Happy New Year!
I wonder what New Year resolutions you’ve made for 2024?
I’ve one resolution. It has been my resolution for most of my adult life. It is not unique to me. It is drawn from 1 Corinthians 2.2, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” This single verse encapsulates both the ground of my salvation and the ongoing focus of my work as your rector and bishop.
How am I to attain this resolution, this goal of knowing Christ and Him crucified?
I am not left to wonder. Scripture lays out quite clearly how I attain to maturity in Christ:
- A commitment to Bible reading.
- A commitment to the community of faith.
- A commitment to regular worship, especially centered around the Lord’s Supper.
- A commitment to prayer.
- A commitment to regular, generous, and at times sacrificial, giving to the work of the gospel in both my local parish and the global church.
These practices have become a deeply rooted rhythm of my life. So deeply rooted that they have become unconscious actions. However, I will confess, I was not naturally inclined to any of these commitments. My heart had to be converted to them. I will also add that I remain faithful to these practices because even now it would be easy to neglect one or more and then find myself in a state of spiritual torpor.
Central though, is Bible reading. In fact, without Scripture we would not know of these practices – and more importantly, we would not know the content and substance of The Faith. And so, regularly and methodically I move through several chapters of Scripture each day.
You will not be surprised to know that I often hear any number of reasons why folks do not (“can not”) find the time for daily Bible reading. Hearing this line of reasoning one too many times John Piper once said something along the lines of “one of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that the neglect of Scripture reading and prayerlessness was not from lack of time.” I typically do not argue the point. People do what they want to do.
Bible Reading Plans for 2024
If you begin this year looking for a Bible reading plan or a devotional, what should you consider as you choose a plan/devotional? I’d suggest that you aim to read the actual Bible, not someone telling you their opinion or thought on some matter. Far too many devotional books are the words of the author, not the Word of Life. With this in mind, here are a few options for you to consider:
A Bible Reading Plan
Shortly after we married Jacqui introduced me to a Bible reading method called, “Beginnings.” On the first day of using this plan you read one chapter from Genesis 1 (the creation story), Ezra 1 (the return of Israel from the Babylonian captivity), Matthew 1 (the birth of Jesus), and Acts 1 (the birth of the church). Each of these chapters marks a beginning. Each following day then continues in succession, i.e., Genesis 2, Erza 2, Matthew 2, Acts 2, and so on. If you miss a day (or a few days) simply pick up where you left off.
I have followed this plan in continued repetition for almost 40 years. I prefer it because I prefer to read the actual words of the Bible. I am also consistently surprised at how often the texts will interrelate and illuminate one another. I’ve added to this plan one chapter a day from both the Psalms and Proverbs (conveniently there are 31 chapters in Proverbs matching the 31 days of the month). When I reach the end of a particular section I begin that section again while continuing to read the other sections in their order.
Far and away my favorite devotional is the one written by Nicky & Pippa Gumbel (The Alpha Course/Holy Trinity Brompton). This is the devotional that Jacqui uses. I’ve recommended it to many of you. Each day you will read brief sections of Scripture from the Old Testament, the New Testament, and Wisdom literature (Psalm/Proverbs). A brief commentary explaining the text follows accompanied by prayer. You can read more about the devotional and download the app from the Alpha website.
A second devotional option is from Alistair Begg’s Truth for Life. Besides being one of my favorite preachers, his devotional presents a text from the Bible and then he explains it and offers a practical application to your life. This devotional is also available electronically at CrossWalk.com.
A third option is from Anne Graham Lotz (Billy Graham’s daughter). Her devotional is similar to the one written by Alistair Begg and follows the same pattern: a biblical text, a bit of commentary, and a brief application. You can also find her devotional at CrossWalk.com.
A Closing Thought and Prayer
James Montgomery Boice, the scholar, pastor, and author of many books about the Bible, wrote that the great issue of our day would not be the authority of the Bible, but its sufficiency. Would we trust it to be all that we need for life and godliness? The question remains, is the Bible sufficient for you?
Resolve with me to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the Word.
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
In the family,