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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


October 2022

Habakkuk 1:5-11: The problem of answered prayer!

‘Look at the nations and watch –

    and be utterly amazed.

For I am going to do something in your days

    that you would not believe,

    even if you were told.

6 I am raising up the Babylonians,

    that ruthless and impetuous people,

who sweep across the whole earth

    to seize dwellings not their own.

7 They are a feared and dreaded people;

    they are a law to themselves

    and promote their own honour.

8 Their horses are swifter than leopards,

    fiercer than wolves at dusk.

Their cavalry gallops headlong;

    their horsemen come from afar.

They fly like an eagle swooping to devour;

9     they all come intent on violence.

Their hordes advance like a desert wind

    and gather prisoners like sand.

10 They mock kings

    and scoff at rulers.

They laugh at all fortified cities;

    by building earthen ramps they capture them.

11 Then they sweep past like the wind and go on –

    guilty people, whose own strength is their god.’

Note first of all that answers to prayer can come in words (revelation, insight, pictures etc) or deeds – maybe both. God answered Habakkuk by telling him what he was going to do and then doing it. He answered in speech and action.

There may be a greater problem than unanswered prayer, and it is that of answered prayer, when the answer isn’t what you wanted or comes in a guise you didn’t expect (or possibly don’t even recognise).

Habakkuk had been praying about the state of his nation, wondering how long it would be before God did something. God said He was going to do something, but Habakkuk wouldn’t be able to believe it when he knew what it was.

Habakkuk could scarcely believe his ears. He got an ‘amazing answer to prayer’ but not in the sense in which we tend to use the expression. God told him that He was going to use the then dominant world superpower, Babylon, to invade and judge His own people. If the people of God were bad at this time (Habakkuk’s issue if you remember? See verses 1-4), the Babylonians were even badder!!

As we will see in chapter 3, when we pray we to be prepared to take the long view. Some answers may come quickly, but many are worked out over a period years. It’s like sowing prayer seed, but we do not know exactly when the harvest will appear. By the end of the book, the prophet has got to a place of deep faith and confidence in God. He knows things will ultimately turn out fine, but in the short term he makes the choice to worship God in circumstances which are less than ideal.

Prayer: Lord, when answers to my prayers are delayed, or are not to my taste, help me to go on believing. Cause my roots to sink deeper into you and your Word. Grow my faith in these hard times. Where I might fail to recognise your answers because I asked one way and you answered another, please give me eyes to see and understand

Habakkuk 1:1-4: The problem of unanswered prayer

1 The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received.

Habakkuk’s complaint

2 How long, Lord, must I call for help,

    but you do not listen?

Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’

    but you do not save?

3 Why do you make me look at injustice?

    Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?

Destruction and violence are before me;

    there is strife, and conflict abounds.

4 Therefore the law is paralysed,

    and justice never prevails.

The wicked hem in the righteous,

    so that justice is perverted.

It’s one of the great cries of the Old Testament: “How long, Lord…?”

It is also regularly one of the anguished heart cries of Christian experience.

But God’s timescale is His own and not ours.

Many years ago, when Alex Haley’s book, ‘Roots’, was turned into a highly acclaimed television series, he was asked by an interviewer, ‘What is the secret of your success?’ He replied that he didn’t really know, but he remembered what his old grandmother used to say, “You never know when the Lord is going to come, but He is always on time.”

The problem of unanswered prayer may be nothing other than the problem of a delayed answer to prayer – and we don’t like waiting.

As we will see, Habakkuk was to get his answer, but when it came he didn’t like it. It seemed to be worse than the problem he prayed about!

Prayer: Lord, help me to pray with prophetic insight – to turn what I see on the news into heartfelt prayer.

P.S. I apologise for moving away from 1 Corinthians so quickly, but I’ve written this week about the need to follow the Spirit’s leading, and I sense that I need to move in another direction. Thank you for bearing with me in this.

Proverbs 25:21-28: Selfie or selfless?

“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
22 In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,
and the Lord will reward you.
23 Like a north wind that brings unexpected rain
is a sly tongue – which provokes a horrified look.
24 Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.
25 Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.
26 Like a muddied spring or a polluted well
are the righteous who give way to the wicked.
27 It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honourable to search out matters that are too deep
28 Like a city whose walls are broken through
is a person who lacks self-control.”
An older version of the NIV expresses verse 27 in this way:
“It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honourable to seek one’s own honour.”
It could, I think, be argued that the ‘selfie’ is a major metaphor for our times.
Jesus, however, calls us to a counter-cultural way: to the path of ‘downward mobility’ (See Phil.2:1-
11). He did not selfishly cling to His rights as God, but selflessly laid them down for others. He did not
seek His own honour, but look at the honour He was given.
“A great man is always willing to be little.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Listen to the Holy Spirit

Acts 10:36-38:
“You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under
the power of the devil, because God was with him.”

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear it’s sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit”. (John 3:8).
Last Sunday morning, a lady I have known for years came up to me after church and said, ‘I pray for you every single day.’ She has told me this before, I believe, and I can’t express what a treasure it is.
Then she said, ‘God hasn’t finished with you yet. There’s more.’ But she went on to add, ‘You must listen to the Holy Spirit. Otherwise you could get pulled all over the place.’
Later that afternoon, Jilly and I read these words from Mark Buchanan’s book ‘The rest of God.’ (It is our ‘Sabbath’ book at the moment). He quoted Acts 10:38, then said:
‘So that’s it, the sum of Christ’s earthly vocation: he wandered and he blessed. He was a physician vagabond. He was the original doctor without borders. His purpose was crystallised, but his method
almost scatter-shot. “My whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly
interrupted,” Henri Nouwen said near the end of his life, “until I discovered the interruptions were my work.” As Buchanan also writes:
‘Jesus was available – or not – according to some oblique logic of his own. He had an inner ear for the Father’s whispers, a third eye for the Spirit’s motions.’
Today I pray for myself, and for you, that we will experience the reality of keeping in step with the
Spirit, so that we may be a blessing wherever we go, and to all with whom we come in contact.
Thought: ‘ “I read in a book that a man called Christ went about doing good. It distresses me that I am so easily satisfied with just going about.” Toyohiko Kagawa

A Tribute

In a recent letter to pastors, entitled ‘Unforgettable’, retired pastor Lee Eclov included these
“I saw a thread on Facebook asking people to name “Two pastors you can never forget because of the impact they made on your life.” There were over 155,000 posts in that one thread alone. A
handful of famous names were mentioned but what moved me was how many un-famous names
there are—Warren, Aaron, Mike, Leo, Judith, Isaiah, Sharon, Miles. People added comments like,
“He restored my life,” “Tremendous lasting impact on my spiritual formation,” “Taught me how to love and apply the Bible and how to share God’s Word with others.”
In exhorting believers to persevere in their faith, Hebrews says,
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. (Heb. 13:7)
Put that way, ministry is pretty basic. Whatever else we do—vision casting, programming,
hobnobbing—speaking the word of God and exemplifying the life of faith are our lasting legacies. It also reminds me that, as ordinary as we are, people do not easily forget their pastors’ influence.”
I share this because I read the piece just after hearing about the passing of John Lancaster in the early hours of 7th October. John was 97. He had lived a long and fruitful life. He was one of my heroes, and I miss him already.
I first encountered John when he visited my home church in Wigan in the early 1970’s. That year he had been elected to the honorary position of ‘President’ of the ‘Elim Pentecostal denomination, and he spent the year travelling around the country, visiting many churches. It was in that capacity that
he visited ours. I don’t remember too much about it, except that he was quite understated, he preached about Elijah, and my dad and mum bought his book.
Fast forward a few more years, and in 1975 I began to train for ministry at the ‘Elim’ Bible College in Surrey. Most Friday mornings during our first year, Pastor John Lancaster drove up from Eastbourne, where he had been a minister for many years, and delivered lectures in ‘Systematic Theology’. Really they were Bible Studies. They were anointed. Our souls were nourished. It was a privilege to sit at his feet.
John was one of the very best preachers/teachers I ever heard. But he was an even better man. The word ‘gracious’ has often been used to describe him. I remember how week after week, walking
through the corridor of the College building, on his way to coffee, he would pause repeatedly to greet students and ask, ‘How are you?’ He was genuinely interested.
Once, as I was walking down the college driveway, he pulled up alongside me in his car, wound down the window, and asked, ‘May I give you a lift anywhere? I was so awe struck that I declined! It’s one of life’s ironies that in later years he became a cherished
(but always revered) friend, regularly visiting our church in Boston Spa to speak God’s Word. I have even given him the occasional ride in my car!
A young man from our church in Leeds, who went to Bible College a number of years after I did, told me that the then Principal would say to the student body, ‘If you’re going to emulate anyone
emulate John Lancaster.’ John exemplified what it means to be a faithful pastor and a man of God.

Great preacher that he was, his life was his best sermon. Without this his words would not have carried the weight they did.
I am profoundly grateful to God for the life of this humble man who influenced so many. He has left a huge imprint on my soul. I learned some of the best things I know about being a pastor just from observing him.
God bless you dear John. It was an honour to know you. May you rest in peace and rise in glory.


It’s all about the food!’
This was the observation I made to Jilly as we were eating outside ‘our’ bar/restaurant in Frigliana,
just the other week. We had arrived in the pretty, white-washed, Spanish hill town on a Saturday,
and initially we felt a little flustered and disoriented. It was crowded with people and we didn’t know
where anything was. We didn’t know the whereabouts of our ‘B & B’, and even when we did find
out, we then wondered how we could possibly get our luggage there. Clearly there was no parking
close to the hotel. Eventually we realised that we would have to park in the large central car park,
and just carry a few basic necessities for each day in one or two hand bags.
We finally managed to find a space in the underground car park (which seemed a mini-triumph in
itself). Stepping outside into the warm sunshine, Jilly spotted a very ordinary looking Spanish bar-restaurant over the road. Her well-trained nose told her this would be a good place to eat. She was right. We fell in love with it and
it’s charming owner and his delightful brother, returning on several occasions for meals. Although
we did try a couple of other much smarter restaurants which had great views, the food and service were not nearly so good. They were also more expensive.
‘It’s all about the food,’ I said to Jilly, as we sat outside, on the pavement, on our last evening there.
It made me think that there are many churches around that have too big an emphasis on presentation and style. There is, of course, a need to do everything as well as we can, whatever the
size of the church, but substance will trump style any day of the week. Hungry people will be drawn
to where they can get a good meal.
It’s all about the food (and the service!)

The inner compass

“The conscience is an organ of extraordinary delicacy, representing the deepest feelings of the human spirit. Like a sensitive recording instrument, influenced by every change of weather, it is liable to be damaged by any shock. When we thoughtlessly leave the doors of our inner life open to the ever-changing atmosphere of the times, the conscience is in danger of being thrown off balance.” Eberhard Arnold. 

Someone made the point that conscience, to function properly, must be set to the ‘magnetic north’ of Scripture. Such fine-tuning is an on-going process.

Not in a way of our own choosing

 Send Me Anywhere


 “Often his call is to follow in paths we would not have chosen. But if in truth we say, “Anywhere, Lord,” he takes us at our word and orders our goings, and then he puts a new song in our mouths, even a thanksgiving unto our God (Ps. 40:2–3). There is wonderful joy to be had from knowing that we are not in the way of our own choice.”

This is a great quote. It is a reminder that when we submit our lives to the Lord Jesus we give Him the car keys, put Him in the driving seat and ask Him to take us along the route of His Choosing. At times it may be a bit of a ‘mystery tour’ to us. But with Him alongside, it will be glorious.

 Here is a prayer I found:

 “Give me clear guidance in my life, Lord. As I submit myself to you, I know that you will direct my paths and I can have confidence that your direction is always the best way to go. Hear my prayer, Father. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.”


Can loneliness end?

Can Loneliness End?


 “Humankind is tormented and divided. Part of this torment is loneliness, which can be overcome only by experiencing the living church. This church cannot be identified with a specific group or organisation, but it does exist; it lives and comes down to humble, seeking people. The fact that the church exists is the most important reality on earth. When God speaks in the innermost chamber of our hearts, our sinful separation and loneliness are overcome.”

 Have you ever walked into a church and felt unwelcome?. It was like an elite religious club and no-one was going to give you a membership application form. These things should not be. Let us pray that our churches will be places of real welcome where people’s loneliness can at least start come to an end.

 Prayer: Lord make your church an all-embracing community of love.

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