January 4, 2018

Dear First Pres,

   On Sunday, New Year's Eve, I finished my One Year Bible. Yes, I had to read through ten days of readings to finish before the end of the year, but that's beside the point. Once again, something I've probably done about six times since I starting reading the Bible in 8th grade, I purposely read through the whole of the Bible. Have you ever done that? I don't do it every year because I find that I can get more focused on finishing the text rather than listening to the text. But, every once in a while, I find it incredibly valuable to read through the whole Bible with an intentional reading plan. The first time I did it, I followed the reading plan in the back of my Student Bible. It took me about three years to get from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. And if you stop by my office sometime, I can show you the way I proudly marked off the boxes of the reading plan (I still have that Bible). Every time I read through the whole of Scripture I gain a deeper appreciation for the overarching narrative of God's incredible faithfulness, grace, and love to pursue salvation for His creation.
 
   How was your devotional life in 2017? Did you regularly and intentionally spend time reflecting on the powerful words of Scripture?
 
   There was a study done by the leaders of Willow Creek Community Church, a large church outside of Chicago, in an effort to understand the spiritual health of the congregation. One of the outcomes of the study was evidence for something that most of us already know: reflecting frequently on Scripture is one of the most powerful ways to catalyze spiritual growth. It's one of the easiest ways to grow closer to the Lord. It requires very little risk, but the rewards are rich.
 
   So, have you made a plan for 2018? How will you invest in your relationship with the Lord this year? What will your devotional habits be? Remember, doing devotionals every morning doesn't make the Lord love us more. We don't do it to get on His good side. We don't do it to earn points. We do it in response to His incredible love for us. We do it in loving obedience to Jesus' command to "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). We do it because as His disciples we are seeking, in 2018, to increasingly submit all of our lives to the empowering presence and Lordship of Jesus. I pray that every one of us will develop the spiritual discipline of reflecting on Scripture this year. And that we will not only be hearers of the Word but doers of the Word as well.

Blessings,

P.S. One way to help you get started is to plan to participate in the citywide 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting. Dozens of churches in Fresno and Clovis are banding together in this season to seek the Lord's face for our Valley. I encourage you to find a way to participate. The fast starts on January 8, Monday.