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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

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July 2015

Daily Bible thoughts 926: Monday 20th July 2015: 1 Thessalonians 1:3-5: The overflow.

 1 Thessalonians 1:3-5: The overflow.(click here for todays passage)

‘’The entire plan of salvation was born in the heart of God long before man was created or the universe formed…As far as God the Father is concerned, I was saved when He chose me in Christ before the world began. As far as God the Son is concerned, I was saved when He died for me on the cross. As far as God the Holy Spirit is concerned, I was saved one Saturday night in May 1945, when I heard the Word and trusted Jesus Christ. At that moment, the entire plan fell together and I became a child of God. If you had asked me that night if I was one of the elect, I would have been speechless. At that time I knew nothing about election. But the Holy Spirit witnessed in my heart that I was a child of God.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘The Wiersbe Bible Commentary (NT)’, p.705.

There may be much we do not understand about the doctrine of election, but when it is being worked out in practice you know it because God’s Word comes with power and it is received by those whom God is calling. Was the ‘’deep conviction’’ in the preachers or the hearers? Possibly it was in both. Whatever, it was certainly there.

According to David Watson, the word translated ‘’deep’’ can also be rendered ‘’full’’. He said it describes a cup so full to the brim that it just overflows. He said we can be so full of the Holy Spirit that when people bump into us in daily life we simply overflow. Christian preaching and witness in general, is the overflow of a life filled with God.

Another well-known preacher used the illustration of a bath and an overflow. When a bath is full up to the top, the water starts to go out through a hole called an overflow. He said, ‘God has fitted each one of us with a little hole beneath our noses. It’s called the mouth! If you look at the book of Acts, every time someone got filled with the Holy Spirit they overflowed through the mouth in some way, such as preaching or praise or prayer.

Effective preaching comes with anointing. It has the power of God accompanying it. But it also has to do with the way we live. Powerful sermons are not only spoken in words but embodied in lives. Tell people how to live, but also show them. People who are filled with the Spirit overflow in words and deeds.

Prayer: Lord God, let me be so full of you that I overflow with you. May you be seen and heard in me.

Daily Bible thoughts 925: Friday 17th July 2015: 1 Thessalonians 1:2, 3: Christian credentials.

 1 Thessalonians 1:2, 3: Christian credentials.(click here for passage)

‘’We are always thankful as we pray for you all, for we never forget that your faith has meant solid achievement, your love has meant hard work, and the hope that you have in our Lord Jesus Christ means sheer dogged endurance in the life that you live before God, the Father of us all.’’ J.B.Phillips translation.

One sunny day in the early 1980’s I decided to walk home to Morecambe where I lived at the time. I had spent the afternoon doing pastoral visits in Lancaster. As I came down the hill into Torrisholme, near the College of Further Education, I noticed a car parked on the other side of the road. A few minutes later that vehicle had moved, turned around, and it drew up alongside me. The window was wound down, and a man popped his head out and began to ask questions. Who was I? What was I doing? etc. It turned out that a crime had been recently committed in that area and I fitted the description of the culprit!! When I told him that I was a pastor going about my business, they concluded that they’d got it wrong!

But here’s a question: how did I know that this man was a genuine detective? The answer: he showed me his credentials.

In the writings of Paul, this triad of graces, ‘’…faith…love…hope…’’ are, we might say, the ‘credentials’ of authentic Christianity (see 5:8; 1 Corinthians 13:13; Colossians 1:4, 5). They will be in evidence in genuinely Christian people. Some body said that faith reaches back into the past to embrace all that Jesus did for us at the cross; love reaches out into the present to embrace all of our brothers and sisters in love; and hope stretches out into the future to grasp all that God has planned for us there. He also pointed out that these are not merely attitudes. They have an active dimension: faith acts, love labours and hope grips. If they are there on the inside of a person they will show themselves on the outside. Warren Wiersbe says: ‘’Those whom God chooses, He changes.’’ ‘The Wiersbe Bible Commentary (NT)’, p.705.

I am challenged by the thought of Paul’s constant thankfulness: ‘’always’’ (2) and his ceaseless prayerfulness: ‘’continually remember’’ (3). I am sure that this means more than Paul simply calling to mind certain things that were true about them. He was prayerfully remembering them before God, thankful for the ‘faith’, ‘love’ and ‘hope’ which only He can impart, and eagerly desiring their further growth. To see God at work is also to hunger for more.

‘’Day and night you’re in our prayers…’’ The Message.

This is a good, Biblical way to encourage people: highlight to them the things in their lives for which you thank God.

May God give us such a heart to thankfully pray for our fellow-believers.

Daily Bible thoughts 924: Thursday 16th July 2015: 1 Thessalonians 1:1: The retirement home!

 1 Thessalonians 1:1: The retirement home!(click here for todays passage)

Many years ago, I read a story about an elderly Christian gentleman who had gone to live in a retirement home. One day, a well- meaning visitor asked him what it was like to live in ‘an old folks’ home.’ The man pulled himself up to his full height and replied with great dignity, ‘I don’t live in an old folks’ home; I live in God.’ Our primary identity as Christians (and churches) is in God. Above all else, He is our location, our home, our residence. We live ‘’in’’ Him first, and in our ‘Thessalonica’ second. Because we live in God, we can be at home anywhere.

Let’s think about three things in this opening verse:

Company: ‘’Paul, Silas and Timothy…’’ There is something wonderful about fellowship in the gospel; about being part of a team. These three men had been through tough times as they laboured in the cause of Christ. They must have been a great help to each other. They were a ‘’cord of three strands’’ (2:1, 2; see Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Matthew 18:19, 20). Don’t neglect Christian fellowship (Hebrews 10:25), and value those you get to work with. What you achieve together will be greater than what you can accomplish alone. It’s not about competing, but pulling together to glorify Christ by making Him known.

Calling: ‘’Christians assembled by God the Father and by the Master, Jesus Christ.’’ The Message. When Paul writes about ‘’the church’’ it literally means ‘a called-out people.’ It has nothing to do with buildings. God is calling a people out from this world (Acts 15:13-18) to be His congregation, His community. In John 17 Jesus speaks of believers seven times as those whom the Father gave Him out of the world (verses 2, 6, 9, 11-12, 24). Dallas Willard speaks of the ‘great commission’ being about bringing people into fellowship with the Trinity (Matthew 28:18-20). We become the community of the Triune God. In the reality of fellowship with Him we are changed.

Cure: Here is the great cure for all the ills of the human heart (and of the human race). ‘’God’s amazing grace be with you! God’s robust peace!’’ The Message. Our greatest need is to experience God’s grace – His undeserved favour. We cannot earn His Kingdom; we do not deserve to be in it. But we receive it as a gift. When someone can honestly say, ‘It is well with my soul’, they have entered into a life of peace. It’s not that nothing will ever go wrong. They are not clutching on to a promise that they won’t face trouble, pain or death etc. But they know that whatever comes their way they are forgiven; they are accepted by God. Next to this nothing else really matters. Grace inevitably leads to peace. The Thessalonian Christians had a turbulent start to their Christian journey. Paul knew that they would face further stormy waters. But that did not alter one iota the fact that peace was their legacy in Christ (John 14:27).

Prayer: Lord please help me to live calmly in your ocean of peace.

Daily Bible thoughts 923: Wednesday 15th July 2015: Jeremiah 10:23-25: Who is Lord?

Jeremiah 10:23-25: Who is Lord?(click here for todays passage)

In contrast with the leaders we thought about yesterday, who did not seek God (21), Jeremiah was a man of prayer. He prayed that the people of Judah might be corrected but not destroyed (24). He also prayed about the fact that ungodly nations had themselves acted wickedly in their attempts to wipe out God’s people (25). He did not pray with a vindictive spirit, but he did ask for justice and deliverance. He wanted to see God’s promises to Abraham kept (Genesis 12:1-3). Although these nations were God’s instruments of judgment, they were still held responsible for going too far. The Babylonians were ruthless in their treatment of Judah. God answered Jeremiah’s prayer and eventually brought an end to the terrible rule of Babylon (chapters 50, 51.)

But at the heart of Jeremiah’s praying, there lay an understanding that he belonged to God (23).If you recognise that you don’t belong to yourself, but are the property of the Lord Jesus Christ (something that is true of every Christian), you will want to know what are His plans for you. You will be keen to get a hold of His road map and follow the route He has planned. In short, believing that Jesus is Lord will motivate you to pray

‘’I know, GOD, that mere mortals can’t run their own lives, That men and women don’t have what it takes to take charge of life.’’ The Message.

‘’As far as our own lives are concerned, there is no truth more crucial than this. We are not our own; we belong to the Lord. We have been bought at a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20); the price was the blood of Jesus (1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 5:9).Since we are not our own, it is not for us to direct our steps; it is not for us to go where we please and do what we want. Rather, it is for us to do what our Owner wants. When we make ourselves His servants, we experience peace, joy and freedom. We become truly free by making ourselves ‘’slaves’’ of God (John 8:31-32). All of our fears and anxieties, all of our pride and self-centredness, arise from this fundamental sin: we seek to be the ‘’god’’ of our lives. We seek to ‘’direct our steps’’. We may ask God to bless our plans, but we are the ones who make the plans. True conversion, true spiritual rebirth, takes place only when we acknowledge that God is our Owner and we submit our lives to Him (see Romans 12:1).’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary, p.1092.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I gladly own your Ownership and rule over my life. It isn’t mine any more. You have bought me for yourself and I am yours. Please unfold all the plans you have for me and strengthen me to follow wherever you may lead.

Daily Bible thoughts 922: Tuesday 14th July 2015: Jeremiah 10:17-22: The heart of the problem.

Jeremiah 10:17-22: The heart of the problem.(click here for todays passage)

‘’Jeremiah saw the invasion of the Babylonian army and the distress it would bring. He urged the people to pack their bags and get ready to move, because they would be hurled out of the land like stones from slings. The prophet lamented the ruin of houses and families, the separation of parents and children, the scattering of God’s precious flock.’’ ‘The Wiersbe Bible Commentary (OT)’: P.1219

This section of chapter 10 brings us to the heart of the problem. Here’s why they were in such serious trouble and facing disaster:

‘’It’s because our leaders are stupid. They never asked GOD for counsel, And so nothing worked right. The people are scattered all over.’’ The Message.

The political and spiritual leaders were not people of prayer; they did not sincerely and earnestly seek God. There were many religious leaders in Judah who were just plain backslidden (Lamentations 4:13).

In a book written in the year 2,000, R.T. Kendall said that according to one survey, many clergy pray for no more than four minutes a day. Of course, there will be other surveys that say something different, and this statistic will not be true across the board. Now we’re not in a competition to see who can log the most hours in prayer, and we cannot measure a person’s spirituality by how long they spend praying. We must not become judgmental, and I don’t want to lay a heavier burden on already pressurised leaders. Nevertheless, it remains the case that the church’s pastors must be men and women of prayer. If we are to experience true ‘prosperity’ in Christian ministry, we must ‘’enquire of the LORD’’ (21). This is not just about saying prayers, or asking for things, but walking closely with God so that we catch even His faintest whispers (Psalm 25:14a).

We need to know His mind;

To feel His heartbeat;

To be filled with His power.

True success in Christian ministry will come to those who ‘pray the price.’ If we fail in our ministry of prayer, others will pay the price, as was the case in Jeremiah’s day. There’s a lot hanging in the balance of a Christian leader’s prayer life.

I find I need to remind myself constantly that Jesus is ‘’the vine’’ and I am a ‘branch’ in the vine, and apart from Him I can do ‘’nothing’’ (John 15:5). Do I want to be regarded as a great preacher or do I want to be fruitful? Do I want God to do something significant through me? Do I want compliments or do I want power? I would choose the latter every time.

Therefore I must pray.

Prayer: Lord, I confess the sin of prayerlessness. I do not feel that I can pray too much, only too little. Please pour upon me the Spirit of prayer and make me even more usable to you. I want to produce eternal fruit for your glory.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 921: Monday 13th July 2015: Jeremiah 10: 6-16: Incomparable God.

Jeremiah 10: 6-16: Incomparable God.(click here for passage).
In this chapter Jeremiah ridicules the idols worshipped by the pagan nations (and, sadly, by many of his own people.) He contrasts them with the living God, and shows how, in truth, there is no contest. There is no one like the Lord. The reality of true faith comes across clearly in The Message:
‘’All this is nothing compared to you, O God.
You’re wondrously great, famously great.
Who can fail to be impressed by you, King of the nations?
It’s your very nature to be worshiped!
Look far and wide among the elite of the nations.
The best they can come up with is nothing compared to you…
But God is the real thing—
the living God, the eternal King…
…But the Portion-of-Jacob is the real thing.
He put the whole universe together…’’

The tenth verse highlights the heart of the contrast:

‘’But the Lord is the true God;
he is the living God, the eternal King.’’ New International Version.

He is ‘’true’’ while they are false; He is ‘’living’’ but they are dead; and He is ‘’eternal’’ whereas they are transient.

In his commentary on the Old Testament, Warren Wiersbe quotes A.W. Tozer:
‘’…the essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him.’’
He goes on to say: ‘’The remedy for idolatry is for us to get caught up in the grandeur of God, the true God, the living God, the everlasting King. An idol is a substitute, and you would never want a substitute once you have experienced the love and power of the Lord God Almighty.’’ pp.1218, 1219.
May I suggest that we take some time during this week to just meditate on God. Focus on who He is, and watch happens to your heart.
Prayer: How I thank you Lord God Almighty that you are ‘’the real thing’’. Make my heart a blazing furnace of fiery love for you, and let many others be drawn to the ‘heat’.

Daily Bible thoughts 920: Friday 10th July 2015: Jeremiah 10: 1-5: Don’t be a chameleon!

 Jeremiah 10: 1-5: Don’t be a chameleon!(click here for todays passage)

This chapter sees the conclusion of the series of messages that Jeremiah delivered at the gate of the temple (7:1, 2). It contains a warning against idolatry (1-16).

In Romans 12:2 Paul writes: ‘’Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world…’’ He says, in effect, ‘Don’t be a chameleon, taking on your moral colouring from the environment.’ (I heard recently, by the way, that the way to kill a chameleon is to place it on tartan!!)

‘’Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.’’ The Message.

This passage in Jeremiah reminded me of Romans: ‘’Do not learn the ways of the nations…For the customs of the peoples are worthless…’’ (2, 3)

Idolatry was one of the ‘’ways of the nations’’. The people of Judah were about to go into exile in Babylon. There they might be tempted to worship Babylonian gods. They might conclude, incorrectly, that these gods were responsible for their downfall. God’s people were not to go down the ‘way’ of idolatry. They must not let the world of their day squeeze them into its mould. They shouldn’t be like jelly. (Notice these words were addressed to the ‘’house of Israel’’, verse 1, and not only to Judah). Through Jeremiah, God warned the exiles not to learn these idolatrous ‘’ways of the nations’’ – and especially not the ways of Babylon.

Pagan people worshipped the heavenly bodies as gods (2b). They put great stress on comets, meteors, eclipses and the like. God’s people were not to do that.

This is another of those great Old Testament passages that shows how ludicrous it is to worship idols (3-5).

‘’They trim it with tinsel and balls, use hammer and nails to keep it upright. It’s like a scarecrow in a cabbage patch – can’t talk! Dead wood that has to be carried – can’t walk!’’ The Message

It brings a smile to your face. An idol is like something to frighten off the birds, and not a holy power to subdue the sinful inclinations in the human heart (5). It leaves you scratching your head, asking, ‘Why would anyone be an idolater?’ (See also Psalm 115:2-8; Isaiah 40:18-20; 44:9-20; 46:5-7).Yet we know how easy it is to slip into idolatry – even without bowing down before statues: 1 John 5:21. We can easily adopt substitutes for God. An idol is anything or anyone taking His rightful place in our hearts.

The last part of (5) spoke to me as I prepared for a prayer meeting this morning: ‘’…they can do no harm nor can they do any good.’’ I thought, ‘Yes, but our God, the ‘’living God’’ (10) is good and He does good. He does good in answer to our prayers.’

So let us pray…and worship Him alone.

Prayer: Lord, you alone are deserving of all my worship. Help me to stay true to you.

Daily Bible thoughts 919: Thursday 9th July, 2015: Psalm 118: 17 -29: Divine intervention.

 Psalm 118: 17 -29: Divine intervention.(click here for todays passage)

As we saw previously, this psalm was written by someone who came perilously close to dying, but God intervened and rescued him. The psalmist recognised that God had used his recent suffering to discipline him (18), and we may feel the same about the trials we go through

The psalm closes (29) as it opened (1). It is an expression of profound thankfulness.

In (22-24), the psalmist, who may have been the king or some other leader, refers to himself as the ‘’stone’ who had been ‘’rejected’’. He had come so close to experiencing a disastrous defeat. Enemy kings, we might say, had ‘rejected’ him. But the Lord had saved him and made him the ‘’capstone’’. He had elevated him to a very important position. He had lifted him higher than these other kings, so that he was in a position of triumph over them.

‘’What the psalmist pictures for us in verses 22-23 is a marvellous reversal of circumstances: from imminent defeat to glorious victory, from humiliation to exaltation. And this is why Jesus applied these verses to Himself (see Mark 12:1-12), as did other New Testament writers (Acts 4:8-12; 1 Peter 2:7). Jesus suffered rejection by man, but God accepted Him and made Him the ‘’capstone.’’ No one has ever experienced a greater reversal of circumstances than Jesus did.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary, p.909. (It is interesting to think that this may be one of the psalms Jesus sang with his disciples before going out to the Garden of Gethsemane.)

Ever since Jesus’ death and resurrection, every day is ‘the day of salvation’ for those who trust in Him (24). It’s a new day, and it’s a great day! It is such a joyful day.

In (25-29) the psalmist speaks on behalf of the people who are celebrating the arrival of their victorious king in the temple court: ‘’Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD’’ (26). Centuries later these same words were used by citizens of Jerusalem to welcome the Messiah, Jesus (Mark 11:9).

‘’The stone the masons discarded as flawed is now the capstone! This is GOD’s work. We rub our eyes – we can hardly believe it! This is the very day GOD acted – let’s celebrate and be festive!’’ The Message.

Let what God did for this king, and ultimately for Jesus, speak to you. There is no mess you are in that He can’t get you out of, should He choose to exert His power on your behalf. And like this psalmist, you can call on Him in your day of trouble.

‘’Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures for ever.’’

Daily Bible thoughts 918: Wednesday 8th July 2015: Colossians 4:16-18: And finally…

Colossians 4:16-18: And finally…(click here for passage)

There are three clear exhortations in the final verses of this wonderful letter:

  • Read it (16): It is important that Paul’s letters are read. Still today their contents are to be digested by the churches. Don’t neglect the Bible as a whole. Don’t let the Apostle Paul stay on the shelf! (This verse shows that there was another letter written by Paul to a neighbouring church at Laodicea. These letters were to be swapped over and read by both churches.) In living the Christian life we don’t make it up as we go along. We are not left to our own devices to decide what is right and wrong. We have authoritative documents, and they are to be obeyed and not merely considered.
  • Stick with it (17): Jesus said: ‘’No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’’ (Luke 9:62). Did ‘’Archippus’’ feel like giving up? And what happened to ‘’Demas’’ (14)? There surely is a warning in his story (2 Tim.4:10)? All kinds of forces can combine and conspire against those in Christian service, causing us to feel tempted to drop out of the race. The way to persevere is to ‘’fix’’ our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). If anyone could have given up it was Jesus. Nobody suffered like He did. But He ‘’endured’’. (By the way, we are all in Christian service!!)
  • Remember them (18): This is a touchingly simple comment coming at the end of the letter. There is no self-pity in it. It is the briefest reminder of his sufferings. He wanted their prayers, as we have seen. ‘’Remember to pray for me in this jail.’’ The Message. He also wanted them to remember his love for them; his heart for the church as a whole; and the cost of being a Christian. In a way those ‘’chains’’ sum up a whole way of life. Paul was chained to Christ, and as His ‘prisoner’ he knew perfect freedom.

‘’When Jesus bids a man come and follow Him, He bids him come and die.’’ Dietrich Bohnoeffer.

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