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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


coming of Jesus

Daily Bible thoughts 1010: Thursday 12th November 2015: Luke 2:1-20: Ordinary people.

Luke 2:1-20: Ordinary people.(please click here for todays Bible passage)

This familiar chapter opens with a historical note. This is Luke the painstaking historian at work.

Through Joseph and Mary’s obedience to the law of the land (and believers should be good citizens) God’s purpose was worked out and prophecy fulfilled (Micah 5:2).

This is a story of humble people and humble circumstances. The greatest event in history, up to that point, was barely noticed by most. It happened in such obscurity. (‘’How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given…‘’). But God chose to make it known to certain people. Some of them were among the most poor and despised people of their times – the shepherds (8-21). They were just doing their duty that night (8). On any ordinary day God may unexpectedly appear in your work place and fill it with His glory.

The shepherds believed what they were told and eagerly went to see for themselves (15, 16); having seen, they then told (17). But they didn’t preach their experience, as vivid and as wonderful as it was: ‘’…they spread the word…’’ They told what they had been told; they passed on the revealed word about Jesus. That is reliable; it is solid rock beneath our feet. We will always find what God says to be true (20; see 12 & 16). The shepherds were, we might say, seekers, preachers and worshippers. All who seek Jesus and find Him are then called to go and make Him known. The question needs to be asked, ‘Are we ready to hear from God through the lips of unlikely people?’

The ‘’good news’’ about Jesus is ‘’for all the people’’ (10). It’s interesting to note that Luke was a Gentile writing for a Gentile readership

What a lovely picture of meditation is painted in (19; see 2:51). Job said: ‘’I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.’’ (Job 23:12b).What thoughts are filling your heart today?

Luke 1:26-38: Written into God’s story: Daily Bible thoughts 994: Wednesday 21st October 2015:

 Luke 1:26-38: Written into God’s story (please click here for todays Bible passage)

I want to be part of a story God is writing. I don’t want to be working at some man-made project, however grandiose, and be able to boast about what ‘we’ are doing, and how successful we are. I realise that men can build ‘Babel’s’ that look impressive to other men, and to themselves, but they cut no ice with God (Genesis 11:1-9).

So, no, I don’t want any part in that, but I do so want to have a place in God’s story. It regularly involves ordinary and unlikely people. It often has relatively obscure and hidden beginnings in humble places. But it is always a story of real Holy Spirit power at work to bring Jesus into the world, and to change it by glorifying Him.

This is the story I would like to find myself in. I don’t want to write it myself; my desire is to be written in.

If God can hear from me the same words He heard from Mary, I too can have a role in history’s greatest work of non-fiction: ‘’I belong to the Lord, body and soul, let it happen as you say.’’ (38; see Romans 12:1, 2). ‘’And at this the angel left her’’, it says. No wonder. He had heard what he needed to hear; or rather what the Lord needed to hear. That was the required response.

To my mind, the challenge of this familiar story is about submission. Am I willing to have my plans altered, my life changed, by a Word from God? Am I willing for Jesus to fill me, to grow in me, to dominate my life from this point on (if I haven’t come to that place as yet)?

There are obvious parallels between the first story in (5-25) and this one, but it is important to understand that Mary’s question in (34) was not about unbelief. It was a technicality: ‘’But how? I’ve never slept with a man.’’ The Message. However big the mountains are, they can be moved when the Holy Spirit is on the job (35-37). That is one reason why God’s stories are the best!

Prayer: Lord God, may it be that my life is all about you, and not about me.

Daily Bible thoughts 966: Friday 11th September 2015: Jeremiah 16: The cost of ministry.

 Jeremiah 16: The cost of ministry.(please click here for todays passage)

In his remarkable book, ‘Intercessor’, Rees Howells says something along these lines: ‘’The Holy Ghost was stricter with me than any schoolmaster.’’ This Welsh man had a remarkable ministry in prayer, but there was a lot of self-denial and self-sacrifice behind the scenes. God will sometimes deny a person certain legitimate things for His own good reasons. He has a particular purpose for each life. We are not to compare ourselves with others, but faithfully do what the Lord asks of us (John 21: 20-23).

There is a price to be paid for an effective ministry. Indeed, there is a price to pay for a high profile ministry. Although, humanly speaking, he was largely unsuccessful in his day, and unpopular, Jeremiah has become one of the most famous names in history. But there was a price tag attached to what he said and did.

It must have been hard for a man ‘’of Jeremiah’s affectionate and sympathetic nature’’ to obey the commands in (2, 5 and 8). But this was part of his message. It gave him a platform to speak (10ff).

‘’When people asked Jeremiah about his strange behaviour, he would have opportunity to declare the Word of God.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe.

His life was his message, in a way. (In a slightly different way, it should be the case for us as well – that the godly way we live backs up what we say, and causes people to ask questions.)

‘’Jeremiah has already used a sign to reinforce his message (13:1-11); now his whole life becomes a sign (1-4). Being unmarried was unusual in ancient Israel, and so his singleness and childlessness stand out as noteworthy. In fact, they are intended by the Lord as a sign that all normal life in Judah will cease…Jeremiah is also forbidden to participate in normal funeral ceremonies, as a sign that death will be so widespread in Judah that such mourning ceremonies will become impossible (5-7). Gordon McConville: ‘New Bible Commentary’, p.686.

Jeremiah was also told that this was no time for feasting (8).

So, he was a lonely man: unmarried, childless, and with few friends. Someone pointed out that what Jeremiah was called to was tantamount to self-imposed excommunication. Perhaps these things were the kind of increased difficulty envisaged in (12:5).

‘’Jeremiah’s apparently anti-social conduct was to be a witness to the devastation that was about to descend upon Judah, when all normal activities of a community would cease.’’ A.E. Cundall.

How unpopular are you prepared to be for the cause of God in this world? As we will go on to see, although Jeremiah trod a lonely path, he was not alone. He had a ‘’refuge’’ (19). So do you and me. He will be our ‘’strength’’ to carry on.

Prayer: I am grateful Lord that when you ask something of us, you also help us to do that thing. Otherwise we would never have the courage or fortitude or ability to get on with the job.

Daily Bible thoughts 958: Tuesday 1st September 2015: Jeremiah 15:1-9

Jeremiah 15:1-9 (please click here for todays passage)

‘’A nation which is beyond the power of prayer is in a bad way indeed.’ A.E. Cundall.

Yesterday we heard Jeremiah praying for his people, but it was a prayer God would not answer. Moses and Samuel were known to be effective intercessors (1; see Psalm 99:6-8; Exodus 32:11-14, 30-32; 1 Samuel 7:8, 9). But even they would not be able change this situation. (We should not miss the inference, however, that under normal circumstances intercessors can and do make a difference. ‘’History belongs to the intercessors.’’ Walter Wink. )

To my mind, ‘’no longer’’ is a key phrase in (1-9). The nation had passed the point of no return. They had not lacked opportunities to ‘change their ways’ (7b), but they had failed to take them. It didn’t have to end this way. But it was going to because they had persisted in their rejection of God and backsliding (6). The Lord laid a major part of the blame for Judah’s plight on the wicked King Manesseh (4), who was the grandfather of the godly Josiah (see 2 Kings 21:1-16; 23:26, 27).

In an excellent book, ‘AHA’, Kyle Idleman ,the author, quotes this old saying:

‘’Sin will always take you farther than you want to go.

Sin will always cost you more than you want to pay.

Sin will always keep you longer than you want to stay.’’

He goes on to say: ‘’Scripture doesn’t minimize the consequences of sin. We repeatedly see just how seriously God takes it. In the Old Testament, when God wanted to warn the people that destruction was coming, He would most often send a prophet. The prophet would confront the people with the truth of where things were heading. The people would frequently minimize the prophet’s message. Instead of repenting and turning back to God, they would continue down the same path. But when the people were brutally honest and repented of their sin, God would respond with compassion and grace.’’ p.127.

Sadly, Jeremiah’s contemporaries stayed in the place of minimisation and did not progress to brutal honesty and repentance.

Idleman goes on to say: ‘’There’s a temptation to avoid using words like sin, sinner, hell, and punishment. But as I write this, I am convicted once again that perhaps one of the reasons people minimize sin is because preachers don’t seem to take it seriously.’’ P.128.

But the above comment was not true of Jeremiah. He faithfully told it like it was. He laid it on the line, and he paid a very high price for it, as we shall see.

Prayer: Lord keep me faithful. May I never change my ‘shape’ to be moulded to the world and what it wants to hear.

Daily Bible thoughts 950: Thursday 20th August 2015: Jeremiah 13: 12-17

Jeremiah 13: 12-17(please click here for todays passage)

Warren Wiersbe, in his commentary on this chapter, places these two quotes at the beginning:

‘’Whoso would be a man must be a non-conformist.’’ Ralph Waldo Emerson;

‘’We need the faith to go a path untrod, The power to be alone and vote with God.’’ Edwin Markham.

Jeremiah, as God’s spokesman in dismal times, trod a lonely path. People, in the main, do not like to hear a call to repentance, or be warned of the judgment that will fall if they do not turn to God. They don’t like ‘Hell fire preaching.’ But although people may live as if sin has no consequences, those consequences will drop by one day, whether they like it or not. Yesterday we saw how this section of the book is full of images of the coming judgment; the devastation Jeremiah saw approaching on the horizon. He heard the galloping hooves of doom in the near distance. Wednesday’s notes looked at three of these pictures. Here are a further three:

  • Banished (19): ‘’And Judah dragged off to exile, the whole country dragged to oblivion.’’ The Message. As the Jerusalem temple was the place where God manifested His presence; the site where the people went to meet with Him, this exile is often seen as being thrust from God’s presence. That is the essence of Hell. If we refuse God’s company and friendship in this life we will not have it in the next. It’s that simple. Someone pointed out that Adam and Eve first chose to hide from God before He removed them from the Garden of Eden. Ultimately, what God will do in judgment is to rubber stamp the choices we have already made. We make our decisions then they turn around and make us, as someone said.
  • Blown (24; see Psalm 1:4): ‘’I’ll blow these people away – like wind-blown leaves.’’ The Message. Here is a warning: we will become like the objects of our worship. If what we worship is ‘’chaff’’ (and every idol falls into the category) then we too will become ‘’like chaff’’ – insubstantial people living for insubstantial things, leading empty lives When the wind of judgment blows through the land we’ll be carried away on the breeze. In ourselves we will always be people of worth as those made in God’s image; but we will live rubbish lives if we reject God for other gods, and our end will be the rubbish pile, whither we are wafted. (Chaff is the useless by-product of the harvesting process. The workers throw the grain into the air, and the chaff is blown away on the desert wind.)
  • Blushing (22, 25-27; see Micah 3:7): ‘’…you forgot me and embraced the Big Lie, that so-called god Baal. I’m the one who will rip off your clothes, expose and shame you before the watching world. Your obsessions with gods, gods, and more gods, your goddess affairs, your god-adulteries. Gods on the hills, gods in the fields – every time I look you’re off with another god.’’ The Message. According to the law of Moses, prostitution was not permitted in the land (Lev.19:29; 21:7, 14), and public exposure sometimes disgraced prostitutes. The picture here is drawn from that. A day is coming when all our hidden sin will be exposed and we will be ashamed. But for those who trust in Jesus and His finished work on the cross, there is a totally different prospect. Why would anyone reject Christ?

Prayer: Although people may like the ‘medicine’ in the message, may I never fail to pour it onto the gospel ‘spoon’ and offer it to all who will drink.

Daily Bible thoughts 949: Wednesday 19th August 2015: Jeremiah 13:12-27

 Jeremiah 13:12-27(please click here for todays passage)

In this chapter there are a number of images employed to depict the coming judgment:

Drunkenness (12-14; Psalm 60:3; Isaiah 51:17): We know that there was a widespread problem with drunken behaviour in Jeremiah’s day. Many of the leaders (including the spiritual leaders) had drink issues. Here God says that they will stagger into each other like bewildered, panicking, drunken people and thereby bring on their own defeat at the hands of their enemies. People may enjoy the company of ungodly friends, and feel secure in the rosy glow of collective inebriation. But it’s a false security. They will effectively help to bring each other down. It’s like feeling safe in a group as the wine flows and the talk and laughter grow louder, but no-one realises that the whole house is about to collapse in an earthquake. Feeling secure is not the same as being secure. For that you need Christ alone (Matthew 7: 24-27).

Ever-increasing darkness (15-17; see also Isaiah 8:22; Micah 3:6,7; John 12:35; 2 Thessalonians 2:10b-12): If we reject the light we have, we are opting for the darkness. This is what we are ‘ordering’ and we will have it. It will be served up to us. If you turn your back on the light, you turn your face towards the darkness. ‘’He compared them to a traveller on an unfamiliar and dangerous mountain trail, without a map and without light, hoping for the dawn. Instead of the light dawning, however, the darkness only deepens…He wanted to lead them through the words of His prophet, but the people wouldn’t follow. If we reject God’s light, nothing remains but darkness.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘The Wiersbe Bible Commentary (OT)’, P.1223. Verse 13 takes us back to what we read yesterday in verses 1 to 11. Jeremiah’s contemporaries, in the main, would not humble themselves and listen to God. They rejected the light and headed into ever-intensifying darkness (see Romans 1: 18-32.) They removed themselves from closeness to God who is ‘’light’’ (1 John 1:5). ‘’Let your lives glow bright before GOD before he turns out the lights, Before you trip and fall on the dark mountain paths. The light you always took for granted will go out and the world will turn black.’’ The Message. If you keep heading on into the darkness there will come a point where you can’t find your way back.

Labour pains (21): Doroth L. Sayers, the famous author, said that the essence of Hell is ‘’the truth discovered too late.’’ This verse describes the terrible pain they will feel when they realise that the nation they cultivated as their ally has become their overlord. If only they had trusted in God, He would have been their dependable Ally; but the nation they leaned on turned out to be their enemy. There may be much we can’t say about Hell. There is some degree of mystery about all it will entail, but it will surely involve the burning pain of bitter regret, as the truth is discovered too late!

Daily Bible thoughts 948: Tuesday 18th August 2015: Jeremiah 13: 1- 11: Life’s purpose.

Jeremiah 13: 1- 11: Life’s purpose.(click here for todays passage)

‘’You were not made for time and for passing things, but for God and eternity, and to have your heart filled with God and with things eternal.’’ Tersteegen.

‘’Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’’ Westminster Shorter Catechism.

The ‘’linen belt’’ was probably a kind of undergarment worn next to the skin. No other clothing on a man would be closer to him. God had brought the nation close to Himself, but as the belt became ‘’ruined and completely useless’’ (7b) as it was put away from its owner, so the people of Judah and Jerusalem were ruined by pride. They would not listen to God (10, 11). When they were ‘’bound’’ close to God they were fulfilling their destiny. But then pride intervened and became their downfall. It will take anyone down (Proverbs 16:18; 29:23; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).

Here are some interesting quotes on today’s passage:

‘’The linen belt (verse 1) represented the close relationship between God and His people. Just as the linen belt was ruined, so will the people’s relationship with God be ruined…Instead of clinging to God like a belt, the people abandoned God and thus hastened the day of their own ruin.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The applied Old Testament Commentary, p.1095.

‘’As long as the people clung to God in humble obedience, He was glorified. When they defiled themselves in pride, they became useless…’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.506.

‘’Perath was probably a place not far from Anathoth, the prophet’s home…the Name Perath, however, also means the Euphrates, and the sign makes a connection, therefore, with the empires of Mesopotamia. The reference might be to Judah’s acceptance of Assyrian religion, as much as the threat of exile in Babylon. (Exile, in fact, would have a restoring, rather than ruinous, effect; 24:5-7). The many days of v.6 would then refer to the long period of Israel’s and Judah’s persistence in sin (cf.v.10). This sin was itself, inevitably, the cause of their ruin.’’ Gordon McConville: ‘New Bible Commentary’, p.684.

The message seems to be, then, stay close to God in humble obedience to whatever He tells you. Usefulness will only be found in closeness to God. Get away from Him and you become dirty and spoiled; a ruined child! The way to stay close to God is by humbly listening to His Word and submitting to it. It’s interesting that Jeremiah himself exemplified this intimacy with God. Listen to his own words in response to God’s: ‘’Go and buy…So I bought…Take the belt…and hide it…So I went and hid it…Go now…So I went…’’ (1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7). Amidst widespread spiritual declension, Jeremiah remained close to God: he listened, he submitted, he obeyed.

Thought: You can’t live for His praise whilst trying to live in your pride.

‘’Do whatever he tells you.’’ (John 2:5).

Prayer: Lord, I want to be that humble person, who listen to you and does what you say. But I often feel my heart drawn in the opposite direction. So I cry to you, once again, and ask you to help me be true. Have mercy on me, O God. I need you.

Daily Bible thoughts 946: Monday 17th August 2015: Proverbs 24: 23-34: The President of Mexico!!

 Proverbs 24: 23-34: The President of Mexico!!(please click here for todays passage)

The prolific Christian author, Charles Swindoll, once quipped that, ‘’Many Christians seem to think Manual Labour is the President of Mexico!’’

Warren Wiersbe writes about a new college graduate who was asked if he was looking for work. He thought for a minute and then replied, ‘’No, but I would like to have a job.’’ The truth is that no-one’s life changes by wishing it to be so. There are things we have to do. Today would be a good time to start!

In the Proverbs passage we began to look at yesterday, there is also teaching about hard work and providence. What did the wise man learn from the field of ‘’the sluggard’’ (30)? It is an important life-lesson about the perils of laziness. (See also 10:4 and 14:23.)

Take time to look closely at the world and consider (32). Don’t live on the surface. Go deep. Take time to reflect. ‘’I took a long look and pondered what I saw; the fields preached me a sermon and I listened…’’ The Message. Somebody observed that the unconsidered life is hardly worth living. Sit under life’s pulpit; listen, watch and become wise. ‘’What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?’’ What the wise man learned from what he saw is that if a person does not work they will not have enough to live on, and what they do have will fall into ruin. (By the way, some people’s souls are like this sad landscape –covered in weeds and showing signs of ruin. In many, if not most, cases it stems from neglect. The spiritual life is under-developed through lack of diligence.)

It is important to understand that the problem addressed here is not appropriate rest. There is a need for that. God has built a pattern of work and rest into the structure of life, and we ignore it to our own detriment. One very well known, hard-working and productive preacher was known to have his ‘’horizontal half hour’’ after lunch every day. He was often travelling, and he put in long hours, but he found that this pattern involving a short daily nap helped to rejuvenate him.

In terms of work, it is vital to get your priorities right (27). It is important to know that you can live before you prepare a place to live in. If you don’t have any food what’s the point of a house? ‘’This saying teaches us to first establish our livelihood and only then start a family. A wise man plans ahead; he first lays a foundation and then he builds on it.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary, p. 958.

‘’I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work.’’ Thomas Edison.

‘’Diligence is the mother of good luck, and God gives all things to industry.’’ Benjamin Franklin.

Daily Bible thoughts 945: Friday 14th August 2015: Proverbs 24:23-34: Love thy neighbour.

Proverbs 24:23-34: Love thy neighbour.(please click here for todays passage)

There are a number of statements made in this section which challenge our standards of neighbourly love:

  • About lack of favouritism (23-25): There is a need for fairness in how we treat all people. Although these verses apply primarily to the legal system, they can also have a more general application. How we treat people is really important, because how we act towards them is how we treat Christ (Matthew 25:40, 45; Hebrews 6:10). ‘’It is wrong, very wrong, to go along with injustice. Whoever whitewashes the wicked gets a black mark in the history books, But whoever exposes the wicked will be thanked and rewarded.’’ The Message.
  •  About loving honesty with others (26): It can be hard to express love in this way, but honesty can be as beautiful as a kiss. However, let the truth be imparted as tenderly as possible. The challenge is to deliver the message in such a way that the recipient feels ‘kissed’ by it and not smacked around the head. ‘’An honest answer is like a warm hug.’’ The Message. Maybe you need courage to embrace someone in your world with the truth today.
  • About personal honesty regarding others (28; see also Exodus 20:16; Proverbs 24:17-20 and 20:22; Romans 12:17a, 19-21.): I believe this also applies to the realm of thought. If you are thinking something about someone, but you don’t know it is true, then don’t permit that thought to stay in your mind. Swat it away. Don’t speak lies about others, and don’t believe them either. ‘’Don’t talk about your neighbours behind their backs – no slander or gossip, please.’’ The Message.
  •  About not taking revenge (29; see Romans 12:17a, 19-21): You might be tempted to get even by lying about a person, but don’t. There is this important principle that people will reap what they sow. Their bad deeds will rebound on them. You don’t want to get in the way of that. Like Jesus, take your case to a higher court (1 Peter 2:21-23). Trust your wise, all-loving and just Heavenly Father.

Prayer: Lord God, help me to grasp that you really are concerned with how we treat other people.

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