Last week, I wrote about my non-specific goals for 2015: to love God and to love others more. Sounds vague, but I have a semblance of a plan to grow in both of these areas.
And as Logan Gentry writes in The One Thing You Need for a Missional 2015, loving God (such as through a Bible reading plan) must come before loving others.
Loving God More
"He who does not long to know more of Christ, knows nothing of him yet." Charles SpurgeonTo love God more, I have to know Him more. And to know Him more, I need to pursue Him through reading the Bible and praying. It's not complicated.
Bible ReadingMany Christians focus on plans that help you finish reading the Bible in a year. I've done this a handful of times in my life. I'm glad I've done it, and may do it again in the future, but I have found that the drive to finish this task distracts me from the main purpose: to know God more.
So, I've also done modified these 1-year plans, to read the Bible over 2 or 3 years. (I've done each of those a few times each, so that I've read through the Bible at least 8 or 9 times in the past 19 years since I've been a Christian.)
If you want one of these plans, Justin Taylor gives some good suggestions. Over the past two years, I read through the Bible chronologically, which has been my favorite way to read it. It has helped me see the Bible as God's unfolding story of redemption.
Not wanting to get in a rut (yes, I can get in a rut with my ritual Bible reading), I wanted to do something different his year. I'm not going to work through the entire Bible this year, but will focus on specific books and readings.
Here's the new plan, of what I'll work through this year:
- I've bought each of my kids a Bible, and will continue writing in each one. In this, I get to study for myself, and to pass on my insights to them over the next 5 or 10 years. Here's what I'm currently working on:
- Hannah: The Gospel of John. I've already finished Philippians and Esther in her Bible. After John, I'll go back to the Old Testament book of Ruth.
- Elijah: I recently finished Galatians in his Bible. I'm working on Daniel, and then plan to work through Matthew.
- Sender: I just started his Bible, by reading and writing in Genesis. Then, I plan to tackle Revelation. He's our little warrior, and this is one of his favorite books.
- In an effort to deepen my familiarity of different books, I'm also going to try this idea: read a book of the Bible 20 times. Of course, depending on the length of the book, this could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks (or months!). I will start with the three letters of John, and see how it goes. If you are looking for something different, this could be a growth-causing exercise for you.
- Also for myself, I've been studying the book of Hebrews over the past couple of years, reading and re-reading it with different focuses and perspectives. As I have time, I'll keep studying this book.
- Last year, I engaged in the sermons from our church by using the provided weekly reading plans. I'm not sure if I'll have the margin to follow this as well, but I recommend trying it if you never have.
- I also bought a copy of The Story. Not sure when I'll squeeze this in to my morning readings, so I may make it just one of the books I read this year.
As you can see, I have more than enough ideas to keep me busy. How will I work through it all? I'll read each one for a few days (such as one of my kid's Bibles), and then switch Bibles. I think this will help keep God's word fresh for me.
It's not the most regimented plan I've ever had, but I think it will be a good change of pace for me.
More than anything, I need to remember that the goal isn't to work through the Bible, or through a book of the Bible. The goal is to know my Lord more intimately.
David Mathis writes that Bible Reading is an Art, not just a method or science. This is a great reminder, especially if you feel overwhelmed or have already fallen behind in your Bible reading plan.
The point is just to read the Bible. Don't focus on how much or how fast. Focus on the pleasure and art of knowing God more.
"So, here at the outset of a new year, if you feel uncomfortable in the Scriptures, and inadequate in the art of Bible reading, the single most important thing you can do is make a regular practice of reading the Bible for yourself. There is no substitute for a few focused minutes each day in the text. You may be surprised how much the little bits add up in the long haul."Do you want more in depth study? Check out this resource which provides a summary for all 66 books of the Bible.
PrayerBible reading is easy for me. It's a habit that I developed over the years. Getting up and reading my Bible first thing in the morning is a no-brainer (and because it's often a "no-brainer," I get into those undesirable ruts).
Prayer, on the other hand, is a struggle for me. And that's not good. I don't want to be content being a non-pray-er. My independence from God is a sin against Him, as it shows my arrogance and self-sufficiency.
I don't think I'm alone in this. As Jonathan Parnell writes, "Every Christian wants a deeper life of prayer in this new year." Do you agree?
The question is, "How will we get there?" Or maybe it's, "Will I be committed to prayer?"
I will. Or, I'll try. I'll probably fail, but the God who loves me will keep reminding me, and pursuing me.
So what will I do?
- Do the ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) method at least 3 days a week during my morning quiet times.
- Pray with my wife more. Considering how little I did this last year, this goal should be easy.
- I may use the PrayerMate app. However, I try to avoid relying on my smartphone for my spiritual formation, since I usually wind up getting distracted. You may find it helpful, though.
Loving Others More
"If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing." I Corinthians 13:2As far as my second goal for 2015, to love others, I don't have any specific ideas. Well, I have some ideas for loving my family, and I will write about those later in the week.
But on this note, and at the risk of referring to another article by Desiring God, here are some great thoughts from Jon Bloom, in Seven Resolutions to Pursue Love in 2015:
- Resolve to remember the power of the evil one.
- Resolve to assume the best in others.
- Resolve to pursue reconciliation quickly.
- Resolve to not gossip.
- Resolve to forgive.
- Resolve to kill resentment.
- Resolve to remember the gospel.
I'm trying something new . . .
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