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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 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).

Daily Bible thoughts 1008: Tuesday 10th November 2015: 1 Timothy 3:8-13: Serving well.

 1 Timothy 3:8-13: Serving well.(click here for todays Bible passage)

There clearly are areas of overlap between the qualifications for elders and those for ‘’Deacons’’. See the word ‘’likewise’’ (8).The boundary line between these two roles may not be so clearly demarcated as we sometimes imagine, but it appears that the elders were the ‘overseers’ of the church, perhaps assisted by deacons, who could also exercise a teaching/preaching ministry (9). There are four areas mentioned where deacons must be similar to elders:

  • They should have integrity and be of good character (8): Who they are counts; not just what they can do;
  • They must be theologically sound (9): This is a particularly interesting statement in the light of the fact that it is regularly thought that a deacon’s ministry may have been more practical in nature (see Acts 6:1-7, which may refer to the appointment of the first diaconate);
  • They have got to prove themselves first (10): ‘’Let them prove themselves first. If they show they can do it, take them on.’’ The Message. This may link to the next point (see also 4, 5. We saw yesterday that the home is the proving ground for church leadership);
  • They have to be exemplary in home and family life (12): Perfection is not asked for, but a good example in moral/sexual conduct is required.

Verse 11 points to the character which is also required for deacon’s wives. But I understand the word can also refer to ‘deaconesses.’ ‘’No exceptions are to be made for women – same qualifications: serious, dependable, not sharp-tongued, not overfond of wine.’’ The Message.

When people serve well in Christian leadership they receive both external and internal blessings (13). Externally, there is an honour placed on them by God (and the church). Internally, they grow in a sense of assurance that they are saved people demonstrating and expressing their salvation in the good works of ministry.

‘’Those who do this servant work will come to be highly respected, a real credit to this Jesus-faith.’’ The Message.

Pray today that your leaders will serve well.

Daily Bible thoughts 981: Friday 2nd October 2015: Jeremiah 17: 14-18: ‘Where can I go but to the Lord?’

Jeremiah 17: 14-18: ‘Where can I go but to the Lord?’(please click here for todays Bible passage)

Here is Jeremiah up against it. It was tough being a prophet. Day after day you had to get up out of bed and deliver (and live) messages people did not want to hear. We have seen before that Jeremiah suffered for his calling. But:

  • He was conscious that he was God’s man (16a). He was a shepherd to the people, but primarily he belonged to the Lord. So he spoke and acted as one who was not his own. His life wasn’t about doing what he wanted but living under the Lordship of God. Someone said that the Lord is ready to take full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him. So, yes, Jeremiah took his orders and words from God, but he also knew that he could go to Him with his open, bleeding wounds (14). He knew where to take his pain. The Lord was his refuge (17b). Amidst all the heartache, he was a man of praise (14b). He is often characterised as ‘the weeping prophet’, but he was primarily a worshipping prophet;
  • He was committed to speaking God’s words (16b). Are we equally conscious of talking in the sight of God? What difference might it make to your speech if you remembered that God is the ‘silent listener to every conversation’? But sometimes He doesn’t just listen in silence. There are painful moments when you hear Him speak in the depths of your soul and you know you shouldn’t have said that!
  • He did not speak about Hell without tears in his eyes (16b): ‘’…you know I have not desired the day of despair.’’ Jeremiah had to suffer taunts from persecutors who arrogantly poured scorn on his prophecies (15). When was it going to happen? The implication in their question was that it never would. But they were wrong. And there was something of a ‘torn’ feeling in Jeremiah’s heart. No, he had never wanted the judgment he had forecast to fall on his people. It broke his heart to preach it. At the same time, he did want God’s Word (and his words) to be vindicated; he did want to see the Lord deal with his ‘’persecutors’’ (17, 18).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please put courage into my heart. I feel an inclination towards cowardice. Help me to ‘’not run away’’ from anything you ask of me.

Daily Bible thoughts 973: Tuesday 22nd September 2015: Psalm 119:33-40: ‘’Teach me’’

Psalm 119:33-40: ‘’Teach me’’(please click here for the Bible Passage)

‘’It is only with God’s help that we can even begin to keep God’s law.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The applied Old Testament Commentary, p.912.

‘’The spirit of dependence continues with nine requests in eight verses…The section is in three parts:33-35, total commitment, keeping God’s word with the whole heart; 36-37, inner threats, the divided heart; 38-40, divine, faithful care and supply.’’ J.A.Motyer: ‘The New Bible Commentary, p.567.

As we focus on verse 33 today, please remember that God wants ‘doers’ of His Word and not just ‘hearers’.

When I was a young boy I started to have piano lessons. I was unable to play the piano and I needed someone who could (an expert) to teach me how. A teacher is someone who is further on than you in knowledge and ability. They help you know what you don’t know and do what you can’t do.

The Bible is to be obeyed. More to the point, God is to be obeyed. He is ‘’LORD’’. Our obedience to it (to Him) is not meant to be spasmodic; hit and miss, but continuous. God’s ‘’decrees’’ are to be kept ‘’to the end’’. For this to happen we will need a Teacher. We have the very best. The One who wrote the Book will be your personal tutor. Begin each session with your Bible with a prayer to the Divine Author: ‘’Teach me…’’ But let that always be with a view to obedience: ‘’Teach me…then…’’ As you read your Bible today are you looking for directions; wanting to see what you must ‘’follow’’? It is important to not only read the Bible but also pray before you read. Be humble enough to ask for help. Don’t assume that you can just suss it out for yourself. Yes, of course, apply your mind; use the wonderful mental ability God has given you. Think. But do it all prayerfully. Stay in the place of humble dependence on God. When I got into my teenage years, for a time my mum arranged for me to have a personal tutor in maths, because I was struggling a bit as I approached my ‘G.C.E.’ exams. He was convinced that he could help me. (I think he was less certain after a few weeks!! But that’s another story!) Mum had to pay for this personal tuition, but our ‘lessons’ with the Divine tutor are totally free. What a gift! What a Teacher! Make the most of the opportunity. You, who are book lovers, just think if you could have an hour with your favourite author! How excited you would be. Yet our Christian privileges go way beyond that.

I think one of the ways God teaches us to stay on the right road is by allowing us to experience the consequences of taking wrong turnings. These sobering and salutary experiences encourage us to keep listening to God’s ‘Satnav’, and to heed His map. Stay on the clearly marked path today.

By the way, in case you were wondering, I still can’t play the piano! I can read a bit of music, and that is, in part, a legacy from that time. But I cannot play the instrument I love so much. When I was a young boy, the call of riding my bike was louder than the need to tediously labour over scales. It was getting more and more difficult to practice, and I gave up. Mum told me I would regret it, and I do. She was right. But I can’t expect to play. I gave up on my lessons. Don’t do that with the Bible. Keep asking the Teacher to teach you.

Prayer: ‘’GOD, teach me lessons for living, so I can stay the course.’’ The Message.

Daily Bible thoughts 970: Thursday 17th September 2015: 2 Thessalonians 1: 5-10: Pay back.

 2 Thessalonians 1: 5-10: Pay back.(please click here for todays message)

‘’God is just…’’ (6a). You may not want to hear that. You may prefer it if I say ‘’God is love’’ (1 John 4:16). Both statements are in fact true of God. His love is seen especially in that He has made a way for us to be forgiven through Jesus. But if we reject His way we will keep our sins and we will experience His justice (8). If we refuse ‘’the gospel’’ – the good news of Jesus, then we will be left facing the bad news of eternal punishment. The offer of the gospel is addressed to the human will and it can be declined (8). There has to be a response of faith (10b).This passage could hardly be clearer in spelling out the results of such rejection.

At least three things stand out here:

  • God will ‘’pay back trouble’’ to the church’s troublers (6). The apparent triumph of the persecutors is but for a season. ‘’You’re suffering now, but justice is on the way. When the Master Jesus comes out of heaven in a blaze of fire with his strong angels, he’ll even up the score by settling accounts with those who gave you such a bad time.’’ The Message. (See also Isaiah 66:15, 16; Matthew 13:40-43; Luke 3:17).
  • God will ‘’give relief’’ to His suffering people, and to all who care about them (7).
  • Those who do not want Him will not have Him: ‘’Those who refuse to know God and refuse to obey the Master will pay for what they’ve done. Eternal exile from the presence of the Master and his splendid power is their sentence.’’ The Message. To my mind (9) expresses the essence of Hell. Those who do not want God’s company/companionship in this life will not have it in the next. As Jim Packer notes in his fine book, ‘Knowing God’, ultimately all that the Lord will do in judgment will be to underline the choices we have already made. Surely no-one can read the words in 2 Thessalonians and not see that there is going to be a day of division, of separation in the universe. Not everyone will get to live with Christ in heaven because many have made it clear they do not want Him. We will not all live ‘’happily ever after.’’

As someone said, ‘’We make our choices, and then our choices turn around and make us.’’

Daily Bible thoughts 968: Tuesday 15th September 2015: Jeremiah 16: 19-21: Living on smoke.

 Jeremiah 16: 19-21: Living on smoke.(please click here for todays passage)

‘’The godless nations will come from earth’s four corners, saying, ‘’Our ancestors lived on lies, useless illusions, all smoke.’’ Can mortals manufacture gods? Their factories turn out no-gods’’ The Message.

This lovely prayer of Jeremiah’s (19-21) comes at the end of another rather dismal chapter, and it should encourage us. Someone described prayer as ‘’the flight of the lonely man to the only God.’’ This particular prayer is ‘’a burst of faith and prophetic joy…’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘The Wiersbe Bible Commentary (OT), p.1228.

Jeremiah’s Strength (19a): We have seen that Jeremiah had a difficult calling. He lived a lonely life. He was single and childless and had very few friends. He had a message to give that made him deeply unpopular with the majority. He was persecuted for his beliefs. He was ‘’like a speckled bird, set on by all the birds of the flock.’’ F.B. Meyer: ‘Great verses through the Bible’, p.300. So how did he manage to go on? God was his strength. Let that thought put fresh nerve into you today. If Jeremiah could persevere with God’s help, then you certainly can!

Jeremiah’s refuge (19a): Jeremiah was repeatedly attacked, verbally and even physically. But God was real to him. Jeremiah entrusted himself to God. He was conscious of being enveloped within the impregnable walls of God’s love (Romans 8:39). The Lord was his ‘’fortress’’ and ‘’refuge’’; his place of safety. In the midst of your pain and hardship God wants you to know this reality.

Jeremiah’s confidence (19b, 20): Although he was ostracised and largely rejected in his own day, Jeremiah was enabled to see that a day would come when the Gentile nations would flock into God’s Kingdom. We are living in these prophetically foreseen days right now. The church is growing and spreading all over the world (see Isaiah 2:1-4; Micah 4: 1, 2; see Habakkuk 2:14). Many people are seeing the idolatrous mirages they have trusted in for what they are. They are recognising that they have been living on ‘’lies’’, ‘’illusions’’ and ‘’smoke’’. God is able to do this. He breaks the stronghold of idolatry over minds and hearts. As Jeremiah prayed, God spoke (21). What God said was that He would do the very thing that Jeremiah saw that He would do. God’s Word informs and strengthens and shapes our prayers. God is able to change people; He is even capable of influencing  whole nations. You may be in a dark place, as Jeremiah was, but God can light up your life with an awareness of something significant He is yet to do. His bright ‘torch light’ can penetrate your ‘fog’.

Prayer: ‘’Let God speak, and I will listen.’’

Daily Bible thoughts 967: Monday 14th September 2015: Jeremiah 16: Some further thoughts.

Jeremiah 16: Some further thoughts.(please click here for todays notes)

Here are some further observations on this chapter:

  • Verse 5 contains a warning for the church today. Think about the letters to the seven churches in the book of ‘Revelation’. ‘Lights’ can go out. ‘Candles’ can be extinguished. God can withdraw His blessing. Someone made the point that the local church is never more than a generation away from extinction. We can’t just live how we please and think that all will be well. God, in His patience, may well give us time to repent, but the time will not be infinite. A day will come when it is too late to change.
  • See once again that a note of hope is embedded within a message of severe judgment (14, 15). Jeremiah was enabled to see that there was going to be a second and greater ‘exodus’. In future days people would see the deliverance from Babylonian as the supreme example of God’s power in Israel’s history – even more than ‘the great escape’ from Egypt. (There is a repeated theme in this book that God will not destroy his people ‘’completely’’ : 4:27; 5:10, 18; 30:11; 46:28; see Psalm 94:14; Romans 11:1-5). When Jeremiah wrote, God’s revelation was not complete. Jesus, God’s final Word to mankind had not yet come. We now know that the supreme demonstration of God’s delivering power in human history was displayed at the cross where Jesus died for our sins.
  • Nothing is hidden from God (16-18; see 17:10). We are well and truly ‘bugged’. Jesus has ‘X-Ray vision (Revelation 1:14b).
  • Essentially, what God does in judgment is to give people what they have chosen (13). They would be where there hearts were – with their gods in the land of their gods. “When you tell this to the people and they ask, ‘Why is God talking this way, threatening us with all these calamities? We’re not criminals, after all. What have we done to our God to be treated like this?’ tell them this: ‘It’s because your ancestors left me, walked off and never looked back. They took up with the no-gods, worshiped and doted on them, and ignored me and wouldn’t do a thing I told them. And you’re even worse! Take a good look in the mirror—each of you doing whatever you want, whenever you want, refusing to pay attention to me. And for this I’m getting rid of you, throwing you out in the cold, into a far and strange country. You can worship your precious no-gods there to your heart’s content. Rest assured, I won’t bother you anymore.’ ’’ The Message.

Beware of what you set your heart on, for it will surely be yours!

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