Bible in One Year

Subscribe to daily emails from Nicky & Pippa

July 20 Day 201

Enjoy Your New Life

Bishop Taylor Smith, former Chaplain General to the Forces, once had a conversation with a young man that went like this:
Bishop: ‘When you think about the cross of Christ, what do you see?’
Young man: ‘I see Christ and two thieves crucified either side of him…’
Bishop: ‘What else do you see?’
Young man: ‘I see the soldiers gambling…’
Bishop: ‘If that is all you see, I think you will have trouble with the Christian life. When I see the cross – with all that – I see old Bishop Taylor Smith. I was crucified with Christ.’

In the New Testament passage for today, the apostle Paul expounds and explains what it means to have been ‘crucified with Christ’. We are ‘in Christ Jesus’. ‘We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life’ (Romans 6:4). ‘We entered into the new country of grace – a new life in a new land!’ (Romans 6:3, MSG).

Soon after encountering Jesus I wrote, ‘I died in February 1974. My old life was buried. From then onwards I have walked in newness of life. It really does seem like that. Life before was so absolutely and completely different.’

Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, you are able to live and enjoy ‘a new life.’ In the passages for today, we see how this was anticipated in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament.

July 19 Day 200

Just Grace

It has been said that the biggest problem on earth is not too little democracy, or too much poverty, or too few anti-viral AIDS medicines, but the fact that two-thirds of the world’s population live outside the protection of the law. A lack of justice has a terrible effect on many of the world’s poor.

The themes of justice and grace flow through the Bible. We cannot fully understand grace without understanding justice. One definition of grace is ‘undeserved love’. There is a mnemonic used to explain grace: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. We see today how Jesus Christ makes just grace available for you and me.

July 18 Day 199

How to Feel God's Love for You

Robbie Williams’ evocative lyric in the song ‘Feel’ echoes the deep longing of the human heart: ‘I just wanna feel real love’. God wants you to feel his love for you. He wants you to accept his love in your heart. You can receive his love in a new way today.

I remember an occasion when our grandson, aged two, wanted to feel his father’s love. He raised both hands in the air and said, ‘Hugga Dadda’. My son picked up his son, lifted him into his arms, embraced him, kissed him and hugged him. It is a wonderful thing to hold a parent’s hand but an incomparably greater thing to have their arms wrapped around you. This is an illustration of the experience of God’s love.

You know that God loves you through the cross: ‘God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). You experience God’s love through the Holy Spirit: ‘God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us’ (5:5).

‘The whole Bible,’ St Augustine observes, ‘does nothing but tell of God’s love.’ Father Raniero Cantalamessa writes: ‘This is the message that supports and explains all the other messages. The love of God is the answer to all the “whys” in the Bible: the why of creation, the why of the incarnation, the why of redemption. If the written word of the Bible could be changed into a spoken word and become one single voice, this voice, more powerful than the roaring of the sea would cry out: “the Father loves you!” (John 16:27). Everything that God does and says in the Bible is love, even God’s anger is nothing but love. God “is” love!’

July 17 Day 198

As If You Had Never Sinned

In the years that I practised as a barrister I noticed that, for many people, appearing in a court of law is a terrifying experience – even if they are only appearing as a witness. Being a litigant, a person involved in the lawsuit, or a defendant in a criminal trial is an even more nerve-racking event. I saw the relief when a defendant was acquitted or a litigant was declared by a judge to be ‘in the right’.

In the legal system of Ancient Israel, a dispute put both parties at risk of the judgment of the court. The court’s process had a redemptive role; the judge was meant to help the party in the right to correct the wrong. At the end of the case, one party would be declared righteous and the other in the wrong. Successful performance of this function meant ‘justice’ had been done. The Hebrew word for righteous is tsaddiq, which some versions of the Bible translate as ‘innocent’ or ‘just’ – one whose status is right. This is the Old Testament background to being ‘justified’.

The child’s definition of justified is ‘just as if I’d’ never sinned. Jesus died for our sins. When you put your faith in him you were justified. You were acquitted. You are declared righteous in his sight. Sin no longer separates you from God. You can live in a right relationship with him and with others. This is ‘justification’.

July 16 Day 197

God's Game-Changing Answer

‘We sometimes fall into the trap of thinking we are the worst people on the face of the earth and that nobody does as many wrong things as we do. But Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory (excellence) of God. Every man, woman, or child who was ever born, or ever will be, has a problem with sin. But the good news is that God has provided an answer to our dilemma,’ writes Joyce Meyer.

When Saint Augustine found the answer in 386, ‘a clear light flooded [his] heart’. Martin Luther found the answer and a few years later the Reformation began, in 1517. When John Wesley understood the answer in 1738, his heart was ‘strangely warmed’ and the seeds of a revival began.

In each case, their lives were radically changed through understanding ‘the righteousness of God’. It’s a game changer. The moment anyone comes to understand this expression, it changes your life. It certainly changed mine.

July 15 Day 196

Soften Your Heart and Harden Your Feet

A twenty-one-year-old music college student took the cheapest ship she could find, calling at the greatest number of countries, and prayed to know where to disembark. She arrived in Hong Kong in 1966 and came to a place called the Walled City. It was a small, densely populated, lawless area controlled neither by China nor Hong Kong. It was a high-rise slum for drug addicts, gangs and prostitutes. She wrote:

I loved this dark place. I hated what was happening in it but I wanted to be nowhere else. It was almost as if I could already see another city in its place and that city was 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 had lived in shame. I had no idea of how to bring this about but with ‘visionary zeal’ imagined introducing the Walled City people to the one who could change it all: Jesus.

Jackie Pullinger has spent over half a century working with prostitutes, heroin addicts and gang members. I remember so well a talk she gave some years ago. She began by saying, ‘God wants us to have soft hearts and hard feet. The trouble with so many of us is that we have hard hearts and soft feet.’

Jackie is a glowing example of this; going without sleep, food and comfort to serve others. God wants us to have soft hearts – hearts of love and compassion. But if we are to make any difference to the world, this will lead to hard feet as we travel along tough paths and face challenges.

July 14 Day 195

The God of the Second Chance

‘You never get a second chance at a first impression,’ goes the saying, but social media profiles, online communities and virtual gaming provide, for some, an opportunity to seek a second chance in life.

‘Second Life’ is a virtual world. Over twenty million people have created a Second Life character, through which they can live in this new world. They are looking for another chance in life.

‘Second Life’ describes itself as a place ‘to connect… to change yourself, to change your mind, change your look… to be different’.

This virtual world is clear evidence of the longing of so many for a fresh start. Yet, in reality, God is the God of the second chance and third and many, many more. He gives us countless chances to turn back to him and enjoy his love again. God doesn’t just give us a ‘second life’ – he comes to us and transforms our real life.

July 13 Day 194

How to Worship God

In his book, The Vision and The Vow, Pete Greig tells of how a distinguished art critic was studying an exquisite painting by the Italian Renaissance master Filippino Lippi. He stood in London’s National Gallery gazing at the fifteenth-century depiction of Mary holding the infant Jesus on her lap, with saints Dominic and Jerome kneeling nearby. But the painting troubled him. There could be no doubting Lippi’s skill, his use of colour or composition. But the proportions of the picture seemed slightly wrong. The hills in the background seemed exaggerated, as if they might topple out of the frame at any minute onto the gallery’s polished floor. The two kneeling saints looked awkward and uncomfortable.

Art critic Robert Cumming was not the first to criticise Lippi’s work for its poor perspective, but he may well be the last to do so, because at that moment he had a revelation. It suddenly occurred to him that the problem might be his. The painting had never been intended to come anywhere near a gallery. Lippi’s painting had been commissioned to hang in a place of prayer.

The dignified critic dropped to his knees in the public gallery before the painting. He suddenly saw what generations of art critics had missed. From his new vantage point, Robert Cumming found himself gazing up at a perfectly proportioned piece. The foreground had moved naturally to the background, while the saints seemed settled – their awkwardness, like the painting itself, having turned to grace. Mary now looked intently and kindly directly at him as he knelt at her feet between saints Dominic and Jerome.

It was not the perspective of the painting that had been wrong all these years, it was the perspective of the people looking at it. Robert Cumming, on bended knee, found a beauty that Robert Cumming the proud art critic could not. The painting only came alive to those on their knees in prayer. The right perspective is the position of worship.

July 12 Day 193

How to Restore Your Relationships

Hans worked his way up from being a miner to owning a number of mines. His eldest son, Martin, was very intelligent and went to university at the age of seventeen. A respectable career as a lawyer lay ahead of him. Suddenly, to his father’s dismay, he cancelled his registration for the law course and became a monk and then a priest.

Martin wanted to live a righteous life. He fasted for days and spent sleepless nights in prayer, but he was still plagued by his own unrighteousness before a righteous God. Around the age of thirty, as he was studying Romans 1:17, the penny dropped. He later wrote:

‘I began to understand that in this verse the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous man lives by the gift of God, in other words by faith; and that this sentence, “the righteousness of God is revealed”, refers to a passive righteousness, ie, that by which the merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, “The righteous person lives by faith.” This immediately made me feel as if I had been born again and entered through open gates to paradise itself.’

This experience occurred 500 years ago. It not only changed his life, it altered the course of human history. He became one of the pivotal figures of western civilisation, the founder of the Reformation – the seedbed for social, economic and political thought. His name, of course, was Martin Luther.

In essence, righteousness means a right relationship with God, which leads to right relationships with others. It is a gift made possible through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Here lies the secret of restored relationships – first of restored relationship with God and then all other relationships. 

July 11 Day 192

Your Words Are Powerful

‘The Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation.’ These words were in a speech given by Sir Winston Churchill to the House of Commons in 1940. Facing defeat, he inspired the nation to fight from the corner, urging them to brace themselves to do their duty and carry themselves in such a way that even a thousand years on people would still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’ The speech was powerful, the nation responded and ultimately a lasting peace was achieved.

It is one of the speeches that shaped the modern world, displaying the power of words. Speeches have affected the outcome of war, women suffrage, human rights and many other issues.

The apostle James writes that although ‘the tongue is a small part of the body… it makes great boasts’ (James 3:5). This small instrument has enormous power. It can cause great damage but it can also bring extraordinary blessings. Your tongue is a powerful instrument.