30 Day New Testament Reading Plan

I’m inviting you to join me for a 30 Day New Testament Reading Plan. Beginning Thursday, November 1st I’ll be reading the passages in this plan as a way to quickly work my way through the New Testament. It’s an intense reading schedule(around 8 chapters a day), but I’ve found much spiritual benefit from it. Below you’ll find the both the plan as well as a link to a Reading Plan in the Logos Bible software. Feel free to join the Logos group for Lake Wylie Baptist to access the plan and import it into Logos and your personal calendar.

Link to Plan in Logos Lake Wylie Baptist Group

  1. Matthew 1-9
  2. Matthew 10-15
  3. Matthew 16-22
  4. Matthew 23-28
  5. Mark 1-8
  6. Mark 9-16
  7. Luke 1-6
  8. Luke 7-11
  9. Luke 12-18
  10. Luke 19-24
  11. John 1-7
  12. John 8-13
  13. John 14-21
  14. Acts 1-7
  15. Acts 8-14
  16. Acts 15-21
  17. Acts 22-28
  18. Romans 1-8
  19. Romans 9-16
  20. 1 Corinthians 1-9
  21. 1 Corinthians 10-16
  22. 2 Corinthians
  23. Galatians-Ephesians
  24. Philippians-2 Thessalonians
  25. 1 Timothy-Philemon
  26. Hebrews
  27. James-2 Peter
  28. 1 John-Jude
  29. Revelation 1-11
  30. Revelation 12-22

Let me know if you plan on joining me!

 

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A Favorite Christmas Poem

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Adrian Plass has been a favorite Christian poet and humorist of mine for the last 15 years. I found him on an album I bought before a family vacation years ago. A portion of the following poem was read by Adrian on the album, and I go back to it every Christmas. Perhaps you’ll be blessed by it as well. Merry Christmas.

 

When I’m in heaven
Tell me there’ll be kites to fly,
The kind they say you can control,
Although I never did for long.
The kind that spin and spin and spin and spin,
Then sulk and dive and die,
And rise again and spin again,
And dive and die and rise up yet again.
I love those kites.

When I’m in heaven
Tell me there’ll be friends to meet
In ancient oak-beamed Sussex pubs
Enfolded by the wanton Downs,
And summer evenings lapping lazily against the shore
Of sweet, familiar little lands
Inhabited by silence or by nonsenses,
The things you cannot safely say in any other place.
I love those times.

When I’m in heaven
Tell me there’ll be seasons when the colors fly,
Poppies splashing flame
Through dying yellow, living green,
And autumn’s burning sadness that has always made me cry
For things that have to end.
For winter fires that blaze like captive suns,
But look so cold when morning comes.
I love the way the seasons change.

When I’m in heaven
Tell me there’ll be peace at last,
That in some meadow filled with sunshine,
Filled with buttercups and filled with friends,
You’ll chew a straw and fill us in on how things really are.
And if there is some harm at laying earthly hope at heaven’s door,
Or in this saying so,
Have mercy on my foolishness, dear Lord.
I love this world you made—it’s all I know.

When I’m in heaven
Tell me there’ll be Christmases without the pain,
No memories that will not fade,
No chilled and sullen sense of loss
That cannot face the festive flame
Nor breathe excitement from the ice-cream air.
Tell me how the things that Christmas should have been
Will be there for eternity in one long, shining dawn
For all of us to share.
I love the promises of Christmas.

 

First Steps: A Free Resource for Teaching Your Child Biblical Truth

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Over the years I’ve counseled many parents who want to lead their children to Jesus, and I’ve found that they have two common concerns:

  1. Does my child understand the truth?
  2. How can I know my child really believes the gospel?

Question one concerns knowledge. Your child must posses the proper concepts and truths of the faith before they can profess genuine faith in the gospel. What is sin? Who is God? Why is Jesus important? These represent the kind of questions your child needs to be able to answer.

The second question tries to dig into the heart, and it’s far more difficult to answer. Many children understand the concepts and truths of the Christian faith. But knowing the truth saves no one. James told us that even demons know who God is, but they are, nonetheless, fallen (James 2:19). Let’s make sure we don’t simply foster minds that know the gospel, but hearts that love the sacrifice of Jesus and hope in the gospel. This booklet contains a plan to address question 1: does my child know the truth?

While most parents know they need to teach Biblical truth to their children many don’t know where to begin, which truths to teach, or how to go about teaching them. In the following pages you will find an edited version of a child’s catechism. It’s a manual of basic Biblical truths in the form of questions and answers along with scriptural supports.

In my family we began using this tool in the car, at the dinner table, or even during play time. I’d ask a question from the catechism then supply the answer. Over time your child will memorize the answers and you can also use the scriptural supports for further study/discussion in God’s Word.

Remember, knowing these truths doesn’t bring anyone into the Kingdom. You are simply using this tool as a plan for transferring basic Christian doctrine into your child’s mind.

As your child begins to assimilate Biblical truth you must constantly remind them that Jesus doesn’t just call us to know him. He wants us to love him. Here are a few thoughts on aiding their heart awareness as you are instructing them in truth.

  1. Continually talk about the love of Jesus and his sacrifice for sin on the cross.
  2. Pray that the Holy Spirit convicts and leads them. It’s not your job to pile on guilt. Don’t rob the Holy Spirit of his role. Be patient and know that God’s plan/timing is better than yours.
  3. Don’t ask leading questions, or yes/no questions.
  • You don’t want to go to hell do you?
  • Don’t you want to go to heaven?
  • You know you’re a sinner, right?
  • You believe that Jesus died for you, right?

No 7 year old wants to go to hell. These questions assume the correct answers and don’t allow you to assess their heart.

  1. Realize that the new birth is internal. Salvation isn’t change in behavior. It’s the new life of God coming into our life. Many parents long for certitude of their child’s salvation, but because it’s internal you will struggle to see it at times. Don’t feel like you need to see a convincing moment of conversion.

I pray that this guide gets you started on the right track to leading your child to know the truth. I also pray you’ll trust Jesus to lead you and your child both to him. Always remember, that I’m  more than excited to meet and talk about these things with you.

Download the free resource here.

-Pastor Jonathan

 

Getting into Narnia

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“No,” he said, “I don’t think it will be any good trying to go back through the wardrobe door to get the coats. You won’t get into Narnia again by that route… Eh? What’s that? Yes, of course you’ll get back to Narnia again some day. Once a King in Narnia, always a King in Narnia. But don’t go trying to use the same route twice. Indeed, don’t try to get there at all. It’ll happen when you’re not looking for it.” -The Professor in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

You must strike a difficult balance in your devotion to God. Psalm 1 tells us to meditate upon God’s Word day and night. In other words, the devotional life depends upon a routine method of experiencing God: meditation. On the other hand we know that our encounters with God never happen exactly alike.

One evening I meditate and the Spirit speaks. The next morning my heart is cold, cracked, and callused. Almost nothing has happened. I’ve only slept. How could I sense God’s love so deeply and 9 hours later feel a million miles from him?

One Sunday the prayers and songs of the church break my heart and drown my sin in grace. Next week I worship, but there’s a height or depth my heart isn’t reaching as it did before; or the effort required seems to have doubled.

You never get into Narnia the same way twice. When the Spirit of God gives you a moment of piercing clarity and assurance just be in the moment. Don’t try to remember how you got to that moment. Don’t try and replicate the moment later. It won’t work. Do your daily meditation as the Scripture commands and wait. Gather with the church to sing, pray, and wait. God’s presence, the high assurance, only comes by his grace, not our effort.

5 Scripture Passages I Wish Every Christian Knew: Romans 8:26

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Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. – Romans 8:26

We do not know what to pray for. We never know what to pray for. Paul tells us that the Spirit helps us, not in our weaknesses, but in our weakness, singular. We aren’t people who mostly have it together with a few weaknesses. We are weak. That is a definitive word on our current fallen condition. Part of our weakness is that we do not know what to pray for.

We do not know the will of God. We do not naturally love and desire what he loves and desires. We are weak. Our prayer is weak, small, distracted; a candle blown out by the slightest breeze. Even the deepest prayers offered by the godliest saints are weak.

But, the Spirit helps us. The Spirit knows the will of the Father. He naturally loves and desires what the Father loves and desires. He’s strong, all encompassing, a blazing fire no flood and quench. I hope you can take the same encouragement from this verse that I do.

If you want to go back and read other posts in this series just click the following links:

Galatians 3:2-7

Hosea 2:16-23

John 5:18

Equip Notes on Meditation

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Last month I taught at a discipleship event on the topic of meditation. Below is a link to a PDF of my slides from the event. I admitted freely in the talk that I’m indebted to Tim Keller for his thoughts and research on the subject. Consider going to his ministry resource site, gospelinlife.com, and purchasing his series on meditation. Don’t be surprised when you hear anything that sounds familiar.

Meditation

Bible Study Basic: Genre in Scripture

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“The nature of the material under investigation determines the rules by which you interpret it.”

It’s been 10 years since I sat in his class but I can still hear Dr. McKenzie hammering that sentence down, down, down into our skulls. In today’s Bible Study Basic post I’ll be explaining the concept of genre (in a rather simplistic way).

You read a love letter differently than you read a textbook, differently than you read a newspaper. That’s because they are each written in a different genre. The love letter is bound to contain flowery symbolic language aimed at tugging your heart strings, but you’d hate to read a textbook full of symbolism. In the same way you’d never profess your love in textbook form with discussion questions at the end of each chapter. Those differences are (basically) the differences of genre and though the discussion on genre can get pretty deep, I don’t have to explain the basics. You instinctively learn the difference between a love letter and a newspaper.

When you come to study the Bible you are coming to a book filled with different genre. A few examples include:

  • Historical Narrative: Joshua
  • Gospel (Theological Biography): Matthew
  • Prophetic: Isaiah
  • Apocalyptic: Revelation

Each of these forms must be read differently in order to understand their meaning. Dr. McKenzie taught us that the text itself (the material under investigation) will help you interpret it (determines the rules by which you interpret it.) What does that mean? It means that you should read with an eye towards genre. As you read a book of the Bible you are also teaching yourself (or the text is teaching you) how that book should be read. Reading the Psalter repeatedly over time will make you a better interpreter of the genre of Biblical wisdom literature. As you read the Gospel of John over and over you’ll develop a keener sense of the rules of interpreting a gospel.

Recommended Resource: Eat This Book by Eugene Peterson

51fBcQ3mCGL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Yesterday I finished reading Eat This Book by Eugene Peterson (the same pastor who gave us The Message). Just as Tim Keller’s book will be my go-to resource for Christians who want to learn to pray, I highly recommend this book for those wanting to learn to read the Bible for spiritual nourishment.

The title comes from the passage in Revelation when the Apostle John is commanded to eat the scroll which contained God’s Word. As he devoured the Word it was sweet in his mouth and bitter in his stomach. Peterson’s hope was that Christians wouldn’t just read the Word of God, he wanted us to would devour it, taste it’s utter sweetness as well as feel the bitterness of conviction it can bring.

Peterson spent part one of the book explaining what kind of book the Bible is, and how we should approach it. Part two is a method for reading the Bible spiritually (lectio divina), and the end of the book includes Peterson’s commented on textual transmission, translation and his work on The Message.

This book will lead you to a higher observation of God’s Word than you’ve known before, and it will push you headlong as a participant in the world of that Word. Here’s a link to purchase it along with some quotes to mull over:

Peterson, Eugene H. Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading. pbk. ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Pub Co., 2009, ©2006.

  • Christians don’t simply learn or study or use Scripture; we assimilate it, take it into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love, cups of cold water, missions into all the world, healing and evangelism and justice in Jesus’ name, hands raised in adoration of the Father, feet washed in company with the Son.
  • An interest in souls divorced from and interest in Scripture leaves us without a text that shapes these souls. In the same way, an interest in Scripture divorced from an interest in souls leaves us without any material for the text to work on.
  • This may be the single most important thing to know as we come to read and study and believe these Holy Scriptures: this rich, alive, personally revealing God as experienced in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, personally addressing us in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, at whatever age we are, in whatever state we are- me, you us. Christian reading is participatory reading, receiving the words in such a way that they become interior to our lives, the rhythms and images becoming practices of prayer, acts of obedience, ways of love.
  • It takes the whole Bible to read any part of the Bible.
  • Lovers don’t take a quick look, get a “message” or a “meaning,” and then run off and talk endlessly with their friends about how they feel.
  • Contemplation means living what we read, not wasting any of it or hoarding any of it, but using it up in living.

 

Sensing the Scriptures

I’ve had an ongoing conversation with a handful of church members about meditation on the Scriptures. We’ve been talking about how we practice meditation, what it is, and how we can increase in the blessing it brings to us. We all agree, as do many Christians throughout history, that meditation moves from merely reasoning the words of Scriptures towards sensing the words.

Just as we have 5 physical senses, taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing that we use to live in and experience the world around us, inwardly our imaginations possess those same qualities.

  • If I asked you to think about your mother’s voice you can hear it. She doesn’t have to be in the room with you, but you hear her speaking. Her voices lives inside you.
  • Remember, when as a kid, you walked barefoot outside in the height of Summer? You’re running down the line of woods near house and the sweetness of honeysuckle washes over you. Following your nose, you locate the vine overflowing with white and butter-yellow blossoms. Carefully pulling the stem, that one drop of nectar hits your taste buds.

In meditation we imaginatively use our senses, much like we do in remembering, in order to contact with and hear the text.

In Bible study we de-contextualize and isolate texts. We dissect words, relationships, structure, and meaning. We stand over and above the text as interpreter. We bring our questions to the Bible ask it to answer us. We reason with the text. Our rational capacities engage, and the result is knowledge and understanding.

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In meditation we see, taste, touch, smell, and listen to Scripture. We sense it. The Word becomes our guide as we sit under and beneath it. We don’t ask it questions, as much as it addresses us and calls us to answer. We sense the text. We descend with the mind, down into the heart. We laugh, smile, cry, gasp, and wonder. Truth becomes light. Law becomes pain. Grace issues forth into song.

Jonathan Edwards left us an example of what it means to sense the Scriptures:

I very frequently used to retire into a solitary place, on the banks of Hudson’s River, at some distance from the city, for contemplation on divine things and secret converse with God: and had many sweet hours there. I had then, and at other times, the greatest delight in the holy scriptures. Oftentimes in reading it, every word seemed to touch my heart. I felt a harmony between something in my heart, and those sweet and powerful words. I seemed often to see so much light exhibited by every sentence, and such a refreshing food communicated, that I could not get along in reading; often dwelling long on one sentence, to see the wonders contained in it; and yet almost every sentence seemed to be full of wonders.

He’s reading the Bible, but he’s being touched, and handled. Looking at words on a page he senses his interior person pulsing with harmonic vibration in response to the Word. The words taste sweet, yet in them he also submits to a superior strength pressing against him. Every sentence deserves the attention to detail given to a mouthful of wine, wonders beyond wonders available to the patient and perceptive. Meditation is participation in the living world of the text.