Many of you are reading through the Bible this year using the 52-week reading plan made available at the church (http://www.Bible-Reading.com). I’m excited about that and encourage you not to lose heart if you fall behind a little bit. You can make up the lost ground ! In fact, it’s not too late to get started if you haven’t already. (And besides, if you don’t get it done in a year, you can make it through in 18 months … or two years.) I’ve worked through that reading plan for a few years now. Here are some tips from my experience :
Job is a book you can get ahead with. There are frequently only two chapters of Job listed per day, but you will feel like moving ahead to stay with the story and the back-and-forth between Job and his “friends.” Combine several days into one.
Add a chapter per day from Proverbs to your regular reading, and you’ll gain some extra ground in the Proverbs.
Sit down and read the book of Romans in one sitting. It may make better sense to you if you read it that way, and you’ll be able to check off 8 weeks of reading in the Epistles !
Give yourself extra time for Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. These are hard books, and the reading plan frequently has 4-5 chapters per day of each of those books ! Whew !
Hang in there ! The more you read the prophets, the more you’ll see they couldn’t stop talking about the coming Day of the Lord (God’s judgment and subsequent reign on the earth) – the very things Bart Larson has been underscoring for us on Sunday mornings.
In our home, our family is working now through the books about the kings of Israel (1 & 2 Kings ; 1 & 2 Chronicles) at meal times. We’re taking a chapter every day or so. If you’re interested in a good chart of the kings of Israel and Judah, take a look at http://ldolphin.org/kings.html. It puts all that history together for you. You can add notes of your own in the margins of your chart if you print it out.
Did you ever wonder why King David was called “a man after God’s own heart,” even though he failed and sinned so grievously at times ? I think an answer to that question is found in 1 Kings in a description given about David’s son, Solomon :
“When Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods ; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been” (1 Kings 11:4).
And again in verse 6 : “Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not follow the Lord fully, as David his father had done.”
Although David sinned badly, he did not make a place for other gods in his life. God loves sinners, lovingly accepts them and helps them through life. “Following the Lord fully” includes confessing sin, receiving forgiveness, and moving forward. He does not tolerate, however, that we have other gods besides Him. That’s a good warning to me, … but it also gives me a lot of hope : Despite great failure, God said David was His man. Wow !
Do you remember when your fourth- or fifth-grade teacher taught you about paragraphs and a topic sentence for each paragraph you wrote ? Every piece of writing – paragraphs, short stories, letters, even books of the Bible – has some overarching theme. Try looking for that single theme in each book of the Bible as you read it (and a key verse or two that supports that theme). For example, some themes I’ve found are :
Genesis : Four Great Events & Four Great Men (Creation, the Fall, the Flood, the Tower of Babel ; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph).
Exodus : Redemption (key passage – 6:6-8).
Leviticus : “Be holy, for I am holy” (11:44-45 ; 19:2 ; 20:7 ; others).
Numbers : A Faithful God & A Failing People (key verses – 14:8-9).
This Sunday Bart will be away, so I will be “filling in” and preaching from 1 Thessalonians 4-5. It’s a passage that should fit in with what Bart has been preaching on from Isaiah because the Thessalonians, too, had lots of thoughts and questions concerning the coming Day of God. A theme I’ve discovered in my most recent reading of these chapters is captured in this phrase in the New American Standard version of the Bible : “Excel still more.”
“Finally, then, we request that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God, that you excel still more” (4:1).
“As for love of the brethren, … you do indeed practice it toward all. … But we urge you to excel still more” (4:10).
As we watch world events seemingly carry us toward that “Day of the Lord,” we should be excelling in our love for people and for God ! These are exciting times in which to be living ! Let’s make the most of them and stay on track with Jesus !
I hope you’ll join us this Sunday. We will also receive the Lord’s Supper (Communion) together which is an opportunity for worship we should not take lightly or miss if we can help it.
How are you praying these days ?
There are a couple great prayers in these Thessalonians passages. Here’s one that occurs just before chapter four (Paul praying for the Thessalonian believers) :
Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you ;
and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you ;
so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints. 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
There are three requests made in that prayer, one for Paul and two for the Thessalonians. Can you find them ? Do they reflect the way you’re praying for people you know ? Can they help you to focus your praying to ask for things that are of God’s will and not just your own ?