This week I am sharing some links to articles written by other Christians that I have found helpful. I have included an extract from the article beneath the link to give an indication of the content of the article.
Advent, the season of waiting and preparation before the high feast of Christmas, is a chance to regain spiritual sanity, and create fresh and healthier rhythms personally and as a family and as churches. As we enter the six darkest weeks of the year in this hemisphere, we will pivot midway to mark the greatest and brightest turning point in all history: the birth of Christ. And perhaps this Advent will begin restoring what the locusts have taken this year.
Advent doesn’t pretend the darkness is gone. Our lives may yet grow darker. But Advent looks darkness square in the eye and issues this great promise for our season of waiting: darkness will not overcome the Light. It is only a matter of time. And Christmas is just over three weeks away.
If you’re feeling stressed and over-taxed this Advent season, if you’re feeling lonely and left out, if you’re longing for how things used to be during the holidays of your past, you can still pause and remember the coming of Jesus, both past and future. Praying through the month of December can prepare your heart to focus on Jesus so you don’t miss the days of celebration and remembrance.
One of the most treacherous lies we can believe about sin, especially sin we consider private or secret, is that we can keep its consequences to ourselves. That we will be the only ones — if anyone — affected. We rarely consider how our sin inevitably influences others in one way or another.
To know that God is completely in control of all things is the greatest comfort for the Christian. In these changing and uncertain times, we have an unchangeable and eternal refuge for our souls, the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, if we are completely honest, this season has brought about much weariness to the soul. We have been pressed and tried on every side. Where do we look to? My friend, by faith, look to the Sovereign Ruler of the skies!
Well, there is good news. While some might be more naturally disposed to being disciplined, discipline is not an innate quality some have, and some don’t, like blue eyes or male-pattern baldness. Discipline can be cultivated, it can be grown, and by it we too can grow into Christlikeness. Let’s look at exactly what Christian discipline is, why we so desperately need it, and the practical steps we can take to cultivate discipline in our lives.
I don’t normally do the “flip the Bible open and put my finger down” method of reading Scripture. However, I used to mock that practice, and I don’t anymore. “Mock” is perhaps too strong of a word, but I used to think, Come on, don’t study the Bible that way. But I’ve often done it and been richly rewarded for it. It’s certainly not my usual way of opening God’s Word each day, but one real positive is that no matter what, you’re still going to end up in the inspired Word of God.
It is Friday night and a man arrives home from work exhausted after a tough week in the workplace. He takes off his shoes and collapses onto the sofa. His wife comes into the lounge to greet him and the following conversation takes place:
Wife: How was work today?
Man: It has been another tough day.
Wife: Would you like to have some food?
Man: No I am fine, I had something to eat on Sunday.
Wife: Yes I know but that was five days ago. You must have something to eat. It is not right just to eat once a week.
Man: But I have only ever eaten on Sundays.
Wife: I know! You need to change that habit. You must eat every day. If you do not you will starve and your health will deteriorate. You will end up dying.
I guess most of us will think the man in this situation was behaving stupidly. I mean who only eats once a week? Imagine only eating on Sundays? None of us would copy this example or recommend it to others.
However I wonder how many of us only feed ourselves spiritually once a week?
Sunday is the day we attend church and read the Bible, pray and sing our songs of worship. But do we bother praying or reading the Bible between Monday and Saturday?
All of us need to spend time with God daily, getting to know Him and having our strength renewed. If we do not do that it is unlikely we will ever grow as Christians.
Paul told the Galatians that you reap what you sow. Spurgeon in the quote below, taken from the Old Guys website, says something very similar in regard to the books that we read. Basically we are what we read. That’s worth pondering.
“Certain insects assume the colour of the leaves they feed upon; and they are but emblems of a great law of our being: our minds take the hue of the subjects whereon they think. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Readers of trash become trashy; lovers of skeptical books become skeptical; and students of the Bible, who are in real earnest, become biblical, and display the qualities of the Bible. If you read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the word of God, the qualities of that word will be displayed in you. A man fed on Bibline is a man indeed. In the history of heroes, there are none who show so much moral muscle and spiritual sinew as those who make the word of God their necessary food.”
I recently read a book which contained some biographical sketches of twelve reformers. Many of these men suffered persecution for preaching the truths of the bible. Whilst some of them e.g. William Tyndale paid the ultimate price for wanting to make the scriptures available in ordinary people’s mother tongue.
These men truly valued the scriptures. The question for us today though is: do we value the scriptures?
I’m not sure about you but I have at least six different printed translations at home. Additionally I have access to many more electronically. I am literally spoilt for choice.
I know there are still many people around the world today who do not have access to any scriptures or if so they may have to share it with other people. Yet often they have a love for the bible that I do not.
Psalm 119 contains many verses expressing the psalmist love for the scriptures including:
I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. (v16)
My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times. (v20)
How I long for your precepts! (v40)
for I delight in your commands because I love them. (v47)
The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold. (v72)
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (v103)
How we need to ask the Lord to give us a new love for His Word, to value and love it like our brothers and sisters of old did.
We are now in the second week of lockdown in the UK and during this time I have realised afresh the importance of daily exercise. In fact daily exercise is one of only four reasons that we are supposed to leave our homes, the others are: to go to work, to buy food and medication. I’m currently working from home so I have only three reasons myself!
I have always enjoyed sport and leisure activities over the years, whether that be running, walking, football, tennis, squash or cricket. Although in recent years my exercise has been limited to walking at weekends and also when on holiday. However since the lockdown started I have ensured that I been out for a walk every evening.
Physical exercise is important. It helps keep us fit and in good shape. It’s also good for us mentally too especially if have had a stressful day at work. In the current unusual situation we are all facing I believe that we should take opportunities to exercise daily.
In his first letter to Timothy Paul wrote the following words, which are really relevant at this time:
“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8)
Paul reminds us here that whilst physical exercise is good spiritual exercise is more important. Perhaps now more than ever, especially as we are not able to meet for worship, we need to ensure that we do not neglect spiritual exercise. I know that churches are streaming services, which is great, but as a friend said to me: “it’s not the same as meeting for worship”. And he is right.
It’s very important that we make time for God during this period of lockdown. We must not neglect personal bible study and prayer. It is essential that we do practice these spiritual disciplines. If you are anything like me you probably find yourself watching more TV or spending additional time on-line. Although that is not wrong as such, we really need to make good use of this time and not neglect spending time with God.
No-one knows how long the lockdown will last. Let us use the time wisely. Keep doing your daily physical exercise but please also ensure you exercise spiritually too.
The 100 Minute Bible, which retails at little more than the cost of a sandwich is, I think, a real gem! In summary, it gives an overview of the main events and characters in the Bible. The author, Michael Hinton, has divided the book into 50 brief chapters, 17 from the Old Testament and the remainder taken from the New Testament.
Most chapters include direct quotes from the Bible with well known passages, such as the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23, being reprinted in full. Before reading The 100 Minute Bible I had my doubts about this mini version and whether it would work, but I have to say I am impressed. Obviously constraints of time and space mean much is left out but what the publisher has chosen to include provides an excellent overview of the Bible and, quite rightly concentrates on Jesus’ life and his impact on ordinary people then, now and for all time to come.
I would certainly recommend this book to Christians and non-Christians alike. Indeed if any of your non-Christian family or friends have ever expressed an interest in reading the Bible but have not got the time, I suggest they read this instead. In no way could it ever take the place of the Bible, the inspired word of God, and all that represents but it is an excellent place for them to start and hopefully they will be encouraged to go on and study a good version of the Bible for themselves.
Towards the end of his life the apostle Paul wrote the following words to Timothy “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” ( 2 Timothy 3: 16-17).
I expect if we are being honest many of us probably have whole sections of the Bible which we rarely read. Yet here Paul is saying that all Scripture is God-breathed and useful. Yes that does include the second half of Exodus and the book of Leviticus!
To enable us to get the most out of God’s word it is important that we read it all. If we only read the New Testament then we are missing out on seeing all God did in the Old Testament with his people Israel.
There are so many great and inspiring stories in the Old Testament: Ruth loyalty to her mother-in law Naomi (Ruth 1:16-17); Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s determination not to compromise their faith (Daniel 3) and David humbling himself before God after his sin with Bathsheba (Psalm 51) to name but three.
Although reading the whole Bible can seem a daunting challenge, it is relatively easy to read it all the way through in a year. Did you know that if you spent 20 minutes a day reading the Scriptures you will read the whole of the Bible in a year. Most of us can find 20 minutes to spare to do this and if that seems too much, how about 10 minutes in the morning and another 10 minutes in the evening? When you think about how long we spend watching television or on the internet surely that is not too difficult to do!
There are many different readings plan available to use that take you through the Bible in a year. If you are not sure where to start, just go into your favourite search engine and type in “Bible Reading Plans”. However, it does not really matter if you use a reading plan or decide not to use one. The important thing is to get started and discover the benefits of reading the whole Bible!
In Psalm 19v7 there is a wonderful statement by David:
“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.”
I’m not sure about you but so often my soul needs reviving. At the end of a stressful day at work or an exhausting and busy week I certainly need to be revived. Yet to be honest I don’t always turn to God’s word for revival. There are occasions when instead of doing this I turn to earthly things e.g. leisure activities, food, sport, TV, social media etc. Whilst none of those are necessary wrong in themselves, they will not bring revival to the soul.
This is because those things are not God’s word. They may be enjoyable past times and activities, but they do not revive us. Instead of turning to them we should turn to God’s word. We regularly need to read the scriptures, study them and meditate on them. It’s important that we set aside time each day to do this.
If we neglect these disciplines, then we miss opportunities to experience a revived soul. Some people also find it helpful to have a bible verse in their mind for them to ponder as they prepare to go to sleep each night. It’s a good way to finish the day.
If you ever read anything about the persecuted Church, you will see their love for the bible. In many of these countries a person can get into severe trouble for owning a bible. When they receive a bible, they are so grateful and full of excitement. Conversely, many of us in the west have numerous different translations of the bible at home, not to mention the ones on our phones! Yet we often rarely read them.
Let us not neglect the scriptures but instead know the reality of this wonderful phrase in Psalm 19v7:
“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.”
Have you ever read through the whole Bible in a year? There are many different reading plans available to assist with this. If you visit your local Christian bookshop or type “bible readings plans” into your favourite search engine, you will see a variety of options that can be used. One of my favourite ways is reading through the Bible chronologically.
The advantage of reading the Bible chronologically is that it enhances our understanding of the historical context of the individual books of the Bible. We can see in the Old Testament how books like Ezra, Hosea, Amos and Micah fit into the history of God’s dealings with his people. Likewise, in the New Testament we can look at each of Paul’s letters and see at which stage of his missionary travels they were written.
I personally have used the “Cover to Cover Through the Bible As It Happened” reading plan which is produced by CWR. This is an edition of the Bible that is split into 365 different readings with various helpful notes that assist the reader.
The prospect of reading through the bible in a year though does appear a daunting task. Many might think that it is impossible or have tried in the past but given up after a couple of months. It might surprise you however to know that it only takes between 15 to 20 minutes per day to do this. If we consider the amount of time we spend on social media, watching You Tube videos or on Netflix’s then surely, we can spare that small amount of time reading the scriptures in 2019?
Although everyone is different I prefer to do my Bible readings in the morning. If you are a “morning person” why not set your alarm 15 minutes earlier and do the reading before you start the day. Others though prefer to read during the day or in the evenings. The most important thing is to find a time that works best for you and to set that time aside each day. If for any reason you miss a day don’t get discouraged or give up but keep going.
Why not make 2019 the year you read through the Bible chronologically?