Reading through the Bible

I am part of a men’s group which has been meeting for a Bible study each Saturday for years. Beginning the end of February we decided to try something different than our normal book by book studies. We decided to read through the entire Bible in a year, taking a chapter or two to talk through each Saturday morning over coffee. I have read through the Bible at various speeds, in different ways, and with different resources over the years, and each one has been beneficial. I have read through it in the normal order we find our Bibles today, at other times chronologically, one time extremely fast, and other years one chapter at a time.

With our men’s group we are reading through it chronologically, but I have paired it with some very helpful resources which I would recommend to every person interested in reading through the Scriptures. This plan has been very beneficial and worth starting this week if you are unsure of where to go next in your reading.

• We are following the YouVersion chronological plan (free app).

• After reading the Scripture passages, I then read any articles for the passages in Hard Sayings of the Bible.

• At the beginning of each book, I also read the corresponding chapter in Leland Ryken’s excellent resource, Literary Introductions to the Books of the Bible.

• I also frequently watch the corresponding video from BibleProject, or read their entry in the book, Bible Project Coffee Table Book.

This format does not add much time to the daily reading, but yields some great results. I have benefitted from it greatly and would encourage you to try. I would also like to hear if you have any other similar resources you regularly use. Anything you could recommend?

The Psalms

This is a helpful look at the role the Psalms ought to play in both our individual and corporate worship.

Neste, Ray Van, and C. Richard Wells, eds. Forgotten Songs: Reclaiming the Psalms for Christian Worship. Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Academic, 2012.

Page: 9

The analogy between manners at the breakfast table and the life of faith is fairly straightforward. Left on our own, there are all sorts of things we would never choose to say to God. “Thank you” and “I’m sorry” are near the top of the list. Thus, the reason worship leaders should challenge us to say and sing words we are still “growing into” and may not “feel” presently is that this is a potent means of spiritual growth.

Page: 13

In the American church Christians have traditionally categorized worship services as either “traditional” or “contemporary.” But the longer I work in the field of worship, the more I am convinced that a much more telling and instructive dichotomy is between worship that is merely expressive and that which is both expressive and formative.

Page: 27

One of the main functions of Scripture is to instill in the people of God a proper grasp of the world’s true story.

Page: 28

The psalms employ rhetoric to achieve their end of shaping the worshippers’ inner life. Rhetoric is the way someone presents his ideas, in a way that moves people to feel the way he wants them to. In the hands of the unscrupulous, rhetoric can be a tool for manipulating; but in the service of virtue, it can move its audience to do what they know to be right.

Page: 78

Seek Christ in the psalms and then measure everything else by what you find there. When selecting and writings songs, we should ask, Is it psalm-like? An honest answer will enable you to rise above the inappropriate and tread on the high places of the earth.

Page: 137

The psalms are lyric poems that obey the ordinary rules of lyric poetry about which we learn in high school and college English courses, and whatever other use we make of such poems, we should at least read and ponder them in our private, devotional worship.

Page: 146

God’s psalms have a robust, rough-hewn character that can give backbone to a person’s faith, as well as muscle tone and stamina.

Page: 146

The biblical psalms are not “nice.”

Page: 150

Singing imprecatory lament psalms is dangerous activity because it is not innocent “special music” or a concertized solo testimonial. Psalm-singing is quoting God back in God’s face, invoking God’s presence to do justice on our troubled earth. No self-righteous, naïve persons should apply. But when a communion of repentant sinful saints covered by the blood of Jesus Christ chooses to do it because they are deeply disturbed by Incorporated Evil and the principalities in the world laying God’s creatures to waste, then we can come to know a little of the depth and riches the Lord has provided for us in God’s Word.

Page: 212

In the psalms it’s as if we pass on the glory of God from one generation to the other. As one of the psalms itself declares: One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. . . . My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever. (Ps 145:4–7,21)

Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert

I highly recommend this book.
Butterfield, Rosaria Champagne. The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: Expanded Edition. 2nd ed. Crown & Covenant Publications, 2014.
Here are some quotes:


How do I tell you about my conversion to Christianity without making it sound like an alien abduction or a train wreck? Truth be told, it felt like a little of both. The language normally used to describe this odd miracle does not work for me. I didn’t read one of those tacky self-help books with a thin coating of Christian themes, examine my life against the tenets of the Bible the way one might hold up one car insurance policy against all others and cleanly and logically “make a decision for Christ.” While I did make choices along the path of this journey, they never felt logical, risk-free, or sane. Neither did I feel like the victim of an emotional/spiritual earthquake and collapse gracefully into the arms of my Savior, like a holy and sanctified Scarlett O’Hara having been “claimed by Christ’s irresistible grace.” Heretical as it might seem, Christ and Christianity seemed eminently resistible. (Kindle: 177)


Christians always seemed like bad readers to me, too. They appeared to use the Bible in a way that Marxists would call “vulgar”—that is, common, or in order to bring the Bible into a conversation to stop the conversation, not deepen it. “The Bible says” always seemed to me like a mantra that invited everyone to put his or her brain on hold. “The Bible says” was the Big Pause before the conversation stopped. Their catch phrases and clichés were (and are) equally off-putting. “Jesus is the answer” seemed to me then and now like a tree without a root. Answers come after questions, not before. Answers answer questions in specific and pointed ways, not in sweeping generalizations.

(Kindle: 204)


Ken stressed that he accepted me as a lesbian but that he didn’t approve of me as a lesbian.

(Kindle: 398)


I learned the first rule of repentance: that repentance requires greater intimacy with God than with our sin. How much greater? About the size of a mustard seed. Repentance requires that we draw near to Jesus, no matter what. And sometimes we all have to crawl there on our hands and knees. Repentance is an intimate affair. And for many of us, intimacy with anything is a terrifying prospect.

(Kindle: 506)



Conversion put me in a complicated and comprehensive chaos. I sometimes wonder, when I hear other Christians pray for the salvation of the “lost,” if they realize that this comprehensive chaos is the desired end of such prayers.

(Kindle: 602)


Sometimes in crisis, we don’t really learn lessons. Sometimes the result is simpler and more profound: sometimes our character is simply transformed.

(Kindle: 629)


A mistake is a logical misstep. Sin lurks in our heart and grabs us by the throat to do its bidding. (Kindle: 871)


This experience taught me a powerful lesson about evangelism: The integrity of our relationships matters more than the boldness of our words.

(Kindle: 1,169)



Even when faced with the blinding sting of someone else’s sin, it really is not someone else’s sin that can hurt us. It is our own festering sin that takes the guise of innocence that will be the undoing of us all.

(Kindle: 1,464)


What good Christians don’t realize is that sexual sin is not recreational sex gone overboard. Sexual sin is predatory. It won’t be “healed” by redeeming the context or the genders. Sexual sin must simply be killed. What is left of your sexuality after this annihilation is up to God. But healing, to the sexual sinner, is death: nothing more and nothing less. I told my audience that I think too many young Christian fornicators plan that marriage will redeem their sin. Too many young Christian masturbators plan that marriage will redeem their patterns. Too many young Christian internet pornographers think that having legitimate sex will take away the desire to have illicit sex. They’re wrong. And the marriages that result from this line of thinking are dangerous places. I know, I told my audience, why over fifty percent of Christian marriages end in divorce: because Christians act as though marriage redeems sin. Marriage does not redeem sin. Only Jesus himself can do that. The audience seemed a little shocked to hear this.

(Kindle: 1,648)



The more God-centered our worship practice, the more mercy-centered our life. Worship is our rehearsal for how to live today and how to glorify God in heaven. It is not merely a Sunday morning exercise meant to make us feel good.

(Kindle: 1,788)



Learning to be refreshed in the context of intense labor is important spiritual work. God truly gave us what we needed. When Christ was at the center, we learned to “draft” off God’s word the way cyclists draft off of another cyclist during a long race. Perhaps even more importantly, when Christ was at the center, we learned to say no and to close the door.

(Kindle: 2,073)


I learned, during those years, that the idea that one is ever too busy to pray is delusion of the most dangerous variety.

(Kindle: 2,083)



Over the years, I have contemplated what this really means. What does it really mean to “lack fellowship”? At least as it regards the handful of families that showed immediate excitement and then after a month a changed heart, this is what “lacking fellowship” means. It means that the family needs to be in a church made up of people who are just like they, who raise their children using the same childrearing methods, who take the same stance on birth control, schooling, voting, breastfeeding, dress codes, white flour, white sugar, gluten, childhood immunizations, the observance of secular and religious holidays. We encountered families who feared diversity with a primal fear. They often told us that they didn’t want to “confuse” their children by exposing them to differences in parenting standards among Christians. I suspect that they feared that deviation from their rules might provide a window for children to see how truly diverse the world is and that temptation might lead them astray. Over and over and over again I have heard this line of thinking from the fearful and the faith-struggling. We in the church tend to be more fearful of the (perceived) sin in the world than of the sin in our own hearts. Why is that?

(Kindle: 2,118)



When God brings children out of neglect, abuse, dysfunction, gangs, drugs, and hate, and places them in a covenant home, he has just moved a mountain in the hearts and families of men. When God gives a childless couple a child of any age using the means of his powerful will, he has just moved a mountain in the hearts and families of men. When mountains move, the earth shakes. When you stand as close as we have to real-life miracles, you will get roughed up. Mountains are big and we are small. A moving mountain can crush us. Splinters fall from the cross. They travel a long distance and they pierce the skin—maybe even the heart. And wrapped in this risk and danger are God’s embrace and promise to work all things (even evil ones) to the good of those who love him.

(Kindle: 2,287)



God is not crushing the dreams of parenthood when he deals the card of infertility. God is asking you to crush the idolatry of pregnancy, to be sure. And, he is saying: Dream My dreams, not yours!

(Kindle: 2,515)

The Lord’s Prayer

Here are some quotes from the book: Mohler, R. Albert Jr. The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down: The Lord’s Prayer as a Manifesto for Revolution. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2018.


Prayer is never an isolated event. When we pray, we convey our entire theological system. Our theology is never so clearly displayed before our own eyes and before the world as in our prayers.

Location: 346


In Scripture it is unthinkable that a true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ would not pray.

Location: 467


The Lord Jesus, because he is fully God and fully man, is the only one truly qualified to teach us how to pray. As the second member of the Trinity, Jesus gives us God’s perspective on prayer. In Jesus Christ, God himself is teaching his people how he wants us to approach him. But as one who is fully man, Jesus is also able to instruct us in how we as humans are to approach prayer. Jesus engaged in and experienced a life of prayer. Because he is fully human without any taint of sin, Jesus led a life of perfect prayer.

Location: 536


One of the besetting sins of evangelicalism is our obsession with individualism. The first-person singular pronoun reigns in our thinking. We tend to think about nearly everything (including the truths of God’s Word) only as they relate to me.

Location: 618


The Lord’s Prayer, however, is doctrinally robust, theologically deep, and anything but serene. The Lord’s Prayer is anything but tame. Regrettably, our familiarity often blinds us from seeing just how radical, even subversive, this prayer is. It is for those who hold firmly that Jesus Christ has inaugurated a kingdom, has risen from the dead, reigns at the right hand of God, and is coming again to judge the living and the dead. The Lord’s Prayer is for revolutionaries, for men and women who want to see the kingdoms of this world give way to the kingdom of our Lord.

Location: 788


As J. I. Packer noted, “Here more clearly than anywhere the purpose of prayer becomes plain: not to make God do my will (which is practicing magic), but to bring my will into line with his (which is what it means to practice true religion).”

Location: 925


C. S. Lewis observed the same phenomenon in his classic work The Screwtape Letters. As Lewis explained, humanity is prone to two extremes when it comes to thinking about demonic forces. There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.1

Location: 1,263


If Christians truly embraced biblical teaching on demonic powers, we would come to church with a tremendous sense of the fact that God has rescued us from the domain of darkness.

Location: 1,272


Here are some quotes from the book: Perman, Matthew Aaron. How to Get Unstuck: Breaking Free from Barriers to Your Productivity. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2018.

God is at the center of our productivity and gives us the power and direction to do the right things in the right way and for the right reasons.

 Kindle Loc. 208


The key to time management at the end of the day is simple: you need to know where you are going, and you need to focus on the things that will get you there.

Location: 237


John Piper sums up the biblical meaning of freedom in this fullest sense, of being free “indeed,” that Jesus and Paul are speaking of: “You are fully free—completely free, free indeed—when you have the desire, the ability, and the opportunity to do what will make you happy in a thousand years. Or we could say, You are fully free when you have the desire, the ability, and the opportunity to do what will leave you no regrets forever.”

Location: 593


J. Gresham Machen said about the use of the intellect: “No conversion was ever wrought by argument. A change of heart is also necessary. . . . But because intellectual labor is insufficient it does not follow, as is so often assumed, that it is unnecessary.”4

Location: 684


Christian philosopher Ronald Nash says a worldview is “a conceptual scheme that contains our fundamental beliefs; it is also the means by which we interpret and judge reality.” He goes on: “Worldviews function much like eyeglasses. The right eyeglasses can put the world into clearer focus, and the correct worldview can do something similar.”4 Nash summarizes well that there are five clusters of beliefs in any worldview: God, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and human nature. Our view of history could be added to this as well.

Location: 1,117


Covey says, “I submit that if we focus our attention on techniques, on specific practices, on ‘to do’ lists, on present pressures, we might make some small improvements. But if we want to move ahead in a major way, we need to shift our paradigm and see the situation in a totally new way.”8

Location: 1,223



As Dwight Eisenhower once said, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

 Location: 2,060


Money is not the scarcest resource. As Drucker pointed out years ago (and it has only increased since then), “Of the other major resources, money is actually quite plentiful. And when it comes to people, while it is hard to find enough good people, you can hire and train more people.” But you cannot get more time. You cannot rent more of it, hire more of it, or in any other way obtain more of it. Time is the scarcest resource—not people and not money. And therefore “nothing else, perhaps, distinguishes effective executives as much as their tender loving care of time.”

Location: 2,504


King talks not only about how to write well, but also how to make the writing process work well for you. Regarding his own schedule, he writes, “My own schedule is pretty clear-cut. Mornings belong to whatever is new—the current composition. Afternoons are for naps and letters. Evenings are for reading, family, Red Sox games on TV, and any revisions that just cannot wait. Basically, mornings are my prime writing time.”19 That’s creative work first, reactive work second. And note that there is plenty of time left over for the reactive work, which does matter (and can be very energizing).

Location: 3,172


Ephesians 5:7–17 teaches us that God does not typically whisper from heaven what decision we should make. He wants us to choose because that requires the growth of wisdom, maturity, and conscience.

Location: 3,457


Let me introduce you to our valley

Various friends introduced us to our valley throughout our first year in Spain. We were invited, encouraged to visit, and physically taken to villages and sites around our amazing valley, El Bierzo. This photo book includes photos from 25 of those villages and sites.

Let me introduce you to our valley…

PDF (free): Un Año En El BierzoUn Año en El Bierzo

iTunes iBook (free): Un Año En El Bierzo

Kindle ($2.99 due to rules): Un Año En El Bierzo


As always, leaving a review is helpful in spreading the word.

Crucial Conversations

I just finished listening to:

Patterson, Kerry, and Joseph Grenny. Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition. 2 edition. New York: Business, 2011.


There were many helpful suggestions in the book. Here are some questions I need to ask myself during crucial conversations:

  • What do I really want?
  • Am I engaged in silence, violence, or dialogue?
  • How can I make this conversation safe?
  • What stories am I telling myself about this person that are skewing my perspective?
  • What is the common ground we share on this topic?

Perhaps you have read it, or another book similar to it. What would you add?

Serving with Eyes Wide Open by Livermore

Book: Livermore, David A. Serving with Eyes Wide Open: Doing Short-Term Missions with Cultural Intelligence. Updated. Baker Books, 2012.Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 8.35.22 AM


(For a full review, click on title above)

Point: Short term missions needs to be evaluated, not because we should abandon the idea, but because we have drifted from the central purpose. That purpose is to properly love God and love others.


Favorite Quote: “How does our lack of cultural intelligence diminish our attempts to love God and love others? That’s the heart of the matter” (Livermore, Seeing, kindle 2560).

Stars:  4 out of 5

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:

  • Is leading a missions trip
  • Has been on missions trips
  • Wants to interact with other cultures right at home

Other books along this theme would be:

Lanier, Sarah. Foreign to Familiar; A Guide to Understanding Hot- and Cold- Climate Cultures. McDougal, 2000.

Lingenfelter, Judith E., and Sherwood G. Lingenfelter. Teaching Cross-Culturally: An Incarnational Model for Learning and Teaching. Baker Academic, 2003.

Livermore, David A. Expand Your Borders: Discover Ten Cultural Clusters. Cultural Intelligence Center, 2013.