Friday, December 30, 2011

7 Tips for Reading the Bible in a Year

This is an encore presentation of a piece from a couple of years ago I think you'll find useful.

'Tis the season for new year's resolutions, and many of us will resolve to read the Bible all the way through this year. It's easier said than done; there are lots of ways to lose the momentum and lose your committment. But it's really not that hard; 15-20 minutes a day will get you there.

You can do it. Here are a few thoughts to help you along on this venture:

1. Skim the hard parts.
Different things require and warrant different levels of reading. You do not read the tv guide with the same degree of care you do a textbook. You do not need to read the "begats" with the same diligence you give to the epistles right now. Ditto with the law and the more difficult prophecies. You'll want to come back to them another time, but for now if what you're reading is just terribly boring, skim it. The key here is don't lose your momentum, which will happen if you dread picking up your Bible.

2. Read the introductions.
Proverbs should be read very differently than Ezekiel or Romans. If your Bible has book introductions, they will probably give you some tips on how to do that. If yours doesn't, they're available online. Or you could get a book to help — maybe a Bible handbook or How to Read the Bible Book by Book.

3. Read meaningful chunks.
Every book in the Bible has a point. Many are designed to make a particular case. If you read a paragraph at a time of a book, you won't be able to piece that case together, and it won't make sense to you. Try to read at least a couple of chapters of any given book at a time, maybe more.

4. Read manageable chunks.
But if you try to read too much at one time, you may find have trouble processing what you've read. Reading the Bible is not just about getting through the Bible; it's about getting the Bible into you. Reading too much at a time can make that difficult. Maybe even consider reading the whole Bible in two years instead of one.

5. Designate a catch up day.
Sooner or later you'll have a day or two when you barely have time to go to the restroom much less read something. Plan for that. Make one day — a week, a month, whatever — a catch up day. Pick a day when you have a little more leisure time and plan to read a little extra if necessary to stay on your schedule.

6. Make a habit of this.
Though bad days will happen, they'll be fewer if you get accustomed to reading at a certain time in a certain place. It can actually become automatic — that is, you can find yourself reaching for your Bible the minute you sit down, whether you intended to read or not. Choose a time and place when you'll have the fewest interruptions to read every day.

7. Don't make a habit of this.
Honestly, reading the Bible in a year's not the best way to read it. This will give you a broad view of the Bible, and that's important, but it's a terrible way to get a deep view which is critical for growth. So if you do it, do it this year and plan on doing something else thereafter.

Related articles:
5 Questions to Help Your Devotions
How to be a Self-Feeder
Reflections on Leviticus
Bible Study Links

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Two Quick Thoughts on Christmas

I enjoy Christmas and most of what goes along with it. The story of God's love, expressed in the birth of Christ, is beautiful and powerful. But it's only a small part of a much bigger story that gets lost among the tinsel and lights, the angels and the wise men. So here are two thoughts to carry with us in the Christmas season and all of our celebrations.
Easter would be impossible without Christmas. Christmas would be meaningless without Easter.

At Christmas, Jesus came to save us. One day, Jesus is coming to get us.
Christmas is wonderful, but I think it's more amazing, more beautiful, more profound when we keep its place in the story in mind. It's only the beginning of so much more.

Image from Flickr

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens, 1949–2011

Christopher Hitchens has died.

The irony is, if he was right, he will never know. If we are wrong, we will never know.

If we are right, he is now very unhappy.

May God comfort and strengthen his family and friends. And may God have mercy on his soul.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Night Before Christmas

The first time I listened to the lyrics of my new favorite Christmas song, it took my breath away. It so captures the beauty of Christmas because it encapsulates our need for Christ.

Brandon Heath's The Night Before Christmas*:
Empty manger, perfect stranger, about to be born
Into darkness, sadness, desperate madness, creation so torn

We were so lost on earth, no peace, no worth, no way to escape
In fear, no faith, no hope, no grace, and no light

But that was the night before Christmas
Listen to the whole thing from YouTube:

Or buy it on Amazon.

*written by Luke Brown, Chuck Butler, & Regie Hamm

Friday, December 9, 2011

Cheap Books

Logos Bible Software has a lot of packages that include electronic versions of popular print books. However, reading on the computer isn't a lot of fun — certainly not reading a whole book.

But they now have iPhone/iPad and Android apps plus a website that allows you to access a lot of the books you buy, making it possible to read your Libronix books just like a Kindle book.

Rejoice Christian Software is selling the Norman Geisler package for $25. You get 12 titles including Come Let Us Reason, the Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, and When Skeptics Ask. I think this package would be a good investment for any Christian.

To get this package for the sale price of $25, you must use this link.

By the way, I am not getting a commission or anything. I just think this is a useful resource for you.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Review: The Book of Man

Boys in our society do not know how to become men. That claim has been made many times in the last ten years, and I think there's a lot of truth to it, so I accepted a review copy of Bill Bennett's The Book of Man.

The book offers 500+ pages of readings intended to "explore and explain ... what a man should be, how he should live, and the things to which he should aspire" (xix). Covering war, work, play, politics, family, and "prayer and reflection," this book quotes material as varied as politicians' speeches, classics like Two Years Before the Mast and Homer, and the Bible as well as profiling noteworthy men — some famous, some not.

The problem is that Bennett paints a picture of an American man, but not necessarily a Christian one.

My complaint is twofold. First, the order of the presentation places the wrong emphasis on pretty much everything. The list of topics above is the order used in the book. War comes first, and family comes after everything but God, who gets last place. A message is sent by that presentation, and it's not the way I'd want my son to look at life.

The second complaint is that a man's relationship with God is described as "Man in Prayer and Reflection," and that sums up the material in the section well. It's not "a man needs to have a strong relationship with God." The emphasis is not on knowing the Bible or following Christ. It is, "a man should pray regularly." And material on the importance of prayer shares space with "Man in ... Reflection."

A man should spend time in reflection. He should know what he believes and why, and he should examine himself and his world and test what he sees against the standard he knows. But this standard is not presented as the word of God in this book.

One other problem with the book is the choice of the material. Some of it really shines — some of the most sublime passages in the English language are reprinted here. But some of it is really opaque; the reader comes away wondering what the point of that passage was. And these two are intermingled freely and, in the latter chapters, sometimes outnumber the sublime. Given that the intended audience is not known for it's reading habits, I think some editing (rearranging if not removing lesser material from this 500+ page book) would serve the purpose of the book well.

Please don't misunderstand me. This not a bad book. There is wonderful material here. But I was hoping to find a book I could drop in the hands of the nephew I see once a year or give a foster child who's leaving my house. This is not that book. This book will require someone looking over the boy's shoulder. For a son, that's not a problem. For any other boy, it's not something we can assume.

I would give this work 3 out of 5 stars — definitely worth reading, but very flawed.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Free eBooks

Some books are newly free for the Kindle* (or the free Kindle apps):

The Holiness of God by R. C. Sproul — His book rarely stay free long, and this is one every believer should read. Get it while it's free!

The Strategy of Satan by Warren Wiersbe — It's a preorder; I know nothing else about this book, but the description says it looks as Satan's attacks and defeating them by obeying God's truth.

10 People Every Christian Should Know by Warren Wiersbe — A shortened ,but free, version of his "50 People ...".

*On a related note, I got a Kindle Fire, and I have to say it's really neat — and about the cheapest tablet you're going to find.