“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”–Psalm 119:105
“The grass withers, and the flower fails, but the word of the Lord remains forever.”–1 Peter 1:24-25
I want to encourage our church in three ways this week. First, please pray for the sick and struggling in our church, and in the community. We have many people in the church and in our community that are sick right now. After extended times of need we all run the danger of feeling “compassion fatigue.” This is when we have reached the end of any natural compassion or desire to help and pray for those in need. However, the compassion of Jesus Christ is never ending because His compassion flows from His love. When we feel our compassion for others running dry, it’s important that we pray and ask the Holy Spirit to fill us again with love and concern for others. This is especially necessary for our fellow brothers and sisters in the church. As needs arise, let’s draw together praying for each other, filling needed meal trains, and meeting every need. May the world know that we are Christians by the way we love one another.
Second, I want to press our church to focus in on the theme of Christian love in the new year. The world speaks often of love but does not have a true definition of this essential virtue. I’m asking for the church to focus on 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 as a memory passage for the month of January. These verses are familiar to us, but so often not applied. As we memorize these verses, the Holy Spirit will bring them to mind in our daily living with each other. We’ll be reminded to be patient, to turn away from irritability, to not insist on our own way, and to endure in hope. We’ll take this one verse per week. As you learn a verse, come see me or another elder at church and quote the verses you have learned. I would like to make a series of voice recordings each week to put out with the newsletter to encourage us toward memorizing this entire passage. May the Lord be at work in our midst to teach us to love one another as Jesus would have for us to.
Third, we are almost to the new year. Your devotional study of the Bible, chapter by chapter and verse by verse, will be essential to your spiritual health in 2022. I want to press you to choose a Bible reading plan that will structure and guide your reading next year. Go to the RedeemerVA.org website, click on the “Resources” tab, then choose “Bible Reading Plan.” There you’ll find some direction and encouragement on how to read your Bible every day. There are several plans available. The goal is not to check a box each day, but to systematically read the Bible. Following a plan will guide you to read through entire books of the Bible and to read parts of the Bible you would not normally read. Marking off one passage at a time from a printed plan will also allow you to not lose your place. When you miss a few days for whatever reason, just pull your plan out and keep plowing forward.
It takes months to develop new habits and acquire new tastes. I very much remember what it was like to be new to the gym. I didn’t know how to use any of the weights or machines. I didn’t know any of the exercise movements. I was out of place and out of shape, but I had a written plan that a fit friend had given me. By determining to alter the routines of my life to make personal fitness a priority, new habits were developed.
Sadly, reading as a habit is being wiped out by technology. As Christians we cannot allow this to happen in our lives. God has recorded His revelation and action as a book for a reason. Writing is the most specific form of human communication. Particular words are carefully and intentionally chosen to convey specific meaning. Important written documents are examined and approved before being released for others to read. The careful author works to make sure the written words conveys their meaning. This is more true with the Bible than any other document in the world. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Bible is God’s perfect word to us.
Reading is an active mental activity. You cannot zone out and read. You cannot be distracted and read. To rightly comprehend what you are reading, you must intentionally shut out other distractions and intentionally focus on understanding the written word. This is very different from an audio book or watching a video. Listening and watching are passive activities. Yes, you can actively listen and watch, but when you lose concentration (which happens often) the audio and video keep playing. As you fade in and out of concentration you miss much of what is being conveyed. When you’re listening to a novel or watching a movie, it doesn’t matter if you catch the details. But the details of the Bible are too important to speed past. Missing the details will lead to wrong conclusions and wrong doctrine. Reading is an exercise of the mind. We are commanded by Jesus (Luke 10:27) to love the Lord our God with all our mind.
If a passion for entertainment has grown up in your life and choked out your habit of Bible reading, then it’s time to start reading the Bible again. If you have never read large passages of the Bible with regularity, this is the year to start. If your life has gotten so busy that you only occasionally listen to the Bible while rushing from one place to the other, it’s time to give priority to meaningful Bible reading. Lastly, if reading the Bible is “boring” to you, it’s time to recognize that that the Bible was not written to entertain you. It was written to reveal to you the nature of God and His salvation. As you read the Bible you will find that God does not exist to entertain you. Instead, you exist to glorify Him! May we each devote ourselves to the study of God’s word this year.
May you grow in grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ this year,