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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

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November 2017

Daily Bible thoughts 1545: Friday 17th November 2017: Mark 13: 9-13: The price of progress

Mark 13: 9-13: The price of progress

“9 ‘You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. 12 ‘Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 13 Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” NIV UK

In the Bible there is an interplay between persecution and progress. This short section is, in essence, the story of Acts written in advance. The church grew significantly over a period of time, but what a price was paid in suffering. We should not be surprised when Christians are tried and arrested, or when family members ostracise us because of the faith. Of course we are saddened by it. But if we are listening carefully to Jesus we will not be taken by surprise.

In today’s reading note especially the words: ‘’On account of me’’ and ‘’because of me’’ (9,13): ‘You can belong to all sorts of religious groups today and not suffer much opposition from family and friends, but the minute you bring the name of Jesus into the picture, and share the gospel, somebody will start to oppose you. His name is still hated.’ Warren Wiersbe.’ ‘The Wiersbe Bible Commentary’, p.126.

That observation is surely true. It is regularly the case that to mention Jesus is to drop a bomb in the middle of a conversation – unless you are blaspheming, of course. Then it will be okay with many people. Not all, of course, but, as I say, with many. That is interesting, don’t you think?

PRAYER: If anyone stops to think about it, Lord, this hatred of your Name has to come from somewhere. I pray that the devil’s loathing of your beloved Name will not cow me into silence. Help me to feel in my very bones that this gospel ‘must’ be preached in all the world.

Daily Bible thoughts 1544: Thursday 16th November 2017: Mark 13:5-8: Creation groaning.

Mark 13:5-8: Creation groaning.

“5 Jesus said to them: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, “I am he,” and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth-pains. ” NIV UK

‘’We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time’’ (Romans 8:22).

Jesus knows what is going to happen before it happens. Here he gave His disciples signs – things to expect to happen before the fall of Jerusalem. History says they did happen:

  • False Christ’s did appear (see also 21-23). Before and during the Roman invasion certain Jews rose up and claimed to be the Messiah. They urged their fellow-Jews to fight the Romans;
  • Between 62 and 66 AD, just a few years before Jerusalem was destroyed, there were many wars throughout the Roman Empire. There were also many rumours of revolts against the emperor. The Empire had enjoyed a measure of peace (the ‘Pax Romana”) for multiple years; but as it decayed and nationalism developed, it was inevitable that nations would start to fight one another;
  • There were famines in various parts of the empire before Jerusalem’s destruction (see, e.g. Acts 11:28). According to Roman historians, there were also several earthquakes in different parts of the empire during that time;
  • In Luke 21:11, Jesus also said there would be ‘’great signs from heaven’’ before the destruction of Jerusalem. According to both Roman and Jewish historians , these signs did occur. The Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, said a comet appeared over Jerusalem for many nights with a tail shaped like a sword.

But it is important to note Jesus said, ‘’These are the beginning of birth-pains’’ (8b). When a mother is in labour, the contractions intensify as the time draws near for the baby to be born. Something you see as you study Mark 13 is that the signs of Jerusalem’s destruction in AD 70, and those of the end of the age, are similar. There is an overlapping of these two things. So, Tom Hale observes: ‘These events that occurred before the destruction of Jerusalem were only the beginning of the events that will ultimately lead to the end of the world. We know that in the past 1900 years, even greater wars have occurred, and even greater earthquakes and famines. False Christ’s even today are rising up in different parts of the world. Jesus’ prophecy not only was fulfilled before the fall of Jerusalem, but it is also continuing to be fulfilled right up to this present time, as we await His coming again at the end of the world.’ ‘The applied New Testament Commentary’, p.267.

 

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1543: Wednesday 15th November 2017: Mark 13:5-8: Truth and boots

Mark 13:5-8: Truth and boots

“5 Jesus said to them: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, “I am he,” and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth-pains. ” NIV UK

The truth will set you free. But first, it will make you mad! Perhaps that’s why people can find lies so appealing.

We have seen over the last couple of days that if we are to live safely in these last days:

  1. We must not rely on anything – however substantial it may seem;
  2. We must walk with Jesus (3,4). It’s now time to add a third thing:
  3. We must know the ‘signs of the times’ (5-8). We can be so immersed in the Bible as a whole that we have an alertness towards history as it unfolds. We understand the times. This is something the Lord wants for us. He doesn’t want us to get into wild, hysterical speculation. That’s not healthy. Some people waste a lot of time trying to work out details of prophetic fulfillment before it happens. We so often get it wrong. But people who live deeply in God’s Word will have an insightful perspective on current affairs. Another important point to emphasise about them is that they will not be easily deceived (5). The best way to spot a counterfeit bank note, I’m told, is not to study the fraud but to know the genuine article well. People with deep roots in Scripture are less likely to be led astray. Jesus did not answer the chronology question put to Him in (4). Instead, He gave a stern warning about deception. Because Jesus said this first in the list here, I believe it is more important than we may think. As the end approaches, I think deception will intensify, culminating in the appearance of antichrist. There is some thing in human nature that loves – maybe even prefers? – a lie. As Mark Twain observed: ‘A lie will travel half way round the world while the truth is still getting its boots on!’ So we could be in great danger. Let’s give full attention to Jesus.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1542: Tuesday 14th November 2017: Mark 13: 1-4: Walk with Jesus.

Mark 13: 1-4: Walk with Jesus.

“As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!’ ‘Do you see all these great buildings?’ replied Jesus. ‘Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.’ As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, ‘Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?’ ” NIV UK

If we are to live safely in these last days:

  1. We must not rely on anything – however substantial it may seem. We saw this yesterday;
  2. We must walk with Jesus (3,4).

Say Jesus was in London and you were His disciple. If, walking around Westminster He said to you, pointing to the Abbey, the Cathedral and the Houses of Parliament, that all these buildings would soon be destroyed, you might be tempted to think the end of the world was around the corner. ‘This is pretty catastrophic,’ you would say to yourself. After the Lord had spoken about the destruction of the temple buildings, the disciples asked: ‘’Tell us, when will these things happen?’’ According to Matthew 24:3 they also wanted to know: ‘’…and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’’ They asked both questions because, it seems, they supposed the destruction of the temple would be concurrent with the end of the world.

‘…we can understand from this chapter that the signs that preceded the destruction of Jerusalem are similar to the signs that will precede the end of the world. In other words, the destruction of Jerusalem is a foretaste of the events that will occur at the end of the world. Therefore, even those parts of this chapter that refer to the destruction of Jerusalem can also serve as a warning to us about what will happen at the end of the world.’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied New Testament Commentary’, p.266. It’s important to see this interweaving of the two things as you read through the chapter.

Discipleship is a real relationship with the living Jesus (3,4). He speaks to us and we speak with Him. We can ask Him questions. We may seek His wisdom (James 1:5-8). Our times in private, with Jesus, are so important for cultivation the discipleship relationship with Him. They should not be neglected.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank you for this gift of a personal relationship with you. Help me to cherish, nurture and value it above all things.Please enable me to consciously be with you through my moments and days, and learn from you how to be like you.

Daily Bible thoughts 1541: Monday 13th November 2017: Mark 13:1,2: Man looks on the outward appearance…

Mark 13:1-2: Man looks on the outward appearance…

“As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!’ ‘Do you see all these great buildings?’ replied Jesus. ‘Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.’ ” NIV

Don’t put your trust in anything other than God.

The Jews were proud of their temple, in spite of the fact that it was built by the Herod family to placate them. It was one of the largest and most magnificent buildings in the ancient world. Around it were many colonnades and courtyards and and smaller buildings. The temple area filled one sixth of the city. It’s frontage was covered with gold, and from a distance it shimmered in the bright middle eastern sunshine. It was quite a sight. Some of its stones were thirty feet long and twelve feet wide. It was impressive. There was no doubt about it. It seemed as if this temple could never be destroyed. Yet, forty years later, when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in A.D.70, they destroyed the temple too. Since that time it has never been rebuilt.  But Jesus had already given His estimate of the temple (11:15-17), and it was different to that of His disciples. ‘’The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart’’ (1 Samuel 16:7). Jesus had already said what He had to say about the ‘heart’ of the temple. On the inside it was corrupt to the core and doomed to destruction. Its days were numbered. But the disciples were still taken with the ‘outward appearance’. It was like a terminally- diseased person, who somehow still manages to look good because of the clothes they wear and the make-up they apply.

The things in this world that seem so solid; these things we rely on, are actually transient, temporary and insubstantial. They can be destroyed in a moment. On 11th September 2001, I was out on a pastoral visit when the news filtered through of the appalling situation unfolding in New York City. We watched the television with unbelief as the twin towers crumbled to dust, revealing devastating and deadly fragility. My colleague, who was sharing the visit with me, spoke about how he had stood on top of the World Trade Centre and watched planes flying in to a local airport below. In the wake of that day, words from Revelation 18:10 came to mind: ‘’Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!’’ I’m not saying what happened was a literal fulfilment, but the twin symbols of western capitalism crumbled so quickly.

That’s how it is with things we value. They can be gone in a moment. That’s the truth.

PRAYER: Oh Lord, how important it is that you should be my only true treasure. Thank you for the lovely things you bless us with, but help us not to make an idol of them. We cannot rely on them, only on you.

Daily Bible thoughts 1540: Friday 10th November 2017: Mark 12:41-44: Sacrificial giving

Mark 12:41-44: Sacrificial giving

“41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few pence. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.’ ” NIV UK

 

‘’For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have’’ (2 Corinthians 8:12).

God measures our giving not so much by what we put in, but by how much we have left. As someone said, He looks at the proportion and not the portion.

 Tom Hale’s comments on this are helpful: ‘When we give a gift to God, we think about how much we give. But God thinks about how much we don’t give!…The essence of giving is sacrifice. When we give to God we should go without something we want or need. We should not be content to give only what we can afford. We need to give more than we can afford (2 Corinthians 8:1-3)…As much as we give sacrificially to others, God will give to us (see 2 Corinthians 9:6-9…)’ ‘The Applied New Testament Commentary’, p.265.

For many Christians, the regular giving of the tithe (10% of income as a minimum) will take them into this territory. If they thought about it, they might feel they could do with that money themselves. But they probably don’t think about it. They regard the ‘tenth’ as sacrosanct and not ‘up for grabs’. All they have belongs to God anyway, and the giving of the ten percent is acknowledgment that this is so.

An old epitaph reads: ‘What I gave, I have. What I spent, I had. What I kept, I lost.’

‘’One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed’’ (Proverbs 11:24, 25).

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1539: Thursday 9th November 2017: Mark 12:35-40: On the front foot.

Mark 12:35-40: On the front foot.

“35 While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, ‘Why do the teachers of the law say that the Messiah is the son of David? 36 David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: ‘“The Lord said to my Lord:  ‘Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.’” 37 David himself calls him “Lord”. How then can he be his son?’ The large crowd listened to him with delight. 38 As he taught, Jesus said, ‘Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the market-places,39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets. 40 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.’” NIV UK

Jesus had stood at the crease for some time. He had faced violent fast bowling, fended off bouncers, and dealt with tricky spin. He had stoutly defended His wicket. But now He went onto the front foot. He had a question of His own. The point He wanted to make was that the Messiah was not just David’s ‘’son’’ (35). He was also David’s ‘’Lord’’ (36, 37). Jesus quoted Psalm 110:1 to show that David referred to the Messiah as ‘’Lord’’.

He then went on to give a warning about the ‘clergy’ of His day – the kind of people who had been bowling questions at Him (38-40). Religious leaders are supposed to seek God’s glory, but they can so easily be all about their own glory. Pride is a huge temptation for any leader, Christian or not (Matthew 23:5-7). They paraded their spirituality, made people think they were better than they actually were. So they manipulated the poor people into feeling they had to give to them. Men who prayed so much surely could be trusted? They seemed like sheep to their followers, but their only interest was in eating other sheep! (Matthew 7:15)

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you humbled yourself to come among us. You made yourself of no reputation and served. Please help our leaders to walk humbly with their God.

Daily Bible thoughts 1538: Wednesday 8th November 2017: Mark 12:28-34: The puncturing of pride.

Mark 12:28-34: The puncturing of pride.

“28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ 29 ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” 31 The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.’ 32 ‘Well said, teacher,’ the man replied. ‘You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ 34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.” NIV

I’m not surprised that today’s passage ends as it does, are you? (34b). The surprising thing for me is that they didn’t give up sooner. Whatever they had, Jesus had more. He always responded to their ‘shots across the bow’ with superior firepower.

The arrogance of this man gets me (32). It feels like he’s acting the part of the superior teacher. It’s as if Jesus is his student and the man is marking his paper. He certainly gives Jesus a good grade. How could he do otherwise? But it still seems that he’s being condescending.

It didn’t take many words from Jesus to stick a pin in His pride ‘balloon’ (34). No wonder other opponents took note and backed off. There are times when the greatest thing Jesus can do for a human being is to take them down a peg or two – even if it hurts. It will.

PRAYER: Lord, help me to humble myself before you. I would rather humble myself than have to be humbled.

Daily Bible thoughts 1537: Tuesday 7th November 2017: Mark 12:18-27: ‘That’s why they were sad, you see!’

Mark 12:18-27: ‘That’s why they were sad, you see!’

“18 Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 19 ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. 21 The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. 22 In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. 23 At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?’ 24 Jesus replied, ‘Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? 25 When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 26 Now about the dead rising – have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” ? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!’ “ NIV

The Sadducees were next in the queue to have a nip at Jesus’ heels. Some people will never learn. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. No wonder they were sad! They thought they had a humdinger of a question. To continue the chess playing analogy from yesterday, they truly did think they had the Lord in a corner. ‘Check.’ Get out of that one if you can Jesus.

He could. Very easily. He exposed their ignorance. Like so many people who don’t believe certain supernatural doctrines, they didn’t understand what it was they didn’t believe. They did not really know their Bibles. There is no marriage in heaven. Their question was irrelevant, based on complete misunderstanding. If we are happily married, we may find it hard to understand how we could still be happy if no longer married. But someone put it like this: imagine being in a candle-lit room. It’s cosy. It’s beautiful. It’s so romantic. But then the day dawns. Sunlight fills the room. It just overwhelms the candlelight. A greater light has come in and no one is complaining.

The other area of ignorance for the Pharisees concerned God’s power. If you have any grasp at all of how powerful God is, you will not be surprised by His ability to raise the dead (Acts 26:8).

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