Communion and weakness, sickness, and premature death PREVIEW

In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul had some fascinating things to say to the Corinthians about how they were taking communion, also known as the Lord’s Supper. If you let it, the whole flow of thought in this passage will likely upset your thinking about what we do during the Lord’s Supper and the benefits it is designed to bring us.

In the future, I will lay more of my cards on the table as to what I think of this passage. For now, let me draw your attention to this:

That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. (1 Cor 11:30)

Paul saw a connection between the Corinthians’ relationship to the Lord’s Supper and the report of many Corinthians being weak, sick, and some dying prematurely.

For the sake of cooking your noodle, regardless of what they were doing with the Lord’s Supper, doesn’t it follow that if the Corinthians were properly relating to the Lord’s Supper (whatever that means) that the opposite would be true, that there would not be so much weakness, sickness, and premature death?

To put it another way, wouldn’t they experience strength (the opposite of weakness), health (the opposite of sickness), and long life (the opposite of a premature death)?

It’s worth really getting “into” an author

Reading requires at least two things: time and brainpower. Whether you’re reading Harry Potter or The End for Which God Created the World, you’re still investing in yourself through yourself, which happens through exercising your warm imagination or your speculative capacities.

So, thanks for indulging me with your own time and brainpower.

Some people say that the more sources you pull from, the more well-rounded you are. I agree to a point (particularly when it comes to modern news media), but there’s also a serious problem of not giving enough time to let a single author’s message soak into your thinking. When you stop short of that point, you never achieve significant change in your thought processes. Martin Luther had something wise to say about this in John Piper’s Martin Luther: Lessons From His Life and Labor.

A student who does not want his labor wasted must so read and reread some good writer that the author is changed, as it were, into his flesh and blood. For a great variety of reading confuses and does not teach. It makes the student like a man who dwells everywhere and, therefore, nowhere in particular. Just as we do not daily enjoy the society of every one of our friends but only that of a chosen few, so it should also be in our studying.

Is a person “well-read” when he reads from a variety of authors, or when he reads really good authors with a really high comprehension? Luther argues that we are best served when we take the time to dwell on a person’s work enough so that we absorb that person’s thinking into our own. Reading from multiple sources without spending enough time with that author is more harmful than good because of its tendency to confuse us.

He continues…

The number of theological books should be reduced, and a selection should be made of the best of them; for many books do not make men learned, nor does much reading. But reading something good, and reading it frequently, however little it may be, is the practice that makes men learned in the Scripture and makes them pious besides.

The key is reading something good and reading it frequently, even in small amounts.

For anyone who knows me, my twenties were dominated by my attempt to understand the writings of John Piper. I dabbled in Jonathan Edwards and John Owen, but Piper was the main source I read and re-read. You could rarely find me without one of his books in my backpack.

Interestingly, seminary brought me back to the bad habit of reading from a multiplicity of authors, and I consider my seminary years — honestly — as a general step backwards in my ability to comprehend and grow in my thinking. Not trying to play a blame game, but I know that I don’t do well when taking multiple topics in a semester (especially the amounts we had to at the graduate level); I never really have. Maybe Luther has something to say about the format we use for pastoral education?

In my thirties, there have been two authors that I am spending much of my time trying to understand. The first is Joseph Prince. I have not bought fully into his vision, but I am trying to understand his perspective. He has truly been a surprise out of nowhere in my life, mainly because he taps into a revelation of grace I received back in 2001 that I’ve never felt like I could quite explain.

The other has been inspired by my fascination with Prince, and he is the apostle Paul. I’ve realized that I have never really taken the time to understand Paul and his epistles in the same way that I tried to understand Piper and his books/sermons. Perhaps that’s because I have subconsciously treated any part of the Bible as reading from the same author? Each author had an angle and a perspective, and Paul was given the gospel for the sake of the Gentiles. Since that’s me, I think it’s best for me to saturate myself with his perspective.

This has made me want to understand Paul by reading Romans through Hebrews, repeatedly. Whether Hebrews was written by Paul or not, it sounds an awful lot like him. I’ll write another post about how I’m choosing to do this.

What about you? Is there any author that you’ve unintentionally or intentionally “taken into yourself”?

A built-in mechanism for wealth creation and generosity

One of my friends on Facebook today pointed out the disparity between

  • the baseball player Albert Pujols getting $254 million dollars over the course of ten years for signing with the Los Angeles Angels, and
  • the fact that 25,000 people die every day of starvation.

That’s the reality of the world we live in. It can’t help but make you feel sad.

However, what do you do with that information? What’s the solution? Would Pujols only making $100,000 a year change the other side of the equation?

There’s at least one thing the Bible is clear about: if you’re generous with the poor, you will have more to give.

Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor. (Prov 14:21)

What does “blessed” mean?

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed. (Prov. 19:17)

The truth of the matter is, if the disparity between the rich and needy bothers you, the solution is to be generous yourself and trust God to multiply what you give back to you so that you can keep being generous.

“Yeah, but I don’t make $25m a year!”

Fine. Start where you are. And trust God to be true to His word.

He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. (2 Cor 9:10-11)

God will not just pay you back for what you do to make things even. He’ll pay you back WITH INTEREST. In fact, in my own experience, I’ve seen as low as 150% return on my generosity and as high as (I’m not joking) a 10,000% return.

So, a built-in mechanism for wealth creation and generosity is: give that it may be given to you. Not by the person you give to (though the joy is enough payback in itself!), but by your Heavenly Father who sees what you do in secret. He’s not a bad manager; if you put His interests first, it’s amazing how generously He will pay you back in this life, and that’s not even mentioning the life to come.

Who knows? Maybe the more your own generosity is multiplied, the more that 25,000 could be lowered?