Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Blessed Bible Reading

The very first word in the hymnbook of the Old Testament is the word blessed: “Blessed is the man…” (Psalm 1:1).

The immediately following lines do not describe this man’s blessedness but rather his chosen source of information and direction. He does not spend time listening to sinners and scoffers. He doesn’t hang with them or identify with them on social media. Instead he delights in and mediates on the law of the Lord. He marinates his mind in God’s Word.

The blessing, more accurately, blessings plural, are found in the following verse.

He is like a tree
Planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
And its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers. (Psalm 1:3)

The blessings of God are at least stability and fruitfulness. The blessed man’s roots are established and he is not easily moved by the wind. His source of life is abundant so he is not threatened by the heat. He bears fruit when it is time.

To be #blessed is not to be driven by fads or driven by fear or driven to doubt by the wicked chaff. Blessing grows out of our chosen meditation.

With the new calendar year about to start, why not consider a Bible reading plan to provoke systemic meditation? I know a lot of you are reading the #ToTheWord plan, which is great, and that starts and stops following the school year schedule. But if you don’t have another, you could try my favorite: the Discipleship Journal plan, with four readings twenty-five days a month, from four different parts of the Bible.

Whatever you choose, put yourself in the right place to be blessed by the Lord.

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

The Owner of the Vineyard

If you are tracking with the Same Page Summer Bible reading plan, or if you happened to read the Gospel of Mark this past week, the Parable of the Tenants may be more fresh in your mind.

In Mark 12 Jesus told a story about a man who planted a vineyard and built a fence to protect it, who then leased the land to tenants while he went to another country. At harvest the owner sent one of his servants to get some of the fruit, and the tenants assaulted the servant. The tenants attacked a second servant, killed a third servant, and then murdered the “beloved son.”

Jesus asked, “What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others” (Mark 12:9).

The religious leaders who listened to the parable “perceived that he had told the parable against them” (verse 12), and He had. The good news is that while the parable was against them, it is for us. We are among the “others.”

In general the parable is against the hard-hearted Jews, the tenants in the story, who received a stewardship and then began acting like they were the owners. They indeed killed the Son of God’s love. The others in the story are the Gentiles, and here we are.

When it comes to eschatology, we believe that God still will cause a future generation of Jews to repent and receive the Messiah. And also, when it comes to eschatology, the owner of the vineyard has shared the riches of His glory in Christ among the Gentiles. We are built on the Cornerstone, it is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous (Mark 12:10-11)!

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

More Like Inflammation

Though we live in the “Information Age” it is hard to know what to believe. Much of the so-called information is more like inflammation, bait to hook our attention, not actually a benefit for our understanding. I’ve been picking away at a book called Trust Me, I’m Lying, and it exposes how efficiently lies spread through every level of media.

What a treasure we have in God’s Word. Paul told Timothy to “follow the pattern of the sound words” he had heard from Paul (2 Timothy 1:13), and we have our own copies to carry around with us to read so that the Word would richly dwell in us (Colossians 3:16).

At the beginning of another summer here is a reminder to meditate on God’s Word day and night. Let it be like a seed in your heart, that you might be like a tree planted by streams of water. Choose a reading plan, choose a time and place, and read and think and pray. Though we’re one week in to the #SamePageSummer plan, which many of you have joined, jump in now.

For the future, God’s Word is building us up so that we are ready for the promised inheritance (Acts 20:32).

And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:32)

For now, His Word reminds us that He is present. His Word is part of His presence. Hold it fast.

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Get Blessed and Bold

We are always under threat of being devoured. Peter told his readers that the devil prowls around looking for prey (1 Peter 5:8). He is our ancient foe who seeks to work us woe (Martin Luther). In this spiritual battle, remember that being devoured can happen in small bites, and it always starts in the soul.

Being conformed to this world is a way of being devoured (Romans 12:1-2). Taking on the feelings and the envy in the name of “good” will eat a woman to death. Instead, be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Fill your head with truth.

Learning to scoff is also a way of being devoured (Psalm 1:1). You don’t have have to leave the comforts of your own house for these classes anymore. You can tune in, subscribe, follow, and hit like on a steady stream of wicked counsel, including fearful panic. It’s not CHAZ, it’s CHAFF (Psalm 1:4). Men are consumed by their own complaints which they call “wisdom.”

Fight back, in and from your heart. This is why we should meditate day and night on God’s law (Psalm 1:2). Those who prosper are not the ones who are caught up on their social media feeds, but those who drink from the fountain of God’s Word. Let it wash you. Let it satisfy your thirst. Let it work you you green leaves and fruit in season (Psalm 1:3). Let it work in you courage.

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:8–9)

We’re 2/3rds through the #SamePageSummer Bible reading plan, and almost 2/3rds through the calendar year. But who knows how far along we are in the spiritual battle. Fasten on the belt of truth by reading Scripture (Ephesians 6:14). Get blessed and bold by getting the Bible into you.

Categories
A Shot of Encouragement

YouVersion

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while. The YouVersion Bible app is great and I am grateful to God for it.

I like apps. I try a lot, and buy a bunch. I’ve used half a dozen Bible apps in particular. I use Logos every week for reading commentaries and other resources, and open Olive Tree in order to look up Greek and Hebrew when I’m on my phone or iPad. YouVersion won’t replace those, but it has still earned a place in my daily rotation.

  • YouVersion has a buffet of English translations (let alone other languages). I choose the ESV in YouVersion 99% of the time, but all the translations are available for free. Wow.
  • Most of the translations have accompanying audio. It is amazing to have a digital servant ready to read at the tap of a button. Listening is not my favorite way to consume the Word, but there are many people (my wife included) for whom it is fantastic.
  • Earlier this year YouVersion added auto-scrolling of text with audio. The “official” ESV Bible app used to be the only app I knew of with that option, but this addition brought me back and I’ve stayed.
  • There are apps for iPhones/iPads, Android, and the web.
  • There are umpteen reading plans to choose from, plans to read through the Bible in a year, to read for shorter sprints, to read about particular topics. I like how the app keeps track of progress, sends optional notifications, and offers to read with others.
  • Social aspects of the Internet are both edifying and time-sucking. If I could only choose one app for connecting with people, I think I’d choose YouVersion. Where is a better place to encourage others to crave and to meditate on and seek to do the Word than in a Bible app?

I realize that I was late to the game with YouVersion (their counter is ticking up over 404 million app installs as I type), so this recommendation may not have told you anything new. But again, I’m thankful to the God of this Word for the team who made and maintains and updates this app. If you’re looking for a Bible reading plan or a new resource for 2020, I highly recommend giving this app a try.

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Faithful Sons

When we were starting a church almost nine years ago, we considered naming it Trinity Reformed Evangelical Church. God’s triune nature is the origin of love and fellowship, which He made us to experience and to have with Him. Evangelical got shortened to Evangel, because “evangelical” is like word-soup, usually too hot or too cold, and “evangel” makes people’s tongues trip enough to wonder why (it’s the original word for gospel). As for Reformed, that didn’t make the final cut in the name, but it is still a crucial part that we care about.

“Reformed and still reforming” tags us as conscious of our history and conscious of the lessons of our history. We stand on the shoulders of many 16th Century Reformers who loved the gospel too well to see it trampled on. We give thanks to God for men such as Martin Luther, William Tyndale, John Knox, and John Calvin. We consider the outcome of their way of life and we imitate their faith (Hebrews 13:7).

The outcome of their lives was the glory of God in the light of the gospel of free grace received by faith alone. They turned their respective nations upside down in Christ’s name, and may we be faithful sons.

We will do that as we imitate their faith, which, of course, is not faith in them. Imitating their faith means relying wholeheartedly and completely and directly on God through Christ. We read the Reformers’ teachings on and interpretations of Scripture because they teach us to read and obey the Bible. It’s why all of them worked hard to translate God’s Word into the vernacular of their people. As we prepare for another Reformation Day on October 31, there is no better way to do so than to read, listen, meditate, and submit to God’s Word. #KeepTheFeast

Categories
Enjoying the Process

#KeepTheFeast

There is a patronizing way to say, “Just read your Bible,” and there is also a pastoral way to say it. As one of the shepherds of the flock, I urge you, hear and keep the words of this Book.

Revelation promises that those who hear and keep the words will be blessed (1:3), but this is only the last inspired Book in which God offers the blessing. The Psalms begin with blessing. “Blessed is the man” not who hangs out with the lawbreakers, but instead, the blessed man has “his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

I want this blessing, and so I’ve been reading through the Bible on an annual plan for many years. This summer, along with many of you I added the #SamePageSummer challenge on top of my other plan, and though it was obviously more reading, it was also good. It also seems that my joining along did some good to others as an encouragement for them to read or listen as well.

I just finished reading and posting my summaries of the #SamePageSummer plan, albeit not quite summer anymore, nor on the same page by this point. I was planning to go back and just follow the M’Cheyne schedule, but in talking with Mo last week, I’ve decided to quit (which I’ve never done in September) and start a new plan (which I’ve also never done in September) and follow the Bible reading challenge with #KeepTheFeast.

Should you be reading the #KeepTheFeast plan? I don’t know. Should you be reading (or listening) in order to delight and mediate on His word? You most definitely should if you want God’s blessing.

So if you have no plan, why not accept the invite to #KeepTheFeast? If you’re already doing #KeepTheFeast, encourage one another. If you’re reading according to another schedule, love that. But with the renewed activities of the school year, we need the renewal of our minds by Scripture more and more. Just read your Bible.

Categories
Enjoying the Process

Making a Switch

As of today I decided to switch from the M’Cheyene Bible reading plan to the #keepthefeast plan. Day one was Psalm 119, and this reading by 88 voices was a great way to start.

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Give Me Understanding

We live in the Information Age. We have data and statistics and algorithms and pages and podcasts. More information will be posted on the internet today than you could consume the rest of your life; you don’t have the time. We have all of this info, and not a lot of understanding to prove it.

Along with many of you, I’m continuing on the #samepagesummer Bible reading plan, and we’re more than halfway to finished. In studying Psalm 19 for the sermon this morning, I also read through Psalm 119 which is the longest love song of the Word in the Word. There are a lot of good names for Scripture in the long song, and a lot of prayers for God’s help. “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18).

But one line that turns up four times, the line that I think best embodies the psalmist’s cry, is “give me understanding.”

Give me understanding, that I may keep your law (34)

give me understanding that I may learn your commandments (73)

give me understanding that I may live (144)

give me understanding according to your word! (169)

Pray like David, yes. And beware. Understanding does not mean merely collecting information about God’s Word. Understanding means you will see how you are not keeping His law, how you have not known His commandments, how you have not been living right, and how you have not been actually paying attention to His Word.

True understanding can be painful. It’s humbling. It is why many Christians prefer to read or study their Bible like students rather than as servants. They would prefer to have their eyes opened to it rather than to have their eyes opened by it.

Categories
A Shot of Encouragement

#SamePageSummer

I’ve been using the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan for 2019, but am excited to add the #SamePageSummer readings through the New Testament for June-August. Mo and all four kids are also going to do it, so we’ll be same-paging as a family along with everyone else.

“What happens when Christians are coming to the Word regularly? They are being worked over, regularly, by the Spirit and by the Word.”

Rachel Jankovic

Here’s a page with links for the plans and some FB groups. Get more of the Word. Taste that the Lord is GOOD. (1 Peter 2:1-3)