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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


March 2015

Daily Bible thoughts 836: Wednesday 18th March 2015: Jeremiah 2:1-3

Jeremiah 2:1-3

‘’To encourage you to pursue pleasure in Jesus makes no sense unless you have good reason to believe there is something about him more pleasing than what the world, flesh and the devil have to offer.’’ Sam Storms: ‘One thing’, p.46.

Chapters 2-6 constitute a single connected message which Jeremiah delivered early on in his ministry, probably during the reign of Josiah.

It is sad when God has to speak of His people’s ‘’devotion’’ in the past tense (1-3). God remembered His ‘honeymoon’ with His ‘’bride’’, and her loyal love for Him that would follow Him anywhere.

‘’I remember your youthful loyalty, our love as newlyweds. You stayed with me through the wilderness years, stuck with me through all the hard places. Israel was GOD’s holy choice, the pick of the crop. Anyone who laid a hand on her would soon wish he hadn’t!’’ The Message.

This was such a great marriage…but then…

What happened? Well, the problems weren’t with the Bridegroom!

It is possible that we can become lukewarm (Revelation 3:16) in our marriage to Jesus; that we can lose our first love (Revelation 2:4).

Or as a friend of mine put it, the shine can go off your salvation. It doesn’t sparkle in you as it once did. It somehow loses lustre in your eyes.

As the Sam Storms quote indicates, Jesus is infinitely precious, and more valuable than anything or anyone else we set our hearts on. Every Christian knew and felt this at one time; but is it your experience now?

If it isn’t, restoration is possible: ‘’Repent and do the things you did at first.’’ (Revelation 2:5).

‘’Beauty also rebukes by revealing to us the moral deformity of those things we’ve embraced above Jesus and by exposing the hideous reality beyond the deceptively attractive façade of worldly amusements. We are deceived by the ugliness of sin because we haven’t gazed at the beauty of Christ.’’ Sam Storms: ‘One thing’, p.55

Prayer: Cause me Lord Jesus to see your beauty and worth with new eyes that I may love you as I did at first and not look to any substitutes for satisfaction.

Daily Bible thoughts 835: Tuesday 17th March 2015: Psalm 115:1-11.

Psalm 115:1-11.

‘’He simply is, irrespective and independent of all other is’s. His life is beyond the ravages of death, decay or disintegration.’’ Sam Storms: ‘One thing’, p.60

May this sentiment in (1) always fill all of our hearts. No one knows for sure what the background to the psalm is. It may be that Israel’s army had just won a great victory over the enemy, and there was a danger that the king and his troops would be given the credit. Let’s be careful that we never trespass into the Lord’s spotlight. To God be all the glory.

The people of the nations could not see Israel’s God (2). They could see their own gods because they were statues: ‘’Their gods are metal and wood, handmade in a basement shop…’’ The Message (see 4-7).But we have a living God who sovereignly rules over all (3).

See the utter deadness of dead religion (4-8). This is one of several places in the Bible showing how utterly ludicrous idolatry is. It is not only bad and wrong; it is also stupid! Why would you think that a hand-crafted statue could help you in your time of need?!

Someone pointed out that a religion will only ever be as good as its gods (8). Notice here that although they are lifeless the idols do have the power to destroy those who worship them (Isaiah 44:6-20)

‘’Gentiles visiting Jerusalem would notice the absence of idols. Back home, they could point to their gods and introduce you to the craftsman who made them. Is your God in heaven, ruling over all? Are you trusting something less than God?’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.383.

A dead idol cannot help anyone, but the living God can. Our God ‘’is’’ and our God ‘’does’’ (3). He is alive. The gods of the world are not (in the sense of being lifeless. They are human creations made of ‘’silver and gold’’) and they ‘’cannot’’ (a word that comes 6 times in 5-7). They cannot help and they cannot protect, but the true God can; hence the three-fold call to ‘’trust’’ in Him (9-11). This call goes out to Israel as a whole; to the priests (the ‘’house of Aaron’’), and to all who ‘’fear him’’. So this psalm speaks to us.

‘’The living God can see you, hear your prayers, walk with you and help you. He can speak to you from His Word.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.383.

Prayer: Thank you, living Lord, that you are trustworthy. Please help me to actively trust you at all times and have no other gods before you.

Daily Bible thoughts 834: Monday 16th March 2015: Philippians 2: 5-11.

Philippians 2:5-11.

To be Christ-like (5) is at the core of what it means to conduct yourselves ‘’in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.’’ (1:27). It’s been said that Paul regularly ‘’uses a steam hammer to crack a nut’’ and here he takes the profound doctrine of the incarnation and uses it to make a practical point about Christian behaviour. Here are some elements of a Christ-like attitude:

You don’t cling on to status or any perceived rights (6): If doing the will of God means letting go of these things, then you will gladly do so, trusting the Lord to take care of you. There are times when we must choose the path of relinquishment. ‘’He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what.’’ The Message.

Humility (7, 8a): If you struggle to put yourself in a place where you are considered ‘’nothing’’ (at least, ‘nothing’ great in this world’s estimation), just think what this was like for God Most High in the Person of His Son. If humble service was not beneath the Son of God, it should not be beneath you and me. Someone said that the ‘flesh’ hates service, and, even more, screams against secret service. But we needed to understand that the highest position on offer in the Kingdom of God is that of a servant. How humbling it must have been for the second Person of the Trinity to lay aside His glory and be ‘’made in human likeness’’; to be ‘’found in appearance as a man’’ (7b/8a). There is a translation of (7a) that reads that He ‘’emptied himself’’. Theologians have debated what this means, and still do. The answer seems to be that He did not empty Himself of His God-hood (His divinity), but of His glory. As someone said, ‘’He did not empty Himself of His deity, but emptied Himself into humanity.’’

Willingness to die (8b): As a Christian you have got to learn to die. These may be the most important words in today’s thought. Jesus’ obedience to God was to the extent of dying. Submission to God’s will cost Him His life. That’s what Paul is saying. And it was such a terrible death – so shameful and barbarous. It was the worst form of cruel torture this fallen world has ever invented. But Jesus’ obedience was so total that He went through with that. ‘’He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death – and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion.’’ The Message.

Realise, then:

  1. That you are into something that could cost you your life;
  2. That you are into something that does cost you your life (quite apart from physical death.) Even if you are not killed for your faith you will have to die a thousand deaths, and more, to live this Christian life: death to pride, position, ego, social status, reputation, and the like.

But if we give up our honour for Jesus, we can know that it is safe in the Father’s Hands. God will honour those who honour Him (9-11). The pattern we see in God’s dealings with His humble, sacrificing, servant-like Son will find a parallel in the lives of believers who follow the pathway of Christ (James 5:10; 1 Peter 5:6). However our focus should not be on receiving any honour, but on serving God with humble, sacrificially obedient lives.

Prayer: Lord make me like you.

Daily Bible thoughts 833: Friday 13th March 2015: Philippians 2:1-5.

 Philippians 2:1-5.

The repeated ‘’If’’ in (2:1) is not one of doubt. Paul knew that they did have those things. So do we. So these words also apply to us. Because of all they had ‘’from being united with Christ’’ they could fulfil these injunctions (3-5). So can we.

There are intimations in the letter that there may have been some threats to the church’s unity (E.g. 4:2, 3.) So it was important for them to understand and implement Paul’s teaching.

There are things we get from knowing Jesus and being in Him, such as ‘’encouragement’’ , ‘’comfort’’, ‘’love’’, ‘’tenderness’’ and ‘’compassion’’. We are to share them; pass them on to others.

It does a pastor’s heart good to see his people loving each other (2). In fact, my greatest griefs in pastoral ministry have probably stemmed from disunity between Christians. I remember one church I served. The people were lovely and I loved them deeply. But one or two of them could get a bit fractious with each other at times. I confess I probably didn’t handle those situations well, but they caused me a lot of pain. Around the same time I read in ‘Time’ magazine how President Ronald Reagan was such an affable chap, he hated it when his staff didn’t get on. I felt I could identify with such an outlook. It mattered to Paul to see these Christians living together in harmony.

I have long believed (and said) that the application of (3, 4) alone would transform every church in the community. There can be no mistaking the clear calling to put others before yourself. Like Jesus, we are called to humbly serve, give and sacrifice for the sake of others. This is the key to unity. You cannot afford to dwell on what you’re receiving or not receiving; getting or not getting. You have to concentrate on serving, giving and sacrificing. Everything else is in God’s Hands.

Our goal, in this world should be ‘’to give, and not to count the cost; to fight, and not to heed the wound; to labour, and not to ask for any reward save that of knowing that we do your will.’’

‘’Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.’’ The Message.

Ultimately, living ‘’in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ’’ (1:27) is about being like Christ (2:5-11).

Prayer: Lord, give me the grace to become more like Jesus every day. Cause Christ to be formed in me.

Daily Bible thoughts 832: Thursday 12th March 2015: Philippians 1:27-30

Philippians 1:27-30

‘’Meanwhile, live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Christ. Let nothing in your conduct hang on whether I come or not. Your conduct must be the same whether I show up to see things for myself or hear it from a distance.’’ The Message.

As we have seen, Paul believed he would see the Philippian Christians again (25, 26), but whatever happened (27) he wanted them to live in ‘’a manner worthy of the gospel.’ (See also Ephesians 4:1). I have one or two observations to make about this injunction:

  • it is a tall order;
  • we can only do it in God’s strength;
  • we can do it in God’s strength (4:13);
  • but we won’t always feel like doing it!

Yet it should be the measure of all we do today, and every day. People can let you down. You may feel that they don’t come up to your standards for behaviour. Perhaps you are disappointed and hurt. But you can’t ‘fix’ anyone else. What you have to focus on is your ‘’conduct’’, regardless of how anyone else is acting. ‘’Whatever happens’’ with any other individual in your life, concentrate on being the person God is calling you to be.

When Paul wrote about living in ‘’a manner worthy of the gospel.’’ he had especially in mind:

  • Unity (27b; See Ephesians 4:1-16): ‘’Stand united, singular in vision’’ The Message;
  • Witness (27b): In particular their corporate witness, being ‘’a city set on a hill’’ as Jesus put it (Matthew 5:14);
  • Courage (28), in the face of persecution. ‘’Your courage and unity will show them what they’re up against: defeat for them, victory for you – and both because of God.’’ The Message. In all of this their experience was similar to Paul’s (29, 30) which would no doubt encourage them – to think they were in the same boat as their beloved apostle. And he would be an example to them of how to be and what to do in suffering. Paul saw this suffering as a gift. (Along with it there surely also went a gift of being enabled to suffer for the cause of Christ). ‘’There’s more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting.’’ The Message. Perhaps you have to go through a time of fierce opposition (28) and ‘’struggle’’ (30) to appreciate what a gift it can be. It’s not something to be sought, yet within it believers discover precious treasures. Hostility towards you can cause you to ‘draw a line in the sand’ and take a stand on what you believe to be right. It can also push you more firmly into the arms of God. I go back to that word ‘’contending’’ (27). May we not be ‘chocolate soldiers’ ( as C.T.Studd put it) who melt in the heat of battle, or spiritual draft-dodgers who don’t really want to fight. Above all, ‘’Consider him…’’ (Hebrews 12:3).

‘’Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.’’ These words have spoken to me significantly today. What, in your reading, has particularly spoken to you? Don’t let go of it easily. Write it down if necessary. Keep coming back to it and meditating on it; pray about it and consider what it will mean for your life. Seek to apply it.

Daily Bible thoughts 831: Wednesday 11th March 2015: Jeremiah 1:11-19

 Jeremiah 1:11-19

God’s Word is not an idle Word. He says what He means and means what He says. He does not waste words (see 14-16 and Isaiah 55:8-11). Everything happened as God had said (3b). God’s Word is to be taken seriously.

See the importance of seeing! – the importance of seeing what God wants to show you (12, 13). When you ‘see’ something in the Spirit, that revelation can change your life. We need to have the eyes in our hearts ‘’enlightened’’ so that we come to ‘’know’’ truth in a deep, life-changing way (Ephesians 1:18).

The ‘’boiling pot’’ Jeremiah saw (13-16) signified the ‘’northern kingdoms’’ including Babylon and her allies. They would be God’s instruments of judgment on Judah, because the people had turned away from Him to idols.

‘’Get yourself ready!’’ (17a). Preachers must prepare themselves. The preparation of the man (or woman) is essential, and not just the preparation of the message. Jeremiah knew from the outset that he had a tough assignment (18, 19). But he also knew that God was with him (8). Even so, he had to choose courage, when he must have felt the temptation to be afraid. There was so much at stake in his deciding to be brave against all the odds. He had to get himself ready for what lay ahead.

Just before preaching, my friend excused himself from the room and headed upstairs, saying, ‘’I’m going to talk to God about men before I go and talk to men about God!’

Someone said, ‘’He who has prayed well has studied well.’’ That is not to be used as an excuse for skimping on other parts of preparation. But it is to recognise that prayer is a vital part of preparing to bring God’s message to people.

Ajith Fernando, in his outstanding book, ‘Jesus driven ministry’, writes about how important it is to pray before preaching. At times you will have to say difficult things that people do not want to hear, so prepare yourself. I never feel that I’ve prayed enough before preaching a sermon. It is so essential to ‘’Get yourself ready!’’

If preachers are not faithful in delivering their message, they will pay a price for their failure of fidelity (17b). ‘’But you – stand up on your feet and get dressed for work! Stand up and say your piece. Say exactly what I tell you to say. Don’t pull your punches or I’ll pull you out of the lineup.’’ The Message.

So Jeremiah set out knowing that there would be trouble ahead. But what a promise he carried in his pocket with which to embark on his ministry (19). ‘’I’m making you as impregnable as a castle, Immovable as a steel post, solid as a concrete block wall. You’re a one-man defense system against this culture.’’ The Message.

Prayer: Please strengthen me dear Lord, so that I am not overcome by the culture, but I live as an overcomer in it.

Daily Bible thoughts 830: Tuesday 10th March 2015: Jeremiah 1: 6-10.

Jeremiah 1: 6-10.

Yesterday, we saw how Jeremiah, a person of dignity, was called to be a person of destiny.

But he saw himself as:

A person with a disability (6): He was not the only person in the Bible to talk back to God and feel around for an excuse. Think of Moses with his speech impediment (Exodus 3, 4) and Gideon with his sense of smallness. We too may come up with our own reasons for not doing what God asks: ‘’I do not know…I am only…’’ (6). We plead ignorance and insignificance. But we need to allow our thoughts to be interrupted and contradicted by God (7). We should be ever so careful about our words. We are always talking to ourselves, and some of the time (possibly even much of the time?) our words are not true or helpful. But there is a ‘’must’’ about God’s will for our lives. If He wants us reluctant ‘Jonah’s’ in ‘Nineveh’, He will get us there one way or another.

However Jeremiah saw himself, God said he would be:

A person with a dynamic (7-10): God never calls a person without also equipping them for the task. He doesn’t call the qualified, it’s been said, but qualifies the called. We are quick to see and say what cannot be done; but God knows all that can be achieved because of who He is and the fact that He is with us. ‘’I am with you’’ (8) is the answer to all our feelings of inadequacy. In touching Jeremiah’s mouth, the Lord was essentially ‘anointing’ him to be His prophet; His mouthpiece, to speak His words (See Isaiah 6:7). ‘’The touch of God makes the difference between success and failure…The call of God and the touch of God must go together or we fail.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.497.

‘’We are quick to say of another believer: ‘’He or she doesn’t have the necessary gifts or ability to perform a certain task.’’ Yes, concerning natural gifts and abilities, we may be correct; but in evaluating others, let us never forget that it is the Lord who is the primary enabler of His servants. One can imagine a modern Christian leader saying to the young Jeremiah: ‘’No, you are just not cut out to be a prophet; you should do something else!’’ ‘’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.1077

God’s Word is mighty (10): ‘’See what I’ve done? I’ve given you a job to do among nations and governments – a red-letter day! Your job is to pull up and tear down, take apart and demolish, And then start over, building and planting.’’ The Message. At the beginning of Jeremiah’s book you get to see the two sides of his ministry – to pronounce judgment and to promise restoration. But you will find that the major emphasis, of necessity, is on the former.

‘’Just as Jeremiah was appointed over nations (verse 10), so are we; we who faithfully proclaim God’s word and obey His commands have a spiritual authority greater than any power on earth.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.1078.

‘’And who is sufficient for these things?’’ (2 Corinthians 2:16). ‘’Our sufficiency is from God.’’ (2 Corinthians 4: 5, 6). ‘’When God calls you to do a task for Him, He does not ask you to be adequate; He asks you to be available.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.496.

Prayer: Dear Lord, please touch my lips, so that I may speak your word.

Daily Bible thoughts 829: Monday 9th March 2015: Jeremiah 1:4, 5.

Jeremiah 1:4, 5.

Here are two things that were true of Jeremiah and that are true concerning every believer:

He was a person of a dignity: ‘’Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…’’ (5a; see also Isaiah 49:5; Galatians 1:15, 16; Ephesians 1:4).

Consider the sacredness of the womb (Psalm 139:13-16): ‘’you knit me together in my mother’s womb.’’ (Psalm 139:13b). The womb is the place where life is ‘’formed’’ and from the moment of conception all the potential is there that will slowly and gradually take on a very definite pre-planned form and shape. One preacher spoke about being able to hear, in these words, the ‘’click, click of the divine knitting needles.’’ But the womb is a sacred temple that has been invaded by massed armies of death. Very few people in our society seem to understand the seriousness of this modern day ‘massacre of the innocents.’ One famous preacher said that we, in the West (maybe even the U.K. alone) have killed more people (i.e. in terms of unborn life) than Hitler killed Jews in the concentration camps. That wasn’t right, and this is certainly wrong. In one of his books, Malcolm Muggeridge wryly observed that if Mary had conceived Jesus in our day and age she might well have come under strong social pressure to abort the foetus. I’m not saying that there is never a place for abortion. When a mother’s life is in danger, for example, that surely takes precedence? However, for abortion to be used as a form of convenience and birth control is plain wrong. We cannot afford to underestimate the magnitude of this crime against God and humanity, and we will surely pay a high price for it if we do not repent. In a sense, we are offering our children on the altars of our gods (16).

He was a person of destiny: ‘’Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you: A prophet to the nations – that’s what I had in mind for you.’’ The Message.

We are not all called to be prophets, but we are all called; called to be and do something for God. Our short, precious lives are not to be squandered. God’s call to you may look daunting on paper. It may not always be what you would choose. But nothing matters more in this life than that you should faithfully do the task the Lord has entrusted to you. However it may feel, God’s will is always ‘’good, pleasing and perfect’’ (Romans 12:2b). Always!

Prayer: Thank you Lord that you have superintended my formation from conception until now. I pray that my whole life will be shaped by your Hands. I want to do your will, O God, and delight to do it.

Daily Bible thoughts 828: Friday 6th March 2015: Jeremiah 1: 1-3 (cont’d)

Jeremiah 1: 1-3 (cont’d)
‘’The word of the LORD came to him…’’ (2, 4; and see 9 and 11).
If the ‘’word of the LORD’’ comes to you today (and I pray it does) what will you do with it?
It can be an uncomfortable word; it can be an inconvenient word.
For Jeremiah it meant switching direction – slightly (1, 5b). He was a priest by birth but became a prophet by calling. You may not always do what you’re doing now. God’s Word may come to you like a policeman, stood in the centre of the road, with hand held aloft and finger pointing in another direction. The important thing is to stay open, keep listening and always be willing to know and do the will of God.
Jeremiah received a costly calling. He had to preach an unpopular message that most people did not want to hear. He had to articulate clear and serious warnings and issue the call to repentance. He would give a lifetime to preaching God’s Word with little outward success (if any), and he always knew that’s how it would be. (By some standards of success Jeremiah was not successful. So let’s be careful what measures we use.) Verses 2 and 3 show that Jeremiah persevered through many difficult years. During that time, God’s Word ‘’continued to come to him’’ The Message, but his ‘congregation’ didn’t want it coming to them. These were tough times for the prophet.
‘’Jeremiah’s life was not easy, and his ministry did not appear successful. But he was faithful to the Lord and accomplished God’s will.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.495
‘’Jeremiah lived about sixty years. Across that life span there is no sign of decay or shrivelling. Always he was pushing out the borders of reality, exploring new territory. And always he was vigorous in battle, challenging and contesting the shoddy, the false and the vile.’’ Eugene Peterson.’’
‘’He ministered during the last four decades of Judah’s history as a nation, beginning partway through the reign of the godly King Josiah. Jeremiah supported Josiah in his attempts to reform the nation; but after Josiah’s death, his two sons Jehoiakim and Zedekiah opposed further reforms and withdrew royal support from Jeremiah himself. Jeremiah’s public ministry ended with the fall of Jerusalem…when its remaining citizens were forced into exile by the Babylonians.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p. 1077.
So it was not an easy calling and Jeremiah lived through challenging times. He faced the disappointment of having his preaching rejected. (If you want to read a detailed account of the history of Judah during Jeremiah’s lifetime, look at 2 Chronicles chapters 22-25)
But here’s a final thought for now. If the ‘’word of the LORD’’ comes to you today, will you listen to it? Jeremiah’s hearers wouldn’t and went into ‘’exile’’. That still has its counterpart today. There are ‘prisons’ and dry and barren places where people find themselves if they push God’s Word away.
Prayer: Lord God of truth, help me to hear you speaking and please give me the desire and courage and strength to obey you. I also recognise the wisdom of going your way. My way will take me into captivity. Please save me from myself, I pray.

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