Fight for Joy! Blog
Where Jesus Changes Everything
I recently blogged about how the New Year provides us with a fresh start when it comes to our spiritual disciplines in our walk with Christ. I am still considering which disciplines I will seek to focus upon in 2017 but I believe I have, at the very least, narrowed down my focus as it relates to Disciplines of Personal Devotion. To refresh your memory, they are:
1. Read the Scriptures. (See my post on Regular Bible Reading)
2. Meditate on the Bible.
3. Pray and work.
4. Keep a journal.
I keep a journal once in a great while so that will not be my focus. I have always felt like I fall short when it comes to daily Bible reading. I plan, therefore, to focus on reading and meditating on the Scriptures in 2017. This does not mean I will neglect other disciplines. I also plan to give special attention to Family Disciplines (Regular family worship and catechizing), Corporate Disciplines (Sanctify the Lord's Day), and Neighborly Disciplines (Evangelize sinners with the gospel).
To help me focus upon and ultimately meet my goal of regular Bible reading and meditation upon the Scriptures, I have modified Professor Grant Horner's Bible Reading Plan. I did the same thing two years ago but failed to faithfully follow through. I pray 2017 will be different. You can download a copy of the modified plan here:
I hold no copyright over the above file so please feel free to make and distribute copies.
In his regular plan the reader will read through Proverbs and Acts every month. In my modified plan I have moved Psalms in with Job, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. I have moved Acts over with the Gospels. Readers using my modified plan will read through Daniel, Proverbs, Romans, and Revelation every month or so. I can think of no better books to read more regularly. Daniel and Revelation contain much prophecy concerning the times in which we live and the near future. Romans is the greatest book ever written and is intensly focused upon the righteousness of God and why we need that righteousness and how we can have it.
The plan calls for reading 10 chapters daily, one from each list provided. By following this plan the reader will never read the same 10 chapters together again. This will help prevent bordem as it keeps things interesting, so to speak. With my modfied plan you will be reading Revelation every month and Revelation is the only book that promises a special blessing to the reader just for reading it. For those who might find 10 chapters daunting you can also modify the plan so that you are reading five chapters a day instead of 10. You can also read each page every other day but have one day where you read all 10 chapters. I've even heard of some who read 10 chapters daily during the week and then five chapters on the weekend (Saturday and Sunday). And, if you're like me and miss a day or two once in awhile, don't panic, just pick up where you left off and keep going.
It is also important to remember the Bible teaches us sactification (the process of becoming more like Jesus) occurs as we renew our minds with God's Word. Paul wrote, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2). God told Joshua the same thing in Joshua 1:8, "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success." The Psalmist wrote, "Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105).
I can think of no greater responsibility we have as Christians than that of renewing our minds through reading and meditating upon God's Word. Will you join me in 2017 by commiting to the spiritual discipline of regular Bible reading and meditation? I believe God will honor your commitment by transforming your mind and heart thus making you (and me) more like Jesus Christ.
"Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off" (Proverbs 23:18). It's hard to believe 2016 is nearing an end. A little over a week from now a new year will dawn. As 2016 draws to a close and 2017 looms on the horizon I wonder how many of us will take the time to reflect back over this past year and consider our accomplishments and our shortcomings.
What about all those New Year's Resolutions we set for 2016? If you're like me, you probably resolved to do a thing or two only to come up short! But it need not be this way. A new year provides us with the opportunity to make a fresh start. I think that is one reason God gives us a new year every January 1st.
God is, after all, in the new business. The Bible reminds us, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). John wrote, "And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new'" (Revelation 21:5).
As we prepare for the New Year we ought to pause and think about where we are spiritually and where we want to go. The Old Testament prophet Haggai wrote, "Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'Consider your ways'" (Haggai 1:7). As 2016 draws to a close and 2017 looms before you, will you stop and consider your ways? Will you think about where you are spiritually and where you need to go? How will you seek to become more like Jesus in 2017?
Paul prayed, "For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light" (Colossians 1:9-12).
Several things are mentioned in Paul's prayer to God for us. I list them here for your consideration:
1. A prayer for knowledge, spiritual wisdom, and understanding. Our faith is not a blind faith. It is based upon the knowledge of Christ and His Word.
2. A prayer for a Christ honoring and God glorifying life. This is the result of the knowledge, spiritual wisdom, and understanding Paul initially mentions in his prayer.
3. A prayer for a life pleasing to God.
4. A prayer for a life that bears fruit through good works that honor and point others to Christ.
5. A prayer for increasing knowledge. Again, our faith is based on what (who) we know--Jesus.
6. A prayer for Godly strength.
7. A prayer for patient endurance. Life is not easy and, as believers, we are called to patiently endure life's trials.
8. A prayer for joyful thanksgiving. One of the many reasons we have joy and are to give thanks is because of what God has done for us in Christ--He has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints.
As you prepare to begin a new year, take time to think about Paul's prayer for you. Although written nearly 2000 years ago, the prayer still rings true today. God is still hearing and answering this prayer. Furthermore, consider what you can do in 2017 to grow in your relationship to Jesus Christ.
In his book, Developing Healthy Spiritual Growth, Joel Beeke offers a list of sixteen spiritual disciplines that God uses as means of grace to make us more like Jesus. He writes, "Think of the list of sixteen disciplines as a catalog of books you receive from a great book publisher. You can't buy everything in the catalog (sadly!), but you can buy two or three books. So you flip through the catalog and circle the books that most appeal to you... In your mind (or in your notes), circle the ones that you need to work on most, then invest yourself in getting a grip on them." Remember, private time devoted to communion with God is central to growth. Here are the sixteen disciplines:
Disciplines of Personal Devotion:
1. Read the Scriptures. (See my post on Regular Bible Reading)
2. Meditate on the Bible.
3. Pray and work.
4. Keep a journal.
1. Regular family worship and catechizing.
2. Make your home the center of hospitality and fellowship for others.
3. Discipline your children in love.
4. Counsel your children in major decisions.
1. Hearing the preached Word.
2. Make diligent use of the sacraments.
3. Participate in the fellowship in the church.
4. Sanctify the Lord's Day.
1. Evangelize sinners with the gospel.
2. Serve people with your time and money.
3. Have compassion on people but flee worldliness.
4. Intercede for the world.
Dr. Beeke concludes, "Let us seek wisdom from God, and the Spirit's grace, in order to turn knowledge into practice, for we do not truly know anything until it is translated into action... It is challenging to grow in Christ's pattern and in pleaseing God. That's why we need the spiritual disciplines. Thanks be to God, He has given us many ways to apply the Word and prayer to our lives, not just in private disciplines but also in the family, church, and neighborly relationships."
So, in which two or three spiritual disciplines do you want to make the most progress during 2017? What will you do about it? Also, in what ways would you like to see 2017 different from 2016? What will you do about it? Finally, consider what one thing you can do to improve your prayer life in 2017.
The New Year provides an excellent opportunity to consider where we are spiritually and where we want to go. I hope you will take the time to consider these important matters, and by God's grace, set about to see spiritual transformation in your walk with Christ during 2017. May God bless you as you endeavor to become more like Jesus, who has "rescued us from the domain of darkness" (Colossians 1:13a).
I'll be the first to admit I don't read my Bible often enough. This sad fact never ceases to amaze me yet I seem almost powerless to do anything about it. The Bible claims to be God's Word to us yet far too many Christians fail to read it regularly. Why is this? I was just pondering this question today as I dealt with a difficult ministry situation. The one thing that God is sure to use to sustain me--reading and meditating upon His Word--is so often neglected. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. In the meantime, here are a couple resources that might help you in your journey.
First of all, Andy Naselli offers Three Tips for Better Bible Reading on the Desiring God Blog. He offers three suggestions, (1) Listen to audio Bibles, (2) Read entire books in one sitting, and (3) Read a Bible without chapter and verse numbers. There are also links to related resources at the bottom of the blog entry.
Secondly, Professor Grant Horner of The Master's College, has designed a Bible reading plan using a book mark system. Basically, you read 10 chapters a day but you're never reading the same 10 chapters together again. Personally, I have been using a modified version of this system for awhile (when I actually read my Bible). I say "modified" because Grant's system has you reading through Proverbs and Acts every month. I decided I'd rather read through Daniel, Romans, and Revelation each month so I adjusted the book marks accordingly. By the way, for you Facebook people, he even has a Facebook Page dedicated to his system.
Thirdly, whether you use a formal plan or your own plan, remember, what's important is that you and I regularly read and meditate upon God's Word. There is no substitute for regular Bible reading and feeding. The Psalmist wrote, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105). Jesus said, "You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me" (John 5:39). Let's all renew our commitment to read God's Word regularly.
You are welcome to leave comments and you don't have to necessarily agree with me. However, I expect a civil tone and charitable spirit. We can disagree with one another without being disagreeable. "Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt." (Colossians 4:6)
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