Thursday, December 31, 2015

Reading The Bible

The following is an edited version of a letter I sent to a group of men I meet with on a weekly basis. In addition to my thoughts below, this link to a piece by Justin Taylor is quite helpful

Dear Friends,

It’s that time of year again, we’re running out of days in one year and preparing to begin a new year with blank calendar pages – or at the very least with the promise of the unknown invading our lives from time to time. Many of us are saying, “Where did the year go?” Likely most of us don’t take time to answer the question.  The more time-saving devices we have the less time we have – can someone please explain that?
This morning I was reminded of the words of Jesus to our Father, “For their sakes I sanctity Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth,” (John 17:19). The word “sanctify” has a double meaning – to be set apart and to be holy. The person who is holy is set apart to the Lord, and the person who is truly set apart to the Lord is holy. The primary designation for followers of Jesus Christ in the New Testament is “saints”, which could also be translated “holy ones”. Christians are to be set apart to Jesus Christ and in being set apart (dedicated) to Jesus Christ they are to be holy. This designation appears around sixty times in the New Testament.
Jesus also says to the Father, “Sanctity them in the truth, Your word is truth,” (John 17:17).  In Ephesians 5:25 – 27 Paul writes, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify and cleanse her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” We are sanctified by the Word, we are cleansed by the Word, we are set apart by the Word; but just as our flesh needs to have actual contact with water to cleanse our bodies, so our hearts and minds and souls and spirits require actual contact with the Word of God for us to experience cleansing, holiness, and maturity in Jesus Christ. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart,” Hebrews 4:12.
In a world spiraling downward and out-of-control, descending into darkness, our generation desperately needs a church washed and cleansed and made holy by the Word of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus set Himself apart for our sakes, will we set ourselves apart for the sake of others?
We can only follow Jesus as we obey His word, and we can only obey His word in maturity as we know His word. Jesus says, “He who has my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him,” John 14:21. How can we keep His commandments if we don’t know them? How can His word wash us if we don’t have contact with it? How can we be blessings to others if we are not set apart, dedicated, to our Lord Jesus?
I have attached the New Testament reading schedule that I sent out for 2015 in the hope that some of us will continue to read the New Testament on a daily basis.
There are many other fine schedules of Bible reading available on the Internet, including those which will guide you through the entire Bible in one year, two years, and three years. I do think that it is important to read the New Testament through each year for it contains the life and words of our Lord Jesus, the history of the early church, and the teachings of the Apostles and their associates.
I thought about also providing a schedule of Old Testament readings but decided instead to make a couple of suggestions.
1.    Read one Psalm a day. When you come to Psalm 119 split it up, or if you come to another Psalm that is quite long split it up. When you’ve traveled through Psalms pick up Proverbs (some folks read a chapter of Proverbs every day throughout the year – it’s filled with practical wisdom for daily living).
2.    Select a section of the Old Testament and read through that during the year. Or read in one section during the first quarter, another in the second quarter, etc. This way you will have read in various sections of the Old Testament by year-end. An example: in the first quarter you might read Isaiah and Jeremiah (Major Prophets); in the second quarter 1 & 2 Samuel (history); in the third quarter Exodus and Deuteronomy (the Pentateuch); in the fourth quarter Job and Song of Solomon (wisdom and poetry). Don’t be in a rush, get to know the landscape.
I have one suggestion that I’d like you to please consider: select a New Testament book and really get to know it during the year. Read it, read it again, read it again in different translations, ponder it, use it as a prayer guide, let it soak into your soul. If you select a short book like Colossians you may find that within a few months you’re ready to move on to a new book, maybe another short book like Philippians, if that is the case then great, but continue to revisit Colossians. Make the NT book your home for a year, let it become your friend, allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you throughout the year through the NT book you select.
The LORD said through Hosea, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge,” (Hosea 4:6a). The prophet Amos (8:11) wrote this, “Behold, days are coming declares the LORD God, when I will send a famine on the land, nor a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the LORD.”
In these tumultuous times anything that diverts our attention from the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word is a distraction, we can live life caught up in the headlines of the day or we can live life rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ and His Word – if we choose to navigate by the weathervane of current events we will have no certain center of gravity and be of little use to anyone; if we fix our eyes on Jesus and live in His Word then we have a sure anchor of the soul and can live lives of sacrificial service to others. Jesus teaches that he who seeks to save his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake and the Gospels, the same will save it. We can show others a better way, the Way of Jesus.

Much, much love - Bob

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