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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Month

January 2014

Daily Bible thoughts 534: Monday 20th January 2014:

 2 Chronicles 31:2-8

John Stott tells the story of visiting St. Paul’s Episcopalian church in Darien, Connecticut, U.S.A. It was a congregation that had been affected by the charismatic renewal. On the front of their Sunday bulletin there was the name of the Rector, then the Associate Rector and Assistant Rector. Then there came a line which read: ‘Ministers: the entire congregation.’ As John Stott observed, that is thoroughly Biblical.

We could say that Hezekiah was a good ‘man manager’ (2). He ensured that the priests and Levites were in their proper places and that they had the space and opportunity to serve. What he did with these leaders he surely did with others, putting the right people into the right ‘slots’. Hezekiah organized the groups of priests and Levites for their respective tasks, handing out job descriptions for conducting the services of worship… The Message. It remains a part of the responsibility of leadership to enable people to detect, develop and deploy their gifts. Ephesians 4 tells us that leaders have been given to the church to equip the saints for the work of ministry. We also read there that the body of Christ, the church, builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.’ (Eph.4:16)  I am struck by the phrase: to sing praise at the gates of the LORD’s dwelling (2). (The ‘face’ the church presents to the world ought to be one of thanksgiving. Emotions are contagious and joy is infectious. But we must not be ‘two-faced’. Let’s be like that at the gates because that’s how we are within the walls. We are those ‘gates’ to the world.)

We can also say that Hezekiah was a good example (3). He did not expect others to put their hands in their pockets while he kept his wallet padlocked! No, he was a fine example of godly generosity. Therefore his leadership had credibility. He wasn’t just a speech-maker. He ‘walked the walk’ before his people. That will always give you clout. You will see how Hezekiah’s desire in all of this was to obey the Bible. He didn’t want it to be sitting on a shelf, gathering dust. He hid it in his heart, and walked it in his shoes. Someone said: ‘This Book will keep you from sin; or sin will keep you from this book.’ Another said, ‘Here is the Word of God: know it in your head, stow it in your heart, show it in your life and sow it in the world.’ The thing about Hezekiah was that he clearly showed personal investment in the changes he knew needed to happen.

Hezekiah was a good communicator (4). He was clear in what he wanted; what he was calling for. He was asking for a generous outpouring of gifts so that the spiritual leaders of the nation could be supported in their Bible-centred work: …so they, without distraction or concern, could give themselves totally to The Revelation of GOD. The Message. What a response there was (5-8). They didn’t hold back, turning over a tithe of everything. They also brought in a tithe of their cattle, sheep, and anything else they owned that had been dedicated to GOD. The Message. The gifts came in heaps (6, 8). It was bountiful giving, and it seems Hezekiah and his officials were overwhelmed by it (8). But in all of this, we cannot under estimate the power of Hezekiah’s example. It is vital that leaders should themselves live the very Biblical things they may be asking of everyone else. And even if people can’t see, for example, your generosity, it is still important to be generous. That will almost certainly trigger something in the hearts of others, for we are dealing here with a deeply spiritual issue.

Prayer : Lord God, you love a cheerful giver. So I pray that I, and all of us in your church, will give with great joy and freedom, and with deep trust in you and your abundant provision.

Daily Bible thoughts 533: Friday 17th January 2014:

 Psalm 103:13-22

I found a note in my Bible, written on the 28th August 1993. The Lord placed verse 13 in my mind before I read it later on in the day in my prescribed reading. On that day I had felt quite upset about something. I can’t remember what it was, and I’m not saying it was legitimate. But I thought about how my heart goes out to my daughter, Christel, when she is in a similar situation (She was only two at the time, but it is still the case at the age of 23!). At that particular time it was as though God said to me, ‘I’m like that with you.’

The rock star, Sting, has a song that goes, ‘How fragile we are.’ That point has not escaped God’s notice. He formed  us from dust. He knows our glory, but He also knows how easily we ‘break’. We are like grass  or a flower. We may be beautiful but we are easily and quickly blown away. God knows how frail and fragile we are, even though we flourish for a time. He is aware how temporary  are our earthly lives (14, 15).

In contrast with the transience of our lives, the Lord’s love is an eternal reality (17) and it is experienced by those who fear him (17, 13) i.e. those who revere and worship Him. What’s more, we need not fear for future generations if they continue to honour God and walk with Him (17b, 18). He will do right by them.

As parents feel for their children, GOD feels for those who fear him. He knows us inside and out, keeps in mind that we’re made of mud. Men and women don’t live very long; like wildflowers they spring up and blossom, But a storm snuffs them out just as quickly, leaving nothing to show they were here. God’s love, though, is ever and always, eternally present to all who fear him, Making everything right for them and their children as they follow his Covenant ways and remember to do whatever he said. The Message.

At the heart of this psalm we find this throbbing statement (19). This truly is its pulse; its heartbeat. Not only is God’s love eternal; we can also assert that His throne is immoveable (19). ‘God is still on the throne.’ He will never be off it!

No wonder this psalm that begins with a call to praise (1, 2), ends with an identical (and yet expanded) call . At the end, the exhortation is the same as at the start. It is addressed to my soul. I need to continually remind myself how great and good God is and praise Him.

But it is also a call to all the angels and everyone and everything in the created order to join in the chorus of praise (20-22). It is nothing less than this Sovereign and loving God deserves.

Bless GOD, all you armies of angels, alert to respond to whatever he wills. Bless GOD, all creatures, wherever you are – everything and everyone made by GOD.

And you, O my soul, bless GOD! The Message.

Prayer: Teach me to number my days so that I may gain a heart of wisdom. Help me not to waste this ‘breath’ that is my short life. Let it count for eternity.

Daily Bible thoughts 532: Thursday 16th January 2014:

 2 Corinthians 1:15-22

‘Man proposes, but God disposes.’

We can make our plans in good faith, but they don’t always work out.

As we saw yesterday, Paul had come under heavy and unfair criticism from some of the Corinthians (who were themselves being influenced by certain infiltrating false apostles who had a vested interest in putting Paul down and lifting themselves up at his expense.) Reading between the lines, one of their accusations was that he was fickle; that he easily broke his promises. ‘He makes a plan to visit,’ they said, ‘then he changes his mind. He calls it off. You don’t know where you are with the man!’ Paul’s answer was to ask a question: Are you going to accuse me of being flip with my promises because it didn’t work out? Do you think I talk out of both sides of my mouth – a glib yes one moment, a glib no the next? Well, you’re wrong. I try to be as true to my word as God is to his. Our word to you wasn’t a careless yes canceled by an indifferent no. How could it be? The Message.

Paul goes on to say two things that I will try to paraphrase: We can’t be accused of lightly saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’ when:

  • Our message is a great big ‘YES’ (20). Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the YES of Jesus. The Message. For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘’Yes’’ in Christ. (N.I.V.)…for it is he who is the ‘’YES’’ to all God’s promises. (GNB).He is the divine Yes. Every promise of God finds its affirmative in Him… (J.B. Phillips). Jesus is the ‘YES’ to all God’s promises. Every one finds its fulfilment in Him. We also utter our own ‘yes’ (‘’Amen’’) by faith. We add our own signature to the cheque made out by God and already signed by Jesus. So we can draw on all the riches God has for us. (So Paul is saying that there is no arbitrary breaking of promises with God. Just as God is faithful in fulfilling all His promises, so Paul, as a preacher of this positive gospel, may be trusted not to say one thing about his travel itinerary, and then change it without real cause.)
  • We’re a great big ‘yes’ (21, 22). God has spoken His ‘yes’ over us; shown that we’re His and that He’s paid for us by giving to us His Holy Spirit: God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge – a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete. The Message. Here Paul is saying ‘It’s God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ.Because I’ve been given the Holy Spirit as you have you can be sure that God will cause me to act with integrity.’

Sometimes we can’t understand what another Christian does. But if they are earnestly seeking God, we can trust the Holy Spirit who is in them to guide them (just as He does with us.) We would want to be given the benefit of the doubt, so let’s be generous hearted. Once we start to question the integrity of others or distrust their words, the door is opened to all kinds of problems. Warren W. Wiersbe: The Wiersbe Bible Commentary (New Testament) p.506                   

 Prayer: I want to always remember, dear Lord, that I am no-one else’s judge. There is so much in me to sort out I hardly have time to point the finger at others. Please keep working on me, and help me to work on me too, by the power of your Holy Spirit!

Daily Bible thoughts 531: Wednesday 15th January 2014:

 2 Corinthians 1:12-14

There is something here about:

  1. Conscience (12): Thank God for conscience. It is important that you should never violate it. It is possible to sear your conscience by repeatedly stifling it, so that it is no longer soft and sensitive. Conscience is like an internal moral compass. But it is not an infallible guide. It is not always right. It has to be correctly educated. As someone said, it has to be set to the ‘magnetic north’ of Scripture. Anyway, as far as Paul was concerned, he and his colleagues had a clear conscience about how they had behaved generally, and particularly in their dealings with the church in Corinth. Reading between the lines in this letter, Paul was being heavily (and unfairly) criticised. But, he says, we can face the world – and even more importantly, face you with our heads held high. The Message. (However, see 1 Cor.4:4, 5 for a qualifier.)
  2. Conduct (12): Paul was quite sure before God that he and his associates had behaved with holiness, sincerity and wisdom, whatever anyone else might allege. But this wasn’t a boast in a proud, egotistical sense. Paul wasn’t, as it were, putting in his thumb, pulling out a plumb and saying, ‘What a good boy am I!’ Oh no. His boast was in the Lord (1 Cor.1:29, 31). He was writing here about qualities that are from God. His life was according to God’s grace. The Christian life is not difficult; it is impossible! No-one can live it out of their own resources. Thankfully we don’t have to. We have the Holy Spirit within us, and he makes holiness possible.
  3. Clarity (13, 14): One of the charges levelled against Paul is implicit here. It comes out clearly in The Message: Don’t try to read between the lines or look for hidden meanings in this letter. We’re writing plain, unembellished truth, hoping that you’ll now see the whole picture as well as you’ve seen some of the details. Paul was a plain, straightforward man, and he said what he meant and meant what he said. Even though there are some difficult things in Paul’s writings that some may twist, Paul wanted to be understood; desired to be clear. He wasn’t ‘back tracking’. He did not send ‘secret messages’ or write in code. Christian leaders should prize the ideal of clarity and be as plain as they can be in their oral and written communication. When I was a young boy, perhaps in my early teens, I went to a Sunday night after church meeting in a home in Culcheth, Greater Manchester. We sat in a fairly large room and listened to a tape of a preacher who had spoken at the Filey Convention. Some people  there  that evening had brought the tape back from this well-known Christian event. Even though I was little more than a child at the time, I drank in every word. I knew I was listening to someone whose clarity and simplicity touched me and reached my heart. I have listened to this preacher through the years and have always felt that his transparency of speech is something to at least try to emulate. As he was to say himself, he believed in serving meat, but he also liked to pour on lots of ‘gravy’.

Prayer: Lord God, cause my conscience to be continually trained through feeding on your Word, and help me to never violate my conscience.

Daily Bible thoughts 530: Tuesday 14th January 2014:

 2 Chronicles 30:21- 31:1

Give God the gift of time (21-23): I noted on New Year’s Day what I consider to be a disturbing trend in contemporary church life. Many Christians seem increasingly reluctant to devote significant time to corporate worship events. They clutch their ‘personal’ time tightly to their chests and don’t really want to hear challenges about it. How amazing then, to read about God’s people going to Jerusalem for a seven day meeting, and then deciding to spend another week at ‘church’ on top of that. When the feast and festival…were over, the tables cleared and the floors swept, they all decided to keep going for another seven days! The Message. Furthermore, you find that all this took place within an atmosphere of music, song and great joy. There wasn’t a hint of: ‘Let’s get this over with then we can all go home and watch telly!’ They celebrated exuberantly. The Message. In fact, after the decision was taken to go into ‘extra time’ …they just kept on celebrating, and as joyfully as they began. The Message. Jerusalem was bursting with joy – nothing like this had taken place in Jerusalem since Solomon son of David king of Israel had built and dedicated The Temple (26). The Message. Remember this was all centuries before the coming of Jesus, His death on the cross and mighty resurrection. It was the era of ‘shadows’ when the ‘substance’ still lay far ahead of them. Even so, they had a glorious seven days of worship… The Message. Then they went into ‘time added on.’ (It is important that our singing should be to the LORD. Let’s teach ourselves to sing every day. We also need to remember that even the musical instruments played are the LORD’s (21). It’s all for Him. We must not fall into the trap of wanting church music to be about our tastes and preferences. We then make it a self-centred thing; a contradiction of the very essence of worship. When this happens people end up falling out over musical styles. It is sad, unnecessary and downright wrong.)

Give people the gift of encouragement (22): Hezekiah commended the Levites for the superb way in which they had led the people in the worship of God. Whether it’s musicians playing in worship gatherings, or others serving in often less obvious ways, everyone needs to hear words of encouragement. I believe it is part of leadership’s role to vocalise such words. We need to be quick to say ‘thank you’ and do it often. There is a Biblical way to encourage a person that glorifies God whilst honouring the individual and their gifts. We don’t want to encourage the expansion of someone’s hat size (!!), but there is a way of expressing appreciation that will enlarge hearts and is likely to expand Kingdom contribution.

Give heaven the sound of your prayers (27): There is much teaching in the Bible on the efficacy of prayer. But especially in yesterday’s reading and today’s there is big encouragement to leaders to pray for their people. And God listened, listened as the ascending sound of their prayers entered his holy heaven. The Message. (See also 18-20). Church leaders often confess that they are too busy to pray. I believe it was Martin Luther who said he had so much to do the next day that he would need to rise early in the morning to spend several hours in prayer. He was ‘too busy not to pray.’

Give your world a transformed you! (31:1): They all went home and resumed their everyday lives. The Message. But they didn’t go home from ‘church’ as the same people. They had a ‘smashing’ time (quite literally!) as they dealt radically with sin. Our greatest need is not for long and lively services, but for meetings with Almighty God that change us.

Prayer: Lord, may I never forget that worship is all about you. It’s not about me, as if you should do things my way.

Daily Bible thoughts 529: Monday 13th January 2014:

 2 Chronicles 30:13 – 20

Although there were those who rejected the invitation, a very large crowd accepted (12).  It turned out that there was a tremendous crowd of people…The Message. Today you may experience disappointments and reversals, but refuse to be downcast. Hold on to the hope of a great harvest. Losing the odd skirmish here and there (or appearing to) does not necessarily mean the loss of the war altogether. Take heart and keep moving forward, even though progress may be painfully slow at times; and on other occasions may appear non-existent.

Some Christians seem to think that if a work grows big it must be superficial. But it ain’t necessarily so! This very large crowd who gathered for ‘church’ were serious in their intent (14), and they got to work getting rid of the accumulated pagan junk and dumping it. They didn’t just come together for a jolly service to then return home and be the same old people. They understood that change was necessary and they were fully prepared to roll up their sleeves and be part of it. There were things that needed transporting to the garbage heap and they were going to escort them off the premises.

Having said this, there was a mixed multitude attending the Passover that day. There were priests and Levites present who, up to this point, had been tardy in their duties. It’s interesting to see how the commitment of some can positively affect others: …but now, embarrassed in their laziness, they consecrated themselves… The Message. They finally got on with obeying the Word of God. Well, it is ‘better late than never.’ There are sins of ‘omission’ as well as sins of ‘commission.’ If you have been failing to do something that you know you ought to do, today is ‘the first day of the rest of your life’, and while you have breath it is not too late to get on with it.

Even amongst the great mass of people who came together to do the right thing: to remove the polluting things that God hates and to offer the Passover, there was deficiency and lack in their commitment. They hadn’t got everything right. Perhaps it was because it had been so long since Passover was last celebrated. We read: …so many in the congregation had not properly prepared themselves…they had not prepared themselves adequately… (17, 18). Nevertheless, Hezekiah knew that they were sincere in heart (19). They wanted to seek God. So he prayed for the people, and God had mercy (20).

This passage leaves us with a two pronged challenge:

a.)    Do we prepare ourselves as we ought to for corporate worship? Do we take some time on a Saturday, or on a Sunday morning to pray for the services, for those leading and preaching, and for all who will gather together? Do we examine our hearts, confess our sins, and put things right with God, and with others (where necessary)? Or do you just roll out of bed, down the aisle and into your pew?

b.)    Do we who lead recognise our responsibility to pray earnestly and faithfully for those we lead? There are many things ‘shepherds’ can and should do for the ‘sheep’. In it all – in all the busyness of our lives – let’s not neglect to pray. We have encouragement from today’s reading to believe that God will do good things for his people in response to our prayers.

Prayer: Lord, help me to take seriously the challenge and responsibility and privilege to pray for others. Give me faith to expect that things will be different if I pray.

Daily Bible thoughts 528: Friday 10th January 2014:

 2 Chronicles 30:10 – 12

As we saw yesterday, Hezekiah threw the net wide (10a; see 6). The invitation was inclusive. Someone said that we Christians preach an exclusive message: Jesus is the only way to the only God there is. But because it is an exclusive message it is also inclusive: If Jesus is the only way to the only God there is, then all people must hear, regardless of creed, colour or culture.

The couriers went…as far as… How far are we prepared to travel; to what lengths will we go to carry the invites to God’s banquet?

The invitation is to come to the biggest and best party ever! It’s to be part of the Kingdom of God. You’d think it’s an offer that cannot be refused. But it can. The offer of a meaningful relationship with God (6-9) is such a clear one. But we need to understand that not everyone will be pleased to see or hear us (10b). We are ambassadors of Christ. We go as representatives of our King. We too can expect to be treated with scorn by some. Mockery is commonly experienced by professing Christians in the West. This is a form of persecution we are all too familiar with. We must expect to experience difficulty and discouragement as we try to disseminate God’s message.

Nevertheless…(11). Look for the Nevertheless part of the story. It will be there for you also. Yes, there were those who rejected, but there were also those who accepted: who repented, and returned to God (11, 12). In fact, there were many of them (13).

As we act as God’s couriers in this world we can expect trouble. There will be opposition and derision. Jesus never said it would be easy. Some preachers may have told you it would be a smooth path all the way to heaven, but the Lord never said that. Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. The Bible could not be clearer.

However, we can also anticipate great blessing. We can look for a big harvest. Our task is to go as we are sent and where we are sent. It is to open our mouths and speak the invitation to come to God’s table. We can be sure that He who sent us will be with us to change people and draw them to Him (12). As we go He will be with us to the end of the age. Let’s use our feet and look for His hand.

As you step into a new day, remember you’ve got an important errand to run. You have invitations to deliver. Make sure they get where they’re meant to go. And having done all, leave the results with God.

Prayer: Lord, I pray you will never have cause to be disappointed with my ‘courier service’.

Daily Bible thoughts 527: Thursday 9th January 2014:

2 Chronicles 30:6-9

This was a comprehensive invitation. The couriers went throughout Israel and Judah with letters from the king… (6). God’s arms are thrown wide to embrace all who will come to His party.

At heart, the message was, ‘Get back!’ ‘Get back to where you once belonged!’

People of Israel, return to the LORD…that he may return to you… (6b)…If you return to the LORD… (9a)…He will not turn his face from you if you return to him (9b).

In today’s passage there is this positive invitation along with a promise (9): If you return…then… Coming back to God will have healthy, life-giving consequences.

But there is also a negative warning (7, 8): If we stay away from God there will also be consequences, and these will not be good.

Don’t repeat the sins of your ancestors who turned their backs on GOD, the God of their ancestors who then brought them to ruin – you can see the ruins all around you. Don’t be pigheaded as your ancestors were. Clasp GOD’s outstretched hand. Come to his Temple of holy worship, consecrated for all time. Serve GOD, your God. You’ll no longer be in danger of his hot anger. The Message.

Who was it who said that, ‘The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history’? Throughout the Bible story God’s people repeatedly tripped over the same rock in the road; stumbled into the identical ditch. As we read Scripture let’s look for commands to obey, examples to follow and promises to believe. But also our eyes should be wide open searching for warnings to heed. Here is one of them.

It may be that as you read these words you know that in some sense you need to ‘get back to where you once belonged.’ You have drifted far out to sea; you have moved well away from your moorings in God. Perhaps there is a ‘prodigal’ somewhere, sitting in some ‘pig-sty’. You have tried the ‘pig food’ and you know it doesn’t satisfy. But in your heart you are hearing the call of Father and home. You know that such a welcome will await you there. Why linger any longer?

Your GOD is gracious and kind and won’t snub you – come back and he’ll welcome you with open arms (9b). The Message.

If you genuinely and sincerely return to Him (and He knows whether you mean it or not) He will return to you.

Prayer: Take me back dear Lord to the place where I first met you – to the place where I first believed.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 526: Wednesday 8th January 2014:

 2 Chronicles 30:1-5

Hezekiah and his officials and the assembly in Jerusalem saw something in the Bible that had been neglected (5). They determined to do something about it.You may see something clearly as you read the Scriptures; re-discover some long lost truth. That’s great. But realise you can’t make any other believer see it with the clarity you have. What you can do however is to ‘invite’ them into your experience (1). Ask them if they would accompany you on a journey deeper and deeper into God’s heart. May God give you the courage to change the things you can change; the serenity to accept the things that cannot be altered, and the wisdom to know the difference. But certainly set the example. Live out the teaching that now burns inside you, and invite others to come and warm themselves with you at the fireside of truth. Hezekiah called the entire nation back to the celebration of the Passover, the feast that anticipated Jesus the Lamb of God who was sacrificed on our behalf (1 Cor.5:7). When you see a truth that can benefit others; that you know is for all God’s people, don’t hesitate to send word. You might even want to put it in letter form. People still love to get a hand – written letter, and even in our technological age we can still write ‘epistles’ that benefit people spiritually. Hezekiah wanted something great and big and significant for God. It wasn’t for his own glory. So he got the word out, and we must do the same. Let’s invite people into what God is doing. The worst that is likely to happen is that they say ‘No’. The good news is an invitation to a party. But not everyone wants a place at God’s table on His terms. There’s the problem.

‘Though none go with me, still will I follow ‘(2). You have to come to a place of decision where you say, ‘This is right and I’m going to do it. No matter what anyone else does, I am going to walk in this truth God has shown me.’ It is a sad fact that spiritual leaders had delayed this important event (which was a matter of obedience after all: verse 3.) You can sometimes feel very let down by people  in the church who should know better. It is also tragic to observe that there were those who mocked at the invitation, and they missed out on something good. (10; see Matt.22:1-14). But there were those who responded positively (12). You can’t control what will happen with the seed you sow. The harvest is in God’s Hands. He is the One who gives the growth. But keep sowing the seed any way. Some of it will land on good soil, and at the right time you will reap a harvest if you don’t give up. I was once given a poster which said, ‘Measure each day not by the harvest but by the seeds sown.’

Discovering the right plan is best done in community (4). God may speak to one individual, but so often we discern God’s will in a group, where our personal thinking can be challenged, corrected, sifted and re-moulded. We want to get to a place where we can honestly say that it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us. Not to us and the Holy Ghost, but the other way around. He, the third Person of the Godhead must be dominant; pre-eminent in our thinking. As someone said, ‘The Holy Spirit must not only be resident, he must  also be President.’ A.W. Tozer commented that if the Holy Spirit had been removed from the early church, ninety five per cent of what they were doing would have ceased. But if the Holy Spirit were removed from today’s church, ninety five per cent of what we are doing would continue. He was probably alarmingly close to the truth.

David Pawson went to speak at a meeting. He had been given the title, ‘The Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.’ He stood up and said, ‘I’ve taken the liberty of changing the title. I’m going to talk about the believer in the life of the Holy Spirit!’

Prayer: Help us, Lord, to set our sails to catch the wind of the Spirit, so that we move with you wherever you want to take us.

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