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. 
 

It Is Finished

Today is Good Friday.

Year after year, as this day comes around, I can't help but feel the irony in it. How can it be called "good," the day Jesus brutally died on a cross in my place? But the longer I follow Jesus, and the more I become aware of my need for this sacrifice, the more the "goodness" of this day settles in. 

This morning, I sat down to read John 19–John's account of the crucifixion. I had to read it a couple of times. The account is so brief, yet at the same time filled with so much. I was struck by the authority that Jesus displayed throughout the ordeal. He tells Pilate, who believes he is the one with the power to crucify or release Jesus, "You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above" (John 19:11). It's a reminder to me that Jesus was not coerced in dying for my sins, but rather sweetly surrendered to the will of his Father. He willingly–even joyfully–gave himself (John 19:30; Hebrews 12:2).

The moment which fills my heart with most joy on this good day, however, is the moment when Jesus declared, "It is finished." 

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), "I thirst." A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, "It is finished," and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

This is the truth that I pray sinks into my heart (and yours) this Easter weekend. The declaration of, "It is finished," means precisely that. All that's needed to be accomplished has been accomplished at the cross. There is nothing more for you or me to do. Salvation is complete, and all we do is now done in response to this beautiful reality. 

I ran across an article this morning that saddened my heart. The article, accompanied by video, displays devout catholics in the Philippines crucifying themselves and self flagellating. The article goes on to say that they do this for "luck or divine intervention, or in gratitude of previously miraculous help." The ceremony has a fifty year history behind it. This isn't what Christ intended when he said, "It is finished."

Today, as you contemplate the cross, remember the significance of those three words. It is in them that the horrendous nature of this day, as it occurred over 2,000 years ago, is remembered as a day that is "good."     

Remember The Saint

I’m a fan of Saint Patrick’s Day. Any holiday that has corned beef, potatoes, cabbage, a good dark beer (by that I mean something other than Guinness), as it’s main course, is a pretty good holiday in my books.

But let’s not forget, it’s important to remember the saint.

This morning, with my kids decked out in green,  we all gathered around the kitchen table to read about Saint Patrick. The story of his life is remarkable, and should be of great encouragement to any Christian.

The Life of Patrick

Saint Patrick is believed to have lived from 389-461 A.D. He was born in Britain, and lived on its western coast–a part of Britain that was always susceptible to attack from Irish pirates. Inevitably, it happened. One day, at the age of 16, while Patricks parents were in town, the Irish raiders attacked, capturing Patrick and thousands of others from surrounding villages. They would all be dragged back to Ireland and forced to be slaves.

Initially, Patrick was infuriated. Nearly starving and always cold (and certainly without corned beef and beer), he hated the Irish and wanted only to get away from them.

But after some time, Patrick’s heart began to change. Though not entirely sure of what was happening, he was suddenly and painfully aware of his own sin and unbelief. The truths his parents taught him about God as a child were churning in his mind. The Spirit was working deeply in his heart, showing him his own need for salvation. As Patrick’s heart grew softer, the anger and bitterness that he once experienced was replaced with a deep awareness of the unwavering grace and hand of God which had sustained him through the difficult life he was now living. It was in this season of darkness that Patrick experienced the loving hand of the Father and the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

After six years in the northern part of Ireland, Patrick finally had the chance to go back to Britain. Though risky, he snuck onto a ship that would carry him back to his homeland. Patrick was excited to be home and rejoiced at the opportunity to reunite with his family and friends, but life was not the same. Patrick couldn’t get the people of Ireland out of his mind.

One night, while Patrick was sleeping, he dreamed that the people of Ireland were asking him to come back. Another night he dreamed that the voices asking him to come back to Ireland was actually the voice of Jesus telling him that Ireland was where he was to return.

For the next several years, despite the disapproval of family and friends, Patrick trained, studied, and prepared to return to Ireland as a missionary to the Irish people.

When Patrick returned to Ireland, he experienced almost immediate success. A local ruler, by the name of Dichu, heard the gospel and was baptized. After him, thousands more followed, turning away from worshipping pagan idols to worshipping the true and living God. Patrick’s mission wasn’t easy though. As time went on, he met regular opposition and anticipated his death on an almost daily basis. Patrick was robbed, beaten, taken back into slavery, and nearly killed on 12 different occasions. He did not waiver though. Patrick said, “Daily I expect murder, fraud, or captivity, but I fear none of these things. I have cast myself into the hands of God Almighty, who rules everywhere...as the prophet says, ‘Cast your cares upon God, and He shall sustain you.’”

Daily I expect murder, fraud, or captivity, but I fear none of these things. I have cast myself into the hands of God Almighty, who rules everywhere...as the prophet says, ‘Cast your cares upon God, and He shall sustain you.

Patrick’s life as a missionary to Ireland made a lasting impact. He fought fiercely against the Irish slave trade, and persisted in preaching the gospel. In Patrick’s 40 years as a missionary to the Irish, thousands upon thousands of people became followers of Jesus. His life is an example to us of the life of sacrificial service that Christ has called each of his disciples to.

Remember The Saint

Hebrews 13:3 says, “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.”

Saint Patrick is a man of great faith who has gone before us. He was one who lived what Jesus taught, and gave himself for the sake of others. Patrick understood the words of Jesus: "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it" (Luke 9:23-24).

So tonight, I hope you enjoy your corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and beer. I know I will. But as you do, don't forget to remember the saint.