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Daily Bible thoughts 1234: Thursday 22nd September 2016: John 12:27-30: Man of sorrows.

John 12:27-30: Man of sorrows.(please click for todays passage)

Isaiah saw Jesus as ”despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3).

Have you ever felt so troubled that you didn’t know quite what to say? Jesus can sympathise; indeed, empathise (27). ”Right now I am storm-tossed. And what am I going to say?” The Message. Perhaps your heart is weighed down as you read this? Well, Jesus knows, and He cares. He is not sitting up in heaven watching impassively as you are buffeted by winds and waves of trouble.

”For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses…” (Hebrews 4:15).

In trouble, you can follow His pattern, and just raise your eyes towards heaven and say, ”Father…” (27).

But in Jesus’ own case, He knew He would not ask to escape from the net (27b). The shadow of the cross falls over the whole passage from (20-36). Jesus was well aware of His destiny. He knew why He had come into the world. As He began to feel the darkness closing in more and more He would not request an exit strategy.

There is such help here.

You find yourself in trouble, and it may be that God does want to save you from it. He often does – but not always.

It may also be the case that He has a great destiny for you in your trial. Whether in or out of trouble ( and ”In this world you will have trouble…” 16:33) it is always right to pray that God will glorify His Name in your life. When Jesus prayed this prayer (28a), it was clear that the Father had answered it (29), and it is for our ”benefit” that He did.

Pray it again! It’s a prayer the Father always delights to answer.

”Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…” (Matthew 5:9).

Daily Bible thoughts 1233: Wednesday 21st September 2016: John 12:20-26: Who do you want to be like?

John 12:20-26: Who do you want to be like?(click here for todays passage)

”Entrance to the kingdom of God is free, but the annual subscription is all you’ve got.”

I want to be like Andrew (22): I remember some words written by a commentator on John’s gospel. He said Andrew is mentioned only three times in this gospel, but on each occasion he is bringing someone to Jesus (see 1:40,41; 6:8,9 and here!) In that sense I would like to be like Andrew. My desire is to see many people come to know Jesus through my life and ministry

But most of all, I want to be like Jesus (23-26). Who would not desire the honour God the Father puts on those who truly serve Jesus the Son (26b)? To live under Heaven’s smile is a prospect to be coveted.However, here’s the challenge I face. Do I really want to be like Jesus in His death? The only way to have the effectiveness of Andrew; the only way to produce ”many seeds” (24b) is to fall into the ground and die. You have to die to the life you want and embrace the life Jesus calls you to. This cannot be done without pain. But it leads to a rich harvest.

”When Jesus bids a man come follow Him, He bids him come and die.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

So what will such dying mean for you today? I realise that the call to die must be answered every single day and many times a day. In which area(s) of your life do you need to feel the nails and thorns in order to live the resurrection life with Jesus? There are no doubt certain things you don’t want to do, but you know God wants you to do them. It won’t be easy, but the Holy Spirit will help you to go to the cross, just as He did with Jesus (Hebrews 9:14).Where your will crosses God’s will, there you experience a crucifixion – and the other side of it there will be a glorious resurrection.

It’s been said that Christianity does not mean pinning the cross, like a badge, to your old way of life; but nailing your old life to the cross daily.

PRAYER: Lord, help me to do the things I know I need to do today, even though they may be painful. Enable me, please, to do the right things, trusting in you.

Daily Bible thoughts 1231: Monday 19th September 2016: John 12:12-16: The palm and the donkey!

John 12:12-16: The palm and the donkey!(please click for todays passage)

As I read this passage it struck me forcibly that here are two keys to living the Christian life, in all circumstances:

  1. Wave the palm branch (12, 13): Choose to be a praising person. And realise that praising Jesus also involves ‘going public’ about your faith in Him. It says here that ”the great crowd” were ”shouting”.  Later on we read that they ”continued to spread the word that he had called Lazarus from the tomb” (17).They were not ashamed to identify themselves with the Lord – to speak to Him and to speak about Him in praise. Their allegiance was highly audible and visible. I know it is sometimes said that the people in this welcoming group on Palm Sunday later were part of the throng baying for Jesus’ blood. But I don’t think the Bible ever explicitly says so. That may be the case. Or it may be true of some of them. But we cannot say it with any certainty. Taking this passage at face value, I simply want to highlight the good things we see here, and say, ”May we also wave our palm branches.” Jesus is worthy of all our praise.
  2. Ride the donkey (14-16). Take the humble, lowly path. True, in the Bible, the donkey is a magisterial beast, but less obviously so than a white charger! Jesus took the basin and towel and washed the feet of His disciples. He deliberately took upon Himself the task that was entrusted to the ‘least’ person. He came among us as One who serves, and He calls us to follow Him along this meek roadway (John 13:12-17). It does not lessen our authority in Christ, but all the more clearly defines it.

So, in all circumstances, choose to wave the palm branch and ride the donkey.

Daily Bible thoughts 1230: Friday 16th September 2016: John 12:1-11: Perfume.

 John 12:1-11: Perfume.(please click here for todays passage)

Worship is costly. It is a sacrificial response to the sacrificial love of Jesus. Our sacrifices are small by comparison, but if ‘the cross’ does not lie at the heart of our offering it is not worship. As far as we are concerned, if we are worshipping Jesus it will be costly. Someone said, ”Ministry that costs nothing accomplishes nothing.”

Worship that pays the price will perfume the world. There is a fragrance, a lovely scent, an aroma of Jesus surrounding those who are deeply in love with Jesus.

Worship involves abandonment and self-forgetfulness. Therefore those who worship may draw criticism from merely religious people. When it comes to spiritual things, there are those who can ‘talk a good game’; they can use the terminology, the vocabulary, but their hearts are deeply polluted wells of corruption. They hate genuine worship.

To truly worship you have to have a generous spirit. This touches every area of life – not just money. But it will be shown in our attitude towards finance, so that we give freely, joyfully and with faith-filled hearts.

”One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.” Proverbs 11:24.

PRAYER: Lord, let me carry your fragrance everywhere.

Daily Bible thoughts 1229: Thursday 15th September 2016: John 12:1-11: Get your Lazarus.

John 12:1-11: Get your Lazarus. (please click for todays passage)

Here are three simple points from this passage:

  1. Jesus raised Lazarus to life (1): I am struck by the words, ”where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.” If Jesus raises you – you live! There are no half measures where His work is concerned.
  2. Jesus raised Lazarus to intimate fellowship (2): He got to be ”seated with Christ” (Ephesians 2). He who had so recently been laid in the grave was once again able to enjoy food, and company and other blessings. In the East, the table was the place of intimate and leisurely communion. It’s a delightful picture. This actually happened to Lazarus, but it also portrays our experience. We honour the Lord Jesus who raised us by enjoying His company, feasting on Him, as it were, and ‘reclining’ on Him. Our life now is not one of self-reliance, but we lean on Him. We rest on Him and His finished work. A missionary was living with a remote tribe in order to translate the Bible into their language. He was, however, struggling to find the right word for ‘trust’. One day, a native came into his hut. He was weary from a long day’s work, and as he gratefully sank into the missionary’s chair, he expressed that it was good to be able to ”lean his whole weight” upon it. The missionary realised that he had found his word for trust.
  3. Jesus raised Lazarus to be living evidence of His power (9-11). The great Methodist preacher, Samuel Chadwick, asked the question, ”Do you want to know the secret of filling your chapels Sunday by Sunday?” He said, ”Get your Lazarus!” How obtuse people can be though. They wanted to put Lazarus back in the cemetery rather than accept what his life was saying about Jesus. It’s a wonderful thing to be given resurrection life by Christ, but it’s also dangerous! He calls us out of the grave into ‘risky living.’

Daily Bible thoughts 1228: Wednesday 14th September 2016: John 12:1-3: Living worship.

 John 12:1-3: Living worship.(please click for todays passage)

Although we ‘focus’ our worship in specific acts of worship, on a Sunday, and at other times; worship is actually a 24/7 calling. I read a book many years ago entitled ‘Worship the Lord’ by Jock Anderson. In it, the author said this: ”God wants worship that is living and living that is worship.” I think partly through the influence of that book, I came to see that everything we do should be offered to God in worship, and if we can’t worship by doing it, then we probably ought to avoid that particular thing.(David Pawson said that for the Christian, the whole of life is sacred, and the only thing that is secular is sin.) The worship of Jesus, who raised us to life, is a beautiful thing (3). There is a fragrance about worshipping people, and also in the very atmosphere they carry about them. But also, when we grasp that worship is about the lives we lead as well as the words we say and the songs we sing, we begin to experience that there is a cost to worship. When you worship with the whole of your life there is a price tag. It may even be true to say that the greater the cost, the sweeter the scent; the more powerful the aroma. Whatever, let us not be ashamed to show our love to Jesus. I once knew a girl who loved the Lord so much that her expression of worship, in church, was quite extravagant. But I am certain she was not being exhibitionist in any way. She just adored Jesus and was ‘lost’ in worship. She was oblivious to what anyone else thought.

As we see here, we may eat in Jesus’ honour (2). It reminds me of Paul’s words:

”So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

The Lord wants living that is worship:

”And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

If Jesus has made you alive (1) you will surely want to do just that.

PRAYER: I am so aware Lord Jesus that you have imparted abundant life to me. So I ask that the life I lead in this world will be a beautiful and fitting response to you. Let me carry the scent of Jesus wherever I go.

Daily Bible thoughts 1032: Monday 14th December 2015: Jeremiah 24: Different destinies.

 Jeremiah 24: Different destinies.(please click here for todays passage)

‘’Jeremiah received the vision described in this chapter shortly after King Jehoiachin and other leading citizens of Jerusalem (including the prophet Ezekiel) had been carried into exile in Babylon (2 Kings 24:10-14); the year was 597 B.C., eleven years before the final destruction of Jerusalem. The purpose of this vision of the good and the bad figs was to show that those who were carried into exile (the good figs) were far better off than those who stayed in Jerusalem (the bad figs): the exiles would survive, prosper, and eventually return to Judah; those who stayed in Jerusalem would be destroyed along with the city.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary, p.1110.

It’s important to understand that both groups – those taken into exile, and those left behind were ‘bad’, in the sense that both had violated God’s Covenant, and both were being punished. It was by the grace of God alone that the exiles were chosen to survive and become a remnant, from which, in due time, the Messiah would come. The irony is that those who remained in Jerusalem thought they were the lucky ones. They were soon to find out otherwise.

God’s purpose in sending the exiles away was to purify them; to cleanse, and cure them of idolatry (6, 7). The ultimate fulfilment of the seventh verse would come in the inauguration of the ‘’new covenant’’ (Jeremiah 31:31-34), when the Holy Spirit came to live in believers following Christ’s death on the cross. He is the One who makes it possible to joyfully obey God’s law.

So it is not the case that the exiles were inherently good, and that those who remained in Jerusalem were intrinsically bad. The point at issue concerns the treatment they were going to receive, and this comes out in The Message: ‘’The exiles from here that I’ve sent off to the land of the Babylonians are like the good figs, and I’ll make sure they get good treatment…But like rotten figs, so rotten they can’t be eaten, is Zedekiah king of Judah. Rotten figs – that’s how I’ll treat him and his leaders, along with the survivors here and those down in Egypt.’’ Good figs have a useful purpose and are treated accordingly; whereas bad figs are useless, and get the treatment they deserve.

This passage reminds me that there is coming a day of judgment, which will be a day of division. People will experience different eternal destinies according to their acceptance or rejection of Christ. C.S. Lewis put it well. He said that in the final analysis there will only be two types of people in the world: those who say to God, ‘Your will be done’, and those to whom God says, ‘Your will be done.’

Prayer: In the light of the final judgment, help me to live seriously. Strengthen me to hold out Jesus to everyone I can. He is the only Saviour of the world.


Daily Bible thoughts 1029: Wednesday 9th December: 1 Timothy 5:17-25: Regarding elders.

 1 Timothy 5:17-25: Regarding elders.(please click here for todays passage)

It would seem that in the earliest days of the church, the local congregations in diverse places were led by a plurality of elders. There is no sign, in the New Testament, of the proverbial ‘one man band’ who does it all by himself. Here are five clear instructions Paul gives to Timothy regarding the elders:

Honour them appropriately (17, 18): Where an elder is released from other work to serve the church full time he should be properly recompensed.  ‘’Give a bonus to leaders who do a good job, especially the ones who work hard at preaching and teaching.’’ The Message. The old and much-vaunted attitude that went, ‘’Lord, you keep him humble and we’ll keep him power’’ is unworthy of any church. Okay, it’s probably a caricature, but there was a day and age when, for whatever reasons, many pastors were ‘on the bread line’. Good leaders should be rewarded with generosity. I believe it is true to say that we also need to look for appropriate ways to honour the faithful elders whose salaries may come from other sources. Let them never feel unloved or unappreciated. Paul quotes Deuteronomy 25: 4 (see also Luke 10:7). Those who give up other earning opportunities to serve the church full time should be properly supported.

Hold them accountable (19): Paul does not envisage a situation where the elders become ‘the untouchables.’ He is realistic. He knows that some will fall into serious sin. It cannot be the case that they can get away with stuff just because of their position. But they have to be protected from trivial or unfair attacks. Leadership is not easy and church leaders can be lied about on occasions. When the devil is on the prowl this is only to be expected. He is an expert in the diabolical art of lies and half-truths. He is the master of deception. ‘’Don’t listen to a complaint against a leader that isn’t backed up by two or three responsible witnesses.’’ The Message.

Discipline them publicly (20): As a general rule, private sins should be dealt with privately and public sins publicly. In the case of elders, because of the public nature of their rule, church discipline will regularly have to be carried out publicly. This sends out a clear message to the whole church that sin is serious. It also serves as a warning to any other leaders who may be in danger of going down the same route. ‘’If anyone falls into sin, call that person on the carpet. Those who are inclined that way will know right off they can’t get by with it.’’ The Message.

Be impartial (21): Don’t be inclined to go easier on some leaders more than others because they are friends, or because you like them more etc. Let there be strict fairness in dealing with these matters.

Don’t appoint lightly or quickly (22): Take the necessary time to do due diligence. Think it through; above all pray it through. Consult with others. Get references if needed. A bit like with marriage, if you do this in haste you may find yourself repenting at leisure.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Head of the church, I pray for the under-shepherds you have appointed. Keep them faithful to you and to your people right to the end of their days. Preserve them in temptation and deliver them from the evil one. Give to them the honour which matters most – that which comes from you. Help us to always gratefully and lovingly support them in their often difficult work. Remind me to show appreciation when I should.

Daily Bible thoughts 1028: Tuesday 8th December 2015: 1 Timothy 5:9-16: Saved for good works.

1 Timothy 5:9-16: Saved for good works.
This church was organised to care. That much becomes evident as you read through chapter 5. It reminds me of the caring structure established in Acts 6:1-7, and that move, of course, led to further evangelistic expansion. A lot is at stake in the caring ministry of the church. The larger the church is, the more likely it is that there will be a need for careful planning to ensure that people do not fall through any gaps. God loves people and the church is to reflect that love. We can’t afford to be careless about caring!
But the care was not indiscriminate (9, 10). There were certain parameters built around the help on offer. These may change from generation to generation and culture to culture, but any caring ministry will require certain criteria to be observed if the church is not going to be overwhelmed. The church looked after widows who were ‘’really in need’’ (2, 5, 16). Again, the principle is repeated that families should take care of their own (16).
Good deeds are important in the Christian life (Ephesians 2:8-10). We are not saved by them, but we are saved for them. This chapter shows the church being organised to do good to their widows in genuine need. Life expectancy was not all that great at the time, and no doubt the care of widows was a pressing need. You can imagine that they would have no support whatsoever after their spouse died, but for that given by close relatives, or the church. There would be no pension or death benefit etc.
The passage also shows that the widows to be helped had to have a good standing in the church (9, 10). They needed to be known for their good character expressed in a variety of good deeds. The next section concerning the younger widows goes on to point out that it is possible to live in such a way that it gives the enemy opportunity ‘’for slander’’ (14). Clearly Paul was not happy with that prospect. Satan is always ready to seize opportunities to undermine God’s work. Let’s take care that we don’t play into his hands. (Paul, by the way, seems to be thinking about younger widows who offer for some form of Christian work, verse 11, and who would then be placed in a difficult position if they wanted to marry. They would be seen to go back on their ‘’first pledge’’, verse 12 – their commitment to some form of Christian service.)
The chapter closes in an intriguing manner. As Christians we are called to offer secret service, but truth will out (25). This applies to the good as well as the bad. You can’t really hide who you are.
‘’Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.’’ (Galatians 6:10).

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