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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


May 2017

Daily Bible thoughts 1414: Thursday 18th May 2017: Acts 18:23-28: The influence of mentors.

Acts 18:23-28: The influence of mentors.

“23 After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and travelled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples. 24 Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervour and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.  27 When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28 For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.” NIV UK

Rob Parsons told a story about a man he knew when he was growing up. This man was part of the same church as Rob. As I recall, he wasn’t someone in the ‘spotlight’; was not a preacher. Yet every week he had Rob round to his house; they played table tennis, ate fish and chips out of newspaper, and he taught Rob the Bible as best he could. In later years, Rob could say to him, ‘Today. I am speaking regularly in large venues, and in the main, it’s down to you!’

This also triggers a memory of a couple I knew at ‘Bridge Street’ church in Leeds. They had no children of their own. John did not have a high profile role in the church. Yet week by week they invited a group of young men back to their small flat, overlooking the Leeds ring road. Hilda plied them with food, and John led them in Bible Study. Both of them showered these boys with loving-kindness. I feel moved as I remember them this morning and think about the Kingdom work they did in their home. God used them to produce a crop of leaders and preachers. They were highly influential, and what a reward must be their’s in heaven. John and Hilda Topham: you were not well-known on earth, but you left behind an enviable legacy, and I, for one,honour your memory!

Memories of Rob’s story, and the mentoring ministry of John and Hilda, surfaced this morning as I read about what Apollos went on to do after Priscilla and Aquila got their hands on him (27, 28). When they saw the giftedness of Apollos, but realised he was not yet the finished article, they didn’t criticise him publicly, or talk about him behind his back. They took him home and helped him there (24-26). Because of their private influence he went on to become a public force.

Many years ago I wrote a magazine article. I was young and a bit naïve at the time. I wanted to be creative, but it wasn’t my finest hour with the pen!!! I realise now that I wrote unwisely (although the editor of the then ‘Elim Evangel’ published it.) A lady from the church where I was a pastor – a godly woman for whom I had the utmost respect – seeing this piece, thought to herself initially, ‘We have a modernist in our pulpit.’ Yet she didn’t really believe it. So she decided, after much prayer I’m sure, to invite her young pastor for breakfast. She gave him one of the very best breakfasts he can remember, and talked to him kindly about her concerns. That lady had style! That’s the way to do it. She acted in the spirit of Priscilla and Aquila to help someone who was in danger of becoming skewed – all with the best of intentions. However, he probably did need a slight nudge to realign his course; a minor re-adjustment. That dear lady delivered it with deftness of touch

How might you use your home, and who can you serve?

Daily Bible thoughts 1413: Wednesday 17th May 2017: Acts 18: 19-22: If it is God’s will.

Acts 18: 19-22: If it is God’s will.

“19 They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. 21 But as he left, he promised, ‘I will come back if it is God’s will.’ Then he set sail from Ephesus. 22 When he landed at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch.” NIV UK

I heard someone say recently, on a TV documentary type programme, that if an opportunity comes your way, then ‘carpe diem’ – ‘seize the day’. I admit there does seem to be a logic and a certain homespun wisdom about that remark. However, today’s passage raises questions about it.

A few years ago, a major opportunity came my way. At least, that’s how it appeared. Whereas I had resisted all invitations to move from what I was doing up to that point, this one felt different. I had a sense that it might be the will of God, and there seemed to be important pointers in that direction. However, after weeks of prayer (and fasting) I recognised that this was not for me. Subsequent events in my life tended to confirm this.

‘’I will come back if it is God’s will’’ (21).

A big opportunity is not necessarily your opportunity. So seek to always know and do the will of God.

Daily Bible thoughts 1412: Tuesday 16th May 2017: Acts 18:19a: Bless this house.

Acts 18:19a: Bless this house.

“19 They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.” NIV UK

This is a short reading, I know, and it may appear to contain a tiny detail. However, if you look at 1 Corinthians 16:19, you will discover that not only did Priscilla and Aquila stay in Ephesus, but also the church met in their home. Maybe they were successful in business and had a home large enough for a group to gather in. As we consider the importance of church planting in our day – and it is a bit of a hot topic at the moment – let’s not too easily dismiss the possibility of using our homes. What made the early Christians successful was not where they met, but Who was animating them; Who lived within and among them and was driving them forward in strategic mission. Later on, this couple returned to Rome (Romans 16:3-5), and just like in Ephesus, the church met in their house.

‘’Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work…A cord of three strands is not quickly broken’’ Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

God ordained the marriage between a man and a woman. He blessed it. It is good. Where two live together in a Christ-centred marriage, there you have a ‘’cord of three strands’’ and it will not be ‘’quickly broken.’’ Priscilla and Aquila were a team, and what they had was devoted to the Lord and His service. The fact that the church met in their home (and possibly every day if the early pattern continued: Acts 2:46) tells you plenty about their level of commitment.

PRAYER: Thank you Lord for a roof over my head. I recognise that many people in the world don’t have decent shelter, and I’m so grateful for my blessings. Help me not to just use it, though, for my own comfort and pleasure. It isn’t mine; it is yours. So please show me how I can devote this lovely home to your service

Daily Bible thoughts 1411: Monday 15th May 2017: Acts 18:18: The real deal.

 Acts 18:18: The real deal.

“18 Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sisters and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchreae because of a vow he had taken.”NIV UK

A Christian girl and boy were on a first date. They talked much and listened much. There was so much to say. At some point, over the meal, he must have made a self-deprecating remark. She shot back, ‘But you’re for real.’ He says he treasures that simple statement even today. He remembers the moment and it goes on blessing him. He knew she wasn’t saying, ‘You’re perfect.’ Yet she sensed something genuine about him, and it meant a lot.

How serious are you about your Christianity? Are you for real? Or do you hang up your faith with your clothes after Sunday morning church? Reading about Paul’s ‘’vow’’ brought me to the thought that Paul was a man with a serious commitment to God. This vow may have been to thank God for His goodness to Paul during his long stay in Corinth. It probably involved growing his hair for the duration of the vow period. Then at the end of that time, his hair would be cut off and offered to God (see Numbers 6). This may seem strange to us, but don’t miss the core detail. God was real to Paul and his commitment to Him was a serious matter. He was authentic.

Does anyone reading these words need to stop playing games?

Get real!

Daily Bible thoughts 1410: Friday 12th May 2017: Acts 18:9-18a: Assured and protected.

Acts 18:9-18a: Assured and protected.

“9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.’ 11 So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.  12 While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews of Corinth made a united attack on Paul and brought him to the place of judgment. 13 ‘This man,’ they charged, ‘is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.’  14 Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to them, ‘If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanour or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. 15 But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law – settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.’ 16 So he drove them off. 17 Then the crowd there turned on Sosthenes the synagogue leader and beat him in front of the proconsul; and Gallio showed no concern whatever.      18 Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sisters and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchreae because of a vow he had taken.” NIV UK

God has His ways of preparing His people for things that lie ahead. He has the means to comfort and reassure them amidst difficulty. Some may think that what what happens in (12-17) is a contradiction of the promise made in (9,10). Not so. The Lord said to Paul ‘’no one is going to attack and harm you’’ (10). It’s important to take into consideration the ‘’and harm you.’’ Paul was attacked (12), but he was not harmed. Gallio was God’s instrument to protect Paul at this time. He wanted nothing to do with the case (15, 16). However, don’t fail to note the irony that Gallio was evidently a heartless sort (17b). How callous some people can be. Yet, in God’s Hands, this man was Paul’s friend.

‘…because of this major decision of Gallio, the Christians were able for the next twelve years to legally preach and spread the Gospel of Christ all over the Roman Empire. At the end of that time, however, a new emperor, Nero, outlawed the Christian religion and began to cruelly persecute believers throughout the Empire.’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied New Testament Commentary’, p.490.

No doubt the longevity of Paul’s ministry in Corinth (18a) was linked to the promise of God (9, 10, 11). I can believe that the thought that the Lord had ‘’many people’’ (10) in Corinth was more precious to Paul even than the promise of protection. Learn to stand on God’s Word, and it (more importantly, He) will strengthen you to endure.

PRAYER: Thank you Lord that whatever people may say or do, I am in your hands. I am safe within your sovereignty. Help me please to feel my safety. I too need your tender reassurance.

Daily Bible thoughts 1409: Thursday 11th May 2017: Acts 18:7-8: The cloud lifts.

Acts 18:7-8: The cloud lifts.

“7 Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshipper of God. Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptised.”

God brings good out of bad. He rules and He overrules: ‘’And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose’’ (Romans 8:28).How did Paul ‘’know’’ that? Well, surely experience was one of his best teachers? Here, in Corinth, it was not pleasant that ‘’the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive’’ (6), but God had a higher purpose. He turned it all for good.

When things didn’t work out in the synagogue, Paul ‘’went next door’’ where a gospel harvest took place (7,8). Although this did not signal a massive change of direction, it was a new departure. Apparent failure became the springboard to great success.

Don’t fear to follow ‘’the cloud’’ – and don’t fail to follow it – whenever it lifts (Exodus 40:36-38). When the Lord shows it’s time to move, maybe by force of circumstances, don’t hesitate to follow Him. Good things are to be had ‘’next door.’’

PRAYER: Lord, your guidance is such a real thing. Help me to stay in touch with your plans for my life

Daily Bible thoughts 1408: Wednesday 10th May 2017: Acts 18:5-6: Who’s responsible?

Acts 18:4-6: Who’s responsible?

“3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.’” NIV UK

This short passage shows that Paul varied his method of working, and was quite willing to be ‘bi-vocational’ where necessary, working with his own hands to supply his needs (see also 1 Thessalonians 1:9).  Paul’s words here, and his dramatic actions (see Matthew 10:14, 15) show that he felt a clear responsibility to preach the gospel to the Jews – which he did, with energy (4,5). However, once they demonstrated that they did not want this gospel, Paul accepted the responsibility was on their own heads. He felt free to move on to other fields.                                                                                                                                        ‘As long as there are millions destitute of the Word of God and knowledge of Jesus Christ, it will be impossible for me to devote time and energy to those who have both.’ J.L. Ewen. I believe the apostle Paul would agree with that sentiment.

The church has a definite responsibility to tell the world about Jesus;

The world has a clear responsibility to repent and believe in response.

Let’s not confuse those responsibilities. We have a duty (and privilege) to go and tell. Beyond that, we can’t make anyone believe.

However, it is a terrible thing; a grave thing to reject Jesus. Let no-one be in doubt about this. Today’s reading gives us no cause to think otherwise.

Daily Bible thoughts 1407: Tuesday 9th May 2017: Acts 18:1-3: Nothing wasted.

Acts 18:1-3: Nothing wasted.

18″After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them.” NIV UK

If it’s God’s time for you to leave one place for another, then it will be a ‘good’ bye and not a ‘bad’ bye, however it may seem at the time.

There are no accidents, mistakes or coincidences with God. Nothing goes unnoticed. He is sovereign. When Aquila and Priscilla had to leave Italy because of what Caesar was doing, it may have seemed a bad thing. Being uprooted and having to leave a place because of someone else’s evil is a terrible thing to bare. Yet this brought the couple to a place where they would meet Paul, and it was the start of a fruitful companionship in the gospel. Think what this must have meant for Paul after his time alone in Athens. Once again he had companionship; he had colleagues. For Aquila and Priscilla, if they weren’t Christians before this point, maybe this was the time when they got converted.

On any given day, the Lord of history may bring about life-changing meetings.

PRAYER: Lord, I’m in your Hands. Cause all my movements to be in your will, for your purposes, to your glory.


Daily Bible thoughts 1406: Monday 8th May 2017: Acts 17:29-34 Don’t despise the day of small things.

Acts 17:29-34, Don’t despise the day of small things.

“29 ‘Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone – an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.’ 32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, ‘We want to hear you again on this subject.’ 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.” NIV UK

Elsewhere in Acts you can read about huge numerical responses to the preaching about Jesus. Here a ‘’few’’ believed (34). However, Luke describes what happened in a matter of fact way. He doesn’t write in disparaging terms. He doesn’t despise the day of small things. He doesn’t say it was ‘only’ a few. No, there were converts. That is always a cause for celebration, whether the haul is miraculous or sparse. Can you not see the significance of a man like ‘Dionysius’ coming to faith? He was ‘a member of the Areopagus’. Wouldn’t you like to know more about his story, and the influence he wielded going forward? What trials must he have faced? What sort of pressures came upon him? Let’s be encouraged to keep sowing the seed. Some will fall on good soil and bear fruit. Believe it.

The message Paul preached had a contemporary relevance. As we have seen, Paul built a bridge between his mind and the minds of his listeners. He spoke in a way they could relate to, but he did not fail to say some unpopular things (and they are unpopular still):

  • God is the Creator;

  • We are accountable to our Creator;

  • We are guilty of idolatry and we will be judged;

  • Jesus is alive and is the ‘’proof’’ (31) that we will face judgment;

  • We must repent.

I keep saying ‘we’ because this sermon is just as applicable in modern Britain which also is ‘’full of idols’’ (16b). We need this clarion call to turn back to the true and living God (1 Thessalonians 1:9).

Preach this message, and there will be a mixed response here also (32-34)

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