It’s that time of year when we turn our attention to the coming New Year and all the hopes and dreams that we have for it. Will this finally be the year that you lose those extra pounds? Will it be your year to run that first 5K? Will you finally kick your sugar habit? Will you eat more healthily?
According to most polls, diet and fitness goals occupy the top spots of every New Year’s Resolutions list. They certainly have mine in the past. In fact, I’ve not only been there and done that, I have also taught Bible studies on each one. No joke! My January Bible study classes have always been full of people eager to start the journey with me.
While I recommend all of these goals and can attest to the many advantages that each one brings to your life, I find a problem with each one – the joy of achieving them is fleeting. They do not produce the lasting satisfaction that can only come from the Lord. That is why I turned all my goals into Bible studies. I knew I could not do any of it – run a single mile nor live a single day without sugar – without help from the Lord. Each goal became a spiritual journey for me and I have grown significantly in my faith with the achievement of each one.
When 2017 rolled around I decided to head in a different direction with my New Year’s goals. First, I decided to only set one goal. Just one. Second, I decided it was time to do something that I have never done before – read through the Bible. Audra had recently shared her excitement with me about her chronological Bible which contains background commentaries to help the reader better understand the text before each day’s passage. I liked the sound of that because I need all the help I can get when it comes to understanding the Bible! So, I decided to go for it.
Although it's divided into 365 days, I gave myself permission at the very beginning to take it slowly. I call it my "Read Through the Bible in Three Years Plan". No pressure to speed through it. No condemnation whenever I skip a day or two or seven. No legalism. Just pure enjoyment.
Here are a few things that I have learned:
1. God meets me on every page. He met me in Genesis, in Exodus, in Leviticus, in Numbers (Yes, even in Numbers!) and so forth. On the very day I need it, His Word has been that steady guide to my wayward path. I see Him more vividly, discern His voice more clearly, and feel His presence more tangibly. Whatever I am lacking, He provides in black and white on that very page. It never fails.
2. I’m discovering power-packed verses that I have never heard before. Consider this nugget tucked inside Deuteronomy 4:7: "What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him?" What a WORD!! He is NEAR US when we pray! I cannot think of a bigger confidence booster than that! Why am I not praying every waking hour then?
3. I make so many connections! The Bible is one big, seamless story. Once you start reading it in the correct order instead of cherry-picking passages, then the people, places, and events are more understandable. Context becomes key. And, you see how God uses symbolic words and numbers repetitively throughout to emphasize a certain meaning or to weave themes together. Take the number 40 for instance. Forty represents a time of testing, trial or probation. Whenever I see the number 40 pop up, I immediately think "testing!" The pings start going off in my brain and I am understanding the text in a whole new way. I lean in, looking more intently at the verses to seek the purpose of the test and what the outcome was.
For example, when Moses was atop Mount Sinai for 40 days, the Israelites got impatient and crafted, worshipped and reveled around a golden calf. Needless to say, they failed the test miserably. Another test came when Moses sent spies into the Promised Land for a 40-day tour. Upon their return, the Israelites became full of fear when they heard the distressing report. The news of the giants and walls that lay ahead made their hearts “melt in fear.” Their imaginations got carried away. They became angry and did not trust in the Lord. Instead of anticipating all that the Lord was about to do – take down giants and tear down walls – they instantaneously gave way to fear. They failed that test miserably, too.
But, then, there’s Jesus. A man who passed the test. Led by the Spirit into the wilderness for 40 days. He was stretched, tried and tempted beyond human imagination and yet stood victorious on day 41. Glory!
These accounts of testing cause me to pause and ask myself, “Would I pass this test?” To be honest, I don’t think I would get a passing grade in most cases. When the Lord seems to tarry like he did at Sinai, I tend to grow hasty and want visible reassurance. So, I dance around idols with names like “control” and “comfort” that I can manipulate and fashion with my own hands. I falsely believe that they will console and guide me. They cannot.
Or, when the journey ahead seems daunting or I venture into new territory (ahem – writing a blog), I get scared. It’s the melting-with-fear, not-believing-God kind of scared. I take my eyes off the cluster of grapes and focus instead on the mythical giants. I quickly forget that this tiny grasshopper with her tiny faith has a giant God.
4. I find myself craving more. It took a while to find my rhythm so my reading was very sporadic at first. Now I find myself excited to find out what happens next. It has become my daily bread and I can't get enough. My appetite keeps growing.
5. I see myself in many of the people. I find myself battling many of the same weaknesses as Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses and many others. But because of Christ in me, I possess many of their strengths as well. It is only by studying God’s faithful, the way they did it, the lessons they learned, and the tests they failed that I, too, know how to live victoriously through Christ.
I could go on and on presenting my case on why picking up your Bible on January 1st and making a commitment to read it all the way through – no matter how long it takes you – is the best New Year’s Resolution that you can make. But, I’ll end here with the wise words that one of my greatest mentors recently said.
While dining with Kay Arthur this past fall when she came to our church for a speaking event, our Women’s Ministry director concluded the meal with one simple question. She asked Kay: “What do you see is the greatest danger in the world today?”
My mind immediately started to think of world events. Is she going to say ISIS? Radical Islam? Terrorism? The moral decline of America? The great rift in American society? All of those things flashed through my mind and are understandably great concerns of our day. That’s why, when she finally spoke, Kay’s answer both shocked me, and, most importantly, got my attention. She said:
“Yes, I see a very great and real danger. The greatest danger in the world today is that Christian women do not know the Old Testament. The Old Testament is where you get to know Who God is. And, tragically, our women do not know Him because they do not read the Old Testament anymore.”
Ouch. Guilty as charged.
I knew in her answer that the baton had been passed to the fifteen of us sitting around that table. It is now our job to get our Christian women back into the Word. Without the knowledge of Who God is, all the worries of this world will shackle us and crush our faith. He is triumphant over all and we see that time and time again in the Old Testament! And, even worse, if we don't know Him, neither will our children. So, that’s why I’m challenging you – yes, you dear sister – today to join me on a journey where we get to know Who God is on every single page of those 39 books. Will you join me?
If you’re in – really in – comment "I'm in" on our Facebook post and share this post or any other recent By Faith She post that you especially liked. By commenting and sharing, you will be entered into a drawing to receive the same Chronological Bible that the four of us read. And, you will love it! Winner will be chosen via Facebook Live on Tuesday, January 2nd.
Remember – the theme with this New Year’s Resolution is grace. Give yourself grace to read through the Bible slowly. It's not “365 days or bust” but more like “1,000 days and succeed.” Get to know Who God is. And, once you do, it will be by far the most satisfying and fulfilling thing you have ever done.
Genesis – He is the Breath of Life
Exodus – He is the Passover Lamb
Leviticus – He is the High Priest
Numbers – He is the Fire by Night
Deuteronomy – He is Israel’s God
Joshua – He is Commander of the Army of the Lord
Judges – He is Israel’s Guard
Ruth – He is the Kinsman-Redeemer
I & II Samuel – He is our Prophet/Priest/King
I & II Kings – He is Sovereign
I & II Chronicles – He is the King Who Reigns Eternally
Ezra - He is the True and Faithful Scribe
Nehemiah – He is the Rebuilder of Walls and Lives
Esther – He is our Courage & Protector of His People
Job – He is the Timeless Redeemer
Psalms – He is our Morning Song
Proverbs – He is our Wisdom
Ecclesiates – He is Our Meaning for Life
Song of Solomon – He is the Author of Faithful Love
Isaiah – He is the Suffering Servant
Jeremiah – He is the Weeping Messiah
Lamentations – He is the Cry for Israel
Ezekiel – He Calls Us From Sin
Daniel – He is the Stranger in the Fire With Us
Hosea – He is Forever Faithful
Joel – He is the Spirit’s Power
Amos – He is the Strong Arms that Carry Us
Obadiah – He is the Lord our Savior
Jonah – He is the Great Missionary
Micah – He is the Promise of Peace
Nahum – He is Our Strength and Our Shield
Habakkuk – He brings Revival
Zephaniah – He is the Warrior Who Saves
Haggai – He Restores that which is Lost
Zechariah – He is Our Fountain
Malachi – He is the Son of Righteousness Rising with Healing in His Hands
Matthew – The Messiah Who is King
Mark – The Messiah Who is Servant
Luke – The Messiah Who is Our Deliverer
John – The Messiah Who is God in Flesh
Acts – The Spirit Who Dwells in His People
Romans – The Grace of God
I & II Corinthians – The Power and Love of God
Galatians – He is Our Freedom From the Curse of Sin
Ephesians – He is the Unity of the Church
Philippians – He is the Joy of Our Lives
Colossians – He Holds the Supreme Position in All Things
I & II Thessalonians – He is our Returning King
I Timothy – He is Savior of the Worst Sinners
II Timothy – He is the Leader of the Leaders
Titus – He is the Foundation of Truth
Philemon – He is Our Mediator
Hebrews – He is Our Everlasting Courage
James – He Matures Our Faith
I & II Peter – He is Our Hope in Times of Suffering
I John – He is the Source of Fellowship
II John – He is God in the Flesh
III John – He is the Source of All Truth
Jude – He Protects Us From Stumbling
Revelation – He is the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, The Alpha and the Omega, The Beginning and the End, and He is Coming Again and the One Who Makes All Things New
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First, I am a child of God. And, like a child, I am always learning and growing. The more I know Him, the more I love Him. Second, I am a wife to a good man. Missions is his thing while teaching women to love God’s Word is mine. Third, I am a mama to three plus a sweet cockapoo who thinks he’s #4. My children are my ongoing sanctification. Fourth, I am a passionate advocate of all things healthy & natural, an even 50/50 split of introvert/extrovert, and a dreamer/designer. Old friends call me Becky, newer ones call me Rebecca, and the most intimate ones call me Beck. You can just call me friend.