Friday, 28 December 2012

Reading the Bible in 2013

If you are the sort of person who makes resolutions, then don't go past this.

(If you are not the sort of person who makes resolutions, yay!)

Reading the Bible in 2013:

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

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

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.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Does a series of things imply sequence? - Rev 12:7 (Monday with Mounce 169)

One of my favourite ever blogs; a continuing series, as you can tell from the title:

Does a series of things imply sequence? - Rev 12:7 (Monday with Mounce 169):
Monday with MounceI was trying to make sense of Revelation 12 yesterday in my quiet time.
John has covered his second cycle of events (chapters 8 – 9) and the Interlude (chapters 10 – 11). Now comes a focused part on Satan, the two beasts, and the destruction they bring (chapters 12 – 14).
In 12:1-6 we see the Messianic community (a woman) giving birth to Jesus, and the appearance of the red dragon. The woman flees to the wilderness where she is protected by God for 1,260 days.
If I could skip our passage, we would come to vv 13 – 17, and the plot continues uninterrupted (which should be a clue). The woman flies to the wilderness. The dragon spews out a river to try and drown the woman, but the earth opens its mouth and swallows the river. The enraged dragon heads off to wage war against the woman’s offspring, “those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus” (NIV).
So what is going on in vv 7 – 12? It feels like it interrupts the sequence, but look how v 7 begins. “Then” (NIV [a change from “and” in the NIV 1984], HCSB, NET, NLT, TEV). Others write, “and” (NASB, KJV, NJB has “and now”), and the RSV/ESV has “now” (changed to “and” in the NRSV”).

The use of “then” requires a sequence, doesn’t it? Even allowing for the nature of apocalyptic literature and how it can give us snapshots of images and events not necessarily connected, the use of “then” requires temporal sequence. And to the English mind, a series of descriptions are read by default as sequential. This makes interpretation more difficult.
Dad, in his commentary, says that the verses depict “an all-out attempt on the part of Satan to regain his position in the presence of God. It does not refer back to the original expulsion of Satan from heaven but is the cosmic prelude to the consummation, an ‘end-time” event’” ( 235). But does this happen after the woman fled (v 6), and before Satan pursued the woman and her “male child” (v 13)? That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
What am I getting at? The Greek phrase the NIV translates as “then” is actually καὶ ἐγένετο. This is a common phrase, and my point is that it does not always indicate strict sequence. That is why “and” or “now” is a better translation.
BDAG comments, “f. καὶ ἐγένετο (ἐγένετο δέ) periphrastic like וַיְהִי with וַ foll. to indicate the progress of the narrative … Mt 9:10; Mk 2:15 v.l.; Lk 2:15; 5:1, 12, 17; 8:1, 22; 14:1.... The phrase is usually omitted in translation; older versions transl. it came to pass.” The latter translation has always been my default translation of the phrase. It simply means that something happened, in both the Greek and the Hebrew. There is no necessary sequence.
Beale comments, “Verses 7–12 are a narration of the defeat of the devil and his angels by Michael and his angels in heavenly combat. The actions described are the heavenly counterpart of earthly events recorded in vv 1–6. Beale’s understanding especially requires us to see that καὶ ἐγένετο does not indicate sequence, since in this case it is depicting events parallel to those in the preceding paragraph. Certainly, John may have seen them sequentially, but their meaning is not sequential.
Connectives can be difficult things to translate, but it is important to not make them say more than they actually do. Satan desires to destroy the church. God is protecting the offspring of the woman, and part of that protection “in the wilderness” is Satan’s heavenly defeat at the hands of Michael. Satan knows his end is near, and his hatred grows as he tries all the harder to destroy that which is so precious to God.
Satan is truly a voracious lion with an insatiable appetite, and no matter how many victories he enjoys in the short term, he is never satisfied and will eventually be destroyed. Come Lord Jesus!

MouncewWilliam D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics at Koinonia. He is the author of numerous books, including the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek, and is the general editor for Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV. Learn more about Bill at, and visit his other blog on spiritual growth, Life is a Journey, at

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

“Union with Christ” by Constantine Campbell

I'm looking forward to reading this book.

“Union with Christ” by Constantine Campbell:
“Virtually every element of Christ’s work that is of interest to Paul is connected in some way to union with Christ. Salvation, redemption, reconciliation, creation, election, predestination, adoption, sanctification, headship, provision, His death, resurrection, ascension, glorification, self-giving, the gifts of grace, peace, eternal life, the Spirit, spiritual riches and blessings, freedom, and the fulfillment of God’s promises are all related to union with Christ.”
–Constantine Campbell, Paul and Union with Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 331-332.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Stop the Stories (Paul Levy)

Exactly, Yancey!

Stop the Stories (Paul Levy): Today I make a plea to all potential Christian book writers and
publishers........ stop putting very annoying 'real life stories' at the
start of your chapters, as if that really grounds them in reality. You
know what I am talking about. At the start of the chapter is an example
of what the chapter will teach. They are normally very politically
correct, so Kate will be married to Asif and they have two children.
Asif works in a monotonous 9-5 job. Kate works part time in a garage
whilst taking care of the children and household chores. These little
vignettes started to really annoy me in Tim Keller's Reason for God but
since that every Tom, Dick and Harry who writes a Christian book has got
hold of the technique. Just bin it! Most of the stories are pretty
awful and even the true ones we don't believe anymore.

To make my point let me give you a story. There were a group of guys
that didn't really know each other but through the internet and a
bizarre set of coincidences found themselves writing for an online
magazine. The supposed leader of the group was a guy called Del but
nobody sees much of him. He longs for the good old times of the magazine
when Phil and Rick (2 other relics of halycon days) used to get wound up
by Carl, the celebrity of the gang. Carl is a middle aged, short, balding,
marathon runner doing a couple of jobs teaching at a seminary and
running a church. He's the big hitter of the group and the muscle behind
a lot of the right wing reformed movement you see in the US. The third
character, Levy, lots of people don't think exists other than as
a figment of Carl's imagination. The only evidence to the contrary is an
inability to spell or use grammar correctly. He's the real hero of the
band and is trying to raise money for a building project that seems to
have been going on forever but hasn't even started yet. The latest
addition to the gang is Jeremy Walker. He ministers in the 17th Century
and writes hymns from that period. He has never written anything under
10,000 words.

It's annoying isn't it!!!

Cut the stories at the start
of chapters, admittedly for most of you ''Counsellors'' out there that
turns your books into short articles but so be it.

Monday, 10 December 2012

When assisted suicide doesn't work.

John Harrower links to a letter that talks about the non- theoretical dangers in the rush towards assisted suicide.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

I love June Carter, I do

Sweet. From the Letters of Note blog.

I love June Carter, I do:

On March 1st of 1968, Johnny Cash married June Carter. They remained together until her death 35 years later. Below are two notes, both written by Cash — the first to June in 1994 on the occasion of her 65th birthday, and the second shortly after her death in 2003.

Johnny Cash passed away two months later, four months after his wife.

Transcripts follow.

(Source: House of Cash; Image above, via.)


June 23 1994

Odense, Denmark.

Happy Birthday Princess,

We get old and get use to each other. We think alike. We read each others minds. We know what the other wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit. Maybe sometimes take each other for granted.

But once in awhile, like today, I meditate on it and realize how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met. You still fascinate and inspire me. You influence me for the better. You're the object of my desire, the #1 Earthly reason for my existence. I love you very much.

Happy Birthday Princess.



July 11 2003


I love June Carter, I do. Yes I do. I love June Carter I do. And she loves me.

But now she's an angel and I'm not. Now she's an angel and I'm not.

RSS Feed proudly sponsored by TinyLetter, a simple newsletter service for people with something to say.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Encouragement: how words change lives

Some kind words from my friend Macca.

Encouragement: how words change lives:

In Gordon Cheng’s book, Encouragement: How Words Change Lives, he advocates speaking the truth in love. In view of this, I feel the need to disclose a few facts. I’ve known Gordon since I began university. I’ve had to put up with his the endless Monty Python recitations, even being roped into performing some skits together in college reviews. We did some of our ministry and theological college training together, before both working in university ministry in different parts of the country. Our wives are both named Fiona and they shared a house together before they were married (to each of us respectively). Most importantly,  I regularly won our push-up competitions.
In all seriousness, I say these things because we often don’t have a clue about the life of an author, and whether they practise what they preach. It’s one thing to write a book about ‘encouraging words’ and quite another to live it out. In my experience, this author walks the talk. Despite the silly banter between us, he’s always aiming to build up rather than tear down. He’s been quick to add encouraging comments to this blog and he’s spent time on the phone encouraging me in the struggles I’ve been going through this year. And he hasn’t offered any cash for comments here!
Encouragement is a word that’s commonly thrown around in Christian circles to mean whatever we want it to mean. This book offers a biblically-shaped definition:
Christian encouragement is speaking the truth in love, with the aim of building Christians up in Christ-likeness, as we wait for the day of judgement. Christian encouragement will likewise involve speaking the truth in love to unbelievers, thus encouraging them to put their trust in Christ for forgiveness and salvation.  (p11)
This definition draws on many parts of Scripture, but is particularly based in Ephesians 4:
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.  (Ephesians 4:11-16)
There are four parts to this definition. Truth and love are both essential for genuine Christian encouragement. Words of ‘truth’ can be used to cause harm – this is not encouragement. The truth can be distorted or lost, with the aim of ‘loving’ another – neither is this encouragement. Notice also, that there are two recipients in view, the Christian and the unbeliever. Truth and love, grounded in the message of Jesus Christ, is what will both build Christians and offer life to those who don’t as yet believe.
The overarching context for Christian encouragement is the coming day of judgement. If, as Hebrews 9:27 says, it’s appointed for all people to die and then to face judgement, then genuine Christian encouragement will be shaped and directed by this reality. How we live, and what we decide and do and say, matters. The reason we can offer encouragement in the face of judgement is because Jesus Christ, the One who was full of love and truth, has already taken the judgement in our place. Jesus’ death and resurrection changes everything, and this is the core message of encouragement we have to share.
In this postmodern world it’s easy to be dismissive of words, as if they’re empty of real significance or power. However, the Bible demonstrates the enormous power of words. God is the one who spoke the universe into existence and who maintains everything by his powerful world. The same word that creates life also brings new life in Jesus. We’re encouraged to draw deeply on God’s powerful word, as we offer hope for life and bring encouragement to others. Soaking ourselves in the Scriptures will help equip us to offer the right words in season. However, we’re not talking about mindless parroting of the Bible here. There’ll be times to speak and times to refrain from speaking. There’ll be occasions to read from God’s word and occasions to apply godly wisdom and common sense. If we lack the ability to choose what to say, and if or when, and how to say it, then we’re urged to pray and ask God for wisdom. In fact, we’d be wise to pray whenever we seek to encourage others, asking God’s Spirit to guide our words, and to apply them, and for them to be well received.
I found Encouragement to be a very encouraging book! It models what it teaches. It’s a joy to read because it’s not fundamentally about tips and techniques. Rather, it points the reader to the greatest source of encouragement, in God himself. In so doing, it inspires me to become an encourager of others. It doesn’t leave me feeling a failure or guilty, but reminds me of God’s grace. This book is gospel-shaped.
There are so many practical suggestions scattered throughout Encouragement. A good example is the chapter on ‘How we say what we say’. The basic message is, consider your motives in speaking. Are you aiming to love and build up? Cheng offers five examples of how ‘speaking the truth in love’ might work out in practice:
  1. Always remember the gospel of grace and repentance
  2. Be specific
  3. Be humble
  4. Deal with important issues
  5. There is a time for silence.  (p86)
The section on grace is pure gold. There is absolutely no place for a rule-based, sickening, dead moralism! Throughout each of the following sections it was apparent how important listening is to being able to find the right words and the right time to speak. We’re often not too good at it because we’re more interested in speaking than we are at listening. But, good encouragers will be good listeners. Listening will help us to choose the specific words, to use them humbly, to focus on what matters most, and to know when words are not the best option.
I’d recommend Encouragement to any Christian who’s wanting to make the most of their days in loving and serving others. It’s not just about how we speak – it’s about how we think and act and speak as God’s children in his world. It’s about living out the implications of the gospel of God’s grace in our lives. It’s about being a loving friend to others. It’s about having a ministry within your church, without needing an invitation, position, or job description. It’s about being wise as we engage with politics, or teach our kids about sex, or care for someone with terminal cancer. It’s about our God-given life. It’s for enthusiastic new Christians and it’s for crusty old Christians!
There is much I liked about this book. It contains some wonderful illustrations and stories of real people. It’s good humoured and gracious while making it’s points very clearly. The message of the Bible has shaped the argument throughout and there are many helpful references included in the text. I especially appreciated the smattering of Proverbs quoted and applied throughout. The author also shows genuine empathy for people who are doing it tough and this is especially helpful in a book on ‘encouragement’.
So I say, get yourself a copy and, while you’re at it, get one for someone else. You could read it together, or catch up and talk about what you’ve read. Perhaps you could use the study/review questions at the back. Help your friend, and get them to help you, become a better encourager of others. Maybe you could introduce this book into your book club. A friend told me last week that he reads out loud from good Christian books as he car-pools to work (and no, the others don’t mind!). This would be an excellent book to use for this purpose. Take it in bite size chunks and learn from it.
At the end of the day, however you might use this book, pray that God will apply his words of encouragement to your heart, in order that you can pass them on to others also.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Polluted Prayers Purified

From Pyromaniac friends. The high point of their blogging, which is very good, is when they quote Charles Spurgeon each week.

Polluted Prayers Purified:
Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 18, sermon number 1,051, "Golden Vials Full Of Odours."
"In the best prayer that was ever offered by the holiest man that ever lived, there was enough of sin to render it a polluted thing if the Lord had looked upon it by itself." 

When we approach nearest to the throne of grace, we still fall very far short of being where and what we ought to be. The sins of our holy things are alone enough to condemn us. We often come before God in prayer unfit to pray, and spoil the action in the very outset by unpreparedness of heart. At other times, when we are in the midst of devotion, when we are being upborne upon the wings of zeal, pride will intrude, and we congratulate ourselves upon the excellence of our worship. Alas! one dash of that spirit mars all: it is the Pharisaic spirit, and is the bane of devotion. At other times, just as our supplication is closing, we are assailed with suspicions as to the faithfulness of God, doubts as to the success of our pleas, or else some other unhallowed thought pollutes the sacrifice. Alas! how hard it is to begin, continue, and end a prayer in the Spirit. If any one of our prayers were put into the scales of the sanctuary alone, and of itself, the only verdict upon it must be, it is weighed in the balances and found wanting.

No, my brethren, the prayers of the saints of themselves considered would rather be an offense unto divine holiness than a sweet savour unto God. Our consolation lies in this that our beloved intercessor who stands before God for us, even Christ Jesus, possesses such an abundance of precious merit that he puts fragrance into our supplications and imparts a delicious odour to our prayers. He makes our intercessions to be through his merit what they could not have been without it, acceptable before the Majesty of heaven. I think it is Ambrose who uses a very pretty figure concerning believers’ prayers. He says we are like little children who run into the garden to gather flowers to please their father, but we are so ignorant and childish that we pluck as many weeds as flowers, and some of them very noxious, and we would carry this strange mixture in our hands, thinking that such base weeds would be acceptable to him. The mother meets the child at the door, and she says to it, “Little one, thou knowest not what thou hast gathered;” she unbinds this mixture and takes from it all the weeds and leaves only the sweet flowers, and then she takes other flowers sweeter than those which the child has plucked, and inserts them instead of the weeds, and then puts back the perfect posy into the child’s hand, and it runs therewith to its father.

Jesus Christ in more than motherly tenderness thus deals with our supplications. If we could see one of our prayers after Christ Jesus has amended it, we should scarce know it again. He has such skill that even our good flowers grow fairer in his hand; we clumsily tied them into a bundle, but he arranges them into a fair bouquet, where each beauty enhances the charm of its neighbour. If I could see my prayer after the Lord has prayed it, I should miss so much, and I should find so much there that was none of mine, that I am sure its fullest acceptance with God would not cause me a moment’s pride, but rather make me blush with grateful humility before him whose boundless sweetness lent to me and my poor prayer a sweetness not our own. So then, though the prayers of God’s saints are as precious incense, they would never be a sweet smell unto God, were it not that they are accepted in the beloved.