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.
If you’ve been reading along in this little series—congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of the first week. As a reward to both of us, you the reader, and myself as the writer, I’ve decided to make Sundays a “Grace Day.”
Day Five: Be Attentive To Wisdom
While it is hard to nail down a precise figure (I looked at a number of studies), one large study pulling together a number of other studies reports: “To conclude, a close analysis of [the] Infidelity rate and its growth pattern clearly indicates that nearly one half of all married men and women are involved in extramarital affairs.”
Day Four: Orienteering
Many who know me are quite aware that I am indoorsy. It’s not that I don’t enjoy going for a run, a bike ride, or even a hike through the woods or in the mountains. It’s just that I don’t want to sleep out there. I believe God inspired us to create hotels and houses for a very good reason: to return to, enjoy, and sleep in. It’s a very important part of what separates us from the animals.
Day Three: A Heart of Wisdom
When we baptize someone at our church, we always remind our people that baptism is an outward sign of an inward reality. This picture of being lowered fully into the water and rising up again that happens on the outside for all to see, is a window into the soul of the baptized, revealing a heart cleansed, purified, and surrendered to Jesus, and thus saved, transformed, and made a part of the family.
Day Two: Our God Will Supply
It’s important we pause for a moment and look at the simple structure of Solomon’s book of Proverbs. The first nine chapters are extended descriptions of wisdom, largely in story form with instructions from a parent to a child, using at times images of “Lady Wisdom” and “Woman Folly.” They are there to explain two pathways, one that leads to a wise and good life, and one that leads to destruction. And these first nine chapters are there to help us see why we should care about chapters ten through thirty-one, which contain all the individual sayings of wisdom for which the book is famous.
Day One: The Fear of Yahweh
The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7, English Standard Version) I argued in yesterday’s post how God has hardwired wisdom into all of creation, and that wisdom is an applied skill in working with the grain of his design, and not against it, so that we may have a good life. An immediate question arises: if this is true, wouldn’t that mean a good life is available to all who recognize and pursue this, whether or not they believe in God?
Yesterday I preached the twenty-sixth sermon in The Whole Story sermon series, on the book of Proverbs. One of the main points of the sermon—because it is one of the main points of the book of Proverbs—is how wisdom is this thing that helps you see the way the world truly is, the way it works, so that you can live well inside of it. This is because wisdom is expertise and competence, it is applied skill, seen in the ways the Bible uses the word for craftsmen (Exodus 35:31), goldsmiths (Jeremiah 10:9), and sailors (Psalm 107:27).
This last Sunday, we made our way back into our Whole Story sermon series after a powerful four weeks taking a look at how we can help people ‘move to the right’, out of and away from the kingdom of darkness, and into the kingdom of the beloved Son. The sermon also served the purpose of kicking off our entry into the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament, with the story of Job as our first step in that journey.