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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


August 2015

Daily Bible thoughts 948: Tuesday 18th August 2015: Jeremiah 13: 1- 11: Life’s purpose.

Jeremiah 13: 1- 11: Life’s purpose.(click here for todays passage)

‘’You were not made for time and for passing things, but for God and eternity, and to have your heart filled with God and with things eternal.’’ Tersteegen.

‘’Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’’ Westminster Shorter Catechism.

The ‘’linen belt’’ was probably a kind of undergarment worn next to the skin. No other clothing on a man would be closer to him. God had brought the nation close to Himself, but as the belt became ‘’ruined and completely useless’’ (7b) as it was put away from its owner, so the people of Judah and Jerusalem were ruined by pride. They would not listen to God (10, 11). When they were ‘’bound’’ close to God they were fulfilling their destiny. But then pride intervened and became their downfall. It will take anyone down (Proverbs 16:18; 29:23; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).

Here are some interesting quotes on today’s passage:

‘’The linen belt (verse 1) represented the close relationship between God and His people. Just as the linen belt was ruined, so will the people’s relationship with God be ruined…Instead of clinging to God like a belt, the people abandoned God and thus hastened the day of their own ruin.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The applied Old Testament Commentary, p.1095.

‘’As long as the people clung to God in humble obedience, He was glorified. When they defiled themselves in pride, they became useless…’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.506.

‘’Perath was probably a place not far from Anathoth, the prophet’s home…the Name Perath, however, also means the Euphrates, and the sign makes a connection, therefore, with the empires of Mesopotamia. The reference might be to Judah’s acceptance of Assyrian religion, as much as the threat of exile in Babylon. (Exile, in fact, would have a restoring, rather than ruinous, effect; 24:5-7). The many days of v.6 would then refer to the long period of Israel’s and Judah’s persistence in sin (cf.v.10). This sin was itself, inevitably, the cause of their ruin.’’ Gordon McConville: ‘New Bible Commentary’, p.684.

The message seems to be, then, stay close to God in humble obedience to whatever He tells you. Usefulness will only be found in closeness to God. Get away from Him and you become dirty and spoiled; a ruined child! The way to stay close to God is by humbly listening to His Word and submitting to it. It’s interesting that Jeremiah himself exemplified this intimacy with God. Listen to his own words in response to God’s: ‘’Go and buy…So I bought…Take the belt…and hide it…So I went and hid it…Go now…So I went…’’ (1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7). Amidst widespread spiritual declension, Jeremiah remained close to God: he listened, he submitted, he obeyed.

Thought: You can’t live for His praise whilst trying to live in your pride.

‘’Do whatever he tells you.’’ (John 2:5).

Prayer: Lord, I want to be that humble person, who listen to you and does what you say. But I often feel my heart drawn in the opposite direction. So I cry to you, once again, and ask you to help me be true. Have mercy on me, O God. I need you.

Daily Bible thoughts 946: Monday 17th August 2015: Proverbs 24: 23-34: The President of Mexico!!

 Proverbs 24: 23-34: The President of Mexico!!(please click here for todays passage)

The prolific Christian author, Charles Swindoll, once quipped that, ‘’Many Christians seem to think Manual Labour is the President of Mexico!’’

Warren Wiersbe writes about a new college graduate who was asked if he was looking for work. He thought for a minute and then replied, ‘’No, but I would like to have a job.’’ The truth is that no-one’s life changes by wishing it to be so. There are things we have to do. Today would be a good time to start!

In the Proverbs passage we began to look at yesterday, there is also teaching about hard work and providence. What did the wise man learn from the field of ‘’the sluggard’’ (30)? It is an important life-lesson about the perils of laziness. (See also 10:4 and 14:23.)

Take time to look closely at the world and consider (32). Don’t live on the surface. Go deep. Take time to reflect. ‘’I took a long look and pondered what I saw; the fields preached me a sermon and I listened…’’ The Message. Somebody observed that the unconsidered life is hardly worth living. Sit under life’s pulpit; listen, watch and become wise. ‘’What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?’’ What the wise man learned from what he saw is that if a person does not work they will not have enough to live on, and what they do have will fall into ruin. (By the way, some people’s souls are like this sad landscape –covered in weeds and showing signs of ruin. In many, if not most, cases it stems from neglect. The spiritual life is under-developed through lack of diligence.)

It is important to understand that the problem addressed here is not appropriate rest. There is a need for that. God has built a pattern of work and rest into the structure of life, and we ignore it to our own detriment. One very well known, hard-working and productive preacher was known to have his ‘’horizontal half hour’’ after lunch every day. He was often travelling, and he put in long hours, but he found that this pattern involving a short daily nap helped to rejuvenate him.

In terms of work, it is vital to get your priorities right (27). It is important to know that you can live before you prepare a place to live in. If you don’t have any food what’s the point of a house? ‘’This saying teaches us to first establish our livelihood and only then start a family. A wise man plans ahead; he first lays a foundation and then he builds on it.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary, p. 958.

‘’I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work.’’ Thomas Edison.

‘’Diligence is the mother of good luck, and God gives all things to industry.’’ Benjamin Franklin.

Daily Bible thoughts 945: Friday 14th August 2015: Proverbs 24:23-34: Love thy neighbour.

Proverbs 24:23-34: Love thy neighbour.(please click here for todays passage)

There are a number of statements made in this section which challenge our standards of neighbourly love:

  • About lack of favouritism (23-25): There is a need for fairness in how we treat all people. Although these verses apply primarily to the legal system, they can also have a more general application. How we treat people is really important, because how we act towards them is how we treat Christ (Matthew 25:40, 45; Hebrews 6:10). ‘’It is wrong, very wrong, to go along with injustice. Whoever whitewashes the wicked gets a black mark in the history books, But whoever exposes the wicked will be thanked and rewarded.’’ The Message.
  •  About loving honesty with others (26): It can be hard to express love in this way, but honesty can be as beautiful as a kiss. However, let the truth be imparted as tenderly as possible. The challenge is to deliver the message in such a way that the recipient feels ‘kissed’ by it and not smacked around the head. ‘’An honest answer is like a warm hug.’’ The Message. Maybe you need courage to embrace someone in your world with the truth today.
  • About personal honesty regarding others (28; see also Exodus 20:16; Proverbs 24:17-20 and 20:22; Romans 12:17a, 19-21.): I believe this also applies to the realm of thought. If you are thinking something about someone, but you don’t know it is true, then don’t permit that thought to stay in your mind. Swat it away. Don’t speak lies about others, and don’t believe them either. ‘’Don’t talk about your neighbours behind their backs – no slander or gossip, please.’’ The Message.
  •  About not taking revenge (29; see Romans 12:17a, 19-21): You might be tempted to get even by lying about a person, but don’t. There is this important principle that people will reap what they sow. Their bad deeds will rebound on them. You don’t want to get in the way of that. Like Jesus, take your case to a higher court (1 Peter 2:21-23). Trust your wise, all-loving and just Heavenly Father.

Prayer: Lord God, help me to grasp that you really are concerned with how we treat other people.

Daily Bible thoughts 944: Thursday 13th August 2015: 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13: According to your faith.

 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13: According to your faith.(please click here for todays passage)

Ronald Dunn, in his excellent book, ‘’Don’t just stand there, pray something!’’ tells a story about a certain group of Sunday School children who were praying for a missionary. In one letter they wrote to him something along these lines: ‘’Dear Mister Smith, we are praying for you. We are not expecting an answer!!’’

It is interesting to see how many times Paul prayed for the Christians under his care, and how frequently he asked for their prayers for him and his ministry. It is clear that he was convinced about the efficacy of prayer. He believed that certain things would happen if believers prayed that would not take place if they didn’t. He was expecting answers.

So, for example, he prayed that the roadblock preventing his return to Thessalonica (2:18) would be removed (3:10, 11), and he and his colleagues evidently poured a lot of time and energy into this praying. They were ‘’most earnestly’’ looking for divine intervention.

But also, and this is typical of Paul, he prayed for spiritual growth (12, 13). His letters are sprinkled with such prayers. He believed that love would ‘’increase’’, that hearts would be ‘strengthened’ and that holiness would be cultivated as a result of prayer. There seems to be an implication in these two verses that growth in holiness is essentially about growth in love. ‘’And may the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives and splashes over on everyone around you, just as it does from us to you.’’ The Message.

The more we love God and the more we love people the more we will experience the essence of holiness. As Augustine reputedly said: ‘’Love God, and do as you like.’’ This brings us back to the great command enunciated by Jesus (e.g. Mark 29-31). When you boil it all down it’s about loving God and loving people. That is the essence of holiness, and it is something to be prayed for regarding ourselves and others.

Prayer: Help me, Lord, to grow in love. Please pour on the love so that it splashes and overflows and touches many people.


Daily Bible thoughts 943: Wednesday 12th August 2015: 1 Thessalonians 3: ‘There may be trouble ahead…’

1 Thessalonians 3: ‘There may be trouble ahead…’(click here for todays passage)

Recently, my wife and I spent a restful few days at Idbury in the Cotswolds. One morning, I was looking out of the window, watching the birds playing ‘chase’, and I had a sudden thought that if a budgie were to be released into the wild, these seemingly gentle birds would probably reject and kill it. I believe it is a fact that birds will often turn on other birds of a different plumage.

One preacher said that when a person becomes a Christian they make at least two discoveries. The first one is good; the second not so good. First of all, they find they’ve got a whole lot of new friends, and that’s great. But they also come to realise that they now have a number of new enemies, and that, of course, is less welcome. A new convert asked his pastor, ‘Now that I am a Christian, how much of the world must I give up?’ ‘Don’t worry,’ his minister replied. ‘The world will give you up!’

Paul taught the Thessalonians the inevitability of suffering for Christ in some form (3, 4; John 16:33; 2 Tim.3:12). The spirit that crucified Jesus is still abroad in this world, and it is pervasive, and while we live in the world we can expect trouble. It is extremely important that new Christians should be thoroughly prepared for this in the discipling process, so that no-one is taken by surprise or feels mis-led. There is no ‘easy-believism’ in the New Testament. ‘’We did not want any of you to lose heart at the troubles you were going through, but to realise that we Christians must expect such things.’’ J.B. Phillips (3) Suffering in some way is the common experience of the majority of Christians across the world. Satan, like the savage beast he is, seeks to ‘’devour’’ believers through persecution (1 Peter 5:8, 9).There is the very real danger that some may fall away through fear or discouragement etc. This was Paul’s concern for the Thessalonians, and why he sent Timothy to them (5). He was fearful that they might have been ‘savaged’ in the early stages of their Christian experience. ‘’You will understand that, when the suspense became unbearable I sent someone to find out how your faith was standing the strain, and to make sure that the tempter’s activities had not destroyed our work.’’ J.B. Phillips.

Because it’s ‘a jungle’ out there, it is essential that new believers should have a family around them who will stick close to them. That’s what Paul, Silas and Timothy did with the new Christians in Thessalonica for as long as they could (Chapter 2). But when they could not be there in person, God’s keeping power was nonetheless in evidence. Thank God, we can trust His ‘amazing grace.’

Prayer: Lord, help me to be willing to be hit by any of the ‘missiles’ this fallen world hurls at you.

Daily Bible thoughts 942: Tuesday 11th August 2015: 1 Thessalonians 3: ‘Love Does.’

 1 Thessalonians 3: ‘Love Does.’(please click here for todays passage)

It is instructive to consider how Paul showed his love and concern for the new Christians in Thessalonica:

  • He sacrificed Timothy to go and see about their welfare (1, 2). He went without his friend’s companionship and assistance so that they could have his help. Paul and Silas and Timothy were a close knit team, and it must have been hard to let Timothy go. (In fact, reading the account in Acts 17, it seems that Paul may have been alone in Athens for a time, in which case the sacrifice was probably even greater.) But ‘love does’! Loving involves giving and putting others first. Real love is Christ-like in its quality and one measure of love is, ‘What am I prepared to give up for the sake of another?’ (By the way, there’s a saying that ‘’Two’s company; three’s a crowd.’’ Many of us will understand, from experience, how this can be so. But the grace of God can overcome all natural obstacles, and these three men were able to work together for the cause of the Kingdom of God.)
  • He used words that conveyed how precious they were to him. He wasn’t afraid to let his feelings show. He told them what they meant to him; how much he wanted to be with them and how he prayed that it might be so. He poured this love into ink and letter format. Who should you drop a line to soon, to thank them, let them you’re thinking about them, and that you’re praying for them etc.? Still today, in this digital age, (and perhaps more so because of it), people love to receive hand-written letters. Many will be kept, and even discovered by family and friends after the recipient has died. Letter-writing can be a wonderful ministry in itself.
  • He spelled out the difficult implications of what it means to be a Christian; he warned them about the uncomfortable ramifications of discipleship, just like Jesus did (3, 4). (We will return to this theme in tomorrow’s notes.) But Paul and his team showed ‘tough love’. ‘’Not that the troubles should come as any surprise to you. You’ve always known that we’re in for this kind of thing. It’s part of our calling. When we were with you, we made it quite clear that there was trouble ahead. And now that it’s happened, you know what it’s like.’’ The Message.
  • He prayed. He prayed for their growth in love and holiness (12, 13). He prayed for the way back to Thessalonica to become unblocked so that he could see them again and serve them again (10, 11). He prayed ‘’earnestly’’…’’Night and day…’’ (Again, we will think a little more about the content of Paul’s prayer in Thursday’s notes.)

Still today Christian leaders can apply these timeless lessons from Paul, Silas and Timothy. We are to both show and tell God’s people how much we love them; serving them, sacrificing for them, praying for them, and being totally honest about all the implications of following Jesus.

‘’In the middle of our trouble and hard times here, just knowing how you’re doing keeps us going. Knowing that your faith is alive keeps us alive.’’

This wonderful intertwining of hearts lies at the very core of pastoral ministry. May it be in evidence in every local church!

Daily Bible thoughts 941: Monday 10th August 2015: 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20: Spiritual conflict.

1 Thessalonians 2:17-20: Spiritual conflict.(please click here for todays passage)

I saw a pointed cartoon in a book on evangelism written by Michael Green. It showed a nurse leaving a brand-new baby just outside the door of a maternity unit. The caption read: ‘’You’re on your own now!’’ It made its point very powerfully. New believers need lots of love and care and attention.

These are surprising words. Paul and his friends were like spiritual parents to the new Christians in Thessalonica (1:7, 11). Surely the babes in Christ would feel ‘orphaned’ by the enforced separation (Acts 17:1ff) that came? But one translation of (2:17) says: ‘’when we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time…’’ There was such a strong attachment between Paul and these infant believers. He/they felt like orphans. ‘’Do you have any idea how very homesick we became for you, dear friends?’’ The Message. New Christians need to be loved like that.

When you become separated from your young children, even if it is only for a short time, you are desperate to find them; to reconnect. So it was for Paul (17b, 18). But he came up against a problem. There is something of a mystery to the words: ‘’but Satan stopped us.’’ We have to understand this in the context of the Bible story as a whole, which tells us that God is sovereign. He is in supreme control. Nothing can happen without His permission. (Think, for example, of the story of Job: Jb.1:12). Nevertheless, we have a very real enemy who has the power to do things. ‘’I, Paul, tried over and over to get back, but Satan stymied us each time.’’ The Message. ‘’…but somehow Satan prevented our coming.’’ J.B. Phillips. Paul was also aware, though, that there is a way to clear spiritual roadblocks, and we will come to this in the next chapter (3:11). It is by prayer. This is how we bulldoze Satan’s barricades out of the way; this is the way to blow them up!

I heard a philosophy professor, Doctor Don Evans, preaching in Southport many years ago. He was an outstanding speaker. In one of his talks he referred to (19, 20). He said, ‘’If you take your children to London, and you stand outside Buckingham Palace, and the Queen comes out on to the balcony, your greatest joy will be that they are seeing Her Majesty; not that you are!’’ It’s a good point and it has stayed with me. But Paul looked forward to the day when he would actually present his ‘children’ to the King of kings and Lord of lords. The Thessalonians would see Jesus, and at the same time they would be Paul’s pride and joy; the fruit of his ministry.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, please give us new ‘children’ to care for, and help us to care for the new children you give.

Daily Bible thoughts 940: Friday 7th August 2015: Jeremiah 12:7-17: Tough love

 Jeremiah 12:7-17: Tough love(please click here for todays passage)

In yesterday’s reading we saw how Jeremiah asked God the age-old question: ‘’Why does the way of the wicked prosper?’’ (1).The answer he received was that things were going to get worse in the short term (5, 6), although long term, as today’s passage shows (15, 16) they would become much better. There was the hope of a more golden future, even for those who attacked and overran and uprooted Judah, because God is good. ‘’…I will relent and take them tenderly to my heart and put them back where they belong, put each of them back in their home country, on their family farms. Then if they will get serious about living my way and pray to me as well as they taught my people to pray to that god Baal, everything will go well for them.’’ The Message. Of course it is true to say that another more terrible possibility was on the horizon if they would not turn to the Lord (17), but that wasn’t what He wanted. His desire was to bless them. He wants to draw to Himself a people from all the nations

But all that was still in the future. Jeremiah was told that the persecution and suffering would become worse for him in the days ahead. There was a lot of heavy rain in the forecast, before the appearance of sunshine.

‘’It was the answer Jeremiah needed. He needed to be braced, not pampered.’’ Hugh Black

‘’The easy life is ultimately the hard life, because the easy life stifles maturity, but the difficult life challenges us to develop our ‘’spiritual muscles’’ and accomplish more for the Lord. Phillips Brooks said the purpose of life is the building of character through truth, and you don’t build character by being a spectator.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘The Wiersbe Bible Commentary (OT), p.1222.

So, Jeremiah was told that there was worse to come. But he was also assured that the wicked in Judah would be punished (7-13). God’s ‘’inheritance’’ (7) included both the land of Israel/Judah and the people themselves (Exodus 19:5, 6; Deut.4:20; 32:9; Ex.15:17; Ps.78:55). As they had forsaken Him, according to the terms of the covenant He would forsake them. His own people were roaring at Him ‘’like a lion’’ (8), so He had come to ‘’hate’’ them. What that means is that He had withdrawn the expression of His love towards them and would now treat them as if He hated them, handing them over to their enemies. While it is true to say that God’s love is unconditional, the enjoyment of His love is conditional. ‘’She’s been, this one I hold dear, like a snarling lion in the jungle, Growling and baring her teeth at me – and I can’t take it anymore.’’ The Message. The people are ‘’like a speckled bird of prey’’ about to be preyed upon (9). The Lord goes on to say that ‘’shepherds’’ (i.e. enemy rulers) will trample His ‘’vineyard’’ (Judah), and turn it into a ‘’desolate wasteland’’ (10). The Babylonians and their allies were going to swarm all over the land (see 2 Kings 24:1, 2) wielding the ‘’sword of the LORD’’ (i.e. His sword of judgment). The land will produce nothing (13) and the farmers will work in vain, bearing the shame of their poor harvest. All this was going to happen because God’s people had broken His covenant (see Lev.26:20, 25, and 33).

God’s Word is true. Do not doubt that it will come to pass. We ignore and reject it at our peril. May these excruciatingly painful lessons from Biblical history not be lost on us.

Prayer: Help me Lord to hold fast to all your Word.

Daily Bible thoughts 939: Thursday 6th August 2015: Jeremiah 12:1-6: Take it to the Lord in prayer

Jeremiah 12:1-6: Take it to the Lord in prayer (please click here for todays passage)

This is an age old question, often repeated in the Bible (see for example Job 21:4-21; Habakkuk 1:1-4).

If something troubles you, take it to the Lord in prayer. But when He answers it may not always be what you want to hear. When we begin to seriously pray about an issue it frequently seems to get worse before it gets better. In response to his prayer, Jeremiah was specifically told that the situation would deteriorate in the short to mid-term.

‘’Jeremiah knew that God’s justice would ultimately come, but he was impatient because he wanted justice to come quickly. God didn’t give a doctrinal answer, instead he gave a challenge. If Jeremiah couldn’t handle this, how would he handle the injustices ahead? It is natural for us to demand fair play and cry for justice against those who take advantage of others. But when we call for justice, we must realise that we ourselves would be in big trouble if God gave each of us what we truly deserve…Life was extremely difficult for Jeremiah despite his love and obedience to God. When he called to God for relief, God’s reply in effect was, ‘If you think this is bad, how are you going to cope when it gets really tough?’ Not all of God’s answers to prayer are nice or easy to handle. Any Christian who has experienced war, bereavement, or a serious illness knows this. But we are to be committed to God even when the going gets tough and when his answers to our prayers don’t bring immediate relief.’’ ‘The Life Application Bible’, pp.1304, 1305.

The life of Christian discipleship is not an inoculation against trouble. Anyone who thinks it is will be likely to become seriously disillusioned somewhere along the way. Jeremiah says to us that the more faithful we are the more trouble we will face. But we are never alone; we can always pray.

Just one other thought for today. It is terribly possible for us to become like the people described in (2b; see also Isaiah 29:13; Jeremiah 3:10; Matthew 15:8, 9; Titus 1:16). True religion is a matter of the heart. Above all else we must guard our hearts for out of them flow all the issues of life.

Prayer: God be in my heart and in my loving.


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