Bible in One Year

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December 11 Day 345

How You Can Make a Difference

In an interview in Time Magazine, the great Swiss theologian Karl Barth recounted that he advised young theologians to ‘take your Bible and take your newspaper and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.’

When we read, watch or listen to the news it could be easy to get depressed. It sometimes seems that evil is triumphing over good. The plans of ‘the wicked’ seem to succeed, while others are subject to the ravages of terrorism, war, poverty and injustice.

This is why we desperately need to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and listen to the word of God. As we study the Scriptures, we see the triumph of good over evil. In each of the passages for today we see that evil will not ultimately triumph. At the end of the day, good wins. Furthermore, in this struggle between good and evil, you can make a difference.

December 10 Day 344

How to Find Jesus

The whole of the Bible is about Jesus. Martin Luther said, ‘Scripture is the manger in which the Christ lies.’ As a parent goes to a cot to find their baby, so the Christian goes to the Bible to find Jesus. Don’t inspect the cot and forget to worship the baby.

In today’s passages, we see how Jesus Christ is revealed not only in the New Testament, in the book of Revelation, but also in the Old Testament – in Proverbs and Zechariah.

December 9 Day 343

Unlocking Revelation

It stars Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando. Set in the Vietnam War, Apocalypse Now is a 1979 epic war film. The use of the word ‘apocalypse’ is based on the popular misunderstanding of the word as ‘destruction’.

The Greek word apokalupsis, translated ‘revelation’ (Revelation 1:1), is made up of two Greek words – apo (out of) and kalupsis (hiding). The word actually means ‘disclosure’. In the book of Revelation, the veil is taken off. The mystery is unlocked.

‘The revelation of Jesus Christ’ (v.1) has a double meaning. First, it is the revelation that is given by Jesus. Second, it is the revealing of Jesus, who lies hidden in the Old Testament and is revealed in the New Testament. In the book of Revelation, Jesus is further unveiled. We get a clearer disclosure of his great love for us, and his victory over evil.

December 8 Day 342

Desperate

You were created for an intimate relationship with God. Jesus came to make that possible. Sometimes I find I get distracted, caught up with other things – even my work for God can distract me from my relationship with him. At other times, I am absolutely desperate for God’s presence, his mercy and grace. When we find ourselves in this place of desperation, nothing but the presence of God will satisfy.

December 7 Day 341

Is God Really in Control?

Do you sometimes wonder whether God is really in control? Maybe something has gone wrong with your health, relationships, job or some other situation in your life, and you wonder: Does God know? Does God care? Is there anything he can do about it anyway?

One of the things that I remember so well about Bishop Sandy Millar’s time as vicar of HTB is that whenever things seemed to have gone wrong, or we were facing some kind of crisis, he would always remind us: ‘The Lord reigns.’ God not only loves you, but he is also the sovereign Lord who is ultimately in control of your life. He is also in control of events and history.

As A.W. Tozer wrote, ‘God is love and God is sovereign. His love disposes Him to desire our everlasting welfare, and His sovereignty enables Him to secure it.’ The Lord reigns!

December 6 Day 340

Find Your Balance

My body is so inflexible. I was told once by a professional fitness trainer, who happened to notice the way I was walking, that I was one of the worst cases of stiffness he had ever come across. I am now trying to do more stretching!

I had considered myself reasonably fit (for my age!), as a result of still playing squash and biking everywhere. But in other ways, I realised I am not. Physical fitness is a balance of strength, flexibility, aerobic and anaerobic fitness. Some people are exceptionally strong but cannot even run to catch a bus. Others are aerobically very fit (they could run a marathon), but are not very strong.

However, spiritual fitness is far more important than physical fitness. It also involves balancing a number of areas of your life.

December 5 Day 339

God's Purpose for You

Purpose in life is far more important than property or possessions. Having more to live with is no substitute for having more to live for. ‘The two greatest days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why’.¹

God has a specific purpose for you. In addition, God’s general will for all of us is revealed in the Bible. In the passages for today we see what God wants for you and for everyone.

¹ This is often attributed to Mark Twain but probably not one of his original quotes. It appears that the origin is anonymous.

December 4 Day 338

Four Keys to Overcoming Fear

Alex Buchanan was well known as a ‘pastor to the pastors’. He was profoundly deaf in one ear, with only 5% hearing in the other, and one side of his face was paralysed after he suffered nerve damage during major surgery. I remember hearing him speak about God’s love and he kept repeating the words, ‘God loves you unconditionally, wholeheartedly and continually.’

When he finished his talk he came up to me and said, ‘Do you believe that God approves of you?’ I said, ‘Actually, I really struggle with that because I know things about myself that mean I find it difficult to believe that God approves of me.’ He replied, ‘We all struggle with that. But God wants you to know that he approves of you. He wants you to know he loves you unconditionally, wholeheartedly and continually.’

If I were asked to summarise what I thought the Bible was all about in one word – apart from the word ‘Jesus’ – I would choose the word ‘love’. Twice in today's New Testament passage John writes, ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8,16). The word ‘love’ is used widely in our society. Nowhere in the Bible does it say, ‘Love is God’. In other words, it is God who defines what love is rather than the other way around. God is love.

This is the message you need to understand yourself, meditate on constantly and speak about to the world: ‘God is love’.

Here is the answer to the greatest longing of the world today. People are looking for love. Their hearts are searching. When you really know God’s love for you, your life is transformed. As we will see in the New Testament passage for today, God’s love is at the heart of each of the four keys to overcoming unhealthy fear in your life: ‘There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear’ (v.18).

December 3 Day 337

How to Be Confident

To describe someone as ‘confident’ is usually meant as a compliment. But, there is a right and wrong form of confidence. The wrong form of confidence involves valuing yourself over and against God. This is arrogance. The right form of confidence involves valuing yourself in and through Christ. ‘Confidence in the natural world is self-reliance. In the spiritual world, it is God-reliance’. Supremely, it involves confidence in the presence of God.

December 2 Day 336

From Vision to Action

Jackie Pullinger has spent her life working with the poor and destitute, triad gang members, heroin and opium addicts. She has helped thousands to come off drugs through the power of the Holy Spirit. She has seen transformation in numerous lives and has made a huge impact on the city of Hong Kong.

Jackie wrote, ‘I have spent over half my life in a dark, foul smelling place because I had a “vision” of another city ablaze with light, it was my dream. There was no more crying, no more death or pain. The sick were healed, addicts set free, the hungry filled. There were families for orphans, homes for the homeless, and new dignity for those who lived in shame. I had no idea how to bring this about but with “visionary zeal” imagined introducing the Walled City people to the one who could change it all: Jesus.’

Vision is a ‘holy discontent’ – a deep dissatisfaction with what is, combined with a clear grasp of what could be. It is a picture – ‘a mental sight’ – of the future that inspires hope.

Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision is a nightmare! But vision combined with action can change the world.