Bible in One Year

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January 14 Day 14

Just Relax and Let God Be God

Joyce Meyer tweeted, ‘Just relax and let God be God.’ It is a great comfort to know that a loving God is ultimately in control of everything that happens.

Bishop Sandy Millar often says in the face of some tragedy or when things have gone badly wrong: ‘The Lord reigns.’

Many times throughout the Bible, God is referred to as the Sovereign Lord. Both Joyce Meyer and Sandy Millar are expressing, in different ways, absolute confidence in the sovereignty of God.

If God is sovereign and ultimately in control, does that mean that you are absolved of responsibility for your actions? Does it mean that you do not have ‘free will’? The Bible teaches both – the ultimate sovereignty of God at the same time as human responsibility and free will.

January 13 Day 13

Divine Acceleration

A few years ago, Pippa and I were asked to speak at a conference in Somerset, southwest England. The journey from London should have taken about three hours. However, it was a really hot day and ahead of us a hay wagon had caught fire and spilled its load across the motorway, which had melted as a result. We were stuck, almost stationary, for five hours. It was such a relief when, finally, it was time to accelerate.

There are times in our own personal lives, church life and ministry when it feels like we are stuck and unable to move at any pace. At other times, openings begin to appear and it is ‘time to accelerate’.

God is the God of acceleration. He is able to speed things up at a much faster rate than is humanly possible.

January 12 Day 12

No Fear

At one level, fear is healthy. ‘Fear’ is an emotion induced by a perceived threat. It is a natural human emotion. It is God-given. It is a basic survival mechanism. It keeps us alive. It protects us from danger.

However, there is also such a thing as unhealthy fear. The Greek word commonly used in the New Testament is phobos – from which we get the word ‘phobia’. This is unhealthy fear. It is disproportionate to the danger posed. It is ‘False Evidence Appearing Real’. It is when I catastrophise – overestimating the danger and underestimating my ability to cope. 

Common phobias include fears in relation to health, finances, failure, growing old, death, loneliness, rejection, messing up, public speaking, flying, heights, snakes and spiders. They also include things such as, what is now called, FOMO – the Fear Of Missing Out, the fear of not being special.

In my own life, I have experienced many fears – from a fear of heights to panic attacks and other irrational fears, fears about preaching and a fear of doing anything that might bring dishonour to the name of Jesus.

Whereas the Spirit of God does not produce negative fear, there is a kind of healthy fear – the fear of God. This does not mean being frightened of God. In fact, it means the opposite. It is an understanding of who God is in relation to us. It means respect, reverence, awe, honour, adoration and worship; it could even be translated as love for God. It recognises the power, majesty and holiness of God Almighty. It leads to a healthy respect of God and is the antidote to all other fears and phobias we experience in life. Fear God and you need not fear anything else or anyone else.

It is no coincidence that as the fear of God has decreased in our society, all the other fears have increased. We need to return to a right relationship with God.

The expression ‘do not be afraid’ is one of the most frequent commands in the Bible. Four of the occurrences are in our passages for today.

 

January 11 Day 11

'Lord... Give Me Success Today'

How to Be a Huge Success is a little book of quotations and tips from a variety of well-known ‘successful’ people. The back cover asks, ‘Are you on a collision course with fame, fortune or greatness?’ This is so often how ‘success’ is perceived in our society.

Perhaps because of some of its negative connotations, sometimes in the church we are a little wary of the word ‘success’. However, ‘success’ is not a dirty word in the Bible. It occurs at least five times in our Old Testament passage for today (Genesis 24:12,21,40,42,56) – each time in a very positive light.

Success is a blessing from the Lord (vv.31,50). Success is a good thing. However, the ministry of Jesus and the message of the Bible redefine success.

January 10 Day 10

Facing the Storms of Life

On 31 July 2003, the adventurer Bear Grylls led a team of five across the North Atlantic Ocean in an inflatable rigid dinghy. They set out from Halifax, Nova Scotia, heading for John o’ Groats, Scotland. On 5 August, a great storm arose. There were 100-foot waves. They lost satellite contact. They (and we) feared for their lives. Thankfully they survived to tell the tale (see Facing the Frozen Ocean by Bear Grylls).

 

Not all of us will have to face physical storms of this kind. But Jesus said that we would all face the storms of life (Matthew 7:25–27). Life is not easy. These storms are many and varied. Abraham, David and Jesus’ disciples all faced storms in their lives. What can we learn from their example?

January 9 Day 9

Trust God to Put Things Right

Pippa and I enjoy doing crosswords together. When we are stuck on one clue we don’t give up, we move on to the next clue. Every time we find an answer it helps us in resolving some of the other clues. In the end, we are sometimes able to solve most of the puzzle.

In a way, reading some of the difficult parts of the Bible is like trying to solve a crossword puzzle. Rather than getting bogged down in a tricky section, you can use the passages you do understand to help you resolve some of the more difficult ones.

Often I find it hard not only to understand some of the difficult passages in the Bible, but also to understand why certain things are happening in our world. There seems to be so much injustice. There are no easy answers.

I love the second great rhetorical question from yesterday’s passage, ‘Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?’ (Genesis 18:25). One thing that you can be sure about is that on the last day, when all is revealed, you will see God’s perfect judgment – and everyone will say, ‘That is absolutely right.’ Each of today’s passages tells us something about the fact that, in the end, God will put things right.

January 8 Day 8

Nothing is Too Hard for the Lord

Are you facing a seemingly impossible situation in your life? Is there an apparently irretrievable breakdown in a relationship? A serious health issue? An almost impossible challenge in your job? Is there a habit or an addiction that you are finding hard to break?

Whatever challenges you may face in the year ahead, nothing is too hard for the Lord.

Abraham was a hundred years old. His wife Sarah was ninety. God promised them a son. They said, in effect, ‘That is impossible.’ This is the context of the great rhetorical question: ‘Is anything too hard for the Lord?’ (Genesis 18:14). The answer is ‘No’. If Sarah could conceive when ‘already very old, and… past the age of childbearing’ (v.11), then nothing is too hard for the Lord.

In each of the three great challenges we see in today’s passages we need to remember that nothing is too hard for the Lord.

January 7 Day 7

Your Double Blessing

I love the word ‘mercy’. I am so thankful that God is a God of mercy. William Shakespeare captured something of the wonder of mercy in Portia’s speech in The Merchant of Venice:

‘The quality of mercy is not strain’d,

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.' Act IV Scene I

You are blessed when you receive mercy and you are blessed when you are merciful to others.

January 6 Day 6

Directions for Life

Pippa and I are often in a hurry. We are not good at planning our car journeys. We often set off in the wrong direction and frequently get lost (even with a satnav!). I don’t know why it has taken me so long to learn the importance of getting good directions and following them.

Many of us are like this in life. We charge off in a hurry. We don’t realise the importance of getting good directions for life. If you follow God’s directions for life, you will enjoy his blessing and bring blessing to others.

January 5 Day 5

God Will Give You Good Things

We all seek happiness. We are all searching for love. We are all desperate for peace. But so often, we look in the wrong places.

St Augustine prayed, ‘Lord... you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.’ God is the source of all good things.