Sunday 31 August 2014

"FOR THEIR UPBUILDING" Thoughts from Today's Bible Readings - August 31st


         Today we read the completion 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 was not focussed on predicting future events, but, as Paul expresses it, “the one who prophecies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.”[14 v.3] stressing that, “the one who prophesies builds up the church.” [v.4] - also in warning believers when necessary, as we have seen was the particular task of the prophet Jeremiah. 
        Note 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].  Because of Paul’s widespread travels, he had need to be able to speak in many different languages.
        His ‘punch’ line in the next verse arrests our attention, “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” [v.20]  Today we become mature by prayerfully reading the word of God every day, and by carefully thinking about what we read.. Paul goes on to tell them, “…When you come together … let all things be done for building up” [v.26].  
       If someone had 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, let us weigh up what is said in Bible Classes and at other times, we work together as a team – our only ‘leader’ is Christ. 
        The last 2 verses 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 had written [Ch. 13 v. 8] “as for tongues, they will cease” and the last verse of that chapter, as we observed yesterday, names the 3 things that were to abide!  Let us make sure we possess those 3 things as we work at “upbuilding” one another.. 

"NOW CONCERNING SPIRITUAL GIFTS ...." Thoughts from Today's Bible readings - August 30


            We now come to a special part of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, these are chapters 12 to 14, and the first two are for today and they start, “Now concerning spiritual gifts ….” And Paul seeks to put their understanding of these gifts into a godly perspective.  Paul first makes the point, “When you were pagans you were led astray…” [v.2] At that time they had experienced all kinds of trances and ecstasy, as can still be observed among some primitive peoples today, being seen as ‘gifts’ from their imagined gods.
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” [v.4-6].  These are to be used “for the common good”.   [v.7] - not in competition.  These 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 …”  The gift of tongues is mentioned last – and 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 the marvellous exposition he gives 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 verse: in 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 aim, by His grace, to be there.    
In 2 Kings 4 we have "shut door" repeated x4 times. We have the shut door upon the household that produced oil, and the shut door of the faithful household of the great woman of Shunem where resurrection was borne, a new life.

A shut door symbolises shutting out the world:
Gen 19:6,10
"And Lot went out (of his house) at the door unto them (of Sodom), and SHUT THE DOOR after him..."
"But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and SHUT TO THE DOOR..."

And we are reminded of Jesus' words:
Matthew 6:6
"But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast SHUT THY DOOR, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly"

Let our households be a place where the world is shut out, to give that environment where our minds can be given to God, where the oil of the word can be developed and make us wise unto salvation through faith. (2 Tim 3:15, John 5:24)

Friday 29 August 2014

"NEVERTHELESS, IN THE LORD ..." Bible readings Thoughts for August 29th


            Paul continues to identify the many things the believers in Corinth were failing to do properly. Human nature has always been inclined toward competition, the initial competition as to which of them would be the greatest among the disciples is an example of this [Luke 22 v.24], but after the resurrection this never happened, Peter could write of himself as simply being a  “fellow elder” [1 Peter 5 v.1]
            Paul spells out the order of responsibility very plainly in v.3 of today’s chapter (1 Cor.11). “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.”  Then Paul writes of outward appearances that symbolise this order of responsibility, “… a wife … let her cover her head” but “a man ought not to cover his head” [v.6,7]   This is “when you come together” [v.18] to worship, but we must note v. 11 as this spells out another vital principle, “Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman.”   
            Life in the Lord demands teamwork – “working together” [2 Cor. 6 v.1, see also Eph. 4 v.16] “for the glory of God” [Rom. 15 v.7] as the disciples had learnt to do.  Yet human nature keeps failing, sadly it seems inevitable, it certainly was in Corinth at that time – and we ponder the point Paul makes in v.19, “… there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognised.”   The sequel that eventually arises from this is spelt out by John in his 1st letter, “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”.
                Paul spells out the well-known description of how the Lord’s last supper should be kept – this is followed by a warning against doing so “in an unworthy manner” [v.27]. Those who do so will “be condemned along with the world” [v.32] and the climax of that condemnation is getting very close as we recognise how our world has become a latter-day Babylon, so let us try ever harder, as Paul expresses it in his first verse to “be imitators of me (Paul) as I am of Christ.”

"COME TOGETHER, WEEPING AS THEY ..." Bible Readings Thoughts for August 28th


            Today’s readings convey a wide mixture of information and resultant thoughts. God removes Elijah, and Elisha takes up his role, his authority being confirmed by several miracles.  Although Elijah is taken “up into heaven” – it is obviously not into heaven itself!  It is not clear where he is taken – but a letter is later received from him – see 2 Chron. 21 v.12. Paul tells the Corinthians about the things that “were written down for our instruction” [1 Cor 10 v.11] and those concerned about Paul’s warnings would eagerly seek such writings, they would not be easily available as they are today.
            In Jeremiah we read a lot about Babylon’s destiny, her doom!  Almost all the people are now in captivity in parts of Babylon, Daniel and Ezekiel are there, it is the power that dominated the ‘Middle East’ of that era.  But God’s message through Jeremiah is, “The word that the LORD spoke concerning Babylon … declare among the nations … Babylon is taken …” [50 v.1,2]
            We know that the Babylon of those days dramatically ceased, we will read of that in Daniel, but it is obvious Jeremiah is granted a vision far beyond that era, “… in that time, declares the LORD, the people of Israel and the people of Judah shall come together, weeping as they come, and they shall seek the LORD their God.  They shall ask the way to Zion, with faces turned toward it, saying, ‘Come, let us join ourselves to the LORD in an everlasting covenant …” [v.5,6]   
            After the death of Solomon the nation split in two.  When their Messiah came they did not recognise him, they had not carefully read the message of the prophets, especially Isaiah. Jeremiah is now told of a future time, “In those days and at that time, declares the LORD … I will pardon those whom I leave as a remnant.” [v.20] As a result of this pardoning they “come together, weeping as they come … to seek the LORD their God.”
            We watch to see this happen – surely it is parallel with the incredible dramas to happen at the return of Christ, their true Messiah.  The chapter ends with a statement that finds clear parallels in the book of Revelation, at “the capture of Babylon the earth shall tremble, and her cry shall be heard among the nations.”
 In Rev. 18 v.9, 19 we read, “Alas! Alas!  … you mighty city, Babylon!  For in a single hour your judgement has come … she has been laid waste”. Babylon in Hebrew is actually the word ‘babel’ – and in Genesis we are briefly told of the dramatic end of that city after the earths’ cleansing in the time of Noah. Our world was initially cleansed by message of Christ, this was renewed to some extent when God’s word was freely available in all languages – but now we face the time when “the earth shall tremble.”  Will you tremble? Only those who are really on ‘the Lord’s side’ will not, for the angels will gather them.  

Wednesday 27 August 2014

"NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH" Bible Reading Thoughts for August 27th


            Our readings today all provoke interesting and, to some extent, complex thoughts – but that is good: for just as our bodies benefit from physical exercise, so do our minds – from mental exercise. The interaction between Jehoshaphat the God-fearing king of Judah and Ahab the weak king of Israel is very instructive.  Jehoshaphat visits Ahab who invites him to join him in a war to recapture cities that the Syrian king has occupied.  Jehoshaphat wisely requests, “Inquire first the word of the LORD” [1 Kings 22 v.5]
            Ahab has about 400 prophets who all say, Go up for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.” [v.6] But Jehoshaphat insists that this be confirmed by a prophet of the LORD (Yahweh).  Ahab says there is such a prophet, Micaiah, “but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me …” [v.8]  One of Ahab’s prophets then claims, “Thus says the LORD … you shall push the Syrians until they are destroyed” [v.11] using “horns of iron” to demonstrate; “all the prophets support him” but what false prophets they all prove to be!
When Micaiah arrives, he first says, “Go up and triumph” [v.15] but he does not say it is “the word of the LORD,” we suspect he speaks in a cynical voice. Ahab senses this and exclaims, “How many times shall I make you swear that you speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD”  [v.16]  The true prophet replies, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains , as sheep that have no shepherd.  And the LORD said, ‘These have no Master …” [v.17], indicating the death of Ahab who then exclaims to Jehoshaphat, “Did I not say he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?” [v.18]
Micaiah then tells a story which we understand as a parable that a “lying spirit” was sent by the LORD into “the mouth of all his (Ahab’s) prophets.” He adds, “the LORD has declared disaster for you.” [v.23] And as we read for ourselves the words of all the genuine prophets of the LORD, of which Jeremiah is one, we reflect on our own serious situation in today’s utterly godless world.  In Jeremiah we just read, “behold I am bringing disaster upon, all flesh, declares the LORD.” [ch. 45 v.5] and earlier in his ch. 23, “The anger of the LORD will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intents of his heart. In the latter days you will understand it clearly” [v.23]
 This “disaster” is for those who follow the ways of Ahab and ignore God’s warnings – and today this seems to be just about the whole world!  God’s word is available in every language, but how many heed its’ warnings, nearly all leave it to gather dust! But the seekers who read to find “nothing by the truth” will survive.  Many today could meet the same fate as Ahab, and that may not be very far ahead.   

"UNDIVIDED DEVOTION" Thoughts from Today's Bible Readings August 26th


            The Apostle Paul demonstrates what it is to give the Lord “undivided devotion” [1 Cor.7 v.35].  We have to acknowledge however that his case was exceptional, although there were others who remained single, e.g. Barnabas, as we will read tomorrow in ch. 9 v.5,6. We note that Peter, the leading Apostle, had a wife (Matt 8 v.140 ).  Jeremiah, whose long journey as a prophet  in serving the LORD we have nearly finished reading, is never mentioned as having a wife.
            Paul is sometimes misquoted as though he counsels believers not to marry; however, it is clear that Corinth is experiencing considerable chaos and Paul writes, after first admitting, “I have no command from the Lord,” that, “I think in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is….  Do not seek a wife.  But if you do marry, you have not sinned …” [v.25-28]    The vital thing is to become “firmly established in … heart” [v.37] and the daily feeding of our mind on godly thoughts and advice is a vital ingredient in achieving that.
An example of the opposite, of an unstable character with an unbelieving wife, is seen in the behaviour of Ahab in today’s chapter in 1 Kings 21.  Yet even he, after his evil wife Jezebel had orchestrated the death of Naboth, apparently without him being aware, an act that enabled him to gain Naboth’s vineyard; when he is confronted by and denounced by Elijah, “humbled himself before” God [v.29].  As a result God says, “I will not bring the disaster in his days: but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster ...”  However, as we will read tomorrow, it is soon God’s will that he shall die because he listens to false prophets rather than a prophet of the LORD and, despite disguising himself, is killed in battle.
As life’s battles increase in these days, and, the world’s fears increase, let us try even harder to give to our Lord “undivided devotion” – and, if we have a wife or a husband and can do this together, then let us see, if we haven’t already seen, how much we can still accomplish in the service of our Lord and Saviour.

1 Kings 21:4
"And Ahab came into his house heavy and displeased (lit = angry) because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him..."

Naboth had just spoken Godly principles to Ahab, we have to be careful we do not have the same attitude as Ahab, and become agitated to our brethren who may speak Godly principles which we do not like, or infringe on how we want to live our lives.

Ahab sadly, had none to advise him, but instead he listened to Jezebel who offered him what he wanted, at the expense of Gods word and principles.

We have similar but also a great contrast in the example of Naaman (2 Ki 5:11-13), when told to wash in the river Jordan by Elisha's servant. He was "wroth", and "went away in a rage", yet thankfully for Naaman he had those around him who gave wise counsel, and he had the humility to listen and act. Who made him think about what his response was, and how he should listen to and consider the words spoken.  These words of counsel and his humility towards them, meant the difference of being made clean.

Pray we have and develop friendships with those of wise spiritual counsel, we never know when we may need them. And let us carefully listen to Godly principles expounded by our brethren, even when they seem hard and tough for us. And be ready to humble ourselves to accept them into our lives for good.

Importance of wise counsel - Proverbs 11:14, 13:10, 19:20, 27:9

Sunday 24 August 2014

"DO YOU NOT KNOW ..." Thoughts from Today's bible Readings - August 25th


            We live in a world which likes to say that ‘You are the most important person!’  Self-centredness is encouraged – and that is understandable if you believe there is no God, that everything that exists just evolved – mysteriously creating itself: but we know this is all a human delusion!
            We must look at the reality of life – from God’s perspective – and Paul is a great help to us, for that is how he sees life as we read today in 1 Corinthians ch. 6 as he encourages the believers to see life from this perspective.  Some of them were misbehaving; there is “sexual immorality” in Corinth.  He asks, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” [v.15]  
       Then he adds another question, “Do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her?” [v.16]   These points are a prelude to his appeal to them to see the bigger scene - of what their lives really should become  - to ‘grow’ and see spiritual realities, recognising more and more their position as “members of Christ.”  That is a wonderful, but at the same time, a challenging vision to conceive in our mind.
        “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit within you which you have from God?” This is followed by an equally significant point, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body.” [v.19,20]  How can we, do we, accomplish this?
              In v.17 we read, “He who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him”  A unique oneness of mind develops! But recall what we read at the end of ch. 2,  “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God …. They are spiritually discerned … For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him.  But we have the mind of Christ.”   The next chapter shows the Corinthians had not yet developed this – and us?  The Corinthians were not yet “spiritual people” but “infants in Christ” [3 v.1]  - and us?
Another vital question - how do we “glorify God in (y)our body?”   How did Jesus?  He set the example, followed by Paul, our Lord had total commitment to serve God in all that he said and did – to make God’s will – his will.  As we do this, we realize more and more clearly what it is to “have the mind of Christ.”  As we change the way we think we become more and more selective of the things in life that help us to become more like Christ.  Do you not know this?  Is Christ the most important person in your life?  He should be.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE..." Bible Readings Thoughts for August 24th

       Elijah showed he was a man of great faith when he challenged the wicked king Ahab on Mount Carmel, fire miraculously burnt up his offering and 450 prophets of Baal were killed. Then three and a half years of drought came dramatically to an end!  But after that he had a remarkable collapse of faith.  Could it be that, after the remarkable climax of events on Mt Carmel, he thought everything was going to be easier now and his intense of faith in God while on the mount relaxed?
        But it was not going to be easier, in today’s chapter (I Kings 19), when Jezebel declares her intention to kill him because he had caused the death of her 450 prophets, Elijah’s confidence in serving the LORD suddenly collapses and he runs for his life.  Is this a lesson for us, to a much lesser degree of course?
        He says to God, “It is enough now O LORD, take away my life for I am no better than my fathers.” [v.14] But the end result is that he finds God in a more personal way than ever before. First, food is miraculously provided for him and after 40 days (interesting that is the same period that Moses spent on the mountain with God) Elijah comes to “Horeb, the mount of God.” [v.8]  where Moses had received the law.
         He lodges in a cave [v.9] he hears a voice, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"  and he experiences the awesome power of God. He thinks he is the only faithful person left in Israel and is told there are 7,000 in Israel who have not bowed the knee to worship Baal (v.18).  As he hides in the cave there is a strong wind, strong enough to break the rocks, then an earthquake and then a fire!  Awesome, it is rather parallel to God’s judgements on the world at the end of this age when Jesus is about to come. And how soon is that?  Very soon? We must each ask ourselves, 'What am I doing here? Surely there is still some work to be done for the Lord.

"DO YOU NOT KNOW" Thoughts from Today's Bible readings - August 23th


            We have 3 quite dramatic, but also quite diverse readings today.  First the confrontation of Elijah with Ahab.  It is clear God is in control and directing the course of events in the wayward northern kingdom, but there are still a few worthy left, at least 100, which Obadiah had hidden in a cave.  God’s punishment on Ahab’s kingdom for its godlessness is a terrible drought.
            In Jeremiah we read that he and the remnant of the people are still in Egypt, where the people had been determined to go, also being determined to continue worshipping idols, especially “the queen of heaven”.  Most of them perish in their godlessness, but again there is a remnant, “a few in number,” who, says the LORD through Jeremiah, “shall return from the land of Egypt” [ch.44 v.28]
            Paul’s letter to the Corinthians has parallels to this, he makes some extraordinary but wonderful statements about the privileged position true believers have before God, but many in Corinth, as this stage, failed to appreciate this.  “You are God’s field, God’s building” [3 v.9], he tells them.  “The wisdom of the this world is folly with God” [v.19] We saw this with Ahab and with those who insisted in going down to Egypt.
            “Do you not know.”  Paul asks them, “that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him.  For God’s Temple is holyand you are that temple.” [v.16,17]  The awesome reality in our lives is to genuinely sense the presence of God with us – IN us – as a spiritual temple in which God dwells. It is evident that Elijah and Jeremiah sensed this. Tomorrow, we will read of how Elijah tried to escape from this realization.  
Over the years there has been times of spiritually unhealthy discussion as to whether we possess the Holy Spirit today.   We do not, it is the other way round, the Spirit of God possesses true believers,  as Paul told the men of Athens, “he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being.’” [Acts 17 v.27,28] “Do you not know” this?        

"YOU WERE ENRICHED IN HIM" Thoughts from Today's Bible readings - August 22nd


            Today we started reading Paul’s letters to the Corinthians.  He tells the believers there that they have been “sanctified (i.e. declared to be holy) in Christ Jesus” and “called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus” [v.2]   So all genuine believers are “saints” – that is, as in Paul’s definition of what makes a person a saint. 
            A saint is any and every person who is separated from the ways of the world and aims to make their character more and more like that of Jesus – Paul is the outstanding example of someone who achieved this.  Paul is most concerned that the believers in Corinth are not making much progress in developing this although they had benefited from the wonderful “grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge” [v.5]
            They had initially put to one side as of no value the things the world counted as being of value.  They began a new life, the things they talked about – and sought more knowledge about these most important things  – at least they did this at first!  But as we read Paul’s two letters to them we see he has many concerns, coming to understand that many of them were not continuing in the same way as they started.  He encourages them to “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]  This is equally a message for you and me.
            They must grow, says Paul, and become mature, he tells them, “among the mature we do impart wisdom, also it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age who are doomed to pass away.  But we import a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.” [ch. 2 v.6-8]  God’s word is the source of that wisdom for us, let us make sure we feed our minds on it every day.    

"SHOW US THE WAY WE SHOULD GO" Bible Readings Thoughts for August 21st


            The people of Judah who remain in the land, are confused and bewildered, after the Babylonians take the king and the important people to Babylon as captives.  They are leaderless after Gedaliah, the leading official whom the Babylonians appointed, is murdered. They approach Jeremiah for guidance, after all he had for years brought messages from God warning of the disaster that had now come on Jerusalem.
            We read today how they said to him, “pray to the LORD your God for us … because we are left but few … that the LORD your God may show us the way we should go and the thing we should do” [ch. 42 v,2,3]  The people see God as Jeremiah’s God, not theirs.  
Jeremiah corrects them as he replies, “I have heard you.  Behold, I will pray to the LORD your God according to your request, and whatever the LORD answers you I will tell you.  I will keep nothing back …” [v.4] They respond appropriately and end up saying, “ … may it be well with us when we obey the voice of the LORD our God.” [v.6]
Ten days later (v.7) Jeremiah is able to tell them that the LORD says there will be blessings “If you remain in the land” [v.9,10]  But they had already fixed in their hearts an intention to go to the presumed security of Egypt.  This illustrates the waywardness of human nature, the lack of most of a real consciousness of God’s will and guidance.
In the centuries since the advent of Christ, how many go to the Bible looking for evidence of what to believe? Rather, they go looking for evidence to support what they want to believe,  such as believing that faithful followers of Christ go to heaven when they die.  In this effort they distort the meaning of one or two texts, ignoring their context, so as to believe as they desire. John clearly states in his gospel that ”No one has ascended to heaven” [ch.3 v.13] except Jesus.  What did Paul expect?  In his last letter we read, “ … there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day and not only to me but to all …” [2 Tim 4 v.8] 
A parallel tragedy is that many are told and believe that all they need to do is to publicly confess that Jesus is their LORD and they will be saved, but we read today in Mark ch, 16 that “whoever believes and is baptised will be saved” [v.16].  Baptism is going down and being buried into the water and coming up again as a symbol of believing Christ died and then rose – and you need to belong to him.   Jesus insisted that John the Baptist should baptise him, telling John, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness” [Matt. 3 v.15], setting us the example.   So it is then, as we carefully read God’s word, it will “show us the way we should go.”

Jer 42 we have the people (remnant) asking Jeremiah to pray for them because they feared the Babylonians. Even though they were still in Israel, they had already started to journey and prepare for going back to Egypt (Jer 41:17). This fear was driven by the fact they had killed the one (Gedaliah) provided by God who has hearkened unto Gods words.

May our request be as theirs "that Yahweh thy (our) God may tell us the way wherein we should walk,-- and the thing that we should do".

We (who are a remnant) can sometimes be in the same position, disregarding Gods word and his provision in our lives, and have started to progress back towards Egypt (this worlds ways).

In whatever circumstance and however we feel, may we always be "...fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; CONTINUING INSTANT (lit = constant/earnest) IN PRAYER" (Ro 12:11-12)

But we must not be as these in Jeremiah who rejected the answer they received through prayer ch43, because of pride (Jer 43:2)

Bible Reading Thoughts for August 20th

Mark’s account of the crucifixion includes the comment that “those who passed by (the cross) derided him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross” [15 v.19,20]  Matthew’s account includes the added comment,” and we will believe …”
            Imagine the scene! Imagine the blindness of their minds at all he had done, wonders that climaxed with the raising of Lazarus after 4 days in the tomb.  At least one saying of Jesus had stuck in the their mind, his response to them when they asked, “What sign do you show us …” and his strange but thought challenging answer, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” [John 2 v.18,19]  Only later did the disciples understand.
            There are those today who go to the Bible to misquote it, ignoring all the verses that say the opposite to what they want to believe.  They talk of the soul being immortal, but we read, “the soul who sins shall die” [Ezek 18 v.4]   They also talk of Jesus being co-equal with God and, in one sense, that is true: in John 17 v.20-23 we read how Jesus prays that believers, his genuine followers, “may all be one, just as you Father are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us, so that the world may believe that you sent me … that they may become perfectly one …”
            And so did the disciples became – never again did they argue as to who was to be the greatest.  May all genuine disciples of today make real progress in becoming “one” in this sense, and then, as Jesus prays, such believers “may be with me where I am, to see my glory …” [v.24] - and surely this is when he returns to earth.
            May none of us be like “those who passed by” – they “mocked him” saying if he came “down from the cross” they would “believe.” [v.32] He is now at the “door” and will very soon open the door – and then the mockers will “see and believe” – but it will be too late, he will shut the door on them – see Luke 13 v.25.  May we have the perception of “the Centurion, who stood facing him (and) saw that in this way he breathed his last (and) said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God.’” [v.39]   We are not told what difference it made to this Centurion, but Roman historians tell us that there were hundreds of Christians in Rome in A D 64 (34 years later) and that Nero made them take the blame for the fire that destroyed much Rome; the Gospels show there were several Centurions who were not among “those who passed by.”   May we, as much as possible, be like those early believers, “who believed (and) were of one heart and soul” [Acts 4 v.32]
Jer 42 we have the people (remnant) asking Jeremiah to pray for them because they feared the Babylonians. Even though they were still in Israel, they had already started to journey and prepare for going back to Egypt (Jer 41:17). This fear was driven by the fact they had killed the one (Gedaliah) provided by God who has hearkened unto Gods words.

May our request be as theirs "that Yahweh thy (our) God may tell us the way wherein we should walk,-- and the thing that we should do".

We (who are a remnant) can sometimes be in the same position, disregarding Gods word and his provision in our lives, and have started to progress back towards Egypt (this worlds ways).

In whatever circumstance and however we feel, may we always be "...fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; CONTINUING INSTANT (lit = constant/earnest) IN PRAYER" (Ro 12:11-12)

But we must not be as these in Jeremiah who rejected the answer they received through prayer ch43, because of pride (Jer 43:2)

Tuesday 19 August 2014

TFTD - 19 August 2014 - Thoughts from Today's Bible Readings

19 August 2014

1 Kings 14
Jeremiah 40
Mark 14

Today we read the 72 verses of Mark 14; it is a heart moving account, especially if read slowly and thoughtfully in a way that engages our heart and not just our mind. It is a fairly detailed record of the day before the arrest of Jesus and then of his arrest and how this shattered the faith of his disciples. Their faith was based on sight, they were to learn that true faith is having "the eyes of your heart enlightening, that you may know …" [Ephesians 1:18]

What is our faith based on? Are we ready for a real test of our faith as this world falls apart? In some parts of the world real tests are taking place now. Let us make every effort to build up our faith so that when we sense his return is really imminent - and all around us is in increasing chaos - we firmly endure - until our faith is turned to sight. Meditate on the scene when Jesus stood before the High Priest, and a mixture of witnesses made accusation against him because "the whole counsel were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none … Many bore false witness against him."  [Mark 14:55-56] It was the middle of the night, we are in awe as we imagine the intense emotions!

The High Priest then asked Jesus, "Have you no answer to make? … but he remained silent … Again the High Priest asked him, "Are you the Christ (the Messiah) …? Then Jesus responded, 'I am, and you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.'"  [Mark 14:60-62].

From Jesus word's in Luke 13:28, "there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves thrust out"  it is clear that his accusers will be raised to life to witness his return and glory. What agony of horror, what utter dismay will fill their hearts! Imagine it?

A more important question will be our feelings when we are privileged to see this. Surely his coming is near, those younger in heart can surely say to each other "and you will see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom and …" And what? We will see each other there too! What feelings will be ours? We make sure of the answer now.
- DC

Thought for the Day

19 August 2014

"Most of the aspects of our life in the Truth can be assessed by some standards, but there is one commodity we can never have too much of. That is the love and fellowship that binds us together as a family."

- Howard Walker
Evening Meditations (1973)

TFTD - 18 August 2014 - Thoughts from Today's Bible Readings

18 August 2014

1 Kings 13
Jeremiah 39
Mark 13

By the standards of 2,000 years ago Jerusalem's Temple was outstanding, "what wonderful buildings"  the disciples said to Jesus as they "came out of the Temple"  [Mark 13:1]. How shocked they must have been at his reply, "Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down." [Mark 13:2] And so they were - 40 years later!

Similarly, the Temple and city of Jeremiah's day were destroyed and we read today in his 39th chapter of how all that the LORD had caused him to prophesy against the city took place and the king and all his officials are in great distress and most of them are killed.

Mark's chapter records the pronouncements of doom Jesus made against Jerusalem itself, these have some parallels with events that Jeremiah experienced. However, in responding to his disciples anxious requests for further explanations Jesus described far more than the destruction of these "wonderful buildings."

"This must take place,"  he said, "but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be earthquakes in various places …"  [Mark 13:7-8] He made a most significant point when he added, Mark 13:10, "and this gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations"  - and only now has this happened - we understand d that at least the gospels have now been translated into every known language. Surely we can say "What wonderful"  foreknowledge the Bible reveals! Jesus told them, "… false prophets will arise … to lead astray if possible the elect"  [Mark 13:22]. Jeremiah also had to contend with false prophets [Jeremiah 29:24-32]

"But be on your guard  Jesus said to the disciples, I have told you all things beforehand"  [Mark 13:23] If we are truly his disciples, we will realize that among the "all things"  are events that apply to our generation, for Jerusalem is no longer "trampled underfoot"  and so "the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." [Luke 21:24] Finally, our Mark chapter ends, "Therefore stay awake ­ for you do not know when the Master of the house will come ..." [Mark 13:35-37] A message for you and I.
- DC

Thought for the Day

18 August 2014

"The offer to all of a share in the good things God has provided is extended in God’s book. The conditions of  faith and obedience (first in baptism and then in living for Christ) are right and divinely appropriate, and put man into the right relationship to his God, and are the gateway to many present divine blessings."

- John Carter
God's Way

TFTD - 17 August 2014 - Thoughts from Today's Bible Readings

17 August 2014

1 Kings 12
Jeremiah 38
Mark 12


Those in authority, for example, Government Ministers, are surrounded by advisors who debate situations and counsel those in power on the best policies to follow. Tragically there have been some examples of human wisdom, or lack of it, that have been quite tragic. We have an example in our 1 Kings reading today; a new king seeks advice on what policy he should follow, but really he has made up his mind and so seeks advisors to give him an answer that appeals to him.

This king is Solomon's son Rehoboam. He first "took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father" [1 Kings 12:6]. Their advice was to lighten the heavy tax burdens Solomon had put on the people - as they had requested and all will be well. But next we read, "He abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him…"  [1 Kings 12:8]. Their advice was the opposite! "And the king answered the people harshly …" [1 Kings 12:13]. We wonder if they had too much confidence in the promises made to David, thinking, surely his grandson can dictate what the people should do?

Rehoboam was 41 when he ascended to the throne - and should have been mature. He surely knew the promises God had made to his grandfather, and, we suspect, had a false expectation as to how they would work themselves out in his generation. He did not humble himself before God to learn and do his will.

God knew his heart; he knew the disaster that would soon befall him. Rehoboam went boldly up to the northern tribes, but soon, he "hurried to mount his chariot and flee to Jerusalem."  [1 Kings 12:18]. We can see the lessons that this incident provides for us. Where do we go to seek counsel? We know the answer! But we must not make the mistake of so many, in searching Scripture looking for the kind of answer we want in relation to some issue, so that we can seem to "confirm" our belief in something we want to believe. It is this desire that has led to so many churches coming into existence.

Let us meditate on the example of Paul and his words to the elders at Ephesus. "I do not count my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God ... I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God."  [Acts 20:24,27]. We need the "whole counsel of God"  - that is why we need to read - and reflect on what we read - from God's word every day, each year reading all the words that he has caused to be recorded and preserved - the lessons from Jeremiah being particularly relevant - as is tomorrow's chapter in Mark about the return of Christ "after that tribulation".
- DC

Thought for the Day

17 August 2014

"May we so live and work now that when the trumpet shall sound for us, we may not be ashamed in his presence. "And the seventh angel sounded, and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ: and he shall reign for ever and ever" (Revelation 11:15)."

- D.N. Wood
The Silver Trumpets (1953)

TFTD - 16 August 2014 - Thoughts from Today's Bible Readings

16 August 2014

1 Kings 11
Jeremiah 37
Mark 11


Today, we picked up a key point Jesus made about effective prayer; he had triumphantly entered Jerusalem with crowds of supporters around him "shouting, 'Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!"  [Mark 11:9-10]. Were many who cried this thinking the kingdom was about to be established? Were they disillusioned by a false expectation? Has that happened, in smaller measure, to the older ones among us as we look back over recent decades?

How fickle human nature proved to be! A few days later "the chief priests stirred up the crowd … and they cried out again, 'Crucify him'  and so Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas" [Mark 15:11-15]. In today's chapter the point which particularly attracted our attention was when Jesus said, "... Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses"  [Mark 11:25]. This is a vital principle to always have in mind in our relationship with Jesus our Saviour and his Father who is our Father. It must be in the forefront of our minds when we are seeking a specific answer to prayer.

Our thoughts go with Jesus, going forward a few days and the circumstances in which he prayed, "Father forgive them, they know not what they do" [Luke 23:34]. He was hanging there in agony on the cross, he watched them casting lots for his garments, and the scripture which predicted this would come into his mind. [Psalm 22:18]

How many of those watching his agony - and some must have heard his words, were among those "cut to the heart" when Peter addressed the crowd of thousands on the day of Pentecost 7 weeks later and told them, "'Let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.' Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart"  [Acts 2:36-37]. Peter, together with rest of the disciples, now referred to as apostles, counselled them to "Repent and be baptised" And "those who received his word were baptised". 
And us, after we have read and "received" his word? Do we read without receiving it?

We must receive it in both our head and our heart.
- DC

Thought for the Day

16 August 2014

"Now the Book of God is peculiar in this - it narrates the past, the present, and the future all in one volume. We learn from the accuracy of its details in relation to the past and the present, to put unbounded confidence in its declarations concerning the future. In ascertaining, therefore, the ultimate design of Eternal Wisdom in the creation of all things, we turn to the end of the Bible to see what God has said shall be as the consummation of what has gone before; for what He has said shall be the permanent order of creation, must be the end He originally designed before ever the foundations of the earth were laid."

- John Thomas
The Father’s House

TFTD - 15 August 2014 - Thoughts from Today's Bible Readings

15 August 2014

1 Kings 10
Jeremiah 36
Mark 10


We read in Mark 10 today how a man ran up and knelt before Jesus asking, "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"  A very meaningful conversation followed. Jesus said, "you know the commandments" and mentioned the main ones and the man responds, "Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth"  [Mark 10:17-20].  Jesus reacts, "looking at him, loved him and said to him, 'You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.'" What an invitation! But what a challenge and, sadly, the man is "disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions." [Mark 10:22]

We then read that the disciples were amazed  because he said, "How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!"  [Mark 10:23]. And yet, as we read in today's chapter in 1 Kings about the visit of the Queen of Sheba to Solomon to hear his wisdom and see the wonders of his kingdom where so much gold was available and used so that "silver was not counted as anything"  [1 Kings 10:21]. The Queen said, "I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. Behold the half was not told me …"  [1 Kings 10:6-7]

Yet tomorrow's chapter is very disappointing after all this use of wealth Solomon's relationship with his God falters and "his heart was not wholly true to the LORD"  [1 Kings 11:4] and he starts to worship other gods. Like the young man who came to Jesus "his great possessions"  undermined, and in the case of the young man, destroyed his opportunity to have the wonder of "treasure in heaven." We cannot know what role, if any, Solomon will have in the kingdom.

The world today is described as "a global village" - and many of us have "great possessions"  in a world-wide context: we should have in mind what Paul said in writing to Timothy, "For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils." [1 Timothy 6:10] Yes, it puts down mind poisoning roots! In God's eyes, this is surely the case when those who have more than the money needed for essentials, spend the surplus on abundant possessions, pleasure and leisure, attitudes that take root in our minds and lead us further and further away from God - and our "treasure in heaven" ceases to exist and there is no reward for Jesus to bring with him for us (see Revelation 22:12) when he returns.
- DC

Thought for the Day

15 August 2014

"When that call comes, whenever and however it does, it is just possible that our eternal destiny may well depend upon our instant reaction. To be apprehensive; to desire a little more time to prepare; to say in effect to the angel, 'Wait a little, please': the parables teach that there is a danger to those so minded, finding themselves knocking on a closed door. On the other hand, the reaction could and should be: "This is what I have been waiting for ever since I came to know Christ: at last he is here! This is the reality of Christ as opposed to the vanity of this world!" Such would indeed be "servants waiting for their Lord."

"Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching; verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them” (Luke 12:37)."

- C.E. Hinde
Thy Kingdom Come (1988)