In the beginning

Starting the year with the word

There is something wonderfully powerful about words. People’s words can have great power, just look at Shakespeare or Pushkin whose words shaped not only their respective languages but their nation’s culture. Words can be poetry, prose, prophesy and preach. Whose heart never soared at the right words from a loved one, or sank when we heard negative or destructive words? Our words carry much power but the truth is that the words of humans, no matter how powerful or beautiful they may be, can never carry the power that scripture does. That’s why, this January 1st, I’d love to encourage you to dive into the word and start a bible reading plan.

Just a few weeks ago a new Christian, fresh from making a first time decision to follow Jesus, spoke with me about their decision and said of the preaching of the word that night: “Words are important, sometimes just one word that is the right word can make all the difference.” There is so much wisdom in that sentence. At the very start of it all, God ushered creation into existence by the power of His words. His words called us into being, listening to the wrong words caused us to fall, and the Word became flesh to restore us into relationship with Him.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:1-5 (ESV)

I don’t know where you are at with your bible reading, but the truth is that we can all benefit from filling ourselves with the word. Whether it’s a case of continuing something you already do or developing a new habit of reading, being engaged with the word of God changes our life.

In Matthew 7:24-27 Jesus speaks about how being a hearer and doer of the word is building a house on a foundation of rock. It’s the same for us today as it was for His audience then. When we read the word, when we take what it says and implement it, we’re rooting our lives on a firm foundation. We see this evidenced in His own life when, tired and hungry, He is tempted in the wilderness and answers with the word. Despite adverse circumstances He is full of the word and it has power when needed.

As many of you know, I lost my younger sister to a sudden and devastating illness just over a year ago. I can genuinely say that I don’t know where I would have been without having had a regular diet of bible reading in my life. When feelings and emotions were saying one thing, I knew that the word which I had read was true and unshakeable. I could put my hope and my trust in the word even when everything else around seemed to be going crazy. On days when I felt too numb to think, I had the word within me and God would call things to remembrance that spoke to me.

So this year, whatever else you may resolve to do, get stuck into the word. Reading plans are a great way to do this, there are so many and it means that there is a constant input of goodness into our lives. If you have a smart phone you can use a bible app to keep track of where you are; I use OliveTree as I like having the extra study tools it offers, but another fantastic option is YouVersion. Both come with a number of different plans so you should be able to find one that suits you.

It’s also really important to get into the habit of reading at a regular point each day, so it becomes part of your routine. This may seem unnecessary when you’re raring to go, but on the days when you’re busy, lazy, or just not fancying reading Leviticus, having a healthy reading routine will keep you getting fed. Not everything we read is going to speak directly into the moment, but if you are full of the word then God can recall it to your memory when you need it most. I can’t count how often a prayer for answers has been answered not by a voice speaking thunderously from the heavens but by a verse coming back to remembrance.

So pick up the bible and start with what you can do. If you’ve never read the bible regularly before, maybe starting a bible in a year plan is daunting for you. That’s okay. Start with a plan that goes through something at a daily pace you can manage. The gospels and the Psalms are a fantastic way to start and will fill you with so much life and goodness. Don’t try to do so much that you end up giving up and doing nothing. Start with what you can do and grow from there and, whatever you do, don’t give up. If you fall behind pick up where you left off and continue, if you can read a little extra each day to catch up and if not? Well, it’s better to take a few days longer than you planned than not to get through it at all.

I hope that 2013 is a phenomenal year for you all. If you’ve never been a regular bible reader then I pray that this is the year in which you start to unlock the power of daily reading. If you are already a regular reader then I’m sure that this may all seem old hat but I hope that maybe it may encourage you to take the opportunity that the start of the year presents to encourage others to form the habit of daily reading.

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Photo from Adam Dimmick, used under Creative Commons Licence.

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