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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


September 2015

Daily Bible thoughts 979: Wednesday 30th September 2015: Jeremiah 17:5-13: The heart of the human problem.

 Jeremiah 17:5-13: The heart of the human problem.(please click here for todays Bible passage)

‘’The person who does not have God at the centre of his life inevitably places himself at the centre; this is the most basic form of idolatry.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.1100

The people of Judah experienced first-hand the futility of trusting in people rather than God (5, 6).One form their idolatry took was to place too much confidence in alliances and treaties rather than to trust fully in the Lord their God. Jeremiah repeatedly called the people away from such misguided and misplaced belief. It was a form of ‘backsliding’ (5b). Where do you go for your strength? Where are your roots?

A life turned away from God is a barren, shrivelled up life (6). No-one in their right mind would choose to live in a spiritual desert. Such is the life Jeremiah called people away from.

The alternative he called them to is found in (7, 8; see Psalm 1:1-4; John 15:1-17). It was also his own experience, as we saw recently (16:19a). Where would you prefer to live? In the desert (6), or in a verdant, abundant, flourishing place (8)? Only those who trust in God live there. This is a verse full of luscious promise. It speaks of a life of stability, peace and continuous fruit-bearing. These are the alternatives held out in the gospel message: emptiness or fullness. Why would anyone choose the former over the latter? The answer is found in (9, 10). Someone said, ‘’The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart.’’ We may wonder why, if (12, 13) are true anyone would forsake God. But they do; we do. Again we find the answer in the state of the heart: ‘’The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out.’’ The Message. The ‘’heart’’ refers to the very centre of a person’s life. It includes mind, will and emotions. Everything flows out from this Centre. Many years ago, a leading newspaper ran a series asking , ‘What is wrong with the world?’ The shortest reply to the editor said, ‘’Dear sir, I am. Yours sincerely, G.K.Chesterton.’’

It remains the case that we can only be saved by faith (in the Lord Jesus); and ‘by faith’ is the only way to live. Let’s make sure our trust is in the right place; or rather, the right Person. We may not be able to change our dark, deceitful and deceived hearts, but God can fill them with light. There is a ‘’cure’’ with Him. In the meantime, we can’t pull the wool over His eyes. He knows us thoroughly.

‘’There follows a contrast (very like that of Ps.1) between the person who depends for well-being on human strength and the person who trusts in God (5-8). The ‘cursing’ of the one and the ‘blessing’ of the other are covenantal (cf. Dt.28). The covenant has a paradox which is abidingly true: the attempt to put one’s life on a secure footing by a selfish reliance on one’s own abilities brings undoing; trust in God, which implies obedience and may involve acting against one’s own interests, is the way to life (cf. Mt.10:39).’’ Gordon McConville: ‘The New Bible Commentary’, p.686.

Prayer: ‘’Create in me a pure heart, O God.’’ (Psalm 51:10).

Daily Bible thoughts 978: Tuesday 29th September 2015: Jeremiah 17:1-4: Your own fault.

Jeremiah 17:1-4: Your own fault.(please click here for todays Bible passage)

Warren Wiersbe tells the story of President Calvin Coolidge, who, on his return from church one day, was asked by his wife? ‘What did the preacher preach about?’ ‘Sin’ Coolidge replied in his usual concise manner. ‘What did he say about it?’ ‘He was against it.’

Wiersbe goes on to say, ‘’We may forget our sins, but our sins never forget us. They’re inscribed on our hearts until we ask the Lord for forgivenesss…’’ ‘The Wiersbe Bible Commentary (OT), p.1228. But sin was so deeply engraved on the hearts of God’s people in Jeremiah’s time that most were never going to ask for mercy, and their sin would be their undoing.

Hard hearts (1): The people of Judah’s sin went deep (in their hearts) and wide (affecting their religion), and long (corrupting the next generation: verse 2). ‘’Flint was one of the hardest stones known in ancient times…Instead of God’s law being written on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33), sin was written there – not only on their hearts but on their altars as well. The altar was the place where sin was atoned for (see Leviticus 1:1-4…); yet in Judah the altar had become a place where sin was inscribed –displayed – before the Lord.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.1100. Tom makes the point, in a footnote that the reference is to pagan altars where the people were offering sacrifices to false deities.

Damaged children (2; see Deuteronomy 6:7; 12:2,3 to grasp something of the parental failure): The children were affected and corrupted by the pagan influences their parents gave themselves up to. They grew and developed amid the vilest sin. Parents carry an enormous responsibility before God. None of us are perfect; we all fail in many ways. But we have to face the challenge, ‘What will our children ‘’remember’’ from their home life that will adversely affect them?’ May God have mercy on us if we cause them to stumble in any way, and may He help those of us who still have the opportunity to rectify things. ‘’The need for schooling children in the ways of God could not be more accurately portrayed.’’ Gordon McConville, ‘New Bible Commentary’, p.686.

Sin’s consequences (3, 4): Sin has consequences. Make no mistake about this. You may seem to get away with it for a time, and that can lull you into a false sense of security. But sin is your finger; my finger on the self-destruct button. Sin is costly. It carries a big price tag, and ultimately it leads to the burning anger of God ‘’forever’’, if there is no repentance, and turning to Christ in trust. But if a person does turn to the Lord they will experience His eternally enduring love (Psalm 118:29).

I do not want to have a hard heart that persists in its own way, right to the edge of the cliff and over the top. As the next verses show, it did not have to be this way. Throughout their downward slide the people were repeatedly warned and called back from the precipice; to trust in God and not man.

One final thought for today: God ‘’writes His Word on our hearts so we will get victory over sin (Psalm 119:11; 2 Corinthians 3:1-3).’’ Warren W. Wierbe: ‘With the Word’, p.509.

Prayer: Lord God, keep my heart soft before you.

Daily Bible thoughts 977: Monday 28th September 2015: Psalm 119:38-40: For the glory of the Lord.

Psalm 119:38-40: For the glory of the Lord.(please click here for todays Bible passage)

Can you say that you ‘’long’’ for God’s Word? Is there an element of ‘panting’ in your soul? So often we find in Biblical religion an intensity of desire that seems to be lacking in much of church life as we know it.

And have you got to a place where you want God’s ‘’promise ‘’ to be fulfilled more for His glory than for your good. What you want most is for people to see how wonderful He is. It’s not wrong to want the promises of God to come to pass in your life so that personal needs are met. But is there an even deeper desire for the lifting up of His wonderful Name?

So today’s thought is brief and to the point. But it is no less important for being short. Let’s join with the psalmist in prayer, picking it up at verse 36:

‘’Give me a bent for your words of wisdom, and not for piling up loot. Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets, invigorate me on the pilgrim way. Affirm your promises to me – promises made to all who fear you. Deflect the harsh words of my critics – but what you say is always so good. See how hungry I am for your counsel; preserve my life through your righteous ways!’’ The Message.

Go after God and the things of God with all your heart.

Daily Bible thoughts 976: Friday 25th September 2015: Psalm 119:36, 37: A double turn

 Psalm 119:36, 37: A double turn.(please click here for todays Bible passage)

Here are two complimentary turnings, the one positive; the other negative: ‘’Turn my heart toward…Turn my eyes away…’’


  • We need God’s help if we are going to love His Word. He creates spiritual appetite;
  • Spiritual desire can help us to overcome selfish ambition. God’s Word is life’s truest treasure. It matters much more than money in the bank The more we love God and His Word, the less material things will captivate our hearts;
  • There are empty, vain and ‘’worthless things’’ that do not warrant our attention. They may seem to offer life, but they are nebulous and hard to hold on to. They burst like bubbles in the bath. Their promise quickly disappears;
  • On the other hand, true life is to be found in the Bible. There our lives are renewed.

Although we can and should pray that we will love God’s Word and that we won’t give time and attention to meaningless things, it strikes me that we also have responsibilities to do what we can with God’s help. Let’s do those things that cultivate spiritual appetite, and make wise choices: take steps to close off unhealthy (and dirty) streams. In my experience, the more time and attention we give to the things of God, the more time and attention we will want to give to them and our desires for lesser things will weaken. So, let’s ask God to turn our hearts toward and our eyes away, but let’s also do everything we can to fight. Jesus shows us how:

‘’Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour.’’ (Matthew 4:8). Jesus was not deceived. He saw that although ‘Sodom’ looked good (Genesis 13:10a), it was corrupt and doomed (Genesis 13:10b, 13). He dealt with the temptation by means of the Word of God (Matthew 4:10, 11). He used ‘’the sword of the Spirit’’ (Ephesians 6:17) to fend off and chase away the evil one.

Prayer: ‘’May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep the commands, decrees and regulations he gave our fathers.’’ (1 Kings 8:58).

Daily Bible thoughts 975: Thursday 24th September 2015: Psalm 119:35: Direction and Delight.

 Psalm 119:35: Direction and Delight.(please click here for todays Bible Passage)

The prayer requests regarding God’s Word keep coming thick and fast: ‘’Teach me…Give me…Direct me…’’ This third request speaks of God’s authority over our lives. Which way do I need to go? God will tell me, and primarily by means of His Word.

‘’Direct me…’’ This is one thing a person is saying to God when they become a Christian, and they are baptized. They are affirming the ‘Lordship’ of Jesus over their lives. They are handing over the keys to another Driver, saying, ‘’Steer me. Take me where you want me to go.’’

There is a story told about a driver in a Surrey town who wasn’t quite sure if he was where he wanted to be. Winding down his window he asked a passer-by: ‘Leatherhead?’ The suddenly angry looking pedestrian replied: ‘Fish Face!!’ You have no doubt been in a situation where you have similarly needed to ask for help. God’s directions take us down the ‘’path’’ or ‘’road’’ of His Word. It is a ‘delightful’ road. Expect to find direction for your life in the systematic reading of the Scriptures. Also, you can check any so-called guidance with it. Does it line up with God’s Word or somehow contradict it? Keeping on His road is necessary for joy.

Over the last year or two, Jilly and I have been discovering Yorkshire – particularly on days off during the summer months. Again and again we have turned down roads where the views have been simply stunning. We have found ‘delight’ in breath-taking scenery. It is regularly like this as we travel through the Bible; we find a beauty and a wonder and a joy that surpassed our expectations. God’s directions and your delight are inextricably bound up together.

Where will you find ‘’delight’’? God’s answer is not the world’s. Have you yet found ‘’delight’’ in God’s Word? The key to life’s greatest joys and most enduring pleasures is found there. What do you delight in? Job could say: ‘’I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.’’ (Job 23:12).

One final thought: If you are taking a certain ‘’path’’ you are not taking others. You are choosing this pathway over other potential routes. Following God will mean rejecting other possible ways which may, superficially, appear more attractive. But if you let the Lord choose the route, you will go through the most stunning scenery, even if the road is sometimes difficult. Once, on a visit to the Isle of Skye, I turned down a narrow road with passing places. It was just a black line on the map: the road to Kylerhea. I found it a little bit scary. It took me over hills and through a wild, rugged landscape. A sort of nervous, insecure feeling went through my veins. Then suddenly the road fell away before me into a steep descent, and opened up a vista that felt like a foretaste of heaven itself, and moved me in a way that I cannot put into words. On that challenging road I found unexpected delight. It is like this for all serious students of God’s matchless Word.

Prayer: ‘’Guide me down the road of your commandments; I love travelling this freeway?’’ The Message.

Daily Bible thoughts 974: Wednesday 23rd September 2015: Psalm 119: 34: Light and life.

 Psalm 119: 34: Light and life. (Please click here for todays Bible Passage)

When God enlightens you, you have a responsibility to live it!

‘’Give me insight so I can do what you tell me – my whole life one long, obedient response.’’ The Message.

Someone described the life of a Christian disciple as ‘’a long obedience in the same direction.’’

We come to the Bible with an urgent request that God will shed His light on the pages He has written. We need the understanding that He gives, and we are not too proud to admit our need. We come like beggars with outstretched hands: ‘’poor in spirit’’, but never doubting that our loving, divine Benefactor will give us what we need. Even as we confess our lack, we believe in His generosity.

  • When God gives you understanding, you will see that you can ‘’obey’’ His Word; that His endless supply of help is at your disposal. You will ‘get it’ that God never calls without also equipping. Even though you may fall again and again, God will cause you to see that power is available for you to get up and keep going down ‘obedience road’.
  • When God gives you understanding, you will grasp how vital obedience is. It could never be an ‘optional extra’.
  • When God gives you understanding, your ‘’heart’’ will be profoundly affected. It is out of our hearts that we live, and there is a constant need for our hearts to be stirred and moved and changed. I read recently about a Christian mother who survived a devastating divorce, and raised four sons in the aftermath, by learning to live on the promises of God. She carefully went through her Bible and took note of every promise and then learned to ‘stand’ on these faithful words and ‘claim’ them in prayer. One of her boys said, ‘’She not only survived, she thrived.’’ That’s what can happen when God’s Word gets into your heart.

Has God shown you something in His Word today? It is to be translated into action. If it really sinks into your heart it will be!

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

Prayer: ‘’Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.’’

Daily Bible thoughts 973: Tuesday 22nd September 2015: Psalm 119:33-40: ‘’Teach me’’

Psalm 119:33-40: ‘’Teach me’’(please click here for the Bible Passage)

‘’It is only with God’s help that we can even begin to keep God’s law.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The applied Old Testament Commentary, p.912.

‘’The spirit of dependence continues with nine requests in eight verses…The section is in three parts:33-35, total commitment, keeping God’s word with the whole heart; 36-37, inner threats, the divided heart; 38-40, divine, faithful care and supply.’’ J.A.Motyer: ‘The New Bible Commentary, p.567.

As we focus on verse 33 today, please remember that God wants ‘doers’ of His Word and not just ‘hearers’.

When I was a young boy I started to have piano lessons. I was unable to play the piano and I needed someone who could (an expert) to teach me how. A teacher is someone who is further on than you in knowledge and ability. They help you know what you don’t know and do what you can’t do.

The Bible is to be obeyed. More to the point, God is to be obeyed. He is ‘’LORD’’. Our obedience to it (to Him) is not meant to be spasmodic; hit and miss, but continuous. God’s ‘’decrees’’ are to be kept ‘’to the end’’. For this to happen we will need a Teacher. We have the very best. The One who wrote the Book will be your personal tutor. Begin each session with your Bible with a prayer to the Divine Author: ‘’Teach me…’’ But let that always be with a view to obedience: ‘’Teach me…then…’’ As you read your Bible today are you looking for directions; wanting to see what you must ‘’follow’’? It is important to not only read the Bible but also pray before you read. Be humble enough to ask for help. Don’t assume that you can just suss it out for yourself. Yes, of course, apply your mind; use the wonderful mental ability God has given you. Think. But do it all prayerfully. Stay in the place of humble dependence on God. When I got into my teenage years, for a time my mum arranged for me to have a personal tutor in maths, because I was struggling a bit as I approached my ‘G.C.E.’ exams. He was convinced that he could help me. (I think he was less certain after a few weeks!! But that’s another story!) Mum had to pay for this personal tuition, but our ‘lessons’ with the Divine tutor are totally free. What a gift! What a Teacher! Make the most of the opportunity. You, who are book lovers, just think if you could have an hour with your favourite author! How excited you would be. Yet our Christian privileges go way beyond that.

I think one of the ways God teaches us to stay on the right road is by allowing us to experience the consequences of taking wrong turnings. These sobering and salutary experiences encourage us to keep listening to God’s ‘Satnav’, and to heed His map. Stay on the clearly marked path today.

By the way, in case you were wondering, I still can’t play the piano! I can read a bit of music, and that is, in part, a legacy from that time. But I cannot play the instrument I love so much. When I was a young boy, the call of riding my bike was louder than the need to tediously labour over scales. It was getting more and more difficult to practice, and I gave up. Mum told me I would regret it, and I do. She was right. But I can’t expect to play. I gave up on my lessons. Don’t do that with the Bible. Keep asking the Teacher to teach you.

Prayer: ‘’GOD, teach me lessons for living, so I can stay the course.’’ The Message.

Daily Bible thoughts 972: Monday 21st September 2015: 2 Thessalonians 1:12b: Serving grace.

 2 Thessalonians 1:12b: Serving grace.(please click here for todays Bible passage)

‘’…according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.’’

Everything in the Christian life is ‘’…according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.’’

This applies to:

  • Our entire experience of salvation (5-10);
  • The ability to persevere through trials (3,4);
  • The answers to prayers for spiritual growth (11, 12). In our passage it seems to particularly relate to this latter point – and especially to the request about the double glorification: Christ in us and us in Him.

Grace is (God’s) undeserved favour. Everything we receive from God comes to us as an unearned and undeserved gift. We can’t boast about these things or consider that we merit them. We don’t.

John Stott wrote that not only is there saving grace, but there is also such a thing as serving grace. It takes grace to make a person into a Christian; but it also requires grace to live as a Christian. We sometimes fail to grasp this. We can’t live the Christian life from out of our finite resources, but according to God’s infinite riches.


  • It is God’s undeserved blessing on our lives in Christ;
  • It is the divinely bestowed ability to live the life of a Christian disciple;
  • It is deeply humbling and reminds us that we will always be incapable on our own;
  • It brings us to our knees in wonder and causes us to sing that it is

‘’Grace is behind and through all of this, our God giving himself freely, the Master, Jesus Christ, giving himself freely.’’ The Message.

Could there be a more fitting conclusion to this first chapter? It provides the key to everything we have read in it.

Prayer: Thank you that I am not alone, or left to my own devices.

Daily Bible thoughts 971: Friday 18th September 2015: 2 Thessalonians 1: 11, 12

 2 Thessalonians 1: 11, 12(please click here for todays passage)

Paul practiced what he preached! (11a; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). It wasn’t a case of just, ‘Do as I say’, but ‘Do as I do.’ We can’t be continually saying prayers, but we can live in a spirit of prayer. It’s been said that you can take the teaching of Jesus on prayer, as you find it in the gospels, and essentially summarise it in one word – perseverance. Stick with it. Never stop praying for the church; don’t stop asking for each other’s spiritual growth. There is a link between what is requested and what happens. Do you believe this?

‘’Understand that God hears every prayer you pray in Jesus’ name – and that he will either do exactly what you ask, or something even better, which he probably would not have done had you not asked (Mt.7:7-11).’ Steve Fuller.

What did Paul pray here?

  • That God would count them worthy of His calling (11c). He already saw this happening in their persistence and progress through persecution (5), but Paul was not one to rest on his laurels. We have seen elsewhere in the Thessalonian correspondence that where Paul saw a good fire going he was quick to put on another log or two (1 Thessalonians 4: 1, 2; 9, 10).
  • That God would enable them to do everything that was in their hearts to do (11b). He wasn’t asking that the Lord would enable them to do every single thing that entered their heads, but everything that God put into their hearts to perform.
  • In all of this, his heart’s desire was to see Jesus ‘’glorified’’ in His church (12a).
  • But he also looked to the ultimate goal of believers being ‘’glorified’’ in Christ (12b). When someone becomes a Christian, a process is set in motion that will lead finally to their glorification – to their being made perfectly in the image of Jesus and shining with His glory. This final outcome is so certain that Paul could write about it as if it had already happened, even when it hadn’t. But, for him, God’s sovereign purposes were so certain and sure it was as good as done. God finishes what he starts.

Prayer: Lord remind me to pray for the spiritual growth of my brothers and sisters, and help me to believe, as Paul clearly did, that praying will make a difference.

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