You Can Still Make A Plan

The turn of the year is a naturally great opportunity to set some new goals and resolutions. I hope things are going well for you as the first week of this new year wraps up. 

One of the most important commitments I believe any Christian can make is reading his or her bible. I know it’s easy to be overwhelmed by this. Questions abound. “What plan should I pick?” Which version of the bible should I use?” “Should I use digital or print? Study bible or not?” “What if I miss a day?” “When do I have time?” These are all reasonable questions we need to think through when planning to read the bible. My hope is that you’ll take the time to do so. More than that, I hope you’ll take the time to prioritize and put a plan into action that enables you to read your bible. These are not simply words. This book is a treasure. The Psalmist says about God’s word: "More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:10-11).  

It is not too late to start reading through your bible this year, but you must make a plan. Without a plan, your reading will be sporadic at best. So whether you want to read through the whole bible or not, you need to plan for it.

Here are some plans I recommend. 
M’cheyne one-year plan: This is one of the most common one year plans out there. It was put together with the intent that two chapters would be read in the morning, and two at night for family devotions. This was a great way for husband and father to lead his home in the ways of the Lord. And it still is. This plan takes you through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice. 

M’cheyne/navigator combined plan: This is probably my favorite one-year plan. It was introduced to me by my friend Adam Sinnett. The beauty of this plan is that it gives you the ability to catch up on days you’ve missed by requiring you to read only 25 days out of the month. This plan just helps relieve the pressure when you miss a day because you know you don’t need to feel overwhelmed by a catch up day. You can find this plan here.  

Professor Horner 8-month plan: If you’re in to reading a little bit more at a time, then this is obviously the plan for you. Another one of my favorites, Professor Horner’s plan is meant to take you through the whole bible in a rather quick period of time. You’ll read about ten chapters a day–one chapter from each genre of the bible in both the Old and New testament. The intent with this plan is to read quickly and just consume the bible as much as possible. This is the plan I’m starting off with this year because I haven’t done it in a while. So far, I’m loving it! 

ESV Study Bible plan: This is a basic one-year plan. I did it once. Nothing fancy. Just read your bible every day. 

Read Scripture App: This one is new to me and I haven’t worked through it yet. However, I’ve looked through it and I’m excited to give it a try once I complete the plan I’ve already started. This plan will take you through the bible in just under one year, and it’s purpose is to help you read the bible while understanding the big picture story of the bible along the way. The app includes great illustrations and really helpful videos throughout the process that will help bible reading beginners, and intrigue bible reading experts. The other thing about this plan/app is that it reads like a book in that there are no chapter and verse references. Just text on a screen. Finally, it just looks really nice. 

YouVersion App: This is the big daddy of all bible reading apps. You can find just about any plan you want right here. That being said, it’s also easy to get overwhelmed and wonder which plan you should start working through. I’m using this app to keep track of two plans–the plan I’m working through personally, and the one I’m working through with my family. (We are reading together through the New Testament this year). The other thing about this app that I like is you can couple your bible reading with a number of devotionals that the plan provides. There’s a great assortment of topics you can focus on with these. 

Digital or not?
Just a brief word on digital bible reading or not. Really, it’s up to you. It seems I try to use my iPad every year for my bible reading but I feel lack I’m never able to absorb anything. There’s just something about reading on a screen that prevents me from actually connecting with anything I read. Furthermore, I find reading on a device to be distracting. It never fails that some notification gets pushed your way as you’re trying to read. It’s also too easy to have a think of something else and jump on google to find the answer to your thought, only to never return to you bible reading again for the day. So I like to read with a non-digital bible, and I keep track of my progress with a bible app (currently YouVersion). But this is certainly an area where everyone differs. At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter. Just read the bible. 

Before I wrap this up, be reminded of one very important thing: Reading the bible doesn’t save you. It never has and it never will. Sure, you may have been saved or will be saved through God’s Words, but your and my salvation is based solely on the grace of God in the finished work of Jesus. So if you read your bible today, tomorrow, and every day this year, great! If you don’t, that’s okay too. Regardless of whether you read the bible or not, God’s love for you is based on what Christ has done, not what you and I do or don’t do. It is this good news that motivates us to read the words that God has given to us. When you hear of a love like this, don’t you want to know more about it? And if you do, then read your bible. 
 

And The Word Of God Increased

Last Sunday night we wrapped up our first series; The Movement of the Church. We looked at how the movement of the church is multiplying. One of the norms seen in Acts is that the church increased and multiplied, and our message honed in on the fact that the church multiplies as the word of God increases. Listen to these verses:

And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:7)

But the word of God increased and multiplied. (Acts 12:24).

So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily. (Acts 19:20)

I love the scriptures, and it is my prayer to see all those who follow Jesus have a deep hunger and passion for them as well. They point us to Jesus.

"And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself." (Luke 24:27).

So, what I want to do here is provide some resources that will help you in your reading of scripture, and will help you in leading your family to do the same. 

For General Study

These books will help lay some good theological foundations. They are especially helpful for leaders and heads of household.

For Family Worship

These are some of my favorite family worship resources.

Studying Your Bible

These resources are great for teaching you how for trust your bible and read it well.

Bible Plans

I find it's easiest to read scripture when you have a plan. There are numerous you can follow but here are some of my favorite.

Bible's

It's nice to have a few bible's to choose from. My personal favorite to read is the ESV. I especially love the study bible. I also find the NLT to be a good change of pace. Finally, and I know it's highly debated, but, The Message can be very pleasing to read. However, it's not a translation. So don't read it like one. It's a man's (a very smart one I might add) commentary on scripture. Enjoy the beauty of Eugene Peterson's prose! 

  • ESV Bible (My personal favorite)
  • ESV Study Bible (Likely the best out there)
  • NLT Bible (not as much a literal translation but good none the less).
  • The Message Bible (Not meant to be read as a translation, but can be very enjoyable for a change of pace and some poetic mediations in scripture).

This is by no means an exhaustive list of resources, but I hope it proves to be helpful.

Blessings and happy study and worship times!

 

 

Faithful Afflictions

 

I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. -Psalm 119:75

I doubt that we very often view the afflictions in our lives as God's faithfulness (I know I don't). I think the common idea is that if things are going good, then I must be living in a way that is pleasing to God. Or, if things in life are going bad, then I must be doing something that is making God angry. It's this view that God is a ticking time bomb, and he's hovering above us just waiting for the wrong move to be made so that he can afflict us with some sort of malady.

But the Psalmist doesn't view God like this. Instead, he startles us with the above verse, saying that God's afflictions are a part of his faithfulness. How is it that the Psalmist can think like this? How can he possibly believe that the suffering in his life, the difficult things he faces every day, are a part of God's faithfulness?

The Psalmist can think this way, because his every thought is shaped by God's words to him. Let me give you two verses that demonstrate this.

 

Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. -Psalm 119:76

The Psalmist view of God's affliction is that this is God's way of showing his steadfast love. It's God's way of showing that he alone is the ultimate comfort in life. How often have you attempted to look for comfort in things? Material possessions or relationships? Every time, these things fail to comfort us. Relationships are hard and everything material in this world is wasting away.

God wants us to see that true comfort comes only from him. His afflictions upon us are faithful to show us this.

One more verse.

 

If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. -Psalm 119:92

This verse directly reveals the Psalmists secret to making it through these afflictions–the law of the LORD is his delight.

For the Psalmist, the truth of God's words always trump his experiences in life. Not the other way around. So the Psalmist is able to go through trials. He's able to live with his life hanging in the balance as his enemies pursue after him, because he believes more in what God has promised than in what his present circumstance is presenting to him. 

Jesus would do the same thing, only perfectly and in our place. When Jesus was tempted by Satan, it was the truth of God's word that saw him through the circumstance. When Jesus was ready to face the cross, it was his reliance on God's faithful words that saw him through the agony. 

And he has done this for us. Where we are quick to believe lies, Jesus fully believed the truth. Where we are quick to believe that our present circumstance proves God to be unfaithful, Jesus believed that his present circumstance was underneath the sovereign and faithful hand of his Father.

God is always faithful. His promises have been fulfilled in Christ. You will make it through your afflictions. Do you believe this? 

 

 

 

 

Abide In Christ

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. -John 15:5

It's easy to forget how much I need Jesus. Yet the reality is that I need him every day. And so do you. The above verse reminded me of this truth this morning. 

I often live life as if I accepted Jesus and then moved on. But the reality is that he is the vine and I'm the branch. This means, that for me to truly have life, I need him every waking moment of every day. Have you ever cut a branch from its vine? It has the appearance of still being useful, but the reality is that it immediately begins to wither and die. This is what our life is like severed from the vine of Jesus. Sure, we might not appear to be dead immediately, and we might be able to have some fruit to show for a while, but eventually we dry up and the fruit falls off.

Now, the good news for the Christian is that he or she will never be severed from the vine of Jesus. As Jesus points out in John 10, he is the Good Shepherd and nothing will enable us to be snatched out of his hand. Furthermore, he has such a firm grip that we can never jump out (Nor would we want to if we've really experienced his salvation). Our salvation is secure through the sheer grace of God and through faith in the finished work of Jesus. 

However, our day to day life must still consist of our utter dependance upon the gospel. For the finished work of Jesus is not something that we needed just at a certain point and time in our past, no, it's what we need every day. The finished work of Jesus has not only saved us, it's also what sustains us. And it's through a constant belief in the gospel that we are sanctified and made to look more like him. 

Apart from Christ we can do nothing. The works of religion might look good for a while, but in the end they're fruitless. But as we abide in him, we're made to be more like him, and our faith in him will produce much fruit.

So stop yourself today and simply abide in Christ. Fruit will come.

The Scriptures Have Emotions

Yesterday, Taproot Church worked her way through the final half of Mark 5. The passage tells the story about a man named Jairus whose daughter is dying. This man comes to Jesus and asks for him to heal his daughter, but his daughter dies. Sandwiched in this story is the story of Jesus healing the woman with a chronic bleeding issue. The story ends with Jesus raising this little girl from death.

One of the main takeaways for me from yesterday's sermon was not even a point from the sermon itself, but simply a realtiy from the text. It was highlighted by my pastor. 

The reality is this: the scriptures have emotions.

It's easy to do and we often do it; we read the scriptures outside of their emotional context. We read them as if the characters are fictional and the events made up. But this isn't the case. The story is one with real people and real events and these people felt real emotion in the midst of the real events they were experiencing.

Think for a moment about this man Jairus. His daughter is sick to the point of death. He comes to Jesus (who was quite busy and surrounded by thousands of people vying for his healing touch) and asks him to, if he can, heal his daughter. Jesus can and he begins to make his trek to where the girl is. But in the midst of all this turmoil, Jairus' servants come to him and inform him that his daughter has died.

I don't know how many times I've read this story without even blinking an eye. But stop for a moment and think about. This man's daughter has died. She is dead. This is a moment filled with heart-wrenching, tear-soaked emotion. Imagine your child being to the point of death. You are searching for someone to heal her. Your last hope. You finally find that someone who can help, only to receive a message moments later that says your child has died. It would be an emotional roller coaster of a situation.

This man's situation was one of desperation and Jesus was the only one who could possibly do anything about it.

When we read scripture, we need to read it in light of not only its historical grammatical context, but also in light of its emotional context. Place yourself in the shoes (or sandals) of the people in the story. How would you react if your daughter died? How would you be moved if you were healed of an illness you had been suffering from for 12 years? How would you react if your once dead child was revived back to life?

When you read the bible, don't just read the words on the page like they are simply words on a page. Read them as they are. Real stories that happened in real time to real people. If you do this, the way you receive from God's word will be radically transformed.  

Bible Reading...Digital or Old School?

Do you read your bible off of a device? Or, do you read it old school? A good old-fashioned nicely leather bound 1,000 plus page book?

This is a question that I've asked myself many times and have also been asked. There's kind of a weird stigma around reading a digital bible. It doesn't feel as holy I guess. At any rate, my personal preference is to do it old-school. I like to read my bible like it's a real book. If not for anything else, I like the nostalgia. The sound of the thin pages turning. The look of the ink wearing. The underlined passages from years passed. The oil marks from my fingers. The smell of that oh so soft calfskin leather. What a delight. 

All nostalgia aside, I want to give you a few reasons why I prefer (at least currently) a "real" bible versus a digital one. 

No Crashing

If there's one thing I can't stand about digital bible apps, it's the fact that they crash. And they seem to crash a lot. It makes me crazy. I hate being in the middle of a good Old Testament story or parable of Jesus or argument of Paul, and then CRASH! Nothing. Just the home screen. Now I have to go back in, push the button, wait for it to reload, find where I was, and get back on track. 

As it turns out, a "real" bible never crashes. Always the simple nice fluidity of words on a white piece of paper.

Less Distracting

The second thing I like about a "real" bible, is that it's less distracting. Let's face it, bible apps are pretty flashy. There's so much you can do with them. Little letters and numbers to push that will take you on an hours long rabbit trail. Various ways to highlight and take notes. The simple ease of touching a word and having it defined for you in the moment. Oh what joy. But oh what a distraction. As convenient as these little tools can be, I also find that they can be horribly distracting.

There is a sweet joy in opening the book on a quiet morning and simply reading a passage without the ability to push a button. I love a time of uninhibited, no rabbit-trailed devotion. 

Spacial Recognition

Now this might just be me and it might be really strange, but I can't stand not having any spacial recognition. When people ask me about a verse, I want to know where to go. My bible has depth to it that a screen doesn't. This way, even if I don't remember the exact chapter and verse, I at least have some depth perception and more ease in finding what needs to be looked for. 

I've read passages many a time on an iPad. It never fails, that when I go back to look for that passage, I find myself scrolling endlessly with the inability to find what I'm looking for. This simply doesn't happen (not as easily at least) with the "real" deal.

It's About The Content

In the end, these are all personal preferences. I've discovered that I personally enjoy reading the "real" deal. What needs to be made clear is that reading the bible is not about the method of delivery, rather, it's about the content. The delivery method might be ink on pages or a digital screen. You might use an iPad mini or a little pocket bible. You might even be the weird guy who carries his ESV study bible around (perhaps you like the workout?). 

It doesn't really matter how you read the bible. What matters is that you find what works best for you and your personal time with Jesus. The reason we read our bibles is to know him more. 

So pick your weapon. And happy reading!