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5 questions to ask when choosing a Bible reading plan

readingplanGuest Blogger: Rachel Wojnarowski

You intended for 2015 to be the year- the year that you settled into a daily Bible reading routine. Yet January 1st came… and the first week went, and you still haven’t started reading the Bible daily.

Guess what? I have wonderful news; it’s not too late to choose a Bible reading plan for 2015!

In fact, it’s never too late to begin a daily quiet time routine with God. The key to establishing a routine is to have an actual plan. Without a plan, we all know it just won’t happen; intentionality is a must. Today I have five questions to ask when choosing a Bible reading plan. These questions will provide guidance for choosing a Bible reading plan that works for you!

1. How much time do I intend to spend reading the Bible daily?
Choosing the amount of time you are going to spend each day reading the Bible doesn’t have to be set in stone, but it’s a great idea to estimate how much time you are going to set aside each day for reading. Knowing how much time you are going to use will enable you to choose a plan that will work for you! Whether it is 10 minutes or 20 minutes, choose an amount of time that is reasonable for you.

2. What is the best time of day for me to read the Bible daily?
While there is much to be said for beginning the day in God’s Word, there are seasons of life when taking 20 minutes in the morning is not the most ideal time for a larger segment of reading. Currently I am doing my daily reading in the morning, but there have been times in the past when I read just one verse in the morning and waited until a better time later in the day to read a full chapter or more. I believe the more consistent you can be with the time you have, the better the results.

3. How many chapters do I want to read in a day?
For the past two years, I’ve read the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan (available in Olive Tree’s Bible Study App) in order to read the Bible through in a year. This plan requires four chapters a day, as most Bible reading plans designed to be completed in a year. For me, this plan took about 20 minutes a day. Every reader will have a different comfortable speed of reading and different amount of time to spend reading each day. Think through these factors as you choose a Bible reading plan. This year I wanted to spend more time reflecting on the passage, so I chose to read one chapter a day. I won’t finish reading the Bible in a day, but that’s ok.

4. Do I plan to use any Bible study methods as I read or simply read and reflect?
Determining your study intentions before you begin the Bible reading plan will help you decide both your time factor and number of chapters per day. Whether you use a highlighting method or a simple Bible study guide each day will determine how much time you need to anticipate beyond the reading time.

5. How long do I plan to use this particular Bible reading plan?
Are you choosing your plan for the entire year or do you want to focus on a smaller increment of time, such as 3 months? It is sometimes difficult to know what you can do for an entire year and a shorter amount of time is a better way to commit. At the end of the 3 months, you can choose a new plan or even repeat the plan you finished for more impact.

What if I want to read through the Bible, but I know it will take longer than a year?

You can still read through the Bible AND do it all on your own. The first time I read through the Bible, I didn’t read 4 chapters a day and I didn’t use a set plan. You can find out what I did right here.

I hope these questions will guide you through the process of choosing a Bible reading plan that fits your current needs and desire.

Learn More about Rachel at RachelWojo.com
Watch a short video to learn more about Bible Reading Plans in The Bible Study App

New Title for The Bible Study App: Voice of a Prophet: A.W.Tozer

Voice of a Prophet is Now Available!

Voice of a Prophet is the 11th title in a series of best selling trade books compiled and edited by James Snyder, today’s leading authority on the life and writings of A.W. Tozer and includes never-before-published content based on the teachings of Tozer.  Here’s a brief introduction to this new work by the compiler and editor, James L. Synder.

From Guest Blogger and Editor:  James Snyder

One great concern of Dr. A.W.Tozer, addressed in this new book, has to do with the condition of the church. He loved the church and consequently was deeply concerned at the direction it was going.

Although he died in 1963, he had a prophetic view of where the evangelical church in particular was heading. And it disturbed him. Everything he said about the church seems to have come true.

The responsibility for this decline in the church today, according to Tozer, rests upon the gatekeepers. Or, as presented in this book, the prophets. The question posed here is simply, where are the prophets? And more pointedly, who is responsible for silencing the prophets in our day?

I think my favorite chapter is chapter 12, “We Need Prophets, Not Promoters.” The dilemma that Tozer saw the church facing was choosing between promoters and prophets. Unfortunately, the choice has been the promoters. It is more important to promote the church in such a way as to appease and appeal to the culture around us than to stand up and“earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3).

Throughout the book, Tozer insinuates that the church is always trying to go forward, but when God begins to move He always brings the church back. Back to that place where it started. This is called revival. People want to see revival, or so they say, but they do not want to go through the process of God bringing revival to them.

This matter of being a prophet is not something to be considered lightly. From the introduction, “I think Tozer would agree when I say that those who seem right for the job are not the ones God calls. God chooses a man or a woman who is out of sync with his or her generation. God uses a person, not because he or she fits in, but usually because he or she does not fit in.”

A prophet can never be a celebrity. This Tozer emphasizes throughout this book. We are the generation of celebrities and we think that God’s work can not survive without a generous share of celebrities.

However, the prophet God uses those not volunteer for the job, but rather is one that God chooses. A man who has been prepared by the world or by worldly standards is not prepared to do the job that needs to be done as a prophet of God. This book emphasizes this thing.

The book is an exploration into what G.K.Chesterton said; it is “the paradox of history that each generation is converted by the saint who contradicts it most.” And the celebrity never contradicts but rather conforms. This was an odious concept to Dr.Tozer. The world needs to be contradicted if it is to be brought to a place of knowing God.

I think to truly appreciate this book and what Dr.Tozer has to say, it is important to prayerfully read his “The Prayer of a Minor Prophet. Not only does this set the tone for the entire book, but it helps to understand a little bit about Dr.Tozer as a prophet to the evangelical church.

This is not Tozer saying something profound to the church. This is Tozer delivering to the church a message that needs to be not only heard but also put into radical practice. Every prophet is radical, radically committed to the concepts God laid down as the foundation for His Church.

It is my prayer that in reading this book, one will come under the awesome burden for the church today that Tozer had. And if we do not have men and women who are utterly committed to God and His message to the church, the church does not stand a chance of surviving.

You can find Voice of a Prophet on the Olive Tree Store here.

 

The Truest Thing About You

Guest Blogger: David LomasTruest Thing About You

There are many true things about you. You may be a student. You may be a mom. You may love someone of the opposite sex or the same sex. You may make music or lattes. Life may be incredibly difficult, or you may feel like you’re living the dream.

These things may be true—but are they the truest?

Fried chicken is food, true, and so is a kale salad. But Jesus declared that He is the truest food. See, other things may have the appearance of being able to satisfy the deep needs of our bodies and even our souls, but Jesus declares that He is even truer food and truer drink.

So even among truths, there are true things and there are truer things.

Jesus wants to get to the truer things, the things so deeply true about you that they have the power to change everything else, including the merely true things.

What if the truest thing about you can cause you to reimagine your entire life? What if the truest thing about you can drown out all the noise and speak the words that you’ve waited for your whole life?

What the Gospel demands we ask is this: what does God say is the truest thing about us?

We aren’t always comfortable asking that question, and sometimes we only pretend to ask it. We give an answer we think we ought to give, an answer that identifies us as one of the good kids or a good Christian or a good citizen. Those answers are too easy. They’re cheap. All our lives we’ve been trained to answer that question in particular ways for particular people.

We define ourselves differently to different people. I’m a good worker, a good parent, I’m a failure, I’m beautiful, I’m hideous, I’m loved, I’m not.

And maybe you answer it differently when you’re by yourself, when you ask it of yourself. Dancing alone, driving alone, sit- ting at a cafe alone, tapping snooze on your alarm for the seventh time, the tenth time, because there isn’t one single reason you can come up with for getting out of bed on a sunny Saturday.

You answer it differently every time because you feel different every time you’re asked. A different person with every shifting truth.

Here’s the problem: you’re clinging to true things about your- self that simply aren’t that true. You’re elevating things that are merely true—or half-true, or true some days but not others—to the level of “truest.” I know you’re doing this—because I do it too. We all do. It’s the human condition.

Be clear: many destructive things we believe are very much true! We do fail, we did lose the money, we aren’t as beautiful, we were abused.

The problem is that we have pushed many of these merely true things down to the most fundamental layer of who we are and in so doing have built our whole lives and identities on them.

These things can be true, but we need to discover that they are not, and never will be, the truest thing.

 

David Lomas is the Lead Pastor at Reality/SF and the author of the book The Truest Thing About You (David C. Cook) which launches today! You can follow him on Twitter @davidlomas

NICOT Review for the Bible Study App

NICOT in Olive TreeGuest Review: Abram Kielsmeier-Jones

Ask a group of pastors, seminarians, professors, or serious Bible readers, “What one commentary series on the Old Testament would you most recommend?” and you’re likely to hear: “NICOT.” Eerdmans’ New International Commentary on the Old Testament blends scholarship with application in a readable and engaging manner. Few, if any, commentary series are consistently this good throughout the series. And I don’t know of any other series that has such broad ecumenical appeal.

NICOT in Olive Tree has 23 volumes, spanning 26 biblical books. The bundle includes the 2010 volume on Hosea. The only volume currently in print that is not here is The Book of Judges, by Barry G. Webb (2012). (Judges is not available in any other Bible software at the moment.)

General editor Robert L. Hubbard Jr. writes of the series:

NICOT delicately balances “criticism” (i. e., the use of standard critical methodologies) with humble respect, admiration, and even affection for the biblical text. As an evangelical commentary, it pays particular attention to the textʼs literary features, theological themes, and implications for the life of faith today.

As I preached through Isaiah this past Advent, John N. Oswalt’s two volumes on that book were the first commentary I turned to after spending time with the biblical text. While it was always clear that Oswalt knew Isaiah and his milieu well, the author would find himself swept up at times in praise of the God Isaiah preached. On Isaiah 2:2, for instance, he writes:

What Isaiah was asserting was that one day it would become clear that the religion of Israel was the religion; that her God was the God. To say that his mountain would become the highest of all was a way of making that assertion in a figure which would be intelligible to people of that time.

NICOT IsaiahOn that passage’s promise of peace among nations, he concludes:

Until persons and nations have come to God to learn his ways and walk in them, peace is an illusion. This does not mean that the Church merely waits for the second coming to look for peace. But neither does it mean that the Church should promote peace talks before it seeks to bring the parties to a point where they will submit their needs to God.

Oswalt is representative of the authors in NICOT, in that he loves the text (and its grammar, history, and background) and loves the God who inspired it.

NICOT in Olive Tree has hyperlinks to biblical references and commentary footnotes, which you can easily and quickly view in the Bible Study (computer) app through the Quick Details corner (by hovering over the hyperlink), or as a pop-up window (which can then also pop out and keep your place in a separate window). It’s just as easy to tap a hyperlink in the mobile app.

There are two ways I’ve used NICOT so far.

1. I use NICOT as my starting point in the main window.

After some time in the biblical text, I have made my way through parts of NICOT by starting from the commentary. I can use hyperlinks to read the verses being commented on, as well as any other references. I can keep a Bible open in the split window and have it follow me along as I read through NICOT.

Using NICOT this way, there are quite a few ways to get around, both by looking up a verse in the commentary, and by navigating its Table of Contents. You only need to use one of these options at a time, but here they all are:

(click to enlarge image)

(click to enlarge image)

Note that from the Go To drop-down menu, I can keep following the sub-menus till I get to a specific place in the commentary (Introduction to Malachi in the instance above). One could also do this from the Go To item in the toolbar, which allows for both verse searching and Table of Contents navigation.

2. I use the Bible in the main window and NICOT as a supplement in the split window.

This has the advantage of letting me use NICOT as one among multiple resources in the Resource Guide, as shown (in part) here:

Resource Guide shows relevant library results (click to enlarge)

Resource Guide shows relevant library results (click to enlarge)

In both of the above setups you can take notes in NICOT, highlight, and bookmark your place. You can also do a search on a word or phrase in the commentary, with the results appearing almost instantaneously. One may wish, for example, to find all the times Oswalt refers to the “Suffering Servant” in Isaiah, which is an easy and fast search to run.

In reviewing Olive Tree I have found it to have the most versatile, smooth, and customizable Bible app I’ve seen on iOS. I write more about the Bible Study iOS app here. The fact that Olive Tree is cross-platform makes it appealing to many. Though the desktop app is well-designed, I would like to see a future update where you can create a saved workspace with multiple resources open in various tabs and windows. That, I think, would take the app to the next level.

But everything is here to help you work through NICOT in a way that you couldn’t in print. There are a couple of options (one free and one paid) for Hebrew Bibles, too, if you want to use NICOT in tandem with the original language. (NICOT uses transliterated Hebrew.)

NICOT volumes consistently top the charts of the Best Commentaries site. Preachers and professors, parishioners and pupils will all find much to mine here, as they seek to better understanding the Old Testament and to more faithfully love the God whose goodness its pages proclaim.

Abram Kielsmeier-Jones is the pastor of a great church in a seaside community near Boston, a youth ministry consultant, a husband and father, and a follower of Jesus. At his blog Words on the Word he records his thoughts on the Bible (particularly as written in Greek and Hebrew), books about the Bible, pastoring, leading worship, parenting, youth ministry, music, the Church, and more. Read more about Abram here.

 

*Thanks to Olive Tree for the New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT), given to me for this blog review, offered without any expectations as to the content of the review.You can find the product here

Thoughts on Completing a Year-Long Bible Reading Plan

By Guest Blogger: Mitch Claborn

finished

Just the other day, I completed a year long Bible reading plan, using the Bible Study App from Olive Tree.  For this trip through the Bible, I used the M’Cheyne reading plan.  Each day, there are 4 reading selections.  Upon completion of the plan, one has read the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice.  Here are some of my thoughts as I look back on my year-long journey through God’s Word.

God’s Word is Consistent

Some people don’t or won’t read the Bible because they claim that it is inconsistent.  These are people who have never read through the Bible completely, or who take small passages completely out of context in order to support their claim.

The truth is that God’s Word, expressed in written form in the Bible, is wonderfully, marvelously consistent.  From start to finish it is a story of God’s love for humanity.  Throughout the story, mankind rejects God again and again yet His love for us never fades nor falters, never dwindles nor diminishes.

Again and again in the Old Testament, God sent prophets to try to talk some sense into His people.  In most cases the prophets were ignored, or even persecuted and killed, but God never stopped trying to get Israel’s attention.  (See 2 Chronicles 36:15 – 16.)

Finally, when the time was just right, God sent His son Jesus.  The Law, with its system of ritual and sacrifice was inadequate for salvation, but Christ was the perfect substitute.  Christ’s coming to earth, His death on the cross for us and subsequent resurrection from the dead remain the ultimate demonstration of God’s love.  One simply cannot read through the Bible without seeing God’s love in action, demonstrated time and time again.

A Process, Not a Task

There was a point in this past year, about midway through the reading plan, where I started treating the reading as a task to be completed.  For a while, I started reading two days’ assignments every morning, so that I could finish sooner.  The Holy Spirit was quick to point out the error in my thinking.

Reading the Bible should be a process to experience, not a task to complete.  It it the process of reading God’s Word that is valuable, not the completion of the book as if it were simply a novel or a historical piece.  The value is in the journey, not the destination.  I will never be finished reading the Bible.  This is an especially difficult lesson for me to learn, as I am a very task oriented person, but I’m getting there.

Daily Reading is Crucial

In the middle of Job’s excruciating trials, he didn’t fail to place a high value on God’s word.  Job 23:12b I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.  For a Believer, God’s word is spiritual sustenance.  It is absolutely crucial for Christians to feed every day on the wisdom found in the Bible, to absorb into our minds and our hearts the truths that await us there.  Reading God’s Word should be as much of a part of our daily routines as eating breakfast (or whatever meal it is that you never do without).

Knowing That I Don’t Know

As I read God’s word, I constantly discover things that I’ve never noticed before, even in passages that I’ve read many times before.  Grasping a previously unknown truth brings a joy like no other.

This in no way implies that I understood everything I read as I went through the Bible this past year.  There are many places that I read through more than once trying to understand just what was going on, and some of them are still a mystery to me.  This might seem like failure to some, but I consider it a blessing.  The more I read and understand about God’s Word, the more I discover that I don’t know.  I’m perfectly OK with this.  On my next trip through the Bible I’ll understand more and find yet more that I don’t yet understand.  Comprehension of God’s Word is a continual, ongoing process.

What’s Next?

More Bible reading.  And after that, still more reading and studying of God’s Word.  I plan to go though some of Olive Tree’s shorter reading plans, starting with “14 Days on Love”, and then start up another long term plan, probably Prof. Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System.

Keep on reading!

 

I am an IT nerd by trade, a husband of one, father of four and grandfather of six.  I drink decaf coffee and work in various ministries, in and outside of the church.  You may find more of my writing on my blog: http://www.mitchclaborn.com/ or follow me on Twitter @MitchClaborn.

What is Inductive Bible Study?

Guest Blogger: Tom Possin

old bibleAs a teacher of the Inductive Bible Study Method I am often asked, “What is Inductive Bible Study?”. Unfortunately, there is really no short answer to that question.  Inductive Bible Study is more of an approach to the Bible than it is any particular technique. In fact the “Inductive Method” that we teach in the School of Biblical Studies is really a collection of Bible study techniques combined in such a way as to help the student maintain an “inductive posture” toward the text. The shortest description I can give of this approach is this, “Inductive study is an approach to the Bible that helps the student build their conclusions from observations of the text.” In other words – observation first, conclusions second.  Sounds simple, but there are complications. To illustrate let me tell a very old folk tale.


The Two Travelers and the Farmer
A traveler came upon an old farmer hoeing in his field beside the road. Eager to rest his feet, the wanderer hailed the countryman, who seemed happy enough to straighten his back and talk for a moment. “What sort of people live in the next town?” asked the stranger.

“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer, answering the question with another question.

“They were a bad lot. Troublemakers all, and lazy too. The most selfish people in the world, and not a one of them to be trusted. I’m happy to be leaving the scoundrels.”

“Is that so?” replied the old farmer. “Well, I’m afraid that you’ll find the same sort in the next town.

Disappointed, the traveler trudged on his way, and the farmer returned to his work.

Some time later another stranger, coming from the same direction, hailed the farmer, and they stopped to talk. “What sort of people live in the next town?” he asked.

“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer once again.

“They were the best people in the world. Hard working, honest, and friendly. I’m sorry to be leaving them.”

“Fear not,” said the farmer. “You’ll find the same sort in the next town.”

-North American Folk Tale (Source uncertain)

 

This story illustrates many points but the one I think is the most relevant to Biblical study is that people tend to see what they expect to see. Or to put it another way, what people bring to the Bible greatly influences what they take away from the Bible. How do we prevent this? By doing all we can to set aside our preconceived ideas about the text and focus on two things – reading and observation -forgoing judgment until we have thoroughly analyzed the text. We need to learn to let the text speak.  We need to let our observations drive our conclusions. Rather than simply taking our conclusions to the text for testing, or worse yet, merely looking for validation of what we already believe or have been told. The text is always right and proper interpretation is defined as what the author meant and what the original readers would have understood.  To understand the author and original readers of the text we must first identify them and their issues. This is historical context and it is critical to our understanding of what the text is really saying. Our situation should not even be considered until we understand what was meant when it was written. To sum up, understand what the text says, who wrote it, and as much about the original readers as you can. Careful reading of the text in its proper historical context is the key to proper interpretation.

After we have discovered the meaning in the original historical context we are finally ready to take that giant leap forward in time and culture to our present time and circumstances. By identifying the timeless truths at work under the specifics of the text, we can then begin to ask questions about why these truths are significant today. The timeless truths driving the ancient solutions then become the truths directing our modern applications. By building these disciplines in students it is possible to train them to truly listen to the text each time they read it, rather than simply seeing what they expect to see.

The three main steps of inductive study to remember are these:

  • Observation – What the text actually says.
  • Interpretation – What the text meant to those to whom it was originally written.
  • Application – How do we respond to the timeless truths of the text today?

Text first, original audience second, our perspective last.  The Bible was written for us – not to us. Use the clear passages to understand the obscure passages, and most of all pray. And may God enlighten you as you continue to explore his word.

Tom Possin is the Director of the School of Biblical Studies at Youth with a Mission of Montana – Lakeside. He has been a missionary with Youth with a Mission since 1991 and taught the inductive bible study with the School of Biblical Studies since 2002.

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