Listening to the Bible in a Year

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I’ve often struggled to read through the Bible in a year. When I was younger I accomplished it several times. There was something mysterious & curious about this great book filled with amazing stories & intriguing characters. But as I’ve grown older & busier, attempts to read through the Bible in a year have fallen prey to a long string of excuses & failures.

Particularly as a pastor, I’m very hesitant to share my struggles. For crying out loud, this is my job, right?  I’m supposed to do this professionally! Nevertheless, consistent Bible reading is a struggle for me.

As I grow older & more familiar with scripture, there’s the age old question of quantity or quality. I love to journal & find that Bible reading plans often cause me to simply check the box. It’s hard to make the time meaningful, & before I know it, it’s just another task in a busy day. So I’ve moved away from big goals to read the Bible in a year. The only problem is this – if you don’t have a plan, you will most likely do nothing.

So with all that being said, I’m going to try something new this year! LISTENING TO THE BIBLE IN A YEAR. I kicked it off today using my favorite Bible app & this reading plan: 2016 – 5 Day Bible Reading Program. It only took 16 minutes & I stayed engaged the entire time. Unlike most days where my mind wanders or I find myself drifting off to sleep, etc.

I’m still going to try to record thoughts, prayers, praises, etc. in my journal as I go. I’m excited about immersing myself in God’s word & allowing the Holy Spirit to point me to Jesus & His story this year.

Drop me a comment if this was helpful or if you plan to LISTEN along with me!

Run His Race

Sometimes my identity gets distorted & wrapped up in the sin of comparison. It’s so easy to try to run someone else’s race or even make the race all about me. Sorry I’m not the church planter who has it all together…

Recently a fellow church planter introduced me as “the Pastor of a Little Church Plant in the Neighborhood.” Without realizing it I took on that identity. We are small…we aren’t big enough. It’s been a year since I moved to Midtown & we’re only 35 people. Then I talked with someone on the phone yesterday who has been struggling to replant for the last couple years. He mentioned the number 5o. Instead of celebrating, all I could think about was, “but we’re not 50, we’re only 35…we’re just a little church plant in the neighborhood.”

This morning I was reminded that my identity must come from the Gospel! I REFUSE TO ALLOW MY FAILURES OR JUST AS DANGEROUSLY MY SUCCESSES TO DEFINE ME.

Ephesians 2:10 is a wonderful reminder of the race God has set before us. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. God has saved us so that we can do good works! Works that He has already prepared.

So often I’ve heard people say, “RUN YOUR RACE – Don’t get distracted.” There is still a danger in this phrase. Ephesians 2:10 reminds me that it’s not my race. It’s His race! Jesus has already completed the race & has been crowned King. He has prepared works in advance for me. My greatest danger comes in allowing the joy of running to be stolen by allowing my identity to get wrapped up in anything other than Jesus.

I remember watching the olympics & seeing one of the Chinese divers hang his head in shame as he received the silver medal. I was shocked! You are the 2nd best in the world! How could you not be on top of the world?

All too often we loose perspective. Remember the race you are running! It began with Jesus & will end with Jesus. Any crowns or accolades we receive will be laid at his feet (Rev. 4:10). It’s His Race. Run with Jesus! Make Disciples who make Disciples! And find great joy in The One who ran before us!

Killing Excuses

Maybe you’re like me. You want to read, you like to read, you even carry books around with you…but you struggle to find the time to read. Or at least that’s our excuse.

Two quick ways to kill excuses & start ploughing through some material in the next month.

  1. Commit to reading small amounts over long periods of time. Did you know you can easily read the entire New Testament in a year by only reading 1 chapter a day?! Yes you read that correctly. All the N.T. in one year by reading one chapter a day & you only have to read 5 days a week. Imagine that! You may not be an entire Bible in a year kind of guy or gal, but one chapter a day is doable for all of us. Here’s a reading plan that proves it just in case you don’t believe me: http://www.bibleplan.org/nt/esv/
  2.  Make reading time an appointment on your calendar. Did you know The average American can read 20 / 250 page books in a year by simply reading 30 minutes a day. We don’t read because we expect to “get it in” along with all the other busy tasks that hit us in a given day. The problem is that reading will ALWAYS get pushed off the calendar because it’s not URGENT. In order to read we must prepare in advance. I like to schedule a 30 minute appointment with a book just like I do with a person. It goes on my calendar along with a time & location & gets marked IMPORTANT just like appointments with other people.

I’m realizing more & more that my lack of study & reading isn’t a problem with my schedule, my tasks or my job. I like to blame all those things. But, it’s really my lack of discipline to make it a priority, calendar it, & follow through.

Maybe you can’t read at work. Consider making a commitment to read 15 minutes a day before looking at Facebook or watching TV. I know, sounds ridiculous! But consider the amount of time we spend needlessly surfing Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, ESPN, and the list goes on & on.

So get off this post & make a commitment to sharpen your mind. Calendar it, make a small commitment, and read!  Like I tell my kids, leaders are readers & readers are leaders. I’m not sure which comes first, but I know good leaders never stop learning.  That means they never stop reading!

 

The Gospel Is for Church Planters Too

As a church planter I’m always looking ahead!  Always.

Maybe you’re not like me.  Maybe I’m the only one who looks at the budget, volunteers & available resources & wonders how we will ever do all that God has put in my heart. Maybe I’m the only one who meets a goal and instantly begins to think about what’s next.  Maybe I’m the only one who struggles with forfeiting today’s joy in exchange for tomorrows hopes & dreams.  But I doubt it…

By nature church planting is entrepreneurial.  That means we are constantly looking forward.  There is no time for whining, head shrugging or lamenting the past.  Growth doesn’t come through spinning your wheels or getting stuck.  The future is glorious & our job is to paint that picture & to call people to seize it!

But there’s a problem that comes with always focusing on the future.  If we always dream about tomorrow, it’s really hard to be present today!  I’m learning more & more how important it is to climb down off the “vision ladder” occasionally & to daily rejoice in the Gospel that I have today!

Paul said it this way:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV)

This is what I need to hear.  Because sometimes the Sunday offering doesn’t give me a reason to rejoice.  But can I still rejoice on Friday afternoon even when the P.O. Box is empty?  Can I rejoice on the evening that I put extra work into our small group & half the group decided not to show up?  Paul says yes!

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5 ESV)

I’m convinced that gratitude is the foundation for hope & joy to spring up in our lives.  If I live in the future & what could be, I’ll never enjoy the goodness of the Lord today! I’ll forfeit the glory of the cross & the salvation that God has so graciously offered for me today!

Ultimately my struggle is the sin of lust. Not in porn, or in a sexual nature, but in lusting after what I feel could complete me. Do you lust after the future? Do you lust after goals, achievements, & accolades that will come if you reach a certain mark? The truth is it will never be enough. Only Jesus can satisfy. And the Gospel is available to us every day of our lives in every circumstance.

I challenge you to spend the last few minutes of your day practicing the discipline of gratitude! Thank God for His goodness. Rejoice in the accomplishments & struggles of the day. Lay your head down at night resting in the Gospel. On the cross Jesus declared, “It is finished.” And it is! We are utterly & completely loved by our Father.  Not because of what we have done.  But because of what He did!

Jesus’ Coming

Last week my middle son (Cole) asked a very insightful question. “Do you think Jesus might come back on Christmas Day?” I asked why he thought that might happen. He responded by saying that Jesus came the first time as a baby & it made since that he might return again at the same time.

I’ve never thought about that before, but it makes a lot of sense. This is the type of simple faith that children have and adults need.

This morning I reflected on his question. Of all times of the year, strangely enough, I think Christmas Day is one of the last days of the year that I would expect Jesus to return. Apparently I’m missing something in this Christmas season. Christmas Day is a time of the year that calls for REFLECTION but it calls for ANTICIPATION as well!

As we anticipate Jesus return, we find great meaning in life! I challenge you this Christmas season to REFLECT & ANTICIPATE.  I read a passage of scripture this morning that spoke of the power & responsibility of living in light of the gifts we have been given, preparing for Jesus to return at any moment!  Faithfully & fairly caring for all that He has entrusted to us.  A great message to consider during this time of REFLECTION & ANTICIPATION.

(Luke 12:42-49 ESV)

And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.
“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!

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