The Glenn McGrath Bible Reading Plan

Glenn McgrathSo by now you should be a week into your New Year’s resolution of reading the bible this year. Well, if you’re a Christian of some description anyway.

How’s it going? Have you managed to work your way through the chapters you planned to? Did you choose one of those plans that makes you jump between different books of the Bible? Perhaps reading some Old Testament chapters, some New Testament and then a Psalm. Or, maybe you’re working through the Old Testament and so you’d be stuck in the middle of Genesis or thereabouts right now.

Every year for the last seven or eight years I reckon I’ve attempted to read the whole Bible through. I’ve managed it twice in that time. It was probably the first couple of years too where I completed the goal.

One year I was silly enough to choose a plan that required reading 10 chapters per day and took you to almost every part of the bible. Yeah, I managed about two weeks and gave up. It was like reading a short novel every single day. I like reading, but perhaps not that much.

The thing with bible reading plans is that at the start of the year it starts off well but then you realise you’ve got to work your way through Chronicles and 150 Psalms and some prophets, which can be depressing at times. Sometimes it’s the same story over and over again, sometimes it’s just the same genre of writing that can get a bit tiresome.

Don’t get me wrong, I think bible reading plans are good. I think that having a plan or a goal in your bible reading is important. And, if you don’t, what’s that saying about how seriously you’re taking your faith and wanting to hear from God? Hmmm, one to ponder there I think.

So while I hold them up as good there does need to be a sense of reality about what type of plan you’re going to do. At the start of the year we tend to think we can achieve more than perhaps is possible. What’s important in any reading plan, whether it’s the bible or other books, is to break it down into consistent chunks that are achievable. Like with anything – fitness training, writing, art – it requires discipline.

This is where I’ve come up with the very basic idea of The Glenn McGrath Bible Reading Plan.

If you at least follow a little cricket I would hope you know who Glenn McGrath is. If you don’t, shame on you. Glenn McGrath is the great Australian fast bowler who holds the record of most wickets by a fast bowler for Australia, possibly even the world. Throughout his career McGrath bowled line and length. That is, he bowled the ball just short of a good length and in line with the off-stump or just outside. He aimed for the same spot each delivery and made it very difficult for the batsmen. By doing this he was disciplined in not wavering from his plan, he was consistent in his pace and placement of the ball on the pitch, and it just got people out. It was terrific fast bowling, could be considered pretty boring too, but it worked.

And this is the thing with The Glenn McGrath Bible Reading Plan.

The key is consistency, the same process every day.

The bible has 1189 chapters. The year has 365 days. That means 3.25 chapters per day will have you finishing the book of Revelation on New Year’s Eve. You will have read the whole bible through in a year. 3.25 chapters isn’t much is it? That’s like 15 minutes max. Maybe more for the day you’re reading Psalm 119, but I digress.

It’s actually not much per day when you put it in those terms. It’s achievable and even more so when you’ve got your phone and you’re on your way to work or you wake up and it’s right next to you.

This year I’ve planned to read four chapters per day and am simply ticking off what I’ve done. I’ve started at Matthew because most years I’ve started at Genesis and it’s gotten tiring. To make it a habit I’d rather read from Matthew first. If I continue to go with four chapters per day I’ll have finished the bible by September or October I think. After January I could pull it back to three chapters per day and we’d be right for the rest of the year. I’ll make that call later. The important thing is that it’s happening and beginning to become a habit.

How about you? Have you started a plan this year? How’s it going?

Evangelical Truth by John Stott

evangelicaltruth stottJohn Stott and his ministry is well known and well respected throughout the world. He has written numerous books and articles, and up until his death in 2011 he was considered a worldwide Christian leader.

In this little book of 149 pages Stott explains the essentials of the Christian faith and makes a strong plea for unity. Here, toward the end of his life, Stott continues to write with great insight, making you think about the primary and secondary issues within the Christian faith. There is constant debate between Christians, now more than ever it seems, over all sorts of theological and social issues. Stott believes these issues should be discussed, but at times there is a need to lessen the vigour and closed-handedness of these debates.

Evangelical Truth has five chapters, including the introduction and conclusion. The three main chapters cover the following areas: the revelation of God, the cross of Christ, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

In the introduction Stott gives a brief rundown of his definition of evangelicalism. He pitches this definition against that of fundamentalism and liberalism. Within this chapter he also gives information about evangelicalism has evolved and its main historical turning points within the church.

The chapter on revelation, as expected, is based on the revelation of God through the bible. Stott speaks of general and specific revelation, progressive and personal revelation, inspiration, authorship, biblical authority. He touches on the debate between the sufficiency of scripture and also the inerrancy of scripture. Here Stott makes his stand against using the term ‘inerrancy’.

Chapter three is essentially the gospel. It is the message of the cross well explained. He gives a helpful explanation of ‘justification by faith’, and grapples with what disciples and mission are. It is the shortest chapter in the book but also the most concise and straight-forward. It was good to hear the gospel again.

A final chapter on the ministry of the Holy Spirit makes Evangelical Truth truly trinitarian. The topics of assurance, holiness, purity, community, mission, and hope are all covered. Stott is really telling the reading of how the Holy Spirit works; in the New Testament and his continuing work today. This is a good chapter and well explained.

To conclude, Stott summarises his point and pleads with the reader to be united with Christian brothers and sisters around the globe. He calls for Christians to endure hardship and wants to be an encouraging voice within that. You can really see in the writing that Stott has a wealth of experience and knowledge of the gospel, is passionate about the things of God, and wants Christians around the world to be united under the gospel. He encourages all believers to lead with humility and to love one-another with Christian love.

A great primer of the Christian faith. Get on it.

John Stott, Evangelical Truth: A Personal Plea For Unity, Integrity and Faithfulness (149 pages; Leicester, UK: Inter-Varsity Press), 2003.

Life As A Witness

This week I’m spending time preparing two messages to give on Sunday. My text for the weekend is John 15:26-27:

“When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also must bear witness because you have been with me from the beginning.”

This passage is set in the Upper Room, or at least on the way to the Mount of Olives just before Jesus’ death. It is the final time Jesus and his disciples will be together. Between 13:31 and the end of chapter 16 Jesus speaks his final words to them. These two verses are placed in the middle of Jesus talking about the persecution they will face, even by those who think they are offering a service to God (16:3).

Last night I began pondering what it means to bear witness.

It is evident from the text that the Spirit gives witness about Jesus.

In other words, the central point of the Spirit being sent is to testify about Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection.

One must also ponder what that means for us.

The disciples are given somewhat of a command, they must bear witness.

Why? Because they have been with him since the beginning of his ministry.

Not only will the Spirit witness about Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection, but so will his disciples.

This grounds the gospel and the life of Jesus in its historical context. Suddenly, we see that 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 comes into play and agreement is reached regarding the historical fact of Jesus and the gospel. Here is one part of bearing witness, testifying to the truth of Jesus.

There also seems to be a distinct link to Jesus’ final command to his disciples in Matthew 28:19-20:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

The act of bearing witness could be classified as evangelism and teaching. Telling people about Jesus and teaching people about Jesus.

Bearing witness and being a disciple of Jesus also has lifestyle implications. A disciple of Jesus doesn’t just proclaim the historical gospel with their mouth, or teach others about Jesus, they too pursue a life worthy of the gospel.

A life of being a disciple is a life of following Jesus, his words and actions.

God Hears Our Prayers

“The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer.” (Psalm 6:9)

Isn’t great that we can be safe in the knowledge that the Lord hears our prayers?

While reading Psalm 6 this morning this verse stood out to me. It gives me assurance of a God who listens to me, who hears me, and who accepts me.

Prayer can be a difficult and weary task at times. Our relationship with him may be rather dry, or it is difficult to speak to God when we are conscious of our own sin. However, the Lord is good and he hears our prayers and cries for help.

David, the writer of this Psalm, is troubled and knows he has done wrong. It seems he is conscious of his sin and is guilt-ridden because of it. He is crying out to God, desperate for his help.

It can be easy to resonate with David here.

How often are we in sin? How often have we done things we don’t want to do? How often have we gone against God and chosen the wrong path, the wrong words, the wrong actions toward others? Sometimes this leads to regret, to a knowledge of guilt, a knowledge of sin.

There is no worse feeling, I believe, than knowing you have sinned against the Almighty. He is an all-powerful, glorious, and magnificent God who knows all and is in all and is through all.

Here David rests in the knowledge that the Lord has heard his pleading, his cry for help, and his cry for mercy. What great assurance! To know the Lord has heard our pleas and heard our cries brings an assurance from above.

Yet, he not only hears them, he also accepts them! He is willing to accept what we say to him, hearing our anguished cry for forgiveness and for help. Through our Mediator, Jesus Christ, our cries are heard and accepted and we are made new once more.

Through the work of Jesus Christ upon that beautiful cross the Lord hears and accepts our prayers. But even more, he hears and accepts us! Us! With all our sin, foibles, and quirks he takes us into his loving arms and holds us in our time of need.

O what assurance, O what loving grace!