Nor should I aught withhold, dear Lord, from Thee:
In love my soul would bow, my heart fulfill its vow,
Some off'ring bring Thee now, something for Thee.
- from a hymn by S. Dryden Phelps
The Simple Way
Choose Life (real life!)
Real practices, real food, and real adventures by in-joying the sacrament of the present moment
There are no overly stringent requirements for what you must accomplish in a given day or week beyond doing your duty with
gratitude and contentment—in all other choices for living, focus simply on
being present in the moment and on abiding in the presence of God. Allow yourself to be the truly yourself in the reality of the present moment, taking it as a gift of God's grace, whether the moment is easy or hard, and share the experience with those whom God has given you to bless and to be a blessing unto you.
Therefore, avoid fake living—diminish idle screen time as much as possible, in favor of reading books, enjoying the beauty of God's world, doing creative tasks, and interpersonal time.
Feed on true goodness—not processed or unhealthy foods—choose real food, eaten at normal times, to meet (but not exceed) the real needs of the body.
The bottom line is this: live along the grain of reality, which is nothing less than the love of God experienced in the particularity of the present moment of your own life.
As a pastor, I'm often asked to recommend a Bible reading plan that people can follow in their individual devotional times. There are a lot of good reading plans out there, and I'll highlight a few of my favorites below. For this year, though, we're running a voluntary challenge as a church to read together through the Bible in a year. So my top recommendation for this year is to do that, and it's perfectly fine to jump in with us halfway through. (Our current month's plan is available at our church website, as you scroll through the announcement slides: https://www.calaisbaptist.org/announcements).
Now here are some of my other top recommendations:
- Variations on Reading through the Bible in a Year
There are a lot of different Bible-reading plans available out there, and most of them you can find just with a simple Google search. Through-the-Bible-in-a-Year plans have a lot of different forms, from a basic 4-chapters-a-day approach (which has the advantage of leaving a handful of spare days at the end of the year in case you need a little catch-up), to more complicated schemes. The one we're currently using at our church is a blended model, in which we read some of the Old Testament and some of the New Testament every day. There are also plans that do even more blending, and give you a daily reading in OT, NT, and Psalms (and sometimes Proverbs).
All the above options tend to proceed sequentially, starting with the first books in a given section and then working straight through. But another option is the chronological Bible study plan, which presents the biblical material from earliest to latest, working chronologically through the historical story of the Bible. This is really helpful when you get to the OT historical books and the prophets, because it nicely sets each prophet's message in its historical context. You first read the portion of Israel's history and get a sense of what was happening at that time, and then read the message that the prophets were speaking in those very circumstances.
Another twist on reading the Bible in a year is to admit that that's a pretty hard task for most of us, and to opt for a plan that reads the Bible in two years instead. You can do this by committing to read two chapters a day, or you can look up a sequential or chronological plan that lays it out for you. (You can even buy a Bible already laid out for this reading pattern, as you also can for most of those already mentioned.) Of course, you could stretch it out even further and do a chapter a day, which would lead you through the Bible in a bit less than 4 years, but I've found that most people, if they commit to a daily practice, have no problem getting through in 2 years or less.
[Dr. Boli's humorous take on Bible reading plans]
- Plans that Re-balance the Mix
One of the downsides of the traditional through-the-Bible plans, whether chronological or sequential, is that you just end up spending a lot more time in the Old Testament than the New, simply because the Old is so much longer. You're generally reading 3x more from the OT than the NT. Some plans have sought to adjust for this. A very popular option is the M'Cheyne reading plan (first arranged by the great Scottish pastor Robert Murray M'Cheyne). This plan allows you to do the New Testament and the Psalms twice each in a given year, while doing the rest of the OT material only once (and the material is nicely balanced so that you're reading just about the same amount every day, often still just four chapters). If doing it in one year is too much, you can easily cut the readings in half and do it in two, which brings you through the NT and Psalms once per year, and through the rest of the OT once every two years.
My current favorite works along these lines. I like to use the Psalms as a staple of my prayer life, and so I've developed a simple plan where I just read sequentially through the Bible, doing an OT chapter, a NT chapter, and a Psalm every day. So in the span of every two years, I get almost all the way through the Old Testament, and I will have done the Psalms nearly five times and the NT nearly three times, which strikes just about the balance I'm looking for in my devotional reading. It also avoids the stress of having to stick to a rigorous timeline with a fixed end-date; I just keep reading the next three chapters of OT, NT, and Psalms, picking up from wherever I was.
Another of my favorites is the lectionary-based reading plan. My church doesn't really use the lectionary system (though some churches in my denomination do), but it's a widely-practiced way of reading the Bible that is used by millions of Christians across the world, particularly in their weekly church services. The lectionary is an arranged set of Bible readings that churches use on Sundays, and in the course of three years, it brings each church through a course of readings that run through the whole biblical story and offer weekly passages from the OT, Psalms, NT, and Gospels. Along with the weekly in-church readings, many lectionaries have also developed reading plans for individual Christians to use during the week, which lead you through passages that are relevant to the overall themes of the Sunday passages. If you're in a lectionary-using church, this is a beautiful thing, because you can be working through Bible passages all week long that will prepare your heart for Sunday, and at the same time get a really broad exposure to all sections of the Bible. Even if your church doesn't use the lectionary, there's something really appealing about knowing that you're reading and praying along with millions of other Christians around the world, who are all reading the same passages as you. You can find the current lectionary reading plan (RCL, Year B) by clicking on this link, and the overall lectionary cycle here.
- Billy Graham (b. 1918) is a world-renowned evangelist, perhaps the most prominent voice for the Gospel of salvation in the second half of the 20th century. He has spoken in 187 countries or territories, has written 29 books, has presented his message through radio and television to a global audience of 2.2 billion, and has had more than 3.2 million people respond in faith to invitations at his crusade events.
Timeline of Graham's Early Life & Ministry:
1934 – At age 16, Graham is converted to faith in Christ after attending a revival service by the evangelist Mordecai Ham. He applies for membership in a youth group of a local church, but is turned down for being “too worldly.”
1936-38 – Graham studies at Bob Jones College and Florida Bible Institute before transferring to Wheaton College. It is at Florida that he receives his calling as a pastor/evangelist.
1939-43 – Graham studies at Wheaton College and graduates with a degree in anthropology. At Wheaton he meets a fellow student, Ruth Bell, and they wed shortly after graduating. Ruth described Billy at that time as “wanting to please God more than any man I’d ever met.”
1943-45 – Graham pastors a local church and takes over a faltering radio program, Songs in the Night. Graham recruits a baritone named George Beverly Shea to help him with the musical part of the program. (Shea would later go on to perform Gospel music at many Billy Graham crusades.)
1947 – At age 30, Graham becomes the youngest person to serve as a sitting college president during his tenure at Northwestern Bible College.
1949 – Graham becomes a traveling evangelist with Youth for Christ International. He organizes a revival crusade in Los Angeles which stretches on for 5 weeks and garners national attention in the media. This catapults Graham into a prominence which will last for the rest of his life.
- During his ministry, Graham met with 12 different US presidents, sometimes acting as a special advisor on spiritual matters. He is often seen as the “national pastor,” officiating at special services and memorials of national importance.
- While traveling for his worldwide crusades, he was often invited to speak in places where no one else would have been permitted, including behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War, and in North Korea in 1992.
- Graham’s organization, the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, has been responsible for creating several landmark institutions in American Christian life: the Hour of Decision radio program, broadcast worldwide for more than 50 years; the magazines Decision and Christianity Today; and the Christian movie group WorldWide Pictures.
- Graham’s legacy continues in his family. Many of his children and grandchildren are in ministry. Most prominent are his son Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse and Graham’s successor in the BGEA; daughter Anne Graham Lotz, an author and speaker; and grandson Tullian Tchvidjian, pastor of the Coral Ridge megachurch.