I’d like to:
- read the New Testament in a year
- take more time over each chapter
- use weekends as catch-up points
- involve friends who have never read the bible
- Use facebook to discuss and post thoughts
Therefore, I’m going to give this bible-reading plan a try. It’s called Project 345, has a number of different ways to customise how you get the text (email/phone/rss feed etc/time of day etc…). The blurb follows:
Project 3:45 is a simple, effective way to read the entire New Testament in one year. The plan involves reading one chapter per day five days a week and uses the weekends to catch up if you missed any days. The plan was named for the average of the three minutes and forty five seconds that it takes to read one New Testament chapter (obviously this time will vary due to individual reading rates, chapter lengths, and etc., but you get the point). It’s never too late, start today!
The above plan will be suited to busy people, especially if you use a smartphone or email a lot during the day. It doesn’t come with notes, so I’d still recommend using A study bible like the excellent ESV study bible which I’ve been banging on about for the last two years, or a commentary or other daily notes.
If you’re interested in joining me in this read-through, please send me an email to email@example.com, or, if you are already connected to me on facebook, message me via my facebook page (www.facebook.com/gregdeblieck) I’ll be posting up my thoughts as a way to encourage a bit of friendly and honest discussion. It will be hopefully more informal than the blog format.
My main aim is to encourage as many people as possible to read as much scripture as possible, so please do give it some thought for yourself in the next day or two.
Other things I’m thinking about too:
I’d also like to have a little extra time to develop my praying, because this is something I’ve felt I really struggle with. I bought a fantastic book called The Valley Of Vision which contains a lot of really rich puritan prayers, I’m going to try to work through that on a daily basis.
A few years ago I tried to learn 52 different “memory verses”, and got about 2/3 of the way through. It was hugely valuable to focus my restless attention on some of the deepest truths of scripture, and I’d like to start that process once again (same verses, but I hope to finish it this time!) It involves reading the verses out loud 10 times, then trying to repeat them 10 times until you can do it without a prompt. Hopefully the shorter daily readings will allow me enough time to accomplish this too.
Thanks so much to everyone who has contributed to the B2Y blog over the last 2 years, and I pray that 2012 will provide many fresh opportunities for you to discover the glories of God in scripture. Along with Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, I pray…
that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.
Justin Taylor’s blog offers an excellent list of bible reading plans and resources. I’m currently thinking about a more accessible “new testament in 1 year” plan (following the McCheyne plan again, I think), but I will post an update on this as soon as I have settled on it.
We’re coming to the final few chapters of the bible read-through. I’m now wondering how many of the 70 or so people who originally signed up are still with us at the end… I had hoped at the start to be able to offer much more support and encouragement than I was able to give. If there was a lack of a support infrastructure this time around, then please accept my apologies if I made promises that I couldn’t deliver on. The very discipline of reading 2 chapters a day was a sufficient challenge to me as it was! If you didn’t manage to keep up, don’t worry. Tomorrow is a new day, and 2012 is a new year, and God’s love and mercies are new every morning. The treasures of his word are still there to be explored!
If you did manage to keep up, even with a few sections missing, congratulations to you! I am very pleased for you. The reward is in the reading, of course, and in building up a surer knowledge of the glorious character of God, that we can strengthen our faith and resolve. Milestones are useful though, to reflect on the nature of our trajectory as Christians, and our ultimate goal. How are we different now from two years ago? How has God changed us?
For me, the milestone is an opportunity to reflect on the value I have got from the reading: a regular daily tool in anchoring my thoughts and actions in the word of God. At the same time, I realise that I’ve got even more out of the read-through than the first time I did it, and it has inspired in me a renewed respect for the awesome depths of the scriptures. The more I read the bible, the more I see its supernatural unity. It is no work of mere human imagination, and realising this strengthens my reverence and trust in its words.
But I remember too that my reverence for it is still far less than it ought to be, and what I claim in principle (that these are the very words of God) I am slow to demonstrate in practice. There is far less unity between what I profess and what my actions show that I actually believe. “I believe, help my unbelief“. I am reminded of my own lack of discipline, knowledge and wisdom, and my tendency to wander headlong towards many kinds of sin, pride, laziness and ignorance… All this is held in check and transformed only by the grace of God, through the work of the Holy Spirit.
If reading the bible does not cause us to lose faith in ourselves and place it on God, then we have not understood its purpose. The inevitable (self?) satisfaction we have at reaching the end point should hopefully be balanced with an awareness of the nature and distance of the spiritual journey stretching out in front of us…
In all these things, I am satisfied, though, when I remember that my success doesn’t depend on my own achievements or abilities, but on Christ, who has done so much for all of us. Christ, who he is, what he has done, is doing, and will do: this is the gospel. The critical, important news of Jesus Christ, affecting everyone, and offering a unique and unparalleled hope to all who respond to it.
For 2012, may our focus be on the glorious gospel of Christ: the gospel is the hope, anchor, power and joy of His church. Let us joyfully continue to strive together, in God’s power, and not our own, to facilitate the glorious transformation that God is already working in us.
P.S.In the next few days I hope to post up plans for what begins in January 2012…stay tuned!
We’re reaching the end of our readings now with the last three minor prophets and the gospel of John (introduction to John’s gospel is found here). Malcolm Green’s brief overview of the last 12 books of the old testament concludes here.
With the last three of the Twelve we are definitely in post-exilic territory, when the exiles, newly returned from Babylon, were struggling to re-establish a sense of religious, cultural and ethnic identity among the Jewish people in their homeland. Pre-eminent among their concerns was the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem as the unique focus of the people’s worship and spiritual loyalty. The last three prophets, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, all belong to this period. Both Haggai and Zechariah are mentioned in Ezra (c 5 v 1 and c 6 v 14) as chiefly responsible for restarting the work and driving it towards completion.
Haggai’s two short chapters are part narrative, part prophecy and are eloquent testimony to the urgency with which he pursued his mission. It is the year 520, the death of the Persian king Cambyses has produced widespread revolt in the empire and Haggai seizes this opportunity to urge the people to recognise that a series of bad harvests are a mark of God’s displeasure that they have not pursued the rebuilding work and the current unrest is a sign to God’s people to ready themselves for a decisive intervention in history (c 2 vv 7-8). It is not too much to claim that, without Haggai and Zechariah, the Temple might not have been rebuilt and the future of the Jewish people themselves would have been in doubt. Thank God that he raises up people of commitment and energy like Haggai and Zechariah at critical moments in human history!
Zechariah, whose fourteen chapters rival Hosea in length, was a younger contemporary of Haggai and chiefly concerned, like him, to see the Temple rebuilt. His prophecies, however, consist of visions, eight in number in the first six chapters, and in style and content we are reminded of Ezekiel. Furthermore, angels are now the intermediaries between God and humans, explaining to the recipient of the vision how it is to be understood. The dominant note of Zechariah’s prophecies is the restoration of prosperity and peace to Israel. Crucial for Christians is the promise of the Messiah, who will ensure the establishment of the Kingdom of God, which will embrace all nations. Chapter 9, verse 9, prefigures the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. It is this emphasis on the ultimate triumph of God’s goodness that makes Zechariah’s prophecies so relevant.
Malachi (the name means “my messenger”) is the last of the Twelve and his four chapters close the Old Testament. Though Hebrew Bible places The Writings after the Prophets, which means that I and II Chronicles conclude the Jewish Scriptures, Malachi is regarded as the last of the prophets and Jewish tradition declares that with him the Holy Spirit departed from Israel. The situation that called forth his prophecies is as follows. The Temple has been rebuilt, the generation of Haggai and Zechariah has passed away, but so also has their commitment and enthusiasm for the correct worship of the Living God. The priests were lax in their duties and the people careless in the payment of their dues. Belief wavered: “It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept His charge?”(c 3 v 14). Families were intermarrying with foreigners and losing their sense of religious identity. The book of Ezra is eloquent on this crisis. But though Malachi’s message is to recall the chosen people to their obligations towards Israel’s God, his concern is wider. He denounces vigorously the moral laxity of the time and pronounces a swift judgment on “sorcerers and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right and fear not Me” (c 3 v 5). Most strikingly, c 1 v 11 proclaims that even offerings made by the nations to their gods are in reality made to the only true God, since idols have no existence. This incipient universalism leads on to the promise of the Messiah (c 3 v 1), identified with Elijah (c 4 v 5-6), who will “turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers”. And so the last of the Twelve gathers up the key messages of all his predecessors, as he proclaims the sovereign holiness of the God Who rules all nations and Who will in His good time execute judgment, rescue the oppressed, cleanse the people and “restore all things”, for “I have loved you, saith the Lord” (c1 v 2).
Of Nahum we know nothing more than is contained in his three chapters, which are entirely focused on the certain destruction which Nineveh and the whole Assyrian empire will suffer because of their cruelty, rapacity and wickedness. Whereas other prophets had stressed Israel’s comparable sins or even regarded Assyria’s oppression as God instrument of punishment, there is nothing of that here. We may presume that he spoke these words of comfort (this is the root meaning of his name) to his fellow-countrymen when Assyria was trampling over everyone and seemed invincible. The message we can take from his graphic celebration of Assyria’s downfall is the assurance that God will ultimately put an end to injustice and oppression, though His timescale will often stretch human patience.
This impatience is in evidence right at the start of the eighth prophet, Habakkuk: “How long, O Lord, shall I cry, and You will not hear. I cry out to You of violence, and You will not save.” There follows a description of the advancing Babylonians (called Chaldeans) and the terrible destruction they left in their wake. Habakkuk takes his stand on his watchtower in the hope of receiving an answer. But God gives him a vision, which he is told will be fulfilled in God’s own good time. Retribution will indeed come, but not in accordance with our time-scale. “The Lord is in His holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before Him”. This verse introduces Chapter 3, which is a poetic description of the appearance of the Lord God in majesty, reminiscent of Psalm 104. The Lord God will come to punish iniquity (vv 13-14) and deliver His people. The devastation of warfare, even when it results in the overthrow of the enemy, can be hugely damaging, but in two magnificent verses the prophet voices his confidence that God will bring us through. These verses (c 3 vv 17-18) have been taken up into our hymn book in Cowper’s lines: “Though vine nor fig tree neither Their wonted fruit should bear, Though all the fields be withered, Nor flock nor herd be there, Yet, God the same abiding, His praise shall tune my voice, For, still in God confiding, I cannot but rejoice.” The Christian’s hope, of course, extends beyond this life, but Habakkuk’s confidence reminds us that we are no less under God’s protection here and now.
A little earlier in date than Nahum and Habakkuk, Zephaniah, like them, proclaims the destruction of all those whose immoral conduct is incompatible with the sovereignty of God’s holiness: “All those who are settled on their lees, that say in their heart: the Lord will not do any good, neither will He do evil” (c 1 v 12). This includes Assyria, Moab, the Philistines, even Ethiopians (c 2), but also Jerusalem, whose princes, judges, prophets and priests have profaned what is holy and done violence to the law (c 2 vv 3-4). But a faithful remnant will return from all the lands to which they have been scattered and they and all nations will acknowledge God’s sovereignty: “I will make you to be a name and a praise among all the peoples of the earth” (c 3 v 20).
Malcolm Green has been especially supportive over the last two years with his contributions to the B2Y blog, and has helped me out once again (thanks Malcolm!) with the following overviews of the 12 “minor” prophets. I will schedule the remaining 6 for the coming month.
It’s easy to lose perspective when reading the prophets one chapter a day, so I strongly recommend using this post to refresh your memory for what you’ve (hopefully) just finished reading…
The Twelve Prophets that conclude our Old Testament scripture are regarded as one book in Jewish tradition. They had come to be regarded as a single volume during the centuries that followed the downfall of the Babylonian empire and the return of leading Jews to rebuild the Temple and re-establish its worship.
These twelve prophets (sometimes called Minor Prophets in Christian tradition, by contrast with Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, whose collected prophecies are much longer) span a time-scale of some four hundred years, from the reigns of Jeroboam II in Israel (the Northern Kingdom) and Uzziah in Judah (the Southern kingdom) in the eighth century to the Persian period in the fourth.
The series begins with Hosea, Continue Reading »