Crafted by Truth – A Reformation Reading Plan

What happens when people are engaged in daily reading of the Bible? The results can be massively helpful for our walk in this world.

  1. We see our story and God’s story intersecting.
    When we walk with the words of the Lord daily on our hearts, we are better equipped to bring God’s perspective to the challenges and joys we experience. God has a story to share with us. After reading through the Bible, the story of God becomes more apparent. I have found it helpful to place the events of the Bible on a timeline and then discover parts of my life fit onto that same timeline. When I get farther away from the rhythm of God’s Word, my own life seems out of sync.
  2. We make connections between Bible passages.
    Besides becoming more comfortable with knowing the details of the Bible, I also find regularly reading the Bible improves my ability to connect the dots between different Bible passages. When Paul quotes in Romans 1:17 a passage from the prophet Habakkuk, I am better equipped to know why Paul quoted that passage. I enjoy the experience of reading one passage in the Bible and having that passage lead me to read another passage which then causes me to remember yet another passage.
  3. We slow the day down.
    When reading the Bible is part of my daily schedule, I enjoy how the pace of my day begins to slow down. I have heard athletes describe being “in the zone” and how everything moves at a different speed. I think daily reading the Bible puts my spiritual heart closer to the zone of having everything move at a different speed. The Holy Spirit works through the Word to bring me into the God zone.
  4. We deal with the tough passages.
    When working through a reading plan, I read books and passages that I previously passed over. I also find myself reading passages I have taken for granted. I appreciate reading the tough passages and putting on my big boy pants to figure out what God’s Word means. I also rejoice in the depth and width of God’s Word when I revisit oft-read passages.

CraftedDaily.com

biblereadingplan_youversionmainimage-1024x576

In the Michigan District we are celebrating the Reformation’s 500th Anniversary with a call to the Word. The Reformation refers to the 16th Century when people called for a reform of the teaching of the church. The website crafteddaily.com will show you how to signup for the Reformation Reading Plan. This plan, likethe Reformers, accents the joy of the Word of God. You will find in this plan a gospel ordering for your daily reading. The Bible readings are organized according to which books most influenced the Reformers. Signup for the Reformation Reading Plan and find yourself daily fed with grace. The reading plan utilizes the Bible app available on Android or iOS. Each day’s reading takes 10-15 minutes.

Bible reading plans are not only for adults.

The Barna Group conducted research commissioned by the American Bible Society. They surveyed more than 1,000 participants between ages 13 and 17. Most teens still see the Bible as a positive thing. 69 percent of teenagers personally own a Bible. 44 percent of teens read the Bible at least three or four times a year, and at least 25 percent say they read the Bible at least once a week. The main motivation for Bible reading among teens is growing closer to God. Despite postmodern teachings in schools that all religions reveal truth, American teens still regard the Bible as the primary holy book. The president of the Barna Group said, “In an increasingly secular culture, the Bible remains a highly regarded and well-read text among the vast majority of American teens—most of whom believe it to be sacred.” We have reasons to be filled with optimism because teens still care deeply about the relevance of the Bible to the world in which they live. Getting rooted in the Bible is needed in every generational level.

Too daunting?

Daily reading of the Bible, possibly reading through the whole Bible, may seem daunting or something only the professionals should handle. God has given His Word to all of us so that we may believe in Him. The Word of God reveals the very heart of God. The heart of God is not given only to professionals, nor should we consider the Bible only the possession of a few. God’s Word has been revealed so that all might come to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. So I encourage you to read the inspired Word of God. Do not just pick and choose sections. Take the time to read the whole Bible because we should all seek to understand the whole picture of God’s plan.  You may have already read through the Bible in the past, and now think to yourself “been there, done that.” Do not consider reading the Bible as a challenge to complete and then move onto some new challenge. We do not outgrow God’s Word. The Bible is deep and wide with wisdom.

Read the Bible

I have a recommendation for you and I believe you will love this. I recommend you read your Bible. If you do not own a Bible, I have one you can have. If you have a smart phone, then I recommend some helpful Bible apps. The Bible by LifeChurch.tv. provides helpful reading plans and encourages you to share passages with other people. Bible.is by Faith Comes By Hearing includes some dramatized and non-dramatized audio versions of the Bible. PrayNow by Concordia Publishing House provides Bible readings and prayers for each day.

The American Bible Society has for five years conducted a State of the Bible survey. The Religious News Service reported on the study. More than half of Americans think the Bible has too little influence on a culture they see in moral decline, yet only one in five Americans read the Bible on a regular basis. The survey showed that 88 percent of respondents said they own a Bible, and the average household has 4.4 Bibles. If Americans do read the Bible, the majority (57 percent) read their Bibles four times a year or less. Only 26 percent of Americans said they read their Bible on a regular basis (four times or more a week). I do not know how well these statistics translate into our congregation, but I believe it is likely that there is a desire among our members to read the Bible more frequently. How can I help you pick up one of those 4.4 Bibles you statistically have in your home?

I know that my well meaning invitations to Bible study have frightened a few people from getting more involved at St. Paul Lutheran Church. I understand. I shy away from situations when I expect that I will become embarrassed. I wonder if understanding the Bible has become so assumed by our community that we have not left room for people to make mistakes.

How do you begin studying the Bible? A young man in the Navy was stationed in San Diego, and he bought a Bible at a bookstore. He never had a Bible in his hands growing up. He didn’t know what to do with it. The Bible remained a closed book to this young man until a few months later a Christian chaplain gave him the encouragement to open that Bible. They opened the Bible, and the spirit of God opened for him the words on those pages so that he could trust that Jesus is his savior. While resources will help you understand the words on the pages of your Bible, the Holy Spirit gives you the ability to internally understand the Word of God.

Open your Bible and read with the Spirit of God teaching you. Here is a simple process to start regularly reading the Bible. You may think this plan is too ambitious for you but I want you to understand that there is no replacement for reading the Bible. God desires to shape our daily lives and help us focus on what is needful for today.

Step 1 – Read

The first step is not too complicated. Read the Bible and you will become more familiar with the ways God has been found at work in our world. There are many good Bible reading plans. At St. Paul Lutheran Church we provide in the monthly newsletter and the weekly announcements a daily plan for reading the Bible.

Another plan for you to consider is to read through the Old Testament at least once a year. Keep a journal as you read. Mark in your journal stories and details you want to remember. Also, write down anything you did not understand. As you continue to read, you will find many of your questions are answered in the Bible. The questions left unanswered as you read can become the starting point for more study using commentaries or the beginning of an interesting conversation with a friend.

You might consider reading the New Testament in a different manner. Read one book at a time repeatedly for a month. In your journal write down what you want to remember, and write down your questions. Also in your journal write down for the themes for each chapter. Leave space between the chapters so that the next time you read that same book you can add more details. You will develop an intimacy with the books of the Bible that will help you draw upon the well of God’s Word when you are thirsty.

Pray at the beginning and end of your reading time. Use the psalms as the words for your prayer.

Step 2 – Interpretation

When I read the Bible, I look for different levels of understanding. I want to understand the words on the page and sometimes that means I need a dictionary, map, commentary, or some other reference tool. I also want to understand what these words mean to me and my life. How should I apply these words? Interpretation and application can become self-serving if I seek from the Bible only what I want to find. I encourage you to humble yourself to the possibility that God can be at work in the Bible in ways that only the Spirit of God can reveal to us. Trust God to be at work in the Word and in the world.

Read the Bible and encounter the promise that God is at work in the world and in your life. I want you to think it is normal to read the Bible. Please do not be embarrassed if you have not read your Bible in a while. Have fun reading your Bible. Find some tears and some arguments. Find some laughter. Most importantly find God and find yourself.

Step 3 – Community

You do not do any of this reading of the Bible alone. You are a part of a community. If you have any questions or struggles as you read the Bible, then you can share them with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Besides your personal reading of the Bible, I recommend you participate in a Bible study. I find myself richly blessed by hearing how others discover in the Word of God the amazing grace of Jesus Christ.

I’m thankful for David Lose’s article from 2013 that jump started my thinking in on the importance of encouraging people to read the Bible. 

A Letter to the Church

The last book in the Bible is The Revelation of Jesus Christ. In the beginning of the book are seven letters addressed to seven churches. The letters are written to real communities of faith, but these letters also speak to the church today as we seek to serve God.

The church in Ephesus received a letter commending them for their work, toil, patient endurance, and how those who are evil have tested them. They were criticized for how they abandoned the love they first had when they have dealt with those who have fallen from the faith. I think congregations may struggle with how to treat those who have fallen. We must not forget the love by which we have been called to believe in Jesus. If you find yourself treating another by any form of love different from the love of Jesus, then you must repent.

The church in Smyrna received in their letter recognition of the troubles and poverties that they faced. Jesus warned them that they will suffer even more as the devil works to test them. The believers of Smyrna were called to be faithful, even to the point of death, and Christ will give them the crown of eternal life. I know that there are moments of terrible suffering in the lives of people. I wish I could make it all go away, but the reality is that the devil is cruelly at work seeking to divide us from God and one another. We will remain faithful because the one in whom we trust is stronger than the devil that seeks to attack us.

The church in Pergamum was cautioned about the terrible danger they were in as long as they permitted religious compromise. Ephesus had been reminded to treat those who have fallen with love. Jesus cautioned Pergamum against permitting religious infidelity. How and where compromise happens in the life of a congregation are difficult questions. The letter to Pergamum reminds me that we must not allow ourselves to hide or minimize our Lord Jesus Christ in order to keep peace.

To the church in Thyatira, a letter was sent that showed Jesus will not ignore false teachers in a congregation. Thyatira permitted a Jezebel to teach and seduce the servants of the Lord to practice sexual immorality and to eat food that has been sacrificed to idols. How was she handled by our Lord? She was given time to repent, but she refused. Jesus warned the church that he is going to punish her and all those who commit adultery with her. Jesus promises those that remain faithful that they will receive the morning star, the privilege of being with Jesus in all his glory through eternity.

The church in Sardis received the fifth letter. They had a reputation of being alive, but in their letter they were called to wake up. Sardis was known as a city of great wealth and fame. Did this church rest on its reputation and get complacent? Not one of us can sit back and relax on what has happened in the history of our congregation. We all must be awake and strengthened by the Lord.

Jesus told the city of Philadelphia that an open door has been set before them, which no one is able to shut. Please trust in your darkest moments that there is no one that can shut the door of God’s promises on you. While we may have little power and there may be those at work in this world trying to make us feel small. We are called to hold fast to the promise of Jesus as our conqueror.

The final letter was to the city of Laodicea. This city had no water supply of its own and so had water piped in from six miles away. When the water arrived in the city, it lost its chill and was lukewarm. In the letter the people of the congregation in this city were warned they are neither cold nor hot. They were indifferent or noncommittal. Jesus said to them, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” If you are indifferent to the works of Jesus, you will miss the opportunity to see Him.

Do you see yourself in one of these letters? Each of these letters end with these words, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” It is time for us to hear the Word of God and not abandon the opportunities that God has given us to be His people.