Let’s read the Bible in 2015

In Psalm 119: 129-131, we read:

129 Your testimonies are wonderful;
    therefore my soul keeps them.
130 The unfolding of your words gives light;
    it imparts understanding to the simple.
131 I open my mouth and pant,
    because I long for your commandments.

Do you agree that God’s word is wonderful, gives light, and imparts understanding? Do you long for His commandments?  Are you considering reading through the Bible in the new year? If so, let me suggest a plan and invite you to join me each day here to share the reading journey.

Beginning tomorrow, I will post a daily reading assignment which will take you through the Old and New Testaments simultaneously. Keep on schedule by either reading from your own Bible using your preferred translation, or pull up this blog and click on the reading assignment. You will instantly be taken to the daily assignment in the English Standard Translation from Bible Gateway.com. A year from now we will finish up the entire Bible.

What could be easier? What could be more important for your spiritual growth and blessing?

We, who are serious Christians or who are considering the Christian faith, should make Bible reading a regular part of our lives. But if you have never read through the Bible, you will see that it is a massive undertaking. It can be done and I have done it annually for many years. I do not recommend attempting a faster reading. I find it preferable to read daily at a steady pace taking some time to reflect on some of the verses.

The plan I am suggesting here begins in Genesis in the Old Testament and Matthew in the New Testament.

If you prefer to read at a slower pace you could opt to read only one of the readings each day and complete the entire Bible in 2 years instead of one. Either way the important thing is to get started and keep going. I will be here each day with a fresh posting to encourage you along the way. I hope you will join me on January 1.

John Carroll

The Christmas Story from the Bible

Here are the biblical narratives about Jesus’ birth from Matthew and Luke and a summary statement about who He was and is in the Epistle to the Hebrews all from the English Standard Version.  I hope you will take time now to read and reflect on this pivotal event in human history. May you be blessed this Christmas season.

The Birth of Jesus Christ Foretold to Joseph– Matthew 1:18-25

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23       “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

The Birth of Jesus Foretold to Mary–Luke 1:26-38

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

The Birth of Jesus Christ–Luke 2:1-21

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14       “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

The Visit of the Wise Men–Matthew 2:1-12

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

6       “ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ”

7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

The Supremacy of God’s Son–Hebrews 1:1-4

1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001).  Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

From Blog to Book

Cover to Cover2-1

In May of 2012, I began writing daily devotionals beginning in Genesis. The goal was to read through the Bible in one year and to gain personal benefit from each day’s reading.  Each devotional contained an assigned daily reading of about 85 verses, a selected passage usually of one to three verses, my reflections on the passage, and my challenge from that passage, how that passage calls me to act and think as a response to the teaching.

It was an exhilarating experience for me to get up each day during the months that followed and to read, think, and write seeking not only to profit from my study but to encourage others to do the same.  I never enjoyed any Bible reading or study more.

On January 1, 2013, I began posting the daily devotionals on this blog site.  On December 31, 2013, the goal was completed. In 2014, I began transferring the daily blogs into a MS Word document and re-editing them for possible publication as a book. That process took until July of this year.

In October, Metokos Press founder, Dr. Don Clements accepted the work for publication.  I did not expect this to go so smoothly but editor Mrs. Susan Smith got to work and did a thorough review, cleaning up punctuation and putting the work into proper format for e-book publication.  Ms. Susannah Clements designed the very attractive cover and submitted the work to Amazon for publication as a Kindle book.  Here is the link.

To say that I am deeply grateful to God for His grace to bring this to fruition is no overstatement. My thanks go to many friends (especially from Christ Church in Katy, TX, Grace Church in Roanoke, VA and the Roanoke Valley Christian Writers Group), family members (notably our daughter, Paula who has talent, training, and employment as a writer),  Mrs. Stella Davison, who suggested that I write a devotional book as my first major writing project (you have to know Stella to appreciate the force of her suggestions), Dr. Jerry White, former International President of the Navigators and successful writer himself, who almost 30 years ago encouraged me to write, and my beloved wife, Mary, who was by my side each day as I wrote believing that I could do, checking for typos and various kinds of errors and offering gracious criticism as needed.  Thank you all so much!

I just downloaded the book into Mary’s Kindle.  How does it look?  It looks great.  I hope you will check it out, buy a copy, and write a review on Amazon.  Most of all I hope you will set a goal to read through the Bible, however long it takes.  Know God in truth and walk in the light of His truth.

Soli Deo Gloria!


My Favorite Bible Study Resources

If you read and study the Bible seriously, you know that it is essential to have some reliable resources to assist you. For example, it helps to know the background and human authorship of any book of the Bible you are studying.  What is the time period of the book? Why was it originally written? It is important to have at least a basic understanding of Biblical hermeneutics (principles of interpretation) in order to accurately grasp what you are reading. It is essential to correctly identify the literary genre of the book you are studying, i.e. What kind of literature is it? History, poetry, prophecy? How does that affect the way we read and understand the book?

Here are the resources I rely on the most (in order of importance to me) as I read the Bible:

1. The Reformation Study Bible. The Bible text is the English Standard Version. Published by Ligonier Ministries, Lake Mary, FL 1995.

The publisher says: “Widely considered one of the best tools available for Bible study…This foundational resource was created by more than fifty scholars and features thousands of in-depth study notes, 96 theological articles, 19 in-text maps, colored maps, and 12 charts to help you understand the Bible better.”

An updated edition of this Bible is due out in 2015.

2. Ryken’s Bible Handbook: a guide to reading and studying the Bible. By Leland Ryken, Philip Ryken, and James Wilhoit and published by Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, IL 2005.

I love this book. It is a treasure chest of Bible information and help. I have used it to teach adult Sunday School classes. If you only have one Bible resource in your library, it should be this one.

3. Knowing Scripture by RC Sproul, Intervarsity Press (Second edition) 2009.

Here’s why the publisher’s website says you need this book: “[Dr. Sproul] … presents in simple, basic terms a common sense approach to studying Scripture and gives eleven practical guidelines for biblical interpretation and applying what we learn. With a minimum of technical jargon, Sproul tackles some of the knotty questions regarding differences of interpreting the Bible, including

* discovering the meanings of biblical words
* understanding Hebrew poetry, proverbs and parables
* approaching historical and didactic passages
* being careful with predictive prophecy
* discerning how culture conditions the Bible
* choosing and using Bible translations, commentaries, Bible software and other helps”

4.  Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof. This is a classic and has been a mainstay for over 70 years. But this is not for the faint of heart. If you are just starting you may want to pick up Summary of Christian Doctrine by the same author or Concise Theology by JI Packer.

5. Logos Bible Software.  I have a number of resources in  my software library, too many to list, including commentaries, Bible dictionaries, maps and charts, etc.

I hope you are building a library of Bible study resources. What are your favorites?

Why I keep reading and re-reading the Bible (2)

Continuing from yesterday’s post here are the other four reasons I keep re-reading the Bible:

5. The Bible instructs me in how to live.

Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.

6. It informs, assures, and reminds me of God’s promises to me.

2 Peter 1:3-4  His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,  by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

7. It warns me of spiritual danger.

Proverbs 27:12 The prudent sees danger and hides himself,
but the simple go on and suffer for it.

8. It is the foundation of life and of my life. While I go through various seasons of life, God’s word keeps me centered on the things that never change and the One who never changes.

Psalm 119:89 Forever, O Lord, your word
is firmly fixed in the heavens.

If you keep on reading and re-reading it, what are your reasons? What can you add to this list?

Eight reasons why I keep reading and re-reading the Bible (1)

1. I believe it is God’s Word.

2 Timothy 3: 16a All Scripture is breathed out by God…

2. It teaches me the way to salvation.

2 Timothy 3:14-15 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it  and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus

3. I believe it is essential to my growth and service for God.

2 Timothy 3: 16-17 All Scripture is… profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

4. The Bible is too profound to completely absorb even in a lifetime of repeated readings.

Romans 11:33-36

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Part 2 tomorrow.