Bible in One Year

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April 9 Day 99

See His Goodness

When we were children, my sister and I went on a picnic with our parents. The two of us were playing on what we all assumed was a disused railway track. Suddenly my mother shouted, ‘Jump! Get off the track!’ She had seen an express train coming down the track. Thankfully, we didn’t shout back, ‘Don’t threaten us. You can’t scare us.’ If we had done, I would not be in a position to write this now. We both jumped off the track.

The command arose out of a mother’s love for her children. God’s commands arise out of his goodness and his love for you. They are given for ‘your own good’ (Deuteronomy 10:13). See his goodness. The warnings of Jesus about the coming judgment and how to be ready for it come out of his love for you. In all the passages for today we see that obedience is the way to experience his goodness and be a magnet for his blessing.

April 8 Day 98

How to Stop Worrying

I can’t even remember his name and I didn’t think much of his talk. We were both eighteen years of age. He had just joined the army. As he stood up to give the talk he produced his army boots as a visual aid. He called one of the boots ‘trust’ and the other one ‘obey’. He described them as the left and right boot of the Christian life. He only spoke for seven minutes, but his illustration hit home and I have never forgotten it.

Trust’ and ‘obey’ are, as he said, a very good summary of the Christian life. We see in the passages for today that they are the answer to trials, temptation, worry, anxiety, fear, failure and all the other struggles of life. In particular, Jesus shows us how to stop worrying and start living.

April 7 Day 97

Love from the Inside Out

Celine, a young woman who came on Alpha because of what she described as her ‘spiritual search’, wrote, ‘I am not entirely sure what happened! Over the course I have grown more and more thirsty for God’s presence like when on a hot, dry summer’s day one gets a sip of cold fresh water, just the right temperature, one wants to drink and drink, and one can never get enough.

‘I am now constantly skipping and laughing and wanting to tell everyone how amazing God is… plus I seem to love everybody! I was seeking to forgive someone, but just seemed to grow more and more bitter and resentful, until I came on Alpha… It’s gone, I have totally forgiven that person and love them too!’

She says that she is now ‘passionately in love with Christ!’ Her inner thirst is being satisfied. She has a new inner light and a new inner love.

April 6 Day 96

Press Through

‘Can you see anything?’ his assistant asked as Carter’s eyes adjusted to the semi-darkness. Carter could see well enough, but he had difficulty speaking because of the dazzling array of treasure spread out before him.

For more than two thousand years, tourists, grave robbers and archaeologists had searched for the burial places of Egypt’s Pharaohs. Armed with only a few scraps of evidence, British archaeologist Howard Carter’s search, after many years, seemed doomed to failure.

But, Carter pressed through and finally unlocked an ancient Egyptian tomb. No one in the modern world had ever seen anything like it. The king’s embalmed body lay within a nest of three coffins, the inner one of solid gold. On the king’s head was a magnificent golden portrait mask and numerous pieces of jewellery lay on the body and in its wrappings.

Other rooms were crammed with statues, a chariot, weapons, chests, vases, daggers, jewels and a throne. It was the priceless tomb and treasure of King Tutankhamun, who reigned from 1352 to 1343 BC. It was 3265 years later, on 26 November 1922, that Carter made this discovery.

Howard Carter made the world’s most exciting archaeological find because he did not give up seeking. He pressed through. He persevered. A river cuts through rock not because of its power but because of its persistence.

God loves you. God does not force himself upon you, but he promises to reveal himself to you if you persistently seek him.

April 5 Day 95

One Thing is Needed

I first encountered Jesus in a personal way in 1974. Soon afterwards I heard a talk and, all these years later, I still remember it. It was given by an eighty-year-old man. The title was, ‘The Five “One Things”’. His talk highlighted five significant occurrences of the expression ‘one thing’ in the Bible (Psalm 27:4; Mark 10:21; Luke 10:42; John 9:25; Philippians 3:13). Each one speaks about our priorities. One of those five occurrences is in our New Testament passage for today (Luke 10:42).

I have great empathy with Martha. Jesus said to her, ‘You are worried and upset about many things’ (v.41). There are so many things in life, but Jesus says, ‘only one thing is needed’ (v.42). It was Mary who had her priorities right.

April 4 Day 94

No Blessing Goes Uncontested

‘No blessing goes uncontested’ is one of Bishop Sandy Millar’s many original aphorisms, with which he would encourage us all. During his time as vicar of HTB he taught us not to be discouraged by the difficulties we faced because, as he liked to reassure us, ‘No blessing goes uncontested.’

God will bless you in amazing and wonderful ways. In the passages for today we read about the promise, the extent and the privilege of God’s blessing.

However, it was true of the people of God in the Old Testament and of the disciples of Jesus, and it will also be true in your life that ‘No blessing goes uncontested.’

April 3 Day 93

How to Love

Four bullets hit Pope John Paul II – two of them lodging in his lower intestine, the others hitting his left hand and right arm. This assassination attempt on the Pope in May 1981 left him severely wounded and with considerable blood loss – his health was never the same again. In July 1981, the perpetrator, Ali Ağca, was sentenced to life imprisonment. Pope John Paul II asked people to pray ‘for my brother Ağca, whom I have sincerely forgiven’.

Two years later, he was to take the hand of Ali Ağca, then in prison, and quietly tell him that he had forgiven him for what he had done (even though his would-be killer had not asked for forgiveness). He developed a friendship over the years, meeting Ağca’s mother in 1987 and his brother a decade later. In June 2000 Ağca was pardoned by the Italian President at the Pope’s request. In February 2005 Ağca sent a letter to the Pope wishing him well. When the Pope died on 2 April 2005, Ağca’s brother, Adrian, gave an interview saying that Ağca and his entire family were grieving and that the Pope had been a great friend to them.

Pope John Paul II’s response of love and mercy is exemplary. God’s love and mercy is even more extraordinary because ‘At the cross of Jesus, pardon is complete. Love and justice mingle, truth and mercy meet.’

April 2 Day 92

It is All Yours

The Chelsea Flower Show may well be the most famous flower show in the world. It attracts visitors from all continents.

There are four grades of award presented, Gold, Silver-Gilt, Silver and Bronze. As well as awards for gardens and flowers, the Knightian award is for exhibits of vegetables.

I once heard a man being interviewed about the fact that he was retiring after winning the gold medal for his vegetables for ten years in a row. Asked for the secret of his success, he said, ‘I aim for perfection. But I settle for excellence.’

‘Aim for perfection’ (2 Corinthians 13:11), writes the apostle Paul. This is very different from ‘perfectionism’. Perfectionism is a personality trait characterised by striving for flawlessness. It leads to setting excessively high performance standards. Perfectionists are overly critical of themselves and constantly concerned about what others think of them. It leads to a fear of failure and making mistakes. It can lead to depression, anxiety and missed opportunities.

God’s people have always been called to aim high (while avoiding the dangers of perfectionism). God gave to his people in the Old Testament a wonderful vision of their potential inheritance. It is all yours in Christ Jesus.

April 1 Day 91

Follow Jesus

Curious to know what all the fuss was about Pippa and I eventually entered the world of Twitter and now Instagram. It is a world where you ‘follow’ other people and are yourselves ‘followed’.

Many celebrities have huge followings. People become avid spectators of their lives, relationships and lifestyle, diets and fashion choices. They want to know all about them, interact with them and be like them. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. It is natural to want to follow those we admire. Following celebrities on social media can be fun and even enlightening.

However, following people on Instagram or Twitter is one thing; being a true follower of someone is quite another. It means fully devoting yourself to their cause, living by their example and even doing what they tell you to do. Choose the right people to follow. It really does matter whom you follow. Millions, for example, followed Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot. Still today, millions follow evil dictators, terrorists and gang leaders.

Some people are sceptical about tradition and institutions and do not know whom to follow. The traditional models, which often came from or were championed by our families, institutions and political leaders, have, to some extent, broken down. This leaves many people unsure of whom to follow.

Jesus said many times, ‘Follow me.’ Of all the people who have ever lived, Jesus has the largest number of followers. Over 2.4 billion people in the world today profess to follow Jesus. Jesus’ followers are called ‘disciples’. They want to be with him, to know him, to be like him and to do everything that Jesus asks them to do.

March 31 Day 90

How to Overcome Your Fears

Millennials (those born between 1981 and 2000) are sometimes known as ‘generation fear’. In one of her most popular songs, Lily Allen sings about ‘being taken over by the fear’.

‘Fear’ carries two meanings in the Bible – one healthy, one unhealthy. In the good sense of the word, it is usually used in the context of respect for God and sometimes of respect for people (especially those in authority).

In the bad sense, it means to be frightened. We are supposed to fear God (in the good sense) and not be frightened of anyone or anything else. Many people today live with the opposite. They do not fear God but their lives are full of the wrong kinds of fear.

How can you overcome your fears?