Reading Through The Bible in 2011, Part 45

What I Read Today: 1 Corinthians 2-4.

What Stood Out About What I Read: 1 Corinthians 2: 14-16, “The unbeliever does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. And he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The one who is spiritual discerns all things, yet he himself is understood by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to advise him? But we have the mind of Christ.”

And, 1 Corinthians 3: 8-13, “The one who plants and the one who waters work as one, but each will receive his reward according to his work. We are coworkers belonging to God. You are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master-builder I laid a foundation, but someone else builds on it. And each one must be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than what is being laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, each builder’s work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done.”

Random Thoughts About What I Read:

Yesterday was a peculiar day for me as I went through my normal pastor-type life at church. Since our church was emphasizing our missions program the schedule allowed me to take a break from my normal teaching routine and spend more time talking with people. Several people took the time to give me words of encouragement which did indeed encourage me for sure…but the reasons they were giving me the encouragement simply seems peculiar to me. More on that later.

It all started with a parent who stopped me to tell me how neat it was that a former student of mine who had gone all the way through our student ministry from middle school all the way up was a full-time missionary now and coming back to teach both the middle and high school from his experiences. The parent was right, it was really cool to see that. But the compliment felt peculiar.

Then, most people didn’t know that we had to make MAJOR changes in our Sunday morning programming on Friday afternoon due to the reality that our keynote speaker had a family emergency. So, we brainstormed and decided to let our congregation hear from folks in our church who had their lives impacted by missions. Someone pointed out that three of the four speakers had been significantly impacted by their involvement on the student mission trips. The person pointed out that not only were those people impacted but also the shape of our mission program as students led the way to Europe–and many folks had been so encouraged by that trip that lots of adults got involved in full-time missions or service on our church’s board or even been on short-term trips because of the student ministry focus on missions. But the encouragement felt peculiar.

My next stop was a class for people wanting to know more about our church. I introduced myself and gave a brief overview of what it is that I do. The leaders of the class pointed out that a lot of our students had gone on to be pastors or youth ministers or missionaries and asked me if I knew how many had done so in my 14+ years at CBC…and a quick flip through my brain Rolodex guesstimated about 25-30. I did some thinking about it later and that was close enough for government work. But the raving by the class leader about our “success” felt peculiar.

Then watching my former student teach my class and talk about all the things God had taught him along the way about missions and following Him, a parent who visited said, “It’s amazing the work God has done in him, isn’t it? You did well by building into him so much.” Again, peculiar.

We tried something different for us at our night-time missions event, and it is something that is VERY normal for our student ministry but the adults had never really done anything like it. We were concerned it might alienate our older members, but we wanted to try something new. The people who came up afterward told me what a great job I did in hiring the guy who designed and led the night and what a great time they had. Again, felt peculiar.

Finally, as I was leaving, a parent came up and thanked me for being willing to spend some time with their child who was having some trouble. Nothing big, just needed some encouragement. He said a lot of nice things about why they trusted me to serve their kid for a few hours but, again, it felt peculiar.

Make no mistake: I was extremely encouraged by the conversations. Some people never get those types of pats on the back for their work. It made for a nice day and made me feel loved and appreciated. All good things.

But the peculiarity came from the reality that it isn’t really me doing the work.

See, if I read these verses correctly, I’m more or less a seed planter. My job is to put the “seed” of God’s Word into the soil. Other people come along and water, and ultimately God causes the growth. Plain and simple. So, it kind of feels peculiar to be getting some sort of credit when, in my view, I had very little to do with whatever results the encouragers were patting me on the back for!

And, much of the way that I view my work comes from these passages. Take, for example, the first quote I highlighted from chapter 2. It says the spiritual person is the person who appraises all things with the mind of Christ. See, like I said yesterday, this letter is written to teach followers of Christ how to live in the Zombieland of walking dead in our culture.

So, I don’t spend much time teaching kids what movies, music or TV to avoid so they won’t get exposed to the horrors of this world’s temptations. See, I’ve heard Christians use this phrase “garbage-in, garbage-out” to keep young people from watching shows or reading books or whatever else they fear. In fact, I’d suggest that this way of thinking is what has created the “Christian/Secular” divide that evangelicals strangely embrace.

You know what I’m talking about, right? This idea that Christian music is good and secular music is bad. Same for movies and whatever else pop culture throws at them. Well, I don’t believe in that. To me, it’s all music. Or movies. Or books. Or commercials. Or whatever else creates culture.

But “garbage-in, garbage out” is a computer programming term that basically means that if you put garbage into writing the code, you’ll get a garbage code and ultimately a garbage program. But a computer isn’t the human mind. The properly trained brain can take a look at any cultural deal and determine it’s worth against Scripture. So, you can watch a show with a distinctly different worldview and analyze it against the truth of Scripture.

Same for a Christian book. There’s plenty of bad theology in books you buy at a Christian bookstore. It’s still garbage if it isn’t truth even if you buy it in a retail establishment that has a cross on the door.

It says right here that a mature person appraises all things through Scripture’s lens. It doesn’t say that a mature person avoids culture and runs and hides from it. In fact, that very thing will lead to fear and stunt growth.

Which is why we build with the foundation of gold, silver and precious stones of God’s word…

…based in grace, not in fear.

Because we believe that if we teach truth so fervently that our students will learn to discern what is wise and unwise as well as what sin is and what is permissible over the course of time. We set that bar very high, because we believe that teens are part of the church now and not some arbitrary time in the future when they assume leadership positions.

Sure, there’ll be some trial and error when the kids walk around with shoelaces untied. Sometimes they’ll choose poorly. Sometimes they’ll surprise us with their wisdom.

But we won’t build on the flammable materials of wood, hay and straw that legalism demands. We won’t strive to manage behavior or keep kids in line by drawing it all out for them and arranging their lives so that they never make mistakes. Nope.

See, we’ll be judged on our labor. Says so right there in 3:8. Not results.

So, we build on the truth. And make no mistake, kids. I get the importance and the gravity of it all. Says so right there in 3: 16-17. If I destroy them, well, things go very poorly for me at the end of it all. I’ll be judged, that’s for sure. But not by people. See 4:3.

So, while I’m glad I had so many people talk about the results of what they’ve seen in my ministry lately…

…well…

…I think I know too much.

Because it’s God that has done that.

I’m simply a servant picking out materials to build with and hammering them together as best I can. Nothing more. Nothing less.

And it’s peculiar to get pats on the back for what God has done…

…but I’m thankful He seems to be doing a lot in my students, in my church, and in their ministries, that’s for sure.

(Tomorrow’s Reading: 1 Corinthians 5-6)

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