Be Still and Know
Day 37 - Issue 37

Day 37 - Issue 37

May 7, 2021

READ: Psalm 47.1 NLT

'Come, everyone! Clap your hands! Shout to God with joyful praise!'

I once went to visit some friends who were doing mission work in Southern Pakistan close to the Sind desert. It was very, very hot. I remember how keen they were to prevent any draughts because the searing heat was too much to bear, even through the smallest gaps. On Sunday I went to their mud hut church and, as I entered, I was given a percussion instrument to play. I wasn’t asked if I wanted one or if I had any musical gifts! Everyone was given an instrument. The service that followed was in a language that I didn’t know at all but it really didn’t matter because it was clear that we were worshipping the Lord and I was totally involved in it with my newly acquired drum.

The psalms very often encourage everyone to get involved in worship. Whatever our gifts, background or mood we all need to worship God. Whatever kind of worship we are used to, whether it is based on a prepared liturgy or is free and charismatic, there can be a danger that the worship can be seen as a performance. The people at the front are the performers and everybody else watches. This is not what God wants. He wants us all to be involved and to bang our drums (or equivalent!) as an act of united worship. As we worship him together, the church is strengthened and enabled to be the kind of loving, caring, united community that God wants it to be, and the result, hopefully, is that even more people will want to worship him.

Worship is a rich and wonderful experience but, essentially, we are doing two things. Firstly, we are declaring who God is. We are recognising that he made us and that he is all-powerful, all-loving and all-knowing. He is worthy of the absolute best that we can bring to him. Secondly, we are acknowledging who we are. We are totally dependent on him. Without his strength, love and wisdom we are lost. That’s why we all need to clap hands, bang our drums and shout out our praise to him.

QUESTIONS: What does worship mean to you personally?

PRAYER: Lord God, I thank you for the amazing privilege of worshipping you. Amen

Day 36 - Issue 36

Day 36 - Issue 36

May 6, 2021

READ: 1 Corinthians 14.1 NLT

'Let love be your highest goal! But you should also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives—especially the ability to prophesy.'

1 Corinthians chapter 13 is a really famous chapter and rightly so. But the fact is that Paul didn’t write in chapters. Chapter divisions arrived about 1,200 years later! So, whenever we see a chapter division, we need to, at least, peer at what happens next. This is really important in this particular letter because if you only looked at chapter 13 you might think that love is so important that you can forget about the gifts of the Spirit. After all, they have got a limited shelf life as Paul has just explained. But here at the start of chapter 14 he makes it plain that we all need to make love the goal of our lives and, at the same time, we need to seek after the wonderful gifts that the Holy Spirit wants to give us.

The church in Corinth had got into a horrible muddle about spiritual gifts and Paul is trying to straighten them out. Their meetings had become totally disorganised and unhelpful with people trying to outdo one another as they used their gifts. Paul is eager to give them some clear rules so that they will start appreciating the gifts that God has given them, and use them in a way that will build up the whole church.

Sadly, the Corinthian church wasn’t the last church to get in a muddle! Churches can still slip up. Sad as this is, it should never surprise us because they are made up of sinful human beings. Much as we love the Lord, we still trip over our selfishness and idiosyncrasies, so it is vital that we keep focused on Paul’s wise words and continually ensure that we make love our goal continually, but also eagerly seek after the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

QUESTIONS: What gift has God given you to build up the church?

PRAYER: Thank you Lord for the gifts that you have given us. Help us to treasure them and to use them to build your church today. Amen

Day 35 - Issue 37

Day 35 - Issue 37

May 5, 2021

READ: 1 Corinthians 13 8, 9 and 13 NLT

'Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.'

I don’t know about you but I don’t like throwing things away. I am writing this on a laptop. A new laptop. I hung on to the last one for as long as possible. It was starting to run very slowly, and sometimes didn’t want to start at all. I was prepared to concede that it had good days and bad days, because we all do, but, in the end, I had to admit that I was devoting too much of my life to waiting for it to spring into action. The truth is, of course, that all our possessions have a limited life. Our cars, our microwaves, our beds, our desks and even our homes don’t last for ever.

The same principle exists in the spiritual realm as well. Our spiritual gifts are a wonderful blessing but they come to an end. Speaking in tongues, prophecy, preaching, words of knowledge are all amazing gifts of God but the day will come when they are silent. There will be no more need for them. However, some things do last for ever. Paul lists them as faith, hope and love. But one shines above them all and that’s love.

Isn’t it a wonderful thought that the love that we show day by day never comes to an end? It is a reflection of God’s eternal nature and so every time we reach out to another person and truly love them we are sharing in the stream of his eternal love. We need that reminder because loving is often painful and unnoticed and sometimes rejected. However, there is nothing more important that we can ever do than love.

QUESTIONS: In what way are you encouraged by the fact that love never ends?

PRAYER: Thank you Lord that your love never ends. Help me to devote more of my life to sharing the eternal gift of love. Amen

Day 34 - Issue 37

Day 34 - Issue 37

May 4, 2021

READ: 1 Corinthians 13.11-12 NLT

'When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.'

When I was about four years old I can recall being very confused when I met new people. I presumed that they had just been made,
because I had never seen them before! I had recently tumbled to the fact that people die, and that was probably because one of my
grandfathers died at around that time. I came up with a theory that God probably took the bits of dead people and used them to make the new people that I had just met. It was all very logical and, in its way, quite impressive. It just happened to be wrong!

When we are children, our minds struggle to understand the world around us and that’s absolutely fine because we are children. If I had told you that it is still my view that God makes people out of those who have passed away you wouldn’t think that was fine at all. You would, in your kindness, feel desperately sorry for me and, I trust, start praying for me. The fact is that our thinking and speaking changes as we get older. Many things that were a complete mystery to us as children are no longer mysterious. The fact is that, however old we are, we are still on a journey towards understanding. We all have a lot more to learn.

We need to draw two conclusions from this. Firstly, we need to be humble. We might know a lot, but we don’t know everything. God hasn’t revealed the whole truth to us, so we need to look at every day as an adventure on which we learn a little more about ourselves, our world and God. And secondly, we need to be excited by the thought that one day we will understand the whole picture.

QUESTIONS: What new things have you learnt about God over the last month?

PRAYER: Lord God our Father, thank you that you are constantly revealing more of yourself to us. Amen

Day 33 - Issue 37

Day 33 - Issue 37

May 3, 2021

READ: 1 Corinthians 13.4-7 NLT

'Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.'

I am sure that you have often heard these famous words. They give us the most beautiful description of love and, understandably, they are often read at weddings. Love sounds incredibly attractive doesn’t it? We would all long to be as loving as this. But there’s a problem. A very big problem, and we won’t make any progress until we have recognised it. The problem is that no amount of human effort will enable us to be as loving as this. However hard we try we are bound to fail. The reason for that is that the only way to show perfect love is by enabling God to work through us. Hard as we might try, we will never succeed in being truly loving without God’s daily strength.

The way to become more loving is interestingly not by thinking more about love. What matters is that we focus more on God. As we get to know God better, and allow our lives to be shaped by him, his love will naturally flow through our lives. There will be no stopping it! Living in God’s way of love will shape every part of life from the moment we wake up. It will affect the way in which we greet people in the morning. It will guide our prayers for the people we see on the way to work. It will colour our relationship with our families, colleagues and friends. We will, without thinking about it, be seeking the very best for them all. When we meet people in need we will naturally reach out to them and seek to help. We haven’t got time to do much thinking about love because we are so busy loving.

QUESTIONS: Which of Paul’s descriptions of love do you find most challenging?

PRAYER: Lord God, thank you that you have always shown me perfect love. Help me to get to know you better so that your love will constantly flow from my life. Amen

Day 32 - Issue 37

Day 32 - Issue 37

May 2, 2021

READ: 1 Corinthians 13.1 NLT

'If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.'

I will never forget Sheila. She was in her early 70s when I first met her and every Friday evening, without fail, she helped out with her church’s youth club. The church was on a rough estate and the evenings were full of action. The young people were rarely appreciative and at times violent. The language they used was normally rude and often deeply offensive. I could go on but I am clearly not describing a relaxing evening, to put it mildly! And yet, Friday after Friday, Sheila would faithfully go and support the youth club with the hope that it might be a blessing to the young people and possibly even lead them closer to finding faith in Jesus. I only know one word to describe that kind of commitment – love. Sheila truly loved those young people and nothing would stop her seeking to help them.

I’ve started with a personal example because we all know how to speak and sing about love, but the real test is whether we can turn our words into action. In this amazing chapter on love Paul draws the picture of the person who seems to have collected every spiritual gift. He is not just a great preacher but the best ever. His knowledge has no limits and his prophetic gift is so great that he can unpick every mystery he faces. On top of all of that he has faith which can move mountains around. And to cap it all his commitment to his faith is so complete that he doesn’t think twice about offering himself as a martyr. Wow! What an amazing person! But Paul adds that even if all of those things are true of you, if you have no love then you are lost. Your life is just a lot of hot air.

The only conclusion that you can draw from this is that love needs to take the first place in our lives. Our God of love longs for us to reflect his love to the world.

QUESTIONS: Who has shown you the most powerful example of love?

PRAYER: God of love we worship you. Help us to reflect your love to our needy world. Amen

Day 31 - Issue 37

Day 31 - Issue 37

May 1, 2021

READ: 1 Corinthians 12.14 and 16-17 NLT

'Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?'

I love Paul’s sense of humour! He imagines a conversation going on within the body which is plainly ridiculous. It would be crazy if the ear were to complain that it wasn’t a proper part of the body because it wasn’t an eye. But, funny as it is, Paul is making a very serious point. He is talking about inferiority complexes and they get everywhere. Many people in churches look down on themselves. Some think they don’t count because they are only a Sunday school teacher, or only a cleaner, or only a newcomer. Paul wants to make it clear that, so far as God is concerned, there are no “only” people in the church. Every single person is vital.

Paul recognises that there is another problem as well. And that’s the problem of having a superiority complex, and this is just as absurd. Paul imagines the eye saying to the hand, “I don’t need you” and the head saying to the feet “I don’t need you”. Not only would it be offensive for the parts of the body to talk to one another like that, but it would also be absolutely wrong – the eye does need the hand, the head does need the feet! In every organisation there tends to be a pecking order. Without much thought you can work out who are seen as the most powerful and important in the organisation and who are the least powerful and most unimportant. But Paul protests that in the church, just like in the body, everyone is absolutely crucial. We need to learn to treasure everybody and to value them highly because God has placed them within the church, and without them the church would be unable to function.

QUESTIONS: Have you ever suffered from an inferiority complex or a superiority complex? If so how does this passage help you?

PRAYER: Lord, help me to value the members of my church in the way that you do. Amen

Day 30 - Issue 37

Day 30 - Issue 37

April 30, 2021

READ: 1 Corinthians 12.4-7 NLT

'There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.'

I often hear people being described as gifted. They may be a particularly able pianist, flower arranger or speaker. I totally understand what is being said, but it could be very misleading. It seems to suggest that there are two types of people – those who are gifted and those who are, sadly, not gifted at all. This passage makes it clear that every one of us is gifted. Whatever your age, strength, ability or disability, background or temperament you have got a unique gift that God, in his generosity, has given to you.

Our task is therefore to discover the gift that God has given to us and to make sure that we use it. People have often told me that they don’t know what their gift is. If that’s true of you let me offer you a very simple five step plan. Firstly, thank God for your gift. The fact is that God has given you one so you might as well thank him for it even though you haven’t as yet worked out what it is. Secondly, ask God what your gift is. Since he has gone to the trouble of giving it to you we can assume that he would love you to know what it is. Thirdly, open your eyes. Look around you and see if you can spot what your gift is, because it is often very obvious. To be honest the problem is often that we know exactly what our gift is and would prefer that we had been given a different one. Fourthly, if you still haven’t worked out what your gift is, ask someone who knows you well. I suspect that they will be very clear what your gift is. Then fifthly use this gift and remember to keep thanking God for it.

QUESTIONS: What is your gift and how are you using it?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, thank you for the gift that you have given me. Help me to use it well. Amen

Day 29 - Issue 37

Day 29 - Issue 37

April 29, 2021

READ: 1 Corinthians 11.27-28 NLT

'So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup.'

If you are employed then you probably have the delight of an annual appraisal. The intention is to stand back from how things are going in order to acknowledge what went badly and what went well, and to reflect on how things could be strengthened for the year ahead. Conducted well, appraisals can be a great blessing and I have always been grateful for the ones that I have had. Here Paul is suggesting that we need to conduct a self-appraisal on a regular basis before we meet together to celebrate Christ’s death for us on the cross.

The Corinthian church had clearly made a huge mess of their services. When they had a meal together to celebrate Jesus’ death some of them ate so much that there was nothing left for others. It makes their services sound like a riot! Paul concluded that their services actually did more harm than good. That’s a very severe conclusion and although I have been to many different Christian services over the years, I have never had to be as harsh as that! For Paul, this special service was so important that everyone needed to prepare carefully for it, and crucial to that preparation was self-examination.

When we examine ourselves we need to be ruthlessly honest. This is a very serious business. No-one would want to be found guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. As we look hard at our lives we are not looking for perfection, because we will all fail that test. What the Lord wants to see in us as our honesty. As we shine the light on our lives we need to acknowledge our failings and seek his forgiveness and renewal as we rededicate our lives to him. We come with empty hands so that he may fill us again with his blessings.

QUESTIONS: When and how do you examine yourself before God?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, help me to be totally honest with you as I look at my life. I seek your forgiveness and ask you to fill me afresh with the gift of your Holy Spirit. Amen

Day 28 - Issue 37

Day 28 - Issue 37

April 28, 2021

READ: 1 Corinthians 10.31 NLT

'So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.'

Life throws up many challenges for us in the 21st Century, and it was no different in Paul’s day. One of the issues that he had to face was that sometimes meat was taken to pagan temples as an act of worship before being sold by the butchers. Paul is quite clear that pagan gods were not true gods and so it really didn’t matter if the meat had been waved in front of them. But if someone were to point out that they had been presented in the temple then he concluded that it would be better not to eat it, out of respect for the informant’s
conscience. It was a tricky issue but clearly a live one in Paul’s day and he had to find a careful way of handling it. The key principle in all of this was that whatever you do it needs to be done for the glory of God.

Every day we have to make decisions. Most of them are simple and straightforward but, like Paul, we need to be clear about the guiding principle. We need to ask the question whether or not our actions will bring glory to God. It may be a question about a purchase, or a holiday, or a new job. There may be any number of possible ways forward but the key question is, “What will be most beneficial
and pleasing to God?” On the face of it this might sound restricting and limiting, but because of the nature of God it is in fact the opposite of that. As we discover God’s will for our lives, we find true liberty. God’s desire is always to enable us to be more alive.

QUESTIONS: As you make decisions today how will you test whether the outcome will be for the glory of God?

PRAYER: Thank you, Lord, that you want to bless every part of my life. Help me to share every decision with you so that I might bring glory to you today. Amen

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