A new year is a time to look forward. A time to stretch. A time to grow. A time to stop babying yourself.
The Power of Scripture Reflection
I was struck recently by the work of two Christian researchers, Greg L. Hawkins and Cally Parkinson. After studying the spiritual practices and spiritual growth of thousands of believers, they came to this conclusion:
“Of all the personal spiritual practices — prayer, confession, tithing, journaling, solitude, serving or worship — we find that one stands out. Scripture reflection — more than any other practice — moves people forward in their love for God and love for others.”
I’ve discovered the same thing after dozens of years discipling men and women. I would put it this way.
The single most important factor in producing mature disciples is setting aside a daily time to spend with God that includes the elements of worship, Scripture, and prayer.
The Role of Devotional Guides
I don’t want to offend you, but ….
Many believers substitute daily devotional guides for reading and meditating on the actual Scripture texts themselves!
No wonder they don’t grow very fast!
Don’t get me wrong. I believe devotional guides can be helpful. Last year I read the daily selection from Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest, and found it helpful and challenging. This year I’m working through readings suggested by Richard Foster. I encourage you to use a devotional guide.
But don’t stop there. Devotional guides aren’t enough to produce mature disciples! So I encourage you to begin to read Scripture yourself — whole paragraphs, whole chapters, whole books. Rather than settle for a person spoon-feeding you helpful thoughts each day, immerse yourself in the Scriptures.
Sometimes I hear people complain, “My pastor isn’t feeding me!”
It isn’t your pastor’s job to feed you!
It is your pastor’s job to lead you to green pasturesand teach you how to eat — if you don’t already know how. But sheep in rich pastures are responsible to feed themselves! The shepherd leads them to water, but they must drink themselves. Shepherds only bottle-feed lambs whose mothers have died. Then they help them learn to eat grass themselves. Learn to feed yourself!
By reading and reflecting on Scripture itself, you’ll grow your spiritual muscles, educate your spiritual taste buds, and actually grow up into Christ. This doesn’t happen passively, expecting someone else to feed you. It must be an active process that you take ownership of.
Scripture Reading Plan
I encourage you this coming year to set up a Scripture reading plan for yourself. It could be simple:
You want to read the entire New Testament this year? Okay. The New Testament has 260 chapters. If you read a chapter each day for 365 days, you’ll read the New Testament 1.4 times in the year. Adjust as needed.
You want to read the Old Testament? The Old Testament has 929 chapters — 779 chapters if you don’t count the Psalms. So if you read a chapter of the Old Testament plus one Psalm each day, you will complete the Old Testament in two years.
Set yourself a doable goal. Then enlist a spiritual friend you can report to for accountability. Reporting in with your friend will keep you “keeping on.” And then get started.
Read, then Reflect
Read Scripture, then reflect on it. What is this text saying? What is it saying to me? What changes or actions do I need to make as this passage is speaking to me? That’s meditation. That’s reflection.
If you read and reflect on Scripture you will grow mature in Christ. If you don’t, you won’t. It’s a new year. Time to stretch yourself. Embrace Jesus-discipleship. Go for it!