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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

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July 2015

Daily Bible thoughts 935: Friday 31st July 2015: 1 Thessalonians 2:6b-12: Wanted: Spiritual Parents!

1 Thessalonians 2:6b-12: Wanted: Spiritual Parents!(please click here for todays passage)

On the Sunday I returned to work after two weeks of paternity leave, I made the comment that, ‘It’s nice to be back to normal, or at least as normal as life is going to be for the next 21 years.’ An elderly gentleman leaving church that morning shook my hand warmly and said with a knowing smile, ‘It lasts a lot longer than 21 years!’ The truth is I don’t think anything can prepare you for the bombshell of parenthood; not really. You may have got the nursery ready, bought the pram, been to the classes and read the books, but the truth is most of us feel hopelessly out of our depth as we come to terms with the immense changes that the joyful entrance of a new life brings. In an article I read, somebody described parenthood as ‘welcoming a stranger’ into your home and heart. Furthermore, it’s a lifelong commitment.

Yesterday we discovered that when Paul and his team visited Thessalonica they were ‘successful’. But this success was not measured by numbers or anything like that. It had to do with character. As we saw: a.) they refused to be intimidated, and b.) they worked with integrity. Here’s a third thing in today’s passage: c.) they loved with intensity. Like Jesus, they laid aside their rights (6b, 9): ‘’Day and night we worked so that our preaching of the Gospel to you might not cost you a penny.’’ J.B. Phillips. Like Jesus, they served. They thought of others before themselves (see Philippians 2:1-11). Like Jesus, they gave their lives; they laid them down (see Mark 10:45). ‘’Our attitude among you was one of tenderness, rather like that of a devoted nurse among her babies.’’ J.B. Phillips. A nursing mother imparts her own life to the child. That baby is in her arms and next to her heart. She keeps him close. Also, like Jesus, they endured hardship (9a). I was talking with an older brother in the wonderful family of God recently. As we drank coffee and chatted about many varied things, he expressed to me a conviction (and he did not exempt himself from these comments) that the majority in the church are far too comfortable.

It’s interesting to note that both feminine (7) and masculine (11) characteristics were combined in their spiritual parenting. This, I believe, is the sort of nurturing that is most likely to bring up spiritual children with the family likeness, but it costs in terms of time and effort, whilst being deeply rewarding. Are we prepared for it? Are we willing for the personal inconvenience and disruption of our plans? Are we prepared to be put out; to welcome the stranger? More than courses and programmes (which admittedly have their place), we need Christian people who are willing to share their lives (and homes) with new converts. And bringing up baby may last a lot longer than 21 years!

Rob Parsons spoke about the significant role played in his life by an older man who was not a preacher as such, but he took Rob under his wing when he was younger. He said something like this: ‘’Every week i went round to his house, and we played table tennis, ate chips out of paper, and he taught me the Bible as best he could.’’ One day in later years Rob was able to say to him, ‘’Today I am speaking to large crowds in great venues, and it’s because of you.’’

Prayer: Lord I thank you for those who have poured time and effort into me. Help me to also invest in others.

Thought: ‘’What is it you are doing with the singular gift of your life?’’

Daily Bible thoughts 934: Thursday 30th July 2015: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-6: Back on the bike!

 1 Thessalonians 2:1-6: Back on the bike!(please click here for todays passage)

In the ‘Sacred Year’, Michael Yankoski writes movingly about the ‘carnival’ of the celebrity Christian circuit, and how it can lead to a disconnect between a life lived on the stage, in the spotlight, and the other existence lived out in private. He gradually became disillusioned with his own involvement in it: ‘’…I couldn’t help but wonder if I was just another pawn in the brightly lit song-and-dance called ‘’American Christianity.’’ Leading a life offstage that didn’t actually warrant what I was saying on stage. Was my life deeply grounded in God…or were the edges of my life cracked and fraying?’’ (p.7).

Paul’s visit to Thessalonica was a success. But this success was not measured in terms of numbers, or a building programme, or in many other ways the Christian ‘carnival’ assesses how well we’re doing. Essentially, this was about character. We will look at a couple of key measurements today, and refer to some more tomorrow:

  • They refused to be intimidated (1, 2). In spite of their injuries, they quickly got back on the bike! Many of us might have asked for some time off to heal and recover, but they just got on with the job. They showed immense courage, but it wasn’t worked up; it was worked in, by God Himself. The story of what happened in Philippi is told in Acts 16: 11-40. Paul and Silas were badly beaten and unjustly imprisoned. There was a lot of mental, emotional and physical pain involved in these incidents. They carried wounds. They were scarred. But they also saw a church planted in and around what they went through. So there was encouragement too. After the events at Philippi they picked themselves up, brushed themselves off and started all over again ‘’with the help of…God’’ (2). The message of Jesus is so hated and so unwanted by so many in our culture (and we are increasingly aware of this) that only with ‘outside help’ will we ‘’dare’’ to carry on. The words ‘’strong opposition’’ are, in the original language, an athletic term meaning ‘’a contest, a struggle’’. We are acutely aware that we are in a war zone. As a book from a few decades ago correctly expressed it, being a Christian is ‘’Risky Living’’. ‘’We were sure of ourselves in God, and went right ahead and said our piece, presenting God’s Message to you, defiant of the opposition.’’ The Message.
  • They worked with integrity. Reading between the lines you can see that Pau and his team were being maligned. When mud is thrown some of it inevitably sticks. Even though untrue, some lies can carry weight. On two occasions Paul writes ‘’You know’’ (1, 5). He could appeal to their knowledge of them, and God’s knowledge. He had ‘’a conscience void of offence, toward God, and toward men.’’ (Acts 24:16). Paul and his colleagues did not use their ‘pulpit’ to manipulate people and make a fast buck. They spoke the truth, even though it would not always be popular. Paul, knowing that God sees the inside of the cup and not just the outside, could declare that their motives were pure. They wanted to please God, not people. ‘’Be assured that when we speak to you we’re not after crowd approval – only God approval.’’ The Message. One of the ways Satan tries to destroy the message is by defaming the messengers. Somebody estimated that nine times Paul defends his integrity against lies in this letter. But Paul was not defending himself for the sake of his own reputation; it was so that the cause of the gospel would not suffer.

‘’Paul’s method was as pure as his motive: he presented the Word of God in the power of the Spirit, and trusted God to work.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: The Wiersbe Bible Commentary (NT),p.709

 

Daily Bible thoughts 933: Wednesday 29th July 2015: Jeremiah 11:18-23

 Jeremiah 11:18-23(please click here for todays notes)

Many years ago I was in a youth meeting in Leeds. The speaker, a former Scottish communist, was talking about the days just after his conversion when he and some friends regularly prayed into the night. He said something like this, ‘When you pray through the night, God shows you things about people.’ Well, experiencing revelation isn’t contingent on praying in the night, but God can show His people stuff they would not naturally know. He can drip drops of His infinite knowledge into human minds and hearts when required.

  • The plot revealed (18). God showed Jeremiah what his enemies were up to. It’s ironic to think that their plan was to erase the memory of his name (19). Even today there are people who are not Christians who know the name of Jeremiah. Sometimes someone will be described as a ‘Jeremiah’. Jeremiah was like Jesus (19; Isaiah 53:7; 1 Peter 2:23). He was plotted against but committed himself into the Hands of God who turned things around.
  • The plot resisted (21). People intent on having their own way will often resort to threats. These threats may not be as dire as the ones hurled at the prophet, but they are designed to induce fear in the recipients and win the day for the protagonists. We know, however, that although Jeremiah’s life was in danger he would not cave in. God made his heart strong and brave.
  • The prayer answered (20-23). Jeremiah prayed specifically and God specifically answered. Those who attack God’s people should realise that sooner or later He will deal with them, if they do not repent of their wrongdoing.
  • The downfall revealed (21-23). Just as God showed Jeremiah what they were plotting, He also opened his eyes to see what the outcome would be. People will reap what they sow.

God’s people in God’s world are not guaranteed an easy ride, for this is a fallen world, cracked and marred by sin. But we are in the Hands of God, and He will work everything out for His glory and our good. He is not taken by surprise by evil men. He knows what they are plotting. If you think God doesn’t know how to turn bad into good think about the cross of Jesus.

Prayer: Thank you Lord that the cross makes sense of everything.

Daily Bible thoughts 932: Tuesday 28th July 2015: Jeremiah 11:9-17: When prayer doesn’t change things.

Jeremiah 11:9-17: When prayer doesn’t change things.(click here for todays passage)

‘’Unless the Word of God is obeyed and worked out practically in our lives, God can’t bless us as He desires to do.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘The Wiersbe Bible Commentary (OT)’,P.1220.

I believe in the power of prayer. If you have been reading these notes for a time you will know this to be the case. But there can come a time when God will no longer listen to a person’s prayer (11b). There may even come a moment when God tells you to stop praying for someone (14; see 7:16; 1 John 5:16). We cannot continue in persistent, wilful rebellion against God and expect Him to hear our prayers. We cannot plot our own course, fight against His Lordship, and assume that He will always and inevitably answer us. The people of Judah and Jerusalem had reached a point of no return. They knew what God’s Word clearly said. They had been reminded of it. They were repeatedly warned about the consequences of continuing on their course away from God. Now was the time for the bill to come in. The people had ‘conspired’ with one another to rebel against God (9). (We can encourage each other in bad as well as good.) God saw a storm of judgment coming, in which the wind would break the branches and the lightning set the tree on fire (16, 17).

Furthermore, these people trusted in their religion and religious practices. They sought to shelter behind them. But God’s Word smashed right through their vulnerable defences:

‘’Do you think making promises and devising pious programmes will save you from doom? Do you think you can get out of this by becoming more religious?’’ The Message

‘’A people’s lives are only as good as their worship. Worship defines life. If worship is corrupt, life will be corrupt.’ Eugene Peterson.

‘’The people knew that the curses and judgments were written into the covenant, but they thought God wouldn’t send judgment on His own chosen people. Wasn’t God’s temple in Jerusalem? Wasn’t the ark of the covenant there? And didn’t the priests have the law? Would God allow these sacred things to be destroyed? But God always keeps His promises, whether to bless or to chasten, and the greater the privileges we have from Him, the greater the responsibility we have to Him.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ’The Wiersbe Bible Commentary (OT)’, p.1221.

Trust in religion and religious observances will not save anyone. Our trust must be in Christ alone.

‘’On Christ the solid Rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.’’

Daily Bible thoughts 931: Monday 27th July 2015: Jeremiah 11:1-8: Let’s take this outside!

Jeremiah 11:1-8: Let’s take this outside!(please click here for todays passage)

Proclamation: However much we may think we know our Bibles, we need to be reminded of what’s in them. The content of God’s Word is not to be treated as theory; it is for life. God has never left His people in any era, in any doubt as to what He requires of them. ‘’The terms are clear. I made them plain to your ancestors when I delivered them from Egypt…’’ The Message. If we choose to ignore ‘the Maker’s instructions’, we are responsible for the consequences. The preacher’s task is to ‘’Listen’’ to God’s Word, and then ‘’tell’’ (2). It is to say, ‘’Amen, LORD’’ (5b) to whatever He tells you to say. Jeremiah was to remind the people of Judah and of Jerusalem of ‘’the terms of this covenant’’ (2). This refers to the covenant God made with the Israelites at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:1-8). Moses had commanded that the words of the law should be read periodically to the Israelites (Deut.31:9-13). That is what Jeremiah does here. Rewards were promised for those who kept the terms of God’s covenant (Leviticus 26:3-13), but curses were promised for those who didn’t (Leviticus 26:14-39; Deuteronomy 27:26; 28:15-68). Furthermore, if they did obey, God had promised them a land ‘’flowing with milk and honey’’ (5; see Exodus 3:8). He had sworn to give this land to Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 15:18). That was the land where the people of Judah were living at the time. But the Divine ‘Landlord’ could (and would) evict the ‘tenants’ if they did not observe the terms of their ‘tenancy agreement’.

Warren Wiersbe: makes this helpful comment regarding today’s passage: ‘’Their ownership of the land depended on God’s promise to Abraham, but their possession and enjoyment of the land depended on their obedience to God’s law.’’ ‘The Wiersbe Bible Commentary (OT), p.1220.

Power: ‘’…I brought them out of Egypt, out of the iron-smelting furnace…I brought your forefathers up from Egypt…’’ (4, 7). In the Old Testament we are taken back again and again to the exodus as a supreme example of God’s delivering power on behalf of His people. From a New Testament perspective, we know that the mighty happenings at the Red Sea are a foreshadowing of the greater deliverance we have experienced in and through Jesus. It’s a greater escape; an even more wonderful liberation. What power it took to bring us ‘’out of darkness into his wonderful light.’’ (1 Peter 2:9). But having been rescued we have a responsibility to remember God’s Word and obey it. We don’t do this to get saved but because we are saved.

Patience: ‘’I warned them again and again…’’ (7). It is clear that God did not want to bring the curses on His people. Even though He had clearly warned then before, He repeated His warnings over and over. He was ‘long suffering’ with them. He gave them ample opportunity to repent. ‘’He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’’ (2 Peter 3:9).

One final thought: God’s Word is not to be kept within the walls of the church. It is for ‘’the streets’’ (6). Let’s take this outside!

Prayer: Lord God, give us a faithfulness to you like Jeremiah’s.

Daily Bible thoughts 930: Friday 24th July 2015: Psalm 119:1-8

 Psalm 119:1-8(click here for todays passage)

If we are going to live the Bible we will need God’s help (5). We will be unable to do it in our own strength. It is good that we come to a place where we recognise this and cry out in our need. Someone said that the victorious Christian life is a series of new beginnings, and as we cultivate an appetite for God’s Word and feed on it, we give the Holy Spirit something to work with in our hearts. He then enables us to walk in God’s paths.

Psalm 119 is the longest psalm in the Bible. Essentially, it is a prayer written in praise of God’s Word. The writer of this psalm is not identified, but we do know that whoever he was, he was someone who was devoted to God and His Word. He makes clear throughout that God and His Word are inseparable. If we love God we will love His Word; and if we love God we will obey His Word (John 14:15, 21, 23.)

There is a fascinating feature in this Psalm. It has been written as an acrostic poem using all the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It is divided into twenty-two sections, one for each of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew Bible. All the lines in each section begin with the Hebrew letter associated with that section. Obviously, this is not something that we pick up in our English translations, but it’s an interesting detail. Furthermore, each section has eight verses, and to the Hebrew mind that represents abundance, ‘more than enough’. To the Biblical writers, the number 7 represented completeness. So the number 8 meant ‘more than completeness’ or ‘more than enough.’ By these poetic devices the psalmist further underlines the sufficiency of God’s Word.

‘’You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by GOD. You’re blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him. That’s right – you don’t go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set. You, GOD, prescribed the right way to live; now you expect us to live it. Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course you set; then I’d never have any regrets in comparing my life with your counsel.’’ The Message.

Seeking God is inseparable from His Word. At the end of the day we have to ask His help to both understand and obey it.

When I was at school, I loved English Literature, but I struggled with understanding some of Shakespeare’s language, even as I generally enjoyed his works. I’ve often thought, ‘Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if I could have had the Bard of Avon come and sit beside me in class and have him explain his books to me?’ When it comes to God’s Word, we not only have the Book, we also have the Author. We need to ask for help, and that help will be forthcoming. How blessed we are!

Prayer: Lord, you have given us a clear route. Help us to stay on your road and not get diverted.

Daily Bible thoughts 929: Thursday 23rd July 2015: 1 Thessalonians 1:9, 10: Turning point.

 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10: Turning point.(click here for todays passage)

As the story of the church in Thessalonica was told, word got around about the beginning of their Christian lives. Verses 9 and 10 connect with verse 3:

The ‘turning’ is linked to ‘’faith’’: Repentance (or turning) is partnered with faith in the New Testament as part of the required response to the gospel. These are two sides of the same coin. There must be a turning from sin and a turning to God, as we trust Jesus, who died in our place, to take our guilt away.

The ‘serving’ is linked to ‘’love’’: Love is the ‘engine’ of the Christian life. We serve out of love, and not just because of duty. Love wants to give and sacrifice again and again, out of devotion to the Beloved.

The ‘waiting’ is linked to ‘’hope’’: The word translated ‘’wait’’ in (10) means to await someone expectantly with patience and confidence. It does not mean idleness but involves activity and endurance. ‘’A local church that truly lives in expectation of seeing Jesus Christ at any time will be a vibrant and victorious group of people.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘The Wiersbe Bible Commentary (NT)’, p.707. I heard someone say that the doctrine of the second coming of Christ is meant to be ‘’a sanctifying edge’’ in our experience.

When I lived in Leeds in the 1980’s, I became friends with a lovely family who owned a baker’s shop in Beeston. The bakery, where they made their own produce, was behind the shop. One day I was visiting them, and one of them said, ‘’You always have to keep the shop clean because you never know when the Public Health Inspector is going to call!’’ I could immediately see an application to our belief in Christ’s return. It is not that Christians should dread the event, but knowing its reality should spur us on to live soberly and with all due reverence. In the Bible, this doctrine is taught perpetually without date to keep us on our toes.

I was speaking at a ‘Young Life’ event one week-end. I was told that one of the girls applied her make up before bed, saying frivolously, ‘’I want to look good if Jesus comes back tonight.’’ The truth is, so do I. I want to look good in His eyes with a beauty inside that both reflects and pleases Him.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to really believe in your return. Cause this truth to be in my heart and not just my head, so that my life is changed.

Daily Bible thoughts 928: Wednesday 22nd July 2015: 1 Thessalonians 1:7-10: Good news from Greece!

 1 Thessalonians 1:7-10: Good news from Greece!(click here for todays passage)

At the moment the news from Greece is disturbing. This nation is regularly hitting the headlines. I just saw a picture in the latest edition of ‘Time’ magazine, showing a lengthy queue at a bank in Thessaloniki. In Paul’s day, however, there was a church in that very city that was good news. It had a great reputation and became extremely well known.

On the last Sunday in November, 1990, we had our first service as a new church in Boston Spa. I preached from this very passage on that occasion, and expressed my vision that we would be like the Thessalonian church; that the message about Jesus would ring out everywhere from us.

Yesterday we looked at some of the reasons why this church became a ‘’model’’ Christian community: they imitated Christ, welcomed the Word, and were prepared to joyfully suffer. Any church bearing these ‘hallmarks’ will make an impact.

‘’They were both ‘’receivers’’ (the Word came to them, 1 Thess.1:5) and ‘’transmitters’’ (the Word went out from them, 1 Thess.1:8). Each believer and each local church must receive and transmit God’s Word. The verb ‘’sounded out’’ actually means ‘’to sound as a trumpet.’’…It is the responsibility and privilege of each local church to share the message of salvation with the lost world…A recent survey of church growth indicated that 70 to 80 percent of a church’s growth is the result of friends witnessing to friends and relatives to relatives…the personal contact brings the harvest.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘The Wiersbe Bible Commentary (NT)’, p.706.

Prayer: Lord God, I pray that who we are and what we say will dynamically join forces to make an impact for you.

Daily Bible thoughts 927: Tuesday 21st July 2015: 1 Thessalonians 1: 4-7: Way to go!

 1 Thessalonians 1: 4-7: Way to go! (click here for todays passage)

The Thessalonian church was a ‘’model’’ Christian community in its day (7). Here are three reasons why:

  • They imitated Christ (6a): ‘’You paid careful attention to the way we lived among you, and determined to live that way yourselves. In imitating us, you imitated the Master.’’ The Message. ‘’You remember how you set yourselves to copy us, and through us, Christ himself.’’ J.B. Phillips. The interesting thing is that Paul and his team lived such exemplary lives in front of the new converts (and we will see more of this in chapter 2) that in seeking to mirror their leaders the new believers actually reflected Christ. There is an inescapable challenge in that. Growth in Christlikeness is a vital ingredient of an effective ministry. The other point to notice is that we have to let people get close enough to us to benefit from the power of example. We can’t live secluded, closed-off, selfish lives if we want to be influencers for Jesus. New Christians need more than a course; they require fathers (and mothers). They need a family to love and support them.
  • They welcomed the Word (6b): A Christian congregation should be fully open to what God’s Word says, and to all that it says. It may not always be palatable. The Thessalonians discovered from the beginning that it was going to be costly to welcome the message, but that did not put them off. They were prepared to pay the price. Their suffering was ‘’severe’’ but they would not capitulate. The fingered the price label, saw that it was expensive, but still ‘bought the goods’.

They suffered with joy (6b): ‘’Although great trouble accompanied the Word, you were able to take great joy from the Holy Spirit! – taking the trouble with the joy, the joy with the trouble.’’ The Message. Once again I am reminded of the abnormality of the U.K. situation where Christians enjoy a freedom that would be unimaginable in many parts of the world. Yes, there is persecution here, and it may be that it is growing. But it comes in relatively mild forms at the moment. We do, by and large, not face the threat of imprisonment, death or confiscation of property. So we honour with our prayers today many brothers and sisters around the world who continue to ‘welcome’ all that the Bible teaches with Holy Spirit joy, even though it brings great pain.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, for our sakes you became ‘’a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.’’ I pray that you will lovingly undertake for all those who share in the fellowship of your sufferings. Please give them your grace to endure.

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