Bible in One Year

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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.

May 30 Day 150

Your Trial Will Become Your Triumph

‘Houston, we’ve had a problem,’ were the words of Jim Lovell on the evening of 13 April 1970. Nearly fifty-six hours into the mission to the moon, an explosion aboard the spacecraft plunged the crew into a fight for their survival. Within less than a minute there was a cascade of systems failures throughout the spacecraft. ‘It was all at one time – a monstrous failure,’ said NASA’s flight controller.

The spacecraft looped around the moon, using its gravity to return to earth. Millions of people followed the drama on television. Eventually, the capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean near Tonga.

In an article headed ‘Apollo 13: From Disaster to Triumph’ the BBC science reporter wrote, ‘Although the mission was not a success from a conventional perspective, it was a triumph of ingenuity and determination.’ Jim Lovell said it showed the people of the world that even if there was a great catastrophe, it could be turned into a success.

The supreme example of triumph coming out of apparent catastrophe is the cross. What seemed to the world to be the ultimate defeat was in fact the ultimate triumph.

May 29 Day 149

Five Burdens You Need Not Carry

At the end of his life, Sir Winston Churchill said, ‘When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened!’

Churchill was speaking about the burden of worries that never materialise. However, there are many different types of ‘burdens’ in life, and some of them are very real. Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you… and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light’ (Matthew 11:28–30).

A yoke is something Jesus would have made in a carpenter’s shop. It is a wooden frame joining two animals (usually oxen) at the neck, enabling them to pull a plough or wagon together. The function of the yoke is to make the burden easier to carry.

I love the way Eugene Peterson translates this passage in The Message: ‘Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I will show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly’ (vv.28–30).

May 28 Day 148

How to Respond to Conflict

A springbok is a gazelle-like antelope. Normally they are very alert to predators. However, I remember watching a BBC wildlife programme that filmed two springboks fighting each other in the Kalahari Desert. As they became absorbed in the fight, they did not notice the lion prowling around them, waiting for his opportunity to attack.

As I watched, it struck me as a warning especially for the church. When, in the church, we fight one another, we become very vulnerable to attack. ‘The devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’ (1 Peter 5:8).

When God calls you to follow him, he does not call you to a life of ease. Life on earth involves many battles, in all of which God promises you victory through Jesus Christ. There is never going to be a moment in your earthly life when everything is perfect. There are always going to be challenges, difficulties and problems to solve. However, there are times when these intensify and we seem to be coming under attack.

Martin Luther King said that the ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand in ‘moments of convenience’, but where they stand in ‘moments of challenge, moments of great crisis and controversy’.

May 27 Day 147

The Power of Unity

In Buchenwald concentration camp, 56,000 people were put to death by a totalitarian regime that saw the Christian faith as a threat to its ideology. One block of cells in the camp was reserved for prisoners who were deemed especially dangerous or notable. Paul Schneider, a Lutheran pastor who was called ‘the preacher of Buchenwald’, was placed in this special block because even from the small window in his cell he loudly proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ – in defiance of the orders of the Gestapo guards.

Otto Neururer, a Catholic priest whose work on behalf of the Jews and other so called ‘undesirables’ had made him a threat to the Nazi warlords, was also put in this block. He too ministered in Jesus’ name to his fellow inmates in the concentration camp until he was crucified upside down.

In unity, these two men, one a Catholic and the other a Protestant, bore witness together to their common Lord – Jesus Christ. Unity is so powerful.

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 9 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.