Stop and Observe — A Quote

In our fast-paced lives, we rarely stop and observe the world around us and, therefore, tend to consider every amazing facet of this beautiful universe as ordinary. But…it is anything but ordinary. Now science is showing us like at no other time in history that this is a universe of incredible design and complexity. It’s giving us a new perspective on a world that we too often take for granted.

Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek (2004). I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (110-11)

By the way… Will you ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers?

There is a widespread group of Christians all over the world that pause whatever they’re doing every morning at 9:38 in their local timezones to pray and “ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest” based on Matthew 9:38.

I think that’s an excellent habit to get into, don’t you? I’m going to start doing this. Will you join me?

Each morning at 9:38 (set a reminder on your computer, watch, or phone), stop what you’re doing for just a few seconds or a couple of minutes and pray for the lost of the world, asking God to send out workers, missionaries, evangelists, and faithful followers to their local areas and to the farthest reaches of the earth!

If you want to get more specific in praying for the lost of the world, here are a couple of options.

SEND International (http://www.send.org/pray) has some prayer guides with specific requests for each day. For example, today (March 14, 2014) has you praying for SEND’s East Asia Sending Council, or for a Eurasia missionary couple who have just returned from Moscow.

Operation World (http://www.operationworld.org/today) is the definitive prayer guide to every nation, featuring a different nation to pray for each day. For example, today (March 14) has you praying for the people and nation of Botswana.

If 9:38am doesn’t work for you, then I would suggest setting aside a time each day that does work. The particular time doesn’t really matter; prayer does.

Let’s get more intentional about praying for the world, and don’t forget to include your own neighborhoods as you pray.

By the way… There’s Comfort for Followers of Christ Regardless of Circumstances

I was reading in the Psalms recently, and I came across a very comforting promise that says regardless of what types of trouble assail me as a follower of Christ, God is there to help me through it.

Psalms 46:1-3 (NET) God is our strong refuge; he is truly our helper in times of trouble. For this reason we do not fear when the earth shakes, and the mountains tumble into the depths of the sea, when its waves crash and foam, and the mountains shake before the surging sea.

Have you experienced times in your life that might be characterized by earthquakes, mountains tumbling into the sea, and waves crashing around and on you? If you are a true follower of our great God, you can call out to him for help. He may not take away all of your troubles, but he will give you the strength to endure while remaining faithful to him.

By the way… Where Did Balaam Come From?

As you may know, a bunch of us have been reading through the Bible in 90 days; we started on February 1st. I read in Numbers about Balaam yesterday and today and it got me thinking about who he was. What is his back story? Where did he come from? I don’t think he was one of the Israelites who came out of Egypt, but he was a prophet of God (though not a very good one). Was he related to Abraham in any way? There’s nothing in the text that would indicate that.

But if he was not an Israelite, that means that God had people besides the Israelites that were his. Who else did God call as prophets? Who else did he call to be his own that were outside of the people of Israel? Of course he called those of us who are saved, and he called others through the Israelites, but what about those Old Testament saints whose stories we haven’t heard?

Another example is King Melchizedek that we met back in Genesis. We know nothing of him besides that short passage in Genesis (and then in Psalm 110 and Hebrews). At least with him there’s an explanation as to why we know very little about him.

But with Balaam, do we know anything else about him besides what we read in Numbers 22-24? Is he the typical, or maybe atypical, example of a disobedient or self-serving prophet of God? We see in Numbers 31 that he was killed along with the Midianites, so maybe he was in tight with God’s enemies by that time. We know from Numbers 22-24 that he was at least known by the Moabites as a man who was very effective at blessing and cursing (he was a prophet of God). It seems that maybe Balaam had blessed kingdoms and cursed enemies before. It also seems evident that he really wanted to do what Balak, king of the Moabites, asked of him; the payoff would probably have been huge and Balaam was evidently a greedy man.

It also seems evident from Numbers 31 that he was partially, if not directly, responsible for the Moabite (or Midianite?) women causing the men of Israel to engage in some very immoral behavior, including idolatry.

Numbers 25:1-3 (NET) When Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to commit sexual immorality with the daughters of Moab. These women invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods; then the people ate and bowed down to their gods. When Israel joined themselves to Baal-peor, the anger of the Lord flared up against Israel.

Numbers 31:14-16 (NET) [After the defeat of the Midianites] Moses was furious with the officers of the army, the commanders over thousands and commanders over hundreds, who had come from service in the war. Moses said to them, “Have you allowed all the women to live? Look, these people through the counsel of Balaam caused the Israelites to act treacherously against the Lord in the matter of Peor—which resulted in the plague among the community of the Lord!” (emphasis mine)

So perhaps, since God would not allow Balaam to curse Israel in Numbers 22-24, Balaam accepted King Balak’s money and told him that if he could get the men of Israel to sin greatly against God, that God himself would curse Israel for him.

Well, one more thing we know from Numbers chapter 31 is that it did not end well for Balaam.

Numbers 31:7-8 (NET) They fought against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded Moses, and they killed every male. They killed the kings of Midian in addition to those slain—Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba—five Midianite kings. They also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword. (emphasis mine)

There’s so much about the history of the world that we don’t know, but from stories like this, it’s obvious that Israel was not the only chosen people of God. Even though Balaam is not a shining example of a man of God, he was nonetheless a prophet of God. What other examples of non-Israelites are there in the Old Testament that were called by God?

By the way… How Does a Slow Reader Accomplish Reading the Bible in Just 90 Days?

As many of you know, there’s a group of us who intend to read through the entire Bible in 90 days starting February 1st. You can read more about it here, including how you can join us.

While I imagine most people will use one of the many reading schedules available, I’ve decided that I’d probably do better to just start at “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” and read like crazy. I’m a slow reader, so I’m going to dedicate all of my reading time to reading the Bible starting Feb 1.

For me, using one of the schedules will probably be a drag if I find myself getting behind. Also, I don’t want to give myself permission to stop reading if I finish that day’s scheduled chapters, if there’s still time left to read. I know that there will be days when life will get in the way and I won’t read as much as other days, so my plan is to just read and read and read!

There are 1,189 chapters in the Bible. That means reading an average of 13-14 chapters each day to get through it all in 90 days (1,189 ÷ 90 = 13.2). Of course the chapters are not all the same length—Psalm 117 has only 2 verses, and Psalm 119 has 176 verses.

My usual reading schedule is:
- I read 2 chapters from the Bible to start off my morning—usually 1 from the Gospels and a Psalm (this is followed by my prayer and Bible study time).
- I read from Proverbs around 10:30 each morning (that’s my work‘s unofficial coffee break time).
- I read books and articles each evening for a hour or two before going to bed.

Starting Feb 1, this is what I plan to do, all from the Bible:
- Read 2-4 chapters from the Bible to start off my morning (followed by prayer and study time).
- Read a chapter or two in the place of Proverbs at the unofficial coffee break at work.
- Read as far as I can during my lunch break (I usually listen to podcasts during lunch each day).
- Read as much as possible in the evenings.
- Read whenever I find myself waiting in a drive through or any other time I can.

I do have a couple of things I am obligated to read and I can’t neglect those, but for the most part I’ll be reading the Bible.

Though I’m not willing to guarantee I’ll be able to finish in 90 days, I’m excited to do this. If May 1 comes and I’m not done, I’ll keep up that schedule above until I am done. The rewards will be the same whether it’s 90 days or 100 days or 110 days. The worst possible thing for me to do is to give us before I’m finished.

If you’d like to join us, you are more than welcome. I hope you will.

By the way… Here are Some Tips to Reading the Bible in 90 Days

I posted an invitation earlier about our Bible in 90 Days challenge. In this post, I want to share some tips that I got blatantly stole from Professor Horner’s Bible Reading Plan. The plan is not a 90-day plan, but it is a 10-chapter per day plan, so it’s reading at a fast pace.

Here are the tips from Professor Horner that I edited a bit. I hope you find them useful.

Read quickly (without “speed-reading”) in order to get the overall sense. Read as fast as you comfortably can with moderate retention. You’re not studying deeply or memorizing.

GET THROUGH THE TEXT – no dawdling, back reading, looking up cross-references!

There are different ‘kinds’ of reading:

  1. Super-quick skimming
  2. Careful moderate-paced reading
  3. Studying the text
  4. Deep meditation

You should be between the 1st and 2nd kind. Most people decrease their time spent and increase their retention after just two-three weeks of this kind of reading.

Don’t look up anything you ‘don’t get’ – real understanding will come through reading a LOT of scripture over time. Get through the text!

If you miss a day or two – OK, get over it, then keep going. Don’t cover yourself in sackcloth and ashes and quit!

Good tips? They’ve helped me in my reading of Professor Horner’s system. I hope they’ll be helpful to you as well.

By the way… If you haven’t yet decided to join us, we’re starting soon. See my previous post for information on what we’re doing and how you can join us. This challenge is not an impossible one. I truly hope you’ll see that and join us.

Soli Deo Gloria

By the way… You CAN Read the Bible in 90 Days

Bible90DaysStarting in two weeks from today, a group of people will begin reading the Bible at a pretty good clip. We will be reading through the entire Bible, either straight through or chronologically, in 90 days, and we want you to join us. The schedule is February 1 – May 1, 2014.

I can hear people saying it now: “Jono, I’ve never been able to read the whole Bible in a year! How in the world can I do it in just 90 days?”

Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever read the Bible straight through in a year either despite several failed attempts. I’m a slow reader and I easily get bogged down in some portions of Scripture. But there are a few reasons why this is different.

  1. First off, 90 days is a much easier commitment than a year. I find it much easier to think about keeping up the pace for 90 days than for an entire year. For a 3-month commitment, the end is in sight as soon as you start.
  2. Doing it with a group helps keep me accountable. We won’t all be at the same place each day, but we can post or email our progress for encouragement and accountability.
  3. Having a set start date that’s not January 1st gives me a sense of mission. This is much more subjective, but I’ll admit that I need that type of motivation.

With these differences in mind, I’m excited to get started, and I have high hopes that I’ll be able to accomplish this challenge.

But there’s more than that. There are also some great benefits that come from accomplishing this challenge:

  1. My wife, Debi, did this challenge in 2012 and she says it has revolutionized her Bible reading. Not only was it rewarding to see the large scope of Scripture, but it redeveloped the habit in her life of consistently and regularly reading the Bible. “Now,” she says, “I read it much more regularly than I used to, and I’m more consistently in God’s Word and learning what He has to say.”
  2. For me, I like that this forces me to see the whole story of the Bible from a very high altitude. I usually like getting down to the nitty gritty details of words, word origins, how the author intended to use this word in that verse for that circumstance, etc. That’s a very rewarding way of studying the Bible, but I can easily lose sight of the forest for the trees (and branches, and leaves, and spongy mesophyll, and cells). Reading the entire Bible in such a short period of time forces me to see that “forest” again.
  3. Others have mentioned how it forced them to grow in discipline.
  4. There are also testimonials of those who say that doing the Bible in 90 Days challenge has forced them to see context they’d never noticed before.
  5. Some have also said that it made the “one story” of the Bible so much more clear.

I’m looking forward to May 1 (hopefully) when I finish reading Revelation 22. I can picture myself tired but satisfied, enjoying these benefits of having accomplished this.

So, are you excited to try it? I hope you see that, though it is a time commitment and it is a challenge, it’s an achievable challenge that comes with many benefits.

You can join us by simply asking to join! We have a Facebook group (click here) if you’re on Facebook, or give me your email address and I’ll send you everything you need. Simple ask me to add you to the group or the email list and I’ll be happy to do so.

The only thing you have to do is read the Word. If you want to join in on the discussions, you are free and welcome to do so, but there are no 2-hour sessions or classes to join, etc. Just read the Bible! I think joining the group will benefit you with encouragement and accountability, but you don’t have to.

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to spend less time in front of the TV or to be more consistent in reading the Bible, this may be a really good step in keeping it. I hope you’ll join us.

I plan to post posted some tips about how to keep going when the reading pace gets tough. I hope you find them helpful.