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.