Monday, March 31, 2014

Block Time Bible Reading in Action

Late last year, I blogged about setting up a new Bible reading plan based upon reading time (see here, here, and here).  Of course, my final schedule is different than what I had originally proposed, but it works well for me.  In order to keep my thoughts focused, I also listen to the Bible on my Kindle as I read.  I use a Kindle version of the King James Bible without verse numbers so that it reads smoothly, and I listen on fast speed, so keep that into consideration when you see my finalized version below.

I decided to get up early and read a full hour at once, half an hour in the Old Testament (OT) and half an hour in the New Testament (NT).  Once I have read through the NT twice, I switch to reading the OT for a full hour until I complete it.  In 55 days, I read through the OT once and the NT twice.  This 2-month cycle gives me a little cushion if I need miss a day here or there for illness or other unforeseen circumstances.  Otherwise, using this plan I can read my Bible completely through in less than 2 months, take a small break, and start back up when the next month begins.

Gen. 1-15
Matt. 1-12
Gen. 16-26
Matt. 13-22
Gen. 27-36
Matt. 23 - Mark 3
Gen. 37-46
Mark 4-12
Gen. 47 - Exod. 8
Mark 13 - Luke 4
Exod. 9-19
Luke 5-11
Exod. 20-30
Luke 12-21
Exod. 31 - Lev. 1
Luke 22 - John 5
Lev. 2-12
John 6-13
Lev. 13-21
John 14 - Acts 3
Lev. 22 - Num. 2
Acts 4-12
Num. 3-10
Acts 13-21
Num. 11-20
Acts 22 - Rom. 5
Num. 21-30
Rom. 6 - 1 Cor. 4
Num. 31 - Deut. 3
1 Cor. 5 - 2 Cor. 2
Deut. 4-13
2 Cor. 3 - Gal. 6
Deut. 14-26
Eph. 1 -  1 Thess. 3
Deut. 27 - Josh. 2
1 Thess. 4 - Heb. 2
Josh. 3-12
Heb. 3 - Jam. 5
Josh. 13-23
1 Peter 1 - Rev. 1
Josh. 24 - Judg. 8
Rev. 2-22

Judg. 9-18
Matt. 1-12
Judg. 19 - 1 Sam. 4
Matt. 13-22
1 Sam. 5-15
Matt. 23 - Mark 3
1 Sam. 16-25
Mark 4-12
1 Sam. 26 - 2 Sam. 6
Mark 13 - Luke 4
2 Sam. 7-17
Luke 5-11
2 Sam. 18 - 1 Kings 1
Luke 12-21
1 Kings 2-8
Luke 22 - John 5
1 Kings 9-17
John 6-13
1 Kings 18 - 2 Kings 3
John 14 - Acts 3
2 Kings 4-12
Acts 4-12
2 Kings 13-22
Acts 13-21
2 Kings 23 - 1 Chron. 6
Acts 22 - Rom. 5
1 Chron. 7-18
Rom. 6 - 1 Cor. 4
1 Chron. 19 - 2 Chron. 1
1 Cor. 5 - 2 Cor. 2
2 Chron. 2-14
2 Cor. 3 - Gal. 6
2 Chron. 15-27
Eph. 1 -  1 Thess. 3
2 Chron. 28 - Ezra 1
1 Thess. 4 - Heb. 2
Ezra 2 - Neh. 2
Heb. 3 - Jam. 5
Neh. 3-12
1 Peter 1 - Rev. 1
Neh. 13 - Job 5
Rev. 2-22

 (Switch to OT)
Job 6-27
Job 28 - Psalm 7
Psalm 8-36
Psalm 37-65
Psalm 66-88
Psalm 89-114
Psalm 115-146
Psalm 147 - Prov. 16
Prov. 17 - Eccl. 2
Eccl. 3 - Isa. 3
Isa. 4-21
Isa. 22-36
Isa. 37-49
Isa. 50-66
Jer. 1-11
Jer. 12-24
Jer. 25-34
Jer. 35-46
Jer. 47 - Lam. 2
Lam. 3 - Ezek. 12
Ezek. 13-22
Ezek. 23-43
Ezek. 44 - Hos. 3
Hos. 4 - Hab. 2
Hab. 3 - Mal. 4

NB:  This reading plan actually takes 57 days because each column in days 53 through 55 represent hour long readings, not half-hour as indicated.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Peace or a Sword?

As I read through the Bible, I will come across a verse that I've ready many times before, but never really thought about.  This recently happened when a close friend pointed out a Bible verse from a book that we are reading together:  "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword," (Matt. 10:34).

But didn't Christ come to bring peace?
  • "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9:6).
  • "Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword," (Matt. 26:52).
  • "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid," (John 14:27).
  • "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world," (John 16:33).
  • "Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" (John 18:11).
Or did He come to bring a sword?
  • "For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law," (Matt. 10:35).
  • "Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division," (Luke 12:51).
  • "Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one," (Luke 22:36).
  • "And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God," (Rev. 19:15).
Of course, these lists are not exhaustive; but the question remains, did Jesus Christ come to earth to bring peace or a sword?  Let's read what Matthew Henry says about Matthew 10:34-35 (see the verses referenced above):
"These sufferings are here represented by a sword and a division.  Think not that I am come to send peace, temporal peace and outward prosperity; they thought Christ came to give all his followers wealth and power in the world; "no," [sic] says Christ, "I did not come with a view to give them peace; peace in heaven they may be sure of, but not peace on earth," Christ came to give us peace with God, peace with conscience, peace with our brethren, but in the world ye shall have tribulation.  Note, They [sic] mistake the design of the gospel, who think their profession of it will secure them from, for it will certainly expose them to, [sic] trouble in this world.  If all the world would receive Christ, there would then follow universal peace, but while there are and will be so many that reject him (and those not only the children of this world, but the seed of the serpent), the children of God, that are called out of the world, must expect to feel the fruits of their enmity."
So the answer is both.  Believers will have the spiritual peace of being reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, but we will also face the sword of hardships in our life as we continue to live here on earth.

"And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.  He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly.  Amen.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen," (Rev. 22:19-21, emphasis mine).

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Problem with Textual Criticism

On the March 25, 2014 episode of The Dividing Line, Dr. James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries discussed World Vision's decision to hire openly gay "Christians" (the quotes are mine).  Dr. White correctly disagrees with their decision, because in doing so, they capitulate on the true definition of biblical marriage (one man and one woman).  World Vision claims that they don't endorse same sex marriage and they don't want to debate it.  According to Dr. White, this topic is unavoidable in a Christian organization, and he rightly assesses that World Vision has inevitably entered the debate on the wrong side with their announcement.

Dr. White goes on to quote 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 to support the Christian stand against homosexuality.  He states that the text is very clear and then makes this statement at the 11:15 mark of the show:
"And there aren't any--I'm checking, I just want to double check things here--there really aren't any textual variants that impact the translation of the text at all."
So, does that mean that if there were textual variants, homosexuality would be or could be acceptable for Christians?  What happens if an older manuscript is uncovered that doesn't have 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 in the text?  Should Christians then embrace homosexuality or at least accept it at that point?

Later in the show, Dr. White goes on to bash KJV-onlyism.  I want to reiterate that I don't consider myself part of this movement*.   However, without the conviction that you have the true word of God in your hand (despite any perceived textual variants), you can never say that God's word is definitive.  Because Dr. White seems to trust more in his knowledge of textual criticism, he couldn't unequivocally say that these verses were applicable, until he made sure there were no textual variants.

"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God," (1 Cor. 6:9-10).

*I don't believe that the King James Bible is inspired, nor do I agree with the adherents' majority belief in Arminianism and Premillennial Dispensationalism.  However, I do believe that the King James Bible (based on the Textus Receptus) is the preserved word of God.  You can read more about my views on the King James Bible here and here.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Fruit of the Spirit

On March 23, 2014, Pastor Jeff Riddle of Christ Reformed Baptist Church preached a sermon titled 'The Fruit of the Spirit' from Galatians 5:22-26.  He makes two observations regarding the singular fruit of the Spirit in verse 22, as opposed to the plural works of the flesh in verse 19.

First, this difference in number indicates that the fruit of the Spirit does not have its source in human deeds or actions in the way that the works of the flesh do.  We cannot make ourselves have this fruit; we cannot work up within ourselves a heart of love or of joy or of peace.  Just as God gives salvation as an act of His free grace, so He also gives sanctification as an act of His free grace.  This is seen by the use of fruit as a metaphor; no one can make fruit appear because it is an inherent part of the plant's nature.  Christians produce the fruit of the Spirit because their nature changed when they become a believer.  If your nature has changed, then the fruit of the Spirit naturally and organically flows from you; this fruit is consistent with our transformed nature.

Second, if one is a Christian, then he will have all nine of the fruit of the Spirit at the same time because it is a singular, umbrella term.  You can't have love without joy, or peace without gentleness.  A Christian may not display all aspects of the fruit equally, but if he is saved, he has them growing and developing organically and naturally within him.  Therefore, the fruit is different from the gifts of the Spirit, which are different for different Christians.  The fruit of the Spirit is something that every Christian has if their nature has been transformed, even though they may not be displaying all aspects of the fruit.

"Ye shall know them by their fruits.  Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?  Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.  A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit," (Matt. 7:16-18).

Monday, March 17, 2014

Calvinism is a Nickname

As I read through Volume I of Spurgeon's Sermons, I continue to find great insight from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon.  It's interesting to note that some members of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) are appalled at the rise of Calvinism within SBC churches today and think that Calvinism is somehow a new heresy being infiltrated into the SBC.  Once again, Reverend Spurgeon shows that there is nothing new under the sun from Sermon V titled 'Christ Crucified' preached on February 11, 1855:
"And I have my own private opinion, that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and him crucified, unless you preach what now-a-days is called Calvinism.  I have my own ideas, and those I always state boldly.  It is a nickname to call it Calvinism.  Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else.  I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in his dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor, I think, can we preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the peculiar redemption which Christ made for his elect and chosen people; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation, after having believed.  Such a gospel I abhor.  The gospel of the Bible is not such a gospel as that.  We preach Christ and him crucified in a different fashion, and to all gainsayers we reply, 'We have not so learned Christ.'"
"But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God," (1 Cor. 1:23-24).

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Spurgeon on New Revelation

I purchased the 5-book set of Spurgeon's Sermons (Vol. I-X) and started reading through the first book which includes Volumes I & II.  I was reading through the 4th sermon of Volume I titled 'The Comforter' and found the following quote very helpful.  Sparks are still smoldering from John MacArthur's Strange Fire Conference in October 2013, which critiqued the modern charismatic movement.  Typically, one of the beliefs of this movement is that the gift of prophecy is still active in today's church; and therefore, the Holy Spirit continues to reveal new insights or prophecies to individual Christians.  However, the reformed view is that the Canon of Scripture is closed; and therefore, the Holy Spirit does not continues to make new revelations to Christians today.  It appears that the Prince of Preachers agrees with the reformed perspective:
"I [Charles Spurgeon] have heard many fanatical persons say the Holy Spirit revealed this and that to them.  Now, that is very generally revealed nonsense.  The Holy Ghost does not reveal anything fresh now.  He brings old things to our remembrance.  "He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have told you."  The canon of revelation is closed, there is no more to be added; God does not give a fresh revelation, but he rivets the old one.  When it has been forgotten, and laid in the dusty chamber of our memory, he fetches it out and cleans the picture, but does not paint a new one.  There are no new doctrines, but the old ones are often revived.  It is not, I say, by any new revelation that the Spirit comforts.  He does so by telling us old things over again; he brings a fresh lamp to manifest the treasure hidden in Scripture; he unlocks the strong chest in which the truth has long lain, and he points to secret chambers filled with untold riches; but he coins no more, for enough is done.  Believer! there is enough in the Bible for thee to live upon forever."
"But the Comforter, which is called the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you," (John 14:26).

Friday, March 7, 2014

Book Review: John Knox

John Knox by Simonetta Carr is part of the Christian Biographies for Young Readers series.  This series introduces children to important people in the Christian tradition and targets readers who are 7-12 years old.  The hardback book is very well made with nice, thick pages.  Interspersed throughout the story are well-done illustrations that follow the narrative and photos of the landmarks referenced.  At the end of the book, the author included the following items for reference:  Time Line of John Knox's Life, Did You Know? (fascinating facts about the time period), and The Scots Confession of Faith (Chapters 1-4).

The story begins around the time of John Knox's birth (circa 1514) and ends with his death in 1572.  A map of Western Europe is included in the front of the book so that the reader can follow his travels.  The writing is fluid and easy to read, but I think it would have been useful to include the pronunciation for some of the names and towns mentioned to help the young reader.

I asked my 11-year old son to read the biography and tell me what he thought.  It took him about 45 minutes in one sitting to read the whole book.  Afterwards, he said that it was a good read and fairly descriptive.  He described the book as a basic time line of Knox's life and about his arguments with Mary Stuart, Queen of the Scots.  My son learned that Knox spoke with John Calvin, and that Knox was a powerful speaker.  I asked him whether or not he would recommend this book to his friends, and he said that he would recommend it to younger readers because it's not that complicated to read.

Overall, I would recommend this book to any family who wants to learn more about one of the pillars of Protestantism.  This book would be valuable in a family devotion or homeschool setting.

Full Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.