Bible in One Year

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June 9 Day 160

Stay Loyal

In 2007, a group of twenty-three South Korean missionaries were captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan. They were terrified. The Taliban separated the group, isolated them and confiscated their possessions. One of the Korean women managed to hold on to her Bible. She ripped it into twenty-three pieces and secretly gave each of them a portion so that wherever they were, each person could read a part of Scripture when no one was watching.

The group knew that the Taliban had decided to kill them, one at a time. One by one the missionaries surrendered their lives again to Jesus saying, ‘Lord, if you want me to die for your sake I’ll do it.’ Then the pastor said, ‘I’ve talked to [the Taliban] because they are going to start killing us and I’ve told their leaders that if anyone dies, I die first because I am your pastor.’ Another said, ‘No, because I also am a pastor and I am your elder. I die first.’

Then the pastor came back and said, ‘You are not ordained, I have been ordained, I die first.’ And sure enough, he died first. Two more were killed before the rest were eventually rescued. They had demonstrated extraordinary loyalty to God and to each other.

Loyalty is a combination of love and faithfulness. It is a quality often lacking in our society today. Disloyalty destroys families, churches, businesses, political parties and even nations.

June 8 Day 159

No Shades of Grey

Back in the 1960s, the band The Monkees sang about how no one seemed to believe in absolute morals anymore. In Shades of Gray they sang:

When the world and I were young,
Just yesterday.
Life was such a simple game…
It was easy then to tell right from wrong…
Today there is no black or white,
Only shades of gray.

Now the expression ‘shades of grey’ has come to be associated with the notorious and controversial books and films with that name.

Many today no longer believe there is such a thing as absolute right or absolute wrong. Stark contrasts and black-and-white distinctions are not always easy to swallow in a society in which relativism is the order of the day. Everything is relative – a matter of degrees.

As followers of Jesus we cannot give in to these relativistic ideas. We must be open to the prophetic voice of Scripture, which often traces stark contrasts, urgent ethical choices and diverging paths in the midst of complex problems and situations.

The reality of right and wrong are very clear in today’s passages and there are stark contrasts between the two.

June 7 Day 158

Trials and Temptations

John Wimber, the US pastor and pioneer of the Vineyard movement, had a huge influence on the church around the world. He died at the age of sixty-three. Life had often been extremely difficult for him.

He had been subject to an outrageous amount of criticism. I remember him once saying to me, ‘Notoriety is fun for a short time, but after that it is just hassle.’ But perhaps what broke his heart more than anything was the fact that three of the men who were closest to him, whom he loved and treated as his sons, all fell into temptation and moral failure.

God used John Wimber in extraordinary ways, but he and his team faced many trials and temptations. This is how life is, and the Bible is not at all naïve about it. Usually, as we emerge from one battle, there is another one around the corner. This is the challenge of life.

June 6 Day 157

Kindness

Steve Sjogren wrote a book called Conspiracy of Kindness. He started a church in Cincinnati, Ohio, that grew rapidly to an average attendance of over 7,000. Their motto is, ‘Small things done with great love are changing the world.’ They carry out random acts of kindness like paying for a stranger’s coffee or writing a ‘thank you’ note to a shop assistant.

Kindness is love in work clothes. Showing God’s love in practical ways, they have discovered the power of kindness to effect positive change, both in their lives and in the lives of people around them. Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly and most underrated agent of human change. When kindness is expressed, healthy relationships are created, community connections are nourished and people are inspired to pass on kindness.

June 5 Day 156

He Gives You Power

I play squash regularly with a group of friends. We are all about the same standard. We virtually take it in turns to win and lose. Nevertheless, winning feels good. The feelings of pleasure and satisfaction that accompany victory are quite natural.

This is, of course, a trivial example. The victory that is at the centre of today’s passages is of a totally different order and significance. But even the tiniest and most insignificant victory gives us a taste of its meaning and joy.

The great victory of God that we read about in the New Testament is foreshadowed in the Old Testament. The ultimate victory of God came with the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus and the outpouring of his Spirit who gives you power to live a life of victory.

June 4 Day 155

Sounds of Heaven

Have you ever noticed that the Bible is a very noisy book? Wisdom cries out (Proverbs 8); loud singing is encouraged (Psalm 66:8); cymbals clash in praise (Psalm 150); God shouts aloud (Isaiah 42); his voice is like the sound of many waters (Ezekiel 43); Jesus prays with loud cries and tears (Hebrews 5) and even creation groans (Romans 8).

On the day of Pentecost they heard ‘a sound like the blowing of a violent wind’ that ‘came from heaven’ (Acts 2:2). In today’s passages we hear other sounds going to and from heaven.

June 3 Day 154

Even Your Weakness is Anointed

Do you ever feel too weak or inadequate to be useful to God?

A teenager from Cumbria in Northern England felt God calling him. Patrick was poorly educated, ineloquent and faced significant opposition throughout his ministry from those who felt that he wasn’t up to the task. Even as an old man he still admitted, ‘Today I still blush and fear more than anything to have my lack of learning brought out into the open.’

Yet despite all his disadvantages Patrick remained convinced that God had called and anointed him as an evangelist. He wrote, ‘We are a letter of Christ for salvation even to the back of beyond – and what does it matter if it is not a learned letter? For it is still to be found valid and plain for all to read, written in your very hearts, not in ink but by the Spirit of the living God!’

Today his more eloquent contemporaries have long been forgotten, but the impact of St Patrick’s ministry and mission to Ireland 1500 years ago is still recognised around the world. Even his weakness was anointed.

As David takes up the throne of Israel he says, ‘… though I am the anointed king, I am weak’ (2 Samuel 3:39). The moment you put your faith in Jesus, God anoints you with the Holy Spirit. However weak and inadequate you may feel, God can use you, like David, in extraordinary ways. Even your weakness is anointed.

June 2 Day 153

'Crazy Love'

Francis Chan’s mother died giving birth to him. The only affection he can remember receiving from his father lasted about thirty seconds when he was on the way to his stepmother’s funeral aged nine. When he was twelve, his father also died. Francis cried, but also felt relieved.

Francis is now a pastor. He and his wife, Lisa, have seven children. When his children were born, his own love for his children and his desire for their love was so strong that it opened his eyes to how much God desires and loves us. He said, ‘Through this experience, I came to understand that my desire for my children is only a faint echo of God’s great love for me and for every person he made… I love my kids so much it hurts.’

Calling his first book Crazy Love, he wrote, ‘The idea of Crazy Love has to do with our relationship with God. All my life I’ve heard people say, “God loves you.” It’s probably the most insane statement you could make to say that the eternal Creator of this universe is in love with me. There is a response that ought to take place in believers, a crazy reaction to that love. Do you really understand what God has done for you? If so, why is your response so lukewarm?’

The word ‘zeal’ implies an intense or passionate desire. It can be misdirected, but as Paul writes, it is right to be zealous provided that the purpose is good (Galatians 4:18). Elsewhere he says, ‘Never be lacking in zeal’ (Romans 12:11). Perhaps a good modern translation of the word ‘zeal’ is ‘crazy love’.

June 1 Day 152

Wow!

Judah Smith is a delightful, young Pentecostal pastor from Seattle, Washington. He is one of the best communicators that I have ever heard – especially to young people. When listening to others, his favourite expression is ‘Wow!’ For him it is an expression of respect, awe and reverence.

There are many blessings to living in Western Europe in the twenty-first century. However, we live in a society in which respect, awe and reverence do not seem to be as valued as they once were.

May 31 Day 151

You Have the Energy of God

The world is running out of energy – oil, coal, gas and so on. How do we ensure sufficient energy supplies to sustain life? Where will we find this energy? Now, we are searching anxiously for power ‘from above’ – trying to harness the almost limitless power of the sun.

All of us face the same problem as the physical environment, but on a spiritual level. You stand before a choice: do you look for the energy you need in yourself and the resources of your intelligence and your entrepreneurial spirit, or do you look for it ‘from above’, from the risen Christ, the Sun of Righteousness?

In the passages for today we see something about the extent of God’s energy, power and strength. Whereas on a physical level we struggle to harness even a fraction of the power of the sun, God has given you full access to his endless energy through Jesus’ resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit.