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.

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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 Key to Christian Growth: The Spirit or Self-Discipline?

I'm always disgusted by my own desire for the things of this world at the expense of the things of God.  As I am reading a biography of Jonathan Edwards, one of the things that has really challenged me is Edward's relentless discipline in keeping his mind and heart focused on Spiritual things.  In fact, he was a man just like any other who experienced spiritual highs and spiritual lows.  In describing one week of Edward's journaled highs and lows, Biographer George Marsden wrote the following:

 In his diary he also kept track of his spiritual highs and lows. On Saturday, December 22, 1722, he noted that he was particularly "affected with the sense of the excellency of holiness" and that he "felt more exercise of love to Christ than usual." On Monday the twenty-fourth he had "higher thoughts than usual of the excellency of Jesus Christ and his kingdom." The next day he "was hindered by the headache all day." By Saturday sunset, the time when the Sabbath began, he was "dull and lifeless." The next Tuesday the dullness persisted, despite the fact that he could not think of any "negligence" of which he was guilty. On Wednesday he reflected how without the Spirit of God, no amount of resolution could help him. Nevertheless, he also believed the inverse. Without the firmest resolution, he would not find the Spirit. So when finding that the tally of his "weekly account" had fallen low, he "Resolved, that I have been negligent in two things: in not striving enough in duty; and in not forcing myself upon religious thoughts."

The thing that challenges me about Edwards is his undying pursuit to ignite his affections for Jesus, all the while knowing that they would not ignite apart from the spirit.  When seeking to ignite the fires of our own spirituality we would do well to follow Edwards in his example.  The temptation so many of us have is to dichotomize our sanctification.  We either overemphasize God's sole sanctifying effort and become lazy and undisciplined Christians or we overemphasize discipline and diligence and try to sanctify ourselves in our own strength.

I am finding in my own life that the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 2:12-13 is true when he writes, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act for his good pleasure."  These verses so often puzzled me.  Am I responsible to work out my own salvation or is it God who works through me?  The answer is yes.  We are sanctified by the power of the Spirit alone, but at the same time we are given the responsibility to discipline ourselves and pursue Christ with rigorous dedication and relentless pursuit. Even Edwards, a strict Calvinist, understood the balance between the two.

So what does this mean for us in our own Christian maturity?  It means that we must  be relentless in our pursuit of Christ.  We must resolve to seek Christ above all worldly things. All the while we must remember, just as Edwards had, that without the sanctifying power of the Spirit, even the firmest resolution will fall.  In my own experience, I have found that when I feel dry spiritually, I stop and pray until I sense the Spirit's power.  Discipline yourself to read the Scriptures when your flesh is weak, and it is through those efforts that the Spirit works to sanctify us and make us like Jesus Christ.  Just as God has spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, "You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart." (Jer 29:13)

Have you found this to be true in your own life? What disciplines has the spirit worked through to ignite your affections for Jesus?  Share your thoughts in the comments! I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Reading Habits

The discipline of reading has been a huge catalyst that the Spirit has used to mature me and sanctify me.  I still have a long ways to go, but the habit of regularly reading good Christian books has greatly impacted my walk with the Lord.  I do not read as often as I'd like too and sometimes it can still seem like a chore, but it is a discipline that greatly stirs my affections for Christ.  As I read newer books like Piper and Keller or older books by Edwards or Calvin, my passion for Jesus seems to always increase.  They have become good for my soul, and have taught me much about the Scriptures.  Here are a few ways I've seen the discipline of reading encourage me in my walk with Christ.

1. Books stir my affection for Jesus

This is probably the number one reason why I read good Christian books.  In fact, I very rarely read fiction because it fails to stir up in me a sense of glory of God.  I enjoy fiction, and fiction can be very enjoyable to read, but reading about the goodness of God in the cross.  Or the glory of God demonstrated as the Father poured his wrath for my sin on Jesus, stirs me in a way fiction works never can.  In fact, I normally judge the books I read by how well they give me a sense of magnificence of Jesus and if I leave the book more in love with my King because of what I just read.

2. Books Teach and Train

As I've ready hundreds and hundreds of pages throughout my academic career and just for personal enjoyment, I've learned a lot of theology and doctrine.  I've been taught through these authors the truth of Scripture.  Indeed, books are some of my best teachers.  They had also taught me to think for myself.  A good reading diet consists of reading books by people from multiple perspectives.  As a result, one is able to listen to the various arguments over a particular issue and decide for oneself which position they will hold.  Books have trained be to be discerning and to think carefully.  A crucial part of discipleship is growing in knowledge of the Scriptures.  Good books are able to instruct me.

3. Books Hold Up a Mirror

Some of the best books I have read have been the most convicting books I've read.  So often we think of ourselves more highly than we ought.  Our tendency is to become Pharisees and to think we are superior to everyone else.  A good book forces me to look into the mirror and examine my own sinfulness.  Books are good friends who show us our inconsistencies and point out our sin that we are blinded too.  Books hold up a mirror of self examination.

Those are just three reasons why I would commend to you the discipline of reading good Christian books.  In addition to soaking your mind in the Bible, habitually reading good Christian books can be huge in your pursuit to be more like Jesus.  I encourage you to go buy a good Christian book and read it and begin the life long journey of being sharpened by the power of the written word.

Do you have a habit of reading?  How has reading helped you in your relationship with Jesus? What books have you read that have provided a great benefit to you?  I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!