Your daily word

We sometimes have a bad habit as Christians of sticking to only our favorite warm-and-fuzzy Bible passages, and not making any attempt to understand the passages that bore us or, even worse, make us uncomfortable. A focused plan for going through the whole Bible forces us to address the whole Bible – which isn’t always easy or pleasant. Sometimes it raises questions and forces you to turn to your pastor, or to commentators or authors whom you trust, for clarification. Sometimes, you still aren’t sure what to believe. But I think it’s vitally important for us to confront the Bible and meet it head-on.

There are, of course, numerous Bible-through-the-year reading plans, such as the excellent one developed by Discipleship Journal magazine, which you can download here. There are also many Bible-on-CD products, generally with stentorian voices chewing on the holy scenery.

DAB is different from either of these. It’s a daily podcast – you can listen on your computer, use any podcast-catching software or RSS feed reader to subscribe, or download official DAB apps on your phone or tablet.

Brian Hardin, based in Spring Hill, takes you through the Bible in a year’s time. Each day there’s an Old Testament reading, a New Testament reading, a reading from Psalms and a reading from Proverbs. All of the readings proceed in chronological order – that is, the Old Testament readings start with Genesis on January 1 and wrap up with Malachi on December 31; the New Testament starts with Matthew on January 1 and ends with Revelation on December 31. Psalms is actually repeated twice over the course of the year.

Brian’s reading style is friendly and conversational, not like a performance. They don’t just repeat the same tape from year to year; even though the schedule is the same from year to year, each day’s reading is recorded fresh before it’s released. If Brian is sick or otherwise unable to record and post that day’s podcast, his wife Jill steps in. (The two of them also read Song of Solomon as a dialogue each year, which is kind of sweet.)

The version of the Bible used rotates each week – this is actually one part of the podcast I’d change if I could. Some of the translations are great, but a few of the paraphrases are gimmicky and distracting. A few years ago, when a special edition of the NIV was published based around the DAB schedule, Brian proposed using just the NIV that year so that people could follow along in the printed version. But I was outvoted by other DAB listeners, who apparently like the rotating versions.

The normal schedule for the podcast runs like this: Brian introduces the podcast, then does the readings. If he’s getting into a new book of the Bible, he makes a few introductory remarks about that book prior to starting it. Usually, after he’s given all four readings, he makes a few brief remarks about one of them. His remarks generally strive to be non-denominational, but the context he provides can sometimes be helpful, especially in the case of difficult passages. You can always use this as a jumping-off point for your own research, or conversation with a friend or clergy member.

Then he talks briefly about the DAB community, his upcoming speaking engagements, retreats, or trips to the Holy Land. Then, the podcast concludes by playing prayer requests received (by voicemail) on a 24-hour prayer line. Occasionally, maybe once a week, the announcements and prayer requests are replaced by a song appropriate to that day’s readings.

If all you want is the Bible reading itself, you can turn away as soon as it’s finished. Or you can listen to the reading plus Brian’s remarks and prayer, or you can listen to the whole episode. It’s completely up to you. The amount of time you spend each day depends on how much you listen to.

DAB tries to encourage a sense of community, although I admit I haven’t been too active in it. In addition to the recorded prayer requests, there are various message forums at the DAB web site. There are also a few other podcasts you can subscribe to at the site, including a daily Bible podcast for kids, a daily podcast with just Proverbs, and versions of the DAB in multiple languages.

I’ve found the DAB to be helpful, and I think some of you might too. Thursday would be an excellent time to jump in and try it out, just to see if you like it.

A daily dose

We’re approaching the first of the year, so it’s time for me to encourage you to try out the Daily Audio Bible, which will of course start a new cycle on Jan. 1.

You may have used various Bible-in-a-year reading plans or listened to various audio Bible products. But DAB is something unique, and I think it’s worth checking out. It’s a daily podcast hosted by Brian Hardin, who lives in Spring Hill (although he seems to be on the road constantly with various speaking engagements). You can listen to it for free using podcast software like iTunes, at the website, or you can make a one-time purchase of a very inexpensive smartphone or tablet app.

Brian takes you through the entire Bible in a year (and actually takes you through Psalms and Proverbs more than once). Bible-on-CD products usually rely on people with deep, dramatic voices, but Brian’s reading style is warm and casual, and very listenable. Each day, there’s an Old Testament reading, a New Testament reading, a reading from Psalms and a reading from Proverbs. The reading itself takes maybe 15-20 minutes. Brian then usually briefly discusses one of the day’s passages, leads a prayer, talks about his upcoming schedule. The podcast is then closed out by playing various prayer requests (or messages in response to other people’s prayer requests) exactly as they were left on the ministry’s prayer hotline. You can decide how much of this you want to listen to; you can stop right after the reading, or right after Brian’s remarks and the prayer, or you can listen to the whole thing.

The podcast rotates through various Bible versions, changing to a different one each week. That probably helps keep them on the good side of the various rights holders (if they were to always use the same version, it might compete with that version’s audio Bible CDs, or what have you). A couple of years ago, when a special edition of the NIV was published using the DAB reading schedule, Brian proposed sticking to the NIV so that people could follow along. I would have liked that, if only because I don’t like a couple of the paraphrases that are in the DAB’s regular rotation. But a poll of the listeners revealed strong support for keeping the different-version-each-week policy.

DAB tries to encourage interaction and a community feel, although of course you don’t have to participate in any of that to listen to the podcast. There are various message boards at the web site, and for the past  year there were DAB “family gatherings” held in various cities where Brian was traveling.

DAB also has several other daily podcasts – there’s a version just for kids, a Proverbs-only podcast, and a number of foreign-language versions.

Forcing yourself to go through the entire Bible isn’t always easy. There are Old Testament passages that we like to conveniently ignore, and Brian (without getting too sectarian – this is a non-denominational podcast) sometimes tries to address dissonance between what’s being described in the Old Testament history books and what we believe about God as God is described in the New Testament. But it’s all the Bible, and I think it’s a healthy process to push through it and make yourself think about what you believe. A daily dose of the Bible is a healthy thing for Christians, and DAB is a friendly, even comforting, way to meet your recommended daily allowance.

Tales of Yeshua

Well, it was nasty this morning, but  by the time I got home there was sun – still cold and wind, mind you, but sun. So I went for an abbreviated walk, the 20-minute version instead of the 30-minute version. I usually listen to music through my mobile phone while I walk, but I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone and listen to today’s Daily Audio Bible. (Yes, that thing I nagged you about last month.)

Brian Hardin switches versions of the Bible on Sunday each week. This provides some variety, and it probably also helps prevent copyright trouble from any individual translation copyright owner that might want to do its own audio Bible product. A year ago, Brian suggested sticking with the New International Version during 2012 because DAB and Thomas Nelson Publishers had just released a read-along NIV Bible broken up into daily readings using the DAB calendar. I liked that idea, but I was in the minority – the DAB community convincingly voted it down in an online poll, and so Brian kept doing a different version each week, and is still doing so as we move into 2013.

I thought I was familiar with all of the regular entries in the rotation (some of which I like better than others), but Brian sprang a new one on me this week: the awkwardly-named Complete Jewish Bible. This translation is the work of one man, David H. Stern, for use by Christians. It contains Old and New Testaments, but features English transliterations of the original ancient Hebrew names for people and places, as well as ancient Hebrew words for some concepts. In reading the description of the Bible online, I see that the CJB also features the Old Testament books in the traditional Jewish order, which differs from the order used in Christian Bibles, and corrects what it claims are past mis-translations stemming from anti-Semitism in the church.

Here’s a snippet from today’s New Testament reading:

Matthew 12:1-8 (CJB)

12 One كيف اشتري اسهم في الامارات Shabbat during that time, Yeshua was walking through some wheat fields. His كم سعر جرام الذهب في السعودية talmidim were hungry, so they began picking heads of grain and eating them. 2 On seeing this, the دورات تداول الاسهم في الكويت P’rushim said to him, “Look! Your btc wallet talmidim are violating forex öppettider skavsta Shabbat!” 3 But he said to them, “Haven’t you ever read what David did when he and those with him were hungry? 4 He entered the House of God and ate the Bread of the Presence!” — which was prohibited, both to him and to his companions; it is permitted only to theمؤشر-سوق-الأسهم-السعودية-هذا-اليوم مؤشر سوق الأسهم السعودية هذا اليوم cohanim. 5 “Or haven’t you read in the giełda online gra Torah that on Shabbat the انا اشتريت اسهم وخسرت ٣٠الف كيف يمكنني اعدل الخساره cohanim profane افضل الاسهم ربحا2014 Shabbat and yet are blameless? 6 I tell you, there is in this place something greater than the Temple! 7 If you knew what اسهم كويتيه مضمونه ‘I want compassion rather than animal-sacrifice’ meant, you would not condemn the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of سوق الاسهم اليوم السعوديه Shabbat!”

It’s an interesting and commendable idea, but if I read this regularly I’d just have to keep going online to find out what “cohanim” meant, or “talmidim,” or what have you. I assume that the words he doesn’t translate into English are cases where he believes the English translation doesn’t do the original meaning justice (just as your pastor sometimes has to tell you whether “love” in a particular New Testament passage is translated from the Greek eros, philos or agape).

Anyway, it’s fun to hear Brian reading “Yeshua” for Jesus and “P’rushim” for the Pharisees. I have no idea whether his pronunciations are spot-on or leave something to be desired, and I’m sure I would do no better, but for some reason it makes me smile.

A daily dose

It’s been a while since I blogged about the Daily Audio Bible, and I like to mention it every now and then because it’s such a great resource.

There are various audio Bible products, usually read by people with deep, dramatic voices. There are also various Bible-in-a-year reading plans, such as the one promoted by Discipleship Journal. DAB is a little bit of these and more. It’s a daily Bible podcast, read in warm, casual tones – less like a performance, more like a conversation – by Brian Hardin. Each day, Brian reads an Old Testament passage, a New Testament passage, a passage from Psalms and a passage from Proverbs. All four categories start at the beginning on January 1 and proceed in order through the year, so that by Dec. 31 you’ve covered the entire Bible.

Brian will usually make very brief remarks about one of the passages after the reading, and then will offer a prayer. He talks a little bit about speaking engagements, conferences or other activities related to DAB, and then the podcast closes by playing various prayer request voicemails submitted to the DAB prayer line. Each day’s podcast is recorded fresh, and Brian – who, as it turns out, is based in Spring Hill, here in Middle Tennessee – sometimes comments on the weather, as if to remind you of this. On the rare occasions when Brian is ill or otherwise unavailable, his wife Jill reads for him. (They also have a tradition of reading Song of Solomon, aka Song of Songs, to each other when that turns up each year.)

Brian switches Bible versions each week; there are some in the rotation I like better than others. A year ago, an official DAB read-along New International Version Bible was published with each day’s reading laid out for you. (It isn’t that different from other Bible-in-a-year volumes already on the market.) Brian took a vote of the listeners about whether to keep rotating among versions or to use the NIV exclusively, so that people who owned the official DAB Bible could read along. I voted for the NIV, but I was in the minority, and so the rotating versions continued this year.

Brian has also written “Passages: How Reading the Bible in a Year Will Change Everything for You,” a book about the importance of immersing yourself in the Bible.

The DAB web site has various forums for those who want to interact, discuss the day’s Bible passage, or what have you. There are also DAB podcasts in a variety of foreign languages, as well as children’s Bible podcast and a Proverbs-only podcast.

If you’re not already familiar with podcasts, there are numerous ways to listen. You can listen directly from the DAB web site. You can get a DAB app for your phone or tablet. Or, you can subscribe using some sort of podcast or RSS feed manager (iTunes, Juice, Zune, Google Reader, SlapDash, Stitcher, etc.) and have each day’s episode downloaded or bookmarked for easy access.

If you’re looking for a way to get more serious about the Bible, I would highly recommend the DAB. Immersing yourself in the Bible is not always an easy thing, but it forces you to think about what you believe and why.

The spoken Word

A year ago, around this time, I started thinking to myself that I ought to be more disciplined in reading my Bible. But New Year’s Day came and went, and it wasn’t until the second or third of January that I noticed a Facebook post from my friend Sonja Goold about the Daily Audio Bible.

I started listening every day, and I think it’s been a good experience. I wrote about it in my Times-Gazette tech column a while back, but I thought  it would be timely to mention it here this week, at a time when a lot of people are making resolutions or taking stock.

Spoken-word versions of the Bible have been around for years, of course, on cassette and then on CD. But the Daily Audio Bible (DAB) is a free podcast. You can listen to it online by going to their web site; you can automatically download the podcast by subscribing to it from iTunes or your favorite podcast management software; or you can install iOS or Android apps on your phone or tablet which will take care of retrieving each day’s podcast whenever you want it.

DAB is based in Spring Hill, which is not that far from Shelbyville as the crow flies but due to the way the highways run it’s about an hour’s drive away. One of these days, I’m going to make a field trip to see the Wind Farm Café, a coffeehouse affiliated with the ministry.

The DAB is run by a fellow named Brian Hardin. Many of the Bible-on-CD products rely on narrators with deep, dramatic voices; I think Charlton Heston narrated one successful version. Brian’s is more of a friendly, welcoming voice.

He rotates among different Bible versions from week to week, although that almost changed for the upcoming year (more on that in a second). The readings take you through the entire Bible in a year’s time. There’s an Old Testament reading, a New Testament reading, a reading from Psalms and a reading from Proverbs. Each goes in order; the Old Testament reading starts with Genesis 1 on New Year’s Day and winds up in Malachi on the following New Year’s Eve. The New Testament runs from Matthew through to Revelations in a year’s time, and so on.

If Brian is starting a new book of the Bible, he’ll usually make a couple of brief remarks beforehand about the book’s setting, presumed authorship and theme. After the readings, he will sometimes make a few brief remarks about one of the passages and then will lead a prayer. Then, he’ll usually talk a little bit about something related to the DAB ministry – his own travels to speaking engagements or conferences, the Wind Farm Café or what have you. The podcast usually ends by playing prayer requests recorded from a 24-hour prayer line.

If you wanted to, or were pressed for time, you could stop listening right after the Bible passage, of course.

The web site tries to foster a community around the podcast. There are discussion forums and what have you.

The website also offers a daily Bible podcast for children and several foreign-language versions of DAB.

This year, in particular, the DAB ministry is poised for change and growth. Brian has released a new book, Passages: How Reading the Bible in a Year Will Change Everything for You, along with a companion edition New International Version Bible with readings broken up according to the DAB schedule. A couple of months ago, Brian proposed that in 2012, he use only the NIV, instead of changing versions from week to week, so that those who owned the new companion Bible could read along. I was in favor of this idea, in part because some of the paraphrases in the DAB rotation leave me unimpressed. The NIV, on the other hand, is readable, relatively acceptable to a wide variety of denominational backgrounds, and it’s a translation rather than a paraphrase, meaning it was worked on by a team of scholars and is geared towards accuracy. But Brian put the question to a vote of the listeners, and the listeners voted to keep the current system of rotating from version to version each week.

I think that my first year with DAB has been a good one – although not always an easy one. Some of the early Old Testament passages are challenging, and a regular schedule for listening to them forces you to think hard about what  you believe. What parts of the Bible are meant as prescriptive for our lives today? What parts are meant to be taken literally, and what parts are meant to be taken allegorically? What principles are eternal, and what principles are meant to apply to a given culture or situation? I think forcing yourself to take in all of the Bible, as opposed to just the warm and fuzzy parts, is an important process. In 2012, I’d like to be more disciplined about listening intently to the readings, not getting distracted or letting my mind wander.

I would heartily recommend the DAB to anyone interested in a closer relationship with the Bible.

Daily Audio Bible

I’m hoping to start a faith-related interview podcast some time this year, and so I’ve been listening to other podcasts lately. Strangely enough, most of these have been comedy podcasts, or tech podcasts.

Meanwhile, I’d been thinking about starting a read-through-the-Bible program this year, and I even downloaded the worksheet for Discipleship Journal’s program. But – and this was a bad sign from the get-go – I didn’t get around to starting yesterday.

Then, today, my Mountain T.O.P. and LEAMIS International Missions buddy Sonya Goold posted a Facebook status noting that she’d just completed her second year of listening to the Daily Audio Bible podcast, and encouraging any of her friends to join her in doing so this year.

It was a “God thing.” I immediately set up WinAmp (the media player I use for podcast subscriptions) to receive the daily Bible reading. Brian Hardin reads from a different translation each week – an idea I really like. He has a great, welcoming voice. And he’s based out of Spring Hill! The site also offers a kids’ version and several foreign language versions. There are discussion forums as well.

I am looking forward to this.