7 Ways to Stoke the Fire and Avoid Burnout

There are a lot of people burning out these days; some for moral reasons, others because they tried to balance too much for too long. Many who haven’t “burned out” are not exactly following Paul’s charge to, “not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit” (Rom. 12:11a). So what can we do to keep the fire going and avoid burnout? Here are just a few ways we can practically thrive in our walk with Christ…

  • Meditation

“I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” Psalm 119:11

Steep your heart in the Word everyday. Don’t just read with your eyes. Turn it into a prayer. Pray the Word back to God. Meditate, then memorize, then meditate some more on what you’ve memorized. One way to do this is to carry around a tiny notepad and record what God has spoken in His Word that day to give you something to chew on all day and savor it completely. The late Jerry Bridges made this helpful point, “God’s Word must be so strongly fixed in our minds that it becomes the dominant influence in our thoughts, our attitudes, and our actions. One of the most effective ways of influencing our minds is through memorizing Scripture.”

  • Perspiration

“…bodily training is of some value…” 1 Timothy 4:8a

I know perspiration doesn’t sound as spiritual as meditation, but it is also important. Many of the problems we face could be solved with a little exercise and some healthy eating. One author has stated, “The cure for anything is salt water…sweat, tears, or the sea.” While that obviously takes things too far, we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of a good sweat. God created our beating hearts and sweat glands for a reason. As embodied spirits, we often aren’t aware of how connected our bodies and spirits are. Many have seen depression and discontentment lift after a period of regular exercise. Doctors say our hearts should beat at a rapid pace at least 30 minutes each day and we will do wise to heed them.    

  • Recreation

“…much study is a weariness of the flesh.” Ecclesiastes 12:12

While similar to perspiration, recreation focuses more on the creativity God gave us. Hobbies are good for the soul. Whether it’s carpentry, karate, racquetball, or cooking, we all need diversions from the demands on us. Some think the Bible’s call to sober-mindedness condemns this, but this is wrong. The truly sober-minded know that high levels of work and stress often lead to sin, so they insert recreation into life. Ancient watchman were given one watch of the night so they’d be fully alert during that watch. We’ve also got to mention the all important…sleep. God wired us so that we’d need this nightly recharge and for those who won’t humble themselves to get it, God will see to it that they are humbled for lack of it. In his little book Zeal Without Burnout, Christopher Ash writes, “To neglect sleep, Sabbaths, friendships, and inward renewal is not heroism but hubris.”

  • Mortification

“For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:13

There is no sanctification without mortification. The great men of God in the Bible and church history were known for vigilance in this. John Piper calls this, “Holy sweat” and we can’t forget John Owen’s famous line that, “We must be killing sin or sin will be killing us.” There is no more sad creature in all the world than a believer cozying up to sin. Unbelievers live in sin, but they are blind to the glories of Christ. Believers, however, are at odds with their new union to Christ when they sin. They feel what David felt when he said, “My bones wasted away…my strength was dried up.” This is why Jesus said of indwelling sin, “kill it, gouge it out, pluck it out, and tear it from you.” Peter told us indwelling sin, “wage[s] war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11). Along with killing sin, we’ve also got to learn to say, “No” to extra demands on our time that keep us from what is most important. Even learning to discipline ourselves to put down the smartphone could help us keep a good pace.

  • Association

“Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25

No believer was created to be a lone ranger. We need fellowship with other believers, especially in a local body with which we have covenanted. The church who practices biblical church membership is built upon this deep fellowship in the body of Christ. But sitting in a pew once a week is not sufficient to stir up our souls. We need a one-on-one relationship of accountability in the body and we also need a small group in the church that will keep us lifted in prayer and provide us with the necessary encouragement. All the while, we must not forget that we are there to serve our brothers and sisters and not merely be served by them.

  • Proclamation

“…Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” 1 Corinthians 9:16b

The Dead Sea is a fitting example of the Christian who neglects evangelism. Like the Dead Sea, if we have no outlet of the Gospel into the lives of others, we will grow stagnant and dry. Evangelism always reminds me of the lostness of the world around me and the great wonder of God’s saving grace in my own life. When you rub shoulders with the lost and listen to them share their worldview, it may just remind you how blessed you are to be in Christ, in turn filling you with a passion to share the Gospel with unbelievers.

  • Continuation

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

All of the above will not matter if we fail to persevere. Jesus said it is those, “who endure to the end who will be saved.” While it is true that God preserves His people, it is also true that God’s people persevere. In the same short letter, the Apostle Jude referred to believers as those, “kept for Jesus Christ”, then commanded us: “Keep yourselves in the love of God”, only to conclude, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling…” May we not lose heart and give up, for there is nothing but destruction for those who do. Hebrews 12:2 reminds us to, “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus…”

May we all run this marathon race of life with endurance, focus, and sustainable pace.

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Loss, Gain, and Lady Jane Grey

In John 12:24 Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

Think about those who heard this. Perhaps the Greeks who came in v20-22 heard Jesus say the hour of His glorification had come in v23 and thought it meant something else, that Jesus was about to set up His dominion on the earth and crush Israel’s enemies once and for all. To them, v24 would’ve been confusing and disappointing.[i]‘What? The hour of your glorification has come and you’re speaking of dying?’ What Jesus implicitly stated with the donkey in His triumphal entry He now explicitly states here in an agrarian paradox. For Jesus, the way to fruitfulness lies through death, the way to gain lies through loss, the way to glorification lies through humiliation. Or to say it another way, like the seed whose death is the germination of life for a great crop, so too Jesus’ death produces an abundant harvest.[ii]When you hold a kernel of wheat (or an acorn) in your hand you cannot see all that is in it. It looks rather small and unimpressive but it contains a world of life on the inside. How does all that world of life get out? By the kernel being shoved beneath the ground. Then, and only then, life breaks forth out of it for all to see as new plants burst upward out of the ground. By speaking like this in v24 Jesus is saying that by dying He will bear much fruit. He will be plunged beneath the ground in death and put in the tomb. From the appearance of things this will look very unimpressive and disappointing. But this death will cause the life within Him to burst forth from the grave in resurrection power which in turn causes more resurrection fruit to come forth all over the globe.

v24 is about Jesus and what will soon happen to Him. When Jesus goes on further to v25 He applies this same principle to those who follow Him. “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Jesus is saying the way to truly love life is by losing it and the way to truly gain eternal life is by hating our life in this world. This is the cost of discipleship, this is the cost of following Jesus, this is self-denial. This principle is the secret of the Christian life. Spiritually speaking, do you want to be rich? You must become poor in spirit. Do you want to be first? You must be willing to be last. Do you want to lead? You must be willing to serve. Do you want to live? You must be willing to die.[iv]Or perhaps think of it like this. Our conversion is a twofold event. On one hand it is as bright as dawn for we have been born again, raised to walk in new life, filled with the Spirit, and are now adopted children of God. On the other hand it is as dark as night for a death has occurred. Not the death of anyone else, no, the tombstone has our own name on it for our old nature has died. This means our will, our agenda, our plans, our desires, our loves, and ultimately our whole life is over. Someone may think, ‘Well geez, isn’t becoming a Christian by free grace?’ Of course it is, salvation is free indeed, but it costs us everything. Until you come to the end of yourself true life in Christ cannot begin. Are you willing to do this? If not, you have no part with Christ. If so, you’ve learned the secret of the Christian life. That by dying to self and dying to sin you have found out who you really are and discovered your true identity, not in yourself but in Christ.

Many these days are now reading blogs like this and attending healthy churches because they want their theology reformed, but how few want their lives reformed as well! We must learn anew. The character of Christ must also be the character of all those in His Kingdom. Like Jesus, our greatest gain comes by loss.

Lady Jane Grey is a mammoth historical figure in the Protestant Reformation. She, only being a teenager, caught wind of Reformation teaching and began teaching it to others. The local catholic priest heard of this and set up a debate with a catholic theologian to squash efforts and embarrass her, but to everyone’s shock she not only held her own, she presented the teachings of Scripture with such accuracy and fervor that she persuaded more than half in attendance that day. For this she was to be executed. And as the day came she gave her Bible to her sister Katherine with a note inside it that said, “If you with good mind read it, and with earnest desire follow it, no doubt it shall bring you to an immortal and everlasting life…my good sister…deny the world, defy the devil, despise the flesh, and delight yourself only in the Lord…with whom even in death there is life.”[v]

May God make us more and more like Lady Jane Grey.

 

 

Citations:

[i]R. Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe – Preaching the Word Commentary, page 306.

[ii]D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John – PNTC, page 438.

[iii]J.C. Ryle, quoted in Hughes, page 95.

[iv]Hughes, page 307.

[v]Lady Jane Grey, quoted in Richard Phillips, John 11-21 – Reformed Expository Commentary, page 98.

Resolutions That Will Matter 10,000 Years From Now

Well, thanksgiving and Christmas have come and gone, and it is now 2018. From looking back on 2017 and looking into 2018, I’m sure many of you are thinking about and wanting to make some changes about your life. Getting rid of some habits and replacing them with new habits in their place. Maybe you want to change how to relate to your spouse, your kids, or your friends. Perhaps you want to get into healthier patterns of eating, entertainment, sleep, exercise, or giving. Whatever you’re thinking and whatever you’re desiring about 2018, most of you are thinking about one thing…behavior modification. I’d like to suggest something else…

I want to suggest that you aim a bit deeper, that you aim at the root of all your behavior, that you aim at your heart. 10,000 years from now only one thing will matter: if you know God. Therefore to aid you in making resolutions that matter, below are all of Jonathan Edward’s resolutions. Enjoy them. May they become and/or influence your own.

 

Jonathan Edwards:

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.

Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.

2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new invention and contrivance to promote the forementioned things.

3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.

4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.

5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

8. Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God.

9. Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.

10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.

11. Resolved, when I think of any theorem in divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can towards solving it, if circumstances don’t hinder.

12. Resolved, if I take delight in it as a gratification of pride, or vanity, or on any such account, immediately to throw it by.

13. Resolved, to be endeavoring to find out fit objects of charity and liberality.

14. Resolved, never to do anything out of revenge.

15. Resolved, never to suffer the least motions of anger to irrational beings.

16. Resolved, never to speak evil of anyone, so that it shall tend to his dishonor, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.

17. Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.

18. Resolved, to live so at all times, as I think is best in my devout frames, and when I have clearest notions of things of the gospel, and another world.

19. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trump.

20. Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.

21. Resolved, never to do anything, which if I should see in another, I should count a just occasion to despise him for, or to think any way the more meanly of him.

22. Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself (as much happiness, in the other world,) as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.

23. Resolved, frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God’s glory, to repute it as a breach of the 4th Resolution.

24. Resolved, whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then both carefully endeavor to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.

25. Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.

26. Resolved, to cast away such things, as I find do abate my assurance.

27. Resolved, never willfully to omit anything, except the omission be for the glory of God; and frequently to examine my omissions.

28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

29. Resolved, never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession, which I cannot hope God will accept.

30. Resolved, to strive to my utmost every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.

31. Resolved, never to say anything at all against anybody, but when it is perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of Christian honor, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the Golden Rule; often, when I have said anything against anyone, to bring it to, and try it strictly by the test of this Resolution.

32. Resolved, to be strictly and firmly faithful to my trust, that that in Proverbs 20:6, “A faithful man who can find?” may not be partly fulfilled in me.

33. Resolved, always to do what I can towards making, maintaining and establishing peace, when it can be without over-balancing detriment in other respects.

34. Resolved, in narrations never to speak anything but the pure and simple verity.

35. Resolved, whenever I so much question whether I have done my duty, as that my quiet and calm is thereby disturbed, to set it down, and also how the question was resolved.

36. Resolved, never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call for it.

37. Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent, what sin I have committed, and wherein I have denied myself: also at the end of every week, month and year.

38. Resolved, never to speak anything that is ridiculous, or matter of laughter on the Lord’s day.

39. Resolved, never to do anything that I so much question the lawfulness of, as that I intend, at the same time, to consider and examine afterwards, whether it be lawful or no: except I as much question the lawfulness of the omission.

40. Resolved, to inquire every night, before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to eating and drinking.

41. Resolved, to ask myself at the end of every day, week, month and year, wherein I could possibly in any respect have done better.

42. Resolved, frequently to renew the dedication of myself to God,
which was made at my baptism; which I solemnly renewed, when I was received into the communion of the church; and which I have solemnly re-made this 12th day of January.

43. Resolved, never henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were anyway my own, but entirely and altogether God’s.

44. Resolved, that no other end but religion, shall have any influence at all on any of my actions; and that no action shall be, in the least circumstance, any otherwise than the religious end will carry it.

45. Resolved, never to allow any pleasure or grief, joy or sorrow, nor any affection at all, nor any degree of affection, nor any circumstance relating to it, but what helps religion.

46. Resolved, never to allow the least measure of any fretting uneasiness at my father or mother. Resolved to suffer no effects of it, so much as in the least alteration of speech, or motion of my eye: and to be especially careful of it, with respect to any of our family.

47. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to deny whatever is not most agreeable to a good, and universally sweet and benevolent, quiet, peaceable, contented, easy, compassionate, generous, humble, meek, modest, submissive, obliging, diligent and industrious, charitable, even, patient, moderate, forgiving, sincere temper; and to do at all times what such a temper would lead me to. Examine strictly every week, whether I have done so.

48. Resolved, constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or no; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of.

49. Resolved, that this never shall be, if I can help it.

50. Resolved, I will act so as I think I shall judge would have been best, and most prudent, when I come into the future world.

51. Resolved, that I will act so, in every respect, as I think I shall wish I had done, if I should at last be damned.

52. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age.

53. Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer.

54. Whenever I hear anything spoken in commendation of any person, if I think it would be praiseworthy in me, resolved to endeavor to imitate it.

55. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as I can think I should do, if I had already seen the happiness of heaven, and hell torments.

56. Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.

57. Resolved, when I fear misfortunes and adversities, to examine whether I have done my duty, and resolve to do it; and let it be just as providence orders it, I will as far as I can, be concerned about nothing but my duty and my sin.

58. Resolved, not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness and benignity.

59. Resolved, when I am most conscious of provocations to ill-nature and anger, that I will strive most to feel and act good-naturedly; yea, at such times, to manifest good nature, though I think that in other respects it would be disadvantageous, and so as would be imprudent at other times.

60. Resolved, whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination.

61. Resolved, that I will not give way to that listlessness which I find unbends and relaxes my mind from being fully and fixedly set on religion, whatever excuse I may have for it–that what my listlessness inclines me to do, is best to be done.

62. Resolved, never to do anything but duty; and then according to Ephesians 6:6-8, do it willingly and cheerfully “as unto the Lord, and not to man; knowing that whatever good thing any man doth, the same shall he receive of the Lord.”

63. On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true luster, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: resolved, to act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time.

64. Resolved, when I find those “groanings which cannot be uttered,” of which the Apostle speaks [Romans 8:26], and those “breakings of soul for the longing it hath,” of which the Psalmist speaks, Psalms 119:20, that I will promote them to the utmost of my power, and that I will not be weary of earnestly endeavoring to vent my desires, nor of the repetitions of such earnestness.

65. Resolved, very much to exercise myself in this all my life long, viz. with the greatest openness I am capable of, to declare my ways to God, and lay open my soul to him: all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires, and everything, and every circumstance; according to Dr. Manton’s 27th sermon on the 119th Psalm.

66. Resolved, that I will endeavor always to keep a benign aspect, and air of acting and speaking in all places, and in all companies, except it should so happen that duty requires otherwise.

67. Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.

68. Resolved, to confess frankly to myself all that which I find in myself, either infirmity or sin; and, if it be what concerns religion, also to confess the whole case to God, and implore needed help.

69. Resolved, always to do that, which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it.

70. Let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak.

Waiting = Worship?

Most Christians that I know are well aware that waiting on the Lord is a large component of being a believer. Yet when it happens to us, when we’re forced to wait, we’re somehow taken aback by this unexpected intrusion of not getting to do what we wanted to (for the Lord of course!), or go where we think He wants us to go.

Many of us know well, stories in the Bible of characters who had to not only wait, but some never even saw promises fulfilled that God had made to them. Moses waiting for 40 years in the desert to go into the promised land, and then not being allowed to go in; Joseph waiting as a servant and then as a prisoner before God elevated him to great status in Egypt, yet not making it back alive to his homeland; David waiting many years between being anointed as king and actually reigning as king; and the list goes on. 

If great saints in the Bible had to wait, what makes us think we won’t have to?
One reason we have found it so difficult to wait is simply that we live in a culture where we don’t have to wait for hardly anything. And then if we do come across something where we are forced to wait, we simply make a fuss and then we get what we want. We have drive through restaurants, dry-cleaners, banks, pharmacie; we rarely truly wait for anything. No wonder we Western believers are so bad at waiting. Our culture completely caters to our lack of being able to wait.

But yet here my family waits. It would not be a stretch to say these past three years of waiting to go to Paraguay have not been easy. We may have comfort in terms of housing, food, clothes, etc…but our hearts are quite restless as we long to go to Paraguay.  This waiting has not been of our own making. At least not that we can see.

Right after finishing our training, one of Bill’s retina detached, forcing a 9-month medical delay. Our support-raising has been slow but when we reached the 75% of needed support, we had the green light that we could leave, only to find out that I need to get my citizenship, forcing another 6+ month delay. There is no need to ask why the delays. We know God is sovereign in orchestrating these delays, and what He is asking us to do in the delay is trust Him deeper. But honestly I’m not liking it. I find I’m floundering from time to time. I’ll have weeks where I’m on task, enjoying my time in His Word, content with where He has us at this time, seeing my need to depend on Him for clarity. And then at other times, well, I’m the opposite of what I just said.

Right now I’m in the season of the latter. Not liking where we are, discontent in our circumstance, cloudy in vision.

I looked on the internet for a good, Biblically accurate acronym for WAIT,  and found my options wanting. So, I decided to make up my own. If there is one out there exactly like mine, it’s purely coincidental, although if anyone is a student of Scripture, it’s not a stretch to think two people could come up with the same acronym. I hope this is an encouragement to anyone else who is in a place of waiting on the Lord.

W – Worship in the Waiting

According to  Romans 12:1-2, our whole lives are to be offered up as an act of worship. This is not nullified during a period of waiting. In fact, I would say striving for this would seem even more urgent during a time of intense waiting. “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. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

A – Acknowledge and Acceptance

My mind goes immediately to Jesus praying in the garden, before His death. Three of the Gospels record His prayer. First, Jesus acknowledges to His disciples that His soul is very sorrowful. Then He prays. It’s a simple prayer, really. Mark 14:36 “And He said, Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” It’s OK to admit that the waiting is hard for us. But if acknowledging it is all we do, we’ll end up only complaining. When acknowledging it leads to acceptance, that’s when we are free to…

I – Imitate and Intimacy

Again, Christ is our supreme example here. Many times in Scripture we find Him retreating alone to commune with His Father, whether it was to prepare Himself for the temptations Satan would throw at Him, or just to get away from the pressing crowds who wanted anything and everything from Him. Luke 5:16 says, “But He would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” We gain everything from imitating Christ by pursuing intimacy with God.

T – Trust in Truth

Even though we may wrestle with doubts, those of us who have trusted in Christ’s finished work on the cross can trust that what He says in His Word is true. That not only will He complete the work He has started in us, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness…” 2 Peter 1:3

Whether you are experiencing waiting,  testing, or possibly even persecution, take heart from these words, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:6-9).

“Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Hebrews 13:15).

So, we will continue to worship in our waiting, acknowledging that it’s hard yet accepting it, while imitating Christ by pursuing intimacy with our Abba Father, while trusting that He is working all things for our good.

Fighting Fear with Fear

When a forest fire rages out of control, sometimes firefighters must fight fire with fire. By burning the area around the fire, they leave nowhere for the fire to go. When it comes to the fear of man, we must fight fire with fire, by cultivating a healthy fear of God.

In Matthew 10:28, Jesus says, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” 

I am a pansy. 

There, I said it. I’m far too concerned with what people think of me over what God thinks of me. If you’re like me, you are regularly frustrated at how often your decisions in life are based more on the fear of man than the fear of God. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t care about sounding offensive in many situations. I’ve been cussed at, threatened, and insulted by non-believers for sharing the gospel with them and not lost one minute of sleep over it. But when it comes to people I am close with, I hold their opinions often too highly and care more about offending them than God. Why is this?

In this text, Jesus is preparing his disciples for the world’s hatred of them. He had just shared with them that persecution is to be the Christian’s constant companion in this sin-cursed and broken world, but now he tells them how they should respond emotionally to it. Jesus compares the true bite behind people’s bark with the bite behind the bark of his holy Word, and there is no comparison. People can kill the body (which is going to die anyway), but God can cast the soul into eternal, conscious torment in hell. To live with an unhealthy fear of people, however, is to live with an unhealthy fear of God. It makes perfect sense to fear the God to whom we all must give an account. It makes no sense whatsoever to fear people who cannot shake your soul’s security. Perhaps this is why Isaiah put it so rightly when he said, “Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?” (Isaiah 2:22).

But how do you know when you have crossed the line between Christian kindness and fear of man? How do you know when you’re living in the fear of man instead of the fear of God? I think the answer from our text is that anytime we’re okay with being silent about Christ for fear of what others may think of us, we’ve crossed that line. I’ve always heard it said that good Christian leaders have learned to develop a tough skin and a soft heart. On the one hand, we must so fear God that we’re not swayed by people’s opinions, while on the other hand, we must so love God’s image-bearers that we spend time getting to know them and doing the hard work it takes to reach them with the gospel.

But we must not forget that the source of all our God-fearing boldness stems not from us, but from Christ. Jesus’ deep reverence for his Father led him to endure the shame of the cross, despite the great cost. His willingness to be betrayed and deserted by his own disciples, rejected by the ones he came to save, and forsaken by his Father to endure our wrath is astounding. Yet Jesus embraced such a hard life to save us and now he calls us to fearless obedience to God from hearts full of reverence for him. 

The late Jerry Bridges has noted that the fear of God refers to reverential awe. Because we revere and stand in awe of the Lord God, we can overcome this unhealthy fear of man in our lives. After all, they can only kill us…and we’re invincible anyway!

4 Habits to Fight Sin

John Owen wrote these famous words: “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Likewise, Charles Spurgeon wrote “If you do not die to sin, you shall die for sin. If you do not slay sin, sin will slay you.” 

Great minds think alike, right? This idea was not original to Owen or Spurgeon it came long before them from the pages of Scripture.

Paul commands, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions” (Romans 6:12).

John writes, “Do not love the world or the things in the world” (1 John 2:15).

Peter exhorts, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:14-15).

Time and time again the Bible commands us to flee sin, fight sin, and hate sin. The one who has been saved by grace through faith is now called to live a life that represents Christ well (Colossians 1:10). We are to be holy as He is holy. A call to holiness is a call to wage war on sin.

How can we do this? The good news is that we do not do this alone (Philippians 2:12b-13).  God is at work within us to make us more like Him and we can have peace in that. But there is still work to be done. 

Here are four practical ways we can fight sin:

Scripture Reading 

It’s so easy to fill our minds with thoughts, plans, dreams, and fantasies that don’t honor Christ. And our actions will follow wherever we let our mind wonder. The Psalmist had come to realize that knowing, meditating, and memorizing Scripture was crucial in fighting sin when he wrote, “I have stored up Your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11). Like a squirrel who stores up food to prepare for the long winter, so the Psalmist stores up God’s Word in His heart to prepare him for the long road ahead full of temptation. There are endless benefits of spending time in God’s Word.

Avoid Bad Company 

The Bible makes it clear that, “Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33). The people you associate with will have great influence on your life. The more time you spend surrounding yourself with morally corrupt people, the more you will become indifferent towards the sin that you so often see and experience. This is exactly the opposite of “do not be conformed” (Romans 12:2) and it will hurt you in your pursuit to fight sin. If you desire to wage war against your sin then you need to have people of godly character in your life. The people you are spending most of your time with should be those who love God and desire His best for you. Striving to have godly people in your life doesn’t mean you can never converse with sinners, it means your closest friends and mentors should be striving for the same thing you are – holiness!

Avoid Tempting Circumstances

In Mark 9 we read, “if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off…And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off…And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out…'”(Mark 9:43b-48). These verses can be summed up like this: if there are people, places, things, or situations in your life that frequently cause you to sin then you need to distance yourself from them. You need to do whatever it takes to remove yourself from those vices. If you constantly struggle with purity while surfing the internet then maybe it’s time to get rid of your internet or set up some accountability. If you struggle with drunkenness when you hangout with a certain crowd then maybe its time to stop hanging out with that crowd. If you tend to get really angry and lash out at others while engaging in a particular activity, then perhaps you need to back off of that activity – or “cut it off and tear it out” as Mark tells us. Yes, it will be painful, but this is how serious sin and it’s consequences are. If there are people, places, things, or situations in your life that cause you to frequently sin then you need to remove them from your life, at least for a time, until you get that sin under control.

Prayer  

Jesus in in Matthew 6 tells us to pray in this way, “Our Father…lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:9b-13). Later in Matthew 26 Jesus commands His disciples to “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Matthew 26:41a). Also in Psalm 141 the Psalmist prays, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies!” (Psalm 141:3-4). In all these verses we can see that there is a real correlation between fighting sin and prayer. If you desire to fight sin then you need to be a person of prayer.

Fighting sin is a lifelong battle. Praise God we do not fight sin on our own. God is with us and works in us to make us more like Him, yet we are still called to fight sin ourselves. We do this by meditating on God’s word, spending time with Godly people, avoiding tempting situations, and having an active prayer life asking God to help us fight sin.

Urged By Our Need in Preaching and Hearing

I am preacher. I am also a sinner. This dichotomy causes me to feel, almost always, the gap between the wonders of the truths I preach and the coldness I often feel within my heart. Each time I walk up to the pulpit I am urged by my need to cry out to the Lord and ask Him to do what I am unable to do: change hearts, raise the dead, sanctify the Church.

Because of this I am often looking for new words to express myself in prayer directly before I preach. Lest you think this is just for preachers, don’t turn away just yet. This is not just for me, or just for preachers…this is for all of us because each congregation should also be aware of their pastors inability apart from God’s grace. So just as we preachers are urged by our own need to cry out for help when preaching so too every Christian in the congregation should also be crying out to do through their pastor what he cannot do.

Keith Getty and Stuart Townend have given all of us words to express these desires. This song is from 2005 and it’s called ‘Speak O’ Lord.’ Here’s the lyrics:
“Speak, O Lord, as we come to You, to receive the food of Your Holy Word. Take Your truth, plant it deep in us; shape and fashion us, in Your likeness. That the light of Christ might be seen today, in our acts of love and our deeds of faith.

Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us, all Your purposes for Your glory. Teach us, Lord, full obedience, holy reverence, true humility; test our thoughts and our attitudes, in the radiance of Your purity. Cause our faith to rise; cause our eyes to see Your majestic love and authority. Words of pow’r that can never fail, let their truth prevail over unbelief.

Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds; help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us. Truths unchanged from the dawn of time, that will echo down through eternity. And by grace we’ll stand on Your promises, and by faith we’ll walk as You walk with us.

Speak, O Lord, till Your Church is built, and the earth is filled with Your glory.”

Here’s how it sounds: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=my90e3a_nlM

Pastors, may you be encouraged to cry out as you study and before you preach with these words. Church, may you be encouraged to be praying this for your pastor(s) throughout the week and while he preaches. The more we rely on and remind ourselves of our need and God’s sufficient grace in our need, the more we all will benefit.

Sleep: Keeping in the Guardrails

Sleep is great.

Who doesn’t want to get a full eight hours every night and wake up feeling rested and refreshed? Some of us find this quite challenging, if not impossible. There can be any number of reasons why we don’t get a good night’s sleep: work demands, small children who often cry out at night, household chores that must be completed, our favorite TV show that comes on late, a guilty conscience or racing mind, or even a health problem. For others of us who don’t have as much responsibility, oversleeping can be a temptation: college students who don’t have class until 11am, the retired or unemployed who don’t have a boss waiting on them, or the self-employed who don’t have a fixed schedule. What can we do to avoid losing control of our sleep and this causing damage in other aspects of our lives? God’s Word teaches us to stay between two guardrails: too little sleep and too much sleep.

The first guardrail, too little sleep, is found in Psalm 127:2, “It is vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for He gives to His beloved sleep.” In Psalm 127, Solomon addresses those who neglect proper sleep for the purpose of increasing productivity. These workaholics think sleep is overrated because it doesn’t appear to produce anything. They are too busy toiling, but their toiling is “anxious” toiling, the opposite of faith-fueled effort. They “labor in vain.” There is nothing wrong with hard work. God commends hard work; but if we cannot cease from work to rest, chances are its anxious toil. Whether you’re a night owl or an early bird, sleep is a gift God “gives to His beloved.

Both Scripture and reason say we’re fools for neglecting proper sleep. Ignoring God’s wisdom to get enough sleep at night can lead to a number of health problems: physical, emotional, mental, and even spiritual. Oftentimes our walk with the Lord suffers because we are disobeying Him in this area of rest. While a full eight hours cannot bring you any closer to God, a habit of perpetually ignoring God’s counsel to rest is dangerous. It’s humbling that God has hard-wired the human body so that our batteries run out and require hours of re-charging every night. Practically a third of our lives are spent unconscious! So if you’re tempted to burn the candle at both ends on a regular basis, humble yourself before the Lord, confess your weakness and frailty, pray for more faith, then exercise faith in the Lord by getting some rest at night.

The other guardrail we must avoid is too much sleep. Proverbs 20:13 states, “Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread.” If overworking and under-sleeping go hand in hand, oversleeping and under-working do too. For those with a normal nine-to-five, being late a few times could cost you your job, so this may not be a problem for you. But for those with different schedules, sleep can easily become an idol. The Lord created sleep as a gift, but He never wants us to worship the gift over the Giver.

So what can we do to ensure we stay between the guardrails of ignoring sleep and idolizing it? Work hard for the glory of God no matter what you do, then exercise faith in God by going to bed at a decent time.

This may mean eliminating certain things like late night TV or caffeine or changing habits to ensure you get the proper sleep you need. If we really believe God is sovereign over all, we must put that faith to practice by embracing our humanity and resting in His goodness. The world’s problems will still be around in the morning and the wheels won’t fly off if we stop working for eight hours.

I’ll conclude by offering my own variation on 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink [or sleep], or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

My Favorite Reads of 2016

This past January I wrote a post (click here) detailing my reading plan for 2016. As I look back at the year that was and the reading plan I set out to accomplish I am pleased. Overall the plan helped me have (and exceed) the goal of one book a month. I’m happy with how this year played out with my reading, and I’m looking forward to sharing my new list for 2017 in the next few weeks (stay tuned!)

Out of the books I read this year two of them stand out above the rest:

9781433544736m1) The Things of Earth by Joe Rigney

As soon as this was published in December of 2014 I knew it was a book I wanted to read. I’ve read Joe Rigney’s discipleship book on The Chronicles of Narnia before and thoroughly enjoyed his writing. I figured I’d enjoy this as well, and I did, very much! What caught me off guard is that the book did something that few books have done to me – it changed my view of God. Don’t mishear me. The book didn’t change anything for me doctrinally, but the book did help see new depths of joy within that theology and for that I’m very grateful.

I’ve been a longtime lover of all things Christian Hedonism, Desiring God Ministries, and John Piper. Joe Rigney is one of the professors at Piper’s Bethlehem Institute and it’s no surprise that Rigney displays the same Christian Hedonist perspective in this book. What was interesting is that Rigney took the thought and extended it to places Piper never dreamed of. John Piper says as much in his foreword when he commends Rigney’s book. Rigney’s main point in this book is not that God gives gracious gifts to His children, but that God intends we enjoy Him in His gifts by using His gifts well. Everything from lemonade, laughter of children, college football, scrambled eggs, and crispy bacon. Is the old hymn correct when it says ‘the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace?’ Rigney gives an emphatic ‘No!’ What really happens is that the things of earth grow strangely bright when beheld and used to the glory of God. How do we live faithfully in a world full of His blessings? By following the sunbeam back up to the Sun.

I commend this book to you. It’s worth your time, it’ll change you for the better.

9781848710115m2) The Forgotten Spurgeon by Iain Murray

The Prince of Preachers, he was called. Charles Spurgeon was a man for the times. A young pastor who burst onto Victorian London as a man gripped by Biblical conviction. Yet, this isn’t quite the image portrayed by many of his biographers. Iain Murray says the Spurgeon we’ve forgotten is the Spurgeon gripped by a robust Calvinistic theology, combative towards Arminian errors, and full of Spirit-filled unction and pleading in preaching. This is the forgotten Spurgeon Murray is burdened to present to us.

Originally written in February 1966 you may be tempted to think Iain Murray’s book has no place in today’s culture. Yet Murray’s description of the three large controversies within Spurgeon’s ministry are ripe for the modern Church. The first controversy was Spurgeon’s stand against the diluted gospel fashionably Victorian in the London to which the young preacher came in the 1850′s; the second was the famous ‘Baptismal Regeneration’ debate of 1864; the third was the lacerating Down-Grade controversy of 1887-1891 when Spurgeon sought to awaken Christians to the danger of the Church ‘being buried beneath the boiling mud-showers of modern heresy.’

The same three controversies are not only present in the modern Church, but it seems that by and large we have forgotten these battles Spurgeon fought. He often stood alone in these battles, yet though alone he stood firm. In the end, it killed him. As Murray weaves through these three seasons in Spurgeon’s life throughout his book I was gripped, encouraged, and emboldened to stand for the same truths Spurgeon stood for. You will be too.

Honorable mentions:

Tim Keller’s Preaching

Michael Horton’s Calvin on the Christian Life

Albert-Marie Schmidt’s Calvin

My 2016 Reading Plan

 

For most of you this won’t come as a surprise, but I thoroughly enjoy reading.  I’ve read a lot of books, and I’ve found a structured plan is one of the best ways to get through multiple books quickly.  So in the above picture you’ll find what I plan to read in 2016.  I originally planned on choosing 12 books (1 for each month) but I finished 2 of them before 2016 even began, so I added two more to bring the total back up to 12.  Some of you won’t think 12 books is much at all, while others of you will think it’s not even possible.  I’ll explain each choice below:

(disclaimer: before I pick up any of these books I’ll be reading my Bible through again this year, using a Chronological Bible Reading Plan with my wife.  No Christian should pick up a book, until they’ve read their Bibles first.)

Already finished: Church Elders, Jeramie Rinne – A concise, honest, and most importantly Biblical portrait of what the New Testament elder is.  This is challenging, encouraging, funny, and heartfelt.  Lord willing, we’ll be ordaining a new elder at SonRise this coming year and this book helped me greatly.

Already finished: Live Like a Narnian, Joe Rigney – WOW!  I can’t say enough good things about this book.  I’ve read Lewis’ Chronicles many times and gleaned much from them in my own study but Rigney reveals much about the stories that I simply never knew.  This treated my soul well, and I couldn’t stop reading it (I think it took 2 days to finish).  Open it’s pages, breath deeply of Narnian air, it will change you.

January: Knowing God, J.I. Packer – This a best seller that I’ve never read.  A good friend and retired pastor gave me a copy and I want to honor him by devoting time to read this wonderful book.  (I’m already 5 chapters into it and it is good!)

February: The Priority of Preaching, Christopher Ash – ‘LISTEN UP: A Guide on Listening to Sermons’ is a great small read by Ash that I read in 2015 and gained much from.  When I found that I had another book on my shelf by Ash it quickly joined my 2016 cast.  Why a book on preaching?  Aren’t I already a preacher?  Yes I am, and I want to be a better one.  This book will aid me in becoming a better expositor of God’s Word.

March: The Conviction to Lead, Albert Mohler – It’s always a good idea to read a book on leadership each year, especially for men like me who have careers in leadership.  Mahler is an easy choice for a leadership book, his role at Southern Seminary/Boyce College has done much good to the Church Universal.

April: The Things of Earth, Joe Rigney – Taking the reverse of the popular hymn ‘Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus’ Rigney teaches when we fix turn our eyes upon Jesus the things of earth ‘grow strangely bright.’  Glorifying God by enjoying His gifts, classic Christian Hedonism, classic John Piper-esq, but from a new voice and a new angle.  This will be good.

May: Calvin and the Calvinistic Tradition, Albert-Marie Schmidt – Historical take on Calvin and the tradition that grew out of his ministry.  I am a glad part of this tradition, so an old take on an even older tradition should be healthy for me.

June: Ordinary, Michael Horton – After the American Church was blasted with powerful rhetoric in David Platt’s book ‘Radical’ Michael Horton has seen some negative effects of such a view on the Christian life, and this is his response.  The Christian life is an ordinary life, before it is anything at all.

July: Prayer, John Bunyan – Each year every Christian should read a book on prayer.  Last year I chose to read Tim Keller’s ‘Prayer’ and was changed.  This year I hope to be similarly impacted by Bunyan through his offering on the massive discipline/joy of prayer.

August: The Forgotten Spurgeon, Iain Murray – Never read anything on Spurgeon before, I’ve quoted him from the pulpit many times, and have enjoyed reading a few of his sermons.  Finally, I’ll be able to dive into the man himself.  Eager to get into this one.

September: Kingdom Come, Sam Storms – I do not believe in a rapture.  I am not premillennial.  I do not believe in a literal tribulation.  I believe we are in the last days right now.  But most of my peers on the gulf coast of Florida do not believe these things.  I want to build a stronger bulwark in the theological arsenal in my eschatology.  Storms will aid me in this endeavor.

October: Calvin on the Christian Life, Michael Horton – October 2016 will mark the 499th anniversary of the Reformation.  What else should I read this month than a book on Calvin?  I love October.

November: The Trellis and the Vine, Marshall/Payne – I’ve read this before while in seminary, but now that I’m out and pastoring I need to re-read it to train my heart and my congregation about what true church growth looks like.  This book is what we need to do this.

December: Preaching, Tim Keller – Again, I’m a pastor.  I preach, on average, 48 weeks out of the year.  That’s a lot of sermons.  I need help to become a better handler of God’s Word.  Keller is a classic communicator and he will come alongside me in this book for the joy of my own heart and the joy of my congregation.

I’m eager to get to many of these, while some of them I’m eager to get through.  Either way, my heart, my family, and my church will benefit from me reading these books.  Thus, I want to leave you with a question: what are your plans?  Do you have them?  No one naturally grows toward holiness.  We all naturally drift toward laziness and sin.  This type of plan of one of many ways to grow spiritually.  I encourage you to plan out a reading schedule, it will help you, and aid you to grow in holiness and godly living.  Take the risk, devote much time to reading robust Biblical books in 2016.

Bible Reading in 2013 – Proactive Planning

Helpful post from Justin Taylor today:

Do you want to read the whole Bible?

If the average person reads 200 to 250 words per minute, and if there are about 775,000 words in the Bible, then it would take less than 10 minutes a day to read the whole Bible in a year.

(Those who want to bore into the details of how long it takes to read each book of the Bible can visit howlongdoesittaketoreadthebible.com).

Audio Bibles are usually about 75 hours long, so you can listen to it in just over 12 minutes a day.

But a simple resolution to do this is often an insufficient. Most of us need a more proactive plan.

Stephen Witmer explains the weaknesses of typical plans and offers some advice on reading the Bible together with others—as well as offering his own new two-year plan. (“In my opinion, it is better to read the whole Bible through carefully one time in two years than hastily in one year.”) His plan has you read through one book of the Bible at a time (along with a daily reading from the Psalms or Proverbs). At the end of two years you will have read through the Psalms and Proverbs four times and the rest of the Bible once.

The Gospel Coalition’s For the Love of God Blog (which you can subscribe to via email) takes you through the M’Cheyne reading plan, with a meditation each day by D. A. Carson related to one of the readings. M’Cheyne’s plan has you read shorter selections from four different places in the Bible each day.

George Guthrie’s “Read the Bible for Life Chronological Bible Reading Plan” is takes you through the whole Bible in the basic order of events, with a reading each day. There’s also a 4 + 1 plan (similar to the others, in that you read from four different places each day plus the Psalms). But it’s a semi-chronological plan, placing the prophets and the NT letters in basic chronological order.

Trey Hunter’s “The Bible-Eater Plan” is an innovative new approach that has you reading whole chapters, along with quarterly attention to specific books. The plan especially highlights OT chapters that are crucial to the storyline of Scripture and redemptive fulfillment in Christ.

For those who would benefit from a realistic “discipline + grace” approach, consider “The Bible Reading Plan for Shirkers and Slackers.” As Andy Perry explains, it takes away the pressure (and guilt) of “keeping up” with the entire Bible in one year. You get variety within the week by alternating genres by day, but also continuity by sticking with one genre each day. Here’s the basic idea:

Sundays: Poetry
Mondays: Penteteuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy)
Tuesdays: Old Testament history
Wednesdays: Old Testament history
Thursdays: Old Testament prophets
Fridays: New Testament history
Saturdays: New Testament epistles (letters)

There are a number of Reading Plans for ESV Editions. Crossway has made them accessible in multiple formats:

web (a new reading each day appears online at the same link)
RSS (subscribe to receive by RSS)
podcast (subscribe to get your daily reading in audio)
iCal (download an iCalendar file)
mobile (view a new reading each day on your mobile device)
print (download a PDF of the whole plan)
Reading Plan Format
Chronological
Through the Bible chronologically (from Back to the Bible) RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Daily Light on the Daily Path
Daily Light on the Daily Path – the ESV version of Samuel Bagster’s classic RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Daily Office Lectionary
Daily Psalms, Old Testament, New Testament, and Gospels RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Daily Reading Bible
Daily Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
ESV Study Bible
Daily Psalms or Wisdom Literature; Pentateuch or the History of Israel; Chronicles or Prophets; and Gospels or Epistles RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Every Day in the Word
Daily Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, Proverbs RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Literary Study Bible
Daily Psalms or Wisdom Literature; Pentateuch or the History of Israel; Chronicles or Prophets; and Gospels or Epistles RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
M’Cheyne One-Year Reading Plan
Daily Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms or Gospels RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Outreach
Daily Old Testament, Psalms, and New Testament RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Outreach New Testament
Daily New Testament. Read through the New Testament in 6 months RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Through the Bible in a Year
Daily Old Testament and New Testament RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
You can also access each of these Reading Plans as podcasts:

Right-click (Ctrl-click on a Mac) the “RSS” link of the feed you want from the above list.
Choose “Copy Link Location” or “Copy Shortcut.”
Start iTunes.
Under File, choose “Subscribe to Podcast.”
Paste the URL into the box.
Click OK.
For those looking for some books to have on hand as “helps” as you read through the Bible, here are a few suggestions:

D. A. Carson, For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word, Volume 1
D. A. Carson, For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word, Volume 2
D. A. Carson, The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story
Michael Williams, How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture
George Guthrie, Read the Bible for Life: Your Guide to Understanding and Living God’s Word
Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible Book by Book: A Guide
Grudem, Collins, Schreiner, eds., Understanding the Big Picture of the Bible: A Guide to Reading the Bible Well
Graeme Goldsworthy, According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible
Vaughn Roberts, God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible

As you read through the Bible, here’s a chart you may want to to print out and have on hand. It’s from Goldsworthy’s book According to Plan. It simplified, of course, but it can be helpful in locating where you’re at in the biblical storyline and seeing the history of Israel “at a glance.”

Goldsworthy’s outline is below. You can also download this as a PDF (posted with permission).

Taken from According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible by Graeme Goldsworthy. Copyright(c) Graeme Goldsworthy 1991. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515 (www.ivpress.com) and Inter-Varsity Press, Norton Street, Nottingham NG7 3HR England (www.ivbooks.com)

Creation by Word Genesis 1 and 2
The Fall Genesis 3
First Revelation of Redemption Genesis 4-11
Abraham Our Father Genesis 12-50
Exodus: Our Pattern of Redemption Exodus 1-15
New Life: Gift and Task Exodus 16-40; Leviticus
The Temptation in the Wilderness Numbers; Deuteronomy
Into the Good Land Joshua; Judges; Ruth
God’s Rule in God’s Land 1 and 2 Samuel; 1 Kings 1-10; 1 Chronicles; 2 Chronicles 1-9
The Fading Shadow 1 Kings 11-22; 2 Kings
There Is a New Creation Jeremiah; Ezekiel; Daniel; Esther
The Second Exodus Ezra; Nehemiah; Haggai
The New Creation for Us Matthew; Mark; Luke; John
The New Creation in Us Initiated Acts
The New Creation in Us Now New Testament Epistles
The New Creation Consummated The New Testament
Below are Goldsworthy’s summaries of each section.

Creation by Word
Genesis 1 and 2
In the beginning God created everything that exists. He made Adam and Eve and placed them in the garden of Eden. God spoke to them and gave them certain tasks in the world. For food he allowed them the fruit of all the trees in the garden except one. He warned them that they would die if they ate of that one tree.

The Fall
Genesis 3
The snake persuaded Eve to disobey God and to eat the forbidden fruit. She gave some to Adam and he ate also. Then God spoke to them in judgment, and sent them out of the garden into a world that came under the same judgment.

First Revelation of Redemption
Genesis 4-11
Outside Eden, Cain and Abel were born to Adam and eve. Cain murdered Abel and Eve bore another son, Seth. Eventually the human race became so wicked that God determined to destroy every living thing with a flood. Noah and his family were saved by building a great boat at God’s command. The human race began again with Noah and his three sons with their families. Sometime after the flood a still unified human race attempted a godless act to assert its power in the building of a high tower. God thwarted these plans by scattering the people and confusing their language.

Abraham Our Father
Genesis 12-50
Sometime in the early second millennium BC God called Abraham out of Mesopotamia to Canaan. He promised to give this land to Abraham’s descendants and to bless them as his people. Abraham went, and many years later he had a son, Isaac. Isaac in rum had two sons, Esau and Jacob. The promises of God were established with Jacob and his descendants. He had twelve sons, and in time they all went to live in Egypt because of famine in Canaan.

Exodus: Our Pattern of Redemption
Exodus 1-15
In time the descendants of Jacob living in Egypt multiplied to become a very large number of people. The Egyptians no longer regarded them with friendliness and made them slaves. God appointed Moses to be the one who would lead Israel out of Egypt to the promised land of Canaan. When the moment came for Moses to demand the freedom of his people, the Pharaoh refused to let them go. Though Moses worked ten miracle-plagues which brought hardship, destruction, and death to the Egyptians. Finally, Pharaoh let Israel go, but then pursued them and trapped them at the Red Sea (or Sea of Reeds). The God opened a way in the sea for Israel to cross on dry land, but closed the water over the Egyptian army, destroying it.

New Life: Gift and Task
Exodus 16-40; Leviticus
After their release from Egypt, Moses led the Israelites to Mount Sinai. There God gave them his law which they were commanded to keep. At one point Moses held a covenant renewal ceremony in which the covenant arrangement was sealed in blood. However, while Moses was away on the mountain, the people persuaded Aaron to fashion a golden calf. Thus they showed their inclination to forsake the covenant and to engage in idolatry. God also commanded the building of the tabernacle and gave all the rules of sacrificial worship by which Israel might approach him.

The Temptation in the Wilderness
Numbers; Deuteronomy
After giving the law to the Israelites at Sinai, God directed them to go in and take possession of the promised land. Fearing the inhabitants of Canaan, they refused to do so, thus showing lack of confidence in the promises of God. The whole adult generation that had come out of Egypt, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, was condemned to wander and die in the desert. Israel was forbidden to dispossess its kinsfolk, the nation of Edom, Moab, and Ammon, but was given victory over other nations that opposed it. Finally, forty years after leaving Egypt, Israel arrived in the Moabite territory on the east side of the Jordan. Here Moses prepared the people for their possession of Canaan, and commissioned Joshua as their new leader.

Into the Good Land
Joshua; Judges; Ruth
Under Joshua’s leadership the Israelites crossed the Jordan and began the task of driving out the inhabitants of Canaan. After the conquest the land was divided between the tribes, each being allotted its own region. Only the tribe of Levi was without an inheritance of land because of its special priestly relationship to God. There remained pockets of Canaanites in the land and, from time to time, these threatened Israel’s hold on their new possession. From the one-man leaderships of Moses and Joshua, the nation moved into a period of relative instability during which judges exercised some measure of control over the affairs of the people.

God’s Rule in God’s Land
1 and 2 Samuel; 1 Kings 1-10; 1 Chronicles; 2 Chronicles 1-9
Samuel became judge and prophet in all Israel at a time when the Philistines threatened the freedom of the nation. An earlier movement for kingship was received and the demand put to a reluctant Samuel. The first king, Saul, had a promising start to his reign but eventually showed himself unsuitable as the ruler of the covenant people. While Saul still reigned, David was anointed to succeed him. Because of Saul’s jealousy David became an outcast, but when Saul died in battle David returned and became king (about 1000 BC). Due to his success Israel became a powerful and stable nation. He established a central sanctuary at Jerusalem, and created a professional bureaucracy and permanent army. David’s son Solomon succeeded him (about 961 BC) and the prosperity of Israel continued. The building of the temple at Jerusalem was one of Solomon’s most notable achievements.

The Fading Shadow
1 Kings 11-22; 2 Kings
Solomon allowed political considerations and personal ambitions to sour his relationship with God, and this in turn had a bad effect on the life of Israel. Solomon’s son began an oppressive rule which led to the rebellion of the northern tribes and the division of the kingdom. Although there were some political and religious high points, both kingdoms went into decline, A new breed of prophets warned against the direction of national life, but matters went from bad to worse. In 722 BC the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the power of the Assyrian empire. Then, in 586 BC the southern kingdom of Judah was devastated by the Babylonians. Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed, and a large part of the population was deported to Babylon.

There Is a New Creation
Jeremiah; Ezekiel; Daniel; Esther
The prophets of Israel warned of the doom that would befall the nation. When the first exiles were taken to Babylon in 597 BC, Ezekiel was among them. Both prophets ministered to the exiles. Life for the Jews (the people of Judah) in Babylon was not all bad, and in time many prospered. The books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel indicate a certain normality to the experience, while Daniel and Esther highlight some of the difficulties and suffering experienced in an alien and oppressive culture.

The Second Exodus
Ezra; Nehemiah; Haggai
In 539 BC Babylon fell to the Medo-Persian empire. The following year, Cyrus the king allowed the Jews to return home and to set up a Jewish state within the Persian empire. Great difficulty was experienced in re-establishing the nation. There was local opposition to the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple. Many of the Jews did not return but stayed on in the land of their exile. In the latter part of the fourth century BC, Alexander the Great conquered the Persian empire. The Jews entered a long and difficult period in which Greek culture and religion challenged their trust in God’s covenant promises. In 63 BC Pompey conquered Palestine and the Jews found themselves a province of the Roman empire.

The New Creation for Us
Matthew; Mark; Luke; John
The province of Judea, the homeland of the Jews, came under Roman rule in 63 BC. During the reign of Caesar Augustus, Jesus was born at Bethlehem, probably about the year 4 BC. John, known as the Baptist, prepared the way for the ministry of Jesus. This ministry of preaching, teaching, and healing began with Jesus’ baptism and lasted about three years. Growing conflict with the Jews and their religious leaders led eventually to Jesus being sentenced to death by the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. He was executed by the Romans just outside Jerusalem, but rose from death two days afterward and appealed to his followers on a number of occasions. After a period with them, Jesus was taken up to heaven.

The New Creation in Us Initiated
Acts
After Jesus had ascended, his disciples waited in Jerusalem. On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came upon them and they began the task of proclaiming Jesus. As the missionary implications of the gospel became clearer to the first Christians, the local proclamation was extended to world evangelization. The apostle Paul took the gospel to Asia Minor and Greece, establishing many churches as he went. Eventually a church flourished at the heart of the empire of Rome.

The New Creation in Us Now
New Testament Epistles
As the gospel made inroads into pagan societies it encountered many philosophies and non-Christian ideas which challenged the apostolic message. The New Testament epistles shows that the kind of pressures to adopt pagan ideas that had existed for the people of God in Old Testament times were also a constant threat to the churches. The real danger to Christian teaching was not so much in direct attacks upon it, but rather in the subtle distortion of Christian ideas. Among the troublemakers were the Judaizers who added Jewish law-keeping to the gospel. The Gnostics also undermined the gospel with elements of Greek philosophy and religion.

The New Creation Consummated
The New Testament
God is Lord over history and therefore, when he so desires, he can cause the events of the future to be recorded. All section of the New Testament contain references to things which have not yet happened, the most significant being the return of Christ and the consummation of the kingdom of God. No clues to the actual chronology are given, but it is certain that Christ will return to judge the living and the dead. The old creation will be undone and the new creation will take its place.