5x5x5 Reading Plan – Thessalonians

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Dear 5x5x5 Bible Readers,

The last few chapters of the Gospel of John told the story of Jesus’ appearances to the disciples after His resurrection.  It’s interesting that our reading plan then moves to the letters to the Thessalonians, a church that was afraid perhaps they had missed the second coming of Jesus.

When Paul visited Thessalonica (in modern Greece) in about 49AD many came to faith in Jesus, but there was also a riot and he had to escape in the night.  (Read about it in Acts 17.)  Paul’s first letter to Thessalonians is one of the earliest letters he wrote, just a year or two after his visit that launched the church.  In the letters we see Paul’s warm pastoral heart for this young church.  He is excited for their genuine faith, and he longs to see them again.  Paul writes less about doctrine in these letters, and much more about what faith looks like, how to live, enduring persecution, and having hope.  These themes continue into 2 Thessalonians, though Paul is not quite as warm in tone.

“Never tire of doing what is right.” 2 Thess. 3:13

The end of the year is quickly approaching, and we have only 2 Peter and Revelation left to read!  Congratulations, and hang in there!

365 Challenge – Job

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Dear 365 Readers,

We start the book of Job this weekend – the tale of very bad things happening to a good person.  Chronologically speaking, the story of Job probably fits in the time period of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob).  It’s a challenging story as we watch Job suffer and cycle through the stages of grief.  Sooner or later we all find ourselves in a position a little like Job’s, when the world seems to crumble and nothing makes sense anymore.  We cry, are angry, and wait for God to answer.  For his part, Job struggled to do what seemed impossible, to keep believing in a loving God in spite of his pain.

How to read Job.  It’s easy to get lost in the poetry of Job but here is what first-time readers need to remember:  The complete story-line is found in chapters 1-2 (the beginning) and 42 (the end).  Everything in the middle is a series of speeches by Job, his friends, and God.  It’s like reading a courtroom drama.  I strongly encourage you to go ahead and read chapter 42 now because in it you will discover that God did not like what Job’s friends had to say and their theology was a bit off.  You must remember that as you read their speeches, not everything they have to say is true or correct regarding God and his ways.

As you read, don’t miss what we learn about the sovereignty of God and His character, especially in chapters 1,2, and 38-41.

The Wheel

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I shared with the ladies at The River this week “The Wheel” – a wonderful visual illustration of the Christian disciplines necessary for a believer’s growth.  It’s a great point of reference and teaching tool!

If you are a Christian and have surrendered your life to Jesus Christ, then the next area of concern is what kind of progress are you making in establishing basic spiritual disciplines?

What are “the basics” of the Christian life?  These are disciplines that growing Christians maintain and that we desire to help others establish in their lives.

Wheel

  1. Christ the Center, “Lordship”. The hub of the wheel is Jesus Christ, He is at the center of a Christian’s life. Discuss – is Christ really Lord of all your life, are there areas you struggle to give Him control over? 2 Cor 5:17, Gal 2:20
  2. Word. One spoke of our relationship with God. Discuss – why to read, what to read, quiet times, daily Bible reading, learning to journal, how to do research, etc. Learn to hear it, read it, study it, memorize it, and meditate on it. 2 Tim 3:16, Joshua 1:8
  3. Prayer. The other spoke of our relationship with God. Discuss – why we pray, how we pray, what has God promised about praying, etc. Learn to pray more regularly and fervently, maybe keep a journal. John 15:7, Phil 4:6-7
  4. Fellowship. The spoke representing our relationship with other Christians. Discuss – do you spend time with other Christians, why we need other Christians, the role of the church, ways to stay involved and build friendships. Heb 10:24-25, Prov 13:20
  5. Witnessing. The spoke representing our relationship with nonbelievers. Discuss – the witness of our lives, why witness, how to witness. Learn write a testimony, learn an evangelism illustration, reach out to those she knows. Matt 4:19, Romans 1:16
  6. Obedience. The rim of the wheel, the most visible product of a growing Christian’s life. Discuss – why obey, what to obey, areas of struggle or disobedience. Romans 12:1, John 14:21

Adapted from Walt Henrichsen’s book Disciples are Made Not Born, chapter 8.

Quiet Times #3 – Why We Journal

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So now you’ve picked your quiet time spot – mine is a black and white chair in the bedroom – set yourQTBasket alarm for earlier, and started reading your Bible every morning.  In the basket next to my chair I keep my Bible, pens, colored pencils (don’t bleed through the pages), sticky notes (reminders for later), and my journal.

Why do we journal?  Isn’t that a habit you left behind in 4th grade?

We journal for at least three reasons:

(1) Self discipline.  Every day you read, every day you write. Just pen a couple of lines about what you read.  Don’t write a novel, you’ll never finish your quiet time.  You might note the chapter number and what topics or stories were in the that chapter.  If you’re pursuing a question like “How does this passage reveal the character of God?” then you might jot a few notes about that.  If a verse jumps out at you, write it out.  If there’s something you don’t understand, note the verse number and put a big question mark.  (Then when you have time later ask someone else what that verse meant, or go look it up in a commentary.)

(2) Reflection and Release.  One day recently I sat down for my quiet time but, honestly, I was too mad to think about reading Ecclesiastes.  So I made a list in my journal instead titled “Why I am So Grumpy Today”.  It’s kind of funny when I look back at it two weeks later, but it was a useful exercise.  By making the list I got a lot of the angst off my chest.  I also was able to reflect on how significant (or insignificant!) some of my issues were.  I gained perspective.  I turned that list into my prayer – and I told God that I wasn’t going to carry all those rocks around with me all day!  I think I made some progress.

(3) To See Patterns and Progress.  Since January I have read Luke, 1 & 2 Samuel, and Ecclesiastes.  All my notes are in my journal.  My sermon notes are there too (taking notes helps me pay attention in church… fight the ADHD tendencies!).  I am learning things and I can look back and see it.  That’s really encouraging.

Also, did you ever notice that when God wants to address an issue with you it crops up everywhere?!  Whatever topic is on His mind – and He wants me to pay attention to – keeps reappearing in my quiet time reading, in sermon series, in articles I read online, and in other books I’m reading.  God is amazing at choreographing life input so that I will get the message!  You can see this pattern if you are journaling.

Try journaling!  It’s an excellent discipline and will contribute to your spiritual growth, if you’re willing.

 

Quiet Times #1 – Pick Your Time and Place

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1. Get a Good Night’s SleepAlarmClock

You have to turn off the T.V., get off your computer or your ipad, hang up the phone, put down that book and go to bed at a decent hour! A rested person is better able to stay awake and to hear God speak through His Word.

2. Choose to Get Up

When the alarm goes off in the morning, DO NOT hit snooze!  If you have kids, then you already know that it’s only quiet before they get up.  Quiet times usually do not happen after the kids are awake (unless you are lucky and they still nap!)

3. Pick a Regular Spot and Time

Find a comfortable, quiet place that preferably is not your bed! Choose the time of day that’s best suited for you to start a regular habit of reading and praying (ideally – in the morning before your day starts). Have a pen, marker, and pad or journal on hand to write down any prayer concerns, questions, thoughts, summary of the passage, etc.

4. Read the Actual Bible

Devotional readings are nice and can augment your time in the Word, but don’t let a devotional reading replace actually reading through the Bible.  The whole Bible is the spiritual food God intended for your soul and mind to receive. Devotional books are more like snacks.  (Suggestion: start reading through the short books of the Bible first in order to gain some momentum)

5. Just Download the Files!

The Bible is the Software you need to download onto the hard drive, which is your mind. Don’t quit because you don’t understand everything in your Download. Just keep reading! The Holy Spirit, who is your Operating System, knows what to do with the Word of God even if you don’t yet!  Also, you can get some help from another believer, or a good commentary.

6. Make Your Time Enjoyable

See your quiet time as a date with Jesus. He wants to spend time with you, and He wants you to want to spend time with Him. (Suggestion: have a cup of coffee or tea while reading in your favorite chair or part of the house)

7. Avoid the “Tyranny of the Urgent”

Have a separate pad of paper (or Post It Notes!) available to write down random thoughts and things-to-do that pop into your mind. Tell Satan thanks for the reminder and that you’ll be sure to take care of all those things just as soon as you’re done spending some time with Jesus.

8. Get Accountability

Meet with someone weekly or bi-weekly to share with each other where you’re reading in the Bible, what you’re getting out of your quiet times, and pray for each other.

Wake Up! (My One Thing)

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“Wake Up!!”

God has a way of making His message clear.

I talked about The One Thing in my previous post – challenging you to listen to God and do the One Thing He was asking of you in this next year.

My One Thing, the thing God put on my heart, was to get up earlier every day and pray more.  AlarmClock

I need to pray more consistently, to pray with better content, and greater concentration.  Mind you, I already get up 30 minutes before my kids… I make my coffee and sit down to work on my Read Thru The Bible plan.  But by time I am awake, my coffee is cool enough to drink, and I’ve made it through 3 chapters of Jeremiah… there really isn’t much time to pray.  At least, not to really get down on your knees and pray in a concentrated manner.

I told God I would do it on Wednesday night.  Then it was Sunday morning and I still hadn’t started.

Sunday afternoon I picked up Anne Graham Lotz’s book The Magnificent Obsession and on page 55 I read this:

“God commanded me to repent of my shallowness, I asked Him How?  His answer was so practical and simple… Wake up!!  I was to literally wake up by setting my alarm earlier than I would otherwise need to and spend time with Him before my day began and my household stirred.”

Well, my goodness!  She got the same instructions as me!

So Monday morning I got up earlier.  I hugged my hot coffee cup and this is what I read:

“And I spoke to you, rising up early and speaking, but you did not hear and I called to you but you did not answer.” – Jeremiah 7:13 (NASB)

“I have sent you (Judah) all My servants and prophets, daily rising up early and sending them…” – Jeremiah 7:25 (NASB)

Three times this week God has made this clear to me – making extra time to meet with Him in the morning is important.  Apparently early is (at least one time) when God speaks, when God calls to us, and when He sends His servants and prophets out to do their work for the day.

I need to keep getting up early so I don’t miss anything!

“It is better to be sleep deprived than God deprived.” – Anne Graham Lotz

We Can Do Hard Things! Like Read Thru the Bible…

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According to recent statistics, 80% of church goers do not read their Bible on a daily basis, and less than 10% of professing Christians have ever read through the entire Bible.  Yet, the average household has 4.4 bibles within reach at all times.  12 months from now, which statistic will you belong to???

I am very excited for all my friends at St. Andrew Baptist Church!  They have just started a church-wide read through the Bible in a year plan!

I LOVE it when ever a community raises its expectations – and communicates to its members that God expects us to read, study, grow, Justdoitand BE CHANGED!  It is not God’s desire that we remain infants in Christ, blown and tossed by the winds of changing doctrine and the trials of life.  It is His expectation and great hope that we would grow, be rooted, stand firm, and BEAR FRUIT!  God will not love you any less if you remain an infant in your faith, but you will be missing out – and tough times will really rock your world.  CHOOSE TO GO DEEPER!  Pray God would give you a hunger for His Word, and set your alarm 15 minutes earlier.  It is a habit that will change your life.

Are you ready to start today?  Download the chronological, Bible in a year plan, with 6 days of reading each week here:  i want to know my bible reading plan

For all my fellow techies, if you have the YouVersion Bible app installed on your phone, go to “Plans” and locate the “Reading God’s Story: One-Year Chronological Plan” by Dr. George Guthrie. It appears to be the same plan as the one in print version above. I’ve been using YouVersion as my personal Bible study / quiet time tool for a while now and really love it. Once you select a plan, you can set reminders and even have it email you the daily Bible reading each day. You can find the YouVersion App through the Apple App Store on your phone or iPad, in Google Play, or here is there website: https://www.youversion.com/ — Thanks, John Drummond!

Will you do it?  If I run into you and ask you what you read this morning – what will you say?