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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


February 2013

Daily Bible Thoughts 304 February 28th 2013

1 Chronicles 7

Amidst another long list of names (and some interesting insights into the lives of certain people) there is a repeated expression here. It was easy to see it in my Bible because I’d highlighted it some time back: fighting men (2, 5, 7, 9, 11b).

When I was involved in a church plant in my home city of Lancaster, in the early 1980’s, someone who was endeavouring to plant a church in the Scottish Highlands preached at one of our services. He had a repeated theme, much like the one you see in chapter 7.  Again and again during the course of his sermon he looked at me and said, ‘It’s a fight all the way, but fight on brother!’ I knew down to my boots that he was right. It was a struggle. Spiritually speaking it was ‘blood, sweat and tears’, and around six months after I left Lancaster this little church I had laboured over closed down. It was heart-breaking.

Where have all the Christian Soldiers gone? asked Graham Kendrick in one of his great songs. He went on to affirm: God put a fighter in me. In the fight we grow up. Spiritually speaking, ‘boys’ become ‘men’. Praise be to the LORD, my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle (Ps.144:1). It seems to me that much of that training goes on in the battle. Let’s listen to ourselves; so many of our prayers are to avoid, or be rid of, unpleasant things. This is totally understandable. We are congenitally allergic to pain. But war is dangerous (21), and the call of God is to Endure hardship…like a good soldier of Christ Jesus (2 Tim.2:3). It takes difficulties in our lives for us to learn to endure, and, it seems to me, God’s training ground for soldiering is much tougher than any earthly parade ground or camp. He doesn’t want us to be chocolate soldiers (C.T. Studd) who melt in the heat of battle. I believe it is true of some professing Christians that although they will accept the description fighting men as a useful theoretical description, in no way are they ready to go out to war (11b; see also 4 and 40).

On a different note, in life ‘stuff happens’ (21-23): ‘stuff’ you didn’t choose and don’t want. But you can’t escape it. In times of trial and grief you experience another dimension of the battle, as you fight, by God’s grace, to continue to walk with Him and enjoy Him, in spite of the hurt. There is a time to mourn, but there is also a time to move on. Ephraim allowed himself time to grieve his terrible loss (22) and that is so important. This process should not be short-circuited by your own impatience (or anyone else’s). But you will see that although he remembered; he never forgot; he also moved on (23). I met an inspirational elderly lady a year or two ago. She had been a widow for around 20 years. She and her husband loved each other very much, and served God together. It was a big blow to lose him. But she said to me, ‘When my husband died, I decided I was going to live!’

Finally, here’s an interesting sequel on the church plant in Lancaster. Recently I travelled over to that area to see elderly relatives who are very ill. I passed Ryland’s House where we used to meet. It’s  a community centre set in park land: formerly the home of Lord Ashton, who was a great benefactor to the city. More or less opposite the entrance to Ryland’s House, I noticed the former Methodist Church building. It is now the home of what is, I understand, a thriving ‘Elim’ Pentecostal church. It was re-launched probably towards ten years ago, and our former secretary was a part of the new beginning. It was with great joy that he rang me to tell me, and my heart leapt at the news. Was all that praying and fasting in Ryland’s House worth it? Look across the road today and tell me it wasn’t!

Daily Prayer February 28th 2013

Prayer: However hot the fight, and no matter how disappointingly the battle may seem to be going, strengthen me Lord, please, to fight on. It’s a fight all the way, but by your grace I trust to endure.

Daily Bible thoughts 303 February 27th 2013

Psalm 89:30-37

These verses continue with God’s promise to David (a section begun in verse 19). Sometimes we can have problems with the Bible because of what we think it says rather than what it actually does say. In other words, the problem does not lie in its meaning but in our interpretation. The central dilemma of this Psalm is resolved when we look closely at what God did say. Verses 30 -32 outline what happened. This was the very situation they were wrestling with. But God had said: If they spit on the directions I give them and tear up the rules I post for them – I’ll rub their faces in the dirt of their rebellion and make them face the music. The Message. Here was a very important feature of God’s unconditional covenant with David: if any individual king broke the covenant, that king would be punished (32), and all of Israel would suffer as a result (see 2 Samuel 7:14). But God’s love would not be taken from him (33). That is, his line would not be utterly destroyed.

However, there then comes a reiteration of God’s gracious promise (33-37). There are two important points to hold on to here:

God’s Word is God’s Word: Look at the repetition of my in (30-32). Therefore:

God’s Word is like God Himself: Would it be overdoing it to say that it is His character translated into print? I don’t think so. So, like God Himself, His Word is:

a.)    An inviolable Word (34a);

b.)    An unalterable Word (34b);

c.)     A truthful Word (35b). (God is not a man that He should lie.)

d.)    A loving Word (33a);

e.)     A faithful Word (33b);

f.)      A sure Word (35a). God can swear by no-one greater than Himself (see Hebrews 6:13-20).

Do you think I’d withdraw my holy promise? Or take back words I’d already spoken? I’ve given my word, my whole and holy word; do you think I would lie to David? His family tree is here for good, his sovereignty as sure as the sun, Dependable as the phases of the moon, inescapable as weather. The Message.

Although they could not see it at the time, we know that (36, 37) have been fulfilled in the coming of Jesus. Even when the monarchy had to be destroyed because of continuing sin, David’s line was not destroyed, but would (will!) continue for ever (36). It will do so because the Lord Jesus Christ, the son of David, Son of God, reigns forever in the power of an indestructible life. (Luke 1:32, 33; see Romans 1:1-4 and Hebrews 7:16b).

In ‘Every day with Jesus’ many years ago, Selwyn Hughes ran a series looking at character after character in the Bible, and showing how in each life God’s promise seemed to go into reverse gear for a time, only to be fulfilled at a later date. Let’s not judge by appearances, but seek to understand what God has said and affirm it in the face of apparently contradictory circumstances.

Daily Prayer 27th February 2013

Prayer: Lord Jesus, what can I say? I love you and I am in awe of all you are. You simply overwhelm and amaze me. All glory be to your inexpressibly great and mighty Name. What a God! What a plan!!

Daily Prayer 26th February 2013

Prayer: Lord God, this way of treating enemies looks wonderfully neat on paper; and so does the call to love other believers. In reality it can be so hard. So I once again express my need for your helping grace, and I know you will not let me down.

Daily Bible Thoughts 302 February 26th 2013

Romans 12: 14-21

Two strands are interwoven in this section:

How to deal with your enemies (14): Verse 14 takes us back in thought to the Sermon on the Mount (Matt.5: 10-12). We are to Bless those who persecute us. The word is repeated, as if for emphasis. We are not to curse. Blessing involves thanking God for our enemies (recognising that He has a purpose in their malicious involvement in our lives. Is there someone in your world who is like grit in the oyster? Recognise that God is using this ‘irritant’ to turn you into a ‘pearl’. Thank Him for their major contribution to your sanctification! Hard? Yes. But possible by God’s grace.) It also means we pray for them. It is hard to intercede for people without coming to love them, and to see them in a different light (even if we don’t feel as much affection as we consider we ought to at the start.) Part of blessing is being good to people; being kind (20/21). Reach out a hand to them and seek to help them, even though the only part of their anatomy they’re thrusting at you is a fist. There is a sense of causing them to burn with shame (20b) when you return evil with good. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. The Message. The exhortation here tells us clearly not to try to take matters into our own hands in order to wreak vengeance. Commit them to God; leave them with Him (17a, 19). He is the perfect Expert at dealing with all manner of people. The world says, ‘Don’t get mad, get even!’ God’s ways are so different. In everything, we are called to seek to do what is right (17b). Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. The Message.

How to live with your friends: Paul writes about how to get on with your fellow-Christians.

  1. Live sympathetically (15): try to enter into the feelings/experiences of others; to sit where they sit. Empathy has been defined as ‘your pain in my heart.’ It could equally be ‘your joy’ there too.
  2. Live harmoniously/peacefully (16a/18): However, whilst we must Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Eph.4:3), there is a realistic recognition here that we can only go so far. One or two people are so cranky and contentious and war-like that they make it almost impossible to be at peace with them; so determined are they to have a scrap. Nevertheless, do your very best to have loving relationships with everyone.
  3. Live humbly (16b; see also 3). Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. The Message. This, of course, reaches out beyond ‘the pews’ and into life in the world also. Don’t look down your nose at anyone or consider yourself superior. A lady with a rather jaundiced view of things once said to the pastor of a fairly middle-class church: ‘This church is just like a country club! What would you do if someone came in from….?’(and she named a particular housing estate, which was perhaps despised by some in that area). The pastor was grateful that he could calmly respond: ‘Actually, someone has already joined us from there and they are welcomed and loved!!’ His words were absolutely true, and there are no prizes for that particular congregation. That is just how it should be. Whatever our background or social status in the world, in the church we are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal.3:28).

Daily Prayer February 25th

O Lord, let us truly recognise that how we treat others is how we treat you. Cause this understanding to sink deep into our hearts and transform our relationships

Daily Bible thoughts 301

Daily Bible thoughts 301: Monday 25th February 2013: Romans 12:9-13

Each exhortation here is worthy of ‘sucking’ like a sweet, to get the maximum out of it. Or, to change the image, be like the bee, working to extract all the pollen from the flower. Give meditative thought/reflection to each statement. But note the ‘atmosphere’ in which these words are written; it is one of mutual love. All we are called to be and do is within the context of a loving church community.

Love must be sincere (9a): A note in a Bible I looked at earlier today spoke about how easily we can feign love and concern under a cover of treating people politely. It can all be pretence. We can get into that way of being if we are not careful. We don’t mean to be frauds, but we are so busy, pulled this way and that in our daily lives, and we can become drained of genuine compassion. Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. The Message.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love (10a): Loving people is fundamentally about a commitment to treat people as God has treated us; to act towards others as we would want them to act towards us. Loving actions may have to come before loving feelings. This is about a decision to pour ourselves into the lives of others in a godly way because it is the right thing to do, and we trust God to energise us. (The psychologist William James pointed out that, over time, our feelings tend to catch up with our actions.)

Honour one another above yourselves (10b): See also Philippians 2:3, 4. I have often thought that if we put the teaching in these two verses into practice, we would never have disharmony in church life….practice playing second fiddle. The Message. (It takes more grace than I can tell, to play the second fiddle well.)

Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Of course, giving hospitality is one way of helping those in need. As Jesus said, don’t invite to your table those who will invite you back. Forget any thought of ‘exchanging’ hospitality. Freely give it to those who can’t or won’t return it. (Of course, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ever invite people round who will invite you back, but our focus should be on serving the needy. This is not a mutual bargain but an act of Christian service.)

It’s been said that loving people will hit you most of all in your diary and wallet. It will cost you time and money. These last two exhortations in our section for today highlight this. There will probably be a financial cost in helping the needy, and a time cost in opening your home. But as Jesus taught: It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:17, 18).

One final thought: cooking may not be your thing, but don’t let that stop you opening your home. A cup of tea and biscuit can be shared with great love and warmth and with sincere welcome. Give people the gift of your time and share what you have with them. There is a great need in the church for mature Christians who will open their hearts and homes to new Christians on a regular basis, and mentor them in the things of Christ. Will you step up and rise to this challenge (and opportunity!!)

Stephen’s Daily Bible Notes – February 2013

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