5x5x5 Reading Plan – Acts

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Dear 5x5x5 Readers,

Congratulations, you made it through the book of Mark!  Studies show that it takes three weeks to establish a new habit, so I hope that by now you have a regular time and place for your reading and prayer time!  Personally, I sit in a big chair in my bedroom at 6 AM every morning, sipping on my coffee and taking a moment to read and pour out my heart to the Lord.

We start the book of Acts today.  Acts gives us the transition from the life of Christ to the new church.  It introduces Paul and explains how a minority religion crossed the sea to Rome, the capital of the ruling empire.  The reader of Acts will visit key cities sprinkled throughout the Mediterranean, meet the principle leaders of a new movement, and get a taste of the types of problems the will preoccupy early churches.

The book opens in Jerusalem, during the Pentecost holiday.  Jesus’ last recorded words on earth are in Acts 1:8 “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Acts faithfully follows this outline:  The first seven chapters show the church in Jerusalem, the next five chapters are in Judea and Samaria, and the remainder of the book follows the spread of the gospel to the outposts of the Roman empire.

In Acts you will meet Peter and Paul, read a series of 18 speeches, and encounter all kinds of exciting events like riots, prison breaks, and shipwrecks.  It reads like a novel, wherever the disciples went the action swirled.  If you can, try to link visits to each city with later letters written to the church in that city.  It’s interesting!

As you read Acts, try to create a character profile of the new church… What is it like?  What do its people do?  How are they strong?  Weak?  How are they like (or unlike) our church today?

5x5x5 Reading Plan Welcome

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[originally posted Jan 9, 2017]

Dear 5x5x5 Bible Readers,

Wow!  300+ people from our church body have committed to reading through the New Testament this year using the Discipleship Journal 5x5x5 plan.  (Also available on the You Version app.)  I am so excited to take this challenge together, you’ll have many people to talk to about what you’re reading!

Our reading plan starts in the gospel of Mark.  Mark was written to a non-Jewish audience and was a book for people who were not acquainted with Jesus or Christianity.  Mark’s goal is to introduce you to Jesus and the book is loosely chronological and reads easily like a newspaper.  Mark doesn’t quote the Old Testament much, never mentions the Law, and doesn’t record many speeches or parables.  Mark is more like a concisely edited documentary film script… It is full of action verbs like “at once” and “immediately” (42 times)… Mark’s characters are “amazed”, “astonished”, and “terrified”… He would have written in all caps with lots of exclamation points today!

I’d like to encourage you to Read regularly – but also to Reflect, Record, Respond, & Repeat (all the good R words from Sunday’s sermon!).

Sometimes it helps to read with a question in mind – In the book of Mark I am asking, “Who is Jesus?  What can I learn about his character, his power, his mission, and how he interacts with people?”

Five minutes a day – let the Word change your life!  Make a new habit!  Courage to you all.

 

Mindy’s Good Reads 2016

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One of my life-long goals is to read an average of one book a month… Unfortunately, I read less this year than I had hoped.  Here are the best books I read in 2016:

My Favorite NonFiction Book of the Year – Parables: The Mysteries of God’s Kingdom Revealed Through the Stories Jesus Told by John Macarthur, 2015. (kingdom of God and the parables)

Favorite Fiction Book of the Year – All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, 2014. (WW2 historical novel)

Others Worth Reading (alphabetical):

 Chasing Elephants: Wrestling with the Gray Areas of Life by Brent Crowe, 2010. (decision-making principles for areas where the Bible isn’t specific)

Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership Development by Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck, 2016. (discipleship and intentional leadership development)

Fervant: A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer by Priscilla Shirer, 2015. (intentional prayer)

Jesus Was an Airborne Ranger: Finding Your Purpose Following the Warrior Christ by John McDougall and Stu Weber, 2015.  (Ranger chaplain on Jesus’ mission and kingdom)

Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul by Bill Hybels, 2015. (life management)

Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges, 2008. (sovereignty and trust, class text)

Type Talk: The 16 Personality Types That Determine How We Live, Love, and Work by Otto Kroeger, 1989. (Myers Briggs type analysis in-depth)

You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving the Church by David Kinnaman, 2011. (why twentysomethings leave and how to bring them back)

Invisible Girls: A Memoir by Sarah Thebarge, 2014. (Ethiopian refugees in the USA)

Did you have a favorite this year?  Please comment and share – I love recommendations!

365 Challenge – Revelation

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Dear 365 Readers –

The end is near!  How fantastic that we are scheduled to start reading the book of Revelation on Christmas Day.  Revelation is a book of HOPE, a strong word of encouragement for its original recipients and for us today.  Revelation is a reminder that, no matter how things look, God is in charge of history and good will ultimately triumph!

The apostle John wrote Revelation approximately 60 years after Jesus left the earth.  Many questions troubled the church – Was Jesus coming back? Where had He gone? To do what? Why didn’t He return immediately?  After the fall of Jerusalem Christians were scattered throughout the Roman empire and many were persecuted and distressed.  Revelation gives them (and us) hope.

The symbolism in Revelation is complex, so much so that people today can rarely agree what it all means.  Readers tend to fall into two categories:  Some people think that many of the predictions in Revelation have not yet been fulfilled, and will be fulfilled sometime in the future.  (The Left Behind series interprets Revelation in this way.)  Others explain Revelation in terms of the first century, concluding that many events prophesied have already taken place during the time of the Roman empire.  In either case, the end of the story is the same – Jesus Christ will return triumphant over all the evil in the universe!  For this reason we have hope.

Merry Christmas to you all!  As we approach the new year I’ll send out our reading plan for 2017.

Cheers!  Mindy

365 Challenge – Epistles

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Dear 365 Readers,

As you have finished the book of Acts, you now have a historical framework for the spread of the gospel and the birth of churches throughout the Roman empire.  The remaining books of the New Testament are letters from various apostles and church leaders to these young, growing churches who needed encouragement and guidance on theology, congregation management, social issues, and a variety of other topics.  We start reading in Romans on Thanksgiving day (11/24).

Many of these letters to the churches, also called epistles, were written by Paul (Romans through Philemon).  Paul’s letters are typically split into two halves: the first is primarily doctrinal and often clarifies a theological misunderstanding a congregation was struggling with, the second half is usually very practical guidance on how to live like a Jesus follower in the first century environment.

Other epistles were written by James, Peter, and John and they each have their own writing style and favorite topics.  I will not be writing an introduction for you to each epistle… Instead, I would encourage you to pause for a moment at each new letter and figure out who is writing, who is the audience, and what is the historical context of this church (you can always check back in Acts for background information).

I will write again as we start Revelation on Christmas Eve!  Stay strong and in the Word, the end is in sight!

365 Challenge – Acts

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Dear 365 Readers,

The New Testament divides neatly into two nearly equal sections.  The first consists of four gospels that tell about Jesus’ life on earth.  The second, beginning with Romans, concerns the churches that sprang up after Jesus left.  In between stands the book of Acts. If you are reading the 365 Bible challenge with us, you started Acts this past weekend.

Acts gives us the transition from the life of Christ to the new church.  It introduces Paul and explains how a minority religion crossed the sea to Rome, the capital of the ruling empire.  The reader of Acts will visit key cities sprinkled throughout the Mediterranean, meet the principle leaders of a new movement, and get a taste of the types of problems the will preoccupy early churches.

The book opens in Jerusalem, during the Pentecost holiday.  Jesus’ last recorded words on earth are in Acts 1:8 “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Acts faithfully follows this outline:  The first seven chapters show the church in Jerusalem, the next five chapters are in Judea and Samaria, and the remainder of the book follows the spread of the gospel to the outposts of the Roman empire.  mapcitiesinacts

In Acts you will meet Peter and Paul, read a series of 18 speeches, and encounter all kinds of exciting events like riots, prison breaks, and shipwrecks.  It reads like a novel, wherever the disciples went the action swirled.  If you can, try to link visits to each city with later letters written to the church in that city.  It’s interesting!

365 Challenge – John

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Dear 365 Readers,

Tomorrow (11/1) we start in the book of John.  John’s gospel is entirely different than the other three we have read so far.  Remember this, John is not primarily interested in relating the events of Jesus’s life.  He presumes his readers are already familiar with Jesus.  John tells us nothing of the birth of Christ or his youth.  He is introduced as the adult Son of God.

Instead of narrating events, John is focused on explaining the profound meaning of what Jesus’ teachings and actions. John selected stories from approximately twenty days in Jesus’ life, and arranged them to reveal to us a Messiah with a mission.  John chose seven signs (or miracles) and built his story around them, explaining clearly the meaning and significance of each event.

As you read John, consider carefully who Jesus is talking to in each instance.  He treats each audience differently and it is worth noting if He’s talking to the disciples, his opponents, or a large crowd.  It’s best to read John in sections – follow the sectional headings in your Bible and read both the event and the commentary on the event as a unit.  John is telling each story for a reason.

Enjoy!