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Lord's Day Liturgy

Ruining the Taste

It’s been three weeks of the #samepagesummer so far, but whether you’re following that Bible reading plan or not, we won’t receive the food of His holy Word if we are full of sin. We must acknowledge and abandon sin before we’re free to feed on Scripture, and feeding on Scripture is necessary if we hope to grow in salvation.

Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation– (1 Peter 1:1-2, NAS)

Numerous translations (such as the ESV, NIV, NRSV) read as if there were two commands but, really, Peter provides one prerequisite and then one command. We could play up the grammatical structure: “having put aside sin…long for Scripture,” or “Crave the pure after getting rid of the putrid.”

Peter mentions five sins and, though not an exhaustive list, these five are sufficient to inhibit spiritual growth. “Malice” or viciousness exalts oneself as judge over others and rather than positioning oneself under the judgment of the Word. “Guile” or deceit honors false words rather than the Word of truth. “Hypocrisy” allows division of soul rather than bring one wholeheartedly before the Word. “Envy” promotes pursuit of competing satisfactions rather than promoting the Word that is more to be desired than gold. “Slander” likewise ruins a tongue’s taste for true goodness.

Any and all of these sins will cripple our spiritual growth. But which sin in this passage is the worst? The greatest sin here is not longing for the Word. The other sins ruin our appetite for that which will nourish our souls. Sin burns our tongues, it leaves a bitter taste. All sins must be confessed and put away so that we will hunger for the good Word and grow.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Hanging up a New Calendar

If you plan to start a new Bible reading plan this year (or if you “cheated” and began at the end of December), you are more than likely going to read Genesis 1. The plan I’m using in 2018 includes the first two chapters for the first day of the year. I always really enjoy the feeling of a new year that goes along with the creation account and the sense of gift and possibility that comes from God.

But, and it’s no more surprising than the inevitable deflation of the Christmas break balloon, Genesis 3 is coming. The ancient dragon is coming. Eve will eat like she’s done every other time. Adam will fail to obey His Maker, and he will doom humanity to death again. For all the optimism that January 1 tends to bring, January 2 is back to work in a world under the curse.

So now is a timely place to remind you that time does not heal all wounds. Hanging up a new calendar has never fixed any relationship. Amazing plans for self-discipline in diet and exercise and communication cannot, by themselves, get anyone back to Edenic paradise.

Depending on your reading plan, maybe you get one day out of 365 (which is a puny percent of the year) where, during your Bible meditation, there is no sin. But in reality we don’t even get that. We are facing, right at 12:00:01 AM on 1/1/18, another year of spiritual enmity, of conflict, of sweaty work, of pain, of death. Here comes another year of seeing our nakedness before God, of the guilt that comes from being deceived or being weak. We are facing another year of sin desiring to rule over us.

Time, past or present or future, does not solve sin, time is a theater for sin. Jesus—dead, buried, and risen from the grave on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures—is the Savior from sin. He is the seed of the woman in whom the serpent’s head is crushed. We enter the year of our Lord 2018, and we do so abiding in Him that His joy may be in us and that our joy may be full.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Serious Bible Studiers

The disciples on the road to Emmaus listened as Jesus interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself, and their hearts burned. Earlier in His ministry Jesus had talked with some other Jews who were serious Bible studiers. They searched the Scriptures. They didn’t do it to disprove God’s Word, they did it with confidence that they would find eternal life in there.

Yet Jesus claimed that while they knew some of the finer points they had missed the entire point. They knew the details and they didn’t actually know God (John 5:39).

Jesus confronted the Sadducees over a similar problem when some of them came with a Bible question. They wanted to know how the law of Moses—specifically the law about a younger brother marrying his deceased older brother’s wife—fit with the teaching on resurrection. Before giving them the answer Jesus told them, “You know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29). But again, their question was based on the Scriptures.

What did these men need to repent from? They needed to repent from the very thing they considered their righteousness. They needed to repent from their Bible reading.

Of course it’s not the Bible that’s the problem, it’s the reading. There is a way to read and search and know the Bible that isn’t enough. It is to read partially, or academically, or for the purpose of impressing others with what we know. But reading the Bible should make us want the glory that comes from God not that comes from man. And reading the Scriptures to know Jesus should show that Jesus is interested in more than just our Bible reading.

It is not enough to be delivered out of the land of weak theology and topical-topic sermons, but still complain and not obey. Some have itching ears for sermons that make them feel better about themselves, yes, and others of us have itching ears for expositional sermons that make us feel better that we aren’t like “other men,” like the unrighteous (see Luke 18:11). Let us repent whenever we need to, including when we find ourselves missing the point while staring at the pages.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

As the Year Turns

We’ve arrived at the turn of the calendar when people typically consider their food intake and the health of their hearts. God’s people ought to do the same, not only in terms of physical well-being, but also evaluating and planning Bible intake as the year turns.

If you’re a Christian, whether you’re seven or eighty, you should be craving to eat more Bible. There are many reading plans and more than one type of media, but God’s Word must be gotten in. Young believers can read picture Bibles, more mature believers have a multitude of options. Read big chunks, listen (for free) when you wake and walk around and lay down. We have many printed copies of God’s Word in a variety of translations. If you’re tired of the one you have been reading, get another one.

There is no command in Scripture to read it every day. That’s mostly because for most of history, God’s people did have their own copies; commanding them to read it would have been inappropriate. But there is a command to mediate night and day. If check boxes help you to get the Book in front of your eyes, then use the tool. A good tool doesn’t mean you’ve built anything, but a good tool may be of good use for your meditation project.

There isn’t any other writing that offers so much profit. God’s Words are more to be desired than gold, even much fine gold. As we receive and keep His testimonies we find great reward. As David wrote for a nation to sing (Psalm 19):

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

Scripture awakens and enlivens our souls. The Bible revives; it makes alive. When it restricts, it only only does so like a guardrail that keeps your car from plummeting to the bottom of the cliff. Delight in the law of the Lord to be rooted, fed, and fruitful. It promises to make you complete and equip you for every good work. What is your plan to get the Word into your heart this upcoming year?


Justin Taylor has provided a splendid list of Scripture reading plans, listening options, and recommended resources. Check out some of the Bible overview videos from The Bible Project near the end as well.

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Enjoying the Process

New Times Three

God does not command His people to read the Bible anywhere in the Bible. That’s probably for two reasons. First, most people didn’t have their own copies of God’s Word to read. They depended on hearing the Word read in corporate worship, and pastors were commanded to read the Word publicly for the people (see passages such as 1 Thessalonians 5:27 and 1 Timothy 4:13. Israel’s kings were commanded to read and to write a copy of the law for themselves, see Deuteronomy 17:19.).

A second reason why personal reading of the Bible isn’t an imperative is because reading, in and of itself, is much too undemanding. God commands believers to crave the Word like a newborn baby craves milk (1 Peter 2:2). He commands us to mediate on it day and night (Psalm 1:2). Noble believers examine the Scriptures daily (Acts 17:11). Wanting it, always thinking about it, and investigating it are much higher callings.

That said, reading helps. Having our own complete copies of the inspired canon in our own language in a portable format to read anytime we want is a thick blessing that we ought not take for granted.

I’ve used the same plan to read through the Bible in a year a few years in a row. I love it. The Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan has four separate readings, two from the Old Testament and two from the New. It also has only 25 readings each month leaving room for catch-up days if needed.

This new year I’m switching to try a new-for-me plan and I’m also switching to a new copy. I’m going to follow the M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan. It also has four readings every day, but it completes the New Testament and Psalms twice and the rest of the Old Testament once. Even though I’m studying for my Bible class at school and to preach on Sundays, I still want more of the Word.

I’ll also be using an ESV Reader’s Bible. This edition has no verse numbers and zero cross-references or notes. It does have paragraphs, and paragraphs make me happy. I got it a few months ago and tried it with the Discipleship Journal plan, but it wasn’t as easy to use because the New Testament readings are usually only certain verses and the Reader’s Bible doesn’t show the verse numbers. The M’Cheyne plan usually includes entire chapters.

It doesn’t matter what reading plan you use. I didn’t write this to persuade anyone to switch. I wrote this to say that I’m thankful for the grace that keeps me hungry for the Word. I’m thankful for the variety and access to resources to choose from. And I’m glad to give something even more challenging a shot. Maybe you will, too.

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A Shot of Encouragement

Remember the Signs

I read chapter two of The Silver Chair to the kids last night before bed (my first time through, too). Jill meets Aslan, and he explains the reason he called her away from Experiment House and reveals her mission. Before blowing her to Narnia, Aslan urges and warns Jill.

[R]emember, remember, remember the Signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind form following the Signs. And secondly, I give you a warning. Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the Signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the Signs and believe the Signs. Nothing else matters.

(p. 21, emphasis added)

The parallels resonate in my head. There are times, often mountaintop type times, when our fellowship with the Lord is pronounced, when we better perceive His nearness. Also during those times His Word appears quite clear. It’s appropriate to linger with Him and rehearse our instructions, burning them into our minds for later when things may not be so obvious. The truth never changes, but we tend to forget it, and it may look different depending on where we’re standing and how much we’re entangled by seen things. We will have done well to memorize our mission and the promises He’s given.

I still have Snow Retreat on the brain. It’s been my own experience, and observation of other’s experiences, that a Bible-driven retreat can be a similar time of tasting that the Lord is good. The fact that our perception isn’t exactly the same once back down the mountain doesn’t necessarily mean that what was heard and seen was without substance. In fact, we are more accountable for, not excused from, commitments made in clearer air. We must take great care to remember the signs.

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Enjoying the Process

Bible Reading Plans

If you’re undecided about how to read the Bible this year take a look at these eight Bible reading plans for the ESV. Each plan can be read on the web, received through RSS or email, or printed out for to carry in your own copy of God’s Word.