Reading the New Testament together in 2013

1 01 2013

The following is a letter I wrote to our Sunday School classes at First Baptist Church of Oppelo to encourage them to read through the New Testament together in 2013. The plan is for everyone to keep up with their daily readings throughout the week and have a few minutes for discussion, encouragement, and accountability at the beginning of each Sunday School lesson.

[CLICK HERE FOR A COPY OF THE PLAN]

[CLICK HERE FOR MY POST ON READING THROUGH THE BIBLE IN 2013]

Several Sunday School classes at FBC Oppelo are planning to use this plan to read through the New Testament together for the 1st 6 months of 2013. Here’s a few thoughts on why you should be reading your bible daily, and some practical tips on how to accomplish this.

  • First, remember, this is God’s Word.  It is the Word of God.  Jesus repeats the words of Moses (Deut. 8:3) in Matt. 4:4 “But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” So, Christians believe the Bible is composed of 66 individual books, written by men who were divinely inspired by God, meaning that the Bible is “God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16) or in other words, it is the Word of God.
  • Secondly, God uses His Word to transform us into the likeness of Christ (see again 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Two things to remember here: 1st we don’t read the bible just for information but for transformation. 2nd if we want to be transformed into the likeness of Christ then we must read the Bible!  If God uses His own precious Word to transform you isn’t it to our great detriment to waste so much of our year on Facebook, Twitter, television, movies, etc., while our Bibles remain unread?
  • Thirdly, it is through God’s Word that we come to know Him more.  If you want to know God in a deeper way, then you must get into His Word.  Sadly, too many Christians (and “christians”) are satisfied with how well they know (or think they know) God.  Don’t be that person.  May Christ be your treasure! Your satisfaction! And if He is, you will want to know Him more, do this through reading, studying, meditating, and memorizing His Word. Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”
    Jer. 9:23-24

Practical Tips:

  1. Don’t find time, make time.  Personally, I like to read in the morning but that may not work for everyone.  If you do the morning try setting the alarm 15 minutes earlier than normal. It’s just 15 minutes.  The important thing here is make a plan and stick to it.
  2. If you miss a day don’t get discouraged. I promise you, inevitably you will miss a day, or at least miss reading as much as the plan suggests.  On those days, don’t get discouraged. Carve out some extra time to catch up, or resolve that you will give up a TV show or something else to have the time to catch up.  In some cases it could take you some time to catch up but keep at it and you’ll get there!
  3. Accountability. Each Sunday morning have a discussion with your class about what you’ve been reading. This could be as little time as just a few minutes, but sharpen one another’s understanding of the Word and challenge one another to continue with the plan.
  4. Pray. Pray that God will transform you through His Word. Use the Scriptures you read to voice your prayers to God. For example, if you’re reading Matthew 4, part of your prayer could be “God, give me a hunger for your Word. May I desire it more than food. I repent of not cherishing your precious Word as I ought, give me grace to discipline myself to read your Word daily…” etc. from v.4
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Bible Reading 2013

28 12 2012

Bible on table
I certainly don’t think proof of your conversion can be based on whether or not you’ve read the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation.  With that out of the way however, I’d like to encourage you to set a goal of reading through the Bible in 2013.  While I don’t think you are an apostate if you haven’t read through the Bible, I do think it should be every Christian’s desire to read God’s Word.  We believe Jesus’ words spoken to the Evil One in the wilderness right?: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”  And this sentence, God’s very words, had already been recorded in the book of Deuteronomy, God’s very Word.

So, if you believe that we don’t just need cheeseburgers to live but the Word of God, why not commit yourself to actually read every word of God recorded for us in the 66 canonical books we call the Bible?  If you can’t get through it in one year, try two, or if necessary three.  The point is the Bible isn’t just for you to get information but it was written for our transformation (I’m sure I should cite someone here but I’m not sure who said something similar to this!). If God uses His own precious Word to transform you isn’t it to our great detriment to waste so much of our year on Facebook, Twitter, television, movies, etc., while our Bibles remain unread? Won’t you commit to being a student of the Word in 2013?

There are already tons of great plans out there.  Here’s a post by Justin Taylor that has several plansHere’s a plan from Denny BurkHere’s a plan from Grace For Sinners that will have you go through the whole Bible twice and the NT Epistles four times.

And here’s what I’m doing: The OT twice using this planAnd the NT twice using this plan.

So there you go.  Get a plan and stick with it! Print it out, keep it in your bible, post it on your fridge, set reminders in your phone, whatever you need to do!  Here’s a helpful reminder from John Piper on why you should “Read the Bible More and More.”





Why you don’t read the Bible

31 08 2012

One of the greatest problems in our churches today is a practical denial of the sufficiency of Scripture.  I say “practical” denial because most people (at least in Southern Baptist churches) would not actually verbally deny that Scripture is sufficient for knowing, trusting, and obeying God, but practically this is not lived out.  We “know” the Bible is sufficient, it just doesn’t show up practically. While there are several examples of this, one major example is the fact that there are many in the South who claim allegiance to Christ who rarely read their bibles.  Sure, maybe they open it from time to time, or read a “devotional” daily, but for the most part they go day after day without meaningful time in the Word.  Here are 3 common excuses:

  1. I’m too Busy
  2. I’m no bible scholar-  I just can’t understand the bible when I read it
  3. I just don’t like to read

I’d like to tell you the real reason people don’t read the Bible: they don’t want to.  Plain and simple. If you really want to read your Bible you will.  If you don’t want to read your Bible you won’t- and here in the South, there’s no in between.  We can read, we have time, and we have access to God’s Word in our language (several times over!).  What are people really saying when they don’t discipline themselves to take in a consistent regimen of God’s Word? “I don’t really need that.”  In other words, it’s not important.  Sure, I may say the Bible is sufficient, but in reality I’m just trying to “live life” and I really depend on other things (like “feelings”) to tell me what I need to know about trusting, obeying, and knowing God.

Now, there are tons of passages that we could examine but I’d just like to quote one- Matthew 5:6

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

People don’t “hunger and thirst” for righteousness by reading the Bible.  People read the Bible because they hunger and thirst for righteousness.  The explanation of this verse is that God’s people will hunger and thirst to pursue righteousness because of the change He has wrought in their hearts.  The application is that God’s people will read the Bible because they desire to read God’s Word since they’ve been changed and want to learn and grow in their pursuit of godliness.

I’m not saying if you don’t read your bible every day that you’re not a Christian.  I’m simply saying that when you don’t read the Bible it’s because you don’t want to, so don’t make a different excuse.  Confess it, repent of it, and look to Christ who atoned for our flippant attitude toward’s His Word.  And realize that if you don’t have a desire to pursue righteousness, then you are not saved.  Repent and believe the Gospel.





Why preach through entire books of the Bible?

16 07 2012

Just some Monday afternoon thoughts on why Pastors should preach through books of the Bible:

1. It’s how we operate with all forms of communication.  You don’t get a letter from someone and just read the middle paragraph and think you have a good grasp on the letter. Yes we are in the “digital” age where we just like to consume bits and pieces of communication at a time but we also are unable to communicate properly without context.  It would be odd to pick up a book, randomly go to page 142 and read a sentence and actually believe you could understand all that was behind that particular sentence.

2. It’s how the Bible was meant to be read.  Let’s say you disagree with #1 and you say “Well, I grab books and only read the important sections and then toss ’em.”  I would say to you, fine, but the Biblical authors wrote with the intention of having their work read in its entirety.  (example, Col. 4:16)  Moses did not write in hopes that someone would read 5 chapters from the Pentateuch.  He wrote with the intention that all 5 books would be read and studied.  If this is how the Bible is meant to be read, then why not teach your people this by modeling it through your sermons?

3. It’s a testimony to belief in the sufficiency of Scripture.  Is Scripture sufficient? Does it contain everything we need for salvation, knowing God, obedience to Him, understanding His will?  If it is sufficient, then we want to know all of it, not just the parts that we believe are important and skip out on the rest.  Does man live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God or not (Deut. 8:3)?  Scripture interprets Scripture.  Therefore, we need to let the Bible itself speak on what it is that we need to know about God and man.

4. It allows you to cover the whole counsel of God’s Word.  Related to the above point, preaching through books allows you (andforcesyou!) to cover all that the Bible says; even things that are controversial.  You can’t dance around Jesus’ teaching on divorce, or repentance, or conversion for example if you are preaching verse by verse through Matthew.  It also keeps the Pastor from just hounding away on his favorite topics or soap boxes.

5.  It’s what your people want need.  I have heard and do hear complaints from time to time from lay persons about Pastors preaching through books of the Bible. But, if the above points are true, then if you’re a pastor, this is what your people need.  And I believe this is what mature Christians want.  Why? Because our desire as Christians is more of Christ.  What better way to give your people more of Christ than preaching His own very Word in its fullness?

6. It allows the Pastor and the people to know what’s coming.  You don’t have to scramble Monday mornings to find what to preach on.  Your people can read, reflect, meditate, pray about, and discuss with family members the next set of verses that are going to be covered.  This will help congregations master certain books of the Bible which will only help them to master other Books of the Bible when studying on their own.  If done properly and consistently it teaches sound hermeneutics without ever having to say the word “hermeneutics” from the pulpit!

7. The benefits far outweigh the “cons.”  Yes, you must be disciplined in preaching through books because each sermon must be in context while at the same time able to stand on its own.  Also, you should be flexible because there may be local or global events that occur (good things, bad things, ugly things) that your people must hear a Word from God on and it may not match up well with your specific text (although sometimes it may).  However, I believe God will bless Pastors who are resolved to preach expository sermons through books of the Bible as the main dose of their preaching simply because this is how God’s Word was meant to be preached to His people (see above statements!).





What should we do on Sunday mornings?

5 07 2012


This post is from a series of blogs I wrote last year working on answering the question: How long should a church service be? In this post we’ll look at what should be included during our weekly gatherings. You can see the whole blog series in .pdf format by clicking HERE.

The elements to be included in the weekly gathering of the Local Church must be Word driven.  In other words, what we should be doing as the Body on Sunday mornings is Word ministry.  John 8:31 says

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples ……

We cannot worship God, and we cannot edify the brethren if we are not abiding in the Word on Sunday mornings.  What’s amazing is that God is not silent or intentionally ambiguous about what should be included in our services!  He plainly reveals these truths to us in Scripture.  So, let’s now discuss what His Word reveals that we should be doing in our regular gatherings:

  • 1. Preaching the Word (2 Tim. 4:1-2)  This is first for a reason.  The preaching of God’s Word is essential.  It should be central and priority to all other things happening on Sunday morning.  Perhaps you do all the rest on this list on Sundays, but if you leave out this one out you’ve missed the “main ingredient” to God’s intent for our gatherings.
  • 2. Singing the Word (Colossians 3:16)  This doesn’t mean you have to find a chapter in the Bible and sing it exactly word for word (although that can work at times!).  But it does mean that you should actually be singing portions of Scripture in your songs, and songs that are not portions of Scripture should be able to be easily “proved” to be implied by portions of Scripture.
  • 3.  Reading and Praying the Word (Acts 2:42, 1 Timothy 2:1, 4:13)  Yes, this element is included in the Sermon, but it should not just be during the sermon that the church is reading and praying the Word.  There should be other times during the service that the Word of God is read publicly and that the prayers of the Saints are prayed according to the Word.
  • 4. Living the Word–  This is the local body living out the Word during corporate gatherings (not just “go act like a Christian when the services are over”).  What I mean is that there are other elements that God says to include in our services that I am classifying here as “living the Word.”  So, these elements include:

a. Financial Giving (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)  Giving to the church is not just a “good idea” but it’s the duty of Believers!  This doesn’t mean you have to “pass the plates” during a service, but it does mean there should be at least a designated area (offering box, etc.) Where the Body can give financially in worship and obedience to Christ.

b. The Lord’s Supper and Baptism (Matthew 28:19, 1 Cor. 11:17-34)  These may not actually happen every Sunday but for a healthy church they should be happening on a regular basis.

c. Fellowship (Hebrews 3:12-14, and many others!) This does not mean eating (although, I’m down for lunch any time) True fellowship is sharing the truths of Christ with one another.  We must constantly be willing to ask how one’s walk with Christ is going and to share what Christ is doing currently in your life.





Memorizing Scripture in 2011

28 12 2010

“I just don’t have a good enough memory to memorize Scripture.”

That’s the excuse we often give ourselves, others, and God for why we don’t memorize Bible verses.  Think for a moment about the stuff you actually do have memorized… How many songs do you know by heart?  How many phone numbers could you dial right now without looking at your contact list?  How many movies can you quote line by line?

The point is, God gave us an amazing memorization capacity.  You CAN memorize verses!  Psalm 119:11 says

“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

For many of us our “verse bank” has insufficient funds!  When we need to make a withdrawal to combat sin in our lives there just isn’t anything there to work with.  I would write a little more about the necessity for memorizing Scripture, but John Piper has an excellent read on this subject: CLICK HERE to read what he says.

I will admit to you this is something that I struggle with too.  We need to discipline ourselves to memorize God’s Word!  Will you challenge yourself to do so in 2011?

Below is a link to a challenge I’m taking in 2011- Memorizing the book of Philippians.  Beginning in February we’ll start a series on the book of Philippians here at FBC so if you are a member here, this would be a good challenge for you to take too!  If you don’t attend FBC DeWitt, then I still think this will be worth your time… Check it out below:

Partnering to Remember the book of Philippians

I also found this website: http://scripturetyper.com/ I have not really looked at it much yet, but it seems that it may be a neat resource to use in your effort to memorize passages of Scripture.





How to Read through the Bible in 2011 (and why you should)

27 12 2010

One bite at a time.  That’s the answer to the old riddle, “How do you eat an elephant?”.  I think it’s also the answer for Christians when it comes to the question, “How can I read through the entire bible?”.  Ok, so I don’t think we want to pull a Jeremiah and literally eat the Word of God, but when it comes to reading through the entire Bible in 2011 here’s how you’ll do it: One verse at a time.

One verse at a time.  Why is that so important to remember?  I think some Christians look at their Bible and feel so overwhelmed by its size and content that they lose the battle to read it in its entirety before they even get started with Genesis 1:1. 

The Bible is made up of 66 individual books, but it is also one grand story.  I’m not advising reading the Bible out of context or to zoom yourself in so closely to a single verse that you miss God’s amazing narrative.  What I am saying though is that the Bible is made up of books, and that the books are made up of chapters, and the chapters are made up of verses.  Keep this in mind as you plan to read through the Bible in 2011…

Do you really think it’s a must that Christians read through the entire Bible? What about all those genealogies? What about difficult books and passages?

What did Jesus say?   “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (Matthew 4:4).

How about the author of Hebrews:  “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (4:12)

And then of course Paul: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” (2 Tim. 3:16).

How can we live on every Word of God, if many of us haven’t even read every Word of God?  It’s amazing that we live in such a nation with such easy access to God’s Word and yet have become so ignorant as to what it says.

The goal is to not just read the Bible as a textbook.  Read it as Scripture! Read it for transformation!

So, what can you do? Start one verse at a time! Make a commitment right now to read through the Bible in its entirety in 2011.  Below are a few practical tips on how to do it, and some links to several Bible reading plans.

Tips:

1. Have a consistent time and place for Bible reading.  This is key!  Don’t just read when you find time, make time.

2. If you miss a day, or even a few days, don’t get discouraged.  Keep reading! One verse at a time!  And if you get to a day where you can read a little more to catch back up, do it.  And if you get to December 31, 2011 and you still have 1/4th of the Bible to read, just keep reading!  The goal is to read the whole Bible in 2011, and I hope you meet that goal, but the most important thing is that you do read through the entire Bible.  So, if it takes a little longer than a year for you, then so be it.

3. Pray.  Pray that God will open your heart to receive His Word.  Pray that He’ll give you the faith to apply His Word to your life.

4.  Don’t get discouraged about not being able to understand some passages.  I do believe that most of the BIble is pretty clear, but you will probably run across at least a few things that you may need to talk to a pastor about or consult some extra readings.  Don’t get bogged down on those passages, but don’t just dismiss them as incomprehensible either. (Sometimes a good study bible can help clear that up!  Here, here, here, and here are some I recommend).

Bible Reading Plans:

Bethlehem Baptist Bible Reading Plan (I used this in 2010.  You read a few chapters from different places in the Bible each day, and then have a few catch up days built-in at the end of each month).

Expository.org Bible Reading Plan (Similar to the plan above, but you’ll read the OT Chronologically)

OWNit365 Bible Reading Plan (This one’s pretty neat!  Gives you one day off each week. The other 6 days you’ll have 2 separate readings on your own, and one chapter to read with your family! Great way to begin Family Worship!)

Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading Plan (Probably not a plan for 1st time readers!  This plan is 10 chapters a day.  Click the link for more info.)

Create your own plan! The first time I read through the Bible I looked at the number of pages in my Bible and divided it by the time I wanted to finish reading.  So, if you want to read your bible in 365 days and it is 1075 pages you’ll need to read 3 pages a day (1075 divided by 365).

Also, if you haven’t heard about YouVersion, it’s worth checking out…

I hope you will commit to reading the entire Bible in 2011!