Bible in One Year

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November 22 Day 326

How to Grow Up Spiritually

I remember that first night so well. Every time we heard the slightest sound, we leapt out of bed and picked him up. He was so tiny – not that much bigger than a hand. This was a new life. Our first child had been born. We were so proud. Three or four times a night, he would wake craving milk. Pippa would feed him regularly. Of course, he grew up. Now as I look at him, almost twice the size of Pippa, it is hard to believe that he was once so small. 

New birth is an exciting moment. So is new spiritual birth. Jesus said, ‘No one can see the kingdom of God without being born again’ (John 3:3). In our passage for today, Peter writes about ‘a new birth’ (1 Peter 1:3). ‘Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for’ (v.3, MSG).

This spiritual birth is contrasted with natural birth, which led only to a ‘dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in’ (v.18, MSG). 

New birth means you can now call God your Father (v.17). In fact, the whole Trinity is involved: ‘God the Father has his eye on each of you, and has determined by the work of the Spirit to keep you obedient through the sacrifice of Jesus’ (v.2, MSG).

Physical birth will one day end with physical death. But spiritual birth leads to eternal life – ‘a future in heaven – and the future starts now!’ (v.3, MSG). Physical life is like grass that withers. But this brand new life is conceived by God himself and goes on and on for ever (vv.23–25, MSG).

In today’s passages, we see the implications of this new birth, the various stages of spiritual growth as a son or daughter of God and how ‘you may grow up in your salvation’ (2:2).

November 21 Day 325

How to Pray with Power

I received a call from someone in our church. He wanted me to go and pray for his wife who had suddenly been admitted to hospital for an operation. 

As it happened, I myself had an appointment nearby to have an injection in my shoulder. I’d had a ‘frozen shoulder’ for almost two years. However, in the previous couple of days, it had suddenly got better. I explained what had happened to the consultant. He looked at me and said, ‘It’s a miracle!’ I said, ‘Don’t frozen shoulders suddenly get better?’ Over and over again, he repeated, ‘No, it is a miracle.’ Here was a secular doctor trying to persuade a rather faithless pastor that what had happened could only be explained by the supernatural power of God!

I thanked him very much for raising my faith, as I was about to go and pray in the hospital. As I walked through the corridors, I passed a hospital porter who was singing (quite loudly!), ‘Lay your hands on the sick and they will be healed.’ I said, ‘That is exactly what I am about to go and do.’ He looked deeply shocked and surprised. He obviously didn’t think I looked like the sort of person who could possibly believe that!

I went upstairs to pray for the woman and explained why my faith was riding high. She then said she had been reading James 5 (our passage for today), which says, ‘Is any one of you sick? Call the elders of the church to pray over you… And the prayer offered in faith will make you well’ (James 5:14–15). By now the Lord had given (even me!) enough signs to pray in faith. The Holy Spirit came upon her with great power. She was not immediately healed (although she is better now), but it gave me a greater understanding of ‘the prayer of faith’.

Watchman Nee wrote, ‘Our prayers lay the track down which God’s power can come. Like a mighty locomotive, his power is irresistible, but it cannot reach us without rails.’

How then can you pray with power?

November 20 Day 324

You Can Resist Evil

With the rise of global terrorism, world leaders have spoken a great deal about vanquishing evil. But, as one writer in the Guardianpointed out, ‘Their rhetoric reveals a failure to accept that cruelty and conflict are basic human traits.’ As Albert Einstein said, ‘I do not fear the explosive power of the atom bomb. What I fear is the explosive power of evil in the human heart.

Why is there so much evil in the world? Why is there such a battle with evil in our own lives? How can you resist the devil? What will happen to the devil at the end of time?

November 19 Day 323

Divine Connections

God has divine connections lined up for your life. There is power in connection. Connections lead to life. When a husband and a wife come together, babies are born. When the spirit of a person and the Spirit of God come together, new birth takes place. When brothers and sisters come together in unity, God commands his blessing (Psalm 133). When the disciples came together on the day of Pentecost, there was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

The devil fears connection. His ultimate aim is to cut you off from God. He tries to split marriages, to split friendships, to divide churches, to divide denominations and to isolate people. Although our culture is more connected than ever before through the internet, phones and social media, people are more isolated and lonely than ever. 

In 586 BC, Ezekiel had a vision of a battle scene; he saw Death Valley. The valley was full of bones; bones that were very dry because they had separated. They were scattered, fragmented, divided, cut-off, ‘abandoned’ and therefore dried up. The people of God were in exile and had been scattered by the enemy. They were saying, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off’ (Ezekiel 37:11). God asks Ezekiel, ‘Can these bones live?’ (v.3). The answer is yes, yes, yes. 

November 18 Day 322

How Now Shall We Live?

How Now Shall We Live? is the title of a book by Chuck Colson, former ‘hatchet-man’ of President Nixon, founder of Prison Fellowship, whose life was completely changed as a result of an encounter with Jesus Christ. 

Centuries ago, when the people of God were in exile and despair, they cried out to God, “How should we then live?” (Ezekiel 33:10, KJV). The same question rings down through the ages. As ‘believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ’ (James 2:1), how now shall we live?

November 17 Day 321

Five Ts of the Christian Life

The Christian life is multi-faceted. At any given moment, I find there are a number of different things going on at the same time. In the passages for today we see five of these aspects, which all begin with the letter T.

November 16 Day 320

Eight Characteristics of Christian Community

Former England football captain, David Beckham, recounts being sent off in the 1998 World Cup Finals: ‘It was probably the longest walk in my life… looking back I’m not sure what thoughts were going through my mind: it was a swirl of fear, guilt, anger, worry and confusion. My head was spinning… I walked into the dressing room. The rules stated that I had to stay in there for the remainder of the match.’ England lost. We were out of the World Cup.

‘When the England players came back into the dressing room, no one breathed a word to me. There was almost complete silence. I could feel my stomach tightening even more. I gulped, breathed in, and gulped again. I was in a packed changing room but I had never felt so lonely in my life. I was isolated and afraid... I was trapped in my own sense of guilt and anxiety.’

God does not intend for you to be lonely and isolated. God created you for community – calling you into relationship with him and with other human beings.

The Christian community, the church, is the community of our Lord Jesus, the ‘great Shepherd of the sheep’ (Hebrews 13:20). Every local church is called to be a community of the great Shepherd.

November 15 Day 319

Why and How to Worship

Why is worship important? What are you doing when you worship God?

The writer of Hebrews urges us to ‘worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for your “God is a consuming fire”’ (Hebrews 12:28–29).

The common theme in all three passages for today is Mount Zion (Psalm 126:1), ‘the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God’ (Hebrews 12:22), ‘the holy mount of God’ (Ezekiel 28:14,16). This is the place of the presence of God, where God is worshipped both in the old and new covenant. However, there is a difference between the two. 

You no longer have to go to a specific physical place to experience the presence of God. Because of Jesus, the ‘mediator of a new covenant’ (Hebrews 12:24a), you can worship anywhere. Jesus is the one who has made this new relationship with God possible through his death on the cross for you and me. 

Your ‘holy mountain’, where you can worship Jesus, is the whole earth, and this anticipates the ‘heavenly Jerusalem’ we read about in our passage from Hebrews, and which is described in Revelation 21 – the new heaven and new earth. 

As you draw close to Jesus in worship there are, as C.H. Spurgeon pointed out, ‘three results of nearness to Jesus’ – happiness, holiness and humility. 

November 14 Day 318

The Race Marked Out for You

I have made many mistakes in life and have quite a few regrets. When I was nineteen I took part, on a whim, without any training, in ‘The Boundary Run’. It was slightly longer than a marathon and involved running around the boundary of the city of Cambridge, with much of it across ploughed fields.

For the first 14 miles, I was fine. After that, various bits of my body started to seize up. Although I completed the race in a reasonable time, it took me weeks to recover. Running a marathon without training is not a wise thing to do. 

The writer of Hebrews says that the Christian life is like running a race. It is more like a marathon than a sprint. We are ‘long-distance runners’ (Hebrews 12:13, MSG). It requires trainingendurance and discipline ‘if we are not to grow weary and lose heart’ (v.3). In each of the passages for today, you see what you need to do in order to run ‘the race marked out for [you]’ (v.1), as well as some of the results of doing so.

November 13 Day 317

Three Ways You Can Exercise Faith

The islanders were cannibals. Nobody trusted anybody else. His life was in constant danger. He had come to tell them the good news about Jesus. He wanted to translate John’s Gospel into their language, but he discovered that there was no word in their language for ‘trust’, ‘belief’ or ‘faith’. 

John Paton (1824–1907), a Scot, had travelled to the New Hebrides (a group of islands in the south-west Pacific) determined to tell the tribal people about Jesus, but he struggled to find the right word for ‘faith’. One day, when his indigenous servant came in, Paton raised both feet off the floor, sat back in his chair and asked, ‘What am I doing now?’ In reply, the servant used a word that means, ‘to lean your whole weight upon’. This became the expression that Paton used. Faith is leaning our whole weight upon Jesus