Digging Deeper in First Corinthians

Digging Deeper in First Corinthians is a Bible Study devotional, providing encouragement and study opportunities together in one volume. Written over the course of the author’s own study of and journaling through First Corinthians, it offers the insights of an experienced Bible teacher as well as her personal reflections as a mature Christian. The book is ideal for readers who are interested in regular exposure to God’s Word, reading each short entry and meditating on it. Additionally, Bible study groups can weekly dig into a set of  the short readings that cover a complete chapter of First Corinthians. So whether you’re reading as an individual or as part of a group you can Dig Deeper each day in God’s Word.

Digging Deeper in First Corinthians

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Butterfly Believers

Inspired by a study of Romans 12:1-2, Butterfly Believers consists of forty devotional readings based on the butterfly life cycle. The intent is to show how believers are like butterflies in specific ways. In the same way a butterfly changes every single day, Butterfly Believers are also transforming continuously, moving towards spiritual maturity “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13, NIV).

There is never a day when an egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, or butterfly is the same as it was the day before. This is also true of people. We are always growing, changing, and becoming. There’s always more to learn, always room for more refinement.

Many believers struggle with their spiritual life and wonder why they’re not growing. In this book the author uses metamorphosis as an analogy, breaking down the steps to growth and change, making it easier to understand what it takes to succeed as a follower of Christ, and making the process interesting and fun. The book is for the everyday person-on-the-street who’s trying to make sense of what it takes to be in this world while living for God.

Each devotional reading presents a specific fact about the egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, or imago, adding one or two appropriate scripture verses. The result is an inspiring devotional about moving step by step towards maturity, and blossoming into the beautiful Imago Dei.

There are references to the lyrics of several Christian songs, and the foreword is written by Eddie Espinosa, writer of the classic worship song, Change My Heart, O God. This was my theme song as I researched and wrote the book.

The book is perfect for individual reading or for use by a small group or class, and is available by clicking the Book tab above or going through Amazon.

Ping Pong with the Priest

The outer door of my office building opened, then slammed shut, followed by the sound of boots clomping down the hall, until they stopped at my door. I looked up to see Father Wlad dressed in camouflaged cargo-pocket shorts that reached below his knees, a faded pink-and-green floral buttoned shirt, greenish-brown combat boots that had seen better days, and thick, dark green, used-to-be-knee-high socks that had lost all elasticity so that they drooped down to the tops of his boots. His left hand held a table tennis racket. I burst out laughing at the apparition that filled the doorway.

“Want to play ping pong?” the priest asked.

“I’d love to,” I managed to say, mentally rescheduling the tasks on my to-do list. I had been praying about Father Wlad the past few days, hoping for an opportunity to spend some time with him. He was faithful in his ministry as a Roman Catholic priest, conducting daily mass and confession, yet I sensed he needed a friend, just like I did.

We chatted as we walked over to the MWR, which was a combination gym and entertainment facility. The bottom level had weight machines and free weights. There were treadmills, stair climbers, ellipticals, and stationary bikes. The floor was concrete, and one side had a large, bright blue mat for floor exercises. Upstairs were pool tables, a stereo, books and magazines, card tables, sofas, and a humongous internal-projection big screen TV. In the center of the large, open, linoleum-covered area was a brand new, heavy-duty ping pong table. Father Wlad had planned this ambush, and had asked the MWR staff to reserve the table for our use.

“You never told me you play table tennis,” I scolded.

“Table tennis is big in Europe. Everybody plays.”

“Do you have a table in your parish hall in Poland?” I asked.

“Of course.” It was like he was saying, “Silly American. Don’t you know anything?”

Had I known there was to be a table tennis match today, I would have dressed for the occasion. I would love to have changed into my PT clothes. Instead, I was wearing my Army Combat Uniform with boots. What I wanted most was to be wearing athletic shoes.

Not having the right clothing wasn’t my only worry, though. Europeans don’t consider table tennis to be a casual game; it’s a serious sport. Father Wlad had brought his personal racket when he came to Iraq. I had to use whatever the MWR happened to have on hand, which wasn’t as good as the equipment I used at home. Not only that, Wlad was left-handed, which presented a different set of dynamics to the game. This could get ugly.

We took about ten minutes to warm up, batting the ball back and forth to get a feel for each other’s style of play. News spread quickly that the two chaplains were playing ping pong: Catholic versus Protestant, Polish versus American, Lefty versus Righty. By the time we began the first game, an audience of about twenty-five people had gathered to witness this international, interdenominational slugfest. They shouted, egged us on, and groaned or cheered with every shot and every miss.

The first player to 21 wins, but he has to win by at least two points. Father Wlad won the first game with a score of 21–10. It took me that long to figure him out—and to remember the coaching I had received as an 18-year-old freshman at San Diego State. An encounter with my cousin, Elmer, flashed into my mind.

Elmer, who was eight years older than I, invited me to have dinner with him and his wife, and while we were eating, he asked, “Do you play ping pong?”

“Sure.”

“Are you any good?”

“Yeah, I’m pretty good. Why?”

“Well, I just bought a new ping pong table, but I’ve never played. S’pose you could teach me? Maybe show me a few things after dinner?”

“Sure. I’d be glad to.”

After eating, we went out to the garage. I should have known as soon as we walked in that I was being set up. Brand new table, prominently placed in the center of the room. A rack on the wall held ping pong balls and paddles. Chairs for spectators along each side.

“Pick any paddle you want,” Elmer graciously offered. Then he pulled a case from the shelf and took out his personal racket that nobody else was allowed to use . . . or touch . . . ever!

“So, how do you play this game?’ he asked.

After I gave a few of the basics, we got started. We played ten games, and I never scored a point. He skunked me ten times in a row, right after I told him I was pretty good.

“OK, cousin. I know two things about you. You’re a great ping pong player and a good liar.”

After he stopped laughing, he said, “Don’t ever call it ping pong, Son. It’s table tennis. And this is not a paddle, it’s a racket.”

“OK. Where did you learn to play . . . table tennis?”

“I played in the Army, competed in the Servicemen’s Table Tennis Tournament in Germany several years, and even won the thing once.”

My cousin was a champion–a champion who apparently delighted in taking advantage of his naïve, overconfident, younger cousin. I learned later that he enjoyed pulling this prank on many of his friends.

“So Elmer, s’pose you could teach me? Maybe show me a few things?”

“Sure. I’d be glad to.”

During the next few months, he taught me how to play the game: the rules, the etiquette, technique, how to return spin with spin, keep the ball rotating the same direction, unless, of course, you decide to override the rotation of the ball with power. Never touch the table. How to serve. The thickness of the rubber on the racket. The guy knew the game inside and out, and under his tutelage, I became a much better player.

As Father Wlad started serving game two, suddenly, his serve, his spin, and his leftiness were not insurmountable. I won the second game 21–18. I also won games three, four, and five—each game by two or three points. The final game was long, going back and forth, neither of us able to get a 2-point lead for the victory until finally I beat him 32–30. We were exhausted. The Polish Catholic priest took the first game by 11 points. The American Protestant pastor took the next four games by a combined total of 10 points. So, he had more points, but I had more games. The fans cheered for both of us.

“Let’s go back to my place for drinks,” my opponent suggested.

“Sounds like a great way to spend an afternoon in Iraq,” I replied.” Then, thinking that he might only have beer, I asked, “Do you have any soft drinks?”

“Come. I will take care of you.”

The Polish soldiers had built the chapel for Catholic mass and confession, but off to one side of the wooden structure, they added a large office and Father Wlad’s living quarters. While I lived in an aluminum can, my compadre had a 600-square-foot, two-room apartment, complete with running water and a refrigerator. They knew how to take care of their priest.

Wlad went straight to the fridge, pulled out a beer for himself and a Diet Dr Pepper for me, smiling as he handed it to me. “See. I told you I take care of you.”

I was impressed. Father Wlad had taken time to plan this day. The little store at Camp Echo didn’t have my favorite drink very often. I had asked the manager if he’d order some Diet Dr Pepper once in a while, and he agreed. Whenever it was in stock, I bought a 12-pack or two. Wlad had gone over to the shop a week earlier to pick some up, knowing that’s what I liked. He lit a cigarette, put his feet up, and we spent the afternoon talking like old friends getting together for drinks at a roadside café somewhere in Europe.

(This story is excerpted from chapter 12 of my book, Safest Place in Iraq.)

Can Dreams Come True?

A question often asked by people around the world is whether dreams can come true. I think they can. Of course, it depends on what kind of dreams we’re talking about.

When I was a kid, I often dreamed about finding buried coins in the front yard. Lots of money, usually quarters and dimes. When I was eight or nine, this dream was so real that in the dream I took all the loot, wrapped it up, and hid it in my bottom dresser drawer so it would all be there when I woke up in the morning. I was so disappointed when I woke up the next day, ran over to my dresser, opened it, only to find that there was no money. I used to have that dream three or four times a year up until I was about thirty. Now it’s only once every other year or so. It never has come true.

Then there’s the dream where I’m in school or at church or some other public location, and all I have on is my underwear. Interestingly, in this dream, even though I am totally embarrassed, nobody else ever even seems to notice. Fortunately, this dream has never come true.

After returning from the war in Iraq, I frequently had dreams and nightmares for the next two years or so. Explosions, or gunfire, or dangerous situations. What a relief when those gradually faded away. It’s been several years now. The only two aspects of PTSD that still linger are the claustrophobia and eating in a hurry. I can’t seem to overcome those.

But there are some dreams that really do come true. Let me tell you about three of them.

Several years ago, my wife and I were invited to teach a three-week intensive class at the Hungarian Bible College in Budapest. We taught the class every morning, then in the evenings and weekends, would preach in churches in Budapest and nearby towns.

One day, our missionary hosts had to go up to Czechoslovakia (now Czech and Slovak) for meetings with their regional supervisor, and told us how to get from their home to the college. The trip would require a bus ride part of the way, then the subway, and then we had to walk the rest of the way. Of course, the trip would be reversed after the class in order to get back to their home.

Up to this point, we had resisted taking the subway because the missionaries had told us about an American pastor who got lost in the metro. He had missed the station where he was supposed to get off and rode the train all the way to the end. Seven hours later, he called to ask them to come and get him.

When we got to the subway, there was a huge, long escalator that took us way, way down. Longest escalator I have ever seen. When we finally reached bottom and turned right, I stopped.  This was really strange, because the scene in front of me was familiar.

“Linda, I’ve been here before.”

“What are you talking about? We’ve never been to Budapest.”

“I know that, but I’ve seen this before.” It was a really eerie feeling.

“How could you have seen this before?”

“I don’t know. But if this is what I’ve seen before, the subway cars will come from the right, and they’ll be blue.”

In about fifteen seconds, the train arrived . . . from the right . . . and it was blue. We go in, the doors close, and the freaky experience continues.

“When we get to the next stop, the doors on the left will open, and the walls will all be yellow.” Sure enough, that’s what happened.

Even Linda was weirded out by now. “What’s going on?”

“I don’t know! But at the next stop, the doors on the left will open and the walls will be orange. But when we get to where we need to get off, the doors on the right will open, and the walls will be blue.” It all unfolded exactly as I expected.

Then it dawned on me. Even though I had never been in a subway, a year-and-a-half before we came to Hungary I had a dream about being in this very subway, and the details in that dream were exactly the same as the reality we were now experiencing. That was a dream that came true.

Another dream I had as a kid was to be a Navy chaplain like my dad. But by the time I was ready to become a chaplain, the Lord redirected, I went into the Army instead, and had a wonderful career. Six years after retiring from the Army (which was thirty years after I became an Army chaplain) I was invited to serve as the Protestant pastor at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, working with the chaplains. It was a one-year assignment, but a fantastic experience. I felt like I had come full-circle back to my dream of being a Navy chaplain.

One more dream worth mentioning here, was the dream of growing up, falling in love, and marrying the woman of my dreams. That’s another dream that came true. Life with Linda has been everything I had hoped for . . . and then some.

The Ukrainian Stranger

My first Sunday at the FOB in Iraq was Palm Sunday, one week before Easter 2007. Eight people showed up for church that morning: a civilian I called Pastor James, four American soldiers who had been meeting with him faithfully for the past year, my Chaplain Assistant, one new guy, and me. It was easy to see that the soldiers respected James. He had been there for them, and they loved him. My sermon was based on Mark chapter eleven, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” We finished worship having communion together, Pastor James and me side-by-side.

After I thanked everyone for coming and was about to dismiss the small group, a stranger in a Ukrainian army uniform walked into the chapel unannounced and proclaimed, “I have something to say.”

He had an excellent command of English vocabulary, but with a heavy accent. He was an attractive, friendly man, about 6′ 2″ with short hair, heavy eyebrows, and green eyes.

“I am not a Christian. Several months ago, I started having problems with my eyes. I went to the doctors here in our medical clinic. They told me I had an incurable eye condition. They brought in a specialist who confirmed the diagnosis. He said there was nothing they could do for me. No treatment. No medicine. No surgery. He said my eyes would gradually get worse until I was totally blind. Last Sunday I came here and asked the men if they would pray for me.” He pointed to James and said, “That man put his hands on my head and prayed. These other guys put their hands on me and prayed too.”

“The next day, last Monday, I could see better, so I went back to the clinic. The doctors did the same tests all over again. This time, they said I don’t have that disease. I have been back to the clinic to see the doctors almost every day this week. Your God healed me. I am not going to lose my eyes. I am so happy. How can I become a Christian?”

You could hear the sounds of surprise and amazement from the small congregation, especially from Pastor James and the men who had prayed with him the previous Sunday. In simple terms, I explained who Jesus was and what it meant to receive him as Lord and Savior.

I wasn’t a part of the miracle of healing that he experienced the previous week. Pastor James and the others had prayed for him. But on my first Sunday at Camp Echo, I had the privilege of praying with this man, a captain in the Ukrainian army, as he asked Jesus to come into his heart. The feeling among our little group was incredible.

The Ukrainian brother came alive. Every time I saw him, whether walking down the street, sitting in the DFAC, or attending a staff meeting, he hugged me, told me how thankful he was that Jesus healed him and saved him. And then he’d say, “We have to tell people about Jesus. They have to know him.”

The rest of the story may be read in the book Safest Place in Iraq. You may click the Books tab above or order it through any bookstore.

Invisible Forces, Hidden Issues

Rain and snow fall on the Little Belt Mountains in the Lewis and Clark National Forest, ninety miles east of Helena, sixty miles south of Great Falls. Streams and creeks flow past the towns of Neihart and Monarch, past Camp Rotary and the Logging Creek Campground, on their way to the Missouri River. But most of the water seeps deep into the soil, draining into the water table known as the Madison Aquifer, where it becomes invisible.

The Madison is a huge reservoir of fresh water, lying underneath five U.S. states and three Canadian provinces. This hidden water is moving. It’s flowing. It’s active. It provides water for thousands of wells, springs, and streams, and becomes the sustainer of life for countless people, animals, plants, and trees. Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir dominate the hillsides, providing shelter for black bear, elk, and white-tailed deer.

The aquifer’s underground consists of layered limestone, which allows some of the water to trickle through until it finds its way to Giant Springs, outside the city of Great Falls. Once the water gets there, hydraulic pressure forces it out at a rate of more than 150 million gallons per day. Some studies indicate that it takes 26 years for the water to travel the 60 miles from the mountains to Giant Springs. Other data suggest that it might be closer to a 50-year journey before it emerges and forms the Roe River.

However, some of the water is trapped in the underground, where it remains far longer than two-and-a-half decades. Scientists have determined that some of the water has been in the underground for two or three thousand years . . . maybe longer. Instead of flowing out, it stays in the aquifer century after century, millennium after millennium.

The water that travels from the mountains and bursts forth at Giant Springs has a year-round, constant temperature of 54 degrees Fahrenheit. This might seem cold to people in warmer regions of the world, but considering the harsh, bitter conditions of a Montana winter, 54 degrees is quite warm. When outside temperatures get down to 50, 60, and 70 below zero, the water from the springs is more than 100 degrees warmer than the air temperature. On the other hand, during the summer months, when the outside temperature reaches to more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the cool waters from the springs are rather refreshing.

Most of the water stays underground and doesn’t make the journey to Giant Springs. Instead, it combines with streams from the Black Hills, the Big Horn Mountains, and the wider drainage area. Eventually, most of it surfaces in Canada. But some of the water never escapes. It’s still trapped, still hidden, still invisible.

This underground water system is an allegory about what happens in peoples lives. There’s a lot going on inside of us, perhaps a whole lot more than most of us are willing to admit to ourselves or allow others to know about. Because of past, painful experiences, we force our thoughts and emotions underground, and they become an internal, invisible force. It may be hidden, but it’s moving. It’s active. In fact, sometimes what’s going on inside takes on a life of its own, until one day, it gushes out in destructive words or actions, and everybody says things like, “Wow. I never saw that coming.” Others are trapped in pain, decade after decade, while life, happiness, and opportunities pass them by. Either by choice or by circumstance, their issues never surface and are never resolved.

The Holy Spirit is ready to help with this inner world of invisible forces and hidden issues. He wants to liberate you. You don’t have to remain trapped, hidden, or invisible any longer. Its time for a new beginning.

Unity in Marriage

IN 2019 I wrote a book on marriage called WisdomBuilt Biblical Principles of Marriage. The book presents twelve principles that when lived day by day can revolutionize any relationship.

A few months after the book came out, I was interviewed by Chris Johnson at Charisma Magazine HQ in Lake Mary, FL. If you’d like to hear the podcast of the conversation, click on Charisma Podcast. Then if you want to get the book, click on the picture of the book above. You are welcome to contact me through the Contact page.

80th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

December 7, 2021 is the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which launched the United States into World War II. The Battle of Midway was the greatest naval battle ever fought. Three enemy aircraft carriers were bombed into blazing infernos in six minutes, burning and drowning 1,800 seamen. A fourth carrier sank with a loss of 700 men.

USS Yorktown, with a ship’s crew of just over 2,200 sailors and about 300 aviators, received three bomb hits and two torpedoes when Captain Elliott Buckmaster ordered, “Abandon ship.” 400 men were dead. 2,000 sailors went down the lines into the murky, oily waters of the Pacific.

This book tells the story in light of faith, prayer, and the God who was personally involved in the men’s lives. The author conducted Bible studies in the ship. In answer to the prayers of those men and their loved ones, many of the sailors accepted Christ as Lord and Savior. There were miraculous rescues from bomb bursts and fragmented steel, as Navy destroyers pulled blue jackets from the sea. Barefoot men clad only in their underwear knelt on the deck of a destroyer and offered thanks to Almighty God for his mercy and salvation. A true life story of God’s presence in a battle at sea.

Dead in the Water is the story about a man who was faithful to God during the toughest days of his life, and the God who was faithful to that man. It provides a glimpse of divine intervention in the lives of men who were far from home, providing hope and comfort in an otherwise bleak situation. At the same time, it tells of some fantastic answers to prayer, as well as some devastating tragedy.

Stan “Deacon” Linzey was a ship’s telephone operator aboard the USS Yorktown when it engaged in the battles of Coral Sea and Midway. He was also a clarinetist in the Navy Band. When the order came to abandon ship, he scooted to the edge of the deck, lowered himself into the ocean hoping there were no sharks nearby, and treaded water until a U.S. ship came to the rescue.

After the war, Linzey went to college and seminary, and then returned to the Navy as a chaplain, serving another twenty years. He wrote this book, and several others, after retiring from the Navy in 1974.

Linzey’s first son, Stanford Eugene Linzey III, goes by the name of Eugene, and is an award-winning journalist and an author of several books. After his father died, Eugene became the chaplain of the Yorktown Reunion Club, a role Stan had filled until his death at age eighty-nine.

Paul Linzey is the third son. He is a retired Army chaplain, and at the time of this writing, is serving as the Protestant pastor at the United States Naval Academy. He is an award-winning author of several books, and is a regular contributor of devotional articles for CBN.org.

One of the reviews:

“USS Yorktown at Midway is a remarkably intriguing and compelling account of the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway as seen through the Christian eyes of the Lord’s servant, Captain Stanford E. Linzey, CHC, USN (Ret.). Dr. Linzey allows the reader to easily understand and visualize not only the tragedies of combat, but also the human and spiritual elements of surviving the harrowing and horrifying disasters of naval warfare.”

This is a reprint of a book originally published with the title, “God Was at Midway.” It has a new introduction by S. Eugene Linzey III and a new afterword by Paul E. Linzey. The book can be purchased on Amazon by clicking here.

Snatched by Goodness

On October 31, I preached in the Naval Academy chapel. The scripture of the day was Hebrews 9:11-14, where Jesus is introduced as “High Priest of the Good Things.” The sermon title was “Snatched by Goodness,” and I told a couple of stories of my life being spared by someone who literally snatched me by the collar. Then I asked one of the men of the chapel to tell of a personal experience he had as a Naval Aviator. Ed Grunwald’s story is a powerful testimony of the goodness of God in answer to prayer in a desperate situation.

Ed called me yesterday to tell me another story. He graduated from the Naval Academy with the class of 1950, and has been a member of the USNA protestant congregation since retiring from the Navy. For the past twenty-five years, he has been praying for an opportunity to tell his story to the congregation.

I had no idea all that was going on when I felt the leading of the Lord to have him share his story. I had met him when I visited him in his home a few weeks earlier, and as I was preparing the sermon, I just had an inclination to ask him.

God is good. Jesus is the “High Priest of the Good Things.” And it’s wonderful to hear about how people’s lives have been touched by goodness.

If you click on the YouTube link, you can view and listen to the whole service. My message begins at 29:45. Ed’s story starts at 35:15 and runs about eleven minutes.

Looking Through the Rearview Mirror

I was flipping through the topic cards of a new trivia game when an idea splashed into my mind: what if my brothers and sisters and I were to use these as writing prompts for a family memoir? That could be a lot of fun and elicit some great memories. Our parents, a sister, and a brother had already passed away, and the remaining siblings lived in various places around the country. Maybe doing a project like this could bring a sense of togetherness and closeness. The concept was to send out one writing prompt per week via email, and then the siblings would write their memories and send them to me.

We started learning about one another and seeing each other in a whole new light, and the conversations that occurred every week became highly therapeutic for us. We accepted one another, and in the process, learned to love each other more deeply than any of us had ever experienced in our family.

Each week, we selected a new writing prompt. Everyone had a week to write up a memory or a personal experience that related in some way to the topic. And then we sent the stories to everyone. My original intent was not to share the stories with everyone until the end of the year. But the group decision to share with everyone right from the start is what made this endeavor the overwhelming success that it turned into. We bonded. We laughed. We cried. We identified with one another. We encouraged each other. We felt each other’s pain, sorrow, stress, and heartbreak. And we celebrated each other’s successes and victories. In essence, we created a safe environment and showed each other the beauty and wholeness of being vulnerable and trusting in an accepting relationship.

The results of this endeavor were fantastic. For the first time in our lives, we’re not divided into the upper half and the lower half. There’s no superiority or inferiority. We all have equal standing in this loving family. And it feels good. We created a priceless collection of family history that our grandkids and great grandkids might otherwise have never known. More importantly, we have grown and deepened as individuals and as a family.

Whether you are a family member, a distant relative, a neighbor, friend, or even a complete stranger, we invite you to join us on this journey as we share our lives with you. We hope you enjoy the stories. Welcome to the family.

The book may be purchased at https://paullinzey.com/books/

or from Amazon.

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