Bible in One Year

Subscribe to daily emails from Nicky & Pippa

December 31 Day 365

How to Begin and End

One young woman asked me the following questions: ‘What will it be like in heaven? What will our heavenly bodies look like? Will we be able to fly? Will we be sexless? Will we be able to see the Garden of Eden? Will we recognise family and friends? What sort of friendships will we have? What will we do? Will there be Bible studies and Alpha? Who is the congregation?’

The Bible does not give the answers to all our questions.

I have a book on my bookshelf entitled, 50 Remarkable events pointing to THE END. Written in 1997, it predicted that ‘Jesus could return by AD 2000'. This is one of many attempts to predict the timing of ‘the End’ that have turned out to be false. That is why Tony Campolo wisely says he wants to be ‘on the welcoming committee’ rather than the ‘planning committee’!

We are not told when the end will come, but we are told about the how and the who. The key is the who. Jesus says, ‘I am… the Beginning and the End’ (Revelation 22:13). Of course, ‘the End’ and ‘the Beginning’ appear very different. However, there can be significant similarities to both the beginning and the end.

December 30 Day 364

The Bride

I often get very emotional at weddings. When I was conducting the marriage of my goddaughter, as the vicar, tears were pouring down my face. My great friend, her father, said in his speech afterwards that when you are taking your daughter down the aisle, you expect the vicar to be ‘a rock’, but instead he found that I was ‘a wreck’!

When it came to my own daughter’s wedding, I was determined to hold it together. I was doing well until half-an-hour before the wedding! Then I went upstairs and saw her in her wedding dress. At that point, I lost it.

This powerful and beautiful metaphor of ‘the bride’ is one that is used to describe the church in the New Testament (Ephesians 5:22–32). It is used in today’s New Testament passage of the church of the future, which comes down out of heaven from God, ‘prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband’ (Revelation 21:2). This picture of the bride, the new Jerusalem, is prefigured in different ways in both our Old and New Testament passages.

December 29 Day 363

Your Crown is Coming

Queen Elizabeth II acceded to the throne in 1952. At her coronation in Westminster Abbey, she was handed a Bible, anointed and then crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Her Diamond Jubilee was a multinational celebration marking the sixtieth anniversary of her accession to the throne. The climax was a weekend in June 2012 filled with street parties and concerts, a special service of thanksgiving and the largest river-pageant for 300 years. The whole country came together to celebrate.  On 6 February 2017, she became the first British monarch to celebrate a Sapphire Jubilee, commemorating sixty-five years on the throne.

According to the New Testament, every Christian will be crowned and will reign even longer and there will be an even bigger cause for celebration and rejoicing than that of any earthly ruler. You will reign with Christ (Revelation 20:4,6). What does this mean? Who reigns with him? When does this reign begin?

December 28 Day 362

Covenant of Love

When my daughter got married, I walked her down the aisle. At the front of the church, before all their family and friends, in their overflowing love for each other, she and her husband promised exclusive loyalty. They made a covenant of love. It was a love-filled occasion.

A covenant is two people, or two parties, entering into a formal agreement. The making of covenants was a common feature in the ancient world. A covenant would often be made with a solemn action, such as a blood sacrifice.

The idea of covenant is so important in the Christian Bible that the two parts came to be called the Old and the New Testaments (‘Testamentum’ being the Latin word for covenant). Although the new covenant was different from the old one, both covenants come from God’s abounding love for you.

December 27 Day 361

Hallelujah

Over 50 million people have now watched a youtube clip of unsuspecting shoppers who get a surprise while eating lunch. A young woman, seemingly enjoying her lunch in a food court, stands up. She appears to be on her mobile phone. She begins singing the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus. All around her, over 100 (clearly prearranged) opera singers stand one by one and join in.

‘Messiah’ is George Frederick Handel’s most famous work. It tells the story of Jesus – the Messiah. Part Two is about his death on the cross, his resurrection and his ascension into heaven. It ends with the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus. In the spring of 1742, King George II rose to his feet as the first notes of the triumphant ‘Hallelujah’ chorus rang out. Royal protocol has always demanded that, whenever the monarch stands, so too does everyone in the monarch’s presence. Thus, the entire audience and orchestra stood. King George II had accepted that he too was subject to the Lord of lords and King of kings.

The word ‘Hallelujah’ is an invitation to worship – it literally means ‘Praise (Hallal) the Lord’ (Yahweh). It occurs twenty-four times in the Old Testament (mainly in the Psalms) and it occurs four times in the New Testament – each of them in our passage for today.

December 26 Day 360

How to Handle Money

The day after Christmas, many of us may feel rather out of pocket. But this issue does not only arise around Christmas time. Most of us have to deal with money in some way every day of our lives. But we prefer not to talk about it in church. However, Jesus talked about money a great deal. The Bible has a lot to say about it. Money matters. It matters to us and it matters to God. How should you handle money?

December 25 Day 359

Why Christmas?

Today we celebrate the ‘central event in the history of the earth, the very thing the whole story has been about’ (C.S. Lewis). We celebrate the birth of Jesus. It is a day of great joy and celebration around the world.

And yet, in the midst of all the trappings and celebrations of Christmas, it can be easy to miss why Jesus’ birth is so significant. The key to Christmas lies, not in the details of the shepherds’ visit or the wise men’s journey, but in the identity of the one whom they came to worship. In Jesus, God became ‘flesh’ and ‘made his dwelling among us’ (John 1:14). Christmas is about Jesus!

Our New Testament passage for today helps us to grasp something of the enormity of what that means. In it we are reminded that ‘baby Jesus’ is also the ‘Lord of lords and King of kings’ (Revelation 17:14b). We are given a glimpse of the cosmic struggle between good and evil, as a vast array of powers and authorities line up against God. Yet we are reminded that, in the end, it is through the humility and self-sacrifice of ‘the Lamb’ that they are overcome.

Jesus puts aside the glories of heaven for a humble stall. As the carol, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, puts it:

Christ, by highest heaven adored;
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
late in time behold him come,
offspring of a virgin's womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
hail the incarnate Deity,
pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new born King!”

In each of today’s passages we see the blessings of following this ‘new born King’.

December 24 Day 358

Faith Looks Up

In A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, the central character, Ebenezer Scrooge, was a miserable, mean, miserly old businessman who is shown his past, present and future. He eventually repents and starts to give generously.

Dickens captures the transformation in his character: ‘He went to church, and walked about the streets… and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed that any walk – that any thing – could give him so much happiness.’

‘Repentance’ is a very positive word in the Bible. The Greek word ‘metanoia’ means ‘change of mind’. That means, first, turning away from the bad stuff. This is the stuff that spoils your life and breaks your relationship with God. Repentance means to be sorry enough to quit. Getting rid of the bad stuff only enhances your life. But, that is only the first part.

The change of heart and mind means not only turning away from the bad things, but also turning towards God and good. The word ‘repent’ rarely appears on its own in the Bible. Genuine repentance is shown by its fruit. Remorse is not enough. A change of mind, heart and life is required. It is nearly always, ‘repent and…’. Repent and believe. Repent and put your faith in Jesus Christ. It is not just a case of looking back, but also looking up. Faith looks up.

December 23 Day 357

How to Live in Hope

In July 1999, Ralph Crathorne spoke at our church about the recent death of his eight-year-old daughter, Sasha, from a brain tumour. 

I remember so well going to visit Sasha in hospital. On the way, in the taxi, I was desperately trying to think and pray about what God would want me to say. Only one word came into my mind: hope.

In his talk Ralph said, ‘That one word exploded in my spirit. It was as though I suddenly saw the fullness of what God has meant us to understand about “living in hope”. It’s not the kind of wishy-washy, “I hope this will happen, but it probably won’t happen.” It’s the sure, confident, positive hope – the way God designed us to live. 

‘Our hope was placed not in an outcome but in the Lord.

‘Sasha, too, held onto hope – not necessarily to be healed, although that was included, but a deeper hope, the hope that comes from the certainty of being in the palm of the hand of an all-loving God.’

In the final two weeks of her life, she went blind. Ralph said, ‘I remember lying in the bed saying to her, “Sasha do you ever see angels?”

‘She didn’t have much energy to speak. She said, “No dad.”

‘I was a bit disappointed. So, I thought, we’ll go for the big one. “Do you ever see Jesus?” I asked.

‘“Of course, I do. He holds my hand.”’

‘The dream that she would be healed was shattered, but we’re not disappointed with God. He hasn’t changed. He still pours his love into our hearts. We don’t understand her death. I doubt we really ever will. One day we’ll know… These are the foundational principles of living in hope.”

December 22 Day 356

Purity and Power

At our Christmas services, I sit right by our orchestra and choir. There are usually around fifty musicians in the orchestra and ninety in the choir – all members of the congregation volunteering their time and gifts. I’m not at all musical. In fact, I’m virtually tone deaf. However, I am always stunned by the beauty of the marvellous music and singing. It is a foretaste of heaven.

The apostle John writes, ‘And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne’ (Revelation 14:2–3). The heavenly orchestra and choir will sing a new song before a heavenly audience.

John goes on to describe the completed church in heaven – their purity and their power. The two are connected. As Pastor Rick Warren has tweeted, ‘In ministry, private purity is the source of public power.’