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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


July 2017

Daily Bible thoughts 1466: Monday 31st July 2017: Mark 1:35-39: Solitary places.

Mark 1:35-39: Solitary places.

35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: ‘Everyone is looking for you!’  38 Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so that I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’ 39 So he travelled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. ” NIV UK

How could Jesus preach so powerfully and effectively, and keep going? (It is evident that preaching was a priority for Him: verses 38, 39. How could He wield such power in the face of much sickness; exercise such authority in the teeth of immense evil? How could He hold so much influence in one-to-one discipleship? I believe the gospel writers want us to see the big place prayer played in the life of Jesus. There is an inevitable question arising from these accounts: if we are to do the works Jesus did (and even ‘’greater’’ works) how will we do so without imitating His ways? How can we expect to move in the Spirit’s power if we avoid the Spirit’s means?

‘Beware the barrenness of a busy life.’ A busy life doesn’t have to be barren, I know, but there is a kind of prayer-less busyness which is likely to bring a creeping aridity into the soul and turn it into a desert.

Some years ago I was given a biography to read. It told the wonderful story of William Duma, an African preacher/evangelist. He had a remarkable ministry, especially in the realm of healing, However, he also had what he called his ‘trysting place’ – a ‘lover’s retreat’, up in the hills, where he would go and spend regular time in prayer to God. He would often go for several days at a time. However, there came a point where his ministry dried up, and he had to face the fact that he had got so busy he had neglected the ‘trysting place.’ Only after repentance, and a return to his former habits was his ministry re-charged.

None of this is to suggest that we can earn God’s blessing by much prayer. God in His sovereign grace may choose to bless the ministries of people who are not all that prayerful. God has His reasons and He can do whatever He likes for His glory. I’m simply saying that from where I stand, I have to ask myself: ‘How can I expect to minister like Jesus, if I don’t choose to emulate His ways; to follow His habits?’ By God’s grace alone it is possible to rise to this challenge. Today, I am stirred and moved afresh as I feel again in my heart the deepest call of all – the call to pray. May God help me to answer it.

‘Little prayer, little power; some prayer, some power; much prayer, much power.’

PRAYER: Lord, I believe this. Help me to live like I do.


Daily Bible thoughts 1465: Friday 28th July 2017: Mark 1: 29-34: Tell Jesus.

Mark 1: 29-34: Tell Jesus.

“29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.  32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all who were ill and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.” NIV UK

Tell Jesus.                                                                                                                                           ‘’Simon’s mother – in – law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her’’ (30).  You can tell Jesus about the needs in your home and among your family. Of course you can tell Jesus about anyone and anything, but this passage encourages us to expect His activity at home.

There is no need to wait. Let there be no gap between becoming aware of a need and telling the Lord: ‘’…immediately they told Jesus…’’  Was there a response? Of course there was: ‘’So he went to her…’’ (31). Telling Jesus about the needy woman preceded His healing work in her life. The ‘prayer’ was answered.

The other day, I very much wanted to pray for a relative who is in great need, but I wasn’t at all sure how to. Then I realised, to my relief, that I could just ‘tell Jesus’ and it would be enough. He knows best what to do. He doesn’t need expert advice from me.  The inference in the remainder of the passage may be that the healing of one can lead to the blessing of many others. Don’t despise the day of small things. This would still be a wonderful story if Jesus had healed only Simon’s mother-in-law. However, it looks like a torrent of miracles were triggered.

PRAYER: Lord, I bring to you my concerns for…and thank you that I can simply tell you

Daily Bible thoughts 1464: Thursday 27th July 2017: Mark 1: 21-28: ‘Deliver us from evil.’

Mark 1: 21-28: ‘Deliver us from evil.’

“21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, 24 ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!’  25 ‘Be quiet!’ said Jesus sternly. ‘Come out of him!’ 26 The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.  27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, ‘What is this? A new teaching – and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.’ 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.” NIV UK

Note three things:

  1. The authority of Jesus: People noticed a radical difference between Jesus and their regular preachers. The speakers they were used to spoke ‘on’ authority, regularly quoting sources such as Moses or another rabbi. Jesus, however, spoke ‘with’ authority. He carried a marked personal authority: ‘Truly, truly, I say to you…’
  2. The authority of the preacher: No preacher today is the same as Jesus; but the more time we spend with Him, listening to Him, the more likely we are to speak the words we have heard from Him. The more surrendered we are to Jesus, the more likely it is that we will speak with an authority that comes from Him and glorifies Him. This is the anointing. It is not about shouting or pacing a platform. There is a quiet, compelling note of authority about those who walk with Jesus, and others take note that we have been with Him;
  3. The triumph over the devil: As someone said, it was like the evil spirits had an ‘inside track’ on what was to happen to them. The exorcism here was a pre-figuring of the total conquest over evil that was to take place at the cross.We still see much evil in the world – terrible, malignant evil. But it’s time is limited; its era will be short-lived. The cross says that the day is coming when all evil will be banished from the universe. In the mean time, we believers know we’re in a fight; but it’s a fight from victory – not for it. The decisive battle has already been won at Calvary.

Daily Bible thoughts 1463: Wednesday 26th July 2017: Mark 1:14-20: Seeing people.

Mark 1:14-20: Seeing people.

“14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’  16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.  19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.” NIV UK

‘God had one Son, and He made Him a preacher.’                                                                      ‘’After John was put in prison…’’ it could have been easier for Jesus to keep a low profile for a time, but Jesus moved in the Father’s timing. Someone said that what we know about Jesus would lead us to believe that He was always prayerful, waiting on God for direction. However God also speaks through circumstances, and it was no doubt obvious that if there was to be no lull in the Kingdom movement, Jesus should now take the baton from the hand of John. There should be a seamless continuity.                                              ‘’As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew…When he had gone a little farther, he saw James…’’ As we go about our daily business, doing what we have to do, do we ‘see’ people? I mean, really ‘see’ them? Do we see and understand where they are? Do we ‘get’ their circumstances; the lives they lead? Furthermore, do we see their potential – what they might become by God’s calling and enabling? Do we see their talents, skills and gifts and how these might be used for Kingdom purposes? Jesus still comes to people where they are, and He calls them. Sometimes He speaks to them directly; at other times He may use the likes of you and me. He regularly uses the lives and lips of His people to speak to others.What an adventure can begin when someone hears the Lord Jesus say, ‘’Come, follow me…and I will make you…’’ We surely hear echoes of the larger Bible story about God’s people in these incidents. Are we not taken back to Genesis 12 and the call of Abraham? ‘’Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.’’

 In that country and culture, a small family business could be handed on not only through generations but also through centuries. It must have cost these men to leave it all behind. The call of the Kingdom is not only into something, but it is also away from certain things. At its most basic level, there is the call to ‘’Repent’’ – to leave behind sin – to turn away from a self-centred way of life in order to trust Jesus. To enter into all the good of Kingdom life, we have to leave behind the bad of personal sin. We also may have to, repeatedly, through the course of our lives, turn from things which are not intrinsically wrong, but would impede us in the life of discipleship.

Just over a year ago, when Jilly and I were travelling, we noticed something about ourselves. We could start to feel quite attached to a lovely place and not want to leave. However, in the moving on, we found ourselves in other delightful settings we would not have missed by choice. If we hadn’t been willing to accept the pain of leaving behind, we would not have experienced those new joys. It made me realise that the Christian life is a journey in which we have to leave behind and move on time and again; and there can be no embracing the new without forsaking the old

Thought: What ‘nets’ do I need to leave behind today?

PRAYER: Lord, I want to be ready to follow you fully – wherever the path may take me. Help me Lord Jesus, please. My life is yours. Do with me as you will.

Daily Bible thoughts 1462: Tuesday 25th July 2017: Mark 1:9-13: Anointed for battle.

Mark 1:9-13: Anointed for battle.

“9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’  12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted  by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.” NIV UK

If Jesus needed to have the Spirit come upon Him to enable Him to fulfill His ministry, How much more do we need the Holy Spirit’s anointing? One of the things the Spirit of God does for us is to assure us that we are dearly loved and accepted children of the Father (11; see also Romans 8:14-17). That sense of security ‘at home’ is vital for those who have to head for the front lines.

The equipping the Spirit brings is for battle (12, 13). We are not called to an easy life, and we must not expect one. We have to serve in a hostile, unpromising environment. What can we hope to achieve in a ‘’desert’’? Well, the wilderness was the arena of one of Jesus’ greatest triumphs. Luke, like Mark, is explicit in saying that the Spirit was the reason Jesus was in that place of conflict (Luke 4:1), and he adds that the other side of the fight, ‘’Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit…’’ (Luke 4:14).

F.B. Meyer makes the excellent point that we live between ‘’the wild animals’’ and the ‘’angels,’’ and we need to ensure that the higher nature defeats the lower one again and again. The truth is you can tame the wild beast within if the Spirit is upon you.

PRAYER: Lord, we give you thanks that we do not fight this battle alone.

Daily Bible thoughts 1461: Monday 24th July 2017: Mark 1:1-8: It’s never about me.

Mark 1:1-8: It’s never about me.

“The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah,the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way’–
‘a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
“Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.”’

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptised by him in the River Jordan. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt round his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: ‘After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptise you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’ ” NIV UK

I call Mark’s gospel the ‘action Man’ gospel. It is action packed – fast moving, pacy. It presents Jesus as a Man of action. It was probably the first gospel to be written, and owes much to Peter’s eye-witness account. It is shorter than the other gospels and contains more story (narrative) than teaching (discourse). Reading the opening verses, these words seemed to leap out of the page and grab me by the lapels: ‘’…as it is written…And so…’’ (2,4). That gave me pause to reflect:

  • If God prophesies, it will happen;
  • If He promises, it will be kept;
  • If He warns, it should be heeded;
  • If He commands, we must obey;
  • If He declares that something wonderful will happen in a ‘’wilderness’’ (3), it will happen in ‘’the wilderness’’ (4).

Each day, as you read God’s written Word, look for the ‘’And so…’’ What am I to believe because of this? What ought I to do? Where is the practical application for me? In which direction does it lie?  It seems to me there is the ‘’And so…’’ for preachers in this short paragraph about John the Baptist. Keep the spotlight on Jesus. Lift up Jesus in your preaching. Glorify Jesus. It is never about you; it is always about Him. If it were about me it would be bad news! To speak about Jesus, however, is ‘’the good news’’ (1). We are not worthy of the privilege of serving Jesus, but it is ours.

You may feel that God has called you to a ‘’wilderness.’’ Your place of ministry seems a barren, unpromising place. But read your Bible. God has done some remarkable things in deserts. It’s amazing how new life flows in the most arid of places when the Name of Jesus is uplifted. Well, what a great start to this gospel. It’s all about Jesus.

Daily Bible thoughts 1460: Friday 21st July 2017: Acts 28: 17–31: The end of the beginning.

Acts 28: 17–31: The end of the beginning.

“17 Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: ‘My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. 18 They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. 19 The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people. 20 For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.’  21 They replied, ‘We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of our people who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. 22 But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.’  23 They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. 24 Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. 25 They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: ‘The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:                                                                                                                               26 ‘“Go to this people and say,                                                                                                                  ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;                                                                     you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.’
27 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.”                                                                                                     28 ‘Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!’  30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ – with all boldness and without hindrance!” NIV UK

It is with a feeling of sadness that we come to the end of the book of ‘Acts.’ It is such a spiritual tonic. However (and I’ll return to this thought in a moment) there is a sense in which this book will never come to an end before Jesus returns. A famous missionary statesman would often say, when he got up to speak, ‘Please turn to Acts 29.’ After a moment or two, he would follow this up by saying, ‘You are Acts 29!’ So if this is the end of ‘Acts,’ it is really only the end of the beginning.

The final frames of the film show Paul once again trying to reach the hearts and minds of fellow Jews. Once again the outcome is a divided response. Once again there is an emphasis on the outward movement towards the Gentiles, and a clear expectation that this will prove fruitful. In fact, we see something of this in the final two verses.  Here’s a thought: Is your home a place of welcome? Do you try to use it to share the love of Jesus with people who don’t know Him?

As we say ‘farewell’, for now, to this wonderful book (for we will all surely return to it again and again) consider these words from F.B. Meyer: ‘Thus, abruptly, does this fifth Gospel close. It has been well said that a close so abrupt suggests a continuance and a sequel. The curtain of silence falls when Paul’s life is not brought to a close, and his work at Rome is still in process; and does not this indicate the design of the Holy Spirit that we should believe that the book of the Acts of the Apostles is never complete, but is really conterminous with the present age? Thus every generation of life adds its own gold link to the chain…uniting in one glorious succession all in whom Jesus continues by the Spirit to speak and work.”

When the late Bishop of Ripon read of the labours and sufferings of John Williams in the South Seas, he laid down the narrative, exclaiming, ‘’This is the twenty-ninth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.’’ May we not rather say the five hundredth or five thousandth? Between the stories of Paul and of John Williams, you must insert thousands who have been recorded of God’s remembrance given angels alone, as well as those which are filling our shelves with missionary romance and biography, more interesting than novels, more wonderful than dreams.’ ‘Devotional Commentary,’ p.413.

PRAYER: Lord, please let me play my full part in the on-going story of your church

Daily Bible thoughts 1459: Thursday 20th July 2017: Acts 28:11 -16: ‘And so we came to Rome.’

Acts 28:11-16: ‘And so we came to Rome.’

“11 After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island – it was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. 12 We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. 13 From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli. 14 There we found some brothers and sisters who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome. 15 The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they travelled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged. 16 When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him. ” NIV

What a simple, little phrase: ‘’And so we came to Rome’’ (14). It had been a torrid journey, fraught with danger and difficulty. Yet God had providentially cared for His ambassador, and everyone else on the ship. If God intends a destination for you, you will get there, no matter what storms you may encounter on route. Ultimately, of course, all believers will finally be brought safely home to heaven, though we may have to traverse many a rough sea before we arrive.  God’s care for Paul continued. Although the Alexandrine ship, on which he travelled the final leg, had pagan gods as a ‘’figurehead’’ (11), there is no doubt as to Who was the Captain of Paul’s ship, and the Master of His destiny. It is ‘’the living and true God’’ (1 Thessalonians 1:9) who gets him there safely; and once He is there, He again providentially orders his circumstances (16). (I believe He was also arranging the movements of Roman soldiers who needed an appointment with Paul! Who was most captive, and who was most free in that situation, I wonder?!!)

There is something wonderfully refreshing and encouraging about encountering fellow Christians (15), and perhaps never more so than when you run into them in a foreign land. Recently, Jilly and I were on holiday in the mediaeval hill-top village of St. Paul de Vence, near Nice. Nothing brought so great joy to our hearts on that trip than to meet with a group of Christians one Sunday morning: ‘’As for the saints in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight’’ (Psalm 16:3).

‘Even an apostle needs to be encouraged at times, and the saints who met Paul did just that. The group at Appii Forum travelled about ten miles farther than the other group. How far would you go to encourage a fellow believer?’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word,’ p.728.

PRAYER: Lord, I know how much a word, or deed, of encouragement can do for me. Please enable me to be an encourager of others – not waiting to receive, but looking to give.

Daily Bible thoughts 1458: Wednesday 19th July 2017: Acts 28: 1 – 10: A trip to Malta.

 Acts 28: 1–10: A trip to Malta.

“Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, ‘This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.’ But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.  There was an estate near by that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days. His father was ill in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of those on the island who were ill came and were cured. 10 They honoured us in many ways; and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed.” NIV

‘Let us shake off temptation. We cannot prevent its attacking us, but we need not take the viper into our heart.’ F.B. Meyer: ‘Devotional Commentary,’ p.502.

I’m sure this trip to Malta was not on Paul’s itinerary when he departed for Rome, but the Lord clearly had work for him to do there, and something remarkable happened on the island. I have a Maltese friend who loves his homeland, and he has shown me photographs of what is believed to be the shipwreck site. The people of Malta showed the people from the wreck ‘kindness with a plus in it’ (2). They saw their needs and did what they could to meet them.

I can’t help but smile at the fickleness of human nature though, even amongst such a wonderful people (3-6). One minute they thought the worst of Paul; the next, they might have been tempted to worship him. Human opinion can change like the direction of the wind.

‘Paul’s unfailing influence for good shows what a blessing even one Christian man can be wherever he goes, if he lives in the power of God.’ F.B. Meyer (as above).

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