Children’s Bible Reading Plan (45)

As some of the newer readers to this blog may not be aware of the Children’s Bible Reading plan that I’ve been offering for almost a year, here’s an explanation of what I’m trying to do.

Basically, every Saturday I post a daily Bible reading plan for the week ahead. It’s what I use with my own children and it’s characterized by:

1. Brevity. I want this to be do-able. It is more important to be reading small chunks of Scripture regularly than setting the bar too high and failing. Of course I wish my children wanted to read Scripture more, but if I can get them to spend 5 minutes with the Bible, morning and evening, then I will be happy. And hopefully they will develop a growing appetite for it themselves.

2. Variety. I chose Old Testament in the morning and New Testament in the evening. I also want to vary between narrative, poetry, practical, etc. However as my two girls are only 8 and 7, the emphasis will be more on the stories of the Bible. Sometimes I’ll skip some chapters that are especially difficult for children. They can be read and studied when the children are older and better able to profit from them.

3. Simplicity. The pattern is a few verses for reading, and either a verse to write out or a question to answer in the morning and evening. I’ve added a couple of extra questions for the Saturday reading that are a bit more personal and applicatory?

4. Accountability. Although this system is to help me be more accountable for shepherding my children, I also want to make my children accountable. That’s why I ask them to write a verse and an answer a day. And its also why I ask them to bring me their work at least weekly, and try to have a brief discussion with each of them.

5. Unity. One advantage of this is that we will all be reading in the same part of the Bible (my wife and I included). Whatever else we read, we will all have read these verses as a minimum. That means we can all talk about the same passage of Scripture at meals, etc. I hope this will give our family a spiritual unity as we journey on together.

As some friends felt that twice a day readings were too much, especially for kids going out to school in the morning, I also started posting a second set of Bible study notes that have one reading per day. These will go through a book or two from the New Testament, then a book from the Old Testament, then back to the New Testament, and so on. I’ll also leave some space on these notes to write down matters for prayer.

All this has to be bathed in prayer if it is to be a spiritual blessing to the children (and to me). I don’t want it to degenerate into a legalistic exercise where the daily and weekly routine just becomes a boring drudging “ought-to.” However, God does use the reading of Scripture to make sinners wise unto salvation. My hope and prayer is that eventually my children, and all our children, will no longer read because of external pressure or habit, but because they want to, because they have a passion for the Christ that the Scriptures testify of.

Anyway, after all that, here’s this week’s morning and evening reading plan in Word and pdf.

Here’s this week’s single reading plan for morning or evening in Word and pdf.

And for those who want to start at the beginning, here’s six months of the morning and evening in pdf, and here’s six months of the single reading plan in pdf.

And if you want to explore this subject further, here’s a great post from Brian Croft on pastoring our children.


Subscribe For A Free Film From HeadHeartHand Media

When a student (yes, you Michael) eventually persuaded me to start blogging just under two years ago, I never expected it to become such a large and enjoyable part of my life and ministry. With such small expectations I looked for a blogging platform that would make it as easy as possible to post regularly with minimal hassle. With its email-to-blog feature, and its simple maintenance interface, Posterous was the obvious answer.

However, as the HeadHeartHand blog has developed and grown, the limitations of Posterous have become more obvious. Also, my Christian film company, HeadHeartHand Media has been growing in parallel over the past year.

I’ve therefore decided to change my blogging software to WordPress and to move it to a new shared site with HeadHeartHand Media.

The blog’s content will remain the same – a mixture of Ministry and Leadership subjects such as Preaching, Counseling, Old Testament, Technology, etc. The only changes you’ll be aware of will be improved presentation and a different location.

As many of you receive the “old” Posterous blog content via RSS or email, I want to “encourage” you to make the change to the new blog by giving a free digital download of CrossReference: The Angel of the Lord to all subscribers to the new blog.

So here’s the deal: anyone who subscribes to the new HeadHeartHand blog by RSS or email, will receive a download code embedded in their RSS feed or email from Monday to Wednesday next week. The only condition is one download per subscription.

So head over to the social media icons on the right of my photo, subscribe by RSS or email, and get your free film next week!

I look forward to serving you here and enjoying your valued contributions via the Comments.

And before I go, let me give a big thank you to Nathan Bingham and Cameron Morgan whose technical and design skills made all this possible. Thanks so much, guys; you’re a great team and a joy to work with.

Nathan W. Bingham is a part-time blogger, social media consultant, and a seminary graduate who is training for pastoral ministry. He lives in Melbourne, Australia with his wife and three daughters.

Cameron Morgan is a visual print and web designer. He’s particularly interested in the intersection of theology, technology & visual communication as a means to spread the gospel of Christ. He lives in Orange County, CA with his wife and daughter.


The best part of his sermons are his silences

Yesterday I was privileged to hear my pastor, Foppe VanderZwaag, preaching on Job 1. It was a captivating and enthralling sermon with fascinating insights throughout, especially his positive (and persuasive) take on Job’s wife and children. 

One of the things I love about Pastor VanderZwaag’s preaching is his pace. Maybe it’s his teaching background, but he has a great sense of how to pace his sermons. He has substantial content but also gets the right balance between information overload and laborious lumbering. 

And perhaps the best parts of his sermons are his silences! What I mean is that he regularly pauses and allows the truth to sink in and be savored before moving on. That’s so vital for reflection, mediation and assimilation of the Word. I believe it’s often in these brief silences that the Holy Spirit does His saving and sanctifying work. Sometimes we can so overwhelm our hearers with information that the Holy Spirit can hardly get a word in!

You can listen to or watch his sermon here.


Revealing Research

A large 40 year study, by the American Heart Association, of over 80,000 women in the USA  has found that those with a history of depression had a 29% increased risk of stroke.

 The researchers also found that women who had used anti-depressants particularly SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) at any point in the two years prior to the study, was 39% higher.

And here’s where our prejudices and presuppositions immediately kick in.

Those who are against anti-depressants will read this as further evidence of “the cure is worse than the disease.” 

Those who see a role for anti-depressants in the treatment of serious depression will try to find other explanations for the facts. 

For example, in this report on the findings, the BBC found public health and stroke experts to argue against any direct link between strokes and anti-depressant medication. 

Dr Kathryn Rexrode, who led the research, said the medicines were more likely to be an indication someone was more seriously ill, rather than a cause of the stroke. She said: “I don’t think the medications themselves are the primary cause of the risk. This study does not suggest that people should stop their medications to reduce the risk of stroke.”

She added: “Depression can prevent individuals from controlling other medical problems such as diabetes and hypertension, from taking medications regularly or pursuing other healthy lifestyle measures such as exercise. All these factors could contribute to increased risk.”

That was echoed by Dr Peter Coleman, deputy director of research at the UK’s Stroke Association: “This research appears to indicate that women suffering from depression may be less motivated to maintain good health or control other medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, which have an associated increased risk of stroke.”

My takeaways from the research are: 

1. View depression as a serious condition with many damaging consequences. 

Don’t dismiss depressed people as if they were merely suffering from a common cold, allergy, or a passing bad mood. Wherever depression starts – in the heart, in the brain, or in devastating providences – its ripple (tsunami?) effects are extensive and often life-threatening. Take this seriously, and get help early.

2. Medication alone is never the answer.  

Much research into the benefits and drawbacks of anti-depressants take no account of the impact of social support, spiritual counseling, lifestyle coaching, etc. 

Some research (usually funded by by talking-therapy advocates) shows that anti-depressants do little better than placebos. Other research (usually funded by drug companies) highlights  a drug’s statistical success.  But what help are any of these “facts” without knowing much more about the background and situations of these sufferers. 

I have never seen anti-depressants work where there has not been a serious commitment to receiving  and acting upon counsel about lifestyle, decision-making, social interaction, and spiritual needs. If you think that the sole answer to depression is a pill, you are in for a very long and dark journey – and possibly a stroke!

Having said that, sometimes, in really serious depression, unless there is a willingness to take medication, all the counsel in the world is going to go in one ear and out the other. The information cannot be received or successfully processed. 

3. Be aware of our own prejudices and presuppositions when analyzing research.

When we read something that supports our existing conclusions, we are much more likely to believe it as true without any further analysis.

When we read something that challenges our faith, our reason, or our previously adopted public positions, out come our sharpened critical faculties to find the weaknesses and inconsistencies. 

Sometimes, our response to research reveals more about ourselves than anything else.


A good question from Justin Taylor

Justin Taylor asks:

Can your theology account for the consistency of all three of these verses from Luke 24—divine veiling, human culpability, and divine revealing?

  • v. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
  • v. 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!”
  • v. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.

Good question! I think Justin is getting at the mysterious interaction of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. However this raises a related question: What do these verses say about the disciples’ spiritual condition?

Here are the options as far as I can see:

1. The disciples were unbelievers until verse 31.

They were simply spiritually blind unbelievers who, though they had seen Christ with their eyes, had never seen Him by faith. This is possible, but it doesn’t really explain their burning hearts on the road, their previous hope in His redemption, their place in the inner circle, and Christ’s choice of them for this encounter.

2. The disciples were only Old Testament believers until verse 31.

Some say that prior to the coming of Christ, those who had saving faith merely had faith in God in general, and not in the Messiah in particular. To be saved, all they had to do was put their “Amen” to God’s Word, trust in God’s promises of salvation, and demonstrate their faith by complying with the law.

Some even take this argument to the extreme that Old Testament believers knew only the Father – that they had no personal knowledge of the Messiah nor any personal experience of the Holy Spirit. However, the Bible does not put any substantial difference between Old Testament faith and New Testament faith. There is a difference in the degree but not in kind.

Old Testament believers had personal knowledge of Christ.

For example in John 5:45-47, Jesus told the Jews of His day that Moses, their great hero, would one day accuse them of failing to understand the Messianic meaning of the books he wrote. As Michael Rydelnik says in The Messianic Hope: “Moses had to understand that he wrote of Messiah in the Torah or he would not be qualified to accuse those who did not correctly interpret the messianic hope in the Torah” (86).

Old Testament believers had personal experience of the Holy Spirit (Luke 2:27; 1 Peter 1:11).

As every Old Testament believer was “dead in trespasses and sins” they could not begin to believe or repent without the Holy Spirit. And, just like us, (unless they were less depraved than us) they could not continue one second in saving faith without the continuing work of the Holy Spirit (John 3:5; Rom. 8:9). The difference between Pentecost and the Old Testament, again, was one of degree not kind. The Holy Spirit was given in deeper and wider measure.

3. The disciples were believers in Christ but were temporarily and partially blinded by God.

Some take “Their eyes were kept from recognizing him” and “their eyes were opened” as divine passives. In other words, God alone blinded them and God alone opened their eyes.

However, this does not sufficiently account for Christ’s rebuke of their foolish ignorance of all that the Old Testament had prophesied. If God was to “blame,” then why these rather sharp words heaping responsibility on to the disciples in v. 25.

4. The disciples were believers in Christ but were temporarily and partially blinded by their own foolish ignorance and misunderstanding.

Like us, the disciples sometimes grasped the person and work of Christ with clarity, while at other times they at least partially lost sight of who He was and what He came to do. Jesus told them that His life and death exactly matched the predictions of the Old Testament prophets. The disciples had believed some of the prophets’ writings – the parts that spoke of the Messiah’s glory. But they had not believed all that the prophets had spoken – especially the parts that spoke of the Messiah’s sufferings and death.
Certain factors contributed to this ignorance. First, there was the cultural and political situation of Roman oppression which tended to generate a desire for a military conqueror rather than a submissive sufferer.
Second, the disciples ignorance was also a fulfillment of Messianic prophecy (Isa. 53:1-4) and a painfully significant contributing factor to Christ’s own sufferings.

Third, in some ways I think it was perhaps harder for the disciples to believe than the Old Testament believers like Moses (Heb. 11:26). The Messiah in theory may have been more believable than the Messiah in reality. What do I mean by that? Well, in some ways it was a disadvantage to be so familiar with the humanity of Christ. He was just so human, so flesh and blood, so lowly, so Nazareth, so “ordinary.” Many seemed to stumble over this.

Summary

Willful refusal to believe the Old Testament’s consistent message that the Messiah’s path to glory lay through suffering, temporarily and partially blinded the disciples in verse 16.Christ removed that ignorance and misunderstanding by graciously and patiently showing them this theme of suffering then glory throughout the Old Testament, resulting in the “opened eyes” of verse 31.

As J C Ryle said: “Let us bless God that there may be true grace hidden under much intellectual ignorance. Clear and accurate knowledge is a most useful thing, but it is not absolutely needful for salvation and may even be possessed without grace.”

How comforting for us that buried under all our own spiritual confusion, ignorance, misunderstanding, prejudice, and folly, true grace can still be present! May we also experience day by day the Savior’s gracious and patient instruction of us by His Word and Spirit, resulting in spiritual heartburn and enthusiastic witness.