Monday, 20 September 2010

Daily Bible Reading Schemes

I have been using the CWR 'cover to cover' Bible reading scheme for a little while. This as the blurb says is 'as it happened'. It is designed to read through the Bible in one year in chronological fashion. I have enjoyed it but found some things I wasn't quite so keen on.

For example, it puts the first chapters of Deuteronomy together with the Exodus account of the deliverance from Egypt. There is a logic to that but that is NOT 'as it happened'. Deuteronomy is the 'second giving of the law' and took place 40 years after the 'first giving of the law'. The whole point is that it was later, much later. I think it is better to read individual books in their entirety to get the sense of the books' themes.

So I have returned to my own Daily Bible reading scheme. I created this some years ago to help international students at the Church Life School that we ran here in Reading for some years. This has some particular advantages, I think.

The BibleBase Daily Bread App is a Bible reading schedule based on a 3 year cycle.

The OT is roughly 3 times longer than the NT, but as the Bible contains 'progressive revelation' I think it is best to spend equal amounts of time in each Testament. So in the 3 year cycle you will read the OT once, but you will read the NT 3 times.

It is 'roughly chronological' meaning that the books are in chronological order, or roughly so, but the events are not synchronised as with 'cover to cover'.

It has smaller 'bite size' pieces giving time to chew over what you are reading, and it had a few gentle questions to encourage the students to think about what they were reading and its personal relevance.

My brother and colleague Gary Sims has created two 'apps' for this reading programme, one for the iPhone, iPodTouch, iPad and one for the Android. Both apps are free. Currently we are getting about 500 downloads per week. Why not give it a try to see if it suits your needs?

The iPod, iPodTouch, iPad app is freely available at
Biblebase Daily Bread for the iPod etc

and the Android version is available at
Biblebase Daily Bread for the Android

Let us know what you think. Thank you.

God's Agenda for your Friends

Another gem from Oswald Chambers today. The phrase that caught my attention was that we are expected to “...deliberately identify ourselves with God's interests in other people. "That ye love one another; as I have loved you . . “

I recall as a very young Christian being greatly offended by the way that God had handled Gideon! After his victories it is recorded that Gideon had many wives and concubines and 70 sons. Judges 8: 30 After his victories too he created an image which became a snare to him and to others. Judges 8:27. At the heart of my sense of offence was that I was convinced that God should have sorted out these aspects of his life before his victories! It took a long time to understand that the statement “...My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” Is 55:8 NKJV could include the notion that His Agenda might not be the same as my Agenda.

God, I discovered, was not nearly so tidy as I was and certainly wasn’t nearly such a clear thinking evangelical as I was. I have a computerised ‘to do list’. As I tick off one item in a project the next item appears; it is all very tidy. God on the other hand seems to have different points of concentration in the lives of men and women and sometimes concentrates on aspects of a life that aren’t even on my ‘to do list’. It was a challenging revelation to discover that God’s creative works, and his new creation works, are not an exercise in painting by numbers.

When I am in the company of a friend is my conversation framed by my ‘to do list’ or God’s? Am I willing to go ‘off topic’ or do I insist on first, second, third...? Jesus said “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. John 5:19 NKJV That surely is the question; ‘what is the Father doing in this life? ‘not ‘how to I get this soul to the next point in my agenda?’ Am I in such a fellowship with the Father that I can ‘see’ what he is doing or do I just revert to my script?

Saturday, 18 September 2010

His Temptation and Ours

This was the title of Oswald Chambers “My Utmost for His Highest’ entry for 18th Sept. It started my thoughts running in a different but not not contradictory direction. It is helpful, I think, to consider the nature of the saints’ temptations; and by ‘saint’ in this context I mean the regenerate. Hebrews declares that “he was tempted in all points as we are,” Heb 4:15. He was, we are... but who is ‘we’? Historically it is the group made up of the writer of Hebrews and his readers. If we remember how the writer described his readers, Heb 6:4–5, they are clearly ‘the regenerate’ or as I shall call them from now on ‘the saints’. So this group really includes all the saints AND Christ himself; there is a kind of temptation that is unique to the ‘sons of God’. The Hebrews passage is not telling us that Christ experienced every possible temptation that mankind has experienced but a particular kind of temptation, the temptation of the sons of God.

There was a moment in Christ’s life when God publicly confirmed him to be ‘the Son of God’. His temptations, as recorded in the gospel narratives, were the direct result of this ‘witness of God’ that he was who he was. “And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,” Luke 4:1 KJV Luke makes the connection very clear. The Temptation in the Wilderness was not just the temptation of an ordinary man but of a man identified as ‘son o f God’ and who was ‘full of the Holy Spirit’; this is the temptation of a ‘saint’; a holy one.

According to Oswald Chambers, “Until we are born again, the only kind of temptation we understand is that mentioned by James - ‘Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed." But by regeneration we are lifted into another realm where there are other temptations to face’. The thing to notice about the wilderness temptations of the Son of God is that his temptations were entirely external; they did not come from inside but from an alien spirit on the outside. These temptations did not come ‘from’ a heart that was ‘crooked beyond all other crookednesses and incurable’ Jer 17:9 but they came ‘to’ a heart that was in perfect alignment with God.

When we have become ‘saints’ by regeneration and God has borne witness with our spirits that we are ‘children of God’, and we are living in the 'fulness of the Spirit', it will not mean the ‘end of temptation’ but as OC expresses it ‘ regeneration we are lifted into another realm where there are other temptations to face’. Our defence against an external enemy will need to be very different to our defence against an internal enemy.

It is a vital element of spiritual warfare that we "know our enemy".