Saturday, May 29, 2010

Verse Collection: The Prayers of Isaiah

My ESV pew Bible from this blog's first post is becoming quite colorful. I'm using a yellow highlighter to study prayer throughout the Bible. When I finish reading the whole Bible, I'll be able to flip through and find every passage that mentions prayer, supplication, intercession, crying out to God, pleading with God etc. I will also be able to find every prayer ever prayed to God in the Bible in the Old and New Testament.

This is an awesome way to study prayer: to go through and read and study the prayers of Abraham, David, the kings, the prophets, Jesus, the apostles etc. For my current study or project I'm going through the book of Isaiah, which I've already read and marked in my pew Bible, and taking all the prayers or verses directly addressing God and copying them into a small composition notebook. I've gotten into the habit of collecting verses and rewriting them in notebooks, grouping them together and reading and comparing them in "collections." This gives me an entire ten pages or so of prayers from the Book of Isaiah. These prayers include the laments of Israel, the supplication and intercession of Isaiah the prophet and the prayers of king Hezekiah.

As you can see, I've copied the chapter and verse address in the margin and then rewritten the passage in the notebook, highlighting verses of particular interest. By copying the verses I am able to read the words more slowly and repeat them to myself in an effort to meditate on them and hide them in my heart.

The verses I ended up copying were:

Isaiah 12:1-2, Isaiah 21:89, Isaiah 25:1-6, Isaiah 26:2-3, Isaiah 26:7-9, Isaiah 26:11-19, Isaiah 37:14-20, Isaiah 38:2-3, Isaiah 38:16-19, Isaiah 63:15-64:12

These prayers get to the heart of the book and the heart of the prophet as they reveal the burden of the Lord for the backslidden and the necessity of intercession for the disobedient. Every time I read through the major prophets, I am astounded at the heart that God gave them. These were men who could not handle the horrifying spiritual reality of their time. They could not keep silent before God, but begged him to have mercy on the people even as they begged the people to repent of their idolatry. These were men with breaking hearts that would not heal or harden. 

Isaiah prays:

Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,
 that the mountains might quake at your presence—
 as when fire kindles brushwood
   and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
   and that the nations might tremble at your presence!
When you did awesome things that we did not look for,
   you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. (Isaiah 64:1-3)

He begs God to come down and deal with men. He's hungry for a demonstration of God's holiness and majesty that will change hearts and minds. He's desperate for a move of the Holy Spirit that will bring the fear of God into the land. He seeks a fire that will kindle men's hearts. He seeks an earthquake that demonstrates God's power. He wants all the adversaries of God, all those who are enemies and unbelievers in their hearts and minds to be confronted with the name of God. He wants there to be a great shock and surprise across the land as God descends and does awesome things in the world. This is a prayer for a mighty move of God, a call for God to intervene and bring whole nations to repentance. This is the prophet's heart and the Spirit of God as it moves on the hearts of men. The apostles in Acts saw God come down, they saw tongues of fire, they had burning hearts, they saw men of many different tribes, nations and tongues tremble in the presence of God, crying out "What must we do to be saved!" God help us pray with the same desperation for His intervention in the lives and situations around us.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Bible as a Scalpel

The word of God is living and active and should be living in active in our lives. Our willingness to allow God to apply the Bible and its words to our hearts is the beginning of a miraculous change God desires to make in our hearts. Though the western world is saturated in the Word of God, it is even more saturated with the lies of the enemy. These lies appeal to our fleshly desires, and our flesh in turn appeals to our heart: 

The world appeals to the desires of our flesh: 1 John 2:16. 

These desires and lusts work themselves into our hearts, result in sin and wreak havoc in our lives: James 4:1-3. 

The seat of these desires is the heart. Our flesh is unredeemed it will always want sin. It has no understanding, it has no consideration of the things of God, but it only controls us if we set our hearts on its desires. If we sin, we sin from the heart: Matthew 15:19. 

Our actions and words come from our hearts; it is the heart that defines us and defines our actions. If our fleshly desires sit on the throne of our hearts it will produce sin and unrighteousness. If Christ sits on the throne of our heart, He will produce Himself in our lives: Luke 6:45.

We must set our hearts and minds to seek the Lord and his pleasure rather than our own (the desires of our flesh). God commands us to seek Him from the heart, from the inner man where our affections lie: 2 Chronicles 2:14 

Part of seeking the Lord with our heart is studying His word and His commands. Ezra sought the Lord by studying His word and applying it to his own heart: Ezra 7:10.

But we cannot trust in our own heart and mind: Proverbs 28:26 (KJV). Our heart clings to affections and blinds us to our own bondage and our own affections. The lies of the enemy work to keep us from rooting out the source of our sin. Only God can sanctify us and cut out the roots of sin in our lives through His word and the Holy Spirit's sanctifying work in our lives.

Hebrews 4:11-13 

The Word of God is a scalpel piercing the hardness of our hearts and cutting out the evil desires and lusts that work themselves into our lives through our flesh. Hebrews 4:12 states that the Word of God is alive. It is a living scalpel searching our hearts. It is sharper than any two edged sword. It cuts in both directions, destroying the lies of the enemy and convicting the hearts of others even as it cuts our own heart, penetrating our desires and paring our affections down until Christ is our simple, single love. It pierces the joints and the marrow: the soft nourishing places that exist surrounded by hard bone. It strikes through the hardness of our hearts to the inner life. It discerns and knows our thoughts, affections, desires and intentions. We can always fool ourselves, we cannot fool the word of God applied by the Holy Spirit. It knows our hearts, and it shines the light into the darkest parts of our heart, illuminating the source of God's displeasure with our lives. Hebrews 4:13: it gives us no excuse. We clearly read. We clearly hear. We are empowered to understand and we must give account for the Word's success or failure in our lives as we either succumb to this painful surgery or resist the operating table and dodge the scalpel.

So how shall we respond. How shall we invite the Word to work in this way. We must count the cost, prepare for the sweet pain of the Word's work and pray with David: Psalm 139:23-24.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
    Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,

   and lead me in the way everlasting!

"We will never make any progress in becoming more like Jesus unless we permit God to cut us open, search our hearts, try us, know our thoughts and then change us from the inside. Only then can we become real according to the word of God.
That reality will make us powerful witnesses for Jesus, even if we don't say a word. We will be so transparent and so genuine that if the world around us tries us with fire, we will come out as glittering gold.
If you truly desire this reality, stop looking to plans and activities as your solution. Begin today to call out to the Lord as David did. Say, 'Lord Jesus, cut me open. Please search my heart, try me, know my thoughts, reveal to me who I am, and change me, at any cost to become what Your Word says I ought to be.' Believe me, there is no prayer the Lord delights to answer for His people than this one!
There is no anesthesia for this radical surgery."
-K.P. Yohannan Founder and President of Gospel for AsiaReflecting His Image

New Poll: How Often Do You Read the Whole Bible?

The new poll is up and running. How often do you read the whole Bible? I decided to keep the options rather limited; we'll just look at some basic information. Normally I would never ask these kinds of questions, but the poll is anonymous and I'm interested in how readers attack The Book. There are many times when I've felt the need to read vast amounts of scripture per day and many times when I felt that God wanted me to focus and meditate on a very small portion. This poll will be up for a month. Look left!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Poll Results: Words of Christ in Red or Black

The results are in! A special thanks to all the Bible Design Blog readers who popped in and fleshed out the voting. There were a total of 42 votes (the same as the last poll; there must be something about the number 42) and Black Letter won with a whopping 71% (30) of the votes to Red Letter's 21% (9).

Of the 71% who want Black Letter, 14% (6) stated that they only use Black Letter, which indicates a strong opinion or preference, whereas none of the Red Letter supporters went beyond stating a preference. 7% of the voters (3) stated that it didn't matter either way.

The Case for Red Letter

Red letter originated in 1899 and reflects an attempt to make the spoken words of Christ stand out due to reverence for doctrine that came directly from Christ's mouth. Red Letter enthusiasts may explain a preference for Red Letter Bibles with a theological stance that Christ's words are more easily made into doctrine. Many state that two or three verses are needed to support a readily teachable doctrine, whereas teachings that come directly from Christ's mouth become doctrine without other textual support. Many also explain their preference because Red Letter makes verses easier to find and just makes the Bible a little prettier ; ).

The Case for Black Letter

Black letter is a bit of a special feature in the U.S. these days unless you are buying a pew Bible etc. Black letter enthusiasts may explain their preference by reasoning that the Bible is all equally inspired and that certain verses should not be made to stand out, and that separating the words of Christ leads people into a poor theology that those verses are more authoritative or more important (Red Letter Christians is a political movement that seems to hold this belief). Other reasons include readability and the often less than aesthetically pleasing execution of Red Letter which results in the words of Christ in orange or pink and slightly out of alignment with the rest of the text.

The Case for "It Doesn't Matter"

Many would hold that such matters are trivial and that the contents of the book does not change, and its the contents we should focus on rather than the color of the print. That said, I hope no one considers it wrong to have a preference.

If I've missed any reasons on any side please comment and add to the discussion.

It seems my readers on the whole prefer Black Letter, which is may not be indicative of the Christian population, but may reveal a trend that is growing through the internet and the blogosphere. A new poll will be up within the week.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Faith Comes by Hearing

Romans 10:17: the use of the word "hearing" doesn't often trouble us, but there's an entire branch of literary theory dedicated to weighing the power of the spoken word with the written word (logocentrism and phonocentrism). The spoken word's most valuable supporting text is in fact the Bible, which establishes an idea of Logos as the vessel for God's power. The connection between Christ and Logos, the Word, remains inescapable: John 1:1. God spoke creation into being; He spoke light and energy into existence and motion Genesis 1:3. The act of speech holds great power in the Bible Proverbs 18:21, James 3:6.

Taking the Bible as literally as possible (perhaps too literally) would necessitate the literal hearing of scripture as well as reading the Bible. This train of thought would encourage reading the Bible out loud, listening to sermons, going to church and ministry events and listening to an audio Bible. While I personally do not make a strong distinction between the necessity for literal hearing and the necessity of mentally hearing through silent reading and meditation, literally hearing the word of God aids memorization, boosts faith and can make the scripture a more visceral experience.

Faith Comes by Hearing is an evangelical ministry dedicated to the free distribution of audio Bibles and New Testaments in as many languages as possible. They currently distribute audio Bibles in 452 different languages to more than 152 different countries.

One of their ways of gathering support for their ministry is through the free distribution of English audio New Testaments. You can download a simple download manager and have access to 13 different English translations (and other languages) which are available for free download in MP3 format.

I've downloaded a number of versions and made a playlist of certain scripture I'm attempting to memorize. I burned a CD for my car and hope to recite the scripture along with the CD, which will help me memorize.

You can also buy versions from their store and other materials, which will help support their ministry, and of course you can donate.

Dollar Stores also tend to have Audio Bibles on CD and DVD (usually KJV) for $1 or perhaps a bit more if you want a more popular version (James Earl Jones would be nice). Most of us live in a nation that gives us the opportunity to be saturated with God's word. Check out Faith Comes by Hearing.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Blank Page Preaches (Packer Fired for Preaching Repentance)

J.I. Packer Fired for Preaching Repentance?!

OK so maybe I'm a year or so behind on learning this. But J.I. Packer (and Mark Driscoll) is outrageously right on. Repentance saves lives. Repentance saves our relationships with Christ. A failure to preach repentance is a failure to preach the gospel and a failure to preach salvation. A complete denial of the need for repentance is indeed heresy. And I never use that word. Jesus' first message on this earth was "Repent." It is indeed the first word of the gospel. It leads to salvation.

The Blank Page Preaches 

 This reminded me one of the most dynamic sermon illustrations I've ever heard. In a message called Purity and Fire, Leonard Ravenhill told a congregation to turn to the blank page in between the gospels.

This blank page represents 400 years of silence from God. For 400 years there was no prophetic light. There were no answers from God. Legalism, hardheartedness and hypocrisy abounded. Generations came and went without ever hearing a voice empowered by the Holy Spirit.
God's first word that broke this 400 years of silence was a cry, "Repent" from the mouth of John the Baptist in Matthew 3:2. Repent is truly the first word of the gospel. A call to repentance was the first and foremost message God had for his people. He waited 400 years to initiate a relationship with his people with the word "Repent." 
Jesus began his ministry in the same way. His first message was one of repentance. He was a repentance preacher from the beginning: Matthew 4:17. This was the beginning of God's message to the world after 400 years of silence and its still the beginning of God's message to the world today.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Bible as a Comfort Object

I often get emotional in church. Whether the Holy Spirit is moving during prayer, during the sermon or just at the beginning when I'm preparing my heart for the word. I also react strongly when something unscriptural is being taught or when people gossip at prayer meetings etc.
Sunday morning I noticed some black smudges on my hands and realized that the black gloss on the cover of my ESV pew Bible was being worn away by the emotive wringing and rubbing of my sweaty hands. It made me realize how much I buff my Bible with my hands or alternatively put my Bible in a choke hold.

My first Bible as a born again Christian (a bonded leather Zondervan KJV) is still together, but just barely. I put it through two years of intense abuse. I rubbed all the letters off of it and its spine is starting to let go of the pages.

Whenever the Bible is in my hands I find I'm either using it or fondling it. When it's not open I'm rubbing the spine, pressing it this way and that and bending it in all kinds of directions. It made me realize that my Bible is a comfort object. As a child I had a large stuffed bunny which I carried with me everywhere and I found its familiarity comforting. In much the same way, a familiarity with the Bible and its phenomenal and miraculous impact on our lives can create a mental relationship that makes its physical presence comforting.

 In the Bible I know I have all the answers. I have the truth: personal truth (because I've experienced it), but objective truth (because its from the God of all things and all humanity). The Bible is undisputable and authoritative. It's the word of God and answers every question. Its solid. It's not the book of the church; we're the church of the book. Its words renew our minds and make us wise for salvation. It teaches us, reproves us, corrects us, and trains us in righteousness. It equips us. 2 Timothy 3:15-17. It provides security and peace because we know that we have access to God's truth. All these truths filter down through association until I feel more at home and more comfortable with the Bible in my hands. The physical form itself gives me comfort.

Sunday I found myself reading and rereading 2 Thessalonians 3:16 in-between bouts of weathering the Good Book with my sweaty hands as I encountered teaching which I found both unscriptural and dangerous.

Like the stuffed bunny of my childhood, my first Bible is in slightly less than ideal condition after two years of comforting (I need a lot of comfort, and it shows).

These are just a few pics detailing the flexibility it has acquired through use and the demolition of the binding (which I promise is worse than is depicted). Using the Bible as a comfort object is a good reason to seek a good binding and some good leather. Any other Bible huggers and fondlers out there?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Basics on Bible Translation

In the English speaking world, there is an overwhelming availability of the word of God. We have a massive number of English translations and paraphrases (for a full list click here) and choosing one is an important decision in Bible study. This post may contain well-known information, but my experience is that my generation (the millennials) know very little about Bible translations and their importance. I will try not to let my prejudices show, as there are translations which I like and dislike. I will attempt to be fair, but I do have strong opinions in places. No English translation is perfect and all have idiosyncrasies at best; however, I believe that God uses all of them to spread the gospel and to give Him glory. 

Educate Yourself

I confess that one of my greatest frustrations regarding this topic is the sparse knowledge that most people seem to have regarding translations when an overwhelming amount of information exists on the pros and cons of each translation. If you are going to study the Bible in English, educate yourself on translations and read around before you choose one. I won't list a huge number of links here because you can merely google each translation to find information about why its the best or the worst or simply read the front of your Bible. Each edition almost always contains a note about the translation, and while this is written by the same people who wrote the individual version and will be slanted in their favor, you can find out a lot by reading their translation philosophy with a critical mind. 

Simply put, take 15 minutes to find out what you are reading and if it's the best option.

Formal Equivalence vs. Dynamic Equivalence

Formal Equivalence = "Word for word" or literal translation. The writers of Formal Equivalence translations attempted to be as accurate to the wording and syntax of the Hebrew and Greek as possible, while still being readable. There is a reason the King James is more difficult to read and its not necessarily because its so old. Formal Equivalence translations are hands down the most accurate linguistically and probably the best for actual study of the Bible. Formal Equivalence translations are more literal and therefore more open, which means they choose a very literal word such as "affliction" and let the reader decide whether the verse is talking about physical, emotional or spiritual affliction or all three. However, all translations force the translators to make some amount of interpretative choices at some level. 
Any highly accurate translation of an ancient language is going to be at a high reading level. Popular Formal Equivalence translations are the KJV, the NASB, and the ESV etc., all of which are probably at a college or high high school reading level.

Dynamic Equivalence = "thought for thought" translation. In order to be more readable and understandable, the writers of Dynamic Equivalence translations translate the thoughts and intents of the Hebrew and Greek rather than the specific words and syntax. This provides an easier and clearer read. However, a greater amount of theological interpretation necessarily goes into translating the Bible's Hebrew and Greek content into English content. Generally, the lower the reading level of the translation the more theological interpretation is involved in translation. Dynamic Equivalence translations are less literal and therefore more closed in their wording. They choose specific words and phrases, for instance the NLT uses "sin nature" rather than "flesh" throughout the New Testament. This makes an interpretation for the reader since some would argue that the "sin nature" in the heart, soul, and spirit is removed during regeneration and that only the physical body or the "flesh" retains a sinful nature. The NLT translators chose to answer the question is sin nature (after conversion) in the physical man or the whole man? Therefore they do not translate literally into "flesh" but rather "sin nature." This example is a little extreme, but it does reveal the kind of changes that can be made in Dynamic Equivalent translations.
Dynamic Equivalent translations are all easier to read and reside at a lower reading level. Dynamic Equivalent translations include the NIV, the NLT, NCV which are all probably at a high school level or lower.

Single Person Translations

Single person translations run the gamut. They are written by a single person who is fluent in Hebrew and Greek and therefore result in the Bible as interpreted and translated by one person. A single person translation is usually created in order to emphasize certain points and certain individual revelation and should not be used as an everyday Bible as they also contain individual misunderstandings, mistakes and failures. J.B. Philips translation, the John Darby translation, Moffat's translation and Young's Literal Translation are all popular single person translations and are interesting to consult as a reference and read entirely, but should be taken with a critical mind and perhaps a grain of salt: this is one man's understanding.


Paraphrases are generally single person translations that condense and reword the Hebrew and Greek to such an extent that they cannot be considered a true translation, but instead an adaptation. The Living Bible and The Message are currently the two most popular paraphrases. Neither of these was ever intended to be used for Bible Study. They are marketed as regular Bibles but they are NOT translations. I know a number of people who only read paraphrases and I believe it is a dangerous practice to do so. Both the Living Bible and The Message are highly colloquial, which means they have a greater chance of losing meaning as phrases and wording goes in and out of style. A simple perusal of Psalm 51, Isaiah 53 or any of the epistles will reveal that they are not the quite the same book as the Bible, and I would additionally argue that I can find places where they say things that are absolutely not said in scripture. Read them with a grain of salt and a critical mind. This is one man's understanding put in figurative and/or excessively plain language.

Compare Translations

Perhaps the wisest course of action in Bible study (if you don't know much Greek and Hebrew) is to compare translations. Read multiple versions and pray about what you are reading. Make informed decisions for yourself. Shop around. When you spot something you don't understand or have a question about look it up in a different translation: try a literal translation; try a dynamic equivalent; try a single person translation; look at a paraphrase. By looking at different wording, you can realize different aspects of the verse.


The Holman Christian Standard Bible came out in 2004 and just finished an update a few months ago. I don't have a copy, but I'm looking into it. The CSB boasts of "optimal equivalence," meaning rather than being on one side of the scale or the other, they took the middle road between absolute linguistic accuracy and readability. You can read an (very informative) interview with the editor of the CSB here. Reading between the lines, I would guess that "Optimal Equivalence" means "as literal as we could make it and still keep it at a low college reading level."

What I do when checking out a translation I haven't read before, is read familiar passages and compare them to what I know. I usually take Isaiah 53, Psalm 51 and Romans 6 and 8 for starters. So I went to and entered them into their online Bible. I came away with some things I liked and some things I didn't like. Romans 6 and 8 I enjoyed. Isaiah 53 used the words "sick" or "sickness" three times, where I have never seen a translation use them before in that context (though the ESV footnotes "sick" as a possibility in one place,) Psalm 51:10 states "Create a clean heart for me," substituting "for" with "in," which I find rather odd. I don't know Hebrew or Greek, so I assume that they know better than me, but sometimes I wonder if new translations are just trying to be different from what has come before or if they have a certain theological slant. Careful comparison will continue.


My suggestion for personal Bible study is to pick the most literal translation you understand. Many people argue that people don't read the Bible because its difficult to understand or read, hence the paraphrases and less literal translations. I honestly find this hard to believe. The entire world lies under the power of the adversary who does not wish us to know the truth. Satan will fabricate any kind of justification or reasoning to keep us from reading the word of God (1 John 5:19). We are given the Holy Spirit which teaches us and reveals the truth of scripture to us (1 John 2:27). I know a number of people who had an elementary reading level when they came to the Lord and are now able to study and read the word of God and even the KJV. God promises wisdom to those who ask (James 1:5). So dig in. Pick something you can sink your teeth into, struggle with, have questions about. Don't just pick something easy. God will reward your effort.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

New Poll: Words of Christ in Red or Black

The new poll is up and open for voting (look left). Do you use a Red letter Bible or a Black letter Bible. Do you have a theological reason for your preference? Which version should publishers focus on? Lately I've read a number of things on both sides, and I think there's good reasoning behind both preferences.

Back in the day, Black letter was the norm. If you want to see how Red letter came about check out the history here and/or at the ESV Bible Blog.

My understanding is that Black letter is more popular with publishers in the UK and Red letter with publishers in the USA. Be sure to vote and comment on this post if you'd like to explain your preference. This poll will only last two weeks.
 image from Bibledesignblog

Monday, May 10, 2010

Trusted Translation Poll Results

The results are in for the (first?) Most Trusted Translation(s) poll. A total of 42 of you voted, and I thank you for your input. For posterity the results were:

The winner with 16 votes and 38% of the readership is the New American Standard Bible or NASB. The NASB has marketed itself as the most literal translation for a long time and it makes decent sense that the most literal translation would also be the most trusted.

There was a tie for second place between the English Standard Version or ESV and the King James Version or KJV which had a late surge. This is a fascinating tie as the ESV first came out in 2001 and had a revision in 2007, while the King James is the oldest translation that's still being regularly read. It first came out in 1611 and is working on its 400th year. Both the ESV and the KJV hold positions on the Formal Equivalent or literal side of the scale. The ESV and KJV took 15 votes each and 35% of the vote.

Third place was a tie between the New King James and the New International Version. The New King James was a 1980's revision of the King James Language, while the NIV has held its place as the bestselling English translation for at least two decades. The NIV sits on the dynamic equivalent or "thought for thought" side of the scale and for many is the "quintessential" dynamic equivalent.

Fourth Place goes to the New Revised Standard Version and the recent Holman Christian Standard Bible and fifth place goes to the Amplified Bible (which many might argue was only intended as a reference tool, but I selfishly put on there anyway because I like to read it).

The New Living Translation and The Todays New International Version received no votes and are probably the least literal of the translations.

Obviously this poll is not representative of the general Christian population as I'm guessing my readership are more prone to Bible Study and formal equivalence.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Homemade KJV Looseleaf

The King James Version has been around for a long time. In fact, its 400th birthday is coming up next year, and many still hold it to be the fountainhead of Bible translation. Because of its longevity and popularity, the KJV has no copyright in the United States (in the UK the Crown technically holds the copyright), which means that anyone can print the KJV any way they want, including you. offers free Microsoft word and Plain Text files of the entire KJV. This means that the text block can reformatted and printed it any way. It also features the books of the Bible in individual documents so you can print an individual book to look at. Perhaps the most obvious use of this resource is the creation of an interleaf Bible.

I used the file to print John, 1 John, 2 John and 3 John. I reformatted the text block to two inch margins, single column, verse per line and used a three hole punch to add blank pages in-between the pages of text. With the wide margins and the blank pages I can write copious notes. By keeping the pages in a binder, I can add pages as I desire, and I can carry whatever portions of the Bible I am currently studying.

Because of the large amount of space, I decided to use a four color writing system to separate my notes. I made margin notes first, dividing them by color, and then used the same color to key the notes to more complete comments and notes written on the opposing page, so red notes correspond to red notes on the blank page etc.

As you can see, I still nearly ran out of space on the blank page. Whenever, you have the space it becomes easy to use up.

For this project I used notes on 1 John, which is probably my favorite epistle. Its clarity and poetry are impacting and John constantly uses parallels, dichotomies and oppositions to clarify the word. I used margin and in-text notes to track these dichotomies and parallels, making brief illustrations to trace them. I simply wanted to get enough down to point to the notes on the opposite page. What's nice is that with normal weight paper you don't have to worry about the size or pressure of your writing, you can simply write naturally.

I separated the verses into thoughts by theme, bracketing them by subject and alternating colors.

I then marked the verse numbers down, but wrote all the notes on each bracket in the same color I made the bracket. This makes it easy to find your thoughts later and know what note goes where.

This is an excellent way to keep teaching outlines etc. because you have all of your notes and thoughts keyed to the text and side by side. It's also nice because you don't have to mark up your reading Bible if you find notes distracting.

One of the things I studied during this project was the parallel between the opening of the Gospel of John and the introduction of 1 John. John 1:1-5 is one of the most beautiful and powerful passages in the whole Bible and its also one of the strongest descriptions of the deity of Christ.
 John opened his Gospel in such a way to proclaim Christ as the Son of God in the fullness of his deity. 1 John 1:1-3 uses the same style to emphasize the humanity of Christ. John declares Christ's eternity "That which was from the beginning," but links Him to an auditory, visual and tactile experience. John refers to a real, physical experience with Christ, a human experience, featuring physical interaction: an eyewitness account. He ends the  first verse with the phrase "of the Word of life" a clear reference to Christ and an allusion to the opening of John's Gospel. John in no way weakens Christ's deity, but he stresses that Christ was human, that he came in the flesh, that he had a physical body and that he could be touched. The introductions of the Gospel of John and the first Epistle of John work together to emphasize the overwhelming deity and the overwhelming humanity of Christ. 1 John is very much a letter written to assure the saints that Jesus came in the flesh (1 John 4:2 and 1 John 4:3), but it does so even as it equates Jesus with eternity and reveals Christ Himself as eternal life (1 John 1:2).

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Deliberate People

If you read my previous post on Bible reading plans, you saw the link to, the ministry of Phil Joel. I was revisiting his site, and he made a new video describing his ministry, which I thought would be appropriate to share as part of the focus of this blog. It describes how a basic Bible reading schedule helped reconnect him with God, and how God changed his relationships and his life. It all started with a deliberate attempt to pursue God.

He's a little dramatic, very hip, and perhaps not everyone's cup of tea, but I find his exuberance encouraging and his simplicity and eagerness a fresh reminder that you can be deliberately pursuing God and studying his word without being academic or stuffy. His Deliberate People Album, though not a chart topper, is one of my top 5 devotional CD's and maybe one of my Top 5 CD's of all time. Check out deliberatepeople.

what makes dP? from deliberatePeople. on Vimeo.

Reading the Bible is an act of love, as we engage with God because of the love that He's placed in our hearts and as He reveals His word to us through the Holy Spirit. It's not about knowledge. It's not about study. It's about a relationship with Jesus. Reading is part of our walk and talk with God. It is not an end to itself.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Only One Week Left for the Translations Poll

Quick! Invite all your friends to vote for your favorite! Weight the scales in your translation's favor!

On a more serious note, it would be nice to see 50+ votes, so if you can invite your friends to check out the blog, I would be grateful. I'm already planning the next poll: something a little less controversial maybe. When the final results for the poll is in, I'll write a (hopefully equitable and balanced) post about translations.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Basic Bible Reading Plans

One of the simplest, but most effective ways to hold yourself accountable to effective study is with a simple Reading Plan that takes you through the Bible with a daily reading schedule. I have heard a number of testimonies from people who's lives have been changed and whose devotions have been given a jump start by a simple plan that they can follow to read God's word. Bible reading plans have become popular enough and widespread enough that many Bible publishers are including plans at the front or back of their Bibles (I believe the journaling Bibles and Noteworthy series both include this feature). This post will cover some simple plans that I've run into including one year plans to more intense 26 day plans. I hope to cover the basics here and save more complex Bible reading systems for later posts.

Deliberate People

Deliberate People is the ministry of Phil Joel, the former bass player for the group the Newsboys. He's pursuing his own ministry based around encouraging people to deliberately seek God. You can check out his ministry and look at his Bible reading plans at He began the ministry in part because journaling with a Bible reading plan and a deliberate strategy radically impacted his relationship with Jesus.

  • Twenty One: It takes 21 days to build or break a habit, this 21 day plan will get you started on reading, praying and journaling.

You can check out the full plan here.

  • 6 Month Plan: Deliberate People also features a six month plan to take you through the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs. You can download the PDF from them or purchase one of their Deliberate People Journals. 
  • Full Year Plan: A simple plan to read the whole Bible in one year.

All of these plans include guides for prayer, reading, journaling and simple devotions, and are an excellent resource for all ages. The reading plans are laid out simply in a calendar format and feature check boxes next to each day.

The Discipleship Journal

The Discipleship Journal also offers a dynamic one-year reading plan, which can be purchased in a number of formats or downloaded for free here. The plan features four readings per day: two in the New Testament, two in the Old Testament, and features only 25 readings per month, which will give you extra days (Sundays) to catch up if you get behind. The Discipleship Journal plan comes reccomended by John Piper and Desiring God.

It is also set up in a calendar format and features checklists for each day.

Robert Murray M'Cheyne Reading Plan

One of the plans that comes the most highly reccomended is Robert Murray M'Cheyne's Bible Reading Plan and Calendar. features a whole plethora of options adopted by this famous puritan preacher.

Whole Bible in a year
Old Testament in a year
New Testament in a year
Old Testament in two years
Words of Jesus 4 times in a year
Whole Bible chronologically in a year
Whole Bible chronologically in a year #2
New Testament Letters 3 times in a year
New Testament & Proverbs twice, Psalms once in a year
New Testament & Psalms twice, rest of Bible once in a year
Proverbs in a month
Gospels in a month
Psalms in a month
Online or by email.
The main, one year plan, has a simple, Calendar layout, but no checklists. You can find this plan a number of places on the web.

Local Church Publishers

Local Church Publishers is a nonprofit Bible publishing ministry which features calfskin, handsewn bindings for remarkably low cost. They are a KJV only ministry, and the KJV is clearly a strict part of their theology, which I in no way condone or support, though I like the KJV. You can use the plans for whichever version you prefer. They have created a number of useful plans and a simple checklist for creating your own plan. You can find all their resources here.

  • One Year 

  • 4 Month Plan: Read the Bible through three times per year.

  • 60 Day Plan: Read the Bible in 2 Months.

  • 30 Day Plan: Feeling Ambitious? Read through the whole Bible in a month.

SermonIndex 26 Day Plan advocates an intense 26 day reading plan, which goes through the entire Bible. It's intended to take 1-2 hours each day: 30-50 Chapters. It seems like it should take much more than 1-2 hours, but if you read about one chapter every few minutes, it should average out. My guess is that for most people it will take more than 2 hours even if you are reading straight through without pausing for thought. I've actually tried this plan, though it was during school, and I only was able to keep up for 14 days. Still it feels great to be in the Word that much each day. You can get the plan here. Notice the convicting quote by R.C. Sproul.

Create Your Own Plan

Last but certainly not least, you can create your own plan. I admit that this is largely what I do, and works well as long as you can keep yourself accountable. Right now I'm reading through the New Testament according to author (I started out with John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Revelation and I'll end with the Pauline Epistles). Local Church Publishers has put out a simple checklist that can help you make your own plan.

I hope these resources are a blessing. Feel free to comment and let me know what plan you use. I'll keep posting plans as I find new or unique ones, and I've already got plans to post about more complex plans.