“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”–Psalm 119:105
Looking back at 2022 I encourage you to consider the goodness of the Lord in answered prayers. A significant part of contentment and giving thanks relates to perspective. Perspective often relates to considering the past and what the Lord has brought us through. One of the major problems with hard-hearted unbelieving Israel in the Old Testament related to how quickly they forgot the past work of the Lord. Let us not be this way. A great point of reflection and topic of conversation at the end of a year relates to thinking back over the year, and how the Lord has answered prayer or directed your life in some good, yet unforeseen, way. We quickly forget the Lord’s work in the past. This New Year’s Eve, think back and recount the goodness of the Lord in 2022. Do this with family and friends and give glory to God!
Looking forward to 2023 I encourage you to first set spiritual goals for the new year. Each year the tyranny of the urgent presses in. The agenda of this treadmill is set by the pressing priorities of an unbelieving world. The greatest commandment of the Lord is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. To obey this command, we must make time for the Lord. We will make time for what has the first place in our affections. The urgency of daily pursuits will sap ALL your time if you don’t proactively cultivate a love for Christ in the soul.
Though there are many valuable and important spiritual disciplines in the Christian life, none is more foundational than Bible study. Bible study leads into prayer, actions of obedience, evangelism, life in the local church, and worship, but all of these will quickly become debased without Bible study. The Scriptures are both living and fixed.
They are living in that they are the inspired Word of the Lord ministered to our hearts by the Holy Spirit. The living nature of Scripture meets us where we are and is used by the Holy Spirit to change us. We are first changed by learning the good news of salvation by grace. We stop trying to earn favor with God, and instead receive salvation by faith giving thanks for the mercy of Jesus. We are changed by learning who God is, then seeing ourselves in light of His holiness and glory. We are changed by understanding what the moral will of God is. The Bible reveals to us how we ought to live in the new ways of Jesus.
The Bible is also fixed in that it does not change. In this way it’s like a north star of constant direction in the swirl of pressing cultural change. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The goal of Christianity is not to keep relevant to cultural shift, but to stand firm in unchanging Christ-like character.
Do you read the Bible constantly? Have you ever read all the way through the Bible? Do you have a plan for reading the Bible? The Bible is a book. Books have direction, plot, and cannot be properly understood by opening them at random and reading a few sentences. This is the danger of typical devotional books. They essentially open to a random place in the Bible, read one verse, give you a few thoughts, and close the book. I would strongly argue that you could do this “verse picking” for your whole life and never come to a clear understanding of who God is because you have never really read the Bible.
Many people are intimidated by the Bible, find the Bible boring, or get bogged down in less devotional sections. A few points of direction for 2023.
One, go to RedeemerVA.org and navigate to the resources tab, then to the Bible reading plans page. Choose a plan and print it out. By having a plan you will make systematic progress. The goal here is not to check a box or keep to a strict timetable, but to make systematic and accountable progress in daily and prayerfully reading God’s Word.
Second, always stop and pray before you read the Bible. Ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate the Scriptures. May the Holy Spirit open your eyes to see wonderful things in the Bible that you have never see before. This will focus and prepare the posture of your heart to receive a word from the Lord.
Third, don’t get bogged down in the tough and less devotional places. When you hit the genealogies, the counting of tribes, and lists of woes read enough to see what is there, but keep turning the pages to get to the next narrative section. Later in your spiritual growth you will begin to see why these sections are present, but often these “dry” parts keep people from reading many very important and powerful Old Testament books
Fourth, read a paper Bible when possible. Mark your Bible. Underline parts that are meaningful to you. When you come across places that you don’t understand or offend you, write a question mark in the margin in pencil. As you grow in your understanding of The Lord Jesus many of those marks will be erased, but many will also remain for the ways of the Lord are higher than our ways. Do not expect to master the mind of God on your first pass through the Bible.
May the Lord open His word to you in 2023,