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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


October 2015

Daily Bible thoughts 1001: Friday 30th October 2015: Luke 1:39-56: Host to a miracle.

 Luke 1:39-56: Host to a miracle.(please click here for todays Bible passage)

As we read these early chapters of Luke’s gospel it is good to remember that the doctor probably had the opportunity to interview Mary at some point, when he was on his travels with Paul.

Mary and Elizabeth’s lives were intertwined by blood; now they would be knitted even closer together through their sons, and the intersecting missions of these boys. When Mary and Elizabeth met, the older woman surely had prophetic insight (41-45). It must have been a thrilling confirmation for young Mary. This encounter between the two chosen women sort of reminds me of when you meet up with another Christian and your heart just leaps; you’ve got something so special in common.

We see so many wonderful qualities in Mary:

  • Belief in God’s promises (45; compare with 20). This is how we are to live the Christian life; trusting in every promise of His Word.
  • A worshipful spirit (46, 47). The whole song of Mary (46-55) has the focus on ‘’Him’’/ ‘’He’’. This is surely a mark of the Holy Spirit’s fullness. David Pawson told a story about hearing a young ‘Salvation Army’ girl give her testimony in an open air service. He said that she never once spoke about herself; all that she said was about Jesus. He added that he did not believe that this was a conscious decision; she was just so full of the Holy Spirit that she overflowed with Jesus.
  • Humility (48). She knew that she would be famous, but probably had little idea of how well known she would become. However there was nothing boastful about her. I’m grateful to my wife, Jilly, for the insight that Mary was willing to serve. Elizabeth needed Mary. In the last three months of her pregnancy she would benefit from the help of the younger woman. God showed His care for her through Mary. Mary was not full of pride, but full of wonder, love, service and meekness; full of Jesus. True greatness takes the form of a servant (John 13; Philippians 2:1-11). The central verses in this song illustrate the point that God’s Kingdom is the ‘Upside down Kingdom’. Mary and Elizabeth and Zechariah were illustrative of the truth that God reaches down into obscurity to lift up the ‘nobodies’.
  • Knowledge of God’s Word and purposes (54, 55). Again we see continuity with the Old Testament.

Mary knew that she was playing ‘host’ to a miracle. She would not be carrying this baby apart from the mysterious and wonderful work of God within her. Her response was one of humble, adoring thanks for this ‘surprise’. Today I feel the challenge of always thanking God for His surprising blessings; not taking them for granted or thinking I somehow deserve them. It is also important to remember that although God blesses us for our good; it is always for His glory.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for your goodness to me

Daily Bible thoughts 1000: Thursday 29th October 2015: Jeremiah 20:7 – 18: Honest to God.

Jeremiah 20:7 – 18: Honest to God.(please click here for todays Bible passage)

The first six verses of this chapter display something of Jeremiah’s courage in his outer life. He was knocked down, but he got right back up again and carried on, even though he was likely to take more punishment for doing so.

However, the remainder of the chapter pulls back the curtain on his inner life. He paid a high price for his ministry. We see him overwhelmed with anguish and discouragement, saying some things that are hard to hear. For example he expresses the feeling that he wished he’d never been born (14-18). He doesn’t curse his parents (Exodus 21:17), but he does curse the day of his birth. This is a man at rock bottom; just about clinging on by his fingertips. ‘’He should have killed me before I was born, with that womb as my tomb…Why, oh why, did I ever leave that womb? Life’s been nothing but trouble and tears, and what’s coming is more of the same.’’ The Message.

‘’Once again, the prophet was bold before men but broken before God ’ Warren W. Wiersbe. Here are three important lessons:

A strong ministry is built on and sustained by a robust inner life. Jeremiah the preacher was also a man of prayer. You will never survive the marathon of Christian ministry without a healthy relationship with God, in which you can be completely honest about your feelings. (It also helps if you’ve got one or two ‘FDF’s’ as John Ortberg calls them: ‘Fully Disclosing Friends’. Is there someone with whom you can open your heart?) Most of all, keep your eyes on Jesus, who persevered through terrible suffering. Look to Him and remember the Cross (Hebrews 12:2,3)

You can be honest with God. I wouldn’t be surprised if you read this and something deep inside said, ‘You can’t say that Jeremiah!’ But clearly you can. You can be honest with God. He knows what you’re thinking and feeling anyway, whether or not you articulate it. Effectively what Jeremiah said to the Lord was that He had over-persuaded him when he called him to be a prophet. He hadn’t realised just how much he would suffer. But in fact God had told him that life would be difficult, while at the same time assuring him that he would not be overcome by these hardships (1:17-19). We can be totally honest with God. We may get some things wrong in what we say about people in His presence, and in what we say about Him. I’m not commending that (and once we know we got it wrong we need to repent), but God allows His servants to talk things out before His throne. What a privilege. Let it all out. ‘’It has often been observed that Jeremiah’s doubts were never expressed in public.’’ A.E. Cundall.

We are complex creatures. Emotions are complex. In these few verses we ride a rollercoaster of feelings with the prophet. One moment he’s saying things like, ‘’You pushed me into this, GOD, and I let you do it. You were too much for me. And now I’m a public joke. They all poke fun at me.’’ The Message. Then he’s affirming that the Lord is with him, and will vindicate him (11, 12) and even singing praise to Him (13; see Acts 16:25). We move from low to high…and then, whoosh, plummet back down again (14-18). Some commentators would say that these verses are out of place and got mixed up in transmission. But I think it is more helpful to say that this is true to life. We experience swings of emotion, and it can all tumble round together in a kind of ‘washing machine’ of prayer. ‘’Faith and doubt can jostle each other in a disorderly way…’’ Gordon McConville: ‘NBC’, p.689.

Prayer: ‘Every cry you are listening, no matter what state my heart is in.’


Daily Bible thoughts 999: Wednesday 28th October 2015: Jeremiah 20:1-6: The rubber prophet!

 Jeremiah 20:1-6: The rubber prophet!(please click here for todays Bible passage)

The saying, ‘Don’t shoot the messenger’ springs to mind. The person who has to deliver unpalatable truth regularly takes a bullet for it. (It is ironic to think about a preacher of God’s Word being put in stocks, in church, because of faithful preaching! Essentially, that is what you find here.) The preaching of Jeremiah cost him dearly. In these verses he records the first of many experiences of physical abuse at the hands of his enemies. He had been warned about the personal cost of his ministry at his calling (1:19). He had been given the promise that he would not be overcome by his foes, but no guarantee was given that he would not suffer. ‘’Similarly, the Christian is assured of final victory because of the resurrection of Christ – but not of immunity from suffering or opposition.’’ Gordon McConville: ‘The New Bible Commentary’, p.688. These opening verses of chapter 20 show how much of a stir Jeremiah was creating in the higher echelons of Judean society.’’Passhur’’ seems to have been a kind of priestly policeman, responsible for order in the temple area.

God’s messengers will suffer because of the messages they bring. If you are a preacher and your text is the Bible; if your calling is to say what God says, somewhere along the line you are going to run into trouble. There will be people who hate what you are saying, and who may even hate you. Some will want you out of the way, and there may be those in your path who will actively take steps to remove you. God’s Word is potent. It goes to work on sin and evil. Therefore the devil hates it, and kicks up a fuss, pulling on people’s strings in his counter-attack (Ephesians 6: 12).

God’s messengers need to be resilient. Jeremiah has been characterised as ‘the weeping prophet’, but to my mind he is also the ‘rubber’ prophet, because after this beating he bounced back. In the next section, it is true, we will see something of how this hurt him, but it doesn’t alter the fact that he got back up from the canvas with his fists up, ready for more fighting. But this wasn’t personal animosity; it was rather a refusal to be silenced when he had been entrusted with God’s message. His ‘come back’ must have taken immense courage, because after his release from the stocks (3) he would surely have experienced the temptation to keep his head down. Wasn’t this the reason for the punishment anyway; to cow him into silence? But whatever the temptation he may have felt, he couldn’t help himself (8, 9). The words in him from God were like pent up floodwaters behind a locked door. They just had to burst through. There was no holding them back. He was so brave, because when he spoke again he delivered a personal word to the man who’d had him beaten: ‘’GOD has a new name for you: not Pashhur but Danger-Everywhere, because GOD says, ‘You’re a danger to yourself and everyone around you…’ ‘’ The Message. ‘’Ironically, the one who thought he was guarding the institutions and traditions was doing just the reverse; the temple with its rituals and its wealth, which he was protecting from the disorderly, would soon be no more, and the priesthood an irrelevance in a foreign land. No institution, however good, can be an end in itself; it can be good only if it points forward to the kingdom of God.’’ Gordon McConville: ‘The New Bible Commentary’, p.688.

God’s messengers must remember who is in control. In Jeremiah’s situation it wasn’t ‘’Pashhur’’ or his ‘’friends’’ or any of the other people who hated his message. It wasn’t the Babylonians either. Jeremiah’s God was in control. Look at the repeated ‘’I will’’ in (4, 5). Let’s keep our eyes on the Lord and always remember that He reigns.

‘’Let God take care of the people who create problems for you.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe.

Daily Bible thoughts 998: Tuesday 27th October 2015: Psalm 119:49-56: Singing in the rain.

Psalm 119:49-56: Singing in the rain. (please click here for todays Bible passage)

We have a picture in these verses of a man suffering for his faith. He was a persecuted believer. How did he keep going? Well, he found ‘’comfort’’ in God’s Word (50, 52). Here are some of the ways he drew on this:

  • He remembered God’s ‘’promise’’ (50);
  • He remembered His ‘’ancient laws’’ (52). God’s Word might be an old Book, but that does not make it obsolete. To the writer of Psalm 119, the Bible (as he knew it) was always relevant; ‘’old, yet ever new’’. ‘’I watch for your ancient landmark words, and know I’m on the right track.’’ The Message.
  • He remembered God in’ ’the night’’ (55); in the dark hours when, maybe, fear stalked and sleep would not come, he remembered the Lord. When fears could seem greatest, and loom largest, he would not capitulate. He was still determined to be ‘Bible man’. ‘’I meditate on your name all night, GOD, treasuring your revelation, O GOD.’’ The Message.
  • He would not turn from God’s Word (51). Like a man who wraps his cloak more tightly around himself the more the wind blows against him, so this psalmist held God’s truth close to his heart and would not let it be ripped from his grasp. ‘’The insolent ridicule me without mercy, but I don’t budge from your revelation.’’ The Message.
  • He sang Scripturally-based hymns. Wherever he went he worshipped God with sound doctrine set to music. ‘’I set your instructions to music and sing them as I walk the pilgrim way.’’ The Message
  • He established good practices based on obedience to God’s Word (56). Whatever the ‘weather’ it was his intention to obey. ‘’Still, I walk through a rain of derision because I live by your Word and counsel.’’ The Message. Yes, it was ‘raining’ on this man, but he was determined to sing in the rain!

(Note: The more you know and love God’s Word, the more you will hate all evil; every manifestation of badness, see verse 53).

Prayer: Lord, I thank you that you have put a song of joy in my heart which no one can take from me.

Daily Bible thoughts 977: Monday 26th October 2015: 1 Timothy 1: 18-20: Shipwrecks.

 1 Timothy 1: 18-20: Shipwrecks. (click here for todays Bible passage)

When a shipwreck occurs valuables are lost or plundered. It is sadly possible to ‘shipwreck’ your faith. You can probably think of those you know who have done just that to themselves. Paul mentions two known to him (20) who were currently on the rocks. (But he still had hopes of their being salvaged, and I will return to the point later.)

However this short passage points out 2 clear ways of remaining on course; staying afloat on the high seas of faith:

  1. Hold on to ‘’faith’’ (19a). Always remember that there is a ‘’thief’’ who ‘’comes only to steal and kill and destroy’’ (John 10:10). He wants to take this precious cargo from out of your ‘hold’;
  2. Hold on to ‘’a good conscience’’ (19a). The ‘thief’ has also set his sights on seizing this oh so valuable commodity.

We need to keep right on trusting in the right Person (Jesus) and believing correct doctrine. (We should also hold on to prophetic ‘words’ which we have good reason to believe are genuine. See 18) Linked to this, we are to go on living the right way. Part of this right living is getting on with what God has called us to do, just like Timothy did, even though it may not necessarily be easy (18a). This is about calling and vocation; not just about moral conduct.

But we do these things with our eyes wide open. We are not naïve (or shouldn’t be) about the true nature of things. We know that we’re in a furious fight. It’s a fight all the way; a battle to the end of our days. But it is ‘’the good fight’’ (18b). It’s in a good cause. It’s a fight for right against wrong. And the God who is good is ‘’for us’’ so ‘’who can be against us?’’ (Romans 8:31).

‘’There are some, you know, who by relaxing their grip and thinking anything goes have made a thorough mess of their faith. Hymenaeus and Alexander are two of them. I let them wander off to Satan to be taught a lesson or two about not blaspheming.’’ The Message.

In the mention of ‘’Hymenaeus and Alexander’’ who shipwrecked their faith, there is an intriguing note about Paul handing them ‘’over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.’’ This is generally taken to refer to excommunication. They were put out of the church into the world, which is Satan’s domain. But there is an implicit note of hope that this disciplinary measure will be corrective; that they will be ‘’taught not to blaspheme’’. Spiritual casualties can be healed and restored; the shipwrecked may one day find the wind of the Spirit in their once again unfurled sails. Me must hope and pray it will be so in a number of cases known to us.

Prayer: Pray today for those you know who have shipwrecked their faith.

Daily Bible thoughts 996: Friday 23rd October 2015: 1 Timothy 1:12-17: My story

 1 Timothy 1:12-17: My story (Click for todays Bible passage)

Paul wanted to encourage Timothy in his difficult assignment in Ephesus, and he let him know how highly he regarded his own calling to serve. It was an inestimable blessing and privilege (12).

Paul was quick to give his testimony and glorify the ‘’only God’’ who saved him (17). He recognised that he was undeserving and he overflowed with thankfulness. He had no reason to boast. The passage opens with these words, ‘’I’m so grateful to Christ Jesus…’’ The Message. This is where we need to live our lives, in a place of humble, adoring gratitude, low at the feet of Jesus, prostrate before the throne of God. Paul recognised that the very ‘’faith and love’’ he possessed (faith to trust Christ, and love for Him and His church) were sheer gifts (14). He was not a ‘self-made’ Christian. No one is or ever could be. ‘’Grace mixed with faith and love poured over me and into me. And all because of Jesus.’’ The Message.

The central verse in this section, the pivot on which everything turns, is surely (15).’’Here’s a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I’m proof – Public Sinner Number One – of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy.’’ The Message. ’ Paul had come to ‘fully accept’ this ‘’trustworthy’’ truth, as the ‘New International Version’ of the Bible puts it, and it had changed his life. It was the heart of ‘’the glorious gospel of the blessed God’’ (11) which had been entrusted to Paul. This was his message (1 Corinthians 2:2). (By the way, the word ‘’glorious’’ in that verse can refer to the content of the gospel, or to the One who gave it, i.e. God Himself. In the context the second possibility seems to fit better.)

Paul recognised that his rescue by God, through His Son Jesus, was because of ‘’mercy’’ (13, 16) and ‘’grace’’ (14). He was struck by the abundance of God’s provision. It’s been pointed out that God in His grace gives us what we don’t deserve (salvation); and in His mercy He does not give us what we do deserve (punishment and eternal judgment). Twice Paul says, ‘’I was shown mercy…’’ He knew that but for this generosity of God everything would be up for him. But God’s mercy took into account that Paul (then Saul) didn’t fully know what he was doing in his violent and murderous former life (13). ‘’…I was treated mercifully because I didn’t know what I was doing – didn’t know Who I was doing it against!’’ The Message.

And so Paul became, you might say, ‘Exhibit A’ of the gracious and merciful saving work of God (16). ‘’And now he shows me off – evidence of his endless patience – to those who are right on the edge of trusting him forever.’’ The Message. If God could save Saul of Tarsus, whose life could He not turn around.

In a sense, Paul’s story is also every Christian’s. The details of our lives may differ, but none of us could be saved apart from the mercy and grace of God. And He does not hold the details of our past lives against us when we are in Christ. Our place is with Paul, on the ground before the shining throne of God. The cross spells the death of all pride. It is not fitting before Calvary love. Paul never forgot the wonder of God’s choice of him. It will do us all good to lie and soak in this ‘bath’ of Paul’s testimony.

Prayer: Lord, may I never lose the wonder of your precious love for me.

Daily Bible thoughts 995: Thursday 22nd October 2015: 1 Timothy 1:1-11: ‘’Bypath meadow’’

 1 Timothy 1:1-11: ‘’Bypath meadow’’ (please click here for todays Bible passage)

Have you noticed how some Christians always seem to want to pull away from the central core of truth? They are fascinated by what lies at the edges; captivated by what is on the fringe, and beyond. They major on minors. They love speculation. They like to have lengthy conversations about matters about which, frankly, no one can know with certainty this side of heaven. It’s ‘’meaningless talk’’ and ‘’they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm’’ (7). Let it be said that false teaching lies in that direction, and if you get away from the centre you will be in danger of crossing the border into heresy. It is better to keep to the highway of certainty and avoid ‘bypath meadow’. But some believers do love to ‘’wander off into cul-de-sacs…’’ The Message.

Something like this was happening in Ephesus and Paul left Timothy there to sort it out (3). Timothy and Titus have been characterised as ‘’timid Timothy and tough Titus.’’ That might be a slight exaggeration, but reading between the lines it seems Timothy may have been a bit more diffident by nature. Yet he was the one Paul left in Ephesus. Facing the challenge no doubt helped the younger man to grow. Some responsibilities may seem onerous, but remember that responsibility is our response to God’s ability.

In his introduction to the so-called ‘pastoral epistles’ of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, Eugene Peterson writes: ‘’The best leadership in spiritual communities formed in the name of Jesus, the Messiah, is inconspicuous, not calling attention to itself but not sacrificing anything in the way of conviction and firmness either.’’ So Paul said to Timothy, ‘’Stay right there on top of things so that the teaching stays on track. Apparently some people have been introducing fantasy stories and fanciful family trees that digress into silliness instead of pulling people back into the centre, deepening faith and obedience.’’ The Message.

The teaching ministry in the church is so important. Truth is vital. The pulpit must be guarded. A genuine Biblical ministry, sticking to what the Bible says, does not ‘’promote’’ controversy (4). Rather it builds consecration. It constantly calls believers back to the central things.The fruit of an authentic Bible teaching ministry lies in the transformation of character. God ‘works’ through His Word and by His Spirit to change people. Such preaching stimulates:

  • ‘’sincere faith’’ (5; 4b);
  • ‘’love’’ (5);
  • Purity of heart (5);
  • A clean conscience (5);
  • Holiness of life (8-11) – note in these verses that there is a life that is in conformity with ‘’the glorious gospel of the blessed God’’ (11), and Paul saw his ministry of this good news as a sacred trust. It didn’t belong to him, but was placed into his hands by God to steward well.

I knew a man who left one church group in a city for another. The reason he gave for moving on was quite simple. These people, he said, had got ‘’off centre’’. This is tragically possible. Let’s keep the main things the main things! And may God help us to do so.

Luke 1:26-38: Written into God’s story: Daily Bible thoughts 994: Wednesday 21st October 2015:

 Luke 1:26-38: Written into God’s story (please click here for todays Bible passage)

I want to be part of a story God is writing. I don’t want to be working at some man-made project, however grandiose, and be able to boast about what ‘we’ are doing, and how successful we are. I realise that men can build ‘Babel’s’ that look impressive to other men, and to themselves, but they cut no ice with God (Genesis 11:1-9).

So, no, I don’t want any part in that, but I do so want to have a place in God’s story. It regularly involves ordinary and unlikely people. It often has relatively obscure and hidden beginnings in humble places. But it is always a story of real Holy Spirit power at work to bring Jesus into the world, and to change it by glorifying Him.

This is the story I would like to find myself in. I don’t want to write it myself; my desire is to be written in.

If God can hear from me the same words He heard from Mary, I too can have a role in history’s greatest work of non-fiction: ‘’I belong to the Lord, body and soul, let it happen as you say.’’ (38; see Romans 12:1, 2). ‘’And at this the angel left her’’, it says. No wonder. He had heard what he needed to hear; or rather what the Lord needed to hear. That was the required response.

To my mind, the challenge of this familiar story is about submission. Am I willing to have my plans altered, my life changed, by a Word from God? Am I willing for Jesus to fill me, to grow in me, to dominate my life from this point on (if I haven’t come to that place as yet)?

There are obvious parallels between the first story in (5-25) and this one, but it is important to understand that Mary’s question in (34) was not about unbelief. It was a technicality: ‘’But how? I’ve never slept with a man.’’ The Message. However big the mountains are, they can be moved when the Holy Spirit is on the job (35-37). That is one reason why God’s stories are the best!

Prayer: Lord God, may it be that my life is all about you, and not about me.

Daily Bible thoughts 993: Tuesday 20th October 2015: Jeremiah 19: The point of no return.

 Jeremiah 19: The point of no return.(please click here for todays Bible passage)

‘’They’re set in their ways and won’t budge. They refuse to do a thing I say.’’ (15b) The Message.

In this tragic chapter, Jeremiah is told to ‘’buy a clay jar from a potter’’ (1) and then break it in the presence of Judah’s leaders (10) as a sign of the coming destruction of Judah and Jerusalem. On this occasion, someone pointed out, he went to the potter’s not as a spectator but as a customer. There is an important difference between the ‘’clay jar’’ of this chapter and the ‘’marred ‘’ pot of the previous chapter (18:4). That was still pliable and could be remoulded; but here the jar was so hardened it could not be remade. There is a time when people can still repent of their sins, but in chapter 19 we have gone beyond that, and we need to remember that in sinning it is possible to reach a point of no return. For Judah it was now too late to be reshaped. The breaking of the clay pot showed that judgment was irrevocable. It was a powerful, ‘shattering’ image, and it spoke volumes. ‘’I’ll smash this people and this city like a man who smashes a clay pot into so many pieces it can never be put together again.’’ The Message. ‘’People with hard hearts and stiff necks (19-15) may be easily broken.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.510.

What was going on here? What had led to such devastation as described in this chapter?

They forsook God (4): That was the root of the problem. They left God behind; or rather they ‘’exchanged’’ Him (Romans 1:23) for other vile gods who demanded despicable things from them (5, 13).

They forsook God’s Word (5): Rejecting God and rejecting His Word are two sides of the same coin. It is tantamount to self-destruction ultimately.

They filled the city with innocent blood (4b): What kind of religion would demand that children be sacrificed in the fire (4, 5)? What sort of gods would desire such a thing? The law absolutely forbade child sacrifice (Leviticus 18:21: God foresaw that they would face both the temptation and the opportunity), and King Josiah had tried to put an end to it (2 Kings 23:10; see 21:16 – it was particularly rife in Manasseh’s reign); however the practice started up again after Josiah’s death. We are surely not shocked or surprised that terrible judgment fell on such evil behaviour? So, as a result of all this:

They were going to fall (7; see also 7:30-34): We may make our plans but they are not guaranteed to succeed. Even if they do, we need to realise that the Lord can ‘’ruin’’ them. Any plans we make which are not God-centred are doomed to ultimate failure, and we may find we are the sad recipients of what we did not plan.

‘’We have the spiritual treasure in earthen vessels (2 Cor.4:7) so that we might share it with others. A vessel does not manufacture; it only contains and shares. All God asks is that we are clean, empty, and available. He will do the rest.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.510.

We need to understand that if we keep resisting God’s Word, and rejecting His Son Jesus, there will come a point where we are unable to turn.

Prayer: O Merciful God, give me grace to repent while there is still time.

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