new year

We are in a new year, and many of you have set resolutions for this year. That’s great! I hope you can keep them, and I hope your resolutions will help you grow in this year. If you haven’t set resolutions, that’s ok too. In any case, be reminded that your daily habits are formative (good or bad).

One of the most important spiritual habits (disciplines) is reading the Bible. If you are not reading regularly, let me encourage you to make a commitment in ’22 to read God’s Word daily.

There are many helpful Bible reading tools, plans, and apps available. The one I have used regularly is the Robert Murray M’Cheyne plan that covers the Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice in a year. Here’s a link to the plan. I read from the ESV Bible, and you can find more Bible reading plans from ESV.org. You can also download the ESV Bible app and read through the plans offered on the app. The M’Cheyne reading plan is there as well under Classic Plans.

This plan is helpful for me because it helps me see the interconnected themes throughout the different books of the Bible.

In his book The Shape of Faith to Come, Brad Waggoner reflected on the importance of Bible reading for Christian maturity,

Our study of churchgoers included the measurement of more than sixty factors characteristic of biblical spiritual development… Our statistician applied sophisticated procedures to our data to produce a rank-ordered list of correlations. The number one factor, or characteristic, most correlated to the highest maturity scores is the practice of “reading the Bible.” I almost had to laugh when I saw this. Sometimes we complicate things. The simple discipline of reading the Bible has a major impact on Christians.

Brad Waggoner, The Shape of Faith to Come, 68.

Essentially, consistent Bible intake leads to spiritual maturity. Nothing is more important to one’s spiritual development than the reading of God’s Word.

If I could get believers to do only one thing for their personal spiritual growth, it would be reading the Bible. When we read the Bible, we hear (read) God’s very words spoken to us. If you want to hear from God, then you must not ignore God’s written Word.

So whatever your plans are for 2022, whatever your resolutions, make sure you read from the Bible daily.

May God make himself known to you this year through the reading of his Word.

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

I’m sure that many of you, like myself are planning your new year. Maybe you’re setting resolutions. Or maybe you’re just so thrilled that 2020 is behind you that you plopped into 2021 just the way you are.

This year on the blog, I’m going to be sharing thoughts from my journaling and devotional life. Reading, ministry, family, and my walk with God will provide the content for these meditations.

2020 has been a year of stress, fear, lockdown, isolation, and difficulty. Too often I found myself stressed and worried. Scanning news articles, reading about politics, tracking Covid numbers, and trying to lead myself, my family and my church has resulted in anxiety, fear, and frustration. Too often I’ve not been at my best. Sometimes, I’ve been at my worst. 

If your 2020 has been anything like mine, then you are hoping for a change. But I’m not sure that what we really need is a change. What has helped me the most in recent weeks is to look at the One who never changes.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Hebrews 13:8

Recently, I began reading a book, The Preacher’s Catechism, that a friend gave to me more than a year ago. For those unfamiliar, a catechism is a teaching method that asks and answers questions teaching biblical truths and theological concepts. For example:

Question: Why did God create man?

Answer: God created man so that we would glorify him and enjoy him forever.

In The Preacher’s Catechism, Lewis Allen shapes the catechism method around preaching and pastoral ministry. What stood out to me is how the chapter on knowing and enjoying God intersected with a recent theme in my Christmas sermon series. The topic was joy. But how do we have joy when 2020 and so much that has shaped our experience this past year has not felt “joyful?”

C. Lewis recognized this tension when he wrote in The Problem of Pain: “I think we all sin by needlessly disobeying the apostolic injunction to ‘rejoice’ as much as by anything else.”

I think the answer rests in the God who never changes and the gospel that brings us into relationship with him.

“So why single out joy when joy is so often crowded out by almost anything else? The reason is that joy, like nothing else, shows whether we believe the gospel. Joy is gospel authenticity.”

Lewis Allen, The Preacher’s Catechism, 32.

Do you believe the gospel? If you believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior, and he lives in you, then you have an unfathomable number of reasons to rejoice and to have joy.

Regardless of what your circumstances tell you, regardless of what is told in the media, regardless of what others are saying on social media platforms, regardless of the chaos, and regardless of how you feel, God has not changed and his gospel is ever true. Here are some reasons I’m going to rejoice heading into 2021. Maybe they’ll help you as well.

  • Because I know Jesus, I’m not alone and will rejoice in him.
  • Because God never changes and is sovereign, I will rejoice in his rule.
  • Because God speaks to me every day through his Word, I will listen and rejoice.
  • Because God hears when I pray, I will pray and rejoice.
  • Because God has provided all my needs, I will give thanks and rejoice.
  • Because God is good even though the world is evil, I will seek him and rejoice.

Why don’t you take a moment to think of some other reasons you can rejoice in God?

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash