Thursday, November 21, 2013

Touching Base, Part 223

Bloom Where You Are Planted
24 Nov 13

(You can find a recording of this sermon here.)

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

Ever had the thought, “I want out of here!” Ever looked at a situation and just wanted to move on, move out, or find a trap door somewhere and get a thousand miles away from the “problem?”

What is it about some situations that exasperate us? Have you ever known that God wanted you to stay faithful yet you just felt like your timetable and God’s were VERY different? I say “go”, God says “stay”. I say “I am done”, God says “no you are not!”

Today we are looking at four scenarios (in the Corinthian Church) that represented places they would rather not be. Places that they would rather just have in their rear-view mirror. But here was the problem: God (through the pen of Paul) was reminding them that living out the Kingdom where they were, was more important than looking for the trap door.

I realize that there are times where we have complete freedom to move on, where we have done all we can do in a particular situation. However there are times where God wants us to stay faithful to a situation and live out his Kingdom purposes.

Let’s look at four unique scenarios in our text and four lies that some Corinthians possibly believed to justify a departure.

Text: 1 Corinthians 7:10-24
Big Idea: Bloom Where You Are Planted

SCENARIO #1 (V.10-11)

v.10 “not I but the Lord” As you read the larger context it makes perfect sense for Paul to say this. In v.6-7. he has just stated what his preference was regarding marriage because of the present crisis (v.26). Now what he is talking about is something Jesus talked about.

What was the background for Paul to say this?
Some Christians had gotten the idea that being single and celibate was more “spiritual” than being married, and they disparaged marriage entirely - some Gentiles, in reacting to the sexual sins of their past, came to look on celibacy not only as the ideal state, but the only truly “godly” state.

Note the “bloom where you are planted” language: “wife must not separate”, “husband must not divorce his wife.”

This is one of those “what about?” verses. What about adultery that Jesus talked about, what about abuse, what about…? He is not talking about “what about”; he is speaking into a very particular situation, answering questions that require specific answers. In light of the situation, Paul reminds them of Jesus’ teaching- there are no grounds here for divorce.

Here is the first lie that can cause us to take up our roots when in fact God might want us to deepen our roots.

Lie: “I can grow if I go!”
This situation represented a boat anchor and they thought “if I can ditch this situation I can soar to new heights.” Ever butted heads with God when it comes to where you think you would thrive, versus where God knows you will thrive?

SCENARIO #2 (V.12-16)

Note again Paul’s opening remarks. He was very aware that this specific scenario was something on which Jesus never commented. However, Paul realizes that the Spirit of God is leading him (v.25, 40) and he knows that the Old Testament (of which Jesus approved) held the marital covenant in very high esteem.

What is very clear in this text? What needs some explaining?
I think v.14 is the most difficult to understand. From the context we know that “sanctify” does not refer to salvation. Paul (in v.16) is referring to the spouse as a non-believer so just living with a non-believing spouse doesn’t save them. This word “sanctify” can have the idea of blessing and being set apart. I think Paul is getting at the idea that if you are a Christ follower, living with a non-believer, then your life, values, testimony, and the Spirit in you should be a blessing to that home. Your presence graces that home. Again, the same could be said of the reference to the children. There is a protection and blessing by having a Christian parent in the home (yes, I know that much more could be said here. If you are in a small group go for it, drill down deeper).

The key section that introduces us to the possible lie is v.16.

Lie: “God can’t work here!”

Ever felt like that? Perhaps as a parent or a friend, the situation is so tough, the push-back is so intense, others’ hearts are so hard that you begin to believe that God has left the building.

SCENARIO #3 (v.17-20)

Why would someone be uncircumcised? Well in that day it was an embarrassment among the gentile population to be circumcised, so some were going out and getting “uncircumcised”. However, there were also gentiles that were getting circumcised, because some of the Jews that said it was what they must do to fit in. Either way there was immense peer pressure to fit in, to embrace the “markings” of a culture that said “I fit in.”

They key verse in identifying the lie is v.19.

Lie: “The marks of success are more important than the heart of success.”

This is how it can play out: I can find myself in the right place, where God wants me. I can be where God has called me but my heart can disconnect from God’s and I can become more inclined to do what people think. I become more aware of what people think… than what God thinks.

Blooming where I am planted, at times, requires me to reject what the culture says I must do to fit in, and instead walk in obedience to God.

Have you ever found yourself to be where God wants you, but your heart is not keeping in step with His truth? The “voices” of where God has called us can sometimes be loud, brash and controlling.

SCENARIO #4 (v.21-24)

Some wonder why Paul is not coming out and condemning slavery here. We need to remember that slavery in Paul’s day was very different than American slavery:

“In urban Corinth he addresses neither the most repressed slaves in mines, gladiatorial shows, or to a lesser extent, in the fields, but household slaves. Many household slaves enjoyed economic and social conditions superior to peasants (who constituted the majority of the Empire’s free population). A small minority who worked for powerful people even wielded more wealth and power than most aristocrats - some noble women married into slavery to improve their social station! Such observations are not intended to condone slavery of any sort, nor to deny its frequent dramatic abuse (e.g. beatings) especially for women. But it is important for modern readers to understand that on average, Roman household slavery proved quite different from slavery, even household slavery in America.” Bernard Lewis, Race and Slavery in the Middle East: A Historical Inquiry (New York: Oxford, 1990)

V.21 Many slaves could gain their freedom and Paul is certainly encouraging that if possible
V.22 Socially they may be slaves, but they are now Christ’s freedman and His slave. The Lord has freed the Christian from the penalty of sin (2 Cor. 5:21) and from Satan and his kingdom (Col. 1:13) and bound us as "slaves" to himself (Rom 1:1).
V23 Some interpret this metaphorically - because of the context – v.21- “don’t let it trouble you”. In other words, perhaps God wants you to stay where you are. Paul is saying, “regardless of your social standing realize your higher calling as slaves to Christ.” They had become slaves to the ways of the world, the ways of men - hence the strife, divisions, immorality and immaturity.

I think v.21 “don’t let it trouble you” is key in identifying our final lie. For some, their calling was to remain a slave, to live out the Kingdom of God in that context. No doubt for some in that audience, slavery was not the best option. However, God might be saying “stay, don’t let it trouble you, be faithful where you are.”

Lie: “I deserve better than this.”

Some of them had developed an arrogant theology, an “I am a King’s kid” theology on steroids. Remember what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:8-10. Being a slave didn’t jive with being a so-called king, honoured and strong. But Paul says, “Don’t let it trouble you…” In other words, ditch the weird theology and serve faithfully where God has called you.

Sometimes we move on instead of deepening our roots because we are looking to validate ourselves way too much. Feeding a hungry ego that is supported by a arrogant theology is a full-time job!

The theology of the cross reminds us all that we should be willing to go really low and remain faithful and serve in those places.

Bloom where you are planted. Looking for a trap door, an easy out? Perhaps God is saying, “stay, be faithful, work hard, keep your eyes on Me.” Don’t let the lies rob you of hearing God’s voice.

If interested in joining or starting a small group contact

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Touching Base, Part 222

The Marriage Box
17 Nov 13

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

Answer the following:
How has your life been positively impacted by a healthy marriage?
How has your life been negatively impacted by an unhealthy marriage?
Would you agree that marriage is no private affair? The health or sickness of a marriage can impact a family, community, church and beyond.

Today we are looking at marriage. The reason this issue comes up in our text is because the Corinthians raised it. This is important to note. Paul is addressing a specific scenario, at a specific time in history with unique nuanced issues that will shape what Paul says and does not say. I say this so you don’t think that what Paul says is biased or unfair; remember he is speaking into a specific situation. He is not saying everything but only what needs to be said for this situation at this time.

Text: 1 Corinthians 7:1-9 (supporting texts 29-31, 36-38; see comments below)
Big Idea: One Flesh Means Both Invest!

V.1 Note that they raised the issue. Also note what Paul says about what is good for a man. Now why might he say such a thing? Remember he is speaking into a specific situation. Check out v.25-29.

Note this practical advice (v.25) in light of the unique situation - the Neronian persecution was just around the corner. The winds were blowing, and he knew the climate of Rome was not believer-friendly. There had even been a beating in the synagogue (see Act 18).

He also believes that it is also good for a man to marry (v.7b, 28). He is endorsing both singleness and marriage that are ultimately determined by gifting and calling. Yet he also shows his hand on what he would prefer (v.7a, 38).

V.2 Wow… is anyone aghast at what he has just said? Does it sound like he has just reduced marriage to some kind of relief valve?

If you want to take Paul out of context you could make Paul sound like a pig. But if you want to be fair with Paul, read Ephesians 5, where he likens marriage to our union with Christ (v.25), or read what he just wrote in chapter 6 showing his high regard for marriage. I like Paul because he is perhaps being more honest than the church has been – he knows we have sexual appetites, drives, passions and that marriage is the safe, healthy place for that to be expressed- if your gift is not celibacy, that is. The Corinthians’ alternative was prostitutes!

So how does Paul develop the big idea? Remember this idea of “one flesh” was raised earlier in 6:16.

He raises the issue of duty in marriage on both spouses’ parts (v.32-35). Note the various aspects of this word. Note that he uses the word “duty” because some were neglecting their duty (v.5a) in marriage so he is wanting to strongly make his point.

1. Duty is a work word (v.3)

One writer has said “Love is hard work. I would carry it one step further. It is the hardest work I know of, work from which you are never entitled to take a vacation. You take on burdens and cares. You inherit problems. You have to feel beyond yourself. You have to think of things other than yourself. Your responsibilities are now multiplied, and you are trusted with greater commitments. You see the easiest part of marriage is the wedding day.” (Ravi Zacharias)
Discuss if you are doing this in a small group.

2. Duty is an other-centered word (v.3)

As a group, discuss the marriage box above:
- How full is your Marriage Box?
- Would your spouse see the box as being more or less full than you would see it?
- What are some great ways your spouse invests in the Marriage Box?
- Denis de Rougemont said “Why should neurotic, selfish, immature people suddenly become angels when they fall in love…?” How does this truth affect the marriage box?

3. Duty is an intimacy word (v.4)

Here’s the bottom line - the wife has the duty to provide sexual satisfaction to the husband AND the husband has the duty to provide sexual pleasure to the wife. Men in that culture needed to hear this loud and clear - One Flesh Means Both Invest!!!

Paul is putting sexuality on a higher plane than one may find in most cultures, including the church, where sex is often seen as the husband’s privilege and the wife’s obligation. However, Paul is saying something radical and very biblical (one flesh). There is mutual authority, privilege and responsibility in the sexual aspect of the relationship. One flesh means both invest.

The view of the Roman culture in which the Corinthians lived (remember that Paul is speaking to a heavily gentile populated audience) was that men were to take wives in order to have legal heirs, while sexual pleasure, if it was to be sought at all, would typically be found outside the marriage.

Now let me highlight three things that worked against what Paul was saying to them:

a. Consumer Sex

Consumer sex is self-seeking. The “duty” that Paul is talking about is self-giving.
The view of the day by men was, “Mistresses we keep for the sake of pleasure, concubines for the daily care of the body, but wives to bear us legitimate children.” Sounds kind of consumerist to me.

For many men in Paul’s day, and for many today, their first and very defining sexual encounter was, and is, consumer driven. Note the following quote from Alicia, a junior at Duke, who explained with sad honesty: “From the time I lost my virginity until now, it’s only been the guy getting pleasure…. More guys have had sex with me than I have sex with them…” The Ring Makes All The Difference - page 110

Note: When monogamy is not the rule - either in polygamous or in sexually-unrestrained cultures – “women become the objects to be collected and used by men.” The Ring Makes all the difference page 122
This was happening in Corinth like today.

What other evidences of consumer sex do you see in culture?

b. Outside, Inside

Some Christians had gotten the idea that being single and celibate was more “spiritual” than being married, and they disparaged marriage entirely. Some Gentiles, in reacting to the sexual sins of their past, came to look on celibacy not only as the ideal state, but the only truly Godly state. So married wives and husbands were depriving their partners of sexual intimacy (see v.5a). They had an “outside, inside” problem:
They had problems in bed because they had problems outside of the bed.

Sex is such a great and sensitive thing that you will not be able to sweep these problems under the rug.
What are outside-of-the-bed problems that can impact sexual intimacy? (unforgiveness, self-doubt, anger, fear…?)

c. Sexual History

In Corinth there were, possibly, people in the church who had been married up to 20 times. There were men who had slept with dozens of prostitutes. Now they are married and suppose to be monogamous and investing in each other. How might sexual history hinder the big idea, One Flesh Means Both Invest?
Think of Alicia from Duke, how might her sexual history make a healthy sex life with her future husband challenging?

Corinth had it all! They were three for three.

Oh, and just in case any are thinking, “this is why I want to test drive the vehicle before marriage”, think again.

Professor Jay Teachman of Western Washington University:
“One of the most clearly defined correlates of cohabitation is an increased risk of marital dissolution. ….he notes that cohabitation increases the possibility of divorce by as much as 50 percent. He even calls cohabitation one of the most ‘robust predictors of marital dissolution’- making living together first one of the worst things you can do for your marriage. Teachman also warns that even premarital sex by itself is associated with an increased risk of marital disruption, though at lower rates than living together before marriage.” The Ring Makes All The Difference
p. 63.


4. Duty is a safety word (v.5, 6)

I am running out of trees so I will be short: Note there is to be mutual agreement on abstention. The woman is not a piece of chattel, which was the common view of the day in many circles.

Goliath was big, ugly and smelly, but it only took one well-placed stone to bring him down.
For some marriages that well-placed stone is in the marriage bed. Unresolved issues, unspoken hurts, the acceptance of unhealthy habits, patterns that are normalized in a marriage, all this the enemy sees and seizes upon. Unhealthy sexual relations can be the exact spot where the enemy throws the stone. One well-placed stone can fell a marriage. How safe is your marriage in the context of (v.5,6)?

If you are married I would challenge you to work through this TB as a couple.
If you are single but one day plan to be married, think about how you can best prepare now for a healthy vital sexual relationship with your marriage partner.
If you don`t fit into the above two categories, let this TB remind you of how important it is to pray for married people in the church. Healthy marriages are a labor of love that greatly benefit from a praying community.

Remember there is way more to marriage than sex, but Paul in answering their questions needed to address this key aspect of marriage.

Mark Kotchapaw
If interested in joining or starting a small group contact

Commentary on supporting texts for our main text (7:1-9)

7:29–31. The second reason Paul felt the single state was advantageous was the potential it offered for detachment from temporal situations. The phrase the time is short referred to the Lord’s return (cf. Rom. 13:11), but it was also a summary philosophy of life for Paul who lived not for the temporary but for the eternal (cf. 2 Cor. 4:18). This detachment from temporal matters should characterize all Christians but it was more complex for the married (cf. Mark 13:12) for whom, nonetheless, devotion to their Lord should occupy first place in life (Luke 14:26). Paul certainly was not recommending abandoning marital duties (cf. 1 Cor. 7:3–5).
Instead he was calling for a commitment to eternal matters and a corresponding detachment from the institutions, values, and substance of this world which was passing away (v. 31). Such a commitment was more easily made and enacted by a single person.

Lowery, D. K. (1985). 1 Corinthians. (J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck, Eds.)The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books

7:36–38. The interpretation and translation of this passage is difficult, as the alternate marginal translation indicates. The issue revolves around whether the indefinite pronoun anyone (v. 36) refers to a father or to a prospective bridegroom. The NIV translators, following most modern commentators, have adopted the latter point of view but have included the traditional interpretation in the margin. The strength of the bride groom view lies in the fact that it permits a consistent subject for the verbs used throughout the passage, a strength which the NIV translators forfeited by making the virgin the subject of the phrase getting along in years. This decision was possibly prompted by the need to explain why the bridegroom might be thought to act improperly (i.e., his delay in consummating the marriage may, with her advancing age, adversely affect her chance of ever getting married). The bridegroom view, however, faces a lexical difficulty in the meaning of two verbs (gameō and gamizō) for marriage. In order to sustain the bridegroom view it is necessary to understand the terms as virtual synonyms, meaning “to marry.” But gamizō usually means “give in marriage,” and gameō means simply “marry,” as these words do in the other New Testament passages where they occur together (Matt. 24:38; Mark 12:25). This distinction in meaning continued to be recognized even in the second century (Apollonius Dyscolus, Syntax 3. 153). So it seems that the marginal reading is to be preferred.
Paul, then, gave advice to a father who in the first-century culture exercised great decision-making authority in matters affecting his family. A father may have decided that his daughter should not marry, possibly due to reasons similar to those Paul had mentioned in 1 Corinthians 7:25–34. But in coming to this decision, the father had not reckoned with the fact that his daughter might not be able to remain single. She might not possess the gift of celibacy (v. 7). If so, Paul recommended that the father should not feel obligated to hold to his previous commitment but instead let his daughter marry. However, the father should feel free to follow through on his conviction to keep his daughter single (v. 37) if three conditions were met: (a) He had a settled and firm conviction about the propriety of her celibacy. (b) He was in a position where he was free to exercise his authority, that is, he was not a slave in which case the master could determine the daughter’s destiny. (c) He was under no compulsion from evidence which suggested that his daughter was not able to remain single but required marriage instead. If these conditions were met, then the father did well not to give her in marriage.

Lowery, D. K. (1985). 1 Corinthians. (J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck, Eds.)The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Touching Base, Part 221

TB 221
Lost in the City 2013 – PART 6
Sex Is Not Just Sex!
10 Nov 13

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

Would anyone disagree that the mishandling of our sexuality can be the cause of so much brokenness in our culture? I am sure that all reading this could list many examples of the brokenness that tends to pile up when we don’t handle our sexuality in a proper way.

This past Sunday we continued our Lost in the City series. The Corinthian church was lost because they looked so much like their city when it came to sexual practices.

Text: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Big Idea: Sex is not just sex.

Culture (v.12-13)
The first couple of verses of our text provide us with some cultural clues. Notice in v.12 and v.13 that Paul is quoting them:
“ Everything is permissible for me” “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”

The first quote in the Corinthian culture basically opened up the door for all kinds of so-called freedom in the sexual arena. The second quote essentially reduced the sexual appetite to something that was merely biological. Just as the stomach is for food, in the same was sexual appetites and the body go hand in hand. Crave it, go for it! Carpe Diem!

Note Paul’s first rebuttal. How has stepping beyond God’s boundaries hurt culture, hurt you? In other words, how has our so-called freedom not been beneficial to our culture, to our personal lives?

Note Paul’s second rebuttal to the same slogan. Is it possible to be mastered by this issue?

Do you think any wife has been hurt because of the sexual addiction of her husband that started long before they ever got married?

Note Paul’s third rebuttal to the second slogan. Now note what he says in the second part of v.13. Paul has just taken the body from being something that is purely biological and destined for destruction and elevated it to a status far higher than appetites, urges, food and desires.

Where do many of our slogans come from that dictate sexual practices in our culture? How determinative are they regarding how the church behaves?

In light of our big idea, let me list the four points that drive home that sex is not just sex. Remember that Paul’s audience is the church. People outside the church may think we are nuts to believe such things but I would suggest our cultural slogans regarding sexuality have been damming and have inflicted much pain and brokenness on our culture. There must be a better way.

1. Sex is not just sex because it either honors or dishonors something of great value (v.13b,14)

How does what Paul says redefine one’s body image?

When a person comes to Christ, He wants to redeem our distorted view of the body. It is not just a physical shell that we live in, but one that we can use to honor God (or dishonor Him) and one that God will restore in the end. This body is of great value in the eyes of God. See 1 Corinthians 15 for more commentary on Christ raising our bodies.
Bottom line - our bodies matter to God, they are of incredible value and not just mere throw-aways. Regardless of shape, size, functionality, the body matters.

One of the most popular young women’s magazines, Cosmopolitan, had the following headlines on its July 2010 cover: “8 Foods that Keep You Slim All Summer,” “The Sexy Secret to Making Smart Decisions,” and “What Men Find Hot”.

What do these kinds of headlines say about a woman’s body? How does one derive value based on these headlines?

Do you think there is, at times, a connection between sexual promiscuity and poor body image? Do you ever think that someone engages in sexual promiscuity to validate themselves, feel loved, wanted, accepted, alive and to find themselves? Why doesn’t it work?

2. Sex is not just sex because an improper union can rival your union with Christ. (v.15-17)

What is the rivalry mentioned in these verses?
See the following verses that talk about our unity with Christ. Ephesians 1:22-23, John 14:18-23, 15:4,7 17:20-23

Note the word that describes our unity or bonding with a prostitute.
“When first talking about this phrase (one flesh, unite) it appears to be talking only about physical, sexual union. But while the words do not mean less than that, they mean much more. When the Bible says that “all flesh” had corrupted their way on the earth (Gen 6:12) or that God would pour out his spirit on “all flesh” (Joel 2:28) , it did not mean that only bodies were sinning or that God was giving his spirit to all bodies. Rather, he was giving his Spirit to all people. “Flesh” is a synecdoche, a figure of speech in which a part of a thing is used to represent the whole (as in our phrase “counting noses”)” The Meaning of Marriage p.222

In other words there is no such thing as casual sex. Science will back that up, but Scripture gives us another dimension. Whether you fell into bed with some stranger totally drunk or engaged in sexual relations with your marriage partner - sex connects.

Note- The Corinthian church because of its sexual immorality was supporting the sex trafficking industry of its day. Many of the prostitutes of the day were abandoned female babies that were raised for the sex trade. Our so-called freedom can be another person’s nightmare. Does that still happen today?

3. Sex is not just sex because improper sexual relations actually sins against the body (v.18)

From our context we can see that sinning against the body is a,
- Moral issue- crossing God’s boundaries- sexual immorality was a term that referred to all forms of sexual sin that happened outside the marriage covenant
- Spiritual issue- dishonoring what God values- our body, and rivaling His relationship with us-
- Emotional issue- “one flesh” involves emotional bonding
- Physical - Just as in Corinth, we are experiencing as a culture the physical effects of sexual immorality.

“STI’S are very common among teens and young adults, and they have the potential to change a young person’s life forever. Just how common? In the US in the year 2000, an estimated 19 mill cases of sexually transmitted infections occurred. About half of these infections occurred in fifteen to twenty four year olds, even though they only represent about 25 percent of the sexually active population.” Girls Uncovered page 36

Many STI’S cause more problems for females than for males. ….pre-marital sex is sexist, placing a larger burden on women than on men.

4. Sex is not just sex because your body is a temple (v.19,20)

We have already touched on this issue of value but note the imagery changes to temple. Note who dwells within the believer. What in this text tells us whether He is the owner or the renter?

What are the implications regarding how we then should treat His temple?

Note what follows the “therefore” of v.20. In light of all that God has done for us, and whose we are, Paul says honor God with your body.

My guess is that this is not something we initially thought of when we came to Christ. Having a godly body is just as important as having a godly attitude, making godly choices, having godly relationships.
What are ways we can honor our body? Look to the text for some clues. “Flee” is one idea Paul mentions.

Our walk with Christ needs to affect our sex life. It can be the hardest part to surrender because of cultural slogans that brainwash us or because of well-worn paths that are hard to abandon.

One last point - perhaps God is prompting you to come to the rescue of the exploited. Paul, in telling men to clean up their act, was ultimately protecting women who were often victims of sex trafficking. Do you know of someone being exploited right here in Kingston? Someone’s so called freedom might be causing someone else’s nightmare.

God help us!

Mark Kotchapaw
If interested in joining or starting a small group contact