Bible in One Year

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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.

May 12 Day 132

The Wonderful Holy Spirit

Robbie Williams once went on a shopping spree in Los Angeles. He bought seven cars, including a brand new Ferrari, a brand new Porsche and a brand new Mercedes. Within a week he wished he had not bought any of them. 

I admire Robbie Williams’ openness about himself. He is ruthlessly honest about his self-obsession and addictions. In his song, Feel, he sings:

I just want to feel real love…

There’s a hole in my soul

You can see it in my face

It’s a real big place.

God implants this desire ‘to feel real love’ in humanity. This ‘hole in my soul’ is common to all human beings. It cannot be filled by cars, wealth, success or drugs. It is a God-shaped hole. It is a spiritual hunger and thirst for God which Jesus told us could only be filled by his wonderful Holy Spirit (John 7:37). 

May 11 Day 131

Endless Energy, Boundless Strength

We often tell the story of when John Wimber first visited our church. We saw a remarkable outpouring of the Holy Spirit and several healings. One incident, which occurred on the second night, is indelibly printed in my memory. One of our closest friends was eight months pregnant at the time. The Holy Spirit came upon her with great power. She started to whirl around at high speed. As she did so, she exclaimed over and over again, ‘I feel so strong!’

A few weeks later she gave birth to a son who, from his earliest days, showed not only spiritual and emotional strength but also extraordinary physical strength. He became an outstanding rugby player, a superb athlete and is now a successful model. 

To some (like Samson, who we read about in today’s Old Testament passage), the Holy Spirit gives extraordinary physical strength. To all of us, the Holy Spirit gives spiritual strength. 

The apostle Paul describes God’s ‘incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead’ (Ephesians 1:19–20). 

It was the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11a). The Holy Spirit is ‘his mighty strength’. That same strength now lives in you and ‘will give life to your mortal body through his Spirit, who lives in you’ (v.11b).

I love Eugene Peterson’s translation (of the Ephesians passage) where he speaks of God giving ‘endless energy, boundless strength’!

May 10 Day 130

God Turns Your Weakness into Strength

The great Christian leader, John Stott, was speaking on one occasion at a university mission in Sydney, Australia. On the last night of the mission, as a result of an infection, he had virtually lost his voice. 

Nevertheless, he was persuaded to speak. Waiting in the side room beforehand, he whispered a request that the words of the ‘thorn in the flesh’ verses from 2 Corinthians 12 be read to him. The conversation between Jesus and the apostle Paul came alive.

Stott (Paul): ‘I beg you to take it away from me.’

Jesus: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’

Stott (Paul): ‘I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me… for when I am weak, then I am strong.’

When the time came to speak he croaked the gospel through the microphone in a monotone, utterly unable to modulate his voice or exert his personality in any way. But all the time he was crying to the Lord to perfect Christ’s power through his weakness.

He went back to Australia many times after that, and on every occasion somebody came up to him and said, ‘Do you remember that final service in the University Great Hall, when you had lost your voice? I came to Christ that night.’

As someone who is very aware of my own weaknesses, I find it encouraging that when I feel weak, I am not alone. As you put your faithin God he turns your weakness into strength.

May 9 Day 129

How to Reap Far More Than You Sow

Walter Nishioka knew that the service was good at the Hawaiian hotel where he ate brunch on Wednesdays. But he found out just how good it was when he was offered something that was definitely not on the menu – one of the waiter’s own kidneys.

Mr Nishioka, aged seventy, was a local businessman. He was seriously ill with kidney disease and had been told by doctors that he needed a transplant urgently. He had almost given up hope of finding a matching donor until the waiter, Jose Rocasa, fifty-two, volunteered one of his own. Nishioka said, ‘I didn't have long to survive and the doctors said that it was unlikely that they could find a match in time. But with this good man here and a lot of help from above, now I am alive and well.’

In the twenty-two years that Mr Nishioka had frequented the hotel, Jose Rocasa had been his waiter, and recalled that he had always been kind and affable – and had tipped generously. ‘I just wanted to help him,’ he said. ‘For years, we have this friendship in which he comes to lunch and I do my best to make him very happy, and he is always good to me in return. So of course I say, “Don't worry – I can give you a kidney.”’

Mr Nishioka sowed generosity and he reaped generosity!

Today, we see that:

  • You reap what you sow
  • You reap later than you sow
  • You reap more than you sow

May 8 Day 128

How to Live in High Definition

It was back in 1966 when England last won the football World Cup, yet I can still remember the moment. As children, we were watching the match on a black and white television set. We could never get a very good picture; it was always fuzzy and going into lines. We were quite happy with it since we did not know anything different. One day, we discovered all it needed was an aerial! Suddenly, we found that we could get clear and distinct pictures. Our enjoyment was transformed.

Now, not only do we have colour television, we can get high definition (HD). There are no fuzzy lines or distortions, and it produces a richer, bolder and more vibrant picture than ever before. 

Rather than black and white, or even colour, Jesus offers you high-definition life. There are two Greek words for ‘life’. The word ‘bios’, from which we get the word ‘biological’ means the condition of being alive rather than dead – mere existence. The other word ‘zoe’ means the full, abundant, spacious, open-hearted, richness of life that Jesus speaks about – a life of fulfilment and purpose. This is life in high definition.