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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Month

June 2017

Daily Bible thoughts 1436: Monday 19th June 2017: Acts 21:37-22:2: Paul the master-communicator.

Acts 21:37-22:2: Paul the master-communicator.

“37 As the soldiers were about to take Paul into the barracks, he asked the commander, ‘May I say something to you?’  ‘Do you speak Greek?’ he replied. 38 ‘Aren’t you the Egyptian who started a revolt and led four thousand terrorists out into the wilderness some time ago?’  39 Paul answered, ‘I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city. Please let me speak to the people.’  40 After receiving the commander’s permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the crowd. When they were all silent, he said to them in Aramaic: 22 ‘Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defence.’ When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet. Then Paul said:”

It’s good to learn from others. As a preacher, I want to glean as much as I can from other speakers. I need to be a life-long learner. Here I feel I am sitting at the feet of a master-communicator, and I learn at least four lessons from him:

  • Dispel myths (38, 39). People can easily believe all kinds of rubbish about Christians and the Christian faith. We need to try to sweep these silly ideas out of the way as much as we can – if it is possible. Even if you’ve tried to live an exemplary life, the devil, who is a ‘slanderer’, may succeed in throwing some mud at you that sticks. Your reputation may have become unjustly tarnished. So deal with those misconceptions if you can. It doesn’t guarantee you a successful hearing, but don’t let unnecessary clutter remain in the way, if you can do something about it. ‘…the mob lives on ‘’suppose’’ and not fact.’ Warren Wiersbe: ‘With the Word,’p.723
  • Show courtesy to all (37, 39b,40a). I hear nothing but respect in Paul’s tone as he addresses ‘’the commander.’’ In fact, it is thought that a secondary reason for the writing of ‘Acts’ may have been to show that there was nothing subversive or seditious about the Christian faith. Paul was a good citizen of the Roman Empire. (Incidentally, don’t you hear that same respect in his address to fellow-Jews in (22:1). Wiersbe points out that ‘…it takes tact to have contact’;
  • Be brave. Had I been Paul, I think I would have been quite happy to be whisked off into the safety of the barracks; but the apostle saw an opportunity to testify, and he seized it. May God fill us with such courage;
  • Know your audience (21:40-42). As we have observed before, it’s important to start where people are and to speak in terms they can understand. Paul clearly established a rapport. Building that bridge never guarantees you a favourable response, but it is so important to try to construct it.

Daily Bible thoughts 1345: Friday 16th June 2017: Acts 21:30-36: Danger man.

Acts 21:30-36: Danger man.

“30 The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut. 31 While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. 33 The commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Then he asked who he was and what he had done. 34 Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another, and since the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar, he ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. 35 When Paul reached the steps, the violence of the mob was so great he had to be carried by the soldiers. 36 The crowd that followed kept shouting, ‘Get rid of him!’ ” NIV UK

Paul found himself repeatedly ‘’in danger’’ (2 Corinthians 11:26)). This was one of those many occasions when his life was on the line. It didn’t prevent him daring greatly for the gospel however, as we shall see.

Stories like this should encourage us to be brave, and entrust our lives to God. He can rescue; He is able to protect. We may be surprised when we see where deliverance comes from.

It wasn’t yet time for Paul to die.

‘I am immortal until all God’s will for me is done.’

Daily Bible thoughts 1434: Thursday 15th June 2017: Acts 21: 27-30: ‘Fake news.’

Acts 21: 27-30: ‘Fake news.’

“27 When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 28 shouting, ‘Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.’ 29 (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.)  30 The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut.” NIV UK

I was thinking how prejudice tends to misrepresent people. Paul’s words and actions were portrayed in a negative light. Sometimes, the things a person says or does are maliciously used against them. Somebody puts a distorted spin on their words and deeds, because they don’t like them. Or they don’t like what they stand for. So, don’t rush to conclusions. Examine your motives. Be careful about what you say. A rumour is not like butter; as someone said,once you have spread it you can’t unspread it! Don’t repeat ‘fake news.’ A lie is never more palatable than when it is wrapped up inside a lot of truth. We are drawn to the truth and swallow the falsehood with it.

If you honestly examine your heart, you may find that you want to misrepresent them; that you want to ‘’kill’’ them; and there is more than one form of ‘killing’. You can kill a reputation just like that; and lies have influence. Read today’s passage and tell me they don’t.

PRAYER: Lord, I confess that at times I have thought wrong things about others. Please forgive me for lies I have believed, and spoken. Only you know the truth about each person, and I am no-one’s judge.

Daily Bible thoughts 1433: Wednesday 14th June 2017: Acts 21:20-26: Avoiding unnecessary offence.

Acts 21:20-26: Avoiding unnecessary offence.

“20 When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: ‘You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. 21 They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. 22 What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, 23 so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. 24 Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. 25 As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.’ 26 The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them.” NIV UK

When I read the story of ‘Willow Creek’ church in Chicago, I was struck by their commitment to dismantle every unnecessary barrier that could lie in the way of a person coming to faith. I believe there is a similar lesson here. On the face of it, this could look like compromise. However, I believe it’s about Paul not wanting to be a stumbling block to anyone. Where a point of cardinal doctrine is at stake it is our duty to be inflexible; but where it, isn’t there is room for manoeuvre. We must never compromise truth, but in our practice there may be concessions we can make that will help people move towards Christ.

‘’To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.’’ (1 Corinthians 9:20a)

Daily Bible thoughts 1432: Tuesday 13th June 2017: Acts 21:17-21: An instrument in the hands of God.

 Acts 21:17-21: An instrument in the hands of God.

“17 When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters received us warmly. 18 The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. 19 Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.  20 When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: ‘You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. 21 They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs.NIV UK”

If you should be (apparently) very successful in the work of God, never forget that you are just an instrument in the Hands of a Master-Musician. The beautiful notes produced by your life are the product of His breath. Even if your successes should seem small, never lose sight that these are God’s achievements in and through you.

‘’What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.’’ (1 Corinthians 3:5-7).

‘’For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience – by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God – so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ…’’ (Romans 15:18, 19).

Paul spoke about God ‘’had done among the Gentiles through his ministry’’ (19) and the result was that God was ‘’glorified’’ (20). This is what we are after in Christian service. At least, it ought to be.

‘…as it is written, ‘’Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’’ ‘ (1 Corinthians 1:31).

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1431: Monday 12th June 2017: Acts 21:7-16: Your will be done.

Acts 21:7-16: Your will be done.

“7 We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed with them for a day. Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied. 10 After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, ‘The Holy Spirit says, “In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.”’ 12 When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, ‘Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’ 14 When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, ‘The Lord’s will be done.’ 15 After this, we started on our way up to Jerusalem. 16 Some of the disciples from Caesarea accompanied us and brought us to the home of Mnason, where we were to stay. He was a man from Cyprus and one of the early disciples.” NIV UK

As you travel through life, there will be times when you want to see something happen, or, as here, you will face a scenario you really don’t want to happen. However, as the inevitable begins to dawn, it is good and right that we should kneel with Jesus in our lesser ‘gardens’, and say, ‘Not my will but yours…’ God is sovereign; He is good all the time, and, ‘we weep over blessings clothed as sorrows.’

Did Philip’s single girls ever have to say ‘’Let the will of the Lord be done’’ (14b) regarding their single state? I don’t know, of course. The Bible doesn’t tell us, so it’s not important to know. Still, I wonder all the same. I find verse 9 fascinating. There’s so much more I’d love to know about this dad and his girls and their home life. What had happened to their mum? Was she still around? She’s not mentioned.

What the passage clearly does show is the value of prophetic ministry, and the importance of being open to it, even while we acknowledge the need to be discerning.

‘Agabus joined the happy party, with prophecies of peril ahead, but these only served to bring out the courage of the apostle. His purpose was inflexible. An unseen hand was beckoning; a Voice which only he could hear was calling. He had no doubt as to God’s purpose and went straight forward, though he was not insensible to the love and sympathy of friends.’ F.B.Meyer: ‘Devotional Commentary’,p.497.

‘’Pursue love, and earnestly desire spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy’’ (1 Corinthians 14:1)

Daily Bible thoughts 1430: Friday 9th June 2017: Acts 21:1-6: Homing instinct.

Acts 21:1-6: Homing instinct.

‘After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Kos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara. We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail. After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo. We sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. When it was time to leave, we left and continued on our way. All of them, including wives and children, accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. After saying goodbye to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home.’NIV UK

‘’And having sought out the disciples, we stayed there for seven days’’ (4a)

‘’When they were released, they went to their friends…’’ (‘’own people’’) (Acts 4:23).

We are living through days, in the church, where Christians don’t seem to value (or prioritise) fellowship quite so much as in the past. Actions speak louder than words, and I feel the haphazard attendance patterns of many contemporary Christians are saying something. I heard recently that a leading Christian statistician has recommended that, in assessing church attendance, we should no longer do so in weekly, but in monthly terms. People are more likely to count regular church involvement as turning up every three or four weeks.

For Paul and his colleagues, fellowship with ‘’their own people’’ clearly mattered. Surely, where the church is under pressure, Christians highly prize opportunities to get together?

When you’re on holiday, or away on business etc, is it a priority for you to seek out some ‘’disciples’’ and worship with them? Do you look for the church in that locale – see what you can offer it, and what it can offer you? Or do you ‘play truant?

There is such mutual benefit in Christian fellowship. Each one has something to give, and something to receive. The disciples of Christ in Tyre spoke into Paul’s life. They may have slightly misunderstood what to do with the message, but there is no doubt that they were hearing from God.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, Builder of the church, help us to see your church through your eyes; to value the church as you do.

Daily Bible thoughts 1429: Thursday 8th June 2017: Acts 21:1-6: On the beach.

Acts 21:1-6: On the beach.

“After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Kos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara. We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail. After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo. We sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. When it was time to leave, we left and continued on our way. All of them, including wives and children, accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. After saying goodbye to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home.” NIV UK

Hard on the heels of one gut-wrenching farewell (‘’After we had torn ourselves away from them…’’ verse 1) we now witness another. Paul’s Christian family didn’t want him to go.

‘’Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem’’ (4b). Aha! Have those people who say that the Bible is full of contradictions got us here? For didn’t Paul say in the previous chapter that he was going to Jerusalem ‘’compelled by the Spirit’’ (22)? So which was it to be? Did the Holy Spirit want him there or didn’t he?

I think we are to understand (5) in the same context as (11). ‘’Through the Spirit’’ they sensed the danger lying ahead of Paul, and because they loved him they tried to stop him going. However Paul had already stated that he knew that great difficulties were ahead (20:23,24), but that wasn’t going to prevent him doing what he believed to be the will of God. For Paul, the sight of danger ahead was not enough to stop him in his tracks; but those who loved him deeply, saw the same reality and wanted to erect a roadblock. At the end of the day, Paul could not be stopped and his friends had to pray that God’s will be done. However, their will was to keep him safe. It’s an understandable reaction, but Paul was not into self-preservation for the sake of it. There was something more dear to him than staying alive, and that was to finish the work entrusted to him by the Lord.

PRAYER: Lord God, I have to say I marvel at Paul’s reckless abandon to your will. I pray that you will give me a spirit totally committed to seeking first.

Daily Bible thoughts 1428: Wednesday 7th June 2017: Acts 20:36-38: Paul, the praying leader.

 Acts 20:36-38: Paul, the praying leader.

“36 When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.”NIV UK

This is a touching scene, I’m sure you will agree (see also 21:5). Parting is ‘such sweet sorrow.’ Everyone who has had to say a major ‘good-bye’ will feel both the love and pain radiating from the page. They won’t just read it. However, I do believe that when a ‘good-bye’ is in the will of God, it is a good bye and not a bad one. It may not feel it at the time, but one day you will probably see it. At least, you may well live to see something of the good God brings out of it.

We’ve spent considerable time listening to Paul’s farewell speech to the Ephesians elders. Before moving on, here are three challenges for local church leaders:

  1. Leader, do your people know that you ‘kneel’? I don’t mean, ‘Are you a spiritual show off?’ ‘Are you ostentatious about your spirituality?’ My simple question is, ‘Do you walk with God?’ If you do, it will seep out in various ways. You won’t be able to hide it. It is vital that local church leaders should set a prayerful example;
  2. Leader, do you kneel ‘with’ your people? When they gather to pray, are you there with them as often as you can be? Speaking at the ‘Elim Leaders’ Summit’ in Harrogate, James Aladrian, who leads ‘Prayer Storm’ – a Manchester-based prayer ministry – said to the men and women gathered there, ‘You can’t out-source prayer; you can’t appoint someone to your team and pay them to do your praying for you.’ Indeed you can’t. Don’t even think about it pastor;
  3. Leader, do you love your people? And do they know that you love them?

 

PRAYER: Lord please will you pour out the Spirit of prayer upon your church, including the leaders! May they learn to love the secret place more than they do the spotlight. May they understand just how much can be achieved when hidden away from men, and down on their knees. Oh Lord, may they really get this – for the glory of your Name, and for the good of the church.

 

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