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For Love

I just finished a Scripture reading plan that took me through the whole Bible over the course of about 18 months. It’s supposed to be faster, but I took my time. I tried to stay on schedule, but I realized that it was turning my time with the Word into a “to-do” rather than a time of resting in Christ’s “it is done.” And that’s a recipe for a very crummy cake.

So, I took my time, and read a couple passages one day, four the next, one the next, etc. Sometimes I read several days worth of Job or Jeremiah in one sitting. And after about 18 months, had read through the whole Bible. If you are looking for a “Through the Bible” reading plan, Anna and I both highly recommend it.

I really enjoyed the conjunction of passages, as well as the emphasis on the Gospels as a distinct unit. I grew in my faith and understanding of the Word. I saw beautiful facets of God’s goodness in unexpected places. Anna and I found ourselves talking over the passages and learning together.

You can download a PDF of the reading plan here, or an Android app that gives you all the daily readings here. I used the app, and it was fantastic (though it required internet access to pull up the passages).

So that was last season. The following is a description of my plans for the next season of devotional reading.

A few months back, I ran across a useful article by Joe Carter. The short summary: pick a book of the Bible, read it 20 times, and let it soak into your mind and transform your heart. I also ran across this pair of articles by John Piper (part 1, part 2these are worth a read for any believer). Piper’s first point really stuck out to me at the time. I was in the midst of praying for increased faith and holiness, and Piper mentions Romans 10:17:

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Don’t ask me why it took so long to click. I’m not sure. But until that moment, I had never connected that verse with the Christian life. I had often connected it with evangelism, but never connected it with the walk of sanctification. So, I began to open my times of devotional reading with a prayer that God would work through His word to increase my faith. I pray that the Holy Spirit would work in me through God’s Word, and that hearing would produce faith, that faith would produce joy, holiness, assurance, satisfaction, obedience, and so forth. Often I pray specifically that He would increase my faith through the Word and that this would result in an increase of personal obedience in a specific area. Lately it’s been in the battle against grumbling and an unloving, proud, self-centered attitude. (Hey, I’m a sinner.) And I’ve seen God answering that prayer.

So, recently, as I was walking and talking with Anna, these things all came together: I want to grow in love, the Word is powerful, intentional re-reading can be a valuable tool for growth in sanctification, and I’m at a place where I can start a new devotional reading plan. So here’s my idea:

  1. Read 1 Corinthians 13 in the morning.
  2. Read a Psalm in the evening.
  3. Continue until I’ve read all the Psalms.

Not very complicated, but I am excited about it. This plan will have me in 1 Corinthians 13 for 150 days, maybe half a year if I miss a day here and there. And I don’t intend just to read it, but to listen to it occasionally, to slowly commit it to memory, to write out a few verses by hand some mornings (eventually writing out the whole chapter many times), and to pray through it. Is 150 times a lot? Maybe. But again, I’m a sinner, and I could read it daily until I die and suffer no loss. There’s no harm in the repetition, and if the fruit of this approach is more Christian love, there is great gain.

This approach will also take me back through the Psalms, which is good for a dozen reasons: it has always been fruitful for me to read two or more sections of Scripture at the same time, the Psalms fix my eyes on Jesus and expand my worship of God, they fill my heart with hope and joy in Christ, and they train me to express emotion in a God-honoring way.

My hope is that God will work through His Word. I am praying that as I daily meditate on Paul’s description of love for others and daily read the songs of those who love God, I will grow in love for God and others. It’s a pretty confident hope, too, because God’s Word never returns void. It never fails to accomplish its purpose.

This is a time-limited thing. I need and want the whole counsel of the Word of God (and of course, I’ll be reading other passages as a part of corporate worship or in my ministry activity), but for the next 5 or 6 months, I am going to devote my personal time in God’s Word to growing in love. After this season, I’ll do something else. perhaps I’ll focus on another aspect of the fruit of the Spirit. Perhaps I’ll spend a month in the Sermon on the Mount alongside Revelation. Maybe I’ll restart the Discipleship Journal plan. I’ll figure that out sometime in the next six months.

In the meantime, if you are interested in joining me in this devotional approach, shoot me a note and I’ll add you to a Facebook group I’ve set up for the purpose of mutual encouragement and discussion.

Grace & Peace,
Dan J.

 

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