Search

Home thoughts from abroad.wordpress.com

Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Month

June 2017

Daily Bible thoughts 1427: Tuesday 6th June 2017: Acts 20:33-35: Paul, a giving leader.

 Acts 20:33-35: Paul, a giving leader.

33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

As a leader, your focus must continually be on giving. No-one said this would be easy, but it is necessary, and in truth it is a blessing.

Giving takes many forms. It is not just about money. It also entails the giving of time, the giving of help and support, the giving of yourself. There are so many ways to do it.

Now here’s a harsh reality of life: although we should treat others as we would desire to be treated ourselves, others do not always respond in kind. I think one of the toughest decisions for a leader (indeed for anyone) is to say, ‘Whatever you do; regardless of your response, I will try to do the right thing.’ You can’t control anyone else’s behaviour – only your own.

Jesus exemplified a lifestyle of giving. He also taught that ‘’It is more blessed to give than to receive.’’ This is a fact and experience shows it to be true.

Paul followed Jesus and was one of life’s givers.

My friend, Evelyn Hutchinson, who died recently, was also like this. She was not well known. She was a quiet, unassuming Christian woman. Through all the years I knew her she was deeply immersed in the needs and concerns of others. She quietly gave her heart away all the time. When, in the weeks before she died, she received lots of notes and cards containing lovely words, she was genuinely surprised. I wasn’t! That kind of humble, self-forgetful kindness is all too rare; but such people leave their mark. I doubt Evelyn ever thought about what was coming back. Her instinct was just to give, and many rose up and called her ‘Blessed.’

PRAYER: Help me Lord to take your words at face value, and live my life by them.

Daily Bible thoughts 1426: Monday 5th June 2017: Acts 20:28: Paul, the leader’s charge.

 Acts 20:28: Paul, the leader’s charge.

“28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God,which he bought with his own blood.NIV

What did Paul have to say to fellow-leaders in a local church? Verse 28, in a few words, gives a timeless statement for local church ‘’shepherds’’ in every generation. Essentially, Paul says this:

Watch over yourselves: The idea of ‘watching over’ pertains to shepherding. In order to be a good leader in the church the first person you have to be able to shepherd is you! The person you see looking back at you from the mirror may be the most difficult individual you will ever have to lead; but self-leadership is so important. In local church leadership you may not necessarily have someone looking over your shoulder all the time. So, do you get yourself out of bed in a timely fashion? Do you put in the hours when no-one (but God) is looking? Can you discipline yourself to do what you don’t temperamentally want to do? Will you keep going through hardship, discouragement, lack of obvious success? Do you have good habits of prayer and Bible Study etc? ‘’Watch your life and doctrine closely’’ (1 Timothy 4:16a).

Watch over the church: Sometimes, when Jilly and I are visiting our cottage in Coverdale, we find there are sheep in the field behind the garden. Each morning, the shepherd comes about the same time to feed them. You can almost sense the anticipation (and even restlessness) in the animals as it comes close to feeding time. When they hear the sound of his quad bike they move towards the opening where he will appear. He then spreads around copious amounts of food, and their heads are down, chewing, for a long time afterwards. Feeding the flock lies at the heart of pastoral work. There may well be other aspects to shepherding, but this is one I feel I must emphasise. It lies at the heart of what we’re called to do. If the sheep become thin and weak through our neglect of their ‘feeding time’ we have failed ‘’the flock’’ and ‘the Chief Shepherd’ (1 Peter 5:4). I will never forget Geoff Bennet, Bible teacher and one time deputy chairman of ‘Good News Broadcasting’, saying to me, ‘I believe many Christians go home from church hungry on a Sunday. I regularly still hear him saying these words, and they continue to prod me. I want to be like that shepherd up in Carlton – faithfully turning up, in all ‘weathers’, with a great big bag of food!

Watch over the church, says Paul,

  • Remembering who called you: ‘’the Holy Spirit has made you overseers’’ (28). Paul himself knew his accountability to the same Spirit who called him (22a). He was not his own. No church leader is;
  • Remembering whose church it is. It belongs to God – not you, or I. This thought should challenge us, but also encourage. We can feel overly burdened by the responsibility. Ultimately, it’s His church. Remember that. You don’t have to carry it as a weight, as if it were yours;
  • Remembering the price paid for your congregation. God Himself – in Jesus – shed ‘’his own blood’’ to purchase the church. (By the way, what a staggering statement about the divinity of Jesus this is);
  • Remembering that the church is always in danger (29-31). There are false shepherds carrying big bags of what may seem like even more tasty food, but it is laced with poison. How we need good shepherds.

 

PRAYER: Lord, bless our church leaders. Thank you for them and their willingness to serve. Help them to grow more and more like Jesus, the Good Shepherd

Daily Bible thoughts 1425: Friday 2nd June 2017: Acts 20: 22-24: Paul, a Spirit-led leader.

Acts 20: 22-24: Paul, a Spirit-led leader.

“22 ‘And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” NIV

Dr. Karl Bates made the observation that if the Holy Spirit had been removed from the first Christian church, ninety-five per cent of what they were doing would have ceased; but if they Holy Spirit were to be removed from today’s church, ninety-five per cent of what we are doing would continue.

I don’t know what you think about the above. I sadly believe there is probably much truth in it. However, what is clear is that:

  1. Paul knew the compulsion of the Spirit (22a). That compulsion gave him propulsion. It brought an urgency to his daily life;
  2. The Spirit-led life does not equate to what we might call ‘triumphalism’. It is not a guarantee of an easy life. The Spirit-filled people we meet in ‘Acts’ were regularly in trouble (yet so full of joy!);
  3. The apostle did not allow the prospect of storms at sea to prevent him from embarking on this voyage. He’d heard the weather forecast, but the Spirit impelled him to go. (See also 21:10-15). The prospect of heavy rain and stormy winds did not stop him.

Commit to following that ‘still small voice’ of God wherever He may lead, but don’t expect a pot-hole free road. The leading of the Spirit does not equate to a lack of suffering.

PRAYER: Lord, so fill the leaders in your church with your Spirit that we may walk in your paths. Please fill us all. May we settle for nothing less than the fullness of Spirit-filled living.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1424: Thursday 1st June 2017: Acts 20:22: Paul – the leader’s confidence.

 Acts 20:22: Paul – the leader’s confidence.

22 ‘And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.” NIV

The great Victorian preacher Charles Spurgeon reputedly said, ‘You no more need defend the Bible than you do a lion; just let it out of its cage.’

These words of Paul show his confidence in God and God’s Word. He was leaving the Ephesians, but God wasn’t and His Word wasn’t. He was sure that God’s Word would go on working on them and in them.

As a human leader in the church you can only be in a place for a time. In certain cases it may be for a long time, but it’s still going to be a limited time. At some point you will have to move on. So long as you know that you’re in the will of God, you can go happily, knowing that God will never leave or forsake His own. The good seed you have sown is what matters, and because it is alive, it is likely to continue to sprout and grow after you have left. No good work done for the Kingdom is ever lost.

In 1980, at the age of 23, I moved to Lancaster to be involved in starting up a new church in Lancaster, my home city. There followed close to three wonderful years of ministry. They were glorious but difficult years. There were quite a few ‘growing pains’ but the infant church showed some healthy signs of development. Unexpectedly, to me, in 1983, I heard the call of God to move to Leeds. I felt the church I was leaving behind was poised to grow. However, approximately six months after I left, I received a call to tell me that this young church was folding. It was heart-breaking. I felt like my baby had died. However, I received a letter from a young girl who had been a loyal member of the church while she studied at Lancaster University. She said that as she was reading the story of the feeding of the 5,000, she felt God spoke to her. She saw that we came together in one place for a time and Jesus blessed us (like the loaves and fishes) and then he ‘broke’ us and scattered us into other local churches where we could carry the blessing we’d received.

That insight helped me make sense of a puzzling situation, and made me realise that no genuine work for God is ever lost.

Incidentally, in recent years the ‘Elim’church in Lancaster has re-opened and is thriving! God’s ways are wonderfully unfathomable, and His Word is unstoppable.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: