Join us on a journey of following Jesus together. This blog is intended as a resource to help us all grow, to try new things, to read the bible in an organised way; all with the aim of being transformed more in the likeness of Jesus. There are opportunities for us to share our insights and experiences (it’s public so be thoughtful about what you share) as we read the broad sweep of the biblical narrative in a year and as we engage in some spiritual disciplines.
Our biggest barrier to following Jesus in the way that he intended is that we are too busy. We are distracted to the point of not having time. In 2020 we have the opportunity to change this. This site aims to help us change ‘distracted’ to ‘focussed’– so that our discipleship is life-changing.
In his book The Shallows, Nicholas Carr says of his reading habits, “Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a jet ski.” His metaphor of full immersion versus superficial skimming is a good one– which applies not only to our reading, but to our engagement with God. The good news is that changing the way we live is not impossible! This site is designed to help you find a new rhythm– a way to go deeper into God.
We will use some great resources that Christians have used for centuries: Scripture and Spiritual Disciplines. Though adjusting our rhythm of life and our reading of Scripture are not the only features of a faithful life, they tend to be pre-requisites. When we get these right, other things seem to fall into place.
We need to understand ourselves and our lives within the purpose of God. We are part of his grand narrative of creation, salvation and new-creation: grasping where we fit gives us the only perspective large enough to transform our inattentive busyness into satisfying relationship with Him. And so we will immerse ourselves in the bible. Each month, a series of bible readings will be suggested that will enable us to journey through the whole revelation of God in a year: you can choose how deep you wish to go:
1. Key Moments
These are the passages that are critical to the overall story and structure of the bible. Read them more than once; get to know the text and its place in the story well; think and meditate upon them; pray about them.
2. Shedding Light on the Scene
These are passages that expose and illustrate what is going on at this point in the story by fleshing out the Key Moments. Read them and ponder questions like, ‘where are we in the story’, ‘what are the people of God like’, ‘what are they hoping for’, and ‘how does this move the story forward?’
3. Looking Forward and Backward
These are the passages that look forward to or reflect back on this part of the story. They demonstrate the cohesive and cumulative nature of God’s revelation using the tools of ‘Biblical Theology’. Reading the bible in this way enables us to see both ‘the forest’ and ‘the trees’ with great clarity.
4. Reading the Whole Bible
You may want to read through the whole bible this year. I have grouped the books so that they line up with this calendar. Completing this is guaranteed to change your life. If you find that you’re getting behind, feel free to skip a few days to catch up.
So each month, you can choose the level at which you would like to engage with Scripture. I suggest you begin with the Key Moments, and then build on that each time, perhaps also Shedding Further Light on the Scene, and then reading Forwards and Backwards. If you wish, you may also like to read the whole bible in a year. This will follow the main reading focus for the month, but also add other books.
Broadly, the reading program will follow the basic historical narrative of the bible through the 12 months of the year.
Practising Spiritual Disciplines is not weird. It is normal… for Christians who want to grow. The wonderful joy of a gospel-shaped life requires changes to the way we live. Meditation, prayer, solitude, simplicity, rest, worship, service, celebration– for centuries Christians have valued these and other disciplines for their usefulness in the process of maturity and formation. They play a unique role in the Christian life as a way to address ourselves to God and to other people. Throughout the year, each month, we aim to introduce these one at a time and try them out. Weekly links to each exercise appear at the top of the monthly Bible Readings page (see side bar menu).
These disciplines are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. Our aim is to know Christ and grow in his likeness through the process of discipleship. God does the transforming work while we occupy ourselves with the disciplines. There is no sausage-factory correlation between input (time in the discipline) and output (knowing Christ) but Christians over the centuries attest to the value of Spiritual Disciplines.
The Discipline of Doing Less
Discipline is not a popular topic for our generation. It makes us think of cruel punishments, unrealistic expectations and monotony. We want to recover this word. As its etymology suggests, discipline is connected to being disciples. Besides, as we engage with the spiritual disciplines it very likely that our concept of a well-disciplined life will be challenged. Consider this description by Henri Nouwen: “In the spiritual life, the word discipline means ‘the effort to create some space in which God can act.’ Discipline means that somewhere you’re not occupied, and certainly not preoccupied. In the spiritual life, discipline means to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned or counted on.”
Isn’t that remarkable– and a bit scary? We live immersed in a popular culture (and sadly, often a church culture) that sees discipline as a vehicle for doing more. Nouwen suggests the opposite: that such filling and ‘more-ness’ might actually be evidence of our lack of discipline. We might need to set aside our FOMO and learn the discipline of de-cluttering our lives. That’s what we’re about here.
This is not a quick fix. Most of us have been running too fast for too long, so don’t be surprised if it takes a while to see significant change. And don’t be surprised if your initial response to Scripture or the Monthly Exercises (the disciplines) is that they seem a little dry. That dryness can be the result of previous bad experiences, perhaps in an atmosphere of legalism or obligation. With that in mind, we’ll find some (attempted!) creativity and freedom in the readings and practices. Retraining our appetites can take time. The scuba diver knows the ocean in a way that the jet-skier will never appreciate.
Each week across each month of the year, I will provide a series of bible readings in each of the four types– Key Moments, Shedding Light on the Scene, Looking Forward and Looking Back, Reading the Whole Bible— along with some prompts to help you go deeper. As you read and reflect on these, you may like share your insights with some trusted friends, your Small Group, or even by adding comments on to this site (very welcome!).
Each month will also begin with a brief description of a classical spiritual discipline. Let’s call these ‘exercises’ so they don’t sound too weird. This will be followed by a series of suggested ways to introduce some aspect of that discipline into your own life. Most months there will be four suggested exercises– one for each week– but occasionally there are fewer if an exercise involves a little more planning or reflection. This is the part you might be most tempted to skip over, but don’t. Simply knowing what the disciplines are won’t get you anywhere: the whole point is that they need to be practiced. They are exercises– behaviours to repeat that bring a benefit through their repetition. For example, prayer is one of the ‘spiritual disciples’ that gets better the more we do it. Can I suggest that you also share with some trusted friends how you are going with these disciplines, so to help each other and encourage each other.
One of the biggest dangers in suggesting a list of exercises each month is that it simply adds to our already over-crowded schedule. The intended outcome of this program is the opposite; that we will progressively choose to declutter and simplify our lives in order to prioritise those things we find most important and satisfying.
In The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness, Tim Chester explores six potentially unhealthy motivations that can be driving the hectic pace of our lives: (i) the need to prove ourselves, (ii) the need to meet other people’s expectations, (iii) the need to control everything in life, (iv) the pleasure of being under pressure, (v) the chasing of money, and (vi) the desire to live a full, exciting life. This list challenges us to keep an honest inventory of our heart as we work through the reflections and practices: why are we doing what we do?
Some tips for maximum impact
- Join together with some trusted friends, a Small Group that meets regularly, or your spouse and commit to ‘going the distance’ together.
- Begin each month by quickly reading through all of the exercises, because some require some planning and preparation.
- Don’t try to keep up with every suggested practice. Some you will resonate with and some you won’t. That’s how resources like this are supposed to be. Rather than trying to do everything, persevere with the ones that you find helpful, including the ones that take you out of your comfort zone. Keep an open mind about all of them.
- Purchase a Journal / notebook and write down some of your reflections, experiences, prayers and key verses from time to time. This will be a helpful prompt when sharing with your friends. Writing can also be an effective way to slow the mind down, focus, and allow some of our noisy, competing thoughts to solidify and settle.
Click on the Bible Readings for the current month in the pink menu bar that appears on the left side of the screen on your computer, or if you are using a device, these bible readings appear in the menu bar at the very top of each page.