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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


October 2017

Daily Bible thoughts 1532: Tuesday 31st October 2017: Mark 11:12-19: Foliage or fruit.

Mark 11:12-19: Foliage or fruit.

“12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig-tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And his disciples heard him say it. 15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, ‘Is it not written: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations”? But you have made it “a den of robbers”.  18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.  19 When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.” NIV

I heard someone say that there is a kind of church growth which amounts to foliage and not fruit. This is true. It may be prolific growth at that. But what is there for ‘’hungry’’ (12) people to feed on? This was true of the Jewish people back then. From a distance, they looked impressive. It seemed they had much to offer. But inwardly there was a lack of spiritual reality.

This is what Jesus found in the temple of His day also (15-17). The leaves of religious profession were there in plentiful supply. There was a lot going on. It was a busy place. But there was a lot going on that was pushing out the main business of temple life. Where were the ‘’figs’’? Where was the prayerfulness the Lord desired to see? Where prayer is displaced from the heart of congregational life (17) you cannot have ‘fruit’. Fruitfulness is the crop of a life abiding in Jesus, the ‘Vine’ (John 15). Andrew Murray rightly said, ‘Do not confound work and fruit. There is much work for Christ that is not the fruit of the Heavenly Vine.’ Like the fig tree, the temple was an illustration of Israel at that time. Outwardly she looked splendid, but inwardly there was corruption. There was need for a clear out.

If the church is not filled with prayer, it will soon be filled with stuff Jesus will need to overturn and drive out. The ‘temple’ will again need to be cleansed. It appears it needed to be cleaned out more than once in Jesus’ day (see also John 2:12-17).

PRAYER: Lord have mercy on us. Forgive us our prayer-lessness. We know so much about prayer which does not get translated into prayer. Teach us to pray. Cause us to truly be your ‘’House of prayer for all nations’’.


Daily Bible thoughts 1531: Monday 30th October 2017: Mark 11: 11: Inspection time

Mark 11:11: Inspection time

“11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve. ” NIV

On the day Jesus entered Jerusalem, riding on a colt, the people recognised that He was their Messiah. Prophecy was being fulfilled before their very eyes (Zechariah 9:9). No doubt many were rubbing their hands together with barely containable glee. This was the big day – the day they had been waiting for all their lives; the day their ancestors had been anticipating for long, weary centuries. They were going to see it.

So what happened at (11) must have come as a huge shock, a massive disappointment. Instead of heading towards the imperial palace, and tearing down everything belonging to the Roman system, and the present world order; Jesus instead turned His attention on their most sacred site and ‘’looked around at everything…’’ He didn’t destroy everything belonging to the old order. Instead, He inspected everything belonging to the worship of God. (We would always much rather have the Lord deal with ‘them’ rather than ‘us’. Let Him sort out the bad guys. For ourselves, why we’re the good guys!)

This reminds me of the picture painted in Revelation of Jesus ‘patrolling’ the churches; inspecting them. He knows what is going on. He has ‘x-ray vision’ as someone put it (Revelation 1:14b). He knows what needs to be driven out of His ‘temple’, and He is quite prepared to set about aggressive house-cleaning if necessary, for the glory of His Name and the good of His church.We need to understand that a local church is never more than one generation away from extinction. Its light can be extinguished. So, sometimes, the Lord Jesus has to reveal to us His ‘tough love.’ Remember, He is God, and God is to be feared.

Daily Bible thoughts 1530: Friday 27th October 2017: Mark 11:1-11: His Majesty

Mark 11:1-11: His Majesty

 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you doing this?” say, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.”’  They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, ‘What are you doing, untying that colt?’ They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, ‘Hosanna! ’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ 10 ‘Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’ 11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.” NIV

I was talking about this passage with my wife Jilly. Her first observation concerned the authority Jesus carried, that He would tell these men to do something rather strange, and they just did it. Did it without question, it appears.

That also caused me to think about the authority of Jesus that He could sit on this ‘’colt’’ which had never had a rider before, and it just let Him. Don’t miss the significance of that. I feel it’s as great as Jesus walking on water or stilling the storm. The Jesus we see here is a Magisterial figure. The people wanted their King to come to them, but, as it turned out, they didn’t particularly want this King. Many of them didn’t.

A further thought Jilly had pertains to verse 6: ‘’They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go.’’ Jilly said, ‘This shows the power of Jesus’ Word. It does indeed. It shows that the Word of the Lord solved any potential problem, and released the animal for the fulfilling of God’s purpose.

As disciples of Jesus, we are called to ‘untie knots’ (4). But some people won’t understand what we are doing; won’t necessarily like what we’re about (5). Let us preach to them the Word of Jesus (6), as He has told us to (3). The key to the furthering of God’s purposes lies in faithfulness to that Word.

Daily Bible thoughts 1529: Thursday 26th October 2017: Mark 11:1-3: ‘Untie it’.

Mark 11:1-3: ‘Untie it’.

11 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, “Why are you doing this?” say, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.”’ NIV

Do you have money and possessions ‘tied up’ for personal use? Do you realise that everything you have ought to be ‘untied’ for Jesus’ use? He may well allow you to still have it, and hold it and use it. But once you become His disciple, you have to understand that nothing is to be so tied up for your own use that Jesus can’t touch it.

‘’The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly’’ (3b: underlining mine). It is the experience of many Christians that what you offer up to Jesus; what you let go of for His sake, regularly comes back to you, and often with significant interest. These are the mysterious workings of the Divine economy. ‘God is no man’s debtor.’ Like Joseph’s brothers, you find your ‘silver’ back in your ‘sack’.

PRAYER: Lord, it takes faith to give. Certainly it does if we are to give as your Word commands. Help me to live with an open heart and open hands, knowing that you are to be trusted. May I not fail to give anything you ask of me. Help me to let it go as if it’s never coming back. But thank you for all the times it has come back – and more besides.

Daily Bible thoughts 1528: Wednesday 25th October 2017: Mark 10:46-52: Keep going.  

Mark 10:46-52: Keep going.

“46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means ‘son of Timaeus’), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ 48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ 49 Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ So they called to the blind man, ‘Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.’ 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. 51 ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked him. The blind man said, ‘Rabbi, I want to see.’ 52 ‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.” NIV UK

Bartimaeus is an illustration of praying in faith. Indeed, he is an example of fervent, believing, persevering prayer. From all the Bible teaches about prayer, we have to say it’s important to be be in earnest – to mean business. It is vital to endure, to keep going (Luke 18:1-8).

When you set out to seriously seek God, don’t be surprised if there are people who discourage you (48). They may not intend to, but that’s what they will do if you let them. When things in your world conspire to tell you to ‘’be quiet’’; when you sense the opposition of spiritual powers to your prayers, that is the time to shout ‘’all the more’’.

The devil hates prayer. I believe he fears praying people. So he will endeavour to prevent our prayers. He knows how much Jesus wants us to just ‘’Ask’’ (Matthew 7:7). It’s a worrying scenario for Satan to envisage what could happen if we do. He can’t afford to have the church wake up and take the Lord seriously.

  • So don’t let anything stop you praying alone.
  • Don’t permit anything to prevent you gathering with fellow-believers for prayer.

There’s a poem that goes something like this:                                                                           ‘Satan laughs at the words we say, mocks at our efforts from day to day. But he trembles, when he sees, the weakest saint upon his knees.’

Daily Bible thoughts 1527: Tuesday 24th October 2017: Mark 10:35-45: True greatness.

Mark 10:35-45: True greatness.

“35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we want you to do for us whatever we ask.’  36 ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ he asked. 37 They replied, ‘Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.’ 38 ‘You don’t know what you are asking,’ Jesus said. ‘Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptised with the baptism I am baptised with?’ 39 ‘We can,’ they answered. Jesus said to them, ‘You will drink the cup I drink and be baptised with the baptism I am baptised with, 40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.’ 41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42 Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ ’ ” NIV UK

There is something incongruous about this request, following on, as it does, from Jesus’ words about His suffering and death. These guys really didn’t get it.

It’s been suggested that James and John may have made their bold request out of a desire to be close to Jesus (37). However, judging by what Jesus said later when He gathered the group together (41-45), this was about the quest for greatness. I reckon the other disciples were angry with the pair (41) because they secretly had their eyes on the top jobs. In fact, the way Jesus addresses them suggests that this was the case. Jesus, of course, showed supernatural insight. Maybe this is one of those occasions. But the uncomfortable truth is we give ourselves away all too easily.

The desire for greatness seems to be ‘in-built’ in human beings. Why would anyone want to be mediocre? Jesus did not attack the desire for greatness, but He re-defined what true greatness looks like. He spelled out that the ‘top’ positions in the Kingdom are at the ‘bottom’. Would we still like to have them?

Well, He ‘check-mates’ us in the final statement (45). No-one was so high as Him, and no-one would ever stoop so low. The greatest leadership models the standard that others are expected to follow.

PRAYER: Lord, may I never resist the call of the Kingdom to humble service.

Daily Bible thoughts 1526: Monday 23rd October 2017: Mark 10:32-34: Looking unto Jesus.

Mark 10:32-34: Looking unto Jesus.

“32 They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. 33 ‘We are going up to Jerusalem,’ he said, ‘and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.’ ” NIV UK

The proper place for Jesus in the life of a disciple is to be ‘’ahead’’ of him or her. The proper place for a disciple in the life of Jesus is to be in line behind Him. ‘Follow the Leader.’ Don’t get ahead of Him. (Arguably, this is what James and John are doing in the next story).Don’t let Jesus out of your sight. Fix your eyes on Him.

Here we see that Jesus was ‘’ahead’’ of them in knowledge. (Although maybe those who were ‘’afraid’’ had a premonition of what was to come, as Jesus made this last visit to Jerusalem). This is now the third time that Jesus predicted His death and resurrection (see 8:31;9:31), and on this occasion He added the detail that He would be delivered ‘’over to the Gentiles.’’ In this case, it referred to the Romans, who had the power of execution. Jesus’ detailed knowledge of these things, prior to their happening, is deeply impressive. They were clearly of great importance in His thinking.

Jesus goes ahead of us in the life of suffering, and then glory. We may well have to share His ‘’baptism’’ (38; see Philippians 3:10), but His baptism comes first. He has gone before us. Jesus is the ‘’pioneer and perfecter’’ of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Apparently Teresa of Avila was once complaining to the Lord about her sufferings. She felt she heard Him say, ‘This is how I treat my friends.’ Her response was something along the lines of, ‘Well it’s no surprise if you have only a few friends!’ But God never asks us to give what He Himself has not given; to go where He has not first gone. In fact, He doesn’t ask us to suffer to the same degree. So I understand John Stott saying he would find it hard to believe in God apart from the cross.

Let us not fear to follow Jesus all the way to ‘Jerusalem’ – and beyond.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I recognise that your rightful place is in front of me, and mine is behind you. Help me, please, to stay in line

Daily Bible thoughts 1525: Friday 20th October 2017: Mark 10: 17-31: Longstanding problem?

Mark 10: 17-31: Longstanding problem?

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. ‘Good teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 18 ‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good – except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honour your father and mother.”[a]’ 20 ‘Teacher,’ he declared, ‘all these I have kept since I was a boy.’ 21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ 22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. 23 Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!’ 24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, ‘Children, how hard it is[b] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ 26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, ‘Who then can be saved?’ 27 Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’ 28 Then Peter spoke up, ‘We have left everything to follow you!’  29 ‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus replied, ‘no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields – along with persecutions – and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.’ NIV

The church wayside pulpit said, ‘Longstanding problem? Try kneeling!’  But if you do try kneeling, make sure it’s more than your knees kneeling.  In today’s story, the young man ‘’ran up’’ to Jesus ‘’and knelt before him’’ (17). That seemed like a good start. But not all of him was kneeling.There was at least one part of his life that was not in submission to Jesus, and it would stay that way. This is why his story starts so well (17) and ends so badly (22). Jesus knew where the resistance would be, where the idol was located, and He exposed it.  I guess most disciples in the affluent parts of the world feel the challenge of Jesus’ words. It is a fact that:  ‘There is no truer test of a man’s spirituality than his attitude to his possessions’……and…  ‘If there’s anything you own you can’t give away, you don’t own it, it owns you.’

But it is important to remember that Jesus did not say this to everyone. There clearly were rich people in the early church, and Paul urged generosity on them, but didn’t say they must give everything away. However, for this young man, it was going to be a sticking point, and Jesus wasted no time in demonstrating this.

When you kneel before Jesus, could it be that there’s a different part of you not kneeling? It may not be money that’s your big idol but something else entirely. Whatever, we all need to make sure that it’s more than just our knees kneeling.

Just because someone looks fully yielded, it doesn’t mean they are. Jesus can see through appearances.


Daily Bible thoughts 1524: Thursday 19th October 2017: Mark 10: 13-16: Child-like

Mark 10: 13-16: Child-like

“13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. ” NIV

There’s a song that says, ‘I’m growing up to be a child.’ There’s a lot in that. The child-like heart is important to Jesus.

Children are important to Jesus. This short passage shows His personal love, His personal touch. This attitude to its youngest members should be reflected in every church. Let us not do anything to ‘’hinder’’ them.

I am grateful that I spent my formative years in churches where children were valued and prayed for. This was reflected in the Sunday Schools, and in the lovely older people who took time to show interest in a very young and shy Stephen Thompson. They were kind and encouraging and prayerful. They made room for the expression of embryonic gifts in public speaking. The personal touch was evident in these smaller churches.

I remember a Sunday School teacher called Hilda Green. A spinster, she prepared faithfully for her class week by week. She played the harmonium, and told us the stories of Jesus we loved to hear. This was not high-tech; it was by no means sophisticated. But we were loved and taught and prayed for by a godly lady who had no children of her own, but she may well be surrounded by a family of them in heaven.

Children and young people matter. The churches I knew, when younger, never gave me any other impression. Looking back, I can say I feel Jesus took me up in His arms and blessed me; I knew His personal touch through the hands of His loving people – and not least, through the personal ministry of my parents.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we have often felt your Hands of blessing placed upon us in the loving touch of others, and we want to say ‘thank you’ for the difference they have made.

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