Thoughts on Private Devotions

It has appeared that the subject of personal devotion seems to be getting more attention these days. In my church, a lot of discussion is spent on the three spheres of piety that a Christian should develop: church piety, family piety, and personal piety. Much ink (and typing) has been spent defending the necessity of the local church and family worship so I want to talk about a key component of personal piety: daily commitment to Scripture reading.

I assume that most of the individuals who are reading this blog are not pastors or full-time church workers. This means that for most people, your financial livelihood is not dependent on the time spent reading and interpreting the scripture. Personally, I work about 60-70 hours per week on average so if I am not intentional about this matter, it can easily be neglected. For this reason, I developed a couple of habits that I thought would be helpful to share.

Don’t Waste Your Sabbath

Chapter 22, Paragraph 8 of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith states that the Sabbath is a day of holy rest in which the entire day is “taken up in the public and private exercises of His worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.” Although this has specific reference to the corporate Lord’s Day worship, this also applies to family worship and private devotions. One can see the Sabbath as a day of rest from the ordinary affairs and work of life; however, one can also see the Sabbath as a unique day in which we can have concentrated time and devotion to the Lord. Throughout the week, there are times in which I may only have 20-30 minutes of free time that can be spent in private prayer and reading. However, on the Sabbath, the Lord has granted me the privilege to spend a significant amount of time in private devotion.

One of the convictions that I developed is to not waste the Sabbath. This means that I prepare myself to be fully engaged for morning and evening worship and I spend a significant amount of time studying the scriptures in-between the services. The Sabbath is also the day in which I can dedicate some portion of my time to reading theology… which leads to my second point

Develop a Sensible Reading Plan

bibleNow, if you have been following the posts on CredoCovenant, you could not have missed the various postings of the M’Cheyne’s Bible reading plan for the year (which is a very nice and straightforward bible reading plan). As a younger Christian, I read the Bible once a year through various reading plans (here’s a list for those who are interested). As my workload has increased, I found myself skimming through my various reading plans just to complete them and consequently, I was not developing a deeper knowledge and familiarity with the scriptures.

To adjust for this, I decided to slow down and do a two-year Bible reading plan in which I read through the Old and New Testaments once, and the wisdom literature four times. This reading plan has been a blessing for me and I would recommend it to anyone who has difficulty finding time throughout their week going through the scriptures.

Part of my reading plan also involves reading good Christian literature. My goal is to read 4 solid books per year, in which two books are modern books (which tend to be easier to read) and two older books (which tend to require much more time to digest). Whereas personal Bible reading is done daily throughout the week, virtually all of my reading on Christian literature tends to be done on the Lord’s Day.

Exhort and Encourage Yourself

We all know that making a plan tends to be much easier than actually completing the plan. There are numerous days in which I’m feeling exhausted and during these times, an encouragement is in order. During times that I’m exhausted, I always remind myself that daily scripture reading is an essential act of worship and I should present myself to God sacrificially (cf. Romans 12:1). In these times, I remind myself that God was never obligated to give me His Word nor was He obligated to give me His Spirit so that I can understand His Word. It’s a privilege, not a burden, to dedicate my heart and mind to the study of God’s Word. For these times, I continue running back to the wisdom psalms in which the psalmists proclaim the many excellencies of the Word of God. Consider Psalm 19:7-11

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul;

The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;

The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;

The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;

The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold

Sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.

Moreover, by them is your servant warned;

In keeping them there is great reward

 

However, there are times in which I am lazy and during these times, exhortations are in order. Kevin DeYoung’s short book The Hole in our Holiness (which is an outstanding small book) gives many practical exhortations to stir us on through our laziness. Gratitude is a great motivation for studying the scriptures, but during my lazy time, I need to be reminded of my duty and calling in this matter. A classic exhortation passage for me is 2 Peter 1:5-9 in which we are reminded that anyone who is not striving with all of their effort in sanctification is “so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” Therefore, we are called to “make our calling an election sure.”

Hopefully this has been an encouragement to you and I hope that in this new year that you will discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness through the study of God’s Word.

Thoughts on Biblical Literacy (for you ladies)

Recently, I began a book study with a dear friend of mine from church, and I thought the book that she had in mind was so awesome that it was worth writing about. J The book is entitled Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with both our Hearts and our Minds, and it is written by Jen Wilkin. Honestly, the book has been amazing so far (we’ve only met up for 3 weeks now), but we have added to the challenge by having a discussion leader each week that poses thoughtful questions for our discussion.

What I really like about the book is that it discusses why biblical literacy is important, bad habits we may have that keep us from knowing the Word of God as we ought, and ways we can study more intentionally and effectively. Now, if you’ve been following the posts on CredoCovenant, you could not have missed the last posting of M’Cheyne’s Bible reading plan for the year (but, if you did, you can find it here). I’m not sure how many people are using the plan, or plan on using the plan in 2015, or plan on using a different plan, but I do want to encourage you to make studying the Word of God an intentional endeavor in the new year. Jen Wilkins had this to say from her book:

Biblical literacy is something most of us will never feel comfortable claiming we have achieved during our lifetime…We treasure what we know, but we are troubled by what we do not know. We do our best to cobble together a patchwork knowledge of Scripture, pieced from sermons, studies, and quiet times, but we are often confronted with the gaps and loose seams in the garment of our understanding, particularly when life gets hard…But what can we do to know the Bible better?…

Biblical literacy occurs when a person has access to a Bible in a language she [he] understands and is steadily moving toward knowledge and understanding of the text. If it is true that the character and will of God are proclaimed in Scripture, then any serious attempt to become equipped for the work of discipleship must include a desire to build Biblical literacy. Biblical literacy stitches patchwork knowledge into a seamless garment of understanding…This steady movement does not occur by accident, nor does it always occur intuitively. We may have an earnest desire to build Bible literacy, but left untrained, we may develop habits of engaging the text that at best do nothing to increase literacy and at worst actually work against it. (emphasis mine)

What struck me most in her statement was the fact that Biblical literacy isn’t something you just “happen into”. It’s something that takes work, training, and practice before you become good at it. I mean, it is the way most things work in life. I didn’t start off being a good wife or a good mother, I had to put some work into, get better at it, and I still have a long way to go. What Christian didn’t start off by knowing a few memory verses and some Bible stories about Noah, David and Goliath, and Jonah? So, eventually, we have to grow. We need to mature. We need to move beyond elementary things, and seriously make studying the Word of God a priority in our lives.

Now, this book is aimed at women (excellent holiday gift anyone!?!), but I know any person can benefit from reading the book. However, I know that taking time for Bible study is often difficult with the varying circumstances a lot of women deal with (i.e. husbands, families, children, jobs, hospitality, etc.), but I want to encourage the women out there not to neglect studying your Bibles coming into this new year. In fact, you may want to take advantage of a Bible reading plan to provide you with some guidance and a little motivation to keep on going. But ultimately, I think that the Word of God provides the best motivation. In Titus 2, verses 3-5, women are exhorted here by the Apostle Paul. Right at the end of verse 3, you find the sentence: “They are to teach what is good.” Let’s face it. You can’t teach what you don’t know. That’s a really blunt way of saying it, but it is the truth. You really can’t teach or share with anyone something you do not know. But a more gentle way of saying this can be found in Proverbs 31:26: “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” In our pursuit to become an excellent lady, honoring God in all that we say or do, let us not neglect studying His Word. So ladies, I pray that these verses provide you with the best motivation to make serious Bible study a part of your life. I also encourage you to check out Jen Wilkin’s book and maybe meet up with a friend or two to talk through it, and her book is a fairly short read for the month of December so that you can start off right in the upcoming year.

Finally, if I can get your mind going already, here are some questions that my friend and I discussed from our first meeting on this all important topic:

  1. When you study the Bible from a man-centered perspective, what aspects of God do we miss seeing? What aspects of ourselves do we miss seeing?
  2. When you study the Bible from a God-centered perspective, what aspects of God do you see more clearly? What aspects of yourself do you see more clearly?
  3. What does it mean to renew our minds?
  4. Is the way that a person becomes more spiritual different in the New Testament than in the Old Testament?
  5. Is the pursuit of doctrinal precision a truly spiritual endeavor? Is it a mark of genuine spirituality? Is it a worthwhile pursuit for the Christian?
  6. Is it sinful for us to study the Word of God however we want to (i.e. interpreting and understanding things how we want or only studying the things we want)?

Reading Through Scripture in 2014 (ht: sovjoy.com)

Here are some resources to help those who want to read through the Bible in 2014:

tumblr_mu151foTGA1qk8lq4o1_1280
Both Android & iOS have available apps to keep track of various reading plans:

 

Resources for Bible Reading from Justin Taylor:

Do you want to read the whole Bible?

If the average person reads 200 to 250 words per minute, and if there are about 775,000 words in the Bible, then it would take less than 10 minutes a day to read the whole Bible in a year.

Audio Bibles are usually about 75 hours long, so you can listen to it in just over 12 minutes a day.

But a simple resolution to do this is often an insufficient. Most of us need a more proactive plan.

Stephen Witmer explains the weaknesses of typical plans and offers some advice on reading the Bible together with others—as well as offering his own new two-year plan. (“In my opinion, it is better to read the whole Bible through carefully one time in two years than hastily in one year.”) His plan has you read through one book of the Bible at a time (along with a daily reading from the Psalms or Proverbs). At the end of two years you will have read through the Psalms and Proverbs four times and the rest of the Bible once.

The Gospel Coalition’s For the Love of God Blog (which you can subscribe to via email) takes you through the M’Cheyne reading plan, with a meditation each day by D. A. Carson related to one of the readings. M’Cheyne’s plan has you read shorter selections from four different places in the Bible each day.

George Guthrie’s “Read the Bible for Life Chronological Bible Reading Plan” is a semi-chronological plan, placing the prophets and the NT letters in basic chronological order. You read in four different places each day, along with a daily psalm (so you end up reading the Psalter twice in a year). You can also download a printable booklet.

For those who would benefit from a realistic “discipline + grace” approach, consider “The Bible Reading Plan for Shirkers and Slackers.” As Andy Perry explains, it takes away the pressure (and guilt) of “keeping up” with the entire Bible in one year. You get variety within the week by alternating genres by day, but also continuity by sticking with one genre each day. Here’s the basic idea:

Sundays: Poetry
Mondays: Penteteuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy)
Tuesdays: Old Testament history
Wednesdays: Old Testament history
Thursdays: Old Testament prophets
Fridays: New Testament history
Saturdays: New Testament epistles (letters)

There are a number of Reading Plans for ESV Editions. Crossway has made them accessible in multiple formats:

  • web (a new reading each day appears online at the same link)
  • RSS (subscribe to receive by RSS)
  • podcast (subscribe to get your daily reading in audio)
  • iCal (download an iCalendar file)
  • mobile (view a new reading each day on your mobile device)
  • print (download a PDF of the whole plan)
Reading Plan Format
Chronological
Through the Bible chronologically (from Back to the Bible)
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Daily Light on the Daily Path
Daily Light on the Daily Path – the ESV version of Samuel Bagster’s classic
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Daily Office Lectionary
Daily Psalms, Old Testament, New Testament, and Gospels
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Daily Reading Bible
Daily Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
ESV Study Bible
Daily Psalms or Wisdom Literature; Pentateuch or the History of Israel; Chronicles or Prophets; and Gospels or Epistles
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Every Day in the Word
Daily Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, Proverbs
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Literary Study Bible
Daily Psalms or Wisdom Literature; Pentateuch or the History of Israel; Chronicles or Prophets; and Gospels or Epistles
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
M’Cheyne One-Year Reading Plan
Daily Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms or Gospels
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Outreach
Daily Old Testament, Psalms, and New Testament
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Outreach New Testament
Daily New Testament. Read through the New Testament in 6 months
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Through the Bible in a Year
Daily Old Testament and New Testament
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email

You can also access each of these Reading Plans as podcasts:

  • Right-click (Ctrl-click on a Mac) the “RSS” link of the feed you want from the above list.
  • Choose “Copy Link Location” or “Copy Shortcut.”
  • Start iTunes.
  • Under File, choose “Subscribe to Podcast.”
  • Paste the URL into the box.
  • Click OK.

 

Resources for Bible Reading from Ligonier Ministries:

Many Christians take the beginning of a new year to evaluate their Bible reading habits, and then change or begin a Bible reading plan.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. — Psalm 119:105

For your convenience, we’ve compiled a list of Bible reading plans for you to choose from. Maybe this year you will read more of the Bible each day. Perhaps you’ll slow down your reading and instead spend more time considering what you read. Whatever it is you’re looking for in a reading plan, you should find it below.


52 Week Bible Reading Plan

Read through the Bible in a year, with each day of the week dedicated to a different genre: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy, and Gospels.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


5x5x5 Bible Reading Plan

Read through the New Testament in a year, reading Monday to Friday. Weekends are set aside for reflection and other reading. Especially beneficial if you’re new to a daily discipline of Bible reading.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


A Bible Reading Chart

Read through the Bible at your own pace. Use this minimalistic, yet beautifully designed, chart to track your reading over 2013.

Duration: Flexible | Download: PDF


Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Read through the Bible in the order the events occurred chronologically.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


The Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan

Four daily readings beginning in Genesis, Psalms, Matthew and Acts.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


ESV Daily Bible Reading Plan

Four daily readings taken from four lists: Psalms and Wisdom Literature, Pentateuch and History of Israel, Chronicles and Prophets, and Gospels and Epistles.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


Every Word in the Bible

Read through the Bible one chapter at a time. Readings alternate between the Old and New Testaments.

Duration: Three years | Download: PDF


Historical Bible Reading Plan

The Old Testament readings are similar to Israel’s Hebrew Bible, and the New Testament readings are an attempt to follow the order in which the books were authored.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System

Reading ten chapters a day, in the course of a year you’ll read the Gospels four times, the Pentateuch twice, Paul’s letters four to five times, the Old Testament wisdom literature six times, the Psalms at least twice, Proverbs and Acts a dozen times, and the OT History and Prophetic books about one and a half times.

Duration: Ongoing | Download: PDF


Robert Murray M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan

Read the New Testament and Psalms twice and the Old Testament once.

Duration: One or two years | Download: Website


Straight Through the Bible Reading Plan

Read straight through the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


Tabletalk Bible Reading Plan

Two readings each day; one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF
App: Accessible in the Ligonier App (iPhone / iPad & Android)


The Legacy Reading Plan

This plan does not have set readings for each day. Instead, it has set books for each month, and set number of Proverbs and Psalms to read each week. It aims to give you more flexibility, while grounding you in specific books of the Bible each month.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


Two-Year Bible Reading Plan

Read the Old and New Testaments once, and Psalms & Proverbs four times.

Duration: Two years | Download: PDF


In addition to your daily Bible reading, if you’re looking for devotional material that will help you understand the Bible and apply it to daily living, consider Tabletalk magazine. Try it out for three months absolutely free.