Search

Home thoughts from abroad.wordpress.com

Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Category

Daily Devotional thoughts by Stephen Thompson

1 Peter 4:2: What are you living for?

“2 As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” NIV

‘Today is the first day of the rest of your life.’

What are you going to do with it? Not only today, but the rest of your ‘’earthly life’’ I mean?

In what we refer to as ‘the Lord’s prayer’, Jesus taught His disciples to pray:

‘’…your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’’

 The sweetest place in all the world in which to live is right in the centre of God’s will. Yet some people seem to fear that His will is the worst possible thing that could happen to them.

Not all ‘’human desires’’ are wrong. Desire is part of being human, and we have many positive and healthy wants/appetites. Our problem is with the ‘’evil’’ stuff. This is what we repent of at the outset of the life of discipleship. But also, we need to keep on repenting throughout our journey. Day by day we will find ourselves in need of ‘course correction’.

In an excellent book for pastors entitled, ‘The care of souls’, Harold L. Senkbeil writes:

‘ So for as long as he lives the pastor, like other children of God, treads the path of continual repentance and faith on his own personal pilgrimage back home to the Father’s house…This daily dying to sin and rising to new life through faith in Christ is the pivotal hinge in every Christians life…’

Yes, this verse applies to us all. It’s challenging. It’s also encouraging. For even if we messed up yesterday, today there can be a mid-course correction, as we realign our lives with the compass set to doing God’s will.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, I honestly do not want to spend one moment of the rest of my life outside of you will. Please have your way in me.

1 Peter 3:18-22: A ‘Little flood’

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive,he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits – 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience towards God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.”NIV

I was probably in my early teens when, one Sunday evening, I attended an after-church meeting in a home in Culcheth, near Leigh, in Greater Manchester. The large room was full, and we listened to a cassette tape of a preacher who spoke at length, but held my attention throughout. He had a gentle voice, and didn’t shout. He was remarkably clear and captivating. I knew then that he was different to most other preachers I’d heard.

The preachers’s identity was David Pawson, who died last Thursday (Ascension Day) at the age of 90. Especially when I was a student, and in my early years of ministry, I used to listen to cassette after cassette containing his Bible teaching, and make my own notes. Even today, if I’m preparing to preach on a passage, I will often listen to David to see how he dealt with it.

His sermons were memorable, and I still remember so many of the things he said. It may have been preaching on this very passage that he said these three things about baptism:

  • It is an act of submission;
  • It is an act of separation;
  • It is an act of salvation.

In water baptism we submit to the Lord Jesus. He commanded this act;

In water baptism we are separated from the old world and brought into a new one – just as it was for Noah and his family. It was quite literally a ‘watershed’ in their experience. David Pawson said that for each one who submits to baptism, they are undergoing a ‘little flood’ which separates them from the old era and brings them into a new one;

Water baptism might also be said to be the outward part of conversion. I once read that the word ‘’pledge’’ (21) carries the idea of sealing a contract. The earliest gospel preaching repeatedly called people to baptism as well as repentance and faith. There is no power in the rite of baptism as such to wash you clean. The power is in the living Lord Jesus. Baptism by itself makes no difference. But if the person being baptized is expressing their faith in Christ it makes a very great difference. It’s like when you repent and believe you enter into a contract with Jesus and in baptism you seal it.

As somebody once said: ’The idea of an unbaptised Christian is totally alien to the thought of the New Testament writers.’

1 Peter 3: 18-22: Man alive!

“18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive,he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits – 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience towards God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.” NIV

Last Thursday was Ascension Day in the church’s calendar. It’s the day when we remember, and celebrate, the reality described in verse 22. Jesus Christ is Lord!

In some ways, at first glance, this appears to be one of the more complex New Testament passages. But, properly understood, its truth is wonderful. Our task here is not detailed, technical Bible Study, but I do want to highlight one or two of the key ideas.

First of all, let’s note that Jesus not only died, but rose from death, and ascended to the place of supreme authority in the universe. It was this victory which Jesus proclaimed ‘’to the spirits in prison’’. I believe the Greek word used does not imply the preaching of the gospel (as if these long dead people had an opportunity to repent. The Bible does not indicate that there is such a second chance beyond the grave. Besides, the reference may be to fallen angels anyway). Whoever they were, Jesus declared His triumph to them. It is this all-conquering Jesus who is front and centre in the passage. It’s the reality of this total victory we need to grasp, and its wide-ranging implications for all of us in Jesus.

Jesus died. But death did not have the last word with Him. Nor will it have with any true believer.

‘Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my Saviour;

He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord.’

PRAYER: LORD Jesus, we celebrate your victory. Thank you that by your grace we share in it. The other side of death there was richer, fuller life for Jesus, and so it will be for all of us who believe in you. We cannot thank you enough.

1 Peter 3:7 The importance of prayer.

“7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” NIV

The possibility of prayer somehow being ‘hindered’ should set off alarm bells for us all. I wouldn’t want that to happen, would you?

‘’If I had cherished sin in my heart the Lord would not have listened’’ (Psalm 66:18).

Peter says to Christian husbands, in effect, ‘If you don’t treat your wives as you should, your prayers could be obstructed’:

‘’…in the new life of God’s grace, you’re equals. Treat your wives, then, as equals so your prayers don’t run aground.’’ The Message.

But I believe what we have to consider here is not just the possibility that my prayers, as a husband, will be hampered, but that our prayers, as a couple could be adversely affected. (It’s not totally clear in the passage whether ‘’your prayers’’ is singular, plural, or both.)

As Jesus taught, there is something powerful about the principle of agreement:

‘’When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.’’ (Matthew 18:19, 20: The Message).

Could this be why Christian couples often admit they struggle to pray together? There is something mysteriously powerful about two people praying in agreement. Now, who do we know who just might feel threatened by that, and want to put a stop to it?!

Yes, I thought you’d come to that conclusion too!!

1 Peter 2:9-10: ‘Once…but now’

“9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” NIV

It’s not unusual to see ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs on promotions for dieting products: ‘This is how I looked before, but look at me now!’ That’s the message. ‘Follow this plan and you can experience the life change I did.’ The photos are ‘testimonies’ in a way.

‘’Once…but now…’’ (v.10. See how these words are repeated).

 The Christian’s story is one of radical change. It goes much deeper than appearances. It’s a transformation on the inside that increasingly becomes visible on the outside. It is a ‘’darkness’’ to ‘’light’’ change (9). In the context, the way we ‘’declare’’ His praises very much appears to relate to the ‘’holy’’ (9) and ‘’good’’ (12) lives we lead in society. Obviously, words are also important (see 3:15), but here the emphasis is on deeds and lifestyle.

But although God changes persons (and we must ‘’come’’ (v.4) to Jesus personally), He is forming ‘’a people’’. It is the witness of this people of which the passage speaks. The language of verse 9 echoes Old Testament descriptions of Israel and applies them to the church.

In it all, we are to remember that the church ‘belongs’ to God. We are his treasured posssession:

‘’…the church of God, which he bought with his own blood’’ (Acts 20:28b).

PRAYER: Lord, even in days when your church cannot meet in the usual way, may your people still glorify you, and shine brightly into the darkness of the world.

 

1 Peter 2:4-8: ‘What think ye of Christ?’

“4 As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says:

‘See, I lay a stone in Zion,
    a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
    will never be put to shame.’

Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,

‘The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone,’

and,

‘A stone that causes people to stumble
    and a rock that makes them fall.’

They stumble because they disobey the message – which is also what they were destined for.” NIV

I was on a return journey from school one day when I saw it through the bus window. In big white letters on a wall in the middle-distance, someone had painted the question, in ‘King James Version’ language, ‘What think ye of Christ?’ (Matthew 22:42). Of course, it could have been an irresponsible, if well-meaning, act of vandalism. It’s not a good idea to graffiti someone else’s wall, if that’s what had been done.But it’s an important question. The New Testament teaches that our personal response to Jesus is a matter of great and eternal significance.

Today’s passage shows that we can have one of two attitudes to Jesus. We can ‘’come’’ to Him (v.4. Note, trusting in Him, v.6b, and believing in Him, v.7a, are two other ways of expressing this same reality), or we can reject Him (v.7b – this is also described as disobeying ‘’the message, v.8). But nothing here encourages us to think that dismissing Christ is a good or wise choice. For someone who comes to ‘’believe’’ in Jesus, they now see Him in the same way God does. He is ‘’precious’’ (see verses 4b and 7a)

Also, our response to Him in no way alters His position as Lord of the church God is building. Jesus is both the ‘’cornerstone’’ and the ‘’capstone’’. He is all-important, and nothing can change the fact.

PRAYER: Lord, we pray that in these momentous days many people will turn from rejecting Jesus to accepting Him, and will taste just how precious he is.

John 19:8-10: Silence is golden.

John 19:8-10: Silence is golden.

“8 When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. ‘Where do you come from?’ he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 ‘Do you refuse to speak to me?’ Pilate said. ‘Don’t you realise I have power either to free you or to crucify you?’ NIV

”…but Jesus gave him no answer” (9b)

Here’s a saying I heard a few years back: ”No answer was the stern reply.” There is a place for such silence in human interactions.

There is no doubt about who is in control here and it is not Pilate. Silence can be intimidating. Pilate was no doubt used to people flattering him or fearing him, and perhaps a mixture of both. But Jesus was not scared of him, and that was possibly unnerving for Pilate. He wasn’t used to this. He seems out of his depth; way out of his comfort zone; thrown to some extent by the unique and mysterious figure stood before him – a man who ”claimed to be the Son of God” (7). I think Pilate sensed something very different in Jesus.

There is ”…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak…” (Ecclesiastes 3:7). It takes wisdom to know the difference.

We are not obligated to reply to every question.

We certainly don’t have to answer immediately.

On the other side of this, when asking questions of other people we can be too quick to fill in the silences. Perhaps It makes us feel awkward or embarrassed. But learn to let the question hang in the air sometimes.

Silence can be powerful.

”Know this, my beloved brothers, let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…” (James 1:19; see Ecclesiastes 5:2)

John 19:7-16: ”Finally…”

John 19:7-16: ”Finally…”

“7 The Jewish leaders insisted, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.’When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. ‘Where do you come from?’ he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 ‘Do you refuse to speak to me?’ Pilate said. ‘Don’t you realise I have power either to free you or to crucify you?’11 Jesus answered, ‘You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.’12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, ‘If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.’13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14 It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.‘Here is your king,’ Pilate said to the Jews.15 But they shouted, ‘Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!’‘Shall I crucify your king?’ Pilate asked.‘We have no king but Caesar,’ the chief priests answered.16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.” NIV

”The Jews insisted…the Jews kept shouting…But they shouted…” (7, 12 & 15).

You feel the insistence of the Jewish people as you read through this passage. Pilate doesn’t want them to win, but they just won’t back down. As we have seen, he first compromises, but then he capitulates. He has resisted to some extent; he has held out for a while. But there comes the dreadful, fateful ”Finally” (16)

”Pilate caved in to their demand” (The Message).

This is is how it is with us, is it not?

The voice of the WORLD is so insistent, telling us how we should look and what we ought to desire; where we should go and what we must do; attempting to squeeze us into its mould.

The voice of the FLESH is so insistent, craving within us, often with a red hot destructive desire, for things God forbids and knows will do us harm. We know we shouldn’t. It didn’t satisfy before, and really we know it will prove futile and shameful again. But still we head to the banks of the polluted stream, and stoop to drink the muddy waters. That voice cajoling us; seducing us into believing it’s a fresh, sparkling stream, is so insistent.

The voice of TEMPTATION is so insistent. The old serpent slithers once more into your garden, casts doubt on God’s Word, and proffers forbidden fruit. And we know the story well. We know it doesn’t have a good ending. But still we sink our teeth into the juicy looking specimen held out for the titillation of our taste buds…and again we are poisoned.

Like Pilate, if we first start to compromise with the insistent voices, we will end up capitulating, caving in. We will arrive at our ”Finally” moment.

But isn’t this inevitable? Frail, fallen, fragile creatures that we are, can anything better be expected of us?

Well I suppose the reality is that as broken people living in a broken world, we will often eat the food of failure. But that said, I have to believe that the victory of Christ on the cross means something for my daily life and my on-going struggle with temptation and sin. It is possible to refuse, to resist, to not give in to these raised, clamouring voices of the world, the flesh and the devil. We are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:1-11). If the devil and the powers are under Jesus’ feet, and we are ”in” Him, they are under our feet also. Therefore a different ”Finally” is possible (Ephesians 6:10ff). Don’t settle for a defeatist attitude. Jesus’ death deserves a different response.

PRAYER: Thank you Lord that my fight is not for victory but FROM victory. Teach me please to stand in your triumph.

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.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: