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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

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December 2015

Daily Bible thoughts 1045: Thursday 31st December 2015: 2 Timothy 1:13, 14: A two-pronged challenge.

2 Timothy 1:13-14: A two-pronged challenge.(please click here for todays passage)

Paul has been telling Timothy to not be ashamed of the gospel (8).

He has given a description of the wonder of the good news (9-12) – its essential features

He then issues a double challenge to Timothy:

  1. Stick to the teaching you have received (13), living a life of faith and love. (Note: our maintaining of sound doctrine should never be an arid or sterile pursuit. At the heart of it all there is trust in and love for a living Person.)
  2. Guard the teaching you have received (14). ‘’Guard this precious thing placed in your custody by the Holy Spirit who works in us.’’ The Message. The ‘N.I.V.’ says, ‘’…guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.’’

These injunctions are always relevant. As Christians we will face temptations to steer away from the truths we have received.

As leaders we may well be tempted to change the message; to dilute it; to go in for novelty and so on. But it doesn’t belong to us. It is the property of another and is in our hands as a sacred trust. If your boss entrusted his car to you while he was away on holiday you wouldn’t feel free to change its colour, or to alter any other features. It’s not your car; it doesn’t belong to you. You are just looking after it for a time. It’s like this with the gospel – something which is of infinitely greater value than a BMW or a Merc. It belongs to God so we must handle it with the greatest care.

Therefore the church always needs to hear the message that says, ‘Stay with the revealed truth in your living and preaching.’ Thankfully, the Holy Spirit ‘’lives in us’’ and will help us.

Prayer: Thank you for all of your faithfulness to us in the last year Lord; help us to be faithful to you in the new year about to dawn.

Daily Bible thoughts 1044: Wednesday 30th December 2015: 2 Timothy 1: 8-14: The glorious gospel.

 2 Timothy 1: 8-14: The glorious gospel.(click here for todays passage)

Paul had charged Timothy to be unashamed of the gospel (and of him, a prisoner because of it) and to be willing to suffer for it. Such courage can only be shown by virtue of ‘’the power of God’’ (8).

There now follows a wonderful statement of what God has done for us:

  • He saved us (9a);
  • He saved us for holiness (9b);
  • He saved us, but not by any good works of ours (9c);
  • He saved us according to His sovereign purpose (9d): ‘’We had nothing to do with it. It was all his idea, a gift prepared for us in Jesus long before we knew anything about it.’’ The Message.
  • He saved us in Jesus (10). Salvation is found in no-one other than Jesus (Acts 4:12). He is the essence and embodiment of God’s saving work. Sin brought death into the world, but in bearing our sin on the cross, Jesus has dealt the death blow to death. Like David, we can say that He cut off Goliath’s head with Goliath’s own sword (Hebrews 4:14). He used Satan’s own weapon against him. In His resurrection He demonstrates that He is triumphant, and all who trust in Him will share in this conquest. ‘’But we know it now. Since the appearance of our Saviour, nothing could be plainer: death defeated, life vindicated in a steady blaze of light, all through the work of Jesus.’’ The Message.

This glorious news of salvation requires announcers (11), but communicating it comes at a price (12). However, Paul was not ashamed. He was certain of Jesus, and confident that the Lord would never let him down. ‘’It’s also the cause of all this trouble I’m in. But I have no regrets. I couldn’t be more sure of my ground – the One I’ve trusted in can take care of what he’s trusted me to do right to the end.’’ The Message. You will no doubt notice the wonderful balance here between what Paul was called to do and what God would do. It remains true that ‘’without us He will not; without Him we cannot.’’

Prayer: May I never lose the wonder of Jesus. Keep me spiritually alive and fresh, and ever full of praise.

Daily Bible thoughts 1043: Tuesday 29th December 2015: 2 Timothy 1:8, 15-18: Unashamed

 2 Timothy 1:8, 15-18: Unashamed(please click here for todays passage)

Maybe Timothy had a tendency towards timidity. This was possibly hinted at in (6, 7). Paul told him not to be ashamed:

  1. Of ‘’the testimony about our Lord’’ (8a). It is a dangerous thing to preach the good news of Jesus (12a). It had landed Paul in prison (8b, 17). In the words of a book title, Christians are called to ‘’Risky Living’’. Anyone could be ashamed when they consider the potential cost;
  2. Of Paul himself ‘’his prisoner’’ (8b). If you live in a culture where certain of your fellow-Christians, or fellow-leaders in the church, are being imprisoned, it might seem easier to distance yourself from them. You could be putting yourself in danger if you stand by them. Paul knew what it was to be abandoned by many who fled ‘like rats from a sinking ship.’ ‘’I’m sure you know by now that everyone in the province of Asia deserted me…’’ The Message. But there was a man by the name of ‘’Onesiphorus’’ who was of a different order. He was someone who possessed a servant heart, and instead of giving Paul a ‘wide berth’ he actively sought him out. He wanted to identify with him and help him. So Paul was encouraging Timothy to follow in his footsteps, and not be like ‘’Phygelus and Hermogenes’’ and the rest. ‘’But God bless Onesiphorus and his family! Many’s the time I’ve been refreshed in that house. And he wasn’t embarrassed a bit that I was in jail. The first thing he did when he got to Rome was look me up. May God on the Last Day treat him as well as he treated me. And then there was all the help provided in Ephesus – but you know that better than I.’’ The Message.

In the call to be unashamed, Timothy had the example of Paul who was himself so courageous, in spite of all his sufferings (12). Paul would not ask of Timothy that which he was unprepared to give himself. He led by example.

We need to hear these words in our day. There are forces at work in society that would want to silence the church. We could easily be tempted to keep our heads down, to play it safe. May we never be ashamed of Jesus. If we own Him on earth, He’ll own us in heaven.

Prayer: At times I feel quite uneasy, and even scared on occasions, as I see the walls coming in. Help me Lord Jesus to be unembarrassed to say that I love you.

Daily Bible thoughts 1042: Monday 28th December 2015: 2 Timothy 1:1-7: Spiritual parenthood.

2 Timothy 1:1-7: Spiritual parenthood.(please click here for todays passage)

Some years ago, I heard a great preacher speaking on Romans 7: 4: ‘’So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.’’ He talked about different types of spiritual fruit, one being the fruit of spiritual children. He asked us, ‘Do you have any?’ Then, turning to a couple who were sitting on the same platform, he said, ‘Here are two of mine.’ He lovingly walked over to them and put his arm around them. Just a few years earlier he had led them to Christ and now they were in the ministry. The bonds between them were evident. It was a poignant moment.

Consider in our short passage:

  • The joy of spiritual parenthood (2a): ‘’To Timothy, my beloved child.’’ You want the very best gifts for your children. Whatever you have given them at Christmas, you know that life’s best and most important things do not come wrapped up in prettily packaged parcels. What better to wish for your children than: ‘’Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.’’ (2b). Here are enduring things that will never end up in a rubbish dump. We will never outgrow our need for them. As parents, we also want to encourage our children to grow and develop and use their gifts – become the people God destined them to be. Spiritual parents have similar desires for their offspring (6, 7). Paul did not want to see any inherent timidity holding Timothy back.
  • The bonds of spiritual parenthood (4): Timothy’s ‘’tears’’ may well have come at a time when he and his ‘dad’ in Christ were parted. Understandably, there were strong emotions felt by this pair. There was a significant attachment.
  • The influence of natural family (5): It may have been through Paul that Timothy became a Christian, but Paul recognised the vital role played by a devout family upbringing. It is true that ‘’God has no grandchildren.’’ You can’t get into heaven on your parents’ ticket. But I do know from personal experience the great blessing it is to be raised in a Christian family. I thank God for my parents, David and Jessie Thompson, who prayed for me, and brought me up to go to church every Sunday. They taught me about Jesus. How grateful I am for Reg Thompson, my dad’s dad, who, as a widower, was often around in my early years. The influence of his quietly godly life is something I will never forget. It is a blessing to have a Christian family.

Daily Bible thoughts 1041: Friday 25th December 2015: Luke 4:31-44: The ‘Unseen Guest’.

 Luke 4:31-44: The ‘Unseen Guest’.

‘’Christ is a guest that will pay well for his entertainment; those that bid him welcome into their hearts and houses shall be no losers by him; he comes with healing.’’ Matthew Henry.

Is Christ the ‘Unseen Guest’ at your Christmas table today? Have you invited Him into your home on His ‘birthday’? Will He remain as a special ‘guest’ under your roof all year, and not just on Christmas day? You will be blessed indeed if He is at home in your home.

Here are some other thoughts from this lovely passage:

  • The people recognised a difference about Jesus compared to their regular teachers (32). ‘’…for his words had the ring of authority’’ B. Phillips translation. Demons are mentioned 23 times in Luke, but 14 of those references occur between here and (9:50) in Jesus’ Galilean ministry. Christ came into the world to conquer all evil (1 John 3:8b). That is something to celebrate this Christmas day (see also 41. Matthew Henry says about this verse: ‘’It was a confession upon the rack, and therefore was not admitted in evidence.’’);
  • Like Simon’s mother-in-law we are ‘saved to serve’ (38, 39). See how Jesus responds to prayer: ‘’…they asked Jesus to help her. So…’’ Here is something to celebrate this Christmas day: we have a prayer-answering Omnipotent Lord Jesus;
  • The personal touch of Jesus (40): ‘’…and he laid his hands on each one of them separately and healed them.’’ B. Phillips. See the time He took over individuals; the care He gave them. In the mass He did not lose sight of the individual; in the crowd He still saw the man and woman, the boy and girl. Here is something to celebrate this Christmas day: Jesus loves us personally and deeply;
  • The vital importance of ‘solitary refinement’, as someone put it. There were no imperfections to be removed from Jesus, but if He saw the need for times of withdrawal for fellowship with God, surely we should. However, there is a balance to be observed. If we withdraw briefly from the world, it is only that we might return to it with renewed strength and vigour. ‘Though a desert place may be a convenient retreat, yet it is not a convenient residence, because we were not sent into the world to live to ourselves…but to glorify God and do good in our generation. A desert is no desert if we be with Christ there.’’ Matthew Henry. Here is something to celebrate this Christmas day: the great example of Jesus as a Man of prayer;
  • The gospel imperative (42-44). The good news must be spread; it has to be shared. On this festive day, let’s not keep the great cause for our celebration to ourselves; let’s stay focussed on Jesus. Here is something to celebrate this Christmas day: there is a cure for sin, and it is found in the Saviour Jesus

‘’In the rush to take and experience what Jesus has to offer, people can easily forget the One all the miracles point to.’’ IVP Commentary.

Let’s keep our eyes fixed on wonderful Jesus – today – and every day of the coming year.

Prayer: I love you Lord. Oh help me to love you more.

Daily Bible thoughts 1040: Thursday 24th December 2015: Jeremiah 25:15-38: Sobering truth.

 Jeremiah 25:15-38: Sobering truth.(please click here for todays passage)

‘’The nation was deaf to God’s Word (vv.4, 7, 8), but that Word would be fulfilled, not only to Israel, but to all the nations to which God sent it by His prophet. God is long-suffering toward disobedient people and gives them many opportunities for repentance, but eventually He must act. He will be like a host who makes his guests drunk (vv.15-29), a lion that attacks the flock (vv.30-31, 34-38), a whirlwind that sweeps across the nation and destroys it (vv.32-33).’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, pp.514,515.

Judgment begins at the house of God (29; see 1 Peter 4:17) with the people of God. But it doesn’t stop there. The sobering truth is that there is going to be a worldwide judgment, and how terrible it will be. These verses point repeatedly to this universal reality.

In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed: ‘’Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’’ (Luke 22:42). In that moment He knew the contents of the ‘cup’; what was in it and what it would bring to Him. Was He not God? Had He not spoken these words in the first place? That ‘’cup of the wine of wrath’’ has a ‘sharp’ taste. It is effectively drinking a sword. It brings death (16, 27; see also 33). But in the case of Jesus, drinking the cup didn’t end with His ‘’fall’’ (27). Afterwards, unlike anyone else who drank from the cup, He rose, forever. The resurrection of Christ shows that God the Father has accepted His work on our behalf. This is why Jesus came into the world at Christmas. He was born to die. He took our place on the cross, drinking to the dregs the cup of God’s wrath against sin. Rightly speaking it should have been put to our lips. But Jesus took it for us. If we trust Him and His work on our behalf; if we receive what He has done for us, we too will rise with Him to eternal life.

Here are two other significant points from today’s reading:

  • Prophets (and preachers) are people under orders (15, 17). We do what we are told, go where we are sent and say what we are given. This is ministry;
  • Kings and rulers serve a higher authority (17-26). However great and powerful they may seem to us, they are under the sovereignty of Almighty God.

Prayer: ‘’Oh make me understand it, help me to take it in, what it meant to you, the Holy One, to bear away my sin.

Daily Bible thoughts 1039: Wednesday 23rd December 2015: Jeremiah 25: 8-14: Remember Who’s in control.

Jeremiah 25: 8-14: Remember Who’s in control(please click for passage)
‘’An idealist believes the short run doesn’t count. A cynic believes the long run doesn’t matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short run determines the long run.’’ Sidney J. Harris (quoted by Warren Wiersbe.)
Remember Who is in control.
People in Jeremiah’s day thought of Nebuchadnezzar as a ‘master’. He was big in their eyes. But the Lord of history saw him in true perspective. He called him ‘’my servant’’ (9). He was less than small in God’s eyes. Nebuchadnezzar was God’s agent of judgment, even though he didn’t realise it. He was not a believer, but in his conquests he was accomplishing God’s will (51:20-23). God is sovereign and He can use whoever He chooses to get His will done – even unconverted people. The ‘’seventy years’’ (11) represented a lifetime in the Old Testament; so those who went into exile would not see their homeland again. That’s the point. But there is probably a further matter here: ‘’One reason God determined a period of seventy years was that the land might enjoy the rest the Jews had denied it (2 Chron.36:20-21; Lev.25:3-5). The law of the sabbatical year had been ignored for nearly five hundred years!’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘The Wiersbe Bible Commentary (OT),p.1240. But God never forgets His own Word. We don’t so much break it as we are broken by it in the breaking of it!
There are at least two implications of God’s Sovereignty as seen in this section:
• Sin will be punished. God’s Word had been repeatedly preached by Jeremiah and other prophets. It had also been repeatedly pushed away, like unwanted plates of lovingly prepared food. God is patient. He gives plenty of time for the children to change their minds and ‘eat their dinner.’ But the moment will arrive when there are no further chances. No one gets away forever with rejecting God;
• People will reap what they sow (12-14). A day was coming when the punishers would be punished; the instruments of judgment would be judged; those who enslaved others would themselves be enslaved. Although God used the Babylonians in His purposes, He did not make them sin. They too would have to pay for the wrong things they had done. The ‘’many nations’’ spoken about were Media, Persia, and their allies, who defeated the Babylonians in 539 B.C. The ‘’great kings’’ were Cyrus the great and the tributary kings allied with him. No one is so great that God cannot fell them like a gigantic tree.
It all goes to show that ‘’what is done or left undone in the short run determines the long run.’’
Prayer: Lord help me to be careful about the choices I make today.

Daily Bible thoughts 1038: Tuesday 22nd December 2015: Jeremiah 25:1-7: Hearing problems.

 Jeremiah 25:1-7: Hearing problems.(please click here for todays passage)

When I was an assistant pastor in my first church it was my delight to be sent to visit an elderly couple who were just a joy to be with. I remember the lovely old man (who I can see in my mind’s eye still, but whose name I have sadly forgotten) telling me that he went to ‘the hard of hearing club!’ He had problems with deafness; but he did not choose his condition.

It was different with Judah. They put themselves in ‘the hard of hearing club’ by wilful, stubborn rebellion. They were like the little boy who sticks his fingers in his ears because he does not want to listen to his ‘ticking off’. This prophecy was given by Jeremiah nineteen years before the fall of Jerusalem – about half way through his ministry. He, and other prophets, had warned the people of Judah over and over again, but they had not listened (3, 4).

Here are three questions for us to consider:

What is God saying ‘’persistently’’? (3, 4): What is the thing God keeps bringing up with you, and you don’t want to talk about it? You don’t want to hear.

Where, and how, are you tuning Him out? (3, 7): ‘’…but you have not listened…Yet you have not listened…’’ If you don’t like a particular radio programme; if, for some reason, the presenter is annoying you, you can just turn the off switch. He’s still speaking, but you’re not listening. It’s a deliberate choice. Click. He’s gone as far as you’re concerned. You don’t have to be bothered by him anymore. People try and do something similar with God. A friend of mine was disturbed by burglars one night. For a long time afterwards he couldn’t sleep. He heard the slightest noise. Eventually he found a workable solution. Ear plugs. He put them in every night and made friends with sleep once more. This was a good thing for my acquaintance, but it’s a bad thing when we put in the plugs to avoid hearing the sounds from heaven.

Do you realise where such deliberate deafness leads? To ‘’harm’’ (6, 7). You hurt yourself when you don’t listen to God; when you turn a deaf ear to His voice. If you keep on walking down the road with your ear plugs in it will take you to judgment. It also leads to misery, poverty, famine, darkness, waste and ruin (10,11). ‘’And I’ll banish every sound of joy – singing, laughter, marriage festivities, genial workmen, candlelit suppers. The whole landscape will be one vast wasteland.’’ The Message. If you fancy living in such a barren environment, keep sticking your fingers in your ears. That will get you there.

One final thought for today:

‘’One could say that Jeremiah had failed…But fortunately for Jeremiah (and for us) God does not measure the value of one’s ministry by its ‘’success’’ or ‘’failure’’ but rather by the faithfulness of the minister. This should be an encouragement to those Christian workers who labour in difficult circumstances, whose churches don’t grow, whose preaching falls on deaf ears. The truth is that spiritual success in ministry is brought about by the Lord (John 21:1-6). Our role is to trust the Lord and follow His directions.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary, pp.1110, 1111.

Daily Bible thoughts 1037: Monday 21st December 2015: 1 Timothy 6:20, 21: True riches.

 1 Timothy 6:20-21: True riches.(please click here for todays passage)

I read recently that Simon Cowell’s home has been targeted in a burglary. If you are seen to have a lot in this world, there will be greedy eyes locked on to your possessions. There are plenty of people around who want to steal your ‘treasures’.

As we saw yesterday, in the final section of his first letter Paul teaches about the correct handling of wealth. He tells Timothy what he should say to rich Christians.

But the final exhortation to Timothy reminds us where the truest treasure lies:

‘’And oh, my dear Timothy, guard the treasure you were given! Guard it with your life.’’ The Message.

‘’Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care.’’ New International Version.

Timothy did not have a complete Bible – not as we know it. But what he did have he was to ‘’guard’’ as ‘’treasure’’. In the face of false teaching, he had a commission to keep on preaching the truth as it had been revealed to him. He also needed to guard his own heart so that he did not ‘catch’ the deadly heretical ‘infection’ that was doing the rounds.

Do you treasure your Bible more than any other earthly possession? Are your truest riches to be found in the gospel?

Church leaders especially have a sober responsibility to guard the riches of God’s revelation. This message does not belong to us. It has been ‘’entrusted’’ to our care. Let’s make sure it is never stolen from our own hearts, or from the flock in our care.

From time to time you hear stories of evangelical church leaders who no longer believe what they once were committed to. Some stand up and express their unbelief publicly. I heard of one such incident recently. It is tragic, and damaging, when it happens. To stay true to God and His Word to the very end is our commission. To fulfil it we will need resources from outside. So the final words of today’s reading sparkle with relevance, and meet our need:

‘’Overwhelming grace keep you.’’ The Message.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for entrusting your finest riches to fickle people such as we are. But thank you too that you do more than ask us to stand guard. You give us armour to wear so that the thief doesn’t get past us to steal the loot.

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