Sunday, December 30, 2018

A Different Kind of Bible Reading Plan

open Bible
It's the time of year when people go looking for a Bible reading plan. I have put together something different from the usual. It will in no way enable you to read the Bible in a year. Not even close.

This plan is geared toward three groups. The first is people who're new to the whole proposition. I created this primarily for my teenagers; it's time for them to put away the devotionals and just read the Bible. The second group is those who don't read the Bible because they don't know where to start or it's intimidating. The third is people for whom Bible reading has gotten a little stale.

This plan is made up of three sections. The first takes a reader through is a guided overview of the storyline of the Bible from creation to new creation in about a month (or if you want to do it all at once, a couple of hours). It includes some tips for digesting what you're reading.

The second part is a smorgasbord of beautiful passages, hard passages, favorite passages, and strange passages from all over the Bible. This group will take about three months to read in bites of one to three chapters a day. The idea is to get a sense of the variety that exists within the Bible, to make the experience enjoyable, and to get people in the habit of reading daily; by the time this section is complete, a total of four months will have passed, and hopefully that habit will be established.

The third section recommends some whole books to start reading — two gospels and then the easiest epistles. More suggestions are made to help folks get the most out of their reading. From there I hope people will continue the habit of thoughtful, reflective reading for the rest of their lives.

The reading plan can be found here. I think you need to download the pdf before you can print it. If it doesn't work, let me know, and I'll try to do something different.

You'll notice that there are no dates on the readings. Someone can start this on July 1 as easily as Jan 1. People shouldn't need to wait until the new year to start reading the Bible.

I hope someone out there will find this useful.

Photo credit: John Harris Pe

Monday, December 17, 2018

The Humility of God

C.S. Lewis' comments on "the Divine humility" from The Problem of Pain have been rattling around in my head for years now, and it's still such an amazing thing.
"[I]t is a poor thing to strike our colours to God when the ship is going down under us; a poor thing to come to Him as a last resort, to offer up 'our own' when it is no longer worth keeping. If God were proud He would hardly have us on such terms: but He is not proud, He stoops to conquer ...."
How well this describes how God deals with us.

God revealed himself to Jacob only when he was fleeing his brother's vengeance.

God did not choose a great nation for himself. He chose a nation of slaves who were groaning under their burden.

And when that nation rebelled against him, they never repented until they were beaten down by enemies, until they had nowhere else to turn — and God took them back. Again and again.

Naaman did not turn to the God of Israel until he had leprosy.

Paul did not bow the knee to Jesus until he was struck blind.

Jesus himself did not appear to a nation at its prime. He appeared to a people that had been subjugated again and again, who were groaning under the burden of Roman rule, who were starving for a word from God after centuries of silence. Only then, when pride was broken, did the Word become flesh and make his dwelling among us.

And God did not come as a conquering king, astride a great horse, leading a mighty army. The one who "measured the waters in the hollow of his hand," and "with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens" was born as a baby with a little wrinkly hand that couldn't reach around his mother's finger. The LORD of Hosts appeared in the flesh, not attended by armies but by a few shepherds.

But pride wasn't broken completely. So the God-Man allowed himself to be killed for the crime of claiming to be exactly who he was. In doing so he bought for us forgiveness of our sins.

And still, we choose him only because we have no choice. As Lewis said, "It is hardly complimentary to God that we should choose Him as an alternative to Hell: yet even this He accepts."

When we had no hope, God came to rescue us. When we realize we have no choice, God accepts our meager offerings of a torn, filthy life. And then he gives us everything, making us "heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ," not slaves, or even servants, but sons and daughters.

Take some time to marvel at the God who came to us because we had no hope. Give thanks to the God who accepts us even though we call to him, not from the mountain top, but the pit. Worship the Savior who gives us everything even when we have nothing to offer in return.