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Archive for the ‘Thoughts on bible study’ Category

BIBLE ON YOUR IPHONEI’ve been thinking about how to structure my bible reading in 2012, and have settled on a plan.

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 bible@beatcave.co.uk, 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:

PRAYER
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.
MEMORY VERSES
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.

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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.

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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.

Merry Christmas!
Greg

P.S.In the next few days I hope to post up plans for what begins in January 2012…stay tuned!

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Back in April 2010, Paul Maxfield posted an excellent introduction to the book of Psalms. It’s worth reading over this to help keep the book of Psalms in context.

Being honest, I can remember tuning out on a few occasions when reading the Psalms, because many of them sound similar, and the modern translations can’t retain the original poetry that took these important ideas and made them ‘musical’.

This time around I’m going to try reading each psalm as a prayer, reading it to God. Developing a regular prayer life that uses good, biblical theology is something worth aiming for, so that we can pray in line with God’s will, and get to know Him better.

If you’ve been struggling to keep up with the readings, why not use today as a catch-up point? Take note of where you fell behind, and join in afresh. I hope it’s going well for you.

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How is your reading going? Is the train wobbling on the tracks yet? I’ve been reading Isaiah, and Carson’s notes and realising that there are some books and passages in the bible that require a different level of concentration, and a different level of academic discipline and awareness. Sometimes I just don’t have the time (or more likely, the inclination) to understand the specifics of his prophecies. It becomes a bit of a homogenous mush in my memory, shortly after reading it. Sorry Isaiah!

I’m reading a book just now called “How To Read A Book” by Mortimer J. Adler. It’s one of many that I’m dipping into on my Kindle. It’s helping me to think about the discipline of engaged reading. He identifies four different levels of reading:

Elementary (recognising the words without thinking about them)

Inspectional (systematic skim-reading to get the gist)

Analytical Reading (“asking many, and organised questions” of what you are reading).

The fourth level he calls Syntopical or Comparative Reading. This level requires the reader to read not just one book but many, placing them “in relation to one another and to a subject about which they all revolve…the syntopical reader is able to construct an analysis of the subject that may not be in any of the books.

Time constraints, mental disposition, priorities and environment are some of the variable factors we bring to our reading. Sometimes we are simply unable to get anything beyond an elementary reading of a passage because our head is not in the right place, or the passage is simply too complex for us. Our aim is to have at least an Inspectional approach to our reading. If we are skimming through it to gain the main points, we are still engaging with the text to a degree, and it will yield some benefit. But the truth is that we benefit most when we attempt Analytical reading (Syntopical reading is a highly advanced and academic pursuit, and advisable only once we have learned the discipline of Analytical reading.)

Adler describes valuable reading as not a passive activity, but an active discipline: it is “aided discovery”, not just reading for entertainment. To learn, we must think, we must use our imaginations, ask questions. This requires practice. Reading the bible daily challenges us to develop ourselves as readers, it challenges our capacity to learn. And it is the most valuable of teachers.

But in all this, it is important to remember that Bible reading is not just an intellectual exercise (though it is hardly less than this). When we engage with any other text, we grapple with the thoughts and ideas of an author and teacher who is not present with us. But with Scripture, the author is present with us, ready to hear our prayers, and help us to understand. The aim of scripture is that we learn, through reading it, to look beyond it and know its glorious Author.

So if you’re struggling, get the book out again. Try again, don’t give up. It won’t stay difficult forever: just persevere.

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Malcolm Green wrote an introduction to 2nd Thessalonians. I wonder if, having just finished this letter from Paul, you remember enough about it to agree (or disagree!) with Malcolm’s overview. I found that very little of what Paul wrote had taken root in my conscious brain. And while there are other subtle, unconscious and Spirit-given benefits in reading God’s word, an important aim should always be to have God’s word consciously available to us, for our use and benefit.

The truth is that people remember stories more than anything else. It’s not hard to recall the stories of David and Goliath, or Moses and the burning bush. If we can picture something in our mind’s eye, we experience it, and we learn from it in a way that only experience can teach us. We should not neglect our imagination as we try to read scripture.

As we start reading the first letter to Timothy, (intro here) try to form a picture of both the author and the recipient of this pastoral epistle. Timothy, the young, gifted leader about whom prophecies were made, growing up in the faith of his mother and grandmother. Paul, the father-pastor, clinical of mind, but burning with passion for the truth of the gospel, and deeply concerned about the sanctification of his flock. Imagine the church, the culture, the landscape, the weather, the clothes, the food. Use the text to create a backdrop so that you can better remember the important lessons being taught.

A good imagination can help us ground these letters firmly in reality, even when they talk about complex, abstract doctrines and ideas. God has given us an imagination: let us harness it for his glory.

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R.C. Sproul and D.A. Carson discussing how to read the bible.

HT: Justin Taylor

(I suppose that the way Sproul starts this interview seems a little cringe-y to cynical Brits like me, but I think the compliments proceed from deeply genuine affection and respect rather than an underhand desire to idolise Carson’s opinions… but the rest of the 25 minute discussion is very worthwhile, if you can spare the time.)

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