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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Month

September 2017

Daily Bible thoughts 1510: Friday 29th September 2017: Mark 8:34-38: The price tag.

Mark 8:34-38: The price tag.

“34-37 Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?  38 “If any of you are embarrassed over me and the way I’m leading you when you get around your fickle and unfocused friends, know that you’ll be an even greater embarrassment to the Son of Man when he arrives in all the splendor of God, his Father, with an army of the holy angels.” The Message

There is a cost to following Jesus. Finger the price tag. Jesus did not give us any ‘small print’ in His ‘terms and conditions’.

‘All Christians are called to be disciples. Let us never suppose that there are two kinds of Christians; one kind that follows Jesus and suffers with Him, and a second kind that can lead an easy life. There is only one kind of true Christian; that is, a disciple.’ Tom Hale: ‘The applied New Testament Commentary’,p.245.                                                                    There is a call to:

  • Denial (34a): self-denial. It must no longer be ‘me first’ but ‘Jesus first.’ At least a part of this self-denial is letting go of the kind of Messiah we imagine (32,33), for the One we actually have. Being a genuine Christian is difficult. This is why some people who appear to come to Christ, turn away after a while;
  • Death (34b): ‘’and take up his cross…’’ This is the first time Mark mentions the ‘’cross.’’ Not only were criminals crucified; they also had to carry their own cross to the place of execution. For Jesus’ listeners this could only mean one thing. They had to be prepared to suffer and die for Him. Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who lost his life because of his opposition to Hitler and the Nazis, said, ‘When Jesus bids a man come and follow Him, He bids him come and die.’
  • Direction (34b): ‘’and follow me.’’ The call is to follow Jesus all through life, and on into eternity;
  • Decision (35-37): Choose Jesus over the world – over worldly advantages and blessings. However, Tom Hale helpfully (and correctly, in my view) balances this up by saying: ‘Usually…once we have given up worldly advantage for Christ, Christ blesses us in worldly things (see Matthew 6:33; Mark 10:29-31…) The abundant life that Jesus promised to his followers (John 10:10) begins here in this world.’ But, he goes on: ‘…let us not fool ourselves: We cannot seek after Christ and worldly blessings at the same time; we must choose (see Matthew 6:24…).’’ ‘The applied New Testament Commentary’,p.245;
  • Declaration (35-37): We are to declare our allegiance to Jesus publicly. Let us not be ashamed of Jesus. He does not encourage secret discipleship.

Daily Bible thoughts 1509: Thursday 28th September 2017: Mark 8:31-33: That sounds tempting.

 Mark 8:31-33: That sounds tempting.

“30-32 Jesus warned them to keep it quiet, not to breathe a word of it to anyone. He then began explaining things to them: “It is necessary that the Son of Man proceed to an ordeal of suffering, be tried and found guilty by the elders, high priests, and religion scholars, be killed, and after three days rise up alive.” He said this simply and clearly so they couldn’t miss it.  32-33 But Peter grabbed him in protest. Turning and seeing his disciples wavering, wondering what to believe, Jesus confronted Peter. “Peter, get out of my way! Satan, get lost! You have no idea how God works.” The Message

We can so identify with Peter, can’t we? One minute flying, soaring; the next taking a dive. We can be so ‘up and down’ in our experience. Just when you think you’re getting somewhere, you trip over the step yet again.

It is remarkable to see how frequently and ‘’plainly’’ Jesus spoke about His death and resurrection. But the disciples just couldn’t get it. They had no thought category into which they could fit a suffering Messiah. No doubt the others were thinking similarly, but as so often, Peter acted as spokesperson for the entire group. In his words Jesus discerned Satan’s accent. This was the voice that had tried, unsuccessfully, to dissuade Him from the way of the cross in the wilderness. He would again face this temptation in the garden of Gethsemane. Here and now Jesus dealt ruthlessly with the devil. He would not turn aside from His God-given mission. There was a ‘’must’’ (2x in v.31) about the death and resurrection of Jesus. The will of God made it necessary. He would not be deflected.

Tom Hale points out that when you seek to do God’s will, there will be friends, family, colleagues, and so on, who will want to prevent you. They may well be acting out of concern for you, but people are often not on the same page as God (see Acts 21:10-14; Matthew 16:23; Colossians 3:2 and Isaiah 55:8,9).

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1058: Wednesday 27th September 2017: Mark 8:27-30 ‘’But what about you?’’

Mark 8:27-30 ‘’But what about you?’’

“27 Jesus and his disciples headed out for the villages around Caesarea Philippi. As they walked, he asked, “Who do the people say I am?”  28 “Some say ‘John the Baptizer,’” they said. “Others say ‘Elijah.’ Still others say ‘one of the prophets.’”  29 He then asked, “And you—what are you saying about me? Who am I?”                                                                                 Peter gave the answer: “You are the Christ, the Messiah.” ” NIV UK

‘’But what about you?’’ I’m sure that many who read this will know what it feels like to be caught in Jesus’ searchlight. In one way or another you feel like a contestant in the ‘Mastermind’ chair. The focus is on you. The question is asked. What will your response be? ‘’But what about you?’’

 Where are you feeling the challenge of Jesus most powerfully and personally at the moment? What is He talking to you about? How will you respond? The question has been put. Heaven awaits your reply. In fact, heaven sees the response already taking shape inside your heart.

At this moment, no-one else’s response really matters. Well, it does, but it’s of no concern to you. ‘’But what about you?’’ It’s you He wants to hear from.

The most important issues of life centre around who Jesus is. Will you face up to this question? A Christian author said that, in his experience, it is rare for an adult to take a serious look at Jesus and remain unconverted.

You have been warned!

PRAYER: Help me Lord, to give you what you are asking, to obey what you are commanding, to go where you are sending. Give me grace to respond to your challenge.

Talks

Jilly (my wife) has been uploading some of my talks which you can hear by going to my talks page or by clicking here. She says there will be more to follow! You can also hear a wider selection if you visit the King’s Church web site. I do hope these may be of some help.

Daily Bible thoughts 1507: Tuesday 26th September 2017: Mark 8:22-26: Lessons from a blind man’s healing.

Mark 8:22-26: Lessons from a blind man’s healing.

“22-23 They arrived at Bethsaida. Some people brought a sightless man and begged Jesus to give him a healing touch. Taking him by the hand, he led him out of the village. He put spit in the man’s eyes, laid hands on him, and asked, “Do you see anything?”  24-26 He looked up. “I see men. They look like walking trees.” So Jesus laid hands on his eyes again. The man looked hard and realized that he had recovered perfect sight, saw everything in bright, twenty-twenty focus. Jesus sent him straight home, telling him, “Don’t enter the village.” NIV UK

The opening of someone’s eyes often begins with earnest prayer on their behalf (22). You have family, friends, colleagues, neighbours who are spiritually blind. It is obvious to you if not to them. ‘’The god of this age has blinded’’ their ‘’minds’’…so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’’ (2 Corinthians 4:4). But things can change. God can ‘’make his light shine’’ in hearts to give ‘’the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ’’ (2 Corinthians 4:6). So, don’t lose heart. Pray on. ‘’Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever’’ (Hebrews 13:8).

But even as a believer, you may not see truth as clearly as you want or need to. You too may ask for the light of understanding. The context for this short story is telling. It comes between the disciples still failing to fully understand (18), and Peter’s wonderful confession (29; see Matthew 16:17), all-be-it a still imperfect one (32-33). The truth is that we disciples are a work in progress. We are not yet the finished article. One day, however, we will see ‘’everything clearly’’ (19; see 1 Corinthians 13:12). God has started His work in us, and He will certainly finish (Philippians 1:6).

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1506: Monday 25th September 2017: Mark 8:14-21: Small group discussions.

Mark 8:14-21: Small group discussions.

“14 The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. 15 ‘Be careful,’ Jesus warned them. ‘Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.’ 16 They discussed this with one another and said, ‘It is because we have no bread.’ 17 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?’ ‘Twelve,’ they replied. 20 ‘And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?’ They answered, ‘Seven.’ 21 He said to them, ‘Do you still not understand?’ “NIV UK

Some people think small groups are the answer to the church’s problems. Well, there is no doubt at all that much good can be done in a small group, if well-led. But I do wonder if some of our discussions in small groups might run into the dangers of (16): ‘’They discussed this with one another and said…’’ Are we just talking to ourselves, or will we let the Lord in on the discussion? If we want to understand what Jesus has said, let’s ask Him. We need to ensure that we involve ourselves in prayer-filled discussions. Okay, it’s interesting to know what you think about what Jesus said, but what does He think about what He said? What does He have to say about it? Prayer-less discussions do not edify. In fact, they can be like those smoke machines, creating a veritable fog on the stage.

I wonder if Jesus, aware of our discussions (17a) is sometimes saying: ‘’Why are you talking about..? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?’’ (17b, 18).

Yes, another problem we face is having a short term memory. Not only do we suffer from ignorance, but also from a lack of remembrance.

May God have mercy on us. We think we know so much, when in fact we still have lots to learn. Thankfully, Jesus is willing to teach us – more willing to instruct than we are to be educated by Him.

PRAYER: Lord forgive us for any proud discussions and debates we have about your Word, without consulting the One who gave us that Word in the first place.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1505: Friday 22nd September 2017: Mark 8: 11-13: None so blind.  

Mark 8: 11-13: None so blind.

11 The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. 12 He sighed deeply and said, ‘Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.’ 13 Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side. ” NIV UK

There is something very human, don’t you think, in the comment that Jesus ‘’sighed deeply’’. Have you ever got to that point with certain people? I know I have. It regularly occurs with those who are just not going to change. You want to help them. They seem to want to be helped. But nothing you say or do brings about change because really they intend to stay put right where they are.  I think we are meant to understand that the Pharisees knew about the feeding of the four thousand, and many other miracles of Jesus, but still they asked for ‘’a miraculous sign.’’ There is irony in that. Jesus had just performed a remarkable miracle, but I believe they were saying, ‘Yes, but, we want a bigger and better one. Give us absolute proof that you are the Son of God, the Messiah. Show us evidence that will blow away all doubt.’ Of course, no such thing could happen in their case because they had already determined not to believe. Their unbelief was entrenched. Their vehicle was stuck in the mud of unbelief and it would stay there. In fact, it was going to sink deeper and deeper. This was not a sincere request. They had already made their minds up about Jesus.

It was never Jesus’ intention to provide a sign that would rule out the necessity of faith. ‘’Faith can only exist when the object of our faith is something beyond our finite knowledge.’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied New Testament Commentary,’p.242. We have to relate to God by faith, or not at all (Hebrews 11:6).

According to Matthew 16:4, Jesus said that no sign would be given ‘’except the sign of Jonah.’’ In the same way that Jonah spent three days in the stomach of the ‘’great fish’’ (Jonah 1:17), so Jesus would be killed and spend three days buried in the earth and then rise from the dead. But when it happened, the Jews, generally speaking, still did not believe (see Matthew 12:38-41).

For those with open, believing hearts, Jesus had shown more than enough ‘’signs’’ that He was God’s Son. But the Pharisees were not going to believe, no matter what Jesus did (John 10:24, 25).

It is a sobering thought that you can, by a rebellious, unbelieving attitude send Jesus away (13).

Daily Bible thoughts 1504: Thursday 21st September 2017: Mark 8:1-10: Learning from the past.

Mark 8:1-10: Learning from the past.

“During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.’ His disciples answered, ‘But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?’ ‘How many loaves do you have?’ Jesus asked. ‘Seven,’ they replied. He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. The people ate and were satisfied. Afterwards the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. About four thousand were present. After he had sent them away, 10 he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.” NIV UK

This is not the same story we have read before (6:30-44), but it is similar. If you take time to compare and contrast you will see where they come together and where they diverge. There is a difference in some of the details. Here, then, is the point: do we learn from the past? We are used to the idea of learning from our mistakes, but will we learn from our successes? The disciples had been here before and Jesus had used them as ‘distributors’ of abundant blessing. Could He not do the same again?

It seems they had short-term memories. But not to be overly critical, of whom do they remind you?!

Daily Bible thoughts 1503: Wednesday 20th September 2017: Mark 7: 31- 37: Going Private.

Mark 7: 31- 37: Going Private.

“31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. 32 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him. 33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spat and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, ‘Ephphatha!’ (which means ‘Be opened!’). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosed and he began to speak plainly. 36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. ‘He has done everything well,’ they said. ‘He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’” NIV UK

Jesus wants personal time with us. Our condition is such that we are so damaged by sin (32) that we need to ‘go private.’ Jesus performs many of His most effective surgical procedures in the privacy of His ‘theatre’, and not while you are still on the ‘ward’ (or in the hospital cafeteria for that matter!) Don’t you feel the need to ‘go private’? I know I do. I’ve got stuff in me that could spread and do a lot of damage if I don’t regularly book in for the ‘private treatment’ Jesus offers. He is the great Physician. Why, He doesn’t even charge!! He gets great reviews (37). Beyond doubt, He comes highly recommended.

Sometimes, when we pray, we think we know how Jesus should work, and we tell Him (32). Perhaps we can say too much, but the Lord understands our ignorance and frailty, and He is merciful. He didn’t exactly answer their prayer in the way they suggested (33b-35), but He did answer their prayer. Jesus responds to the heart of the prayer, even if not all the words we use are bang on.

Hebrews 11:3 says: ‘’By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.’’ (See also Psalm 33:6 and 9). Whenever we see Jesus giving a command, and then the thing commanded happens, we are being a big clue as to His identity.

He is Lord. Don’t be afraid to place yourself into the Hands of this Surgeon.

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