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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Month

April 2016

Daily Bible thoughts 1121: Monday 18th April 2016: Luke 14:25-34: Traveller or pilgrim?

 Luke 14:25-34: Traveller or pilgrim? (please click here for todays passage)

In this passage we read that large crowds ‘were travelling with Jesus’. It is one thing to be a traveller – a spiritual tourist – and quite another to be a disciple. Discipleship demands everything.

When I was a teenager, the then leader of my denomination, Percy Brewster, came to speak to a large gathering at the church I attended in Wigan. Christians had travelled from a number of churches to hear this godly man speak. He gave an inspirational message, and then he said, ‘Please will you stand if you are willing to give your life unreservedly to Jesus.’ All over the building people stood to their feet in large numbers. ‘No, please sit down,’ said Pastor Brewster. ‘You didn’t hear me. I said stand to your feet if you are willing to give your life UNRESERVEDLY to Jesus.’ I think many people still stood up at the second opportunity, but the point had been made. Commitment to Christ should not be entered into thoughtlessly.

There is a challenge here for preachers. We must spell out the cost of discipleship. Christianity is free, but it isn’t cheap. We shouldn’t hurry people into a quick and easy decision for Christ. Give them space and time to consider what Christianity is; what it will mean for their lives; what they are getting themselves into. ‘When Jesus bids a man come and follow Him, He bids him come and die.’ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

There is a challenge here for would be followers. ‘Look before you leap.’ Count the cost. A building that is started but not finished is called a ‘folly’. Take care you are not constructing one of those.

”Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple’ (33) The Message. That will get worked out in different ways in different lives, but at its heart Christianity will involve a surrendering up of everything to Jesus, and a decision that He will never take second place to anyone or anything. This kind of full-blooded commitment is world changing (34). There is nothing insipid about a genuine disciple.

Daily Bible thoughts 1120: Friday 15th April 2016: Luke 14:12-24: What’s your excuse?

 Luke 14:12-24: What’s your excuse? (please click here for todays passage)

The initial invites to the ‘great banquet’ of the Kingdom of God went to the Jewish people, but the majority missed out because of their own reasons. They had their excuses. But their rejection meant that the gospel went out into the world with the widest of embrace.

What’s your excuse?

What’s your excuse for avoiding Jesus? Maybe you know something about Him. Possibly you are impressed by Him and attracted to Him, but you still haven’t surrendered your life to Him. If not, why not? Is it just that you think you’ve got something better to do at the moment, and one day you will give Him the time of day?For many people that ‘one day’ keeps getting pushed back, and it never comes. In Jesus’ parable the excuses made were feeble and ridiculous. So are ours.

It may also be that for some Christian reading this, that you are currently content to fly at a low altitude spiritually. One day you will be a stronger disciple; at some indefinite point in the future you will have the walk with God you know to be possible for you. You will give up that favourite besetting sin. But for now you have your excuses for mediocrity.

What’s YOUR excuse? Realise that it stands between you and really good things God wants to give you. He is not out to ruin your life. He invites you to the best party ever.

Daily Bible thoughts 1119: Thursday 14th April 2016: Luke 14:12-14: Exchanging hospitality?

 Luke 14:12-14: Exchanging hospitality?(please click for todays passage)

A number of years ago I came across the notion of ‘exchanging hospitality’. I heard the expression in church, and it jarred with my spirit then, and it still irritates today. Something about it doesn’t ‘smell’ right.Would Jesus have put His Name to the exchange of meals? Do you still think so after reading today’s passage. Hospitality is something to be freely given with no expectation of getting back. It is one way to show the love and kindness of our Lord and Saviour, and I believe we should especially look out for those who are unlikely or unable to invite back. Get those sort of people around your table and you’ll find that Jesus is right there with you.

Daily Bible thoughts 1118: Wednesday 13th April 2016: Luke 14:7-11: Taking the lowest place

Luke 14:7-11: Taking the lowest place (please click here for todays Bible passage)

It’s got to be apocryphal hasn’t it, but I read a story about a bishop who was asked by a vicar if he knew of any good books on the subject of humility. ‘I’m only aware of two,’ the red-vested cleric replied, ‘And I wrote them both!’ Sometimes a funny story can make a serious point.

You can speak with even more authority on a subject when you embody what you teach. What Jesus says here makes eminent sense, and He lived it (11; see Philippians 2:1-11). He took the lowest seat and the Master of the feast raised Him up in the sight of all. (Don’t forget that in Jesus’ case the place of supreme honour was His by right, and He voluntarily stepped down from it).

These words have such resonance and relevance for us (7). The natural, basic instinct of fallen people is to rush for the best seats; the most prominent positions. We even see it in the church. I wish I could say that church life is totally free of politics, but it isn’t. Selfish ambition shows its ugly head time after time. Yet this is incongruous when we follow the self-humbling Jesus.

Someone said that in God’s orchard it’s the branches which hang the lowest that bear the most fruit.

Prayer: Lord I know it is one of your great requirements that I should walk humbly with my God. You did it, and you live in me. I recognise that I am without excuse – but not without power, to live the life you call me to.

Daily Bible thoughts 1117: Tuesday 12th April 2016: Luke 14:1-6: Silencing the critics.

 Luke 14:1-6: Silencing the critics.(please click here for todays passage)

It is possible to do the right thing for the wrong reasons. On the face of it, it’s a good thing to watch Jesus ‘carefully’ (1). This is essential for the life of discipleship – watch Jesus, and copy Him (Colossians 3:1,2; Hebrews 12:1,2). ‘Follow the Leader.’ But Jesus’ enemies were watching Him in order to ‘get’ Him.

Beware of that critical spirit that is always looking for faults in people, and quick to believe the worst. There are far too many negative people like this in the professing church, and they do the cause a great disservice. They also end up smearing good people and fine ministries. They speak out of ignorance, arrogance and prejudice in many, many instances, and they get Christians a bad name. If you see any tendency in your heart to become a critical, judgmental person, prayerfully weed it out before you cause significant damage – to yourself as well as to others.

Beware of putting religion and ritual above relationship. People matter. If we watch Jesus ‘carefully’ – with pure motives – we will be led to love and serve and care.

Prayer: Lord give me a heart like yours

Daily Bible thoughts 1116: Monday 11th April 2016: Luke 13:31-35: Anguish.

Luke 13:31-35: Anguish.(please click here for todays passage)

Here is a further example of what we looked at yesterday (22). Jesus would not let Himself be derailed from His God-given purpose (31-33). Naturally speaking, Jesus had every reason to be afraid of a tyrant like Herod. He was surrounded by people who could kill Him, or have Him put to death. But He would not run away in fear. The matter was already settled in his heart. He was ready to die for the sins of the world. People will try to intimidate you with their words. Not all by any means. But some are good at scaring with menacing words. They may not speak of killing you, but they can terrify you all the same, as they try to prevent you doing what you know is right. I confess I’ve been there, and got that tee-shirt. I’ve had phone calls and meetings and the like that made me turn pale with fright. But know this: if you know that God has called you, and you are walking in His way, you need not fear anyone.

The anguished words of Jesus over Jerusalem remind us of the previous paragraph, and the possibility of missing out on spiritual opportunity. They show that although judgment is real and will eventually fall on those who persistently reject God, the Lord’s heart breaks over all those who choose to be without Him and His best. If you walk into Hell, you walk right past the outstretched arms of Jesus who died to keep you out of the God-forsaken state. But you can make this choice or you can line up with those who stone and kill God’s messengers, and who ultimately crucified His Son (34,35) and miss out on the comfort and safety of a beautiful nearness to Jesus.

Prayer: Lord, I know that the fear of man is a trap. May I not fall into it.

Daily Bible thoughts 1115: Friday 8th April 2016: Luke 13: 22-30: Danger! God at work!!

 Luke 13: 22-30: Danger! God at work!!(please click for todays Bible passage)

Here are some clear and present dangers to avoid:

Don’t miss your purpose in life. Do you know what it is? Jesus was clear-minded about His aim. He was single-minded about heading for Jerusalem where, He knew, He would die in fulfillment of many prophecies. It was a costly assignment; not just risky, but deadly. However, He was focussed on doing what the Father had sent Him to do. He would not abort His mission when He saw the danger signals. He did not allow Himself to be diverted or deflected. How about you? Do you know the reason God put you on this planet, and are you moving towards fulfillment of the Divine plan for your life with laser-like Focus?

Don’t miss your opportunity! The day for entrance to Kingdom life will come to an end (25).You can live in close proximity to spiritual privileges and miss the boat. This would be the case for many of Jesus’ own race. They were in touching distance of the Kingdom, but did not enter (26).There are people who spend their lives in close contact with Christ’s church, but who miss out on the chance to know Him. They are in the pew week by week, yet live very far from Jesus. One day they will wish they were at the party after all.There will be ultimately the bitterest regret (28). I think of the words of Dorothy L. Sayers who said that the essence of Hell is ‘the truth discovered too late.’

Don’t miss the truth that although the door is ‘narrow’ (24) the welcome is wide (29, 30). While many Jews would not be found at the Kingdom table, lots of Gentiles would be there. The gospel of the Kingdom is good news for the whole world. Let’s spread the invitation far and wide (Matthew 28:16-20).

Daily Bible thoughts 1114: Thursday 7th April 2016: Luke 13: 18-21: The growth of the Kingdom.

Luke 13: 18-21: The growth of the Kingdom.(please click here for todays passage)

It has been pointed out that these two parables, taken together, speak of the extensive and intensive growth of God’s Kingdom on earth. From tiny and insignificant beginnings, with just a handful of very ordinary people, the Kingdom has spread across the globe. The ‘birds of the air’ speak of the nations finding refuge – a nesting place – in this glorious Kingdom of God.

But not only have we seen (and still do see) the Kingdom growing numerically. We are also aware of the spread of its influence. So even as it grows extensively, in numbers, it also grows intensively, moving through society and its structures. Like leaven, it works slowly, silently and invisibly, but it certainly works. There is a ‘hiddenness’ about Kingdom life and growth. There is always a lot more happening than we can see.

Someone showed me a mustard seed on one occasion. I could hardly see it. But look what comes from it. God so often starts with the small, the anonymous, the obscure and the unlikely, and then works wonders with it.

On one occasion, Hudson Taylor, the famous missionary to China, was being introduced as a guest speaker at a meeting. The chairman, undoubtedly well-meaning, rhapsodised about what a wonderful man Hudson was. Hudson Taylor, however, came to the platform and said, ‘I am just the small servant of an illustrious Master.’ God sowed him like a mustard seed into the soil of China, and what growth has come from that one ‘small servant’. The impact is still being felt today.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, forgive me that I often judge by appearances. Help me to not despise the day of small things.

Daily Bible thoughts 1113: Wednesday 6th April 2016: Luke 13:10-17: A place of healing?

 Luke 13:10-17: A place of healing?(please click here)

This story contains a number of challenges. Here are three:

1. Am I more concerned about religious rules and propriety than I am about people and their needs? There are hard- hearted folk in the professing church who, it seems to me, care more about legalistic correctness than their fellow-human beings. Today I recognise the danger and want to flag up a warning. I do not want to be like that.We ought not to be that way.

2. Do I think for one minute that I can dictate to God as to where, when and how He can work (14)? Do I want to try to cramp and confine the infinite Lord of the universe into my narrow framework? God is the ‘God of surprises’ and just when I think I have Him ‘taped’ I will discover no one can tie Him down to their own narrow understanding. Did you hear the story about the schoolboy who, when his teacher told him God was everywhere and so was most certainly in his inkwell, slapped his hand over the top of the well and exclaimed, ‘Got Him’!? We can (foolishly) be like that. But the wind blows wherever it wills. You can’t catch or control it.

3. Is my church a place of healing? Is it really Jesus’ church? Does He have freedom of movement? Does He reign there?  Do we try to tie Him up with the ropes of religious rules and regulations? Is it a place where the needy find welcome and compassion? Is it somewhere the bound are set free? Is it an environment, an atmosphere filled with miraculous power?

Jesus came into the world to release those bound by Satan, and that includes you. Will you come to Him today?

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