Bible in One Year

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August 25 Day 237

Family

A busy father was looking for a way to entertain his young daughter. He found a map of the world in a magazine and cut it into pieces. He gave the pieces to his child and suggested she try to piece the map back together.

After a very short time she said she had finished. He was very surprised by how quickly she had done it. He asked her how she had managed to do it so fast. She replied, ‘I noticed when you took the page out of the magazine that on the back of the map of the world there was a picture of a man and a woman. I thought that if I could put the man and the woman back together, I could put the world back together.’ 

Marriage and family life are hugely important. They are part of God’s natural order, and are a vital part of the fabric of society. Pope John Paul II once wrote that family is the ‘foundation’ of society and ‘nourishes’ society continually.

Nicky and Sila Lee have invested their lives in strengthening marriages and family life. Their courses and books such as The Marriage Book and The Parenting Book have had a profound impact on thousands of people in our own local church and now in many countries around the world. Recently a government official in one country said to Nicky and Sila, ‘A strong society depends on strong families and strong families depend on strong marriages. That’s why we are interested in your work.’

The Bible has a great deal to say about family life. Not only do we have a natural family, but as Christians we are part of the church, which the New Testament sees as ‘the family of God’.

August 24 Day 236

The Way to Victory

Of course, he did not know where it was. He was eighty-five years of age and had written dozens of books. I was asking him if he could tell me exactly where in his books I could find the quote I was looking for. He told me that he had absolutely no idea, but gave me permission to quote it anyway. Since then I have used his quote over and over again because it seemed to me that Bishop Lesslie Newbigin had summarised a crucial insight for our understanding of Jesus and the New Testament.

The resurrection was not the reversal of a defeat but the manifestation of a victory.

The cross was not a defeat. Rather, taken together, the cross and resurrection are the greatest victory to have taken place in the history of the world. It is a victory that has huge implications for our own lives, our society and the future of this world.

The idea of ‘victory’ can smack of imperialism and pride. Of course, triumphalism is to be avoided. However, ‘victory’ is not a negative word in the Bible, even in the New Testament.

The key to a right understanding of ‘victory’ is to see it as a gift made possible ‘through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 15:57). This means that the appropriate response is not pride, but thankfulness.

August 23 Day 235

Trust God to Do it His Way

I sometimes wish I kept more of a diary. I am glad that, at least, I have recorded some of my prayers. Alongside the words of today’s passage, ‘We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you’ (2 Chronicles 20:13), I have jotted down some of the seemingly insurmountable problems and situations we have faced over the years. It is amazing and wonderful to see and have a record of how God has delivered us from so many of them, in his own time and in his own way.

Being reminded of God’s ability to deliver us increases our faith that he can do it again. God really is powerful. In fact, God is all-powerful; he is ‘omnipotent’. You can trust him. 

August 22 Day 234

Wholehearted Living

I remember it as if it were yesterday. I got up out of my seat and went forward. It was 1974. I had only been a Christian for a few months. The message I responded to was to be fully, wholeheartedly committed to the Lord and to follow him with all my heart – wherever that might take me. 

Of course, I have had my ups and downs since then, and my fair share of failures. All of us are far from perfect. I still do things that I wish I did not do. But I have been determined to try and follow the Lord with all my heart and be fully committed to him.

To be ‘fully committed’ with ‘all your heart’ means 100% commitment. It means seeking to do what the Lord calls you to do. It means rooting out anything that is bad – ruthlessly tearing down the high places and getting rid of the other gods in the midst of life.

The Lord is looking for those whose ‘hearts are fully committed’ to him (2 Chronicles 16:9). The psalmist prayed, ‘Give me an undivided heart’ (Psalm 86:11). The expression ‘all your heart’ appears many times throughout the Bible. For example, you are to do the following things ‘with all your heart’:

  • Love the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:4–5; Matthew 22:36–38)
  • Trust in the Lord (Proverbs 3:5)
  • Obey the Lord (Psalm 119:34,69; 1 Chronicles 29:19)
  • Praise the Lord (Psalm 111:1; 138:1)
  • Rejoice (Zephaniah 3:14)
  • Work for the Lord (Nehemiah 4:6; Colossians 3:23).

This is how to enjoy life and life in all its fullness (John 10:10). It’s a life of love, trust, gratitude, joy and meaningful work. In the passages for today we see why and how we should live wholeheartedly.

August 21 Day 233

Hold On to Your Peace

In 1555, Nicholas Ridley, a former Bishop of London, was burned at the stake in Oxford because of his beliefs. On the night before Ridley's execution, his brother offered to remain with him in the prison chamber to be of assistance and comfort. Nicholas declined the offer and replied that he meant to go to bed and sleep as quietly as ever he did in his life. Because he knew the peace of God, he could rest in the strength of the everlasting arms of his Lord to meet his need.

Peace is a great blessing. ‘Peace’ is a word of huge significance in the Bible. The Hebrew word for peace, Shalom, translated by the Greek word eirene, means far more than the absence of war or hostility. It is not just an absence of certain circumstances but the presence of God and his reign. It means wholeness, soundness, well-being, oneness with God – every kind of blessing and good.

In order to bring peace to others, we first need to find and hold on to peace within ourselves.

August 20 Day 232

How to Listen to the Holy Spirit

Will Wisbey was a successful young estate agent. He was fiercely sceptical of Christianity. One Sunday, a friend invited him to HTB. During that service, someone had a ‘word of knowledge’ that went like this: ‘There is a man here who is expecting a soft-top sports car to be delivered in the next two days. He has worked all his life so hard to achieve success. Work has been his life. He’s got the car, the house, the lifestyle, and he‘s not happy. And God wants him to know that there’s something more important for him to focus on.’

Subsequently Will wrote, ‘I couldn’t believe it. My new car was the nicest I’d bought. It was arriving in literally two days and I hadn’t told anyone. I was earning £100k a year. My work was my life. That night, for the first time in my life, I really prayed.’

Will encountered Jesus Christ and was filled with the Holy Spirit. He says, ‘Now I know Jesus does exist. He loves me and he is with me.’

Many of us live in a busy and noisy world. In the midst of all the noise, talk and distractions how do you hear the voice of the Holy Spirit?

August 19 Day 231

Sixteen Characteristics of Love

I tried following the example of a missionary I once heard about who, each day, would read the four verses from today’s New Testament passage, which lists the sixteen characteristics of love. For the word ‘love’ she would substitute her own name. When she reached a characteristic that she knew was not true of her, she had to stop. Her aim was, one day, to get through the whole list.

The four verses (1 Corinthians 13:4–7) start with ‘love is patient’. So I substituted my own name and started with ‘Nicky is patient’. I do not think it will come as any surprise to those who know me well that I had to stop there!

The great evangelist D. L. Moody was once staying with a group of friends in England. One evening they asked Henry Drummond to read and expound on a portion of Scripture. After some urging, Henry drew a small New Testament from his pocket, opened it at 1 Corinthians 13 and began to speak on the subject of love. D. L. Moody wrote in response:

‘It seemed to me that I had never heard anything so beautiful. The one great need in our Christian life is love, more love to God and to each other. Would that we could all move into that love chapter and live there.’

We get an idea of what Henry Drummond must have said that evening in his book The Greatest Thing in the World. He writes: ‘What is... the supreme good? You have life before you. Once only you can live it. What is the noblest object of desire, the supreme gift to covet? In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul takes us to Christianity at its source; and there we see ‘the greatest of these is love.’

God is love. We deceive ourselves if we think we can love God and hate other people (1 John 4:20). Love should be number one on your spiritual priority list. It should be the main thing in your life. It is, in the words of St Paul, ‘the most excellent way’ (1 Corinthians 12:31). 

August 18 Day 230

Intimate Relationships

‘When I first visited the Vineyard Church in California I discovered that one of their principal values was “intimacy with God”. So when I came back I started to talk about that as being one of our values too,’ recalls Sandy Millar in his book, All I Want is You.

He continues, ‘One of the very nice members of our congregation at that time took me to one side and said, “Please don’t use the word ‘intimacy’ because we don’t use that word in that context.” So I started talking about “the closest possible relationship with God” which is quite a mouthful. But after a bit I stopped because what I really meant was “intimacy” and I think that’s what the Bible means for our relationship with God too.’

We are created for intimate relationships. There is a hunger deep in our souls for an intimate relationship with God and with other human beings. 

August 17 Day 229

How to Enjoy God

We are created to worship God. But why would God create human beings in order to receive their worship? Is this not, as some suggest, pure vanity?

Many years ago I was helped in my understanding of worship through C.S. Lewis’s explanation in his Reflections on the Psalms.

He wrote: ‘The most obvious fact about praise… strangely escaped me… I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise… the world rings with praise... walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favourite game – praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare books, even sometimes politicians and scholars…

‘My whole, more general, difficulty about praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can’t help doing, about everything else we value.

‘I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It’s not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.’

In other words, worship is the consummation of joy. Our joy is not complete until it is expressed in worship. It is out of his love for us that God created us for worship. According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, humankind’s ‘chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever’.

August 16 Day 228

How to Raise Your Game

Some of the world’s top squash players used to practise at the squash club where I play. I remember well the first time I saw at close hand a high-level squash game. It was the son of one of our regular group of players, who at the time was ranked number 11 in the world. He came to practise at our club with the world number 2.

We all watched in amazement. We had never seen anything like it. In fact, if that was ‘squash’, what we played should be called something else!

Watching them always raised our game. Suddenly we realised that it was possible to return practically any shot your opponent could serve you, however good they were. We saw how important it was to get back to the middle of the court after each shot. We watched how deep they hit the ball. We noticed the shots that they avoided playing.

When we went on court after that, we astonished ourselves by how well we played. Of course, we did not play anywhere near as well as them. But, inspired by their example, we played a whole lot better than usual.

During my Christian life I have found the same pattern. For example, I had the privilege of working for Sandy Millar for nineteen years. Through watching his life and hearing him preach, I was always inspired by his example. Even though reaching the level of those who are examples to us might not be possible, hopefully it inspires us to raise our game.

A Christian is someone who believes in Jesus, puts their faith in him, knows him and lives ‘in Christ’. It is also someone who follows his example.

There is no greater example in human history than the example of Christ. Paul writes, ‘Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 11:1).