Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Bible Reading Plan that Works

As 2015 ends and 2016 is nearing you might be thinking what you will be reading in God's word this year. You also might have flashbacks to a Bible reading plan that you started and completely failed. Maybe you set out to read the entire Bible one year and it was a complete flop. Sure, you held fast in January but once you arrived at Leviticus you got lost and confused; your Bible time felt dry and you just quit. Maybe you last longer but once August hit and you were in the thick of the writings of the prophet Jeremiah you couldn't handle it anymore.

What makes a reading plan successful?

First, you have to make reading God's word a priority out of a love for Him. Don't make it guilt based. Any reading plan that is guilt based isn't going to bring about the fruitful growth in your walk with Christ that you're desiring.

Second, it has to be manageable. I have a friend who surfs. I have surfed in the past but not in almost a decade. When we talked about Bible reading plans I asked him, "If you took me surfing would you take me first to Mavericks?" Of course he responded with an emphatic, "NO!" If you've never had a daily reading time, don't set out to read the Bible in a year. Start with something more manageable, maybe that would be an investment of 5 minutes a morning.

Here are three ideas you could choose from for a Bible reading plan that works this year.

Read the book of John
The book of John is known as "the other Gospel". It's the last Gospel written and is found in the New Testament. This is a great place to start reading the Bible for a handful of reasons. First, it focuses on Jesus. The book is dedicated to the life of Christ and keeps our focus on Jesus. Second, it's 21 chapters long. Studies show it takes us 21 days to make something a habit. If you read one chapter of John each day for the next 21 days Bible reading will be a habit. Finally it will help you understand how God sent Christ so we would believe.
But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:31 
Read the Proverbs 
When I started reading the Bible this is where I began. I was leaving my men's small group one evening and a guy asked me, "Neal, where are you reading in God's word right now?" I was frustrated because I didn't know where to read! He took about five minutes to explain how reading the Proverbs was a great place to start. The book of Proverbs is broken into thirty-one chapters. We all know there are 31 days in the longest month. The plan with reading the Proverbs is to read the Proverb that correlates to the date of the month. For example, if today is December 29 then you would read Proverbs 29. If you miss a day, just skip ahead and read based on the date.

Read the Whole Bible
This reading plan is not for the faint of heart. If you haven't spent much time reading God's word I encourage you to build up to this. I was a Christian for about 2-3 years before I embarked on this journey. Now, its a brilliant journey and a fantastic one! This is the plan that I have used for about twelve years now. I've lead groups of people through the plan and unfortunately seen more people stop the reading plan than have completed it.

It takes a commitment of about 20 minutes a day, each day; every day of the year. You start in Genesis and read about 3-5 chapters a day. If you have been a Christ follower for years and are looking for a new invitation into God's word this is for you.

No matter what plan you choose to go with reading God's word on a daily basis is such a filling part of the life of a Christ follower. It sets you a part from the rest of the world. It gives you guidance and direction. It will shape you, challenge and require you to think about how you're living your life!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

My struggle with greed

I grew up in a middle-class, single income, family. It was a single income family because my mom and dad got divorced when I was about two years old and I lived with my mom. Even though we didn’t have much money we always had my grandma to fall back on when times got tough. When I was in second grade I was assigned a project to explain what I wanted to be when I grew up. I had many aspirations of what I’d do when I grew up, but on this particular project I wrote all about my desire to be on “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”

It was a dream of mine to have a yellow Lamborghini, a huge home and to have more money than I could image. Each time I watched the show my desire for the things the people had increased. When the show was over it was time to return back to the reality of living in a two-bedroom house and that my allowance would never buy me the things the people on the show had. It was the reality that there were things in this world I could never afford. The desire for monetary gain was planted early in my life, and established strong roots. After giving my life to Christ I had to begin fighting this strong desire in my heart.

Have there been times where you’ve struggled with loving money more than God?
Has this ever led to a lack of contentment with God?

If you’ve ever found yourself trying to find satisfaction with money and not God then this is for you. Let’s look at what God’s word says about finding satisfaction in Him, not material things.
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
    never will I forsake you.”
So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?”
Hebrews 13:5-6

The writer starts our text out with an instruction for us to be free from the love of money (read Hebrews 13:5). The verse is not only an instruction but there is a reason for the instruction. Do you see the two parts? Then there is evidence, from the Old Testament, to back up the instruction. We’re instructed to keep our lives free from the love of money. Why would this instruction be given to God’s chosen people? Maybe a love for money was capturing their attention more than a love for God.

If you’re struggling with being content go back and read at what comes next (Hebrews 13:6). We find that contentment right here, right in God’s word! This really begins to get to the core issue in our lives, is your confidence in money or God? When you trust God, you can confidently say this. You can confidently know that God is your helper and there is nothing to fear. Now this doesn’t exempt us from suffering or encountering hard times in our lives. This doesn’t mean we won’t struggle financially. This means we make a commitment to find our confidence in God. We do this when we know God, when we know His word and His character.

Think about how often Christ meets all our physical needs. Think about all the times God has provided for you.

This passage really brings out two reminders for us.

The first is that money will never bring the fulfillment that only God can.

No matter how much you accumulate, no matter how many zeros you have in your bank account or 403b it will never bring you the fulfillment that only God can. This why you need to trust deeply in Scripture and cling to God’s promises found in Scripture. If you are trying to fulfillment in God, you might need to be like the woman in Africa was sacrificially gave and increased her need to trust in God.

The second reminder is: Money will never make you content, no matter how much you have.

Let me leave you with a great quote from Ian Morgan Cron: “If your heart’s crammed tight with material things and a thirst for wealth there’s no space left for God.”