Bible in One Year

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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 fourteen 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 training, endurance 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.

November 12 Day 316

What is Faith?

I studied law at university and practised as a barrister for a number of years. I was involved in many criminal trials where the judge told the jury that they had to reach a verdict – but they could not find the defendant guilty unless they were ‘satisfied so that they felt sure’. Every such verdict was an act of faith. The jury was not there at the time the crime was committed. They had to believe the evidence.

Faith and ‘being sure’ are not opposed. The writer of Hebrews says, ‘Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see’ (Hebrews 11:1). St Augustine wrote, ‘God does not expect us to submit our faith to him without reason, but the very limits of our reason make faith a necessity.’

November 11 Day 315

Stick At It

Maryam and Marziyeh were arrested in Iran in 2009. Their crime: being Christians. They were blindfolded, interrogated and became ill during their time in prison. They were taken to court. Mr Haddad, the prosecuting lawyer, asked the two women if they were Christians. ‘We love Jesus,’ they replied. He repeated his question and they responded, ‘Yes, we are Christians.’

Mr Haddad asked whether they regretted becoming Christians, to which they replied, ‘We have no regrets.’ Then he stated emphatically, ‘You should renounce your faith verbally and in written form.’ They stood firm and replied, ‘We will not deny our faith.’

When Mr Haddad told the women to return to prison to think about their options and come back to him when they were ready (to comply), Maryam and Marziyeh responded, ‘We have already done our thinking.’

The author of Hebrews writes to Christians who are the subject of persecution: ‘You stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering’ (Hebrews 10:32) – as Maryam and Marziyeh did before their prosecutors. (Thank God they have been released – we interviewed them as part of the Alpha Film Series: https://alpha.org/watch/alpha-film-series/

The will to persevere is often the difference between success and failure. This is true of learning a new skill or sport, or achieving success at work. As has been said, ‘Observe the postage stamp; its usefulness depends on the ability to stick to one thing till it gets there.’ ‘Stickability’ is also a key to the Christian life. If you want to learn to read the Bible, pray, resist evil or whatever else, learn to persevere. The writer of Hebrews encourages his readers not to be ‘quitters’ but ‘to stick it out’ (vv.34–39, MSG).

November 10 Day 314

Beauty

‘The serene beauty of a holy life is the most powerful influence in the world next to the power of God,’ according to Blaise Pascal. Holiness is beautiful and it has nothing to do with outward beauty. It is a beauty that radiates from within. This is the way the world will be changed. It starts with you and me. St Francis of Assisi said, ‘Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.’

Holiness is not an optional extra. It is not just for saints and special Christians. It should be something we all aspire to in this life. Holiness is not the same thing as intensity. Intensity is not a fruit of the Holy Spirit! The ability to laugh at yourself is key to holiness. Take Jesus seriously but don’t take yourself too seriously. A sense of humour is the link between holiness and humility.

Holiness is not boring. As C.S. Lewis wrote, ‘How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing... it is irresistible.’