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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

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March 2015

Daily Bible thoughts 845: Tuesday 31st March 2015: Psalm 115:12-18

 Psalm 115:12-18

Here you see:

  • A conviction about God (13): It is that He will bless all His people (12, 13). It is His nature to bless. It is almost certainly a conviction about who He is based on experience; but especially it is built on His Word. The Scriptures reveal the kind of God He is. (Notice that within this conviction about God, there is a conviction about His great riches and power: 16a). Whenever we pray, let’s be clear in our thinking that we are coming to a perfect Father who loves to give good gifts to His children (Luke 11:1-13.) ‘’And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him’’ (Hebrews 11:6.) Believing, expectant prayer is born out of a certain conviction about God.
  • A prayer to God (based on the conviction about Him: 14, 15): It is a prayer that He will bless. It’s an appeal to God based on His revealed nature. Specifically it is a prayer for the blessing of ‘’increase’’. The psalmist would have been thinking about the blessing of a larger family. It is not difficult for us, however, to think in terms of an increase in the Kingdom of God. We want to see Christ’s church grow in numbers.
  • A conviction about praise (17, 18): The conviction is that now is the time to do it! While we have life and breath in our bodies we should ‘’extol the LORD’’ (18). We should do ‘’now’’ what we will be doing ‘’for evermore’’.

Prayer: Lord we ask for your blessing of increase.

Daily Bible thoughts 844: Monday 30th March 2015: Philippians 2:25-30

Philippians 2:25-30

‘Working models’

My friend, Alan Norton, died just a few weeks ago. He was a real Christian gent who overcame all kinds of handicaps to live a full and happy life into his 80’s. When I was 15, I spent 10 days in London with ‘Uncle Alan’ (as I knew him then) and his mum, Bessie. Alan took me all over. I remember an outing to the Science Museum. At the time I thought it was the best museum I had ever visited. I was thrilled with all the working models that illustrated what might otherwise be more abstract principles.

Earlier in ‘Philippians’ 2 Paul has written: ‘’Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. ‘’ In the latter part of Philippians 2, we are introduced to two men who were just that: Timothy and Epaphroditus.

Paul was no ‘prima donna’ (25) who saw himself as Christianity’s big star. In fact he probably had no idea of how future generations of Christians would view him. He had no sense of superiority to Epaphroditus. (Notice that this relationship was close and respectful, but also different to the more intimate ‘father-son’ language used regarding Timothy.)

Epaphroditus was an example of (20, 21) working in the opposite direction. He was their ‘Timothy’ to Paul. Think of the humility and servant-like spirit it took to go and be with Paul in prison and take care of his needs. He nearly died in the cause (26, 27, 29, and 30). In those days prisoners were not provided with food. They would starve if there weren’t family and friends to care for them and their needs. The church at Philippi, it appears, sent Epaphroditus to be with Paul in his imprisonment: to cook his food and take care of his needs.

Even in his serious illness, Epaphroditus had profound concern for the feelings of others (26). Such unselfishness and generosity is truly counter-cultural. It can be a rarity, even in the church (20, 21).

Timothy and Epaphroditus appear at the end of chapter 2 as living illustrations (working models) embodying the principles set out in (1-11). They offered humble, sacrificial service, putting themselves on the line for the sake of others. This is our calling too.

Prayer: Lord let my only aim be to give and not to get.

Daily Bible thoughts 843: Friday 27th March 2014: Philippians 2:19-24

Philippians 2:19-24

‘’But you know yourselves that Timothy’s the real thing.’’ The Message.

I am reminded, as I read (19, 20) of Paul’s words in Romans 12:9a: ‘’Love must be sincere…’’ (‘’Love from the centre of who you are; don’t fake it.’’ The Message.).Timothy had an exemplary attitude. He was willing to serve Paul and put himself out for the benefit of others (see also 22) He had ‘’proved himself’’ in the eyes of Paul and the church. His excellent reputation was the same as his character. It was not the case that he was reputed to be something that he was not. His high standing in the Christian community was entirely appropriate.

Compare (21) with (2:4). Note how the ‘’interests…of Jesus Christ’’ are linked with the ‘’welfare’’ of the church. Jesus bought it with His own blood, so His heart is there, with His people. Whatever we do to the ‘least’ of Jesus’ brothers we do to Him.

When you think about the close bond between them (‘’…as a son with his father…’’) it must have been a sacrifice to Paul to release Timothy for other duties. This is an example, I believe, of Paul being willing to put the Philippians’ interests before his own. Someone said, ‘’People do what people see.’’ Timothy had seen a humble, sacrificing and unselfish spirit in his mentor, and it must have had a huge influence on him.

On (24) see (1:19, 25). Although the outcome of Paul’s imprisonment was not totally clear, he believed that he would be freed.

Our culture is rife with ‘Narcissism.’ According to mythology, Narcissus saw his reflection in a pool and fell in love with himself. That’s us, in the main. We are so self-focussed; self-absorbed. But when someone swims against the tide as Timothy did, and as Paul did, it is usually noticed and it is a powerful witness to Christ.

Prayer: Lord, I want to be ‘the real thing.’

Daily Bible thoughts 842: Thursday 26th March 2015: Philippians 2:14-17

Philippians 2:14-17 (click here for todays passage)

I got caught in the headlights this morning! I was immediately rebuked by these words in (14). While out on my run, I was ‘’complaining’’ and ‘’arguing’’ in my head in that futile, time and energy-wasting way we probably all do occasionally. Then I read my Bible and got put in my place. To many , these are ‘little’ sins that we justify. They’re not like the ‘big’ sins such as murder, theft, adultery and looking at porn etc. Yet if we allow these things to have free course in our hearts, they will keep us from shining as brightly as we should. Dealing with such sins as ‘’complaining’’ and ‘’arguing’’ is part of the process of growing in holiness, so that we may shine ever more brilliantly in this gloomy world. (It seems to me that Paul is saying that dealing with these seemingly little things will help us to grow significantly in holiness.) A high degree of holiness is envisaged in (15a) – even for our life in this world. In the Christian life you tend to get what you go for. So how holy do you really want to be? Someone said, ‘Lord make me holy, but not yet!’ We will never achieve significant progress in the life of holiness if we do not ‘’Catch…the little foxes that ruin the vineyards.’’ (Song of Songs 2:15). The antidote to these ‘little foxes’ in (14) is to be found in (4:4) – a thankful heart.

The darker the night the clearer the stars appear. When I studied at Bible College in Capel, Surrey, the evening walk back from the main college campus to where I lived was pitch black. It was quite frightening and took some getting used to. I’d never seen darkness so dark that you felt you could reach out and touch it. There was no street lighting at all going down the ‘Rusper Road’. But that lack of light pollution made for some magnificent night time viewing of the bejewelled heavens. The stars stood out so clearly. May we shine brightly as ‘’children of God’’ showing that there is a Heavenly Father, and something of what He is like. We are called to be truly counter-cultural. One day I was walking on the walls in York. I was doing nothing wrong, but a whole crowd of people came towards me. Groups of them kept coming. For a time it felt like I was the only one walking in the opposite direction, and that maybe I was in the wrong. It reminded me of the lonely path Christians have to walk, moving against the tide. It won’t always feel comfortable. But ‘’Wise men still seek Jesus’’. May we be the stars who guide them to Him (Matthew 2:2, 7, 9 and 10). ‘’Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night…’’ The Message. This ‘’shining like stars in the universe’’ is about character. That much is obvious. It’s about ‘keeping short accounts with God’ and growing in godliness. But it is also about communicating ‘’the word of life’’ (16a). Witness is both visual and verbal. It’s not either/or. It’s about what people see in us and hear from us; life and lip in sync. There should be no ‘’credibility gap’’ between our walk and our talk. May we ‘’hold out’’ the truth about God and not hide it in our pockets; not be ashamed of it. I grew up watching my parents (and many other believers I knew) unashamedly carrying their Bibles to church, on bus journeys and so on. I learned to do the same thing, but I confess I haven’t always felt comfortable with doing it, and have sometimes tried to justify feelings of embarrassment. Now this wasn’t what Paul had in mind, yet I do think the boldness these lovely Christians showed was very much in keeping with what Paul was after. Paul saw the success of his ministry as being measured by bright, twinkling, changed (and being changed) lives. What a ministry he had (17, 18). It was one of commitment and sacrifice and yet great joy. He gave his all in the cause. This is what it takes to plant churches; to see people won to Christ and brought to maturity. He was willing to die, and he did die every day – maybe several times a day. Christian leaders should not expect ease and comfort. But they can anticipate supernatural strength for the task (Colossians 1:28, 29).

Daily Bible thoughts 841: Wednesday 25th March 2015: Philippians 2:12, 13

Philippians 2:12, 13

‘’Character is what you are in the dark.’’

A call to integrity (12a; see 27b): God is much more concerned about who we are than who we appear to be. Integrity means being integrated. It’s being one and the same person in all settings; whether in a crowd or alone. We can be so concerned about ‘impression management’. There is such an emphasis on image in our culture. But our concern should be with character; who we actually are. Abraham Lincoln said, ‘’Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.’’ So cultivate the tree!

A call to practical Christianity (12b): ‘’…continue to work out your salvation…’’ Some years ago a student wrote to me, and in her letter she said she’d been reading this verse. It had suddenly struck her that Paul didn’t mean ‘’Suss it out’’ (as she put it), but live it out! The word ‘’continue’’ says you have to keep at it; persevere in living as a Christian, even amid difficulties, seeking to live worthily of Christ (1:27).

A call to seriousness (12b): Whatever the ‘’with fear and trembling’’ actually means, it surely includes the idea of taking the Christian life with utmost seriousness. We need to take God seriously and take His Word seriously. It is right, I believe, to have a serious concern to not displease God; to not move away from Him. For a few years I was a visiting lecturer at ‘Elim Bible College.’ I heard that a student had commented about me to a fellow-student: ‘He’s very serious isn’t he?’ It may well be that, feeling out of my comfort zone I was a little too intense and earnest. I know from my Bible College days that the lecture room can be an arena of much levity. I’m not against fun and laughter. On the contrary, I love it. But I do actually want to be someone who is serious about the things of God. Humour can have a helpful place in the work preachers do, but we are not called to be comedians. A few years ago, Jilly and I were leaving a morning Bible Study at the ‘Elim’ conference. We had just listened to a theologically serious and powerful talk given by Dr. R.T.Kendall. It was by no means difficult to understand, but it was substantive in content. We felt we had listened in the very presence of God. I’m sure we were not the only ones to sense this. In fact a number of people indicated a desire to be converted at the close of the sermon. We heard someone close to us, in the queue leaving the building, comment that they hadn’t really enjoyed it, and preferred the funny preacher they’d heard the day previously. It made me wonder, ‘Do you want to be entertained or hear from God?’ Those comments were not a bad reflection on the preacher of the previous day. He is a great man, and a serious student of the Bible. He just happens to also be very gifted with humour. I’m more concerned about an attitude in hearers that would rather be made to laugh than hear from God. Sometimes these two things will go together. Often they won’t! ‘’Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God.’’ The Message.

A call to trust (13; see 1:6): You have to continue to work at the Christian life, but you can only do so in God’s strength, because He ‘’works in you’’. It’s not about our own unaided efforts. We are totally dependent upon God’s presence in us and His strengthening of us. God gives us the ‘want to’ and the ‘can do’; He enables us ‘’to will and to act’’. His Spirit within us as a congregation (and personally) causes us to want to keep working out our salvation, and He also helps us to do it. ‘’That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you. God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.’’ The Message.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 840: Tuesday 24th March 2015: Jeremiah 2:26-37

 Jeremiah 2:26-37

‘’For you have as many gods as you have towns, O Judah.’’ (28b)

Some of the sins of Judah are itemised here. The big one was idolatry (26-28; 33 see 23-25), which was in other words, spiritual adultery. Everything else that was bad in the national behaviour flowed down from this (34) The people were having a string of ‘affairs’ with foreign deities. Notice again the mockery of such ‘worship’ in (27a). People want false gods who will endorse their false ways. But when they are in a crisis they want real help from the true God. In their hearts they know the truth that He is there (Romans 1:19-23; see also Psalm 19).

Another kind of idolatry is mentioned in (36, 37): that of trusting in human alliances rather than in the Lord Himself. Everything we place our ultimate confidence in that is not God will prove disappointing. We will be let down by our ‘gods’.

They did not respond to Yahweh’s corrective words spoken through the prophets. They were in rebellion. They sought to stifle that word by slaying the prophets who brought it (29, 30). They were caught in the prophetic headlights of God’s Word (26) and didn’t like it. At the end of this long process of course, they were to finally kill God’s Son. (Matthew 21:37-39). Isn’t it interesting how people get into a mess because they resist God (17), but then have the gall to blame Him (29)? And He had been so good to them (31, 32). Not only were they sinning against the light (29, 30); they were also sinning against sheer goodness (31, 32; see 5-7). The result was terrible injustice in the streets (34). The kind of god you worship will shape how you treat people. ‘’What an impressive start you made to get the most out of life. You founded schools of sin, taught graduate courses in evil! And now you’re sending out graduates – resplendent in cap and gown – except the gowns are stained with the blood of your victims! All that blood convicts you. You cut and hurt a lot of people to get where you are.’’ The Message. Having abandoned God they also deserted from His moral standards. They descended into immorality and even murder. They killed innocent people, even accusing them of breaking and entering when that was not the case (34). Yet they continued to try to justify themselves (35), which seems to be an almost universal trait.

There is something so contemporary about the words of (27b). People don’t want God for much of the time. They certainly don’t want Him to tell them how to live. But when they’re in trouble they run for the prayer ‘phone and dial ‘999’. In an emergency they expect blue flashing lights and sirens to move in their direction from heaven. ‘’All I ever see of them is their backsides. They never look me in the face. But when things go badly, they don’t hesitate to come running, calling out, ‘Get a move on! Save us!’ ‘’ The Message.

Prayer: Lord, forgive us all our idolatry. Help us to honestly face our sin, and fully turn to you and trust you all the days of this life.

Daily Bible thoughts 839: Monday 23rd March 2015: Jeremiah 2:20-25

Jeremiah 2:20-25

We saw yesterday how God’s own people had ‘’exchanged their Glory for worthless idols.’’ (11). They had swapped the true God for false gods. At that time ‘Baalism’ was rife in the land, with its promiscuous sexual rites that were part of pagan worship. You will not be able to miss the powerful sexual imagery in the text, portraying the people of God as spiritually wanton (see 20b and 23-25 especially.) They lusted after other gods. Spiritually speaking they were a people of easy virtue. They were adulterous, for were they not married to the Lord? (2:1-3). They were unfaithful to their Heavenly Spouse, running after other ‘lovers’.

What about you, and me? Are there things in our lives that matter more to us than pursuing the Lord our God and loving Him with all our heart and soul and mind and strength.

In (23-27) the people of Jeremiah’s day are compared to animals searching for mates in the mating season. The people ran wildly after their idols. They became so comfortable in their sin that they could not consider giving it up. They just had to have what they were going after with abandon. They couldn’t think of life without their gods.

Sin so defiles that no cleansing agent on earth can remove the stain (22). But God is willing to wash us if we are willing to be made clean (Isaiah 1:18; Ezekiel 36:25).Look also at 1 John 1:7-9. The ninth verse has been called ‘the Christian’s bar of soap.’ For all who truly repent; who confess and forsake their sin, there is cleansing in the precious blood of Jesus.

Where do you need to ask for cleansing today? Don’t doubt the efficacy of Christ’s blood. The most stubborn sin stain will be banished at its application.

‘’Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.’’ (1 John 5:21).

Prayer: Lord please forgive me for all my disloyalty, and the hurt I cause you my Heavenly Bridegroom by my unfaithfulness.

Daily Bible thoughts 838: Friday 20th March 2015: Jeremiah 2: 9-19.

Jeremiah 2: 9-19.

Here is the central spiritual issue addressed in ‘Jeremiah’:

‘’My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.’’ (13, 18; see John 4:10, 14).

How many Christian testimonies reflect this sentiment? Someone says, ‘I tried everything this world has to offer but nothing satisfied me; I was still thirsty for something else.’ Eventually they found the something is a Someone: Jesus. King Solomon wrote a whole book that has this theme. It’s in the Bible and it’s called ‘Ecclesiastes.’ Solomon was in a position to be able to try every experience. The conclusion he came to was, ‘It’s all ‘’meaningless…a chasing after the wind.’’ He realised that you won’t find the meaning to life if your research is restricted to life ‘’under the sun’’. You have to ultimately look above it. You have to look to God.

There is an old hymn that reflects this passage: ‘’I tried the broken cisterns, Lord, but Ah the waters failed…’’

The people of Jeremiah’s day were looking for meaning in a worthless and broken religious system (11; see Romans 1:23). They had swapped the true god for dead, man-made idols. God said that even pagan nations like ‘’Kittim’’ and ‘’Kedar’’ had remained loyal to their gods. The forsaking of the Lord by God’s people was an appalling and horrific sin that should make a man shudder (12). They were so obviously turning from the only One who could satisfy them.

When you choose the route of sin you go the way of slavery. You may be looking for freedom but you find its opposite (14; see John 8:34). The point to note is that we bring terrible, unwanted and unintended consequences upon ourselves when we turn away from the living God (15-19). This remains the case today.

‘’Now none but Christ can satisfy; no other Name for me…’’

Prayer: ‘’For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.’’ (Psalm 36:9).

Daily Bible thoughts 837: Thursday 19th March 2015: Jeremiah 2:4-8.

Jeremiah 2:4-8.

Beware what ‘gods’ you choose for you will surely become like them (5b). Look at the life of someone who has lived for drugs, or alcohol, or sexual promiscuity, or some other ‘idol.’ See what they become. Ask yourself if their idolatry does anything good for them. Our ‘’worthless’’ idols have lying spirits behind them. They deceive us. They persuade us that they have things of worth to offer; but in the end they destroy.

In this case a corrupt, rebellious and backslidden religious leadership had encouraged the people down the road of idolatry. So many of the people in the pulpits were not prayerful, and in fact did not know God (8). There is nothing new about such a situation where we find it today – and we do. We cannot over emphasise how serious a situation it is where leaders in the church do not know the Lord; do not love Him and honour Him and preach His truth.

As I read today’s passage it seems to me that the major sin at the core of it is ingratitude. Thankfulness is really important in everyday life. It oils the wheels in social interactions. As children, it was drummed into many of us to always say ‘thank you’. We knew it was non-negotiable. It was impressed upon us. After Christmas and birthdays we had to write ‘thank you’ notes. There was no choice in the matter. I perceive the danger of a generation rising up that feels entitled and is generally reticent (or ignorant?) when it comes to expressing thanks. Of course, this is not true of all. It may not be even true of many. But I think I can detect a change in the air regarding basic good manners. We even find it in the church (where it should not be found!) It’s important that we don’t become like the unthankful lepers.

Of course, much more serious than a lack of appreciation towards each other, is a lack of gratitude towards God. That was the big sin here. God had been so good to His people, but they acted in a most ungrateful manner.

Take time to thank God today for your blessings; thank Him for all He’s done for you.

But don’t forget to thank His people too. Is there someone you should show appreciation to in some way?

Prayer: Help me, dear Lord, to cultivate an ‘’attitude of gratitude’’.

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