This past Sunday at Calvary, I preached a sermon in the hopes of inspiring our people to embark on the adventure of immersing themselves in the capacious story of the books of the Bible. From my introduction,
(If you'd like, you can view the whole sermon here.)
Now, one of the obstacles to reading the books of the Bible is that we don't approach them in the correct way. We treat the Bible more like a textbook to be mined for little bits of advice for good living, rather than the grand narrative it is -- telling the story of God's work of creation, rescue, and restoration of a fallen and broken world. A story big enough to make sense of our lives, which, in the words of Eugene Peterson, are lived in storied conditions.
But most of us need help to see it and read it as this big story. And by God's grace, there are a couple of wonderful organizations creating remarkable tools to provide the help we need. The first is a group called Read Scripture. They have designed an app that breaks the books of the Bible into sixteen large sections to help you get a handle on the story God has told, and is still telling. Click on the picture below to go to their site and download the app.
I have been amazed at how helpful it has been to use this app to direct my daily communion time with our Father. Each day, I sit down with my morning smoothie and open the app on my phone. It instructs me to "take a deep breath before you begin to spend time with God," and then supplies my first reading for the morning. I open the text in my physical Bible, because I am still old school that way. I use The Books of the Bible, as it has a far more helpful order for the books in the Bible (e.g., the first testament follows the common Hebrew version for ordering, and the second testament is ordered in a far more logical way than traditional bibles). And, it has removed all chapter and verse numbering, as well as a far more aesthetically pleasing format. In other words, it looks like something you'd actually want to read.
Each time you begin a book of the Bible in the app, it includes the overview video for that book right there in the app, created by the folks over at from The Bible Project. I also print out the visual outline for the book (after watching the video) and use it as a bookmark as a way to keep track of where I am in the story. These 'posters' are also available as a free download, and represent the completed picture at the end of each overview video they create. Here's the one for Mark (I've included that video at the end of this article):
After that first reading, the app then instructs me to "move into a time of prayer and meditate on the following Psalm," and I again open up in my paper copy and read the Psalm and then spend time in conversation with God.
In order to better understand what what the Read Scripture and Bible Project teams are doing to help us see the story of the Bible, take a mere three minutes to help you make the decision to read and understand the whole story of the Bible in a way you never have - a promise they actually deliver on!
I can't recommend this to you enough.
I have read through the Bible every year for around the last fifteen years using various kinds of reading plans. I have a seminary education from a fine institution, and have been in vocational ministry for over thirteen years. And these resources have helped me see and understand the big story of the books of the Bible in a way that I never have. My nineteen year old daughter has exclaimed that she has "never enjoyed reading the bible as much as I have this year daddy!" And our family worship has been refreshing and invigorating as we make our way through the overview videos for all sixty-six books of the bible.
Why not "see for yourself the beauty and wisdom of this ancient story that points us to Jesus"? For further encouragement, it would be worth your time to view the video below from the Read Scripture team. And below that, as an example, I have inserted the overview video of Mark's story of Jesus from The Bible Project team.
It is my prayer that all of this will lead you to immerse yourself in the only Story that makes sense of all our stories.
We Are Calvary
To say that we live in times of rapid change may be the very height of understatement. Our culture, and its norms, is changing at an unprecedented rate, making it increasingly challenging for the church to remain relevant—and faithful—in proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God, in a way that will bring about the expansion of that kingdom.
This past Sunday we (finally) made it out of the weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings of the Prophets of the Exile, and stepped into the Return from Exile of the people of God. Our first look into this aspect of the redemptive drama comes via three courageous servants of Yahweh—Zerrubabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. There story is found in the book of Ezra-Nehemiah (although our English Bibles separate them, through the centuries the Jewish people have always treated them as one book; so we will too.)
Especially When You Don't Feel Like It
Sunday is just about my favorite day of the week (“just about”…because my day off each week, our family’s Sabbath Saturday, is a tie or really close second). I love getting up that morning, making my smoothie, sitting in my favorite chair in our fireplace room, and pulling my Bible onto my lap. I relish the time spent listening to my Father speak, and I delight in those moments spent talking with him about the morning’s ministry, the people in our gathering that I hope he will transform, as well as the eleven other pastors (and their congregations) on whom I pray his blessing every Sunday.
This past Sunday we completed our journey through the weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings of the Prophets of the Exile, focusing our study on Ezekiel. We discovered in Ezekiel a book filled with dark visions and confrontational language. And one of the visions (probably the central, controlling metaphor of the book) Ezekiel presents is Israel as a beautiful bride who turns against her bridegroom, God, and breaks all the stipulations of her covenant.
Day Thirty: Vistas of Wisdom
I am very near the end of this little writing experiment called “31 Proverbs.” While I’m unsure how helpful it has been to how ever many have read it, I know that the process of sitting down six days each week to read, ponder, and then ponder some more by plunking on a keyboard has helped me grow in my understanding of wisdom.
Day Thirty-Two: A Mother's Wisdom (part two)
Yesterday, we heard from what was likely King Solomon’s mother imparting worthy words of wisdom in the area of leadership. For the sayings of wisdom we find here are those “which his mother taught him” (Proverbs 31:1). And she now turns her attention to the search for a woman of virtue and noble character, suitable to be a wife and mother.
Day Twenty-Nine: Please—Quietly Hold Your Tongue
Anger. noun. “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.” (New Oxford American Dictionary) As I entered day twenty-nine of Proverbs this morning, and came to 29:11, it struck me that this book has quite a bit to say about anger, strife, wrath, quarreling, fights, and rage. It is a theme that Solomon keeps coming back to, probably because he knows that it is a theme woven through humanity and history. Sometimes the best way to see a theme is to pull on that string so all the wisdom he has offered comes together for our observation. The accumulation helps us feel the weight of it.