Have you ever quoted your mother in giving advice? Has a famous line of some presidential speech made its way into your conversation? How did you do it? Do you carry around a quote book, organized by topic, to pull out and read from at just the right time?
Of course not. These nuggets are stored deep down in your brain. They live alongside movie lines you could recite in your sleep, sports statistics such as a starting lineup of a decades old baseball team, and your childhood street address. We commit all sorts of things to memory. Some clearly of more value than others. But value is what gets it there.
What we value we focus on, we repeat, we talk about, and eventually we memorize–often without even knowing it.
As Year in the Bible slows down to focus on 1 Corinthians, I want memorization to take a central role. God’s Word has tremendous value, therefore we should take the time and energy to store it in our hearts. Since we are reading fewer verses each week we have more time to dig deep, we’ll have the time to meditate on these verses, reading them over and over. As we do so, God’s Spirit will strengthen the roots that Scripture has within us.
Each week we’ll have a couple of verses to memorize. Think of it almost like a parallel to last year’s focus passages. I’m working on ways to encourage and make it easier, but it will still take dedication. We’ll have verses printed on paper the size of business cards to tuck away in your pocket. I’m often thinking of visual aids, and have already worked on one for our first memory verses: 1 Corinthians 1:1-3 (Paul’s Opening Lines).
My hope is that by the end of these several months, we’ll have a great storehouse of Scripture in our minds, ready to be used by God in us, for us, and through us.
After taking some time to investigate what is next for Year in the Bible, I decided I wanted to slow things down a bit. Reading through the Bible with many of you last year was a fantastic experience, and I know that I learned a great deal. But how often did we wish we had more time to sit and pray over certain passages? We gained much by reading everything–we now have a great breadth of knowledge. But now we’ll change our approach. Our next reading plan will focus on depth.
Rather than read 20 plus chapters a week, we’ll be reading around 20 verses. From June through October you are invited to read 1 Corinthians.
We will slowly go through Paul’s letter to Corinth and its sixteen chapters that deal with the cross of Jesus Christ, the Lord’s Supper, spiritual gifts, sex, love, resurrection, and more. Given the slower pace and the ability to read such short passages quickly, we will try new ways to keep the Bible in front of us for these months. The website – YearInTheBible.com – will again provide tools, tips, and insights, and I hope to have memorization play a role this time. Also, given its short length, this reading plan can easily be added on to whatever current plan you may have.
In this last year I heard how helpful it is to have some plan to guide our reading, and I think this will be another enriching time to join others in the church and learn from God in his Word.
We’ve gone the route of seeing the forest for the trees this last year. From Spring of 2012 through the winter of 2013 we read the entire Bible.
Beginning the first Sunday of June, get ready to take a closer look at one of the trees.
We have finished a very long reading plan and currently I’m working on what may come next. But in the meantime, let me humbly offer a suggestion.
We’re right in the middle of Holy Week. We look back on Jesus’ death and then to his resurrection on Sunday. Why not then go back and read Luke, focusing on what he came to live for, as well as why he had to die. Then continue with Luke’s writing into Acts, to see the how the world is changing as a result of Jesus. He is raised and ascends to the throne of God. In Acts, see what happens once he pours out his Holy Spirit and his kingdom grows as his followers seek to live as disciples of Christ–as Christians.
On this our final day of reading, Jesus says to us from the last chapter of Revelation:
Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and …
Well done, every one. Well done.
I’m not sure whether this will encourage you to check out this coming Sunday’s sermon or do the opposite, but my intent for Palm Sunday is to preach on the whole Bible. On that day we should be done with Year in the Bible and how else should we cap off the year but by looking back on it all?
There are different ways to preach on God’s history with his people. Many confessions follow a fall, redemption, gratitude pattern. Since it will be Palm Sunday where we look at Christ’s triumphal entry, I wanted to lift up the kingship of Jesus Christ–what that means and how that is a fulfillment.
So that is what’s in store for Sunday. The only other wrinkle is that I didn’t want to preach about what is in the Bible. I want to preach using scripture. I want to do so using as much of the text that I could. Here is an outline and the references for what (at this point, at least) I’ve come up with:
Creation, Call, and Covenant
1 Corinthians 15:24-25
1 Corinthians 1:27
Pattern of Disobedience and Deliverance
1 Samuel 8:19-20
2 Chronicles 30:10
God’s Great Intent Fulfilled in Christ
Christ the Victorious King
1 Peter 2:4
2 Corinthians 1:20
2 Timothy 2:3,8
2 Timothy 2:10
Awaiting His Return
2 Timothy 1:9
Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, Jan van Eyck, c. 1390-1441
From NT Wright’s commentary, Revelation for Everyone, he says this about Revelation 21:1-5:
When has there been a moment in your life when you have said to yourself, ‘This is new’? I don’t just mean a car with a few new gadgets, or a meal with a different combination of sauces and seasonings – though these, too, may point in the right direction. I’m thinking more of major life-experiences in which we think to ourselves, ‘Everything is going to be different now. This is quite new. This is a whole new world opening up.’
Such experiences might well include some major life-events: birth, marriage, full recovery from a long and dangerous illness, the experience of someone new coming to live with you. All these, interestingly, feature in the list of images which John uses as he builds up this breathtaking picture of the new heaven and new earth. ‘I will be his God and he shall be my son’ (verse 7): a final new birth. The holy city is like ‘a bride dressed up for her husband’: a wedding. There will be ‘no more death, or mourning or weeping or pain any more’: the great recovery. And, central to this whole picture, and indeed explaining what it all means, is the great promise: ‘God has come to dwell with humans.’ The new, permanent guest.
There may be mystery about God’s new creation, but what we do know is surely good news. What a hope we have in Jesus Christ.
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty–
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works–
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
In reading through the Bible we can’t help but see the greatness of God that is still so hard to fathom even though it is throughout the scriptures. But even though he is so good, we at times fail to take that next step of sharing his goodness with others. We do not witness to his mighty acts, passing on such good news from generation to generation.
In taking this year, I pray that it has been time to “meditate on [God’s] wonderful works” and may that spur us on to tell of his power, proclaim his great deeds, and celebrate. Our God is so gracious and compassionate that we ought to rejoice and sing praise to him.
As a bonus, enjoy this video by Shane and Shane based off this Psalm.
We spent more time looking at the question of why we read the Bible as we began our readings almost one year ago. But now at the end, can you answer that question again? Why have you been reading? What has been a result of being in God’s word?
What has been a takeaway for you in doing this? Has there been a certain story that struck you and has changed how you see the world? Have you seen themes through and through?
I’m not trying to ask rhetorical questions. We should take time to reflect on what we’ve done. (Although maybe you want to take time next week, once we’ve finished.)
Think of it this way. You have a neighbor that knows hardly anything about the Bible and she comes up to you and finds out what you’ve been doing for the last year. If she were to ask, “Why do you read the Bible? What does it matter? What does it mean?”, how would you answer?
Or imagine that a family member who doesn’t go to church were to ask “What have you learned? Are you different now than a year ago”, how would you answer him?
Doing something as big as reading the Bible in the year can stand out to others and be a cause for questions and something that sparks discussion. If that happens, I’d urge you to be ready to witness to others about the importance of God’s word and seeking him in it. As it says in 1 Peter 3:15, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
Here are some more questions that push us as we look back on what we have done and why we have done it:
I just uploaded the final focus passage of this Year in the Bible. It is the first of the upcoming week of “lasts.” I’ll use it as one more chance to invite y’all to take a look at these. This site will take a short hiatus until I figure out what is next, but take advantage of what lives here. We have about 300 posts on all sorts of Bible passages and have a devotional for every week of the year. As great as it is to have read so much, we can’t forget to slow down and meditate on God’s Word, and the focus passages afford us that opportunity.
Of course, there are many places to find devotionals. Just find some. Keep reading. That’ll be a theme of this last week. If not here on the site, if you’re around me in person. It’ll probably be annoying. I really want this to spur us all on to stay in the Bible and continue to grow together as we read.