Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Challies (page 2 of 4)

Bible Reading Plan for 2011

Pretty much any Christian who has lived for a little while as a Christian can look back at their lives and recognize that the seasons of life when they’ve known the most blessing are those seasons when they’ve been most faithful to read through the Bible. That’s certainly been the case for me!  You look at life through an altogether different set of eyes when your mind is being renewed and transformed by the word of God.

What better New Years resolution could there be than to spend more time hearing from God in his word?

As you may or may not remember, last year I posted a Bible reading plan that I had put together. I was thrilled to have a few brothers and sisters eager to use it. I even got the big thumbs-up from uber-blogger extraordinaire, Tim Challies.

This year I made a few revisions to that plan (largely to the order of the reading for the NT books). As I’ve had a couple people ask, I thought I’d post the new plan here for this year for any more people who are still looking for a Bible reading plan for 2011.

You can download the 2011 Bible Reading Plan here.

While there are certainly myriads of Bible reading plans out there, I’ve found this one pretty helpful. Here are some of the features of it.

  • You will find that you are reading through the OT and the NT simultaneously. That helps keep you from getting too bogged down at certain points.
  • OT prophets are placed in (roughly) where they would have ministered chronologically. This helps break up the monotony of reading through huge chunks of narrative and prophets, by intermixing the two. It also helps you understand the historical and redemptive context for the prophets.
  • The NT is organized into bodies of literature. You begin with the the Petrine body of literature (Mark, which was sourced from Peter’s eye-witness account, and Peter’s epistles). Then you read Matthew and the other books written particularly for Jews. Next, with Luke-Acts and Paul’s epistles, you read through material written for Gentile audiences. You will conclude the year with the Johannine body of literature (all the books written by John).

Overall, the variety and structure hopefully helps to ‘change things up’ enough that it doesn’t feel like every other time you’ve tried to read through the Bible.

Let me know if you’ve got any questions / comments / suggestions for improving the plan for next year!

And just as a PS, here’s Piper talking about the Bible. I offer it as a little ‘kick in the pants’ to get reading! 🙂

The Heir Apparent to Challies.com?

Good News for TorontoOkay, so maybe he’s not quite at Challies status yet, but Paul McDonald continues to faithfully blog his adventures in summer evangelism. It’s been quite an encouragement to read along!

If you haven’t checked it out yet or haven’t looked in a while, make sure you go look at Good News for Toronto.

Audio Review of ‘the Shack’ by Tim Challies

the-shackOn Monday at the Toronto Pastors Fellowship, during the Q&A, Tim Challies was asked to give a brief review of the bestselling book, the Shack.

Note that this review was given off-the-cuff in a Q&A session. Tim has done a thorough review of the book for you to read here.

But, if you’re lazy and would prefer to listen to a 4 minute audio review, rather than read one, you can download the audio review here.

Tim Challies’ Admonition to Toronto Pastors

pastor-train-your-church-to-think-biblically-toronto-pastors-fellowshipYesterday was the March meeting of the Toronto Pastors Fellowship–and it was a blessing!

Friend and fellow church-member, Tim Challies, brought the charge, ‘Pastor, Train Your People to Think Biblically!’ The audio and text are now both available online. Click here to check out the paper and the mp3.

Here’s an excerpt:

I think we ought to pause to draw out this point just a little bit. One of the areas where discernment most often goes awry is in this area of speaking truth with love. Those who emphasize discernment are typically able to voice the truth; it is love that is far too often lacking. Many ministers, and perhaps even you, can testify to the damage done to churches in the name of discernment. Just recently pastor James MacDonald wrote that he has seen more damage done to the church by Christians with the gift of discernment than by anyone else. Many ministers have erred themselves in this regard, emphasizing truth at the expense of love. It is here that we should remember the Bible’s injunctions to remain childlike. We can go back to 1 Corinthians 14:20 and see Paul’s exhortation to “Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” When it comes to what is evil, we need to remain as little children, being innocent toward all evil things. Too many people who emphasize discernment spend inordinate amounts of time seeking out evil, dwelling upon evil, all in the name of refuting it. There is great danger in filling our hearts and lives with what is evil. So as you train your church in discernment,  do so in a way that encourages and edifies rather than in a way that tears down and destroys.

Good / Better / Best

I haven’t posted in a while. Well, I’m no Tim Challies, but I didn’t need a post-count to figure that out.

But really, I haven’t posted because of the usual culprit: The Tyranny of the Urgent. Busy-ness has come to town again, and things get dropped. That stinks, but it appears at this point to be life.

In some ways I’m envious of Martha’s situation (read the story). The text says she was ‘distracted with much serving,’ while her sister ‘sat at Jesus’ feet.’ Serving is good. Sitting at Jesus’ feet is better.

I’m envious of Martha because Jesus was there, and he could tell her. She may have wasted a day in distraction, but she was able to learn what was best for her in a moment. Jesus made it clear what she should have done; what her priorities should have been.

From talking to several brothers and sisters from GFC over the past couple weeks I’ve been overwhelmed by this reality: life is full of good things. People are busy. They are ‘distracted with much serving’ as they do everything good… even things that are commanded.

But the reality is that some things are good, some things are better, and some things are best. Martha learned that, and so must we I.

So what should I be doing? What should my priorities be? When things get busy, what should get dropped? Our culture lies to us: it says that busy-ness and productiveness determine worth. If you want to be important, you must be busy. Busy=important. Our flesh lies to us: it says that we are able to get everything done. There is no need to prioritize or put limits on what we take on, since busy=important and I want to be important, therefore I should be busy and get everything done. No wonder we drink lots of coffee. We believe that nothing should ever get dropped, because we’re sufficient.

I believe the lie far too often. I need to learn to drop things–even good things–for the sake of what is best. The first step there is humility to actually say, ‘I can’t get everything done.’

How do I determine what is best? I read the Word and let God’s truth determine priorities. So first of all, I need discernment: how do I prioritize being a Christian husband, father, pastor, friend, son, grandson, brother, etc. But, I would argue, that’s definitely doable. The part that’s even harder still is actually creating–and sticking to–a schedule that reflects these priorities and doesn’t create sinful anxiety. I’ve got a long way to go.

Fireproof, the Movie

If you live in the States, this will be of particular interest to you. If you, like me, live in Canada… then it may or may not be. 

The move titled Fireproof (website, Challies dot com review) will be released all throughout the States (but apparently not in Canada) in two weeks. I was able to go preview this movie with TIm back in July–and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I’ll be the first person to say that I was not expecting much. I was expecting even less when I heard that all the actors in the movie were volunteers and amateurs (i.e. they are not paid for acting in this movie). I expected less still when I heard that the movie company was started by a church. But when the movie began, I was very pleasantly surprised.

The action scenes were phenomenal–especially given the budget with which the film was made. The acting was quite good through most of the movie (although, admittedly, some of the secondary characters were noticeably amateur). The plot was somewhat predictable, but intriguing nonetheless, and there are one or two great little twists that make it just that much more of a tear-jerker by the end.

I’m no movie critic, but really, neither are you if you’re reading this, so take my word for it: this is a great date movie. Take your significant other out and enjoy this movie. It ties marriage and our need for Christ together quite well. Even the gospel presentation is remarkably well done, considering it’s context in a movie.

Check out the trailer below.

Beware the Pendulum

It seems that in theology, as in the rest of life, we’re constantly riding a pendulum. The more we run from doctrinal error that we see in others, the more likely we are to fall into the opposite error ourselves.

If we reject an over-emphasis on God’s love as the basis of his character, we run the the risk of focusing too much on his justice or transcendence. If we seek to reject the feminist tide of our culture and hold to biblical distinctions between male and female, we run the risk of keeping women back from the legitimate ways that they are to serve and minister in the body of Christ. The examples are endless, and for every false doctrine there is an equally-wrong opposite reaction offered in an attempt to correct it.

Tim Challies made a comment once, when reviewing a Brian McLaren book, that McLaren appears to love Jesus, but to hate God (i.e. the Father). Bruce Ware made a nearly identical statement in a theology course I took with him recently. They both made the statement because… well… it’s true. But here’s what concerns me–I wonder how far we are from being the same.

I would never suggest that anyone at GFC or in our circles hates the Father. But I do wonder how our love for him compares to our love for Christ.

For whatever reason, the tide of our Christian culture seems to be waxing strong in our love for and devotion to Christ. Perhaps because of the resurgent emphasis on biblical as opposed to systematic theology. Maybe it is the fact that we tend to focus more on the fulfilment of our salvation, rather than the promise and story leading up to it. Maybe it is our culture’s disdain of authority (and especially authority held by a male, patriarchal figure). Maybe it is just the fact of Christ’s ‘like-us-ness’ that makes it easier for us to imagine him. Regardless of the reason, it is far more common to hear a Christian these days talking about their love for Christ than it is to hear a Christian talk about their love for the Father.

Growing in our love for Christ is always a good thing. But growing in our love for Christ at the expense of our love for the Father is not a good thing. But is this a genuine problem?

Think through the songs you sing in church. Think through the Bible reading you like to do most. Think through your conversations you’ve had recently with fellow believers. How central to your conversation, your reading, or your worship is Father himself, distinct from the other members of the Trinity? Are the affections of your heart warmed the same way when you think of God the Father as when you think of Jesus?

It was the Father’s will to create. It was the Father who chose us to be in Christ before the foundations of the world. It was the Father who planned in eternity past to send Christ, the Father who promised Christ, and the Father who carried out that plan. It was the Father’s will to crush Jesus to save you. It was the Father who had to withhold his wrath for thousands of years and then bear it all on his only true Son, thus breaking an eternity of perfect union and unbroken fellowship. It was the Father who looked away from Christ in anger in order to look to you with grace.

It was the Father’s plan to send his true Son to make you an adopted Son. It is the Father who gives you his Spirit. It is the Father who holds the king’s heart in his hand, who governs all this according to the counsel of his will, and who will bring about the end of all things in the fulness of time. It is the Father’s throne on which Christ sits, and to whom Christ will return the kingdom at the end of time. 

How is your love for the Father?

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