Bible in One Year

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December 16 Day 350

Who is Lord of Your Life?

Polycarp (AD70–156) was a bishop during a time of bitter attack against the Christians. At the age of eighty-six, he was arrested for no other crime than being a Christian. All he had to do to avoid torture and death was to proclaim, ‘Caesar is Lord.’

Polycarp responded, ‘Eighty-six years I have served Christ, and he never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?’ For Polycarp, the fact that ‘Jesus is Lord’ meant that he could not say, ‘Caesar is Lord.’ Steadfast in his stand for Christ, Polycarp refused to compromise his beliefs and was burnt alive at the stake on 22 February AD156.

God is described in the Old Testament as ‘the Lord’. In the New Testament passage for today, we see the background to the extraordinary claim that ‘Jesus is Lord!’

December 15 Day 349

What is Going on Behind the Scenes of History?

In the West, many people assume history is aimless: ‘Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’ (as Shakespeare put it in Macbeth). Many Eastern religions tend to regard history as either circular or illusory, while Marxists understand history in terms of class struggle.

In contrast to all these views, the New Testament sees history as moving towards a climax. The ultimate struggle is between good and evil – ending with the triumph of good and God.

The kingdom of God will not fail. God is working his purposes out in history. Jesus is the centrepiece. All lines in history converge on him. As someone has said: ‘The hinge of history is on the door of a Bethlehem stable.’

History is ‘His story’. As you hear the news and read history books you get some of the details. As you read the Bible you get the big picture. In particular, the book of Revelation unveils what is going on behind the scenes of history.

God is the Sovereign Lord of history. But we are not mere robots. You are not being moved around like a piece on a chessboard. Rather, you have a part to play. God involves you in his plans. God works out his purposes in co-operation with his people.

December 14 Day 348

Doing Hard Things the Right Way

Doing hard things requires us to be lion-like – bold, steely and courageous. Doing things the right way means being like a lamb – gentle, meek and submissive. We are supposed to be a godly mixture of the qualities of both the lion and the lamb.

But how can one person be both ‘the Lion’ and ‘the Lamb’?

In C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books, the lion, Aslan, represents Jesus. In the most famous of these books, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Aslan is slain:

‘“Bind him, I say!” repeated the White Witch... “Let him first be shaved” … the shorn face of Aslan looked… braver, and more beautiful, and more patient than ever. “Muzzle him!” said the Witch… the whole crowd of creatures kicking him, hitting him, spitting on him, jeering at him… They began to drag the bound and muzzled Lion to the Stone Table.’

Later, ‘they heard from behind them a loud noise – a great cracking, deafening noise… The Stone Table was broken into two pieces by a great crack that ran down it from end to end… There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.’ Aslan tells them that ‘when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.’

In the book of Revelation, we see Jesus is standing at the centre of the throne of heaven. He is the Lion and the Lamb. He is both triumphant (‘has triumphed’, 5:5) and slain (‘you were slain’, v.9). In an imaginative and powerful way, C.S. Lewis shows how Jesus can be both ‘the Lion of the tribe of Judah’ (Revelation 5:5) and ‘a Lamb [that] had been slain’ (v.6).

December 13 Day 347

How to Celebrate

It will be a ‘joyous celebration’ – a time of ‘happiness and joy, gladness and honour’ (see Esther 8:16–17).

Pippa and I love our annual Leadership Conference held at the Royal Albert Hall (which was built in central London to display ‘the greatness and power and glory and victory and the majesty of God’). Thousands of people gather together. There are times of great celebration with ‘heavenly’ worship and powerful life-changing teaching. People are inspired, refreshed and equipped to make a difference to the world around them.

The Bible has much to say about celebration. There is a celebration in heaven every time one person turns to Christ. When the prodigal son returned to the father, the father said, ‘Let’s have a feast and celebrate’ (Luke 15:23).

In our Old Testament passage for today, we read that ‘the city of Susa held a joyous celebration’ (Esther 8:15) ‘it…exploded with joy’ (MSG). What were they celebrating? What should you celebrate now? How should you celebrate?

December 12 Day 346

The Benefits of Being Rebuked

I never enjoy being rebuked by someone else, but over time I have come to see the faithful rebuke of a friend as something of great value. The Scriptures tell us that the right kind of rebuke is an important way in which God cares for us, and in which we can care for each other.

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!