3 Reasons to Use a Bible Reading Plan for 2016

Have you thought about your new years resolutions? For the Christian, no better goal exists than to plan to regularly intake God's word. The consumption of God's word is essential for any believer who wishes to grow in godliness (and every believer will!) If you fail to shape your life by God's inspired word, spiritual growth is impossible. Paul's words to Timothy still ring true today, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16, ESV). So I want to encourage you to consider using a Bible Reading plan for 2016. If you've never used one, they can provide many benefits and it will help you grow in your knowledge and understanding of God's word this year. Here are three benefits in using a Bible reading plan. 0e3903491_1418914301_blog-bible-reading-helps-for-the-new-year

1. Bible Reading Plans Provides Built in Accountability

A Bible reading plan helps keep you accountable to your Bible reading by letting you know when you've fallen behind. It helps you stay accountable to yourself and possibly to others. Doing a Bible reading plan with your family or with some members of your church can help provide group accountability to the discipline of Scripture reading.

However, one word of caution. Do not let guilt plague you when you miss a few days. It happens to everyone at times, and when you fall behind don't succumb to discouragement and give up. Rather, think of each day as a new day, catch up if possible, but if not it is not a big deal. The goal is not to check off a box or complete a plan, but to develop and maintain the habit of regular scripture intake. Forgive yourself when you fail, pick up your Bible, and begin anew.

2. Bible Reading Plans Track Your Progress

When you are utilizing a Bible reading plan you will be amazed at how much Scripture you can work through. When you have a written game plan for your Bible reading, you can look back over the progress you've made. Are you a little bogged down in your reading of Ezekiel? Look back on your plan and remind yourself of God and his faithfulness who got you to this point.

3. Bible Reading Plans Diversify Your Bible Reading

The Bible is God's word, yet there are always personal favorite passages. Perhaps its the Gospel of John or Paul's letters or the Proverbs. All of God's word is good and profitable. Yet, we must seek to engage with ALL of God's word not just our favorite passages. A Bible reading plan forces you to diversify your Bible reading as you pick up the book of Lamentations or Leviticus. You need to encounter the full counsel of God's word, and a Bible reading plan will keep you from only studying your "hobby" passages.

[Tweet "A Bible reading plan forces you to diversify your reading."]

Bible Reading Plans Are Easier than Ever

It is easier than ever to find a Bible reading plan. With the advent of Bible smartphone apps you can manage your Bible reading plan on your phone. In addition, you can find a plethora of different types of plans just with a simple google search. However, here are a few tips as you find the right plan for you.

  • Don't bite off more than you can chew. If you are new to the spiritual discipline of Bible intake, don't start off with a plan that takes you through the whole Bible in 3 months. Rather, pick a plan that involves reading 1-3 chapters a day.
  • Find a plan that takes you through the whole Bible. You can read the whole Bible with just a few chapters each day. Many plans will take you through the whole Bible atleast once.
  • Keep it Simple. Your plan doesn't need to be complicated. One time I tried a Bible reading plan that involved reading 10 chapters from 10 different places in the Bible. Needless to say the complexity and scale of the plan didn't bode well. I switched to a simpler one after a few weeks.
  • Remember, the goal is spiritual formation not puffed-up information. The goal is not to simply get through the plan, but the plan exists to help daily conform you to God's word. As a result, pray and ask the Lord for help in finding the right Bible reading plan for you and begin each day in prayer asking for God to reveal more of himself each time you pick up your Bible.

As you prepare for 2016, I hope you will consider a Bible reading plan, and that your Scripture reading for 2016 would propel you (with the Spirit's help) to incredible spiritual growth.

Ligonier just posted a great comprehensive post for Bible Reading plans for 2016 with PDF copies for print. You can check them out here

The Discipline of Reading and Christian Growth

IMG_0047 Who has time to read? It seems like more than ever our plates seem to be running over with things to do. Not only do we think of ourselves as quite busy, but we have constant distractions in our lives. Our smartphones do not help as we are constantly responding to emails, facebook, and even playing a game of angry birds. Who has time to read anymore?

One of the disciplines in my life that has fueled the most spiritual growth in my life is the discipline of reading. First and foremost, this starts with the Bible. It is vital for a Christian to read and study God's word and to be molded and shaped by its wisdom. However, reading other great Christian non-fiction books have made a huge impact in my life.

1. Reading Teaches Me to Think

This is one of the greatest benefits to my own personal reading. It forces me to stretch my mind and think through difficult issues. A great author is not only someone with a great thesis, but one walk me through his reasons for holding it. As a result, reading well argued books teaches me how to think through my own arguments.

2. Reading Exposes Me to New Ideas

There are some ideas and concepts my mind would never automatically think about. Reading books on a variety of subjects forces me to be a life long learner as I am exposed to new ideas.  As a pastor, I don't want my reading to stop after my formal education is over.  We tend to get mentally lazy after we are finished with school, and reading solid books stretches us and keeps us learning long after we get that diploma.

3. Reading Allows Me to Be Mentored by Great Authors

Each and every one of us have a desire to learn from someone else who is much older and wiser than us. You can glean a lot form someones personal experiences and the lessons they have learned. Reading books by great pastors, theologians, and authors gives me an opertunity to be mentored by some of the greatest. As I read Preaching Preachers by Martyn Lloyd Jones, I am given the opertunity to be mentored by arguably the greatest preacher in the 20th century. Books allow us to be trained by some of the best, so therefore, books are incredible gifts to us.

4. Reading Gives Me Discernment to Truth

Truth can be found in any situation and in any book. After having developed a Christian worldview, I am now able to read any newspaper article, any business book, and any novel through a Christian worldview. I am able to discern truth in the most unexpected places, and I am able to reject those ideas that are not truth. The discipline of reading has allowed me to critically engage with other worldviews and keeps me from falling captive and becoming influenced false philosophys and modern cultural trends.

Make Reading a Priority

I hope in your own life you make it a priority to spend time reading godly books that teach us and build us up in our faith. The great thing is that there is a plethora of books both new and old that a ripe for us to begin sinking our teeth into. We have time for reading but unfortunatly it is just not a priority for most of us. Finding time to read is not as hard as we may think, all it takes is to turn off some distractions and making TV a priority. It might mean waking up earlier to spend 30 minutes reading. It might mean reading during your lunch break rather than goofing off on facebook. It might mean turning off the TV in the evening and opening up a good book. We have time to read, we just need to make it.

If you are a Christian who wants to learn more about why reading is so important there is a great book that I just finished called Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books by Tony Reinke. It is a quick and easy read, but it will help you understand why it is so important to read and how to get the most out of your reading. Very practical and rooted in biblical truth, I commend this book to you. Here are a few of my favorite quotes to give you a feel of the book:

Christian book reading is never a solitary experience, but an open invitation to commune with God. By opening a book we can stop talking and we begin listening. We can turn from the distractions of life. We can focus our minds. Sometimes we can even lose all sense of time. Although it’s difficult to protect, this reading environment can be the atmosphere that sustains the life of interaction with God. (p. 37)

God’s command is protective. A culture that must express its gods in visual images cannot know God accurately. And a culture that cannot know God accurately cannot communicate God’s substance truthfully. For the Christian, media forms carry ethical consequences. (p. 42)

as a word-centered people we must learn to prize language in a visually-dominated world. If our hearts prioritize images over language, our hunger for books will erode. (p. 47)

So the point of this chapter is simple: the difficult work required to benefit from books is at odds with the immediate appeal of images. As Christians living in an image-saturated world, we must guard our conviction about the vital importance of words and language. For it is words and language that best communicate meaning. (pp. 49-50)

Truly, many Christians today measure their reading success with nothing more than a purely utilitarian gauge, either by how many book pages they can burn through, or by the amount of information they expose themselves to in the process. Too often we fail to read simply for pleasure. (p. 103)

When we set out to read important books, we can expect opposition from our hearts. Reading is a discipline, and all disciplines require self-discipline, and self-discipline is the one thing our sinful flesh will resist. (p. 131)

For many of us, reading is more a lack of of desire than of a lack of free time. C. S. Lewis wrote, “The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come.” The same is true of reading. Favorable conditions for reading books never come. There are always interruptions and other things to do. We can all find excuses for why we cannot read: we’re too busy, we’re too tired, we’re too burned out from the day, we’re too _ (you fill in the blank). But we all find time to do what we “want” to do. The problem is not that we don’t have time to read, but that we don’t have the desire to read. So learn to love reading—because it’s easier to find time to do what you love to do. (p. 132)

True learning and true wisdom are the fruit of long-term diligent study and meditation, benefits that we cannot get from books unless we are willing to slow our minds, mute distractions, and carefully think about what we are reading. (p. 143)

Reading for Your Weekend 3.29.13

How and Why to Become a Lifelong Learner - The Art of Manliness

For the first twenty-two years or so of our lives, our main “job” is learning. The bulk of our time is spent in classrooms acquiring new knowledge. And then, once we graduate, we feel like the education phase of our lives is done and now it’s time to go out into the world. Have you ever thought about how odd that idea is? That only a quarter of our lives should be devoted to learning, and then we should simply rest on our laurels for the remaining three-quarters of it?

It’s an erroneous idea – but one many have absorbed, at least subconsciously. But school need not be your exclusive provider of learning. Just because you’ve finished your formal education, doesn’t mean that your education is over!

Five Steps to Get Beyond Sacred Cows in Your Church - Thom Rainer

 

I estimated that we had invested nearly 1,500 hours of our members’ time in this ministry during the past year. The apparent result of our ministry had resulted in, at best, two Christian families joining our church. If you assume a workday of eight hours, our members had worked 187 full days with no evangelistic fruit.

 

When I presented my research to a leader in the church and suggested we look at other alternatives, he raised his voice almost to a scream: “But we have always done it that way. And ten years ago we saw dozens of people become Christians through this ministry every year. We’re not about to change!” When I asked what we should do about the 1,500 hours of apparently fruitless ministry, he said we should try to increase the number to 3,000 hours.

 

Don’t get me wrong. Your church may have great success in door-to-door outreach. My purpose in writing this article is not to pass judgment on a methodology. My purpose is to ask the question: Are organizational memories, commonly known as sacred cows, hindering our effectiveness for the gospel?

Do Pastor's Conferences Do Any Good? - Daniel Ritchie

Pastors’ conference (n.) – a gathering of mostly middle aged men gathering together to hear hours of sermons and breakout sessions.

I don’t think you’re going to find that definition in Webster’s Dictionary, but if you were to ask the average person to describe a pastors’ conference that is likely the answer you will get.  Doesn’t sound terribly exciting.  So how does a pastors’ conference do anyone any good?  It can seem to be a gathering to celebrate “rock star” pastors and guys who took churches of a 100 people and saw attendance rocket to 10,000.  In fact, I was able to attend a conference this past week called Advance 13.

Many of the speakers were popular pastors & authors and if you’re not careful a conference like this certainly can turn into hero worship.  Yet, conferences can be a great time of refreshing for your pastor and a time where the Spirit can move in their life.  So here are some of the ways that God can use a conference for His glory and purpose.

20 Years Ago Today: Mohler Elected as President of Southern Seminary - Justin Taylor

Twenty years ago today—March 26, 1993-R. Albert Mohler Jr. (age 33) was elected president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Younger readers may not realize this represented and resulted in an unprecedented transformation of a school from  deep theological liberalism to a bastion of orthodox fidelity. George Marsden says the institutional shift is unprecedented in denominational history.

Holy Week and the Insomnia of Jesus - Russell Moore

When the disciples screamed in the face of a storm, Jesus slept (Mk. 4:37-38). When Jesus screamed in the face of a cross, the disciples slept (Mk. 14:37,41).

Why could Jesus sleep so peacefully through a life-threatening sea-storm, and yet is awake all night in the olive garden before his arrest, crying out in anguish? Why are the disciples pulsing with adrenaline as the ship is tossed about on the Galilee Lake, but drifting off to slumber as the most awful conspiracy in human history gets underway?

Peter, James, and John rebuke Jesus for falling asleep on the boat: “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mk. 4:38) Jesus rebukes them for falling asleep as he prays before the cross: “Could you not watch one hour?” (Mk. 14:37)

Kindle Deals

50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die - John Piper - $0.99

 

The Bible is not an Encyclopedia

Here is an excerpt from Paul Tripp's Book, Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands.  It is a wonderful book that I commend to you.  Here is what he writes on how Christians often handle the Scripture.

Many Christians simply don't understand what the Bible is.  Many thing of it as a spiritual encyclopedia: God's complete catalog of human problems, couple with a complete list of divine answers.  If you turn to the right page, you can find answers for any struggle.  A more sophisticated variation views the Bible as a systematic theology textbook, an outline of essential topics you must master to think and live God's way.  In either case, we tend to offer each other isolated pieces of Scripture that seem to fit the need of the moment.  What we think of as ministering the Word is little more than a spiritual cut-and-paste system.

This Kind of ministry rarely leads to lasting change because it does not bring the power of the Word to the places where change is really needed.  In this kind of ministry, self is still at the center, personal need is the focus, and personal happiness remains the goal.  But a truly effective ministry of the Word must confront our self-focus and self-absorption at its roots, opening us up to the vastness of A God-defined, God-centered world.  Unless this happens, we will use the promise, principles, and commands of the Word to serve the thing we really love: ourselves.  This may be why many people read and hear God's Word regularly while their lives remain unchanged.  Only when the rain of the Word penetrates the roots of the problem does lasting change occur.

Bonhoeffer on Cheap Grace

While sermon prepping for today, I opened up Dietrich Bonhoeffer's book "The Cost of Discipleship".  As I was thumbing through it looking for a quote I needed, I looked through all my highlights and remembered just how challenging this book is.  One of my favorite chapters in the whole book is the first one called "Costly Grace".  In this chapter he calls "Cheap Grace the deadly enemy of our Church" and defines cheap grace and costly grace as follows:

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.  Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has.  It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods.  It is the kingly rule of Christ, of whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.  (44-45)

If you have yet to read this Christian classic do yourself a favor and go pick it up on amazon today.