Search

Home thoughts from abroad.wordpress.com

Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Month

October 2017

Daily Bible thoughts 1523: Wednesday 18th October 2017: Mark 10:1-12: The sanctity of marriage.

Mark 10:1-12: The sanctity of marriage.

10 Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.2 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’NIV

‘For best results, follow the Maker’s Instructions.’

Jesus often responded to a question with a question. This is what He did here. There is no more important question, on any subject, than, ‘What does the Bible say?’ In effect, that’s what Jesus asked.

It was true that ‘’Moses’’ permitted divorce under certain circumstances. But this was a concession given only because of the ‘’hardness’’ of men’s hearts. Jesus, therefore, took them back to the beginning. What was God’s original intention for marriage between a man and a woman? Clearly it was permanence.

Whenever I conduct a marriage service, I read words in the introduction which say that marriage should ‘not be entered into carelessly or lightly, but soberly, reverently and in the fear of God.’ We live in a disposable era, and it seems that, for many, relationships come into that category. People ditch their partners like putting out the rubbish. But marriage is a covenant relationship. It is a commitment for life, and it entails the faithfulness that is found in God alone, but which He can impart it to us by His Spirit.

I once read that the idea, in Hebrew, of a man being ‘’united’’ to his wife is literally to be ‘glued’. I would add that it’s meant to be ‘superglue’. To use an illustration from the ‘Alpha’ marriage course, if you glue two sheets of paper together, so that they effectively become one sheet, you can’t pull the sheets apart without causing much damage to them both.

It may be that some reading these words today know the pain, grief, regret and heartache of a broken marriage. Not to be trite, you can bring those wounds to God and ask for His healing, If there is sin to be forgiven, you can ask for and receive mercy. If you now find yourself in another marriage, remember the ‘Maker’s Instructions’ and look to Him for the resources you need to stay faithful.

Daily Bible thoughts 1522: Tuesday 17th October 2017: Mark 9:42-50: Deal ruthlessly with sin.

Mark 9:42-50: Deal ruthlessly with sin.

“42 ‘If anyone causes one of these little ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung round their neck and they were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where ‘“the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.” 49 Everyone will be salted with fire. 50 ‘Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.’ ” NIV UK

Sin in never less than serious. To perceive the ‘exceeding sinfulness of sin’ would be to understand God’s perspective on judgment and Hell. It would be unbearable, but oh what insight it would afford. We would never again critique God for banishing anyone from His presence. We would grasp how awesome is the work of the Cross, and understand just about everything that is important about life and death and eternity.

Sin must be repented of, otherwise it will take a person to ‘’hell’’ (43).

Jesus’ point is surely that there must be a radical, ruthless repentance: ‘We must be ready to part with what is dearest to us if it leads to sin. Removing sin from our heart may be very painful – like cutting off a hand, or a foot…we must do whatever is necessary to remove that sin from our lives.’ Tom Hale: ‘The applied New Testament Commentary’, p.250.

I heard on the radio this morning the story of a liner that was sunk by an over-zealous   U-boat commander at the outset of one of the major wars. He thought it was a military vessel, but it was full of civilians; many women and children were on board. One hundred lives were lost. But it doesn’t take a great gaping hole to sink a ship. The tiniest hole in the bottom of a boat will eventually allow it to fill with water and sink.

Don’t play around with sinful tendencies. Take radical action. Plug the hole before you sink!

Daily Bible thoughts 1521: Monday 16th October 2017: Mark 9:38-41: Parochialism.

Mark 9:38-41: Parochialism.

“38 ‘Teacher,’ said John, ‘we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.’  39 ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said. ‘For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.” NIV UK

We all too easily fall prey to the sin of parochialism. We are deeply interested in our own cause: our own church, our own denomination, and our own ministry. We can be too easily dismissive of other people who are doing good work for Jesus, but doing it differently. This is surely more serious than we realise, and it must grieve the Holy Spirit. If He is actively working in and through another Christ-follower, and and another church, and I’m just disinterested, or critical, or wrongly negative, this wounds the body of Christ. The reference in (42) may be to a fellow-believer. Perhaps the disciples, by their attitude, had caused the man mentioned in (38) to stumble, to ‘’sin’’. So let us walk carefully.

 

Tom Hale points out that the disciples were making a mistake Christians have continued to make ever since Jesus’ time. They thought that only their group were the true followers of Jesus. But if someone is serving in Jesus’ Name we must not oppose him (or her). We may find ourselves opposing Jesus Himself. To work in Jesus’ Name is to work for His sake; to serve in a way which brings Him honour, and to do it sincerely, from the heart. Not even the smallest act of service performed in Jesus’ Name will be forgotten (41).

 

Of course, we must be discerning. Not everyone who claims to be acting in Jesus’ Name is doing so. There are false teachers; ‘wolves’ who come in among the flock in order to destroy. It’s not a danger to take lightly. However, I would urge you not to become a member of ‘sniffer dog ministries international’! Some of our brothers and sisters are so obsessed with false teaching, they perpetually go around with their noses to the ground, trying to sniff out heresy. It becomes an unhealthy preoccupation for them, and they can end up labelling the genuine as false. They find the heretical where it is not – so desperate are they to locate it.This surely offends God, and is off-putting to any onlookers. It leads to tiny little clusters of those who consider themselves to be ‘the faithful’, while most others are regarded with suspicion.

 

When we write others off, it exposes our own hearts. Often we do it out of insecurity, pride, jealousy and other unworthy attitudes. When we feel critical of other ministers and ministries, perhaps we should examine our own hearts. Why are we feeling like this? In Charles Bridges excellent book on ‘The Christian Ministry’ he has a section dealing with causes of ministerial ineffectiveness connected with personal character defects. Under this general heading he has a chapter discussing the problem of pride. In it he writes these penetrating and exposing words: ‘Selfishness is indeed the peculiar character of this sin. It is, as if we could take no comparative interest in the conversion of sinners through other instrumentality than our own…We wish for eminence rather than usefulness. We want to stand alone. Instead of rejoicing in the spiritual acquirements of others, we are reluctant to admire superior talents, even when they are consecrated to the cause of their great Great Master. We cannot bear anything that shines too near us, and will probably eclipse our own brightness, either in the higher excellence of gifts, or in their more diligent improvement of them’ (pp.153, 154).

 

If only we could change our attitude, and recognise how much we have to learn from every other genuine servant of Christ, and then seek to learn. If only we could learn to pray sincerely for other churches, and ministries, and preachers. May God deliver us from this ugly and suffocating sin of parochialism. May HIS Kingdom come!

Daily Bible thoughts 1520: Friday 13th October 2017: Mark 9:33 – 35: The king of the castle.

Mark 9:33 – 35: The king of the castle.

“33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.  35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’” NIV UK

You have to see the incongruity don’t you? Jesus had just spoken about His death, and they were arguing among themselves about who was ‘’the greatest’’. Although their understanding was hazy, they understood enough to keep quiet about their conversation ‘’on the way’’ (34). The voice of conscience, I believe, told them this was not right. But they could not hide their hearts from Jesus. We never can.

Probably, the most serious problems in churches arise because of selfish ambition. It may be heavily disguised, but eventually it shows itself. Somebody wants to be ‘king of the castle.’ But someone else has her eyes on that job, and it leads to a right, royal (and undignified) battle.

‘’What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight’’ (James 4:1,2).

It remains the case that the most senior position on offer in Christ’s Kingdom is that of a ‘’servant’’ (35). Any takers?

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, as you came to serve, rather than to be served, so may I have your ‘mind’ transplanted into me (Philippians 2:1-11).

Daily Bible thoughts 1519: Thursday 12th October 2017: Mark 9:30-32: It can take time.

Mark 9:30-32: It can take time.

“30 They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, 31 because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.’ 32 But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.”

 

Recently I have been reading about the apostles in Acts 5. It’s interesting to consider verses 29-32 of that chapter in the light of what we read here. This is the second time Jesus had predicted His death and resurrection (see 8:31). Clearly the disciples did not ‘get it’ for the moment. But at a later date, in spite of imprisonment and intimidation, these men preached about the death and resurrection of Christ with great boldness and clarity. They would not be silenced. They were unstoppable. It’s the self-same men who here ‘’did not understand what he meant…’’ We’re talking about all the apostles (minus Judas). What a change had come over them.

It can take time for the penny to drop; for the truth to sink in. Just because someone doesn’t seem to understand the gospel today, it doesn’t mean they never will. Who can say what God will do with them when they see the light. They may well join that band of brave heroes who turn the world the right way up.

Daily Bible thoughts 1518: Wednesday 11th October 2017: Mark 9:28, 29: Restoring the power 3: Fasting.

Mark 9:28-29: Restoring the power 3: Fasting.

“28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why couldn’t we drive it out?’ 29 He replied, ‘This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.” ” NIV

In this passage, Jesus places into our hands certain ‘keys’ to becoming a powerFULL church. They are faith, prayer, and today we consider fasting.

‘’This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.’’ So say some manuscripts.

Jesus certainly expected that His disciples would fast (Matthew 6:16-18). The ‘flesh’ (sinful nature), and even the body itself may protest against fasting. It may kick and scream, and threaten a tantrum when it doesn’t get all the food and drink it desires. But those who fast before God, as Jesus taught, will testify to its power:

‘In some situations it is necessary to fast in order to receive our request from God. Many Christians have experienced greater results from prayer – more power, more blessing, more guidance – when they have fasted. To fast does not mean to merely go without eating for a period. Fasting is a demonstration of our desire to control our bodily appetites and put aside all worldly thoughts and desires in order to gain some spiritual benefit. Fasting is a sign of our readiness to offer ourselves fully to God so that His will might be accomplished. It is a sign that we are willing to give up even legitimate things such as food in order to better concentrate on serving Him. When, by fasting, we show God that we are serious about offering ourselves to Him, then He will respond to our prayers by giving us a greater measure of power and wisdom and spiritual blessing.’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied New Testament Commentary’, pp.248/249.

The best way to prove the power of fasting is to do it! In the West, with our self-indulgent tendencies, our love of ease, we may prefer to give it a miss. But there are certain battles which will never be won while we ignore prayerful fasting. I can’t explain how this works. The Bible doesn’t offer an explanation. But those who engage in the discipline prove its efficacy. It is both difficult and richly rewarding.

PRAYER: Lord, please give me the self-control to press into everything you have for me.

Daily Bible thoughts 1517: Tuesday 10th October 2017: Mark 9:28, 29: Restoring the power 2: Prayer.

Mark 9:28, 29: Restoring the power 2: Prayer.

“28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why couldn’t we drive it out?’ 29 He replied, ‘This kind can come out only by prayer.” NIV UK

In the church, we often find ourselves in the selfsame position as the disciples in this story. We are powerless in the face of evil. But we shouldn’t be. We don’t have to be.

In yesterday’s thought, I asked the question: ‘What makes for a powerFULL church? I said that Jesus places three ‘keys’ into the hands of His followers. The first one is faith.

The second key is prayer. The church that learns to kneel before God in prayer is on the way to experiencing His power. I don’t think there has been a powerful move of God that did not begin with the blended knee (metaphorically speaking). The commentator, Matthew Henry, famously said, ‘When God intends a great mercy for His people, first He sets them a praying.’ This has been the story of revival after revival. It might be just a few people who catch the vision; who feel the burden. But revival fires are lit in prayer, and are stoked by prayer.

Somebody said, ‘Little prayer, little power; some prayer, some power; much prayer, much power. I think most Christians (probably all) instinctively know this is true. But who will ‘pray the price’? We are experts at paying lip service to what we know about prayer. Is it any wonder that so many churches are so very weak, and find themselves impotent in the face of great human need?

The increase of faith is very much linked to prayer:

‘We all have some faith, but it is mixed with unbelief, with doubt. We must continually ask Jesus to increase our faith, so that our doubt and unbelief may be overcome. It is mainly because of unbelief that we receive so little from Christ and that our work for Christ is so weak and ineffective…Prayer is the means of receiving power. We must combine prayer with faith. Without faith, our prayers are ineffective; without prayer, our faith is ineffective. For effective praying, faith is necessary; and to obtain faith, prayer is necessary. The more we pray, the more will be our faith. The more we believe, the more effective our prayers will. In Matthew 9:29, Jesus says: ‘’According to your faith will it be done to you.’’ Praying in faith is like turning on the switch of an engine: if we do not turn it on, the engine will not run.’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied New Testament Commentary’,p.248.

PRAYER: Lord God, please pour the Spirit of prayer upon your people. Teach us to pray.

Daily Bible thoughts 1516: Monday 9th October 2017: Mark 9: 14-28 Restoring the power 1: Faith.

Mark 9: 14-28 Restoring the power 1: Faith.

“14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him. 16 ‘What are you arguing with them about?’ he asked. 17 A man in the crowd answered, ‘Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.’ 19 ‘You unbelieving generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.’ 20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. 21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, ‘How long has he been like this?’ ‘From childhood,’ he answered. 22 ‘It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.’ 23 ‘“If you can”?’ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for one who believes.’ 24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’ 25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. ‘You deaf and mute spirit,’ he said, ‘I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.’ 26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, ‘He’s dead.’ 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.  28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why couldn’t we drive it out?’” NIV UK

We don’t want to be the impotent church in the valley of need; powerless in the face of destructive demonic forces, do we? Does anyone reading this want to sign up for an insipid expression of their faith? I hope not. But how can things be as different as we know they can be? As different as they need to be?

In this passage Jesus places three ‘keys’ into the hands of His disciples.

What makes for a powerFULL church?  The first key is:

  1. Faith: Jesus rebuked everyone present that day for their lack of faith – including the dad, I think. He used the words ‘’if you can’’ to Jesus (22). Jesus picked him up on them in (23), quoting his own words back to him with a question mark behind them. He could heal the boy. That was not in doubt. The question was, could he believe? (23, 24). In timeless, candid words, the dad admitted that he had some faith, mixed with unbelief, and that’s where most of us are. We stand in his shoes, and look at disturbing realities through his eyes. In Matthew’s version of this story, the first thing Jesus says in reply to His disciples’ question: ‘’Why couldn’t we drive it out?’’ (Matthew 17:19), is, ‘’Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you’’ (Matthew 17:20). That’s what happened when Jesus evicted the demon (25). It’s an example of perfect faith in operation.

‘Even though his faith were small, it would suffice; the tiniest seed can appropriate the chemical products of the soil, and transmute them into digestible products; the narrowest channel will suffice for the passage of the waters of the whole ocean, if you give time enough. Let us not worry about the greatness or smallness of our faith; the main point is as to whether it is directed towards the living Saviour…For every thought of thy little faith take ten thoughts of his faithfulness.’’ F.B.Meyer: ‘Great verses through the Bible’, p.382.

PRAYER: Lord, increase our faith.

Daily Bible thoughts 1515: Friday 6th October 2017: Mark 9: 14-18: The problem of the powerless church.

Mark 9: 14-18: The problem of the powerless church.

“14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.  16 ‘What are you arguing with them about?’ he asked.  17 A man in the crowd answered, ‘Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.’” NIV UK

‘’…but they could not’’ (18).

The man had brought his son to Jesus, presumably when He was still up the mountain. So he got the disciples instead. The main ‘GP’ was out, so he was seen by some ‘juniors’. That shouldn’t have made any difference. Jesus had previously given them authority to cast out demons (Mark 3:14,15; 6:7), ‘’but they could not.’’

 So here is a discrepancy between what Jesus would do, could do, and did do, and what the disciples couldn’t. It’s a tension I often feel. I regularly think about our church prayer list and feel, ‘If Jesus were physically here, He would probably heal most of these people, if not all.’ But He’s ‘up the mountain’ as it were. He’s seated at God’s right hand in heaven. We are down in the valley of need, and we regularly seem powerless. There is an incongruity about this when you consider what we’ve been given; when you meditate on all that we are and have in Christ

But things don’t have to stay like this. Things can change. In the remaining thoughts on this passage we will receive some pointers.

PRAYER: Lord, have mercy on us. Please forgive us for all the times we display impotence, when we should be moving in your manifest power.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: