7 Tips to Read the Bible Through in One Year

Bible

Are you up for a challenge?

How about reading the Bible through this year?

I’ve heard so many people who would love to read the Bible through in a year, but never completed the task. It’s nearly impossible for the pastor to preach through all of it, so you are going to miss something unless you study on your own, but most believers haven’t read all the Bible. Some of the best nuggets of truth I discovered on my own, reading through the Bible in a year.

Here are 7 tips for reading the Bible through in a year:

Pray – Ask God to give you the motivation and strength to accomplish this goal. You can’t read the Bible like any other book. You need God’s Spirit to help you.

Pick an easy to read version – Currently I’m using the Holman Christian Standard. I previously wrote a post about versions. You can read that HERE.

Find a plan – You could simply read three chapters a day and do fine, but I have found having a printed checklist helps keep me disciplined. It may seem mechanical to some, but it will keep you on task. YouVersion has many plans to follow. There are more than you can imagine. The key is to find one. I like the balance of reading some Old and New Testament each day, but choose one that works for you. Here’s a LINK to other options. (Personally, I’ve chosen the ESV Study Bible plan available through YouVersion.)

Find a place – Choose the time and place that works best and that you will most likely stick with through the year. I find mornings work best for me. I travel frequently, so I can’t have just one place, but when I’m home, I have a certain chair. I’m moving this year to the dining room table, because I know I’ll be less distracted. For me, I need to turn off everything else and simply concentrate on the Bible reading.

Document your reading – I’ve found I get more out of my reading if I journal along the way what it’s saying to me. Even if I don’t understand it completely, writing the questions I have down helps me process them later and eventually something else I read seems to help answer my questions.

Discipline yourself – It will likely take you on average about 15 minutes per day to complete this. Once you’ve done it consistently for 30 days or so, you’ll be well on your way to having a habit formed.

Catch up when needed – If you miss a day, don’t sweat it…and don’t quit. Spend a little extra time and play catch up on what you missed. Of course, if you do this too many times you’ll eventually give up, so the key is discipline, but extend grace to yourself as you move through the year. Also, if you didn’t start on the first, start on the 2nd, or the 22nd, and go through the same time next year. You can begin today. There’s no legalism here…just encouragement! You can do this!

Keep the goal in front of you and follow through. This time next year you’ll be glad you accomplished your goal.

Who’s with me?

7 New Year Resolutions that could Change the World

2014

In the new year…let’s resolve.

Whether or not you do New Year resolutions, we could all stand to improve some things in our life.  And, if we do, I’m confident we could also improve the life of others.

In fact, with a whole lot of improving…it might become contagious…and we might just change the world.

7 new year resolutions that could change the world:

Let’s resolve to begin everyday with a prayer, a smile, and a humility check. It will require discipline…but how we begin a day almost always determines how we end one.

Let’s resolve to return evil with good. It won’t be easy. In fact, it will be hard. A grudge or sarcastic remark seems so much more fulfilling…in the moment. But, over time, it causes more harm than good…mostly to us…more than “them”.

Let’s resolve to never let the sun go down on anger. This is true in every relationship…but especially in marriage. Anger emotions grow overnight. They blossom into more intense anger emotions. We may not be able to resolve all disagreements, but we can drop the right to get even and resolve to be at peace as much as it depends on us. We will awake with level ground to build better, healthier relationships with others.

Let’s resolve not use Facebook as a forum to bash others. Or even as a forum period. It divides people rather than bringing them together. Let’s resolve for a kinder, gentler Facebook…rant-free even…where we stalk…I mean check in on old friends. Let’s act like people…real people…may actually see what we write. And care. (This includes Twitter too.)

Let’s resolve to exercise our patience muscle. Wow! I put this one in the middle so that maybe you (or my wife) would skip over it quickly. Just kidding. This is one I need…we all need. I’m not sure we can completely master it this year, but, with intentionality…and Christ’s strength…we can keep getting better.

Let’s resolve to remember it’s not about us. This one alone would change the world. What if we placed into our schema that other people matter…just as much as we do? Does it make a difference when you think someone values you? Of course it does.

Let’s resolve to listen more than we speak. It’s hard to value others when we are doing all the talking. (It’s also hard to hear from God.) It requires an act of humility when we remain silent at times we want to speak. But, it guards the tongue, protects relationships, and we might actually learn something.

Of course, ultimately the change we need is the Gospel, but who knows? Maybe if we change the way we treat others…including other believers…others might want to hear our Gospel.

What resolve do you propose? 

What Is Your Jesus New Year Resolution?

image

One of my closest friends and I hosted a Christian radio talk show for 17 years. He was out of town one morning for Christmas break and I had to do the show alone. As I was preparing that morning, I read Mark 5.

The story of the woman subject to bleeding has stuck with me for several weeks and let to a New Year’s resolution I have been mindful of ever since. It became my “Jesus resolution”.

To save you time looking up the story, I have pasted it here:

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

(Mark 5:24-34 NIV)

The story prompted a thought that I shared that morning on the radio.

What am I going to do with Jesus in the New Year?

Here’s what came to me from this story.

Seek Jesus more passionately.

Once this woman heard of Jesus she began to track Him. She became a “Jesus groupie” of sorts. She knew Jesus was her only hope.

That’s the way I want to pursue Him in the New Year.

Cling to Jesus more tightly.

It did not matter to the woman that she was not supposed to be in the crowd. Her physical condition should have kept her away, but she was willing to risk everything to “touch His garment”. Cultural expectations couldn’t keep her from Jesus.

I want that kind of commitment to Christ in the New Year. Regardless of what is politically correct, just give me Jesus.

Claim Jesus more readily.

When Jesus turned to look for the person who had touched him, the woman came forward. She could have left. She had received what she wanted. She didn’t have to stick around for public attention, but she was willing to declare her faith publicly. In times of hardship or times of blessing, she followed Jesus to make Him known.

This next year, I don’t want to miss opportunities to tell others about the faith I have in Jesus Christ!

Experience Jesus more expectedly.

The woman was healed! Her faith was rewarded. She went from being an embarrassment to the crowd to the star of the day. Honoring Christ came with great rewards. He blesses those who place their complete faith in Him, to the point that we are still considering her experience with Christ today!

This year, I want to see Christ bigger than ever before. I expect to see Him magnified greatly, as I place my total trust and faith in Him and watch expectantly for His appearance in my life!

What are you going to do with Jesus in the New Year? What’s your Jesus resolution?

Christmas Poetry, by Ann Weems

Old scroll, pine branches and cones

I’m not an avid poetry reader, until there are seasons like Christmas.

Here are two of my favorite poems by Ann Weems…enjoy:

Yesterday’s Pain

In the godforsaken, obscene quicksand of life,
there is a deafening alleluia
rising from the souls of those who weep,
and of those who weep with those who weep.
If you watch, you will see
the hand of God
putting the stars back in their skies
one by one
Yesterday’s Pain
Some of us walk in Advent
tethered to our unresolved yesterdays
the pain still stabbing
the hurt still throbbing.
It’s not that we don’t know better;
it’s just that we can’t stand up anymore by ourselves.
On the way of Bethlehem, will you give us a hand?

Not celebrate?

Your burden is too great to bear?
Your loneliness is intensified during this Christmas season?
Your tears have no end?

Not celebrate?

You should lead the celebration!
You should run through the streets
to ring the bells and sing the loudest!
You should fling the tinsel on the tree,
and open your house to your neighbors, and call them in to dance!
For it is you above all others who know the joy of Advent.
It is unto you that a Savior is born this day,
One who comes to lift your burden from your shoulders,
One who comes to wipe the tears from your eyes.
You are not alone,
for He is born this day to you.

5 Suggestions for Finding More Christmas Joy

But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. Luke 2:10-11

As I read the Scriptures, the ability to have joy is a gift. We may not always be “happy” with our circumstances, but we can have joy. With the equivalence of hope, joy is a condition of our heart beyond the situations life may bring. It was “good news of great joy” the angels announced at the birth of Christ.

For many, however, living in the reality of joy at Christmas is harder than other times of the year. Memories of loved ones, financial struggles, health issues, and relationship woes often make for a very difficult celebration. How do we find the joy of Chrismas? (You may want to read my previous post 10 Ways to Overcome a Sense of Christmas Loss. This post come from another angle.

Here are five suggestions to greater joy at Christmas:

Lower expectations of others - I see this so many times. You thought others would respond as we respond. We expected them to react to our gift differently. We thought they’d remember us and they didn’t. We shouldn’t hold others to expectation we set for them. People, even the best of people, will disappoint us.

Increase your investment in others – if we aren’t careful, Christmas can become so commercialized, even within our own families, that we unintentionally become selfish towards others. Something supernatural happens when we share with others. We are to give and extend grace, as it was given to us…this includes granting forgiveness to those who disappointed us in the previous point.

Examine your life/Address known sin – You can’t experience complete joy with a holy God if you are living contrary to His desires for your life. Where does your life need a realignment with God’s purposes and plan for you? Chances are good you know. Christmas is a great time to make new commitments, and re-dedicate your life to Christ.

Change your perspective – Choosing to be greatly joyful is not based on circumstances, but comes by perspective. Where we stand always determines what we see. Stand in faith. Joy is a gift. It’s not based on what we have done or could do, but on His grace towards us. Choose joy. Choose again. And again. And again.

Set your eyes on the prize – If you’re struggling to find joy in life, set your eyes on Jesus; the author and perfecter of your faith. Set your sight on the glory to be revealed through your trials and circumstances. God will write the final chapter of your story. You can trust Him. Look again at the manger…Jesus, the One who existed before time began, set the stars in place, lowered Himself in the form of a baby and was placed on a feeding trough, so He may give us access (through the Cross and resurrection) to a Holy God. I can’t find joy in that! Can you?

What suggestions do you have for finding more joy at Christmas?

10 Ways to Overcome a Sense of Christmas Loss

Christmas tree gifts

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. As the song goes, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year”. But, for some people, Christmas can be a miserable time. Many have lost a loved one, suffered the end of a significant relationship, or even had a severe personal loss of income or health and Christmas is a just another reminder of what they no longer have. If we aren’t careful, the joy of Christmas is covered over with the emotions of loss, and rather than appreciating what we have or looking forward to what’s to come, we find ourselves in Christmas misery.

In a recent Christmas message, I shared some suggestions for dealing with the emotions of Christmas loss. I consulted with two professional Christian counselors in our church Jennifer Degler and Elizabeth Ellis. With their advice and some of my own, I’m offering some practical ways to overcome that sense of Christmas loss.

Ideally, Christ is the answer (and in the message I make that clear). Apart from Christ there is no Christmas and there is no peace. These are not designed to take the place of that truth, but rather to give some practical things to help you deal with loss at Christmas.

Here are 10 ways to overcome a sense of Christmas loss:

List your losses – Death, divorce, injury, finances…children moved out this year…whatever they are…write them down. I’ve personally found journaling to be helpful. Admit the pain…write them down.

Share them – Certainly with God, but with a close friend, or with people who have experienced your loss. Don’t be ashamed to see a professional counselor. Find support in a Bible study group or prayer group. We were designed for community, especially for times like this.

Grieve the loss – Every loss must be grieved. The intensity of the grief may be determined by the intensity of the loss. Some form of depression is a normal response to grief. We’ve almost created a culture where we think suffering is abnormal. Don’t be afraid to grieve…even publicly at times. It’s okay to be human.

Resist falling into despair – That’s where you live in a false reality that all hope is gone. It’s not. By the way, you don’t do that by ignoring them.

Take care of your physical body- Eat well, exercise, and get adequate rest. It’s more important during a sense of loss.

Be aware of negative thinking – Catch the negative thoughts and replace them with thoughts that are positive and true. See Philippians 4:8.

Do something for someone else – There are many opportunities during the holidays to help people. Helping other people reminds us that loss is universal and that other people are struggling with you.

Force yourself to participate in social activities – You won’t feel like it, but social support is critical in recovering from loss. No one benefits by becoming a recluse. In fact, you actually increase the likelihood you will become clinically depressed.

Avoid the comparison game – Don’t compare your losses to other people’s losses. Significant loss naturally makes us focus inward, but that never works. And, it’s dangerous.

Honor you losses with new traditions – Begin some new family rituals that will help you reflect on the good things you experienced with the person you have lost or will help you remember happier days to come.

I shared one more suggestion, one I believe is the most powerful of all, in the Christmas message. It’s this: We have to learn to worship in tears. Obviously, Christ is the peace of Christmas, and He can fill your brokenness. You can trust Him. This Christmas, let the Christ of Christmas fill the void and loss you have in your heart and life.

You can find all my messages on my Vimeo page at vimeo.com/ronedmondson. This message is titled Obstacles to Christmas Joy: Loss.

6 Tips for Happier, Healthier Relationships

family prayer

It’s that time of year again. Thanksgiving. Then Christmas. Family and friends. Good food and good times.

Mostly.

Truthfully, this time of year is especially stressful for some. I am not referring, in this post, to the ones who have lost loved ones this year. That’s especially difficult. My prayers go out for you. I’m talking about those who have living “loved ones”…positionally speaking at least.

The holidays expose many people to broken relationships, hurt feelings, grudges from the past. Many will have to be around people, by default, that they wouldn’t choose to be around unless those people were blood relatives…or in-laws…or friends who aren’t your friends, but come with the package of celebration. They will be there…and the reality of that causes you to be less enthusiastic about celebrating this year.

That’s true, isn’t it? And, the truth hurts sometimes…doesn’t it?

(Raise your hand if that’s your story.).

What should you do? How should you respond to the one who has hurt you the most…or who always seems to say the wrong thing…or who is…honestly…even mean at times? How do you respond to the most difficult relationships in your life?

I want to encourage the Biblical approach.

Here are six tips:

Bite your tongue – When you are tempted to snap back…don’t. Sure, it will be difficult…even seemingly unfair at times, but see it as spiritual discipline training. (James 1:26)

Extend grace – Forgive. Let go of a grudge. Even though it may not be received well and nothing may change in the relationship, it will change you. (1 Peter 4:10, Colossians 3:13)

Put on another’s shoes – Anyone who hurts you…has a story. Usually they were hurt too…by someone. Remember…hurt people…hurt people. Think about where the other person is coming from before (or as) you encounter them. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Practice patience – Be honest, some relationships require more patience than you thought you had, don’t they? But, isn’t that what we are called to do as believers? It is a “fruit of the spirit”. (Colossians 3:12-14)

Exercise humility – When we humble ourselves, we may get taken advantage of at times, but God always rewards humility. Who knows? It may be the break point in the relationship. (James 4:10, 1 Peter 5:6)

Pray for them – The last one is sometimes the most difficult…but oh how Biblical! Prayer releases the burden to the burden bearer…the One whose yoke is easy…the One who paid for your sins. Prayer can even change the dynamics of a relationship. Pray for the awkward, difficult, shattered and broken relationships in your life…and the people who caused them. In the most tense moments this holiday season, slip away and pray. (Matthew 5:44)

Apply liberally, as needed.

You’ll have healthier, happier relationships this Thanksgiving and Christmas season…and even into the New Year.

Do you have a difficult relationship facing you? What tips do you have?