Archive for the ‘Bible Reading Plan’ Category

Thoughts on Reading the Bible

Posted: September 10, 2014 by abestratton in Bible Reading Plan, Parents, Resources

I think one of the biggest struggles of Jesus’ followers is spending time with Him.

That might sound ridiculous (“Of course, I want to spend time with Jesus!”), but our struggle reveals itself in our up-and-down efforts to spend time in the Bible. Because God has spoken through His Word, the Bible, it is vital that God’s children spend time reading it in order to understand more about God and about life.

Teens wrestle with spending time in the Word because they’re busy, because there are lots of other things to do, and (honestly) because reading the Bible just doesn’t rank very high on our list of awesomest things to do today.

As a result, parents who are followers of Jesus wrestle with trying to get their children to spend time in the Word. We don’t want to force our kids; we want them to desire time with God. I get this, but I think there is also value to instilling a habit with our children. Part of the “wanting” comes from the doing. Sometimes joy precedes obedience, but a lot of times it follows obedience. So we often have to step out (by faith) and do something even when we don’t feel like it, and God is gracious to give us joy which then motivates us to return and obey Him again.

So here are several suggestions for parents seeking to encourage their teens to spend time in the Word.

  1. I know of several dads who have time in the Word with their teens. (a) One dad reads the Word silently, but he encourages his teen to come and sit in the same room with him and read their own Bible. Sometimes doing similar things near each other is a form of accountability and encouragement. (b) Several other dads actually work through a passage out loud with their whole family. Each family member reads a verse, and the family works through a passage. Then the family discusses. (What did you see about God? What did you see about yourself and your need for God? How should you change as a result of what you’ve seen?)
  2. Here are some suggestions for reading plans.

Read through one of the Gospels and write down…

  • How Jesus is acting
  • What Jesus is saying
  • Who Jesus is interacting with and how

Read a Psalm and write down…

  • who God is/what God is like
  • how God is acting
  • how this knowledge about God should change me

Read through one of the NT letters and write down the answers to these questions…

  • What does this tell me about God? What is He like, and what does He do?
  • What does this tell me about myself/about humanity? What are we supposed to be? What is wrong with us?
  • How does God want me to live?

Read through a NT letter and write down…

  • What God describes as a godly man (What is he like? How does he act? What does he love?)
  • What God describes as a godly woman (What is she like? How does she act? What does he love?)

 

 

Is God in control, or am I?

Posted: February 20, 2014 by abestratton in Bible Reading Plan, Resources

One of the most challenging questions for followers of Jesus and for those who believe in and obey God’s Word – the Christian Bible – is this: “Is God in control, or does man have a choice?”

We tend to think that if God is in control of everything (as the Bible seems to indicate), then men are just puppets on a stage; God moves us around like pieces on a chessboard to accomplish His big plan. On the other hand, we tend to think that if man has the ability to make choices for himself, then God must not be in control; man is.

These two concepts of God’s sovereignty (His control over and through everything) and man’s free will seem to be pitted against each other in our human logic. However, numbers of Scripture passages challenge us to hold to both at the same time. Our reading for this week contains one of those passages.

Nehemiah is a man who is very concerned about his country, Israel. He’s in a foreign country, serving a foreign king, but he hears about his homeland and the horrible condition it’s in. Nehemiah asks his boss if he can go home and rebuild his nation’s capital. Once Nehemiah gets there he realizes the massive extent of the project, but he is convinced that God will be with him as he seeks to do what he believes God wants him to do. In chapter 2 and verse 20, Nehemiah says,”The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build.” Nehemiah fully believes that God is going to accomplish what He wants, but Nehemiah is also unshakably determined to act; he’s not passive.

If you know Jesus and follow the God of the Bible, then I hope this book of Nehemiah will be an encouragement to you as you see God working out His big plan through diligent, determined people. Here are questions for this week’s reading.

Forgiveness

Posted: February 7, 2014 by abestratton in Bible Reading Plan, Resources

It’s one of the hardest things that we do – to say, “I forgive you.”

When someone wrongs us (whether it’s stealing from us, trashing our reputation by gossip, or robbing our virginity by molestation), they have created a debt. They owe us something. And it’s in our human nature to demand something back from them. We want them to suffer; we want them to be locked up; we want them to repay what they’ve stolen. Ultimately we want justice.

But forgiveness is releasing that debt – letting it go – allowing someone to walk away without repaying anything. That’s hard, and sometimes it’s seemingly impossible.

But that’s exactly what God did for us. He sent His Son to suffer the punishment which we deserved for the debt we had created against Him by our rebellion and disobedience. Since Jesus suffered instead of us, God forgives His children; He lets them walk away free, without having to repay their debt. (We never could anyway!)

In Paul’s little letter to Philemon, another believer who owned slaves, Paul encourages Philemon to forgive Onesimus, a slave who had wronged his master. But Paul’s plea to Philemon was not just that he let the wrong go; Paul wanted Philemon to go beyond that.

Here’s an introduction to the letter. Read the letter here. And here are questions for this week’s reading.

You want to read an exciting story?
Read the little book of Esther in the Bible. There are murder plots, political intrigue, an unlikely romance, attempted genocide (just to name a few).
The events seem so unlikely as to be fictitious. How could some of these things happen? They seem so far-fetched at times. Yet behind them all, there is a silent and almost imperceptible God who is working to accomplish His purposes and to protect His people. In fact, God is not even mentioned in the book, but the signs of His work, the fingerprints of His plans, and the sound of His passing is quite evident if we will watch and listen carefully.
Here are questions for this little book. Esther 1-3, Esther 4-6, and Esther 7-10

Do I really care about other people?

Posted: January 9, 2014 by abestratton in Bible Reading Plan, Resources

Most of us would probably consider ourselves pretty nice people. We often do things for others; we try to be nice even to those who aren’t our best friends.
But what about our enemies? What about the people who really hate us and would harm us if they could?
Are those the types of people we are eager to serve or to help?
In the little book of Jonah we see a man who is consumed with his own comfort – a man who is dead-set against helping his enemies. In Jonah we see ourselves. We see that we really don’t want our enemies to be rescued; we really want them to be destroyed (because, after all, they would do the same to us).
But this ugly reflection of our own hearts has a stark contrast – the love of God for undeserving people. The book of Jonah shouts God’s love for the unlovely and the wretched. That’s good news when we realize that we are also unlovely and wretched. We are God’s enemies, and yet He has loved us. What mercy!
Here are questions for this week’s reading.

What’s life all about?

Posted: December 17, 2013 by abestratton in Bible Reading Plan, Resources

It is a question which has occupied men for centuries. Why are we here? How should we best use the limited time we have on this globe? What impact can I have on other people?
Answers to these questions can be as numerous and varied as the people who ask them. But in these chapters of Mark which we’ll read this week, Jesus makes life very simple. He boils down all of the laws and commandments which God had given to that point in history, and He summarized them in 2.
Love God with every part of your being.
Love others in the same way in which you already love yourself.

Simple, but not easy. In fact, impossible for any man or woman to obey perfectly all the time. That’s why we need Jesus – the only one who obeyed these 2 commands perfectly all the time. We need His obedience to be credited to us, and we need His perfect death to be the payment for our failure to obey perfectly. He is our hope, and He is the reason why we now strive to love God and love others even though we don’t do it perfectly.

Here are questions for this week’s reading in Mark 9-12.

Who’s in Charge (2)?

Posted: December 11, 2013 by abestratton in Bible Reading Plan, Resources

In these chapters (5-8) Mark continues to point us to Jesus’ unrivaled authority. If you’ve grown up hearing Bible stuff, it’s so easy for us to take these accounts for granted, but if you stop and really think about what’s happening, it’s pretty amazing! I mean, when was the last time you saw a guy exorcise a demon or heal a diseased person simply by talking to them or raise someone from the dead? This is pretty powerful stuff.
But the key comes when Mark shows that Jesus has authority over our hearts too. That’s when Jesus’ power and authority become really personal. Then you have to make a decision about your response to Jesus’ authority. Now, His authority is not just an amazing display out there; now it’s hitting home for you.
Here are questions for this week’s reading.