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?

Silence

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Cristiana Gasparotto

In the early 400s a hermit named Agathon was said to have spent three years with a stone in his mouth to encourage him in his practice of refraining from speech.

Ignoring the fact that Agathon is a cool name and sounds like he should be a character in Lord of The Rings, he was evidently a man committed to silence.

I read this little anecdote in a book I’ve just finished titled, Silence: A Christian History by Diarmaid MacCulloch, the Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University. As the title implies, it’s a book detailing the theme of silence through Christian history.

Since reading this book I’ve found myself pondering silence.

Silence seems to be elusive in our society, it’s not something we’re generally comfortable with.

After all, most of us, I dare suggest, prefer noise over silence.

As I sit writing this I’m well aware of the noise around me. I’m in a cafe where the customer and the owner are talking quite loudly about what they got up to on the weekend. There is a group of Christians (they look Presbyterian) praying in the corner, some of which I can hear. There are people getting up from the table and scraping their chairs on the wooden floor, and there’s the noise from the kitchen, dishes clanging and chef’s directing.

That’s just the noise from where I sit. It’s a comfortable place to be.

But think of the noise we choose to have in our own lives. This isn’t just the busyness that pervades our diaries, this is the actual noise we have ringing in our ears as we fall asleep, as we commute to work, as we do exercise. In each of these cases we may have the radio or the iPod attached as we seek to multitask and be efficient.

So, how do we bring silence into our lives?

If we go back to the example of Agathon we see his commitment to his cause. It’s radical, it’s extreme. I don’t imagine I could do it.

I think I prefer noise because it helps keep me distracted. It helps me avoid silence.

Silence can be threatening.

When there’s no one around and no distractions it’s only me and my own mind. I can get caught up in my own thoughts. Some good, some not so good. Silence means it’s just me. No one else.

From a young age I’ve enjoyed watching the detective series, Cadfael. Cadfael is a monk who was part of the crusades upon the Middle East but then turns to the cloister in search of a simpler life. In doing so he is portrayed as the worldly monk, competent in medicinal practices and helpful at solving the extraordinary number of murders that occur in and around the Abbey.

The monk life enabled regular time for silence, worship, and reflection on God. Silence was structured into the day. Over the course of a 24 hour period there are eight designated times of prayer and worship, while outside of this is space for the individual to be silent.

I’m not suggesting we need to join the monk life, but I am suggesting silence might help us cope with our busy lives. Silence provides a space for reflection, for thinking, for clarity. It enables us to have time to ourselves, to recalibrate our bearings. How long has it been since you recalibrated those rusty bearings?

Recently I’ve found myself enjoying even 5-10 minutes of silence every few days. It’s bought a sense of refreshment and the ability to persevere with whatever is next. For me, incorporating silence into my weekly rhythm will help give me the energy to deal with the week’s busyness.

What about you? Is silence something you avoid? Do you include silence in your weekly rhythm?

Challenge: Spend 10 minutes in your car with the radio off, how do you react?

What I Learnt From Steve Jobs

The other day I finished the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. Incredible.

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This book excels in portraying a man who defined much of this generation. I know he’s certainly transformed the way I interact with the world through the iPhone and iPad, I suspect it’s the same for you.

There is something about reading a biography that provides insight into people you otherwise wouldn’t know. Isaacson’s masterful job of putting together the components of Jobs’ life is a perfect example. A deeper and fuller understanding of Jobs and his character gives cause to reflect on what can be learnt from him. Here then, are my thoughts on what I learnt from Steve Jobs:

1. I learnt Steve Jobs is a douche – There is no doubting it. He was a douche. His personality and the way he acted and behaved were terribly stupid and degrading to others at times. This wasn’t just one-off events every few years, ripping people apart in front of others occurred for sustained periods and made the guy a ripe proper douche. He even admits it himself.

2. I learnt Steve Jobs had a tremendous appreciation for quality – Everything he sought to do, whether it be his eating practices or the products he sought to produce, was to be of high quality. If they weren’t of the highest and best then they were crap. His push for quality products is what made Apple and Pixar. It’s a shame this wasn’t reflected in his relationships with others, including his parents, his daughters and his wife. Nevertheless, he pursued the best – products and employees. He wouldn’t settle for second.

3. I learnt Steve Jobs didn’t care about money – That’s always easy to say for someone who actually has millions already. But, I think that truly was the case. He didn’t seem fussed about money, it was the product, the A-class quality of a product, that mattered. If he made money by doing this then all the better.

4. I learnt Steve Jobs embodied Apple and Apple embodied him – After leading an organisation for so many years, even with a rather long period of exile, his personality shone through the company. There is no mistaking Jobs’ influence because he was the founder of the company but there is something that happens when you’ve been involved for 30 years. The company reflects your personality, and so it is with Apple. This desire for perfection, for high quality design and products, for pushing the boundaries in what people believe they can do, all comes from Steve Jobs.

5. I learnt that Steve Jobs is an inspiration – There is no doubting it, he’s one of a kind. There won’t be another Steve Jobs and the effect he’s had on Western society is very hard to measure, but needless to say it’s been enormous. His leadership and determination are inspiring. His passion for his industry and product is inspiring. He’s inspired me, through this book, to be a person who is more focussed, passionate, and determined in their work and life. I’ll skip the douche bit but have to say the other character traits are inspiring.

A sixth point would be that Walter Isaacson is an amazing writer. He inspires me to be a better writer and has made this book flow so well I didn’t want to put it down at times. If you happen to get the chance to read this book, I’d highly recommend it.

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.

Power Through Prayer by EM Bounds

EM Bounds is known as a prolific prayer-warrior, mainly because of his many and various books on the topic. While they were written many, many, years ago they are still greatly relevant for our soul today.

“Power Through Prayer” is a book written particularly for ministers, that’s certainly the impression you get from reading it. Bounds encourages everyone, but particularly those who preach, to come back to prayer, to fight for prayer, and to do all things with and through prayer. Bounds stresses the power that comes through prayer, and through close communion with God in prayer you soul will be lifted high unto the heavens.

Bounds tells tales and stories of people of the past who have spent many hours on their knees fighting for their congregation, the people they minister to. Throughout the book there are various quotes about prayer from famous churchmen in Christian history, including a special affection for David Brainerd, the young American preacher and Indian missionary of the 18th century. They are very inspiring and perfect for an Instquote if one could be bothered. In fact, much of the book is quotable as he wrestles the reader to the ground, urging them to take up a prayer ministry. There is constant encouragement to spend time in prayer, praying for the sermon, and the souls of men and women.

An example of this would be:

“What the Church needs to-day is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use — men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men — men of prayer.”

Even though the book is only 128 pages it is an inspirational book. It will shake you up and help you understand the power of prayer in the Christian life. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is wondering about prayer and its importance. It is an excellent book, and you can even download a free PDF of it here.

E. M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer (128 pages; London, UK: Marshall, Morgan & Scott).

5 Ways George Whitefield’s Life Is Good For Your Soul

As I was walking out the door to go on holiday I randomly threw the biography of George Whitefield by Arnold Dallimore in my bag. It is an extensive biography, a two-volume set, that sets out the life and times of the great preacher.

Having finished the first volume I find myself reflecting on his life and ministry. Biographies teach us a great deal, not only about an individuals life, but also about their value system, worldview, and passions.

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In thinking about Whitefield, I found five areas of his life that struck me as being central to the way he lived.

First, he was a man passionate about Jesus and only Jesus.

From his teenage years, but more so after his conversion, Whitefield was consumed with proclaiming and showing Jesus in everything he did.

While at university in Oxford he was a member of what was known as the ‘Holy Club’, and made a conscious effort to always be upright in everything he did. As he grew in grace and a fuller understanding of the gospel he pursued a passion for God’s glory and supremacy over all things.

Second, he was a man committed to preaching.

Everywhere he went, from the age of 17 onward, he preached consistently.

In certain seasons of his life Whitefield would would preach up to 15 times, or 50-60 hours, per week! His ability and gift in preaching was beyond the average person, but this still doesn’t negate the fact that he was always wanting to share the truth of the gospel everywhere he went.

Whether he was in America or in Britain, Whitefield couldn’t help but preach and try to win souls for the Lord.

Third, he was a man who instigated change.

His preaching practices were unorthodox for his time.

He pushed the limits and received rejection for it. His actions of moving away from the church pulpit and begin preaching in the open air changed the face of his preaching ministry. When not allowed to preach in the local church, due to a decree from the local bishop or minister, he would simply began preaching outside–in the fields and parks of the city.

Fourth, he was a man who had the courage to persevere in his ministry despite ridicule and rejection.

Whitefield’s Calvinistic convictions, zeal for the Lord, and unorthodox preaching practices rubbed people up the wrong way.

Fellow ministers, clergy, and other lay people developed a great dislike for Whitefield. Hundreds, if not thousands, of articles, journals, letters, and books were written against him and his beliefs. Throughout he continued to trust the Lord and pursue his ministry for the betterment of the Kingdom.

While hurt by many of his detractors, Whitefield had the courage to stand and proclaim the gospel.

Fifth, he was a man who sought unity rather than separation.

At all times, particularly in his relationship with John Wesley, Whitefield sought to find common ground first rather than polarise people because of their belief or practice.

In the end Whitefield had to separate from some relationships, but not after he had pursued unity, support, and friendship under the gospel. He was concerned for Christian unity while pursuing his single-minded goal of preaching the gospel.

Whitefield’s biography, and some of his writings, have come at a perfect time. Dallimore portrays his life wonderfully well, exposing the godliness and character of the man.

I would highly recommend reading this book, and even dipping into Whitefield’s other writings here and there.

It will do wonders for your soul.