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4 Favorites, Part 2
Bruce A. Hess
If you would, now, please take out the word of God and turn in it, in the middle of your Bible, to the book of Psalms, number 19. Last week we started a series that we have entitled ‘4 Favorites.’
As we begin our second message in that series today, I want to just share with you my favorite birthday treat when I was growing up. When I was younger I would always get a birthday cake for my birthday, but as I grew a little bit older, I actually said to my mom, ‘I don’t want a birthday cake anymore for my birthday. What I want for my birthday is a Boston crème pie. That is what I want for my birthday.’ You know, you just think about Boston crème pie and those two layers of moist vanilla cake and that vanilla pudding that is in the middle, all topped with chocolate poured over it. I just want to take a bite of it as I see it right now in that picture. So incredibly delicious.
I also want to remind you that this is not a series about my favorite foods, it is really a series about some of my favorite Bible passages. We have been following a little bit of a theme we picked up from Jeremiah 15:16, when he said to God, “Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart.”
There are many passages in God’s word that delight my heart but, I want to share today with you, a second one. It is from Psalm 19:7-14. Before we actually get into that, we need to go back in time again. I shared with you last time, if you were here, and if you weren’t here, you want to get that message off our Facebook or off our website, because I took you back in time to the time in which I trusted in Jesus as my Rescuer from sin and judgment, which happened to me at the age of eleven. I pretty well stopped right there. I want you to know that after I trusted in Christ at the age of eleven, I did not grow spiritually for years. I mean years. I don’t know, really, what it was, maybe it was just that I wasn’t listening very well, but I began to get this sense, even though I went to church week after week and month after month, I got this sense that I kept hearing the same thing repeated every week. Sunday after Sunday. By the time I became a teenager, I had developed a perspective that the Bible was boring. In fact, I even let it slip out of my mouth that I thought the Bible was maybe the most boring book in all of the world.
That was actually a way that I operated in my spiritual walk until January of 1970 when I was at the university. I was about to turn 19. I had a guy show up and invite me to a “Bible conference.” [With quote marks around the term]. That is exactly the way I thought of it, a “Bible conference.” He invited me to a “Bible conference.” Who would want to go to a “Bible conference?” I have to admit to you, I tried to avoid that guy when he invited me to a “Bible conference,” and I was very reluctant to accept his invitation, but I finally did accept it because it was in my former home town. I thought, ‘I could go to that “Bible conference.” I can skip out of it.’ It was going to be Friday night, Saturday, Sunday. ‘Then, I can hang out with some of my old high school chums and then I can get a ride back to the university from there.’ The Bible conference was held at Beth Haven Church in Kansas City and Pastor Chuck McCauley was the one who was speaking. He spoke the entire weekend on the grace of God. I have to tell you, I never heard anything like it. He opened up the Bible and he began to explain what it meant and how it applied to my life. As my friend, Dean, said to me, he said, ‘Bruce, you were like a starving baby.’ The truth of the matter is, that is exactly what I was.
In 1 Peter 2:2, Peter says, “Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may…” do you know what the next words are? “That you may grow.” That is what hadn’t happened to me for all of those years. I had not grown at all, spiritually. That weekend I heard from the word of God and I ate those words and they became a joy and a delight to my heart and it has been a fascinating journey, I have to tell you, for Bruce Hess since then.
Today I want to share with you one of those passages that to me are very delicious. It is Psalm 19, verses 7-14. I would like you to read along as I read from God’s word. King David, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote these words. He says,
“The law of the LORD,” verse 7, “is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever: the judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; in keeping them there is a great reward. Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me; Then I will be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.”
Now, we have a plan as we explore this section of God’s word. It is going to involve four steps today. First of all, we are going to look at the necessity of God’s word. When it comes to revelation we have to have God’s word.
Then, we are going to look at the character of God’s word in verses 7-9.
We are going to look at the desirability of God’s word in verses 10-11.
Then, we are going to look at reflective prayer of our need for God’s word, in verses 12-14.
So, that is where we are going today. Are you ready to take the first step? Let’s look at the necessity of God’s word.
If you pull back for a moment from Psalm 19, we would learn that David is writing about God’s revelation and he says there are two aspects to God’s revelation. The first aspect is His revelation in creation. We see that in verses 1-6. We call that theologically natural revelation. Then, we have His revelation in Scripture in verses 7-11. We call that theologically special revelation. First is the revelation that God gives us through the world, the second is the revelation that He gives us through His word.
When we talk about His revelation in creation, natural revelation, it does tell us things about God. It declares, the creation does, that God exists, that there is a God and it tells us about His power. All you have to do is look at creation and you can see that. But, the problem with natural creation, or revelation in creation is, it doesn’t really inform us of God’s character. It doesn’t really tell us about His will. It doesn’t really tell us anything about His work in salvation. So, therefore, it is vitally critical, not only that we see His revelation in creation, but we see His revelation in Scripture.
I love the way Jesus put it when He said, “Man shall not live by bread alone,” by what we consume physically, “but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4.
See, the word of God is essential to us if we are going to learn about salvation, if we are going to learn who Jesus is and what Jesus has done. It is essential if we are going to grow spiritually. It is essential if we are going to survive spiritually. We need the word of God. That, men and women, I must confess to you, is what Bruce Hess failed to grasp for years in my spiritual life.
It is God’s word that answers for us life’s biggest questions. You know, where did I come from? God’s word tells us. Why are we here? God’s word tells us. Where am I going? God’s word tells us all of those things. And, it is God’s word, His special revelation, it is the word of God that points us to the person of Jesus. That is the necessity of God’s word. We must have it. Fortunately, God has given it to us.
The second thing we want to look at is the very character of God’s word, in verses 7-9. I want you to notice, as you might just glance at those verses, that there are three sets of six in these verses. There are six nouns located there, which are six synonyms for God’s word. Why does he use six synonyms for God’s word? He is being very picturesque. He is trying to give us this multi-colored perspective on God’s word.
Then, not only do we have those six nouns that are synonyms of God’s word, we have six adjectives that are six words that are descriptive of God’s word.
Then, we have six verbal phrases that occur in these verses that delineate for us six benefits of God’s word.
So, what we want to do as we tackle this, to understand these verses is, I want to look at the noun and the adjective, the synonym and the descriptive first and then we’ll double back and we’ll look at the benefits of God’s word.
Look at verse 7. We have the first noun, the first synonym, that says, “The law of the LORD.” Literally, in the original, it is the Torah of the Lord. Sometimes when people think of the Torah they think only of the law portion of the Old Testament because there was the law and then there was the prophets and then there were the writings. But, really, when it talked about the Torah of the Lord, it was talking about the whole doctrine of the Old Testament. It was talking about all the teaching of the Old Testament.
He says in verse 7, “The law of the LORD,” all the teaching of the Old Testament, “is,” and here comes, our very first descriptive, “is perfect.” It is interesting, the exact same word is the word that was used in the Old Testament system of animal sacrifice. Do you remember this? When they said, if you are going to sacrifice an animal, it has to be without blemish, exactly the same word that is used here. It means that the word of God is without blemish. It is flawless. The word of God is an unerring guide. It points out the way and the will of God. If we want to know that, we go to the word of God. The word of God is flawless, it won’t ever lead us astray.
I’ve been studying this for multiple decades. It has never led me astray. Not even once. And, you know, there are so many messages coming at us and so many ideas coming at us and so many claims that are coming at us. The world is always barking at us. It is important that we understand that God’s word is perfect. It is flawless. It is the perfect guide to life.
Look at verse 7. We have the second synonym. He says, “The testimony of the LORD.” This is referring to His declarations. When you give testimony, you are just giving witness. This is the witness of God that we have. He is personally sharing His perspective with us. “The testimony of the LORD,” here comes the second descriptive, “is sure.” The idea here is, it is dependable. If you have an NIV it might translate it, it is trustworthy. The core idea is, it is reliable. I tell you something, these contemporary ideas and speculations about all kinds of things out there, they are far from reliable, but God’s perspective, His testimony, is reliable.
The word of God is our source of truth. It tells us the truth about who God is. It tells us the truth about who man is. It tells us the truth about life. It tells us the truth about death. It tells us how we are to operate at work, how we are to operate at home, how we are to relate to our friends, how we are to relate to our enemies. There is a lot of talk about marriage today, how do we learn what marriage is all about? Well, the testimony, the declarations of the Lord, are sure, it is reliable, it is trustworthy. I mean, He invented it, He knows what it is all about. It is reliable truth that we can build our life on. I just did not understand that for so long.
I’ve talked with Janet about this from time to time, I’ve told her, because I have some friends that were sort of similar to me back then, and I told her, ‘To be honest with you, apart from God intervening in my life and giving me the word of God, I have no doubt I would be divorced today.’ Because I know the way that I thought. But, His word is reliable truth that we can build our life on.
Look at verse 8. We have the third synonym of the word of God. It says, “The precepts of the LORD.” This refers to His directives, to the exhortations, to the commands that He gives. His directives, His exhortations, His commands, it says there in verse 8, with the third descriptive, “are right.” His word will put us on the right track. His word will keep us on the right track. That is so very important because life is short. Those of you who are younger, don’t really feel that in your soul yet, but those of us who have been around for a while will all testify in a unanimous way to that truth. Life is short. It goes by in a flash. I am sixty-six years old, I keep pinching myself. How can that possibly be? It has just been whooof and we’re there! And, because life is very short, there is just no time for any of us to spend years walking on a path that we find out later is just a dead end. Then, we have to double back and get on the right path. There is no time for that. I did that in my own life. I can tell you, there is no time for it.
The world is out there and it is always peddling truth our way. You know, it says, ‘Well, you want to have lasting fulfilment in your life? You really want to feel fulfilment? Well, here is what you need to do. You need to get a lot of stuff and you need to keep getting stuff. The more stuff you get, eventually you’ll get enough stuff and you will feel lasting fulfilment.’ It doesn’t work that way.
Or the world will say, ‘What you really need to do if you want to feel fulfilment deep in your soul is, you need to have plenty of fun. You need to have plenty of recreation. You need to travel everywhere. You need to play games all the time and video games. Do all that then…’ There is nothing wrong with stuff. There is nothing wrong with fun and recreation, but that is not the way to experience lasting fulfilment.
One thing we know for sure the world peddles is, they say, ‘If you want to really feel fulfilled on the inside, what you really need is a lot of sexual pleasure. The more sexual pleasure you get, whoa, you’ll really feel fulfilled.’
It doesn’t work that way. Do you know what the Bible says about how we can experience lasting fulfilment? Here is how you do it. You do it by knowing your Creator. Knowing God.
Look at verse 8. It goes on, it gives us the fourth synonym of the word of God. It says, “The commandment of the Lord.” In the New American Standard at least, that is singular and the reason why it is singular is because it is singular in the Hebrew, the original Hebrew. It is not talking about the commandments, it is talking about the commandment of the Lord, the whole body of truth of the word of God and it says there in verse 8, the fourth descriptive, “The commandment of the LORD is pure.” I just love that one. It is not murky. There is no pollution. There is no error to be found in it.
Our culture today is having an increasing focus on having this concern about what we ingest physically. Certainly, I know all of my children have a greater concern even than I did growing up. We’ve got to be careful about what we ingest physically. We want it to be all natural, we want it to be organic, we want it to be cage-free and range-free and antibiotic-free and non-GMO. You don’t want anything that is genetically modified. There is nothing wrong with that, it probably will help us to be more careful with how we are in our physical world, but there is such concern about that. I ask myself the question, is there equal concern for what we are ingesting spiritually?
“The commandment of the LORD,” His body of truth, “is pure.” It is truly organic. It is more than all-natural. It is all supernatural. When it comes to God’s word, there are no artificial or harmful additives, there is no error, it is not muddled. God did not stutter when He spoke. He tells it like it is. When we have the word of God, here is what we have, clear perspective. Extremely clear perspective.
Look at verse 9. We have the fifth synonym of the word of God. It says, “The fear of the LORD.” David gets very poetic here, because he takes an attitude that we might gain from Scripture, the fear of the Lord, and he uses that as a synonym for God’s word. I don’t know why he came up with that. I don’t know whether he was thinking of some passages that might elicit a response of fear of the Lord, maybe a passage on judgment or a passage on spiritual warnings. But, he uses this as a synonym for God’s word and he says, “The fear of the LORD,” and here comes our fifth descriptive, adjective, “is clean.” It means it is ethically clean. It is flawless.
One thing that you learn from God’s word is, God is no respecter of persons. It isn’t that way in the real world because, the world is very much a respecter of persons. If someone has a lot of money, they are treated differently. If someone is in a position of power, and authority, they are dealt with differently. They are looked at differently. But, God is no respecter of persons. His word is ethically clean. He is fully fair to all.
Do you ever wonder this? I mean, you look around at some of the things that are going on and you see certain individuals and they seem like they are just constantly doing wrong, they are doing wrong, they are doing wrong, they are doing wrong. Some of us have heard about, there is just a story where someone who was DUI (drunk driving) and he had already been charged with that three times before and he got deferred sentences. Now, he commits it a fourth time, actually he did it a fifth time, but it got dismissed on a technicality, and he kills somebody. Is that really being fair? How does that happen that you get away with that? We all know this. Here is the thing about God, no one who is deserving of judgment will ever escape. We often wonder how are they getting away with this? Justice is going to come. The word of God tells us that.
Look at verse 9. We have the final synonym of God’s word there. It says, “The judgments of the LORD.” This refers to His rulings, His verdicts on issues. His judgments, His verdicts, His rulings are, it says, “are true.” They are true reality. When God levies a verdict, you can count it as being true.
When he says in 1 Timothy, chapter 6, that those who desire to get rich, who order their life around becoming rich, he says, they fall into a temptation and a snare. That is true reality. You can count on that verdict as being true.
We’ve talked a little bit about the whole culture relooking at this idea of marriage. Listen, if you want the real verdict on marriage, you look at the word of God and the word of God tells us, you want to talk about a verdict, it says that there is no hope for any human being apart from Jesus Christ. That is a verdict that is true.
So, we see these wonderful synonyms and we see these descriptives, I just want to track back for a moment and look at six benefits, these six verbal phrases and I want you to know, men and women, these are really delicious. These are really delicious.
Look at the first one. Verse seven. “The law of the LORD is perfect,” and here it comes, the first benefit, “restoring the soul.” What does that mean? It means the word of God refreshes our inner being. The word of God invigorates us. The word of God energizes us. The word of God is able to revive our strength. We need that from time to time. Revive our strength, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The word of God is food for the spiritual hunger that we have and I was spiritually hungry for a looooong time. The word of God is comfort to those who are sorrowful.
The second benefit, verse 7. Notice it there, “The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple,” referring to the inexperienced. By the way, that is what I was. I was pretty simple. I was pretty inexperienced. It was the word of God that brought to me wisdom. It is the word of God that gives us the skill that we need to live life well. It is the word of God that tells us how we are to treat other people and how we are to respond when we are treated unfairly by other people.
One of my favorite verses has been found in Psalm 119, which by the way, is a whole psalm about the word of God. It goes on for multiple, multiple verses, but in verses 99-100 it says this, verse 99, “I have more insight than all my teachers.” How can anyone ever say that? I mean, that just seems crazy. What does it say? “I have more insight than all my teachers, for I mediate on your statutes.” I reflect on Your word, God.
He goes on to say, “I have more understanding than the elders,” it is referring to the aged. How does that work? The aged people, they have decades on us, more years and more water under the bridge [life that has already happened to them], they’ve learned more…wait a second. How does that happen? Well, he says, “I have more understanding than the aged, for I obey your precepts.” Incredible truth.
Look at verse 8. We have the third benefit. He says there, “The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart.” The word of God brings joy to our heart. There is a deep sense of satisfaction and peace to be found there. Jesus talked about this. He says in Luke 11:28, “Blessed...” how many people want to be blessed? I mean, wow, I want to be blessed. He says, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God,” and then what does it say? “And observe it.”
Look at verse 8 again. The fourth descriptive. “The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.” It gives us insight into life. The word of God tells us what death really is. It tells us why death exists. It goes on to point behind the door of death and so important, it tells all of us about the path that can deliver us from death.
Verse 9, we have the fifth benefit, “The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever.” If you look in the original language, it literally says, ‘standing forever.’ You know, I began using the New American Standard Bible back in 1970 and the theme verse for the New American Standard Bible is Isaiah, chapter 40, verse 8, which says, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” What does that mean? Well, it means that it is permanently relevant. It never needs to be edited or updated. There is never going to be a need for a Bible 2.0 or a Bible 3.0 or a Bible 4.0. The Bible is never obsolete. I’ve lived sixty-six years and I can tell you with every fiber of my being. It is never obsolete. It has timeless relevancy to it.
Verse 9 again, our last benefit, “The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether.” They are a hundred percent right, through and through from the beginning of the book, from the top of the book to the bottom of the book. It is an accurate reflection of God’s will and God’s character. Having looked at all this so far in these verses, here is what we know, the Bible is true, reliable, soul renewing, life preserving, joy inducing, energy giving, revelation from the hand of God. No wonder it says in Psalm 119, “How I love Your laws, how I enjoy your commands, come, come to me. I call to them for I love them. I will let them fill my life.” Some delicious stuff.
Third, let’s look at the desirability of God’s word, if we haven’t already seen enough of it. Look at verse 10. It says, “They are,” speaking of the words of God, “More desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold.” You know, a person who knows and lives the Scripture is richer than the wealthiest person on the planet. People do a lot of talking about Donald Trump. I don’t know how much money that guy’s got. But, the one who knows and lives the Scripture, is richer than all the Donald Trumps on the planet.
Verse 10, regarding the word of God, “God’s words are sweeter, also, than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.” I would say, the word of God is more delicious than the best Boston crème pie ever! Why is that important? Life, if you’ve lived it for a while, you’ll know, life brings along some sourness. There are things that create some bitterness about parts of life. But, God’s word brings sweetness to our life.
Look at verse 11. It says, “Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; in keeping them,” God’s word, “there is,” if you underline in your Bible, underline these next two words, “great reward.” I can testify that is such a true statement. In keeping them there is great reward.
In Proverbs, chapter 3, verse 1 and 2, this is God speaking, He says, “Let your heart keep my commandments for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.” Keeping them there is great reward.
That brings us down to the fourth thing we want to look at quickly and that is a reflective prayer of our need for God’s word. This is a prayer, you can look at it more later, a prayer for pardon, a prayer for protection, a prayer for a pleasing life before God. David says in verse 12, “Who can discern his errors?” In other words, who can really know, humanly speaking, where we are off course, where we have taken some missteps? By the way, I took many of them. I still take them from time to time. Who can really know that? Well, it is impossible on our own. We need the word of God. It talks about errors, missteps that we make. It also talks about hidden faults. These are things that are not on our conscious radar. Sometimes we are just toodling
along in life and we think everything is where it ought to be and then we intersect with the word of God and it wasn’t on our radar, but we go, ‘Whoa, I need to think differently, I need to live differently.’
Then, it talks about presumptuous sins, these are flagrant, deliberate things that we do. I know it is wrong, but I am going to do it anyway. Look at verse 13, he says, “Keep back your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me; then I will be blameless and I shall be acquitted of great transgression.” Being acquitted is just an Old Testament way of finding and experiencing forgiveness.
Look at verse 14. He says, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.” Let the words, let what I say and the meditation of my heart, what I think, be acceptable in Your sight. By the way, when those first two are consistent with Scripture, what we say and what we think, our actions will be too.
Men and women, this is a delicious, delicious, portion of God’s word. And, you know, it is my heart, when we have gazed into the word of God that we come out of it with some life response. I am going to suggest two life responses for us. The first one is, read. Read the word of God. Many of you know and have heard of, Donald Gray Barnhouse, who was the pastor for many, many years at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. One particular day, Dr. Barnhouse was traveling on a train and he was reading his Bible. There was a young student seated across from him who was reading a number of news magazine that he had brought along. Now, that is what people used to do, they used to read news magazines. Now you would be reading your iPad or your tablet. So, he is reading these things and he recognizes Dr. Barnhouse and he goes up to Dr. Barnhouse and he says, ‘Dr. Barnhouse, how can I be a man of the word like you? How can I know the Bible like you?’
If you know anything about Dr. Barnhouse, you know he is extremely straight forward. He turned to him and he said, ‘Son, as long as you continue to read those magazines more than you read this book, you will know more about those magazines than you do this book.’
We need to read the word of God. By the way, if you’ve never, ever read the word of God. If you say, ‘I’ve never even read it.’ I would suggest you start with the gospel of John. It is a great place to begin. Many of us, though, have read the word of God, from time to time, and I think we need a little more than just reading the gospel of John. We need to have a reading plan. There is a wonderful resource for that. You can go to navigators.org and look under ‘tools’ and they have several reading plans for reading the word of God that are available there. It is a good guideline for us. I would like to suggest you think about using their ‘5 by 5’ plan. It involves five minutes a day for five days a week. By the way, when we put out later on today, our Questions for Reflections on this message, I will attach a pdf of that ‘5 by 5’ reading plan.
We want to read, but we also want to interact. Let me suggest, and there are lots of ways you can interact, but I want to suggest two questions that you ask yourself as you are reading God’s word, you can write these down, this is pretty practical stuff. Here is the first question as you are reading God’s word, what truths does God want me to know? The second question, how can I honor Him with my attitudes and actions?
So, the first life response is, we read. The second life response is this, we just rejoice. We have, at our fingertips, the word of God. Have you ever met anybody from a different country or different culture who never had their own copy of the word of God, and they finally got one? What are they doing? They are rejoicing, because the very words of God are in their hands and that is what we need to do. He has given us His book! We need to rejoice, it is a wonderful privilege to have the word of God.
Psalm 19, verses 7-14, these are God’s words. Eat them. Embrace them. Believe them, and they will be a joy and a delight to your heart.
Let’s pray together. Father, we just thank You, oh we are so grateful, even when I was running the opposite way, You brought me right to the word of God. And, oh, the difference it has made in my life, I can’t even imagine all that is involved. Lord, we desperately need You. We desperately need Your word. What a privilege it is to have it. We need to read it. We need to interact with it. We need to heed it. We need You. Thank You for giving us Your word. We pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen
Questions for Reflection on this message
1. Have you ever had the pleasure of eating some Boston Cream Pie? If you haven’t, why not? 😉
2. Share an example of a time when God’s Word “restored and refreshed your soul.”
3. Psalm 19 is one of the key Old Testament Passages on the Word of God. What would be some key New Testament passages that give us insight into the Word of God? What do we learn from them? [see below if need be for some passages]
4. The terms In Psalm 19 that describe God’s Word clearly point to it being authoritative. Why do so many people today dismiss the Bible as irrelevant??
5. Jesus said, Man shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4) Specifically, what does that mean for our everyday lives?
6. Why is it we tend to be so much more concerned about what we eat/ingest/consume physically (organic, all natural, antibiotic free, non-GMO) than what we eat/ingest/consume spiritually?
7. What important theme can we learn from Matthew 7:24-25, Luke 11:28, and James 1:22-25?
8. A suggested personal prayer for the next week:
Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your Law. (Psalm 199:18)
Location of reading plans from the Navigators: http://www.navigators.org/Tools/Bible%20Study%20Resources/Tools/The%20Bible%20Reading%20Plans