It’s that time of the year again when we start thinking about New Year’s Resolutions. I know – it’s hard to believe because it seems like just yesterday we were enjoying the August sunshine! This fall has gone by quickly. Many of you know that in September, we began a church-wide reading through the entire Bible. It was intentional that we began with the New Testament. This month – on December 15th – we will begin the Old Testament. Reading through God’s Word is something that many have set as a New Year’s Resolution year after year and failed. Many Christians never complete this goal! What a loss that is. It is with this time of year in mind that I want to ramble on our readings this month.
I have shared with you that I’ve read through the Bible – front to back – and it was a life-changing experience for me. It would not be an exaggeration to say that God used that time in His Word to draw me back towards serving Him in professional ministry. I felt like God was far from me when I began. God kept His promise, though, that we read in James: “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (4:8). How true that was! My relationship with Christ was reinvigorated because of the commitment I made to not only start reading God’s Word but to finish it.
I’m in a different place in life now, but I feel just as strongly about my commitment this year to read through the Bible again. I want to encourage you:
1. It’s not too late. Our Bible reading guides are still available in the narthex, and they will remain so all year. Pick one up, and take a look. If you haven’t joined us – if you haven’t been sure you have the time or have had other reasons not to – know that it isn’t too late. Pick up with today’s reading.
2. Find a friend. There is something to be said for accountability! Find a friend at church or at home who will encourage you and ask if you have done your reading. It’s a daunting task – we all know that – and as we approach certain chapters of the Old Testament it may seem even harder to complete our goal. With a friend alongside, however, you will grow not only through your reading but also in your friendship. Read together, read separately – however you decide to make this a part of your life together, do so with enthusiasm and commitment and watch how God honors your decision.
3. Make it interesting. God’s Word is not boring! What a misconception! But sometimes we need a little help.
* Find a translation that you enjoy reading. My two favorites are the NIV, which is our pew Bible, as well as the NRSV. Ask for a recommendation, or take a look in the church library for something different.
* Mark it up. The Bible does not say “thou shall not write in my margins or underline or …” So study your Bible by marking it up! Take a pencil, a highlighter, or a colored pencil and underline, make notes, or write down thoughts you have as God reveals deeper understanding to you. Your study time will be greatly enhanced by this practice.
* Keep an open mind and heart. You are going to come across passages that you’ve either forgotten or never read before. Ask God to give you wisdom and to reveal Himself to you as you read. Don’t just skim through it, but give it a chance. The Holy Spirit will speak to you through the scriptures, but God doesn’t have a chance to do this if we are not reading His gift to us.
4. Grant yourself grace. You’re going to fall behind. It’s going to happen, so grant yourself some grace when this happens. If you are too many days behind, just pick up at the current date and start again. You’ll go back and read those lost chapters when you are able. There is value and blessing to reading the same passages the same days as your friends and family. So grant yourself grace when you fail.
5. Nourish your soul. This sounds like a strong statement! But it is so true. God has convinced me of this. Take time to nourish your soul. Allow God to refresh you. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that all scripture is God-breathed and equips us! But we have to allow the Holy Spirit to work in us by reading God’s Word and making the commitment to do so.
As we celebrate God’s gift to us in Jesus Christ this Advent, open your heart to Him by committing to reading His Word this year. You are in my prayers as we covenant to do this together.