The Danger of ‘Active Christianity’

Take a moment and allow a heart check-up.

James Houston:

This century is possibly the first one in which action has been emphasized and valued more than contemplation. Today we do things. We think contemplation wastes time, produces nothing, and bumps awkwardly into our schedules. Devotional reading is a questionable priority for most successful people today.

But are we “successful” Christians if we are so busy organizing and propagating the Christian faith that we really do not know God personally or intimately? Christian devotional reading helps us find intimate union with God. What is the motivation? To love God with all our heart, mind, and will.

(Taken from The Best in Theology, p. 269)

As Jesus said:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you…'” Matthew 7:21-23

Actions do speak louder than words, but they’re empty without the reality of personal love for Christ beneath them. Make sure Martha doesn’t kick Mary out (Luke 10:38-42).

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Several Bible Reading Plans for 2018

img_9354Alright, let’s talk about reading the whole Bible in 2018. But first, before we start with the various plans, allow a few preliminary words.

First, here are a few reasons reading all the Bible in 2017 should excite you.

Second, listen to a simple word of encouragement: you can read the whole Bible. Justin Taylor notes that, “The average person reads 200 to 250 words per minute; there are about 775,000 words in the Bible; therefore it takes less than 10 minutes a day to read the whole Bible in a year.” No matter how slow of a reader you are, you can still do it.

Third, if you are finding trouble getting motivated to dig into the Scriptures in 2017, read this.

Lastly, if you don’t plan to read the Bible this year, know this: you probably won’t. Good. Now that you are excited, encouraged, motivated, and hopefully sobered up, allow me to offer you some Bible reading plans to take on in 2017.

Bible Reading Plans

This list isn’t exhaustive, but it should serve as a helpful start. The list goes from plans that call for the least amount of chapters a day (easy plans) to plans that cover more ground in a faster amount of time (plans the require diligence).

The Bible Reading Record Keeper. This isn’t a reading plan, but it is a record keeping sheet that lists all the books of the Bible with their respective chapters numbered to the side. This tool helps keep track of what books in the Bible you have read and those you haven’t. For those who don’t want to follow a particular plan, but plan on regularly reading a few chapters each day, this is can serve as a helpful tool to make sure you’re covering all God’s Word. Here is the same idea, just much more pretty.

5 Day Bible Reading Plan. “This special Bible reading system allows you to read the entire Bible (or just the New Testament) in one year while only reading five times a week. Five readings a week gives room to catch up or take a needed day off, and makes daily Bible reading practical and do-able.”

52 Week Bible Reading Plan. “Read through the Bible in a year, with each day of the week dedicated to a different genre: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy, and Gospels.”

The Bible Reading Plan for Shirkers and Slackers. Justin Taylor describes this plan as one that, “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: Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy)
  • Tuesdays: Old Testament history
  • Wednesdays: Old Testament history
  • Thursdays: Old Testament prophets
  • Fridays: New Testament history
  • Saturdays: New Testament epistles (letters).”

The Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan. This gives you 25 readings each month from four different places (it begins in Genesis, Psalms, Matthew and Acts). Having 25 readings each month means you will have a few “catch up” days each month if you fell behind or “free days” to study passages that intrigued you more deeply.

The Chronological Bible Reading Plan. Read through the Bible in the order the events occurred chronologically. This helps some people focus on the unfolding story a little better.

The Historical Reading of the Bible. “The Old Testament readings are similar to Israel’s Hebrew Bible, and the New Testament readings are an attempt to follow the order in which the books were authored.”

The Kingdom Bible Reading Plan (this is the one my wife and I are doing). In this plan the Old Testament receives three readings per day and the New Testament gets one reading per day. “The Old Testament readings follow the arrangement of Jesus’ Bible (Luke 24:44 – Law, Prophets, Writings), with one reading coming from each portion per day. In a single year, one reads through Psalms twice and all other biblical books once…Only twenty-five readings are slated per month in order to provide more flexibility in daily devotions. The plan can be started at any time of the year, and if four readings per day are too much, the plan can simply be stretched to two or more years (reading from one, two, or three columns per day).”

Read Through the Whole Bible in Order. “This plan calls for reading all the books of the Bible in canonical order in one year. Each day’s reading is about 3-4 chapters in length, with the exception of the Psalms (which are covered in 5 chapters per day). The idea is to read longer chapters in groups of three (e.g., Pentateuchal narratives, Gospels) and shorter chapters in groups of four. There are 7 “catch-up” days scattered throughout the calendar.”

The Ligonier Bible Reading Plan. “Two readings each day; one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.” Being from Ligonier, you can get the plan in the Ligonier App (iPhone / iPadAndroid, Kindle Fire & Windows Phone) and YouVersion.

The Legacy Plan. “This plan does not have set readings for each day. Instead, it has set books for each month, and set number of Proverbs and Psalms to read each week. It aims to give you more flexibility, while grounding you in specific books of the Bible each month.”

The Robert M’Cheyne Plan. My wife and I did this one in 2011 and enjoyed it. This plan starts you in the four great beginnings of Scripture (beginning of creation in Genesis 1, beginning of Israel’s return from Exile in Ezra 1, beginning of Christ’s incarnation in Matthew 1, and beginning of the church in Acts 1). This plan will have you read through the whole Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice. It is four chapters a day. One great thing is it has you in four different places in the Bible at once so when you hit the less than inspirational sections (genealogies, records, etc.), you will still be in more immediately helpful sections. Also, you can grab D.A. Carson’s marvelous devotional based on this reading plan here and here. If you don’t want to buy the book, you can subscribe to a daily email where you are sent the devotional for that day’s reading.

5X5X5 Plan. The Ligonier site explains this one as such: “Read through the New Testament in a year, reading Monday to Friday. Weekends are set aside for reflection and other reading. Especially beneficial if you’re new to a daily discipline of Bible reading.”

52 Week Plan. Gets you through the entire Bible in one year. Each day of the week (Monday through Sunday) is dedicated to a different Biblical genre: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy, and Gospels. This one provides huge variety in daily readings.

Professor Horner’s Plan. Professor Horner’s System is not for the faint of heart. It calls for 10 chapters per day. With this plan, you will read 10 chapters from 10 different books each day. It is a Bible reading immersion plan. No treading the waters with this one, just diving. Here is one pastor’s hearty recommendation.

A Few Helps Along the Way

Here are some resources to help make sure your Bible reading doesn’t amount to you sounding out empty words in your head without actually understanding what you’re reading.

Overview of the Bible. Lots of people don’t finish their plans to read the Bible because they get lost in what’s happening. Have R.C. Sproul help you grasp and overview of the Bible so you are equipped to read all that God has given you!

A Graph of the Old Testament Timeline. This is a simple map of the Old Testament timeline. It serves to help you locate where you are in the Old Testament timeline as you’re reading the Old Testament. Like a movie, we need to know how each scene fits into the larger plot.

Don’t Scorn Audio Bibles! Most of the Christians in the first few decades of the church most likely heard the Bible more than they read it, so don’t discount audio Bibles. Most audio Bibles are around 75 hours long, so you can listen to it in just over 12 minutes a day. Biblegateway has a lot of audio Bibles offered free of charge.

Reading the Bible Through the Jesus Lens. This is a fantastic book that provides a very brief background and introduction to every book in the Bible along with an explanation for how each respective books anticipates or points to the person and work of Jesus Christ. This way you are prepared to understand each book and how it relates to all of God’s redeeming work! Highly recommended.

God’s Big Picture. The publisher’s description describes it well: “In this excellent overview, Vaughan Roberts gives you the big picture – showing how the different parts of the Bible fit together under the theme of the kingdom of God. He provides both the encouragement and the tools to help you read the Bible with confidence and understanding. And he points you to the Bible’s supreme subject, Jesus Christ, and the salvation God offers through him.” Also, two other helpful books that provide the same overarching story line of the Bible are Carson’s The God Who is There and Graeme Goldsworthy’s According to Plan.

Of the making of Bible Reading plans, there is no end. This is not an exhaustive list and it will not be the last. There are a lot more plans out there (like these and these and these). But, in the end, I hope you will make a plan to read God’s Word. Don’t leave it to whenever you find the time because Satan will make sure the time evades you. As the old saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Don’t fail to plan your Bible reading because then you’re planning to fail in reading your Bible.

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What Does It Mean to Deny Yourself?

Jesus said if anyone wants to follow him they must “deny himself” (Matthew 16:24).

But what does it mean to deny yourself?

William Barclay answered well:

“To deny oneself means in every moment of life to say no to self, and to say yes to God.

To deny oneself means once, finally and for all to dethrone self and to enthrone God.

To deny oneself means to obliterate self as the dominant principle of life, and to make God the ruling principle, more, the ruling passion, of life.

The life of constant self-denial is the life of constant assent to God.”

(Taken from The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 2, p. 167).

By this definition, someone can only say yes to Christ after they’ve said no to themselves. One’s Christianity begins only after their old life ends. Christ is only Savior to those who have dethroned themselves as king.

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Seven Directions for Singing in Church

Christians are a singing people. Our Savior, whom we strive to imitate, sings (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26). Our Scriptures command us to sing (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Our perfect salvation compels us to sing (Psalm 96:1-2). Our gatherings are saturated with songs of joy, lament, need, and praise. Every Christian is a singer. Every church a choir.

However, though all Christians are called and compelled to sing, not all Christians are completely prepared to do it well; lessening both the blessings they’re able to give and receive.

With that in mind, famed Methodist preacher, John Wesley, offered seven directions to help Christians in his day make the most of their singing. Thankfully, they’re just as helpful for the church today.

That this part of Divine Worship may be the more acceptable to God, as well as the more profitable to yourself and others, be careful to observe the following directions.

  1. Learn these tunes before you learn any others; afterwards learn as many as you please. 
  2. Sing them exactly as they are printed here, without altering or mending them at all; and if you have learned to sing them otherwise, unlearn it as soon as you can.
  3. Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.
  4. Sing lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.
  5. Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.
  6. Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.
  7. Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.

May God use these directions to help you sing as “lustily” as ever the next time you gather with the church.

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An Unconventional Graduation Blessing

Joshua McNall gave a beautifully unconventional graduation blessing to the class of 2017:

Class of 2017, hear these words:

May you fail  [long pause] … to seek significance in the plastic trinkets of this world / things like money, power, and fame. / And may you find significance in this: / that you are a beloved child of God / Etched in the image of Jesus Christ.

May you have enemies / So that you may love them just as Jesus did / and thus turn some of them to friends.

May you be disloyal citizens / to rival kings and rival kingdoms / So that you may prove true to good king Jesus / And see his Kingdom come.

May your life not go (entirely) as you have planned it / And in those moments, may you come to see that, alongside fidelity, God’s other name is “Surprise.”

And most of all: May you know that we, as your faculty, cannot wait to see you go / Not because we want to be rid of you / But because through your lives, our little ministries will multiply a hundredfold.

We love you; Godspeed.

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How to Protect Yourself Online

Jonathan McKee:

I’ve frequently heard social media experts, advise, “Always be careful what you allow someone to film.” Personally, I don’t think this is very good advice, simply because I’ve read countless stories of people who didn’t even realize they were being filmed or recorded.

Here’s a better piece of advice: Live your life in such a way that people can’t accuse you of anything.

Yeah. You read that correctly.

What I’m suggesting is, don’t get drunk, don’t make racial slurs, don’t smoke a bowl, don’t get naked with anyone but your spouse. And guess what? Then you’ll never have to worry, “Is there a camera in this room?”

In the book of 1 Peter he wrote, “It is God’s will that your honorable he wrote, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people” (1 Peter 2:15).

That advice is a lot different than “Be careful what people film you doing.” Peter is saying, “Be careful how you live.”

(Take from The Teen’s Guide to Social Media… and Mobile Devices: 21 Tips to Wise Posting in an Insecure World, p. 47).

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Dads of Daughters: Put Your Shotgun Away

As a man who has been entrusted to care for two beautiful daughters, this hit home in all the right ways.

Jen Wilkin:

Instead of intimidating all your daughter’s potential suitors, raise a daughter who intimidates them just fine on her own. Because you know what’s intimidating? Strength and dignity. Deep faith. Self-assuredness. Wisdom. Kindness. Humility. Industriousness. Those are the bricks that build the wall that withstands the advances of Slouchy-Pants, whether you ever show up with your Winchester locked and loaded or not. The unsuitable suitor finds nothing more terrifying than a woman who knows her worth to God and to her family…

So put down your shotgun. Pick up your Indian Princess guide book, or your coach’s clipboard. Take a seat at a tea party. Teach how to change a flat and start the mower. Discuss politics and economics and theology. Compliment a new outfit or an A in math. Tell her you think she is absolutely beautiful. Kneel at a pink chenille bedside and pray your guts out. Raise a daughter with a fully loaded heart and mind so that a fully loaded shotgun isn’t necessary. She shouldn’t need you to scare off weak suitors. Let her strength and dignity do the job. Resolve to settle for nothing less than the best protection for your daughter. Resolve to be the kind of man you want her to bring home. Resolve to build a wall.

“What shall we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for? If she be a wall, we will build upon her a palace of silver. . .” (Song of Solomon 8:8–9).

Dads, stop thinking about shotguns and love your daughters as Jesus would have you.

Read the whole article here.

For another look at the same idea, don’t miss this gem from Voddie Baucham.

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