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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

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May 2015

Daily Bible thoughts 879: Monday 18th May 2015: Colossians 1:21-23

Colossians 1:21-23

‘’Once…but now…’’

Have you ever seen those successful slimming photos that tell the story, in a snapshot, of ‘before and after?’ In these few verses Paul writes about how someone’s situation radically alters through coming to know Christ. ‘Every picture tells a story’, and here are two contrasting landscapes.

‘’You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. You don’t walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted or diverted.’’ The Message.

Our pre-Christian state is described in (21). It was stark and it was dark. We were ‘’enemies’’ of God, and that is not a good place to be. The gospel call to repent (i.e. to change your mind) is indispensable because fundamentally the problem of ‘’evil behaviour’’ stems from a mind at war with God (Romans 8:7). To be ‘’alienated’’ in any situation is not a happy place to be. Thank God this is no longer our story. This is the ‘before’ photo and it’s one to keep in your wallet! I’m not proud of mine. How about you?

The emphasis on ‘’Christ’s physical body’’ in (22) is important. Reading between the lines, the false teaching that was infecting the church in Colossae may have denied the reality of the incarnation. There was a belief that matter is evil, and that God could not and would not contaminate Himself by coming into contact with it. But Paul emphasises that God really and truly did become a man (see 2:9) and that He was crucified in a body. Look at the great difference the cross makes. We no more face alienation and accusation, but we are brought into a place of acceptance with God, where we have a clean record in His sight. This is the ‘after’ picture, and it’s one you will want to take out of your purse and pass around the room. But the reason for doing so will not be pride, but praise for the One who has changed everything, at such great cost to Himself.

The gospel call is to repent of sin and believe in Jesus, in order to be saved ‘’through his blood’’ (20). But also embedded in it is the call to persevere; to endure to the end. I don’t want to get into a debate about ‘once saved, always saved’ etc. I just want to highlight the fact that the New Testament regularly warms of the possibility of drifting away from our faith moorings, and repeatedly exhorts us to keep going. We surely have to heed these calls, and take them seriously? Also, the parable of the sower highlights the uncomfortable truth that many who profess faith do not press on in the faith. I understand that Colossae was located in an earthquake zone, so Paul’s words in (23) would resonate with the Colossian Christians.

Just one other thought: if the gospel message is to be ‘’heard’’, it must be ‘’proclaimed’’ by those who are willing to be its ‘’servant’’. Paul was such a person (23b).

Prayer: Thank you Lord for your ‘amazing grace’.

Daily Bible thoughts 878: Friday 15th May 2015: Colossians 1:18-20

Colossians 1:18-20

‘’…so that in everything he might have the supremacy.’’ (18b) Jesus should hold the same place in the church; in our lives, that He does in the universe. This is the position of supremacy. ‘From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone.’’ The Message.

Yesterday we looked at Christ, supreme in creation (15-17). This next section shows Him to be supreme in the church, the new creation. The false teachers infecting the church at Colossae with their heretical germs, were very wrong about Jesus. Paul wanted to remind the Christians just who ‘’He is…’’ (The expression is repeated several times in 15-20.)

‘’And he is the head of the body, the church…’’ (18a) I understand that the emphasis in the original language is that ‘He, and He alone’, is the Head. This has profound implications for how we lead the church and run our lives. What part does prayer play; being still before the Lord and listening to Him? The church is not a constitutional monarchy and Jesus is no figurehead King. He must rule absolutely.

‘’…he is the beginning…’’ (18) As Jesus is the beginning of the Universe, so He is the beginning of the church. If He were not building us, we would not be built! As someone pointed out, Jesus is ‘’the beginning’’ of the church, and it has no ending!

‘’…and the firstborn from among the dead…’’ (18) In this context, ‘’firstborn’’ points to the fact that Jesus was the first (and most important) Person to truly rise from the dead (Some others may have been resuscitated, only to die again, but Jesus arose to a new order of life), and there will be many more to follow (See also 1 Corinthians 15:20 for a similar thought.) Because He lives, His people will live also. Jesus has beaten death, and in Him we are overcomers too.

‘’…so that in everything he might have the supremacy.’’ (18b) Such a Jesus surely could not possibly hold any lesser place. This is the place He holds in the universe and over the church, regardless of our response. But will we put out the ‘white flag’ and fully submit to His rule?

‘’For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him…’’ (19) In those times, when a ship had all its crew on board, that ship was said to have ‘fullness’. Paul is saying, if you like, that all of God is ‘on board’ Jesus. This was a vital point to make because the false teachers saw Jesus as just one of a series of ‘emanations’ from God. ‘They didn’t deny Him’, someone said, ‘but they did dethrone Him!’

‘’…and through him to reconcile…’’ (20) The Jesus who made ‘’all things’’ (16) has made it possible for ‘’all things’’ to be reconciled to God through the peace-making mission of the cross. The universe can and will be restored through Jesus’ great sacrifice. ‘’Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe – people and things, animals and atoms – get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the Cross.’’ The Message.

Daily Bible thoughts 877: Thursday 14th May 2015: Colossians 1:15-17

Colossians 1:15-17

The central message of Colossians may be summed up like this: Jesus is everything you need, and everything you need is in Jesus (see also chapter two, verses nine and ten.) In (1:15-20) we come across one of the great Christological passages in the New Testament. It’s a hymn of praise about Jesus. (It may even have been an early Christian ‘hymn’ that Paul included in his letter under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.) Someone said that it shows Christ supreme in creation (15-17); and in the church, the new creation (18-20). We will look at it under these two headings during the next two days.

Christ supreme in creation (15-17):

  • ‘’He is the image of the invisible God…’’ (15a). The word for ‘’image’’ is the same one used regarding the Emperor’s ‘image’ on the currency in those days. Many people in the Roman Empire would never see the Imperial ruler in person. But if they had coinage in their pockets they knew what he was like for they had seen his image. ‘’We look at the Son and see the God who cannot be seen.’’ The Message. (John 1: 18.) We may never have seen God, but we see His glory ‘’in the face of Christ’’ (2 Corinthians 4:6.) We know what the invisible God is like because He is revealed to us in Jesus (see 2:9.)
  • ‘’…the firstborn over all creation.’’ The key words here are ‘’over’’ and ‘’all’’. Jesus is the ‘’firstborn’’ ,not in the sense of coming into being at some point in time. That’s not the thought at all. The firstborn was the most important person in the household and had pre-eminence. Now that is the idea. Jesus is supreme over creation. (See Psalm 89:27 – a very important verse for understanding this ‘firstborn’ idea.)
  • ‘’For by him all things were created…’’ God made the universe, but He did so by means of His Word and His Spirit, and Jesus is that living ‘’Word’’ (John 1:1-3; 10; 14.) It follows logically that the One who made ‘’all things’’ would also be ‘’over’’ the ‘’all’’ things He has made. Everything was created ‘’by’’ Jesus and ‘’for’’ Is your Jesus too small? How we need to have our hearts and minds enlarged by the Holy Spirit so that we can see Him as He is and worship Him as He deserves.
  • ‘’He is before all things…’’ Again, it is a logical thought that the Person who made it all would come before it all. This phrase points to the pre-existence of Jesus. As God, He is eternal (Hebrews 1:8.)
  • ‘’…and in him all things hold together.’’ It is the case that, were it not for Jesus, we would not be able to live a moment longer. We owe our life; our every breath, to Him.

‘’He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment.’’ The Message.

Let the greatness of Jesus fill your vision today, and know that you are safe in His Hands. He is in control.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, cause me to see you more clearly, love you more dearly and follow you more nearly.

Daily Bible thoughts 876: Wednesday 13th May 2015: Colossians 1:9-14

Colossians 1:9-14

It’s easy to become blasé and accept a good thing as good, and that’s that. But when Paul heard about what was going on in Colossae, and how the new Christians were growing in faith, love and hope, he continued to pray fervently (9): ‘’…we have not stopped praying for you and asking God…’’ What was happening in Colossae was great, and Paul delighted in it. But he did not rest on his laurels. He wanted the good to be even better. This is a mark of great leadership.

I ask myself a question here: ‘Do I pray with such passion for people I don’t even know?’ Knowledge brings responsibility (9). Does my praying for the growth of fellow-Christians in any way match this?

Paul’s prayer concerned:

  • A thorough knowledge of God’s will through the work of the Holy Spirit (9). He’s the One who imparts ‘’spiritual wisdom and understanding’’;
  • Knowing God’s will in order to do God’s will (10). When we do know His will we can then try to offer Him the kind of life He deserves and ‘’please him in every way’’. We are in a position to live ‘fruitful’ lives (John 15). Why should God reveal His will to us if we will not do it?
  • Growth in knowing God (10b). There should be nothing static about our Christian lives. ‘I’m in the biggest room in the world’ someone said, which is the ‘room for improvement.’ In the realm of the Spirit there are endless possibilities for growth and change;
  • Supernatural strengthening (11). In this case it’s not about signs and wonders. Paul asks for an anointing of power so that they may patiently endure on the Christian pathway. He knows that many fierce winds of adversity will blow against them, and he wants them to stay the course. It may not look spectacular, but there is something splendid about a believer who ‘keeps on keeping on’ no matter what comes their way. It takes Holy Spirit dynamism to put one foot in front of the other and keep going;
  • A life of joyful praise (11b, 12). It’s a life of thanksgiving, which has at it its heart the knowledge of salvation (12, 13), that we have been rescued by God through Jesus. We’ve been forgiven by Jesus; bought by the blood of Jesus, and we live under the reign of Jesus. These are the new realities that mark every Christian, and they are things to be deeply grateful for. We’ve been brought out of a dark existence into one that is bright with God’s glory.

The closing part of the prayer reads like this in The Message: ‘’We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul – not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us. God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we’re in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.’’

 

Daily Bible thoughts 875: Tuesday 12th May 2015: Colossians 1:3-8

Colossians 1:3-8

Here are some ‘gleanings’ from these opening verses:

  • It is good to ‘’always’’ (3) combine prayer and thanks;
  • In encouraging others, it is important to glorify God, and say ‘thank you’ for His work in them;
  • Genuine faith in Jesus (vertically) will show itself (horizontally) in love ‘’for all the saints’’. This love is the Holy Spirit’s ‘’fruit’’ (Galatians 5:22). For Paul, the triad of graces, ‘’faith’’ (4), ‘’love’’ (4, 5 and 8), and ‘’hope’’ (5), are the hallmarks of genuine Christian experience. Someone said that faith reaches back into the past, to embrace everything Jesus did for us at the cross; love reaches out into the present to touch all God’s children with love; and hope reaches forward into the future to grasp the plans God has for us there. Hope is not a flimsy characteristic. It is something solid and certain. (Note too that it is this ‘eschatological’ presentation of what God has planned for tomorrow, that brings people into faith today, and causes them to overflow with love: verse 5); ‘’The lines of purpose in your lives never grow slack, tightly tied as they are to your future in heaven, kept taut by hope.’’ The Message.
  • People will not come to faith without someone preaching to them (Romans 10:14, 15). In the case of the Colossians, it was ‘’Epaphras’’ (7), who faithfully shared the good news of Jesus with them. Trying to piece things together, scholars think that Epaphras may have been converted during Paul’s two yearlong ministry in Ephesus (see Acts 19). Epaphras then went back up the Lycus valley to his home territory, and may have been responsible for the planting of churches in Laodicea, Hierapolis and Colossae (4:12, 13 and 16.)It’s encouraging to think what can come from just one convert. ‘’He is one reliable worker for Christ! The Message;
  • The gospel message has a life all of its own. It’s like seed which has life in it (5b, 6). It’s a ‘living thing’ because it is true. Sow it into a place and you just don’t know what might happen. Not only are people brought to faith through the gospel, but it is also the means by which they grow. ‘’It doesn’t diminish or weaken over time…The Message bears fruit and gets larger and stronger, just as it has in you…It’s as vigorous in you now as when you learned it from our friend and close associate Epaphras.’’ The Message.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for the powerful work your gospel has done in me, and continues to do.

Daily Bible thoughts 874: Monday 11th May 2015: Colossians 1:1, 2

Colossians 1:1, 2
I once read about an elderly gentleman who lived in a retirement home. One day, a visitor asked him, ‘What’s it like to live in an old folk’s home?’ Pulling himself up to his full height, he responded with great dignity, ‘I don’t live in an old folk’s home! I live in God!!’ That’s a wonderful answer, and it comes from the kind of perspective that sees yourself living ‘’in Christ’’ first of all, and only secondarily ‘’at Colossae’’ (2a). Do you see Jesus as your primary place of residence; as your supernatural habitat? We are likely to make the greatest impact on our geographical location when we see ourselves as fundamentally located in Christ. Then all that is in Him can flow through us to touch our village, town or city; the places where we live. At one and the same time we need to be connected to heaven, and also connected to the place where God has called us to live on earth.
Paul knew who he was and what he was (1). His calling was to be ‘’an apostle’’. This is what the will of God meant for him: he was a witness of the risen Lord, having met Him personally. He was also sent on a mission, to preach the good news about Jesus and pioneer churches in virgin Gentile territory. Do you know who you are ‘’by the will of God’’. God has a ‘shape’ for your life. He doesn’t expect you to ‘fit’ (or ‘squeeze’) into anyone else’s ‘slot’. As the hymn says: ‘’There’s a work for Jesus none but you can do.’’ You are special; you are unique. Even someone else who has the same gifts as you won’t exercise those gifts in the way you do. Their personality and character will colour the exercise of the gifts. True satisfaction and fulfilment in life come not to those who try to be someone else (that way you will only run into tons of frustration) but to those who discover who/what God has called them to be, and get on with it.
At one church where I visit from time to time, many of the people have a quite refreshingly old –fashioned way of speaking. (That doesn’t matter in the least of course, because their sincere love for Jesus is almost tangible.) I have often heard the leaders say about an individual in the church, ‘’He’s a good brother is….’’, then they will name him. I want to say that if it’s a fine thing to be an apostle to someone (as Paul was to many), it is also invaluable to be a ‘good brother’ to someone (as Timothy was.) This was also the case with the Christians in Colossae. They were ‘’the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae…’’ (2a). They were ‘’holy’’ i.e. set apart to belong to God. They were also ‘’faithful’’ in living out that calling. (And, of course, there were ‘sisters’ among the brothers!)
One way you can bless other people today is by your words. As much as possible, let them be words of ‘’Grace and peace’’ (2b); words that speak of and come from ‘’God our Father.’’
‘’May everything good from God our Father be yours!’’ The Message.
Prayer: Lord, cause me to know and do your will for my life today; help me to be a brother to someone today; and enable me to be your mouthpiece today. Make my life a blessing.

Daily Bible thoughts 873: Friday 8th May 2015: Jeremiah 5:26-31

Jeremiah 5:26-31

Make no mistake it, when rich and powerful people make their money on the backs of the vulnerable poor and needy, these are ‘’evil deeds’’ (28a). It angers God and it will incur His Judgment. When those who should ensure that there is justice for all, are prepared to sell it to the highest bidder, Heaven notices and will respond. For a time, wicked people may seem to get away with their wickedness, but it is only for a time.

‘’My people are infiltrated by wicked men, unscrupulous men on the hunt. They set traps for the unsuspecting. Their victims are innocent men and women. Their houses are stuffed with ill-gotten gain, like a hunter’s bag full of birds. Pretentious and powerful and rich, hugely obese, oily with rolls of fat. Worse, they have no conscience. Right and wrong mean nothing to them. They stand for nothing, stand up for no one, throw orphans to the wolves, exploit the poor. Do you think I’ll stand by and do nothing about this?’’ GOD’s Decree. ‘’Don’t you think I’ll take serious measures against a people like this?’’ The Message.

In Judah and Jerusalem in those days, a clear line could be drawn from the pulpit to the pew. What was going wrong in the community was linked to what had gone so badly wrong in ‘the church’. The preachers weren’t preaching the truth. There were time-servers and hirelings being appointed to the ministry. The leaders told lies and followed their own rules, in flagrant disregard of God’s Word. What’s more, the people ‘loved it’ that way (31b). It was right up their street. In the same way, it’s not unusual to hear some parishioners today rallying around a popular ‘priest’/minister who is living an immoral life, and doesn’t have much of a belief system. ‘But we love him (or her),’ they say. ‘He’s a great priest – so kind and loving, and fun to be around.’ There is very little challenge going to come to their lives from his life and words, if any at all: ‘’…and my people love it this way.’’ (31).

‘’Unspeakable! Sickening! What’s happened in this country? Prophets preach lies and priests hire on as their assistants. And my people love it. They eat it up! But what will you do when it’s time to pick up the pieces?’’ The Message.

‘’But what will you do in the end?’’ (31). That is such an important question. Where does all this lead? To a sick and broken society (‘’horrible and shocking’’ things happening in the land: verse 30), and ultimately to the devastation of judgment. Only Jesus can save us from such an end, and we need our pulpits to be filled with people who truly do believe and live the gospel. We need a band of faithful preachers who do not lie, but point to Jesus who alone is ‘’the way, and the truth, and the life.’’ (John 14:6). ‘’People need to think about the end of their lives; it will help them make better choices while they are living.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.1086.

Prayer: Holy God, in your mercy, deliver us and protect us from an unbelieving ministry.

Daily Bible thoughts 872: Thursday 7th May 2015: Jeremiah 5:20-25

Jeremiah 5:20-25

‘’There are none so blind as those who will not see.’’ (See verses 20, 21).

As we have seen, the people of Judah did not want to see the uncomfortable truth (12, 13), but preferred false teaching that made it easy on them (30,31). Before we jump in to condemn, let’s realise that we can be similarly obtuse.

‘’What is your attitude when you come into God’s presence? We should come with fear and trembling (that is, awe and respect) because God sets the boundaries of the roaring seas and establishes the rains and harvests. God had to strip away all the benefits that Judah and Israel had grown to respect more than him, with the hope that the people would turn back to God. Don’t wait until God removes your cherished resources before committing yourself to him as you should.’’ The Life Application Study Bible, p.1291.

Leaders/preachers can be given extremely tough assignments. They can have a script put in their hands that their listeners will not want to hear (20ff.) But we must be faithful to our calling.

‘’Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God…’’ (Romans 11: 22).

God, in His ‘common grace’ shows His loving kindness to all He has made (Matthew 5:44, 45).God’s kindness should move us to fear Him; to love, honour and worship Him. But if we do not respond to His overtures of kindness, we will come into contact with His sternness.

Prayer: Lord God, open our blind eyes and deaf ears.

Daily Bible thoughts 871: Wednesday 6th May 2015: Jeremiah 5:12-19

 Jeremiah 5:12-19

‘’It’s not the parts of the Bible I don’t understand that bother me, but the bits I do.’’

Note 4 things in today’s passage:

  • They contradicted the message (12): They did not like the words of threatened judgment and calls to repentance. They loved how they were living and did not want to change. Like many today, they wanted to have their ears ‘tickled’. They wanted to go to ‘church’ and be entertained. The just wanted to have fun. It’s interesting how we can rationalise more pleasant alternative interpretations of heart-searching Scripture passages. When we contradict what the Bible clearly says we are actually lying about God.
  • They abused the messengers (13): They didn’t like the message and so they ‘shot’ the messengers. ‘Let these bad things happen to them’, they said, ‘Not to us!’ (There were other messengers whose sermons they did love: verses 30, 31. There were people preaching a false and powerless message. God saw this as ‘’horrible and shocking’’, but the majority of the people loved it. No wonder a former great leader of Methodism asked, ’’What evil have I done that all men speak well of me?’’)
  • The rejected message does not lose its power because it has been rejected (14-17). It will come back to bite those who have slammed the door in its face. If someone tells you that there’s an escaped lion in your garden, but you refuse to believe them, your ‘unbelief’ will not prevent the animal having its way with you when you step outside. As we read earlier (6), the Babylonians were going to come and ‘’devour’’ (15-17).
  • There is hope (18, 19). As we have seen over and again, even amidst deep darkness a bright light shines.

There are ‘hard’ sayings in the Bible. Be careful that you don’t deliberately soften them; that you don’t dilute them to taste. If you twist the plain message of Scripture you will be lying about God (2 Peter 3:16). Just because we don’t like the preaching of judgment doesn’t mean we won’t have it to face. We can mock the preachers all we like, but we will be ‘burned by their words (14).

I understand the Bible to teach that we cannot reject Jesus in this world and be accepted by Him in the next. This is a truth to face, and not push away.

Prayer: Lord God, please give me the willingness to listen to all you have to say, and respond as you desire.

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