2017: Why Read through the Bible in a Year? + FREE Devotional

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Why read through the Bible in a year? - 2017: Why read through the Bible in a year? Could it put you in the path of Jesus in a new way? How can you stay on track if you've tried and quit before?

 

Why Read through the Bible in a Year?

 

Before you know it the New Year will be here. I hope your New Year’s plans include reading through the Bible in a year in 2017. Reading, studying, meditating on and obeying God’s Word should be our lifelong adventure.

No matter how much you have gotten out of your reading in the Scriptures this year, you will get abundantly more during the next and the next and the next!

bible studyWhat about reading through the Bible with a friend or a co-worker? The world around us is literally perishing—our society has lost its moral foundation, individuals are dying and going into an eternity where they will be separated from God forever, marriages are falling apart, children are suffering, and so much more … and we have the answers … but we must do the work of growing and learning and sharing them with others!

Even people who don’t go to church will often respond positively to the question, “Would you like to learn more about the Bible with me?”

Prayerfully consider signing up for the “Bible in a Year” devotionals. They will pop up in your inbox daily as a gentle reminder to stay in His Word. And call or text a friend and challenge him or her to sign up with you!

 

What if … you thought about reading through the Bible, but just never did?

 

What if … you tried before and failed? 

 

If you have tried before and failed, that’s OK! I tried numerous times before I got all the way through without falling behind and, eventually, quitting.

But why not make it your goal for 2017? It’s worth the effort. But it won’t happen unless you make a plan and get started.

 

So … why should you read through the Bible in a year?

 

You don’t have to be a believer for long to realize that God’s truth often clashes with the world’s interpretation of truth, whether it’s theology and science, the source of true wisdom, how we view God, or how to face the increasingly dangerous world we live in. Each of us has to decide, “What will be my source of truth?” Jesus said, the “Word is truth” (Jn. 17.17).

And let me share with you some thoughts from Donald Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.”

In the opening chapter Whitney outlines three ways that God grows us spiritually. The first is through people. God uses our friends and family, our co-workers, our pastors and teachers, parents and children, and even our enemies to grow us.

“As iron sharpens iron,
So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (Prov. 27.17).

The second is through circumstances: financial problems, relational problems, world events, natural phenomenon like the weather, sickness, and all kinds of tests and trials.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to beconformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren”(Rom. 8.28-29).

The third is through the spiritual disciplines like Bible intake, prayer, fasting, service, worship, journaling and others. Whitney uses the stories of the blind beggar Bartimaeus (Lk. 18.35-42) and the tax collector Zacchaeus (Lk. 19.1-10) to explain the importance of the spiritual disciplines.

When he heard that Jesus was approaching, Bartimaeus, over the objections of others in the crowd, cried out repeatedly for Jesus to have mercy on him. And Zacchaeus, a wealthy but short tax collector, climbed up into a sycamore tree just to get a glimpse of Him. Both of them, unashamedly, placed themselves in the His path. And in both cases Jesus stopped and responded to their desire for an encounter with Him.  Continue reading

“How Blameshifting Leads to Despair” December 2

 

How Blameshifting Leads to Despair

 

Blameshifting … believing we are merely the victim of chance, circumstances, biology, or the actions of others can lead to hopelessness and despair. How can we help others and ourselves respond in ways that are pleasing to God and lead to peace, joy, blessings, and genuine life change?

Also read about Daniel’s incredible prophecies, the challenges of praising God in the midst of life in a fallen world, and see another example of how the Old Testament and the New fit together on one story … God’s story.

 

Today’s Readings:
Daniel 7 & 8
Psalm 137.1-6
Proverbs 29.14
2 Peter 3.1-18

 

How Blameshifting Leads to Despair

 

Proverbs 29.14:

Provision Not Entitlement

 

“If a king faithfully judges the poor, his throne will be established forever.”

Faithful leaders are those who judge fairly. They don’t allow the poor to be taken advantage of because of their poverty, but neither do they make special allowances for them because of it.

Notice I said allowances not provision. The Bible clearly talks about providing for the genuinely poor. Farmers were to leave behind some of their produce so the poor could gather it. If you read the book of Ruth you see a beautiful picture of this. And other passages in Proverbs and elsewhere clearly say that we should have compassion on the poor (Prov.14.21, 31, 19.17, 21.13 and others).

I would love to expand on that idea of the “genuinely poor,” but that will have to be the subject of another post. Suffice it to say that we have allowed an entitlement attitude to take root in our nation that has hurt people more than helped them.

 

Blameshifting & Finger Pointing

 

finger pointingBut the other issue is making special provision, really excusing sinful behavior, because of poverty. Consequently, blameshifting and finger-pointing are at an all-time high. No one wants to take responsibility for his or her own actions.

Girls aren’t responsible for sexual misbehavior because their fathers “weren’t there for them.” I’m not saying it doesn’t influence behavior, but it doesn’t determine it. A bad or absent father may be a stumbling block or make it easier for his daughter to sin in that way, but she can still choose to do what’s right and is responsible for her choice.

Teenage Boy gangYoung people aren’t to blame for getting involved with gangs because they “just want to belong.” Single moms and poverty are to blame instead. Again it’s true that the breakdown of the family has contributed greatly to the condition of our culture, but as individuals, we are responsible to make wise and right choices.

Even a child is known by his deeds, whether what he does is pure and right (Prov. 20.11).

Thieves are not to blame for their actions. Poverty and a lack of education are to blame.

Drunkards are not responsible for bad behavior and fatalities. They have a disease, alcoholism, and lawyers stand ready to defend them.  Continue reading

“Handwriting on the Wall: The Party’s Over!” December 1

 

Handwriting on the Wall: the Party's Over! - Handwriting on the wall: Can you imagine the scene at the company Christmas party if a disjointed man’s hand suddenly appeared and began to write on the wall? That was the scene at Belshazzar’s bash! God was letting him know "the party's over"! What does that mean for our nation and the culture we live in?Handwriting on the wall: Can you imagine the scene at the company Christmas party if a disjointed man’s hand suddenly appeared and began to write on the wall? That was the scene at Belshazzar’s bash! God was letting him know “the party’s over”!

What does that mean for our nation and the culture we live in?

God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13.8). God has been patient and merciful with us, but He will judge our nation as a whole. In fact, the free fall in morality probably means that judgment is well under way (Rom. 1.18-32).

And on an individual basis, that judgment will happen, as well. Each of us will stand before one of two judgments (2 Cor. 5.10; Rev, 20.11) and give an account. The biggest questions will be: How did we respond to the gospel and was Jesus truly Lord of our lives?

Our New Testament reading warns us of judgment against false teachers whose biggest lies revolve around Jesus. Among other lies, cults, false religions and false teachers always deny His deity, His virgin birth, His eternal nature, His Lordship, or some other characteristic of His nature.

Peter also warns us against believing and following false teachers.

“But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed” (2 Pet. 2.1-2).

 

Today’s Readings:
Daniel 5 & 6
Psalm 136.10-26
Proverbs 29.12-13
2 Peter 2.1-22

 

Handwriting on the Wall: the Party’s Over!

 

Daniel 5 & 6:

The Word of God: His Handwriting to Us All

 

Every chapter of Daniel is packed with excitement greater than any action movie. Can you imagine the scene at your company Christmas party if a disjointed man’s hand suddenly appeared and began to write on the wall? That was the scene at Belshazzar’s bash!

Belshazzar had thrown a huge party for his lords, wives, and concubines? (Ladies, how would you like it if your husband brought a few of his mistresses to your next party?)

Besides the drunkenness and immorality, he had the arrogance to bring out the temple instruments and drink from them. God used this party with all these people present to let Belshazzar know that the party was over!

He thought he was safe inside his castle and his city walls and was free to live any way he pleased. History tells us that very night his kingdom fell to the Medes and Persians and Belshazzar was killed.

Sadly, it will be much the same when Jesus comes back. People will be eating and drinking and living life as they please.

And it is already happening on an individual level every day just like the parable Jesus told in Luke 12:  Continue reading

“Is the Bible enough in a complex world?” November 30

 

Is the Bible enough in today's complex world?

 

Is the Bible enough to help us live life in our complex world? Is it enough when we’re faced with difficult issues like abuse, neglect, addiction, and sickness? What does it mean when we say God’s Word is inerrant and sufficient and what does it have to do with you and the problems you face?

Also read about how God spared His servants from a fiery furnace, how He caused a prideful man to live like a brute animal, how He removes power from kings and leaders and gives it to whomever He wills, and how a fool allows his emotions to rule him.

 

Today’s Readings:
Daniel 3 & 4
Psalm 136.1-9
Proverbs 29.11
2 Peter 1.1-21

 

Is the Bible enough in a complex world?

 

2 Peter 1.1-21:

God-Breathed & Sufficient

 

The Bible isn’t just a book about God. It is inspired by God, literally, God-breathed (2 Tim. 3.16).

We’re told in verse 21:

“for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”

Charles Ryrie in his book Basic Theology says this about verse 21:

This verse tells us as much as any single verse how God used the human writers to produce the Bible. The Holy Spirit moved or bore them along. The use of the same verb in Acts 27:15 illuminates our understanding of what is meant by “bearing” or “moving” the human writers. Just before the ship that was taking Paul to Rome was wrecked on the Island of Malta, it ran into a fierce storm. Though experienced men, the sailors could not guide it, so they finally had to let the wind take the ship wherever it blew. In the same manner as that ship was driven, directed, or carried about by the wind, God directed and moved the human writers He used to produce the books of the Bible.¹

So while God used men to pen the Scriptures, it was the Holy Spirit who moved or carried them along causing them to write exactly what He desired, without error.

So is the Bible enough to teach us how to live in our complex world or do we need to add something to it?

Let’s look at verses 3-4:

“as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (vv. 3-4).

God’s Word contains everything we need for “life and godliness.” It gives us all we need to live life in a fallen world, with sin-cursed bodies, and among other sinners.

 

The Doctrine of the Sufficiency of Scripture

 

The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture is a fundamental tenet of the Christian faith. It means that not only is God’s Word inspired and inerrant, it is also sufficient for all the issues of life. We don’t need to add man’s wisdom to it.

When Paul told us in 2 Timothy that God’s Word is God-breathed, he went on to say it is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3.16-17).

But today we’re told, perhaps not in so many words, but by inference, that the Bible is not enough. Rather than looking to God’s Word for help to solve problems, overcome the past, and deal with life dominating sins, believers are often referred to psychologists and counselors who use worldly philosophies and unbiblical therapies.

Rather than calling drunkards and the sexually immoral to repentance, they are told they have a disease or they can’t help the way God made them. Victims are told that what happened to them explains all their problems, instead of helping them understand their own sinful responses, the sovereignty of God, and the freedom that comes from walking in forgiveness and grace.

Some might think I’m being overly simplistic or unrealistic.  Continue reading

“Struggling to Trust God?” November 29

 

Struggling to Trust God? - Is there some area of life where you're struggling to trust God? Do you find yourself impatient because God has failed to answer your prayer or change your circumstances? Do you wonder, "Why me?"Is there some area of life where you’re struggling to trust God? Do you find yourself impatient because God has failed to answer your prayer or change your circumstances? Do you wonder, “Why me?”

 

Today’s Readings:
Daniel 1 & 2
Psalm 135.15-21
Proverbs 29.10
1 Peter 5.1-14

 

We’ve finished another O.T. book (Ezekiel) and will finish 1 Peter today. We’re closing in on the end of the year! What has God shown you as you’re read through the Word? I’d love to get your input.

 

Struggling to Trust God?

 

Daniel 1 & 2:

When Struggling to Trust God

 

Daniel was a contemporary of Ezekiel, so this book backs up to the beginning of the Babylonian conquest when Daniel was kidnapped and taken to Babylon along with other intelligent, handsome young men. They were to be brain-washed through education and exposure to rich-living so they would be useful to the leadership in Babylon, possibly to help with the other Jews who would later be brought to Babylon in larger numbers.

Instead, because of his character, God would use him to influence two pagan kingdoms. Just as He did with Joseph, God would use Daniel’s personal circumstances to alter the course of history. And in it all, Daniel gave glory to God (2.28-30).

Daniel would face the temptation to compromise his beliefs (1.5-8, 6.6-7) and the threat of death (2.12-13, 6.6-7). Yet he stayed faithful to God. He didn’t rely on his own devices, but prayed continually for God’s wisdom and help (6.10).

What a great example of God using “all things,” even an unsaved king and unfair, undeserved circumstances, for good (Rom. 8.28).

whispering gossipBut what about your life and your difficulties? Has someone sinned against you in grievous ways? Are you struggling to trust God in your life?

If you’re a believer, God’s promises are true for you, too! He has not allowed anything in your life that He cannot use for your good and His glory. Others may have meant it for evil, but God means it for good (Gen. 50.20).

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Psalm 135.15-21:

God & God Alone

 

Daniel understood what the psalmist said in these verses, that heathen gods have no power—that God and God alone is to be praised, worshiped and feared.  Continue reading

“The Fullness of Scripture … Wade In!” November 28

 

The Fullness of Scripture ... Wade In! - The river flowing out of the Millennial Temple represents the fullness of Scripture. Some things are “ankle deep”—easy to understand. Others are knee deep and require more study. Others are deeper still and we may not be able to understand them fully. Even so, God wants us to "wade in" so we can grow in our understanding of Him and His Word. Also read about "The 4 Attitudes to have in the Midst of Trials & Persecution" and "The Futility of Arguing with a Fool."The river flowing out of the Millennial Temple represents the fullness of Scripture. Some things are “ankle deep”—easy to understand. Others are knee deep and require more study. Others are deeper still and we may not be able to understand them fully. Even so, God wants us to “wade in” so we can grow in our understanding of Him and His Word.

Also read about “The 4 Attitudes to have in the Midst of Trials & Persecution” and “The Futility of Arguing with a Fool.”

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 47 & 48
Psalm 135.8-14
Proverbs 29.9
1 Peter 4.1-19

 

The Fullness of Scripture … Wade In!

 

Ezekiel 47 & 48:

Christ, the Gospel & Living Water

 

These two chapters close out the book of Ezekiel. Chapter 47 describes a river flowing out of the temple. Symbolically the Temple is Christ and the river is the Gospel. The Living Water flows from Him and blesses everything it touches.

In the deepness of the water we see the fullness of Scripture. While in some places it’s ankle deep, in other places knee deep, and in other places even deeper, God wants us to wade in.

As Paul told Timothy:

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (2 Tim. 2.15).

The fact that we won’t understand everything about God in this life (2 Pet. 3.14-16), is all the more reason to worship Him. A god we could understand fully wouldn’t be God at all!

Why not “wade in” to Scripture in the coming year by signing up for the “BIBLE IN A YEAR” devotionals?

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Psalm 135.8-14:

No Power of Hell or Earth …

 

In this psalm of praise to God for creation and redemption it says:

He destroyed the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and beast. He sent signs and wonders, defeated many nations, slew mighty kings and all the kingdoms of Canaan, and gave their land as a heritage to Israel His people. Verses 13-14: 

Continue reading

Blended Families Part 13: Differences Between Households + LINKUP

 

blended-16

Blended Families Part 13: Differences Between Households

 

If you missed last week’s post on the importance of seeking forgiveness for your part in any conflict, I would encourage you to read it. It’s so important that we do our part to live at peace with everyone, including our ex-spouses.

This week in “Blended Families Part 13: Differences Between Households,” we’ll look at how to deal with the different rules and expectations between your house and that of your ex. We’ll also talk about how God can use it all for good.

Click here for previous posts in this series.

 

Different Rules & Expectations

 

Struggles over different rules and expectations from one household to another are some of the biggest and most frequent problems blended families and single divorced families face. If you’ve been divorced for any length of time, you’ve probably faced challenges in this area.

While parents may feel very strongly about their own rules, differences are not necessarily sinful, or even wrong, they are just different. If something is clearly immoral or illegal, you should involve the proper authorities. Otherwise, you should seek to accept one another’s differences.

Surprisingly, children can adjust to differing sets of rules. And since Philippians 2.3-4 says that we are to prefer others rather than ourselves, it’s wrong to insist that our rules be followed at the other parent’s home.

 

So on a practical level, how do you deal with differences in a God-honoring way?

 

Suppose you ask you son to turn off the TV and do his homework and he responds, “Dad lets me watch TV first.” You can just gently and firmly say, “That’s at dad’s house, now turn off the TV and do your homework.” No commentary needed.

Your ability to do it in a way that glorifies God will depend on your thinking. If you immediately think, “I can’t believe my ex is that irresponsible!” or “Why doesn’t he respect my rules?” it will show up in your attitude both with your son and your ex.

1 Corinthians 13.7 says, “love believes all things.” It might be better translated “love believes the best.” You can choose to believe the best about your ex. Watching TV first doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about your son’s homework, it just means he’s handling things differently.

We also have to learn to recognize the difference between our rules and God’s commandments. While you may think doing homework first is wiser, it’s your rule, not God’s commandment.  Continue reading

“Responding to an Unreasonable Spouse” November 27

 

Responding to an Unreasonable Spouse

Do you have an unreasonable or harsh spouse? Does God’s Word have anything to say about how you should respond? What about other difficult relationships? How should you respond to mistreatment, harshness or a lack of loving behavior?

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 45 & 46
Psalm 135.1-7
Proverbs 29.8
1 Peter 3.1-22

 

Responding to an Unreasonable Spouse

 

1 Peter 3.1-22:

In the Same Way … 

 

Here in chapter 3 Peter addresses the husband and wife relationship:

¹ Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.

Another translation says, “Wives, in the same way, be submissive to your own husbands …” In the same way as what?

To understand we need to look back at chapter 2, beginning in verse 13:

13 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— 16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.

Notice first that we do this “for the Lord’s sake” and one of the purposes is that “by doing good you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.”

Then Peter gives some examples of submission, beginning with servants:

18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.

Servants were to submit, not only to good masters, but to those who were harsh.

19 For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. 21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:

22 “Who committed no sin,
Nor was deceit found in His mouth”;

23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;

Christ was to be their example (and ours). He didn’t return reviling for reviling or threaten when he was suffering. Instead, He entrusted Himself to His Father.

Romans 12.19 says:

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 

When we’re mistreated, we need to leave the judgment and consequences to God. He is the only One who knows the hearts of the people involved and just how much judgment is due.

Before we go on, we need to remember that this was not originally written with chapter divisions, but was one continuous letter.

So Peter continues with another example, “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands …”

Likewise …. in the same way … as servants were to submit to masters, even those who were harsh, we wives are to submit to our husbands, even those who are harsh, who don’t obey the Word, or one translation says, those who are “unreasonable.”

Ladies, our behavior is to be respectful and God-honoring even with a husband who does not obey the Word, whether he is unsaved or a disobedient believer. And, like Jesus, we are to entrust ourselves to God and leave any necessary judgment to God.

And the purpose is the same, that “by doing good you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.” Or as chapter 3 says, “they might be won without a word by the behavior of their wives.”

But wives are not the only ones who are to submit. Verse 7:  Continue reading

“What do you crave?” November 26

 

What do you crave?

What do you crave? How does what you crave affect your relationship with God and your spiritual growth?

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 43 & 44
Psalm 134.1-3
Proverbs 29.7
1 Peter 2.1-25

 

What do you crave?

 

1 Peter 2.1-25:

As Newborn Babes …

 

milkVerse 2 says, “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.”

Anyone who has been around a newborn baby knows they crave milk and will let you know when they want more! John MacArthur (MacArthur Daily Bible) says, “Spiritual growth is always marked by a craving for and a delight in God’s Word.”

A baby who had no appetite for milk and refused to eat would soon be malnourished, even sick and we can’t grow spiritually without a steady intake of God’s Word. Neither will we grow in the quality of our relationship with God without getting to know Him, His attributes, His promises, and learning to recognize His voice.

Do you “delight” in God’s Word? Do you crave it like a baby craves milk? If not, pray and ask God to give you a hunger for His Word.

 

Responding to Persecution in an Ungodly Society

 

persecution prayerPeter was writing to believers who were suffering intense persecution in a very ungodly society! He was teaching them how to respond to persecution, mistreatment and the ungodliness of others.

He didn’t say, “Get mad, gossip, or rebel.” Neither did he say, “Act like everyone else” or “When in Rome do as the Romans do.” Instead he said in chapter 2:

11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. 13 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man …

We’re to submit … even to those who are harsh (v. 18):  Continue reading

“Are you ‘profiting’ from the Bible?” November 25

 

Are you "profiting" from the Bible?

What does Matthew Henry mean when he talks about “profiting from the Bible”?

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 41 & 42
Psalm 133.1-3
Proverbs 29.6
1 Peter 1.1-25

 

Are you profiting from the Bible?

 

Ezekiel 41 & 42:

Profiting from the Bible

 

In chapter 40, Ezekiel said:

¹ In the twenty-fifth year of our captivity, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was captured, on the very same day the hand of the Lord was upon me; and He took me there. In the visions of God He took me into the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain; on it toward the south was something like the structure of a city.

From outside the city, God took him to the outside of the temple and into the courts (Ezek 40.6-49) and then into the temple itself (Ezek. 41).

Matthew Henry in his Complete Commentary on the Bible, says about chapter 41, “After the prophet had observed the courts, he was brought to the temple. If we attend to instructions in the plainer parts of religion, and profit by them, we shall be led further into an acquaintance with the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.”

My paraphrase—if we are faithful to learn the basics of the Christian faith, God will take us deeper into the wonders of His Word.

But notice that second sentence in Henry’s comment, “If we attend to instruction … and profit by them …” If we are not applying what we already know, it is unlikely we will grow and understand more!

The writer of Hebrews said it this way:  Continue reading