Now that July 4th has come and gone, we’re now more than halfway through the Bible. Here in installment 3, we’ll finish off the Psalms, read some Wisdom literature and almost make it through the end of Old Testament. (If you’d like to start your year of Bible reading tomorrow, see here for the first 90 days).
Today is the 31st of March, which means it’s day #90 of 2017. If you’ve been diligent, it means that you’re right in the midst of the trials and travails of Saul and (not-yet) King David. It also means that it’s time for the second installment of the Bible in 1 year reading schedule. Keep at it folks. This one will take us through the halfway point of the Bible, which happens to land smack dab in the middle of the Psalms. (If you’d like to start your year of Bible reading tomorrow, see here for the first 90 days).
God’s Word is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword. – Hebrews 4.12
Reading the Bible daily is a great difficulty for many of God’s children. They don’t stop reading, but it becomes heavy and tiresome. And they’re scared that all of their reading is useless because they think they don’t get anything out of it.
My friend, don’t let yourself be confounded if you with prayer and simplicity read your Bible every day. Perhaps you misunderstand your reading. You have thought that it’s you has to strive in one or another way to wrestle something spiritual out of what you’re reading.
No, it is the Holy Spirit who will make the words that you read into food for your soul. Remember that the Holy Spirit must perform a miracle every time that you read the Bible, if your reading is to become bread for your soul. And the Holy Spirit is glad to do this miracle.
Therefore, when you take up your Bible, fold your hands and like a child pray that He will do this miracle for you, whether you read a little or a lot. And when you have done this, you can read with cheerfulness and be certain that what you are reading goes into your soul as a spiritual nourishment.
Don’t sit there with nervous questions about whether it will become food, and whether that food will be enough for your soul. Those people, who think too much about food and digestion while they eat, unsettle their stomachs.
No, collect your thoughts about the Word while you read. And thank God for the eternal truths that have traveled through your soul. The Spirit shall do the work of making the Word work in you, even if you can’t immediately say what that work is.
From Hallesby, Ole. Daglig Fornyelse: Andaktsbok for Hjemmet. Translated by Kristofer Coffman. Oslo: Lutherstiftelsens Forlag, 1951, 36.
Though it’s been a while since my last effort, I try, every now and then, to feature translations from the Scandinavians languages here on Trout and Cast Iron. Today’s comes from one of my favorites, Ole Hallesby.
If you recognized God’s gift and if you knew who it is that says to you: Give me a drink!, then you would have prayed to him, and he would have given you living water. – John 4.10
This is how Jesus saves us all:
He begins, not us. He seeks us out and he begins the conversation with us. We have not desired any conversation with him and we certainly seek to twist ourselves out of it, just as the woman at the well did. But he won’t let us slip out.
He talks with us in the silence of the night. He talks with us in church, although we did not go there to meet Jesus. And it is our salvation that Jesus tells us about, and he doesn’t ask our permission to bring it up.
But, there are some who won’t listen to Jesus. They twist themselves out, just as the woman at the well did in the beginning. Is there anyone in our little circle today who’s acted in the same way? Jesus has a little word for you, before we end our little devotion today: If you recognized God’s gift and if you knew who it is that says to you: Give me a drink!, then you would have prayed to him, and he would have given you living water.
From Hallesby, Ole. Daglig Fornyelse: Andaktsbok for Hjemmet. Translated by Kristofer Coffman. Oslo: Lutherstiftelsens Forlag, 1951, 23.
Perhaps you’ve read through the Bible many times. Perhaps you’ve never opened one before. Perhaps you’ve always wondered what actually happens in 2nd Chronicles. Perhaps you want to challenge yourself to actually read the whole Bible and not just the parts that you keep coming back to. Perhaps you have a small group or a congregation that would like to read the Bible on the same schedule. Perhaps that was too many sentence in a row that started with perhaps.
Whatever your situation, I’ve been working on a schedule for Bible reading. The schedule has two goals. One, make Bible reading an everyday habit. Two, introduce the entirety of the Biblical text. It will take you through the entire Bible in one calendar year, in small chunks of 3-5 chapters at a time. Warning though, the schedule has no bells and whistles. It starts at Genesis 1.1 and chugs along to Revelation 22.21. As 2017 rolls around, and as we make all sorts of resolutions, I think you could do worse than adding ten minutes of reading to go with your morning coffee or your afternoon beer. It won’t help you lose weight. It won’t make you more productive. It definitely won’t make you a holier person. But, it may give you a greater appreciation for the wisdom, the poignancy, and the absurdity of the book we call the Bible.
If you’re interested in coming along for the journey, you’ll find a PDF with days 1-90 below. Feel free to download and print off as many copies as you’d like. At the end of March, I’ll post 91-180, etc. If you’d prefer your schedule in a more tech-savvy way, I’ll be posting each day’s readings every morning on Twitter: @RevDocTrout
Good luck! Let me know how it goes.
As of right now, I’ve completed 76 days of a read the Bible in 90 days challenge. This is the first in a series of two or three posts in which I reflect on the experience.
As I’ve mentioned once or twice before, I’m passionate about New Testament Greek. I’ve done Hebrew, and I’m not shoddy at it, but Koine Greek and I just seem to get along well. It means that I spend a lot of time reading the New Testament. In addition, as a preacher (like many others), I have the tendency to gravitate towards the Gospel lesson for the focus of my sermons.
Luckily for me, the challenge of reading through the Bible in 90 days has not let me escape the Old Testament. In fact, of the 76 days that I’ve spent so far, it’s taken 67 of them to get me from Genesis to Malachi. The past two months of reading has caused me to reflect on the way that I read the Old Testament, and how I use it in my own devotional life.
There is a tendency and, in this respect, I am the chief of sinners, to treat the Old Testament like a desert. You wander in it for a long time. Mostly it’s an odd collection of scary, spiky things and endless sage brush(or in this case, the slaughtering of Canaanites interspersed with endless censuses and genealogies). But, every now and then, there’s an oasis: Joseph and his coat with long sleeves! Psalm 23! Ezekiel in the valley of the dry bones!
But, as someone who’s spent his fair share of time hiking around California’s high desert, I know that the desert has more to offer than meets the eye. And, the same is going on with the Old Testament. If we take seriously Christ’s words that the Scriptures (i.e. the Old Testament) all testify to him, then we need to stop and reconsider. Maybe that cactus has something to teach us. Maybe there’s something to be learned in endless sagebrush and endless genealogies. And maybe, just maybe, the promises of Christ are hiding in plain sight in the desert of the Old Testament, following us around like the rock that followed the Israelites.
Helmut Thielicke is one of my vocational role models. Not only did he teach theology in a top-notch German research university, he also embraced the role of pastor and the discipline of preaching the Gospel. Perhaps more impressively, he counted as friends churchmen as diverse as Paul Tillich and Billy Graham. This post is inspired by his sermon on the 2nd petition of the Lord’s Prayer.
To contribute my share to the family income, I practice the strange art of preparing mass-produced coffee drinks at a chain-that-shall-not-be-named. During busy times, I enter a trance-like state, wherein my entire thought process consists of remembering how many shots of espresso go into a cappuccino. Then, during down times, while cleaning up milk foam and coffee grounds, my mind can wander to other topics.
Not too long ago, the Lord’s prayer floated into my head, and I got to thinking about how many times that I had recited it over my lifetime. Let’s say once a day for twenty years. That’s 7,300 times. But let’s not forget Sundays. That gives me an additional 1,040, which brings the total to 8,340. But during my internship year, I said the Lord’s Prayer 3 times a Sunday, which tacks on an extra 104. And I better throw in a couple hundred for Lent and Christmas Eve. Let’s just round up and say 9,000 times. That’s a lot of times.
But the amazing thing is, having recited it 9,000 times, I can still open up a devotional, or hear a sermon, and suddenly have the Lord’s Prayer confront me in a new way that never before occurred to me. That’s what happened when I began to read a collection of sermons on the Lord’s Prayer by Helmut Thielicke.
In his sermon on the second petition (Hallowed be thy name), Thielicke points out that the Lord’s Prayer is not simply a collection of petitions asking for things from God our Father. In fact, every petition of the Lord’s Prayer involves a personal confession. “In every petition we not only say, ‘Thou art my Father,’ but every petition mysteriously recoils upon us and God says to us, ‘You are the man’ (II Samuel 12:7).” The Lord’s Prayers forces me to confront the reality that I am the chief obstacle to God’s name being hallowed, to God’s kingdom coming, to receiving my daily bread, etc.
In a season of bluster and bravado, this realization about the Lord’s Prayer has made me pause. And so, 9,000 times in, I have to start learning to pray all over again.
The sermon that inspired this post can be found in Thielicke, Helmut. Our Heavenly Father: Sermons on the Lord’s Prayer. Translated by John W. Doberstein. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1960.