Bible in One Year

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March 8 Day 67

'... BUT'

During one of the severe potato famines in Ireland, a number of families wrote letters to their landlord saying they had absolutely no money at all to pay their rent and begged to be let off all their debts. The Irish landlord was Canon Andrew Robert Fausset, born near Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Ireland, in 1821.

Canon Fausset wrote back to his tenants. He said it was quite impossible to let them off their debts. It would set a bad precedent. They had to pay every single penny.

But,’ he wrote, ‘I enclose something that might help you.’ In contrast to so many of the other landlords at the time, he sent a cheque for a very large sum of money – which far more than covered all their debts.

Their hearts must have leapt with joy when they saw the word ‘but’. ‘But’ is a powerful word when facing trouble, tests and temptations.

March 7 Day 66

God Has Rescued Me

Tony Bullimore, aged fifty-six, was one of Britain’s most experienced transatlantic yachtsmen. He was feared dead after his sixty-foot yacht, Exide Challenger, capsized amid the icy vastness of the Southern Ocean, two months into the Vendée Globe round-the-world race.

The keel came off in fifty-foot waves. The boat went over. In his book, Saved, Bullimore described it as being like the Niagara Falls upside down. For four days he was entombed in a dark, noisy, wet and cold upside-down world with fifty-foot swells and a temperature hovering around freezing.

He suffered the discomfort of seasickness and drawing breath from a few feet of air between the water level and what was once the bottom of the boat. He was more than a thousand miles from the nearest land. As the air supply diminished he prayed that he would be rescued.

It was the Royal Australian Navy that came to the rescue. With modern satellite and surveillance technology the Australian government had pinpointed the progress of all the yachts and sent out a rescue team.

After four days, Bullimore heard banging on the side of his yacht. He said afterwards, ‘I can never thank the Australian Navy enough for what they have done because they have genuinely saved my life, there is no question.’ The first words when he emerged were, ‘Thank God, it is a miracle.’ He said, ‘I felt like I had been born all over again. I felt like a new man. I felt I had been brought to life again.’

As one journalist put it at the time, ‘A rescue that succeeds against all odds and every expectation is the best of all stories. It is pure and spontaneous joy.’ Supremely Jesus ‘gave himself for our sins to rescue us’ (Galatians 1:4a).

As I look back on my life, I can see many occasions when God has rescued me. As you face difficult situations you can trust that God will rescue you.

March 6 Day 65

Turn Your Life Around

‘Big John’ had been living on the streets of London for almost ten years. Before that he had spent over nine years in prison. Most of his teeth were missing. He was addicted to methadone. His nickname on the streets of London was ‘Big John’ because he was a big guy who had once boxed for the Army.

‘Big John’ walked into our night shelter for the homeless at HTB. He came with his friend ‘Little John’. ‘Big John’ loved it and appreciated all the young people who cared for him. He started coming to church. He came on Alpha. He encountered Jesus. He was filled with the Holy Spirit on the Alpha Weekend. He came off the drugs. God turned his life right around – from despair to joy.

He started telling his friends on the streets about Jesus. Each week he would turn up at church with more friends. His nickname, on the streets, changed from ‘Big John’ to ‘John the Baptist’!

One of the guys he had met on the Alpha weekend was in the property business and found him accommodation. A dentist in our congregation volunteered to replace all his missing teeth. He reconciled with his mother and his daughter and built a relationship with his grandchildren, whom he had never met before.

Following Jesus is life-changing. He constantly turns people’s lives around. He turns despair into joy (Psalm 30:11).

March 5 Day 64

How to Keep Healthy

  • Avoid smoking and using tobacco products
  • Be physically active every day
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Manage your blood pressure
  • Control your total cholesterol
  • Keep your blood sugar healthy

According to the American Heart Association, these are the seven things that you should do to keep your physical heart healthy.

The human heart weighs less than a pound (450g). It beats 100,000 times a day and over 2.5 billion times in the average lifetime. Your system of blood vessels – arteries, veins and capillaries – is over 60,000 miles long – enough to go around the world more than twice.

This is not just an amazing spectacle; it is the ‘heart’ of human life. Without your heart your body would quickly cease to work. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the Western world.

Jesus spoke a great deal about the heart. The heart is a metaphor for the inner life. The word Jesus used means the seat of the physical, spiritual and mental life. The heart is the centre and the source of the whole inner life – thinking, feeling, and willing.

God is concerned, primarily, about your heart. He wants you to have a healthy heart. He said to Samuel, ‘The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’ (1 Samuel 16:7).

Even more important than a healthy physical heart is the condition of your spiritual heart. In the passages for today we see five key ways to keep your spiritual heart healthy.

March 4 Day 63

How to Enjoy a Lifetime of Favour

When I was at university I was taken to hear a talk entitled, ‘Where will you be in ten years’ time?’ It was intended to be an encouragement to us to persevere in our faith in spite of all the challenges that life would hold after university. All that I can remember is thinking at the time, ‘Ten years! That is a lifetime away.’ I could not even begin to imagine that far ahead.

Now, by contrast, I look back at my life and ten years ago seems like yesterday. Life has flown past. It seems to be accelerating at an alarming rate. I now understand the wisdom of those who encouraged us early on to take the long view.

We live in a society of instant gratification. Instant meals. Instant messaging. Instant cash. Instant loans. Instant fake tans. Instant fortunes won. There is a great danger of short-termism. The passages for today remind us that God is the ‘everlasting God’ (Isaiah 40:28). God views things through a wide-angled lens: he takes a long view and he wants you to enjoy a lifetime of his favour (Psalm 30:5).

March 3 Day 62

How to Exercise Spiritual Authority

I first met him when he came to speak at a student weekend while I was studying at Cambridge University. Although he was the guest speaker, he was very gracious and I sensed a deep humility.

When he spoke, he did so with real authority. His message was simple and focused on telling people about Jesus. A few years later he came to be the vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton.

This modest and deeply spiritual man not only led our church (and others) at a key moment in its growth, but also trained some of the most influential Christian leaders in the UK over the last 40 years. David Watson, David MacInnes, Sandy Millar and John Irvine were all curates to John Collins, a clergyman who has never sought prominence or platform, but who has invested his whole life in serving others.

His authority does not come from his position in life or from worldly power. Rather, his authority comes from his relationship with Jesus Christ. It is self-authenticating.

Today people are very wary of authority. Of course, it can be abused. However, godly, spiritual authority is a source of great blessing.

March 2 Day 61

A Loving, Ongoing Relationship

In one of his last songs, Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of the rock group Queen, asked the question: ‘Does anybody know what we are living for?’

In spite of the fact that he had amassed a huge fortune and had attracted thousands of fans, Freddie Mercury admitted in an interview shortly before his death in 1991 that he was desperately lonely. He said, ‘You can have everything in the world and still be the loneliest man, and that is the most bitter type of loneliness. Success has brought me world idolisation and millions of pounds, but it’s prevented me from having the one thing we all need – a loving, ongoing relationship.’

There is only one relationship that is completely loving and ongoing, and for which we were created. Without that relationship there will always be a deep sense of aloneness and a lack of ultimate meaning and purpose.

At the heart of the Christian faith is this relationship with God where we find what we are living for.

How can you and I have a relationship with the Creator of the universe? How in practice can we begin to communicate with God? What is the basis of this relationship?

March 1 Day 60

My Eyes Were Opened

It was as if I was blind. I must have heard many times that Jesus died for our sins. But I simply did not see it. I was spiritually blind. But when I understood the cross, my eyes were opened.

Since then, I have noticed that as I have attempted to pass on the message of ‘Christ crucified’, there are different responses. Sometimes very intelligent people simply cannot see it (see 1 Corinthians 1:23–25). On the other hand, I am often amazed at the understanding of others, including very young children. For all who see it, it is life changing: ‘to us who are being saved it is the power of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:18).

I think it is fascinating that in today’s New Testament passage, after Jesus has explained his death, we have the story of blind Bartimaeus having his eyes opened (Mark 10:46–52). He says to Jesus, ‘I want to see’ (v.51). Jesus replies, ‘“Go… your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus’ (v.52). The word used for healed is the same Greek word as saved (sozo).

Do you see it? The passages for today help us to see the significance of Jesus’ death.

February 28 Day 59

Rich in Mercy

A man was having his portrait painted by a successful artist. When the portrait was finished it was unveiled. The man was most unhappy with the result. When asked whether he liked it, he replied, ‘I don’t think it does me justice.’ To which the artist replied, ‘Sir, it is not justice you need, but mercy!’

At the end of the day, we all need mercy even more than justice. God is ‘rich in mercy’ (Ephesians 2:4). The theme of the ‘mercy of God’ runs throughout the Bible. In the original Greek, ‘eleos’ (mercy) also means  compassion, pity, clemency. The mercy of God is available for you. In our passages for today we see some examples of people who are recipients of God’s mercy.

February 27 Day 58

Six Characteristics of a Holy Life

Do you try to fit Jesus into your schedule? Or do you work your schedule around Jesus?

‘God cannot fit into our plans, we must fit into his,’ writes Eugene Peterson. ‘We can’t use God – God is not a tool or appliance or credit card. Holy is the word that sets God apart and above our attempts to enlist him in our wish-fulfilment fantasies or our utopian schemes for making our mark in the world. Holy means that God is alive on God’s terms, alive in a way that exceeds our experience and imagination. Holy refers to life burning with an intense purity that transforms everything it touches into itself.’

The Hebrew word ‘holy’ (qadosh) probably originally meant ‘separate’ or ‘set apart’. It came to be used to describe the ‘otherness’ of God, and how his character and nature are so much greater and more wonderful than any other person or thing. For something else to be ‘holy’ simply means for it to be dedicated to God. You are holy to the extent that your life is devoted to him and your actions reflect his character. Holiness and wholeness are closely related, and God wants the whole of your life.