The Old Testament in Eight Weeks

IMG_2877I’m just starting a new class in my M.A. program at Bethlehem Seminary: Old Testament Theology. Our main text for the class is THE OLD TESTAMENT. Novel, I know.

Can I tell you how completely thrilled and excited I am?! So in the spirit of shared learning, linking arms, and strength in numbers, I made a spread sheet of our Bible reading as it appears on our syllabus.

I’m linking to it below in PDF form, hoping that many of you reading this blog post will join me in reading the OT:


Here are few things to note:

Firstly, our prof has encouraged us to read ahead on the lighter weeks. So, it’s not essential that you only read what’s listed on that week. The goal is to get through it all.

Secondly, we are required to read each book in one sitting. If you want to follow along, of course you don’t have to do that, but I think it’s going to be really helpful and I’m excited about it.

Thirdly, some tips: Use audio to listen to the Bible, esp in the car for a chunk of time or on a treadmill or walk or folding clothes. Consider listening at 1.5 speed. Don’t read as you would for inductive study, but also don’t skim. Try and pay attention so that your mind is engaged and “lost” in the story or the text. Read or listen in a translation that is accurate, yet good for reading or listening: NIV, CSB, ESV.

And finally, an encouragement. I realize this is a big thing to throw yourself into at the last minute like this, but just think of it! Eight weeks from now you will have read the entire Old Testament. Think about how valuable that is. Think about how quickly it will be over. Think about how short our time is on earth and all the dumb things we waste our hours and minutes doing. Think about how this could change your life–to really get to know God as he reveals himself in his Word. Let’s do it!

P.S. I’ll have a four week break over Christmas and the New Year, then we’ll be onto the New Testament in eight weeks, so stay tuned!

a spiritual endorsement for the iphone

I mentioned a while back that I got an iphone.

I also mentioned that I was enjoying it immensely.  That is still true.  One benefit that I didn’t anticipate has been a spiritual one.

Every year our church encourages us to follow a schedule of reading through the Bible in a year.  I’ve never been able to do it.  I’ve started three times and a few months in have felt hopelessly behind.

The last two years, I’ve only read half or a quarter of the assigned reading per day and been mostly content with that.  It has been a fruitful time.  I don’t believe that you have to read through the Bible in a year in order to have meaningful times in the Word.

However, I still have had a desire to read it in a year, or at least close to a year.  I can see that there are benefits to getting a broad look at all of Scripture and being able to make connections between Old Testament and New.

I didn’t think that the way I’d be able to do it would be because of an iphone, but it has been.  I got the phone in February and Mr. TommyD downloaded an app that you tap on and it takes you to the four passages of Scripture for that day as put together by our church.  You can go forward or backward in the days, in case you need to catch up.  Since February, I have been able to keep up with the program!

This is a minor miracle for me.  It hasn’t felt overly rushed or burdensome either.  Even through Leviticus and Numbers I have found much to chew on as it has contrasted and connected with the Psalms and New Testament reading.

Here’s how the iphone has made it doable:

1) I just tap on the app and all the reading is there.  I never lose my spot or forget where I am.

2) I can read it without turning a light on.  I was often sleepless during the last trimester of pregnancy and I could read it without switching on the light and waking up Tom.

3) It’s small and easy to hold in one hand while reading.  In other words, I can read it while nursing.  I’ve always kept my Bible close by when nursing the last three, but turning pages, trying to get to another passage, and balancing the Bible has made it difficult.  Not anymore.

4) It’s always with me.  I always have my phone on me, so even if I only have a few minutes free, I can pull it out and immediately be in the Word.

And here’s a bonus.  When I finish my Bible reading, I switch over to kindle for iphone and have been able to get through a few long books in the last couple months (all free downloads via kindle).  Right now I’m reading a biography of John Newton and it is quite wonderful.

So, there’s my spiritual endorsement for the iphone.  Who’d have thunk it? 🙂

Perhaps my next post should be all the possible spiritual pitfalls of the iphone.. that might be a bit longer though.

curriculum review: Explode the Code

We’ve been using the Explode the Code series of workbooks this year.

Explode the Code, Book 1   -              By: Nancy Hall

Eliza has completed book 1 and 2 and is halfway through book 3.  I ordered them as a supplement to the language/phonics program we would be doing when we started last fall and they quickly became a primary tool for us.

I would not say ETC is a comprehensive program for phonics or spelling, but it does cover those disciplines in wonderful bite-sized ways.  It also gives your child handwriting practice.

ETC assumes when you start book 1 that your child knows their consonant sounds, but does a brief review of them in the beginning of the book.  It then moves to the vowel sound ‘a’ and, by the end of book 1, covers all the vowels, with the child spelling short one-syllable words from the get go and progressively incorporating the new vowel sounds.

Book 2 covers initial consonant blends and final consonant blends.  Book 3 reiterates all the skills taught so far and moves on to one-syllable words ending with a long vowel (such as -y and silent -e words).  It also teaches digraphs (-sh, -th, -wh, -ch, -ng, -ck) and trigraphs (-tch, -ee-ea, -ai-ay, and -oa-ow).

Also, there are Explode the Code primers which teach the consonant sounds in order to prepare for the basic Explode the Code.  Furthermore they have ETC books 1 1/2 and 2 1/2, etc.  These in between books provide extra practice for the student who needs it.

The ETC series has 8 books total that range from dipthongs, word families, three letter blends, soft c and g and suffixes/endings.  I’m not sure if we’ll continue on with it or not, but for this Kindergarten year, ETC has been invaluable for phonics reinforcement and basic spelling.

The workbooks are not overwhelming.  The pages are easy to complete and really boost the child’s confidence.  Eliza has felt very competent to work in them independently and we have found 2 pages per day to be manageable and suit our needs.

If you have a preschool, kindergarten or 1st grade student (depending on their abilities) these first Explode the Code books may be useful for you to check out.

gospel in ten words or less

Demian, over at Fallen and Flawed (great blog, by the way), asked 12 bloggers, including me, to summarize the Gospel in 10 words or less.

It was a tough one for me, but here’s my response:

“Jesus’ blood calls, converts, cleanses, cures, carries the once condemned.”

How would you summarize the greatest story ever told if you only had 10 words to do it?  One of the bloggers, Kevin DeYoung, did it in three words.  Whoa.  Go over to the original post to see how he did it (and who he was quoting)!

I found it to be a great exercise.  Thinking about the Gospel (and talking about the Gospel and writing about the Gospel, etc) is the most important thing I do each day.  I am never not in need of the Gospel.  It’s the Gospel that’s brought me through the last couple weeks and is bringing me through today and will one day carry me home.

So take this opportunity to meditate on the big stuff of the Gospel.  And leave your summary in 10 words or less in the comments.

perinatal hospice: a grief conserved

My dad just had another article published in World Magazine.

It’s called, A Grief Conserved, and I recommend it.

Here’s how it begins:

“Something’s wrong with this baby,” my ultrasound technician told me. She had just scanned Mrs. Jones (a fictitious name) at 20 weeks and went on to describe her findings, findings that surely meant little chance of survival for that baby. As I later spoke with Mrs. Jones to relay the findings, she wept. I arranged an appointment with a maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) specialist.

The next day I received an urgent call from my patient. Through more tears, she described her visit in which the MFM doctor confirmed the grim prognosis. The baby would die, probably within a week or two. The MFM insisted on scheduling her for an abortion in three days. “Do I have to have an abortion?” she asked. I promised to call the MFM and assured her she did not have to abort.

The reality of unborn babies with fatal genetic abnormalities often goes un-talked about.  At least it seems that way to me.  I think it’s worth considering, especially for those of us who have had no reason to consider it: how we would handle a baby in utero that will almost inevitably die prior to birth?

The article continues:

“But what happens when a routine 20-week ultrasound shows a baby with a profound abnormality, possibly an abnormality that will certainly result in the death of the baby prior to or shortly after birth? Or when a genetic test is done and shows similar results and the patient then decides against abortion? What then?

Enter perinatal hospice, the brain child of Byron Calhoun, a pro-life maternal-fetal medicine specialist.

Perinatal hospice honors life. The woman carrying the disabled child receives extensive counseling and birth preparation involving the combined efforts of MFM specialists, OB/GYN doctors, neonatologists, anesthesia services, chaplains, pastors, social workers, labor and delivery nurses, and neonatal nurses. She carries the pregnancy to its natural conclusion. She and her husband are allowed to grieve and prepare for the short time God may grant them with their child while their baby lives inside or outside the womb. Such a process obviates the grief caused by elective abortion, killing the child before it could be born.

I think perinatal hospice is something worth knowing about and relaying to your friends.  We cannot know what the Lord may have in store for us.  Take a minute and read the rest of the article.  Here’s the last clip I’ll offer:

“Even those mystified by a patient choosing life have recognized the value of Calhoun’s idea, as perinatal hospice programs now dot the nation. But this mystery is no mystery to us. As Job 1:21 states, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

doctors and their fight against the death culture

I’m a big fan of WORLD magazine.  

I started reading it as a young teenager and have enjoyed and profited from it ever since.  

My dad (who blogs at mdviews) recently got an article published in WORLD, and I couldn’t be more excited about it!  My dad is an OB/GYN doctor and has been in the thick of the abortion issue for decades.  (Don’t worry, he’s not 90, only 56).  His (and my mom’s) stand for life has been very influential for me. 

He served on the board of Birthright, a Crisis Pregnancy Center, for many years.  And he’s never been ashamed of his pro-life views.  Quite the opposite.  He counsels women toward life.  

His article in WORLD is about the ever-increasing legal pressure being put on doctors to perform or refer for abortion and to provide euthanasia.  This is not new.  Although the pressure is mounting.

What is new to all of us non-doctors out here (and to be sure many doctors as well), is the formation of a band of physicians who agree to the Hippocratic Oath.  You may not know this, but doctors no longer take the Hippocratic Oath and they haven’t for quite some time.  

This new Registry of Hippocratic Doctors allows for doctors to differentiate themselves from the doctors of death (that is, unfortunately, many of them) and commit to protecting life in every circumstance.

Wouldn’t it be nice, as a patient, to know if your doctor embraced life as a virtue?  Wouldn’t you want to know beforehand that they were committed in everything to do no harm?  My dad outlines some of the key parts of the Hippocratic Oath that you’ll be very interested in. 

Go read it.  It’s definitely worth it.

parents, are you moralists or theologians?

Of course the two aren’t mutually exclusive.  

But what’s your bent when you teach your kids what Christianity is all about?  I admit that it’s easier for me to fall into teaching my kids the moralistic part of Christianity as the main point.

Bruce Ware, Professor of Christian Theology at Southern Seminary, has a new book out called, Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God.  Justin Taylor interviews him about it on his blog.  

Here’s the killer excerpt:

I suspect that most parents are more comfortable teaching their kids Christian ethics (love God, don’t love the world, tell the truth, don’t cheat or steal, etc.) than they are teaching them Christian theology (how can God be three and one? How is Jesus God and man?). Why is it important for parents to learn good theology and pass it on to their kids?

He follows up the question by saying:

The Christian faith is not moralism. Yet, we can (wrongly and dangerously!) pervert the Christian faith into this, in our homes and our churches. Our lists of “do’s” and “don’t’s” can become the sum and substance of our understanding of the Christian faith, and in this self-esteem saturated culture, this ends up redounding to the glory of the “self,” not the glory of God.

How much time do I spend making sure my kids understand the morality of Christianity compared to the time I spend diligently teaching them the truths of who God is, why Jesus came, and the total depravity of man.  We do talk about them, but is it primary?    

Moralism is easy.

It’s easy for grown-ups and kids.  We all know what to do with a rule.  Don’t lie.  Be kind.  Pray often.  Don’t envy.  And then we either feel good about keeping it or we feel good about breaking it.  Or guilty.  But massive weighty truths about God affect us differently.  They actually have the power to transform our mind, our heart, our worldview.

Here’s some truths that Dr. Ware says we all need to embrace, learn and teach:

  • who God is in his eternal fullness as the triune God,
  • who God is as Creator of all that is,
  • who we are as created in his image,
  • what sin is and has done to us,
  • why Christ came, who Christ is,
  • what he accomplished,
  • how we receive the benefits of his work on the cross,
  • what God provides for us to grow as his people,
  • what these communities of faith called “churches” are and what they contribute,
  • and what hope we have for life now and forever

I haven’t read Dr. Ware’s book, so I won’t endorse it.  But the stuff from his interview sure is helpful.  

How do you navigate being a parent-theologian?  It’s a big job isn’t it?!

some good and not-so-good reasons to memorize fighter verses

We memorize fighter verses at church.  They’re just sets of verses that take us through the year.  For more info on them check out my “I recommend” page.  Also this week’s fighter verse (and every week’s) can be found and meditated on at  Here’s this week’s:

I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!  Psalm 34:1-3

I encourage everyone to memorize the fighter verses.  Or memorize Scripture according to whatever plan you have set up for yourself.  It’s beneficial.  

That said, the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.  Who can know it?  So, even something like memorizing the Bible can be done with the wrong motives.  Here’s some examples of good and not-so-good reasons to memorize fighter verses:

no-so-good: I learned the fighter verse because I wanted to be called on Sunday morning to recite it and show everyone how holy I am.  

good: I learned the fighter verse because I wanted to be called on Sunday morning to recite it and encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ with the Word of God on my lips.

not-so-good:  I learned the fighter verse so I could recite it Sunday morning in the hopes that one of the pastoral staff would recognize me and congratulate me for my job well done.

good: I learned the fighter verse so I could recite it Sunday morning and one of the pastoral staff could point to me and say, “If Abigail (low brain function) can do it, then you can too!” and encourage others in their goals.  

not-so-good: I learned the fighter verse and taught it to my children so they could recite it Sunday morning (and on cue everywhere else) to show everyone what a good parent I am.

good: I learned the fighter verse and taught it to my children so that God’s Word would be in their mind and hopefully make its way to their heart.  

not-so-good: I learned the fighter verse so that next time I see “so and so” I can slap them up side the head with it.  They are always boasting and this week’s verse is about that.  They definitely need to work on that area of their life.  Plus, they’ll see how holy I am.

good:  I learned the fighter verse so that with humility, I can begin to look at the wickedness of my own heart through the lens of Scripture.  

Of course, in order to come up with these reasons, you can safely assume that I’ve had inklings towards all of them.  Even if subconscious at times.  I’m not sure the human race is capable of a motive that is 100% pure.  

But even if your motives are wrong or partly wrong and you’re working on making them pure, keep memorizing.  When I was a child in AWANA, I guarantee you my motives had nothing to do with putting God’s Word in my heart.

They had to do with winning.  I was ultra competitive.  I wanted to say more verses than anyone else and I wanted my team to win.  Memorizing verses was a means to winning.  Yet, God in His grace has not let His Word return void in my life.  

The foundation of verses stored up in my mind as a child have made their way to my heart.  And I am exceedingly grateful that they are there.  And I long to add to them.  Maybe you’ll consider what God might do through Scripture memory in your life?

younger brother prodigals, older brother judgment and the third way

At Between Two Worlds, Justin Taylor points to this great article by Marvin Olasky from World magazine.

Olasky has some great insights into the younger brother/older brother phenomena, as it touches the Christian and secular world.  He says “We all know of the younger brother’s libertine living.”  But he describes the older brother’s problem as more subtle, “He is self-righteous and lacks joy.”  He goes on:

Part of the evangelical political problem in contemporary America is that much of the press and public sees us as elder brothers..  

In the realm of “social justice,” younger brothers want governmental redistribution so that everyone, regardless of conduct, gets part of the national inheritance. Some recipients of Washington’s largesse are widows and orphans, but others are younger brothers or sisters who should go home but do not because government checks allow them to keep destroying themselves. Elder brothers, though, wax sarcastic about wastrels while they overlook the needy. “Social justice” turns into either social universalism or Social Darwinism.

He analyzes journalism, higher education, and more with the younger/older brother lens.  I found it helpful.  The first time I recall reading the parable of the prodigal was as a grade school kid and I thought “What! Why wouldn’t the dad give the older brother a party too?”  I didn’t get it.

He goes on to say:

Younger brothers who perceive self-righteousness or joylessness in their elders head toward mockery. On the Comedy Network, Jon Stewart is a snarky younger brother and Stephen Colbert pretends to be an elder as he parodies FOX’s tut-tutting Bill O’Reilly. Elder brothers tend to forget that truth without love is like sodium without chloride: Poison, not salt.

What’s rare on television and in life are third brothers who, because they know deeply that the Father loves them, have love for and patience with both elder and younger brothers. Third brothers, knowing they have been forgiven, are not prideful. 

He concludes with this:

Third brothers ask pointed questions, and here are ones for each of us to answer: Am I a younger, elder, or third brother? Can we, through God’s grace, leave behind elder- and younger-brotherism?

I’ve fought against the elder brother attitude. God has ways of dealing with us “elder-brother” types.  It’s not always pretty.  But it is always loving.

So, are you an older, younger or third way-er?