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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


December 2017

Daily Bible thoughts 1575: Friday 29th December 2017: Genesis 1: 14-19: Throwaway line.

Genesis 1: 14-19: Throwaway line.

’14 And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.’ And it was so. 16 God made two great lights – the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning – the fourth day.” NIV UK

It almost seems a throwaway line: ‘’He also made the stars’’ (16b).

‘’When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?’’ (Psalm 8:3,4).

A little while ago, one clear night, Jilly and I braved the cold and went on to Melmerby Moor, in the Dales, to look at the stars. It’s not officially ‘dark sky’ up there, but there is less light pollution than most of us experience. It was magnificent in its immeasurable expansiveness. Almost immediately I saw (I think!!) a shooting star. It was there one moment and gone the next. The more clearly we see the night sky, the more we wonder, and the more we are put in our place. Yet how briefly and beautifully the creation story deals with the making of the stars. It’s like a shooting verse!

In the spiritual universe, Jesus is ‘’the greater light’’. We are like the moon and stars: ‘’lesser’’ lights to ‘’govern the night’’. We do have an authoritative role in the world, and it is linked to our holiness. The more light in our lives, the greater the likeness to Jesus, the more will be our impact. Jesus shines with His own inherent light, but what a privilege to be able to reflect Him (Philippians 2:14-16).

Daily Bible thoughts 1574: Thursday 28th December 2017: Genesis 1:6-13: The secret of fruitfulness.

Genesis 1:6-13: The secret of fruitfulness.

‘6 And God said, ‘Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.’ So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault ‘sky’. And there was evening, and there was morning – the second day. And God said, ‘Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.’ And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground ‘land’, and the gathered waters he called ‘seas’. And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning – the third day.” NIV UK

It is a ‘’good’’ thing to be fruitful. God has declared it so. As we prepare to exit one year and to enter another, I want to know how I can be fruitful. I want the church I’m part of to be fruitful.

Well, as with the ‘’vegetation’’ in today’s passage, there are different ‘’kinds’’ of believers. There’s a great variety in the church. We differ so much from one another. Our backgrounds are not the same. Our wiring is different. ‘I’d like you more if you were more like me’ is the title of a recent book from the pen of John Ortberg. Of course it expresses the fact that we are different, and that these differences often lead to tensions. John Stott once observed that we are not to imagine that we have all been ‘mass produced in some celestial factory’. But as different as we may be, He makes us all with the potential for fruitfulness.

There can be no fruitfulness without the Word Of God: ‘’Then God said, ‘’Let the land produce vegetation…’’ ‘’

There can be no fruitfulness without the activity of God Himself.

PRAYER: O Lord, make us very fruitful, to the glory of your Name.

Daily Bible thoughts 1573: Wednesday 27th December 2017: Genesis 1:1-5: ‘And God said…’

Genesis 1:1-5: ‘And God said…’

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.  And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day’, and the darkness he called ‘night’. And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day.

I read a devotional by the preacher and author A.W. Tozer. (I’m reminded, by the way, of something Warren Wiersbe wrote about Tozer’s preaching, saying that it was about as safe as a blast furnace!) Anyway, as best as I understood it, in this piece Tozer was saying that we seem to feel obliged, often, to try to explain what God hasn’t explained. He argued that we should have the confidence to say what God has said, and leave the outcome with Him.

God’s Word certainly is a powerful word. Throughout Genesis 1 we hear the repeated refrain: ‘’And God said…And it was so.’’ John 1 tells us that through ‘’the Word’’ (Jesus), ‘’all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made’’ (John 1:3). The writer to the Hebrews says: ‘’sustaining all things by his powerful word’’ (Hebs.1:3). Here in the opening verses of Genesis, God’s Word and Spirit combined to create light where previously there was ‘’darkness’’ (2).

The passage also tells us that God ‘’separated the light from the darkness’’ (4). I want to say, ‘What God has put asunder, let no man join together.’ ‘’…what fellowship can light have with darkness?’’ (2 Corinthians 7:14).

‘’This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin’’ (1 John 1:5-7).

In our own lives; in the pursuit of holiness, we must ever be separating out the darkness from the light. Let the light expose it, then let the darkness be evicted. It does not belong in our redeemed hearts. The light should ‘’govern’’ us (16) and not the dark.

PRAYER: Holy Lord, may we as children of light continually separate ourselves from all which is dark and alien to you.

Daily Bible thoughts 1572: 26th December 2017: Mark 16:9-20: He’s back!

Mark 16:9-20: He’s back!

“9 When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. 11 When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.  12 Afterwards Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. 13 These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.  14 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.  15 He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.16 Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on people who are ill, and they will get well.’  19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. 20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it. NIV UK

The story of the resurrection may have that ‘too good to be true’ feel about it. The first witnesses were met with incredulity also (11, 13 and 14). But many people who start out shaking their heads in disbelief, end up on their knees in wonder. We should not be surprised. As the last verse shows, the Lord is alive, and He works ‘’with’’ His church. He meets people today. He speaks to us. He shows us He is alive.  I remember the first time I saw the play of ‘the Lion, the witch and the wardrobe’. We had watched Aslan be slain at the hands of the wicked witch. But when, a little while later, he appeared triumphantly alive at the top of the steps towards the rear of the theatre, we wanted to cheer. Something of the thrill of the resurrection story vibrated through us. The symbolism rang loud bells in our hearts.  The message for a sin-infected world is ‘Danger, God at work!’ Sin and evil are under threat, because Jesus is alive, and His Kingdom is coming.

So let’s conclude our look at Mark’s gospel with a great big ‘Hallelujah!’ A.W. Tozer commented that some people come home from a ball game hoarse from shouting, but in the church our joy doesn’t often come close to that. How sad when we have such a thrilling message. He’s back!

‘The stone was rolled away, not to let Jesus out, but to let the church in.’ Seeing what we see, how can we be silent?



Daily Bible thoughts 1571: 25th December 2017: Mark 16:1-8: Happy Easter!!

Mark 16:1-8: Happy Easter!!

“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, ‘Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?’ But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”’ Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

It seems entirely appropriate that, in our consecutive reading of ‘Mark’, we should come on Christmas Day to a passage about the resurrection of Christ. I remember a time, a few years ago, when Christians often displayed a sticker in their car or on a house window at Christmas time, declaring: ‘He was born to die.’ That is certainly true. But we can go further and assert that He was not, however, born to stay dead. He was born to rise…and to live forevermore in the power of ‘’an indestructible life’’ ( Hebrews 7:16b).

On Christmas Day, as we celebrate the miracle of the incarnation, it is vital to look beyond the manger to the cross and empty tomb. We have to understand why Jesus was born.

‘’…you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins’’ (Matthew 1:21b).

This is the perfect time to see the link between Christmas and Easter. May we never lose sight of it.

Also, we can take heart that, as Max Lucado says, ‘He still moves stones’’ – and ‘’very large’’ ones (4) I might add.

 The birth of the Saviour was for the removal of sin.

Daily Bible thoughts 1570: Friday 22nd December 2017: Mark 15:42-47: Courage and kindness.

Mark 15:42-47: Courage and kindness.

“42 It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45 When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.” NIV UK

Courage and kindness are two qualities which never fail to impress. They move us; touch our hearts; influence towards higher things. We inevitably feel the call of their example.

Joseph of Arimathea showed both in great measure. Don’t underestimate the guts it took for him as ‘’a prominent member of the council’’ – the council which had just had Jesus put to death – to identify so publicly with the Lord. When most of Jesus’ followers were not to be seen for dust, Joseph was there with this moving act of loving service. It was a courageous action. It certainly would have taken ‘boldness’ to approach the Roman governor and ask for Jesus’ body.

It was also a kind thing to do. We learn from elsewhere in the gospels that Joseph gave Jesus his own tomb.

Therefore, we can add that it was a costly thing to do:

  • Potentially, costly to his reputation; his standing;
  • But also, costly to his pocket. He ‘’bought some linen cloth’’ (46) with which to wrap Jesus’ body, and he gave Jesus the tomb he had prepared for himself, presumably at his own expense. (But he got it back didn’t he?!! Think Resurrection Sunday! He may have thought he was giving it to Jesus, but the Master only wanted to borrow it for a short interval).

Whenever we come to God, in Jesus’ Name, we can come ‘’boldly’’ (43). Joseph must have wondered what kind of response he would receive from a tough, high-ranking Roman. We need be in no doubt about the welcome awaiting us at the ‘’The throne of grace’’ (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Daily Bible thoughts 1569: Thursday 21st December 2017: Mark 15:33-41: Remove your shoes.

Mark 15:53-41: Remove your shoes.

“33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’).  35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, ‘Listen, he’s calling Elijah.’  36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. ‘Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,’ he said.  37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.  38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’  40 Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph,  and Salome. 41 In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.” NIV UK

A few years ago, in our church, we were doing a series on the cross. We asked an esteemed retired pastor to speak on Isaiah 53. He’s a much-loved, regular visitor; widely known and respected as a Bible teacher. He must have been well into his 80’s by this time. He’s been preaching for years. But he took our breath away when he said he had never before preached from the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. He taught us something significant in his very admission of reticence. He showed us that we should revere God’s Word, and especially the central truth of the cross.

I don’t want to say anything about today’s passage, other than to ask that we ‘remove our shoes’, and stand with ‘’the centurion’’ (39) ‘’in front of Jesus’’, and allow this scene to impact us, as it did for him.

I will add, though, that we stand on holy ground. But we can also affirm that the way into the holiest place of all has been opened to us (38).

Daily Bible thoughts 1568: Wednesday 20th December 2017: Mark 15:21-32: Change of heart

Mark 15:21-32: Change of heart

“21 A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. 22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means ‘the place of the skull’). 23 Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get. 25 It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The written notice of the charge against him read: the king of the jews27 They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. 29 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 come down from the cross and save yourself!’ 31 In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.’ Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.” NIV UK

‘’They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left…Those crucified with him also heaped insults on Him’’ (27, 32b).

But at some point during that day one of them had a change of heart and repented (Luke 23:42). This shows that people can change. It tells us that even those who are antagonistic towards Christ can have a rethink. Essentially, He asked Jesus to save Him, and Jesus did. But if the Lord had saved Himself, He would not have been able to save others (31). Jesus’ sufferings for us were undiluted (23).  In a sense, these two rebels represent the entire world, and we are one side or the other of the central cross; rejecting or accepting Jesus. On which side are you?

Daily Bible thoughts 1567: Tuesday 19th December 2017: Mark 15: 16-20:Mockery

Mark 15: 16-20:Mockery

“16 The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. 17 They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. 18 And they began to call out to him, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ 19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spat on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.”NIV UK

This treatment of Jesus, in which they mocked the notion of His Kingship, and acted out a parody of worship, actually serves to underline the truth that He is God and King. When we read: ‘’Then they led him out to crucify Him’’ (20), we know that they could only do it because He allowed them to. They would have had no power over Him, except it was given them from heaven. What restraint He showed. What humility. ‘He could have called ten thousand angels to destroy the world and set Him free. He could have called ten thousand angels; but He died alone, for you and for me.’

Here is majestic dignity beyond all comprehension; here is humility beyond description or understanding.  We still hear echoes of this mocking laughter today, as the cynics and many in the intellectual elite pour scorn on our faith. It’s really Jesus they’re despising. But He stands above it all. It does not reduce the power and effectiveness of His cross one iota.

PRAYER: Thank you Jesus. Simply, thank you. I hardly know what else to say.

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