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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


January 2017

Daily Bible thoughts 1337: Tuesday 31st January 2017: Acts 5:29-32: The glorious gospel.

The glorious gospel. Acts 5:29-32

29 Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead – whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Saviour that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.’ NIV UK

Some years ago a friend spoke to me about a time when the ‘shine’ had gone off his salvation. I felt I understood what he was saying. The initial glow can wane. The bubbles can go flat. We can become so familiar with the gospel that the ‘good news’ doesn’t feel quite as ‘good’ as it once did. May God forgive us if we ever get so over-familiar with His truth that it doesn’t excite us anymore.

Let me invite you today to pause; to stand back and meditate on the basic facts of the gospel message as presented here with such economy of words. Is it not glorious in its simplicity, and yet unfathomable in its depths? Look at them; listen to them, until your heart burns.

Do you feel the compulsion to spread the news in the way the apostles did? (29). Such a sense of necessity comes from a combination of God’s known commands on the outside, and the conviction imparted by the Holy Spirit on the inside (32; see 1 John 5:7/John 15:26, 27). We have no plausible rational explanation for the boldness of the first preachers apart from the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. These missionaries were ‘missiles’ launched into the world, with Holy Spirit thrust propelling them onwards and outwards. They had great power behind them.

As someone said, ‘The Holy Ghost gives you a Holy go.’

PRAYER: Lord, soften my hard heart; melt my cold heart. May I be set on fire by your truth.

Daily Bible thoughts 1336: Monday 30th January 2017: Acts 5:27-29: Bravery under fire.

 Bravery under fire. Acts 5:27-29:

27 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 ‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,’ he said. ‘Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.’ 29 Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than human beings! NIV UK.

The boldness of the apostles is brought to light here. They were given clear and ‘’strict orders’’ not to teach about Jesus (28). But conscious of higher orders, they moved in the opposite direction – and how! They ‘’filled’’ Jerusalem with their teaching. Rather than capitulating and becoming like mice, they went for it big time. They even seem to have taken things up a gear or two. What choice did they have though,when the Holy Spirit was so obviously in control; when he was not just ‘resident’, but also ‘president’? Somebody observed that if the Holy Spirit had been removed from the first Christian church, 95% of what they were doing would have stopped, immediately. But if the Holy Spirit were to be removed from today’s church, 95% of what we are doing would continue.I’m not too sure about those percentage figures, but I get the point, and broadly agree with it.

Clearly, the leaders also realised that they were being held accountable for the crucifixion of Jesus. This is a point we have heard in earlier sermons, and it shows that the apostles were made brave by the Spirit, because it took great courage to say these things to men who would not hesitate to squash them like insects if they chose. The apostles give this unpopular message again in today’s passage (30) even as an ominous, threatening cloud hovers over their heads. What motivated them? It was their commitment to seek first God’s Kingdom (29). Their primary loyalty lay unquestionably with the Lord, and the Holy Spirit poured into their lives as much courage as they needed to live that out in a hostile world.

If you ever have to choose between God and men, remember that the same Holy Spirit who filled these early preachers, also resides in you, and he can change you ‘’into a different person’’ (1 Samuel 10:6).

 PRAYER: Lord God, I am not naturally brave, but I never want to be disloyal to you. I don’t want to let you down under pressure from this secular society. Please will you so fill me with your Holy Spirit that I am willing, where necessary, to stand in the firing line.

Daily Bible thoughts 1335: Friday 27th January 2017: Acts 5:6: Keeping up appearances.

 Keeping up appearances. Acts 5:26:

‘ At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.’ NIV UK
‘’The chief and his police went and got them, but they handled them gently, fearful that the people would riot and turn on them’’ The Message.
 ‘’The police captain went with his officers and arrested them (without violence, for they were afraid the people would kill them if they roughed up the disciples)…’’ Living Bible.

The people who arrested the apostles were not true to themselves. They were in disguise. They did not dare display their true colours because they had an eye to the opinion polls. The text implies that they would have used force if necessary. They wouldn’t have minded bashing up the preachers. But they wore kid gloves for the sake of appearances.

Now this is an insight into the high degree of favour the church was enjoying among the general populace at the time. But it also makes me think about the temptation we all face to live hypocritically (and maybe we frequently do?) Because we are too concerned about what people think, we don’t live consistently out of our deepest convictions. For whatever the reason, we don’t want to be known for who we really are. We hide behind the bushes of appearance. Integrity is to be integrated – within and without. What’s on the inside is visible on the outside. The real heart overflows and is not held back.

PRAYER: Lord God, may I not live a lie, but always be full of integrity.

Daily Bible thoughts 1334: Thursday 26th January 2017: Acts 5:21b-25: How did he do that?

How did he do that? Acts 5:21b-25

21 At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people. When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin – the full assembly of the elders of Israel – and sent to the jail for the apostles. 22 But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, 23 ‘We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.’ 24 On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to. 25 Then someone came and said, ‘Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.’ NIV.UK.

I knew a man who was fascinated by magicians. When he saw a trick performed on television, he would often turn to others in the same room and ask, with a look of sheer baffled amazement, ‘How did he do that?’ There are times when things happen that shouldn’t happen, and if the cause were to be investigated, honesty would compel a person to say that God is the best explanation. This occurrence in our reading today was no magic trick or conjuring act. It was a miracle.

The apostles had been put in prison. The doors were securely locked. There were guards outside. They shouldn’t have been able to escape, but they did. In fact, it wasn’t a conventional escape. They didn’t dig a tunnel. They had no plans to go over the wall. An angel was sent to spring them out of jail and they were commanded to be elsewhere (19, 20). I’m not saying they didn’t want to be free, but it seems they had no choice. They were brought out and given orders.

God regularly shows the powerful that they are not so strong as they thought, and demonstrates to the weak that they are mighty in Him.

If you are facing locked doors, and soldiers standing guard; if you’re up against a situation which seems impregnable, remember that ‘God specialises in things thought impossible. He can do just what no other can do.’

PRAYER: Lord God, I feel trapped in this ‘cell’. I confess that I see no way out – not naturally speaking. But your Word encourages me to believe that you can make a way where there is no way. So I wait for you in faith and hope.

Daily Bible thoughts 1333: Wednesday 25th January 2017: Acts 5:17-21: The last word.

The last word, Acts 5:17-21: 

17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 ‘Go, stand in the temple courts,’ he said, ‘and tell the people all about this new life.’ 21 At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people. When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin – the full assembly of the elders of Israel – and sent to the jail for the apostles.

They can lock up preachers; but they can’t lock up God’s Word and they can’t lock up God!  We need to remember who is in charge ultimately. There may be a growing anti-Christian sentiment in our country, and in the west generally, but however violent or aggressive people may become, God has the final say. There is no jail He can’t bust His people out of if He wants to. But whatever happens to the preachers, the Word will get out. It is unstoppable because God is.Essentially the apostles had been told (by man) not to enter the temple courts and teach; but they were following higher orders (21). The last word is always with Almighty God.

There is a lot of hysteria and fear in the air at the moment, but I think we need to remember that not everything we read about politicians in the media is the unvarnished truth. I don’t want to believe lies about people (most of whom I will never meet) just because I heard it on the news. We are very far from having totally accurate and unbiased reporting. That said, even if certain leaders are as bad as they are made out to be, our responsibility remains to pray for those in high office (1 Timothy 2). I believe Franklin Graham was quite right to read this passage at the inauguration of President Donald Trump. One of the most important things American Christians can do for him and his officials is to pray for them. Many years ago, the missionary Frank Laubach wrote that every day we can enter the White House (apply this to your equivalent building(s) and influence the President by our prayers. He was so right.

‘’These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open’’ (Revelation 3:7).

 PRAYER: Lord God, you are seated immovably on the throne of the universe. Therefore I will not panic, but trust in you, and prove that in quietness and confidence will be my strength.



Daily Bible thoughts 1332: Tuesday 24th January 2017: Acts 5:12-16: Paradox.

Paradox: Acts 5:12-16

12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought those who were ill into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing those who were ill and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.

There are a number of paradoxes in Christian belief. What is a paradox?  ‘’At the most basic level, a paradox is a statement that is self contradictory because it often contains two statements that are both true, but in general, cannot both be true at the same time.’’ For our purposes, a paradox is an apparent contradiction. We find such a paradox at the heart of today’s passage (13, 14). People were staying away from this church where someone might die for living a lie (as we saw yesterday). At the same time, there was prolific growth. The church both repelled and magnetised at one and the same time. It was a paradoxical scenario.

There is something awesome about a revived church. The manifestation of God’s presence can be both fearful and glorious. Ronald Dunn wrote how when revival came to his home church, when he was a boy, he remembered standing on the steps, afraid to go in. There is such a thing as the ‘beauty of holiness’, but it can also be scary. It was said of C.T.Studd’s church in India, ‘That is not a church to go to unless a man means to be converted.’

I have heard it said that history does not repeat itself, but it often rhymes. Pentecost may be unrepeatable, but my prayer is that it’s rhythmic patterns will enter our lives and churches. We so need the renewing power of God’s Spirit.

Daily Bible thoughts 1331: Monday 23rd January 2017: Acts 5:1-11: The actors.

The actors: Acts 5:1-11:

5 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. 3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. 7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” “Yes,” she said, “that is the price.” 9 Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.” 10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events. (NIV)

It cannot be denied that this is a disturbing story, and there is an irony about the words of (11): ‘’Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.’’ You think, ‘Yes that would be pretty scary – to belong to a church like that, where your dark moral secrets could be exposed, and where it’s not unknown for people to be struck down dead for hypocrisy!’ You might think twice (or more) about joining (13).Someone described Annanias and Sapphira as ‘posers’. In a church where there was an outpouring of generosity; where there were people like Barnabas (4:36, 37) who gave sacrificially, these two posed as being in the same league. But it wasn’t true of them. They were hypocrites. The Greek word translated ‘hypocrite’ means an ‘actor’. For Ananias and Sapphira, this was a performance for the crowd. But it wasn’t who they really were. They were playing a part. They knew they were living a lie. More to the point, so did God.

Yesterday I saw a picture of Sherlock Holmes. I recognised him. Yet it wasn’t Sherlock. It was Benedict Cumberbatch who plays him so well in the BBC television series. It looked like Sherlock, but in fact it was Benedict! This is great acting.In the infant church there were these two people, a married couple, who looked like generous givers. But they weren’t anything like as good as the impression they gave. They were into ‘image management’ – but they got found out. If God put all hypocrites to death in the church, who of us would remain alive? Nevertheless, we should never rest easy with any form of hypocrisy. Sooner or later, truth will out. When we see you, do we see you? Or do we see an actor strutting for a brief hour on life’s stage?

Daily Bible thoughts 1330: Friday 20th January 2017: Acts 4:32-37: Hold lightly.

Hold lightly: Acts 4:32-37: 

’32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there was no needy person among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.  36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.’NIV

 ‘’No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own…’’ Someone said we should hold lightly to everything we own, because it hurts to have God prize our fingers away.

I also read this: ‘There is no truer test of a man’s spirituality than his attitude to his possessions.’ Furthermore I heard these words in a sermon: ‘If there’s anything you own you can’t give away, you don’t own it, it owns you.’ These are heart-searching words and I believe they are true. We all have stuff. Some have more; some have less. But we all have it. However, we don’t own it. A true Biblical perspective says, ‘This belongs to God. He allows me the use of it for a time, but I need to keep consulting Him to know how to best use His goods.’

Think for example about your home. Maybe you’re in the blessed position of having paid off the mortgage and you consider it to be finally yours. But it isn’t. In no time at all you will have no choice but to leave it behind. Somebody else will inherit it, or buy it. Someone else will live in it. (But only for a limited time. And so the process goes on ad infinitum). Go to an auction house or charity shop and you will see that precious possessions inevitably get passed on to others. ‘You can’t take it with you.’

When I read these closing words of Acts 4, I say to myself, ‘No wonder the apostles could testify to the resurrection of Christ ‘’with great power’’ (33). The church herself was evidence that Jesus is alive. The god ‘mammon’ had been dethroned; materialism no longer held sway. Some real power had driven the selfishness out of these hearts. So decide today that you’re not going to consider any of your possessions as your own. It is all God’s property and you are just an under-manager. That’s how you will think about things from now on, and you will be willing to share what you have with those who are needy. When such a spirit permeates an entire congregation it is not surprising if the world feels the impact.

PRAYER: Lord, this world system is in love with ‘things’. People want more and more. For some its because of the perceived status attached to a particular possession; for others it’s the simple pursuit of pleasure and happiness. But nothing truly satisfies, so the thirst, and the acquisition, goes on. Help me Lord to think and feel differently, and to be part of a counter-cultural movement, handling money and material things at your direction and for your honour.

Daily Bible thoughts 1329: Thursday 19th January 2017: Acts 4:23-31: A most unselfish prayer.

 A most unselfish prayer:Acts 4:23-31:        

 23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. ‘Sovereign Lord,’ they said, ‘you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:

‘“Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
against the Lord
    and against his anointed one.”

27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’  31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

Here was a prayer God was pleased to answer. They made a specific request (29) and received a specific answer (31b). When you pray, it is important to know Who you are speaking to: God is the controller of all things: ‘’Sovereign Lord’’ (24);

He is the creator of all things: ‘’…you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them’’ (24). Because He made them all, He can move them all according to His will;

He communicates (25, 26): What He communicated prophetically came to pass (27); what He spoke, He brought about (28). Here is solid evidence that He is control. Someone said, ‘He moves behind the scenes; and He is behind all the scenes that He moves.’ Naturally speaking, the crucifixion of Jesus was the worst atrocity in history; the most terrible travesty of justice ever perpetrated by mankind. Yet we see that God, in His sovereignty, was in total control: ‘They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.’ It couldn’t be clearer.

Knowing to Whom they were praying, the believers prayed a most unselfish prayer (29; see 18, 21). Essentially they said, ‘Give us the courage to play our part (29) and do what only you can do.’ They were under threat, but they wanted to be brave. They didn’t want to be intimidated into silence and secrecy. They also knew that God was there; that He was real. They wanted Him to show Himself for the glory of His Name; to confirm the gospel message they preached. Through the verses on this page of your Bible you see reflected the sunshine of Heaven’s smile on this prayer time.

Prayer: ‘To make our weak hearts strong and brave, send the fire…’



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