Bible in One Year

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April 16 Day 106

His Presence

If you love somebody, what you long for more than anything else is that person’s presence with you. Photos are a comfort. Telephone calls, emails and texts are nice. Letters are good. Zoom and FaceTime are great ways to communicate. Yet, as has been brought home to us acutely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, nothing can compare to actually spending time with them in person.

What Adam and Eve lost in the Garden of Eden when they sinned was the presence of God. Even more than possessing the law, the distinguishing feature of Israel was God’s presence with them. The temple was not primarily a place of sacrifice but a place of God’s presence. The exile was such a disaster for the people of God because they were away from God’s presence.

God promised to be in the midst of his people again. This promise was fulfilled with the coming of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. He promises to be with you.

April 15 Day 105

Choose What You Remember

Memory is strange. There are some things I would prefer not to remember but find difficult to forget. There are other things that I would love to remember that are all too easily forgotten.

There are some things that are important for societies as a whole not to forget. All over the world, we see war memorials with the names of those who have died for their country. Often in Britain these memorials feature the words ‘Lest We Forget’. A plaque at Auschwitz Concentration Camp reads, ‘The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again’ (George Santayana). 

We do have some control over our memory. There are some things we are told in the Bible to ‘forget’. There are other things we are repeatedly called to ‘remember’. You can make choices about what you choose to ‘forget’ and what you choose toremember’.

The word ‘remember’ in its various Hebrew and Greek forms occurs over 250 times in the Bible. It is so easy to forget all that God has done for you. It is important to look back at your own life as well as the history of the church, both local and global, to remember all that God has done.

At the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the service of communion so that we would not forget the central events of world history – the death and resurrection of Jesus.

April 14 Day 104

How to Avoid the Titanic Mistake

James Cameron, director of the movie Titanic, describes the Titanic as a ‘metaphor’ of life: ‘We are all living on… [the] Titanic.’

When the Titanic set sail in 1912, it was declared to be ‘unsinkable’ because it was constructed using a new technology. The ship’s hull was divided into sixteen watertight compartments. Up to four of these compartments could be damaged or even flooded, and still the ship would float.

Tragically, the Titanic sank on 15 April 1912 at 2.20 am. 1,513 people lost their lives. At the time, it was thought that five of its watertight compartments had been ruptured in a collision with an iceberg.

However, on 1 September 1985, when the wreck of the Titanic was found lying upright on the ocean floor, there was no sign of the long gash previously thought to have been ripped in the ship’s hull. What they discovered was that damage to one compartment affected all the rest.

Many people make the Titanic mistake. They think they can divide their lives into different ‘compartments’ and that what they do in one will not affect the rest. However, as Rick Warren (from whom I have taken this illustration) says, ‘A life of integrity is one that is not divided into compartments.’

David prayed for ‘an undivided heart’ (Psalm 86:11). He led the people with ‘integrity of heart’ (78:72). Supremely, Jesus was a ‘man of integrity’ (Matthew 22:16; Mark 12:14). How can you and I avoid the Titanic mistake and live lives of integrity?

April 13 Day 103

What is God Like?

A six-year-old girl was drawing a picture one day. Her teacher said, ‘What are you drawing?’ The little girl answered, ‘I am drawing a picture of God.’ The teacher was surprised and said, ‘But nobody knows what God looks like!’ The little girl carried on drawing and replied, ‘They will in a minute.’

One of the advantages of reading through the Bible in a year is that we get a rounded picture of the nature and character of God, and a greater understanding of what God is like.

April 12 Day 102

Your Invitation

One day, I received a message that the Queen of England had invited me to lunch. At first, I thought it was a practical joke. But it wasn’t. I turned up at Buckingham Palace on my bicycle, which an amused policeman looked after for me. I sat next to the Queen as we ate some amazing food. Then she turned and began to talk to me as the ‘Parfait de Rhubarbe et Chocolat Blanc’ arrived.

It looked delicious. But I did not want to talk with my mouth full – nor did I want to seem rude by cutting into it while the Queen was speaking to me. Eventually she asked me whether I did not like the food. ‘No, no, no,’ I said, ‘I love it’ (as I quickly began to eat). I did not say it to her, but the real reason I had not eaten was that I was overwhelmed by the privilege of being invited to lunch with the Queen of England.

Jesus likens the kingdom of God to a great party with the King, one to which we are all invited. It is an even greater privilege than lunch with the Queen of England, and it is extraordinary that anyone would refuse this invitation.

April 11 Day 101

Eight Things That Really Matter to God

My mother and father were great parents. They had strong values. My sister and I were left in no doubt about what mattered to them.

What mattered most to my father was honesty. I remember how my father used to say, ‘I expect to be believed.’ He regarded honesty as the highest possible value and sometimes went to absurd lengths to retain that standard.

On one occasion, when they were engaged, but not yet married, he and my mother got on the wrong bus. The bus conductor refused to accept any money as they had only travelled a few yards. My father was unhappy to have been unable to pay what he felt he owed. He sent the money for the fare to the bus company. They sent it back. This resulted in a long correspondence, which my mother found hard to understand (she joked that she almost broke off the engagement).

I remember, in my childhood, many similar incidents. My father may have been a little extreme, but my sister and I were in no doubt about what mattered to him: honesty. In our passages today, we see some of the things that really matter to God.

April 10 Day 100

Seven Ways to Grow in Wisdom

Lawrence of Arabia is one of the most successful films of all time. Much of the film is drawn from T.E. Lawrence’s own account of his time in Arabia. He was a British archaeological scholar, military strategist (colonel by the age of thirty), best known for his activities in the Middle East during World War I. Lawrence explores the theme of wisdom in his memoirs, written in 1926, with the title, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Presumably, Lawrence had in mind today’s passage, ‘Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars’ (Proverbs 9:1). In Scripture, the number seven is often used to represent completion or perfection. In the book of Proverbs, the teaching of Jesus and the Bible in general, we find many ways to acquire and grow in wisdom. Seven of these can be seen in today’s passages.

April 9 Day 99

See His Goodness

When we were children, my sister and I went on a picnic with our parents. The two of us were playing on what we all assumed was a disused railway track. Suddenly my mother shouted, ‘Jump! Get off the track!’ She had seen an express train coming down the track. Thankfully, we didn’t shout back, ‘Don’t threaten us. You can’t scare us.’ If we had done, I would not be in a position to write this now. We both jumped off the track.

The command arose out of a mother’s love for her children. God’s commands arise out of his goodness and his love for you. They are given for ‘your own good’ (Deuteronomy 10:13). See his goodness. The warnings of Jesus about the coming judgment and how to be ready for it come out of his love for you. In all the passages for today we see that obedience is the way to experience his goodness and be a magnet for his blessing.

April 8 Day 98

How to Stop Worrying

I can’t even remember his name and I didn’t think much of his talk. We were both eighteen years of age. He had just joined the army. As he stood up to give the talk he produced his army boots as a visual aid. He called one of the boots ‘trust’ and the other one ‘obey’. He described them as the left and right boot of the Christian life. He only spoke for seven minutes, but his illustration hit home and I have never forgotten it.

Trust’ and ‘obey’ are, as he said, a very good summary of the Christian life. We see in the passages for today that they are the answer to trials, temptation, worry, anxiety, fear, failure and all the other struggles of life. In particular, Jesus shows us how to stop worrying and start living.

April 7 Day 97

Love from the Inside Out

Celine, a young woman who came on Alpha because of what she described as her ‘spiritual search’, wrote, ‘I am not entirely sure what happened! Over the course I have grown more and more thirsty for God’s presence like when on a hot, dry summer’s day one gets a sip of cold fresh water, just the right temperature, one wants to drink and drink, and one can never get enough.

‘I am now constantly skipping and laughing and wanting to tell everyone how amazing God is… plus I seem to love everybody! I was seeking to forgive someone, but just seemed to grow more and more bitter and resentful, until I came on Alpha… It’s gone, I have totally forgiven that person and love them too!’

She says that she is now ‘passionately in love with Christ!’ Her inner thirst is being satisfied. She has a new inner light and a new inner love.