Bible in One Year

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March 2 Day 61

A Loving, Ongoing Relationship

In one of his last songs, Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of the rock group Queen, asked the question: ‘Does anybody know what we are living for?’

In spite of the fact that he had amassed a huge fortune and had attracted thousands of fans, Freddie Mercury admitted in an interview shortly before his death in 1991 that he was desperately lonely. He said, ‘You can have everything in the world and still be the loneliest man, and that is the most bitter type of loneliness. Success has brought me world idolisation and millions of pounds, but it’s prevented me from having the one thing we all need – a loving, ongoing relationship.’

There is only one relationship that is completely loving and ongoing, and for which we were created. Without that relationship there will always be a deep sense of aloneness and a lack of ultimate meaning and purpose.

At the heart of the Christian faith is this relationship with God where we find what we are living for.

How can you and I have a relationship with the Creator of the universe? How in practice can we begin to communicate with God? What is the basis of this relationship?

March 1 Day 60

My Eyes Were Opened

It was as if I was blind. I must have heard many times that Jesus died for our sins. But I simply did not see it. I was spiritually blind. But when I understood the cross, my eyes were opened.

Since then, I have noticed that as I have attempted to pass on the message of ‘Christ crucified’, there are different responses. Sometimes very intelligent people simply cannot see it (see 1 Corinthians 1:23–25). On the other hand, I am often amazed at the understanding of others, including very young children. For all who see it, it is life changing: ‘to us who are being saved it is the power of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:18).

I think it is fascinating that in today’s New Testament passage, after Jesus has explained his death, we have the story of blind Bartimaeus having his eyes opened (Mark 10:46–52). He says to Jesus, ‘I want to see’ (v.51). Jesus replies, ‘“Go… your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus’ (v.52). The word used for healed is the same Greek word as saved (sozo).

Do you see it? The passages for today help us to see the significance of Jesus’ death.

February 28 Day 59

Rich in Mercy

A man was having his portrait painted by a successful artist. When the portrait was finished it was unveiled. The man was most unhappy with the result. When asked whether he liked it, he replied, ‘I don’t think it does me justice.’ To which the artist replied, ‘Sir, it is not justice you need, but mercy!’

At the end of the day we all need mercy even more than justice. God is ‘rich in mercy’ (Ephesians 2:4). The theme of the ‘mercy of God’ runs throughout the Bible. In the original Greek, ‘eleos’ (mercy) also means  compassion, pity, clemency. The mercy of God is available for you. In our passages for today we see some examples of people who are recipients of God’s mercy.

February 27 Day 58

Six Characteristics of a Holy Life

Do you try to fit Jesus into your schedule? Or do you work your schedule around Jesus?

‘God cannot fit into our plans, we must fit into his,’ writes Eugene Peterson. ‘We can’t use God – God is not a tool or appliance or credit card. Holy is the word that sets God apart and above our attempts to enlist him in our wish-fulfilment fantasies or our utopian schemes for making our mark in the world. Holy means that God is alive on God’s terms, alive in a way that exceeds our experience and imagination. Holy refers to life burning with an intense purity that transforms everything it touches into itself.’

The Hebrew word ‘holy’ (qadosh) probably originally meant ‘separate’ or ‘set apart’. It came to be used to describe the ‘otherness’ of God, and how his character and nature are so much greater and more wonderful than any other person or thing. For something else to be ‘holy’ simply means for it to be dedicated to God. You are holy to the extent that your life is devoted to him and your actions reflect his character. Holiness and wholeness are closely related, and God wants the whole of your life.

February 26 Day 57

Better Than Fame and Celebrity

In a survey of millennials, 50% of young adults said that a major life goal was to become famous. In the past people wanted to be famous for doing something. Now, celebrity has become an end in itself. It has attained god-like characteristics. Not only do people want to be famous, they idolise those who have achieved celebrity status. This widespread interest in famous individuals has been described as ‘the cult of celebrity’.

Fame to the ambitious is like salt water to the thirsty. The more you get, the more you want. Madonna, who at one stage was probably the most famous woman on the planet, said, ‘I won’t be happy until I am as famous as God.’ 

Celebrity and fame are only a pale reflection of true glory. ‘Glory’ is used in the Bible to denote the manifestation of God’s presence. Glory is one of the most common words in the Bible. God’s ‘glory’ means his importance, reputation, majesty and honour.

Perhaps it is not surprising that as society moves away from worshipping the glory of God, it turns towards the worship of the ‘glory’ of celebrity and fame. We are called to worship God’s glory and reflect it, however imperfectly, in our lives.

February 25 Day 56

How to Make the Most of Your Life

‘People often ask me what Mother Teresa was like,’ writes Shane Claiborne in his book The Irresistible Revolution. ‘Sometimes it’s like they wonder if she glowed in the dark or had a halo. She was short, wrinkled, and precious, maybe even a little ornery, like a beautiful, wise old granny. But there is one thing I will never forget – her feet. Her feet were deformed.

Each morning I would stare at them. I wondered if she had contracted leprosy. One day a Sister explained, “Her feet are deformed because we get just enough donated shoes for everyone, and Mother does not want anyone to get stuck with the worst pair, so she digs through and finds them. And years of doing that have deformed her feet.” Years of loving her neighbour as herself deformed her feet.’

When people are asked about the person whose life they most admire, so often the answer is ‘Mother Teresa’. She made the most of her life. It is a paradox, because her life was a life of self-denial, taking up her cross and following Jesus.

Life is an extraordinary and wonderful gift. In the Bible we are constantly urged not to waste this gift, but instead to make the most of our lives.

February 24 Day 55

What You Give to God, He Multiplies

Hattie May Wiatt, a six-year-old girl, lived near Grace Baptist Church in Philadelphia, USA. The Sunday school was very crowded. Russell H. Conwell, the minister, told her that one day they would have buildings big enough to allow everyone to attend. She said, ‘I hope you will. It is so crowded I am afraid to go there alone.’ He replied, ‘When we get the money we will construct one large enough to get all the children in.’

Two years later, in 1886, Hattie May died. After the funeral Hattie’s mother gave the minister a little bag they had found under their daughter’s pillow containing 57 cents in change that she had saved up. Alongside it was a note in her handwriting: ‘To help build bigger so that more children can go to Sunday school.’

The minister changed all the money into pennies and offered each one for sale. He received $250 – and 54 of the cents were given back. The $250 was itself changed into pennies and sold by the newly formed ‘Wiatt Mite Society’. In this way, her 57 cents kept on multiplying.

Twenty-six years later, in a talk entitled, ‘The history of the 57 cents’, the minister explained the results of her 57-cent donation: a church with a membership of over 5,600 people, a hospital where tens of thousands of people had been treated, 80,000 young people going through university, 2,000 people going out to preach the gospel – all this happened ‘because Hattie May Wiatt invested her 57 cents’.

The theme of multiplication runs throughout the Bible. What cannot be achieved by addition, God does by multiplication. You reap what you sow, only many times more. What you give to the Lord, he multiplies.

February 23 Day 54

How to Hear God

When I saw him coming down the street, I would cross the road in order to avoid him. I had met him in my first week at university. He had a shiny, smiley face. I had also met one or two others like him who had that same look on their face. It made me very suspicious!

A few months later, I encountered Jesus and realised that these people’s faces were shining because they had been spending time with Jesus, hearing God speak. Like Moses, when he came down from the mountain after hearing God speak to him, their faces were ‘radiant’ (Exodus 34:29,35).

Jesus said that ‘people do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4). Just as we need physical food, so we also need spiritual food. Spiritual food comes from hearing the words of God.

February 22 Day 53

How to Spend Time with Jesus

I first encountered Jesus in February 1974. I am so grateful to those who taught me, right from the start, the importance of what they called ‘the quiet time’.

The old-fashioned expression ‘the quiet time’ (meaning time set aside to read the Bible and pray) probably has its origin in the words of Jesus in today’s New Testament passage, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place’ (Mark 6:31). Practically every morning since I was eighteen years of age, I have begun the day in this way. I try to spend time with Jesus, by myself, in a quiet place. Sometimes it is very brief, sometimes it is longer. But just as I do not like beginning the day without breakfast, I cannot imagine beginning the day without spiritual food.

Nearly always, I start by reading the Bible, as I believe it’s more important that Jesus speaks to me than I speak to him. My thoughts from each day are now the basis of these notes that accompany the Bible in One Year.

February 21 Day 52

Better Together

I have never been very good at using visual aids. I am not a very practical person. On the other hand, my great friend, Nicky Lee (who, together with his wife Sila, has pioneered The Marriage Course and other courses for couples and parents), is extremely practical and often uses visual aids.

When he is speaking at weddings he sometimes uses a visual aid to illustrate the passage in Ecclesiastes 4, where the writer says, ‘Two are better than one… A cord of three strands is not quickly broken’ (vv.9,12).

As a picture of marriage, Nicky Lee takes two strands of different coloured wool and weaves them together. Together they are stronger and yet they can quite easily be broken. Then he takes a third strand of nearly invisible fishing line. With this third strand, it is almost impossible to break the two pieces of wool. (I did try to use this illustration once but, for reasons I cannot remember, it went horribly wrong!)

The point that he makes so well, and that comes out of the passage in Ecclesiastes, is that while friendships and marriages are wonderful gifts, having God at the centre of a friendship or marriage provides an invisible thread of enormous strength.

In today’s passages, we see how two are stronger than one in marriage, mission and ministry.