Bible in One Year

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October 28 Day 301

Do Good

There are some people in our church community who never seem to stop doing good. Whenever I see them, they are serving or washing up, praying for someone, encouraging others, offering to take food to the sick, or doing some other kind act. They give generously to the work of the church. They do all these things with such grace and enthusiasm. I am always encouraged and challenged by their example. They never seem to tire of doing good.

In our society, the term ‘do-gooder’ has become pejorative; it is used as an insult. But doing good should not be seen in this way. Jesus, ‘went around doing good’ (Acts 10:38).

St Paul writes to Titus, ‘Remind the people… to be ready to do whatever is good’ (Titus 3:1). His desire is that those who have trusted in God ‘devote themselves to doing what is good’ (vv.8,14).

To quote John Wesley, ‘Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.’

October 27 Day 300

Challenging Contradictions

I have often heard it said that ‘the Bible is full of contradictions’. It is certainly true that there are many apparent contradictions.

When faced with challenging contradictions:

  • Seek to harmonise the apparent contradictions within the message of the Bible as a whole

  • Avoid artificial means of harmonisation

  • Be patient – be prepared to wait and live with unresolved questions

October 26 Day 299

If It's Not Alright, Then It's Not the End

There is a line in the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: ‘Everything will be all right in the end… If it’s not all right, then it is not the end.’ Way beyond its context in the film, these words convey a profound theological truth.

October 25 Day 298

Your Most Valuable Possession

As the novelist, historian and poet, Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832), lay dying, he turned to his great friend and son-in-law, J.G. Lockhart – the man who was later to write his life story – and said, ‘Will you read to me from the Book?’ Lockhart wondered which of his many books he meant – for he knew he was a great writer. So he asked, ‘Which book?’

‘Which book?’ replied Scott, ‘There is but one book; bring the Bible.’ In his last moments on earth, he was comforted and encouraged by what God had to say to him. His last words were about his most valuable possession.

In the case of the apostle Paul, we don’t exactly know what his last words were. However, we do have his last recorded words; they are in our passage for today. As he comes to the end of this letter he writes, ‘The time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith’ (2 Timothy 4:7). We see his passion for Jesus Christ and his word. His whole life has been about telling others the good news of Jesus. His last words urge Timothy to do the same.

October 24 Day 297

How God Speaks to You

Fyodor was a wild young man. His life revolved around eating, drinking, talking, music, theatre and the company of women. He dreamt of fame. He was caught up in a movement for political and social reform in Russia during the repressive reign of Tsar Nicholas I. He was arrested, tried and condemned to be executed.

On a bitterly cold morning, the prisoners were taken out to be shot. The prison guards raised their muskets to their shoulders and took aim. At the last moment, a white flag was raised to announce that the Tsar had commuted their sentence to life imprisonment in Siberia.

On his arrival in Siberia on Christmas Eve 1849, at the age of twenty-eight, two women slipped him a New Testament. When the guard turned away momentarily, they suggested he should search the pages thoroughly. He did.

While in prison, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the great Russian novelist, read the New Testament from cover to cover and learnt much of it by heart. He wrote, ‘I believe that there is no one lovelier, deeper, more sympathetic and more perfect than Jesus. I say to myself with jealous love not only is there no one else like him, but there never could be anyone like him.’ It was through the Bible that he had encountered Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul describes all Scripture as ‘God-breathed’ (2 Timothy 3:16). The Bible is not just inspired in the way that artists, poets, composers and musical performers can be said to be inspired. It actually has God’s breath, his Spirit, in it. Through the Bible, God speaks to you.

October 23 Day 296

Twenty-Five Ways to Be Useful to God

He is one of my great heroes of faith. He was a model of godliness, faith and humility. God used him greatly. When he died in 1982, his executors were unable to trace a single member of his family still living. No one came forward claiming to be even a distant relation.

Yet, The Times obituary about him rightly noted that his influence within the Church of England during the previous fifty years was probably greater than any of his contemporaries. John Stott, who was one of the numerous influential Christian leaders whom he led to faith in Christ, said of him: ‘Those who knew him well and those who worked with him never expect to see his like again; for rarely can anyone have meant so much to so many as this quietly spoken, modest and deeply spiritual man.’

Why was this man – Reverend E.J.H. Nash – so useful to God? How can you be useful to God?

St Paul writes, ‘Become the kind of container God can use to present any and every kind of gift to his guests for their blessing’ (2 Timothy 2:20–21, MSG).

John Stott writes, ‘No higher honour could be imagined than to be an instrument in the hand of Jesus Christ, to be at his disposal for the furtherance of his purposes, to be available whenever wanted for his service.’ Being ‘useful to the Master’ and ‘instruments for noble purposes’ (v.21) starts with dedicating your life to him and re-dedicating it regularly to his service.

October 22 Day 295

Your Most Important Task

‘Great leaders all have one thing in common. They know that acquiring and keeping good people is a leader’s most important task,’ writes John Maxwell in his book, Developing the Leaders Around You. He urges his readers, ‘Find the best people you can, then develop them into the best leaders they can be.’

Paul is condemned and in a dark, dank dungeon with just a hole in the ceiling for light and air. He is in ‘chains’ (2 Timothy 1:16), ‘like a criminal’ (2:9). He is lonely, bored and cold (4:9–13). Death is inevitable. According to tradition, he was condemned to die by beheading under Nero’s persecution.

This (2 Timothy) is probably his last letter. Paul chose to write to an individual rather than to a church. Timothy was a leader whom Paul had found, trained and developed. Paul was probably in his sixties and Timothy in his early thirties.

As Paul becomes aware that he is handing on the gospel to the next generation, his greatest concern is that Timothy should guard it (1:11–14). The older I get, the more I appreciate the wisdom of the generations before me and the more I realise the responsibility we all have to pass the baton on to the next generation.

October 21 Day 294

Living Content

Her hands were full of rings, bracelets, necklaces, chains and other treasures. Torrents of lava were erupting and pouring down from Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. As she fled, this woman was not prepared to leave behind her valuable jewels. Encumbered by her treasures, she was overwhelmed by the rain of ashes from the volcano and was buried under it.

During the course of modern building operations, her petrified body was found outside the area of the buried city of Pompeii, an ancient Roman port. Her body was unearthed in a sea of jewels. She lost her life in an attempt to save her treasures.

Jesus warned us that ultimately you have to choose between money and God (Matthew 6:24). In the New Testament, there is no ban on private property or making money, or even enjoying the good things in life. The command to the rich, however, is that they do not ‘put their hope in wealth’ (1 Timothy 6:17). A selfish accumulation of wealth and an unhealthy obsession with material things will never bring contentment. What promises security leads to perpetual insecurity.

Ultimately, contentment only comes from putting your hope in God: ‘godliness with contentment is great gain’ (v.6). The promise of God’s word is that those who ‘put their hope in God’ (v.17) find ‘a firm foundation’ and ‘take hold of the life that is truly life’ (v.19).

October 20 Day 293

Hard Times

Smith Wigglesworth was born on 8 June 1859 to an impoverished family in Yorkshire. As a small child he worked in the fields pulling turnips alongside his mother. He was illiterate until, at the age of twenty-three, he married Polly, who taught him to read. He often said that the Bible was the only book he ever read.

He was a plumber by trade but had to abandon it after he became too busy with an amazing ministry of preaching and healing. There are even accounts of people being raised from the dead through his ministry. Yet, he said on one occasion that he would rather see one person saved through his preaching than 10,000 healed.

Life was not always easy for Smith Wigglesworth. He went through some very hard times. He wrote, ‘Great faith is a product of great fights. Great testimonies are the outcome of great tests. Great triumphs can only come out of great trials.’

The Bible is very realistic. We live in a fallen world. Everyone goes through hard times and some people find themselves in circumstances that make life hard all of the time.

October 19 Day 292

Words, the Word of God and 'words'

Actor David Suchet, well known for his title role in Poirot, tells how a few years ago he was lying in his bath in a hotel in America, when he had a sudden and impulsive desire to read the Bible. He managed to find a Gideon Bible and started to read the New Testament. As he read, he encountered Jesus Christ. He said:

‘From somewhere I got this desire to read the Bible again. That’s the most important part of my conversion. I started with the Acts of the Apostles and then moved to Paul’s Letters – Romans and Corinthians. And it was only after that I came to the Gospels. In the New Testament I suddenly discovered the way that life should be followed.’

The most powerful words ever written are in the Bible. Words are an important theme in it, and the word ‘word’ is used in different senses in today’s passages.

  • First, it is used in the sense of our words. The things we say can be good or bad (Proverbs 25:11–20).

  • Second, it is also used in the sense of the Word of God. This is supremely Jesus Christ (John 1:1; Hebrews 1:2), but also refers to the Word of God in the Scriptures and in preaching and teaching (1 Timothy 4:1–16).

  • Third, the Bible also uses the phrase ‘word of the Lord’ in the sense of prophecy (Jeremiah 42:7). God continues to speak to the church through prophetic messages (1 Timothy 4:14). Of course, we need to distinguish the Old Testament prophets, whose ‘words’ were definitely ‘the word of the Lord’ and are now part of Scripture, from prophetic ‘words’ today, which need testing against Scripture.