Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Daily devotions

I highly recommend for everyone to read through the Bible in a daily, systematic way so they will be exposed to the "whole council of God" (Ac. 20:27).

One of the greatest ways to do this is to follow one of the many "Bible in a year" reading plans. I personally like this one produced by Discipleship Journal.

Someone recently asked me how to balance between daily Bible reading and more in-depth, personal study of God's Word. Here's their question:
"How do you balance between the yearly reading plan that the church is doing and your own personal studies? I'm trying to do a daily devotional, which is only a couple of minutes, and read through the Bible in chronological order this year. They both are only a few minutes a piece, but they seem to be conflicting."
Here was my response:
Great question. I don’t have a simple answer for this. It’s something that I struggle with also. But here are a few suggestions:

1. Try to integrate your personal study into your yearly reading plan. I’m trying to do this in 2009. I want to learn more about the theology of suffering. So, each day, I’m reading the Bible with particular interest in anything the Bible has to say about suffering and how believers should pray and respond. I am recording short prayers in my journal that reflect what I’m learning.

2. Have separate times for chronological reading and devotional reading. Maybe read your devotional book in the morning, and your yearly reading plan on lunch break, or in the evening at home.

3. If you follow the Discipleship Journal reading schedule, you have one day per week you could use for personal study, along with a couple extra days at the end of the month. I must admit I usually need that extra day of the week just to catch up on any reading that I am behind, so this system would not work very well for me personally.

4. Alternate your yearly reading plan with in-depth study. Try reading the whole Bible in two years instead of one, and then alternate each month between in-depth study and your chronological reading of Scripture.

I believe reading the whole Bible is important, since “Scripture interprets Scripture” and context is the #1 rule of Biblical interpretation. However, it is good to pause regularly to look at the individual “trees” and not just the big “forest.”

Hope this helps a little. I praise God for your passion for His Word!
Photo credit: House of Sims

3 comments:

  1. THE UNCERTAIN FUTURE FOR OBAMA

    For many people the day January 20, 2009, date on which Mr. Barack Obama assumes the presidency of the United States, becomes an historic day.

    It is the first time an African-American becomes the leader of one of the most powerful nation in the world.
    A crowd of people were present to see Mr. Obama assume the presidency, perhaps motivated by seeing the man who fed hopes of a nation immersed in a strong moral and economic depression.
    Pastor Rick Warren began the ceremony with a prayer that really leave much to be desired. But with more gold inspiracion who was an elderly friend Reverend Luther King and who won the embrace of the president.
    The new president's speech was very realistic but little motivator, something overshadowed by the cold of minus 6 degrees and the nuance that Hollywood was given to the act.
    However, it was clear to see there faces as well as cheerful and enthusiastic, also faces serious surrounding the president Obama.
    One such face is that of former president George Bush, representing the major groups in power, and that will be closely watching Obama's intentions.
    Another of the faces in the government of Israel, who is not looking to grace a descendant of the Muslim as president.
    Other faces are the rulers of Arab nations, which do not look at Obama as an ally for them.
    As finishing touch, faces no shortage of traditional segregationist groups, who are offended to hear that the same God in the eyes of whites and blacks.
    Undoubtedly, the president Barack Obama is sitting in a chair where the sword of Damocles hanging over his head.
    I hope that the Christian churches in the United Esrtados not cease to pray for their president for the American people and themselves.

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  2. Stephen,

    Thanks for a thoughtful post. I definitely see the benefit in reading through the bible in a year. I am working on reading through the whole bible this year using a plan that takes 50 weeks. The reading is only Monday through Friday, which may be to fast for some, but I like the setup because I found that to keep the unity of one book of scripture I need to read it more quickly. You can find the reading plan at theokosmos.com.

    So here is my plan for the year.
    1. Read through the bible in a 50 weeks
    2. I am going to focus particularly on the Old Testament.
    3. To focus on the OT I am using Mark Dever's book "Promises Made".
    4. I am going to read the corresponding sermon for the OT book that I am at in the reading plan.

    My hope is grasp the unity of the OT which in turn should result in a more clear understanding of the OT.

    After finishing this first 50 weeks I am going to start over, but I am going to focus on the NT using Mark Dever's book "Promises Kept".

    Journaling is going to play a major part in this journey.

    In regards to reading and studying the bible I am in strong support of not reading through the bible in a year at the same time. I personally would find this distracting.

    For newborn saints I would recommend reading through the bible in a year using a Dever's books or something similar. (Am I saying a newborn saint? No! This is something that I have needed to do because I want to be a better student of scripture.)

    For intermediate saints I would recommend slowing down to studying individual books of the bible on a 2-3 week track, for shorter books only a week. I have yet to think through this completely, but it would consist of investigating the background of the book, outlining the book, and locating the major themes. Overall looking at the contexts (historical & literary) of each book (author, audience, meaning to the first readers).This would mean at least a year or two of study.

    Then I might do more doctrinal reading, using a through the bible in year plan with special focus upon a doctrine(s)(e.g. attributes of God, Satan and demons, etc.) that I eager to learn about.

    From my perspective people need more quality reading than quantity. So if people are unable to apply what they are reading because the intake of scripture is too much then that Christian needs to slow down, read less and spend more time thinking through the passage of scripture that he or she read and writing down personal applications and goals derived from the passage.

    Our reading of scripture should not only be for grasping what the bible means as a whole, but also of applying the whole (which is a life long pursuit). I am not saying do not read the bible through mulitple times in a lifetime, but maybe take three years to read through the whole bible.

    By the way, when did the first bible reading plan come on the scene? What was the reason? Did the reformers use a bible reading plan? What about the Puritans? I am sure they had a plan, but not like today's plans.

    Personally I am struggling to finish my reading each week, but I am working on catching up. I have a great struggle, because I have to be at work so early, so reading when I get up is not always an option. I struggle to get up at 0430 already, I actually should get up at 0330 or so get the morning started right. Just pray for me.

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  3. Stephen,

    All interesting. It is challenging, isn't it, to balance personal devotion with study. The danger is when you "work" with the Text we can be tempted not to "live" with the text.

    I told my wife, "You know, I'm an expert in Moses."
    "You are?"
    "Sure I am! See, every year I start this yearly reading plan. It begins with Moses writings. Soon I'm a chapter behind. Then ten. Then forty."

    Anyway, your post is very insightful. Thank you.

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