Bible in One Year

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May 6 Day 126

Pray God-Sized Prayers

I remember so well praying for a baby called Craig. I had been asked to visit a woman in the Brompton Hospital. Vivienne had three children and was pregnant with a fourth. Her third child, who was eighteen months old, had Down’s syndrome. He had a hole in his heart that had been operated on. The operation had not been a success and, not unnaturally, the medical staff wanted to turn the machines off. Many times they asked Vivienne if they could turn the machines off and let the baby die. She said no, as she wanted to try one last thing. She wanted someone to pray for him. So I went.

Craig had tubes all over him and his body was bruised and swollen. She said that the doctors had indicated that even if he recovered he would have brain damage because his heart had stopped for such a long time. She told me she didn’t believe in God but she said, ‘Will you pray?’

I prayed in the name of Jesus for God to heal him. Then I explained to her how she could give her life to Jesus Christ and she did. I left, but returned two days later. Vivienne came running out the moment she saw me. She said, ‘I’ve been trying to get hold of you; something amazing has happened. The night after you prayed he completely turned the corner. He has recovered.’ Within a few days Craig had gone home.

Vivienne went around all her relatives and friends saying, ‘I didn’t believe, but now I do believe.’

That was twenty-nine years ago. I’m still in touch with the family. Craig still has Down’s syndrome but he is fit and well and is the glue in that family. His healing was not autosuggestion; he was a baby at the time. It was not positive thinking. It was not the placebo effect. It was a God-sized answer to a God-sized prayer.

May 5 Day 125

Jesus Always Delivers

Pippa and I met Ah Yin when we visited Jackie Pullinger in Hong Kong. He had become a drug addict as a teenager. His father was an addict. He was brought up in the notorious Walled City. He joined a gang at the age of eleven. They ate, stole, fought and took heroin together. At the age of fourteen, he got caught doing a robbery and spent his first time in detention.

Over the years he tried everything to get off drugs. Nothing worked. Then he met Jackie and, through the power of Jesus, came off drugs with no pain at all. Since then he has become one of the leaders of Jackie’s work in Hong Kong. He has trained many people to pray for the sick and to work with the poor. He is one example of the millions of people whom Jesus has delivered from addiction and set free. Ah Yin has spent the rest of his life testifying about the saviour who always delivers.

May 4 Day 124

Three Ways to Transform Your World

Martin Luther King Jr (1929–1968) lived and died to see society transformed. In 1964, he became the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize – for his work to end social segregation and discrimination.

He spoke powerfully and memorably of his dream that, one day, he would live in a nation where his children would ‘not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character’.

He dreamt of a transformed world where everyone would be able to join hands and say, ‘Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’

Martin Luther King Jr was a follower of Jesus. His agenda was the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is not just about the conversion of individuals – important though that is – but about the transformation of society.

May 3 Day 123

How to Make Good Choices

Charles Finney, lawyer and evangelist, was speaking in a New York church in the 1830s. At the end of each evening, he gave people the opportunity to come to the front of the room and commit their life to Jesus. A great many lawyers came to hear him. One night, the Chief Justice of New York was sitting way up in the gallery. As he listened to Finney proclaiming the gospel he became convinced it was true.

Then this question came into his mind: ‘Will you go forward like the other ordinary people?’ Something within him made him think that it would be inappropriate to do so, because of his prestigious social position (at the top of the legal hierarchy of New York State). He sat there pondering the choice he had to make. Then he thought, ‘Why not? I am convinced of the truth... why should I not do it like any other person?’

He got up from his seat in the gallery, went down the staircase and came up the stairs at the back to where Finney was preaching. Finney, in the middle of his sermon, felt someone tugging at his jacket. He turned around. The Chief Justice said, ‘Mr Finney, if you will call people forward I will come.’ Finney stopped his talk and said, ‘The Chief Justice says that if I call people forward he will come. I ask you to come forward now.’

The Chief Justice went forward. Almost every lawyer in Rochester, New York, followed him! It is said that 100,000 people were converted in the next twelve months in that area. One person’s choice affected the lives of numerous others.

Life is full of choices. We make choices every day of our lives. You can make bad choices or you can make good choices. Your choices matter. Some choices have life-changing consequences.

May 2 Day 122

How to Handle Confrontation

Confrontation is not something that I find easy. It is a delicate operation. It is crucial to find the right approach, the right words for the job. Or, to use a golfing analogy, it is like the skill of knowing which club to use.

Those who are skilled at confrontation have a great variety of approaches and words, and know when and how to use the appropriate one.

Confrontation is not always the right course. Not every critic has to be confronted. Not every wrong statement needs to be refuted.

I greatly admire the skill of those who know when to confront and are good at confronting in a loving way. They have learnt how to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

When confrontation is necessary, how should you go about it?

May 1 Day 121

God Wants to Surprise You

At the age of eighteen I set out to read the entire New Testament in order to disprove Christianity. As I read, I was surprised to find that I became convinced that it was true. The last thing that I wanted to do was to ‘become a Christian’. I thought that would ruin my life and make it boring by stopping me having any fun. Yet, knowing in my heart that it was true, I felt I had no option but to say ‘yes’ to Jesus.

The moment I did so– to use the words that C.S. Lewis chose to describe his own experience of encountering Jesus – I was ‘surprised by joy’. Ever since, Jesus has never ceased to surprise me.

God is the God of surprises. Jesus constantly surprised his followers and he wants to continue to surprise you.

April 30 Day 120

It's Already Yours

My maternal grandparents lived in the small fishing village of Pittenweem near Edinburgh in Scotland. They owned a house there. In 1939, at the start of World War II, they let their home to tenants. When the war ended, they wanted to return to their home but they were unable to. The law at the time allowed the tenants to remain in the house for as long as they lived, at approximately the same rent (with no adjustment for inflation!).

For fifty years my grandparents were unable to get possession of the house they owned. My uncle inherited the house from my grandparents. By the time he got possession, the condition of the house had deteriorated greatly. He sold it for a very small sum.

Although my family owned this house in Pittenweem, they never took possession of it. There is a big difference between ownership and possession.

The people of Israel had been given ownership of Canaan, the Promised Land. Now Joshua says to the Israelites, ‘How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land…?’ (Joshua 18:3). The New Testament presents the ‘land’ as a picture of the Christian life (Hebrews 4). Realise what is already yours in Christ Jesus and then take possession of it.

April 29 Day 119

The Battle Today is Around Jesus

I have been involved in helping or leading a small group on Alpha for over twenty-five years. During this time, I have noticed a shift in our culture. There is a change in the attitude towards Jesus, especially among young people. Many will say that they believe in God and are even open to the idea of the Holy Spirit. But increasingly, Jesus has become the stumbling block. They say things like, ‘I don’t get the Jesus bit.’

As Father Raniero Cantalamessa has often said, ‘The battle today is around Jesus.’

Is Jesus the universal saviour? This is the same battle as the first century. People today are happy to accept Jesus as ‘one of many’. It is the uniqueness of Jesus that causes offence. In the passages for today we see that while we meet some exceptional people throughout the Bible, like Moses, Joshua, Elijah and John the Baptist, there was no one like Jesus. Jesus is unique. He is the universal saviour.

April 28 Day 118

It's Not Over

You could have heard a pin drop. It was mesmerising. We were spellbound. An eighty-five-year-old man, almost totally blind, got up to speak to 1,500 people of all ages on our church holiday. He had no notes, of course, because he could no longer read. He gave two talks, each of them an hour long.

In the first talk, he gave a breathtaking summary of the entire Old Testament. In the second, which was equally brilliant, he gave a summary of the whole of the New Testament. There was no hesitation, no stumbling and not a word was out of place. It was the distilled wisdom of a man who had followed the Lord wholeheartedly all his life.

Bishop Lesslie Newbigin had one of the most remarkable ministries of the twentieth century. At the age of thirty-six he was elected as one of the first bishops of the new Church of South India. When he returned from India, later on in life, he wrote several books that aimed to help the church in the West fulfil its mission in a world that was rapidly changing and felt no need for God.

His writing and speaking influenced thousands of Christian leaders around the world. Yet for this astonishing man, who had achieved so much in his life, it was not over. He entitled his autobiography Unfinished Agenda. For him, there was always still so much to hope for and so much more to be done.

April 27 Day 117

How to Live a Life of Victory

Years ago, a young member of our congregation at HTB had a job working in the library of a major national newspaper. This newspaper kept files of old cuttings about every well-known person. The files were kept in rows of long shelves and were separated into ‘living people’ and ‘dead people’.

One day, the young man was looking through the files of dead people and came across a large file marked ‘Jesus Christ’. He glanced over his shoulder to check that no one was looking and quickly moved the file from the ‘dead people’ section to the ‘living people’ section.

Jesus Christ is alive. He is risen from the dead. To anyone looking for him among files of dead people, the angels would say, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!’ (Luke 24:5–6).

Victory is not a dirty word. Jesus is the great victor. As Bishop Lesslie Newbigin often said, ‘The resurrection is not the reversal of a defeat but the manifestation of a victory.’ The cross was not a defeat. On the cross, Jesus won a great victory for us over sin, death and the powers of evil.