“In the forest on the high banks of the river Aar, just outside the town, there is a bench where you can sit and enjoy an unusually good view of the Alps. But the clearing which makes this view possible is continually being overgrown and the trees have to be cut back every few years. In the same way, our view of grace is constantly being obscured by the cares of our time and the riches of the world, so that it is necessary to have our view of grace cleared not only every few years, but Sunday after Sunday, indeed even daily.”
-Walter Lüthi, from The Letter to the Romans, pg. xi
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Amos the Prophet
“In personal terms, true religion is to respond fully to the grace and law of God, living out the law in a life of obedience, resting on the grace both for ability and forgiveness; towards God, true religion is a reverent hearing and receiving of His Word; and towards other people it appears as honesty, considerateness and unfailing concern for the needy. Take these things away and what remains does nothing more than invite the adverse judgment of God.”
– J. Alec Motyer, from The Message of Amos, p. 18
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“While it is true that Jesus is King according to our lips, in truth and in practice do we act in utter contradiction to Him? Do we acknowledge His right of sovereignty, Christian friends, but are not crowning Him in our lives? We say, ‘Thine is the kingdom’; we trust in Him and receive Him as our Saviour. We believe that He indwells our hearts by the Holy Spirit. In theory He is King, but let me ask you, in practice, who is running your life?”
– Alan Redpath, from Victorious Praying, p. 124
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As I mentioned in a previous post, my plan this year is to focus on Luke and Acts in my Bible study. Going through these two books slowly has been on my mind for some time, and I’m glad to have the opportunity to do it. I’m just one month in and have only gotten through Luke 3. If you’re interested in studying Luke in this way, here are some of the resources I’ve been leaning on in my study so far. And if you know of any additional materials I’m missing, please let me know!
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Well it’s New Year’s resolution time again. January is also the time when you see many articles and encouragements for read the Bible in a year plans. I’ve found these plans to be great helps to reading the entire Bible through in a year’s time and an excellent aid to keep that goal on track, and have read through the Bible several times with these. You can find many great plans listed here.
One thing that I’ve struggled with in these plans is the tendency to check off my reading for the day and never return to it for reflection or additional study. Sometimes I’d go through an entire book without pausing to consider how it fits into the Bible’s overall picture. So this year, Lord willing, I’m going to try something a little different. For whatever reason, I’ve focused more on the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and John in my previous studies than on Luke, and even less so on his follow-up writing of the book of Acts. So I’m planning on spending the year in Luke and Acts, reading and rereading the texts, and as much as I can of sermons, commentaries, and other background material on those two books. My guess is I’ll spend about 8 months in Luke and 4 months in Acts, but we’ll see. I’ll of course read other books of the Bible throughout the year, but I wanted to make sure I had enough time to fully focus on Luke’s writings without lapsing into a checklist mentality from a full Bible reading plan. I’ve tried a similar approach with smaller books such as 1 John, 1 Peter, and others, mainly through John MacArthur’s Bible study suggestions, and have found my understanding of these books was greatly helped. My Twitter friend Renee has been going through the Gospel of John for the past year or so, which encouraged me as well.
I’m excited to focus on studying Luke and Acts in this way and look forward to seeing where it leads. The main thing, I think, is spending time in God’s Word each day and learning to live more like Jesus. We’ll see how it goes!
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“Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” – John 20:30-31 (NASB)
We are at the time of year where many inside the Christian church turn their focus to the Incarnation. Sermons are preached on familiar texts in Matthew 1 & 2, Luke 1 & 2, and elsewhere. Ideally this should be a time of reflection for all of us and a push back against the ramped-up pace of the season. These texts help us do that.
Fast forward a few months and there will be a similar focus on Easter. I always feel that our focus on the cross during that time loses its traction quickly once Easter has passed, and we don’t reflect on the cross nearly enough throughout the rest of our year. Having intentional periods of concentration on the Incarnation and on the Cross and Resurrection are good things, especially if they stir up deeper meditation on these when the calendar has moved on.
This week I’ve begun reading a book by N.T. Wright called How God Became King. I am only one chapter in, and Wright has taken a stance that leads a bit further down the road. He reviews the ancient creeds that are so embedded in the Christian faith particularly the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed. Wright notes that each creed moves directly from the birth of Christ to His death. There is no mention made in either creed of His life in between those two points in history. Wright likens this treatment to “…an empty cloak. The outer wrapping is there – Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection. But who is inside the cloak? What did Jesus do in between? Is there anybody there? Does it matter?”
The subtitle of Wright’s book is ‘The Forgotten Story of the Gospels’. He explains that he has had conversations with pastors and scholars who seem to have so narrowly focused on the Incarnation and Easter story that they’ve lost what’s “inside the cloak” – the gospel accounts themselves. Wright recounts that he’s asked them, “How is it that you simply treat them as somewhat random illustrative material for the thing you obviously want to focus on, the saving death and resurrection of the divine Savior?”
I have to admit I think I am prone to this as well. Book titles like The Cross of Christ and The Death of Death in the Death of Christ are on my to-read list. I also appreciate the increased focus on Christ’s Incarnation at this time of year. But Wright does make you wonder. Our ancient, foundational creeds jump over vast amounts of material in the four Gospels. Has this affected the way we view them? For all of the good that I believe comes from the increased attention to Jesus’ Incarnation and His death and resurrection at those familiar times of year, have we lost something as well?
I’m only one chapter in with Wright’s book, so I don’t know where he’s headed next. But so far he has given me much to think about as I read my Advent devotionals. What have we been missing inside the cloak?
Photo Credit: Lawrence OP via Compfight cc
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“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the faith and correcting error, for re-setting the direction of a man’s life and training him in good living. The scriptures are the comprehensive equipment of the man of God and fit him fully for all branches of his work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (Phillips)
When I first became a Christian over six years ago, I read the Bible straight through from Genesis to Revelation in a period of about six months. Every year since, I’ve followed some kind of reading plan where I’ve more or less read the Bible through in a year’s time. This has been a great blessing to me and a real anchor in my life. I can really sense the day getting away from me if I haven’t read through some bit of God’s Word and reflected on it.
I do have to admit though there are days when it feels like my reading is just checking off a box and moving on to more “urgent” priorities. I was listening to a message from James Merritt once, and he mentioned how many of us can treat reading the Bible the way we read a newspaper if we’re not careful. I’ve been wondering lately if this isn’t starting to happen with me, and more importantly, what to do about it.
My Twitter friend Renee has been going through the Gospel of John methodically for a while. She had mentioned that she just finished about three months of study in John 18 (!). I’m thinking that this type of approach might be a good one to take for a season, to avoid the danger of falling into the check box approach and camping out in a book for a while to soak up its meaning. I’ll probably finish out the plan I’m currently in for this year, but I’m wondering if I should do something similar to what Renee has done in the coming year, or maybe even now. We of course have no law to guide us into how to read our Bibles. The goal is to become more Christ-like, not to cross something off our to-do list.
I’d be interested in hearing how others go through this and avoid those dry periods. Maybe something works better for you. Do you see value in one approach or the other? What do you think?
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