Of Love and Law

How dare you tell someone what they can and cannot do with their own body? How dare you tell someone that their desires are either acceptable or inappropriate. How dare you tell someone that what they feel deeply is not who they are? How dare you say to someone that their understanding of morality is wrong?

There is an answer to such questions: love. It is not hate; it is love. Love for the Lord and love for neighbor requires that those who follow the Lord tell the truth about issues that have society in a state of constant conflict.

Romans 13:8-10

8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

God commands us to love. In fact, as Paul writes under inspiration to the Roman church, he calls on the church to owe no debt at all except the debt of love. Jesus himself said that the second greatest commandment, the one just after loving God with everything you’ve got, is to love your neighbor as yourself.

Sadly, we have become a society that cannot receive any limitation as love. We have developed a cultural mindset that suggests that any criticism of any person’s internal desires or any questioning of a person’s internal “reality’ is considered hateful and harmful. But we must grasp that such thinking is not old but new, not based on objective truth but on internal feeling, and certainly not from God.

While society around us would say that the way to love a person is to accept anything they believe about themselves and anything they desire to do, the word of God equates loving them with the law of God. Paul summarizes the latter portion of the Ten Commandments with a simple call to love your neighbor as yourself. This means that God sees limiting human behavior, even calling people to oppose sinful desires, as love, not hate. God’s laws, God’s ways, God’s standards are tied to the love of God. While many among mankind bristle at this truth, God has never changed it to accommodate our inborn rebellion against him.

Love is the fulfillment of the law. But love is not the rejection of the standards of God in order to make a person feel better about themselves. No Christian can love another person and support them in actions or choices that lead to destruction. If it is true that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23), then an application of the standards of God to point out that sin and to turn people from it is loving. Of course, we know that no person is saved through obedience to the law (Rom 3:20), but this does not mean we ignore the word of God. Instead, we bring the word and ways of God to bear on a life to help others see their deep need for a Savior and to help them to do less harm to themselves in this life. We believe that the God who created us knows what will harm us even when we do not agree. And we know that the God who made us has provided the only possible Savior who can rescue all of us from our sins.

Christian friends, do not be ashamed of the word and the ways of God. Even if proclaiming the word of God puts us out-of-step with a culture that celebrates wickedness. Never be cruel. Never be hateful. Never be nasty. Just tell the truth like Jesus. Just lift up the words of God like Jesus. Just call people to repent and believe like Jesus called them to do. You owe others a debt to love your neighbor as yourself. You cannot fulfill that debt without the gospel. And you cannot fulfill that debt ignoring the law of God.

Of Scapegoats and the Reality of Sin

For most modern Americans, reading a text like Leviticus is strange. We see so much about sacrifices and offerings, food restrictions and dress codes. Many people shut down, finding the book impossible to navigate. Many believe they simply cannot relate.

But, before we shut down from such a text, perhaps it would do us good to look at some powerful things we can learn in the law. After all, God inspired and preserved this text for our own sanctification (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17), even when we are not required to practice these things any longer.

In Leviticus 16, we read of the scapegoat and the Day of Atonement. The Day of Atonement was a sacred day when the high priest would make sacrifices for his own sins and then for the sins of the people. He would use the blood of the slain animal to cleanse the tabernacle and later the temple in order that the Lord would continue to be present with his people, and the sacred objects would continue to be effective in the work they were made to do.

In the Day of Atonement, God commanded that two goats be brought forward and chosen at random for two different roles.

Leviticus 16:8-10

8 And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel. 9 And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the Lord and use it as a sin offering, 10 but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.

Here we see that two goats are brought before the high priest. Each of them has a role to pay an atoning for the sins of the nation and keeping them as a people in the favor of God. One goat will be a sacrifice. The other will be the scapegoat.

As a quick note, because I’m using the ESV, the word “Azazel” appears in this passage. Other translations use the word “scapegoat.” This difference is simply the ESV translators not translating an obscure word. Azazel probably refers to a terrifying and lonely wilderness place, a place where demons are thought to dwell. The goat sent to such a place is the scapegoat.

Leviticus 16:15

“Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat.

The goat that was the sacrifice is easy for us to understand. It is killed. The blood of the sacrifice then can be used to show that the price of death has been paid for the sins of the people. Sprinkling the blood on the tabernacle furniture indicates that the atonement of that death has been applied to the sacred objects so that they can continue to function.

But what about the scapegoat?

Leviticus 16:20-22

20 “And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. 21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. 22 The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness.

This second goat is brought to the priest and does not die. One might think this is showing the goats as opposites—one good and one bad. But this is not the case. The scapegoat has the sins of the people confessed over it, symbolically placed upon it. Then the goat is driven away from the people into the wilderness.

Now, all that history is fascinating. It is neat to know that this is how the people of Israel functioned on the Day of Atonement. But does this really say something to a Christian? After all, Jesus atoned for our sin. Unlike the high priest, Jesus did not need a sacrifice to be made for himself. Unlike the atonement offering, Jesus did not have to repeatedly make an offering. Jesus did this perfectly, once and for all. That is one of the key points of the book of Hebrews. So we do not go through this process anymore.

But consider for a moment the consequence of sin as we see it illustrated with the goats of Leviticus 16. Two things happen because of the sin of the people—death and exile. One goat is slaughtered, because the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). The other goat is driven away from the presence of God, because the Lord is holy and will not allow sin in his presence. Sin earns death. Sin drives people from their only hope for joy. And hell is the combination of both of these things. Hell is eternal death and eternal separation from any hope of life or joy.

When we see such things, two responses are appropriate. It is appropriate to see what is depicted here and understand the utter sinfulness of sin. We need to be a God-loving, sin-hating people. There is nothing about sin that is a small deal. While all of us are guilty of sin, this does not make its importance and impact any less. If sin kills us and drives us from God, we must learn to hate it.

Second, we should have incredible gratitude for the work of Jesus. Jesus came and did what we could never do. He came and played the role of the sacrifice and the scapegoat while on the cross. Jesus took the punishment of death and the pain of the wrath of God on our account. Jesus fully satisfied the wrath of God so that all who come to him may enter the presence of the Lord. Jesus makes it so that our failures which continue throughout our lives do not separate us from the love of God. Jesus made it so that, when God sees those who have come to him, God sees the record of Christ’s perfection clothing them in righteousness.

Yes, Levitical sacrifices seem strange in our world today. But if we look closely at them, we can find Jesus. We can find reason for gratitude. WE can find a call to sanctification. We can find life in the grace of the Savior.

Don’t Bow to Overthrown Gods

HEAR journaling is a method some of us at PRC use to help us to take a passage from our daily Bible reading and give it extra thought. Here is an example.

H – Highlight

Exodus 23:23-24

23 “When my angel goes before you and brings you to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, and I blot them out, 24 you shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces.

E – Explain

In this part of the law, God is spelling out for Israel in brief how they are to behave in keeping with the Ten Commandments as he moves them into their land. In this particular command, God warns the people against adopting the pagan religions of the nations they overthrow. Do not worship their idols. Do not take up their practices.

A – Apply

What grabs my heart is this: There is a tendency among people to see the victory of God and still desire to adopt the practices of enemies of God. On the surface, this is utter craziness. After all, this warning is for when God clearly drives out the inhabitants of the land. God will have shown his might over the false gods of the nations. Yet it is somehow part of who we are that we might still be tempted to turn to what God overthrew.

In life today, I see something similar. Christians are those who have seen god truly overthrow their sin. We have seen God grant us spiritual victory over the world and its ways. Yet many are the churches that are tempted to seek the approval of the world that Christ has overthrown. Many are the Christians who desire the approval of people who hate the Lord and who are, unless saved, objects of wrath as Ephesians 2:3 tells us.

A right application, then, would be for us to realize that Christ has overcome the world. Jesus is victorious. We do not want to then bring to ourselves the implements of worship from those Christ has overthrown. We do not want to adopt the sinful ways of the world. We do not want to bow down to try to gain the approval of the world. We want to rejoice in our King and his victory.

R – Respond

Lord, I pray that you will reshape my heart so that I have no desire for the things the world treasures. Let me not compromise for the approval of the world or for the dainties this life could offer. Let me instead rejoice that Christ is King.

What is revival?

From Steven Lawson’s commentary on Psalm 85:

On July 8, 1734, Jonathan Edwards stepped into the pulpit to preach his now famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Edwards had actually preached from the same text several times previously, as recently as one month earlier to his own congregation in Northampton, Massachusetts. But while the guest preacher in Enfield, Connecticut, he preached this sermon yet again; and the people in that New England church were deeply affected. Eleazer Wheelock, one of the leading preachers in the Great Awakening, said the people were “bowed down with an awful conviction of the sin and danger.” One man under deep conviction sprang up and cried, “Mr. Edwards, have mercy!” Others caught hold of the backs of the pews lest they should slip into the pit of hell. Many thought that the day of judgment had suddenly dawned on them. Still others were alarmed that God, while blessing others, should in anger pass them by.

Revival had come to New England, restoring God’s work among his people in colonial America, empowering them to do his will. What is revival? Literally, the word itself means a restoring back to fullness of life that which has become stagnant or dormant. It is a rekindling of spiritual life in individual believers and churches which have fallen into sluggish times. True revival always returns God’s people to a fresh and vivid emphasis on the holiness and righteousness of God, his judgment on sin, true repentance, and the overflowing effect of personal conversions to Christ. This sudden awareness of the overwhelming presence of God is the hallmark of any revival. It is a supernatural work of God in which he visits his people, restoring spiritual life to their hearts, as well as ushering salvation into many souls. Such a revival is always a sovereign work of God, in response to the prayers of his people, and it leaves a lasting mark on his work forever.

Historically speaking, revivals have always been marked by the same spiritual characteristics, and it would do believers well to reacquaint themselves with these benchmarks. Whether it be during the days of Ezra and Nehemiah in Old Testament times or the Reformation, Puritan age, and Great Awakening in church history, revivals have always demonstrated the same qualities. They are as follows:

  1. A proclamation of Scripture. Any period of revival has always been preceded by a dramatic return to the Word of God. Certainly, this was true in the revival at the Watergate under Ezra and Nehemiah (Neh. 8:8). The centrality of the Scripture in any revival is undisputed. “Preserve my life according to your word” (Ps. 119:37). And this clearly was the dynamic of the early church in Jerusalem which exploded on the scene as “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42). The same was true in the days of Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, and George Whitefield. There was a return to the divine revelation of Scripture being read, studied, taught, and preached.
  1. An intercession with God. A genuine spiritual awakening is further marked as a time in which God’s people humble themselves and seek the Lord in unceasing prayer. It is a new season of petitioning God, seeking his face, and asking him to revive his people and restore his work. While all revivals are sent by the sovereign initiative of God, nevertheless, prayer is always the forerunner of his people. It was this way in the early church as they regularly met together to pray (Acts 1:13–14; 2:42; 3:1).
  1. A confession of sin. True revival ushers in a deep conviction of personal sin, a confessing of sin, and a turning away from sin. This means that sin made known must go. Iniquities are revealed by the Word, and hearts are broken with deep contrition. Sin is put away. This is precisely what happened in Ezra’s day as the people confessed their sin to God, while openly grieving that they had departed from God’s standard (Neh. 9:1–37). In fact, they put on sackcloth, threw dust on their heads (v. 1), and acknowledged their sin (v. 3), bringing it out into the open before God (v. 37).
  1. A devotion to holiness. Old paths of obedience, previously forsaken, are once more pursued. The Word is not only taught and heard anew, but it is also received and kept. Suddenly, there is an overwhelming desire to apply the Scripture to one’s own life, putting it into practice with a new resolve. Revival always brings about this effect. It is a time of renewed commitment to return to the Scripture in order to obey it.

Waldron – A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith — A Review

Waldron, Samuel E. A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, 5th ed. Leyland, England: Evangelical Press, 2016.

What do you believe? What does your church believe? Do you know? Can you spell it out? Are your beliefs consistent with those of faithful believers of the past? Are your beliefs novel?

For centuries, faithful Christians have sought to outline their understanding of biblical teaching through the use of confessions of faith. For particular Baptists, the Second London Baptist Confession of faith (the 1689), is of tremendous importance. However, as with any older document, modern readers may need a hand to understand the teaching and intent of men who wrote during a different time, under different circumstances, using different vocabulary. Perhaps the single most important work to help particular Baptists of today understand the 1689 is Samuel Waldron’s A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, now in its fifth edition.

In this significant work, Waldron writes for us a chapter on each chapter of the 1689. In each chapter, Waldron shares the text of the 1689, outlines the chapter, and then explains to us significant features. Sometimes these features include notes on how the 1689 compares to the Westminster Confession (1647) or the Savoy Declaration (1658). Sometimes the exposition is a thought-for-thought walk through the chapter. And sometimes, if the chapter is lengthy or the topics particularly heavy, Waldron will skip certain points to highlight what he believes most important.

Because the 1689 is such an outstanding document, this work by Waldron can hardly help but be worthwhile. Waldron’s work highlights significant theological issues that church leaders and members need to address. This book is also quite encouraging, as it expounds for us an encouraging confession from the word of a glorious God. The vast majority of what is said here will be embraced by all faithful believers, Baptist, Presbyterian, or otherwise. Yet Waldron, like the 1689, is not afraid to highlight particular Baptist distinctives when they arise.

In settings where believers may quibble with the wording of the 1689, those same believers may quibble with Waldron’s conclusions. This should not be surprising in a work of over five hundred pages. What one believes about the Sabbath, the Pope, or eschatology may not always mesh with Waldron’s conclusions—though they certainly might. But differences in conclusion in a few areas should by no means prevent a pastor or eager student from benefitting from the work Waldron has done.

Waldron’s work alongside the works of Rob Ventura and James Renihan is a significant pillar for Baptist studies. Unlike Ventura’s work, Waldron’s feels more consistent coming from a singular voice. However, the work edited by Ventura may be more thorough in its unpacking of individual chapters. The Renihan work will be more strongly historical, though I will have to reserve my conclusions on this thought until I have finished reading that one.

I would wholeheartedly recommend A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith to any Christian, especially those looking into reformed and Baptistic doctrine. Pastors, if you are not sure about the 1689, this book would be a great place to start and learn. For church members in churches that embrace the 1689, this book would be a solid tool in helping the less familiar dig deeply into what the church claims to believe.

** I received a copy of this work from the publisher in exchange for my willingness to post an honest review. **

A New Exposition of the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 edited by Rob Ventura — A Review

Ventura, Rob, ed. A New Exposition of the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689. Ross-Shire, United Kingdom: Mentor, 2022.

Knowing and explaining what we believe is vital for any Christian. Throughout history, solid believers have worked hard to set down for us clear, thorough, and yet accessible summaries of our faith. These godly men have not sought to override the authority of Scripture or to elevate their views to the level of divine inspiration, but to serve the church by summarizing and clarifying biblical doctrine. Historically, the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 has become a significant example of such writing, especially for Baptists.

Unfortunately, as time passes, English-speaking Christians may find themselves less and less familiar with documents like the 1689. Today we use words differently and face different challenges to faithful doctrine. Culturally, our distance from the reformation makes some of the writing in the 1689 such as that which focuses on a response to Roman Catholicism more difficult for some to understand. If we do not want to lose sight of the inestimable value of the Second London Baptist Confession, we need faithful teachers to help us to see the depth and beauty of the document.

Christians, therefore, should be grateful for works like the newly released A New Exposition of the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 edited by Rob Ventura. Ventura and a host of other authors have given the church a gift by writing essays for us on each chapter of the 1689. These chapters help us to understand the doctrine, the language, and the historical context behind the words of the confession . the authors show us not only what is being said in the 1689, but also why it matters and how it may apply in our current context.

Reading through this work, I found myself deeply encouraged at a number of points. As authors helped to clarify and even simplify difficult theological concepts, my heart was blessed. When difficult doctrinal issues were on the table—think things like divine impassibility, the trinity, or the hypostatic union—the authors neither shied away nor made the topic more complicated.

Working through 32 essays on the 32 chapters of the 1689, I did not find myself always agreeing with the authors in every respect. But I would by no means suggest that such should prevent anyone from giving this book a place on their shelves. Sometimes I found myself wishing the chapters were longer, but this is not a truly fair criticism. Many of the topics covered in single chapters are topics about which multi-volume works have been written. While I would expect any reader to have a single issue or two where he or she would disagree with the authors in this work, I would also expect that faithful Baptists will find themselves both in agreement and sweetly encouraged by what they read in every chapter.

I would recommend this book to a variety of folks. Church elders could use this book to strengthen their doctrinal understanding and agreement. Leaders might want to use the chapters of this book as material for theological Sunday School classes or home groups. Church leaders and members considering adopting a more solid confession of faith would find this book a tremendous help. I would strongly recommend this book to any Baptist who is unfamiliar with the Second London Baptist Confession, as this document is vital to understanding what we believe, who we are, and where we came from. I would also recommend this book to non-Baptists as a way to see just how similar the 1689 is to other significant confessions such as the Westminster Confession (1646) and the Savoy Declaration (1658) while also gaining an understanding of where and why we differ.

** Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. **

The Directness or Kindness Dilemma

Proverbs 26:4–5

4 Answer not a fool according to his folly,
lest you be like him yourself.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly,
lest he be wise in his own eyes.

Reading these two Proverbs back-to-back can feel a little contradictory. Either one, by itself, makes perfect sense. If we answer a fool according to his folly, if we go along with the fool in his ways, we end up acting like a fool. That is not good. But if we refuse to answer a fool, the fool will think he is wise. That is not good either.

In a nutshell, I believe that the writer of Proverbs put these two verses together to let us know that, when dealing with a fool, there is no perfect answer. Fools make civil and productive discussion impossible. At the same time, we sometimes have to get in there and deal with objections fools raise.

What might we need to learn from thinking about these proverbs in the light of the rest of Scripture? You do not have to be nasty to tell the truth. There is no requirement to make fun of people or be intentionally provocative. You can say that someone is in sin, and you can do so with a tone of superiority, arrogance, and disdain. You can also say that somebody is in sin and do so with a tone of sorrow and love and with an offer of hope in Jesus. Don’t be nasty. Do tell the truth.

Christians must remember that one of the fruits of the Spirit is kindness (Gal. 5:22). Thus, we are not to be a people marked by sharpness, anger, and cruelty. Being nasty, getting sinful with the person you are talking with, is answering a fool according to his folly in such a way that you become like him yourself.

But not all of the faith includes being nonconfrontational. Sometimes there is a true wisdom in saying, not out of meanness but out of honesty, that the argument someone is making is foolish. Sometimes we need to look at the ridiculous in the world’s actions, standards, or behavior and speak in such a way as to show it and not let the fool remain wise in his own eyes.

John 9:26-27

26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”

In John 9, Jesus had healed a blind man. The Pharisees badgered the healed man, because they were trying to find something to hold against Jesus. Eventually, when the healed man realized that the conversation was not going anywhere, he got a little cheeky with the religious leaders. With a bit of sarcasm, he asked them if they were asking so many questions because they wanted to become Jesus’ disciples. I do not think he was sinfully mean here. But the formerly blind man showed the ridiculousness of what was going on.

In the Old Testament, when Elijah openly challenged the prophets of Baal at Mt. Carmel, the prophet ridiculed the evil prophets. Those prophets had spent the day dancing around, shouting, cutting themselves, and being foolish.

1 Kings 18:26-27

26 And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. 27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”

Elijah mocked the evil practices of the evil prophets. And he was not wrong.

What then? Are we to be polite or mocking? There is a wisdom required here. Examine your own personality and your own purposes. Be an honest person before God, especially about your motivation. Are you someone who is already given to meanness with your words? If so, you probably need to be pulled back and reminded of the kindness of Christ. You probably need to remember that you do not gain anything by scoring points WITH cutting remarks. Are you given to fear, to compromise, to words that barely point out the truth? You may need a little more of Elijah or the formerly blind man in your personality. You should not be afraid to speak the truth, even hard truth, to a lost world. You should not fear to say of evil that it is evil and of folly that it is foolish.

Do not neglect the body of Christ here. The local church should be made up of people who are different than you in temperament. Be honest enough to listen if fellow believers challenge you to be more direct. Take it seriously if fellow believers call on you to show more kindness. And be grateful that God has given us folks in the church who are wired quite differently. Be concerned if nobody in your life is wired differently than you in this area.

Honestly ask the Spirit of God to lead you. Ask God to reveal to you if you, when you want to say something sharp, are feeding your ego. Ask if you are putting yourself forward and finding joy in causing pain. Ask if you are trying to make yourself look big by putting somebody down in a conversation in person or on-line. If so, you are in sin.

But also ask the Spirit of God to help you to see if you are a coward. Ask the Spirit to help you see if you are given to compromise. Ask God to let you know when you need to be bold and call out evil with strong, even sharp words. You do not honor God if you allow people around you to think that they are smart, sophisticated, and beyond the reproof of the Bible.

We need a little of both sides in our lives and in the church. We need kindness and sweetness. We need strength and clarity. The same Jesus who had dinner with tax collectors and sinners called them sinners and told them they needed to repent. The same Jesus who wept over Jerusalem called the Pharisees a brood of vipers, a batch of little snake babies, and asked how in the world they could ever escape hell.

We need the wisdom of God in our speech both inside and outside the church setting to answer and to not answer fools according to their folly.

Stop Regarding Man

Here is a HEAR journal entry from my daily reading.

H – Highlight

Isaiah 2:22

Stop regarding man
in whose nostrils is breath,
for of what account is he?

E – Explain

For a good portion of this chapter, the Lord has shown us the evil and pride of a people who are supposed to be his people. They rejoice in their wealth, in their strength, and eventually in their idolatry. But God promises a day will come when all those godless things will no longer matter.

In verse 22, the chapter ends with God calling on us simply to stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath. The point here is not to devalue life. Instead, the point is to stop thinking that the opinions of men are more important than the righteousness of God. Stop thinking that winning in this life is the end-all-be-all of your existence. You do not even own your own breath. God gave you that breath. God gave the movers and shakers their breath. Stop regarding them. .Worship God.

A – Apply

The Lord reminds me here not to live for comfort, not to live for supposed stability in this life, and not to live for the approval of others. It really is easy to want people to think I’m something else. I naturally want them to think I’m smart or clever. I naturally want to know people who are supposedly important. But what matters is knowing the Lord. What matters is resting in his strength and not my own. What matters is his approval and not the approval of others.

R – Respond

Lord, I would ask that you help me to find my hope and my joy in you and in your presence. Do not let me love this world. Change my heart and sanctify me that I might long for you and your glory most of all.

A Genesis 1:1 HEAR Journal Entry

I will not share every one of these I write, but I will, for a bit, share some examples of my HEAR journaling as I get started with the 2023 reading plans. Perhaps this model will help you to pick up a way that you too could take your reading a step deeper.

H – Highlight

Genesis 1:1

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

E – Explain

Not much explanation is needed here. There used to be nothing except for God. God made everything. He did not use existing materials—there were none. He did not borrow from somebody else’s stuff—there was nobody else. God, by his power, for his purpose, made all that exists.

A – Apply

There are some days when the simplest thoughts are the strongest. Here, I look and am reminded of the simple point that, if this verse is true, everything changes. If it is false, nothing matters.

If God did not make everything, then a human being is only a bag of chemicals bouncing through the world. We move. Electrical impulses fire in our brains, we do what we want. We die. There is no basis for truth, for beauty, for morality. What does it matter if one set of chemicals changes the structure of another set of chemicals?

But, if this verse is true, and it is, then our world is not our world. God made it. God is in charge. God has the right of ownership over us all. God determines truth, beauty,. Morality, meaning, everything. Because God made us, we have a reason to live. Because God made us, we know what is allowed and what is not. Because God made us, it matters what we do.

R – Respond

Lord, as I begin this new year of Bible reading, I pray that you will help me to keep in mind the

truth of the first verse of the Holy Scripture. Help me remember that you made everything, and that is what gives us meaning. Help me keep my life centered on the fact that I exist to serve you, to live as an image of God on earth. You are God. I am not. You are Lord. I am your servant. Help me to live under your grace and to your glory.

My 2023 Bible Reading Plan

I believe a major part of Christian discipleship is regular time spent in God’s word. I have also learned about myself that I do best when I have a plan to follow and a schedule to keep. So, each year, I select a plan to follow. I also find that I do best when I read along with others in a group. So, I try to share my reading plan with others who may join me in a discipleship group so that we can write about and talk about the same passages each week.

This coming year, I intend to combine two Bible reading plans for my daily reading schedule. Why two? I want to have an open door for some who are not convinced they can handle a full Bible-in-a-year plan to join me.

For New Testament reading, I’ll use the Navigators 5x5x5 reading plan. This is a plan that reads through the New Testament 5 days per week, one chapter per day. It’s short and simple—a great place to start for anybody who has never tried a reading plan before, or for someone who has struggled to stay on a schedule in the past.

For Old Testament reading, I intend to use an Old Testament in 2 years plan that I put together on my own. This plan allows for you to read on weekdays only covering one or two chapters each day. Alternatively, you can read a single chapter each weekday and two chapters daily on weekends if that better fits your needs. I’m hoping I’ll enjoy a two-year plan which will allow me to give a little more studied focus on the Old Testament instead of requiring as many daily chapters as other plans.

The New Testament plan is available in the YouVersion Bible app, which is how I will track my progress. I’ll start both plans on January 2.

Here is the link to our OT reading plan:
PRC Old Testament in Two years

Here is a link to our OT and NT reading plan in portrait layout:
Old Testament Reading Plan
NT Bible Reading Plan