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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Daily Bible thoughts 1480: Friday 18th August 2017: Mark 4:26-29: The harvest will come.

Mark 4:26-29: The harvest will come.

 26 He also said, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground.27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces corn – first the stalk, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 As soon as the corn is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.’”

As a preacher I love this short parable. It contains so much. God’s Word is ‘’living and active. It is powerful. It is productive. That potency is expressed in the words: ‘’All by itself…’’ (28). Note:

  1. We are responsible to ‘scatter’ the seed of the Word (26). Men do this. People are required for the work of sowing. How is anyone going to hear without a preacher? (Romans 10);
  2. The power is in ‘’the seed’’ (27). If we communicate the Word, that Word will go to work. Everything is not dependent on us. We can rest; we are able to sleep.Even a hard-working farmer needs sleep; and he may sleep. The seed works continually. We don’t have to. We can take our day off because we should. It is part of the creation order. God’s supernatural Book, however, requires no holidays. It is continually at work. It only needs to work ‘’Night and day…’’ (27). We should never be lazy, but let this truth deliver you from workaholism;
  3. There is a mystery to our work: ‘’…though he does not know how’’ (27b). Actually, the mystery concerns its work We can’t explain everything. We don’t need to. The Word works; it goes on working. It’s enough to know this. The passage indicates that the seed is not simply active in the moment of sowing. It continues to work over time;
  4. When the seed is sown, there will be a progressive work towards maturity (28, 29). Patience will be required, but the harvest will come.

Daily Bible thoughts 1479: Thursday 17th August 2017: Mark 4:21-24: Use it or lose it.

Mark 4:21-24: Use it or lose it.

“21 He said to them, ‘Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? 22 For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.’  24 ‘Consider carefully what you hear,’ he continued. ‘With the measure you use, it will be measured to you – and even more.” NIV UK

The opening two verses address the matter of whether the Kingdom of God will always be a secret, hidden from the many and revealed to only a few (see 11, 12). Jesus says that one day the Kingdom will be plain to all. Lamps are meant to give light, not hide it.

Obedience, it has been said, is the organ of spiritual knowledge. The more we obey, the more we understand. We should seek to read the Bible every day looking for what we need to put into practice – to believe and obey in other words

‘’With the measure you use, it will be measured to you – and even more.’’

 Tom Hale writes that the above refers to the faith we exercise. Whoever has faith will be given more – more understanding (Matthew 13:11,12), more joy, more peace, more power etc. However, if you don’t have faith, even what you have will be taken from you. You will be like the soil of the path where the seed was sown but couldn’t sprout, and the devil stole the seed away. ‘If we do not use our gift of faith, and the other gifts God has given us, we shall lose them (Matthew 25:24-30). If we do not exercise our legs, we will soon be unable to walk. As it is with our bodies, so it is with our spiritual lives. Therefore let us use our ears (verse 23) and consider carefully what we hear!’ Tom Hale: ‘The applied New Testament Commentary,’ p.230.

‘There is no such thing as standing still in the spiritual life; if we cease to grow, then we shrink. This is either a promise or a warning, depending on our spiritual attitude.’ Alan Cole: ‘New Bible Commentary,’p.958.

Whatever we receive from God is to be used.

 

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1478: Wednesday 16th August 2017: Mark 4:13-20: Timeless truths.

Mark 4:13-20: Timeless truths.

“13 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14 The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop – some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.’ ” NIV UK

In Jesus’ day, there was a widely held expectation that the Kingdom of God would break into the world order with a huge explosion, and carry all before it. So Jesus had to manage some expectations. In the short term, that was not going to happen.

For many years, this parable has helped me to understand a number of ministry disappointments. It is true that some converts shoot off like a rocket, and never look back (20). However, there are many who profess Christianity, but quickly (or eventually) come to a halt. They drop out of the race. They run well for a time, and then pull up with a terrible limp and a horrible grimace. There will be no more running for them. Why should it be like this? Well, Jesus did not tell us to expect otherwise. When people ‘fall away’ we will still be sad. Of course we will. However, if we have paid attention to the teaching of the Master, we will probably not be shocked or surprised.

When you go out to ‘’sow’’ the ‘’seed’’ of the Word, you will experience certain realities. They are by no means all pleasant. You will find:

  • That you are in a spiritual conflict (15b);
  • That certain people have only superficial belief (17), and so their shelf-life is limited;
  • That the Word of God can be ‘’choked’’ in some (18, 19). Such people, I think, can be found in churches Sunday by Sunday. They may be professing Christians, but the Word is ‘’unfruitful’’ in them because they have heart trouble;
  • That some people who respond positively will grow significantly and wield enormous Kingdom influence (20).

PRAYER: Lord God, sometimes I feel disappointed. You know I do. But please help me to persevere in sowing the seed to the end of my days, thankful for the fruit I have seen, and believing for yet more fruit if I will just keep going,by your grace.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1477: Tuesday 15th August 2017: Mark 4:1-13: It’s alright to ask.

Mark 4:1-13: It’s alright to ask.

“Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered round him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: ‘Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.’  Then Jesus said, ‘Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.’  10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 He told them, ‘The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that,                  
        ‘“they may be ever seeing but never perceiving and ever hearing but never understanding;                                                                         otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!”  13 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?” NIV UK

Keep doing what you’ve been called to do (1a): ‘’Again…’’ (1) Jesus ‘’began to’’ do what He’d done before, and would do many times more. There is something important about persevering in the ministry God has given you, whether the results are spectacular or not. You know, like Jesus, that not all the ‘’seed’’ you sow will fall on ‘’good soil.’’ However, some will, so keep going. Do it most of all because you’ve been called to it. Just recently Dr. Haddon Robinson died. He was widely respected as both a preacher and teacher of preaching and preachers. I read some wonderful comments about him. One of them reflected his belief that regular, faithful, Biblical preaching has a major influence over time.There is a build up effect through the years. We have to keep going.

Keep thinking creatively about what you’re doing (1b): Don’t be afraid to innovate; to get into the odd ‘’boat’’ every now and then. Let’s never do things differently just for the sake of being different; but may we always be flexible enough to adjust our methods to the needs of the hour. Jesus did not stop teaching the Word. Some things are fixed and can never be changed. Yet although we have an unchanging message, we can be open to the possibility that the Spirit might show us changing means and methods of getting it across.

Keep scattering gospel seed (3, 4): Whatever your individual calling may be – and we have noted the need to persevere in it, whatever it is – every disciple is called to sow the seed of the Word. I just happened to be prayerfully reading this passage on a recent Saturday morning, when I was preparing to go to our church book table. We have this ministry on the first Saturday of the month, in the middle of our village. For somewhere between 15 – 20 years, we have given away probably thousands of brand new Christian books. I was reminded that some of this seed must fall on good ground. In fact, we already have evidence that it has. We also have the evidence of faith (Hebrews 11:1) in our hearts which shows us much more than we have ever seen with our eyes. We must keep sowing gospel words and deeds into this world. The results are in God’s Hands (26-29).

Keep praying (10, 11 and 34): Prayer is not just asking for things; it can also be asking about things; requesting further information; seeking wisdom, insight, revelation, understanding (James 1:5ff). It says here that they ‘’asked him about the parables. He told them…’’ They ‘’asked’’ and He ‘’told them.’’ It’s alright to ask.

Some words of Pastor William Still, written to his congregation in Aberdeen, in July 1980, seem to be pertinent to today’s subject: ‘The difference between liberals and conservatives is simply that we take the words of the Bible seriously and believe them, and that seems to work. For when the authority of the Word is harnessed to the power of the Holy Spirit through prayer…the church is quickened, numbers are added, the Christian life of worship, study, prayer and service becomes soberly exciting.’

Daily Bible thoughts 1476: Monday 14th August 2017: Mark 3:22-30: Throwing mud.


Mark 3:22-30: Throwing mud.

“22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.’  23 So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: ‘How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.’  30 He said this because they were saying, ‘He has an impure spirit.’” NIV UK

It is all too easy to demonise and label people you don’t like; those you disagree with. As far as ‘’the teachers of the law’’ were concerned, Jesus wasn’t accredited and therefore had to be sidelined. He must be labelled in such a way that people would no longer take him seriously. After all, if even His own family thought Him mad, what were others to make of him? It’s been pointed out that even at this early stage, Mark shows the dark shadow of the cross once again falling on Jesus.

Whatever criticisms people may level at Christ and Christianity, it probably won’t be difficult to find the holes in them. Jesus easily responded to what was hurled at Him on this day. His response doesn’t require explanation. It is self-evident. What they were suggesting was a logical absurdity. The argument had a huge hole in it.

We often worry about Jesus’ words in (28, 29). It’s understandable that we do. Tom Wright explains it well though. I find his words so helpful: ‘…if you decide firmly that the doctor who is offering to perform a life-saving operation on you is in fact a sadistic murderer, you will never give your consent to the operation.’ ‘Mark for everyone,’ p.38.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I thank you for your power over all evil. Deliver us from the evil one.

Daily Bible thoughts 1475: Friday 11th August 2017: Mark 3:20, 21/31-35: Family matters.

Mark 3:20-21/31-35: Family matters.

“20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’ “

“31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting round him, and they told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.’  33 ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ he asked.  34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle round him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.’ ” NIV UK

Here is encouragement for those who who have family ‘’Standing outside’’ (31). You may feel that they don’t understand you anymore now that you have come to Christ; they don’t ‘get’ your Christian commitment. It may seem that you have greater affinity with members of the church family than with your own flesh and blood. They may think you’re mad (21). This is hard, but it’s a reality for many. However, just a few years later, Mary and the brothers of Jesus were no longer ‘’outside.’’ They were part of the prayer meeting which preceded Pentecost (Acts 1:14). They were now on the ‘inside.’ Things can change. Don’t lose heart. Keep on praying. Keep on believing.

There is a family likeness shared by the members of God’s family. All who are brothers and sisters in Christ will exhibit this to some degree – the desire to do God’s will (33-35). But it’s not just the wanting to do it. That’s a basic starting point. They actually do it. No one does this perfectly, but the members of God’s household make it their aim ‘’to please him’’ (2 Corinthians 5:9).

Matthew Henry makes the interesting suggestion that the portrait of Mary shown here, should prevent the unBiblical veneration of her that was to be shown in some parts of the church a number of years after her death. Mary was a great woman; but she was also a sinful woman, who needed the operation of grace in her life. So do we all.

Daily Bible thoughts 1474: Thursday 10th August 2017: Mark 3:13-19: Balancing the scales.

Mark 3:13-19: Balancing the scales.

“13 Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14 He appointed twelvethat they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15 and to have authority to drive out demons. 16 These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means ‘sons of thunder’), 18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.” NIV UK

Jesus calls into ministry those He wants. Some of them are found on earth’s scrap heap. They are among the world’s rejects, but the Lord wants them. He recycles them, even though they may have been discarded as so much rubbish. There are not many celebrity ‘A-listers’ in there. (I didn’t say ‘not any’, just ‘not many’). Everyone called, though, will come. First and foremost they are called to Jesus Himself; to relationship with Him: ‘’He appointed twelve…that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons…’ There is a beautiful balance between being and doing. Yet for many in church leadership the scales tip too far in the activism direction. There’s a need for a balancing exercise. In the life of discipleship relationship precedes work. Maybe that’s what led someone to say, ‘You can do more than pray after you you have prayed; but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.’ Now, of course, there is an exaggeration in that, but don’t miss the essential truth being communicated. There’s a nugget of gold to be extracted.

When David Watson got cancer, he said he realised that in all his busyness for Jesus, he had neglected intimacy with Him. His illness restricted his movements, but gave him lots of time to just be with the Lord and enjoy Him. That’s our primary calling.

When we need to appoint leaders for Christ’s church, let’s get up onto the ‘’mountainside’’ with Jesus. We need His perspective. There are people we will miss if we don’t get His viewpoint.

‘There is a job for everyone, even if only giving Him a little boat to use (v.9). If you want to assist Him, remember that the most important thing is being with Him (v.14). As He said, ‘’Without me, you can do nothing’’ (John 15:5).’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word,’

Daily Bible thoughts 1473: Wednesday 9th August 2017: Mark 3:7-12: On boats and other stuff.

Mark 3:7-12: On boats and other stuff.

“7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. When they heard all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. 10 For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. 11 Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God.’ 12 But he gave them strict orders not to tell others about him. ” NIV UK

First of all, a point to ponder from Matthew Henry: ‘Wise men, as much as they can, decline a crowd.’ ‘’Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him…’’ (9).

Think of the ‘’boat’’ as being representative of all your possessions, and note:

  • What you have can be of use to Jesus;
  • Even ‘’small’’ things may be of use to Jesus. We are prone to despise the day of small things. Our perspective is so often different from the Lord’s. Think, for example, of what He did with just five loaves and two fishes placed into His Hands;
  • Jesus has the right to tell you what to do with your goods. That is because they are not really yours; they are His;
  • Is Jesus Lord of all your stuff? Is everything yielded to Him?

Finally, back to Matthew Henry: ‘What abundance of good he did in his retirement. He did not withdraw to be idle, nor did he send back those who rudely crowded after him when he withdrew, but took it kindly, and gave them what they came for; for he never said to any that sought him diligently, Seek ye me in vain.’’

 PRAYER: Thank you Lord that it is true that we will seek you and find you when we seek you with all our hearts.

Daily Bible thoughts 1472: Tuesday 8th August 2017: Mark 3:1-6: Restoration.

Mark 3:1-6: Restoration.

“Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shrivelled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shrivelled hand, ‘Stand up in front of everyone.’  Then Jesus asked them, ‘Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’ But they remained silent.  He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.” NIV UK

Note three things:

  1. Meanness of spirit: What a terrible thing a religion has become when it has lost all heart; when it no longer cares about people and their needs. The Pharisees were just out to ‘get’ Jesus. They had Him in their sights and they wanted a reason to pull the trigger. As religious leaders, they should have been shepherds of the people. However, at least as far as this bunch were concerned, they had become hard-hearted and cold. They were ‘’stubborn’’ (5). They refused to see the truth about Jesus.
  2. Kindness of heart: Jesus loved the man who had the ‘’shrivelled hand’ (1). He knew He could do something for him. So, although He was aware of the presence of the sharp shooters, crouching in the bushes, aiming at Him, He didn’t hide (3, 4). He had both courage and kindness. He gave the Pharisees a further piece of convincing evidence. As far as they were concerned, though, it was just another stick to beat Him with.
  3. Commonality of purpose: The Pharisees and Herodians were not natural allies, but they found common cause in wanting to get rid of Jesus. It was like wanting to assassinate the best doctor ever! Why would you want to remove such a good Man from the world? However, man at his worst, hates God; religion at its worst rejects Christ. (This reminds me, by the way, of the reconciliation of Herod and Pilate towards the end of Jesus’ life: Luke 23:12).

It may be that a part of your life has shrivelled. Jesus bids you stretch it out towards Him today, and you too can prove His restorative power.

‘Through long disuse of powers which God has given, but which we have refrained from exercising, degeneration may have set in; Christ, however, bids us exert them again. Insofar as we dare to obey, we shall find ourselves able. Dare to speak, or pray, or work, not at the impulse of your nature, but at his bidding, and you will suddenly find yourself given power.’ F.B. Meyer: ‘Devotional commentary,’ p.422.

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