Do you ever think about the subject? Heaven, that is. I’m not just talking about the times when we wind up sitting in solemnity at the funeral of a loved one. If this whole God thing is true, then I wonder if the high hope of Heaven is something to be paid attention to a bit more. There are divine moments when Heaven comes to mind, such as when I’m reading C. S. Lewis or J. R. R. Tolkien or watching one of their great masterpieces on film. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and The Lord of the Rings totally set the stage for another realm beyond what we can touch today.
Heaven comes to mind when I’m scanning the dial on a road trip, and something like U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” comes on. I’m again reminded that I’m part of something so much bigger than the here and now. Sometimes, Heaven comes out of my plea for God to make things right. I see the evil and rebellion in the world, and my heart cries out for justice. Then, I know that justice will come someday. (more…)
One New Year’s challenge that I always look forward to is reading through the Bible beginning January first. Honestly, I don’t always get the whole text read in a year. Sometimes interruptions get in the way. On other occasions, I find God grabbing my attention to stop and meditate on one single verse in the day’s reading instead of pressing on with the rest of the text.
But I’ve found that a daily practice of systematically working through the Bible has been just as important spiritually as eating a healthy diet is for the physical. The objective is simply coming before the life-changing Word of God regularly and allowing HIM to change us.
In my vocation, it’s easy to check out and look at the Bible as a textbook. By this, I mean merely studying the content for sermon preparation, teaching, and the like. But, unfortunately, that’s probably not too far off for many of us. In other words, it’s easy to take it for granted. Yet somehow, we know there’s something different to this book. The Bible is still the number one selling book of all time. It is both mysterious and rational. It is known to change even the hardest of hearts and bring purpose, clarity, and hope for those honestly seeking answers.
I know; some have argued against or wondered about the validity of the Bible. On the surface, that is a good question. To that, I have written in places such as here on the reliability of the text. So, yes, there are indeed rational reasons to trust the Bible and learn from it today for those honestly seeking truth.
Therefore, the challenge that I’m passing along to you is to pick up the Old Book in the New Year and dive in. Don’t worry if you miss a day or can only grab a few verses on another. Just pick it up again the next day at the scheduled reading spot. No, you may not end up having read every single word of the text in 2022. But if you are not at least setting a road map, you’ll never travel anywhere. It’s not about legalism anyway. The purpose is not more religious points scored with God but instead preparing the heart for Him to speak into your life and the lives of His people, the church.
I have often remembered a quote attributed to the 19th century English preacher, Charles Spurgeon, who supposedly said, “The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself.” I like that regardless of who said it. It conveys that the Word of God is powerful and will indeed transform your life today. There are several good online plans to read the Bible through in a year. This is the one that I use and here are other options.
As for me going into 2022, I’m in. What about you?
Here we go! This afternoon I’m fully back in the saddle after a three and a half week’s study break from my regular role at Cypress Crossings Christian Church and other ministry duties. I also used this opportunity for a social media fast which I highly recommend doing yourself sometime. After 25 years of full-time ministry, I have only taken one such a break before. Thus some huge gratitude goes out to the elders of Cypress Crossings for being more than willing to grant me these past weeks to rest, recharge, and refocus. Have your ever felt like you needed a re-focus?
I was surprised that I had to remind myself that I was actually on a break. While the plan was to ensure uninterrupted study and prayer time, it was also supposed to be an extended Sabbath. Here’s the reality that I’m speaking of. Often full-time Christian ministry never stops unless you purposefully schedule in times of Sabbath and rest. For me, even assumed social gatherings are work as I’m “working” to get others connected closer to Jesus and each other. So it was good for me to unplug as much as possible and remind myself that there was indeed some purpose to the pause. A good article by Trevor Devage speaks to the value of such times of retreat for preachers.
My study goal included three or four new books to read, but what happened rather is that I picked up a couple of older books of great worth to go through with fresh eyes. The result was a reminder of things forgotten and for a greater focus going into the fall and future with preaching, church leadership, writing, and other ministry. One of those books was Simple Church by Thom S. Rainer which I had originally read during our church planting work in California. In short, Rainer notes that it is easy to get swamped by programs and business and miss the simple path of leading people into a discipleship relationship with Jesus. Just keeping things focused and simple can be a very powerful move.
An exciting fruit of the break is the upcoming release of Confessions on the Audible format which should go public the first part of September. The physical copy is still available through Amazon and B&N. I’ve created a survey here for the future direction of the Mid-Week Challenge that ran every Wednesday last year at noon. So take some time and share your input before the survey closes next week. I’m truly interested in how this tool can be more helpful for people.
Over all it was a productive break. I am reminded of the value in the Old Testament where God called His people to rest and the times where Jesus commanded his disciples to get into a boat and cross the lake for a season of respite and refocus. The truth is that when we unplug from the clutter of culture and get alone with God it is so much easier to hear his voice and see his path.
What about you? Have you had some time this summer to shut the world
off and sit with the king? If so, what
did you discover?