By the way… Are Jesus’ Words More Important Than Luke’s?

quill-scrollI’m a slow reader, so I don’t get to read everything I’d like to read. Some of the things that will often get pushed back to the probably-never-get-around-to-reading pile are biographies and history books. I truly love reading about the lives of famous people, organizations, places, and time periods. I’m still in the beginning chapters of William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, a massive 1200+ page tome about post-WWI Germany, Adolf Hitler, and the Nazi Party. It’s a fascinating time in history. I’ve had the book for many years and I pick it up on occasion to get another couple of chapters read in it.

Another example is Eric Metaxes’ Bonhoeffer biography. I actually listened to that on audio during my commutes. It took quite a while as it is also a large book. My wife, who reads more than 100 books per year, calls books like these—books over 400 pages—chunksters.

As I come nowhere near 100 books per year, I have to be very picky about the books I take the time to read. I truly wish I had more time for biographies. Biographers usually write biographies with the goal of giving us a somewhat comprehensive look at the life of an individual or group. They usually pick a specific person or group because the biographer, himself, finds the person interesting. But a biographer worth his salt will seek to put aside any agenda or purpose in writing the biography besides the purpose of giving us as accurate a view as possible or the person or group about which he’s writing.

Do we have any biographies of Jesus of Nazareth? Yes, we do. Actually there have been thousands of such biographies written over the years since his death, resurrection, and ascension. But do we have any that are inspired? To that, I would answer, No.

“But what about the four gospels in the New Testament?” you may ask. They are indeed inspired, but I don’t believe they are biographies. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were not interested in writing biographies of Jesus of Nazareth. They each had specific agendas and purposes in mind when they wrote, and it wasn’t just to give us a biography of Jesus. I believe they were all written as evangelistic writings aimed at specific people or groups. Had they been biographies, they would have included more information about the life of Jesus. Instead, they include specific information and events, and put those in a specific order to make a specific point.

Luke tells Theophilus in the very first sentence what his purpose was.

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:1-4)

John tells his audience his purpose toward the end.

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)

So, let’s go back to the question in the title of this post: Are Jesus’ Words More Important Than Luke’s?

If you are doing a topical study of the commands and stories of Jesus in the Bible, then it’s easy to say that Jesus’ words are more important. But what if you’re doing a book study on the book of Luke, for example? Is the answer the same? Are Jesus’ words more important than Luke’s?

Let me stop for a moment and ask you not to get stuck on the fact (true as it is) that the writings we have from Luke are inspired and, therefore, are God’s words. That’s a true statement, and in light of that, all the words of Scripture are equally important. But when you’re studying Luke’s Gospel account and you’re in a section that is composed of a sermon delivered by Jesus (Luke 6, for example), does our question still have the same response? Are Jesus’ words more important than Luke’s? In this case, I would say that Luke’s words are more important than Jesus’.

Please allow me to explain. First of all, it’s important to understand the teachings of Jesus. I feel certain I’ll be getting emails from this asking why I’m elevating Luke above the Almighty. I’m not doing that at all. As Jesus’ ambassadors, we need to study and understand what Jesus had to say. But, when studying a book of the Bible, like Luke’s gospel, I believe it’s more important to understand Luke’s train of thought.

  • Why did Luke put Jesus’ sermon where he did, after this passage and before that one?
  • What is Luke trying to communicate to his audience with the placement of this dialog here?

After all, Luke is the author of the book. He included what he did for a purpose and that purpose was guided by the Holy Spirit. Don’t you think it’s important to figure out that purpose and how Jesus’ words in that passage fit into that purpose? While I think it’s very important to understand what Jesus was saying, I think it’s even more important to understand what Luke was saying.

And I believe the same can be applied to Matthew, Mark, John, and every book of the Bible.

If we misunderstand the author’s intent, we will very easily misapply Jesus’ words.

We Start the “Bible in 90 Days” in 2 days

It all starts this Monday. Are you ready? Are you excited? I am; I hope you are, too.

BibleTreesDebi posted in the Facebook group about keeping in mind the Why of your participation in the Bible in 90 Days event. Reading the Bible in 90 days can be a challenge, especially for those who don’t read a lot or who don’t read fast (like me), so remembering why you’re doing it can be a great help in getting through it.

For me, I’m doing it again for some of the same reasons I did it in 2014.

  • For a few years now, I’ve tried to find ways to challenge myself in some area of discipline. I went a whole year without coffee once (that was really hard). I went a couple of months without chocolate (also not so easy). Debi and I are attempting to go 2016 without eating pizza (unless we’re offered it in a fellowship situation).* Reading the Bible in 90 days is a challenge that takes discipline to keep at it, and I want to challenge myself with that.
  • I enjoy studying the Word of God in its details. I love doing a passage-by-passage study with my friend each week. I love doing word studies. If I allow myself, I can easily spend long periods of time on a word or phrase with cross references, quotes, and allusions. But it’s easy to get lost in the trees, as the saying goes. Reading the Bible in 90 days forces me to regain the big-picture, high-level overview of the one story of God in Scripture.
  • I love doing things with my wife. I like that it adds to the camaraderie that we already experience as a married couple. She’s the best partner there is for something like this; I wouldn’t miss this for anything!

So, those are some of my reasons for participating. What are yours?

If you’re not clear on what this is all about, you can read this brief blog series about it. If you’d like to join us, you can do so easily by joining the Facebook group or, if you’re not on Facebook, by asking to be added to the email list (you can leave me a comment here or get in touch with me in any other way). I sincerely hope you will—it can change your life.

 

* Do you notice the theme of food in my list of disciplinary exercises above? Food has always been a struggle for me, so while not all of my discipline challenges are related to eating, many of them are. It’s not just that I’m hungry while writing this.

By the way… Which Nation’s Well-being Will Guide Your US Presidential Vote?

That seems like a silly question, doesn’t it? Of course, as a US citizen in a US presidential vote, my concern should be the well-being of the United States of America, right? I mean, what else?vote

Well…

We’re deep in what has been called the “Silly Season,” the campaigning time leading up to a presidential election. I very rarely post about politics, but I wanted to share some of my thoughts about what should be guiding your vote (if you’re a Christian and a US citizen) in the US presidential election in November, and in any votes leading up to it, if you participate in those.

First, let me say that I think Christians need to stop believing that there is the possibility that a godly person will be in the US presidency. If that ever happens again, it will be only by the grace of God and I will welcome it, but it seems so incredibly unlikely. Take a look at the elections over the last several decades. It’s been a long time since we’ve had someone decent to vote for in a presidential election. It always seems to be the choice, on a scale of 1 to 10, between a 2 and a 2½ at best—a choice between the lesser of two evils, as the saying goes.

Also, I believe it’s useless to vote for a candidate in a party that has no possible chance of winning, so that almost always leaves only the Republican candidate and the Democratic candidate. As sad as that reality is, it’s reality in this country nonetheless.

I believe, for the Christian, the focus should be on the well-being of God’s Kingdom rather than on the well-being of America. I believe Christians should vote for the candidate that will allow the Kingdom of God to grow and expand the most. Of course, the new president will know nothing of these things—he won’t be a Christian after all—but we should vote for the candidate that will ignore us the most in terms of governmental restriction on Christian practice and activity.

In my opinion, it’s the healthiest strategy to vote for whichever candidate you think will provide the longest lasting freedom for Christians to continue to worship, preach, and evangelize. We are under the mandate of God to worship, preach truth, and share the Gospel message everywhere. I want a president that will hinder that the least, and that’s who I’ll be voting for.

How Does a Slow Reader Accomplish Reading the Bible in Just 90 Days? — Repost

I originally posted this on January 25, 2014 in preparation for my first ever Bible in 90 Days. As with the previous reposts this month, I’m hoping that this will help convince someone that they can read through the Bible in 90 days and that there are several worthwhile benefits of doing so. I also reposted and updated a few tips that I hope will help someone get through it successfully.

In this repost (edited for 2016), I want to give the play by play of how I read through the Bible in 90 days back in 2014 and how I hope to accomplish it again this year. I’m a slow reader, so this is a particularly difficult endeavor. My wife reads a million words per minute (that’s a rough estimate), so while it’s still a challenge, it’s really not too difficult for her. I read only slightly faster than a normal conversational pace, which is pretty slow for reading.

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.

Last time, I decided that the best reading plan for me was to just start at “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” and read like crazy. This time I’ll be reading straight through books, but I’ll be changing the book order a little bit. I’ll be using the book order that is in The Books of the Bible which I think is an interesting arrangement (click the link to see it on Amazon and see the order of the books there). I will be using my ESV Reader’s Bible on Kindle for the actual reading, but I’ll be reading the books in the order of The Books of the Bible.

For me, using one of the schedules that has dates for each reading 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. Also, the verses are not all the same length. John 11:35 says, “Jesus wept.” Esther 8:9 says:

The king’s scribes were summoned at that time, in the third month, which is the month of Sivan, on the twenty-third day. And an edict was written, according to all that Mordecai commanded concerning the Jews, to the satraps and the governors and the officials of the provinces from India to Ethiopia, 127 provinces, to each province in its own script and to each people in its own language, and also to the Jews in their script and their language.

The official Bible in 90 Days NIV Bible has a straight-through reading of 12 pages per day. So, basically, wherever you are after 12 pages, you’re finished for that day (of course it stops short or long so as not to stop in the middle of a sentence). This eliminates counting chapters or verses which vary so widely in length.

So, how do I intend to plan my days from February 1 through April 30 this year?

My usual reading schedule is:
– I read 2-3 chapters from the Bible to start off my morning—based on whatever plan I’m using at the time (this is followed by my prayer and Bible study time).
– I read from Proverbs and Psalms around 10:30 each morning (that’s my work‘s unofficial coffee break time) or around 12:15 during lunch.
– I read books and articles each evening for an 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 few chapters in the place of Proverbs and Psalms at the unofficial coffee and lunch breaks at work.
– 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 try this again. I also have a high level of confidence that I will complete it in time because I’ve done it once before. But, if April 30 comes and I’m not done, I’ll keep up the same schedule 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!

I know for a fact that if I, as a slow reader, can read through the Bible in 90 days, so can you. If you’d like to join us, you are more than welcome. I hope you will.

Some Tips to Reading the Bible in 90 Days — Repost

Here is a repost of the tips given in 2014 for reading the Bible in 90 days. I’ve done a little bit of updating for this year.

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 and added to 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. Language and word study

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. Avoid study notes and cross references. Get through the text!

Regarding Study Bibles, if you find that you’re the kind of reader that can’t help but to glance down at the study notes of your favorite Study Bible, I would suggest using a Bible without additional notes and cross references. If you read every note in your Study Bible, it will be much more difficult to get through the Bible in 90 days.

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 helped me in my reading last time. 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

You CAN Read the Bible in 90 Days — Repost

This was originally posted on January 18, 2014. Since we’re about to begin our next Bible in 90 Days, I wanted to repost this. I’ve edited it to reflect the current dates.

Bible90DaysStarting in a few weeks, 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, chronologically, or by using whatever plan each person prefers, in 90 days, and we want you to join us. The schedule is February 1 – April 30, 2016.

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. I know I can do it because I succeeded the first time we did this back in 2014 (we’re doing this every even year), so I have high hopes that I’ll be able to accomplish this challenge this time as well. I know you can, too!

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, and pieces of cells, and the pieces of those pieces, ad nauseam). 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. It has done this for me as well.
  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 April 30 (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.

posted some tips about how to keep going when the reading pace gets tough, and I’ll be reposting those again soon. I hope you find them helpful.