Bible in One Year

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May 22 Day 142

Take Time to Celebrate

‘A glimpse of heaven’ is how one twenty-seven-year-old woman described her experience of our annual church holiday (Focus). She also described the year she missed it in order to go on an exotic holiday: each day she could only think of how she longed to be at Focus.

This is the time when the whole community comes together in a festival of celebration, worship, thanksgiving and praise. We often experience a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is a time of spiritual growth when we listen to visionary and practical teaching from the Bible on how to live our lives. It is a time of laughter and fun as we meet together for a week-long party: playing, picnicking, singing and dancing. We make new friends as well as having a great holiday. It really is ‘a glimpse of heaven’.

It takes time but celebration is an important part of life.

May 21 Day 141

Good Government?

Government is the system or group of people governing an organised community, often a state. It usually consists of legislative, executive and judiciary. Government is the mechanism for deciding state policies and the means by which those policies are enforced. Historically, forms of government have included theocracy, autocracy (such as monarchy), oligarchy, aristocracy and democracy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government).

Sir Winston Churchill once said that ‘Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.’

Governments have their ups and downs. Our politicians are human beings with human weaknesses like our own.

There is a certain ambivalence about all human government in the Bible. There are parts where human government is affirmed as God-given (for instance, in Romans 13), and others where it is pictured as being under demonic control (for instance, in Revelation 13). Together they represent the reality of human government. Governments reflect the mix that is in us all of what is good and true alongside what is sinful and flawed.

However, be assured that one day there will be a new type of government – the kingship of Jesus (John 12:12–36).  

May 20 Day 140

How to Find Peace in Adversity

For 2,000 years, followers of Jesus have faced adversity, opposition and persecution. In many places Pippa and I have visited over the years, Christians face physical persecution. In fact, persecution of Christians around the world today is probably worse than at any time in history.

We do not, at this time, face physical persecution in the West. However, as we see some of the messages that are emerging from those with their stated intention of ‘eradicating faith’, it is clear that the aggression and vehemence of the attacks may increase.

Opposition is bound to come. Those who desire ‘to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted’ (2 Timothy 3:12). Opposition comes both from those far away from us (the Philistines in the Old Testament passage for today), and also, sadly, sometimes from those closer to home (the Pharisees in the New Testament passage). How do you find peace in adversity?

May 19 Day 139

Your Hope in Times of Trouble

However difficult your situation may be – however much ‘trouble’ you are facing in your life, you can have hope. Hope is the confident expectation of God’s ultimate blessing in this life and the life to come, based upon the goodness and promises of God. With Jesus, there is always hope.

Like Lazarus in our New Testament passage for today, some parts of the church have been prematurely declared dead. In his book, The Death of Christian Britain, Callum Brown writes, ‘This book is about the demise of the nation’s core religious moral identity. As historical changes go, this has been no lingering and drawn-out affair. It took several centuries (in what historians used to call the Dark Ages) to convert Britain to Christianity, but it has taken less than forty years for the country to forsake it.’

We often read headlines such as, ‘Crisis in the Church’, ‘Dramatic decline in attendance’ and ‘Church attendance figures fall again’.

At the same time, we are seeing the results of a society that is attempting to shut God out. Every day, in Britain, around 300 couples are divorced. Somebody calls the Samaritans every six seconds. The pornographic industry is worth billions of pounds. There are 30,000 Christian clergy of all types, and more than 80,000 registered witches and fortune tellers.

Britain is not the only nation in trouble. Many other nations are going through difficult times. As well as on a national level, all of us are likely at some point to face times of trouble in our own individual lives.

‘Trouble’ can take many forms. What is your hope in times of trouble?

May 18 Day 138

How to Satisfy Your Soul

Bernhard Langer was one of the best golfers of his generation, twice winning the US Masters and at one time topping the world golf rankings. He said, ‘I had… won seven events in five different continents; I was number one in the world and I had a beautiful young wife. Yet there was something missing.

‘The lifestyle we all (especially us sportsmen) are leading – it is all about money and who you are and who you know and what you have and these things aren’t really the most important things. I think people who have these things, they realise that… there is still something missing in their life and I believe that is Jesus Christ.’

The spiritual emptiness that Bernhard Langer is describing is common to all humanity. One young woman said to me that she felt there was ‘a chunk missing in her soul’. You are not simply body and mind. You are a soul created for relationship with God. How then do you satisfy your soul?

May 17 Day 137

Knowing God as a Father

  • What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight, and contentment, than anything else? Knowledge of God
  • What were you made for? To know God.
  • What aim should you set yourself in life? To know God.

These are the questions J. I. Packer raises at the start of his influential book, Knowing God. Jesus said, ‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father’ (John 10:14).

May 16 Day 136

Your Story Has Power

Mark Heather’s parents split up when he was a child and he was brought up by his alcoholic mother who beat him. When he was fourteen years old, he stood up to her and said he would not accept the beatings any more. The next day she committed suicide.

From that moment, he was placed in care and became, in his words, ‘pretty nuts really’ – getting into trouble with the police, involved in drugs, and spiralling into an increasingly self-destructive lifestyle.

Mark (now in his 30s) was invited by his girlfriend to Alpha at HTB. On the weekend away, he had a powerful encounter with God. He said, ‘My group leader, Toby, prayed for me, for the Holy Spirit to come – and I knew that it was happening. The experience resulted in me crying uncontrollably.

‘I ran to the pub down the road, grabbed a beer, wandered back and sat in the darkest corner outside that I could find. After sitting quietly, a total comfort enveloped me. I felt total love. I felt part of a family, which is something that I had no way of knowing until then.

‘Crying, I prayed for one more sign. I asked for Toby to come out the door. As I asked, Toby walked through that very door to look for me.

‘God is real and he loves me unconditionally and he is gentle. The Holy Spirit saved me. The Alpha weekend helped me find him. He knew where I was so when I got to the right place, he was waiting.’

Mark’s personal story has had a powerful impact on many people’s lives. Your story may not be as dramatic as Mark’s, but everyone has a story. Whether you were brought up as a Christian or whether you have only been a Christian for a few hours, your story has power.

May 15 Day 135

All He Wants Is You

In his book, All I Want Is You, Bishop Sandy Millar describes attending a conference in California some years ago at which he saw the Spirit of God working in powerful ways. When it was over, he went for a long walk along the coast. He writes, ‘As I was walking I was caught up with the excitement of all that lay ahead and the thrill of the Spirit of God. I was saying, “Lord, I will give you anything you want… I will do anything you want me to do.”’

Sandy continues, ‘I can honestly claim to have only heard the Lord speak about three times in this way, but as clearly as I have ever heard him speak, he said, “All I want is you”… It was the most humbling thing… He can do anything he likes. But all he wants is you.’ 

May 14 Day 134

It's Possible With God

I was eighteen years old when I first encountered Jesus. I remember distinctly a conversation I had with a Christian leader shortly afterwards. I said how glad I was that I had not become a Christian earlier, since I had been able to experience the difference between life without God and life with God. He pointed out the fallacy of this way of thinking and suggested that the sooner we experience life with God, the better.

Looking back on my life now, I see the wisdom of his words. I am so grateful to God that our children can look back on their own lives and say that there has never been a time in their life when they were ‘without God’.

Over the years, I have interviewed hundreds of people who have encountered Jesus on Alpha. They contrast their life without God and their life with God. There is a sense of great joy and relief, and often regret that they did not begin their life with God earlier.

You are created to live in a relationship with God. Without that, life will never really make sense. Being with God is even more important than what you do for God. With God, everything is possible.

May 13 Day 133

How to Deal with Desperate Times

‘I don’t suppose there are many places where Alpha happens to the sound of gunfire and rockets flying, but for us the message is simple: it is about hope, light and a future because it is about Jesus.’

This is what Canon Andrew White, former Vicar of St George’s, Baghdad, wrote to me in a letter describing their Alpha course. They were in a desperate situation. The church had been bombed more than once. Many people in their congregation had been killed. Some of the leaders had been kidnapped. For some, profession of faith in Jesus means almost certain death. Yet in these desperate times, Andrew White is able to say that Jesus brings hope, light and a future.

David, in the Psalms, speaks of ‘desperate times’ (Psalm 60:3). There are times in life when everything seems to go wrong. Maybe even now you are facing a desperate situation – perhaps with your health, a bereavement, the breakdown of a relationship, work problems, family difficulties, financial trouble or a combination of these. Even in desperate times, you can find the three great virtues of faith, hope and love.