92 My Tribute to D. A. Carson's Book: For the Love of God

At a youth conference I attended during the summer of 2000, one of the session leaders off-handedly recommended that we pick up D. A. Carson’s devotional guide For the Love of God. At the time, I don’t think I had even heard of D. A. Carson, but that leader told us that it included a plan for reading regularly through the whole Bible.

Why I Love For the Love of God

I was intrigued, so I bought the first volume, which I used daily for a couple of years until I purchased the second volume. Then, for the next several years I alternated between the two volumes, and I’m not overstating it to tell you that these devotional guides were probably the most significant books I have ever purchased in my entire life for a couple of reasons.

First, Carson had written a devotional that introduced me, day by day, to a robust biblical theology. I was blown away by the connections he made from obscure passages of Scripture all the way to the story of Jesus without force-fitting texts into some kind of bizarre interpretive grid.

Quite simply, Don Carson taught me how to read the Bible.

In the preface, Carson writes this:

Devotional guides tend to offer short, personal readings from the Bible, sometimes only a verse or two, followed by several paragraphs of edifying exposition. Doubtless they provide personal help for believers with private needs, fears, and hopes. But they do not provide the framework of what the Bible says—the “plotline” or “story line”—the big picture that makes sense of all the little bits of the Bible. Wrongly used, such devotional guides may ultimately engender the profoundly wrong-headed view that God exists to sort out my problems; they may foster profoundly mistaken interpretations of some Scriptures, simply because the handful of passages they treat are no longer placed within the framework of the big picture, which is gradually fading from view. Only systematic and repeated reading of the whole Bible can meet these challenges. (For the Love of God, vol. 1, p. x. My emphasis.)

Second, and more importantly, Carson introduced me to a Bible reading plan created by the 19th century Scottish minister named Robert Murray M’Cheyne that actually helped me to read the Bible itself systematically. Although the M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan can be split up, the full version of the plan includes readings from roughly four chapters every day in various parts of the Bible.

The two volumes are still available for purchase on Amazon (Volume 1; Volume 2), but the meditations are now published online for free on a blog at the Gospel Coalition website.

Why I’m Writing a Homage to For the Love of God

My only complaint about the two For the Love of God volumes was that each volume focused on two of the four daily readings. To explain, the M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan has four tracks of daily reading:

  1. Old Testament, Genesis through 2 Chronicles
  2. New Testament and Psalms (Matthew–John, Psalms, Acts–Revelation)
  3. Old Testament, Ezra through Malachi (excluding Psalms)
  4. New Testament and Psalms (Acts–Revelation, Matthew–Mark, Psalms, Luke–John)

So, Volume 1 included a devotional addressing either the reading from track #1 or #2, while Volume 2 included a devotional addressing either the reading from track #3 or #4. I always wished that he would write two more volumes to address the passages that he didn’t get to in the first two volumes, but that never happened.

So, in the spirit of what C. S. Lewis suggested for writers to write the books that we want to read, Free Daily Bible Study is an attempt to do what I wish Carson would have done. I’m nowhere near the scholar that Carson is, but the daily devotions that I will be publishing here will take up one track at a time. For 2015, I will publish devotions (Lord-willing!) for track #1, covering Genesis through 2 Chronicles.

I’m incredibly excited about this project and about the devotions that I have queued up for 2015. If you haven’t signed up yet, please do so now so that you won’t miss a single day!

The only thing I would mention as I close this article is a warning from Carson out of For the Love of God which I have always considered very wise, and I repeat it for you if you are going to start learning the story of the Bible with the rest of us in 2015:

If you must skip something, skip this book; read the Bible instead. If you fall behind, do not use that fact as an excuse for giving up the effort until next January 1. Either catch up (by an afternoon of diligent reading, perhaps some Sunday), or skip ahead to where you should be and take up there. If your schedule allows it, set a regular time and place for your Bible reading….Learn to distill what a passage is saying, and pray it back to the Lord—whether in petition, thanksgiving, praise, or frank uncertainty. In time your Bible reading will so be linked with your praying that the two will not always be differentiable. (For the Love of God, vol. 1, p. 13.)

Happy reading in 2015!


Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.