Bible in One Year

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June 26 Day 177

Three Things God Wants to Give You

Corrie Ten Boom and her sister Betsie were middle-aged Christian women in Holland when World War II erupted. They resolved to conceal fleeing Jews from the Nazis. They rescued many. But they were eventually arrested and taken to Ravensbrück concentration camp. Betsie died there. Corrie miraculously survived to bear witness to the way in which God can save, heal and forgive.

When asked how to prepare for persecution, she used to tell this story about her childhood: 

‘When I was a little girl, I went to my father and said, “Daddy, I was afraid that I will never be strong enough to be a martyr for Jesus Christ.” “Tell me,” said father, “When you take a train trip to Amsterdam, when do I give you the money for the ticket? Three weeks before?” “No, daddy, you give me the money for the ticket just before we get on the train.” “That is right,” my father said, “And so it is with God’s strength. Our Father in heaven knows when you will need the strength to be a martyr for Jesus Christ. He will supply all you need just in time.”’

June 25 Day 176

The Power of Prayer

Archbishop Justin Welby and Pete Greig (founder of 24-7 Prayer) have launched an initiative calling hundreds of thousands of Christians, of many churches and denominations to a great wave of prayer for the evangelisation of the nations during the week before Pentecost Sunday. The week culminates in beacon events in packed cathedrals and churches around the world over the Pentecost weekend. Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, asked people to pray for three things: ‘That all Christians find new life in Jesus Christ…; That all those you meet… might see something of Jesus…; For the church to overflow with the reality of the presence of Jesus.’

Pete Grieg has described it as ‘a groundswell; a movement from the grassroots up’. He said he had been very moved to hear of one boy who’d prayed for five friends, three of whom had since become Christians!

Prayer is spiritual nutrition. Just as the body needs physical food, so the soul needs spiritual food. Prayer changes us. However, the Bible goes much further than this. Prayer is powerful. It is, as Charles Haddon Spurgeon put it, ‘the slender nerve that moves the muscles of omnipotence.’ Prayer has the power to change circumstances, other people and even the course of history.

June 24 Day 175

Pass on the Baton

When I left university at the age of twenty-one, I moved to London and was looking for a church to join. I visited HTB and heard Sandy Millar speak. Afterwards, I asked if I could meet with him. Soon after, I joined the church and began to learn from this extraordinary leader, friend and role model.

After several years as a member of the congregation, I went on to train for ordination in the Church of England and ten years after our first meeting I returned to HTB as Sandy Millar’s assistant minister. I continued in that role for nineteen years until 2005 when he passed on the baton to me, and I succeeded him as vicar of HTB. To this day, Sandy continues to be my role model, friend and inspiration.

There have always been people in my life from whom I am learning and others to whom I am trying to pass it on. Like runners in a relay race, we all have a responsibility to pass on the baton.

June 23 Day 174

Three Keys to Great Friendships

The UK retail chain Topshop commissioned a survey by a team of psychologists into their key customer demographic: Millennials (those born between 1981 and the early 2000s, and also known as Generation Y). They interviewed 800 people. The results were so startling that they did not believe them. They interviewed another 800 and got the same results.

The results portrayed an alarming picture of an increasingly lonely and lost generation. More people live alone than at any other point in our recorded social history. The average Facebook usage for Millennials is six-and-a-half hours a day. Many who were interviewed considered work to be something they fitted in between Facebook and lunch! They found people had a very large number of ‘friends’ but an increasing sense of loneliness.

There is nothing wrong with social media, but it is no substitute for real, face-to-face friendships. We were created for friendship with God (Genesis 3:8) and with one another (2:18).

Marriage is part of the solution to aloneness. Friendship, vital also in marriage, is a crucial part of the solution too. Jesus set an example of close friendship with men and women. He demonstrated that marriage is not the only solution to aloneness. In one respect, friendship is even more important than marriage. Marriage is temporary; friendship is eternal. ‘Friendship’, as C.S. Lewis writes, is the ‘crown of life and school of virtue’. Friendship multiplies joy and divides sorrow.

The Bible is very realistic. We see examples of relationships at their very best, but we also see examples of their frailty and failure. Through these examples and the teaching of the Bible we see three keys.

June 22 Day 173

When Life is Difficult

He was arrested for preaching the gospel. His wife died leaving him with four children, one of whom was blind. Yet he refused to give up telling people the good news about Jesus.

He wrote his greatest work in a prison cell. It has been a source of spiritual inspiration and help to countless readers. Translated into over 200 languages, it has never been out of print since the day it was first published in 1678.

Pilgrim’s Progress is an allegory written by John Bunyan. It tells the story of a person called ‘Christian’ on a journey from his hometown to the Celestial City. On the way he faces many difficulties, challenges and obstacles, yet he perseveres faithfully to the end.

A Christian life is not easy. You will face many difficulties along the way. But these need not derail you. In fact, as you go through difficult times staying close to Jesus, you will emerge stronger, wiser and more Christ-like.

June 21 Day 172

It's the Heart that Matters

Paul Swala was in prison in Zambia. He was charged with treason. He was accused of being involved in a coup to overthrow the government. While in prison, he did Alpha. He encountered Jesus and cried out for God to save him. He said, ‘The smile came on my face and my heart was filled with peace.’

Extraordinarily, he was the only one of the group of sixty-nine accused who was acquitted. He told his story, at our Leadership Conference at the Royal Albert Hall. His face radiated the joy of the Lord. He has now been into every prison in Zambia sharing the good news about Jesus Christ and how, even in the direst of situations, Jesus can bring hope and change hearts. He said, ‘I’ve never seen a friend like Jesus.’ God really has filled his heart with joy.

Photograph of Nicky Gumbel interviewing Paul Swala at the Leadership Conference 2015

The word ‘heart’ appears at least seventeen times in the passages for today. The Hebrew understanding of ‘the heart’ included the emotions, but it also involved the mind, the conscience and the will. It means everything that is going on inside of you.

All the men and women whom God chose to use greatly had weaknesses and made mistakes. But God saw that their hearts were turned towards him. It is your heart that matters. Your heart lies ‘open before the Lord’ (Proverbs 15:11). Only God sees and knows the heart of every human being (1 Kings 8:39).

June 20 Day 171

Come, Holy Spirit

Spending time in the presence of God is the most important activity of your life. You need God’s presence in your life more than you need anything else. But where do you find the presence of God?

I remember so well the first time I heard someone pray one of the most ancient prayers of the church, ‘Come, Holy Spirit’, with a real expectation that the Holy Spirit would come! It was on a Sunday night in 1982. We had a meeting in the crypt after our evening service at HTB. As we prayed, ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ we saw remarkable events occur. We saw people being filled with the Holy Spirit with physical manifestations similar to those described in the book of Acts on the day of Pentecost. We saw extraordinary physical healings take place the following day when again someone prayed, ‘Come, Holy Spirit’.

God is always present with his people today by his Holy Spirit. When you pray, ‘Come, Holy Spirit,’ you are asking for an increased sense of the presence of God. There are times in the New Testament when the Holy Spirit filled a gathering of people sovereignly and spontaneously (Acts 2:2; 10:44). There are other times when the disciples prayed for the Holy Spirit: ‘After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit’ (4:31). In the Old Testament passage for today we read how ‘the glory of the Lord filled his temple’ (1 Kings 8:11).

Each of the passages for today tells us something about how to enjoy God’s empowering presence that comes through the Holy Spirit.

June 19 Day 170

How to Find Treasures in the Bible

I first encountered Jesus through reading the Bible. Ever since, I have read it practically every day of my life. Yet, I am constantly seeing and discovering new things.

As Immanuel Kant said, ‘The Bible is an inexhaustible fountain of all truths. The existence of the Bible is the greatest blessing which humanity ever experienced.’ It is full of inexhaustible treasure for you to read and digest, and through which you can encounter God.

Yet, it is not always an easy book to understand. One key ingredient to understanding the Bible better is to recognise the language and genre that the writer is using – the type of literature and therefore what the writer intended.

June 18 Day 169

Three Conversions Everyone Needs

At an Alpha Conference, someone handed me a scrap of paper with a note describing what had happened to her friend:

‘Sue (who was not a Christian) was attending a rehab clinic for people with severe respiratory problems. She had a chronic condition (COPD: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) that was getting progressively worse. The clinic meets at our church building. She arrived for her clinic, but there was no one there. (She had got the wrong date!) She waited around and had a look through flyers about our next Alpha.

‘Sue turned up for our course on Wednesday evening. She soaked it all up and was full of excitement and interest. She came to church on the Sunday and was back again on the Wednesday. It suddenly clicked for Sue that Jesus is God! A huge piece of the jigsaw for her. She gave her life to the Lord – dramatic. She called her sister to tell her she had become a Christian and her sister was in the middle of a meeting with a friend to pray for Sue! She had been praying for her for twenty-five years!

‘The following Sunday – Sue came to church, came forward for prayer for healing and was remarkably healed of her COPD. [She has been] running up and down stairs at home, off her medications, etc! She met with her physio at the medical clinic who was astonished at what had happened to her – remarkable difference. She has been healed and has since prayed for and seen others healed, including one of cancer! 

‘On 30 April Sue was baptised and brought over 150 friends and family to celebrate with her. She is having a huge impact on people – evangelising to anyone that will stand still long enough to listen!’

John Wimber often used to say that we all need three conversions: to be converted to Christ, converted to his church and converted to his cause. Sue was obviously not only converted to Christ, but also instantly converted to his church and to his cause! Today’s passages focus especially on this third conversion.

June 17 Day 168

Your Prayers Make a Difference

Saint John Chrysostom (349–407) wrote, ‘Prayer… is the root, the fountain, the mother of a thousand blessings… The potency of prayer has subdued the strength of fire, it has bridled the rage of lions… extinguished wars, appeased the elements, expelled demons, burst the chains of death, expanded the gates of heaven, assuaged diseases… rescued cities from destruction… and arrested the progress of the thunderbolt.’

We have a 24-7 Prayer Room on our church site at HTB. It is one of the highlights of my week to go into the room and spend time alone with God. Prayer really is the root and fountain of all that we do at HTB. It is such an encouragement to know that every hour, day and night, there is someone praying in that room.