Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Best New Year's Resolution

Many of us see the new year as a kind of reset switch so that we can start practicing good habits. I would like to suggest to you one such habit: the regular reading/meditating/praying over God's word.   The Psalmist says  "Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You." Psalm 119:11  Our minds would be less chaotic, our hearts less troubled, our wills less torn, if we could simply "Be still [before God's word] and know that He is God." Psalm 46:10

Ligoneer put together a list of Bible Reading Plans that any one of us could use, including our children.  How great would it be to start getting our reading age children on a simple bible reading!  Some plans only take 5 minutes a day.  How great would it be to to have our teenage kids reading and starting to inculcate that discipline of discerning God's voice on their own before they leave our homes!  

That being said, I would like to offer 5 tips for reading the Scriptures successfully.  

1.  Always pray.  Even if it's a ten second prayer: "Father, please help me understand your Word.  I want to know you more and your Son whom You sent for me.  Please give me your Spirit that I may have the mind of Christ." 

2. Never give up!  Don't worry about the date on the plan.  Bible reading plans were made for man, and not man for bible reading plans.  If you get behind, ignore the date, and just pick up where you left off.  It's infinitely more important to take in God's Word, than to be on the "right day."

3. Go slow.  If you just finished a paragraph but your mind wandered and you can't remember what you read—stop.  Pray.  Start over.  This happens to me all the time.  I just finished a paragraph and my mind was thinking about something else, while my eyes merely hovered over the words. I have to use those moments to plead with God for help.  The Scripture is the most difficult book to read on planet earth, because it is wholly spiritual.  If God the Spirit, does't help us, then we will fail.  So don't get discouraged if that happens to you often. It happens to me all the time.  Use those moments to push into another quick prayer, and ask God to fix your attention on His Word.

4.  Affections are critical.  If you find yourself reading something like "Be glad in the LORD, you righteous ones" (Psalm 97:12)  and you don't feel glad in the LORD—stop.  Pray.  Ask God to give you affections like the Psalmist.  Ask Him to give you spiritual sight of what the Psalmist sees so that you can be glad in the LORD.  God loves to answer those type of prayers.  You see, reading God's word is not simply an exercise in reading.  In is an exercise of reading/meditating/praying over/delighting it.  The only way that can happen in us, is if God fills us with His Holy Spirit. So pray and hope to that end in all your reading. 

5.  Obedience is essential. If we read God's Word and then don't apply it to our lives, we are just like the man in the book of James.  "For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But the one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does." James 1:23-25  Notice that James says that obedience brings liberty and blessing.  Those are the two pillars that hold up all of our spiritual happiness.  That is how we should view obedience, as a means to our happiness in the LORD.  Sometimes this obedience can be triggered very easily by meditating on what you read in the morning throughout the day.  

Ultimately, in encouraging you to read/meditate/pray over God's word, I'm encouraging you to "taste and see that the LORD is good." Psalm 34:8 God is a infinite treasure chest of immeasurable pleasure.  When we delight ourselves in Him, we discover that He is the greatest desire of our hearts. 

"Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart."  Psalm 37:4

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