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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Month

April 2016

Daily Bible thoughts 1130: Friday 29th April 2016: Luke 18:20-37: People, get ready!

Luke 18:20-37: People, get ready!(please click here)

Many people are asking, ‘What is this world coming to?’ The more important question is, ‘Who is coming to this world?’ The answer is ‘Jesus’, and we all need to get ready. Here are three important realities to come to terms with:

  1. ‘You can’t miss it!’ I think it was on my first trip to Birkenhead, as a child, that one of my parents stopped to ask for directions. The person asked kept saying, ‘You can’t miss it!’ In truth, when we follow such instructions we often find that we can miss it!! But these words truly do pertain to the second coming of Christ. It will not happen behind anyone’s back: ‘The arrival of the Son of Man is not something you go out to see. He simply comes. You know how the whole sky lights up in a single flash of lightning? That’s how it will be on the Day of the Son of Man.’ (The Message). You can’t miss it. But Jesus went on to say that ‘first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.’ (25). He kept on saying things like that. He knew that the cross awaited Him. But beyond it there lay His resurrection, and, ultimately, His return. ‘CHRIST HAS DIED; CHRIST HAS RISEN; CHRIST WILL COME AGAIN.’ He has come through the cross; He has come our of the tomb; He will come back to the earth.
  2. Business as usual. Before Jesus returns it will be a case of ‘business as usual’ in the world, and to many people His appearing will come as a devastating shock. There are Biblical, historical precedents for this: ‘The time of the Son of Man will be just like the time of Noah – everyone carrying on as usual, having a good time right up to the day Noah boarded the ship. They suspected nothing until the flood hit and swept everything away. It was the same in the time of Lot – the people carrying on, having a good time, business as usual right up to the day Lot walked out of Sodom and a firestorm swept down and burned everything to a crisp. That’s how it will be – sudden, total – when the Son of Man is revealed.’ The Message.
  3. A day of division (34,35). For some, the day of Christ’s return will be one of great joy. It’s what they have been looking forward to for so long. They will see their Lord and be with Him forever. But for others it will be a day of bitter regret. They will find ‘the door of the ark’ is now closed and it is too late to repent.

‘People get ready, there’s a train a comin’; you don’t need no ticket, you just get on board.’

Will you board now, while you still can?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I can get so earth-bound. Help me to live with eternity in view.

Daily Bible thoughts 1129: Thursday 28th April 2016: Luke 17:20, 21: Carriers of the Kingdom.

 Luke 17:20-21: Carriers of the Kingdom.(please click here for todays passage)

The Kingdom of God is much bigger than any one individual, but that Kingdom is ‘within’ everyone who submits to King Jesus. Therefore we should expect to have a Kingdom impact on the world as we come into contact with it. If there is new life within us there will also be new power at work through us. The truth that the Kingdom is within the believer is not the whole truth about Kingdom life. However it is an important truth that Jesus wanted to emphasise on this occasion.

These verses should also encourage us in times when there is nothing, or little, to show for our work. Although the Kingdom is in some mysterious sense ’embodied’ in the subjects of the Kingdom, its influence and growth is often invisible. You may feel that your church is not growing like the one down the road; or that you are not developing as you should be. But you can’t measure everything by the ‘visible’.

‘The best things are the quietest. The deepest work of God, in the individual and in the community, does not reveal itself to the newspaper reporter, but steals on the world like spring through garden and woodland.’ F.B. Meyer: Devotional Commentary, p.446.

Another possible rendering of the word ‘within’ is ‘among’. The Pharisees wanted to know when God’s Kingdom would come, not realising that it had already arrived in the Person of Jesus. It is possible to miss what you are looking for because you are blinkered in your expectations.

Prayer: Reign in me Sovereign Lord.

Daily Bible thoughts 1128: Wednesday 27th April 2016: Luke 17:11-19: Thanks missing?!

 Luke 17:11-19: Thanks missing?!(please click here for todays passage)

Once again a Samaritan is the ‘hero’ in a Jesus story. The commentators tell us that Luke has a ‘universal’ emphasis. He sees Jesus as the Saviour of the whole world.

I wonder, who you might meet today as you are on your way? Are you ready to serve them and be a blessing in their lives? What seems like an accidental encounter may turn out to be a divine appointment.

These lepers were used to life at a distance (12). Leprosy isolated people. It separated them from the rest of society. It provides a picture of sin which alienates us from God, and from each other. To be cleansed of our sin ‘leprosy’ we have to get to a place of desperation where we call on Jesus to have mercy (13).

In (14) you see a great example of how faith works. They stepped out on the bare Word of Jesus, and it held them up. It kept them afloat. They found it was like concrete beneath them. He told them to do what a person would normally do when they believed they were cured (i.e. show themselves to the priest). But it was as these men were on their way that they received healing. The acting ‘as if it were so’ came first, you might say. They ‘stepped out in faith’. If you are unwell, and praying for healing, it is important to be sensitive to the Lord’s voice and do as He says.

In and through (15-19) there surely comes a call to be a thankful people. In ‘the Message’ you read that this one leper who returned to show appreciation was ‘…so grateful. He couldn’t thank him enough…’ Let’s make sure we follow his example. Live a life of thanksgiving and not of thanks missing.’ Regularly thank people, and above all thank God.

Prayer: Lord, you have blessed me far more than I deserve. I want to express how deeply grateful I am.

Daily Bible thoughts 1127: Tuesday 26th April 2016: Luke 17:7-10: Remember who you are.

 Luke 17:7-10: Remember who you are.(please click here for todays passage)

Mike and I became good friends when we were in college. We were thrown together on the decorating team! Every Monday afternoon, for three hours, all the theological students were involved in some form of labour. It helped to keep the fees lower as we took responsibility to maintain the grand old mansion where our studies were based. So Mike and I painted rooms and talked Christian doctrine. After leaving college I regularly preached at a church where Mike was pastoring in Somerset. On the Saturday night, as we prepared for the Sunday services, Mike and I would go to an upstairs room in the house to pray. I vividly remember Mike praying the words found here (10), saying, ‘Lord, when we have done all, let us know that we are unprofitable servants and have only done our duty.’ His prayerfulness and humility left a great impression on me. Whenever you are complimented for any act of Christian ministry, think about these words and let them keep you in your place.

This short passage says to me, ‘Remember who you are and Whose you are. Remember what you are. Above all, keep in mind who Jesus is. He’s the Master, and you are here to serve Him, and not the other way round.’

Jesus may do many wonderful things for you. That’s His grace. It’s undeserved. He is not obligated to do anything. As a servant I need to keep my focus on doing for Him.

”Does the servant get special thanks for doing what’s expected of him? It’s the same with you. When you’ve done everything expected of you, be matter-of-fact and say, ‘The work is done. What we were told to do, we did.’ ” The Message.

Prayer: Help me, humble Lord Jesus, to keep my life in perspective, and to not think more highly of myself than I should.

Daily Bible thoughts 1126: Monday 25th April 2016: Luke 17:1-6: The power of rebuke…and other matters.

 Luke 17:1-6: The power of rebuke…and other matters.(please click for todays passage)

I knew a man who used to say that he tried to never cause offence, or take it. It seems to me that (1-3a) are essentially about the former, and (3b,4) are  broadly about the latter.

Recognise that, with your life, you have the potential to do great good or cause significant harm. Paul told Timothy to watch his LIFE and doctrine closely (emphasis mine). Choose to invest the currency of your life wisely

Many years ago I knew a Christian lady who admired another Christian man. He was a good friend and she looked up to him. But the day came when he tragically fell from his pedestal.She admitted that he almost took her down with him, in the sense that his conduct shook her faith.

There is an important role for rebuke in authentic Christian fellowship, and it will tell you a lot about a person. Watch how they respond. You will discover who is teachable and who isn’t. Where we see behaviour that isn’t right we shouldn’t just tolerate it when an honest rebuke, kindly delivered and well-received, could lead to character growth and necessary change.

‘Be alert. If you see your friend going wrong, correct him.’ The Message.

You don’t want to become the kind of person who is known for always ticking people off; the sort who somehow appears to relish it. It is much better, I feel, to come from a place where you are reticent to do it, yet willing to do so because it is right and you want to help. You don’t rebuke a brother in order to put him down, but to help lift him up – to bring about the change involved in repentance.

If the person who wrongs you repents, you have to forgive. But it takes faith to forbear with others; to be a habitually forgiving person. This may be one of faith’s greatest miracles – to keep on forgiving when you are repeatedly hurt by the same person. The disciples didn’t need more faith; it was just for them to use the faith they already possessed.

Daily Bible thoughts 1125: Friday 22nd April 2016: Luke 16:19-31: In touching distance of need.

Luke 16:19-31: In touching distance of need.(click for todays passage)

Who is at your ‘gate’? What needs are in touching distance of your life and home? Do you have eyes to see them? It would have been so easy for the rich man to help Lazarus. A small contribution from his ‘table’ would have made such a difference. Having plenty can make you hard-hearted and indifferent and judgmental towards those whose lives, unlike yours, are filled with daily struggle.

Death is the great leveller. A poem often quoted by David Pawson says, ‘Death lays its icy hand on kings. Sceptre and crown must tumble down, and in the dust be equal made, with the poor crooked scythe and spade.’ Lazarus and the rich man had this in common – they were both mortal: ‘The rich man also died…’ (22). His riches could not protect him from the inevitable. Jesus’ parable shows that although the rich man was dead and buried, he was very much alive. He could look up, and see, and call and feel. He had desires and could express them. He did not like where he was. He didn’t want to be there, nor did he want those he loved to join him. That is a telling factor.

Life is short and eternity is long, and it is vital to face the question of where you will spend it. Will it be in the place of heavenly bliss or one of eternal torment? Now is the time to deal with this issue because one day it will be too late (26). The way to prepare is to heed God’s Word and repent (27-31). The rich man’s coldness of heart was evidence of an unrepentant heart. People who are right with God show it by serving the needs in front of them; they express their faith in works. The problem was not that the rich man had a lot of stuff, but that he failed to ‘see’ and serve the needy at his ‘gate’. But repentance changes all of that (1 Timothy 6:17-19). If the rich man had repented he would have lived differently. I was thinking about the man who superintended Hudson Taylor’s prayer ministry while the missionary was serving in China. He was a wealthy and able man and he used his skills and resources to play a vital part in the mission. Not only did he give generously to the work, but when Hudson and his family were back in the U.K. they had a lovely place to stay in this man’s palatial house. 

Please don’t misunderstand this story. It is not saying, ‘Be kind to the poor and you’ll get into heaven.’ It is rather a call to repentance; to turn away from being the sort of person described in (13-15), one who loves and serves money, and not God.

One other thought struck me as I wrote this morning. In this world it is the poor who are often nameless and faceless, and the rich who have the power and the fame. But in Jesus’ story it is the poor man who is named. Does that say something, I wonder, about how the values of God’s Kingdom are diametrically opposite those found in the rest of the world?

Prayer: Lord, help me to really see the needs at my gate, and do what I can to serve.

Daily Bible thoughts 1124: Thursday 21st April 2016: Luke 16:16-18: Unchangeable Word.

Luke 16:16-18: Unchangeable Word.(please click here for todays passage)

‘Marriage’, said the cynic, ‘is like a besieged city. All those on the inside want to get out, and all those on the outside want to get in!’

Whatever else may change in life, God’s Word remains unchanged and unchangeable. It will outlast the present universe and time itself. This truth has many applications. One such application is to marriage. Society’s sexual mores and values may change, but God’s standards do not. It’s been said, ‘For best results follow the Maker’s instructions.’ Those instructions call for life-long fidelity between a man and a woman who have covenanted to become one. God will never alter His demands,but He will help us to live by them.

Daily Bible thoughts 1123: Wednesday 20th April: Luke 16:1-15: Winning friends and influencing people.

Luke 16:1-15: Winning friends and influencing people.(click here for todays passage)

‘There Is no truer test of a man’s spirituality than his attitude to his possessions.’

People sometimes trip over this story. So it’s important to read through everything Jesus said. It is clear that He did not endorse untrustworthy behaviour (10-12). Although the manager commended the steward, it was for his shrewdness, not his dishonesty (8). This man, knowing he was about to lose his job, made sure he would have friends who would take care of him when he was without income. It was a smart move in worldly terms. He was streetwise. Similarly we can use our money to ‘make friends’ who will happily greet us in heaven one day (9). We can give to causes that enable people to be served, loved and hear the gospel. How happy they will be to see us in the heavenly home. But surely we will be happier still, to realise that what we gave helped to bring them to Christ.

Somebody said that money makes a good servant but a poor master (13). We need to make a decision that we will not bow down at the feet of materialism. We will serve God and not His gifts, as much as we appreciate them. We are ‘stewards’ – managers of another’s property. Everything we have we hold in trust. We don’t own any of it. We will take our instructions from God. It belongs to Him. Remember, ‘If there is anything you own you can’t give away, you don’t own it, it owns you.’

John Wesley’s famous dictum comes to mind:

‘Make all you can; save all you can; give all you can.’

Prayer: Lord God, I don’t want materialism to have a stranglehold over my heart. Help me to worship you alone.

Daily Bible thoughts 1122: Tuesday 19th April 2016: Luke 15: Lost and found.

Luke 15: Lost and found.(please click here for todays passage)

Some years ago we ran the ‘Contagious Christian’ course at our church. One of the most powerful moments came in the first session when Bill Hybels, the senior pastor at ‘Willow Creek’ church in Chicago, spoke about Luke 15. With great passion in his voice he emphasised that ‘lost people matter to God’. Many of us carried away a phrase from that session that will always live with us: ‘You will never lock eyes with anyone who does not matter to the Father.’

There is a common theme running through Luke 15, tying the three stories together. It is that something or someone exceedingly precious got lost, but what celebration when it (or he) is found.

Bill Hybels emphasised that lost people matter to God and it demands an all out search on the part of the church to go and find them and bring them home.

Can you feel the evangelistic pulse beating in this passage; throbbing in every line? And does it also run in your veins?

Prayer: Father God, you who seek the lost at great cost to yourself, let me share your heartbeat.

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