Bible in One Year

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June 6 Day 157

Kindness

Steve Sjogren wrote a book called Conspiracy of Kindness. He started a church in Cincinnati, Ohio, that grew rapidly to an average attendance of over 7,000. Their motto is, ‘Small things done with great love are changing the world.’ They carry out random acts of kindness like paying for a stranger’s coffee or writing a ‘thank you’ note to a shop assistant.

Kindness is love in work clothes. Showing God’s love in practical ways, they have discovered the power of kindness to effect positive change, both in their lives and in the lives of people around them. Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly and most underrated agent of human change. When kindness is expressed, healthy relationships are created, community connections are nourished and people are inspired to pass on kindness.

June 5 Day 156

He Gives You Power

I play squash regularly with a group of friends. We are all about the same standard. We virtually take it in turns to win and lose. Nevertheless, winning feels good. The feelings of pleasure and satisfaction that accompany victory are quite natural.

This is, of course, a trivial example. The victory that is at the centre of today’s passages is of a totally different order and significance. But even the tiniest and most insignificant victory gives us a taste of its meaning and joy.

The great victory of God that we read about in the New Testament is foreshadowed in the Old Testament. The ultimate victory of God came with the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus and the outpouring of his Spirit who gives you power to live a life of victory.

June 4 Day 155

Sounds of Heaven

Have you ever noticed that the Bible is a very noisy book? Wisdom cries out (Proverbs 8); loud singing is encouraged (Psalm 66:8); cymbals clash in praise (Psalm 150); God shouts aloud (Isaiah 42); his voice is like the sound of many waters (Ezekiel 43); Jesus prays with loud cries and tears (Hebrews 5) and even creation groans (Romans 8).

On the day of Pentecost they heard ‘a sound like the blowing of a violent wind’ that ‘came from heaven’ (Acts 2:2). In today’s passages we hear other sounds going to and from heaven.

June 3 Day 154

Even Your Weakness is Anointed

Do you ever feel too weak or inadequate to be useful to God?

A teenager from Cumbria in Northern England felt God calling him. Patrick was poorly educated, ineloquent and faced significant opposition throughout his ministry from those who felt that he wasn’t up to the task. Even as an old man he still admitted, ‘Today I still blush and fear more than anything to have my lack of learning brought out into the open.’

Yet despite all his disadvantages Patrick remained convinced that God had called and anointed him as an evangelist. He wrote, ‘We are a letter of Christ for salvation even to the back of beyond – and what does it matter if it is not a learned letter? For it is still to be found valid and plain for all to read, written in your very hearts, not in ink but by the Spirit of the living God!’

Today his more eloquent contemporaries have long been forgotten, but the impact of St Patrick’s ministry and mission to Ireland 1500 years ago is still recognised around the world. Even his weakness was anointed.

As David takes up the throne of Israel he says, ‘… though I am the anointed king, I am weak’ (2 Samuel 3:39). The moment you put your faith in Jesus, God anoints you with the Holy Spirit. However weak and inadequate you may feel, God can use you, like David, in extraordinary ways. Even your weakness is anointed.

June 2 Day 153

'Crazy Love'

Francis Chan’s mother died giving birth to him. The only affection he can remember receiving from his father lasted about thirty seconds when he was on the way to his stepmother’s funeral aged nine. When he was twelve, his father also died. Francis cried, but also felt relieved.

Francis is now a pastor. He and his wife, Lisa, have seven children. When his children were born, his own love for his children and his desire for their love was so strong that it opened his eyes to how much God desires and loves us. He said, ‘Through this experience, I came to understand that my desire for my children is only a faint echo of God’s great love for me and for every person he made… I love my kids so much it hurts.’

Calling his first book Crazy Love, he wrote, ‘The idea of Crazy Love has to do with our relationship with God. All my life I’ve heard people say, “God loves you.” It’s probably the most insane statement you could make to say that the eternal Creator of this universe is in love with me. There is a response that ought to take place in believers, a crazy reaction to that love. Do you really understand what God has done for you? If so, why is your response so lukewarm?’

The word ‘zeal’ implies an intense or passionate desire. It can be misdirected, but as Paul writes, it is right to be zealous provided that the purpose is good (Galatians 4:18). Elsewhere he says, ‘Never be lacking in zeal’ (Romans 12:11). Perhaps a good modern translation of the word ‘zeal’ is ‘crazy love’.

June 1 Day 152

Wow!

Judah Smith is a delightful, young Pentecostal pastor from Seattle, Washington. He is one of the best communicators that I have ever heard – especially to young people. When listening to others, his favourite expression is ‘Wow!’ For him it is an expression of respect, awe and reverence.

There are many blessings to living in Western Europe in the twenty-first century. However, we live in a society in which respect, awe and reverence do not seem to be as valued as they once were. 

May 31 Day 151

You Have the Energy of God

The world is running out of energy – oil, coal, gas and so on. How do we ensure sufficient energy supplies to sustain life? Where will we find this energy? Now, we are searching anxiously for power ‘from above’ – trying to harness the almost limitless power of the sun.

All of us face the same problem as the physical environment, but on a spiritual level. You stand before a choice: do you look for the energy you need in yourself and the resources of your intelligence and your entrepreneurial spirit, or do you look for it ‘from above’, from the risen Christ, the Sun of Righteousness?

In the passages for today we see something about the extent of God’s energy, power and strength. Whereas on a physical level we struggle to harness even a fraction of the power of the sun, God has given you full access to his endless energy through Jesus’ resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

May 30 Day 150

Your Trial Will Become Your Triumph

‘Houston, we’ve had a problem,’ were the words of Jim Lovell on the evening of 13 April 1970. Nearly fifty-six hours into the mission to the moon, an explosion aboard the spacecraft plunged the crew into a fight for their survival. Within less than a minute there was a cascade of systems failures throughout the spacecraft. ‘It was all at one time – a monstrous failure,’ said NASA’s flight controller.

The spacecraft looped around the moon, using its gravity to return to earth. Millions of people followed the drama on television. Eventually, the capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean near Tonga.

In an article headed ‘Apollo 13: From Disaster to Triumph’ the BBC science reporter wrote, ‘Although the mission was not a success from a conventional perspective, it was a triumph of ingenuity and determination.’ Jim Lovell said it showed the people of the world that even if there was a great catastrophe, it could be turned into a success.

The supreme example of triumph coming out of apparent catastrophe is the cross. What seemed to the world to be the ultimate defeat was in fact the ultimate triumph.

May 29 Day 149

Five Burdens You Need Not Carry

At the end of his life, Sir Winston Churchill said, ‘When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened!’

Churchill was speaking about the burden of worries that never materialise. However, there are many different types of ‘burdens’ in life, and some of them are very real. Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you… and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light’ (Matthew 11:28–30).

A yoke is something Jesus would have made in a carpenter’s shop. It is a wooden frame joining two animals (usually oxen) at the neck, enabling them to pull a plough or wagon together. The function of the yoke is to make the burden easier to carry.

I love the way Eugene Peterson translates this passage in The Message: ‘Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I will show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly’ (vv.28–30).

May 28 Day 148

How to Respond to Conflict

A springbok is a gazelle-like antelope. Normally they are very alert to predators. However, I remember watching a BBC wildlife programme that filmed two springboks fighting each other in the Kalahari Desert. As they became absorbed in the fight, they did not notice the lion prowling around them, waiting for his opportunity to attack.

As I watched, it struck me as a warning especially for the church. When, in the church, we fight one another, we become very vulnerable to attack. ‘The devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’ (1 Peter 5:8).

When God calls you to follow him, he does not call you to a life of ease. Life on earth involves many battles, in all of which God promises you victory through Jesus Christ. There is never going to be a moment in your earthly life when everything is perfect. There are always going to be challenges, difficulties and problems to solve. However, there are times when these intensify and we seem to be coming under attack.

Martin Luther King said that the ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand in ‘moments of convenience’, but where they stand in ‘moments of challenge, moments of great crisis and controversy’.