The Greatest Commandment

In our F260 readings this week we are blessed with some memory verses from Deuteronomy 6 that many of us may already know pretty well. Verses 4-9 offer us some great truth and instruction, so I’m thankful we have the opportunity to study and learn what God has to share. Right out of the gate starting with verses 4-5, we get a great truth and the part we may know best of all “Hear O Israel the Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
Jesus referenced this in Matthew 22:38 as “The first and greatest commandment”, so that reference alone makes it stand out and be worth engraving in our hearts as is stated in Deuteronomy 22:6 “And these words I command to you today shall be on our heart” which means always with us and a part of everything we think and do. In verse Deuteronomy 22:7, the word says “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise”. This is suggesting to us that these teachings should go on at all times and in all situations. Deuteronomy 22:8-9 says “You shall bind them as a sign on your hands and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the door post of your house and on your gates”. Which is telling us it should be ever present in our lives, in the work of our hands, in our homes and on our doorpost for all to see.  We are to live out the love we have for God in all we do and we are to share that through living it and teaching it everyday!
These verses offer great truths from God’s word, and while it may be more difficult to live it and teach it in our daily lives than it is to believe the fact that God is the One and Only True God, we know we can focus and believe in what Deuteronomy 22:4 & 5 say that “The Lord our God, the Lord is one” and if we love him with all of our heart and all of our soul and with all of our might, He will give us the strength to better live it out everyday. Let’s pray God will give us His strength daily to live for him in everything we do.
And as we approach Easter, let’s also pray that God will lay a burden on our hearts for someone that we can invite to church to hear the greatest news of all… that Jesus is Alive and sitting at the right hand of our God on our behalf every day.
Happy Easter!

Chris Best

Advertisements

St. Patrick’s Day

477767f38431db2e9bb2ae1b74b0cee3--st-patrick-prayer-daily-prayer

In America, arguably more than even Ireland, March 17 is a big deal in celebrating what is called St. Patrick’s day.  In fact, the idea of parades began in New York with British soldiers from Ireland “marching” to a tavern on this day in the 1760’s.  The men we called St. Patrick died on March 17, 461 AD and was really British, not Irish.  He was born under the Roman empire authority and his father was a deacon and grandfather a priest.  As a 16-year-old, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish invaders and was made a slave.  While a slave for 6 years, Patrick stated: “The Lord opened to me a sense of my unbelief, that I might be converted with all my heart unto the Lord.”

Patrick escaped his owners a and made it back home at the age of 22.  While extremely grateful to be back home and no longer a slave his heart became burdened for his former captors.  One night he dreamed that an Irishman was begging him to return and preach.  Patrick started to prepare and study for the task that was before him and after several years went back to Ireland. In his mission work, he was able to plant 200 churches and baptized approximately 100,000 converts though he faced multiple attempts at murder and violent opposition. In his Confessions, he wrote, “I am greatly a debtor of God, who has bestowed his grace so largely upon me, that multitudes were born again to God through me.  The Irish, who had never had the knowledge of God and worshipped only idols and unclean things, have lately become the people of the Lord, and are called sons of God”.  (On this Day by Robert J. Morgan, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

The ritual of wearing green extended from wearing the green shamrock on this day to identify with the Christian tradition of Ireland and Patrick’s use of a shamrock to explain the Trinity.  If you want to watch a video that utilizes stupid humor as a tool to correct this and other bad analogies for the Trinity then click here.

The “Breast Plate of St. Patrick” is attributed to him (viewed in the picture above), but in reality, we do not know the author of the poem, though it is old enough to have been written or utilized by Patrick.

Jarrod Scott

What Should We Be Asking of God in Our Prayers?

A few Sundays ago, Jarrod spoke about the need to pray, not so much for what we want, but for what God has promised to provide us, in His Word. Sadly, there is often a significant difference in what we want vs. what God wants for us. Below are a few interrelated points to consider.

1. In 2010, David Jones, Professor of Christian Ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote a book entitled, “Health, Wealth & Happiness: Has the Prosperity Gospel Overshadowed the Gospel of Christ?” In that book, Dr. Jones raises concerns over the continuing trend in our Christian culture, from a Christ-based focus to a me-based focus. God’s primary desire is to see all come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). Said another way, to be saved (Romans 10:9). From that point forward, God’s longing is for us to love Him and to love our neighbor. This desire, referred to as the Greatest Commandment, is repeated, word for word (for emphasis) in Luke 10:27, Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30-31 and Deuteronomy 6:5 among other verses spread throughout the Bible. Love comes from having a relationship with someone, exemplified from our F260 reading this past week where the Lord spoke to Moses as a man speaks to his friend (Ex 33:11). Once saved, our path to love God is through learning about who He is and what He has done for us (Jeremiah 9:23-24). The greatest expression of our eternal love for others is to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with them (Matt 28:19-20).

Reflection – Are these the foundational elements of your prayer life, to love God more and more every day and to share that love with others? If not, then you (we) are out of sync with God.

2. One of the “formulas” for prayer is A.C.T.S. These letters stand for Adoration (Praise – Psalms 68:35), Confession (of sins – 1 John 1:9), Thanksgiving (thanking God for who he is – Psalms 69:30), and Supplication (requests – Phil 4:6). Note the emphasis on this method of prayer, that adoration and thanksgiving are to be focused on who God is and confession is all about how we have fallen short. Only supplication has a component of prayer requests for ourselves balanced with prayers for others (intercessory).

Reflection – The obvious question is, what balance in these elements do you (I) see in your personal (not corporate) time of daily prayer?

3. God promises that all things will work out for good for His children (Romans 8:28). We cannot see eternity past (I have trouble remembering what I did yesterday). We cannot see today in all its detail (I can only see my side of an issue or event), and we cannot see into a perfect future (I pulled out of stocks two weeks ago, perfectly timing the lowest point in the market, which has risen consistently ever since). When God says He will work everything out for the good of his children, it is another way of saying Phil 4:6-7, that we should not be anxious about anything but pray with a focus on thanksgiving that God will take care of us regardless of the way circumstances seem to look at the time.

Reflection – It is always true that our prayer life becomes more vibrant when we, or our loved ones, get into trouble. The question is, do our prayers remain in balance (A.C.T.S.) or do they become only petitions to God, based on our imperfect view of the situation?

4. Finally, and perhaps the scariest reality as selfish individuals, God’s focus is not toward you and me, as individuals so much as it is to work everything out in a way that will bring Him Glory. God is not our servant, expected to come to our rescue and personally fix our problems based on the way we see them. John 16:33 reminds us that God desires that we have peace, not because we will get everything we want, but because He is in control. As I have mentioned in public before, God drove Judy and I into personal bankruptcy, the exact opposite of what I wanted for our lives. However, He used that process to drive us closer to Him, to be dependent not on ourselves, but on Him. I can look back and see the greater picture of God getting the glory, as well as my family entering His kingdom one day. However, this win-win is not always the case and it is not always so clear. Currently, I know a family where the father is in jail and will be for many years. The mom, with two kids, is facing major surgery in the next few weeks and a long and unsure period of recovery. God may somehow be glorified through all this but, at least so far, it does not appear to be a win-win for the family. Romans 8:28, working together for good, may eventually become visible, but it may not be all that clear on this side of the grave.

Reflection – Are you ok with the reality that comes from Proverbs 19:21 where it says, “Many are the plans in the mind of man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”

I could go on and on but the point is that our sin nature (selfishness, pride, arrogance, etc.) clouds us from the reality that God sees things differently than we do. He has an eternal perspective where ours is often so blind and limited to earthly matters. The more our prayer life moves toward His desire, the more we will truly be citizens of Heaven rather than focused on struggling through the day to day existence in these temporary bodies.

Jeff Hilles

Just As I AM

With the news of Billy Graham’s death, I have been reflective of his impact in my life, our country, and the world.  These meditations have also included many more people that have formed my spiritual heritage.  With these memories, I could not help but think of the song “Just As I am” which have become connected with Billy Graham’s memory and his crusades.  In fact, it was the title of his autobiography, which I read several years ago.  This song was a common sound in the invitations at revival meetings and church services at my home.  I still can see my whitened knuckles gripping hard the pew in front of me as I pondered being “tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt, fightings and fears within, without, O lamb of God,” would I come?  I thought I would take the time to read the lyrics and share some history of the song with you.

The song was written by Charlotte Elliott of Brighton, England (1789–1871) and was an invalid most of her life.  As a believer surrounded by family that was very active in their faith, she struggled with feeling useless in her life.  In 1834, Charlotte was 45 and in the midst of her family working hard for a fundraiser for a ministry she languished in her feelings of uselessness. These feelings moved to doubts and conflicts of her whole spiritual life.  The next day, all those feelings hit her full force and she needed a resolution.  She brought together all of her spiritual certainties to consider over and above her emotions and expressed on pen and paper her definition of faith. She wrote in verse form her forgiveness, peace, and hope of heaven.  (Louis Benson, Studies of Familiar Hymns, Second Series, 201-202 accessed on http://www.challies.com/articles/hymn-stories-just-as-i-am/ )

 

Just as I am – without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
– O Lamb of God, I come!

Access to a relationship with God by His initiation and on the basis of Jesus sacrifice alone!

Just as I am – and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
– O Lamb of God, I come!

Our hope for being Right with God and ourselves is only by Jesus, “The lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Don’t delay such a gift. 

Just as I am – though toss’d about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
– O Lamb of God, I come!

Our faith is imperfect, but our Christ remains perfect and receives us for He is greater than our doubts. 

Just as I am – poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need, in Thee to find,
– O Lamb of God, I come!

We don’t have to make ourselves right to be received by Christ for only through Him do we get right. 

Just as I am – Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
– O Lamb of God, I come!

Jesus has promised, so take him at His word though we are “weary and heavy laden” 

Just as I am – Thy love unknown
Has broken every barrier down;
Now to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
– O Lamb of God, I come!

There is nothing so shaming in our heart that prevents God in His love toward us for it “is His goodness that leads us to repentance.”

Just as I am – of that free love
The breadth, length, depth, and height to prove,
Here for a season, then above,
– O Lamb of God, I come!

There is so much more to be experienced of God’s love that awaits for us after our own death.  The travails of this life are seasonal but God’s love is forever!

Jarrod Scott

The Makings of Me

Dad called last night and he was excited to share with me the report he got from his genetic kit.  You or someone you knew probably sent or received one of those genetic kits for Christmas.  I will be sending off my DNA kit shortly. They appeal to our fascination with ourselves and all that has gone into the 23 chromosomes that have determined our physical body.  Not only do we learn about our body, we also learn about all the places our specific forebears have traveled and intermingled.  We no longer see ourselves as just either red, yellow, black, or white but also as all the colors of the world.  I will look forward to learning about the various cultures and generic tendencies of my personal people groups.  This will be done with an eye to explain and understand my own tendencies and struggles.  We are always looking for someone to blame for our failings, aren’t we?

I am sad to say that my failings are personally mine and mine alone.  Yet, I read a verse in 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 that instructs me to no longer to judge according to the flesh but to seek Christ in myself and others because God is making us into a new creation.  As interesting as it might be to know the genetic markings of myself and others, more meaningful is to seek Christ in them.  This will lead us to an active prayer thought life as we go about our day.  Let the people you meet through your day form an active prayer list for you as you move through your schedules and agendas.  Pray for your people that Christ would be active and work in their hearts and life.  This spiritual power of Christ will determine more of you will be than genetic chromosomes.  As James instructs, “receive the implanted Word of God.”

Pastor Jarrod

Trials…What Good are They?

Let’s face it, life is full of trials and sometimes we just want to say, ” Alright already!” …Why do I have to face so many trials and what good are they anyway?  It’s a tough question, but it’s real for all of us in some capacity.  As believer’s we hope and maybe even sometimes expect the trials to cease.  But, we find they don’t and sometimes they ​even ​seem to increase​.​

S​o we are left to ​try​ to trust that God is there ​to walk us thru​ and ​that ​He has something to teach us that will draw us closer to Him while going thru it.  The good news is Gods word is full of good examples of this and what God can do thru trials.

​I​n our F260 Bible reading for the last couple of weeks we are seeing a great example of this in Joseph.  When it comes to trials, Joseph faced some pretty tough stuff, but he kept his faith in God #1 and we can see where God used ​those​ trials to teach him several things.  One was to accept the situation and glorify God thru it.  It’s real easy to have a “Why Me” approach to trials, but when Joseph was sold into Slavery he accepted the situation and went right to work for Potiphar.  

​Like Joseph w​e must accept our situation for God to work thru it.  Then when wrongly thrown into prison he continued to work hard and instead of holding grudges against those who put him there, he helped them prosper. God used this to bless others and draw them to himself, he can do the same thru our trials.  God ​also ​taught Joseph patience thru numerous and very long trials.  Joseph knew God was going to bless him so he kept his hope fixed on God thru it all and in the end his patience paid off with blessings, as it can for us in our trials.  He taught Joseph integrity thru the temptations of Potiphar’s wife. 

​ Joseph​ knew that being faithful to God 1st and Potiphar 2nd was the right thing to do even thought it would mean more trials, and God blessed ​his patience thru it​ as he will do for us.  He taught Joseph humility thru his trials.  At any point Joseph could have taken credit for his ability to interpret dreams and gained the reward for it, but instead Joseph always gave glory to God for this ability, proclaiming that God was responsible for his abilities and that deserved the glory for it all.  Joseph knew it was God’s blessing that gave him the ability to get thru this trial, so he gave him the glory as we should when God walks us thru a trial.    

​There are several things God Taught Joseph, but I’ll close with a big one that we all struggle with, forgiveness.  God taught Joseph that forgiveness is key for dealing with the trials in our life.  If we are going to get past some of the biggest trials in our life we must first forgive those who have wronged us so God can do his great work thru them.  Joseph knew God’s plan​s​ w​ere ​bigger than he was and ​that they were ​bigger than the many trials he faced ​since​ his brothers had committed ​the sin of selling him into slavery.  But, instead of holding a grudge he forgave, he trusted God​,​ and ​he ​gave God​the Glory he deserved every step of the way.  

Joseph’s trials and how he handled them, ​can teach us a lot ​​as we face our ​daily​ trials, so keep on reading and trusting in God’s word. And even though the trials may continue, He will walk you thru drawing you and others around you to Himself the whole way.  

Chris Best

Tick-Tock…

Shortly after we both were saved (in 1989, at 36 years old), Judy and I began attending a non-denotational church here in Raleigh. The pastor offered a powerful sermon one Sunday morning on the subject of our stewardship before the Lord. It was not so much about financial obligations in support of the ministries of the church as it was about the use of our time and talents.

Sadly, I have a very poor memory, so I count the recollection of that sermon as a reflection of its importance. The illustration I remember most was from the Pastor’s own life. Back in the early 90’s Day-Timers (small paper notebook scheduling calendars) were in vogue and he was never without his. As I recall the Sermon was early in the year and he was explaining how, as he set goals and objectives for the coming year, one of the first things he did (over Christmas) was to write in the bottom corner of each page in his Day-Timer the number of days it has been since he was saved, a slash mark, and then the number of days he had left to live (based on actuarial tables).

After making the illustration, the rest of his sermon revolved around the importance of those numbers, as day-by-day, the first number got bigger and the second, smaller.

This past Sunday as I was thinking/praying about the upcoming Offertory Prayer. My thoughts landed on stewardship and that Day-Timer illustration from so many years ago.

Even though God knows us from eternity past (Eph. 1:4-5), in a sense, God starts a countdown timer at the point we are conceived (Psalms 139:14). It displays the number of days we have in this “human” phase of our eternal existence (1 Cor. 15:54-55).

We are born and begin to live out our lives, often naive to the responsibilities we have before God. At some point (hopefully) we are exposed to the saving gospel message of Jesus and cross over from eternal death to eternal life (Mat. 25:46), or from eternity in Hell to eternity in Heaven. At that point the Holy Spirit enters us and we become followers of Christ, left on this earth to do His work, under His will…

Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock…… the invisible (to us) countdown timer continues to mark the days, as we live out our lives through the good times and the bad times, though job changes, houses, kids, sports, church, etc.

Like the game of musical chairs, the music will stop at some point, unknown to us when the last tick-tock is heard by God. As believers, that will be a glorious time with new, sinless, healthy bodies in a wonderful, eternal place called Heaven.

However, embedded in that eternal joy, peace, and love is a lesson for those of us whose clock has not yet run out…..

Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Many interpret this verse solely as a description of the brokenness of man on earth vs the joy awaiting us in Heaven. A few, based on Isaiah 65:17, treat this verse in Revelation as evidence that God will proactively wipe away just the memories of our sin nature, leaving good memories behind. However, I would offer the thought that, based on varying rewards and recognitions offered at the Bema Seat, we will have some knowledge of both the good and bad of our time spent on this earth (Rev. 22:12, 1 Cor. 3:11-15, 2 Cor. 5:9-10, 1 John 2:28, Rev. 3:11-12). Beginning with the statement “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes,” it suggests [to me] that God might actually need to comfort us as we enter Heaven….

I think when we get to Heaven and clearly see our sin nature and all the lost opportunities He gave us to serve Him rather than serving ourselves, we will be in tears. It will hit us, just as we are entering Heaven for eternity, no longer able to serve God from a position of faith (1 Cor. 13:12).

The times we squandered watching TV, stressing over the minutest details of earthly life, in conflict with our neighbor, missing opportunities to share God’s love, etc., will confront us.  As we face the outcome of our actions and inactions, we will be overwhelmed with sadness.

Relative to eternity, our time as earthly foreigners (Phil. 3:20) is infinitesimally short in this sin-cursed world, but holds so many opportunities for kingdom ministry that we will never have on the other side of the grave,….. tick-tock.

Jeff Hilles

On Reading the Bible

This year our church is reading a Bible plan together called F260.

I am excited as I hear about the changes that are happening and the insights being gained by each of you.  I pray that God will use this in our lives to draw us closer to Him individually and as a church.  As we are learning of God’s goodness and His word we are to actively share what we are learning with others.  We are calling this “Breathe” as we inhale His word and character and exhale His good news.  I have been able to share with a couple of people outside of our church membership and am excited to see that they too are joining us in reading the Bible.  Click here to read another report of another church in Canton, Ohio who is also doing the plan in 2018.  What wonderful news to read about God’s saving work through just reading His word.

As I hear from others I am struck by how few of us believers will take the time to read the Bible.  I am afraid that the American church culture has started to read the Bible like one might just read the dictionary.  We can treat it as the “go to” source to find points to prove a theological point or to address a cultural moment, or pressing emotion.  Yet, the Bible has an overarching story that is life-giving and is a gift from God to us.  As one person has recently written, we need to be Bible-readers and not just Bible-quoters.  There is supernatural power in just recounting God’s story with others.  As I shared with one young man last month, he observed, “I can tell you did not make up this story, for no one can make up a story such as this.”  For those of you with children living with you, don’t be afraid to make this a part of your family time.  Let your children be exposed to God’s word in your home.

Jarrod Scott

Gifted

“You’ve been given a great gift, George: A chance to see what the world would be like without you.”  This compelling quote is from the classic movie, It’s A Wonderful Life.  Each year around Christmas, one of the networks will broadcast this timeless gem, and I am compelled to watch it each time as if I’ve never seen it before.  Of all the aspects of the movie that I love, I think the irresistible force over me is simply the acting of Jimmy Stewart, who plays George Bailey.  It is he who is given the gift, even as he considers taking his own life after he tells God, “I’m at the end of my rope.”  But to convince him that his rope is much longer and better than he thinks, George is granted the opportunity to see how different the lives of his loved ones, and even the fate of his entire town, would have been had he not lived his “ordinary” life.

The wife of a friend was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.  Being in the vicinity of her late 40’s to early 50’s, she was understandably surprised to learn of her condition at such a young age.  Healthy and active and a follower of Christ, she nevertheless fell victim to this dreadful disease.  But in speaking with her dear confidant and mentor, she was told that she had been given a great gift.  She had been granted by God the opportunity to live out her faith in the midst of dealing with terrible news.  How she processed this unwelcomed setback, and the ways in which she chose to deal with the prognosis and treatment, would speak to many people as to the strength of her faith and the depth of her reliance on God.

Having just experienced the joys of Christmas, we have been reminded that gifts come in all shapes and sizes.  They are wrapped in the most unique ways, and they sometimes mean much more, or much less, than was ever expected or intended.  But nobody boxed up a batch of cancer and put it under the tree.  Nor did anyone look in their stocking and then have to spend hours wrestling with the condition that they no longer existed.  But such as these can be used by God to bring the greatest gift He offers, and that is to experience Him in a deep and loving relationship.  God doesn’t pass out cancer like we pass out the gifts on Christmas morning.  But He does offer the gift of knowing Him deeper and displaying that for the world to see.

The Bible says that every good and perfect gift comes down from God, and also that He makes all things work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  So, you hold in your hands, or have within your body, or are experiencing in your relationships, something that will be labeled.  Will it be part of a gift that moves you closer to the God who loves you, who can use every situation as a means to express that love?  Or will it be called something much worse, and be for you a means to step away from your heavenly Father?  Your heart certainly longs for the first.

Rich Holt

Breathing God’s Word in 2018

As a church we are beginning a church-wide Bible Reading plan called F-260.  You can find more information about this plan here.
In preparation of starting our Bible reading plan I read a very helpful article which you find here.
I have copied the artlicle for you on this blog.  Jarrod Scott
Article by

Executive Editor, desiringGod.org

Here comes our annual reminder to take stock and make fresh resolves. And for many of us, a new year means an opportunity to re-up on our spiritual disciplines. However poor our eating has been or however inadequately we’ve exercised, we never seem to end the old year with the fully functional “habits of grace” we want to enjoy in the new year.

Inevitably, in this age, even the most basic spiritual-discipline inventory will give us something to feel guilty about. Could we ever avail ourselves enough of God’s ear in prayer? Ever memorize enough of his words in Scripture? Ever personally share the news about his Son with enough unbelievers? Without a seared conscience, we’ll annually find ourselves lacking in some way, and have more to aspire to on this side of heaven.

Perhaps you feel so overwhelmed when it comes to the failures in your spiritual habits, or lack thereof, that you barely even know where to start. Do I start praying more, and memorizing Scripture, and sharing my faith aggressively, all at once? But the more resolutions we try to bite off at the same time, the less likely we are to make real and lasting progress on any of them. We can’t change everything at once, but we can pursue in faith, with God’s help, just a few keys habits that may have a domino effect. Even just one key habit.

So, if you’re looking for just one fresh spiritual focus for the new year, I’d like to offer a suggestion: Marry the Bible this year.

God Himself Comes First

Without downplaying prayer or fellowship or witness in the least, I say start with the Bible because hearing God’s voice in his word is the most fundamental of his ongoing “means of grace” for our Christian lives. Having his ear (in prayer) and belonging to his body (in the church) are equally essential, but they don’t play the same fundamental role, because the Christian life is not a symmetrical partnership between man and God.

God’s word comes first, because God comes first. He acts first. We did not create the world or ourselves. And we do not initiate the Christian life; he does. First he speaks, and then we respond in prayer. First he speaks, and his word creates a people called the church. Marry the Bible this year, and it’s only a matter of time before God’s word lights a fire in you to respond in prayer. Marry the Bible this year, and you won’t long keep to yourself, but will soon feel compelled to lock arms with others as his word not only feeds you, but gives you bread to share, with baskets left over.

Absorbing Culture or Christ?

I say marry the Bible because it’s a phrase that jumped out at me recently when reading an early Piper sermon from 1982. I’m sure it made for a powerful call then, but these words are perhaps all the more relevant today, a generation later:

Satan devotes himself 168 hours a week trying to deceive you and fill your mind with junk. He has seen to it that you are surrounded almost entirely by a Christless culture whose mood, and entertainment, and advertising, and recreation, and politics are shot through with lies about what you should feel and think and do.

Do you think that in this atmosphere you can maintain a vigorous, powerful, free, renewed mind with a ten-minute glance at God’s book once a day? The reason there are church people who are basically secular like everyone else except with a religious veneer is that they devote 99% of their time to absorbing the trajectories of the world and 1% of their time to absorbing the trajectories of God’s word.

If you want to bring forth the will of God in your life like a mother brings forth a child, you must marry the Bible. For some of you, it is a stranger that you greet on the way to work but never have over for a relaxed evening of conversation, and seldom invite along to spend significant time with you on vacation. Do not, then, be surprised if you are ill-equipped to read the trajectories of God’s will for your own life. (“He Will Send His Angel Before You”)

It may feel admirable to start a new year with a firm resolve to spend ten minutes in God’s word every morning. Ten minutes every day is a good step forward from less, or nothing. If that’s where you are, take step one first, then step two later. But don’t be naïve about where you stand after one step. And if dipping into God’s word for ten minutes is the grace and joy it really is (rather than mere duty), what’s keeping you from enjoying more? Receiving more grace? Basking in more blessing?

As we look at the larger picture (“surrounded almost entirely by a Christless culture”), we see that a ten-minute glance is just a start. This is not a call to balance every single minute in the world with an equal and opposite minute in God’s word — God’s voice is stronger than Satan’s. But we will do well, here at the outset of a new year, to think how we can indeed walk with our God, and enjoy him throughout the day, and not simply touch base quickly for ten minutes.

More Than a Reading Plan

By all means, yes, make a habit of making a beeline to the Bible first thing in the morning in 2018. Find a realistic, enjoyable reading plan, let your reading give rise to meditation, and meditation to prayer. A daily “quiet time” or “time alone with God” is a great place to start. They are like date nights with your wife — but dates do not a marriage make! Consider what a “marriage” with God’s word might look like for you here as a new year begins.

Perhaps it might include regularly hearing the Bible read. What tremendous opportunities we have in our day through technology to hear the Scriptures. Try the YouVersion app, or the forthcoming Dwell app. Hit play on the treadmill or in the car or while doing chores. The Bible was originally written to be read to crowds of listeners. “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture” (1 Timothy 4:13). In the history of God’s people and his church, far more people have heard his word read to them than have read it themselves. It’s a glorious gift that we have it ourselves today and can read it ourselves, but God also means for us to hear his word. Hearing engages us in a way that reading does not, and vice versa.

And marrying the Bible in 2018 will include, in some form, hearing God’s voice through faithful teachers. God gives his church pastors and teachers for her equipping and upbuilding (Ephesians 4:11–12). First and foremost in person, in our local churches. And then, secondarily, in the wider church. Come ready to receive God’s word from your pastor each Sunday, and midweek, and avail yourself of the remarkable riches pouring out today from faithful Christian publishers, along with the plethora of substantive, well-written articles online (like TGCLigonierChalliesFor the Church, and more). And as long as it’s been in coming, perhaps we’re coming into a golden age of podcasting as untold millions seem to be discovering not only the convenience of audio as a medium, but also its power to engage the heart through the imagination. (Choose from among eight such podcasts here at Desiring God.)

Better When You Share It

Finally, marrying the Bible this year will eventually mean some fresh effort to share your nourishment with others. As the very life of God himself in and through his words dwells richly in you, and feeds your soul, you will want to extend and deepen your joy by sharing him with others. When we commend to others what we ourselves are tasting as sweet in God’s word, we enjoy it all the more. Hearts full of joy in Christ don’t stay full by putting a lid on them, but by taking the lid off and spreading out the feast before others.

Marrying the Bible is not a sequestering pursuit. As God fills us with the spiritual life and joy he imparts to us through his word, he will put a word in our mouth and make our meal all the more filling as we pass it around to others. The dominos will begin falling as the word of God comes into its central, initiating, energizing place in our souls.