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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

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September 2016

Daily Bible thoughts 1231: Monday 19th September 2016: John 12:12-16: The palm and the donkey!

John 12:12-16: The palm and the donkey!(please click for todays passage)

As I read this passage it struck me forcibly that here are two keys to living the Christian life, in all circumstances:

  1. Wave the palm branch (12, 13): Choose to be a praising person. And realise that praising Jesus also involves ‘going public’ about your faith in Him. It says here that ”the great crowd” were ”shouting”.  Later on we read that they ”continued to spread the word that he had called Lazarus from the tomb” (17).They were not ashamed to identify themselves with the Lord – to speak to Him and to speak about Him in praise. Their allegiance was highly audible and visible. I know it is sometimes said that the people in this welcoming group on Palm Sunday later were part of the throng baying for Jesus’ blood. But I don’t think the Bible ever explicitly says so. That may be the case. Or it may be true of some of them. But we cannot say it with any certainty. Taking this passage at face value, I simply want to highlight the good things we see here, and say, ”May we also wave our palm branches.” Jesus is worthy of all our praise.
  2. Ride the donkey (14-16). Take the humble, lowly path. True, in the Bible, the donkey is a magisterial beast, but less obviously so than a white charger! Jesus took the basin and towel and washed the feet of His disciples. He deliberately took upon Himself the task that was entrusted to the ‘least’ person. He came among us as One who serves, and He calls us to follow Him along this meek roadway (John 13:12-17). It does not lessen our authority in Christ, but all the more clearly defines it.

So, in all circumstances, choose to wave the palm branch and ride the donkey.

Daily Bible thoughts 1230: Friday 16th September 2016: John 12:1-11: Perfume.

 John 12:1-11: Perfume.(please click here for todays passage)

Worship is costly. It is a sacrificial response to the sacrificial love of Jesus. Our sacrifices are small by comparison, but if ‘the cross’ does not lie at the heart of our offering it is not worship. As far as we are concerned, if we are worshipping Jesus it will be costly. Someone said, ”Ministry that costs nothing accomplishes nothing.”

Worship that pays the price will perfume the world. There is a fragrance, a lovely scent, an aroma of Jesus surrounding those who are deeply in love with Jesus.

Worship involves abandonment and self-forgetfulness. Therefore those who worship may draw criticism from merely religious people. When it comes to spiritual things, there are those who can ‘talk a good game’; they can use the terminology, the vocabulary, but their hearts are deeply polluted wells of corruption. They hate genuine worship.

To truly worship you have to have a generous spirit. This touches every area of life – not just money. But it will be shown in our attitude towards finance, so that we give freely, joyfully and with faith-filled hearts.

”One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.” Proverbs 11:24.

PRAYER: Lord, let me carry your fragrance everywhere.

Daily Bible thoughts 1229: Thursday 15th September 2016: John 12:1-11: Get your Lazarus.

John 12:1-11: Get your Lazarus. (please click for todays passage)

Here are three simple points from this passage:

  1. Jesus raised Lazarus to life (1): I am struck by the words, ”where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.” If Jesus raises you – you live! There are no half measures where His work is concerned.
  2. Jesus raised Lazarus to intimate fellowship (2): He got to be ”seated with Christ” (Ephesians 2). He who had so recently been laid in the grave was once again able to enjoy food, and company and other blessings. In the East, the table was the place of intimate and leisurely communion. It’s a delightful picture. This actually happened to Lazarus, but it also portrays our experience. We honour the Lord Jesus who raised us by enjoying His company, feasting on Him, as it were, and ‘reclining’ on Him. Our life now is not one of self-reliance, but we lean on Him. We rest on Him and His finished work. A missionary was living with a remote tribe in order to translate the Bible into their language. He was, however, struggling to find the right word for ‘trust’. One day, a native came into his hut. He was weary from a long day’s work, and as he gratefully sank into the missionary’s chair, he expressed that it was good to be able to ”lean his whole weight” upon it. The missionary realised that he had found his word for trust.
  3. Jesus raised Lazarus to be living evidence of His power (9-11). The great Methodist preacher, Samuel Chadwick, asked the question, ”Do you want to know the secret of filling your chapels Sunday by Sunday?” He said, ”Get your Lazarus!” How obtuse people can be though. They wanted to put Lazarus back in the cemetery rather than accept what his life was saying about Jesus. It’s a wonderful thing to be given resurrection life by Christ, but it’s also dangerous! He calls us out of the grave into ‘risky living.’

Daily Bible thoughts 1228: Wednesday 14th September 2016: John 12:1-3: Living worship.

 John 12:1-3: Living worship.(please click for todays passage)

Although we ‘focus’ our worship in specific acts of worship, on a Sunday, and at other times; worship is actually a 24/7 calling. I read a book many years ago entitled ‘Worship the Lord’ by Jock Anderson. In it, the author said this: ”God wants worship that is living and living that is worship.” I think partly through the influence of that book, I came to see that everything we do should be offered to God in worship, and if we can’t worship by doing it, then we probably ought to avoid that particular thing.(David Pawson said that for the Christian, the whole of life is sacred, and the only thing that is secular is sin.) The worship of Jesus, who raised us to life, is a beautiful thing (3). There is a fragrance about worshipping people, and also in the very atmosphere they carry about them. But also, when we grasp that worship is about the lives we lead as well as the words we say and the songs we sing, we begin to experience that there is a cost to worship. When you worship with the whole of your life there is a price tag. It may even be true to say that the greater the cost, the sweeter the scent; the more powerful the aroma. Whatever, let us not be ashamed to show our love to Jesus. I once knew a girl who loved the Lord so much that her expression of worship, in church, was quite extravagant. But I am certain she was not being exhibitionist in any way. She just adored Jesus and was ‘lost’ in worship. She was oblivious to what anyone else thought.

As we see here, we may eat in Jesus’ honour (2). It reminds me of Paul’s words:

”So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

The Lord wants living that is worship:

”And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

If Jesus has made you alive (1) you will surely want to do just that.

PRAYER: I am so aware Lord Jesus that you have imparted abundant life to me. So I ask that the life I lead in this world will be a beautiful and fitting response to you. Let me carry the scent of Jesus wherever I go.

Daily Bible thoughts 1227: Tuesday 13th September 2016: John 11: 45-57: Stranger than fiction!

 John 11: 45-57: Stranger than fiction!(please click here for todays passage)

Truth is stranger than fiction, and it is regularly less popular.

So Jesus had raised Lazarus from the grave, and you would think that by doing that He would blow away all doubts and convince every sceptic; that He would triumphantly carry all before Him and win the day. All opponents would step up out of their trenches waving white flags. It would be ‘game over’ for unbelief.

But that is not the situation you find here.

Rather, the division over Jesus continues (45, 46). It remains the same today. Compelling evidence (as we might regard it) of Christ’s reality and divinity will only serve to make some people dig their heels in all the more. In fact there will be those who actually choose to align themselves with forces violently opposed to Jesus rather than bow the knee to Him. It’s like they see this huge aircraft coming towards them which has the firepower to blow all of their unbelief out of the water. Yet they keep blasting away at the aeroplane with their canons, even though they cannot hope to bring it down.

The fact is that certain people are just not interested in truth claims (47, 48). Whether or not Christianity is true is not of paramount importance. Their big question is, ‘How does this affect me?’ And if they perceive that their vital interests will be adversely impacted, they just don’t want to know. So, it’s not mainly a question of, ‘Is this message true?’ Rather, it’s a case of, ‘Will my life have to change?’ If the answer is ‘Yes’, in some way or other they will line up with those who plot to remove Jesus.

Jealousy and fear ruled the hearts of these spiritual leaders – not a desire to know the truth. The unintended prophecy from Caiaphas is also quite remarkable:

‘ ”Can’t you see that it’s to our advantage that one man dies for the people rather than the whole nation be destroyed?” He didn’t say this of his own accord, but as Chief Priest that year he unwittingly prophesied that Jesus was about to die sacrificially for the nation, and not only for the nation but so that all God’s exile-scattered children might be gathered together into one people (50-52).’ The Message.

In saying that it was expedient that one man should die instead of the whole nation, this hardened, powerful religious leader was unconsciously prophesying the substitutionary death of Jesus – a death that would lead to worldwide salvation (see 10:16).

So we see yet again that, in spite of the severe hostility surrounding Jesus, God is in control.  Our God reigns!

Prayer: ”Saved by grace alone; this is all my plea. Jesus died for all mankind, and Jesus died for me.”

Daily Bible thoughts 1226: Monday 12th September 2016: John 11:38-44: A resurrection revisited.

John 11:38-44: A resurrection revisited.(please click here for todays passage)

When I took a second look at last Friday’s passage, I saw that Jesus shows the way to meet life’s greatest problems and obstacles. We need to greet them:

  1. With compassion (38): ”Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb.” ‘Once more’. There was no compassion fatigue with the Lord. ‘Jesus, please fill up my tank with your high octane love.’
  2. With humility (39a, 44b). Don’t be afraid to reach out to others; to ask for help; to seek strategic partnerships. Recognise that there will be those who can help you fulfill what God has placed in your heart, and who will delight to do so.
  3. With patience (39b, 40). Some folks haven’t yet seen what you have caught sight of in prayer. They aren’t as far down the road as you. So tread kindly and gently with them. Challenge them courteously to join you on the sunlit uplands of faith.
  4. With prayer and faith (41, 42). Jesus had clearly prepared for this moment in prayer, and when the hour struck He recognised it. ”The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16).
  5. With authority (43). I believe it may be possible to so prepare your heart in prayer that there comes a crisis moment where you know that you can command the mountain to move and cast itself into the sea, and it will do so.

Daily Bible thoughts 1225: Friday 9th September 2016: John 11:38-44: ”Take away…Take off…”

 John 11:38-44: ”Take away…Take off…”(please click for todays passage)

Someone observed that it’s a good job Jesus put a limit on His command: ”Lazarus, come out!” (43). If He’d just said, ”Come out!” He would have emptied the cemetery!! I see that point, and it makes me smile.

This story got me thinking again about how we are often invited to partner with Jesus in performing miracles. There is no doubt that Lazarus’ emergence from the tomb – alive – was a God-given miracle (40-44a). Jesus did it in answer to the prayer of faith (41, 42). 

But people got to play a part in the miracle. This is reflected in the two commands: 

”Take away the stone” and ”Take off the grave clothes…” (39a, 44b).

”Take away the stone…So they took away the stone” (39, 41). When they were obedient, all heaven broke loose, you might say (or it was revealed that heaven had already broken loose inside that cave.)

The ”stone” speaks of an obstacle in the way of the full manifestation of the miraculous.

It is a big thing; a heavy thing; a daunting thing. It’s a something which will require concerted effort – possibly with others: ”…they” took away the stone (41).

It may be easier to raise unbelieving objections than to get on with the work being asked of you (39b). You can also imagine objections being raised to taking the grave clothes off a corpse having just come to life (44b). ”And the dead man comes out – a heart-stopping moment of shuddering horror and overwhelming joy, mixed together like dark mud and liquid gold…If we don’t feel it’s power, and feel ourselves driven to awe and thanks and hope, then either we haven’t learned to read or we have hearts of stone.” Tom Wright: ‘John for everyone’, part 2, pp.13, 14.

But when we play our part, Jesus does His. We are ”workers together” with God.

How does this speak to you today?

Is there some resurrection life miracle awaiting your involvement? What will you do in response to this challenge?

What is the stone and where is that stone you need to ”take away”? Are you willing to do it, or making an excuse?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, please forgive me for expecting you to do what you ask me to do. Help me now to rise up and take action.

Daily Bible thoughts 1224: Thursday 8th September 2016: John 11:28-37: Tears.

John 11:28-37: Tears.(please click for todays passage)

This ‘vale of tears’ they sometimes call it. 

I know the world is filled with laughter, but it is also flooded with tears. Rivers of tears will be shed in the next 24 hours.

This section of John 11 is tear-stained. In particular, do you see how the tears of Mary encounter the tears of Jesus? It’s like they mingle. He is ”touched with the feelings our infirmities.” The Lord keeps our tears in His bottle. I don’t think ”Jesus wept” because He was bereaved. He knew He was about to raise this beloved man (36). Jesus was not powerless, frustrated and defeated in the face of mankind’s last great enemy. But maybe He wept to see the pain of His loved one’s? Maybe He wept as He saw what death has done to the world? Maybe He wept to think that He would bring Lazarus back, only for His friend to have to go through all of this trauma again? (I believe there is a really strong word in verse 33, translated ”deeply moved”, sometimes used of a snorting horse. It’s like you can feel His anger towards death too.)

PRAYER: Lord, I would like to be like Mary:

  • even in tears, she heard your voice, and eagerly responded to your call (28, 29);
  • Even in sorrow, she was at your feet in adoration (32).

Help me to follow her example too (31). May tears never blind me to the overwhelming reality of your Lordship.

Daily Bible thoughts 1223: Wednesday 7th September 2016: John 11:23-27: World without end.

 John 11:23-27: World without end.(please click for todays passage)

It seems that Martha may have taken Jesus’ words in (23) as a commonplace of consolation – the type of comforting, well-meant thing you might find in a bereavement card. It was good that Martha could say what she did (24; and see also 27). Although her faith still had ‘growing room’, what a profound confession of faith she made. Martha often gets a bad press in sermons, as the complaining busy one, while her sister Mary is lauded for choosing ”the better part”, sitting at the feet of Jesus. But we need to balance up that picture with the one painted by John. Martha was a woman of great faith.

In (25) we find another remarkable ”I am” saying of Jesus. Resurrection and life are bound up with His Person; with who He is – Jesus who died and rose again. If I am ”in” Him I can say that He is my resurrection and my life” (see John 1:4; 5:26 and 14:6). In Jesus we experience resurrection and life:

  • We experience these realities now. Jesus raises people from spiritual death (Ephesians 2:1-11; John 5:24) to enjoy the life that truly is life, whilst still in the midst of this life. This new quality (and endless quality) of life is one of John’s repeated themes;
  • We will experience these realities in the future. There is coming a day when all believers will live in the fullness of the restoration of all things that Jesus came to bring about. Then we will have brand new bodies and we will inhabit, and enjoy, a brand new universe (John 5:28, 29; 2 Peter 3:18).

 You can see in Jesus’ wonderfully comforting words (25, 26) that a Christian who dies will still be alive, and so there is a very real sense in which he/she will never die. They just move home; they switch locations:

”The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all.” The Message.

Death does not win in the end. It will not have the final say. Someone wrote about Jesus: ”He death, by dying, slew.”

The question, ”Do you believe this?” (26b) is an important one to face. It can be seen as an invitation as well as a challenge.

At the moment, I’m reading Bishop J.C. Ryle’s book, ‘Holiness’, many mornings a week. I use it as part of my personal devotions, before praying. I read a piece today about what happens to a Christian after death. Ryle admits that there’s a lot we don’t know about the after death state, but he emphasises that we will be better off by far because we will be with Jesus. We may not be as blessed as we will be on resurrection day, but even in a disembodied state we will be blessed. We will be with the Lord.

So, if you are a believer, try to let these inter-related truths grip your heart:

Jesus is the life and He will never die;

In Jesus, you are alive, and you will never die.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you have called me out of the tomb of sin. It is taking more time than I like to remove these constricting grave clothes, and I need the help of brothers and sisters to get me out of them. But I do not belong in the grave any more, and. I am not going back there. Life is my destiny – praise the Lord!

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