About Barbara Harper

https://barbarah.wordpress.com

Laudable Linkage

IMG_0195

I have a short list today, but, I think, a good one. Hope you find something useful here.

The War Within: Flesh Versus Spirit. “Conflict in your soul is not all bad. Even though we long for the day when our flesh will be utterly defunct and only pure and loving desires will fill our hearts, yet there is something worse than the war within between flesh and Spirit; namely, no war within because the flesh controls the citadel and all the outposts. Praise God for the war within! Serenity in sin is death. The Spirit has landed to do battle with the flesh. So take heart if your soul feels like a battlefield at times. The sign of whether you are indwelt by the Spirit is not that you have no bad desires, but that you are at war with them!”

Respect the King, Obey the Law, Pay Your Taxes. Sound wisdom no matter who is in office.

Let Not Food Destroy the Body—the body of Christ, HT to Challies. “All too often, our food preferences isolate us from one another. Maybe we catch a friend eating a pre-packaged frozen meal or lunchmeat with nitrates, or watch them open a bag of potato chips filled with preservatives and fat. We are tempted to indulge in food-righteousness, in thinking we’re the better person for eating sprouted grain bread with organic almond butter. Our gospel, however, doesn’t leave room for self-made righteousness.”

Some Men Just Like to Fight, HT to Challies. Women as well. We’re called to contend for some things and defend others. But though “Fighting is sometimes necessary. Liking to fight is not. In fact, it is forbidden.”

Why Procrastination Is about Managing Emotions, not Time, HT to Challies. Interesting perspective and a tip or two for dealing with it.

The Medications that Change Who We Are, HT to Challies. Many ordinary medications have effects on personality. Scary!

Dear Memaw: A Letter I Wish My Great-Grandmother Could Read, HT to Challies. “I wish I could tell you about your piano, Memaw. It is quite the story. But since I can’t tell you, I tell Him, each day, and thank Him for it.”

This kids’ retelling of The Princess Bride had me chuckling. HT to The Story Warren.

Happy Saturday!

Friday’s Fave Five

It’s Friday, time to count the blessings of the week
with Susanne and other friends at Living to Tell the Story.

It’s time for another pause in the week to reflect on the good God has blessed us with. Here are five favorite things from the week:

1. Clean windows, curtains, and help. Our shower curtain and bathroom curtain needed to be washed, and I threw in the bedroom curtains for good measure. I planned to clean the windows and blinds while they were bare. I found a lot of mildew on the bedroom windowsill plus a little on the frame, so I asked my husband if he would take care of that part while I went to the store. When I came back, he had completely cleaned both bedroom and bathroom windows and later dusted the blinds. That was a tremendous help in itself, but I especially appreciated having that done since all of the curtains needed to be ironed as well. Plus there’s always a sense of satisfaction when that kind of task is completed for a while.

2. A little more organizing. I have a catch-all basket on the kitchen counter and another on my desk. They were both full, so I cleared them out and cleaned off my desk as well. I’m always surprised by a couple of things buried in them.

3. Frozen meals. I try to keep a couple on hand for those busy days when I am tired by dinnertime. I’m thankful we have such a variety of good quality meals to choose from these days.

4. A warm coat. I don’t like to wear it often because it’s so heavy and bulky. But it’s been quite cold out this week (in the teens a couple of times), and I was glad to have a warm coat. Sometimes I’ve wondered if it’s extravagant to have a couple of jackets in different weights plus a heavy coat plus a couple of sweaters. But they are all used, as our temperatures vary so much here. I’m thankful for all of them.

5. Sunshine has been obscured a lot this week, making it even more valued when it can be seen and enjoyed.

Updated to add a bonus: I can’t believe I forget this! We had a small (3.8) earthquake about 45 miles from us, which is not a favorite. It was pretty scary. But I was grateful that it was small and the effects we felt only lasted a few seconds (though they seemed long at the time). And I am grateful Jim was home and Facebook friends had updates and reports within a very short time.

That’s my week! What’s one good thing from yours?

Book Review: Promise Me This

In the novel Promise Me This by Cathy Gohlke, Owen and Annie Allen have been raised by their manipulative Aunt Eleanor in England ever since their parents died. Now Owen has trained himself as a gardener and is about to set off for a new life in New Jersey with their aunt and uncle on their father’s side. He can’t take Annie with him yet, which makes her furious. But he removes her from Aunt Eleanor’s house to a school until he can send for her.

As Owen gets ready to sail on the Titanic in a week, he meets a young street kid, Michael Dunnagan. Owen has compassion on him, shares his food, and gives him odd jobs until time to leave.

Michael picks up another job making deliveries to the Titanic. He muses that in a ship that size, he could hide away and escape from his abusive uncle.

Within just a few days at sea, Owen discovers Michael and takes him into his quarters. He shares his food as well as his plans and dreams to start a new life in New Jersey and send for Annie as soon as possible.

Then comes the fateful night the Titanic hits the iceberg. Owen sends Michael off with the women and children and wraps him in the jacket where he had sewn his precious seedling samples in the lining. Michael fights with everything he has to stay with Owen, but Owen insists and bodily pushes Michael to safety.

After a series of events, Michael finds his way to Owen’s aunt in New Jersey and tells her all that has happened. She takes him in and tells him about the trouble she faces which Owen had not yet heard. In their grief, they decide to try to make a go of Owen’s plans. Michael is determined to bring Annie home.

Annie is devastated, angry, and bitter, not only that Owen died, but that Michael lived instead. Back in Aunt Eleanor’s clutches, Annie finds herself responding in kind and becoming more like her.

When Michael first writes to Annie, she sends the letter back. But soon a tentative friendship begins. Annie trains as a nurse while she waits to go to NJ. And then WWI breaks out.

My thoughts:

When I reviewed Cathy’s Saving Amelie, which became one of my top ten books of last year, I mentioned wanting to read more of Cathy’s books. A couple of people mentioned this story. When I discovered it was partially based on the Titanic, I planned to start it in conjunction with our visit to the Titanic museum.The book did enhance my visit and vice versa.

Cathy mentions in her afterword that there was a Titanic passenger named Owen Allum who was a gardener, but not much else was known about him. I enjoyed reading how she created his and Annie’s stories and what influenced her.

The Titanic section is just the first part of the book, however. I loved the example of laying down one’s life for another as Owen did. And then Michael and Annie each had to learn what it meant to love others and to receive love.

Some of my favorite quotes:

No matter what pain, what hard things come to us in life—and pain and trouble come to all of us—no matter what dark roads we walk or poor choices we make, it is not the end of the story.

It’s no good being fearful. Worry won’t change the future a whit, and it misses the joy of this glad day.

Each morning, when we wake—if we wake—we pick up whatever it is we’ve been given to carry for that day, with the sweet Lord Jesus in the yoke beside us to tote the load. Each night we lay it down, giving it into God’s hands. If it’s still there in the morning, we pick it up and begin again. If the burden is gone or if there is something different, we know where to start.

“Growing is a patient thing, lad,” Daniel explained. “You must give all living things time to adjust to their new surroundings, their new soil, then time to grow, as well.”

Does your hate make you happy, my dear, or does it continually eat through you, a cancer of its own making? Does the constant fueling of that angry fire not exhaust you and take away from living the wonderful life you’ve been given?

I loved the characters (including some not mentioned here) and the story. I loved how Cathy pulled us in to empathize with them in their anger, pain, and hope. Highly recommended.

Every Resolve for Good

Did you make New Year’s resolutions this year?

How are you coming with them?

A friend mentioned reading that most people break their New Year’s resolutions by Jan. 17.

I have not made New Year’s resolutions in years. Why set myself up for failure? Besides, resolutions seemed moralistic, pulling myself up by my own bootstraps (if I had any boots, much less with straps).

Then one day I noticed an “I will” statement in the Bible. Then I did a study and found several more, like:

I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes (Psalm 101:3).

I will keep thy statutes (Psalm 119:8).

I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word (Psalm 119:15-16, 48, 78).

They sounded suspiciously like resolutions. Hmm, I thought. I might have to rethink this.

Then I stumbled across Jonathan Edwards’ resolutions, which begin:

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.

No bootstrap-pulling there.

Then last year I was floored to discover these verses in the Bible:

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, ESV).

I know I had read them before, but in the KJV. Sometimes reading in a new translation will open our eyes to things we hadn’t noticed before. Looking up other translations, I like how the Christian Standard Bible (one I am not familiar with) puts verse 11: “In view of this, we always pray for you that our God will make you worthy of his calling, and by his power fulfill your every desire to do good and your work produced by faith.”

So we are supposed to resolve things? Evidently. But not trusting in our own strength. We pray, as Paul did here, and depend on God.

I looked up some commentary on this verse and found John Piper’s post.

First, Paul says he prays “that our God may make you worthy of his calling.” But wait a  minute—isn’t the whole point that we’re unworthy, and we’re only made worthy by believing and relying on Christ’s righteousness, death, burial, and resurrection? Yes. As Piper puts it:

Now what 2 Thessalonians 1:11 says is that there is a way of life that is worthy of that call. Worthy doesn’t mean deserving or meritorious. It means fitting, proper, appropriate (Luke 3:8, fruit worthy of repentance).

 A former pastor once said that Philippians 2:12b, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” meant first of all not to work for your salvation. Rather, we’re to work out our salvation like a math problem, taking it to its logical conclusions. In other words, take those high and lofty ideals in the Bible, those rock-solid doctrines, and work them out into your everyday lives.

We’re saved in a moment, but we spend the rest of our lives working out the ramifications of our salvation into our everyday lives as we grow in grace.

As we desire to do good, to rightly reflect and honor the Lord, we make decisions. We evaluate everything by whether it’s worthy—fitting, appropriate, proper—for a life redeemed by God, for His glory.

Because we still have an old nature, we have a battle on our hands.

For the flesh desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. For these are opposed to one another in order that you should not do those things you might wish.
 (Galatians 5:17, ESV)

But if we “walk by the Spirit” we “will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness (Romans 6:12-13).

Yielding to God means making the decision to do so. Piper goes on to say:

The first point is that seeking the power of God to fulfill our good resolves does NOT mean that we don’t really resolve or that we don’t really use will-power. The engagement of God’s power never takes the place of the engagement of our will! The power of God in sanctification never makes us passive! The power of God engages itself beneath or behind and within our will, not in place of our will. The evidence of God’s power in our lives is not the absence of our willing but the strength of our willing.

This is the point where I often stumbled in the past. I viewed resolutions as my will-power (which I was short on) or God’s. And then I wondered why I didn’t have victory in some areas. But “The power of God engages itself beneath or behind and within our will, not in place of our will.” (More on the battle between the flesh and Spirit can be found in an excellent message here.)

I’ve found generalizations like “I need to eat healthier” or “I need to cut down on sugar” or “I need to be less self-centered” just don’t cut it. I’m going to have to get more specific in resolving to do the good and right things that glorify God.

Paul Tripp says it’s not usually the big, dramatic moments or decisions that change our lives (though change may start there).

You see, the character of a life is not set in two or three dramatic moments, but in 10,000 little moments. The character that was formed in those little moments is what shapes how you respond to the big moments of life …

And what makes all of this possible? Relentless, transforming, little-moment grace. You see, Jesus is Immanuel [God with us], not just because he came to earth, but because he makes you the place where he dwells. This means he is present and active in all the mundane moments of your daily life.

And what is he doing? In these small moments, he is delivering every redemptive promise he has made to you. In these unremarkable moments, he is working to rescue you from you and transform you into his likeness. By sovereign grace, he places you in daily, little moments that are designed to take you beyond your character, wisdom, and grace so that you will seek the help and hope that can only be found in him. In a lifelong process of change, he is undoing you and rebuilding you again.

The new year is a good time to take stock and evaluate what needs to change in our lives. But we don’t need to wait until then to resolve to do good. Every morning we can ask God to lead us and give us grace to live for Him. As we read God’s Word and He teaches and convicts us, we, by faith, depend on His help and grace to put certain practices aside or add others. Or, as we’re about to do something and the Holy Spirit reminds us of a truth from God’s Word, we trust that God’s Word about this issue is right and yield to Him.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Global Blogging, Senior Salon, Hearth and Soul,
Happy Now, Tell His Story, Purposeful Faith, InstaEncouragement, Anchored Abode,
Recharge Wednesday, Worth Beyond Rubies, Share a Link Wednesday,
Let’s Have Coffee, Heart Encouragement, Faith on Fire, Grace and Truth.
Links do not imply complete endorsement.)

Laudable Linkage

These are some online reads that gave me much to think on:

5 Bible Study Techniques for Busy Moms. “We make it so complicated sometimes with rules and regulations, but the most important thing about being in God’s Word is to just actually be in it.”

And on that note, 10 Ways to Engage With Scripture. “How do you engage with Scripture? Since the key to knowing God’s heart is through His Word, I pondered her question.”

Can My Calling Really Be That Simple? “It’s easy, especially in Christian circles, to get grandiose ideas of what calling looks like. It’s easy to look for people who make a big difference, give up everything, and have the numbers (or passport stamps) to prove it.”

Ten Exhortations Concerning Gossip Blogs and Online Speech, HT to Challies. I would add, don’t pass on tweets or posts that contain this kind of thing, and don’t share something with the thought, “I don’t know if this is true, but just in case…” Check it out first.

James 3:1 and the Trembling Teacher. If you’ve ever tried to teach a Sunday School class, lead a Bible study, speak (or even write) about spiritual things, you can likely identify with this post.

To the New Parent, HT to True Woman. “What a gift you have in your hands and really, the best is still ahead of you. There’s no ‘Just wait until…’ God’s grace will equip you for each new season, even if his grace simply equips you to fall to your knees.”

This Is Your Body Today, HT to Challies. “What does it mean to bear on our bodies the marks of living in this world, to experience all that life and God will give and throw at us, and to not blame the sleeplessness or stretch marks on being a mother—or to find pride in them either because they birthed live children? To not blame the creaks and groans on laziness or lack or time. To not see ourselves as a victim of some perverse injustice, but to simply say to the body that holds us today and to the God who made it: ‘Thank you’ and also ‘This hurts’?”

Max Lucado’s Endorsement of Jen Hatmaker: What it Means and Why it Matters, HT to Challies. I don’t know much about either of these two people and have not read their stuff, but I agree with the principles discussed here. The same God who calls people to unity calls out those who preach something other than biblical truth.

Finally, I had not heard of the group 40 Fingers, but stumbled across this very pleasant video this morning:

Happy Saturday!

Friday’s Fave Five

It’s Friday, time to count the blessings of the week
with Susanne and other friends at Living to Tell the Story.

Here we are halfway through the first month of the year (and the decade, depending on how you count it). I love these weekly stops to reflect on what’s gone before. Here are some of my favorite things from the last week:

1. More light. I usually walk my youngest son to the door as he leaves for work to say goodbye and lock the door behind him. It has still been dark when he leaves, until this week. Or at least this is the first week I noticed the light shining that time of morning. I know the days have been getting longer since the winter solstice, but this is the first time it has been noticeable.

2. Mending done. I order almost all my clothes online, and when you use the same companies, you get used to their sizing. Until they change. Somehow the last few dresses I’ve bought have been baggy, and not because I have lost weight (because I haven’t). I felt I could just take them in a little on the sides and they’d be ok, but hadn’t gotten to it in … months. I finally made time to do that this week.

3. Organizational ideas. I love when some better way to do or arrange things just comes to me out of the blue. I had received some Instant Pot accessories as gifts last year. As I hunted for one of them this week, I thought, you know, it would be a good idea to keep all of them together in a box. Then at a store other than the one I planned to go to for said box, I found one just the right size, saving me another stop.

4. Recipe book update. A few years ago I made a scrapbooked notebook of recipes I’d torn out of magazines or had recipes cards for, etc. It was nothing fancy or decorative—just the scraps of paper or card stock glued to pages and divided into categories. My “main dish” notebook was breaking up, so I got another. Instead of just transferring everything over, I thought it would be a good time to weed out those recipes I didn’t think I’d ever really use and add in a few I had printed from the Internet. For instance, I had three chicken and stuffing casserole recipes, and the one I use wasn’t even in there. It got a little more involved than I had anticipated: after pulling some recipes out, then I had to rearrange what was left. I’m not entirely done yet, but it feels good to have them in a fresh new notebook and arranged more efficiently.

5. Kindle deals. I follow a couple of sites that share Christian books on sale for the Kindle app for 99 cents to a dollar or so. I love trying out new authors that way or finding other books by authors I already love. Both of these have a broad umbrella—I wouldn’t endorse everything they share. Discern is always needed. But I appreciate their services combing through Amazon deals for those labeled Christian.

What’s one good thing from your week?

January-March 2020 Reading List

Years ago, someone who is no longer blogging used to host a “Fall Into Reading” and “Spring Reading Fling,” where participants would share what they planned to read for the next few months and then come back and share what they actually did read. I always enjoyed reading those and added to my TBR list exponentially.

Susanne misses those posts, too, and has decided to start up an informal quarterly reading list sign-up. I thought this might be a good way to break up my larger reading plans into smaller goals. You can find more information here and join in here, if you’d like.

Planning for the month or the quarter just involves looking through the unread books on my shelves, in my Kindle app, and in my audiobook library and deciding which I want to read next. It helps condense the reading decision time by doing it this way rather than every time I finish one book and look for another.

My two biggest challenges are the Back to the Classics Challenge and then two others that focus on reading books we already own (Mount TBR) or have had on our reading list a while.

For classics:

  • I’m currently listening to The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle.
  • Next up will be Sanditon, Jane Austen’s last, unfinished novel. Masterpiece Theatre has made a series based on the book, but I want to read the book before watching the program. I’ve put this one on hold at the library.
  • Hard Times by Charles Dickens
  • I might start Larkrise to Candleford by Flora Thompson next. My copy has three volumes in one, so it’s rather large. But I have also been wanting to watch the series based on these stories as well, and want to read the books first.

I’ll be hosting my last Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge Feb. 1-29 and will share on Feb. 1 what I am reading for that challenge. I have one book on hand and am considering another.

From my current stash:

I just finished Panosian: A Story of God’s Gracious Providence by Chris Anderson. Next are:

Nonfiction:

  • Good Tidings of Great Joy: A Collection of Christmas Sermons by Charles Spurgeon (currently reading)
  • Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done by Laura Vanderkam (currently reading).
  • The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home by Denise Kiernan about the Biltmore House. I loved what she did with The Girls of Atomic City, so I’m eagerly looking forward to this book.
  • Anne Morrow Lindbergh: Her Life by Susan Hertog

Fiction:

  • Promise Me This by Cathy Gohlke, a novel involving a couple of people on the Titanic, one who survived and one who did not, and those who wished the results had been reversed (currently reading).
  • The Space Between Words by Michele Phoenix
  • The Shopkeepers by Nancy Moser, a sequel to The Pattern Artist and The Fashion Designer, novels about a young women going into those professions in the early 1900s.
  • Castle on the Rise by Kristy Cambron, sequel to The Lost Castle, a novel involving three different timelines touching an old castle.
  • The One True Love of Alice Ann by Eva Marie Everson, a novel set in 1940s Georgia about a girl waiting for the one she loves to come home from WWII.

Those should keep me busy for a while! I’m looking forward to all of them. I probably won’t finish them all this quarter, but whatever I don’t finish will just go on next quarter’s list.

What’s on your reading horizon?

(Sharing with Susanne, Global Blogging, Senior Salon, Hearth and Soul, Happy Now, InstaEncouragement)

Book Review: Panosian: A Story of God’s Gracious Providence

Dr. Edward Panosian is one of the most beloved professors of my alma mater. But Panosian: A Story of God’s Gracious Providence by Chris Anderson would be beneficial to more than those who knew the doctor as a teacher. It’s not only the fascinating story of God’s hand in one family’s life. It’s the story of a people that were almost completely wiped out in the nearly forgotten Armenian Genocide.

Dr. Panosian taught several history and church history courses at Bob Jones University, but he’s most well-known for History of Civilization. Nearly every freshman took that course. For me, that class was the first time history “clicked” for me as something other than meaningless names and dates.

Students quickly became aware of Panosian’s distinctive voice and mastery of his subject. He pointed out God’s hand throughout history and made history interesting and relevant to students.

Soon students came to know their professor’s kindness, warmth, humor. He is known for many famous sayings, which Anderson lists in the book. He was a fixture riding his bike around campus.

When Dr. Panosian introduced himself the first day of class, he mentioned that he was Armenian. I thought something like, “Huh. I’ve never heard of anyone from Armenia before.” In those pre-Google days, I was, sadly, not curious enough to look up Armenia then. But there was a reason I had never heard of Armenians.

Armenia was a small Christian part of the Ottoman empire, a mostly Muslim entity. Armenians were persecuted for decades, but their ill-treatment culminated in mass murder, rape, exile, forced marches after WWI. Dr. Panosian’s great-grandfather was murdered by a mob in his family home, in front of his wife and children. His grandmother could not escape with all the children. She took one ill son with her to America, and the rest were taken to an orphanage run by German missionaries in Beirut. She didn’t see them or hear from them for nine agonizing years. That they survived and were found is miraculous.

Dr. Panosian’s father’s story is also told, and then we learn how God led Dr. Panosian to his university, wife, and calling.

Betty Panosian taught speech, particularly storytelling. For years she told and read classic stories that were heard on a local radio station Friday nights. She has narrated a few books, and she and Dr. Panosian read Scripture on Scripture Meditations 1 and 2 CDs (some of the latter can be heard here).

Some might be familiar with Dr. Panosian through the university’s Unusual Films productions or through his multiple roles in various Shakespeare plays. His foray into acting had an amusing beginning.

Dr. Panosian also, at someone’s suggestion, created presentations of famous people in history, like Martin Luther, telling their story from a first person point of view. He has given these presentations at a number of churches around the country.

I have several places marked in the book. Here are just a few quotes:

After risking everything to come to America, and after enduring grueling journeys across the Atlantic in cramped and squalid ships, immigrants now had to fret about whether they would actually be let in. It wasn’t a given. Ellis Island was a place of inspection, interrogation, and sometimes quarantine. For some, it was a place of rejection. Imagine arriving so close to the American “Paradise,” only to be sent back to the very country you had fled. For some, Lady Liberty was a sentry, not a hostess. Debates over immigration policies are nothing new. If anything, the debate over granting asylum to refugees was more volatile a century ago than it is today (p. 62).

Betty Panosian tells how she needed a tutor to help her catch up in a class she missed part of to participate in a radio program: “I looked around the class to see who made the As, and I saw Ed. He always knew everything. And so I asked him if he’d help me; and he’s been helping me ever since” (p. 127).

When Dr. Panosian taught his last History of Civilization class after 48 years, he quipped, “This is the end of the history of civilization  as we have known it” (p. 144).

You might recognize author Chris Anderson’s name from his penning hymns like “His Robes for Mine” and “My Jesus Fair.”

I got both the paperback copy of this book plus the audiobook when it came out later. The audiobook is read primarily by Anderson, with Dr. Panosian reading parts. Betty Panosian and a few other voices contribute as well. It was so good to hear the Panosians’ voices again.

Here is a book trailer for this volume:

This trailer is a bit longer, with Dr. Panosian telling some of his story.

Though this book will have special meaning to those who knew the Panosians personally, I think anyone could gain much by reading it.

Ways to Both Read and Study the Bible

When I first became a Christian, the church I was in urged people to read the Bible through in a year. I’m so glad, because I believe that grounded me in my faith more than anything else.

In later years, pastors often emphasized the need to read passages of the Bible in context and encouraged to read a book of the Bible through at a time rather than scattering our reading all around. I mentioned last week Drew Hunter‘s quote that we wouldn’t read only page two of a friend’s three-page letter. Nor would we read a paragraph on page three and a line on page one. The Bible isn’t a book of random quotations. Each book is a coherent whole, and all together they present a unified message.

Reading the whole Bible helped me keep things in context and see the grand themes of the Bible. It helped me get into books like Leviticus and Chronicles, which I probably would not have drifted into. I found some nuggets there I would have missed. Reading all of the Bible helps you interpret it, as some passages shed light on other passages.

Kelly Needham says:

Most Christians I talk to have never read the entirety of the Bible. They may read it frequently but only parts of it. But daily reading parts of the Bible doesn’t mean you know it any more than daily reading the first chapter of Moby Dick makes you an expert on the famous novel. Ignorance of the whole of God’s Word makes us easy targets in the war Satan has waged against God. Lies can slip through undetected like poison gas because we’re just not that familiar with the truth.

I still believe in reading the Bible through, but I don’t do it in a year any more. Sometimes I wanted to slow down, but felt I couldn’t or I’d fall behind schedule. Once one does fall behind, it’s hard to catch back up. So now I just go at my own pace. I don’t even know how long it takes me. Sometimes I read a couple of chapters a day. Other times I read more or less. I usually read the shorter epistles a few times through before moving on because they’re packed so full and go by so quickly.

I’ve seen some two-year or other plans. John O’Malley said in Overcoming Your Devotional Obstacles, “If it takes you five years to read through the Bible, you are not less of a Christian. Read it at a pace that you can comprehend it and receive something from it.”

Some folks I know have tried “binge-reading” the Bible occasionally. Joel Arnold says, “A pretty average reader can finish in 100 days by reading just 40 minutes a day.” My friend Kim once read the whole Bible in 90 days and shared her experience here.

Joel once read the whole Bible in a week, 10-12 hours a day. Afterward he noted:

The Bible is the most intertwined body of literature I’ve ever read. The books cite, quote, allude and echo each other constantly. It’s like a city, built up layer by layer, strata by strata, so that each later addition rests on every layer that came before … We don’t usually sense these relationships because we’ve forgotten 95% of the OT before we ever get to the New. But having it all out in front of your brain at once changes that completely. You find yourself flipping back and forth constantly between the testaments, jumping across thousands of years of history to study the same teachings and sometimes even the same phrases (Meditations from Binge-Reading the Bible).

Obviously no one can read 10-12 hours a day every week. But if we can use vacation time to binge watch a TV series, why not use it to read the whole Bible?

However, if we only read the Bible in great chunks, we miss something. We’re also told to study it, meditate on it, chew on it. Sometimes we need to slow down and spend more focused time on a smaller passage. Charles Spurgeon is quoted as saying, “Some people like to read so many [Bible] chapters every day. I would not dissuade them from the practice, but I would rather lay my soul asoak in half a dozen verses all day than rinse my hand in several chapters. Oh, to be bathed in a text of Scripture, and to let it be sucked up in your very soul, till it saturates your heart!” Sometimes there’s nothing like honing in on one or a few verses for an extended amount of time.

Remember, the early churches did not have the entire Bible bound in one book for a long while. They had the Old Testament and gospels, but they would have spent a great deal of time on the one letter sent to their congregation and others as they came around.

I mentioned last week that Tim Challies said the larger blocks of reading were for familiarity, and reading for intimacy was slowing down and meditating on or studying shorter passages. Kelly Collier calls these two methods plow work (which “moves through large portions of Scripture more quickly,” like reading the Bible in a year or two) and trowel work (“taking a passage or verse of Scripture and settling in to dig for a long time,” like inductive Bible Study). I likened the two styles to a panoramic or macro lens. Or we could simply call them reading and studying.

I wrote a few years ago about finding time to read the Bible. Some seasons allow for both reading and studying, and it’s great to do both each day if you can. With the friend’s letter I mentioned earlier, we usually read the whole thing once or twice and then go back over it section by section. That’s good to do with a Bible passage as well. But it’s hard enough some days to get a few minutes to read the Bible at all. How can we possibly employ both reading and studying?

Here are some ideas:

Take turns. Often after I’ve finished a book of the Bible, I’ve taken a break to do a shorter study. Then I go back to the next book of the Bible.

Alternate days. Use a few days of the week for general reading, the others for more focused study.

Do the opposite of your church. For several years we were under a pastor who took a very detailed, thorough approach to preaching through a book of the Bible at a time. It took us years to get through Romans. But that was great, because then we knew it well. Since the preaching I heard was the in-depth, verse or two at a time style, my personal reading was more general. By contrast, when in other churches where the preaching covered more ground, I liked to do in-depth studies on my own.

Join a Bible study group. Bible studies tend to be slower and more focused (unless they’re topical), so I did in-depth study for the group and more general study on my own.

Adjust as needs arise. Once, chagrined and ashamed after an angry outburst, I set aside my regular Bible reading to look up and mediate on passages dealing with anger. That kind of thing has happened several times: an issue came up that I had to study out now.

Slow down and speed up as you feel led. In reading the Bible through, if I feel the need to put the breaks on in a certain passage and camp out for a while, I do so. Then I’ll pick up the pace for more general reading later.

There are going to be days when your regular routine flies out the window: illness, traveling, company, emergencies. God gives grace for those. I have a small devotional book called Daily Light on the Daily Path that is a few verses on a certain theme each day. Usually I use it to start my devotions, but some days that’s all I get to.

There are going to be seasons in life when finding time for quiet study is nearly impossible, like when young children are in the house. Just like we sometimes grab a protein bar instead of having a sit-down lunch, so our spiritual feeding sometimes has to be grab-and-go rather than a leisurely meal. When I truly only had time for a verse or two, God fed my soul with just those verses. Anything is better than nothing. One writer proposed a micronutrient Bible reading plan for those times.

We need to keep in mind the goal for reading the Bible isn’t just to get through it in a specified time. Instead, we read to learn it, learn from it, get to know God and His Word better.

Our current church has us read through a book of the Bible together. We’re asked to read five chapters of the Bible a week, one a day Monday-Friday with Saturdays to catch up. Then the preaching focuses on a short passage of a different book. Then we all learn a verse each month. So we incorporate the general overview reading, have a more in-depth study of a short passage, and spend a longer time meditating on one verse. That’s not a bad practice for one’s personal reading as well.

What ways have you find to incorporate both reading and studying the Bible? Do you tend toward one more than the other?

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Global Blogging, Hearth and Soul, Senior Salon, Purposeful Faith, Happy Now, Tell His Story, InstaEncouragement,
Recharge Wednesday, Worth Beyond Rubies, Share a Link Wednesday,
Let’s Have Coffee, Heart Encouragement, Grace and Truth, Faith on Fire,
Blogger Voices Network)

Laudable Linkage

IMG_0195

Here are a few of the good reads found in the last couple of weeks:

Humbly Coming Before Our Father, HT to Challies. “Although most people, even many professing Christians, believe that everyone is a child of God in a spiritual way, the word of God is undeniably clear that only those who are united to the Son by faith are the adopted children of God.”

Are You Following a Bootstrap Gospel? “The bootstrap gospel is good, and sometimes is even full of things that we need to hear, but it’s not enough. We need the real gospel to truly change our lives.”

A New Year’s Resolution Worth Keeping. “All living things need constant care, including faith. No one brushes her teeth and says, ‘Done, I never have to do that again!’ So it is with faith. Moment by moment, opportunity by opportunity, we must choose to walk by faith, or, by default, we defer to sight.”

Church kids and Church Shootings. “For times like these, for the church shooter days and the monster under the bed nights, for the why did this have to happen conversations, there is only one source of wisdom and truth, and our kids are counting on us to be able to offer the real answers and real promises of our good God.”

Is Your Church Worship More Pagan than Christian? HT to Proclaim and Defend. “Scripture is full of exhortations to God’s people to sing and make music to the Lord. Our God has been gracious to give us this means to worship Him. But it is important to understand that music in our worship is for two specific purposes: to honor God and to edify our fellow believers. Unfortunately, many Christians tend to grant music a sacramental power which Scripture never bestows upon it.”

Laughing at the Days to Come. The Proverbs 3 woman, instead of fearing the future, “laughs at the days to come.” “The woman who laughs at the days to come, however, does not live a life governed by the fearful question, ‘What if?’ Rather, she calmly and confidently approaches the unknown with the words, ‘Even if.'”

Courageous: Inspiring Courage Through Classic Literature. “Stories feed our children’s minds and spirits the same way food feeds their bodies. I want my children to feast on books with characters who point them to hope, who are brave and honest and kind.”

And finally, this is one way to help people wake up and pay attention to the flight safety information:

Happy Saturday!