Happy New Year! I pray your 2019 is already off to a good start! Most people come to January 1 with a renewed sense of purpose and determination. They set fitness goals, family goals, and review those areas of their lives that are in need of growth. Beyond all of this is our need for various 'faith' goals. Faith in Christ isn't passive or static. Faith is active and relies upon the Holy Spirit to empower us to be devoted disciples.
As followers of Jesus, we must make spiritual growth and obedience to Him our main priority in life. This won't happen apart from regular time in God's Word, prayer, and obeying His commands.
If you want to be successful, this year, when it comes to cultivating the regular practice of reading and studying the Bible, there are a couple of things that are important to keep in mind as you begin:
First of all, you need to find a time that works best for you in your schedule. We all have busy lives. There are kids to get ready for school, deadlines that have to be met at work, caregiving to complete and dance recitals to attend. If you do not make the time to read your Bible, you won’t. Don’t fall into the trap of waiting for the right time. We always make time for what is most important to us. If corporate worship is important to us, we make it a priority. If sharing the gospel is important to us, we make the time to do it. And, if uninterrupted time with God in His Word is important to you, then you need to carve out the time in your schedule.
The best time for me is early in the morning before I begin my day. For some of you, the best time may be late in the evening before you go to bed. Regardless of what time you choose to read and study God’s Word, the important thing to remember is that you intentionally make the time to do so.
Next, I would encourage you to get your hands on a good study Bible. You can visit a local Lifeway store and pick up one. My personal favorite is the ESV Study Bible. It is thick and heavy, but don’t let that scare you away. A study Bible is good for background studies, historical context, and important notes to help you understand key theological concepts. The study notes from a good study Bible can serve as helpful commentary to teach you and help you process the scriptures. Of course, nothing can ever substitute for the presence of the Holy Spirit. He teaches us and guides us into all truth by testifying of Christ.
One of the advantages to studying through the Bible by following a yearly plan is that it helps you break down the reading into daily, manageable sections. The plan that I am promoting this year was developed by our friends at Replicate Ministries. It is a New Testament plan that will take you all the way through the 27 books of the New Testament in a year's time.
The Foundations: New Testament plan consists of only one chapter a day. Yes, you read that right! That means anyone can do it, no matter how fast or slow a reader you are. I'm excited about this plan because it will afford us the opportunity this year to slow down and savor the goodness of God in the gospel.
One downside of yearly reading plans is that we can approach them in a mechanical sort of way. We rush through the daily readings so we can check a box. Let me encourage you to slow down and really meditate on what you read. Read with a pen or highlighter in your hand so you can underline or circle words and phrases. Keep a journal and write down insights that the Holy Spirit impresses upon your heart. If you've never done this before, you can use the helpful journaling tool that was developed by Quentin Self, our Disciple-Making Pastor.
If you’ve never regularly read the Bible before, let me tell you that you are in for a wonderful journey in 2019! My prayer for you is that this year becomes a year of great growth in your life. The most important thing for you to remember is that the Author of the book is with you as you read and He wants you to know Him! It just doesn’t get any better than that.
Last, I wanted to be sure you were aware of the new EQUIP opportunities available which include co-ed (Wednesday nights), women (Tuesday mornings and evenings) and men (Thursday mornings). The Wednesday night opportunities kick off on January 9th (with the exception of the marriage option). You can find out more details here.