I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. -Psalm 119:11
New Year's resolutions are as old as...well, new years. They are easily made and just as easily broken. Nevertheless, the new year is a good time to start new things, and to set a purpose to accomplish new tasks. We start out each new year at LifePoint with a challenge to be in the word of God. We are intentional about that, because it is as good a time as any to encourage the beginning (or the continuation) of a healthy habit.
Pastor Tony encouraged us last Sunday from 1 Peter to be in God's word in 2018. If the pictures of what he looked like in 1996 were not enough to scare you, then hopefully his encouraging words to you concerning how the Lord changed his life and continues to change it through his word will challenge you to "let the word of Christ dwell in you richly" (Col. 3:16) this new year.
Here are my goals for 2018, if the Lord should choose to let me live another year. In 2017 I read through the Old Testament slowly, reading for content, not speed. In 2018 I plan to read through the New Testament at least three times. I will also read a chapter or two regularly through the Psalms before I go to bed each night to supplement my time in the N.T. Doing so, I hope to read through the Psalms at least twice in 2018 as well. I will also spend one quiet time each week concentrating on my Scripture memorization. I am currently working on getting Psalm 15 entrenched in my mind, and will then turn my attention to Philippians chapter 2, which for some reason I have yet to tackle in its entirety. Generally speaking, my pattern for devotions is to wake up fairly early each day, shower and get ready for the day, and then spend 45 minutes to an hour in God's word and in prayer. I then go on with my day, pausing most evenings to read a bit in bed, usually just a chapter or two from Scripture. I do my "regular" reading for sermon preparation and enjoyment in the evenings when at home.
I have occasionally told you what my daily disciplines are in Scripture, as I just did, not to impress you, particularly since it isn't all that impressive. (Martin Luther, who preached on average 300 sermons per year, wrote books and tracts almost continuously, and was a father and husband, started each day with two hours of prayer and time in God's word.) I share with you my Christian disciplines as a way to encourage you to establish disciplines of your own. Surely we all know, friends, that many of the things we stress and fret over in this life and spend countless hours upon will count for very little in eternity. However, every second in God's word has value not only for this lifetime, but for our future lives as well. His word is eternal. "Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens!" (Psalm 119:89)
I would like to reprint one more time some suggested prayer requests for our church family that I am praying regularly in my devotions. Would you consider adding these to your own prayers in 2018?
- That the Lord will bring people under the influence of the church's ministry who need to hear the gospel (Acts 18:9-10).
- That we will teach and preach "the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15). That we will not fear for our reputation nor our advantage in the community, but that we will proclaim "Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2).
- That we will be a unified body of believers. That gossip and slander will be rejected by those who hear it, and that we will love and offer grace to one another in truly biblical proportions (John 13:34-35).
- That we will be a sending church, with a heart for gospel missions that is unquenchable (Matt. 28:19-20).
- That we will love and care for our neighbors as we love ourselves (Matt. 22:39).
Because it is worth repeating, I will also reprint my prayer for our church family that the apostle Paul prayed for his friends in Philippi. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you will be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ - to the glory and praise of God (Phil. 1:9-11).
Grace and peace,