Resolve to Understand The Bible This Year

How’s Your Bible Reading This Year?

No, my question isn’t meant to guilt you. Like many, I have attempted to read through the Bible each year and found myself behind schedule. Due to my own failure, some years I switch to different reading plans; other years I sped up my reading plan. Despite the differences, I’ve found one thing that works each year.

Each year I read through “The Story” by Max Lucado and Randy Fraizer Since there are only 30 chapters in the book, my approach is to read just one chapter a day.[1] That means within one month I have read through the overall narrative of the Bible, which becomes a foundation for me to read the rest of scripture throughout the year.

If you choose to follow my lead, know that this book is uniquely complied by Lucado and Frazier. Both authors have compiled significant sections in the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible to allow scripture to read in narrative form. Yes, parts are withheld from this compilation, but they are removed to facilitate the overall redemptive story of scripture. In between these gaps, Lucado and Frazier write transitional synopsis’ to guide the reader into the next portion of the larger narrative.

Technically, Lucado and Fraizer’s approach promotes Biblical Theology, which focuses on the redemptive story in the Bible. Both authors communicate this redemptive tale with great care through the scripture passages they include. As a result, anyone is able to read The Story and see how scripture points towards Christ being the fulfillment of redemption: A fulfillment that puts Abraham, Moses, The Law, Joshua, the Judges, Ruth, the Kings, Major and Minor Prophecy, and more into a redemptive context. A context that requires one to read the entire Bible, even the passages left out, to then realize scripture’s deeper redemptive narrative.

As I stated earlier, “it becomes a foundation for me to read the rest of scripture throughout the year.” Continue reading “Resolve to Understand The Bible This Year”

PSA: Psalm 42 & Prayer

Today I’m taking a break from my Pastoral Corrections series to share a written piece from a sermon I preached last Sunday. I pray it is a blessing to you!

Psalm 42 begins with the famous lines, “As the deer pants for water, so my soul longs after you.” These words from Psalm 42:1 are a beautiful phrase to start off a passage that addresses the opposite extremes of our faith experience.

The Christian faith is filled with many wonders, riches, and joys as we walk with God. These moments make it easy to say, “As the deer pants for water, so my soul longs after you.” However, life is filled with difficulties that oppose our love for God. There are moments that seem as puzzling as some of the lines in Psalm 42. Lines such as verses 9-10:

“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about in sorrow
because of the enemy’s oppression?”
My adversaries taunt me,
as if crushing my bones,
while all day long they say to me,
“Where is your God?”

These lines appear to stand in direct contrast to the psalms opening line that compare a deer panting for water as us longing for God. Yet, they are not in contrast to another; no, they are complimentary.

Most of us would prefer our view of God that matches the initial perceptions we have of Him. We love the idea of a Candyman God who gives us what we always want. But, life is filled with ups and downs that are unavoidable. As a result, we should embrace these inconveniences because they create unique opportunities to deepen our faith in God. Opportunities that will grow our love and trust who is present in every hope and adversity. Such depth then lets us truly long for God like a deer panting for water because we see His goodness in every circumstance, even when life is difficult.

The question then becomes, “How do we move from a shallow faith to one with depth?” Continue reading “PSA: Psalm 42 & Prayer”

Memorizing the Bible: A Simple Scriptural Challenge

In 2002, I attended a Christian Conference while I was in college. The speaker of that event strongly emphasized the need for scripture memory. The students like myself in that room did not want another chore on our busy college plates. Plus, no one likes more legalism. Anticipating these responses, the speaker had a very fair challenge to the room of about 1,000 students. First, he asked every student to stand up. Next, he asked students to remain standing if only they could quote as many scriptures from memory as their age. In other words, if the average college student was 21 years old, they should have 21 verses memorized. After giving his second requirement only about ten students out of 1,000 remained standing. In full transparency, I was one of the 990 students who sat down. Doing so, I knew there was no reason why I should be sitting because committing one Bible verse to memory each year is not difficult.

So, let’s be honest for a minute. Why do we struggle to memorize a minimum of one scripture verse a year? This suggestion is not a harsh approach; rather, one scripture verse a year is more gracious than legalistic. Factoring in that we could count John 11:35, which says, “Jesus wept,” it’s an attainable goal. So, why do we struggle to memorize scripture? We may not know how, but an answer we should wrestle with is that we are lazy.

Lazy is a harsh term, but notice I included myself in this critique. I too could memorize more scripture than I do. Plus, if we focus on doing just one verse a year, then lazy is probably an accurate definition, even if it is a strong term. Furthermore, lazy is the opposite of self-control, which is the final Fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Still, since we should want to practice good spiritual discipline related to scripture memory, it would help to have a few practical suggestions too. Continue reading “Memorizing the Bible: A Simple Scriptural Challenge”

Listen Through the Bible in 2017

audiobible2017 is here, and so are New Year’s Resolutions. Some common resolutions each year relate to health and wellness. Others are developing a new hobby or spending time with family. Resolutions can be anything for anyone.

Many Christians each year attempt to read through the Bible. This ambitious goal starts off well for many, but either the busyness of life or the Levitical Law causes many Christians to lose their momentum. Consequentially, parts of scripture are then never known to the modern reader.

Yes, there are many reading plans. However, there is an overlooked strategy in our exposure to the Bible that we neglect. So as we read the scripture, why not focus on hearing God’s word too!?!? Continue reading “Listen Through the Bible in 2017”

Recommended Devotional Guides

page45_picture0_slide_1312245123Recently I wrote an article encouraging you that there is always time to have a personal devotional. All it takes is a little planning and knowing what options are available. One of my suggestions included the use of a personal devotional guide. As a result, today I want to suggest to you some great devotional books. These suggestions are based a variety of reasons, which I’ll explain with each recommendation.

  1. New Morning Mercies by Paul Tripp. This suggestion is the newest one to be published. It makes the list because of Tripp’s emphasis on grace each day. Recently, it has been my conviction that Christians need to be reminded of grace on a continual basis. Also, we need to remember how grace influences our lives beyond salvation. Grace should create a peaceful, hopeful, and positive change within us. This devotional accomplishes this because it is Christ-centered than one based on our interests.
  1. My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers. Many may already be familiar with this devotional because it is a classic. It’s strength is due to Chamber’s own reflections about how God works despite our circumstances. Chambers himself went through years of spiritual dryness, which is reflected in this devotional. So if you feel distant from God or confused then My Utmost For His Highest will provide some clarity. The best part of this devotional is that it comes in a variety of formats. There are journal based editions, old English editions, contemporary English editions, and more.

Continue reading “Recommended Devotional Guides”

Journaling: The Importance of SOAP

In the last article I began sharing one of the two ways I journal. Today I offer you my second technique I strive to do each day. This method is much more related to how I process my Bible reading. Therefore, it could serve as a great means for you to not only journal effectively, but understand scripture better. So here it is:

c592f59a37d609f74d2975c648245d78Method #2: S.O.A.P. (by Wayne Corderio: The Divine Mentor)

After reading the heading you may be thinking, “What does soap have to do with journaling?” To be fair, had I not read Wayne Corderio’s book, The Divine Mentor, I would be asking the same question. S.O.A.P. is an acronym that describes the steps to journal through the Bible. Specifically, each step means the following:

(S) = Scripture – Each day I try to journal in response to scripture. This means I write down the text I’m about to reflect on next to the letter “S.” For example, if I’m reading/reflecting on I Corinthians 13. I write, “S = I Cor. 13:1-13.”

(O) = Observation – In this section I write out observations from the text. I pay attention to the people, places, things, and events that occur. I simply notice what the scripture says, period. This means I DO NOT interpret or apply the text. That comes next. Continue reading “Journaling: The Importance of SOAP”

My Bible Highlighting System

photo-2Recently I wrote an article about my Bible reading plan where I try to read through the entire Bible as fast I can. Today I want to share my system of highlighting scripture. This approach helps me understand and refer to better.

To begin, I use the Bible highlighting kit that is produced by G T Luscombe. You may purchase them on Amazon by clicking on this link. I love these highlighters because there is a variety of colors and they don’t bleed onto the next page. This allows me to read and highlight the passages on the opposite side of the same page too. In the end any highlighters can work, but I use these. That said my highlighting system involves the following steps:

Red: The red color are for those verses in the Bible that clearly tells us “Do not do!” So when I got back to my Bible later I’m able to determine the “Thou shall nots” (figurative) faster. Similar to a red light or stop sign, red highlights warns me of danger and that should I not proceed.

Green: The green color means “go!” In other words, I use this color to focus on something God has said “To do.” Also, I highlight verses that encourage me. By marking these verses I’m able to to find hope and direction when I return to scripture again.

Blue: This color is used differently from the previous two. I use this color to highlight verse where God profoundly speaks, intervenes, or awes me because of His character. The key is to highlight only the verses that move me the most. Otherwise, my entire Bible could be the color blue.

Blue also helps me adore who Godin my prayers. For example, I can pray to Psalm 23:1 to Him by saying, “Lord, you ARE the Good Shepherd and because of you I will not want!” Therefore, any blue highlighted passage leads me to worship and adore Christ by praying His word back to Him.

Yellow: Next to last in the kit is yellow, which I use as my “catch all” color. When I’m not sure what to mark something I use the yellow highlighter. As a result, I’ve used yellow to highlight biblical geography that’s important, Old Testament verses that are repeated in the New Testament, and other general verses of inspiration.

Black Pen: Lastly, the kit comes with a ruler and a black pen. The ruler I give away, but the black pen I use to write in the margins of my Bible. I do this sparingly as I know my thoughts on scripture can change. Therefore, I limit the pen’s use to notes I believe will be timelessly true of scripture than my feelings at that particular time. This way my Bible can last longer without the clutter of too many subjective notes. Plus, that is what a journal is for, which will be discussed in a later post.

God-Write-the-Bible-1This is my system and I hope it helps you in your understanding and application of scripture. So feel free to use or adapt it however needed. As you do, let me encourage you to read through the entire Bible. Again, see my last post for how to do that. This will help make your highlights more accurate as you understand the context of the verses you find profound. Knowing their context means you can choose the right color and apply it better for the future. Now this may mean you use multiple colors on the same verse, which is possible, but either way reading passages than just isolated verses helps for understanding. Also, let me encourage you by saying, “If you highlight a verse wrong it will be alright!” I have messed up plenty of times and when I do I simply make a note in the margin.

In closing, remember we are all a work in progress. So have fun with this, and if you highlight a verse or don’t highlight a verse, the point is to help this enhance your relationship with the Lord. I hope it does and happy reading!