Thought for August 31st

Todays readings… 2 Kings 5, Lamentations 1, 1 Corinthians 14

“BECAUSE THE LORD HAS AFFLICTED” 

Both of our Old Testament readings testify to the LORD’s actions in punishing godlessness.  First, in 2 Kings ch. 5, we have  individual godlessness; Gehazi, Elisha’s servant had witnessed in his lifetime the works of his master in possessing, in some awesome degree, the powers of the LORD, the Creator.  We ourselves, increasingly sense his all-seeing eyes – of everything that happens – and, just as much (and more awesome when we meditate on it)  his awareness of the motivations of every human mind.  Gehazi’s most recent experience was the healing of Naaman, the Syrian, but it seems to have been of no ‘marvel’ to him.  He was self-centred.

Elisha had refused to accept any presents from Naaman; Gehazi was peeved about this and his human greed pushed aside all thoughts of conscience and honesty and he went after Naaman and told him lies in order to gain some personal benefit.   Then he told lies to Elisha to hide what he had done, but, as Solomon wrote in the Proverbs, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” [15 v.3]

Elisha, as a man of God, was blessed with these perceptions: and we ponder what powers the saints will possess in the kingdom, surely they will be, to some extent, similar! See Hebrews 6 v.5.

Then we read the first chapter of Jeremiah’s Lamentations.  It reads as if the prophet is inspired to personify Jerusalem,  because the LORD has afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions  [v.5] 

Her inhabitants had constantly demonstrated, spiritual blindness and endless ungodliness!   We recognise parallels with today‘ – our world’s inhabitants – the one’s that surround us! They must not influence us, do they? . Are we developing a degree of empathy with Jeremiah and his agonies of mind? We should.

“Jerusalem sinned grievously; therefore she became filthy …” [v.8] “Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which was brought upon me, which the LORD inflicted on the day of his fierce anger.” [v.12] 

It is with heartfelt awe that we remember the predictions of God through Isaiah  in his 13th chapter – that ” the day of the LORD “  will be the time of… “his fierce anger” [v.9,13] When we add to these the words of our Lord – about the suddenness of it all and the need for “those days” to be “cut short” or “no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” [Matt. 24 v.22] These are words which cause us to be in awe of our own position and anxious to be sure of the reality of our faith! 

May we be delivered, in “the day of his fierce anger”   from being among those “afflicted” by “the LORD.”

Thought for August 30th

Todays readings.. 2 Kings 4, Jeremiah 52, 1 Corinthians 12, 13

“BUT THE GREATEST OF THESE IS LOVE” 

Today we read Paul’s marvellous, but challenging chapters about the right use of the gifts of the spirit that the Corinthians possessed.  It is vital to grasp the whole ‘picture’ of the nature and use of gifts that chapters 12 and 13 – also 14  reveal to us – unfortunately this is often not done in our days. . 

We have heard people speaking in supposed ‘tongues’ – an unknown form of ‘speech: it serves no purpose, ch. 14 spells this out quite plainly, indeed as we read it we will see how Paul makes the point in v.23 concerning even genuine tongue speaking – that if “outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds?”

Indeed, if we look back at Acts ch, 2 when genuine ‘tongues’ first occurred to the disciples on “the day of Pentecost” when “they  were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” [v.1,4]. But God’s spirit was in control. Visitors came from far and wide to the feast of Pentecost – and they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?  … how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?” [v.7.8]

It is sad that there are some that try to imitate tongue speaking today – but they are not literal languages, we have heard them. Tape recordings have been made – others have tried in vain to ‘interpret’ them.. 

In today’s ch. 13, Paul said, “Love never ends. …. as for tongues, they will cease” [v.8] 

When the Gospels and Paul’s and other letters came to be written, copied, circulated and translated, there was no longer a need for the tongues – they had served their purpose.  Paul, who travelled to many lands with many languages, said, “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.” [14 v.18]

Verses 4 to 8 in ch. 13 are the words of Paul we should know best, even know by heart!   Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;   it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.   Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.   Love never ends.” 

Finally, in the last verse in this chapter Paul declares, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.    AS a postscript thought – when Jesus returns – faith and hope will be fulfilled – so “love” will be the guiding factor to “abide” in our lives throughout the Kingdom.   

Thought for August 29th

Todays readings.. 2 Kings 3, Jeremiah 51, 1 Corinthians 11

GOOD AND BAD TRADITIONS   

    The word “tradition” can arouse a negative attitude in our minds because of the way Jesus condemns the religious leaders in the Gospels for their traditions; he told them “you leave the commandment of God and hold the tradition of men” [Mark 7 v.8]  The word “tradition” is sometimes translated simply as “teaching” in modern versions.  The origin of the teaching is all important, was it ordained by God?

    In our Corinthians chapter (11) today Paul tells them, “Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions (or teachings) even as I delivered them to you.” [v.2].   There are “traditions” that are essential for us to keep.  Today’s chapter highlights the need to observe what is referred to as “the Lord’s Supper” or “breaking of bread” (v.23-32). 

   Paul quotes how he “received from the Lord what I delivered to you” [v.23] He quotes the words of Jesus about the bread and the cup:  we note his words, “Do this in remembrance of me … for as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he come” [v.24,26]

   It is sad how some have tried to add things he did not say!   There is no reference here as to whether the bread should be leavened or unleavened, or whether it should be done on one particular day of the week, or time of the year!  To begin with it took place on a daily basis (Acts 2 v.46); this is understandable as so intense would have been the feeling of utter commitment among those baptised into Christ’s name at Pentecost.

   The earlier part of our chapter addresses other principles, “I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” [v.3]   This is the order of responsibility before God, a reason why Jesus chose 12 men to be his principle disciples. It is the reason why a woman should have a head covering, but a man should not.(v.4-7)  

   There were factions in Corinth and Paul makes a pertinent comment (v.19), “for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognised”    Those who do not accept, or who are not satisfied with the genuine “traditions” established by Jesus and his chosen disciples are those who go beyond this and move out from the congregations established by the apostles. 

   This is the comment John makes in his epistle, “they went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.  But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” [1 John 2 v.19]     Today this is more evident than ever – as there is less dedicated reading and following of God’s word and ‘bad traditions’ have developed.

Thought for August 28th

Todays readings… 2 Kings 1&2, Jeremiah 51, 1 Corinthians 11,

“WHATEVER YOU DO, DO ALL TO THE GLORY OF GOD” 

   Paul’s letter to the Corinthians continues to give examples of the difficulties the converts in Corinth were experiencing in turning to a life that was so different, so foreign to their previous way of life in worshipping idols. At the same time, the Apostle does not see it being helpful, indeed of any value at all, for them to have a new set of rules to follow and keep – such as we see in some ‘Christian’ organisations today.

   Today’s chapter (10) looks in particular at the question of meat that had been offered to idols.  Now this does not affect us in any way today, but the underlying principles are interesting.  Most meat on sale came from sacrifices made in pagan temples. Many saw something special in such meat. 

We have encountered this in India with offerings, such as coconuts taken into a Hindu Temple, sprinkled with holy water, and thus having a special value in the eyes of worshippers – and they can (and some do) take them away and sell them at a profit.

   Paul makes the point, “Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the grounds of conscience.  For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof (that is, everything in it)”   [v.25,26]  The converts to Christ having been freed from pagan rituals, did not all fully realize this.

In following Christ today we must make sure we do not create rituals or rules for ourselves and others as to what we should or should not do, such as things we eat or drink, in the belief that by such means we become more ‘holy’ in the sight of God.   

Paul brings his reasoning to a climax by saying, “If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” [v.30,31]  

Paul saw nothing wrong with eating meat that had been offered to an idol, but some were denouncing him for doing this.  He was however, conscious of the need to act differently if an unbeliever “invites you to dinner”  and you accept and the unbeliever makes the point that the meat you are about to eat has been “offered in sacrifice”. Paul says “then do not eat it.” [v.28]  This is a means of making a point to an unbeliever; a means of challenging his convictions in the reality of the idol.

   The essential point is to live and act so that our lives are a witness to the glory of Godand that by our actions, as well as our words we “give no offense” [v.32].  Paul sums it up by saying, “I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.” [v.33]  Let us recognise the ways in which we can follow that principle today.

Thought for August 27th

Todays readings.. 1 Kings 22, Jeremiah 49, 1 Corinthians 8&9

“SO RUN THAT YOU MAY OBTAIN IT” 

Our quote is from Paul’s words in his 1st letter to the Corinthians, ch. 9.  He describes life as a race and says, “So run that you may obtain it.“ [v.24]  Obtain what? In the next verse – we find the answer!

An “imperishable”  “wreath.”!   

Corinth was a centre for sporting events, winners were awarded a wreath. Paul was drawing a lesson for believers there – from the objectives in life of those around them.

Paul observes his own objectives, “I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” [v.26,27] His point is obvious!  So how well are you and I running in the race of life?

Paul’s running was centred on preaching, in spreading the gospel, sharing the ‘good news’ – which is what the word gospel means.  “In my preaching,” says Paul, my aim is to, ”present the gospel free of charge” [v.18] We see how, especially in recent generations, many have made much money out of preaching what is largely a distorted gospel: they preach what people want to hear – as did the “prophets” to Ahab, about 400 of them, as we read today in 1 Kings 22 v.5 onward. They told Ahab “Go up, for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.” [v.6]. When a genuine “prophet of the LORD’ [v.7]  was called – his message was different!  But Ahab heeded the 400 prophets – and died in the battle that followed.

Let us have a clear vision in our minds of what Paul preached. Those who read God’s word regularly and thoroughly know how important it is to talk to others about the true and original gospel which is about the coming heavenly kingdom of God – to be established on earth, when “the meek … shall inherit the earth” [Matt 5 v.5]  May we all feel more and more ‘inspired’ to “so run that you may obtain it

Thought for August 26th

Todays readings.. 1 Kings 21, Jeremiah 48, 1 Corinthians 7

“HAVE YOU FOUND ME, OH MY ENEMY”   

    The above saying was spoken by Israel’s bad king Ahab to Elijah when the prophet challenged him as he took possession of Naboth’s vineyard – after his evil wife Jezebel had organised the death of the vineyard’s owner, Naboth.   Yet Elijah had only “found” Ahab because God had directed him; he was acting for God.

We must always be aware of that of which Ahab was unaware.   We read earlier this month of Jeremiah’s prayer to the LORD, “O great and mighty God … the LORD of hosts, great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are open to all the ways of the children of man (human beings), rewarding each one according to his ways and according to the fruit of his (or her) deeds” [Ch.32 v.18,19]. Let us each ask ourselves, what kind of “fruit” are my ways in the process of producing?

    Ahab was a man of weak character, manipulated by an evil wife; both of them came to what we would call a ‘sticky end’!  Their attitude, especially Jezebel’s, created problems for those associated with them. “The elders and the leaders who lived with Naboth in his city” [1 Kings 21 v.8] obeyed the wicked Jezebel when she required them to set a trap for Naboth and get “two worthless men” to bring false charges against him leading to his death [v.10]. Let us stand up against wickedness – all the more so, if it directly confronts us.

    There is a further lesson in this for us – to avoid any situation which has the potential to oblige or force us to do something contrary to our conscience – for it is vital that our conscience is always activated to follow divine principles  Ahab had a no real conscience and it would be tragic if we ever found ourselves descending to a situation where we felt inclined to speak to a truly God fearing person, as Ahab did, “Have you found me, Oh my enemy?” [v.20]

    To quote Jeremiah again, “Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God afar off?  Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth …” [Ch.23 v,23,24]  The world around us is more unconscious of this than ever – that there is a Creator, let alone, that he fills heaven and earth!  As a result, the challenges to our faith have never been greater – therefore our attention to – and absorption of God’s word, should be greater than ever, for todays’ world, in various ways, some unperceived, is our enemy!

Thought for August 25th

Todays readings.. 1 Kings 20, Jeremiah 47, 1 Corinthians 6

“GLORIFY GOD IN YOUR BODY” 

What a challenging chapter 6 in 1st Corinthians we read today.  Giving glory to God is more than just a matter of words – of singing praises to Him!  We confirm the things we say and sing by our way of living: this is the point Paul makes – in very plain language – to the believers at Corinth where some were even daring to take some of their fellow believers  “to  law before the unrighteous instead of the saints?” [v.1]

Paul follows this up with an even more challenging statement, “… do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?” [v.2] Paul despairs and says, ” I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers … “[v.5]

The plain fact is – we demonstrate to our Lord that we are worthy (or unworthy)  of living in God’s soon coming kingdom by how we live nownot just by correctly understanding and believing his word.  Paul challenges them further, “… do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?” [v.9]  He then details the kinds of unrighteousness he means; attitudes and actions we see increasingly around us today!

“Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,  nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” [v.9,10]  Paul then makes this wondrous point, “such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified …” [v.11]  To be ‘sanctified’ – means – ‘saint-i-fied – accepted by God as – holy.

Do we sense this as fully as we should  – the way God perceives you and I – now!  The word picture Paul is painting to inspire their minds builds up to a climax of awesome thoughts – and a final truly challenging question – pointing to a  wondrous ‘truth’ – we find it in the last 2 verses; “… do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

We must see our situation from God’s perspective – if we are to be in His Kingdom.  He sees us, body, heart and mind, as being a “Temple” in which his Spirit can dwell and operate.  We saw that point in 2 days ago in ch. 3 v.16,17. 

We are ‘sanctified’ people and  a final thought ‘jumps’ into our minds – the words of Jesus – in his prayer just before his arrest!  We find it in John 17 v.19,20,  ” for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word”  Let us “glorify God” today and every day until Jesus comes – recognising ever more clearly we “are not (y)our own.”

Thought for August 24th

Todays readings.. 1 Kings 19, Jeremiah 45&46, 1 Corinthians 4&5

“A STILL SMALL VOICE”

We have a contrasting set of chapters to read today.  Jeremiah receives a remarkable range of prophecies about the future, the highlight being that the LORD “will not make a full end” [46 v.28] of Israel.  Paul in our First Corinthians chapters  reprimands the “sexual immorality” among the believers [5 v.1], a reprimand which, we pray, is not needed today.

But it is our 1st Kings chapter (19) which particularly attracted our thoughts.  It is wonderful the lessons and challenges which all parts of God’s word has for us, let us not be ‘afraid’ of any of them.

We read yesterday in 1st Kings of Elijah’s confrontation with the pitiable king Ahab, who was dominated by his idol worshipping wife, Jezebel. Is there a parallel here?  Not necessarily with our marriage partner, but with those we mix with, especially work with, whose ways of thinking, talking and doing may  have a subtle influence on us?   

One would have thought that Elijah’s strength would be at its’ peak after the events on Mt. Carmel, but when Ahab’s wife Jezebel hears of what has happened to her 450 prophets (of Baal) she  “sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.’ Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life” [19 v.2,3]  Elijah’s faith collapses and he asks “that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”[v.4]

Elijah’s collapse of faith is a lesson, a warning for us. But God watches over him, and when, 40 days later, he “came to a cave and lodged in it … the word of the LORD came to him … “What are you doing here, Elijah?” [v.9] This brings to mind Paul’s declaration at Athens about the one true God, that, ‘In him we live and move and have our being‘ [Acts 17 v.28]  Elijah, Paul, indeed all genuine believers must develop a sense of the wonder of this!

What an awesome experience Elijah now has!   “The LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks … And after the wind an earthquake, ” then “a fire .. And after the fire a still small voice” [v.11,12] 

And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.” [v.13] It was no ordinary “whisper” and Elijah’s spirit is transformed, he is also reassured, being told there are “seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal…” [v.18]

Today, modern communications reassure us that there are still many, in this godless, world – who are still faithful – and while they cannot hear “the still small voice” they have God’s word they can pick up and absorb every day, even every hour if they desire.  May we all be among them. 

Thought for August 23rd

1 Kings 18, Jeremiah 44, 1 Corinthians 3

“FOR WE ARE GOD’S FELLOW WORKERS”    

Our headline quotation is from what Paul told the Corinthians in his first letter to them.  We read this today in ch. 3 v.9.  The world lacks an Apostle like Paul today to challenge it – as to what is true – what it is to believe – and, just as important, the way in which people should live and seek to meaningfully serve their Creator and His Son.

In the Old Testament we read the account of the prophet Elijah coming on the scene to challenge the worshippers of Baal, those who denied there was a true God and, instead, worshipped a God of their own imagination  (Today we can say this is ‘Evolution’!).  Elijah has a dramatic confrontation with these prophets and says, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.”…” And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.” [1 Kings 18 v.40]

Soon we believe a far greater than Elijah will appear, even Jesus Christ, who will return to an utterly godless world and just before he appears we will see, as Jesus predicted,  “people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”  [Luke 21 v.26]

We pray that the world at that time will not be utterly godless; that there may be a few, who, although not having the power of Elijah, they will, nevertheless, be flickering lights.  Jesus said,  “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” [John 8 v.12]  This is only achieved by genuinely following Jesus – as Paul experienced after being ‘turned around’!  Let us take in his words that we read today in 1 Corinthians ch. 3.

Paul told the believers there (and us) “For we are God’s fellow workers.” [v.9].  Each were to do their part in the work – teamwork was essential – but, says Paul,  “Let each one take care how he builds …” [v.10] for ” each will receive his wages according to his labour.” [v.8]  As “fellow workers” we need to read and then absorb God’s words of guidance and inspiration – every day.  We “walk by faith, not by sight.” [2 Cor 5 v.7] – walking by sight means we fail to see the need for God’s guiding wisdom.   

As “God’s fellow workers” – let us remember what we read yesterday in ch. 2 of 1st Corinthians.  Paul told them, “among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age, or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.  But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.”  [v.6,7]  All those who genuinely seek to be God’s fellow workers” read and absorb this “hidden wisdom” every day.   

Thought for August 22nd

Todays readings.. 1 Kings 17, Jer 43, 1 Corinthians 1,2

“IN EVERY WAY YOU WERE ENRICHED … ” 

Just about everyone today is seeking riches – so they can enjoy various pleasures and, hopefully, be without stress.  We reflected on this as we started reading Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians today.  This letter of Paul, even more than most of his letters, needs to be read carefully – to get the correct sense of its’ context.

In what sense were the believers  “enriched”?  This had happened to them, “in every way” [1 v.5]  His letter is addressed “to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours …” [v.2]  Let us make sure we are “enriched” and are among them.

What does “sanctified” mean?  We do not use this word today!  It is linked to the word “saints” – the converts in Corinth were “called to be saints” –  that is  to become ‘holy’ – the opposite to the godless spirit that surrounded them!  It is exactly the same today.  At Corinth they were worshipping idols – today we have different kinds of idols!

Paul told them that “in every way you were enriched” in what ways? What kind of enriching?  Paul says they “were enriched in Christ, “in all speech and all knowledge“[v.5]  A complete contrast to the “knowledge” that fills the vacuum in human minds today.  The result was, says Paul, “that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [v.7,8] Let us make sure we are among them.

Paul is not writing about a spiritual gift’ that would enable them to do miraculous things.  It is the gift of true wisdom and understanding.  We read on into ch. 2 where Paul says, “among the mature we do impart wisdom … a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” [v,7,8]

Those who crucified Christ were sure they knew all that was important!  Today, is it any different?  No, although what they “know” today is so different to what they thought they knew then.!

What Paul next writes calls for our deepest meditation, he states, ” it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” What riches of understanding does Paul mean! Those who truly “love him” – are also, “knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” [Coloss. 2 v.2,3]

It was the Spirit that caused the Scripture to be written!  See 2 Tim. 3 v.16,17.  We have this in our hands, the Corinthians didn’t.  Let us read and absorb them so that “in every way” we will be “enriched.” – and as a result – be “guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [1 Cor. 1 v.8]