3 Tips For Reading The Bible In 2019

I received a copy of this book from Crossway to review. All opinions are my own. 

The Bible is an epic story that tells us how God made the world and why we are here. He tells us that his son Jesus died on the cross for our sins and was raised from the dead and for this reason we can live with him in heaven forever. God is always good, all the time and his written Word is truthful and worthy of our complete confidence.

Here are 3 tips that I hope will encourage you to start a Bible reading plan on of your own. I am also sharing this to keep myself accountable in 2019! And remember, it is never too late to start reading :).

Don’t Stress, Just Read

Don’t stress so much about what plan you are reading just make sure you are reading. It can be easy to get hung up on finding the perfect reading plan but really at the end of the day what is most important isn’t what plan you used to read your Bible but that you actually read it. It might be easier to start in the Gospel’s or maybe you want to start in Genesis. Once you have determined where you are starting commit to finishing. This goal is worthy to pursue and the truth that will be spoken into your life and that you will be able to speak into the lives of others by reading the Bible is life giving and life changing.

For reference the following is how I have read the Bible different ways over the last 3 years.

Use The Same Bible All Year

This upcoming year I plan to do something I have never done before. I am going to start with a clean copy of the Bible that I can take with me while on the go, that has wide margins for note taking, and one that isn’t super expensive. I plan to take notes on what I am learning or circle passages I want to investigate more at a later time. In 2019 I am going to be using the ESV Story of Redemption Bible. I appreciate the reader friendly typesetting and wider margin space in this Bible and I am excited to see what the inside of this Bible looks like at the end of the year.

Give Yourself Some Grace

If you miss a day, it is ok. Pick up where you left off and jump back into your reading. Things are going to happen from week to week where you might not be able to read your Bible. It is ok to miss a few days here and there just don’t let it derail you. It might be helpful to have an accountability partner who can check in with you and listen to what you are learning as well as encourage you to continue reading.

Along with this, it is ok if you don’t understand everything you are reading. Try your best to hang with those passages. If something really doesn’t make sense schedule a visit with your pastor, I am sure they would love to help you dissect a passage of scripture that you need help understanding. Don’t skip the genealogies because over time the more read the Bible you might just start to recognize a few of the names in those long lists.

I have learned so much from reading the entire Bible. 2018 was my third consecutive year reading the Bible cover to cover. Here are my brief overviews of the major takeaways I have learned each year if you are interested: 2016, 2017, and 2018.

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What I Learned from Reading the Bible

This year marks my third year reading through the Bible and I picked Reading God’s Story: A Daily Chronological Bible which uses a six day a week reading plan to read through the entire Bible in 365 days.

Two years ago I started in the Matthew and read to Revelation and then made my way to Genesis through Malachi. I didn’t follow a reading plan but read at my own pace. And last year I read from Genesis to Revelation and used The Bible Project Reading Plan.

Without further delay here is a brief synopsis of what I have learned from reading the Bible in 2018!

Read The Bible To Know God

I have discovered that reading the Bible is different each year. To date, this year has been the hardest for me to get into the Bible. I still kept up with my reading plan, and was even able to read ahead, but boy, this year has been tough. There were several times this year when I just wanted to cry because of how challenging it was for me to dig into the Bible.

And I think I felt that way because in the last two years I can remember the eagerness and excitement I felt when it came to spending time connecting with God’s Word. And I wanted to have that excitement back. I wanted it to be the same as it had been in the past. And then I had to check myself because while those feelings are great they aren’t the goal. My goal in reading the Bible is to know God.

So I pressed on in my reading, even though I didn’t feel like doing it, even though I could think of many other things I wanted to be doing with my time. I pressed on because I know the sweetness of reading God’s Word. Reading the Bible speaks God’s truth into my life so I can speak encouragement and Biblical truths back into the lives of others. Life change only happens from the one who gives life and if I am not making reading my Bible a priority I can become easily distracted by what the world is trying to tell me I should be focusing on.

Read The Bible When You Are Suffering To Produce Hope

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

This verse in Romans really struck me this year. I have had it memorized for some time and it was helpful to remember that I have the Holy Spirit advocating for me and interceding on my behalf. God’s glory is always evident even in the midst of challenging circumstances and leads to hope.

God takes us through hard times to refine our faith and give us an everlasting hope. A future that allows us to be in his presence forever and that puts sin to death once and for all. Reading the Bible has reminded of this truth and to cling to it.

The Tiny Stories That Reveal God’s Glory

This year I became enthralled with the tiny stories in scripture that screamed at me from the pages and made me pause in wonder. The two that really jumped out at me this year were in the Old Testament. These are brief mentions of what must have been truly amazing and terrifying events that revealed the fullness of God’s power and glory.

Korah’s Rebellion & The Ground Opens It’s Mouth

You have to read Numbers 16 to get the full impact of this story. It is pretty jaw dropping.

God had given the Levites the special job of caring for the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle was the portable earthly dwelling place of God. Some of the Levites resented their job and that they were not given priestly status. They did not like their calling and desired to have more responsibilities and rights. This becomes a common theme among the Israelites. They wanted to do their own thing in their own way instead of submitting to God and being obedient to the leadership of Moses.

Enter Korah. He is able to get 250 leaders to rise up against Aaron and Moses. Moses tries to talk some sense into him but Korah is prideful and is not content with the task God has given him. He wants more power and recognition within the community and it his ultimate downfall and he takes other leaders in the community down with him. Literally.

And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. And all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up!” And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men offering the incense. (Numbers 16:32-35)

If you continue reading on in Numbers the sons of Korah didn’t die so we can determine that they didn’t stand with their father as he rebelled. His decedents became temple singers and wrote numerous Psalms.

The Angel Of The Lord Who Defeated 185,000 Assyrians

Then it happened that night that the angel of the LORD went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead. (2 Kings 19:35)

I want to know what this looked like. Holy Moly! How crazy!

If you are unfamiliar with this section on scripture it takes place when Hezekiah is King. He was one of the very few Kings of Judah who had a close relationship with God, one who did “what was good and right and faithful before the LORD his God” (2 Chronicles 31:20). Hezekiah destroyed pagan altars, idols, and temples. He also reinstated the Levitical priesthood and Passover as a national holiday. This might not seem like a big deal but when you read about how awful the majority of the Kings were and what they did you can’t help but root for Hezekiah.

The Assyrians invaded Judah and marched against Jerusalem, so Hezekiah sought out the prophet Isaiah, and the Lord through Isaiah reassures Hezekiah that the army will not invade Jerusalem. God keeps his promise by sending ONE angel to destroy the Assyrians. Seriously so amazing!

The Hyssop Branch & Passover Lamb

I am fascinated learning about the connections between the Old and New Testament and the symbolism that is used to foreshadow Christ. This year one I really enjoyed learning about the Hyssop Branch and the Passover Lamb.

When Jesus hung on the cross he was offered a drink of wine on a sponge that was tied to a hyssop branch. In Exodus Moses tells the Israelites on the night of the first Passover:

Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. None of you shall go out of the door of your house until morning. (Exodus 12:21-22)

Jesus came to free us from death and hyssop was used to ensure that the children on Israel wouldn’t die even when they were being delivered from slavery. Hyssop was also used in rites of purification in Leviticus 14 and Numbers 19 and was associated with God cleansing his people.

Jesus is the Passover lamb and he sets us free from slavery, and his sacrifice on the cross purified us from sin and death.

Overall I am thankful for the ability to freely read the Bible and to own several copies of this book that many others in the world don’t have access to read. This year reading the Bible chronologically was a great way for me to see how the timeline of all the books fit together.

If you are interested in reading the Bible chronogically the kindle version of Reading God’s Story: A Daily Chronological Bible is available now for $2.99.

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10 Helpful Tips for Foster Parents of Infants

Foster parenting has been a huge learning experience for our family. If you and your family are thinking about fostering infants or about to take your first placement I am sharing 10 tips that I hope will be useful and helpful. 

Hospital Pickup versus Home Drop Off

If you have the option to pick up your placement from the hospital do it. The nurses will be able to provide you with lots of helpful information. Ask questions because they will be able to give you more background information on your child as well as feeding tips, routine, and medical concerns. For little ones coming from the hospital be sure to note what type of nipple was used on the bottle for feeds. This was something that we struggled with and finally ended up buying a package of disposable nipples that fit on the Dr. Brown bottles we had already purchased.

WIC

Make an appointment with WIC as soon as you know you are getting a placement. I had no idea just what a valuable resource this would be for our family. Our little one was provided 12 cans of formula each month when he was placed with us through WIC. While this didn’t cover all the formula that he needed for the month it greatly helped to reduce our out of pocket expense. His formula cost for the first 30 days we had him was $400. Having breastfed I had no idea just how expensive formula can be. I love WIC and think it is such an amazing resource and having nothing but good things to say. The staff was kind and resourceful and I was able to gain additional information from them about our baby because he had been brought to WIC previously before he was placed with us.

Know Your Community Resources

Your foster care agency should have given you a list of organizations in your community that can provide additional resources. Be sure to go over that list. In Arizona there are several great organizations that offer assistance to families who provide foster care. I called Helen’s Hope Chest within the first few days of placement and made an appointment for our family. Helen’s Hope Chest offers clothes, shoes, diapers, toys, quilts, and books to foster children in Arizona. Even our biological children got to pick out an outfit each visit. All our kids love Helen’s Hope Chest! Our first visit was epic and they even had our baby’s special formula on hand and gave us several cans. God is so good! When a scheduled visit is within 3 months of your child’s birthday they get to pick out a toy from the birthday room. It is truly a special place.

Get Comfortable in the Doctor’s Office

I feel like we our pediatricians and therapy office became our second home for the first few months. If your baby has a large amount of medical needs be prepared to spend several hours each week at the hospital, pediatrician’s office, and with an occupational and physical therapist. I packed snacks and water bottles for myself and our children in addition to the diapers and formula I packed for the baby. Be sure to take a notebook so you can write down any important information for the baby’s medical care. With so many appointments it was helpful for me to put our notice to provider in a clear heavy duty sheet protector that could easily be pulled out of the diaper bag when needed. I found these dry erase pockets at the dollar store that worked perfectly.

Sleep

The question we were asked about the most by our friends and family was how we were all sleeping. I will be honest, the first few months were rough. We had a crib set up in our room for the first 3 weeks but soon realized that we were on edge over every little noise that the baby made. We decided to transition him to his own room which worked so much better. Nighttime sleep is dependent on many different factors. Our first goal was to establish a daytime routine that created an opportunity for naps and a consistent feeding schedule. This will look differently depending on the age of your infant and if there is any ongoing medical concerns. I very loosely followed the schedule I had used with our children when they were the equivalent age to our foster baby. However you decide to setup your sleeping arrangement be sure to purchase a white noise machine for all the bedrooms in your home and blackout curtains.

A nightlight is super helpful as well to keep the light dim in the room when you have nighttime feeds, to change a diaper, or to just offer extra snuggles. We worked really hard to try and bond with our baby by responding to any noise he made when he first came to us. He didn’t cry to have his basic needs met for weeks. Not even when he was wet at night and had soaked his jammies or crib. It was heartbreaking. My advice would be to respond to any noise you hear at first to let your child know you will come. Even if its 2am and you have just fallen asleep because you were up an hour ago feeding the baby a bottle. If you are married you and your spouse can take turns each night getting up with the baby to guarantee you are both getting more hours of sleep at least every other night.

It may feel uncomfortable for your baby to be held and cuddling might not feel natural to them right away. Bottle feeding is the perfect time to practice cuddling, especially right before bedtime. Dim the lights in their room, turn on the white noise machine, and hold them close. Be sure to switch which side you are holding them on when they are halfway through with their bottle. This helps with brain development and a skill which is called crossing the midline. Once the bottle is finished be sure to hold them upright, sing a song or two, and rub their back for at least 10 minutes to release any air bubbles before you place them in their crib. It might sound simple but these little things will quickly help establish a routine for your little one.

Baths

Our little one did not like baths, at all. They were shocking to him and he whimpered the entire time. It was awful to see how terrified and uncomfortable he was in the bath water. From bathing my other babies bath time had always been pleasant and enjoyable. We opted for washcloth baths instead and placed him in the Shnuggle, which is the best baby bathtub ever invented, without water. Gradually each bath time we would add a small amount of water to the bottom of the tub. Now he loves baths and it is his happiest time. He would stay for hours in the tub if we let him.

Identifying Your Child’s Triggers

Just like our experience with the bathtub you will need to be ready to see your child terrified over things that are simply not terrifying to the average kid. Foster children have been through the traumatic experience of being removed from their home. You don’t know what they have seen, smelled, or heard and because of that there is no way to predict what might cause them to become upset or fearful. It is your job as a foster parent to provide the stability they crave especially at this delicate age to create the resiliency they will need in the future. Take a deep breath when this happens, evaluate the situation, see if you can discover the triggers, and then decide from there how to work towards a solution.

Early Intervention

All states have early intervention programs for children 3 and under. As a foster child your baby will be evaluated to see if they meet the program criteria for kids with developmental disabilities. These programs are wonderful because the therapist comes to your home. The only downside is they can take months to get a therapist actually into your home to start treatment. If you and your pediatrician are sure your child needs physical or occupational therapy you can go to any therapist that will accept your child’s medical insurance for an evaluation. We had our child in both physical and occupational therapy within the first few weeks of placement.

Family Visits

The goal of fostering is to get your baby reunified with their family. Keep in mind your child will have visits starting within in the first week of placement. It will be helpful to pack a bag that can be taken with your child when they are transported to a family visit. Think of things that will make the visit more pleasant for both the parents and baby. A fun book for mom to read aloud, a blanket to cuddle with, an extra outfit in case of a diaper blowout, and if it is ok with your child’s case manger maybe a note to say hello and let them know how their child is doing in your care. When getting your little one ready for visits with mom and dad here are several suggestions for what to pack.

  • Ready to use formula with bottle nipple
  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • Extra Outfit
  • Blanket
  • Pacifier
  • Toys
  • Book
  • Note for parents (be sure to check with case manger if this is allowed)

Be a Team Player

Be kind and gracious to all those who are entering your home. Remember you are all on the same team and trying to give this little person the best chance at being reunited with their family. If someone is coming over during lunch time offer lunch to be provided. Pray for everyone involved in your child’s case. I don’t think Josh and I realized how much we would come to love all the people who entered our home during this process. This may not be the experience you have but you can still show Christ love by being kind and hospitable.

I have been blown away seeing how Jesus has changed my heart and mind and I am so glad I stepped out in faith when I felt convicted by the Lord in this area. Becoming a foster parent is a huge gift that you can give a family. It can radically alter, not just a child’s life but an entire family by giving the parents a chance to get the services they need to get their child home.

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