Why This Plan is the Best Bible Reading Plan

I’ve spent years looking for the perfect Bible reading plan.

  1. Not too much reading per day, not too little
  2. Easy enough for a beginner, challenging enough for a seasoned saint
  3. Five days per week so you can catch up if you miss a day or two.

The search did not bear fruit; it only delayed me reading the Bible at all. (Excellence is a virtue. Perfectionism is its evil, twisted shadow-side.)

Here’s the truth- There is no perfect reading plan.

The important thing is to just read, to intentionally and regularly seek God through God’s Word.

It’s essential. This is how we learn what God’s voice sounds like, who God is, who we are, and what God desires for us. This is how we hear God speak into our lives day after day after day.

So, let’s get reading. 

If you have a favorite Bible Reading Plan great! Use it!

If not, consider using my favorite plan – the 5 Day Bible Reading Plan by the good folks at Lower Lights Publications.

Here’s why I think it’s the best.
1. It’s free.

2. They update the reading schedule dates for each new year, but the reading plan itself stays the same.

3. It’s easy to print and slip it into your Bible or journal. (8.5 X 11, folded in half) You could even paste it into planner or hole-punch it for your planner.

4. There are boxes to check next to each day’s reading assignment and each week’s assignment. (a built-in habit tracker)

5. You can start anytime during the year.

6. It’s designed with grace. 5 reading days per week. There are days when I miss. If I use a 7 day a week plan I get behind and I get discouraged and I drop out.

7. It’s flexible. Do all the suggested readings and you’ll read through the entire Bible in a year. Or choose just the Old Testament readings or just the New Testament readings. Or choose the Old or New Testament plus the Psalms.

8. In this plan, you often read straight through an entire book of the Bible. There are some exceptions.

9. Big bonus- you read the Bible in chronological order rather than book order. This opens your eyes to the grand sweep of the Biblical narrative. It’s especially helpful to read the overlapping material in 1 2 Samuel, 1 2 Kings, and 1 2 Chronicles side by side. Plus, you will read one of the Gospels in each quarter of the year.

Well, there you have it, the best Bible reading plan I’ve found. I’d love to hear how it works for you.- Lisa <><

Bonus: Check out Steve Harper’s post entitled A Transforming Use of Scripture for insights on our motivation in approaching the Scriptures and the process God uses through Scripture to make us new.

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Why This Plan is the Best Bible Reading Plan © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Lament, an essential spiritual practice for our violent times

mourn sorrowHow do I stay resilient in the midst of so much violence, evil, corruption, need, and pain? Is there a way to stay awake to the needs around me without becoming overwhelmed and despairing?

I wish I could’ve asked these questions in such a thoughtful way, but I couldn’t. I was crying and had lost count of the number of tissues I’d used.

My spiritual director listened with great compassion and then asked a simple question. “Do you practice lament?”

I didn’t. I didn’t know much about it. I learned and started that same day. It’s become an essential spiritual practice for me as I stay on the front lines with so many in need.

What is Lament?
“Lament is not despair. It is not whining. It is not a cry into a void. Lament is a cry directed to God. It is the cry of those who see the truth of the world’s deep wounds and the cost of seeking peace. It is the prayer of those who are deeply disturbed by the way things are.” – Emmanuel M. Katongole, Reconciling All Things

Common Fears of Expressing our Anguish to God (Fear of Practicing Lament)  

  • I don’t want to appear weak. I have to be strong for myself and others.
  • I don’t want to burden my loved ones and friends.
  • Fully expressing my pain will only increase my pain leading me down the path of despair rather than the path of hope. What if I can’t stop the floodgates once I get started?
  • It feels unfaithful to question, complain, doubt. (Here’s the good news, it isn’t!)

Lament is not a failure of faith, but an act of faith. We cry out directly to God because deep down we know that our relationship with God is real. God cares. God understands our pain. God can and wants to help. 

Psalm 130: 1-2, The Message
Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life! Master, hear my cry for help! Listen hard! Open your ears! Listen to my cries for mercy.

Lament in the Scriptures
We find laments from the beginning to the end of the Bible. From the ground crying out over the murder of Abel in Genesis to the martyrs crying out for justice in Revelation.

  • 1/3 of the Psalms are laments
  • Much of Job is lamenting
    • Why did I not perish at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?”- Job 3:11
  • The Old Testament Prophets often lament. The prophet Jeremiah was called the weeping prophet.
    • For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no healer there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored? –  Jeremiah 8.21-22
    • If only my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears, I would weep day and night for the wounds of my people.”- Jeremiah 9:1
  • An entire book of the Bible is called Lamentations- written concerning the fall of Jerusalem

Jesus Lamented
Jesus weeping at the grave of his friend Lazarus. This reminds us we can lament our personal pain.

Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. This reminds us we can lament people not recognizing the gifts of God’s grace and salvation. We can also lament the brokenness of society. If they only knew the things that make for peace (Luke 19:42)

Jesus weeping all night in the Garden of Gethsemane. This reminds us we can be totally honest and totally vulnerable. No feeling or thought is taboo.

Jesus crying out “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” from the cross.

How to Practice Lament

1. Rest

  • To lament, we must stop. Feel it fully. Recognize what we’re up against.
  • We medicate with activity. Busyness keeps us distant and the pain at bay.
  • Rest is “not an invitation to become unconcerned about the conflict and chaos in the world but to imagine that the salvation of the world does not ultimately depend upon us.”
  • Rest enables us to cease from grasping, grabbing, striving, trying to be God

2. Direct our cries to God

  • “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!” (Psalm 130:1)

3. Make your Complaint

  • express your anger, pain, heartache, sadness- Uncensored feelings
  • ask heartfelt questions
    • “How long, O Lord? Will you utterly forget me? How long will you hide your face from me? How long shall I harbor sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart day after day? How long will my enemy triumph over me? (Psalm 13:2-3)
    • I do not understand what is going on. This makes no sense. How long? Why?
    • Questions can be more than requests for information, they can also be cries of pain.

4. Make Your Request

  • Describe the affliction. It might include rage against your enemies
  • Look toward me, and have pity on me, for I am alone and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress.  Put an end to my affliction and my suffering, and take away all my sins. Behold, my enemies are many, and they hate me violently. Preserve my life, and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. (Psalm 25:16-20)

5. Affirm your trust in God

  • God’s presence
  • God’s power in the past
  • The attribute/character of God
  • The promises of God that you’re thankful for and that you are claiming

Psalm 130:5-7           
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word, I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord!  For with the Lord, there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.  

What spiritual practices help you stay resilient? 

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Lament Article © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Why you should memorize Numbers 6.24-26, The Priestly Blessing

priestly blessing Numbers 6

Chuck Swindoll wrote, “I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture. . . . No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified” (Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, 61).

What a powerful reminder of the benefits to memorizing scripture. Let’s add one more, especially regarding Numbers 6:24-26. You will always have something to offer when its time to pray out loud. 

Many people are terrified of praying out loud. Some are scared of public speaking, but far more are concerned they won’t choose the right words, or say them in the right way. (That’s a whole discussion for another blog post!)

Numbers 6:24-26 is an ancient, timeless blessing packed with rich, deep meaning.

Asked to say grace before a meal? Use Numbers 6:24-26.

Asked to say a few words for a graduation, anniversary, birthday, retirement, or other celebration? Use Numbers 6:24-26.

Use it when someone just shared their troubles with you.
When someone is ill or headed for a medical test.
At the birth or adoption of a child.
When its the last time you’ll see a dear one before a move or a trip…

It’s always the right thing to say because its a blessing straight from God’s Word. 

The easiest way to always have Numbers 6:24-26 at the ready is to memorize it. Then you can look the person in the eye, and offer the blessing with every ounce of your being.

Numbers 6:24-26 (NRSV)
The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

The Meaning of Numbers 6:24-26
24 The Lord bless you and keep you;

  • May the Lord constantly bring good into your life
  • May the Lord protect you and guard all that is sacred and precious about you

25 The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;

  • Imagine how a person’s face lights up when they hold a baby. God’s face shines on you in the same way. This is a reminder that God delights in you. May you know how beloved you are.
  • Justice is getting what we deserve. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting better than what we deserve. We all need grace. Grace upon grace.

26 The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

  • Imagine you walk into a room and a person is working at a computer. She stops what she’s doing and looks up at you, giving you her full attention. God is fully attentive to you. God is here, already at work, already reaching out to you, already loving you.
  • May you know God’s presence and peace

Fun Facts: In ancient times, God through Moses instructed Aaron and his sons to give this blessing to God’s people. Aaron and his sons served God’s people as priests, thus the name priestly blessing. This blessing is still used today by both Christians and Jews.

HOW TO MEMORIZE SCRIPTURE
Dr. Andrew Davis memorizes entire books of the Bible. In his free, online memorization method booklet, he says, “Saying a verse one hundred times in one day is not as helpful as saying it every day for one hundred days. The absolute key to successful Scripture memorization is repetition over a long time period. This is how you retain old verses while learning new ones.”

Applying Dr. Davis’ method to Numbers 6:24-26

  • Day 1
    • Read Numbers 6:24 ten times. Take a mental picture of the verse as you read it.
    • Recite Numbers 6:24 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
  • Day 2:
    • Recite Number 6:24 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
    • Read Numbers 6:25 ten times. Take a mental picture of the verse as you read it.
    • Recite Numbers 6:25 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
  • Day 3:
    • Recite Number 6:24 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
    • Recite Numbers 6:25 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
    • Read Numbers 6:26 ten times. Take a mental picture of the verse as you read it.
    • Recite Numbers 6:26 from memory ten times, using the Bible as little as possible.
  • Day 4
    • Recite Numbers 6:24-26 from memory and continue to do so daily.

Other helpful memorization techniques

  • Write the scripture you want to memorize several times for several days
  • Post the scripture where you will see it often- on your refrigerator, on your bathroom mirror, in your planner, on your calendar, etc.
  • Make up a tune or find a tune so you can sing the scripture. If you aren’t a singer, say the scripture rhythmically.
  • Create hand motions or use American Sign Language to help you remember the scripture.

What other scriptures have you memorized and how have you found it helpful?

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Why you should memorize Numbers 6:24-26 © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Reflection Questions to Help You Write a Christian Testimony

speak witness good news

John 4:39
Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.”

If you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, you have a testimony. Yes, you!

Never dismiss or underestimate the power of sharing your encounters with the One True Living God. People remember and are moved to action by stories, especially true personal stories, far more often than by facts or debate.

Stories open us up and make deep connections. Our brains are literally different when someone is telling us a story. 

Your story, your witness, your testimony needs to be heard. Don’t worry if you don’t have a dramatic testimony. Your authentic voice and experience are enough. Like the little boy’s loaves and fishes, offer Jesus what you have and watch him make abundantly more than you could ask or imagine.

REFLECTION QUESTIONS FOR DIFFERENT TYPES OF TESTIMONIES:

Type #1: Conversion
How did you come to faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?

Type #2: Character
What character traits of God and/or promises of God are most meaningful to you? Why?

Type #3: Calling
Where do you join Christ in serving others? Why this place/project? What have you seen God do in you, through you, or in spite of you? How does serving shape your faith?

Type #4: Circumstance
Tell of an important event which shaped and/or strengthened your faith.

Type #5: Commendation
For centuries, the faithful wrote their last will and testament, aka their testimony. What spiritual message would you like to leave your loved ones?

IMPORTANT POINTS FOR ANY TYPE OF TESTIMONY:

1. Pray first and often as you prepare. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you, empower you, and draw the right situation to mind.

2. Focus on Jesus more than any other person or detail of your testimony. Point to Jesus again and again so it is clear who deserves the glory.

3. What scripture speaks to the main point of your testimony? Include it! If you’re having trouble finding one, ask for some help.

4. Speak as you usually speak. There’s no need for formality or fancy church words.

5. Be vulnerable, honest, humble, and real. 

6. Write your testimony down. Be prepared to write several drafts with some time in between each one. The writing process will help you organize and clarify your testimony. Take a breath, it won’t be graded. It doesn’t have to be grammatically perfect.

7. Testimonies include a beginning, a middle, and an ending.

  • The beginning focuses on what life was like before your transforming experience.
  • The middle focuses on your awakening. You awaken to your need of salvation, to God’s presence, to God’s action on your behalf, to God’s healing, to a need or injustice you are to address, etc. What brings you to the moment of decision and action?
  • The ending focuses on God’s action in and through you. Your life is now different, and hopefully the lives of others. How so? Consider including an invitation or call to action as part of your ending.

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Reflection Questions to Help You Write a Christian Testimony
© 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Recommended Resource- Pray As You Go

Followers of Jesus nurture their relationship with God by “doing devotions.” We head to the bookstore, or maybe even our local church, to pick up a guide to read on a daily basis. It’s a great way to build a habit of spending time with God and very helpful for stretching us in our understanding of God’s character and Word.

Here’s where it can be problematic:

  • We’re always reading about someone else’s encounter with God in place of having encounters ourselves. We stay at a distance from God.
  • Our devotions become knowledge-driven or emotion-driven rather than Scripture-driven and encounter-driven. We may find what we read interesting, we may be stirred by the story, but are we receiving it as a call to apply spiritual truth to our life?
  • Our prayer life stays shallow if we only use the prayers of others and never practice praying ourselves.
  • We can become forever dependent on an “expert” rather than trusting God wants to speak to us right now, at whatever point we are in our journey of faith.

So do we dump the devotional books/guides and just read the Scripture? Well… Reading Scripture can be a powerful daily devotion option, especially when you use one of these approaches to give you some structure. “Just me and my Bible” can also be intimidating, confusing, and lonely.

It’s no wonder we struggle.

For many of us, we need something in between. We want to encounter God in a transforming way through the Scriptures, but we also need some guidance. I found this in between, this sweet spot of devotional practice, through a resource called Pray as You Go. 

pray as you goPray As You Go is an audio and written prayer practice offered six days per week via a free website and app by Jesuit Media Initiatives. It is helpful for both Catholics and Protestants because it’s so Scripture driven.

  • Each session begins with a bell or chime followed by music to help you settle into a prayerful frame of mind
  • A Scripture is read
  • Reflection questions based on the Scripture are offered with time for you to respond by simply talking or listening to God
  • The Scripture is read again followed by a closing blessing

The aim of Pray as You Go is to help you to:

  • become more aware of God’s presence in your life
  • listen to and reflect on God’s Word
  • grow in your relationship with God

How I find Pray as You Go helpful 

  • Its peaceful meditative tone is a very different tone than my loud, full, rushed day. I need this time of stillness and contemplation.
  • The questions appeal to my imagination. They open me to explore the Scripture, to listen deeply, to engage it for myself. It is an experience. The questions can also challenge me to look at a passage in a new or deeper way.
  • The open-ended questions help me apply what I’m hearing
  • I feel connected to a community of believers rather than by myself. I especially like the music selections from around the world.
  • It uses texts throughout the Bible so I don’t just read my favorite passages
  • I like to settle into a comfortable chair when I use Pray as You Go. Others use it during their morning commute, on a break during the work day, while out for a walk, etc.
  • After the 10-13 minute devotion, I’m motivated to continue praying or journaling

I’d love to hear from you! 

  • Give Pray as You Go a try. How was the experience?
  • What is your current devotional practice? How is it helpful to you?
  • How have your devotional practices changed as you’ve matured in faith?

May the Lord bless you and bring strength and transformation into your life through your devotional practices. – Lisa <><

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Recommendation- Pray As You Go © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Why I Use 4 Journals Instead of 1

My spiritual life grew richer and deeper thanks to the practice of spiritual journaling. When I first started, I used to put everything in one journal- some reflections on a scripture next to memories from a trip next to notes from a lecture next to a prayer next to a brain dump for an upcoming project. It was a mess and I had trouble finding the treasures when I needed them again.

This year, I made a change- dividing my writing needs into four journals. It’s been a huge improvement. Maybe it will be helpful to you as well.

For most of my journaling, I use inexpensive, college-ruled composition books. I need a place to write and they serve that purpose. Three of my four journals are composition books. I leave a page or two at the beginning of each for a table of contents.

  1. A journal for general note taking, project planning, and brainstorming
  2. A journal for morning devotions, prayers, and evening reflection
  3. A journal to record memories from my travels

My fourth journal is a Clever Fox Planner. I wanted to try bullet journaling for scheduling appointments, to do lists, resource lists, etc. The Clever Fox Planner is a hybrid with predesigned spreads at the front (such as goal setting, monthly calendars, and weekly scheduling) and standard bullet journal pages at the back. I like the quality of this planner, especially the thick pages and that it lays flat when open. It’s working well for me in conjunction with my digital Google calendar. (not an affiliate link, not a sponsored review)

I’d love to hear from you!

  • What journals do you keep?
  • What topics do you writing about?
  • Do you have a favorite planner or journal? What do you like about it?

May the Lord bless you and reveal many things to you through your journaling.
– Lisa <><

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Why I Use 4 Journals Instead of 1 © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Praying the Scriptures: Ephesians 3

bible hold handsMany years ago someone introduced me to the idea of using a scripture reading as a jumping off point for prayer. I wish I could remember who to thank!

This practice changed the way I engage with scripture. Reading scripture became more alive as I paid more attention to the images and word choices and feelings being expressed. I could hear it more clearly as I used the words to pray.

Praying the scripture also deepened my prayer life. It stretched the content of my prayers. It gave my prayers more variety and color. Most importantly, it gave me permission to speak more honestly about situations and feelings. The scriptures gave me words when I had none to offer.

The easiest way to start this practice is by inserting names into a prayer found in the scriptures. So let’s try it with Ephesians 3:16-21. We’ll be using The Voice Translation because the wording is both beautiful and approachable.

Praying Ephesians 3:16-21
Father, out of Your honorable and glorious riches, strengthen ___________.

Fill ___________’s soul with the power of Your Spirit so that through faith the Anointed One will reside in his/her heart.

May love be the rich soil where ________’s life takes root.

May it be the bedrock where ___________’s life is founded, so that together with all of Your people, he/she will have the power to understand that the love of the Anointed is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced.

God may Your fullness flood through __________’s entire being.

Now to the God who can do so many awe-inspiring things, immeasurable things, things greater than we ever could ask or imagine through the power at work in us, to Him be all glory in the church and in Jesus the Anointed from this generation to the next, forever and ever. Amen.

Try praying this prayer daily for several weeks. Each week include persons from a different group of people to bless. Here are some ideas.

  • those you love
  • your classmates or co-workers
  • those yet to believe
  • those with power, influence, or authority
  • those who feel desperate or hopeless
  • those who feel targeted or unfairly judged
  • those who are grieving or suffering

What group would you add? What would be another great scripture for inserting names?

I look forward to hearing from you! – Lisa <><

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Praying the Scripture: Ephesians 3 © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.