Bible Reading Plan for the New Year

Towards the end of last year, I gave Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System a spin. It’s main assumption is that Christians don’t read enough Scripture (true enough), and we are especially unfamiliar with the Old Testament (ditto again). Professor Horner’s prescription is a reading of 10 chapters a day. It seems like a lot, because it is. That’s the whole point. His intention is not that this will replace normal, in-depth Bible study, but provide readers with better context, giving their more in-depth studies greater value.

Basically, every book of the Bible is bucketed into one of 10 lists, and every day you read a chapter from each list. The Pentateuch is a list, the Gospels are a list, and the book of Psalms is its own list. When you get to the end of the list, you just start over. You end up reading all of Gospels every 89 days, for example. View a complete rundown here.

So I gave it a shot. I got into a rhythm. It took me a total time of 40-50 minutes per day, and I would read half in the morning and half at night before going to bed. Eventually, I took Sunday’s “off,” and made Saturday a “catchup” day. This made the whole thing less intimidating and more enjoyable, but it still ended up being fragile.

In November I went to my company retreat, and with the change of my daily routine for the week, my daily reading habit of almost two months was shattered. Even after the trip, I couldn’t get back in the rhythm. It seemed too much. The good news is that I still read 2 chapters a day, and after spending so much time reading 10 chapters per day, 2 chapters felt like nothing at all.

New Plan for 2015

At the start of the new year, I wanted to start reading more again, but I knew that it would be just as fragile, and I travel enough that it was a worry. So I tweaked the plan. In the original, both Proverbs and Acts were their own single-book lists. I understand why. These are important books, and Proverbs in particular rewards repeated, constant reading. But they also tend to have the longest chapters and were part of the reason why my readings were taking so long. It made things that much more daunting.

So I shuffled some things around. Proverbs is now grouped in with the rest of the Wisdom literature, and Acts is now grouped in with the Gospels. Here are my version of the lists:

  1. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts (117 days)
  2. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy (187 days)
  3. Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Hebrews (78 days)
  4. 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2 & 3 John, Jude, Revelation (65 days)
  5. Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (93 days)
  6. Psalms (150 days)
  7. Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (249 days)
  8. Major and Minor Prophets (250 days)

So now I try to read 8 chapters per day. This is still a large amount of Scripture, but I feel its much more sustainable, and much less fragile. It now rarely takes me longer than 35 minutes to finish my reading. I might end up moving Acts to the beginning of list 4 after trying this for a while, but we’ll see.

If you’re looking for something challenging, and a bit more interesting than your typical yearly Bible reading plan, I’d encourage you to try it out.

Princess Hiccup – Fearsome Feminine Strength

So I wrote a children’s book, based on a request made by my daughter, and I need your help to make it a reality. I wanted it to be light and fun and silly. And it is all of those things. But I believe it is also true, with a certain gravitas in some scenes, colored by Scripture. This was not my intention, but rather the tones bled into the story as I was writing and editing.

These two verses will be in the back of the book in the acknowledgments section, noted for their inspiration:

“Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?” Song of Songs 6:10

“Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” Psalms 126:2

The latter is pretty obvious. Ultimately, the Lord is the source of all laughter, the Prime Comedian, the One Author. Satan (that dragon of old) seeks to disrupt it. When you lose joy and laughter, you lose your thankfulness, and your faith will follow close behind them.

The verse from Song of Solomon, however, is a bit odd, and it has been translated in many ways. This is said by queens and other maidens, in praise of the woman who is being pursued. It speaks of a special kind of feminine strength, one that is finely honed and directed. It is not the brute, raw strength of masculinity, but it is a true strength. Helen of Troy inspired the launch of an armada, but the woman of the Song can stop an army.

Woman is the glory of man (1 Cor. 11:7), and as such a Biblical woman makes possible her husband’s coronation as a king. She helps lift him up so that he might go and do battle. A kingdom, a city, a household with a Biblical queen on the ramparts is a beacon of strength to her king, and a terrible visage to her enemies.

One of my favorite authors has been known to say that the point of the Bible is this: “Kill the Dragon, get the girl.” The lad in Princess Hiccup is a carpenter’s son. You are free to make the connection yourself.

So not only is this a fun little book that can be read to all ages, its also a little subversive to the culture at large. If you can donate and help make this book a reality, I would really appreciate it. If you can’t donate, you help out tremendously just by sharing the Kickstarter page.

More Necessary for Us to Remain – Father’s Day Reflection

Every father is a pastor and a preacher. Every father is a shepherd. You are leading somebody to somewhere. You are teaching somebody about something. These are unavoidable. Even if you abdicate these responsibilities out of laziness and selfishness, you are still fulfilling them in some fallen, marred way. They follow you into the pit of cowardice. They learn the lesson of….whatever.

And woe to those who would cause a little one to stumble. (Matthew 18:6) It is a responsibility that should make us tremble.

Yet, God always gives blessings with responsibility. At this point, I can’t think of a greater gift than when my daughter yells “Daddy!”, runs up to me, grabs my hand, and drags me to the latest mischief she’s gotten herself into. I’m sure my son will be the same way, although I assume his mischief will entail more of a combination of mud and scraped knees. It is a delight. It is a privilege.

It is something that has eternal consequences.

Our children are a precious gift, but they are not to stay the same as they are. Their souls need to be converted just like our souls. They are lumps of iron that need to be forged into sharp arrowheads (Psalm 127:4).

If you are a father, your children are the main reason you are here. And like Paul, our sentiment should be directed by Heaven, but bound to earth.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this,I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. (Philippians 1:20-26, ESV)

Our work is fruitful labor (Proverbs 22:6). He gave you a wife because he desires Godly offspring (Malachi 2:15). He commands us to never stop teaching them the ways of righteousness (Deut. 6:7 and 11:9). Every hour of every day is somehow devoted to this task. You imitate Christ, not only for your own sake, but for the sake of the souls put under your charge.

It is good to long to be with Christ. But for those of us with children, with the weight of a kingdom on our shoulders, it is more necessary for us to remain. For their account. We long for Christ, but first, we must bring Christ to them.

And so we should desire to stay here. If Paul thought it better on the Philippians account that he should remain and minister to them, how much more so our own children?

Thanks be to God that this heavy responsibility comes in the form of a gift, and is first made light with unspeakable joy.

The Weight of Shed Blood

The earth itself groaned and shifted under the weight of the shed blood of the Son of God, and the sun hid its face from the sight. That same earth was stunned into silence for three days. And then the sun simply rose like it always does, to shine on the other risen Son.

The Resurrection is the miracle that gives all other miracles their meaning. It tears down, only to build back a better version, just as the Gospel kills us first, only so we can be born again a better creature.

Like Kings in Exile

It feels like an extended vacation that will end someday soon. This kind of thing happens to other people. Now we are the other people.

This was our house before Friday, March 23rd.

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And this is our house after it decided to star in the Wizard of Oz. Unfortunately, it didn’t get to kill any wicked witches.

Brook Chase House After Tornado

Our two story house is now a dilapidated, condemned, one story shanty shack. We are told the tornado played a little hopscotch for just a few seconds on the ground before dissipating, a storm the weather service had no chance of predicting. There was no warning, and the sirens went off after the damage was done.

Our house got its 15 minutes of fame. We saw it on the local news in Denver. A friend heard about it on the news in Seattle. And it wasn’t someone else’s house. It was ours.

We lost everything. But no one was home, so really, we still have everything.

Words of Job

“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” I mean that when I write it and say it, but I feel like an impostor doing so. A three year old with a plastic hammer banging on plastic nails, pretending to do real work. By using Job’s words, it’s like I’m trying to identify with him, a sycophant trying to bask in reflected glory.

The great wind in Job struck down Job’s children, yet the great wind touched no flesh when it played pick-up sticks with our house. Thank God for that great mercy, because he knows just how much each of us can bear. A little hint: it isn’t anywhere close to Job-levels.

And then after Job really had lost everything, he lost even more. But by the grace of God, my family and I now live like kings in exile rather than as homeless paupers. He cradles us in his hand. We truly lack for nothing.

Family, friends, and church have rallied around us, ready to spring into action in a moment’s notice. We are grateful. We are humbled.

Order of Thoughts

While I would have liked for “Blessed be the name of the LORD” to be the first thought to have gone through my mind, I’m not quite there yet in my sanctification. Here’s the approximate order of my thoughts the moment after we got the call that our house was destroyed.

  • Are they joking? They better not be joking. But I sure hope they are joking.
  • I can’t believe Tonya and Adri are with me. They would probably be in the house at this time of day. Thank God for that.
  • My books are gone.
  • It gets fuzzy, but I think is where I mentally repeated a dynamic-equivalence transliteration of Job 1:21.

I feel like number three needs a little explanation. Yes, books can be replaced (barring certain first editions, which I didn’t have anyway), but the notes in them cannot. Those thoughts aren’t banging around in my head. That’s why I wrote them down. They also helped mark parts of books I thought were important, or something I could reference later.

Now, some of these were written as much as 6 years ago, so it might be for the best that they are lost. But the world will never know.

Besides, reading 2 Timothy 4:13, I like to believe Paul himself would have had simliar thoughts.

When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. (ESV)

Postal Observation

One thing was confirmed through all of this: the absolute absurdity of the United States Postal Service and the organization’s blindness and willful ignorance to change. They are like a waiter who, after discovering the patron at the table is dead, reaches over the corpose to continue pouring the wine and then asking if it would like any chocolate cake for dessert this evening.

Since we were out of town, we held the mail until the Saturday we got back…the day after the tornado. So, on Saturday afternoon, the postal worker drives up to the mailbox and sees this:

House hit by tornado, and mailbox

A broken non-house with a tilted mailbox to match it, crisscrossed with yellow borders to warn away the living. I wonder what went through their head when they witnessed the scene. Because we know the end result: they reached out, opened the door of the mailbox, and placed a week’s worth of our mail into it.

So you decide. An example of excellent custom service?