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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Month

April 2014

Daily Bible thoughts 597: Thursday 17th April 2014:

 2 Corinthians 5: 5 – 10

Eternal life begins the moment a person believes in Jesus. This is one of the key messages in John’s gospel. You don’t have to wait until you die to receive it. But it will only be fully entered into at death. So there will always be something of an aching and longing in our hearts while we reside on earth, because God has made us for a purpose that cannot be fully realised in this world of time and sense. We have been made for resurrection life; an eternity in God’s presence (5). In our DNA we know we have a higher purpose. He is the first instalment, the down payment of heaven. Someone said: ‘How do you know you’re going to heaven?’ The answer is: ‘You’ve got a little bit of heaven inside you right now!’ You have ‘heaven on the way to heaven’. A deposit is a part of the full amount and also a commitment that you will receive the remainder. It is a promise. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit is the ”deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.(On this subject see also 2 Cor.1:21, 22 and Eph.1:14). ”We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less. The Message.

Believing in this resurrection future and seeing it just over the horizon, makes the heart skip a beat. The conviction provides a confidence (6, 8) for while we are still living in this world. We have a sense, while we still live in the body that a day is coming when we will actually be in the glorious eternal presence of Jesus. (It is not surprising, then, to find Paul writing as he did in Phil. 1:21, 23, especially when you go on to read verse 8 in this chapter.)

”That’s why we live with such good cheer. You won’t see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don’t get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead.” The Message.

None of this can be proved in a scientific sense of course: ”We live by faith, not by sight. ” The world says, ”Seeing is believing” but the Christian says ”Believing is seeing.” Jesus can so prove Himself to you that ‘you know that you know that you know’ and can say, ”Therefore we are always confident…”

Whether we are in this world or the next, the whole purpose of life is to please Jesus, and we are going to be assessed and held accountable for how we have lived and served (9, 10). So not only does the thought of seeing Jesus provide an encouragement to cheerfully press on through everything we face on earth, it also acts as a moral spur to live straight and clean. This great hope we have is both exciting and sobering.

‘’When the time comes, we’ll be plenty ready to exchange exile for homecoming…Cheerfully pleasing God is the main thing, and that’s what we aim to do, regardless of our conditions.’’ The Message.

Prayer: Thank you risen Lord Jesus for this Easter hope. May it live in my heart every day of the year.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 596: Wednesday 16th April 2014:

 2 Corinthians 5: 1 – 4 (see also Ro.8:18-27)

Life on earth is temporary (1; see also 2 Peter 1:13). For almost a decade, I worked on a youth camp in the Lake District for ten days each summer. I loved camp. But it was not home. Camp was temporary. As much as I enjoyed it, I was always delighted to drive off the camp site for another year and head in the direction of a hot bath and proper bed! I had a temporary tent on a camp ground in Pardshaw, Cumbria, but I also had a proper house in Lower Wortley, Leeds, and I knew what I preferred. For a short time I just about lived in my ‘wellies’! That had to change; it was intolerable to think that such a state of affairs might persist!!

…we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven…and we’ll never have to relocate our ”tents” again.” The Message. As Christians, we have a conviction about resurrection life in a resurrected body. We can say ”…we know…” and that knowing has made every Christian funeral I have conducted or attended different to other kinds. We know that life on earth is temporary. ”This world is not my home; I’m just a passin’ through…” as country singer ‘gentleman’ Jim Reeves put it. We also know we have something far better and more solid to come. We are going to exchange the flimsy (”tent”) for the substantial (”building”); we are going to leave behind the ‘‘earthly’’ for the ”eternal”; we will swap the ”mortal” for ”life” (4).

One morning, on our camp site, a herd of cows came through the field. I dread to think what would have happened if they had trodden on the tents (and the children and young people occupying them). As I recall the event this morning, I can only thank God for His miraculous protection at the time. Tents are easily ”destroyed”. It would be a different matter for a cow to walk into a brick-built house.

So, life in this world is temporary, and while we are down here, as much as we may enjoy all the delightful things God so richly provides for us, nothing ever fully satisfies. There is in our hearts an aching; a craving for what is to come. We know deep inside that as good as it gets in this world (and it can be wonderful), there is something more and better. ”Sometimes we can hardly wait to move – and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it. We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies!” The Message.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for the Easter message and the glorious light it shines on our way.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 595: Tuesday 15th April 2014:

 Micah 7:14-20

This final section of Micah commences with a prayer for God’s shepherding ministry (15; cf.4, 5a). The prophet asks that God’s ”flock” should once again be allowed to feed in Bashan and Gilead, symbols of abundance and prosperity.

God answers prayer (15). Never doubt it. Here is His answer to the prayer in (14). God does far more than all we can ask or imagine. The prayer was primarily for ”your people…the flock of your inheritance… But God goes on to speak of what He will do in ”Nations” (16). These nations who oppressed and persecuted and punished Israel are going to fear God and also fear His people (17). In the end, the Lord does so much more than we ever thought to ask. It should encourage us to ask again and again.

Yet of all God’s many blessings, His greatest by far have to do with the forgiveness of sins (18 -20; see also Isaiah 38:17; Jer.31:34).

Verse 18 may well strike a chord with anyone who remembers the hymn ‘Who is a pard’ning God like thee..?” Here is one of its beautiful verses:

”In wonder lost with trembling joy,

We take the pardon of our God.

Pardon for sins of deepest dye,

A pardon bought with Jesus’ blood.

Who is a pard’ning God like thee,

Or who has grace so rich and free?”

What a great statement you find in (19). Someone said, ‘God buries our sins in the deepest sea and puts up a big sign: ”No fishing!” ‘ Jesus deals fully and completely with the sins of all who turn to Him in repentance and faith.

”Where is the god who can compare with you – wiping the slate clean of guilt…You don’t nurse your anger and don’t stay angry long, for mercy is your speciality. That’s what you love most… You’ll sink our sins to the bottom of the ocean. The Message.

The final word in Micah is to assure us that whatever happens in the short term, God will keep His promises; He will prove true to His Word (20). This thought should encourage and motivate us in all our praying. Selwyn Hughes ran a series in ‘Every day with Jesus’ about when the promises of God seem to go into ‘reverse gear’. He used a number of examples from the Bible to show that although this can appear to happen, the Lord is always true to His Word. We can be as certain of this now as people were in Micah’s day.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for your abundant generosity. Again and again you give far more than we ever thought to ask.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 594: Monday 14th April 2014:

 Micah 7:8-13

In (8-10) the faithful remnant of Israel (personified) is speaking to its enemy nations. Note that situations can turn around. Today you may be covered with gloom and choking in thick smog. But if you have sinned you can be forgiven; if you are down you can bounce back (8). If you are broken down you can be rebuilt; if you are confined you can be enlarged (10). Things can change. They do not have to remain as they are. (See also Prov.24:16) Here is a great statement of faith. It is important that when you are still in the darkness you should articulate what you have seen in the daylight. State clearly what you are certain God will do because of who He is and what He has revealed in His Word of truth (9b). (Derek Prince spoke often about the importance of making proclamations from God’s Word.)

The devil should not gloat. He should not think that a fallen Christian is necessarily a finished Christian. He should rather remember the cross and the fact that ”It is finished”. Indeed, let him understand that he is finished (10). He may still be permitted to go around like a roaring lion, hunting for his supper, but he is a fatally wounded beast. His days are numbered. ”When the devil reminds you of your past, you remind him of his future.” At the cross Jesus bound the strong man and we can plunder his goods.

However, the starting point for such a turnaround is to ‘come clean’ and confess your sin. Hold up your hand. Don’t try to make excuses or shift blame. Say, ‘I am the man (or woman!)’ To confess is to speak the same thing. It is to agree with God about sin; to admit that you are in the wrong. There is an honesty that recognises, ‘I deserve this disciplinary action; this chastisement I’m receiving.’ You’ve got to get on the same page as God.

(Israel went into exile, and her enemies taunted her saying, ”Where is the LORD your God?”(10). It seemed as if He was unable to protect His own. But of course that was not the case. Israel fell because of her failure; it was not due to any fault on the Lord’s part.)

In (11- 13) Micah is even looking beyond the return from exile. He sees a day, in later times, when Israel will be great indeed, and ”people will come…from Assyria and the cities of Egypt” (12). (Here, the nations mentioned represent all Gentile nations) These words depict an almost unimaginably big turnaround, but it’s just the kind of ‘impossibility’ God specialises in. He will do this.

‘What an exquisite word is here for those who sit in darkness from any cause: from the waning of human love; the darkening of increasing physical weakness; the withdrawl of beloved faces, one by one, from the family circle. Look unto the Lord; wait for the God of your salvation; when you sit in darkness, He will be a light.

In darkest shades, if He appear,

My dawning is begun;

He is my soul’s sweet morning star,

And He my rising sun.” ‘

F.B.Meyer: Great verses through the Bible, p.353

Prayer: Help me this day, Lord, to walk in the light you have given me.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 593: Friday 11th April 2014:

 Micah 7:1-7

Spiritual leadership can be lonely, disappointing and frustrating at times (1). There are things you quite legitimately ”crave”. Your heart is in your ministry and you long to see real change in people. You look for ‘fruit’. For Micah, looking for godly people in the land was like looking for fruit and finding none (1). ”I’m like someone who goes to the garden to pick cabbages and carrots and corn And returns empty-handed, finds nothing for soup or sandwich or salad.” The Message. Micah was a Spirit-filled preacher with a powerful ministry (3:8), but he watched things go from bad to worse before his very eyes.

Verses 2 -4 paint a terrible picture of a society filled with corruption and falling apart. ”They’ve all become experts in evil. Corrupt leaders demand bribes. The powerful rich make sure they get what they want.” The Message. The ”best” of the people are like briers and thorns that cut and scratch (4). However, it goes on: ”But no longer: It’s exam time.” The Message. ”The day of your watchmen has come…’ (4). The watchmen were the prophets of Israel who warned of impending judgment (see Jer.6:17; Ezk.3:17).

Furthermore, all of this rottenness had spread into family life (5, 6). You couldn’t necessarily trust those closest to you not to stab you in the back.” Don’t trust your neighbor, don’t confide in your friend. Watch your words, even with your spouse. Neighborhoods and families are falling to pieces. The closer they are – sons, daughters, in-laws – The worse they can be. Your own family is the enemy.” ”Jesus quoted verse 6 to show that His coming to earth would divide families into those who believed in Him and those who did not (Matthew 10:34-38). Just as the sun heightens the contrast between brightness and shadow, so does Jesus heighten the contrast between faith and unbelief.” Tom Hale: The Applied Old Testament Commentary, p.1270.

So what do you do when you’re not seeing the things you came into the ministry to see; when your good results seem to lie somewhere between little and nothing. We live in an age that prizes measurable success, but what do you do when you can’t produce the favourable stats? In fact all the charts are plummeting in a southerly direction! Here’s what to do: take your stand alongside Micah and keep your eyes on God (7). Be steadfast and immoveable knowing that your labour in the Lord will not be in vain. Watch, hope and wait. ”But me, I’m not giving up. I’m sticking around to see what GOD will do. I’m waiting for God to make things right. I’m counting on God to listen to me.” The Message.

To quote a well known radio preacher: ”The word for today is…

”But me, I’m not giving up.”

Prayer: Even when things appear disappointing, help me dear Lord to put one front in front of the other and keep going.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 592: Thursday 10th April 2014:

Micah 6:9-16

In verse 9, ”the city” is called to ”Listen!” In ‘The Message’ it adds the comment: ”This is serious business.” What we are about in church, in listening to the voice of God, is ”serious business”. In a lovingly blistering letter to his congregation, written in May 1954, William Still of Gilcomston Baptist church, Aberdeen, wrote: ”It is quite clear that there is a considerable company of so-called evangelicals in our city, as in others, whose interest in Christian work largely depends on its ‘Christian’ entertainment value, and who idolize Christian personalities in much the same way the world does its actors and sportsmen. Even in gatherings for the deepening of spiritual life one can sense and see people hanging on a speaker’s words, waiting for his first joke…no one who has caught the heart-beat of the eternal God in the agony of Calvary and who is called to communicate the Word will have time or inclination to be any other than intensely serious.” I am not saying that there isn’t a place for humour in church, but preachers are not club comedians doing a ‘turn’. This is ”serious business”.

You will see that there was a distinct lack of ”justice” and ”mercy” in their social relationships (10-12). These words surely have a resonance and relevance for our own society: ”Do you expect me to overlook obscene wealth you’ve piled up by cheating and fraud? Do you think I’ll tolerate shady deals and shifty scheming? I’m tired of the violent rich bullying their way with bluffs and lies…You’ll pay for your sins down to your last cent.” The Message. This is ”serious business” and God’s Word is to be taken with all due seriousness. It is not wise to trifle with spiritual things.

Sin is utterly ruinous (13, 16b). It promises good things but delivers bad things. It comes with a masterly sales pitch. It is charming and deceptive and we are easily taken in. We find that what we actually have when we open the ‘parcel’ is vastly different to how it appeared in the ‘catalogue.’

Not only is it ruinous, it is also empty and futile (14, 15). It is ironic to think that their goal was to amass more and more, and it didn’t matter to them that this would be at the expense of others. A sinful, self-centred life is one in which you will keep trying to fill an unfillable hole. For all your getting you will live with a sense of lack and depletion. ”No matter how much you get, it will never be enough-hollow stomachs, empty hearts. No matter how hard you work, you’ll have nothing to show for it – bankrupt lives, wasted souls. You’ll plant grass but never get a lawn. You’ll make jelly but never spread it on your bread. You’ll press apples but never drink the cider.” The Message.

There is an implicit warning here to beware who you emulate. It’s good to have mentors, but choose carefully who you will copy. Also, be wise about what ”traditions” you may be starting with your life. If you are someone else’s role model what will that mean for them?

So, we had better get on with the ”serious business” of listening to God now, so that we ”walk humbly” with Him, and avoid the sins that will take us to Hell and judgment. According to ‘Time’ magazine, Pope Francis recently denounced the Mafia during an annual vigil for the victims of organised crime. Apparently he said: ”Repent. There’s still time not to end up in hell…Men and women of the Mafia, please change your lives.” He warned the mobsters that they couldn’t take their ”bloody money and blood power” to the afterlife. I have to say that such courageous and specific preaching is right in the line of the prophetic tradition. It is great when it hits the headlines.

Prayer: I confess to you Lord that I am weak. Help me to always see through the lies told by temptation and sin.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 591: Wednesday 9th April 2014:

 Micah 6:1-8

In the first instance in today’s reading, we are ushered into a court room (1, 2). God is ‘prosecuting’ His own people, and He has an unassailable case. They, for their part, do not have a leg to stand on. God calls the mountains to ”hear” His case because they have witnessed all of Israel’s sins. They have been around even longer than the nation. (See also Deut.32:1; Is.1:2).”And now, Mountains, hear GOD’s case; listen Jury Earth – For I am bringing charges against my people. I am building a case against Israel. ” The Message.

The truth is that the Lord has been only good to them all the time (3-5): ”Dear people, how have I done you wrong? Have I burdened you, worn you out? Answer! I delivered you from a bad life in Egypt; I paid a good price to get you out of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you – and Aaron and Miriam to boot! Remember what Balak king of Moab tried to pull, and how Baalam son of Beor turned the tables on him. Remember all those stories about Shittim and Gilgal. Keep all GOD’s salvation stories fresh and present.” The Message. God delivered them from Egypt, gave them great leaders, thwarted the schemes of enemies and led them across the Jordan and into the Promised Land (”…from Shittim to Gilgal.”) It was a story of sheer undeserved goodness from start to finish. It will do us all good to regularly review God’s dealings with us, and ask if our lives are in any way an appropriate response to His overflowing generosity.

In (6, 7) Israel responds as if it were a single person; perhaps a king or high priest speaking for the nation. The fact is that although God initiated the sacrificial system, He never wanted an elaborate religious set-up that entailed sacrificing animals without touching the life. ”Would GOD be impressed with thousands of rams, with buckets and barrels of olive oil?” The Message. In a book entitled ‘Worship the Lord’, Jock Anderson says that ”God is looking for worship that is living, and living that is worship.” It was ever thus. God has always wanted people to worship Him with their lives. Empty rituals just will not do. ”Judah kept the ritual and the religious side, but God was looking for more than that. The one thing that matters is how men stand with God, and the one test of that is how they stand with man. If you are in relationship with God, then you will find yourself acting justly and showing mercy, because that is exactly how he acts towards you.” J.David Pawson: Unlocking the Bible, p.531.

Verse 8 provides one of the classic summaries of what all God’s prophets were calling for. It is fair to say that the application of these words would have resolved every sin issue raised in Micah. In terms of the walking ”humbly with your God” , F. B. Meyer comments: ” We must exchange our monologue, in which we talk with ourselves, for dialogue, in which we talk as we walk with God.”

 Prayer: Lord help me to keep in step with you.

 

 

 

Daily Bible thoughts 590: Tuesday 8th April 2014:

Micah 5:7 – 15

Here are three things about ‘the remnant’ of Israel which are also applicable to the church and to Christians:

  • They will be a blessing in the world (7): This has happened as God said it would. Some years ago I heard a sermon by a well-known preacher in which he said, ‘It is time for the Gentiles to repay their debt to the Jews.’ He highlighted, in the course of his message, just how the Jewish people have been such a blessing to the world in business, the arts and so on. Of course they are not perfect. They have not blessed the world in every single thing they have done. But as a generality it is true. However, the world has not been a blessing to them; often hounding and harassing and persecuting them. Anti- Semitism has been, and remains, a terrible blight on mankind. It is also the calling of the Christian and the church, to dispense blessing wherever we go. We are to be ‘channels’ of His blessing. Our ‘dew’ is ‘from the LORD’. I think about Paul’s words regarding Philemon that he had ‘refreshed the hearts of the saints’ (Philemon 7). We are to be ‘refreshers’ in this world. We are not to be monastics, living aloof from the rest of society. We live our lives and perform our service ‘in the midst of many peoples’ (7, 8) and ‘among the nations’ (8). We are ‘the salt of the earthand ‘the light of the world’. (Underlining mine.)

‘They’ll be like dew from GOD, like summer showers Not mentioned in the weather forecast, not subject to calculation or control.’ The Message.

  • They will be victorious in the world (8, 9). They will be strong and dominant and conquering, having authority over their foes. However, before being made conquerors…
  • They will be conquered by God (10-15). Here is a vital principle: we, the church, cannot be conquerors in the world until we are ourselves first conquered by the Lord. There were things that needed to be ‘destroyed’ for ‘the remnant’ to be purified. First of all their reliance on their own strength and military might had to be broken (10, 11). Secondly, their reliance on false religion had to be dealt with (12-14). They had to get to the place where they relied on God alone. ‘In these verses, Micah also speaks to us today; we too are the ”remnant”. And we too must not rely on power, wealth, education, technology, family name, or any other worldly ”idol”; we must rely on God alone if we are to inherit His eternal blessing.’ Tom Hale: The Applied Old Testament Commentary, p.1268

 

The fifteenth verse is a stern and sobering warning, and is, I believe, still relevant today. When I hear political leaders talk about laws passed which violate the law of God, and hear them say that such things will be for the strengthening of society, my heart trembles. I feel ashamed and dismayed. To celebrate sin as though it were a good thing is a huge mistake and to persist in doing so is surely to invite the judgment of God.

‘Jerusalem staggers, Judah is falling; their words and deeds are against the LORD, defying his glorious presence. The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves…Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.’ (Isaiah 3:8, 9; 5:20.)

Prayer: We pray for all who lead us, that they will do so in the fear of the Lord.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 589: Monday 7th April 2014:

Micah 5:5, 6

When I read this passage earlier today, I immediately thought about Isaiah 59:19 which says: When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. (Verse 9 is a good summary statement of what the Lord is going to do to our enemies.)

These verses describe a serious situation; a threating incursion into the land. After all, if the enemy is marching through our fortresses we have a big problem. And if some bullying Assyrian shows up, invades and violates our land, don’t worry. We’ll put him in his place, send him packing, and watch his every move. The Message. The Assyrian represents all the enemies of God (and His people) in every age, including Satan himself. This is not about ‘if’ he invades our land, but When. The enemy will, at times, come in like a flood. But see how the Spirit of the Lord will raise up a standard against him. Here are some of the things He will do:

  • He will ensure that we have the resources to deal with him. He will provide more than adequate leadership: we will raise against him seven shepherds, even eight leaders of men. Seven is the perfect number; eight goes beyond it. We will have even more than enough! Here is the God of the ‘super-superlatives’, of the exceeding abundantly above all… (Eph.3:20).
  •  He will give authority over the enemy (6a): Here we see the power of God’s Word (Eph.6: 17b) But the sword must be drawn. It has to be used against the devil. Jesus gave the perfect example of this when resisting Satan in the wilderness. Three times He said: It is written. Above all, spiritual leaders are to be people of the Word, using it to great effect by the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:2-4).
  • There will be deliverance (6b): He may well use leaders (and faithful people) with drawn swords to deal with the enemy, but He will be doing the delivering. We need to note the context. Go back and read verses 1-4 and then read on into verses 5 and 6. This life of victory and overcoming will all take place under the leadership/rule of our great Shepherd-King, the Lord Jesus Christ: Our shepherd-ruler will save us from old or new enemies, from anyone who invades or violates our land. The Message.

There is a hymn that says: And would’st thou know the secret of constant victory? Let in the Overcomer and let Him conquer thee. So let us look to Him on the battlefield today. But don’t fail both to draw your sword and use it!

Prayer: Help me, Lord, to ‘take’ the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, and not just wear it for decorative and ceremonial purposes.

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