Bible

Can you believe it? We’re a week into the New Year already. I can remember growing up how I thought time moved like molasses—very slowly. The older I get, the faster time seems to move, especially trying to keep up with my two energetic little boys. Anyway, I’m sure many of you can sympathize with the speed at which each day seems to go by. Thinking about time and all that needs to be done and all that I want to get done is a necessary and sometimes frustrating endeavor.

Someone has said that we tend to overestimate what we can do in a day and underestimate what we can do in a year. That insightful thought reminds us change, improvement, or movement toward sanctification happens in a process and not overnight. So, how can we grow, improve, or change in 2015? Let me offer some suggestions that I am personally going to adopt this upcoming year.

  1. Be consistent in Bible reading and application. Ezra 7:10 reads, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” I do read the Bible every day. I believe it is a requirement for spiritual growth. But God has been convicting me about living out what I read. So I’m going to try to apply specifically each day something I read from my devotional time.
  2. Grow in my prayer life. I pray every day, but the devotion, depth, and consistency of my prayer life is not what I believe God wants. I’m going to be trying something new. There are about 4-6 parts of my day that I would consider either starting points of the day or transition points (first thing in the morning, last thing at night, devotions with my family, first few minutes in my office, last few minutes in my office, etc.) My aim for 2015 is to make prayer the starting or finishing point for each of those daily transitions.
  3. Go on a mission trip. I’m the missions pastor at my church and annually go on a mission trip. But we are commanded by God to be on mission. One way we can all practically obey God’s commands is to set aside time, resources, and efforts to go on a mission trip.
  4. Read more broadly and consistently. A year ago in December, I finished a PhD, which required an enormous load of reading. While I didn’t take 2014 off from reading, I read significantly less. I’ve put together reading goals for this year that are broad and challenging.
  5. Be useful and give away what God is teaching me. Far too many Christians today soak in their spiritual development and inconsistently, if at all, share with others what they’ve learned. Through friendships, writing, teaching, serving, and leading God has reminded me that his followers are to invest in the spiritual lives of others.
  6. Share Christ personally with more consistency. I love my job and the opportunities I get to preach, teach, write, serve, lead, and share. But sometimes I’ve allowed my responsibilities within the church building to overwhelm my focus. This has at times resulted in a failure to consistently look for conversations and build relationships with those who don’t know Jesus. I know this is an area of my life that needs improvement in 2015.
  7. Renew my commitment to personal health. All of us have many demands on our time. But personal health is a part of spiritual health and growth. Mark Dance wrote about The Physically Healthy Pastor at Lifeway’s Pastors Today blogpost. While it’s targeted at pastors, I’m sure anyone would benefit from the principles.

These seven suggestions are in no particular order. And as a way of personal accountability, I plan to write on these topics through the year. I’ll share where some of these suggestions have worked or need to be amended (such as the prayer strategy). I also hope to share some stories where God is working in my own life teaching me important lessons in the year ahead. We’re all on a journey of spiritual growth. These are some of the suggestions I believe God is leading me to adopt this year. What about you?

On Wednesday evening, November 19 at Mud Creek Baptist Church , we will ordain two men into the gospel ministry—Nathan Byrd and Brian Gordner. I have had the privilege of serving with them on multiple occasions. Most notably, we were in Kenya together earlier this year building homes, sharing the gospel, and experiencing God in powerful ways. I’m nearly as convinced of God’s call on their lives as I am of his call on my life.

In thinking about their ordination service, I was reminded of my own. My uncle, James Hefner preached and Todd Edmiston gave the charge. I’ll never forget being admonished by them both to take my calling seriously and to fulfill it faithfully. I’ve never forgotten the encouragement, challenge, and benefit of my ordination experience.

In some ways, being ordained, called, and set apart for the gospel ministry can be boiled down to Paul’s demand of Timothy in his first letter to the young pastor: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16). In this clarified command Paul warns that ministry failing occurs with regard to one’s character or his doctrine. In the final part of the verse, Paul is not talking about spiritual salvation in the sense that good ministry will save ourselves or others, but rather he is making the point that preaching the saving gospel message is intricately connected to the minister’s life and message. A failure in character can result in a diminished gospel influence in our ministry. A serious flaw in our doctrine can dilute or distract from the message of the gospel.

Paul’s admonition is important. Character counts. Doctrine is vital. The basis for both is found in the Bible. As ministers, we should dissect our doctrine by the Word of God, but not just allow the Bible to be an academic or theological text. God also intended (and maybe more importantly), the Bible to reform and correct us. God’s Word is our guidebook, our manual for living that shows us our sin and the gospel solution to our sin.