One Idea Toward Reading Deeper

I’ve always been a little leery of Bible reading plans that promote four different selections per day. When I tried the M’Cheyne plan in the past it seemed like just as I would start warming up to the passage and get the flow of thought, he’d thrown down a spike strip and force me somewhere else. It began to feel more like shaking hands with a lot of Bible, but never really reading any of it.

And therefore, for the past few years I’ve simply read through canonically using this plan from Treasuring Christ Church, which amounts to about four chapters a day and follows the Tanakh order of the OT.  If you chase the cross references and intertextual connections, I always found this to suffice for a whole Bible digest on any particular day.

But this year I’m giving the four-selection strategy another try, and this time with the KINGDOM Bible reading plan developed by Jason DeRouchie. So far I really enjoy it. One exercise that I’ve been doing to alleviate my fragmentation fears is to write a brief summary of each chapter and then read them all together at the end. Today that looked like this:

Genesis 8 shows the faithfulness of God in stopping and flood and recommissioning mankind.

Joshua 10 shows us that God is the one who fights for Israel.

Psalms 7–8 shows the righteousness of God and the privilege of man as the pinnacle of God’s creation.

Matthew 6 shows us what it means to live under God’s fatherly care.

Nothing profound here. But after a week I’ve found this helpful. It forces me to ask, “What hath Joshua 10 to do with Genesis 8?” and so forth. And more than that, it leads me to read theologically, which is how we put together this glorious tapestry of who God shows himself to be.

If you’re doing a similar reading plan, maybe you’ll want to try this new venture out with me. It’s mainly for that moment of reading, but, of course, if we stick with it then we’ll end up with chapter summaries of the entire Bible — which we can also give to the kids.

What J. I. Packer Said About Matthew Henry

A few weeks ago I had the privilege to meet and spend some time with J. I. Packer. It was an unforgettable event that I imagine telling my grandchildren about one day. On the ride back from Vancouver I transcribed the four hours or so of conversation ranging from the Puritans to Martyn Lloyd-Jones to his first attempts to write as a ten-year-old boy in Gloucester, England. The box score of that day is still pushed to the side of my desk, waiting for more reflection. But here’s a excerpt ready to go…

Speaking of George Whitefield, Dr. Packer commented that his main theological resource was Matthew Henry’s commentary. He suspects that Henry’s influence is much wider than most think.

Here’s one simple takeaway: J. I. Packer really values Matthew Henry as a commentator. He continued,

Henry is astonishingly good as a scholarly commentator. People believe he was a Puritan devotional author and not a scholar. The proper response to that is “balderdash.” Henry is outstanding and is very undervalued.

I wondered if Henry is so undervalued because he is so accessible. His commentaries are cheap and all of his stuff is on public domains, so it’s not lucrative to quote him. A freshly translated monograph is much sexier. I mentioned this (not the “monographs are sexier” part), but I don’t think Dr. Packer understood what I meant.

“You have to read more than a few pages,” the Reformed sage added, “He grows on you.”

Then we were on to other things.


See Amazon’s complete selection of J. I. Packer’s works.

Either Jesus Changes Everything, or He Changes Nothing

It’s not always a good idea to listen to lectures on road trips. Especially not if you are already a little sleep deprived.

Traveling with Tony Reinke from Vancouver to Seattle last week, I decided to put on a little John Webster. Ten minutes into the talk, after nodding in an out a couple times, I persuaded myself it was too dangerous. We stopped and got coffee. But it wasn’t before I heard a line I’ve continued to mull over since. In this lecture on Christian discipleship, Webster commented something like, “Jesus either changes everything or he changes nothing.”

Think about that.

Either he’s King over everything or he isn’t. And if he is then everything must change. It must. And so he is and so it must.

This has become a topic of conversation for the whole family as we settle into the summer together. Everything changes. The way we brush our teeth. Drink orange juice. Commute to work. Jesus is risen. He is Lord. So every speck of this earth is, in one way or another, pointing to him.

A couple mornings ago we were having breakfast outside on the deck when I told Elizabeth, four, and Hannah, two, about Jesus changing everything. I explained this is what it means to be the forever King.

“So, Elizabeth,” I said, leveling my eyes and posture with hers, “How does Jesus change the way we eat breakfast outside?” She smiled, a true smile, “We enjoy it.”

I think that’s a good start.


Memorial Day Reminds Me of America’s Complicated History

Memorial Day reminds us that war is real life and there are heroes out there. Real heroes.

And it reminds me of America’s complicated history.

There are two men in my family tree who lost their lives in military service, and only one of them is meant to be honored today.

My great uncle, Billy, was shot by enemy fire in Vietnam. I never met him, of course, but heard about the event of his death several times growing up. I am deeply grateful — unspeakably grateful — for those like Billy who have died for our country. It is amazing.

And then there is Alsey. My great-grandaddy’s name was Leslie. Leslie’s daddy was Eddie Brice. Eddie’s daddy was Ruffin, and his daddy was Alsey.

Alsey died from disease on September 30, 1861 outside of Pennsylvania. He was 30 years old and left an estate worth only $20. But perhaps most confusing — and just plain weird — is that he died as an enemy to the country that celebrates Memorial Day. He died in service, at war, but it wasn’t for this country; it was against it.

Alsey was a member of the 24th Infantry Regiment from North Carolina, a state of the Confederate States of America. He had taken up arms against the U. S. A., my country, the one for whose defense many have fallen — ones for whom today I give thanks, including my great uncle.

See, it’s complicated.


For some summer reading on the American Civil War, see Religion and the American Civil Wara book of really good essays, including Paul Harvey’s fascinating piece, “Yankee Faith” and Southern Redemption: White Southern Baptist Ministers, 1850-1890.

Also, The Civil War by Bruce Catton; and For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War by James McPherson.

Four Things I Don’t Do, But Should

Melissa and I sat down a couple nights ago to assess the coming months. There’s a lot on the table. A lot. I’m desperate for grace. Grace for a thousands things, and especially grace for energy. Having the time to get everything done is half the equation. Time isn’t worth anything if you’re too drained to produce. I need energy. The grace of energy.

And here’s where Michael Hyatt comes in. He names ten things to do for an energy boost. Below are four of those ten that I don’t do. But, that, by grace, would like to start. . .

Excerpted from Michael Hyatt’s 10 Practical Ways to Boost Your Energy Level:

Take a good multi-vitamin. Personally, I don’t think you need a handful of vitamins and supplements every day. But a good multi-vitamin is essential. If you eat a lot of processed food, this is especially important. Most of us just don’t get the nutrition we need from the food we eat. I take Vitamin Code Men’s Multivitamin. It covers the basics. It is a multi-vitamin and multi-mineral. I take two capsules twice a day.

Drink a gallon of water a day. This is another great energy replenisher. You will especially notice the difference if you switch from soda drinks to water. It may take you a few days to notice the difference, but getting sugar out of your system and water into your system will definitely even-out your energy.I find that this also has a way of reducing my appetite. Sometime we think we’re hungry when we are really just thirsty. Drink 8 ounces of water an hour before a meal and notice how it curbs your hunger. More water will also increase your metabolism and keep flushing your body’s waste.

Get plenty of rest. Most people I know don’t get enough rest. Everyone is different, but most adults need seven to eight hours a night. Most people I know are trying to get by on five or six hours.When you don’t get enough rest, all kinds of bad things happen. You get grumpy. You reduce your ability to handle stress. And, according to some research, you may gain weight.

Perhaps most significantly, you negatively impact your body’s auto-immune system. When you get run-down, you increase the likelihood of getting sick—and that’s definitely a drain on your energy.

Eat high-energy foods. The main thing to avoid here is the bad or fast-burning (high glycemic) carbohydrates. These are the ones that your body quickly turns to sugar. You get an initial boost from them as the sugar hits your blood, but you then hit a “trough” that is lower that your energy was before you ate them.Carbs in this category include white potatoes, white rice, and white flour (or white bread). Worst of all, the energy that isn’t burned gets stored as fat.

Instead, eat slow-burning carbs like sweet potatoes, brown rice, wheat bread, etc. I also to eat more frequent, smaller meals. (I eat five or six small meals a day.) This keeps your metabolism up and your energy on an even keel.

A Bruised Cheek

Her lip was bleeding. Blame it on Winter Solstice.

If December in Minnesota wasn’t hard enough on a three-year old’s playtime, throw in the shortest day of the year and a couple younger siblings cooped up in a two-bedroom apartment.

I’m not even sure how it happened. And it doesn’t really matter. At some point she got injured. My oldest daughter’s full-throttle energy in all things cost her.

Now, it was only a little cut. That’s all. I checked it out. But if her eyes then were telling the story now! She couldn’t eat. She couldn’t talk. She begged for a bandaid on her face.

And then she got all profound on me. . . .

Read the rest of the story in the comments section of this post. If you like it, you can ‘Like’ it in the bottom right of the text box. For an explanation of what’s going on, read this.

Like My Story, If You Do

I entered a story I wrote about Elizabeth into a contest at The Write Practice.

The story is called, “A Bruised Cheek.”

The story is exactly 500 words. It would take about two minutes to read.

If you like the story, you can Like it in the comments section where it’s nestled on the page. The number of Likes for the piece will factor in a little on how the team at TWP pick their winner. Here’s a snapshot of how it looks. Check out “Like” in the bottom right corner…

To get there, for real, go here.

Why did you enter a contest?

The thoughts were fresh in my mind. I came upon The Write Practice via and saw the contest. I felt I had something to say, both a message and a manner of saying it. I enjoy writing. I don’t do this type of writing as much as I want. I was especially intrigued about what it would be like to put something out there in a different venue from what I’m accustomed. Will I be swallowed up? Laughed at? Might it be written decent enough to help people pause for a moment and consider something for the first time?

Are you trying to win?

Yes, yes I am. That’s partly why I’ve written this post. I hope you Like the story and thus increase my chances of winning. I want to win for all the reasons I’ve mentioned for entering the contest. Plus the help they’re going to give me and the possibility of being published in a book with paper pages. And like Abraham Lincoln said, “Competition tells us something about our hearts” (Lincoln didn’t really say that).

Do you think you have a chance?

Well, I’m in over my head (which is a good place to be). That’s where grace gets loud. I’ve been told, “you’re not a good writer.” And writers always think they’re better than they are. So let me be clear, it ain’t that good.

But I feel good about my story. I feel good about what the event and my writing it did for my own soul. So apart from this, I can’t say.

[Update: Congratulations to Lisa Burge, winner of the Winter Solstice contest. Good stories and a fun time at The Write Practice over the last week.]

What My Four-Year Old Taught Me About Prayer

Elizabeth taught me something about prayer.

She had cut her lip. I’m not sure exactly how it happened. It was just a collateral injury related her full-throttle enthusiasm in all things. I guess you could call her dramatic: Her lip was hurt, therefore she couldn’t eat. She couldn’t talk. She couldn’t go without a bandaid on her face.

And then she got all profound on me.

Tucking her in later that night, I knelt down by her bed to pray aloud for her and Hannah and Micah. I usually ask the Father for their rest in Jesus, both for the night and for forever. I want my children to rest in Jesus. So I began the usual…

“Father, please give Elizabeth and Han—” Pray for my lip!” she interrupted just like this typeface looks, quick and bold.

Without missing a step I turned the prayer towards her little injury. “Father, please help Elizabeth to trust you in—” My lip! My lip! now with more urgency she jumped in. She said it as if she was feared she was too vague the time before.

I chuckled inside and started again. “Please make Elizabeth’s lip to feel bett…”— Ask him to heal it!

This time she said it with a childlike impatience we often chastise. I didn’t say anything now. I just stopped. The only thing rebuked in this moment was how I pray.

It was a simple prayer request from my four-year old. Her lip hurt and she wanted God to heal it. And there I was appointing as many theological governors as I could. It seemed a good time to teach her about what really mattered — you know, not the healing, but faith and Jesus and loving him.

But the kid just wanted her lip to feel better.

She knew God could do it.

My reluctance to get to the point exposed my unbelief: Theological governors are great, but not when they’re used to disguise a lack of faith in God doing what you really ask.

I’m a footnote kind of guy with footnote kind of friends. We like clarity — what we’re saying and what we’re not and so forth. And then there are times when we just need to say it. Or in this case, ask it. Jesus didn’t make it that complicated. Why would we?

Elizabeth taught me something about prayer.


On God’s Utter Independence

Reading theology proper has a way of exposing our deficiencies in personal holiness.

I’ve been working my way through Scott Oliphint’s God With UsIt’s my favorite kind of book: all about God and thoroughly Christological (perfect for Advent reading). I love the doctrine of God’s aseity. I love how it blows our mental capacities, how we realize that we’re just standing on the seashore, that the ocean of the knowledge of God is only wetting our feet. God is greater than that which we can imagine. And then bigger than what we can’t imagine him to be.

It is so precious to feel his bigness, to be swallowed up by it, to close your eyes and weave together some special effects in your mind of what it looks like to be engulfed by the mystery of his fellowship, to be drawn into his communion, to consider the miracle of how we can know anything true about him.

And being immersed in this vastness affects how we think about personal holiness — namely, we realize the disparity between God and ourselves. We are more enthralled by this God to Whom (and by Whom) we have been reconciled. Little thoughts that may have gone unchecked are now rotten. There is an increasing impatience that the finished work of Jesus be more prevalent in the moments of our day. We want our union with Jesus to make more of a difference.

It’s an Isaiah 6 sort of thing. Not that we’re trying to merit a relationship. A God like that won’t be impressed with our unclean lips. We see him more clearly, we see ourselves in his light, and we’re stunned by the death and resurrection of Jesus all over again.