Category Archives: Victory

The #1 Thing To Remember About Bible Reading Plans

I love the beginning of a new year. Sure, for the cynical – it’s really just the sun going down and coming up on another day like it does the other 360-something times each year. Maybe it’s just the way I’m wired but I really like time markers. Beginning and ending points. I often think about my life in terms of ‘today’, ‘this week’, ‘this month’, ‘this term’ and ‘this year’ – probably because I use them to motivate me to get things done!

So with the dawn of 2016 carting 366 shiny new days in it’s backpack (woohoo – go the leap year!) one thing that will undoubtably be on many Christians’ radar is to get into the Bible more this year. That’s a great goal and it usually leads to finding some kind of Bible reading plan.

Heaps Of Options

Fortunately because we live in this great age of technology – there’s a whole lot of different ways you can easily get Bible reading plans. You can have them emailed to you, do them in a Facebook group, or just download PDF files to print off and keep with your Bible. There’s lots of Bible software for your notebook or smartphone with reading plans included with it such as Olive Tree or YouVersion.

I’m really big on getting the most of out reading the Bible and I’ve certainly found that having a reading plan over the years has really helped me get more regular with my Bible reading.

Plans I’ve Used

For a long time I did the One Year Bible plan which was great because you’d read a bit of Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs each day. It kept it fresh and meant that I didn’t get days where my entire Bible reading was ‘Arphaxad was the son of Eliab… was the son of…’. or the count of how many golden spoons and bowls the tribe of Judah brought to the offering for the tabernacle. (At some point I’ll blog about how to get some great insights out of even the most boring parts of the Bible – but that’s not for now).

These days I’m doing Prof. Grant Horner’s plan which comes with Olive Tree. You read 10 chunks out of different parts of the Bible every day. It might sound like a lot, but it actually doesn’t take long to go through them and I really enjoy the variation of reading stuff all over the Bible each day.

There’s real advantages of having a reading plan. It’s meant that I didn’t have hold my Bible aloft like the Lion King, and letting it divinely fall open to what I was going to read today (which was usually Job or Psalms… conveniently located near the middle of the Bible). It meant that I did read books and passages that I probably wouldn’t have naturally chosen instead of just reading Ephesians and Matthew over and over again! (lol).

The One Thing To Remember!

Now here’s the point of this post.

If you’re going to use a Bible reading plan this year – please remember this one thing:

A Bible reading plan is simply a tool to help you read the Bible – it’s not a spiritual test that you fail should you miss a day.

And with that I now make my confession… brace yourself…

I don’t read the Bible every day.

I wish I did. I make daily reading my continual goal – and I do read the Bible nearly every day. But the truth is that like most other people I regularly fight the common human conditions of procrastination and busy-ness and there’s always days that I don’t get to it. I’m not condoning it – I’m just being honest.

Now before you unfriend me on Facebook or cross the road when you see me coming – let me point out that in my experience there are only a very small number of extremely diligent people who actually manage to read their Bible EVERY SINGLE DAY. If you’re one of them then that’s awesome! But if you’re not – then don’t feel like you’re the only one who struggles in this area. The truth is that the vast majority of Christians find themselves in this particular boat.

How To Make Bible Plans Work For You

Many people don’t like Bible reading plans because they’ve tried them in the past and then have missed a couple of days and feel like failures.

Yet Bible reading plans have worked really well for me for one big reason: it’s because I don’t view them as a challenge to get 360+ ticks on a piece of paper. In fact (funnily enough) I don’t even think about them in terms of a whole year.

Instead I see them as a daily invitation. A starting point which has been provided for me each day which I can use to get me going reading the Word. God wants to speak to me every time I open His word. The challenge is getting me to do it and I’ve personally found that having a selection of verses ready to go should I choose helps me just get started. If I end up missing a few days in my plan I don’t fret about it or even think about it because getting 100% in the Bible reading plan isn’t the point. Reading the Bible is. So I just use today’s plan to get me reading.

You see, ultimately, it’s not the ‘doing the plan’ which brings us life – it’s the ‘reading the Word’!

Ultimately, it’s not the ‘doing the plan’ which brings us life – it’s the ‘reading the Word’!

So whatever method, plan or way you get into doing it doesn’t actually doesn’t matter as much as just doing it! We can get easier wins if we move the goalposts from ‘have I kept the plan’ to ‘what does God want to say to me today?’

My prayer for you in 2016 is that each day you’ll find a way to open up the Bible and get a daily fresh word from God. This book truly is a phenomenal gift that we’ve been given!!

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The Tempter

“After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” – Matthew 4:1-2

The dictionary defines ‘tempt’ as meaning ‘to entice or try to entice (someone) to do something that they find attractive but know to be wrong or unwise’.

Right from the first moment we meet the devil in Genesis 3, he’s doing business with humanity – enticing and offering a substitute for God’s best.

What’s interesting here is that the devil pitches up after Jesus has fasted and waited on God for 40 days and right before Jesus gets his breakthrough.

In my experience, I’ve always found that he comes around in that time between sacrifice and breakthrough. When we’ve paid a price to set ourselves apart for God, or we’ve taken an action of obedience, but we haven’t seen God fulfill his promise yet. That’s prime devil-zone.

He comes in with lies (‘what are you doing? God’s not going to come through… you’re wasting your time’) or he comes selling something less than what God has promised, but with the bonus that you can have it right here, and right now.

The passage goes on and three times Jesus resists him, until the devil finally leaves… and ‘angels attend him’ (v11).

If we stand firm through temptation, then we will receive the promise that God has for us. And it’s not some second-rate substitute – it’s the real deal!

The Power To Remain

“If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all” – Isaiah 7:9

External actions come from internal decisions and faith is the invisible motivator inwardly that brings about visible actions outwardly.

Our ability to remain constant and committed to a course of action depends not on our willpower or physical strength, it is the natural byproduct of having ‘SEEN’ something by faith that we just can’t let go.

When you have truly perceived something by faith, you end up standing firm not to prove a point or win an argument, but because it’s the only logical response. Others may be surprised or wonder at the level of confidence but to the person of authentic faith, there is literally no other choice!

Assumptions

Today, I want to look at ‘assumptions’.

An assumption is defined as a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.

Doing the Math

An assumption is almost the same as faith – being certain of something that you can’t see.  But as humans, we tend to like assumptions because they generally mean less work for us.  If I can just take x for granted, then it means I can get on and focus on y.  Rather than having to go to the effort of walking something out or doing effort in real life,  we do the math in our heads and decide ahead of time if we’ll win or lose.

Sometimes assumptions are really good and helpful, especially in situations where you just need to make a quick decision.  But other times – wrong assumptions can bring all kinds of evil into our world.  Not only that – but acting on wrong assumptions can lead us to do things that are not worthy of us, and put us in positions that we would never have wanted to find ourselves in.

This is what happened to Abraham in Genesis 20:

Genesis 20
1  Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar,
2  and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelech king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.
3  But God came to Abimelech in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.”
4  Now Abimelech had not gone near her, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation?
5  Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.”
6  Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her.
7  Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all yours will die.”
8  Early the next morning Abimelech summoned all his officials, and when he told them all that had happened, they were very much afraid.
9  Then Abimelech called Abraham in and said, “What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should not be done.”
10  And Abimelech asked Abraham, “What was your reason for doing this?”
11  Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’

Is God Here?

Abraham made an assumption.  He looked at the situation and said:

‘God is not in this place… it’s clear to me’.

Interesting isn’t it – because his Abraham’s son, Isaac, was later to come to a certain place at night, when all was dark and he had a powerful encounter with the Lord – and then He said:

‘God is in this place – and I wasn’t even aware of it’

Both of them came to a place not expecting to find God, and yet in both situations they discovered that God was already at work.  How often do we make the ASSUMPTION that God is not there.  That there is NO FEAR OF GOD in this place?

For Abraham – that assumption had some dramatic consequences.

  • It caused him to act weird.
  • It caused him to end up lying.
  • He lost his credibility with Abimelech
  • He almost lost his wife

All because he walked into a situation and made an assumption that wasn’t true.

Assumptions Can Hold Us Captive

Sometimes the only thing that is holding us back from walking into all that God has promised us is the jailhouse of our mind.  God calls us to do something – and we say ‘I’ve done the math Lord… it won’t work’.  Sometimes your assumptions based on your experience is what’s holding you back.

This is what happened for the Israelites.  In the well known chapter of Numbers 13 – Moses sends spies out to look at the promised land.  They come back – and they say ‘yeah it’s all good.  all like God promised but the only problem is… walled cities, and giants!’.  Then they say ‘and we looked like grasshoppers in their eyes’.  How did they know that?  Did they have a conversation with the giants?  Did they ask them to fill out this quick 4 question survey?

They made an assumption.  They had no idea what was going on, on the other side of the fence.

But the Bible tells us.  The stories of what was happening to the nation of Israel in the desert:

  • what had happened in Egypt as they left
  • the parting of the red sea
  • water flowing out of rocks
  • divine provision in the desert
  • their clothes not wearing out
  • powerful encounters with a living God

All these accounts were all getting reported to the kings who were living in the land Israel was about to possess.  They were freaking out.  One of the kings Balak, hires a guy called Balaam to try to use witchcraft and cursing against the Israelites.  But everytime Balaam tries to curse Israel – only blessing came out!  You can be assured that story made it around the kings fraternal meeting.

We read in Joshua 5:
1  Now it came about when all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard how the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan before the sons of Israel until they had crossed, that their hearts melted, and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the sons of Israel.

The Israelites had wandered around in the desert for 40 years and part of the reason for that is that they were held captive by a wrong assumption.  They thought the giants were waiting for them to cross so that they could beat them to a pulp.  They had no idea that the giants spent those 40 years packing themselves about the day that Israel would finally wake up to the power they had!

The story is told of the master escape artist Harry Houdini.  On one of his European tours, he had himself handcuffed and shut in a Scottish town jail.  Once alone, Houdini quickly got out of the shackles, and started to work on the lock on the cell door.  He tried everything he knew but he couldn’t get the lock to turn.  Finally, completely, exhausted… he leaned against the door… and it swung open so unexpectedly he nearly fell headlong into the corridor.  The jailer hadn’t locked it.  Houdini made an assumption!

Like A Little Child

Jesus said – if you want to get into the kingdom of heaven, you’ve got to become like a little child.  Little kids trust implicitly.  They don’t do the math, because they don’t have the experience.  They TRY THINGS.

There’s sick people in our world that God wants to heal, but they’re surrounded by Christians doing the maths, rather than taking the action.

There’s doors of breakthrough that God has placed in your life today – but we too often don’t walk through them because you’re we’re the maths rather than taking the action.

There’s people who are waiting to get saved, but the Christians are doing the maths, instead of taking the action.

Abraham says ‘God is NOT in this place… it’s clear to me’.  But yet God was.  Isaac says ‘God was in this place – and I wasn’t even aware of it’.

Which one is it for you?

Is God not in this place because of what you’ve seen and experienced?  Or is God in this place – and you weren’t even aware of it?

Is God not in your workplace because of what you’ve seen and experienced thus far?  They don’t fear God, they don’t care about Him.  Or is God already at work in your workplace… and you haven’t even been aware of it?

Is God not in your family… because they rail against your faith and mock you for what you believe?  Or is God already at work in your family – and you weren’t even aware of it?

Anyone

Some of the most powerful words in the Bible are the shortest words.  Words like allwill, nothing, and everything.  In the increasingly muddled, grey world that we live in today, where there is exception upon exception, and always a reason as to why ‘this doesn’t apply to me’ or ‘I’m different’ – the promises of the Bible stand resolute and firm.

I came across another pearler this morning in a book that I was reading… quoting from John 14:12:

“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father” – John 14:12 (Emphasis mine)

Anyone means… anyone.  For me, this one verse alone puts the nail in the coffin of cessationist thinking, and it breaks forever the clergy/laity paradigm.

Biblically, the only qualification you need to walk in the same power that Jesus walked in – is faith.  You don’t have to have a position, a title, a certificate, worldly influence, charisma, money or connections.  You can be popular or an outcast.  When Jesus says this power is open to anyone – He means it!

But not only does this verse hold for us great promise, it also holds us accountable.  It means there’s also no good reason for me not to be doing what Jesus did.  I can’t blame my history, my circumstances or my church leaders or oversight.  If my life is not seeing the same fruit that Jesus did, then my faith in Him needs examination – because Jesus’ words and promise don’t allow me any other excuse.

Everyone wants to be a ‘someone’.  But based on this… I’d rather be an ‘anyone’!

Hanging On For The Win

Life is often about making tough sacrifices today because we’re looking forward to a better tomorrow.

Whether it’s holding back on eating that chocolate cake because you’re going for a weight goal, putting those night hours into a course to get you out of a dead-end job, or even putting up with less-than-perfect conditions in a group or team because you’re wanting the final win more than your temporary comfort.  We’ll never see greatness tomorrow without some kind of sacrifice today.

But I have to say, one of the most tragic things I see is people who pay great prices, and then pull out too soon – before they get the breakthrough.  They go through a season of pain for nothing.

I was struck by this thought this morning when I read this verse:

“Not one of them was among those counted by Moses and Aaron the priest when they counted the Israelites in the Desert of Sinai” – Numbers 26:64

Through Joshua, God parcelled out parts of the Promised Land to the Israelites.  They’ve made it.   This is reward day.  They’re now receiving the reward of their faith.  Yet with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, an entire generation – thousands upon thousands of people – missed that moment.  They’d been through seasons with no water, with no food, they’d been attacked and set upon… they’d endured hardships and pain… and for NOTHING.  They didn’t get what was promised because they gave up.

The thought of that makes me seriously want to stick in the journey through hardship!  I mean, if you’re going to go through the pain and suffering in life, if you’re going to make sacrifices and live a fasted life… then at least make sure you stick it out to the end to get the reward!

Paul gives us this encouragement:

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” – Galatians 6:9

God is preparing your life for wins.  He’s got a Promised Land ready to carve up for you, and He wants you to be there on the day He hands it out!  Don’t let difficulties, doubt or discouragement rob you of the reward you’ve already given so much for.  Hold in there and don’t give up… the prize is totally worth it!