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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


July 2016

Daily Bible thoughts 1195: Friday 29th July 2016: John 6:22-29: The ‘work’ of faith.

John 6:22-29: The ‘work’ of faith.(please click for todays passage)

One commentator said about (25), we know the real question is not ‘when’ but ‘how?’

”You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs – and for free.” The Message.

Jesus meets material needs. This is a truth about Him. He cares about our physical condition. But human nature being what it is, we can seek Him for self-centred reasons. Prosperity teaching ‘prospers’ (to the extent it does), because it appeals to selfish motives. However, if we seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness ”all these things will be given…as well.” Jesus knows what is ”in a man”. (JOHN 2:25). He sees just where we are coming from (26). We can seek His blessing without wanting His rule. If we just go after what Christ can give us materially, but don’t want Him we will miss out on His best.

Verse 27 is all of a piece with chapter 4: 13. We can ‘eat’ at the world’s heavily laden table; we can ‘drink’ from it’s water supply, and yet go away totally unsatisfied. There is a level of consumption that whilst doing something for the body, does not reach the soul, the spirit. We may ‘work’ hard to fill that God-shaped hole, but our labours will get us nowhere. Everything the world system has to offer ‘spoils’, but what Jesus gives ‘endures’. It is a life that is ‘eternal’ (27)

”Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides.” The Message.

There is one ‘work’ we need and that is to put our trust in Jesus (29). This is a ‘work of God’. When anyone is converted and becomes a disciple; when they really believe in Jesus, that is something God Himself has done. So no Christian can ever boast about it.

Prayer: Thank you Lord Jesus that you fully satisfy.

Daily Bible thoughts 1194: Thursday 28th July 2016: John 6:14-21: OFTEN.

John 6:14-21: OFTEN.(please click here for todays passage)

”But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 4:16).

What you decide to do ‘often’ is important to you. It is a priority.

In a time of pressure, demand, and possibly dangerous temptation, Jesus again withdrew to a solitary place (15b). This is also instructive for us. Like Jesus, we need to build into our lives a pattern of withdrawal in order to advance. This is not about escapism or laziness. We go away from people and noise, only temporarily, in order to come back in power, and do the will of God. As someone observed, ”You need to learn that if you’re going to minister effectively to people, you can’t always be with people.”

Time away from the pressure and clamour of the crowd will help you to regain composure and perspective.

Jesus, in God’s time, descended the mountain and walked on the lake to save His terrified followers (16-21).

Do you have a solitary place you can go to on a regular basis? Matthew Henry has commented that we are never less alone than when we are thus alone – alone with the Father. Jesus is our example. Like Him, we go to the ‘lonely places’ in order to pray. That is not just to make requests, but it is to enjoy communion. It is not simply about ‘asking of’ but ‘being with’ – and it is recreating.

We don’t go away from people to run from reality.

We do it to recharge.

We do it to refuel.

And we return powered up for more effective service – to do things we could not do without being with the Father.

Always remember that when we are ‘willing’ to receive Jesus into our situations, just as He is (21), that’s when miracles happen.

It also strikes me that Jesus here models the ability to say ‘No’ to other people’s agendas for your life.’God made you and has a wonderful plan for your life.’ But somebody quipped, ‘God made you, and other people have a wonderful plan for your life!!’ You need a strong sense of what the Father wants of you, and then you can feel secure in that to turn opportunities down that don’t fit, however enticing they may be.

Daily Bible thoughts 1193: Wednesday 27th July 2016: John 6:1-13: ‘…how far will they go…?’

 John 6:1-13: ‘…how far will they go…?'(please click for todays passage)

Andrew’s response to this food shortage was, perhaps, a little better than Philip’s (7, 9). At least it had a speck of faith in it. But not a lot. He could not imagine what use so small a picnic lunch could be:

”Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” (9). He repeats the word ‘SMALL’. It is underlined in our thinking by repetition. 

We face the challenge of smallness in a world that is in love with the big, the bold and the brassy.

Our thinking is often similar:

”I’m such a small person – small in my own estimation – what great thing could I ever do?”

”My gifts seem so small and unspectacular, how could I be of help?”

”My financial contribution to this project is trivial compared to the sums certain people can donate? Does it really count for anything?”

”Our church is so small. We’re not a mega-church. We don’t have all the bells and whistles, the technological wizardry possessed by the church down the road. What’s the point of our existence? Do we have any meaningful role to play?”

The problem is, we tend to equate the word ‘small’ with another word – ‘insignificant’. At least, many of us do. But God doesn’t. Remember David (and Goliath!! Remember him?)

And this story shows that little becomes much when you place it in the mighty Hands of Jesus.

It was said of Hudson Taylor (I think) that he was ‘a man small enough for God to use.’ On one occasion he was being introduced at a meeting, and the convener gave him such a big build up, saying what a great man he was etc, etc. Hudson came to the platform and declared, ‘I am just the small servant of an illustrious Master.’

And look what God did with that one small life! Hudson Taylor placed his perceived smallness into the mighty Hands of God and see what happened. There was a multiplying effect and countless numbers of people were affected for good. Many were converted; many were called into Christian service. The nation of China was powerfully impacted.

It’s not about how small you are, but how big Jesus is. And Jesus already has ‘in mind’ what to do with little old you (6). So fear not.

”Christ often tests us to see what we shall say and do in the presence of overwhelming difficulty, but he always knows the way out…The world is to be fed by the cooperation of Christ and his Church.” F.B. Meyer: ‘Devotional Commentary’, p.462.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I place my life afresh into you Hands today. Please make me more than I ever thought I could be.

Daily Bible thoughts 1192: Tuesday 26th July 2016: John 5:37-47: Bibliolatry?

John 5:37-47: Bibliolatry?(please click for todays passage)

It is possible to be a serious Bible student and miss the whole point. If we don’t see Jesus in its pages, and fail to enjoy a relationship with Him, we miss everything that matters.

”You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you’ll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me! And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren’t willing to receive from me the life you say you want.” The Message.

The Jews in general, and the religious leaders in particular, ‘diligently’ studied the Scriptures (39) They counted how many letters there were in each book and so on. They knew a lot about IT. But when their Messiah came, they failed to recognise HIM. They were, it’s been said, like people who value the medicine bottle but do not take the medicine. Or, they are to be compared with someone who admires the jewellery box, but not the treasure it contains. They prided themselves on knowing the works of ‘Moses’ (45-47), but missed the One who was at the heart of Moses’ writings; the very One he pointed a long finger towards spanning across the centuries.

Some people’s knowledge of the Bible makes them hard and harsh and judgmental, and you can’t help but wonder if they are missing the whole point.  You think, ‘Where is the heart and spirit of Jesus in such ferocious behaviour? ‘

As a preacher who tries to make a habit of expounding the Scriptures, I need to take to heart this reminder that it is all about Jesus. Wherever I am in the Bible I need to be pointing people to Jesus. Bible Study should lead to a relationship with Jesus, and to an ever-deepening relationship at that. It must never become an arid, academic pursuit that is an end in itself. David Pawson said once that we evangelicals accuse Roman Catholics of having a Trinity of Father, Son and Blessed Virgin. But we ourselves have often been guilty of believing in a Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Scriptures. Beware!

Prayer: Thank you Lord for your Word. It is a remarkable Book. Enable me please, whenever I open it, to meet you there and receive your life. If I am ‘refusing’ you in any area today, please show me and bring me back to a place of full surrender.

Daily Bible thoughts 1191: Monday 25th July 2016: John 5:30-38: Prove it!

John 5:30-38: Prove it!(please click for todays passage)

John 5:16-46 is a theologically BIG section of the New Testament. It’s clear message is that’s Jesus is God. He is equal with God, and He is God.

But how do we know the claim is true? How can it be proved?

Jesus, as it were, calls witnesses to the dock to testify on His behalf:

There is the Father Himself (32,37). At His baptism, His Father publicly owned Him as His ‘beloved Son’ (Matthew 3:17). 

There are the works the Father gave Christ to accomplish (36). These works include the healing, the raising, the judgment, as we have seen (16-29).

There is the testimony of John the Baptist (33-35). There may be in (35) the idea that John ‘burned up’. His witness to Jesus was costly. He was a martyr.

Tomorrow we will hear a fourth witness bringing evidence to the court room, I.e. God’s Word (37-47).

But I finish today’s thought with a musing of F.B. Meyer. He said that Jesus clung to God’s will as to a handrail all the way down the staircase to Calvary (30). As he writes, God’s will is goodwill.

Prayer: Lord show me your will and help me delight to do it.

Daily Bible thoughts 1190: Friday 22nd July 2016: John 5: 19-29: More gigantic claims.

John 5: 19-29: More gigantic claims.(please click for todays passage)

Following the healing of an invalid man on the Sabbath day, Jesus spoke of His unity withy the Father. The Father had healed the man, and Jesus’ work of healing on this occasion gave expression to His oneness with the Father. The Jews got the point and saw that Jesus was claiming equality with God (18). That gave them even more reason to want to kill Him. But this was just the starting point. Jesus had even more things to say about His essential unity with the Father. He can only do what the Father does (19) so whenever we see Jesus at work, that is God the Father at work. And, indeed, to honour the Son is to honour the Father (23). If we don’t honour Jesus we can’t honour God. 

We need to get this message:

The Father heals the sick on the Sabbath, and so the Son does – for they are one (16-18);

As the Father raises the dead, so Jesus has the power to raise people both spiritually and physically – for they are one (21, 24, 25, 26, 28 and 29);

As the Father judges all, so does Jesus – for they are one (22, 23).

”The relationship of our Lord to the Father was such that he felt himself competent to fulfill all the functions of the Divine Being. Is it God’s prerogative to raise the dead? It is also Jesus Christ’s…Is it the divine right to be the judge of man? It is also the Redeemer’s right…Is it the peculiar attitude of God to be the fountain of life, so that life, inherent, underived, and perennial, is ever arising in his nature, sustaining here an angel and there a hummingbird? This is also an attribute of our blessed Lord…The entire sum of the attributes of Deity are resident in the nature of the Son of man. But though although all divine attributes were his, and might have been called into operation, he forebode to use them, that he might learn the life of dependence and faith, the life which was to become ours toward himself. He did nothing apart from the Father…No vine ever clung more closely to its trellis, and no child to its mother, than he to the Father. See Gal.2:20; Heb.12:2” F.B. Meyer: ‘Devotional Commentary’, pp.461,462.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, as you walked through life in total dependence on your Father, so enable me to keep my heart and eyes fixed on you. I need you every hour, every minute, every second (and milli-second!)

Daily Bible thoughts 1189: Thursday 21st July 2016: John 5:10-18: That’s gratitude for you.

John 5:10-18: That’s gratitude for you.(please click for todays passage)

I still smile at the memory of some words I read in a commentary years ago: ‘The man healed by Jesus appears to have been an unpleasant character!!’ He certainly wanted to avoid any flak coming his way and was happy for them to train their sights on Jesus (10, 11 and 15). He showed them where to aim their fire (15). If he did repent of his sins, we have no clear indication of it. Yet the Lord had been so good to him.

It appears that the healed man’s illness was connected in some way to sinful behaviour (14). Sin is ultimately destructive to the human body. It is not good for your health. It is for our own good that Jesus asks us to leave our sinful burden at the foot of His cross. That’s not the main reason, of course, but it is a reason.

Religion shows its worst face where it just cares about rules and regulations and not the needs and struggles of real people. The key to understanding all this anger towards to Jesus lies in the fact that the Lord performed the miracle on the Sabbath day. It led to the man carrying his bed on the Sabbath, and these clerics interpreted that as work (9b, 10; see also 16). Even worse, Jesus said the man He healed was in fact healed by His Father  in heaven (who was also working on the Sabbath day), and so He was expressing His oneness with God (18). That’s what they took Him to mean, and they were correct to do so:

‘It was not his own deed, but the Father’s in him and through him. If, then, they condemned it, they were in direct collision with the Infinite One from whom the Sabbath law had originally come.’ F.B. Meyer: ‘Devotional Commentary’, p.461.

This is one of the massive claims made by Jesus about His own identity. He did not think that He was just a man. How about you? What’s your view of Jesus? As C.S. Lewis argued, Jesus is who He says He is, or He is a psychiatric case (on the same level as someone saying he’s a poached egg), or He is the devil from hell. But we must not come out with any patronising nonsense about Him just being a good man. He has not left that option open to us.

Daily Bible thoughts 1188: Wednesday 20th July 2016: John 5:1-9: ‘Do you want to be healed?’

 John 5:1-9: ‘Do you want to be healed?'(please click here for todays passage)

It’s a fair question: ‘Do you want to be healed?’ Some people, I am convinced, ENJOY bad health. There can be comfort zones in sickness. Pastors sometimes wonder whether certain people who expose their problems (and sins) really do want to be healed. Or do they just want to vent, have a jolly good moan, get things off their chest, without ever having to go through the trouble of changing? There is also the even bigger question of, ‘Do you really want Jesus in your life at all?’ Do you want Him to re-connect you to God? Or does that appear just too pricey, not to say inconvenient? 

Could it be that this man was making an excuse for remaining in his invalid condition? (6). It may not be fair to ask this, but you can’t help but wonder. Whatever, out of this great heaving crowd of human need, it would appear that Jesus homed in on just one man and set him free. So we see Christ’s sovereignty in the work of healing.

You may have heard the joke, ‘How many counsellors does it take to change a light bulb?’ The answer is, ‘Only one. But the light bulb has really got to want to change!!’ There is something in that.

‘Are you a withered soul? Healing and wholeness are in Christ for you. Receive from him the power that waits to flow through your wasted muscles. Believe that it is passing through you. And act accordingly. Spring to your feet, roll up your bed, and carry that which has so long carried you.’ F.B. Meyer: ‘Devotional Commentary’,p.461.

Daily Bible thoughts 1187: Tuesday 19th July 2016: John 4:43-54: Lord over space.

John 4:43-54: Lord over space.(please click here for todays passage)

Sometimes, when we pray we don’t get the wording exactly right. This Royal official ‘begged’ Jesus ‘ to come and heal his son, who was close to death’ (47b). Again he pleaded, ‘Sir, come down before my child dies’ (49). His urgency is understandable, but he thought Jesus had to be in his home; that He had to enter the same room as the child in order to heal him. The wording of the ‘prayer’ wasn’t exactly right. But Jesus saw the man’s heart and did the work of healing anyway (50). This is a miracle of healing at a distance. Jesus is Lord over space.

When we start to pray about a matter, we may well need to persevere through discouragements (48). After the man’s initial plea, it looked like Jesus Himself was putting him off. At least, His words didn’t sound promising. But things were not how they appeared. The nobleman persevered and received the object of his intercession. It is, however, a reality to contend with that faith often has to persevere through discouragements; through seeming barriers and obstacles. Ronald Dunn observed that when we start to pray in earnest about a matter, things regularly ‘drop by worse on the way to better!’

This is a story, then, about praying and persevering. It is also about timing (52, 53). This ‘coincidence’ was really a ‘God-incidence’, and it brought people into the Kingdom.

It is fundamentally, of course, a story about believing.The essence of faith is to take Jesus at His Word (50).You go about your business, trusting that His Word is true, even when you have no evidence. Faith is the evidence (Hebrews 11:1). F.B.Meyer shares an interesting insight on this:

”It would appear…that he went to some inn or caravansary on his way back, because there would have been ample time between the seventh hour (one o’clock in the day) and nightfall to get from Cana down to Capernaum. Why should he hasten! The boy was living, doing well, since the Master had said so. He was sure of it and thanked God for it and gladly took the opportunity of a quiet night’s rest, to sleep off the effects of long watching, intense anxiety, and the swift journey to Cana. When his servants met him with the news that the boy was healed, he inquired at what hour the change had taken place, merely to corroborate his own conclusions.” F.B. Meyer, Devotional Commentary, p.461.

Prayer: ”Give me the faith which can remove, and sink the mountain to a plain.”

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