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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Month

March 2020

John 17:1-5: Lift up your heads.

John 17:1-5: Lift up your heads.

“After Jesus said this, he looked towards heaven and prayed: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” NIV

FELLOWSHIP (1a):
Jesus knew that it was time for Him to die; that it was time for the world to throw its worst His way. He also knew that His closest friends would forsake Him. But in that situation He looked up and prayed.

”Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray” (James 5:13a).

But do we do this? In circumstances where heads would naturally dip, Jesus shows how to lift them up. Although He knew He would be abandoned by men, He sought fellowship with the One who would never leave or forsake Him (Hebrews 13:5, 6).

In that same letter to the Hebrews you read: ”Therefore strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees! ”Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed” (12;12, 13). These words are located in a passage where the message is: ”Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…’ (2) and ”Consider him…” (3).

”After Jesus said this, he looked towards heaven and prayed…” He’s our pattern.

FAVOUR (2,3):
God is sovereign in conversion. Whenever it happens it is a Divine miracle. It is a work of sheer grace.There is a certain unfathomable mystery about it, and it causes us to stand in awe before our great God. It is true that we do not choose Him, but He chooses us. He takes the initiative.

FINISHING (4):
Like Jesus Himself, we can bring glory to God in this world by fully giving ourselves to whatever it may be that He gives us to do -missionary, pastor, mechanic, accountant, student, wife, mother, father, husband, teacher…whatever. There are so many possibilities. But whatever God gives you to do, do it with all your might. God will give you enough years to get His will done, but not sufficient time to allow for wastage. Do you remember Magnus Magnusson’s famous line on ‘Mastermind’? ”I’ve started so I’ll finish.” A college principal used to say to his students, ”It is always too soon to quit.”

”I glorified you on earth by completing down to the last detail what you assigned me to do.” The Message.

PRAYER: Lord, you know I sometimes feel discouraged, but please help me to never even consider throwing in the towel. You’ve given me a great work to do. Enable me by your grace to keep going, in good times and in bad.

 

John 16:25-33: On top of the world!

John 16:25-33: On top of the world!

“25 ‘Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27 No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.’29 Then Jesus’ disciples said, ‘Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. 30 Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.’31 ‘Do you now believe?’ Jesus replied. 32 ‘A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.33 ‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ NIV

Here is a truth you will discover sooner or later if you haven’t already done so: people can be fickle. You will probably, in the course of your lifetime, be wounded, and feel let down by and disappointed in people who you thought were your friends. You loved them, and served them; you treated them kindly and courteously, and then one day you find yourself bleeding copiously from a ‘knife wound’ they inflicted on you. And it hurts so much. Sometimes the cut goes that deep you feel you will never recover. At least, you can’t imagine the scar fading.

Many years ago, as a rather naive eighteen year old, I asked a Ugandan student in Bible College how he found people in the UK. His deadpan response was, ”People are people brother.” As someone said, ”The best of men are men at best.” We are all fallen, flawed and frail and capable of damaging as well as being damaged. ”People are people”.

In this world Jesus had trouble – terrible trouble. He soaked up the hatred and violence of His enemies. But He was also badly let down, when ‘push came to shove’, by his closest friends. He had spent around three years with these men, and poured His life and love into them. He had given Himself unstintingly to them. Even as they were telling Him that they were beginning to ‘get it’; that they were starting to understand His specialness, His uniqueness, He knew that they were about to let Him down big time.

”Do you finally believe? In fact, you’re about to make a run for it – saving your own skins and abandoning me.” The Message.

Like Jesus we will have trouble in this world. It will come predominantly from an antagonistic culture. But probably too much will come our way from fellow disciples who ought to know better. (Yet, knowing the worst about ourselves, we are not surprised, even if we are saddened.) How do you deal with this? Jesus points the way by example and word:

  1. Remember you are never alone. The Father will not abandon His beloved child.
  2. Recognise that in Jesus, the ‘Prince of Peace’ there is peace. ‘He is our peace’. In this world we will have trouble. But there’s a deeper reality: first and foremost we are in Jesus
  3. Realise that Christ is the Victor and we share in His victory. I believe that in one version Jesus, having spelled out that in the world His disciples will have trouble, goes on to say, ”But cheer up. I’m on top of it.” That’s important to remember. In fact, never let it out of your sight.

John 16:23-24: Standing on the promises.

John 16:23-24: Standing on the promises.

“23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” NIV

This is a short passage, but one rich in promise. As you meditate on it you will surely become convinced of a number of things:

  1. Convinced that Jesus wants you to pray: ”This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father…” The Message. In this post-resurrection era, Jesus wants His followers to know that they can ask. Indeed, He positively encourages such asking. Here is a way to please Jesus – pray!
  2. Convinced that Jesus wants you to pray in His will: ”Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will…” The Message.
  3. Convinced that the Father is generous: ”…and he’ll most certainly give it to you.” The Message. Jesus taught us to pray, saying, ”Our Father…” We human fathers, even though we are flawed; seriously affected by the sin virus, nevertheless we love to give good gifts to our children. We will give them everything we can so long as we are convinced that it is for their good, and that we can afford it. Just think of the heart of the perfect Heavenly Father towards His own; He who is rich without limitation.
  4. Convinced that a life of answered prayer is one of overflowing joy: ”Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks.” The Message. Who would not want such flooding, internal joy that bursts out to saturate the external world with all its need? A joyful life is not possible if you are a stranger to prayer. I am persuaded that a faithful, believing, praying life is one of excitement and adventure. Turn your Bible into prayer; let Scripture be the rails upon which the ‘train’ of your prayer life travels, and watch where it leads. But I know the devil will try to tell you that it will be boring. Bishop Ryle, in his book ‘Holiness’, celebrates the proliferation of many large Christian meetings and missions across the country in his day.(He was writing in the late 1800’s). But he gives this warning, that public religion must be accompanied by private religion. There can be a lot of ‘froth and bubble’; much sensationalism and emotionalism surrounding large Christian gatherings. So he writes about the need for Christians to have deep roots in a personal walk with God. Over a hundred years later his clarion call remains relevant: ”The root of a plant or a tree makes no show above ground. If you dig down to it and examine it, it is a poor, dirty, coarse-looking thing, and not nearly so beautiful to the eye as the fruit, or leaf, or flower. But that despised root, nevertheless, is the true source of all the life, health, vigour and fertility which your eyes see, and without it the plant or tree would soon die.” Bishop J.C. Ryle, ‘Holiness’, p.305.

PRAYER: Lord please enable me to live a life deeply rooted in you.

John 16: 17-22: Any Answers?

John 16: 17-22: Any Answers?

“17 At this, some of his disciples said to one another, ‘What does he mean by saying, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,” and “Because I am going to the Father”?’ 18 They kept asking, ‘What does he mean by “a little while”? We don’t understand what he is saying.’19 Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, ‘Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me”? 20 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” NIV

”Are you trying to figure out among yourselves what I meant when I said…?” (19) The Message.

Questions, questions, questions! It is not wrong to ask questions. Rather it is natural and normal to have them. Life throws up scores of questions.

It’s not wrong either to talk with fellow disciples about our questions. The essence of fellowship is ‘sharing’, and we can and should open up our hearts, our thoughts to one another. We really can help each other.

Neither is it wrong to try to ”figure” out what Jesus means. God has given you a wonderful brain. It is a remarkable gift. We are told that we don’t come anywhere close to fully utilising its capacity. So, by all means, please use the grey stuff between your ears. Be a thinking Christian…

…but do this PRAYERFULLY.

It is a big mistake to ask questions that pertain to Jesus, His Word and His work, and not ask Him WHEN HE IS WITH US. It is sad when we run the church by committee meetings and brainstorming sessions and good ideas, but do not pray – or, at least, pray only perfunctorily:

”If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

Sometimes we just don’t do the obvious:

”Jesus knew they were dying to ask him what he meant…” (19) The Message.

So why don’t we?  Is it that we think the Lord might ‘find fault’ with us; might scold us for our stupidity or ignorance? Might be somewhat annoyed or irritated? 

Jesus is willing to explain to us as much as He wants us to know. He doesn’t unveil every mystery of course, but He is alive, and He speaks to His followers. I thought about entitling this piece ‘Any questions?’, but in the end I went for ‘Any answers?’ His answers are far more important than our questions. We will not always find what He says to us easy to bear, but we can trust Him to be truthful. Whatever pain may lie in the short term, over the long haul the outlook is glorious. The Christian story is a ”happy ever after” story.

And a day is coming when we will have all the answers we need.

But for today, what pressing, burning questions do you need to lay at Jesus’ feet? Come – He bids you, and at His door you will see the ‘welcome’ mat.

PRAYER: Thank you Lord Jesus that you speak to your disciples still today, and that you are willing to help. Please forgive me for the many times I try to work through stuff on my own. I ask today for your wisdom with regard to…(fill in the blanks yourself), and I trust that I will be given help and understanding. Thank you Lord.

John 16:12-16: The promised Holy Spirit.

John 16:12-16: The promised Holy Spirit.

12 ‘I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.’ 16 Jesus went on to say, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.’NIV

There are many true things we can say about the Holy Spirit.Here are three further points:

  1. The Holy Spirit reveals truth (13, 15). We would not have a Bible without the Holy Spirit, and we cannot understand it without the Spirit. In Ephesians Paul prays that the ”eyes” of the hearts of the believers will be opened. Such revelation is made possible only by the Holy Spirit. He gives us ‘eyes to see’. In a sense every Christian testimony says, ”Once I was blind, but now I see.” We are brought out of darkness into marvellous light. We need this passage to understand the doctrine of inspiration; to grasp how the apostles were able to accurately remember the words and works of Jesus, write up the story, and interpret it’s meaning.
  2. The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus (14). Jim Packer writes in his book, ‘Keep in step with the Spirit’ about ”the floodlight ministry” of the Spirit of God. He says that when floodlights are working properly you are not aware of them, only of the building being illuminated. So it is with God’s Spirit. He does not glorify Himself. He puts the spotlight on Jesus. 
  3. The Holy Spirit enables us to ”see” Jesus (16). Although the Lord has physically gone from the earth, and is now at the right Hand of the Father, all who have the Spirit are able to ”see” Him. He is vividly real to us.

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, please help me to see Jesus more clearly, to understand God’s Word and to glorify the Lord by life and lip.

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