Reading the Bible in 2015

It’s a good thing to read the Bible.  It’s a better thing to read it regularly.  It’s even better to read it with some sort of approach that makes sure you get a steady diet of it.  Hence, Bible reading plans.

Whether you would like to read the entire Bible in 2015 or more of the Bible in 2015, today would be a great day to start a reading plan.

A few days ago I decided to start an approach that combines three resources.  Chris Dendy’s plan portions the whole Bible into a year, book by book, and incorporates readings from Dr. Jim Hamilton’s excellent overview of biblical theology, God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment.   Peter Krol’s plan is to devour the entire Bible early on in the year.  He focuses more on a set of driving motivations rather than a methodology.  Also of note is that Krol wrote Knowable Word, an excellent guide to interpreting the Bible that would also be a great new year’s read, and can itself be swallowed in a couple hours.  I am using the canonical plan at YouVersion to track my progress and to be able to pick up and read on the go if I don’t have a physical Bible handy.

Some other encouragements in journeying through the Bible in 2015:

Bible Reading is an Art by David Mathis

Reading God’s Word: a New Year’s Resolution for the Rebelution by 14 year old Amanda Beguerie

2OT-2NT: The No Checkbox Bible Reading Plan for 2015 by Drew Hunter

Okay, enough reading about the Bible.  Let’s get in there and enjoy learning more from the Author’s own mouth!

How to Pray Scripture

A Simple, Helpful Lesson Learned in Dr. Don Whitney’s Class

 by Doug Smith

I had the privilege to take a class on Biblical Spirituality in 2007.  In this class, Dr. Don Whitney showed us how and why we should pray through Scripture. This practice has benefited me greatly, and I have been able to share it with some others. It is something that can be modeled and integrated into family worship as well.  I requested Dr. Whitney’s permission to post handouts I have prepared for use in sharing this material, which he has granted.

After Dr. Whitney instructed us on praying through Scripture, he said that if we ever taught this to others we must be sure to do two things:

1) Give people time to pray Scripture themselves.

2) Give time for people to give testimonies about their experience.

This fastens the truth to their minds and hearts better than simply lecturing and moving on to other things. If a person is told how to use a tool, he should then get some practice in utilizing it. People need the experience of praying through Scripture in order to have its advantages driven home to them. As Dr. Whitney put it, many people will be likely to get “hooked” on praying Scripture if you explain how to do it and then let them do it and give testimonies.

Let me explain the handouts. There are three pages I have posted.

  • The first is the outline of the need, method and reasons to pray through Scripture. This can be used for individual study or in a group setting. I hope it is simple enough for a Christian to view it alone and then understand how to practice it. If you teach this, be sure you go through it on your own first. In the blanks, list all the benefits you can think of for praying through Scripture after you have tried it. Then, if you teach it, do not share those benefits until after you have given others a chance to try it for themselves and given testimonies about their experience. You will likely be gratified to find that they will mention many of the things you have already thought of, and it has more effect if you let them express it first.
  • The second handout is an explanation of the Psalms of the day (point IV. A. 1. in the outline). The formula of using today’s date and adding 30 until you get 5 Psalms is an alternative to the practice some have of reading 5 consecutive Psalms each day. There is nothing wrong with using 5 consecutive Psalms (since this would take one through the whole book of Psalms in a month), but the idea of the Psalms of the day on the handout gives more freedom and is more flexible if you miss a day, because you don’t have to feel like you need to catch up.
  • The third and final handout is a quote from George Müller, a man known for his devoted prayer life who had some of the same struggles many of us face (such as a wandering mind). His prayer life was transformed for the good by praying Scripture. In the outline this example comes after the Scriptural precedent, for which you should look up the references and read them to show the connection of Scripture and prayer in the life of Jesus and the apostles.

I cannot overemphasize the value of praying Scripture.  For additional information about this practice, I commend to you Dr. Whitney’s book Simplify Your Spiritual Life: Spiritual Disciplines for the Overwhelmed (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2003), especially pages 60 and 80.  You may also view his outline on the topic by clicking here (Word document format).

Handouts for Praying Through Scripture:

Please check out Dr. Whitney’s website at www.biblicalspirituality.org .  You can also follow him on Twitter @DonWhitney

Twitter as a Motivation for Meditation: an Experiment

Twitter_logo_blueI’ve had a sort of love-hate relationship with Twitter.  If you don’t happen to know what Twitter is, it’s a social media service that limits you to 140 character posts (called Tweets), to which you may attach photos, videos, or links.  As with most media, there’s a lot of stupid stuff on Twitter and plenty of places and ways to get in trouble or just waste time.

A few months back, I completely walked away from Twitter, but then came back when I decided it would be a good idea to blog weekly at capsministry.com.  I set up automatic posting from the blog to @capsministry on Twitter, and would occasionally post extra tweets, retweet other Twitter-ers (Tweeters?), or “favorite” Tweets I found helpful.

I just self-published a book, Keeping the Faith in a Christian College, and have been trying to get the word out, so I began utilizing this blog, as well as capsministry.com and its Twitter account.  It made more sense to promote my own book with my own account, so it was back to Twitter for @dougsmith1977 (my old handle was still available!).  It’s annoying for someone to merely use a media outlet to incessantly publicize a product (or at least I think so), so I thought it would be better to share Scripture, meditations on Scripture, and helpful links, in addition to occasionally engaging other users directly.

The long and short of it is, that I’ve found Twitter to have some value for reinforcing my own meditation on the Bible.  Here’s how:

1. The forced brevity of Twitter forces one to choose carefully what one posts.  Sure, you can divide a long quote into multiple tweets, but better to be short, sweet, and well-encapsulated.  Who knows, amidst all the awkward attempts, one might come up with something decently pithy and helpful.

2. The fleeting nature of Twitter suggests that one use it with some frequency.  It’s easy for a Tweet to get lost in a sea of other content; if you follow more than a handful of people and have about any responsibilities, there’s no way you can catch each tweet that the folks you follow post.  So I’m posting several times a day in hopes that someone will be edified, educated, or challenged in a helpful way by something I say.

3. Scheduling tweets is the way I maximize my use of Twitter.  I’ve been using Buffer and decided, as a general rule, I will post 5 times each day (scheduled Tweets).  I may or may not post additional Tweets or Retweets, depending on my schedule (unscheduled Tweets).  Scheduling helps me with not being tied to checking Twitter too much.  The combination of scheduling and frequency is what helps me with meditation.  I’m reading through the “Essential 100” reading plan at YouVersion (www.bible.com), and have been focusing on a chapter a day.  So far, I’ve been chewing on Genesis 1 and 2 and scheduling tweets based on them.

My general approach so far has been:

  • 6:15 a.m. Tweet:  post a verse from the passage I’m reading
  • 9:15 a.m. Tweet:  a meditation/insight from the passage or its context
  • 12:15 p.m. Tweet:  another meditation/insight
  • 3:15 p.m. Tweet:  another meditation/insight; perhaps a link to a topic related to the text
  • 9:15 p.m. Tweet:  a quote on the theme of the passage (or related theme) – so far these have been from hymns, but I might broaden out to include quotes from commentators, preachers, etc.

This approach has helped me to use Twitter in an intentional, focused way, thus far.  It has also resulted in more time thinking on the Word, and that’s definitely a good thing:

Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
    Nor stands in the path of sinners,
    Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    And in His law he meditates day and night.

Psalm 1:1-2 (NKJV)

Three Ingredients of Gospel-Shaped Prayer (Colossians 1:3-12)

May 1, 2011

Click here for sermon audio (8 MB)

SERMON NOTES

Three Ingredients of Gospel-Shaped Prayer

Colossians 1:3-12

 Two observations about studying the Scriptures to deepen our prayer lives (from D.A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation, pgs 95-96)

 1. general: the more we learn about God and His ways, the better we can pray.

2. specific:  studying the prayers in Scripture from Moses, David, Daniel, Jesus, Paul, and others helps us to better know how to pray and what to pray for

Furthermore, we can actually pray the Scriptures – a practice that has breathed new freshness into the prayers of many.

We Should Regularly Pray for Others with:

1.      Thankfulness for Gospel Transformation (vv. 3-8, 14)

 

2.      Petitions for Godly Wisdom (v. 9)

 

 3.      The Goal of God-pleasing Lives (vv. 10-12)