Category: Inspiration

Saturday Hope in the Waiting

Posted by on 04/03/2015 in:

hopewaiting1Guest Blogger: Melissa Joy

Job 30:26
But when I hoped for good, evil came,
and when I waited for light, darkness came.

Hope is a double edged sword. Walking through Holy Week, we think along the lines of so many events… It’s so busy! Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem while His people worshipped and called hosanna, He cleansed the temple and taught His people, He is betrayed by one who is unfaithful, He is perfumed by one who is faithful, He gives thanks even in the presence of His betrayer, He hands out bread and wine to His followers, He prays in solitude, He is captured and taken away, He is scrutinized and condemned, He is taken before leaders and stood before multitudes, He is burdened in every imaginable way, He is stripped and scourged, He is hung and nailed through, He cries out, He is forsaken, He bleeds, He dies, He is taken away, He is buried in the dark tomb…

Now what?

The time between death and resurrection feels so dark, so empty, so long. What is happening in this day between Friday and Sunday? What are we to do as we sit outside the tomb? And what is our Lord doing in the darkness, the cold grips of death?

I have experienced waiting—longing, yearning, begging—for something, feeling like darkness and grief and death and hopelessness reigns around me. Hope is illusive.
Hope is defined as a longing and a desire, anticipating something good to come, a trust, to desire expectation. But Scripture adds a nuance of entwining hope with faith. A quick search of the word hope shows 164 places in the ESV Bible where the word is directly mentioned—and even more frequently alluded to. Adding faith to hope limits the results to just 13. We who are schooled in the Church are very familiar with the idea in Hebrews 11:1 that faith is the assurance of things hoped for—assurance. Faith is the guarantee of the hope.

Where is our hope? In the Lord. And what is the assurance of Him? Our faith. And who gave us this faith? Paul plainly tells us that faith is a gift of the Lord (Ephesians 2:8). But—He died. He is in the tomb!

On Saturday the busyness slows, seems to stop. What is the Lord doing? What are His people doing? The tomb is closed. Hope feels lost. The Guarantor of my hope, the One in whom I have faith, is lying lifeless in a dark cave, covered in perfumes and herbs, wrapped in burial cloths. I can not see my Lord, I only see thick rock through my eyelashes dripping with tears.

What do we do with our faith and our hope when we seem to be stuck in the long, dark Saturday between death and resurrection? When we can not see what the Lord is doing, do not grasp what His people are up to, and ultimately feel like we must simply wait because the darkness is so heavy and the grief so thick that there is nothing to do but sit. Wait. Groan. Wonder. Weep.

Job 17:15
Where then is my hope?
Who will see my hope?

© Melissa Joy, 2015

Melissa Joy seeks to grow in grace and wisdom alongside her husband Steven (Olive Tree’s VP of Operations), while pursuing joyful domesticity by nurturing her home and family. The joy she finds in her family, homemaking, music, writing, ministering to those in grief, and seeking to be a pillar of loving strength in her home can be seen unveiled at Joyful Domesticity.

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Remembering the arrest and trial of Jesus

Posted by on 04/01/2015 in:

As we continue in the week of Christ’s passion, moving closer to Good Friday, and the death of the Savior, we remember the arrest and trial of Jesus. To set the stage, Jesus has been taken from the garden where He prayed by temple guards, betrayed by one of His own. The theme of the arrest and trial of the Lord is one of betrayal. Betrayal by Judas, one of the disciples, but also betrayal by those He came to save.

matthew26In Matthew 26:63-65, the court is arrayed against Jesus, and after the parade of lying witnesses, the high priest presses Jesus for an answer to the question of His divinity. The high priest should have been filled with the Spirit as he mediated between God and his people. Instead we see him here condemning the true High Priest. Those who knew the law and the promise of the coming Messiah the best completely reject the Christ.

Matthew’s gospel is full of ironies, often brought to light in later passages, particularly surrounding the Passion narrative. Take for example that Christ is rejected by his own people, who instead beg to have Barabbas released to them – a man whose name means “son of the father.” Or that the same passionate crowd who followed Christ into Jerusalem shouting “Hosanna”, later yells in unison demanding the death of the true Son of the Father. Or here, that the lies told in court to cap the rejection of Jesus by His own people and religious leaders is contrasted with the truth on the lips of a Gentile soldier — “Truly, this was the Son of God.” And finally, as the scene builds to the climax — the dramatic sentencing of the Christ — just as the high priest tears his garments, crying “Blasphemy!” in his rejection of the true High Priest, so too the holy of holies rends its outer garment, the veil, at the true blasphemy of the murder of the Son of God.

And yet, while Jesus endured these rejections, He suffered a much greater rejection on our behalf: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.” Bearing the sin of his people, the sacrificial lamb drank the full cup of God’s wrath down to the dregs. Our Lord, the second Adam, endured the full rejection of God that we, in sin, earned by the first Adam. And by His rejection we, who are called children of God, are accepted and restored.

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Rabbit Trails to the Cross

Posted by on 03/30/2015 in:

trailWhile the gospel ought to always be at the forefront of our minds, I do not deny there being something special about this time of year. The Passion Week presents us with the opportunity to look closely at the cross of Christ and to share salvation’s good news with loved ones. Hearing about Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection is brand new for many people. But, how does the person who’s been a Christian for years or decades keep the gospel fresh? This is one of my challenges as a Christian. So, what do I do? I look outside the gospel narratives and look at the rest of Scripture.

Since all the Bible is about Jesus, we should see things that either point forward (Old Testament) or back (Acts & beyond) to the work of Christ. Today I’d like to walk you through a quick time of study I had this morning reading a seemingly random Bible passage and how that pointed me back to the cross and helped me meditate on Christ this Passion Week.

My morning started with a reading in the first couple of chapters in 1 Timothy. As I read, one verse stood out more than others:

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. (1 Timothy 1:15)

Yes, Jesus came to save sinners, and Paul assures us that this statement is trustworthy and worthy of acceptance. Like Paul, I can identify with these words and I lean on the truthfulness of why Christ came. After meditating on that verse and its surrounding context, the ESV cross references pointed me to Romans 4:25, which is where my study became fun.

23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (Romans 4:23-25)

In this context Paul is talking about Abraham and how he was justified through faith. Paul makes it clear that Abraham was declared righteous before his circumcision or any other act he performed, such as obeying the call to sacrifice Isaac. Paul then brings this forward and applies it to Christians and our justification. He shows how justification is applied through our faith in Jesus’ atoning work. The cross is now clearly in view and how it benefits my life.

At this point, a few Study Bibles provide further edification as they elaborate on the Romans passage.

4:25 Both the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are necessary for forgiveness of sins and justification. raised for our justification. When God the Father raised Christ from the dead, it was a demonstration that he accepted Christ’s suffering and death as full payment for sin, and that the Father’s favor, no longer his wrath against sin, was directed toward Christ, and through Christ toward those who believe. Since Paul sees Christians as united with Christ in his death and resurrection (6:6, 8–11; Eph. 2:6; Col. 2:12; 3:1), God’s approval of Christ at the resurrection results in God’s approval also of all who are united to Christ, and in this way results in their “justification.” (ESV Study Bible)

4:25 The proof of justification by faith alone in Abraham’s case leads Paul back to the foundation of justification in the work of Christ (3:24-26). Christ’s death and resurrection are two indivisible but distinguishable aspects of His one saving work. In His death, Christ bore the legal penalty for our guilt. In raising Jesus from the dead, the Father vindicated Jesus, nullifying the sentence of death, and declaring Him to be righteous. This vindication grounds our justification through our union with Christ. (Reformation Study Bible)

Both of these notes drive home great points concerning the correlation between Jesus’ work on the cross and our justification. Without his death our sins are not forgiven; and, without his resurrection there is no proof that God accepted his sacrifice. Like Abraham, we only receive this through faith. In response to reading these notes all I could think was, “Ah, thank you Lord for the cross! Without your death and resurrection I am hopeless!”

But, there was one more note in the HCSB Study Bible that cross referenced one last passage in Acts, which led me to a moment of true thankfulness and hope.

4:25. Jesus was delivered up for our trespasses as promised in Is 52:13–53:12. Who delivered up Jesus? Was it Judas? Pilate? The Jewish Sanhedrin? Satan? Certainly all these were causal agents in the crucifixion of Christ, but ultimately it was the sovereign God who brought it to pass in order to fulfill His plan of redemption (Ac 4:27- 28). The Father delivered Jesus up for our trespasses, and raised Him so that His righteous Servant would justify many people (Is 53:11). (HCSB Study Bible)

Jesus’ death on the cross was not an accident. God planned it long ago and had a hand in all of it. After being released from prison, Peter and John prayed to God and recognized that he was at work the entire time, even working through wicked men. Personally, realizing the bigger picture of the Passion Week is a huge comfort to me. Yes, wicked men sentenced Jesus to death, but it was all part of God’s plan. Jesus died for our sins. He rose again, showing God’s acceptance of his sacrifice. We are justified because of our faith in the work of the cross. But, God had his plan in place before Adam even sinned. What an awesome God we serve!

I love how God can work and point us to the gospel as we read his Word. It may be Passion Week, but that’s not where I’m reading; yet, God still points me to his Son’s work on the cross and my soul is lifted because of it!

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Introducing the Biblical Imagination Series

Posted by on 03/23/2015 in: , ,

For years Michael Card’s music has imaginatively explored the narrative power of the Word of God. Now in the Biblical Imagination Series, Card invites readers to enter into Scripture as he has learned to do, at the level of the informed imagination.

These volumes will help you discover the biblical text for yourself, ask your own questions and uncover deeper truths. Taking seriously the individual life and voice of each biblical writer, the Biblical Imagination Series will help you reintegrate your mind with your heart to recapture your imagination with the beauty and power of Christ.

Right now the Biblical Imagination Series 4 Volume set is only $24.99 for a limited time!

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Free Resource Friday!

Posted by on 02/20/2015 in: ,

Throughout the book of Psalms, believers are admonished to lift their voices and offer praises to God. For centuries now, the faithful have composed “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” to express their trust in God and their love for Jesus Christ. Included in Hymns of Praise are a short introduction and the complete words to ten best-loved hymns, to offer inspiration and encouragement in your daily walk with God.

Find this great resource in the Bible Study in-app store or go HERE for install instructions.

Please note that a Free Olive Tree account is required to access this Free Download.

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How I Commune with God on my Morning Commute

Posted by on 02/18/2015 in: ,

From Guest Blogger: Ashley LaMar

In about 15 minutes I’m going to be starting my weekday commute to work. My commute looks like this: a 5-minute walk to the train station, waiting 5-10 minutes for the train to arrive, a 25-minute train ride, waiting 5-10 minutes for the bus to arrive, a 15-minute bus ride, and a 5-minute walk to my office. My total morning commute time is 1 hour – 1 hour and 15 minutes and approximately 45 minutes of that is spent either riding the transit system or waiting.  What do I do during the time? I read. I used to read a novel on my Kindle but ever since I’ve discovered the free Olive Tree Bible App I use this time for Bible study.

Note: This is not a sponsored post by Olive Tree, I just love their app and really wanted to share it with you.

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I have two faith-based apps on my iPad that I use in the morning. The first is The Christian’s Daily Challenge. I read it in the morning when I first wake up before I shower, eat breakfast, and start my day. I ruminate on it and let it sink it while I’m getting dressed for work. Then, when I head out on my commute I open Olive Tree, read the same verse that The Christian’s Daily Challenge referred to, and delve deeper into study.

The other day on my commute I was reading through the book of Matthew again and, while reading about the immaculate conception and the birth of Jesus I noticed something that I hadn’t paid much attention to before and that was the frequent references to the Angels of God communicating with Joseph and the Magi through dreams. Every time I noticed the reference to an Angle communicating via dreams I highlighted it using the Olive Tree highlight tool. It’s actually really cool because you can set different color highlights to mean different things such as highlighting quotes or passages to memorize in yellow and verses about grace and love in pink.


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Did you notice the little green arrow at the bottom of the page? Well…there is a ton of special hidden features down there! Just swipe the arrow up and you are able to access related verses, expanded detail on the people, the places, and the topics discussed on that page. You can also click through to check out maps, images, sermons, videos, etc on the people, places and topics. I admit I’m kind of a sucker for Bible maps and I love seeing how the regions discussed in the Bible correlate to the world as we know it today.

If you click on one of the topics the app will bring up a list of other places in the Bible where the same subject is discussed. That is one of my favorite features.

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Plus there is a built-in store that you can access from within the app to buy books on theology and Bible history, Christian eBooks, Devotionals, Prayer, and Marriage & Family. A few of my current favorites are:

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I love that you can buy the books from the in-app store and, in many cases, the books are cheaper than if you bought them on Amazon.

It’s an amazing app for Bible Study and it’s perfect for my commute. It allows me to commune with God in the morning as I start my day and again in the evening as I am drawing my day to a close and heading home to my family. I have noticed that I have developed more patience on my morning commute and been less irritable with crowds and delays as I start my day off in a peaceful place. I have also noticed that I return home at the end of the day less stressed and frustrated because I’ve spent time with the Lord, laid my stresses and cares upon Him and returned home with a joyful heart.

As I mentioned earlier, this isn’t a sponsored post and the app is free on all devices iPhone, iPad (like I used it) and Android. It’s both Mac and Windows compatible and it is, hands-down, the absolute BEST Bible Study app I have found. If you’re interested you can get it here.

What do you think? Think you’ll check it out? What tools do you use for your Bible Study?

Learn More about Ashley at foreverashley.com

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Why Lenten Discipline is a Good Thing

Posted by on 02/17/2015 in:

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter in which many Christians observe a form of self-denial as a way to identify with Christ’s 40 days of fasting in the wilderness. It’s easy to relegate Lent to a time of “giving something up,” maybe chocolate or Facebook or fast food. While our waistlines might affirm these Lenten fasts, our spiritual nature begs for something more. Throughout Church history, Christians have turned to classic spiritual disciplines during Lent. But human nature can’t seem to make up its mind about the virtues of discipline. Sure discipline is a good thing. I brush my teeth every morning and evening. I drive safely. I read my Bible every day. But let’s face it: Discipline is hard. Why do we need to practice discipline in a season like Lent anyway?

In essence, discipline helps us to be more like Christ. As Jesus himself taught, denying oneself is integral to the Christian life and necessarily tough. Even Jesus’ discipline of obedience to the Father led to Calvary. As Christianity Today’s editorial from March 1960 puts it, Lent is a time in which we “follow the battered path to Calvary” and recognize our need to “yield ourselves afresh to God…” Just like we discipline ourselves in the care of our physical bodies, we must also do the necessary work of discipline in order to be healthy spiritually.

In this Lenten season, we encourage you to spend time with God each day as we approach the heart of the Christian faith in the agony of Good Friday and the glory of Easter. Along with the Bibles and Study Bibles that Olive Tree offers, check out the Lenten devotionals 40 Days with Jesus by Sarah Young and Walk with Jesus: A Journey to the Cross and Beyond by Charles Swindoll at OliveTree.com. We pray that the discipline of reading a devotional and your Bible daily will help you become more Christ like this Lenten season.

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God Is Passionate and Poetic – The Passion Translation

Posted by on 02/16/2015 in: , ,

From Guest Blogger: Dr. Brian Simmons, Lead Translator for The Passion Translation

God Is Passionate and Poetic.
It may surprise some of us to hear God described this way, as passionate and poetic. Yet the heart of God is filled with holy longings, passions which he expressed in creation and through redemption. And we would never discover such passions completely without the gift of God’s poetic Word, spoken to us in our own language. The Passion Translation is committed to translating the Word of God with all of its poetic nuance, flavor, passion, and truth—without compromising accuracy in any way. It expresses God’s passion for people and His world by translating the original, life-changing message of God’s Word for modern readers; it is every bit reliable as it is relevant.
God’s Word is potent, it has power to transform lives. As you read the Bible in this new, modern English version, expect to be delighted by The Passion Translation with new insights and a fresh understanding of all that God wants to say to our hearts. This is a heart-level translation, from the passion of God’s heart to the passion of your heart. Written by passionate men, the Bible is unlocked and understood more fully when passionate people read it.

God is a Poet—the Poet of Poets.
I’m so thankful for the poetic books found in the middle of our Bible. There is something about the Psalms and the Proverbs that keep our lives fueled with praise and guided by wisdom. It would be hard to imagine the Word of God without poetry, parables, and proverbs, because they unfold an entirely different dimension of the wonderful heart of God!
I have cherished the Psalms for over four decades. I contemplate them almost daily, for they have been my comfort and joy, leading me to the place where worship flows. When discouraged or downcast, reading these divine poems has given me new strength. They charge my batteries and fill my sails. In fact, the older I get the more powerful they grow: their thunder stirs me; their sweet melodies move me into the sacred emotions of a heart on fire like never before! The dark rain clouds of grief turn to bright rainbows of hope, just from meditating on David’s soul-nourishing songs.

The Psalms find the words that express our deepest and strongest emotions, no matter what the circumstances. Every emotion of our heart is reflected in the Psalms. Reading the Psalms will turn sighing into singing, trouble into triumph. The word praise is found 189 times in this book. There is simply nothing that touches my heart like the Psalms. Thousands of years ago my deepest feelings were put to music—this is what we all delightfully discover when reading the Psalms!

God’s Wisdom Is a Fountain—Come, Drink Freely!

Then there are the divine words of wisdom from Solomon, the book of Proverbs, written by the wisest man (well, maybe second wisest man) to ever walk the earth! Imagine reading a 2800-year-old book of wisdom: How many secrets would be uncovered? What kind of wisdom would be revealed? How would your life change as you drank in its advice? That’s Proverbs! These powerful words are anointed to bring you revelation from the very throne room of God—the wisdom you need to guide your steps and direct your life.

When you read Psalms and Proverbs, you’re engaging your heart and mind with the greatest book of wisdom and the greatest book of praise ever written, penned by two kings full of sage advice and God’s favor. God has given away his secrets in these books and he longs for you to read and receive them deep within. The Passion Translation seeks to express them in a way that would unlock the ‘passion’ of God’s heart, change your life, and launch you into the kind of life God has destined for you.

Dr. Brian Simmons is a former missionary, linguist, minister, and Bible teacher. As a missionary, he and his wife, Candice, pioneered church plants in Central America. As a linguist, Brian co-translated the Kuna New Testament for the Paya-Kuna people of Panama. He and his wife have birthed numerous ministries, including a dynamic church, Gateway Christian Fellowship, in West Haven, Connecticut. He is also a gifted teacher of the Bible who has authored several books and serves churches worldwide through his teaching ministry.

You can find Psalms and the Proverbs from The Passion Translation here.

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Stuck in Your Reading Plan? Be Encouraged!

Posted by on 02/11/2015 in:

By Olive Tree Employee: David Mikucki

calendar-photoIf you look at the calendar, you’ll see that it is now February and it has been February for a number of days. But for many of us, if we look at our Bible reading plan, we’re stuck somewhere in January.

A lot of us start out with noble intentions, perhaps wanting to read the whole Bible in a year. The wheels typically start to fall off around the time we get to the book of Leviticus and forward progress comes to a complete halt by Numbers. Reading Scripture can be hard, especially when we don’t feel like we understand what we’re reading.

But God does offer us encouragement, and a lot of it. First of all, for those of us who struggle to read the Bible regularly, there is grace and peace in Jesus Christ. God is not up in heaven with a strict reading plan, ready to slap you down because you haven’t kept it. Jesus was struck down for our sins and our failings (Isaiah 53:5). If you’ve put your faith in Jesus Christ, you are still loved and forgiven even if you’ve failed to love God’s Word.

Besides the good news of forgiveness and acceptance by God the Father through Jesus the Son, there is still more good news to be found for those of us who struggle as we read Scripture. We have a promise from God that His Word doesn’t go forth without doing the thing He sent it to do (Isaiah 55:11).

This should encourage us, because it means that even when we feel like our time in Scripture is dry, God’s Word is still working as He wants it to. We can approach Scripture reading in faith, trusting God instead of our feelings about whether or not our reading is doing anything. We can trust that God works through His Word and believe that He can be working in us in ways we can’t yet see. We can walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

What you read yesterday (or perhaps last week) might not make a lot of sense to you now, but that doesn’t mean God isn’t using it to mold and shape you. Few of us understand what our parents are doing as they raise us, but we’re thankful for it later on. We don’t need to see God working to know that He is.

You see, if you read through Leviticus in your daily reading half a dozen times before you come back around and study it on your own or with your church, you’ll be better equipped to understand it. This is because reading it all those times will have made you familiar with it.

Moreover, there are times when an application of a particular passage isn’t clear to you. Several weeks or months later, however, God may bring that passage to mind at a time in your life when it is very applicable. In an age where technology makes us want results as soon as possible, our God still loves to plant a seed and let it grow over months and years.

Take heart, Christian. God works through His Word even if you don’t see it just yet.

David is a front end web developer at Olive Tree. He also writes on his personal blog, And the Rest of It.

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5 questions to ask when choosing a Bible reading plan

Posted by on 01/09/2015 in: ,

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

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