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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Month

June 2015

Daily Bible thoughts 903: Wednesday 17th June 2015: Colossians 3: 1-4: Intentionality.

Colossians 3: 1-4: Intentionality.(Please click here for todays passage)

Good news! We are new people in a new position (1, 3). So we can do everything we are told to do in this chapter.

‘’Having laid the doctrinal foundation, Paul now makes the personal application, for truth is something to live as well as to learn.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.784

‘’They now share in his resurrection life, so their lives are to be different. Their interests are to be focused on Christ; their minds, aims, ambitions, in fact their whole outlook, are to be centred on that heavenly realm where he rules, and where their lives truly belong. A continuous ongoing effort is required (lit.’keep on setting your minds/hearts’) for such a focus does not come automatically.’’ Peter T. O’Brien: ‘New Bible Commentary’, p.1272.

Our lives must be continually re-orientated towards our real home, for we regularly drift off course. But no one ever does anything significant without putting their mind to it and their heart into it. So there’s an intentionality here, expressed in the repeated word ‘’set’’ (1, 2; see Malachi 3:1). This is about ‘mind-set’ and focus. But such concentration will not happen without time. It’s easy to tell ourselves that we are far too busy to donate time to the cultivation of our spiritual lives. When John Ortberg was about to enter a very busy season of ministry, and he asked Dallas Willard what he needed to do to stay spiritually healthy, Dallas replied, ‘’You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life?’ When Ortberg came back asking, ‘’What else?’’ the reply was, ‘’There is nothing else. Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.’’

Today’s reading also raises the question, ‘To what extent is Jesus my true treasure?’ ‘’…set your hearts on things above, where Christ is…’’ (1). Surely my heart will follow my love; it will be where my love is. Our real life is now bound up with Jesus (3, 4; 1 John 5:12), so why would we keep our hearts and minds distanced from Him? If Christ is your life, keep your heart and mind in the place of life.

Verse 3 speaks of our security: ‘’So here we are in Christ, who is in God, and no burglar, not even Satan himself, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Rom.8:31-39).’’ Dr. A.T. Robertson.

Our real identity is not clear to the world at the moment, but one day it will be openly displayed (3, 4). ‘’Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life – even though invisible to spectators – is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too – the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.’’ The Message. C.S. Lewis said that if you could see your brother or sister today, looking how they will one day appear, you might well be tempted to bow down and worship them!

‘’…make the new life the focus of your attention. Set your mind on it; seek to experience all you have in Christ.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe.

Daily Bible thoughts 902: Tuesday 16th June 2015: Jeremiah 8: 18 – 9:2

 Jeremiah 8: 18 – 9:2 please click here for todays passage

‘’Break my heart for what breaks yours.’’

When I was about to attend my first morning service at the ‘Elim’ church in Wigan, my parents tried to warn me that I might not like it. I didn’t!! I had never felt or heard such raw emotion in church before. I was used to sedate and orderly services, but here I witnessed loud expressions of joy and love and saw tears flowing liberally. It felt like loving chaos.

Jeremiah has been characterised as ‘the weeping prophet’ and today’s reading illustrates why. We see a window into his heart. He was so burdened for his people. (You also see conflicted emotions in 9:1, 2):

‘’For my dear broken people, I’m heartbroken. I weep, seized by grief. Are there no healing ointments in Gilead? Isn’t there a doctor in the house? So why can’t something be done to heal and save my dear, dear people?’’ The Message.

(18, 21, 9:1). What moves me? What makes me cry? Are our hearts somehow disconnected from the realities of sin and need all around us? Do we not care? Or perhaps we care all too little? I can’t help but feel that our prayer meetings would be more densely populated if we had more Jeremiah’s about the place. But Jeremiah’s seem to come in rather small numbers.

In (19a) Jeremiah sees his people in the land of bondage. This is where their sin and idolatry got them. They had their own way, and then found this was not what they wanted. Certainly, they didn’t want the full on consequences of their rebellion.

The people of Jeremiah’s day ‘missed the bus’ (20). They had the opportunity to turn back to God, but they didn’t seize it. They got so ‘sick’ that their situation was ‘terminal’ (22): ‘’Gilead was a part of the promised land that lay east of the Jordan River and was famous for a healing balm made from the resin of a certain kind of tree. Since this balm was readily available and there were physicians to apply it, why, Jeremiah asks, has the wound of the people not been healed? (verse 22).The reason is that the wound is spiritual, and it will take more than Gilead’s balm to heal it. Spiritual wounds can be healed only when people cast themselves on God and repent of their sins. Sadly, Judah’s people had rejected that remedy.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The applied Old Testament Commentary: p.1090.

Sin in the church can bring us to the sad place where it seems like our King, Jesus, is no longer with us (19). There is no sense or manifestation of His presence; there is no light shining out from among us. When we see anything like this we have reason to weep.

Prayer: ‘’Lord crucified give me a heart like yours.’’

Daily Bible thoughts 901: Monday 15th June 2015: Jeremiah 8: 8-17: True wisdom.

Jeremiah 8: 8-17: True wisdom Please click here for passage

In the late 1970’s I visited St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, and climbed up as high as you could go. Whilst at the top of the building, I met a robed verger, a young man, who cheerfully asked me what I was doing. At the time I was coming towards the end of my Bible College training. He too was going to train for the Anglican ministry. I think he may already have been in some form of preparation. Although initially pleasant, his tone quickly degenerated towards sarcasm. He questioned my belief in miracles, and suggested that if I believed what I did, I should throw myself off the building. He almost became menacing in his tone, and I proceeded to remove myself from him, and a conversation that wasn’t going anywhere. But if he ever did get into the ministry, what would he do with the Bible? I pray he had a change of heart!

You don’t need a ‘’pen’’ (8) to tweak the teaching of Scripture. You can make adjustments with your tongue. Satan still slithers into the ‘garden’ with a query: ‘’Did God really say..?’’ (Genesis 3:1), and many preachers are willing to stand up and say, ‘No, He really didn’t mean that at all.’ The Scribes were teaching that people could go on in their rebellious ways towards God and get away with it (11). They were very wrong, and everyone paid the price for their error filled messages (10a, 12b, 13; see Leviticus 26:31-33). God will especially punish teachers who lead people astray. They have been given greater privileges and carry greater responsibility (Luke 12:47, 48; 17:1,2; 2 Timothy 2:15; James 3:1).

A ministry that moves away from the Bible is inevitably superficial. It does not carry the radical answer to the bleeding need of the wounded heart (11): ‘’they put on band-aids…’’ The Message. I think every preacher should examine themselves in the light of this eleventh verse. ‘Is this in any way true of me?’ Preaching that does not take sin seriously cannot take the gospel remedy seriously.

Real wisdom is found in God’s Word (9). This is different to the accepted wisdom of the world (Proverbs 1:7; 2 Corinthians 2:6-14). It is ‘’the wisdom that comes from heaven’’ (James 3:17). It is the work of Christian leaders to help people see what the Bible says, and all it says. We cannot change the script because it is unpopular or difficult. This is not our prerogative.

People’s ultimate health and well-being is bound up with their acceptance or rejection of God’s truth. If we reject the written Word of God, we also reject Jesus the living Word who is its centre and substance. If we reject Jesus, what hope can we have?

Finally, here are three things that can bring a preacher down (but it’s not an exhaustive list):

  • Greed for money etc. (10);
  • Lack of personal integrity (10);
  • A seared conscience (12), no longer sensitive towards God or sin.

Prayer: Lord God, I recognise that people need your ‘medicine’, however unpalatable it may seem to some. Please help me to never ‘dilute’ what you have put in the gospel ‘bottle’.

Daily Bible thoughts 900: Friday 12th June 2015: Jeremiah 8: 4-7: Warning Light.

 Jeremiah 8: 4-7(please click here for Bible Passage): Warning Light.

‘’Each pursues his own course like a horse charging into battle.’’ (6b).

I discovered that next to this passage I had written a note: ‘’How often do we cling to what, deep down we know to be wrong, but want to be right?’’

Many years ago, I was embarked on a particular course of action, when it felt like a huge warning light came on inside. I knew that something was wrong. But the urge to continue with what I was doing was greater than my very real sense of unease. So I did carry on. It did not take long to realise why that ‘light’ had appeared on the ‘dashboard’ of my soul. Although the decision I took did not destroy me, it did cause much heartache and aggravation for a time, and it was damaging.

The pursuit of our own ‘course’ tends to go hand in hand with clinging ‘’to deceit’’ (5b). We are quite happy to believe lies that permit us to carry on with our plans, and just close our eyes to what we do not want to see; and shut our ears to uncomfortable truth. The problem is that, as we have already seen in these readings, when we get what we want we don’t necessarily want it. We certainly don’t want all the bad stuff that comes with having our own way. There is One who loves us; a Father who knows better than we do. We should listen to Him instead of stomping off down the forbidden road. He wants to protect us from ourselves.

‘’They stubbornly hold on to their illusions, refuse to change direction…They just kept at it, blindly and stupidly banging their heads against a brick wall.’’ The Message.

God clearly wanted His people to return to Him. He was longing for their repentance (6). ‘’I listened carefully but heard not so much as a whisper. No one expressed one word of regret. Not a single ‘’I’m sorry’’ did I hear.’’ The Message.

His complaint was: ‘’Cranes know when its time to move south for winter. And robins, warblers, and bluebirds know when it’s time to come back again. But my people? My people know nothing, not the first thing of GOD and his rule.’’ The Message. It was the season for mass ‘’migration’’ (7) back towards God and Home. If ever there was a time to return, this was it. But the people of Judah did not seize the moment of opportunity.

Thankfully, although it is self-destructive to plot our own route through life, such self-will is not beyond forgiveness.

‘’We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.’’ (Isaiah 53:6).

As the prophet Isaiah foresaw, hundreds of years in advance, when the Messiah came, He took the punishment for our reckless pursuit of our own agendas. We may not be protected from the consequences of all our self-centred choices, but we can be forgiven for them through faith in Christ, who died in our place. This is very good news indeed! The time to turn to Jesus is now. This is the ‘season ‘ for movement towards Him. But will we? Will you?

Prayer: Whenever I see your warning light come on, give me the courage to heed it.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 899: Thursday 11th June 2015: Jeremiah 8:1-3

Jeremiah 8:1-3

This is a continuation of the message begun in the previous chapter. ‘’At that time’’ (of the fall of Jerusalem) certain things will happen. It’s a terrible scene depicted. Imagine being told that one day your body, along with the bodies of many other people from your community, will lie unburied on the ground; that there will be a landscape littered with corpses.

Verse one shows the comprehensive nature of the judgment to fall. ‘’I’ll see to it that they dig up the bones of the kings of Judah, the bones of the princes and priests and prophets, and yes, even the bones of the common people.’’ The Message. The leaders had led the way in ungodly living, and they led their nation to destruction. The bad shepherds took their flock over the cliff edge with them.

The various words used in verse 2, such as ‘’loved and served and…followed and consulted and worshipped’’ point to what the people had lived for; what they had given themselves to. Someone said, ‘’Beware of what you set your heart on for it will surely be yours!’’ There will be a return on the investment of your life, and many people will find that they don’t get the return they desired. If you give your life over to any ‘god’ other than the Lord; if you devote yourself to any purpose other than the one your Maker intended, you will deeply regret it. We will reap what we sow and many ‘farmers’ will not like their harvest. ‘’They’ll dig them up and spread them out like a congregation at worship before sun, moon, and stars, all those sky gods they’ve been so infatuated with all these years, following their ‘lucky stars’ in dog-like devotion. Their bones will be left scattered and exposed, to reenter the soil as fertilizer, like manure.’’ The Message. The truth is that when we get what we want, we don’t necessarily want it. We have many experiences of this during our life time. How much of what we long for disappoints us. To lie unburied was considered a terrible disgrace. Their beloved ‘gods’ failed them when they needed them most They could not save their worshippers.

This short section comes to a terrible end. Even for those who survive this judgment, they will wish they were dead (3). ‘’Everyone left – all from this evil generation unlucky enough to still be alive in whatever godforsaken place I will have driven them to – will wish they were dead.’’ The Message. As I understand the Bible, there will come a day when even those who are dead will wish that they were truly dead (i.e extinct). The people who have lived for other gods will find themselves forsaken by the true God. They have rejected Him, and He will respect their choice. But death would be preferable to being without Him forever. Remember that Christ, upon the cross, experienced the God-forsakenness of Hell, so that we will never have to. We simply have to trust Him and what He has done for us.

(The word ‘’refuse’’ in (2) reminds me that a common word used in the New Testament for Hell, is the same one for the constantly burning rubbish heap just outside Jerusalem.)

Prayer: O God have mercy on me, and on all I love. Save us from self-destructive lifestyle choices that exclude you.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 898: Wednesday 10th June 2015: Psalm 118:1-16

 Psalm 118:1-16

If you believe it, say it!

There are certain things that we who believe should ‘’say’’ (2-4). If we are convinced about certain Biblical truths, there are times when we should declare them – to ourselves, to others and to the powers of darkness. It is good to ‘’say’’ what we believe about God, in prayer to God.

This Psalm was written by someone who had experienced God’s love in answered prayer. He had come near to defeat (13), but with God’s help he had been the winner against all odds. He had learned by experience that it is ‘’better’’ to trust God than any human being, however strong and capable they may seem (8, 9).This was his repeated theme:

‘’His love endures for ever.’’

Karl Barth, a great Swiss theologian who had a mighty intellect, was once asked, ‘What is the greatest truth you have ever learned. His simple reply was: ‘’Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.’’

God’s love ‘’endures’’. It is not like human love. Our love can be akin to a bubble in a bath, beautiful but fragile. There one moment, but gone the next; pretty but fickle. God’s love, on the other hand, stays the course with people, whatever they are like. God loved me when I wasn’t a Christian; he loves me still when I don’t behave as a Christian should; I know He will always love me. His love ‘’endures’’. Because ‘’the LORD is with me’’ (6, 7), I know that His love is with me. ‘’God is love’’ (1 John 4:16).

God’s love ‘’endures’’ in all circumstances. The Jewish people sing Psalms 113 – 118 at Passover, so this must be one of the songs Jesus sang before He went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray (Matthew 26:30). In the face of great adversity, let us follow the example of Jesus in declaring God’s love.

God’s love ‘’endures for ever.’’ In fact, the essence of heaven will surely be the greatest possible realisation of the love of God. We will experience His love perfectly. We will be enveloped in an ocean of infinite love

God’s love is supremely seen in Jesus. ‘’There is no love like the love of Jesus.’’ says an old hymn. I once heard a preacher quote the saying about ‘’wearing your heart on your sleeve.’’ He said, ‘’God wore His heart on a cross.’’ In the desperate cry of the psalmist for Divine help, I catch an echo of where each of us has to get to. We need Jesus to save us from our greatest enemy, which is our sin. This He will do for us if we trust in Him alone (8, 9). He will ‘’become’’ our ‘’salvation’’ (14). Have you come to that point yet where you ask Jesus to rescue you? Has He become your salvation? It doesn’t just happen. You have to ask for His help. Then He will as surely come to rescue you as He did the psalmist in many days gone by. How up to date and relevant is the Bible!

Daily Bible thoughts 897: Tuesday 9th June 2015: Colossians 2:20-23.

Colossians 2:20-23.

All that we need is all that He is!

Let’s be wary of living our lives by any form of teaching that is not Biblical. Man-made rules will not change us. At times they can be appealing, but they just don’t work. They might seem to for a time, but they are not radical enough (23). They don’t go sufficiently deep.

Some professing Christians have rules for themselves and they are zealous about trying to impose these on their fellow believers. God made you and they have a wonderful plan for your life! Their mission is to make you in their own image.

But true religion is not about rule-keeping; it’s about Jesus. It’s about keeping company with Him; ‘abiding’ in Him; drawing from Him all that is in Him. All that we need is all that He is. That’s the message of Colossians, as we’ve been seeing. We will not grow by keeping human rules but through vital ‘’connection’’ with Christ our Head (19). Only the Lord Himself can deal with our flesh life; our own going struggles with ‘’sensual indulgence’’ (23). Strict rules will never cure the real sickness of our souls.

‘’If the Colossians were to fall victims to the false teaching and voluntarily place themselves under rules and regulations…which were imposed by the principalities and powers, then this would be to go back into slavery again, a bondage to the very powers of the universe from which they had been freed when they died with Christ in his death. Not all Christians are free from superstition, which can exert more influence than their faith…The taboos left untouched the problems of sensual indulgence.’’ Peter T. O’Brien: ‘New Bible Commentary’, p.1271.

‘’Pleasure in God is the power for purity. The vice-grip the pleasure of sin exerts on the human soul will be broken only by trusting God’s promise of superior pleasure in knowing Jesus. The only way to conquer one pleasure is with another, greater and more pleasing pleasure.’’ Sam Storms: ‘One thing’, p.128.

The Christian life is not about following rules, but abiding in Christ.

All that we need is all that Jesus is.

Prayer: Let there be no going back, for me, to that futile realm of religious rules and works. Jesus you have set me free. Thank you.

Daily Bible thoughts 896: Monday 8th June 2015: Colossians 2:16-19: Focussed on Christ

Colossians 2:16-19: Focussed on Christ

Here are some further reasons to keep your focus on Jesus:

The ‘reality’ we find in Him (17). The Old Testament ceremonies, rituals and symbols were but ‘’a shadow’’ of things to come. But Jesus Christ is the substance. All these things find their fulfilment in Him. Let’s not allow ourselves to get preoccupied with secondary matters, but always concentrate on Jesus. He is central. The so-called ‘Colossian heresy’ was taking people back into the shadows from the brilliant Sunlight of noonday. Would you rather have the shadow of the man you love, or the man Himself?! Now the Colossians had Christ, surely they would not let Him go for lesser things? Religion is no substitute for reality.

Verse 16 is interesting. You can’t stop people judging you. We are almost incurably judgmental, even though we shouldn’t be (see verse 18 also.) One sign that you have lost vital connection with the Lord Jesus (19) is that you start to try to do His job for Him. You want to run other people’s lives; tell them what to do. The judgmental people Paul writes about here were, of course, heretics. But you don’t have to be into heresy to be judgmental. (Verse 16 shows that there was a Jewish flavour to this heresy. But the eighteenth verse reveals that there was also an esoteric quality. There were people who were asserting their spiritual superiority over others on the grounds of heightened spiritual experiences. They were into visions; they believed they had joined in with the angelic worship of God. In short, they regarded themselves to be in the ‘first class compartment’ of spirituality, and proudly looked down on others who didn’t have what they had. They were the spiritual elite.)

He is the Head of the church (19a). Therefore He is your Head. Let Jesus run your life; allow Him to tell you what to do. Get your orders from Him. ‘’So don’t put up with anyone pressuring you in details of diet, worship services, or holy days…Don’t tolerate people who try to run your life, insisting that you join their obsession with angels and that you seek out visions. They’re a lot of hot air, that’s all they are.’’ The Message.

Growth comes as you keep connection with Him (19b). The growth of the church (and of individual Christians) is God’s work. God gives the growth (1 Corinthians 6, 7). God causes you to grow, but it’s all about ‘’connection’’ with Jesus. As you ‘’abide’’ in Him (John 15) you will grow.

Don’t lose touch!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to never move away from you

Daily Bible thoughts 895: Friday 5th June 2015: Colossians 2: 13 – 15: The price is paid.

Colossians 2: 13 – 15: The price is paid.

These things are true of every Christian:

  • There’s been a great change (13): You are no longer what ‘’you were’’. (See John 5: 24: ‘’I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.’’ You were dead, but you aren’t any longer! (See 3:1; Ephesians 2:1-11). Conversion (or ‘regeneration’) was God’s work; God’s initiative. It is not something anyone can boast about. We didn’t make ourselves alive. ‘’When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive – right along with Christ.’’ The Message.
  • There’s been a glorious removal (13b, 14: This is a vivid way of saying that because Jesus was nailed to the cross our sin debt has been cancelled.)What a precious truth is found in just six words: ‘’He forgave us all our sins…’’ A verse in the famous hymn, ‘It is well with my soul’, says: ‘’My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought; my sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, O my soul.’’ There are things that we have done which could continue to haunt us. But Jesus has decisively dealt with every sin at the cross. Someone said, ‘’God buries our sins in the deepest sea, and puts up a big sign: ‘No Fishing!’ ‘’. In using the words ‘’our’’ and ‘’us’’ Paul identified himself with the people he was writing to. He didn’t stand aloof from them. He recognized that he too was a sinner in need of God’s grace. When a criminal was crucified, a placard was nailed to the cross above where he hung, itemising his ‘sins’; his misdemeanours. (You may remember how this worked out in the case of Jesus: Matthew 27:37. Jesus had committed no crimes, but they had to charge Him with something. So He was crucified on concocted charges.) Paul writes here that the charges ‘’against us’’ were ‘nailed’ to Christ’s cross. What an incomprehensibly merciful thing Jesus did for us by His dying! ‘’Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant cancelled and nailed to Christ’s Cross.’’ The Message.
  • There’s been a gigantic win (15): ‘’ He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets.’’ The Message. The Bible teaches that when Jesus died on the cross He overcame Satan and all the evil powers in the universe (see also Hebrews 2:14, 15. As David cut off Goliath’s head with the giant’s own sword, so Jesus used Satan’s weapon, death, to defeat him.) Jesus exposed to the universe the utter helplessness of the principalities and powers. Paul uses the picture of a conqueror’s triumphal procession in which prisoners of war were displayed to magnify the Victor’s prowess. As we saw yesterday, Jesus’ victory has massive implications for our own daily struggle with personal evil. We share in His win as we lean on Him. Praise God, we our out from under the domination of sin and the devil. We don’t have to be bullied or dictated to any longer.

Prayer: Lord help me to realise that these things are true of me, because of you.

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