Where Bible Reading Plans Go To Die

Our church uses a Bible reading plan that takes us through the whole Bible in about four and a half years. We discuss the week’s reading each Sunday morning. The man making the announcements last Sunday mentioned that we’d be starting Leviticus this week, “where Bible reading plans go to die.”

It’s true, isn’t it? How often have we begun January in Genesis with good intentions of reading the Bible, only to get bogged down by the time we get to Leviticus.

So we tell ourselves all those regulations don’t apply to us any more since the sacrificial system and feast days were fulfilled in Christ, and we move on to something more interesting. That is, if we haven’t given up our reading plan completely.

But there are several reasons New Testament Gentile Christians should still read Leviticus.

It’s inspired of God. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” God gave it to us and it’s profitable for us even though we don’t observe all the rituals in it.

It’s instructive. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

The New Testament quotes from Leviticus and refers to it over 100 times according to Warren Wiersbe in Be Holy (Leviticus): Becoming “Set Apart” for God.

Key biblical truths are better understood with Leviticus as a foundation. Imagine growing up repeatedly bringing sacrifices for sin to the tabernacle or temple. Then imagine being stunned by this news:

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:11-13)

Or imagine reading that the lamb for a burnt offering had to be perfect and without blemish and then finding that “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Or imagine having the whole burnt offering in Leviticus 1 in mind when reading Romans 12:1: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Sure, we can get some of these concepts in the New Testament on their own, but we get a fuller picture and a deeper appreciation when we understand the background of them.

It emphasizes holiness. Dr. Wiersbe writes in Be Holy, “The word holy is used 93 times in Leviticus, and words connected with cleansing are used 71 times. References to uncleanness number 128. There’s no question what this book is all about.”

A seminary professor taught a class on Leviticus. One assignment was to try to keep the regulations in Leviticus for a week and journal about the experience. One student wrote:

Every day, I found myself focused on thinking about ritual purity and impurity. Partway through the week, I realized that I was thinking about these things all day long and in every aspect of my life, and that’s when it hit me: God cares a lot about our purity and holiness. Not just from a ritual perspective, but also from a moral perspective. All day long and in every aspect of life, the Lord wants me to pursue purity in my heart, in my life, in my actions. He wants me to reflect his holiness in all that I do. I have been treating holiness way too lightly! O Lord, help me to be holy!

It underscores the pervasiveness and seriousness of sin. We take sin too casually these days, maybe because we seem to be able to receive it easily. But we forget what it cost.

It encourages thankfulness and appreciation of Jesus’ sacrifice. We not only appreciate all that He went through, but we’re thankful for His deliverance. Jay Sklar, the seminary professor mentioned earlier, said that after teaching Leviticus, he could hardly sing a hymn about Jesus’ sacrifice without tears of thankfulness.

Israel’s feasts helps us understand our Christian celebrations. The ESV Study Bible’s introductory notes to Leviticus say:

The festal calendar of Israel enumerated in Leviticus (Lev. 23:1-44) has strongly shaped the Christian church’s traditional calendar. The three main national pilgrim feasts of Israel are the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Harvest, and the Feast of Booths. For those churches that follow the traditional calendar, these celebrations find their climax in Good Friday,  Easter, and Pentecost. To fully understand the Christian celebrations, one must see their initial purpose in the OT (p. 213).

It teaches love for neighbors. Did you know that the first instance of the phrase “love your neighbor as yourself” occurs in Leviticus 19:18? We see justice tempered with mercy in the regulations in Leviticus. Justice and fair treatment at large begins with justice and fair treatment on a personal level to our neighbors and acquaintances.

In Mark 12, a scribe asked Jesus which was the most important commandment. Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” The scribe responded, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” “And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God’” (Mark 12:28-34).

Many hymns refer back to concepts in Leviticus, like “Is Your All on the Altar?” and “Whiter Than Snow.”

Sure, there are some difficulties in Leviticus. Some of the regulations or restrictions that seem most odd to us are thought to have connections with the pagan worship in Egypt that the Israelites had lived with for 400 years. There are a few passages that are hard to understand.

But by and large, Leviticus sheds light on much gospel truth. OT Israel practices these things looking ahead to Christ’s sacrifice, seeing much of it in symbolic form. As the NT church, we look back on the symbols and object lessons to more fully understand.

I’m approaching Leviticus this time with eager anticipation.

(Sharing with Sunday Scripture Blessing, Selah, Scripture and a Snapshot,
Hearth and Soul, Inspire Me Monday, Senior Salon,
Remember Me Monday, Tell His Story, InstaEncouragements,
Recharge Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Share a Link Wednesday,
Heart Encouragement, Grace and Truth, Faith on Fire, Blogger Voices Network)

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

Here are some good reads discovered this week.

The Bored-with-Reading-the-Bible Antidote, HT to Challies. “As one who’s been at this awhile, I hope you’ll indulge me as I share some thoughts with every intention of encouraging your pursuit of God.”

The Onliest Way, HT to Challies. “What seals our lips shut when the voice of the Lord echoes in our minds while we talk of snow and coffee and the kids? Why do we press Him back to the corner when we know He is the only way for our friends and acquaintances to be saved?”

The Character of a Christian Writer. “We can’t offer what we don’t have. If we’re not allowing God to continually transform us, our writing cannot have that effect on others. The first person God should change through my writing is me.”

4 Pitfalls of Writing Bible Studies. This is good advice for blog posts and devotionals, too.

Faith Over Fear, HT to Challies. “‘Faith over fear.’ It’s one of those Christian slogans that is undeniably true, and, at the same time, less helpful than it may seem.”

5 Things About Family Devotions I Learned the Hard Way, HT to The Story Warren. They rarely look or feel inspirational, but they accomplish much.

Inside Planned Parenthood’s Gender Factory, HT to Challies. It’s alarming that powerful hormones are given to teens with little evaluation or explanation.

If your Apple Watch was a person. Funny, and not far from the truth. I turned off almost all my notifications on my watch and phone a long time ago because I couldn’t stand them.

Have a good Saturday, and Happy Valentine’s Day tomorrow!

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

Here is a short but thought-provoking list of reads discovered this week.

Be Reasonable for the Sake of the Gospel. “Hyperbole seems to be the rhetorical strategy of the day in Christian circles. In comment boxes, imprecise language and thinking, haphazard arguments based on fallacy, and all kinds of claims about what Satan is doing often taint an otherwise helpful, measured post.” I’ve noticed this, too.

5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Studying the Bible. “When we pick and choose verses from Scripture aimed merely at lifting our spirits when we’re feeling down, we run the risk of reducing the Bible to a self-help manual.”

Infographic: You Have More Time for Bible Reading Than You Think. Interesting graphics that show how much time it takes to read different parts of the Bible and how much time we spend in other pursuits.

The Tyranny of Tech and Trans, HT to Challies. Alarming on many levels.

I’ve heard a bit about the guarding of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, but not as much as is shown here. I so appreciate the respect shown.

If a bear came where I was sitting, I don’t know if I could calmly sit still. But that’s probably the best thing to do.

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

Here are the latest thought-provoking reads I’ve seen:

Would It Be Okay for Me to Be Angry With God? “And who am I to be angry at what God has done? Who am I to disapprove of what he has permitted? Who am I to conclude God has done something he should not have, or to even suggest the notion?”

Start Here: How to Begin Reading the Bible this Year. “If you’ve been feeling like reading Scripture will be too hard for you, as though there’s no way you’ll be able to do it on your own—stop now and thank God. Knowing that we need Jesus is a gift. We can’t do this without Him, and He’s ready and able to help.

The Prayer Group, HT to Joanne. “These women have prayed so hard their knees have gone bad. They’ve prayed for rowdy husbands who are bad to drink. For children who are ill. For couples who fall upon the rocks. They have even prayed Carol through her cancer. Twice.”

Ministry With, Not Merely To those with developmental disabilities, HT to Challies. “My friend and mentor, Rich, heads up the Friendship Bible Study, and he constantly reminds us that we will minister with and not merely to those who come. It’s my observation that such a mentality fuels ministry that has the capacity to endure. Consequently, this demographic that is among the most unreached in these United States is a demographic which has most reached the congregation I serve.”

The Wide Gate, HT to Challies. “Since Time magazine announced God was dead in 1966, people have done their best to manage without Him, notably in relationships. God’s narrow way of one man and one woman monogamously raising offspring has been paved over with multilane beltways, bypasses, and loops that must look sort of messy from angel altitude.”

Visiting the Sick, HT to Challies. “The topic . . . comes at a tragically unique time in history: when visiting the sick and our ability to go to hospital to care for the infirmed, weak, or dying is greatly diminished. And yet, care for those in the church who are ill or afflicted among us, is some of the most foundational stuff of our true religion.”

No Strings Attached, HT to Challies. “There is simple kindness, among few, in the art of gift giving. An offering presented with joy and weightlessness; a smile of anticipation in the knowing of the goodness to be shared.”

A friend with a young baby posted this on FaceBook. A young mom wants to know how to keep strangers from touching and kissing her baby in public. The answer is hilarious.

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

Here I share the first set of recommended reading for the new year!

2020–What a Beautiful Time to Be Alive. “Don’t let bad thinking take this year from you. Don’t grit your teeth and just try to get through. Life is too precious for that and entirely too short. Live this year as you ought to live every other.”

The Longest Night. Long periods of waiting are not unusual for the children of God. “Years of waiting were not caused by a delay, but were part of God’s design. . .We can also trust He has a purpose in the waiting. Sometimes, while we are concerned with our circumstances, God is more interested in growing our character and our dependence on Him.”

Reading the Bible Requires Rules We Already Know, HT to Challies. “It’s easy to misinterpret the Bible when you don’t follow basic rules of interpretation. Therefore, I’ve offered the approach of asking three questions when reading any passage.”

The Bible Reading Plan I Recommend for 2021. You can find all kinds of Bible reading plans this time of year. Bible Gateway has several. Our church uses a five-year plan, though it’s laid out a little differently from this one. I’ve found that I like having a five-day-a-week plan. That gives time to catch up if you miss a day, plus time to consult other sources (commentary or Bible reading notes), plus a day or two to do other reading if you’re doing a Bible study or project.

Proactive and Reactive Bible Intake, HT to Challies. I had not heard the term “reactive” Bible reading, although I have done it. “In many ways, proactive Bible intake prepares us to know where to open the Scriptures when we need reactive Bible intake.” Both are needed.

Expecting Less From the Church, HT to Challies. I would not have thought of advising lower expectations from church, but I see the wisdom from this article. Sometimes our expectations are so high that we set ourselves up for disappointment because no church can meet them. “We have expectations of course—baptism, the Lord’s Supper, theological orthodoxy, preaching Christ crucified, prayer—but these do not include at least one new insight per sermon and arena-quality worship. These do not include my passive presence that waits for an experience like I had watching a recent movie.”

A Parable from the Dead, HT to Challies. I’ve been troubled by the news of Ravi Zacharias. This draws out some truths from the situation

Marriage: The Beginning of a Revolution, HT to Challies. What a sweet story, and an illustration of what a testimony a godly wedding and marriage can be. “The road to this joyous occasion was paved with tears, persecutions, and pain. In the Lord’s wisdom, it was this very pain that grew the character of the bride and groom and helped them to understand the value of a husband and the value of a wife.”

Someone Will Catechize Your Kids. Don’t Outsource It. HT to The Story Warren. Some might be turned off by the thought of catechism as rote or ritualistic teaching. But the basic idea in the article is just teaching truth. Kids will be exposed to all kinds of values: we need to be sure to teach them God’s truth o a level they can understand.

And finally, I don’t think we’re so far from Christmas that we can’t enjoy this sweet story (if you see this via email, you might have to click through to see the video):

Happy first Saturday of 2021!

How to Get Out of a Bible Reading Rut

How to get out of a Bible reading rut

Routines can help us establish good habits. Half the battle in establishing a regular quiet time or devotional time is staking out a workable, regular time and place. Some days—and some seasons of life—upend our schedules, and all we can do is watch for any available minutes. But we usually do better when we plan to work Bible reading into our day.

But a routine can become—routine. A rut, even.

How can we keep our Bible reading from becoming routine—or dig it out of the rut if it’s already there?

Pray. Ask God to remind us of the treasure His Word is. Sometimes I pray Psalm 119:18 just before starting my Bible reading: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” Or Psalm 119:25: “My soul clings to the dust; Revive me according to Your word” (NKJV).

Remember. Perhaps make a list of reasons to read the Bible or read Psalm 119 to renew our appreciation of it.

Don’t expect high excitement every time. A Thanksgiving feast is wonderful and memorable. But the monthly tuna casserole and everyday peanut butter sandwiches nourish us as well. Some devotional times leave us overflowing with joy or conviction or inspiration. Most quiet times don’t end that way, yet the Word feeds us every time we partake of it.

Remember the purpose of time in the Word: not just to get through a certain number of chapters or a certain amount of time, but to meet with the Lord and get to know Him better.

Change your plan. If you usually read the Bible through in a year, maybe switch to a two-year plan or a five-year plan—or a 90-day plan. Or a biographical plan or a chronological plan. Bible Gateway lists 18 different plans. Near the end of the year you’ll see a number of posts and articles about ways to read the Bible in the New Year (though you don’t have to wait til then to start).

Change your style. We benefit from both reading and studying the Bible, but most of us are inclined one way or the other. If you usually read large chunks for an overview, perhaps study a particular book in more detail. If you like to camp out in one passage for days, maybe get the bigger picture by reading several chapters or a whole book at one sitting.

Add aids. I’ve only had a study Bible the last few years. The background information and notes help so much in comprehending more of the passage. One year I used Warren Wiersbe’s With the Word as a companion. This year I am using his “Be” commentaries.

Have a Bible reading project. Once I read through the gospels looking particularly for claims Jesus made about Himself. I put a “C” in the margin beside every verse of Jesus’ claims and then put them all together. Doing so provided a valuable resource plus woke me up from falling into familiar patterns from familiar passages. I’d love to read through the Bible noting every reference to God as Creator and what the passage shares about Him (His greatness, His power, etc.) I’d love to do the same thing with every passage where God promises to be with someone. Mardi Collier started reading the Psalms, jotting down every truth about God that she came across. As she came to a new truth, she’d write it across the top of a notebook page, and then list verses underneath as she found them. Some of the page titles focused on what kind of Person God is: My God is holy, My God is good, etc. Others shared God’s actions: My God hears me, My God is in control, and so on. Her study ended up covering the whole Bible and eventually became a book, What Do I Know About My God?

Ask different questions. When I first started reading the Bible on my own, I was instructed to look for a command to follow, a warning to heed, a promise to claim. I underlined them in different colors as I found them. Later I heard of asking the old journalism questions of a passage: who, what, when, where, why, and how. Those are great questions, but If you’ve asked them several times, chances are you already know the answers. Maybe ask, instead or along with those, what does this passage show me about God? Or, how does this person change over the course of his story? For example, the first few times I read Genesis, I missed the transition of Judah from Genesis 37-50. Now, reading in Exodus, I am noticing Moses’ change from arguing with God that he couldn’t fulfill His calling in Exodus 3 and 4 to becoming a great leader over the rest of the book. The changes in people in the Bible come about as God works in them and enables them through the circumstances He puts them in. That can inspire us that He is doing th same in our lives.

Try a different translation. I used the KJV for some 25 years. When I read the NASB and ESV, I saw passages with new eyes. I prefer to stay with the translations that are as close to word-for-word as possible rather than paraphrases. But sometimes I look up the paraphrases as commentaries.

Remove the references. Before we could cut and paste from the Internet, one of our former Sunday School teachers suggested that we type out some of the epistles as the actual letters they are without the verse numbers and headings. The chapter and verse numbers weren’t in the original text, but they do help us find and discuss passages. Sometimes, however, they are not well placed. One sentence can be broken up into several verses. So sometimes reading without the verse numbers can help us not to fragment the verse. Now you can buy Bibles printed without chapter and verse numbers.

Stop and think. Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:7: “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” It’s easy to sail through a familiar passage. In the narrative portions, we see how everything turned out just a few pages later. Remember the people in those situations—David hiding in caves from Saul, Joseph in prison, Daniel facing the lion’s den, etc.—didn’t know how everything would turn out. If we put ourselves in their situations the passage opens up to us more.

Make notes. I stopped journaling during my quiet time when I found I was spending more time writing than reading. But recently I’ve gone back to just writing a few notes both to reinforce what I just read or to remind myself later. My notes are usually just a short summary, but thinking about how I’d describe the passage helps me not gloss over it. Some people like to draw charts and diagrams and arrows and circles to engage the Scriptures more.

Don’t compartmentalize. Often we read for so many chapters or minutes and then pray, or vice versa. But we don’t have to separate prayer and reading. If we’re in a section of praise, we can stop and praise God. If a passage convicts us about something we’re doing wrong, we can stop and confess it to God right then.

How about you? What ways have you found to avoid or get out of a Bible reading rut?

I delight in God's Word

(Sharing with Hearth and Soul, Sunday Scripture Blessings, Selah, Scripture and a Snapshot), Inspire Me Monday, Tell His Story, Let’s Have Coffee, Grace and Truth, Faith on Fire)

My Journey with the Bible

My journey with the BibleI never heard Handel’s Messiah until I was in high school.

I had not grown up listening to either classical or religious music. (I grew up hearing “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and other such lovely little ditties). So while I was impressed with the beauty and grandeur of Handel’s oratorio, I can’t say I got much out of it. It was like drinking from the proverbial fire hydrant.

But my college performed selections from the Messiah frequently. And the church we attended the first fourteen years we were married did the same. I even got to be in the choir at church some of those years, so I learned the songs in more detail. Plus, I had become a Christian in later high school, so I could understand more of the spiritual significance and message of the piece.

When I learned that The Messiah had been composed during the Baroque era, with its “excessive ornamentation or complexity,” I understood why it was written the way it was.

As a result of hearing The Messiah over and over, becoming more familiar with it, learning more about it, and growing in the Lord, I came to love this piece of music. I anticipated each section just like I would rereading a favorite book or rewatching a favorite movie.

And then, just from growing familiarity with the music, I began to notice details. For instance, I had always thoughts of Isaiah 53:6 as somber and sad: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him   the iniquity of us all.” But the tune Handel put to this verse seemed almost jaunty to me at first. Then one day I noticed the notes on the word “astray” were going astray.

Further into that piece, on “We have turned,” the notes are turning over and over.

Isaiah 40:4 says, “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.” In the song based on this passage, the notes on the word “crooked” go up and down—they would look crooked on the sheet music. And the melody on “straight” and “plain” is mostly straight. The notes on “exalted” go up.

The melodies illustrate the words! And I had listened to and sung this I don’t know how many times before that clicked. In fact, I just caught “exalted” going up watching this video.

In many ways, my journey with the Bible parallels my journey with this piece of music.

I had attended church occasionally growing up. I knew some basic Bible truths and narratives. But I didn’t start reading the Bible myself until high school. The church I started attending when I was sixteen strongly encouraged its people to read the Bible through in a year. So I did.

And it was like trying to drink from a fire hydrant.

But I am so thankful for that emphasis at the outset of my Christian life. That grounded me more than anything else and set me off with good habits.

I didn’t understand everything I read. Similarly, in church, I couldn’t have told you the main points of the sermon afterward. But I got enough to chew on and to nourish me. The Bible speaks of those young in the faith as taking in milk from the Word. So I took in and digested what I could, and my life was changed.

When I got to something I didn’t understand, I’d just keep going.For instance, Psalm 60:4-5 says:

Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah. That thy beloved may be delivered; save with thy right hand, and hear me.

And I would think, “Wow, that’s good!” Then the next few verses listed a bunch of names I didn’t know. And then I came to verse 8: “Moab is my washpot; over Edom will I cast out my shoe: Philistia, triumph thou because of me.”

And I thought, “Huh?”

And then I’d keep going to verses 11 and 12: “Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man. Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies.” And I’d think, “Wow, so good!”

I don’t know if that’s the best way for a new Christian to go about Bible reading. But no one had told me what to do about the parts I didn’t understand. I had never heard of study Bibles in those days. Still, the Lord met me in those times with His Word.

And as I kept reading in the 40+ years since (though not through the whole Bible in a year any more), I understood more and more. I saw how individual verses and books fit within the whole. I know what Moab and Edom and Philistia are now. There are parts that are as familiar as any favorite, much-read book. There are parts holding dear memories of God giving me just the right words in an hour of need. I anticipate what’s coming next in a passage. But I am still learning new things even from old, familiar stories and chapters.

So, why am I telling you this today?

I want to encourage you to get into a habit of reading your Bible, if you’re not already doing so.

And I want to encourage you to read all of it. Maybe not in a year. There are two-year plans and five-year plans and almost any kind of plan you could think of. But if we just keep turning to our old favorite passages, we’ll miss so much.

And if you’re discouraged because there is so much you don’t understand, I want to encourage you to keep reading. You’ll “get” more and more of it the more you read it. Someone has said that the Bible is shallow enough for a child to wade in, but deep enough for an elephant to swim in. God can speak to you and minister to you even if you don’t understand every little thing in the passage. In fact, we’ll never exhaust the Bible in this lifetime.

The Bible says to “long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation” (1 Peter 2:2-3), and then to go on to solid food (1 Corinthians 3:1-2) as we “ mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil (Hebrew 5:11-13).

But even more than spiritual food, the Bible provides spiritual fellowship. We don’t read the Bible as an end in itself, but to get to know God better. The Bible is the primary way God speaks to us. From the time God’s words were first written all the way through until the end of time, God expected His people to read and follow it.

God’s thoughts are precious to us. The Bible bears witness about Christ, increases our faith, guides us, teaches, improves, corrects, trains us in righteousness, equips us, builds us up, gives us hope and comfort, helps us avoid sin, makes us stable and fruitful, gives us life, understanding, joy, hope, wisdom and discretion.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire (2 Peter 1:3-4).

What a treasure trove we have in the Bible! May we partake of it every day.

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts (Jeremiah 15:16).

Taking in and rejoicing in God's WordSee also:

Finding Time to Read the Bible

Ways to Both Read and Study the Bible

Real Life Devotions

Studying the Parts to Understand the Whole

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Hearth and Home, Global Blogging, Senior Salon,
Tell His Story, Purposeful Faith, InstaEncouragement, Recharge Wednesday,
Share a Link Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Faith on Fire, Grace and Truth,
Blogger Voices Network. Links do not imply 100% agreement.)

Laudable Linkage

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These are some noteworthy reads if you have time today:

Look for Life Among the Living. “Don’t seek the living among broken mirrors, unfulfilled longings, and external doings. He is not there. He has risen!”

Never Read a Bible Verse (and Never Listen To a Sermon Clip). “I read the paragraph, not just the verse. I take stock of the relevant material above and below. Since the context frames the verse and gives it specific meaning, I let it tell me what’s going on.”

Allow Parenting to Push You Toward Humility. “We can admit our own shortcomings while also pointing our children to the truth of God’s word. To do one without the other is not true discipleship”

We Are Okay, and We Are Not Okay, HT to the Story Warren. From a family 40 days into quarantine in China. “If I only go where I feel safe, is that trust? If I only follow where I am guaranteed to be okay— health or otherwise— will my faith grow? If I only wander as far as I have placed my own protective boundaries, will I know the ever-sweeter presence of a Savior who would take me to the heights? Or will I be safe, but stunted?”

Your Child May Not Ask Questions, But He Needs Answers Anyway. “Kids are interesting little people. They are always thinking, always assessing, always making decisions in their minds about how things are. I think we forget that about them. We assume that if they aren’t talking about it, they aren’t thinking about it, but nothing could be further from the truth.”

And to end on a smile:

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

These are some online reads that gave me much to think on:

5 Bible Study Techniques for Busy Moms. “We make it so complicated sometimes with rules and regulations, but the most important thing about being in God’s Word is to just actually be in it.”

And on that note, 10 Ways to Engage With Scripture. “How do you engage with Scripture? Since the key to knowing God’s heart is through His Word, I pondered her question.”

Can My Calling Really Be That Simple? “It’s easy, especially in Christian circles, to get grandiose ideas of what calling looks like. It’s easy to look for people who make a big difference, give up everything, and have the numbers (or passport stamps) to prove it.”

Ten Exhortations Concerning Gossip Blogs and Online Speech, HT to Challies. I would add, don’t pass on tweets or posts that contain this kind of thing, and don’t share something with the thought, “I don’t know if this is true, but just in case…” Check it out first.

James 3:1 and the Trembling Teacher. If you’ve ever tried to teach a Sunday School class, lead a Bible study, speak (or even write) about spiritual things, you can likely identify with this post.

To the New Parent, HT to True Woman. “What a gift you have in your hands and really, the best is still ahead of you. There’s no ‘Just wait until…’ God’s grace will equip you for each new season, even if his grace simply equips you to fall to your knees.”

This Is Your Body Today, HT to Challies. “What does it mean to bear on our bodies the marks of living in this world, to experience all that life and God will give and throw at us, and to not blame the sleeplessness or stretch marks on being a mother—or to find pride in them either because they birthed live children? To not blame the creaks and groans on laziness or lack or time. To not see ourselves as a victim of some perverse injustice, but to simply say to the body that holds us today and to the God who made it: ‘Thank you’ and also ‘This hurts’?”

Max Lucado’s Endorsement of Jen Hatmaker: What it Means and Why it Matters, HT to Challies. I don’t know much about either of these two people and have not read their stuff, but I agree with the principles discussed here. The same God who calls people to unity calls out those who preach something other than biblical truth.

Finally, I had not heard of the group 40 Fingers, but stumbled across this very pleasant video this morning:

Happy Saturday!

Ways to Both Read and Study the Bible

When I first became a Christian, the church I was in urged people to read the Bible through in a year. I’m so glad, because I believe that grounded me in my faith more than anything else.

In later years, pastors often emphasized the need to read passages of the Bible in context and encouraged to read a book of the Bible through at a time rather than scattering our reading all around. I mentioned last week Drew Hunter‘s quote that we wouldn’t read only page two of a friend’s three-page letter. Nor would we read a paragraph on page three and a line on page one. The Bible isn’t a book of random quotations. Each book is a coherent whole, and all together they present a unified message.

Reading the whole Bible helped me keep things in context and see the grand themes of the Bible. It helped me get into books like Leviticus and Chronicles, which I probably would not have drifted into. I found some nuggets there I would have missed. Reading all of the Bible helps you interpret it, as some passages shed light on other passages.

Kelly Needham says:

Most Christians I talk to have never read the entirety of the Bible. They may read it frequently but only parts of it. But daily reading parts of the Bible doesn’t mean you know it any more than daily reading the first chapter of Moby Dick makes you an expert on the famous novel. Ignorance of the whole of God’s Word makes us easy targets in the war Satan has waged against God. Lies can slip through undetected like poison gas because we’re just not that familiar with the truth.

I still believe in reading the Bible through, but I don’t do it in a year any more. Sometimes I wanted to slow down, but felt I couldn’t or I’d fall behind schedule. Once one does fall behind, it’s hard to catch back up. So now I just go at my own pace. I don’t even know how long it takes me. Sometimes I read a couple of chapters a day. Other times I read more or less. I usually read the shorter epistles a few times through before moving on because they’re packed so full and go by so quickly.

I’ve seen some two-year or other plans. John O’Malley said in Overcoming Your Devotional Obstacles, “If it takes you five years to read through the Bible, you are not less of a Christian. Read it at a pace that you can comprehend it and receive something from it.”

Some folks I know have tried “binge-reading” the Bible occasionally. Joel Arnold says, “A pretty average reader can finish in 100 days by reading just 40 minutes a day.” My friend Kim once read the whole Bible in 90 days and shared her experience here.

Joel once read the whole Bible in a week, 10-12 hours a day. Afterward he noted:

The Bible is the most intertwined body of literature I’ve ever read. The books cite, quote, allude and echo each other constantly. It’s like a city, built up layer by layer, strata by strata, so that each later addition rests on every layer that came before … We don’t usually sense these relationships because we’ve forgotten 95% of the OT before we ever get to the New. But having it all out in front of your brain at once changes that completely. You find yourself flipping back and forth constantly between the testaments, jumping across thousands of years of history to study the same teachings and sometimes even the same phrases (Meditations from Binge-Reading the Bible).

Obviously no one can read 10-12 hours a day every week. But if we can use vacation time to binge watch a TV series, why not use it to read the whole Bible?

However, if we only read the Bible in great chunks, we miss something. We’re also told to study it, meditate on it, chew on it. Sometimes we need to slow down and spend more focused time on a smaller passage. Charles Spurgeon is quoted as saying, “Some people like to read so many [Bible] chapters every day. I would not dissuade them from the practice, but I would rather lay my soul asoak in half a dozen verses all day than rinse my hand in several chapters. Oh, to be bathed in a text of Scripture, and to let it be sucked up in your very soul, till it saturates your heart!” Sometimes there’s nothing like honing in on one or a few verses for an extended amount of time.

Remember, the early churches did not have the entire Bible bound in one book for a long while. They had the Old Testament and gospels, but they would have spent a great deal of time on the one letter sent to their congregation and others as they came around.

I mentioned last week that Tim Challies said the larger blocks of reading were for familiarity, and reading for intimacy was slowing down and meditating on or studying shorter passages. Kelly Collier calls these two methods plow work (which “moves through large portions of Scripture more quickly,” like reading the Bible in a year or two) and trowel work (“taking a passage or verse of Scripture and settling in to dig for a long time,” like inductive Bible Study). I likened the two styles to a panoramic or macro lens. Or we could simply call them reading and studying.

I wrote a few years ago about finding time to read the Bible. Some seasons allow for both reading and studying, and it’s great to do both each day if you can. With the friend’s letter I mentioned earlier, we usually read the whole thing once or twice and then go back over it section by section. That’s good to do with a Bible passage as well. But it’s hard enough some days to get a few minutes to read the Bible at all. How can we possibly employ both reading and studying?

Here are some ideas:

Take turns. Often after I’ve finished a book of the Bible, I’ve taken a break to do a shorter study. Then I go back to the next book of the Bible.

Alternate days. Use a few days of the week for general reading, the others for more focused study.

Do the opposite of your church. For several years we were under a pastor who took a very detailed, thorough approach to preaching through a book of the Bible at a time. It took us years to get through Romans. But that was great, because then we knew it well. Since the preaching I heard was the in-depth, verse or two at a time style, my personal reading was more general. By contrast, when in other churches where the preaching covered more ground, I liked to do in-depth studies on my own.

Join a Bible study group. Bible studies tend to be slower and more focused (unless they’re topical), so I did in-depth study for the group and more general study on my own.

Adjust as needs arise. Once, chagrined and ashamed after an angry outburst, I set aside my regular Bible reading to look up and mediate on passages dealing with anger. That kind of thing has happened several times: an issue came up that I had to study out now.

Slow down and speed up as you feel led. In reading the Bible through, if I feel the need to put the breaks on in a certain passage and camp out for a while, I do so. Then I’ll pick up the pace for more general reading later.

There are going to be days when your regular routine flies out the window: illness, traveling, company, emergencies. God gives grace for those. I have a small devotional book called Daily Light on the Daily Path that is a few verses on a certain theme each day. Usually I use it to start my devotions, but some days that’s all I get to.

There are going to be seasons in life when finding time for quiet study is nearly impossible, like when young children are in the house. Just like we sometimes grab a protein bar instead of having a sit-down lunch, so our spiritual feeding sometimes has to be grab-and-go rather than a leisurely meal. When I truly only had time for a verse or two, God fed my soul with just those verses. Anything is better than nothing. One writer proposed a micronutrient Bible reading plan for those times.

We need to keep in mind the goal for reading the Bible isn’t just to get through it in a specified time. Instead, we read to learn it, learn from it, get to know God and His Word better.

Our current church has us read through a book of the Bible together. We’re asked to read five chapters of the Bible a week, one a day Monday-Friday with Saturdays to catch up. Then the preaching focuses on a short passage of a different book. Then we all learn a verse each month. So we incorporate the general overview reading, have a more in-depth study of a short passage, and spend a longer time meditating on one verse. That’s not a bad practice for one’s personal reading as well.

What ways have you find to incorporate both reading and studying the Bible? Do you tend toward one more than the other?

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