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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Daily Bible thoughts: Thursday 8th December 2016: John 20:19-23: The secret of peace.

John 20:19-23: The secret of peace.(please click for passage)

Fear keeps many a door locked. Think about the damage done in relationships; the ways we lock people out – often through fear. We have already seen that Jesus is not limited by our locked doors.

As I prayed though this section earlier today, I thought, ‘’When people come to church they are wanting to see Jesus (12:21). This is the longing in their hearts. So may my preaching answer that deep need.’’ The vision of Jesus is indissolubly linked to the experience of profound joy (20).Someone described joy as ‘’the serious business of heaven’’. But it begins even now as Jesus walks into your room (19) and shows Himself to you; when He breathes His Spirit into you and speaks peace upon your life. What a glorious, life-changing thing it is to meet Jesus. You don’t have to literally see Him with your eyes, or ear Him with your ears to know that you have encountered Him. However, I remember hearing the story of a prisoner, lying in his cell one night, and Jesus came through the walls and spoke to him.He’s not the only person, by any means, to have had such a vision. It’s an interesting thought that after the Lord ‘’showed them his hands and side’’ the next thing it says is that ‘’they saw the Lord.’’ If you see Jesus – really see Him – you will see His cross; see that His wounds were for you. To truly see Jesus means that you will see that He died for you. To see the Lord is to see that the heart of what He came to do centres on the work of Calvary.

Twice in this short section Jesus says, ‘’Peace be with you!’’ (19b, 21). In between those statements, what did Jesus do? ‘’…he showed them his hands and side’’ (20a). The cross is central to peace. There can be no experience of ‘shalom’ without ‘’Christ crucified’’ (Ephesians 2:14, 17). We need Jesus, today, to breathe His Spirit on us if we are to know His Presence, hear His voice, see His sacrifice and go out on His mission. The words in verse 23 do not mean that we can bestow forgiveness, but we can announce it. We can say to people who repent of their sins and trust in Jesus that they are forgiven.

PRAYER: ‘’O Breath of God breathe on us now, and move within us as we pray.’’

Daily Bible thoughts 1298: Wednesday 7th December 2016: John 20:19-20: No locked doors!

John 20:19-20: No locked doors! (Please click for todays passage)

There are no locked doors to Jesus!

It appears that there was something different about the Lord after His resurrection. He was not always instantly recognised. It also seems He could just appear and disappear without warning. He could enter a room without needing to bother with the door. A lock and a bolt could not stop Him.

There are locked doors to us; but there are no locked doors to Jesus. He can get into seemingly impregnable situations. Look how Bibles have found there way into ‘closed’ countries. See how the persecuted church has thrived in nation after nation where the ruling elite were desperately trying to keep Christ out. Jesus is unstoppable. He gets to where He wants to be. The ‘iron curtain’; the ‘bamboo curtain’ – they just have not stopped Him, and they can’t.

I was thinking recently that Jesus can get behind the ‘locked doors’ of people’s illnesses and problems. What seems intractable, insoluble, incurable is a specialism for our Lord. An old chorus says it well: ‘’Got any rivers you think are uncrossable? Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through? God specialises in things thought impossible. He can do just what no other can do.’’

So have hope and pray on. Pray for open doors (Colossians 4:3;1 Corinthians 16:9).     ‘’Faith, mighty faith, the promise sees, and looks to that alone. Laughs at impossibilities and cries, ‘It shall be done!’ “

But, and it’s an important point, wouldn’t you want the Lord Jesus to keep every door tightly shut that He doesn’t want you to go through? We may need protecting from ourselves and our desires.  ‘’What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open’’ (Isaiah 22:22; Revelation 3:7). There is safety in that.

Daily Bible thoughts1297: Tuesday 6th December 2016: John 20:14-18: Don’t lose these keys!

John 20:14-18: Don’t lose these keys!(please click for passage)

How can you be a joyful disciple in all circumstances? How can you avoid unnecessary tears? Here’s a bunch of keys:

Key one: Recognise the presence of Jesus in negative circumstances (14, 15). Learn to see Him there with you. Admittedly, this may take time, and will not be possible without the Lord’s own gracious revelation. Nevertheless, for our part, we can believe that there are no wasted situations, and discipline ourselves to look for Jesus at work when He most seems absent. Pray that you will see ‘’Jesus standing there’’ in the midst of your pain, and recognise Him.

Key two: Question yourself (15a). In other words, counsel yourself. Ask, ‘’Why?’’ ‘’Why are you feeling (thinking, acting) like this? If this other reality is true; if Jesus is alive; then ‘Why?’ Why the downcast eyes and the down turned mouth? Why?” There is a precedent for this taking yourself in hand approach in the psalms. For example: ‘’Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.’’ (Psalm 42:5, 11; Psalm 43:5). Many years ago, a preacher friend painted a verbal picture, and it has remained on the canvas of my heart,unfaded, ever since. He said, ‘It’s like the psalmist takes his soul out of his body and gives it a good talking to.’ Learn to preach to a congregation of one – YOU!                               On occasions, we may need other people to ask these questions of us. Sometimes we will need the courage to ask such questions of others. I’m still working on this in the belief that good questions can be more helpful than good answers. A well fashioned, well-timed question can leave you seeing the irrationality of your feelings, the implausibility of your thoughts, and the unbelief in your behaviour.

Key three: To have real joy and peace you must see who Jesus is. You cannot live the Christian life to the fullest while you remain mistaken about His identity (15). If you think Jesus is someone other than who He actually is, you will have problems. Bad theology leads to bad living. (However, consider this: ‘’Mary’s intuitive guess, that he must be the gardener, was wrong at one level and right, deeply right, at another. This is the new creation. Jesus is the beginning of it. Remember Pilate: ‘Here’s the man!’ Here he is: the new Adam, the gardener, charged with bringing the chaos of God’s creation into new order, into flower, into fruitfulness. He has come to uproot the thorns and thistles and replace them with blossoms and harvests.’’ Tom Wright: ‘John for everyone, part two,’p.146.)

Key four: Listen out for the Word of Christ. Live your life daily close to the sound of His voice. One word from the Lord can be life-changing. Eugene Peterson makes the point that prayer is always an answering word – the Word of God comes first. In the last twenty four hours I have been discovering afresh how powerful it is to take the Bible and turn it into prayer. Much of what I’m writing today has come from what I’ve seen in praying the Scriptures.

Key five: Submit to Christ as Lord (17, 18). ‘’Do whatever he tells you’’ (John 2:5). Mary’s ‘agenda’ was not a bad one. It was born of love and adoration for Jesus. She wanted to cling to Him. But Jesus’ agenda for her was different. This was now a new day. Their relationship would be on a different footing. She would need to relate to Him ‘’after the flesh’’ no longer. He wanted her to ‘’Go…and tell…’’ Tom Wright, thinking about the prejudice against women in that day, makes the observation that anyone wanting to invent this story would not make a woman the ‘star’ of the show, and especially not a woman like Mary Magdalene.

It’s been said that, ‘’God loves you, and people have a wonderful plan for your life.’’ Sometimes we too have to resist other people’s well meaning plans for us. Jesus Christ is Lord, and His is the only agenda which counts. ‘’Do whatever he tells you.’’

DAILY BIBLE THOUGHTS 1296: MONDAY 5TH DECEMBER, 2016: JOHN 20:10-18: WHAT’S IN A NAME?

JOHN 20:10-18:WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Doctor R.W.Dale was a British Congregational pastor and theologian. One day he was preparing an Easter sermon when the truth that Christ truly is alive hit him forcibly. He had known the doctrine Iin his mind for years, but that day it overwhelmed his heart. From then on ‘’the living Christ’’ became the theme of his preaching, and he got his congregation to sing a Easter hymn every Sunday morning: ‘’…Sunday,you know, is the day on which Christ left the dead.’’

It’s been pointed out that it appears we have a kind of ‘lying in state’ in (12) – but with the body missing. (It’s interesting that a little while earlier, Peter and John had apparently not seen these angels. Here is another example of that ‘ring of truth’ so evident in the gospels. Someone wanting to manufacture a story would probably want to erase such an inconvenient detail).                                                                                                                                There was no body in the tomb because Jesus stood outside it. He’s alive. There was something different about Jesus in His resurrection appearances. People often didn’t recognise Him immediately. That was the case with Mary, and we can’t help but smile wryly at her words spoken to the Lord (15b).                                                                                   Jesus had said earlier, in His famous ‘’good shepherd’’ discourse: ‘’…his sheep follow him because they know his voice…they do not recognise a stranger’s voice’’ (10:4,5). Again He said: ‘’My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me’’ (10:27).           Hearing Jesus speak your name makes all the difference. It did for Mary; it did also for Saul of Tarsus when he was ‘’still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples’’ (Acts 9:1). He was on his way to Damascus, armed with arrest warrants to put Christians behind bars. But while on his journey he ‘’felt the Hand of the Heavenly Policeman’ on his shoulder. He was apprehended by Jesus and taken into custody. The Lord spoke to him by name (Acts 9:4), and everything turned around from that point.

When you hear Jesus speak, you know who He is (16), and you discover what He wants you to do (17). Both Mary and Saul heard His voice and received a commission (Acts 9:15, 16). There can be a tendency for believers to ‘’hold on’’ to Jesus, but our job is to ‘’tell’’. Mary did not waste any more time standing around weeping. She was swift to pass on the good news (18), becoming an ‘apostle’ to the apostles. ‘’Mary not only shared the fact of His resurrection and that she had seen Him personally, but she also reported the words that He had spoken to her. Again, we see the importance of the Word of God. Mary could not transfer her experience over to them, but she could share the Word, and it is the Word that generates faith (Rom.10:17). The living Christ shared His living Word (1 Peter1:23-25).’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘The Wiersbe Bible Commentary (NT)’, P.312.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, please fill my heart with so much love for you, and so much joy because of you, that my heart empties out in words about you. It thrills me to know that you know me by name. Thank you.

Daily Bible thoughts 1295: Friday 2nd December 2016: John 20:10-15: ”The Lord is close to the broken-hearted.”

John 20:10-15: ”The Lord is close to the broken-hearted.”(please click for passage)

Love lingers. Mary, it seems, could not bear to leave the site where Jesus had been laid in death. Love’s reward is to meet with Jesus, and that was Mary’s experience on this momentous day.

If you have tears in your eyes or in your heart, you are in my prayers today. Sometimes we weep outwardly, and other times inwardly. Some ‘tears’ are not watery; they are more like ‘tears’ at the fabric of your heart. Either way, it remains the case that ”The LORD is close to the broken-hearted” (Psalm 34:18). He keeps all our tears in His ”bottle.” He sees our crying and He cares.

Often we need to weep, and it’s a healing/cleansing thing. Negative stuff can leave our bodies transported down the canal of tears. A cargo of debris gently floats away on the tide. When people dam their tears; when they stifle them with firm resolve, they regularly pay a price, one way or another. It’s not good to ‘bottle it up’. Perhaps,today, you need to ”let it go” – whatever ”it” is.

But on other occasions our tears have to be challenged: ”Woman, why are you crying?” (13, 15). Some of our tears may be wasted on illusions. Our thinking is all wrong and we just need a fresh perspective. We stand in need of revelation.Jesus was not dead, as Mary thought. His body had not been stolen. He was right there, behind her. She just needed the eyes to see. They would then become sparkly eyes.

Perhaps in the church we need a clearer vision than ever that Jesus is alive. It would alter a lot of things if that belief could travel the short (yet terribly long distance) from head to heart.

Selwyn Hughes once said, with regard to negative thoughts, ”Catch them. Challenge them. Change them.” That remains wise and helpful counsel. Not everything we think is true just because we happen to think it. 

The word ‘fear’ has been represented as an acrostic:

False

Expectations

Appearing

Real.

Does the above ring any bells?

”I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).

PRAYER: Lord God, you know where my mind needs changing and re-moulding. You see how susceptible I can be to lies. But sometimes my greatest difficulties are not with outright error, but with negative thinking; imagining ‘ghosts’ in the shadows that do not exist. Please challenge every tear and depressed feeling flowing from a lack of godly thinking. May my mind be renewed continually, for Jesus’ sake.

Daily Bible thoughts 1294: Thursday 1st December 2016: John 20:1-10:Hot pursuit.

John 20:1-10:Hot pursuit.(please click for todays passage)

This picture of John (we believe) and Peter, is full of realism. It’s true to what we know of the pair. The younger man eventually outran the older, but how typical of Peter to dive right into the tomb without hesitation. As someone said, there was no ”Shall-we-shan’t we?” No hesitation or deviation. Don’t you just love impulsive Peter?

I was thinking, when you get a sniff of a Biblical truth; a truth about Jesus that you maybe haven’t seen before (or not seen with clarity), you should go after it with all your might. Pursue it. Chase it down. Examine the evidence. Once you are fully convinced in your own mind, let it change your life, and share it with the world. Run after it; and then when you’ve caught it (or more to the point, it has captured you), run with it.

I have just finished reading ‘Wingspread’ – A.W. Tozer’s beautifully written biography of A.B. Simpson, the charismatic founder of the ‘Christian and Missionary Alliance’. While he was still a relatively young man Albert Simpson became very ill, and the medical prognosis was that he wouldn’t live very long. Then he came into contact with teaching about ‘divine healing’. Once he became sure of this for himself, not only did he experience a remarkable healing. From that point onwards it became a significant emphasis in his ministry and that of the movement he initiated.

When John looked into the grave he saw an orderly scene. If grave robbers had called, they would have ripped off the bandages and left them strewn about the place, or they would have taken body, grave clothes and all. But what John saw suggested the body of Jesus had just passed through the clothes (and,presumably, out through the walls). It’s been said that they looked something like a collapsed balloon when all the air has gone out

It was still dusky (1) maybe, but daylight was beginning to dawn for Jesus’ disciples. For John it was a ”bit like falling in love; a bit like sunrise; a bit like the sound of rain at the end of a long drought…the world had turned a corner,out of its long winter and into spring at last.” Tom Wright: ‘John for everyone, part 2’, p.142.

Daily Bible thoughts 1293: Wednesday 30th November 2016: John 20:1-3: The day that changed the world.

John 20:1-3: The day that changed the world.(please click for todays passage)

WHAT MARY DID: Our last look at John 19 revealed two courageous men. Chapter 20 opens with a glimpse of a courageous woman. Her name was ”Mary of Magdala” (1), and it must have taken considerable courage to be out in Jerusalem that early morning, ”while it was still dark”. But those forgiven much, love much, and that was Mary Magdalene. Bob Goff wrote a book entitled, ”Love does”. Love cannot stand idly by when there are duties to be performed; good deeds to be done. What will your love drive you to do this day? It may take courage. (Incidentally, many Christians through the centuries have reported the wonderful spiritual revelations they have had in the early part of the day.)

WHAT MARY SAW: She ”saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance” (1). The tomb was a cave cut out of the rock. I have read that the stone placed in front of this tomb would have been heavy. It fitted into a groove that went slightly downhill, and probably took several men to roll it into place. This was a security measure to prevent grave-robbers from successfully pursuing their disgraceful aims. But Mary saw that the huge, heavy stone placed in front of Jesus’ grave had been rolled away. All four gospels report this to be the case, and the fact that the grave was empty. Someone observed, ”The stone was rolled away, not to let Jesus out, but the church in.”

WHAT MARY SAID: She hurried off and reported her staggering discovery ”to Simon Peter” and the beloved disciple (2a). She does not specify in her breathless outpouring who ”They” are, or who ”we” are (2b). We know from elsewhere that others were with Mary that morning (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1 and Luke 24:1). And we also know that no-one took Jesus out of the tomb except the Father and the Holy Spirit. Mary appears in John as the first apostle; an apostle to the apostles – a messenger, a ‘sent one’. It’s fascinating that the first witnesses to the resurrection were women, and a woman’s testimony was not accepted in a Jewish law court. You surely would not invent a story like this? Would you not try to edit out the unacceptable bits?

This I can say for sure: it’s good to make haste to spread the good news of the empty tomb. When we hear it we should ‘run’ to check it out; to examine the evidence. This matters so much.  It’s been pointed out that there is more running in John 20:1-10 than in the rest of the gospels put together. 

Professor Joad was a philosopher at London University, and a broadcaster. He was once asked, ”Which figure of history would you most like to meet, and what question would you put to him or her?” He replied, ”Jesus of Nazareth. And I would ask Him, ‘Did you or did you not rise from the dead?’ ”

RUN to see for yourself!

Daily Bible thoughts 1292: Tuesday 29th November 2016: John 19: 38-42: Out of hiding.

 John 19:38-42: Out of hiding.(please click for todays passage)

Some years ago, I was significantly affected by the writings of John White. He was a Christian and a psychiatrist, and he wrote some penetrating, insightful books about Christianity. His book, ‘The Fight’, remains a classic. I still remember many thoughts and ideas from another book of his, ‘The Race’. In one chapter he spoke about how evangelism is fundamentally about honesty. You are not in hiding. You are a Christian and you are not ashamed of the fact. You don’t wear a disguise. You are who you are. You let your light ”shine” rather than hiding it ”under a bushel”.

This lovely ending to John 19 shows the power of the Cross to put courage, nerve and sinew into timid souls. We are told that Joseph of Arimathea, who was evidently a wealthy man, ”was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews” (38). It is always fear of something or someone that causes a person to keep their faith under wraps. Previously, Nicodemus ”had visited Jesus at night” (39).  That may or not have been about fear. I’m not sure. But now, at a time when the majority of Disciples had run away; an uneasy time when a sense of danger hung in the air, these two men did a loving and brave thing. This was not about courting popularity. There was nothing in it for themselves as far as I can see. But they summoned courage to get the body of Jesus, with ”Pilate’s permission” (38b). They wanted to do the right thing (40b) – to give Jesus a decent burial. It’s a charming story of bravery, love and loyalty. I find in it an abiding to challenge to publicly identify with Christ in faithful witness, and to use what He blesses us with as good stewards. Our material blessings should all be consecrated to the service of Jesus. The tomb was Joseph’s. It would have been a cave hewn out of rock, and would have taken a considerable amount of work to create. But he gave this thing of value to Jesus. It has been pointed out that the spices brought were many times more than Mary’s earlier offering (12:3), and it was thought that she was extravagant. This was the kind of quantity (and quality) you would bring to a King. That is surely the point. These two men, on a united mission of love, agreed with Pilate’s notice, but for vastly different reasons.

Well, this quote seems a good way to prepare ourselves for the wonders ahead:

”John, we may be sure, intends us to remember the last time we stood before a tomb. Jesus wept outside Lazarus’s tomb (11.35), but when they rolled the stone away there was no smell of decomposition (11.41). Wait, John says to us. Watch with me through this sabbath, this quiet, sad rest. Wait for this, the final day, the seventh day, to pass. God rested on the seventh day. So must Jesus. But this whole book has been about new creation. Wait for the eighth day.” Tom Wright: ‘John for everyone’, part 2, p.139.

”It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I want to stand with with you and for the whole world to know that I am yours. Please forgive me for times when I have lacked courage and gone into hiding.

Daily Bible thoughts 1291: Monday 28th November 2016: John 19:31-37: Water and wine.

John 19:31-37: Water and wine.(please click for passage)

Here are some things to consider from this section of John 19:

The callousness of religion. Religion prioritises rules over people. In breaking the legs of the crucifixion victims their suffering was brought to a swift end. But I don’t believe this was in the mind of ”the Jews”. They had a religious preoccupation. The next day was not just a ”sabbath”, but a special one on their calendar. The Bible insisted that the bodies of executed people should not be left hanging overnight (Deuteronomy 21:23); it would pollute the land. They were concerned about that, but not what they had done to the innocent Jesus. We have already observed ,though, that Jesus was dead when they came to Him. No-one took His life from Him. He laid it down of His own accord (30). Does my faith show itself in genuine love for people? When you boil it all down, Christianity is about loving God and loving people. Whatever we do to ”the least” of His ”brothers” we do to Him (Matthew 25:31-46). If your religion puts rule-keeping before people, it’s not the genuine kind (James 5:27).
The note of fulfilment. It was necessary for Jesus to be ”already dead” when the soldiers came to break His legs. This was prophesied (see Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12 and Psalm 34:20). Jesus came into the world as the final and perfect ‘Passover’ offering (1 Corinthians 5:7).Another prophecy was fulfilled in the piercing of Jesus’ side (Zechariah 12:10). Again we see who is in control. It isn’t either the Jewish or Roman authorities. Bad stuff is happening to Jesus, but it’s all FOR good. God is on the throne as Jesus is on the Cross. So in bad times, we can take confidence that God rules all things.
The eye-witness account (35). The writer says, ”I was there.”
The transformation of our ‘watery’ lives, into wine, comes from the work of Jesus on the Cross (34). Tom Wright makes the point that throughout the fourth gospel, where water and blood are mentioned, they point to Jesus as the source of life, cleansing and purification. All those themes come together in this moment (see also Zechariah 13:1).The water and blood,in separation, show conclusively that Jesus was dead. The soldier was surprised to find that Jesus had died so soon. Part of the torture of crucifixion lay in the fact that the victims could linger for days on crosses. Suspended by their arms, they wouldn’t be able to breathe, so they had to push themselves up on their legs in order to get air. Therefore breaking the legs brought on a swift end. In Jesus’ case, the spear thrust was just to make sure. If he wasn’t really dead, He would be after that. The ”sudden flow of blood and water” (34) said that He was. That is important to understand, because from earliest times there were those who argued that Jesus did not die. That’s how they explained away the resurrection. They said things like, ‘Jesus didn’t die on the Cross; He just fainted. Later on He revived in the cool of the tomb, and made His escape!’ Oh really?!!

PRAYER: I thank you Lord Jesus, with wonder and gratitude, that you went through all of this for undeserving me.
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