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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


February 2016

Daily Bible thoughts 1086: Monday 29th February 2016: Luke 9:37-43a: ‘…but they could not’.

Luke 9:37-43a: ‘…but they could not’.(please click for todays passage.)

When I read this story I find that I identify with the disciples’ inability and lack of power in the face of overwhelming need. They had just descended from the mountain top of glory where they had seen remarkable things, but now in the valley of need, they were faced with their own impotence. However,we know from elsewhere in the gospels that the disciples asked Jesus privately why they could not cast this demon out (Matthew 17:19).His reply was because of a lack of faith (Matthew 17:20), and Mark’s version suggests it was also due to a lack of prayer – and even fasting (according to some manuscripts Mark 9:29). In my own ( admittedly limited) experience, I have found that these things go together: prayer, fasting and faith. Faith grows in the fertile soil of prayer and fasting, and real power to bring down strongholds is unleashed as we engage in these thoroughly Biblical disciplines.

Some years ago I read the remarkable story of the Full Gospel Church in Seoul, Korea. In the hills behind the city centre, where the church met, there was a place called ‘Prayer Mountain’. It was a prayer retreat centre, full of spartan rooms,having little furniture. The book said that when members of the church faced problems, they would regularly go to ‘Prayer Mountain’ for two or three days and pray with fasting. Commonly they found that the insoluble was solved, the mountains moved, the miracles came.

Are you facing a situation that intimidates you with its size? You feel helpless before it. Have you considered going to ‘Prayer Mountain’? You can do that without going anywhere near South Korea.

Daily Bible thoughts 1085: Friday 26th February 2016: Luke 9:28-36: Wakey, Wakey.

Luke 9:28-36: Wakey, Wakey.(please click here for todays passage)

The theme of prayer yet again surfaces. The subject of Jesus praying is again brought to our attention. Bear in mind that prayer is one of Luke’s ‘big’ themes spanning both The gospel and Acts.

Here are two things that happened to Jesus when He prayed that, I believe, will be replicated in the lives of those who pray in Jesus’ Name:

a.) Jesus was transformed/transfigured (29). I understand the Greek word is essentially ‘metamorphosis’.- the process by which a caterpillar is changed into a butterfly. I understand that the same word/ idea reappears in 2 Corinthians 3:16. As we keep our eyes on the Lord in prayer; as we look at Him and to Him; as we worship Him, so we are transformed more and more into His likeness – people who shine with the glory of God in this dark world.

b.) The Lord had an experience of the spiritual realm, seeing and hearing wonderful things (30, 31).He had a vivid encounter with eternity, we might say. Never forget that hearing from God lies at the heart of prayer. It is not merely about a monologue on our part (35). By the way, the word translated ‘departure’ in verse 31 is actually ‘exodus’. Jesus, by His death and resurrection which He had only just foretold, was going to bring about the greatest rescue of all – a deliverance the like of which the exodus story was only a shadow. He was going to make possible freedom from the slavery of sin.)

It seems to me that in Jesus you have a picture of the ideal prayer life, and its effects. But we also see in the disciples a reflection of what we so regularly find in the church regarding prayer/prayer meetings. We are often dopey and dozy and only half awake (32).We need a slap around the chops from the Holy Spirit. The sleepiness regarding prayer seems to me to be one of the saddest and greatest failings of the contemporary church. But it’s not all bad news, for it is possible for the disciples to become ‘fully awake’ (32) and see the glory of Jesus, and enter into deep spiritual realities. I pray this day for such an awakening.

Daily Bible thoughts 1084: Thursday 25th February 2016: Luke 9:23-27: Daily Discipleship.

Luke 9:23-27: Daily Discipleship (Please click here for todays passage)

Somebody said that the true measure of a life lies not in its duration but it’s donation. It’s not how long you live but how much you give. Each day provides ample opportunities to die to self and serve others (24). Many of these will be found at home, in your domestic life. The life of self- denial and cross-carrying is to be lived ‘daily’ (23). It is not just for Sundays and special religious festivals like Christmas and Easter. This very day; this so ordinary day, you will find occasion to crucify yourself and give to others. Paradoxically, it is in such giving away that you find your true life. You can have everything and yet nothing (25); and yet you can give away and still have, and keep forever. That is the way of Jesus and it is the best.

I recently wrote about seeing a sign in the Kauri Forest in New Zealand, saying that the giant tree may well date back to the time of Christ, and I noted that someone had tried to erase the the Name of Jesus. As we were talking about this, I said to Jilly, I Just feel I want to shout, ‘I am not ashamed of Jesus’ (26). But it takes self denial; constant death to self, to identify with Jesus in a world system that wants to rub Him out. That’s the context in which we ‘daily’ live out our discipleship.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, please give me the courage and strength to die to myself today, and trust you with the outcome.

Daily Bible thoughts 1083: Wednesday 17th February 2016: Luke 9:18-22: Teach me to pray.

Luke 9:18-22: Teach me to pray.Please click here for todays passage.

In Eugene Peterson’s book, ‘The pastor’, he tells a story about how one day, after being in the ministry for a number of years, a lady from his congregation came to him and said, ‘Please will you teach me to pray.’ He saw clearly that this work of spiritual direction lay at the heart of what he was called to do, yet it was the first time anyone had asked for such help.

Peterson also tells how early on in his ministry he was advised to read the writings of a certain author, who was regarded at the time to be the leading authority on pastoral work. He devoured his books, but after a while began to sense that something was wrong. Then it hit him – in all the volumes he had read there was not a single reference to prayer. How can you be a pastor who does not pray?

Today’s reading opens with something of an anomaly: ‘’Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him.’’ (18a, ESV). He was praying alone, yet in company. That got me thinking. As a spiritual leader, somehow, without parading your spirituality, you have to let people into your prayer life. The disciples saw enough of Jesus at prayer to want His help and guidance with their own devotions (see Luke 11:1, and the context: Luke 10:38-42). As a pastor, a chief way you will fulfil your vocation (if not the chief way) will be alone, on your knees. But ‘’the disciples’’ will always be with you – in your heart. Like the high priest in the Old Testament, you will carry the names of the ‘’tribes’’ on your ‘’breastplate’’. But there are other ways too in which they will need to be with you; to be invited to join you in the life of prayer. William Still counselled young pastors along these lines: ‘When you go to serve a church, announce that you will be praying at a certain time and place. Don’t say you will pray if anyone comes. Say you will be there praying, and invite people to join you. Be there, and pray regardless of who shows up.’

There always have been divergent viewpoints regarding who Jesus is (18b, 19), but this is the most important question you will ever face (20). Who is Jesus? What do you say? The Person and Work of Christ are closely bound together – His divinity and His death/resurrection. And this Jesus who is the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, was a Man of prayer. (He was also a Man of the Word. He knew from the Scriptures that there was a ‘’must’’ about His rejection and crucifixion and resurrection.)

There is something about prayer that is vital to Christian ministry, and Jesus is still setting the example to contemporary disciples, for we still see and hear Him at prayer in the gospel records. Furthermore, Jesus is interceding for us in heaven right now. Someone observed, ‘You’re on Jesus’ prayer list. That ought to make your whole day.’

My response to all of this: ‘Lord, teach me to pray!’

Daily Bible thoughts 1082: Tuesday 23rd February 2016: Luke 9:10-17: It’s great when a plan comes together – but whose plan?

Luke 9:10-17: It’s great when a plan comes together – but whose plan? (please click for todays passage)

I am reminded of a sermon I heard a few years ago. One of our members at ‘King’s’ spoke about the challenge in this story of Jesus’ openness to interruption. It wasn’t like He and the disciples hadn’t been busy. He and they were ready for a spiritual retreat. I’m sure it’s legitimate to say that they needed this quieter period together. But a greater need took precedence, and Jesus was willing to give way to it (11b). I found this thought challenging when listening to the excellent talk way back when, and it has hit me with fresh force in my recent reading of this great story. How open am I to divinely arranged interruptions to my life and work today?

Here’s another challenge (and although it’s such a familiar story I feel like I’m seeing this for the first time). Faced with a huge problem (and opportunity) the disciples did have a plan to feed the crowd (12). It was a logical plan. Naturally speaking it made sense. You might even be correct in saying it was a good plan. But it wasn’t Jesus’ plan. The disciples had a plan to provide the crowd with a meal, but it wasn’t the Jesus way. Jesus’ plan meant that the glory and power of God were revealed in the provision. As David Pawson has said, this was a miracle of creation. Interestingly, it is the only miracle to be recorded in all four gospels. I doubt that it would be if the disciples had got their way with their plan to feed the people.

When you become a Christian you do not become unthinking. God has given you a mind and He wants you to use it. But realise that we have the ability to come up with plans to do God’s work our way. So let’s keep our eyes and ears fixed on Jesus, remaining prayerful (Jeremiah 33:3).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, when the disciples listened to you they got to be ‘middle men’ in a miracle. I want to be with them, discovering your plans, and then passing on to others what I receive from you.

Daily Bible thoughts 1081: Monday 22nd February 2016: Luke 9:7-9: The up side of perplexity.

Luke 9:7-9: The up side of perplexity.

In these words spoken by Herod it is like we look through a clear window onto the greatness of John the Baptist. He was even a massive figure in the esteem of his arch-persecutor and murderer. Although Herod feared him, and did away with him, he had enormous respect for him. He was fascinated by John.

Note that when we go out in obedience to Jesus, and He works through us, we may have surprises. We just might be amazed over just who gets impacted (7).

People being puzzled by Christianity isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If the life you lead arouses curiosity; if it gets others questioning, all well and good. See (Acts 2:6,12, 13). Surely some of those who started out ‘bewildered’, ‘amazed and perplexed’ by the events of Pentecost were among those in the three thousand plus converted?

If the Christ empowered ministry carried out by contemporary disciples leads to people wanting to ‘see’ Jesus, then we will rejoice (9b).Yes, some will be like Herod, seeking without any really serious intent to be converted. But there will be those who are genuine.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, may I so live life in the power of the Spirit that who I am and what I do causes people to ask questions, to which the gospel is the only answer.

Daily Bible thoughts 1080: Friday 19th February 2016: Luke 9:1-8: ‘And they departed…’

Luke 9:1-8: ‘And they departed…’

There are comfort zones we will have to move out of in order to fully follow Jesus.

The first thing to say is that if God calls you to do something you can do it (2, 6). With the calling there also goes the equipping. Jesus both calls and gives (1). So, if Jesus commands you to go you can go; if He commands you to do you can do. Whenever we see godly people performing miracles let’s never forget where the ability comes from, and make sure we revere the Source and not the channel.

This is:

  1. A story of participation (1): ‘together’. There is power and joy in team; in partnership;
  2. A story of power (1,2,6);
  3. A story of proclamation (2,6);
  4. A story of provision (3,4) – it was a practical lesson in learning to trust Jesus to meet their needs;
  5. This story may well provide a pattern for church planting (4,5). When you go somewhere with the gospel, look for a place of welcome and work out from it. (Note that the rejection of the gospel is a serious matter:5);
  6. But I particularly want to point out that this is also a story of pushing boundaries: ‘And they departed…’ Jesus gave them a great commission, but it could not be fulfilled if they stayed put. This week-end Jilly and I will return home after five and a half weeks of travelling ,during a time of sabbatical. Our trip has taken us into five different countries ( although one was just for an hour or two in transit). It has been an enormous privilege, and we are deeply grateful to God for the opportunity; for all the experiences He has given us and the many lessons learned. But I have to say that this time away has taken me way out of my comfort zone again and again. Basically, I am a home-loving person, and I can find security in the familiar. Although I love to travel, I have an instinct to ‘stay close to the shoreline’,you might say. So, for many weeks before coming away, I felt it necessary to pray and fast for this extended period of leave!!  Repeatedly during our travels Jilly and I have realised that unless you ‘depart’ you can’t move on. We have  regularly fallen in love with places and been reluctant to leave. But we couldn’t see the next beautiful sight, or, more importantly,enter into the next learning experience without letting go and saying ‘goodbye’. In short, you will never learn to swim unless you leave the side of the pool. That’s another comfort zone I have had to let go of in the last few days, as my lovely,patient wife has been giving me swimming lessons. I’m not there yet, but I’m finding that growth comes when you are willing to get out into deeper waters – and it can even be fun. What comfort zones do you need to ‘depart ‘from in this season of your life? I suppose, looked at from one angle, the Christian life is a succession of new beginnings, and that can be challenging.

Daily Bible thoughts 1079: Thursday 18th February 2016: Luke 8:40-56: Desperate people – dynamic power.

Luke 8:40-56: Desperate people – dynamic power.

Jairus was desperate. Any parent who has had an extremely sick child will understand his feelings (41). He really needed an answer and he prayed fervently. Along the way he ran into a frustrating delay. But the delay was not a denial, as you will see from (49-56). The delay seemed disastrous (49) but it wasn’t. It came about because of another desperate person who needed Jesus’ help (42b-48). Jesus has enough help to go around. His helping one doesn’t prevent Him from helping another.

There was a difference between the touch of the crowd (42b) and the touch of the woman. It was the difference of faith (48). I don’t want to just say prayers; I want to touch Jesus. I need to touch Him. I need that very real power which flows out from Him to those in need.

Prayer: Let me touch you this day Lord Jesus.

Daily Bible thoughts 1078: Wednesday 17th February 2016: Luke 8:26-39: He is Lord.

Luke 8:26-39: He is Lord.

In this story we are confronted with:

A dire need (27, 29b,30). The man was a desperate case. He lived an abnormal life – a deathly existence, you might say. His behaviour was strange to say the very least. He was a wild man, and he had been this way ‘For a long time’ (27). His name was ‘Legion’ (30). This has resonance with the Roman army. The poor man was enemy occupied territory. The land that was his life was under the sway of a foreign army.
The Divine Master (28,29a). Jesus had previously been caught in a storm; now He encountered a raging human storm. As was the case with the other, He supernaturally calmed this one with a command. Jesus Christ is Lord and every now will eventually bow to Him and every tongue confess His Lordship. He kicked out the oppressing forces, and came to the throne in this once desolate ‘land’, bringing sanity, peace and wholeness. What is impossible with men will never be impossible to Christ.We are again faced with the identity of Jesus in (39). Jesus told the rescued man to go home and tell how much God had done for him. He returned and told how much Jesus had done for him. I believe Luke wants us to read between the lines here and make the inference as to who Jesus is.
Dramatic deliverance (35). There was such a change in the man. It was death to life and darkness to light.
In addition, here are a couple of important points to note:

a.) The extraordinary power of prayer. Twice in this story you see examples of ‘persons’ getting specifically what they asked for (31, 37). In the first case it was demonic beings; in the second case it was human beings ( Take note and beware: it is within our power to reject Jesus; to refuse Him and send Him away.) But although prayer is powerful, we don’t always get what we ask (38,39). The delivered man’s prayer was earnest, but the Lord had a better plan for him than he had for himself. Sometimes Jesus gives precisely what we ask. Often He gives better than what we ask. He gives what we would have requested if we had perfect wisdom. His will is always best. Someone said that God at times answers later in order to answer better. I believe it is also true that He frequently answers differently in order to answer better.

b.) For some people, when they get a glimpse of who Christ is and what He can do they push Him away. They are more frightened by Him than attracted to Him. They perceive Him as a threat to their lives and livelihoods, and think it best that there should be distance between Him and them. Don’t be surprised to see it happen.

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