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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

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Free Daily Bible thoughts by Rev. Stephen Thompson

1 Peter 1:10-12: ’It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!’  

“10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.” NIV

Here is a postscript to yesterday’s thought. There are a number of other important things to highlight in the passage:

  • Salvation in the crucified and risen Jesus (11) is all of ‘’grace’’. It is a work of God, and it is undeserved. What a sense of privilege we should carry: ‘’Do you realise how fortunate you are? Angels would have given anything to be in on this!’’ (Verse 12: The Message);
  • Searching into spiritual things – into the Word of God with its over-arching theme of salvation in Jesus – should always be done ‘’intently…and with the greatest care’’ (10b). It requires diligence, recognising that we are dependent on the Holy Spirit for understanding;
  • Biblical leadership is never self-serving (12a). It is always for the sake of others. Simon Sinek reflects a Biblical understanding of leadership in his book title: ‘Leaders eat last’;
  • The Christian life is cruciform in shape. Jesus gives us the pattern for the life of discipleship. It involves suffering then glory (11b). If it is a Good Friday in your experience, you know that Easter Sunday is coming!

 

1 Peter 1:7: A spiritual bank statement.

“7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.” NIV

As I reflected on this verse, three thoughts seemed to stand out:

  1. The value of faith: We are once again reminded of the transience of earthly wealth. It can sprout wings and fly away. Even something mankind prizes as much as gold can ‘perish’ Hebrews 11:6 says: ‘’And without faith it is impossible to please God…’’ This faith, which is God’s gift in the first place, is so precious. If you are believing in the temporarily hidden Jesus (8), this makes you (and everyone else who shares the same faith) the wealthiest person in the world. This faith is not subject to stock-market fluctuations. It’s value cannot plummet;
  2. The durability of faith: Faith has to persevere through trials and tests in order to ‘’be proved genuine’’. God doesn’t need to test your faith so that He can find out how much faith you’ve got. He knows that full well. But it provides you with a sort of spiritual ‘bank statement’. Faith which goes through the mill and comes out strong the other side is ‘’genuine’’.
  3. The glory of faith: When Jesus Christ returns, as He one day will (‘’when Jesus Christ is revealed’’) our faith – our enduring faith – will bring glory to Him. He gave it to us in the first place, and He kept us strong to the end. It’s all glory to Him. This is the glory of genuine faith, that it brings glory to Jesus.

‘’ I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.’’ (The Message 1 Peter 6-7).

Today’s prayer is based on verse 5 : “ who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”, and was suggested to me by a comment Jilly made on Monday morning:

PRAYER: Lord, we often hear talk about certain people in our society being ‘shielded’. Thank you that all your people are ‘’shielded’’ by your ‘’power’’. I know this doesn’t necessarily mean that we will be able to avoid all sickness, or to cheat death. But thank you that in ultimate terms we are safe in your eternal grip. As one great saint said: ‘All is well, and all manner of things shall be well.’ It is well with my soul.

1 Peter 1:3-5: Double-keeping.

“3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” NIV

Somebody once asked, ‘If there is a hole in human history the size and shape of the resurrection of Christ, with what does the secular historian propose to fill it?’

Christianity is about life. Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and all those who are linked to Him by faith share His resurrection life now (partially), and one day will share it (fully). We have ‘’a living hope’’ as we trust in the living Lord Jesus. Peter says that ‘’salvation’’ is ‘’ready to be revealed in the last time’’ (5b). The ‘salvation project’ (God’s rescue operation for the human race), is now in process, and will one day be completed. We have a great ‘’inheritance’’ ahead of us, on top of all we are enjoying this day. If you come to Jesus now, He will give you resurrection life now. But one day, He will give you a resurrection body. There is so much more about God’s saving work in Jesus ‘’to be revealed’’. C.S.Lewis wrote wonderfully about this reality, saying:

‘’…remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship…’ (From ‘The Weight of glory’).

The Christian has such an inheritance to look forward to. If someone left you money in a will, you might want to invest it in a bank, or on the stock-market, or in a pension or property etc. But we are seeing clearly today what we’ve always known, but didn’t really want to face: that such entities and institutions are fundamentally unstable, and subject to being battered by winds of change. Share prices can fall as well as rise. You can’t trust in wealth. It does ‘’perish, spoil’’ and ‘’fade’’ (4).

But if you put your confidence in Jesus, He will keep your inheritance safe in heaven, and He will also keep you safe for that inheritance (4,5). There’s a double-keeping going on.

PRAYER: In uncertain times, I want to thank you Lord for the security you give. Thank you that build my life on you is to build on Rock, and not on a foundation of sand.

 

 

 

1 Peter 1:2: He is Lord

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,To God’s elect, exiles, scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood:Grace and peace be yours in abundance.” NIV

As I said yesterday, there may be much about ‘election’ – God’s choosing people – that no human can explain. But although we may not be able to give lots of details about how it happens, the Bible is clear in talking about the why. There are God-given purposes for His people to live out in the world; there are destinies to be fulfilled.

Peter says Christians ‘’…have been chosen…for obedience to Jesus Christ…’’

Today we may be facing different circumstances within the overall call to isolate and live responsibly. Some are working from home; some are home-schooling children; some are having to juggle both. There are so many variables. Some people are facing economic challenges; others are battling with health issues unrelated to Covid-19. Then there are those who have to go out to work. They are front-line workers, and we are all so dependent on their service, and grateful for their dedication.

But wherever you are today, and whatever you are doing, may I encourage you to try to think through what ‘’obedience to Jesus Christ’’ looks like in your setting?

PRAYER: Lord, in your grace you have called me to yourself, AND you have called me to a great purpose. Teach me what it means to obey you today, right where you have planted me. Help me to do your will. As your disciple, it is what I want most of all in this life.

1 Peter 1:1b: ‘Strangers’.

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,To God’s elect, exiles, scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia,” NIV

The other night I had a dream. I was in a city. I don’t know which one. Perhaps it was a composite of several. But I had this thought, ‘I really like it here!’ There was, perhaps, a sense of being reluctant to leave the familiar behind. However, in the next moment I found myself thinking something like this: ‘If I were in heaven I would realise that it is far better than anything I’ve known on earth.’

Peter says God’s people are ‘’strangers in the world.’’ Paul writes that ‘’our citizenship is in heaven’’ (Philippians 3:20). We have been born from above. As I often say, ‘We don’t belong here, and we won’t be long here. Not really. Life is fleeting. It is, as the Bible tells us, just a breath; it quickly disappears like the morning mist.

C.S. Lewis writes in ‘Mere Christianity’: ‘If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others do the same.’

PRAYER: ‘O Lord, you alone know what lies before me today; grant that in every hour I may stay close to you. Let me be in the world, but not of it. Let me use this world without abusing it…Do not let me embark on anything today that is not in line with your will for my life, nor shrink from any sacrifice that your will demands. Suggest, direct, and guide every movement of my mind; for my Lord Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.’ (From ‘A diary of private prayer’ by John Baillie).

 

John 19:1-6: What fear can do.

John 19:1-6: What fear can do.

“Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ And they slapped him in the face.Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, ‘Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.’ When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, ‘Crucify! Crucify!’But Pilate answered, ‘You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.’ NIV

It is obvious that Pontius Pilate was afraid (8), and fear can be a dangerous thing. 

”Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe” (Proverbs 29:25).

Out of fear, Pilate went along with the crowd (18:40 – 19:1). He was swayed by the loudest voices (12, 13). As powerfully as the voice of conscience spoke to him, the voices in the angry mob registered more deeply. He was scared. He sought to save his life (12) – to protect what he had: position, influence, privilege etc. But He lost it. He heard the implicit threat in their shouted words, and he backed off. He wanted to save Jesus; but he wanted his life in the governor’s palace even more.

Out of fear, Pilate did not live up to his deepest, truest convictions. He knew that Jesus was innocent (4,6). He was without excuse. The Lord should not have been ”flogged” (1), let alone crucified. Pilate knew something important and true about Jesus, but He did not act according to that knowledge. There was a credibility gap between what his head and heart most assuredly knew and where his feet went. Does this remind you of anyone. I heard Rick Warren highlight a problem we have in the evangelical world, namely that we know far more than we do.

I was thinking also that there is a form of ‘worship’, where we repeatedly gather and use the right words, and we try to dress Jesus in ”purple” robes of praise, but it will be like a slap in the face to Him if our hearts are not right. From such outward forms, without real power, may God the Holy Spirit deliver us.

John 18:28-32: True to life.

John 18:28-32: True to life

“28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, ‘What charges are you bringing against this man?’30 ‘If he were not a criminal,’ they replied, ‘we would not have handed him over to you.’31 Pilate said, ‘Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.’‘But we have no right to execute anyone,’ they objected. 32 This took place to fulfil what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.”

There is a story, probably apocryphal, about a preacher who wrote a note to self at a particular point in the margin of his manuscript. It said, ‘Argument weak; shout louder!’

There is something so true to life as we know it in this reading. When Pilate asked the Jewish leaders what charge they were bringing against Jesus, they didn’t answer his question. Instead they bridled; they got prickly. ”If he were not a criminal…we would not have handed him over to you” (30). Their argument was flimsy (in fact they didn’t have a leg to stand on), so they ratcheted up the volume. Doesn’t this resonate with what we know of life? Maybe in conversation with someone you expose the weakness of their position. But instead of conceding the point; rather than proving teachable, they get angry instead and come out fighting. By trying to shout louder than anyone else they fight to bolster their untenable position.

But Pilate’s further words revealed what was truly going on (31, 32). They weren’t interested in truth. They didn’t want to be bothered with the facts. They just wanted Jesus dead. The Jews did not have the power of the death penalty, so they needed the rubber stamp from Rome.

The gospel account emphasises the point that Pilate knew he was punishing an innocent man (29, 38). Jesus was sacrificed to the malice of His enemies and the expediency of the Roman governor. Whatever truth was, Pilate was not sufficiently concerned about it to lose his job.

Yet even against such a dark back drop the truth shines out that God is in control (32). He always is. So shout as loudly as you wish. You will never get rid of Christ. Even when you think you’ve succeeded, you will find that He is back come the third day!

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: 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.

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