Bible in One Year

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May 26 Day 146

His Name Has Power

Aged thirty-three, Barbara Clapham came to live in London. She decided she was going to look for a church. One Sunday morning, she arrived at HTB. The young woman who was welcoming people at the door smiled at her and asked her name. Because of that smile, Barbara came back the following week. When she walked in the next Sunday the same person said, ‘Hello Barbara.’

Because the person on the door remembered her name, she decided that she was going to come back every Sunday. That was in 1947. From then on Barbara came almost every Sunday until she died, soon after celebrating her 100th birthday. She made a huge impact on the life of HTB (including running the finances of the church for many years). I wonder whether the young woman on the door had any idea of the difference she made by remembering Barbara’s name.

There is great power in a name. Names are significant. This is true today, but it was even more so in the Hebrew culture we read about in the Bible. A Hebrew name is no mere label. The name of the Lord reveals who he is.

May 25 Day 145

How to Face Giant Problems

Goliath was a giant. He was nine-feet tall, a champion, wearing heavy armour, standing and shouting, defying the people of God (1 Samuel 17:1–11). As well as physical giants, there are metaphorical ones. A ‘giant’ is a big, seemingly insurmountable problem or issue.

  • ‘Personal giants’ could include giant personal challenges in relation to your health, marriage, family, relationships or lack of relationships, job or lack of job, other work issues, or some sin, temptation, addiction, fear, loneliness, discouragement or debt.
  • ‘National giants’ in the UK include terrorism, gang violence, homelessness, the breakdown of marriage, family life and community, exploding prison populations, failing schools and the decline of church congregations. There is therefore the giant task of evangelising the country, revitalising the church and transforming our society.
  • ‘Global giants’ include extreme poverty (as a result of which thousands of children die each day), preventable disease (millions dying of diseases for which we have a relatively easy cure), the need for universal primary education (almost one billion people unable to read) and the need for worldwide water sanitation (which could be funded by the amount of money that Europeans spend on ice-cream every year).

There are two possible attitudes when facing a giant. One is to say, ‘It’s so big, there’s nothing I can do.’ The other is to say, ‘It’s so big, I can’t miss!’

May 24 Day 144

How to Finish Well

You can finish well. You may have had a bad start in life. You may have messed up along the way. You may have made mistakes. You may have regrets. But you can finish well and that is what matters most.

Some start well but fall. In the recession, many of the companies, that business consultant Jim Collins had profiled in his international bestseller Good to Great, fell. Even the ‘mightiest’ of companies can fall.

In his most recent book, How the Mighty Fall, he examines the path towards doom. The first stage of the process begins with ‘hubris born of success’. As with Saul in the Old Testament passage for today, it is ‘arrogance’ (1 Samuel 15:23) that begins the process by which the mighty fall. Saul started well but did not finish well.

It is more important to finish well than to start well. In the New Testament, Saul (of Tarsus) started off very badly (as a persecutor of Jesus) but he finished well (as the great apostle, Paul).

Jesus, as always, shows us the way. His life was relatively short. He died in his early thirties, yet he finished well. He completed the work the Father gave him to do (John 17:4). This is my ambition in life. I want to complete the work God has given me to do.

How can you make sure you finish well?

May 23 Day 143

The Love of Your Life

In February 1977, Bishop Festo Kivengere was part of a group of church leaders who delivered a letter of protest to the dictator, Idi Amin, speaking out against the beatings, arbitrary killings and unexplained disappearances taking place across Uganda at that time. The next day, Festo Kivengere’s friend and leader, Archbishop Janani Luwum was murdered by Idi Amin and Bishop Festo was driven into hiding and then exile.

Soon afterwards, Festo Kivengere published a book entitled I Love Idi Amin. In the book he explained the extraordinary title: ‘The Holy Spirit showed me that I was getting hard in my spirit… so I had to ask for forgiveness from the Lord, and for grace to love President Amin more… this was fresh air for my tired soul. I knew I had seen the Lord and been released: love filled my heart.’

Love is more than a feeling or an emotion. It is a decision about how we treat one another. Jesus was the supreme example of love in the history of the world. He tells us to love God, to love one another (John 13:34–35), to love our neighbour as ourselves and even to love our enemies. He demonstrates all this in his own life through loving everyone (even Judas who betrayed him as we see in today’s passage), and laying down his life for us all in love.

May 22 Day 142

Take Time to Celebrate

‘A glimpse of heaven’ is how one twenty-seven-year-old woman described her experience of our annual church holiday (Focus). She also described the year she missed it in order to go on an exotic holiday: each day she could only think of how she longed to be at Focus.

This is the time when the whole community comes together in a festival of celebration, worship, thanksgiving and praise. We often experience a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is a time of spiritual growth when we listen to visionary and practical teaching from the Bible on how to live our lives. It is a time of laughter and fun as we meet together for a week-long party: playing, picnicking, singing and dancing. We make new friends as well as having a great holiday. It really is ‘a glimpse of heaven’.

It takes time but celebration is an important part of life.

May 21 Day 141

Good Government?

Government is the system or group of people governing an organised community, often a state. It usually consists of legislative, executive and judiciary. Government is the mechanism for deciding state policies and the means by which those policies are enforced. Historically, forms of government have included theocracy, autocracy (such as monarchy), oligarchy, aristocracy and democracy.

Sir Winston Churchill once said that ‘Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.’

Governments have their ups and downs. Our politicians are human beings with human weaknesses like our own.

There is a certain ambivalence about all human government in the Bible. There are parts where human government is affirmed as God-given (for instance in Romans 13), and others where it is pictured as being under demonic control (for instance, in Revelation 13). Together they represent the reality of human government. Governments reflect the mix that is in us all of what is good and true alongside what is sinful and flawed.

However, be assured that one day there will be a new type of government – the kingship of Jesus (John 12:12–36).  

May 20 Day 140

How to Find Peace in Adversity

For 2,000 years, followers of Jesus have faced adversity, opposition and persecution. In many places Pippa and I have visited over the years, Christians face physical persecution. In fact, persecution of Christians around the world today is probably worse than at any time in history.

We do not, at this time, face physical persecution in the West. However, as we see some of the messages that are emerging from those with their stated intention of ‘eradicating faith’, it is clear that the aggression and vehemence of the attacks may increase.

Opposition is bound to come. Those who desire ‘to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted’ (2 Timothy 3:12). Opposition comes both from those far away from us (the Philistines in the Old Testament passage for today), and also, sadly, sometimes from those closer to home (the Pharisees in the New Testament passage). How do you find peace in adversity?

May 19 Day 139

Your Hope in Times of Trouble

However difficult your situation may be – however much ‘trouble’ you are facing in your life, you can have hope. Hope is the confident expectation of God’s ultimate blessing in this life and the life to come, based upon the goodness and promises of God. With Jesus, there is always hope.

Like Lazarus in our New Testament passage for today, some parts of the church have been prematurely declared dead. In his book, The Death of Christian Britain, Callum Brown writes, ‘This book is about the demise of the nation’s core religious moral identity. As historical changes go, this has been no lingering and drawn-out affair. It took several centuries (in what historians used to call the Dark Ages) to convert Britain to Christianity, but it has taken less than forty years for the country to forsake it.’ We often read headlines such as, ‘Crisis in the Church’, ‘Dramatic decline in attendance’ and ‘Church attendance figures fall again’.

At the same time, we are seeing the results of a society that is attempting to shut God out. Every day, in Britain, at least 304 couples are divorced. Somebody calls the Samaritans every six seconds. The pornographic industry is worth billions of pounds. There are 30,000 Christian clergy of all types, and more than 80,000 registered witches and fortune tellers.

Britain is not the only nation in trouble. Many other nations are going through times of trouble. As well as national troubles, all of us are likely at some point to face times of trouble in our own individual lives. ‘Trouble’ can take many forms. What is your hope in times of trouble?

May 18 Day 138

How to Satisfy Your Soul

Bernhard Langer was one of the best golfers of his generation, twice winning the US Masters and at one time topping the world golf rankings. He said, ‘I had… won seven events in five different continents; I was number one in the world and I had a beautiful young wife. Yet there was something missing.

‘The lifestyle we all (especially us sportsmen) are leading – it is all about money and who you are and who you know and what you have and these things aren’t really the most important things. I think people who have these things, they realise that… there is still something missing in their life and I believe that is Jesus Christ.’

The spiritual emptiness that Bernhard Langer is describing is common to all humanity. One young woman said to me that she felt there was ‘a chunk missing in her soul’. You are not simply body and mind. You are a soul created for relationship with God. How then do you satisfy your soul?

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).