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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


December 2016

Daily Bible thoughts 1315:Friday 30th December 2016: Acts 2:24-31: A hole in history.

 Acts 2:24-31: A hole in history.(please click for passage)

I read that someone once asked the great librettist (and wit!) William S. Gilbert, ‘Is Beethoven still composing?’ Gilbert replied, ‘No, decomposing.’ Death and ‘’decay’’ are the normal human experience. We die, and in the grave our bodies decompose. From dust we come, and to dust we return. It is sobering, and it is humbling, but it is true. It’s something we all have to face, whether we like to or not. ‘Change and decay in all around I see…’  But in the case of Jesus, although death was in His experience, decay wasn’t. A dead body would decay swiftly in that hot climate, but Jesus’ body suffered no decomposition. Furthermore, this state of affairs was predicted in Psalm 16, according to Peter. David, great king that he was, still died, and his body decayed. This was a verifiable fact. Everybody listening to him knew it. So David was not speaking about himself in that psalm. No, he was a prophet and saw, looking through the long telescope of time, the resurrection of Jesus on the far horizon. Peter had insight into David’s foresight.

It is now true for everyone who puts their trust in Jesus that they will not be ‘abandoned’ to the grave. Yes, they will still go to the grave – temporarily. Their bodies will decay. But they will not stay there rotting forever. Resurrection day is coming (John 5:28, 29). ‘The sky, not the grave, is our goal’. The grave is a waiting room, not the final destination.

It is sometimes argued that the resurrection idea gained ground because the body of Jesus had been removed, or stolen (it amounts to the same difference). But think about this, Peter was preaching this message not very far from where Jesus had been laid in the tomb. All some enemy of the disciples had to do was to parade His dead body through the streets of Jerusalem. Someone noted that they would be able to ‘smother Christianity in its cradle.’ But the big fisherman could speak ‘’confidently’’ about the resurrection as he went angling for men (29). He had seen the empty tomb; he had met, spoken with the living Christ. He had been personally commissioned by Him. He was convinced that no compelling evidence would be brought forward to contradict him (see 1:3).

Somebody once said something like this, and I’ve thought about these words often in recent days: ‘If the coming of Jesus has left a hole in history the size and shape of the resurrection, with what does the secular historian propose to fill it?’

PRAYER: I am so thankful Lord Jesus that you live!

Daily Bible thoughts 1314: Thursday 29 December 2016: Acts 2:22-28: They know you know.

Acts 2:22-28: They know you know.(please click here for the passage)

At one time, it was fashionable in some academic circles to dismiss Luke as a reliable historian. It was agreed that he wasn’t! But then along came an archaeologist called William Ramsay, who verified that at point after point Luke’s historical detail, as found in ‘Acts’, is bang on. It’s as well to bear in mind Luke’s introductory words in his gospel (Luke 1:1-4) as we listen to this record of Peter’s Pentecost sermon. Note that:

  • Peter spoke with confidence (22): ‘’as you yourselves know.’’ He knew that the people in this huge crowd also knew that his assertions about Jesus were correct. We should not miss the significance of this. He wasn’t preaching that Jesus was ‘just a good man’. He was making big claims about Him. If these things were not as he said, he could have quickly lost his congregation. But no, he could appeal to their real and recent knowledge. He knew he was on a firm footing;
  • Peter spoke boldly (23). He was not afraid to call sin ‘sin’; not scared to spell out in detail their specific sin of rejecting/crucifying the Lord. He must have known that these people were capable of turning on him too. But he went for it. He took a big swing, and obviously connected sweetly with the ball (37). It is sometimes said that the resurrection of Jesus transformed the disciples. Well, it obviously did. But I believe one preacher was correct to emphasise that the resurrection made them glad; it didn’t make them bold. It was the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that changed the previously fearful Peter (for example) into a roaring lion of a man;
  • Peter spoke Biblically (24-28). He said ‘’it was impossible for death to keep its hold’’ on Jesus, and he made his point by quoting Psalm 16:8-11. He had insight to see that the words of this Psalm pointed beyond David, and we’ll pick up his thought in the next notes. At one time, the ‘Elim’ churches held great services in the Royal Albert Hall on Easter Monday. I still remember the thrill of the great organ rumbling like an earthquake beneath the words of a hymn: ‘Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my Saviour; He tore the bars away; Jesus my Lord. Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph o’er His foes…’

HE TORE THE BARS AWAY! It was impossible that it should be any other way, Peter said. He had seen it in the Bible.

Never forget that Pentecost is all about the living Lord Jesus. It only happened because He lives.

Daily Bible thoughts 1313: Wednesday 28th December 2016: Matthew 1:19: Doing the right thing.

Matthew 1:19: Doing the right thing.(please click for todays passage )

This is a brief hiatus in our series on ‘Acts’, but this verse popped into my mind while out on a walk, and I could see its relevance to the Christmas season:

‘’Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public grace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.’’

Here are my thoughts on this:

  • God sees our hearts. He knows those who want to do ‘the right thing’. He saw this virtue in Joseph and had it recorded in His Word. What an honour God has placed on the man;
  • Sometimes, though, wanting to do the right thing, we formulate plans that are not in the will of God. Now, it’s good to live life in a ‘’considered’’ way (20a); not recklessly, thoughtlessly and carelessly. And our thoughts may lead us to do legitimate things; good things; but they may not always be the best We can have handsome looking plans that do not come from heaven;
  • But knowing the heart of Joseph; seeing his desire to do the right thing, the Lord gently directed him into the right paths.With a little adjustment of the ‘steering wheel’ Joseph began to go in the right direction. So the Lord gave him what he, in his heart of hearts most desired. He just wanted to do the right thing.

‘’He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake’’ (Psalm 23:3).

 Prayer: Lord Jesus, Good Shepherd of your sheep, I claim this word for my life today. You know I long to do the right thing. Lead me to do it, for the honouring of your Name.

Daily Bible thoughts 1312: Tuesday 27th December 2016: Acts 2:14-21: Seeing and seizing opportunities.

Acts 2:14-21: Seeing and seizing opportunities.(please click here for todays passage)

‘’Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have’’ (1 Peter 3:15).

 It was Peter who wrote these words some years after he had exemplified them on the day of Pentecost. What he said in his sermon was a response to questioning (12). Something had happened in the church/to the church, that grabbed the attention of the masses. Suddenly it was a city on a hill that couldn’t be hidden.

This passage is instructive about our witness to Christ. Here are some vital ingredients:

  1. Try to answer the questions people are asking. More often than not, we need to start where they are; scratch where they itch. ‘’What does this mean?’’…’’this is that’’ (12, 15).Michael Green said you need to row your gospel ‘boat’ around a person’s life, and decide where is the best place to ‘put in’. What questions are they asking?
  2. Answer with courage (14). This is the second time in ‘Acts’ that we read about Peter standing up. It’s not nice to be ‘’made fun of’’ (13), and scorn/mockery can easily turn a person into a ‘shrinking violet’. But not so with Peter.He ‘’raised his voice’’. In the face of severe enemy fire, he blew the whistle, climbed out of the trench, and led the charge. (This is the difference the Holy Spirit can make in a person’s life. It was the same Peter who only recently, under great pressure, had denied His Lord. See Acts 1:8. Peter is living proof of this text);
  3. Answer with clarity: ‘’let me explain this to you’’ (14). Do your best to make yourself as clear as possible. If at all possible, polish the windows of your words until they sparkle and gleam;
  4. Realise you’re not alone: ‘’Then Peter stood up with the Eleven…’’ (14). Peter took the lead. He ‘’addressed the crowd’’; but he was aware that he was not out there exposed and alone. He was the ‘centre forward’; he was about to put the ball in the back of the net. But he never forgot that he was part of a team. He must have felt their solidarity with him; felt them pulling for him;
  5. Be immersed in the Bible (16-21). Peter knew his Old Testament Scriptures really well, and inspired by the Spirit, he was able to draw out the right words for the context. Part of being able to communicate clearly involves getting to know the Bible as well as possible, and thinking through how to put its message across.

When all is said and done though, we know that the ‘seed’ will fall into different kinds of soil. So ‘’listen carefully’’ (14) is an important message. A failure to respond does not necessarily come from a failure on the part of the messenger. It may just be that the good seed has fallen into poor soil.

PRAYER: Help me Lord to always be ready to answer the questions others ask about my faith in you.


Daily Bible thoughts 1311: Monday 26th December 2016: Acts 2:1-13: The great need of the church.

Acts 2:1-13: The great need of the church.

As much as I don’t like to admit it, Christmas is all but over for another year. We seem to spend weeks, if not months, preparing for it, then it’s all over in a big bang. As we now prepare for new year, today’s reading reminds us of what is always the great need of the church: to be perpetually renewed in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Speaking on this passage, David Pawson made the point that when a house is on fire you have no publicity problems. People come to see for themselves what is going on. It’s the same when the church is ‘on fire’.

David Watson observed that Pentecost began not with preaching, but with praise (11).He added that a praising church preaches to answer questions raised by its praise (12, 13). Of course, there will always be people who just don’t ‘get it’ when the Holy Spirit is powerfully at work; and there will be others who poke fun. Sadly, some of them will be ‘insiders’.

Both David’s were correct in what they said. Their points are complementary. Something happened to the church at Pentecost, but it affected the world, and, as we will see, large numbers were converted.

That Christmas tree, looking so dull and unimpressive in the corner of the room, suddenly burst into life once it is illuminated. It looks like a different tree. It is so attractive; you can’t take your eyes off it. It can be that way with the church.

Revive us, Lord, again.

PRAYER: ‘’Revive thy work O Lord, create soul thirst for thee. And hung’ring for the Bread of life, O may our spirits be.

Daily Bible thoughts 1310: Friday 23rd December 2016: Acts 1:23-26: The heart of the matter.

Acts 1:23-26: The heart of the matter. (Please click for today’s passage)

I’m grateful to a friend for pointing out a further thought about the church’s prayer for a leader to replace Judas. It relates to the words:

‘’Lord, you know everyone’s heart’’ (24).

The point, so rightly made by my friend, is that leadership is fundamentally a matter of the heart. You can look shiny and impressive on the outside; you can appear all gifted and talented; you can wear a lovely polished sheen. But what have you really got ‘under the bonnet’? It’s an important question.

‘’But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘’Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’’ ‘’ (1 Samuel 16:7). Put simply, David would not have become king based merely on image. Others of his brothers would have appeared in ‘Hello’ magazine. But David was a man ‘’after God’s own heart’’, and God could see beyond the surface of things.

The heart of a leader is so important: ‘’What you say flows from what is in your heart’’ (Luke 6:45, New Living Translation).

‘’For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him’’ (2 Chronicles 16:9).

How’s your heart? Christianity is above all else a matter of the heart. As we make final preparations for Christmas day 2016, I ask the question, ‘Has Jesus been born in your heart?’ Is there ‘room’ for Him there? Does God fully have your heart?

PRAYER: ‘’O Holy Child Of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray. Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.

Daily Bible thoughts 1309: Thursday 22nd December 2016: Acts 1:15-26: Spiritual leadership.

Acts 1:15-26: Spiritual leadership.  (click here for todays passage)                                                                                                     In this short section at the end of Acts 1, there is an insight, reflected in the example of Peter, as to how spiritual leadership works.

  1. Spiritual leadership is immersed in Scripture (16, 17, 20-22). It knows that whatever is in the Bible is ‘’necessary’’ (21). Spiritual leadership is willing to learn anything which is true from all kinds of leaders, but its primary textbook is the Bible.
  2. Spiritual leadership stands up (15). It steps up. It doesn’t hide. It shows courage when courage is needed. Leaders stand up among the group, even though this makes them visible, and highly ‘hittable’ targets. You risk getting shot, but you stand up anyway. You sign up for flak, and shrapnel wounds when you embrace the call to be a leader.
  3. Spiritual leadership leads to prayer. It is not ashamed to admit that it ‘’lacks wisdom’’ (see James 1). It is convinced that God will give generously to all who ask in faith. Prayer isn’t always saying ‘’give us’’. Sometimes (in fact often) we have to say, ‘’Show us’’ (24).

PRAYER: Lord, where my path is dark, please shine your light on my way.

Daily Bible thoughts 1308: Wednesday 21st December 2016: Acts 1:12-14: Known to God.

 Acts 1:12-14: Known to God.(please click for todays passage)                                                                                                        God knows the names of those who pray! To my mind, this looks like a kind of roll of honour (13, 14). It is true that not everyone attending this (rather lengthy) ‘prayer meeting’ is named. There were, after all, ‘’about a hundred and twenty’’ of them (15) That would make it a very long list. What is obvious is that God knew the names of all the people in that upstairs room, even if only a few are named. Because prayer meetings in general are not all that popular (sad to say it) those who do faithfully show up can feel like an insignificant minority. But the other morning, this truth leaped out of the page of the book of ‘Acts’, and pounced on me like a lively Labrador pup. I can feel its paws on me even now: God knows the names of those who pray.

Those who pray are used by God to change history. Pentecost was a history changing moment. Between the ascension of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit, there stands (or should that be ‘kneels’?) a united, committed, praying people. Walter Wink wrote that ‘’History belongs to the intercessors.’’ I listened to a talk given by an American pastor, Ben Patterson, in which he said there is not enough teaching in the church that prayer gets things done. We’re a very busy, activist church in the West. We want to be getting on with stuff; making things happen. Well, prayer is where the action is. Someone said, ‘’We can do more than pray after we have prayed. But we cannot do more than pray until we have prayed.’’ I’m not against activity, but I feel averse towards prayerless activity; towards work that has been substituted for prayer. Prayer is work. The kind of prayer reflected in (14) is work of the hardest kind.  People of faith pray the promises of God into experience. Jesus had promised the coming of the Holy Spirit (4, 5 and 8). Between the promise of the Spirit and the reception of the Spirit there lay the believing prayers of the Christian community. The promises of God do not make prayer obsolete. Rather, they act as fuel for prayer’s fire.                                                                                                                                                       I had another thought. I have a list of names written down. Here are people/needs I will bring to God most days of the week. Sometimes it looks to me like just a list of names. But passages like today’s remind me that lists are of value to God. There are plenty of lists in the Bible.

Just one final thing…for today…Jesus knows the pain of having unbelieving family (see John 7:4,5). But things changed (Look again at 14b). His unbelieving brothers came to faith. So let this encourage you; don’t give up hope; and keep on praying.

Daily Bible thoughts 1307: Tuesday 20th December 2016: Acts 1:9-12: Cloudy days.

Acts 1:9-12: Cloudy days.(click here for todays passage)

I know this story is about the ascension of Jesus into heaven, and the reference to the ‘’cloud’’ is full of rich theological significance and Old Testament resonance. But the simple thought crossed my mind recently that there can be ‘clouds’ that drift across our skies, obscuring our view of Jesus. We know that we’re supposed to ‘’fix’’ our ‘’thoughts’’ and ‘’eyes’’ on Jesus (Hebrews 3:1; 12:2), but clouds, as the song goes, get in our way.            It may be a cloud of doubt – you just can’t shake it;                                                                                            It may be a cloud of fear;                                                                                                                               It may be a cloud of disappointment; of anger; of jealousy; of bitterness…and so on. Like in our every day sky-scape, these ‘clouds’ come in different shapes and sizes.                   Cloudy days vary too. There are grey days where the very sky seems to feel ‘down’; it’s almost touching the earth. Everything appears dark and gloomy and bleak.

But yesterday morning I looked out at a huge sky, filled with clouds. However, the sun was shining through the gaps and the cracks in those fluffy masses. The clouds were illuminated – especially around the edges. They looked beautiful.                                                 I have known cloudy moments where everything was just grey and I could see no light at all. No doubt you have too. But I’m grateful to say that I have often been given eyes to see cloudy skies floodlit by the ‘’sun of righteousness’’ (Malachi 4:2). I’ve had glimpses of the Divine Artist producing masterpieces out of such raw material. There can be a beauty about the clouds He blows into our lives. He sets His bow in them.

When you lose the sight and sense of Jesus it’s best not to stand staring into the sky. Don’t be paralysed by the experience. Of course it is always important to look up; to be prayerful. But don’t become a reclusive mystic, hiding away from the world in your closet. The best thing you can do is to get on with the work the Lord Jesus has given you to do. Return to Jerusalem! (12). There are important things to do there. As you carry out your duties, eventually the clouds will blow away. But even if they don’t, you are being obedient to your Master, and that is of paramount importance.

I read an article, written by a pastor, who said that in a time of crisis in his church, he found it helpful to go about his routine pastoral responsibilities. That resonated with me. I remember a period in my life when I felt so hard-pressed; so exhausted, I could barely put one foot in front of the other. But it really helped to have to – to have to go and lead that meeting etc.

If today seems a bit cloudy, just get on with what you know you ought to be doing. I think you may find that there will soon be a change in the weather.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for the beautiful things you do on cloudy days. Please give me eyes to see; faith to believe.

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