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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


December 2015

Daily Bible thoughts 1036: Friday 18th December 2015: 1 Timothy 6:17-21: A divine perspective on wealth.

 1 Timothy 6:17-21: A divine perspective on wealth.(please click here for todays passage)

‘’Earn all you can; save all you can; give all you can.’’ John Wesley

Here are some final thoughts from this wonderful letter to Timothy:

The transience of riches: ‘’Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain…’’ (17). It is. Banks have collapsed before. A bad business decision, an unexpected redundancy, a shift on the stock market, and it can all come crashing down. These words give us the insight that there were rich people in the early church. They needed to be reminded not to make wealth their god. No-one should trust in money. It is fickle. ‘’Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow.’’ The Message.

The usefulness of riches: ‘’…God…richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.’’ (17b), and a big part of the enjoyment lies in having the privilege to give it away (18): ‘’Command (this is not an option!) them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.’’ Someone said that money makes a good servant but a poor master. Timothy was told to command the rich Christians not to live in servitude to their wealth; neither in the worship of it. Rather, they were to let it serve the purposes of God through them. ‘’Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage – to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous.’’ The Message.

Lasting riches: ‘’In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.’’ The way to keep your money is to give it away. This is counter-intuitive, but all who do so find that God’s laws of economics work differently. ‘’If they do that, they will build a treasury that will last…’’ The Message. If you invest your money in the bank of heaven what an eternal return you will receive. Is giving a joy to you? This is one major way to check out the state of your heart.

Prayer: Lord God, you have blessed me with so much. Again, I am faced with the challenge of being a good ‘steward’, and I so want to ask for your help with this. I commit to you all I have received from your generous Hand. Please show me how you want me to use it, and help me to be obedient.

Daily Bible thoughts 1035: Thursday 17th December 2015: 1 Timothy 6:11-16: Put on your running shoes.

 1 Timothy 6:11-16: Put on your running shoes.(please click here for todays passage)

The great evangelist, D.L. Moody, said that he had more trouble with D.L. Moody than any person he knew.

Most weeks, I run on certain mornings. I have no doubts about the fact that I can only run because of the health and strength God gives me. But I have to do the running. I have to make a choice to get out of bed, put on my running shoes and expend the effort. I am always glad I did, even if I don’t feel like doing it initially.

Run from (11a): ‘’But you, Timothy, man of God: Run for your life from all this.’’ The Message. We should choose to put distance between ourselves and sin. Timothy was to flee from heresy and greed – I believe the context suggests this. Of course, there are many other things to show your heels. I was impressed to hear a well-known Christian leader say that one day, while he was walking in a forest, he came across a pile of pornographic material someone had discarded. ‘’Do you know what I did?’’ he asked. ‘’I ran as fast as I could in the opposite direction because I know I can’t handle stuff like that.’’

Run towards (11b): Not only should we resist certain things. Positively, there are certain qualities to pursue and put on. ‘’Pursue a righteous life – a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. Run hard and fast in the faith.’’ The Message.

Run in the light of (13): We live in the light of God’s presence and Christ’s return ‘’which God will bring about in his own time’’ (15a). I do wish some date-setting Christians would get this into their heads!

Like running, the Christian life takes effort. There are things we have to do: ‘’…flee…pursue…Fight…Take hold…keep this command…’’ But we do not do these things in our own strength. It is ‘’God, who gives life to everything’’ (13), and He enables us to ‘run’.

Bill Hybels says, ‘’You are the most difficult person you will ever have to lead.’’ Isn’t that the truth?!

But what a wonderful God we have with us and for us:

‘’I’m charging you before the life-giving God and before Christ, who took his stand before Pontius Pilate and didn’t give an inch: Keep this command to the letter, and don’t slack off. Our Master, Jesus Christ, is on his way. He’ll show up right on time, his arrival guaranteed by the Blessed and Undisputed Ruler, High King, High God. He’s the only one death can’t touch, his light so bright no one can get close. He’s never been seen by human eyes – human eyes can’t take him in! Honour to him, and eternal rule! Oh, yes.’’ The Message.

Keep your eyes on Him and you will run well.


Daily Bible thoughts 1034: Wednesday 16th December 2015: 1 Timothy 6:3-10: You can’t take it with you.

 1 Timothy 6:3-10: You can’t take it with you.(please click here for todays Bible passage)

Someone said, ‘’You will never know that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.’’

I heard a young woman give a testimony on one occasion. She was a Christian, but she said that she had been through a period in life when she felt ‘’so discontented’’. Then, in reading her Bible, these words hit her (6): ‘’But godliness with contentment is great gain.’’ (6). They brought perspective and changed everything in her outlook.

What lies at the back of this passage is the lust for money; the love of money. False teaching and money-grabbing tend to go together. When you see greed for monetary gain in a leader/preacher it should set off alarm bells in your head. Be wary. If you are in a position of leadership in the church, and you sense such desires growing in your heart, that is an ‘eye’ to be gouged out and a ‘hand’ to be cut off (Matthew 5:29, 30). Don’t allow such longings to stay. Go to war against them. They may well destroy you if you let them stay. So, as the Sergeant used to say in ‘Hill Street Blues’: ‘’Do it to them before they do it to you.’’

Paul says there’s a standard of teaching by which you can ‘measure’ all teaching, and anything out of true should not be tolerated. In his day he knew of false teachers ‘’who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.’’ (5; Hebrews 13:5). Again, the problem here is the focus on money and the greed for it. The tenth verse has been misquoted as ‘’The love of money is the root of all evil.’’ It isn’t. But it is a serious problem. It leads to bad places. It can lead your heart away from Jesus so that your devotion is given to an idol that will bitterly disappoint (10). You can’t take it with you (7). We should be content with the basics of life (8). God may bless us with more, but it is wise, and right, to cultivate thankful, contented hearts. ‘’Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough…Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after.’’ The Message.

False teaching has to be dealt with. It is like a serious infection; a contagion that will spread: ‘’If you have leaders who teach otherwise, who refuse the solid words of our Master Jesus and this godly instruction, tag them for what they are: ignorant windbags who infect the air with germs of envy, controversy, bad-mouthing, suspicious rumours. Eventually there’s an epidemic of back-stabbing, and truth is bit a distant memory. They think religion is a way to make a fast buck.’’ The Message.

A well-known preacher was asked to speak at a meeting in the Stock Exchange in London. He said he wanted to entitle his talk: ‘’You can’t take it with you, and if you could it would burn!’’

Prayer: Lord, keep my heart free from the love of money

Daily Bible thoughts 1033: Tuesday 15th December 2015: 1 Timothy 6:1, 2: He’s my brother.

 1 Timothy 6:1- 2: He’s my brother.(please click here for todays passage)

I heard a story about a private soldier who was attending a communion service. When it came time for him to leave his seat and go and receive the bread and wine, he noticed that his major was in the queue behind him. So he stood back to let the senior officer go first. But the man refused. As the story goes, he said, ‘Anywhere else, but not in here.’ We are on level ground before the cross.

Paul did not campaign against slavery. It would have been futile for him to do so under the Roman Empire. But it could be argued that he sowed the seeds of its destruction in his revolutionary teaching about masters and slaves. They could sit together in the same pew, you might say, and call each other ‘brother.’

However, Paul wanted the Christian slaves to understand that they should not abuse their privileged position of serving fellow-Christians (2). They were not to ‘short change’ them in any way.

Whoever we are; whatever we do; whether we are slaves or free, we need to understand that by our behaviour we can discredit the God we claim to love and the teaching we say we follow. There is urgency about understanding this point because so much is at stake. It really is important. Eyes are on us, and how we live matters.

‘’Whoever is a slave must make the best of it, giving respect to his master, so that outsiders don’t blame God and our teaching for his behaviour. Slaves with Christian masters all the more so – their masters are really their beloved brothers!’’ The Message.

Daily Bible thoughts 1032: Monday 14th December 2015: Jeremiah 24: Different destinies.

 Jeremiah 24: Different destinies.(please click here for todays passage)

‘’Jeremiah received the vision described in this chapter shortly after King Jehoiachin and other leading citizens of Jerusalem (including the prophet Ezekiel) had been carried into exile in Babylon (2 Kings 24:10-14); the year was 597 B.C., eleven years before the final destruction of Jerusalem. The purpose of this vision of the good and the bad figs was to show that those who were carried into exile (the good figs) were far better off than those who stayed in Jerusalem (the bad figs): the exiles would survive, prosper, and eventually return to Judah; those who stayed in Jerusalem would be destroyed along with the city.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary, p.1110.

It’s important to understand that both groups – those taken into exile, and those left behind were ‘bad’, in the sense that both had violated God’s Covenant, and both were being punished. It was by the grace of God alone that the exiles were chosen to survive and become a remnant, from which, in due time, the Messiah would come. The irony is that those who remained in Jerusalem thought they were the lucky ones. They were soon to find out otherwise.

God’s purpose in sending the exiles away was to purify them; to cleanse, and cure them of idolatry (6, 7). The ultimate fulfilment of the seventh verse would come in the inauguration of the ‘’new covenant’’ (Jeremiah 31:31-34), when the Holy Spirit came to live in believers following Christ’s death on the cross. He is the One who makes it possible to joyfully obey God’s law.

So it is not the case that the exiles were inherently good, and that those who remained in Jerusalem were intrinsically bad. The point at issue concerns the treatment they were going to receive, and this comes out in The Message: ‘’The exiles from here that I’ve sent off to the land of the Babylonians are like the good figs, and I’ll make sure they get good treatment…But like rotten figs, so rotten they can’t be eaten, is Zedekiah king of Judah. Rotten figs – that’s how I’ll treat him and his leaders, along with the survivors here and those down in Egypt.’’ Good figs have a useful purpose and are treated accordingly; whereas bad figs are useless, and get the treatment they deserve.

This passage reminds me that there is coming a day of judgment, which will be a day of division. People will experience different eternal destinies according to their acceptance or rejection of Christ. C.S. Lewis put it well. He said that in the final analysis there will only be two types of people in the world: those who say to God, ‘Your will be done’, and those to whom God says, ‘Your will be done.’

Prayer: In the light of the final judgment, help me to live seriously. Strengthen me to hold out Jesus to everyone I can. He is the only Saviour of the world.


Daily Bible thoughts 1031: Friday 11th December 2015: Luke 4:14-30: The shadow of the cross.

Luke 4:14-30: The shadow of the cross.(please click here for todays passage)

David Pawson, preaching about Pentecost (Acts 2) noted that when a house is on fire you don’t have any publicity problems. The fire advertises itself. People come to see what is happening. As we begin today’s reading I note in (14) that Spirit-filled Christianity carries its own in-built publicity. The Holy’s Spirit’s work is to glorify Jesus.

We read that Jesus ‘’went into the synagogue, as was his custom.’’ (16). Again, here are good habits of public devotion exemplified in God’s Son. ‘’The piety of Jesus’ parents continues in Jesus…’’ IVP Commentary.

What a role model Jesus is for every preacher. We have already seen Him as a Man of the Word. Here, in the synagogue in Nazareth, He takes God’s Word, reads it and them simply explains and applies it (16-21). Powerful preaching involves the opening up of the Bible by a Spirit-filled person. Jesus’ first ministry was to preach the gospel (18; see 15, 43 and 44.) But along with the Word you also see the works. There is an example of Him freeing a prisoner/releasing the oppressed in 33-35.

Verse 20 describes a good start from the congregation’s point of view, with every eye ‘’fastened’’ on Jesus. That is how to live, day by day and moment by moment. That’s how we need to be ‘in church’ and it’s a reminder to all who lead and preach to keep the focus on the Master.

How fickle people can be. How quickly, and even violently, public opinion can change (22-30). When the message bit; when they found it to be challenging and unpalatable, they became murderously angry (25 – 30). As was the case with Herod and Herodias and John the Baptist (3:19, 20), as soon as the message didn’t suit there was a hostile reaction. Surely this story ends with a miraculous escape. But from the beginning of His ministry Jesus walked in the shadow of the cross. It fell on Him here. We can see it clearly. But He could not die until it was God’s Time. Someone said, ‘’I am immortal until all the will of God for me is accomplished.’’

‘’Jesus’ synagogue declaration brings a moment of decision for those who hear his claims. A snapshot of his entire ministry flashes in this brief exchange. Jesus offers much, but the crowd questions what is on offer. In the tension of the contrast, Luke’s readers are left to choose sides.’’ IVP Commentary.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I want to align myself with you – today, tomorrow and always.



Daily Bible thoughts 1030: Thursday 10th December 2015: Psalm 119:81-88: Waiting for God.

Daily Bible thoughts 1030: Thursday 10th December 2015: Psalm 119:81-88: Waiting for God.

‘’How long…?’’ (84).

During one pastoral visit to a home in Lancaster, I noticed a plaque over the fireplace saying, ‘’Lord grant me patience, but hurry!’’ Waiting doesn’t come naturally, but we have to learn to both wait on and for God.

We have noted before the darkly sinister background ‘noise’ of persecution in this psalm. The words in this passage are full of longing, and waiting for God to fulfil His Word and take decisive action against the psalmist’s enemies. We feel we can identify with him as we look to God to come to help us in situations of urgent need. Our backs are ‘against the wall’ and we know that if the Lord doesn’t intervene there is nothing we can do. How hard it can be to have to wait though. The greater the pain, the harder the waiting. ‘’ How long do I have to put up with all this? How long till you haul my tormentors into court?’’ The Message.

‘’…and this is the primary lesson to learn,that at the end of our tether there is a place called ‘Prayer’. Very often prayer is the first casualty of suffering, whereas it is in reality the surest remedy.’’ J.A. Motyer: ‘New Bible Commentary’, p.569.

We may know God’s promises, but we have a responsibility to do something with them in prayer: to ‘long’ for their fulfilment (81a), to ‘look’ for them (82), to put our ‘hope’ in them (81b). The promises of God should shape our prayers and strengthen our faith. They are, as Spurgeon said, like cheques to take to the counter of the Bank of heaven, where they will be honoured.

As this psalm goes on, it reminds me of Jesus, who was hated without a cause (86). They ‘’almost wiped’’ Him ‘’from the earth’’ (87a), but He never let go of God’s Word (87b).The Lord ‘preserved’ His life (88; see Isaiah 53:10, 11). If we ever fear that, in prayer, we will be kept waiting indefinitely for a train that never arrives, let’s remember the cross of Jesus, and His resurrection. He speaks to us a word of eternal hope, that evil will not have the final say, and we will be delivered.

Prayer: Lord God, thank you for your sure Word. In these stormy times it remains as rock beneath my feet.


Daily Bible thoughts 1029: Wednesday 9th December: 1 Timothy 5:17-25: Regarding elders.

 1 Timothy 5:17-25: Regarding elders.(please click here for todays passage)

It would seem that in the earliest days of the church, the local congregations in diverse places were led by a plurality of elders. There is no sign, in the New Testament, of the proverbial ‘one man band’ who does it all by himself. Here are five clear instructions Paul gives to Timothy regarding the elders:

Honour them appropriately (17, 18): Where an elder is released from other work to serve the church full time he should be properly recompensed.  ‘’Give a bonus to leaders who do a good job, especially the ones who work hard at preaching and teaching.’’ The Message. The old and much-vaunted attitude that went, ‘’Lord, you keep him humble and we’ll keep him power’’ is unworthy of any church. Okay, it’s probably a caricature, but there was a day and age when, for whatever reasons, many pastors were ‘on the bread line’. Good leaders should be rewarded with generosity. I believe it is true to say that we also need to look for appropriate ways to honour the faithful elders whose salaries may come from other sources. Let them never feel unloved or unappreciated. Paul quotes Deuteronomy 25: 4 (see also Luke 10:7). Those who give up other earning opportunities to serve the church full time should be properly supported.

Hold them accountable (19): Paul does not envisage a situation where the elders become ‘the untouchables.’ He is realistic. He knows that some will fall into serious sin. It cannot be the case that they can get away with stuff just because of their position. But they have to be protected from trivial or unfair attacks. Leadership is not easy and church leaders can be lied about on occasions. When the devil is on the prowl this is only to be expected. He is an expert in the diabolical art of lies and half-truths. He is the master of deception. ‘’Don’t listen to a complaint against a leader that isn’t backed up by two or three responsible witnesses.’’ The Message.

Discipline them publicly (20): As a general rule, private sins should be dealt with privately and public sins publicly. In the case of elders, because of the public nature of their rule, church discipline will regularly have to be carried out publicly. This sends out a clear message to the whole church that sin is serious. It also serves as a warning to any other leaders who may be in danger of going down the same route. ‘’If anyone falls into sin, call that person on the carpet. Those who are inclined that way will know right off they can’t get by with it.’’ The Message.

Be impartial (21): Don’t be inclined to go easier on some leaders more than others because they are friends, or because you like them more etc. Let there be strict fairness in dealing with these matters.

Don’t appoint lightly or quickly (22): Take the necessary time to do due diligence. Think it through; above all pray it through. Consult with others. Get references if needed. A bit like with marriage, if you do this in haste you may find yourself repenting at leisure.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Head of the church, I pray for the under-shepherds you have appointed. Keep them faithful to you and to your people right to the end of their days. Preserve them in temptation and deliver them from the evil one. Give to them the honour which matters most – that which comes from you. Help us to always gratefully and lovingly support them in their often difficult work. Remind me to show appreciation when I should.

Daily Bible thoughts 1028: Tuesday 8th December 2015: 1 Timothy 5:9-16: Saved for good works.

1 Timothy 5:9-16: Saved for good works.
This church was organised to care. That much becomes evident as you read through chapter 5. It reminds me of the caring structure established in Acts 6:1-7, and that move, of course, led to further evangelistic expansion. A lot is at stake in the caring ministry of the church. The larger the church is, the more likely it is that there will be a need for careful planning to ensure that people do not fall through any gaps. God loves people and the church is to reflect that love. We can’t afford to be careless about caring!
But the care was not indiscriminate (9, 10). There were certain parameters built around the help on offer. These may change from generation to generation and culture to culture, but any caring ministry will require certain criteria to be observed if the church is not going to be overwhelmed. The church looked after widows who were ‘’really in need’’ (2, 5, 16). Again, the principle is repeated that families should take care of their own (16).
Good deeds are important in the Christian life (Ephesians 2:8-10). We are not saved by them, but we are saved for them. This chapter shows the church being organised to do good to their widows in genuine need. Life expectancy was not all that great at the time, and no doubt the care of widows was a pressing need. You can imagine that they would have no support whatsoever after their spouse died, but for that given by close relatives, or the church. There would be no pension or death benefit etc.
The passage also shows that the widows to be helped had to have a good standing in the church (9, 10). They needed to be known for their good character expressed in a variety of good deeds. The next section concerning the younger widows goes on to point out that it is possible to live in such a way that it gives the enemy opportunity ‘’for slander’’ (14). Clearly Paul was not happy with that prospect. Satan is always ready to seize opportunities to undermine God’s work. Let’s take care that we don’t play into his hands. (Paul, by the way, seems to be thinking about younger widows who offer for some form of Christian work, verse 11, and who would then be placed in a difficult position if they wanted to marry. They would be seen to go back on their ‘’first pledge’’, verse 12 – their commitment to some form of Christian service.)
The chapter closes in an intriguing manner. As Christians we are called to offer secret service, but truth will out (25). This applies to the good as well as the bad. You can’t really hide who you are.
‘’Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.’’ (Galatians 6:10).

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