08 September 2007

Today's Reading September 8

Running very late this morning, perhaps more later
The morning's passage is Proverbs 13 and 14. Read carefully, there are some real nuggets here.

9 Fools make a mock at sin: but among the righteous there is favour.
10 The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy.
11 The house of the wicked shall be overthrown: but the tabernacle of the upright shall flourish.
12 There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

See if you can find some others.
This afternoon we finish 1st Corinthians, reading all of chapter 16. Part of this is, like many of his letters, a greeting to those in that particular city, persons we will not know until Heaven, part final admonitions.
13 Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.
14 Let all your things be done with charity.
Good advice today as well.

07 September 2007

Today's Reading September 7

Happy Friday, all.
This morning we turn to Proverbs 11 and 12 as our Old Testament portion.
These are more of the 'contrasting proverbs', spoken in the 'this, but that' form.

22 Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight.
23 A prudent man concealeth knowledge: but the heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness.
24 The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute.
25 Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad.
26 The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour: but the way of the wicked seduceth them.

This evening our New Testament portion is 1st Corinthians, chapter 15, verses 33 through 58. Paul is speaking here of the Christian's victory over death. It is certainly a very important part of our faith - Death, that old enemy, has been vanquished. And out of that come some very memorable writings, including this:
49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
Isa 25:8
55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
Hos 13:14
56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
And that is Very Good indeed. My mother passed away this spring. But, because of our Lord, I know that I shall see her again, and all those who died in Christ.

06 September 2007

Today's Reading September 6

In a bit of a rush this morning.
Today's Old Testament reading is Proverbs 9 and 10.
Proverbs 10 is full of contrasting statements, 'this, but that'. So, for example,

1 The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.
2 Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death.
Very good teaching here.
Proverbs 9 contains more of the teaching on wisdom.
9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.
10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.
11 For by me thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of thy life shall be increased.

The evening's New Testament reading is 1st Corinthians, chapter 15, verses 1 through 32. This is Paul making a strong proclamation of the faith, addressing on the way some questions, doubts, and errors that were creeping into the church. Some of those same errors are with us and there are those, including in leadership positions unfortunately, who encourage such. Paul would have none of it.

Chapter 15
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
11 Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.
12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:
14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.
16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:
17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.
24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.
25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.
Ps 110:1 Matt 22:44 Luke 20:43 Acts 2:34 Heb 1:13
26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.
Psa 8:6 Eph 1:22 Heb 2:8
28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
29 Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?
30 And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?
31 I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.
32 If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.
Isa 22:13

05 September 2007

Today's Reading September 5

This morning we look at Proverbs 7 and 8
Proverbs 7 deals primarily with a warning against immorality, particularly adultery.
Proverbs 8 is about wisdom.

1 Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice?
2 She standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths.
3 She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors.
4 Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man.
5 O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.
6 Hear; for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things.
7 For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
8 All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse in them.
9 They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge.
10 Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold.
11 For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.
12 I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions.
13 The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.
14 Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength.
15 By me kings reign, and princes decree justice.
16 By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.
17 I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.

This evening's reading is from 1st Corinthians chapter 14, verses 21 through 40. This continues with Paul's words on three contentious issues - the gifts of tongues, the gift of prophecy, and women in the church. I do not have the insight - and perhaps the courage - to properly address any of these. Living in the Deep South as I do, the gift of tongues is a bit more a part of the landscape than one might find in Massachusetts or Maine, and while I have some private reservations on the matter, I have no objections. Likewise, I believe that the gift of prophecy, rightly understood, is still with us. The issue of women in the church is a contentious one, one that I don't feel led to comment upon right now. Perhaps in the future, but not today. Let the text speak for itself.
21 In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.
Isa 28:11,12
22 Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.
23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?
24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:
25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.
26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.
27 If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.
28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.
29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
30 If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.
31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.
32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.
35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
36 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?
37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.
38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.
39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.
40 Let all things be done decently and in order.

04 September 2007

New link

I'm adding a new link over in the sidebar. Generally I don't make an announcement of that - there are some very very good ones there. But take a look at this one. It's from the Investigative Project on Terrorism

Today's Reading September 4

Hope everyone is doing well this morning.
This morning's Old Testament passage is Proverbs chapters 5 and 6. These are just packed with good advice for living the sort of life that we should be living, developing that godly character out of practice. Consider, for example, these verses from Proverbs 6

6 Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:
7 Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,
8 Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.
which was at one time embodied and reinforced in stories told to children.
16 These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.
which sounds like the sort of thing our society now praises.
and a warning against adultery
24 To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman.
25 Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids.
26 For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread: and the adultress will hunt for the precious life.
27 Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?
28 Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?
29 So he that goeth in to his neighbour's wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent.
30 Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry;
31 But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house.
32 But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.
33 A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away.
34 For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance.
35 He will not regard any ransom; neither will he rest content, though thou givest many gifts.
We've all seen that one played out, have we not?

This afternoon we look at 1st Corinthians, Chapter 14, verses 1 through 20. Paul is speaking still of spiritual gifts, and speaking in particular of the gift of prophecy.
Chapter 14
1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.
2 For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.
3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.
4 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.
5 I would that ye all spake with tongues but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.
6 Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?
7 And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?
8 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
9 So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.
10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.
11 Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.
12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.
13 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.
14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.
15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
16 Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?
17 For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.
18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:
19 Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.
20 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.
As was said previously, the issue of spiritual gifts is one that we've heard a lot of discussion about, discussion that frequently generated more heat than light, and the issue of prophecy is one of the most contentious of them. There are many who point out, quite correctly, that with the closing of the canon, meaning the completion of the Bible, that the situation has changed. Up to that point, and the time of this letter is certainly before the New Testament was completed, the Lord spoke through prophets, those who had the authority to say ''thus says the Lord!''. With the Bible, there is no longer a call for such. And they point out, with some justice, the number of false prophets in history, and the regrettable record of those in our own time who claim the title of prophet (or, recently, Prophetess) whose record include public immorality and fraud.
While acknowledging all of that, I am not so sure. While it puts me into somewhat of a minority position, I believe that there is still a place for prophecy in the church today. The gift is, I believe, still extant in many preachers and teachers, and I say that with this definition: that the gift is used not in the sense of revelation, but of illumination; not of foretelling (as in the future) but of forthtelling, as in ''pay attention to this, look at this passage this way''.

03 September 2007

Mass Poisoning by the UN

You may already be familiar with the term ''Law of Unintended Consequences''. It's one of those terms that describes the observable fact that an action taken to address an issue may have side effects. It's sometimes known as trading up from one problem to several new and more interesting ones. It's also sometimes known as Do-Gooder Damage.
Dr. Theodore Dalrymple has reported of one such in some detail, and mentioned others in passing. It's worth a read, perhaps several. The Unintended Consequences of Foreign Aid: Theodore Dalrymple explains how Western policies have poisoned the water supplies of 70 million in Bangladesh.
I'm one of those who, as a kid, dutifully went Trick-or-Treating with a little UNICEF money collection can, sure that the United Nations was a key to a New and Better World. I no longer believe that, in fact I think the world would be far better off if that crapulent organization and the leeches that feed off it were to vanish today.
The story speaks for itself - how bumblers are responsible for wide-spread Arsenic poisoning in that unhappy nation. Had Dow Chemical, or 3M, or Bayer Chemical, been responsible for such, there would be howls for the heads of the guilty. But, since it's the UN, the whole thing is hushed up, and the guilty go to bed at night feeling mighty good about themselves.
A pox on them all.

Today's Reading September 3

Today is Labor Day in the US, which is translated into most people doing no labor. I hope your day is a good one.
Our morning reading is Proverbs 3 and 4. The Proverbs are that mix of phrases that immediately jump out at you, and others that you must ''chew over'' to get the essence. One of my very favorites is from chapter 3,

5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and he shall direct thy paths.
That's one of those to hang on the wall and keep close to your heart. It will change how you live, it will affect how you live this life.

This evening's passage is 1st Corinthians chapter 13. This is one of the most beloved passages in all of Paul's letters, the chapter on love. Better and wiser persons than I have commented on this, there are books, sermons, articles aplenty.
1 THOUGH I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;
6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;
7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

02 September 2007

Today's Reading Septermber 2

Off to church in just a bit here.
This morning we begin a too-quick journey in Proverbs, chapters 1 and 2. There are those, and perhaps I should be one of them, who make it part of their routine to read through one of the chapters of Proverbs every day. So on the first of the month, every month, they read through Proverbs 1, and continue that. It's an idea worth trying. We could all stand more wisdom.
I will not reproduce the entire passage here. I do want to call attention to a short section of chapter
1. The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel:
2 To know wisdom and instruction,To perceive the words of understanding,
3 To receive the instruction of wisdom,Justice, judgment, and equity;
4 To give prudence to the simple,To the young man knowledge and discretion--
5 A wise man will hear and increase learning,And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,
6 To understand a proverb and an enigma,
The words of the wise and their riddles.
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
But fools despise wisdom and instruction.

I have often gotten rather full of myself and thought myself smarter than anyone else. But had forgotten the fear of the Lord. That didn't make me wise, it made me foolish, and I proved it to all who could see. Now I have reason to be a lot more modest than I once was. The fear of the Lord needs to be foundational, a part of our inner character, not a thin coat of paint to hide the rough spots of the structure.
This evening we continue in 1st Corinthians, chapter 12
Today and the next few days in Corinthians are some of my favorite passages.
Paul gets into the matter of spiritual gifts. I fear that this issue, an extremely important one, is an issue which has led to quite a bit of wrangling and dispute, all too often in ways that I find troubling. And while I agree that it is important, not only to the individual but to the entire Body of Christ, it's not always dealt with in ways that honor the Lord.

1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant:
2 You know that [fn1] you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led.
3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.
4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.
6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:
8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit,
9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit,
10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.
28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.
29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles?
30 Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?
31 But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.

The last verses lead to tomorrow's passage on love. But do not just consider them to be a transitional section. The Lord does grant those spiritual gifts, and they are granted for His purposes and according to His plan. At the risk of great criticism, I personally believe that all of the gifts are still granted, though perhaps manifested differently than in Paul's time. That would put me in bad stead with some, and I'm prepared to be persuaded otherwise.