“They [our bodies] were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:13b, NLT).
Ever since Adam and Eve experienced shame in the Garden, we’ve had a problem with our bodies. From the notion they are entirely evil and should be completely covered and beaten down, to anything-goes hedonism, our attitudes swing wildly with religious and societal influences. Is there a balanced, godly way to view our bodies?
The Message gives us a hint: “Since the Master honors you with a body, honor him with your body!” Our bodies are an honor, a gift and a way to honor him back. He wants us to take care of them because he cares about us, the Holy Spirit lives in us and through them we fulfill the royal law of love. Now that’s a good body image.
“It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow” (1 Corinthians 3:7, NLT).
If you’ve ever planted a seed, you probably marveled at the whole process of growth taking place right before your eyes. How does a big plant grow from such a tiny seed? And how can tomatoes for example, come from the plant that came from the seed? It boggles the mind.
In verse 9 of this chapter, Paul tells the Corinthians they are God’s field in which he planted the seed and which Apollos watered, and he makes sure they understand God is the one giving the growth. Of course the seed also came from God. We are all gardeners with him, participating in growing his kingdom. It’s a beautiful picture of our Father the gardener, life in the Spirit and growth in the Son.
“God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9, NLT).
Until a few years ago, I thought all God wanted from us was obedience. I didn’t understand he wants so much more—a relationship, with all that goes with it. He wants love, conversation, participation and each knowing the other. Now that I understand this, I chafe when I hear someone say God wants to use us in some way. In our troubled world when a person uses another, it’s never a good thing.
People in a good relationship don’t use each other. They are partners, participating together in everything they do, looking out for each other and motivated by love. God doesn’t want to use us, although you could say it’s different with God, but words are powerful. I am not motivated by the thought God wants to use me as he would a tool that is only a means to an end. I do get excited knowing he wants me to participate and partner with him in a loving relationship.
“That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9, NLT).
As my favorite Borg queen from Star Trek First Contact likes to remind us, we think in three dimensional terms. God gave us our imaginations, and even though the human race has imagined and accomplished many wonderful things, we are limited. Many have tried to imagine what waits for us beyond this life, but as no one has ever come back from the grave to tell us, we really have no clue.
In God’s wisdom he has kept a lot of answers to himself, including what life after death will be like. From this verse, we are told it will be so much more than anything we can imagine. This is a good thing—I’m sure we couldn’t handle knowing. But it’s comforting and exciting to realize God’s imagination has no limits and he’s preparing a marvelous future for us, one way outside our three dimensions.
“You are their glorious strength. It pleases you to make us strong” (Psalm 89:17, NLT).
If you read this verse in other translations such as the NIV (by your favor you exalt our horn), it doesn’t make much sense. What does it mean to have an exalted horn? Matthew Henry’s Commentary says the horn denotes beauty, plenty and power which belong to the beloved of God. The Message says because God’s beauty is inside us, we’re walking on air.
The New Living Translation gives us a little more insight about God: he is strong (a bit of an understatement), he is our strength and it pleases him to make us strong. God delights in encouraging and strengthening us and in turn, we are able to do the same for others. May God be your strength and give you strength today and every day and may you be an encouragement to all you meet.
“May you be filled with joy” (Colossians 1:11b, NLT).
True joy seems to be an elusive butterfly, lighting occasionally but seldom caught. Perhaps this is because we confuse it with happiness, which is also elusive and fleeting. The original Latin is to be glad but there’s more to the joy of the Lord than just being glad.
Jesus endured his suffering for the joy set before him (Hebrews 12:2), the joy of being God! We can’t imagine what that feels like or what it really means, but it got him through, so it must be incredible. Let’s make Paul’s prayer for joy our daily prayer for others and for ourselves as we endure the difficulties of life and look forward to the joy we will one day experience when we become like Jesus.
“And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God” (Hebrews 13:16, NLT).
Even though we know the Old Testament sacrifices point to Christ’s death on the cross, to modern sensibilities, they seem bloody and barbaric. It’s interesting to note that even David understood there were better sacrifices, more pleasing to God (Psalm 51:17).
God is still pleased with sacrifice, as the author of Hebrews points out in this verse. Doing good and sharing require us to give up part of ourselves, to lay aside our selfish desires and put others first. This pleases him because it’s who he is. God gave himself, his life for our lives. As we become more in tune with Father, Son and Spirit, the sacrifices of doing good, sharing with others and a humble heart will seem a more natural way of living, motivated by love, as he is love.
“And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else” (James 1:13, NLT).
Much has been written about temptation, from sermons on how to resist or avoid it, to jokes about how the devil made me do it. And then there’s Oscar Wilde’s famous quotation, “I can resist anything but temptation.” We know temptation is a problem, even though to most people it probably seems a bit old fashioned to even talk about it. As we can see from this verse, it doesn’t come from God.
God doesn’t need to test us to see if we’ll resist—he already knows we are weak and prone to give in to sin and our desire for everything bad for us. God is love and love doesn’t set up anyone for failure. Love wants good for others, to be encouraging and to see success. Love does everything possible to see the light of achievement in someone’s eyes and to give inspiration to keep going. God is our champion and cheerleader and we know his heart is always for us. With the guidance, strength and help of the Holy Spirit, the temptations of this world fade to black and our desire changes to wanting to see the look of love in his eyes beaming back at us.
“He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession” (James 1:18, NLT).
We are social creatures, made for relationship and our desire to be loved and accepted is strong. A sad fact of life for some is knowing they came into this world unwanted. We all struggle with this in some degree, don’t we? The effects of being unwanted and unloved become evident as we try to find acceptance and a place to belong, ironically and often in socially unacceptable and sometimes devastating ways.
One thing we can always count on is knowing we are wanted by God. He chose to create humanity and chose us to be his before time began. We are wanted and loved more than we can imagine, so much that we are God’s prized possession. For us, having something we prize can warp our personalities and cause us to act a little crazy, trying to hold onto it. To be God’s prized possession means we are cherished and treasured, valued beyond price. He has already shown how much by giving his own cherished son, his life for our life. A little crazy? Maybe from our point of view, but thankfully he loves us that much.
“Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3, NLT).
A friend of mine recently acquired a puppy. She quickly found out what a big responsibility dog ownership is. She feeds and cares for the dog, takes her to obedience classes, and must be home every night after work to walk and play with her. If she didn’t love the dog, all of this might be a burden for a young woman with lots of interests and activities. But it’s not—her actions reflect her love for the dog and she happily does it all.
Some think of obedience to God as a huge burden, which would keep them from enjoying life. Obeying him can be a burden when it’s done out of feelings of duty or as legalistic requirements in exchange for blessings. When we understand that he first loved us, so much he gave his only son for us, and realize all he’s done for us, we can’t help but love him back and want to obey his commands—to love him and love others as we love ourselves. Our actions reflect our love for him just as his actions reflect his love for us.