Monthly Archives: September 2015

One thing that’s wrong with Crossway’s “Read through the ESV Reader’s Gospels in 30 Days”

30-day-plan

Reading the Bible is a good idea. Reading through the Bible in 30 days is a good idea. Getting people to read their Bibles is a good idea. I applaud Crossway on their new Bible, Reader’s Gospel, and I pray that many will use it and find life through it, and the reading plan designed to go with it. And that’s what’s wrong with their reading plan. The purpose of the plan is to tick the box that says you did it – that’s it. They follow the same pattern of most Bible reading plans. Here is what you are to read today. Read it. Tick the box that says you have read it.  Celebrate.

THE problem with their reading plan is it’s purpose. Read your Bible. Tick the box that says you read it.

Doing spiritual exercises for the sake of doing spiritual exercises may, perhaps, if you get lucky, produce Christ-like character. Spiritual exercises are like physical exercises. If you haven’t done any before than anything is good. But aimless exercise won’t sustain you, nor help you long-term, and could actually hurt you if you aren’t really ready for it. If your purpose is to read the gospels in 30 days then at the end of 30 days you get to say, “I read the gospels in 30 days.” How does that help you? If you are a brand new Christian then just like the couch potato that decides to exercise you have a good chance of getting something out of ‘just reading your Bible’. But if you have been a Christian for awhile, if you have read through your Bible before, chances are this exercise will not help you at all. In fact, it will probably put you off consistently reading your Bible because there will be little benefit to doing it. You exercise to get healthier. If you aren’t getting fitter, stronger, faster – you quit.

Intentional exercise for an intentional outcome is always better than a suck and see approach. Those who train with purpose will produce better results.

A better approach is to have a better purpose behind your reading. For example, as you read through the gospels in 30 days ask yourself, “What do I learn about God from this passage?” Answering that question alone will cause you to engage with the passage as you read it. Anyone can read without thinking. Anyone can read a passage and at the end of it not remember a thing they read. So ask a question before you read it and see what it says about that question. Take 30 days, read through the gospels and ask, “What do I learn about God, the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit from this passage?” Or perhaps, “What do I learn about people from this passage?”

Here are some other ideas:

  • How does Jesus disciple throughout the gospels?
  • How does Jesus connect with people?
  • How does Jesus teach?
  • Jesus always acts in love, so what does love look like in the gospels?
  • In what ways is this good news to me?
  • How does Jesus live in the grace of God?
  • What does this passage mean for those who in live in the Kingdom of God?
  • What do the gospels talk about the most?
  • Perhaps you might want to read emphatically, through the eyes of someone else.
  • Is there an example I can follow from this passage?
  • How can I apply this passage to my life today?
  • What do I need to change to align my life more to this gospel?
  • What is my response to this passage?
  • What is the writer trying to tell me?

Perhaps you will want to read it empathetically, through the eyes of another person:

  • What hope does this book offer me as a homosexual? How will Christians who believe in this gospel respond to me, a homosexual?
  • I am a refugee arriving in this country. I will encounter Christians. How will they treat me? I am a Muslim.

There are lots of questions you can ask about the gospels that will produce a richer and deeper experience than a “I read the gospels in 30 days – yay”.

I want to encourage you to print out a Bible reading plan and work your way through the gospel section over the next 30 days. On top of the plan write one question you will ask every day as you read through it. Let me know in the comments below what question you ask yourself and don’t forget to subscribe.

 

 

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Transformation with this simple change

Last post I posted a “Who am I?” Did you work it out? Scroll down for the answer.

new-habit

The answer is: Your Habits. Our habits form the essence of who we are. From deep within us our beliefs shape our thoughts which shape our actions which shape our habits which shape our lives. With repeated action the habit of doing becomes stronger and stronger and the thoughts become more and more automatic until one day we wake up and find that we are just doing it, without thought, without conscious decision, without really knowing our underlying belief system.Watch movie online Get Out (2017)

I’m not suggesting this process is a bad one nor is it a good one. It just is. If the belief system is good then the habits will bear positive fruit and if the underlying belief system is evil then the corresponding habits will produce pain. The process itself is neutral. It doesn’t care whether we begin with a positive belief or an evil one.

Many of your habits were not chosen by yourself. Your parents, your school, your friends, your culture all feed into your belief system and your habits were born. For some, taking time everyday to thank God for his goodness was a part of daily family life. For others, no such habit ever existed. If you are still a child then many of your daily routines will be determined by others but there are things you do have control over and I would encourage you to develop habits now. If you are an adult then you have the responsibility to address those habits you don’t like and to develop the habits you do like and want in your life.

Some habits will be so ingrained into your life and so socially acceptable that it will take a very long time to undue them at the core of your being. In the same way that developing new habits may take a long time. The key to developing a habit is to forget the destination and just focus on the next step. If the habit takes 5 years then it will take 5 years. The benefits will be experienced along the way anyway so you might as well get started. Having a fully formed habit just makes the doing of it easier, more automatic. The 5 years are going to come regardless of what you do so you might as well get started and at the end of the time you will have your habit. Of course, many habits can be achieved much sooner than that.

There will be two kinds of habits you will want to work with. The first are those you want to get rid of and the second are those you want to develop. It’s often easier to start with those you want to develop as they have a way of pushing out those that you want to discard. Those habits which you want to get rid of are easy to recognise – they are the ones you don’t want others to know about.

In your journey to becoming more like Jesus what are the 3-4 things that would help you the most? What spiritual disciplines would you like to be a part of your daily life? Over a long time what impact would that spiritual discipline bring to your life?

Here are two ideas in how building habits can make a difference in your life. The first example is memorizing the Bible. If you memorized 1 verse per week then over the span of 10 years you would know over 500 verses. In memorizing you also meditate and for me personally, that makes a huge difference in my life. I know that for many people (myself included) that memorization is tough. Learning 1 verse per week might be unrealistic. From my experience, some verses were easy to memorize (John 11:35) while others too me months and months and months (James 3:1-3). In order to build the habit I don’t set a requirement on the number of verses I MUST learn each week. Instead, my habit is to look at my Bible Memory App on my phone.

Did you notice the habit? It isn’t hours of memorization. It isn’t learning a set number or reviewing a set number. It isn’t even spending 5 minutes per day (I was wrong in suggesting 15 minutes in this post). It’s opening the App on my phone. The reason I do this is for 2 reasons. Firstly, I want the habit of reviewing. If I review each day then I will make progress. If I lock the habit into a number of verses per day or for a set amount of time I risk not doing it especially if I am short on for time or mentally exhausted. The habit can be done very, very easily. Remember, the power of the habit comes in the repetition over time. The small increments all add. The second reason is that mentally it is easier to continue to do something which I am successfully doing. The smallness of the habit makes it too easy to do. I can be in bed about to sleep after a HUGE day and still say, “Oh, quick, open the app, look, yep, done, sleep”. I can do it in less than 60 seconds. Every time I do that I carve out a small chunk in brain pathways which says I am the kind of person who memorizes Scripture. Which is, by the way, the ultimate goal of the habit – to define you.

Let’s take another habit – being quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry. I think if I get the first two right then I will get the third one right too. Needless to say, I am more of the quick to speak slow to listen kind of guys. The goal habit is to listen first and then speak. So the starting place for this habit, is to listen to one conversation per day where I clarify what they said before I say anything I want to say. I only need to do this once to be successful. I want to build daily success to become week and then monthly success. I want my brain to say, “This is what I do.” I want to establish the habit and let the process build the depth.

By having small daily goals the pathway in my brain will easily be laid and the habit will be formed. As the habit takes over the results will come more easily. I could have bigger goals – “In every conversation I will listen first” – but I know I will fail and that failure will lead to discouragement and that discouragement will lead to me quitting. So I make it easy to succeed. I start small and build the habit. Of course, if I choose to listen better in every conversation then that’s a bonus but as far as my brain is concerned, it’s not necessary. Just like doing a 30 minute review of all my verses would be good but the habit of doing something daily is more important.

The key to building habits is resting in the grace of God through Jesus Christ. Jesus has already made you acceptable to the Father. Rest in that. Developing godly habits will make you more like Jesus and enable you to experience more of God’s goodness. Make the effort but don’t let your success (or failure) determine your relationship with God; it doesn’t, Jesus does.

 

Leave a comment and let me know which habits you are trying and don’t forget to subscribe so that you will get these straight to your inbox.

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