A Great Bible Reading Program for 2017

It has been some years since I went through large chunks of scriptures. In 2016 I was meditating on short passages from the Revised Common Lectionary for the public reading of Scriptures in worship services.

There were the usual readings from Psalms, the Old Testament, the Gospels, and other New Testament readings. Typically about four passages. I settle on the ones that caught my attention and stayed there to hear and see what the Lord had for me.

U versionThis new year I began a new habit: reading the whole Bible in a year. I downloaded a Bible app called the YouVersion. Then I chose a reading plan called Bible in one year 2017 in which Nicky Gumbel, of Alpha Course fame, makes comments on every passage.

bble plan

Instead of reading, I listened to the audio readings. I chose the NIVUK version which has audio support and a very good reader. Listening to the scriptures has been a refreshing change for me.

The challenge is that it is difficult to switch from reading to listening. The mind wanders too. However the more I listened the more I enjoyed this way of learning even though it was not my preferred input.

The Old Testament scriptures were heard by the people of God. There was a great tradition of orality. People did not own Bibles. The printing press had not been invented yet. Scriptures were listened to in the Temple and in the synagogues. For the first several centuries A.D. it was like that too. The Old and the New Testament were heard in house churches. That is why the promise in book of Revelation is for those who heard the apocalypse read to them. “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. (Rev 1:3 ESV)

I enjoyed going through large segments of Genesis and Job recently. They give me the big picture narrative. The context was clearer. I still got lost in Job, with the endless cycle of arguments and debate, but what helped to supplement this was a YouTube book survey that gave me an overview of the whole book. Its titled Read the Scriptures series. Here is a sample: JOB.

I had to refer to this survey twice as Job is an often misunderstood book and I found this to be one of the best overview of Job I have ever come across. And its done succinctly and pictorially and expertly. The Bible Project, under which this Read the Scripture series belong to, covers all the books of the Bible and more.

What a great study program then it is to go through the whole Bible in a year and along the way do the relevant Bible overviews of the books you are currently reading! Its a great way of equipping, of feeding oneself, of knowing scriptures better.

Though I listen to large chunks each day I listen attentively for a word, verse, or idea that catches my attention and meditate on that through the day. Like a burning bush, I let it speak to me, and reveal God to me.

I am doing this with the church colleagues and the people I am mentoring and we have just begun a year long journey. Pray for us. Better still join us on an exciting and challenging journey.

How much more ….

Lost and found: the S Pen and Samsung Note 10.1 tablet
Lost and found: the S Pen and Samsung Note 10.1 tablet

The Lord really cares for the minute and mundane as well as the major things in our life.
I have been using the Samsung Note 10.1 tablet for a few years now. I bought it because of the S Pen, that little instrument tucked in the bottom right hand of the tablet, is slick and efficient handwriting tool. I loved it because I journal quite a bit and the feeling of writing by hand is more satisfying than that of typing on a computer. I have enjoyed using the S Pen function most of the time as I write faster than I type and I need to make quick notes in meetings and when I jot sermon ideas and brainstorm and re-order points.
So it was with great consternation when I realized that I have misplaced my S Pen. Tried as I would to retrace where I could have lost it, I could not find the pen. It upset me and I asked the Lord several times to help me find this precious instrument. After a few days, I started to ask Samsung stores in Jurong if they sold spare S Pen for Note 10.1. To my surprise they do not carry them. How much space would a pen take? They said, Even if you go to the service centre they may still have to order from Seoul. That frustrated me.
Last week, at my office desk, I found the S Pen. It was in a container with all my pencils and ballpoint pens. How did it get there? I checked my whole desk surface but never searched that container. I was delighted. That office became a place of worship. The three words came to mind, HOW MUCH MORE? I mean this is not world hunger, Middle East conflict, or a deadly disease. Yes, if God cares about such minute mundane matters, how much more will He care about the more important stuff, like a loved one’s salvation, or who will succeed the older generation of pastors and missionaries in the church, or the re-ignition of the faith of the second generation Christians, or your health and financial needs, and your spiritual growth to maturity. Yes He does care for all these matters. How much more, how much more.

Jubilee and its significance

Sze Zeng has produced some interesting research that throws light on the significance of Jubilee on his blog. The many instructions given in the Law of Moses about the year of Jubilee relates to liberation of God’s people and land. It’s a kind of righting things for the weak and vulnerable so that the flickering wick will not be totally crushed. It gives hope to the poor of the land. Social justice is very much on God’s heart for people. Sze Zeng’s blog gives a list of instructions about Jubilee which I have reproduced below:

The Jubilee is to be expressed among the Israelites through the following 12 instructions:

I. The Israelites should return to their family property (Lev.25:10, 13).

II. The Israelites are not to sow or reap plantation that grow by itself, or harvest untrimmed vines. They should eat only the produce from the existing crop (Lev. 25:11, 19).

III. The Israelites should not overcharge or undercharge one another—must practice ‘fair price’ as an expression of their reverence for God (Lev. 25:14-18).

IV. On the year before Jubilee, the sixth year, the Israelites’ plantation will produce food enough for the next three years. They are to resume work on their plantation on the eight year (Lev. 25:20-22).

V. No land must be sold permanently as God is the true owner. Hence all sold land must be restored back to the original owner during Jubilee (Lev. 25:23-24).

VI. Israelites who become poor can sell their land, and their relatives should help them to buy back the land. If no relatives can help them, then their land will remained with the buyer until Jubilee (Lev. 25:25-28).

VII. Houses within walled cities can be sold permanently, though the possibility for original owner to buy back the house should remain for the first year after the sale. After that, the house will be owned by the buyer permanently. These houses need not be restored back to the original owner during Jubilee (Lev. 25:29-30).

VIII. Houses  in villages can be sold, but must be restored back to the original owner during Jubilee (Lev. 25:31).

IX. Levites’ permanent possession is the pastureland, which cannot be sold. Their houses, however, can be sold though need to be returned to them during Jubilee (Lev. 25:32-34).

X. Israelites should provide social safety net to the unfortunate Israelites as how they are to treat foreigners. They should lend fellow Israelites money without interest, sell them food at cost price (Lev. 25:35-38).

XI. If poor Israelites sold themselves to their fellow Israelites, they must not be treated as slaves, but as servant. And they and their family should be liberated and be restored to their property during Jubilee (Lev. 25:39-43). The same with Israelites who sold themselves to foreigners (Lev. 25:47-55).

XII. Trade and manage the land fairly by determining the price according to its proximity to the Jubilee (Lev. 27:16-25).

Another interesting insight has to do with when Jubilee begins on the Jewish calendar. It begins on the Day of Atonement, the Yom Kippur. The day when the sanctuary is cleansed and the sins of the nation is covered by the blood of innocent animal sacrifices. To read more why this is so read the whole article: SG50 and Christianity’s Jubilee.

Christ is our Jubilee. In Him we are liberated from servitude, debts of sin and bondage. We enter into our spiritual inheritance. We enter into rest. We belong to Him. We are part of the body of Christ that cares for each other.