lips. Just like Paul relates in today’s chapter, I was called to proclaim God’s Message [which is another story I’ve been reminded that I need to share in a post someday – thank you, Kevin]. I am compelled.

Perhaps I will still realize my dream of being an author someday. It will not, however, be my chapter-a-day posts. I threw away the publisher’s contract that day and told them I was respectfully declining their offer. The posts would remain on-line and freely available to anyone who cares to read them. My payment is the simple knowledge that you’re reading these words.