Why A Bible Reading Plan Will Change Your Year.

I had been a Christian for 18 years. I had grown up in a home that showed me how to have a personal Bible study, attended Bible teaching churches, gone to a Christian university and was most of my way through my Masters in Divinity… and I had never read the Bible cover to cover. Yep, I had tried many times and gotten bogged down in Leviticus or in better years in the 2 Chronicles range. I loved Jesus and loved the Bible, but could not figure out how to get through it.

Bible Reading Plan

In 2005, I was engaged to Rebecca and had been watching as she used The One Year Bible as her devotional book. I liked that her devotional was not someone’s interpretation of scripture but was scripture itself. She shared with me how it divided the Bible into 15 minute a day sections of OT, NT, Psalms and Proverbs. In a year you would read through the entire bible once and Psalms and Proverbs twice.

I decided to try it. I loved it. I read through the Bible in a year… and have done it every year since.

My second year through it, I had a mentor, Jim Leggett, encourage me to take a nugget each day and journal on it using the SOAP format. S – Scripture (one verse) O – Observation (what does it say) A – Application (how can I live it out) and P – Prayer. This was HUGE. I was now seeing the Word of God direct my life.

A few years ago, I tweaked the above journaling format to my church‘s three questions. Each day I still watch for a verse that jumps out to me. I write the verse down and then I ask: What is God saying to me? How will I obey? Who will I tell?

I cannot overstate the impact it has had on my life. I can now say that I have read through the Bible, cover to cover, ten times. But just saying I have done it is not the benefit. It is watching God direct my life through His Word. It is incredible to look back at my journals and see how my Bible Reading has guided me. Daily, God is speaking into my life and showing me how I can follow Jesus.

Several years ago a friend of mine was touring Israel. He asked his Jewish tour guide if he believed in a historical Jesus. The man answered: “Yes.” He then asked if he believed if Jesus was the Messiah. The man answered: “No.” My friend then followed by asking how he could believe in Jesus but not that Jesus was the Messiah. The tour guide answered with words that I have never forgotten. He said: “If Jesus was a true Rabbi, his followers would live like him. I have never seen a Christian that is living like Jesus.”

We are called to follow Jesus everyday. That is what it means to be disciples. How do you know the way Jesus wants you to live? You know because He tells you through His Word. I want to invite you to follow Jesus everyday by starting a Bible Reading plan.

Last year I tried a new plan, the Chronological Bible. It was good, but the first nine months were more difficult because they were all Old Testament. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Old Testament, but holding all New Testament reading until the end was hard at times.

I invited many yesterday at our church to join us in reading through The One Year Bible in 2017. I’ve been encouraged to see so many jump in already. Some are reading with me on You Version – The Bible App. The One Year Bible is one of You Version’s free reading plans. You can highlight verses and make notes that friends can see. You can pick it up at any time during the day. You can even have the app read you your plan as you drive to work or workout.

Are you trying to live like Jesus? Have you struggled to read through the Bible. I want to challenge you to start a Bible reading plan and begin to ask yourself these three questions everyday: What is God saying to you? How will you obey? Who will you tell?

If you do, it will change your year… your life… and your eternity.

How Jesus Prioritized Time

Matthew 11:1 “When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.”

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What is God saying to me? Even with a busy ministry schedule, Jesus prioritized discipleship. Before He physically ascended, Jesus commanded that His followers do the same: “Go and make disciples of all nations…” Cultural Christianity has changed Jesus’ command to “make disciples” into “make converts.” Mathematicians will tell you that Jesus’ strategy is better. If you convert 1,000 people to Christ a day, it will take you 16,000 years to reach the world’s 6 billion people. If you disciple 1 person a year who will in turn disciple one person a year, it will take you 32 years to reach the world for Christ.

How will I obey? Small group and one-on-one discipleship has proven to be the most fruitful and most fulfilling part of my ministry. In my church we refer to it as Multiplying: http://www.pcbc.org/multiply/. Today, I am going to invite someone I know into a discipleship relationship.

Who will I tell? Pat

What step can you make to pursue a discipleship relationship today?

I am reading the Blue Letter Chronological Bible in 2016 and asking each day what God is saying to me, how should I obey, and who should I tell. Occasionally I will blog my journal. You can find the plan in print and on You Version. Join me.

Where A Nation’s Pain Begins

Ezekiel 22:4 “You have become guilty by the blood that you have shed, and defiled by the idols that you have made, and you have brought your days near, the appointed time of your years has come. Therefore I have made you a reproach to the nations, and a mockery to all the countries.”

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What is God saying? With the pain that is evident in the USA, Ezekiel has been especially challenging for me to read this year. God is clear with Israel that He is going to discipline His children. “As one gathers silver and bronze and iron and lead and tin into a furnace, to blow the fire on it in order to melt it, so I will gather you in my anger and in my wrath, and I will put you in and melt you” (Ezekiel 22:20) What stood out to me this morning in 22:4 was the word “therefore.” The pain that Israel will experience is “there for” a reason. They are being disciplined because of their sin (violence and idolatry in 22:4 and promiscuity other places).

*It is important to note that the NT makes it clear that the church is the new Israel. We cannot say that God deals with all nations like He dealt with Israel. It would be more accurate to say that God deals with His people like he has always dealt with his people.

*It is also important to note that the wrath of God was fully laid on Jesus.

How will I obey? Praise God for Jesus and the unconditional forgiveness we have by grace through faith in Jesus. “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). Spend time as I drive this morning, asking God where I personally need to repent and also asking God how I can engage my community to bring about corporate repentance.

Who will I tell? Justin

How can you engage your community to bring repentance today?

I am reading the Blue Letter Chronological Bible in 2016 and asking each day what God is saying to me, how should I obey, and who should I tell. You can find the plan in print and on You Version. Join me.

Shootings: The Church, Not the Government, Has the Solution

dallas-skylineYesterday morning, we watched the grievous shooting of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana. Last night, we watched the dreadful attack on law enforcement unfold on the streets of Dallas.

As I watched courageous men and women moving forward through gunfire to apprehend the shooter, I felt the same emotions you did. Fear. Anger. Adrenaline. Respect. Courage. Helplessness and a strong desire to help.

I had a strong desire to drive downtown and try to help. I wondered why onlookers were still in the streets. Maybe they felt the same thing. Maybe you felt the same thing.

I’m not trained with a gun. I don’t own SWAT gear. You probably don’t either. But, if you are a believer, you are armed with the solution to this civil war.

“For (Jesus) himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” – Ephesians 2:14–16

The church in Ephesus was experiencing incredible racial tension between Jews and Gentiles. The environment was hostile. Where was the solution? It wasn’t in new laws, different leaders, better training or bigger prisons. The solution wasn’t found in the government. The solution was found in the church. The solution was Jesus.

If you are a believer, I want to remind you that you have what will break down the dividing wall of hostility in the world. If you have Jesus, step up and allow Him to use you to break down the dividing wall of hostility in our culture.

Over the next few days, I am praying for the church in the US to come together across the racial divides and to unite around Jesus. If you are in Dallas, I want to invite you to join me and other believers from around our city at Concord Church, 6808 Pastor Bailey Dr, Dallas, TX 75237, at 7pm to pray.

The church, not the government, has the solution.

Come Lord Jesus.

Holy Hearts or Hearts Wholly

2 Chronicles 16:9 “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.”

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What is God saying? This morning I read the story of King Asa in 1 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 14-16. Asa immediately follows Abijam whose “heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God” (1 Kings 15:3). In contrast, “the heart of Asa was wholly true to the Lord all his days” (Repeated word for word in 1 Kings 15:14 and 2 Chron 15:17). As a result, God gave Asa “strong support” because of his blameless heart (2 Chron 16:9).

How will I obey? I often praise God for the holy heart that I have been freely given through Christ that secures me eternally. Today, I’m reminded that my whole heart must be true to God to receive His strong support in this life. I am going to spend 15 minutes praying “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalms 139:23–24)!

Who will I tell? Morning prayer group

What indicators on the dashboard of our lives will show us where our hearts are not wholly true to the Lord?

I am reading the Blue Letter Chronological Bible in 2016 and asking each day what God is saying to me, how should I obey, and who should I tell. You can find the plan in print and on You Version. Join me.

God promises to “meet with” and “speak with” His people.

Exodus 25:22 “There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.”

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What is God saying? God has given Moses detailed instructions on building the Arc of the Covenant. Now, God promises Moses that He will “meet with” him and “speak with” him there. In John 4, Jesus tells the woman at the well that God’s offer to “meet with” and “speak with” His people at the Arc in the temple is be expanded to anywhere His people worship Him “in spirit and in truth.”

How will I obey? I will take God up on his supernatural offer. I will “meet with” Him this morning and listen for Him to “speak with” me.

Who will I tell? My Go Training guys.

Make time today and invite God to “meet with” and “speak with” you.

Begin, Again in 2016

Revelation 21:5-7 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.”

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What is God saying? The One who created in the beginning will re-create, “make everything new,” in the end. And, in the present, He is the one who “will give freely from the springs of the water of life” to “all who are thirsty.”

How will I obey? As we begin a new year, if we start with ourselves we will fail, again. If we start with Jesus, we will begin, again.

Who will I tell? You. Join me in 2016 and run to Jesus daily for life. I will be reading the Blue Letter Chronological Bible in 2016, starting tomorrow, January 1st. You can find the plan in different places. A pic of the plan on You Version is attached.

Why should I share the Gospel?

Over the past few days I have had the chance to sit under the training of Ying Kai.

Ying is a modern day Paul. In the most recent survey of the Ying Kais’ ministry, more than 1.7 million people have come to faith and been baptized. Every month trained workers start two thousand house churches and small groups in villages, urban high-rise apartments and factories. Over 140,000 churches have been started in what is currently the world’s fastest growing church planting movement.

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This morning, God used Ying to motivate me to use my life to tell everyone I can about Jesus.  

Answering the call to share the Gospel –  1 Corinthians 9:16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

  1. Calling from Above (Heaven) –  Mark 16:15–16 And he (Jesus) said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
  2. Calling from Below (Hell) –  Luke 16:27–28 And he (a rich man in hell) said, “Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.”
  3. Calling from Inside (Heart)-  Romans 9:1–3   I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.
  4. Calling from Outside (Humanity) –  Acts 16:9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”

All creation is crying out for the redemption that God has given us through Jesus. We have the privilege, responsibility and power (Holy Spirit) to answer the call and to share The Good News.

How can you answer the call today?

Where can I find help?

Isaiah 41:17-20 “When the poor and needy search for water and there is none, and their tongues are parched from thirst, then I, the LORD, will answer them. I, the God of Israel, will never abandon them. I will open up rivers for them on the high plateaus. I will give them fountains of water in the valleys. I will fill the desert with pools of water. Rivers fed by springs will flow across the parched ground. I will plant trees in the barren desert— cedar, acacia, myrtle, olive, cypress, fir, and pine. I am doing this so all who see this miracle will understand what it means— that it is the LORD who has done this, the Holy One of Israel who created it.”

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What is God Saying? When we reach the end of the rope (physically, emotionally, mentally, relationally, etc.): 1. God will answer. 2. He is with us. and 3. He will give us water.  Why? So all will see Him in our lives.

How can we obey? Draw near to The Water Source. Jeremiah 2:13 “for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

Who can we tell? Who in your life can you encourage with this truth with today?

As I seek to follow Jesus everyday, I am reading the One Year Bible and daily asking the questions above in my personal journal. On occasion, I will post my journal entry online.

 

Biblical Boldness

2 Corinthians 3:4-6, 12 “Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life… Since we have such a hope, we are very bold.”man-in-front-of-tanks-tiananmen

What is God saying? Biblical boldness is Christ-confidence, not self-confidence. How do we access it? Paul says our confidence (like our salvation) is “through Christ,” “from God,” and “Spirit given.” If we want this boldness we must find it in God, not ourselves.

Two days ago, I was struck by a verse in my Go Training, discipleship group: Acts 4:13 “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” Note the progression: Being with Jesus > Boldness through common men.

How will I obey? Meet with Jesus and memorize Acts 4:13.

Who will I tell? My dad.

Biblical boldness is Christ-confidence, not self-confidence. Do you want it? Meet with Jesus.

As I seek to follow Jesus everyday, I am reading the One Year Bible and daily asking the questions above in my personal journal. On occasion, I will post my journal entry online.