Join us as we read the Bible each day. It’s a practice that we have been doing for over 30 years and we hope it will benefit your life as much as it has ours. - Nicky and Pippa Gumbel
Day 332: How to Be Inspired
In successive weeks at HTB, I interviewed two people of courage and faith. One, Ben Freeth, inspired by his faith in Jesus Christ, had taken a courageous stance against the unjust regime in Zimbabwe. As a result, he was beaten, tortured and forced to watch his elderly mother-in-law and father-in-law undergo torture, from which the latter eventually died. Yet in the midst of his suffering, he chose to love and bless the torturers.
The second was a pastor from one of the sixty countries around the world where physical persecution of Christians still takes place. He had been imprisoned and, at one stage, sentenced to death for no other reason than his faith in Jesus Christ. Yet in the face of extreme suffering he refused to deny his faith.
The lives of men and women like this are hugely inspiring, challenging and motivational.
Day 331: There Is a God and He Is Great
I studied and practised law for nearly ten years. In every legal case, evidence is vital. Evidence matters to me. I could not be a Christian if I did not believe that our faith is based on compelling evidence. There is good evidence for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Over the years, there have been a spate of books by the ‘new atheists’ suggesting that there is no evidence for God; that God is a ‘delusion’ (‘The God Delusion’) and that ‘God is Not Great’ (the title of another of these books). While of course, the Bible does not try to provide a scientific proof for the existence of God, it does point to the evidence of ‘eye-witnesses’ (2 Peter 1:16) and proclaims that ‘there is a God in heaven’ (Daniel 2:28) and that ‘the Lord is great’ (Psalm 135:5).
There is good reason to put your trust in God. You will grow in faith as you study the truth of God’s word and boldly proclaim that ‘there is a God’ and ‘he is great’.
Day 330: God's Great Grace
Seeing a crowd of condemned criminals being led up to execution, John Bradford (c.1510–1555), the English reformer, is said to have remarked: ‘There, but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford.’
In 1807, John Newton, best known as composer of the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’, encapsulated the amazing grace of God in some of his last words as he lay dying. He declared: ‘I am a great sinner but Christ is a great Saviour.’
In today’s New Testament passage, Peter speaks of ‘the God of all grace’ (1 Peter 5:10). How should you respond to God’s great grace?
Day 329: Know When to Kneel
Raniero Cantalamessa is a Capuchin monk. In 1977, he was sent by the Vatican to be an observer at a conference in Kansas City, USA where there were 20,000 Catholics and 20,000 other Christians. On the last day of the conference, after someone had spoken about the tragedy of all the divisions in the body of Christ (the church), 40,000 people knelt in repentance. As Father Raniero looked out, he saw the words ‘JESUS IS LORD’ on a big neon sign over the conference venue. He describes how, at that moment, he caught a glimpse of what Christian unity is all about – 40,000 people kneeling in repentance under the Lordship of Jesus.
He asked ‘a lay Protestant’ to pray for him to experience more of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit filled him. He experienced God’s love for him in a new way. He found himself speaking ‘in a manner like speaking in tongues’. The Bible came alive in a new way. He received a new ministry. In 1980, he was invited by Pope John Paul II to be the preacher to the Papal Household. This is what he has been ever since. In 2020, he was made a cardinal by Pope Francis. Three themes dominate his remarkable ministry: unity, love and the Holy Spirit. They are distinct, but closely linked.
Day 328: Your Example
Pope Francis paused for a moment after one of his general audiences to pray, embrace and lay hands on a man with neurofibromatosis, a severely disfiguring disease. The man’s face was covered in tumours. The image of the Pope’s embrace in St Peter’s Square went viral on social media, inspiring millions by his poignant example of the love of Christ.
There is great power in example. It is hard to improve if we have no other model than ourselves to follow. A good example is not only inspirational, it also gives us a pattern to copy and learn from.
Not only do you benefit most from following the example of others, but your example is vital if you are to have any influence on other people. Albert Schweitzer, the French theologian, philosopher and physician said, ‘Example is not the main thing in influencing others – it is the only thing.’ More depends on your walk than on your talk, what you practice than what you preach, what you do than what you say.
What people see is far more important than what they hear. People do what people see. As John Maxwell writes, ‘Eighty-nine per cent of what people learn comes through visual stimulation; ten per cent through audible stimulation and one per cent through other senses... What they hear they understand. What they see they believe!’
As we read yesterday, you are called to follow Jesus’ example in your life (1 Peter 2:21). Today we see some of the implications of this.
Day 327: Where Is God?
Elie Wiesel was born into a Jewish family in Romania. He was only a teenager when he and his family were rounded up by the Nazis and taken first to Auschwitz, and then to Buchenwald. In his book, Night, he gives a terrifying and intimate account of the increasing horrors he endured – the death of his parents and eight-year-old sister, and the loss of his innocence by barbaric hands.
In the foreword to the book, François Mauriac writes of his encounter with Elie Wiesel: ‘On that most horrible day, even among all those other bad days, when the child witnessed the hanging (yes!) of another child who, he tells us, had the face of a sad angel, he heard someone behind him groan: “For God’s sake, where is God?” And from within me, I heard a voice answer: “Where He is? This is where – hanging here from this gallows.”’
François Mauriac goes on, ‘And I, who believe that God is love, what answer was there to give my young interlocutor... What did I say to him? Did I speak to him of that other Jew, this crucified brother who perhaps resembled him and whose cross conquered the world?
‘Did I explain to him that what had been a stumbling block for his faith had become a cornerstone for mine? And that the connection between the cross and human suffering remains, in my view, the key to the unfathomable mystery in which the faith of his childhood was lost... That is what I should have said to the Jewish child. But all I could do was embrace him and weep.’
His words point to the most profound answer to the question, ‘Where is God?’ God is in Christ. He was on the cross bearing our sins in his body. Now the crucified is among his people. Not only has he suffered for you, but he now suffers with you.
In the Old Testament, the tabernacle (and later the temple) was the place where people went to meet with God. This was God’s home as we see in our Old Testament passage for today (Ezekiel 43:5).
The message of our New Testament passage though is that the glory and presence of God is to be found supremely in Jesus. It is at the very moment that Jesus is rejected and crucified that God’s presence among people is finally and fully realised. From that point on there is no need for a physical temple. The only church building the New Testament speaks about is a building made of people (Ephesians 2:20–22), founded and built upon Jesus, the chief cornerstone. The holy temple in the New Testament is one made of ‘living stones’ (1 Peter 2:5) – in other words, people like you and me. This is God’s new home.