Bible in One Year

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April 19 Day 109

God's Strategic Plan

I live in London. With a population of over 8 million, it is the largest city in Europe and one of the largest in the world. It receives over 18 million visitors a year. It is a city where over 300 languages are spoken.

Cities are strategic places for the spread of the gospel. They always have been. The apostle Paul took the gospel from city to city. As early as AD 100, more than 40 Christian communities existed in cities around the Mediterranean world, including North Africa and parts of Italy. By AD 300 half the citizens of that region were Christian while 90% of the countryside was still pagan. Most of Paul’s letters were written to cities.

Cities tend to be places where culture is formed. Many of the spheres of influence emanate from the city, including government, politicians and law-makers; arts and entertainment; business and the marketplace; universities and other places of education; media and communication centres. The river of influence tends to flow from the city to the suburbs and rural areas. The way to transform a culture is to transform the city.

It is not surprising, therefore, that cities have always had an important role in the purposes of God. In particular, one city has been at the heart of God’s strategy for the world.

April 18 Day 108

It's Never Too Late

I like to think of myself as young. Recently, I heard that middle age runs from thirty-five to fifty-eight years of age. On that basis, not only am I not young, I am not even middle-aged! 

People often speak of being middle-aged as a time of ‘midlife crisis’. A midlife crisis can be caused by ageing itself, or ageing in combination with changes, problems, or regrets over work, career, relationships, children and physical changes associated with ageing.

Individuals experiencing a midlife crisis are often searching for an undefined dream or goal. We may have a deep sense of remorse for goals not yet accomplished. We may fear humiliation among more successful colleagues. We often desire to achieve a feeling of youthfulness.

At the root of all these things is a sense of something being missing. There is often a tragic wisdom in mid-life crises, as individuals realise the emptiness of much of what they used to strive for (even if what they replace it with is not always particularly wise).

I have often wondered whether Zacchaeus, whom we read about in today’s New Testament passage, was going through a midlife crisis. Whether he was or not, he found the answer that so many people are searching for in his encounter with Jesus.

No matter how long you have travelled in the wrong direction, you can always turn around. With Jesus it’s never too late to make a new start and ensure that your life is set in the right direction.

April 17 Day 107

Six Steps to a God-Centred Life

William Temple, like his father before him, was Archbishop of Canterbury (1942–1944). Among his many remarkable achievements, he wrote a superb commentary on the Gospel of John. He wrote the entire commentary, entitled Readings in St John’s Gospel, while praying on his knees before God.

About worship, he wrote: ‘Worship is a submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by his holiness; the nourishment of mind with his truth; the purifying of imagination by his beauty; the opening of the heart to his love; the surrender of will to his purpose – and all this gathered up in adoration.’

Worship saves us from being self-centred and makes us God-centred. You were created to live in a relationship with God. That should be your number one priority. If you put God first in your life all kinds of blessings follow. Because God loves you he warns you of the dangers of disregarding the design for your life.

But what does it mean to lead a God-centred life and what steps do you need to take in order to get there?

April 16 Day 106

His Presence

If you love somebody, what you long for more than anything else is that person’s presence with you. Photos are a comfort. Telephone calls, emails and texts are nice. Letters are good. Skype and FaceTime are great ways to communicate. Yet nothing can compare to actually spending time with them in person.

What Adam and Eve lost in the Garden of Eden when they sinned was the presence of God. Even more than possessing the law, the distinguishing feature of Israel was God’s presence with them. The temple was not primarily a place of sacrifice but a place of God’s presence. The exile was such a disaster for the people of God because they were away from God’s presence.

God promised to be in the midst of his people again. This promise was fulfilled with the coming of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. He promises to be with you.

April 15 Day 105

Choose What You Remember

Memory is strange. There are some things I would prefer not to remember but find difficult to forget. There are other things that I would love to remember that are all too easily forgotten.

There are some things that are important for societies as a whole not to forget. All over the world, we see war memorials with the names of those who have died for their country. Often in Britain these memorials feature the words ‘Lest We Forget’. A plaque at Auschwitz Concentration Camp reads, ‘The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again’ (George Santayana). 

We do have some control over our memory. There are some things we are told in the Bible to ‘forget’. There are other things we are repeatedly called to ‘remember’. You can make choices about what you choose to ‘forget’ and what you choose toremember’.

The word ‘remember’ in its various Hebrew and Greek forms occurs over 250 times in the Bible. It is so easy to forget all that God has done for you. It is important to look back at your own life as well as the history of the church, both local and global, to remember all that God has done.

At the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the service of communion so that we would not forget the central events of world history – the death and resurrection of Jesus.

April 14 Day 104

How to Avoid the Titanic Mistake

James Cameron, director of the movie Titanic, describes the Titanic as a ‘metaphor’ of life: ‘We are all living on… [the] Titanic.’

When the Titanic set sail in 1912, it was declared to be ‘unsinkable’ because it was constructed using a new technology. The ship’s hull was divided into sixteen watertight compartments. Up to four of these compartments could be damaged or even flooded, and still the ship would float.

Tragically, the Titanic sank on 15 April 1912 at 2.20 am. 1,513 people lost their lives. At the time, it was thought that five of its watertight compartments had been ruptured in a collision with an iceberg.

However, on 1 September 1985, when the wreck of the Titanic was found lying upright on the ocean floor, there was no sign of the long gash previously thought to have been ripped in the ship’s hull. What they discovered was that damage to one compartment affected all the rest.

Many people make the Titanic mistake. They think they can divide their lives into different ‘compartments’ and that what they do in one will not affect the rest. However, as Rick Warren (from whom I have taken this illustration) says, ‘A life of integrity is one that is not divided into compartments.’

David prayed for ‘an undivided heart’ (Psalm 86:11). He led the people with ‘integrity of heart’ (78:72). Supremely, Jesus was a ‘man of integrity’ (Matthew 22:16; Mark 12:14). How can you and I avoid the Titanic mistake and live lives of integrity?

April 13 Day 103

What is God Like?

A six-year-old girl was drawing a picture one day. Her teacher said, ‘What are you drawing?’ The little girl answered, ‘I am drawing a picture of God.’ The teacher was surprised and said, ‘But nobody knows what God looks like!’ The little girl carried on drawing and replied, ‘They will in a minute.’

One of the advantages of reading through the Bible in a year is that we get a rounded picture of the nature and character of God, and a greater understanding of what God is like.

April 12 Day 102

It's a Party!

One day, I received a message that the Queen of England had invited me to lunch. At first, I thought it was a practical joke. But it wasn’t. I turned up at Buckingham Palace on my bicycle, which an amused policeman looked after for me. I sat next to the Queen as we ate some amazing food. Then she turned and began to talk to me as the ‘Parfait de Rhubarbe et Chocolat Blanc’ arrived.

It looked delicious. But I did not want to talk with my mouth full – nor did I want to seem rude by cutting into it while the Queen was speaking to me. Eventually she asked me whether I did not like the food. ‘No, no, no,’ I said, ‘I love it’ (as I quickly began to eat). I did not say it to her, but the real reason I had not eaten was that I was overwhelmed by the privilege of being invited to lunch with the Queen of England.

Jesus likens the kingdom of God to a great party with the King, one to which we are all invited. It is an even greater privilege than lunch with the Queen of England, and it is extraordinary that anyone would refuse this invitation.

April 11 Day 101

Eight Things That Really Matter to God

My mother and father were great parents. They had strong values. My sister and I were left in no doubt about what mattered to them.

What mattered most to my father was honesty. I remember how my father used to say, ‘I expect to be believed.’ He regarded honesty as the highest possible value and sometimes went to absurd lengths to retain that standard.

On one occasion, when they were engaged, but not yet married, he and my mother got on the wrong bus. The bus conductor refused to accept any money as they had only travelled a few yards. My father was unhappy to have been unable to pay what he felt he owed. He sent the money for the fare to the bus company. They sent it back. This resulted in a long correspondence, which my mother found hard to understand (she joked that she almost broke off the engagement).

I remember, in my childhood, many similar incidents. My father may have been a little extreme, but my sister and I were in no doubt about what mattered to him: honesty. In our passages today, we see some of the things that really matter to God.

April 10 Day 100

Seven Ways to Grow in Wisdom

Lawrence of Arabia is one of the most successful films of all time. Much of the film is drawn from T.E. Lawrence’s own account of his time in Arabia. He was a British archaeological scholar, military strategist (colonel by the age of thirty), best known for his activities in the Middle East during World War I. Lawrence explores the theme of wisdom in his memoirs, written in 1926, with the title, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Presumably, Lawrence had in mind today’s passage, ‘Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars’ (Proverbs 9:1). In Scripture, the number seven is often used to represent completion or perfection. In the book of Proverbs, the teaching of Jesus and the Bible in general, we find many ways to acquire and grow in wisdom. Seven of these can be seen in today’s passages.