Many folks have wisely made New Year’s resolutions related to reading the Bible. Most of the resolutions include some sort of plan for reading the entire Bible in the year.
I have done this in the past, but am not resolving to read the entire Bible this year. I have used some of the reading formats which dictate a particular number of chapters per day for the 365 days of the year. In fact, in 2013, I finished reading from Genesis to Revelation. It was a very rewarding experience.
If you approach your Bible reading plan with a genuine desire to hear from the Lord, just about any plan will be edifying. However, the check off the chapters method does have some inherent dangers involved. The first danger is to read your Bible simply to check off a to-do task. That isn’t the best motivation.
The other danger is that guilt quickly arises if you fall behind the plan. Humans tend to respond to this kind of guilt by giving up altogether. That certainly is no good.
The plan I began a few months ago is the one that I am continuing into and throughout 2014. I plan to focus in on one particular book of the Bible at a time. Each day I read at least one chapter from that book. If the book is only a few chapters, I will try to read the entire book in one sitting.
At the end of one of those smaller books, I may move on to another book the next day, or I may camp out in that book for some time. Earlier this year, I camped out in Ephesians for several weeks. Many days I read all six chapters. At other times, I would read three chapters one day and the other three another day. At other times, I took one chapter a day. By the end of the Ephesians reading, I had soaked in so much of this book.
I have created my own plan to guide me to the next book of reading. Right now I am about to finish up with Genesis. I will then follow my guide to move to another section of the Bible. I have divided the Bible into various sections and move from the Old Testament to the New and then back to the Old. Over the course of time, I will spend more time in the gospels than anywhere. The next most frequent sections will be the other New Testament books.
Here is the plan I have created by moving from section to section.
- OT1 – History (Genesis – 2 Chronicles)
- NT1 (Matthew – Acts)
- OT2 – Writings (Ezra – Song of Solomon)
- NT2 (Romans – Colossians)
- OT3 – Prophets (Isaiah – Malachi)
- NT3 – (1 Thessalonians – Revelation)
No, this post is not about how to manage the maze of after Christmas sales at the mall. Nor is it about how to return the gifts that don’t fit or you don’t want.
Instead let’s take a look at some of the characters who were a part of the first Christmas in Bethlehem. What did they do? I think there is much to learn from their actions.
What did the shepherds do? They returned to their flocks. Had they continued celebrating or playing with their new toys, they would have been the cause for the demise of their sheep. Sheep need a shepherd. The sheep would have starved if not led to food and water. Or they would have been devoured if not protected from the wolves.
What did the magi do? They returned to their studies. In fact, they were warned not to return the same way they had arrived. They were to avoid Herod. They might have taken the long way around, but they did return. There was work to be done.
As we embark on a new year, this is an ideal time to return to our work with renewed vigor. It is solid teaching that urges men to glorify God by the works of their hands and minds. Just as the shepherds gave glory to God at the birth of the Savior, they further glorified him by their labors among the sheep.
Oh, we poor men that we should be so cold and indifferent to this great joy which has been given us. This indeed is the greatest gift, which far exceeds all else that God has created. And we believe so feebly even though the angels proclaim and preach and sing, and their song is fair and sums up the whole of Christian religion, for ‘glory to God in the highest’ is the very heart of worship. This they wish for us and bring to us in Christ.
Charles Dickens spent a career putting memorable characters in the tough settings found in his culture. In fact, one of his novels is titled, Hard Times. Dickens’ setting in the industrial age of England is not a unique setting. Though the names and the locations may change, life can be more than a little challenging.
Somehow our culture seems to think that life is supposed to be easy. This sentiment permeates not just our culture, but also the church. When difficulties arise, we want to know who sinned or we ask whether has God forgotten us.
The act of grace requires two separate parties. The grace act also necessitates that an act of sin be involved. Without sin there would be no need of grace.
In the Garden of Eden prior to the fall, Adam & Eve related to each other and to God in a state of innocence. They had no need of receiving or extending grace in either their marital relationship with each other or in their spiritual relationship with God. But once sin entered, grace became necessary to maintain any semblance of relationship.
Since we live in a thoroughly fallen world and are ourselves fallen, we cannot hope to be rightly related to God without grace. He extends grace to us and we receive grace from him. We also cannot hope to have relationships of fellowship without giving and receiving grace to and from each other.