02 January 2009

New Year 2009: a few scattered thoughts

by Dan Phillips

Howdy. Blessed New Year to you all.
  1. Over at my place, I listed out some Highlights and reflections from 2008. Since some of it is about Phil, Frank, and you-all, I point you to-itward.
  2. We also had a discussion previously about Bible-reading plans. After that, Justin listed out some terrific online resources.
  3. Here's what I've decided to do as a plan: since I worked out that you can get through the whole Bible if you average just 3.2575342465753424657534246575342 chapters a day, I'm committing to reading at least three (- except for the day I hit Psalm 119; no promises for that day!), plus a chapter of Proverbs. See, I've most frequently done the M'Cheyne plan, and I like it. I did it last year, with Carson's For the Love of God. But that has the disadvantage of not reading the books as the authors meant us to, and thus doesn't really follow the narrative. So thus far, I read creation and fall and the first stirring of civilization (Genesis 1-5); then the flood and the division of humanity into languages (Genesis 6-11). For devotion, I'll probably read Spurgeon; he doesn't reliably expound the text, per se; but he speaks cheer and comfort and Christ to my heart, and I need that.
  4. Whatever you do, I do urge you to have a plan and follow it. Aim at nothing, and you're pretty sure to hit just that. Having no plan just doesn't work for me; I think a 3-chapter minimum commitment will. (I'll try to remember to let you know how that worked out at year's end, DV.)
God's let us all live to see the start of another year. Let's set ourselves to love Him and one another - the way He defines love - with greater intensity, reality, and focus.

Dan Phillips's signature


Rev Dave said...

Any of you taking on the challenge of reading through Calvin's Institutes this year in honor of his 500th birthday? Princeton Seminary will be posting daily readings online six days a week, with a reading plan and added materials. Can be found at: http://www2.ptsem.edu/ConEd/Calvin/
(sorry, no html skills.)

Chris said...

Lot's of buzz about an annual reading plan, which is what I've always done. Any of you go through the Bible more than once a year? This year for the first time, I've created 2 6 month plans. with the goal of reading the Bible from cover to cover twice.

DJP said...

Now I'm envisioning the thread becoming a Monty Python sketch on Bible Reading.

"Twice a year? Sissies! When I was young, my father BEAT us if we didn't read the Bible TWICE before supper! In Latin!"

"Ligthweights! We 'ad to read it THREE times, in Hebrew and Greek - with our eyes closed!"

"Ah, you 'ad a Bible? Luxury! We 'ad to have it MEMORIZED before we were allowed to suckle!"

And so on.


jeff said...

LOL! That sounds like a Monty Python skit alright! You guys are puting me to shame.
I agree with you that Spurgeons' devotional speaks to my heart and gets me quickly focused on the Lord and His blessings. Which I desperately need. God bless.

Gilbert said...

The BBC would like to apologize for the next announcement.

OK, Mr. Bounder of Biblical Adventure...maybe I'm just getting to be an older curmudgeon...but while it offers a nice benchmark to start a new program of Bible reading, I would rather start when the Lord leads...and that is to say, a *continuous* process. Our Bible study at church has already been planned for a few months in advance, and I'll be studying with them. I love the NT, and I'll frequently be found hanging out in Romans through Revelation, and in the psalms and, yes, Dan, Proverbs.
What I will try to do is do it more diligently, earnestly and in a more organized way this year.
And I need to, because there's some lovely filth in me that I need to bring out and repent of.

So there it is. And if you reply, please use my surname, Mr. Ekki-Ekki-Ekki-Pitang-Zoom-Boing.

Carry on...

donsands said...

My wife gave me a One Year Read through the Hymns. I'm really getting a lot out of studying the hymns lately.

I hope to grow in His love this year as well. And perhaps even undertsand the height, depth, length, & width of the love of Christ, which is beyond understanding, a little more. And I pray I would understand His love for me, and His love for Church more than I ever have. And so be able to love Christ, and His Church in like manner.

Solameanie said...

My question is, where does the "nudge, nudge, wink, wink" come in?


I'm a Calvinist and I'm okay,
I read all night and elect all day..

Oooh. That's almost worth an instant ban warning, LOL. And I say that as a Calvinist!

Solameanie said...

And for the record, Dan derailed his own meta. Now, watch the derailing meta-tastisize!

W. Ian Hall said...

Here is a simple plan - 30 minutes reading the OT in the morning, 30 minutes reading the NT in the evening, and one psalm just before you turn the light out and go to sleep.

Sam said...

I'm doing one of the ESV plans and Calvin's Institutes. Not to start an off topic debate here in the meta, but I find it ironic that most individuals who never think the Bible is a sufficient enough revelation from God are the same individuals who have seldom if ever attempted to read it through. I'm sure someone has articulated that point much better in the past, but I just thought I'd put it out there. I am pretty excited to drink deep the Living Word of God throughout the coming year. Happy New Year to all my fellow Pyromaniacs and your families (biological, adoptive, and church)!

Barbara said...

Got one that will put us all to shame: a former patient of mine received the gift of justification about 5 months ago. Barely literate himself, (quite literally), he opened up a Gideon Bible with a hunger and a thirst for Christ and His word, and he just started reading it from Genesis 1. Two months ago he had gotten as far as 2 Samuel. I saw him last week, and he has finished the entire Bible and has started over again. Still glowing, still craving the milk of the Word. An inspiration, no doubt, one that leads me to pray earnestly in repentance and supplication for that hunger to be restored whenever it grows dull.

It is because of that that I bristle a bit at "you only need to read x number of chapters/pages/minutes per day to get through it in a year!" Seems that if we start looking at it like that, we're missing at least part of the point and should remember that this is not a task that we have before us, but rather a great privilege - one that people burned at the stake in order to make possible.

Not suggesting that a plan isn't a good thing, I do believe that it is. I'm just sayin'.

Susan said...

1. Dan--Great plan. Three chapter a day (plus Proverbs) is definitedly doable. My sheepish confession: I don't think I ever followed through with any sequential one-year-through-the-Bible reading commitments in the past. I'm rather disorganized. That won't happen this year, Lord willing. (And, yes, I agree with you--Spurgeon will be a good devotional read.)

2. Solameanie--No more "lumberjack" parodies! I burst our laughing the moment I read the "I'm a Calvinist...." It reminded me of a girlfriend in college who had a deep singing voice who occasionally would bust out that tune. Perhaps I need to watch some Monty Python sketches this year....

3. Barbara--Thank you for sharing the story about your patient. That is so encouraging!

Stefan Ewing said...

Happy New Year, Dan.

Bible reading plans—oy. I suppose the Lord in His wisdom didn't give us Holy Scripture in such a way that there is an easy, natural way to divide it up into daily sections, since then it would be too easy to make Bible reading a mechanical process.

3 months is too ambitious—based on my experience!—and leaves too little time for proper devotional study of the Word. 1 month seems too long (especially if one starts in Genesis, reads sequentially, and has to wait until late September to get to the New Testament!). A Psalm should probably be read every day, which would suggest a 150-day plan! And I suppose the IDEAL reading plan—if it were a one-year plan—would be timed to hit the Gospels right around Easter.

Ah well, all this may be moot, as I'm taking an Introduction to the Old Testament in our church's Bible school this spring, so my reading plan for the next three months is pretty much predetermined.

Stefan Ewing said...

"1 month seems too long...."

Ha-ha, there's a slip! One year seems too long!

Strong Tower said...

"Ah, you 'ad a Bible? Luxury! We 'ad to have it MEMORIZED before we were allowed to suckle!"

"That's posh. We ad t' recite it backwards in Keerg and Werbeh with variants in Namreg, crawl back into the womb, be born again, deliver a 'omily in the Queen's English and weren't allowed to suckle."

A 26 six month plan? I could get used to that ;)

Ed de Blieck said...

Keep us posted, won't you, with how you're doing following through on the plan!

Stefan Ewing said...

"Well, we had to recite it in Aramaic, backwards, from memory in the 3 hours it took to walk through 20 feet of snow barefoot to school each morning, and we didn't even have the luxury of wearing paper bags to keep our feet warm."

Stefan Ewing said...

Ah, never mind, Strong Tower already covered the "backwards" bit. Really can't beat his version, actually.

Solameanie said...


Glad you got a chuckle!


Now that I've had my fun, let me share the thing with which I struggle. Because I use Scripture constantly in my work, I seem to find it difficult to find time for devotional reading. And that's awful. I would be interested to hear some ideas on battling that.

Strong Tower said...


If I was Like Luther I would read the Scripture three times a year and along with that study selections in preparation for sermons and articles, as well as becoming versed in other literature that rains around the world so as to not be caught unawares and prepared in pertinent matters of academics. But, since I am not, I have had to blend things together. I spend a inordinate amount of time parousing the internet; I kinda check off the varied literature bit to that. Then, since I also spend considerable time on the puter studying theological works which necessitates the reading of Scripture, I check that off. Though I don't prepare teaching anymore, I do write -though not with the erudition of the Pryomission - I consider the practice of enscripting my meditations as furthering my practice of Scripture reading and devotions. In all I don't any longer do a programmed reading, though in the past it was very consistent. Instead, I have attempted to read an amount each morning accomplishing the NT serveral times last year, minus Revelation. Right now, seeing that I am doing a series on Hebrews, I have read that book many times, some chapters dozens of times along with other books and portions of books to suppliment this exercise. I cannot see that that is not devotional.

That being said, I have to recommend that anybody should read the Bible through as fast as possible, yearly. Luther's three-peat... I don't read that fast, but I think most can get through it quite quickly. Programmed reading is good and I would never dis it. However, it is far too slow. Try reading without stopping to understand. Just read. At the same time try one of any number of approaches to systematically read through it at a slower, contemplative pace supplementing that with extra-biblical resources in some kind of systematic study.

I know, that sounds like a lot of work, but from what you say Sola, and after reading some of your fine posts, it looks as if you already do what you are asking for. Some of the people like those who write here and the likes of Challies, Brister, Nathan White, a myriad of others are olympian scriptoconsumers and I don't doubt you too excel. I could never keep up. With my limited speed and 1960's veteran's syndome psychedelic tracer remnant variegated thought stream, it is not possible for me to compete. So, I adapt, and do what for me works best. Still, I always encourage the speed reading of Scripture. If you can get Luther's three-peat down, then great. If not, it is ultimately important that the whole is read as soon as possible yearly and if that means the tedium of a daily method, then so be it. I just wouldn't suggest that one, if at all possible, even for a mushroom head like me, limit onesself like that.

I think anyone, though, who takes time in the morning to read the newspaper, has pleanty of time to dedicate to getting through the Scripture in a year in a devotional manner. I mean, if you're not finding the time to spend in a devotional reading, then maybe the obituaries can be put off, no?

One thing that makes it hard to clean the bathroom is that we don't love to do it. We love to use it when it is convenient or when it is a necessity, but to really prepare it for use we really don't love to. That is a hurdle to get over. Learn to love what you rather would avoid (what you hate to do). When it becomes a love that is fitting for the entire purpose of the subject of the matter at hand, you'll find the means and the time. Trust God.

James Scott Bell said...

I'm not sure speed is of the essence. I can never just read a section. I'm always stopping to meditate on something, the Word reaching out to me. That's one of the benefits of a plan, you know where you're going and how much time you can spend contemplating. I'm doing a straight through this year, with my son. That is very cool.

DJP said...

I started up a response to several of these comments that got so long I just upped and made a post of it.

Colin Maxwell said...

Last year I picked up the edited (note: edited...not butchered) Matthew Henry commentary (Broadoak edition) I read one Bible chapter from the OT in the mornings and enjoy Henry's comments. In the evening, I read in the NT. Sometimes, more of his comments are given on the NT readings, so it maybe takes me 2-5 days to get through the longer passages. They are divided up into manageable paragraphs so that isn't a problem. I have interspersed the Psalms (10 at a time) and the Book of Proverbs, so I don't have them all at once.

Sure, I won't get through it all in a year - I reckon it'll take me probably around two and a half years to read the lot. But its very good and very enjoyable.

The very day I bought my copy (extremely cheap in a charity bookshop) my daily reading started me at Ezekiel. So I started to read ... and soon I was into Daniel annd the Minor Prophets and then I got organised as in my first paragraph.

Of course, I have other passages being read for preaching purposes etc.,

I recommend old Henry to anyone.


Stefan Ewing said...

John Gill is good, too—surprisingly good, perhaps, especially on the OT. He was a Hebrew scholar par excellence and pulls in all kinds of quotations from classical Jewish authors.

For devotionals, so far I've only used Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest. It was a providential gift from God a couple of years before I was regenerated, and I can't really part with it.

James Scott Bell said...

I commend, too, John Wesley's advice on Bible Study:

1. To set apart a little time, if you can, every morning and evening for that purpose.

2. At each time if you have leisure, to read a chapter out of the Old, and one out of the New Testament: is you cannot do this, to take a single chapter, or a part of one.

3. To read this with a single eye, to know the whole will of God, and a fixt resolution to do it. In order to know his will, you should,

4. Have a constant eye to the analogy of faith; the connexion and harmony there is between those grand, fundamental doctrines, Original Sin, Justification by Faith, the New Birth, Inward and Outward Holiness.

5. Serious and earnest prayer should be constantly used, before we consult the oracles of God, seeing scripture can only be understood thro’ the same Spirit whereby "it was given." Our reading should likewise be closed with prayer, that what we read may be written on our hearts.

6. It might also be of use, if while we read, we were frequently to pause, and examine ourselves by what we read, both with regard to our hearts, and lives. This would furnish us with matter of praise, where we found God had enabled us to conform to his blessed will, and matter of humiliation and prayer, where we were conscious of having fallen short. And whatever light you then receive, should be used to the uttermost, and that immediately. Let there be no delay. Whatever you resolve, begin to execute the first moment you can. So shall you find this word to be indeed the power of God unto present and eternal salvation.

Susan said...

So far, so good...Dan's 3- chapters-plus-Proverbs-a-day plan, I mean. I also stop to read John MacArthur's notes on them. At some point and time I plan to read the notes on the Reformation Study Bible also, but right now I just want to keep the rhythm going....

Susan said...

(And as for Monty Python, I had to skip watching the obviously dubious ones, but the sketch with Michaelangelo and the Pope was absolutely hilarious....)