Thought for August 31st. “IN YOUR THINKING BE MATURE”

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

    Today we read the completion, in chapter 14,  of Paul’s earnest advice to the Corinthians to cease their misuse of the gift of speaking in tongues, that is, other languages, as had taken place in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2).  He sets the gift of tongues in contrast to the gift of prophecy – this gift did not give the ability to predict future events, but, as Paul expresses it, “the one who prophecies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.”[14 v.3] and “the one who prophesies builds up the church.” [v.4].  Only one man, Agabus, (Acts 21 v.10) is mentioned in New Testament times, apart from the Apostles, as making predictions about the future.

     It is worth noting that Paul says, “I thank God I speak in tongues more than all of you. Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.” [v.18,19]. It is evident that, because of Paul’s widespread travels, he had the need to be able to speak in many different languages.

    Now we particularly note his ‘punch’ line in the next verse, “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” [v.20].   The way to be mature today is to prayerfully read the word of God every day, and really think about what you read.. Paul goes on to tell them, “When you come together … let all things be done for building up” [v.26].  If someone did have the gift of tongues they were to keep silent unless there was someone who could give a translation. [v.28]   The best procedure in their gatherings was to “let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what was said.” [v.29] 

How excellent is such a procedure, that of weighing up what is said in Bible Classes and at other times – it is not a matter of having a ‘minister’ who does all the talking and all the rest, the listening: but sadly that is largely the way in churches today – there is rarely any weighing up of what is said as to whether it is soundly based on the word of God.

     The last 2 verses in the chapter tell us, “ … my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.  But all things should be done decently and in order.” We have seen that phrase about not forbidding to speak in tongues repeatedly quoted by those who advocate Pentecostalism today!   But Paul drew his thought to a conclusion [Ch. 13 v. 8] by stating “as for tongues, they will cease”. 

The last verse of that chapter names the 3 things that were to abide, that is, continue.  Do you possess those 3 things?   We must be mature in our thinking – let us all feed ever more zealously and carefully on God’s word.

Thoughts for August 30th. “FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE ABIDE”

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

            Paul’s words to the Corinthians surely reflect his own path of growth – spiritual growth!    What of our growth?  How often do we measure it?  By what means?  We each must do our own heart searching in answering that question. Our daily reading of God’s word feeds our growth?  Paul writes about “gifts” – gifts that need to be used – and developed.!

Paul tells them that, as members of Christ, “there are varieties of gifts … and there are varieties of service, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone” [12 v.4-6].  These are to be used “for the common good”.  [v.7]   – not in competition with each other. 

The Gentiles in Corinth had no Bible to read, and so “through the Spirit … one is given … the utterance of wisdom … another the utterance of knowledge …”   Let us notice that the gift of tongues is mentioned last!   

Paul counsels them to “earnestly desire the higher gifts” [v.31] adding, “and I will show you a still more excellent way.”  This brings us to his marvellous exposition on the value of love.   In ch. 13.  One can “have all faith … but have not love” then, says Paul, “I am nothing” [v.2,1]

 In ch. 12 Paul had made the point, which we might fail to stress, “”Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”  Collectively, together we make up “the body of Christ.”  For, says Paul, “the body does not consist of one member but of many.” [v.14]

Believers must team together as parts of Christ’s body of believers, using the individual abilities they have been given for the common good – above all, to display and practise the collective character of Christ.  In that way, our children who have not yet accepted Christ will be influenced – and of course, unbelievers – if they are seekers, will be attracted. 

Head knowledge is essential, but is only half of “the body” – our hearts are the other half!   A body is “dead” if it has no heart:  Head and heart team together to produce faith   

The end of ch. 13 sums it all up, “So now faith, hope and love abide … but the greatest of these is love.”  To finish, let us meditate on that application of that verse: to the kingdom age.  Hope will be fulfilled and turn into sight, so faith will not be needed.  The one thing that will “abide” is “love.”  That will be the all-embracing spirit of mind in that wondrous time.

How vital we develop it now if we are genuinely living today with the aim, by His grace, are being there.    

Thoughts for August 29th. “THUS SHALL BABYLON SINK”  

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

            We have nearly completed the book of Jeremiah.  Today’s 51st chapter of 64 verses is quite remarkable, a really challenging read.  It is all about Babylon and God’s judgments on her, that mighty city and the country of the same name. She had destroyed Jerusalem and God’s great Temple and taken all its treasures. She is led by a king who, up to this time, had been all conquering.  The book of Daniel fills out the details – leading to her climactic collapse.

            Here in Jeremiah we have the Lord’s prophecies of that collapse – and we are told, “Jeremiah wrote in a book all the disaster that should come upon Babylon” [v.60]  Seraiah is commissioned by Jeremiah, “When you come to Babylon , see that you read all these words, and say, ‘O LORD, you have said concerning this place that you will cut it off, so that nothing shall dwell in it, neither man nor beast, and it shall be desolate forever…. Thus shall Babylon sink, to rise no more …” [v.62-64]”  

            This is still the case today, some years ago Saddam Hussein sought to restore some part of the ruins of Babylon and ‘seat’ himself in it, his effort was a disaster.  However, we recognize in some of the wording of this chapter that the LORD caused Jeremiah to “see” far beyond the time of the Babylon he knew. Some of his words are plainly echoed in the book of Revelation. Babylon is a Greek word, but in Hebrew it is the word “Babel” – and we know what happened to Babel.

            The name Babylon is symbolic in Revelation of the entire anti-God attitude in the world since the time of Jesus.  In these “last days” we can apply it to the negative attitude toward Israel that now inhabits the world, especially in the Middle East.    In today’s chapter, verse 48 is prophetic of the time when “the heavens and the earth, and all that is in them, shall sing for joy over Babylon …”.    The next verse (49) says, “Babylon must fall for the slain of Israel, just as for Babylon have fallen the slain of all the earth.”  Babylon had overcome all the nations in that era.

            Earlier verses clearly have a latter day application, “… this is the time of the LORD’s vengeance … Babylon was a golden cup in the LORD’s hand, making all the earth drunken … therefore the nations went mad.  Sudden Babylon has fallen and been broken … for her judgment has reached up to heaven, and has been lifted up even to the skies.” [v.6-9]   

             These words are echo’d and quoted in Rev. 14 v.8; 18 v.3,5-6, 23 etc.  God will surely deal with this latter day Babel; when Babel sinksmay we be so related to the wonder of things Divine that we do not fall with the latter day ‘tower of Babel.. 

Thoughts for August 28th. “ELIJAH WENT UP BY A WHIRLWIND”

Todays readings.. 2 Kings 1&2, Jeremiah 50, 1 Corinthians 10                                    

            Our reading of 2 Kings 2 today records the transfer of responsibility before God from Elijah to Elisha. 

            Elisha requests, “Let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” [v.9] and it is significant that it is recorded of Elisha that he ultimately performs twice as many miracles as Elijah.  However, in doing God’s most important work and conveying God’s messages it is evident that Elijah is the greater prophet, he is the one with Moses on the mount when Jesus is transfigured.

            Elisha’s sight of his dramatic departure when “Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven [v.11], is proof to him that he has a double portion of his “spirit.”   But what kind of “heaven” does he go to?  The next use of the Hebrew word for heaven is in ch. 7 v.2 about whether the “windows of heaven” could be opened to provide flour and food! The rain comes from heaven (eg 1 Kings 8 v.25).  The fact that a letter later came from Elijah to Jehoram, the son-in-law of Ahab, makes it clear Elijah still somewhere on the earth (see 2 Chron.21 v.12).

            So God removes Elijah from the scene because his work is finished, just as John the Baptist, whom Jesus refers to as a promised Elijah (Matt. 17 v.11,12) came – and his work was finished in “turning the hearts” (Malachi 4 v.6) of people ready for the ministry of Christ.  He was removed from the scene to leave the way clear for Jesus.  The widespread impact of his work is clear from the way Paul encounters those who only knew the baptism of John – who were a great distance from Israel (see Acts 18 v.25  19 v3,4)

            The heavens of the sky are to be the scene of the most dramatic events yet!  When Jesus returns those alive will see him “coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels … and they will gather his elect …” [Matt. 24 v.30,31]   Only those looking for him will really know what is happening.  Jesus says, “all the tribes of the earth will mourn … the sun will be darkened … the powers of the heavens will be shaken..” [v.29]  Some think this means the political heavens, but it seems more in context to see it as meaning the literal heavens.

Thoughts for August 27th. “… KNOWN BY GOD?“ 

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

     Our reading of ch. 8 in 1st Corinthians begins with an interesting use of the word ‘knowledge.’  Paul says, “knowledge puffs up” [8 v.1].  We can be proud of what we know – and this undermines our wise use of that knowledge – depending on what that knowledge is about.  Paul then says, “If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.  But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” [v.2,3]

     What is Paul’s point?  What should we know as we ought to know but we do not yet know?    A further question is, ‘What is it to be “known by God?”   Surely, it is to have a relationship with him!  Job spent all his life trying to understand God’s ways and have a relationship with him; when ultimately “the LORD answered Job” it was with a question, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge” [ch. 38,v1,2]   Job knew God in human theory and he spoke of him “what is right” [42 v.7] but he in the end confesses, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye sees you.”  [v.5] 

     What kind of “eye” was this?  Paul makes the point in writing to the Ephesians, “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened” [2 v.18]  Have our hearts developed “eyes.”?   In the previous verse Paul had made the point that in “remembering you in my prayers” he had asked that “God … the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him…”   

       There was only one who had a full knowledge of the Father!  There is a significant verse in that wonderful prophecy about Christ in Isaiah ch. 53 and we may fail to grasp its’ full significance:  God says, through Isaiah, “… by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.” [v.11]  Our Lord knew God in the fullest sense.

       Returning to Corinthians we see that Paul is challenging the thinking of the believers there – who had formerly been idol worshippers.  The idols had been real to them!  Was God now real to them instead?  Was their faith so real that they were starting to “know” and have a relationship with him.  Were the “idols” and the “worship” they had practiced still distracting them:  evidently it was, with some.  The world around us is full of the worship of idols – human idols!  Are they threatening to distract us in various ways? 

     Is God’s word coming ‘alive’ as we read it – driving out the distractions of today’s idols?  Let’s focus our minds on the point Paul made to the Hebrews, “… the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” [4 v.12]  Is that happening to us as we read and understand? Are we “known by God?”    .

Thoughts for 26th August. “I WILL RESTORE THE FORTUNES OF MOAB IN THE LATTER DAYS”

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

            We have 3 long, interesting and challenging readings today, they are examples of the challenge to get our minds around the words God has caused to be written and preserved. When we do this we get the full picture of God at work, his mercy and forbearance, what he allows and what he condemns, it is a lifetime study.   

            In 1 Kings 21 we see the LORD’s mercy on Ahab, that though “There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the LORD like Ahab… [v.25] that “when Ahab heard those words” of judgement from God ,,, and fasted and lay in sackcloth and went about dejectedly”[v.27] the LORD said to Elijah, “Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days…” [v.29]

            In Jeremiah, we see how he is caused to prophecy against Moab; it had been a prosperous and helpful country, remember how David took his parents for protection to the king of Moab (1 Sam. 22 v.3,4)  But, we read today how the LORD caused Jeremiah to say ch. 48 verse 2 – “the renown of Moab is no more”, then in v. 7, “because you trusted in your works and your treasures, you also shall be taken.”

            Nations and people trust in similar things today!  But what about Moab?  It appears to have been to the east of the southern part of the Dead Sea, an area allotted to the tribe of Reuben.  Today it forms a significant part of the nation of Jordan and its’ present relationship with Israel is intriguing! 

            Our chapter ends significantly, “Yet I will restore the fortunes of Moab in the latter days, declares the LORD.” Verse 19 is intriguing; Aroer was a town in Moab/Jordan, the verse says, “Stand by the way and watch, O inhabitant of Aroer” – That is what we must do today in these “latter days” to see how the jigsaw pieces of prophecy fit together!

            Our chapter 7 in 1st Corinthians also makes a fascinating study; Paul makes a multitude of points about the sanctity of marriage.  Paul states that ” God has called you to peace.” [v.15]. “Peace” in believing and behaviour is what we all seek, but to achieve this is a real challenge, especially in our increasingly godless “latter days”.  Let us all, “Stand by the way and watch” how God is at work in these “latter days.”  

Thoughts for August 25th. “YOUR BODY IS THE TEMPLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT”

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

                How utterly challenging in a spiritual sense – is the above statement of the Apostle Paul!   This is what he told the believers at Corinth.

            To fully perceive the reality and wonder of this, would give the Corinthians the spiritual strength to grow to become more and more like Christ.  And surely the same applies to us today.

            Paul put a most significant question to the believers at Corinth. “Do you not know that your body is…”  [1 Cor. 6 v.19]  Is what?  Do you know the rest of this quotation – and if you know it, have you (and I) absorbed its’ full significance?

            What an awesome thing it is to know – in our hearts – that y our “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 so use our body, day by day, indeed, hour by hour, so that the things we physically do, day by day, bring, in some sense, glory to God.  The outstanding example we are reading about at the moment in 1 Kings 18 & 19 is the dedication and resultant experiences of Elijah in serving the Lord: we read of his challenging experience on Mt Carmel yesterday.  Today we read an astonishing sequel!

            Suddenly Elijah’s faith collapsed!  Ahab’s wife Jezebel was going to have him killed!  “He asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” [19 v.4]

            Elijah fled – for 40 days!  He “lodged in” a cave. [v.9] and then “heard … the sound of a low whisper.” [v.12] “There came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” [v.13]

            Do we ever sense our Lord asking us this – when we are dodging our opportunities and  responsibilities in serving him, forgetting Paul’s words, “You are not your own” for we have been “bought with a price” and our “body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.” 

Thought for August 24th. “IT IS ACTUALLY REPORTED THAT … “

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

              Our reading today of Paul’s admonition to the believers at Corinth contains an important lesson of the need to take action when it is necessary, but any action must be undertaken in love, just as when parents see it necessary to discipline their child – out of love for their child.

      We read, “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.  And you are arrogant!” [1 Cor.5 v.1,2] It does not say his mother, so we presume she has died and this is his father’s second wife.   

       Why were they arrogant? Had their broad-mindedness created this?  Such “pride” is growing in many parts of the world today, a spirit of permissiveness that all things that do not actually hurt someone else are allowable, many churches are becoming at least a little affected by this and appear pleased with their attitude.

         Paul says, “Your boasting is not good.  Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” [v.6]  As a permissive spirit spreads it corrupts everything – just like rust

         This was starting to happen among the believers in Corinth and Paul is very concerned about this and he says, “you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” [v.5]

          It is not clear what “to deliver” him means. In his 2nd letter to them Paul writes of how “a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated” [12 v.7] Paul came to realize the positive side of this from God’s point of view and then wrote, “for the sake of Christ then, I am content with weaknesses … for when I am weak, then I am strong.” [v.10]   

           What is the type of strength that really matters? It is brought about by situations that cause believers to really know and trust in their Lord.

             As this world grows more godless, believers must stand firm by Christ’s principles, noting Paul words, “I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother (or sister) if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler …” [5 v.11].  

           Finally, let us note Paul’s words in his 2nd letter (Ch. 2 v.2-8) and the good results that standing firm lead to in this case.  Note also his words in Galatians 6 v.1

Thoughts for August 23rd.  “EACH ONE’S WORK WILL BECOME MANIFEST”

 Todays readings… 1 Kings 18, Jeremiah 44, 1 Corinthians 3

            Our Old Testament chapters today (1 Kings 18 & Jeremiah 44) both illustrate the ungodly actions of those who fail to remain faithful to the one true God – but it seems even worse today!

            King Ahab follows the false god of Baal – a god of human imagination – as all such God’s are.  Elijah alone is the only prophet who is outspokenly faithful to the one true God. Baal’s prophets are proved false – and are killed – but this, as we will see tomorrow creates a test – and a faith-challenging experience for Elijah!

            Almost the whole world has abandoned any belief that there is a Creator – we can say they worship the god of evolution – which allows them to ‘worship’ whatever attracts them.  There is no doubt that a God-ordained tragedy lies ahead. Let us remember what we read in Romans a few weeks ago – about Abraham’s example of faith!

            “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” [Ch. 4 v.20-22]  Our faith “ will become manifest” by our “work” for our Lord:  this will  be made known when Christ returns – and how soon now!

                Our thoughts followed along this path as we read 1st Corinthians, ch. 3 today.  “Each one’s work will become manifestfor the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.” [v.13].    What work for our Lord can we do today?  And all the days until our Lord comes – and how soon will that be now?

                And what is the foundation?  Verse 11 tells us it “is Jesus Christ.”

                 Let us make sure that our relationship with him is truly genuine! 

Thought for August 22nd. “IT WAS NOT THE WISDOM OF THIS AGE”

Todays readings.. 1 Kings 17, Jeremiah 43, 1 Corinthians 1&2

            Paul writes some very challenging things in his 1st letter to the Corinthians. In our days our world, through its ‘imagined’ wisdom, believes in evolution. Many think that everything in some mysterious way sort of ‘created’ itself – and wonderfully manages to work together! 

            The world says, but cannot explain, how the birds, the flowers and the bees for examples, sort of came into being themselves – and then became able to ‘work supportively together’ in an utterly wonderful way.

            Paul told the Corinthians, in his 1st letter to them, which we started reading today, ‘For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing” [v.18] – and so it has become today in the minds of nearly everyone.  Then Paul powerfully says, “but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise’ “[v.19]   We do not think of “power” in that sense!  Has your mind developed “power”?

            It is not long now before God “destroys” the false “wisdom” which the worldly wise indulge in – the ‘wisdom’ they have acquired through human ‘scientific’ deductions;  for they have come to the ‘knowledge’ that there is NO God!  

            In contrast, our wisdom is to recognise the events which turned the thinking in the world of the First Century upside down – as to the meaning of life. “It was not a wisdom of this age” [2 v.6] says Paul; then he stresses that, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from Godthat we might understand the things freely given to us by God.  And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom, but taught by the Spirit… [v.12,13]

            God’s Spirit caused Paul and the other apostles to write things down so that we can feed our minds on this spirit inspired word.  Remember how Jesus told his disciples, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” [John 6 v.63]  Let us make sure our minds carefully and prayerfully feed on this God given food every day.