Thursday, January 29, 2015

Waiting Out The Rain

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Psalms 46:1

When my children were younger, we would often go to the local amusement park for a day of fun and relaxation. I truly enjoyed those days, watching the anticipation and excitement on my boys’ faces as we waited in line for the big coasters, and the thrill of their screams when we took that first big plunge. What great and cherished memories those are for me! But sometimes, after we had already arrived at the park, a storm would move in, and everyone would run for shelter to the closest shop or restaurant—any building or structure with a roof would do!

I have always been a people watcher. I like to try to figure out the relationships among people who are together, and think about what might be the motivation for the things I observe them doing. Back in those amusement park days, I observed some responses that were pretty consistently present, whenever we had to wait out a storm. Sometimes it even seemed like the exact same people, the categories were so reliable.

First, there were the grumblers: “I hate when this happens! This wasn’t in the forecast! Now we won’t have time for the Zambezi Zinger or the Octopus!” These people would grumble and complain the whole time we were in the souvenir shop or under the roof of the hot dog stand. Sometimes, they would actually get angry, blaming the park administration: “It’s not raining that hard. They really didn’t need to close ALL the rides. This is ridiculous! They had better give us a rain check!” These unhappy people probably ruined the day for their children, who either seemed guilty for putting their parent through this, or joined in with the complaining. I was never sure which was worse.

A second category of those who waited were the stoics. They would just stand in place, fatalistically pronouncing their helplessness to do anything about the rain. I was always amazed at how silent they could be, as they watched the sky and ground their teeth. Their children often looked sad or hopeless about the fun day they had planned. Sometimes they would ask if they could look around in the shop, but their parents usually said no, there was no point in doing that.

Finally, among the watchers and waiters, were those who just seemed content. “Oh well,” I remember one mom saying, “We’re here to have fun! Just because the rides are closed doesn’t mean we can’t have fun!” And then they would proceed to shop around in the gift shop, looking at the toys and trinkets that were for sale there. Some I observed ran through the rain from place to place, making a game of who could stay the driest between shelters!

Now, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably know that I’m going to draw a spiritual analogy here. Most of us who deal with health issues are familiar with the surprise storms of life. They are times when we must miss out on the fun we had planned, as we are forced to wait for the end of the storm. Some of these downpours are so severe that we have no choice but to run for shelter to our loving God, who is our protector. Sometimes these storms can go on for months or years. As you wait for them to pass, which category do you fit in?

Are you a complainer, angry that the storm has come so unexpectedly? Do you grumble and fuss, making everyone around you miserable? Or are you the stoic, just gritting your teeth and waiting it out, as those who love you walk on eggshells around you? My hope is that you and I are neither of these. Friends, let’s each be that one who is content through the storm. The one who encourages others and finds ways to bring light to tough situations. Let’s keep at the front of our minds, not the storm, but the shelter! Jesus Christ is our sun and shield (Psalm 84:11). What a blessing and privilege it is to run to Him, knowing for sure that He will keep us safe and dry!

One other aspect that I remember from that amusement park is the camaraderie of some of those who waited.  This was often an opportunity to talk with a stranger, and get to know someone you would otherwise never have met.  As you and I spend time at pain management clinics, doctors’ offices, and therapy facilities, we have a unique opportunity: A room full of people who are suffering in one way or another. Perhaps the Lord has given you your pain for such a time as this (Esther 4:14). Who in that room is suffering without hope? You have their healer in your heart! As you both wait, you can show them the beauty of the things you have found in the “shop” of your suffering: The sweetness of your fellowship with Christ; the beauty of His love for you; the providence of His timing.

As you think on all you have learned in your suffering, I hope you see yourself becoming more and more like the contented one, who encourages others and brings light to darkness. No, I don’t believe in faking it or pretending everything is ok when it’s not. But I do believe that, as we grow and change through suffering, we will become more like Christ in our responses. Grumbling and stoicism will become less frequent, and quiet contentment will prevail as we seek Him, our very present help in trouble.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Those of us who live with disease, pain, or disability know what it means to wait. There can be much uncertainty and many unknowns when your body doesn’t work the way you want it to. Often, we go through tests, procedures and therapies hoping for some relief, some return of function, or a cure. And always woven into the process is the waiting. We wait for an appointment with a specialist, then we wait to have a test, and then we wait for the results. We have a surgery or procedure that is supposed to ease our pain or disease, and then we wait to see if it worked. Long, grueling hours of physical therapy are punctuated with periods of waiting, as we look for change and progress between sessions. No matter what your condition, if you are suffering, you know about waiting.

There was a popular song when I was younger that included the line, “The waiting is the hardest part.” I find this to be quite true as I deal with the health problems I face. But what makes the waiting so hard? I've boiled it down to a few things that I’ll share with you today, and maybe you'll want to add a few of your own.

The first thing that makes waiting difficult is fear. Fear of the unknown. What will the test results be? What will the outcome of this surgery be? Will it help me, or will I be worse off than before? What if something goes wrong? What if I go through all this, and in the end I am no better? Waiting is almost always accompanied by this “what if” echo.  

Secondly, impatience makes waiting hard. Our internet lifestyle has taught us to expect things to happen quickly. If it takes more than a second for Facebook to open after I log in, I think something’s wrong. My online banking system enables me to pay my bills in 3 clicks. And don’t even get me started on Amazon! I have become so spoiled by technology that more than a few seconds seems like a long time to wait.

Finally, the very problem that brought about the test makes it hard to wait. As we suffer, we’re reminded constantly that our bodies are not as we want them to be. The hope that what we are waiting for will fix them makes it hard to wait. We fight a battle in our mind as we hope that this time it will work and our suffering will be lessened; yet we are loathe to get our hopes up because we have been disappointed so many times before. And our flesh wars against our spirit (Galatians 5) as we struggle to keep our hope in Christ, not in our current circumstance.

So, my friend, what are you waiting for today? Do you believe that you are at the mercy of whoever is in charge of your health care? Do you think that you are waiting for a nurse, doctor, or even your own body to cooperate? I have good news. The One you are waiting on is your own loving Father! Ultimately, your result or outcome is in His hands. It is He who directs the doctor when to call, and it is He who rules over your body. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” So, no matter when you get that call, you can be sure that it was the Lord who established the timing of it, for your good and His glory (Romans 8:28). If you will submit to the sovereignty of God, your waiting will be easier.

There are many Scriptures that can help us to submit to this God-ordained waiting. According to Isaiah 30:18, we are blessed as we wait: “Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore He exalts Himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him.” Isaiah 40:31 promises us strength as we wait on Him: “…they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

Remember, my dear friend, whatever you are waiting for today, it will happen according to God’s perfect plan. You were created to glorify God (Isaiah 43:7). This waiting is just one more step in God’s plan to make you more like Him, for His glory.  And when that phone does ring, remember to thank Him! Thank Him for the opportunity to even have a specialist, therapist or test. Many of your fellow sufferers have no medical care available to them. Thank Him for using your suffering to draw you to Himself. Thank Him for all the opportunities your suffering gives you to bring glory to Him.

But most of all, thank Him for His promise that you will be with Him in eternity. There will be no tests there; no fear of the unknown, for we will know all things (1 Corinthians 13:12). There will be no impatience, because we will be without sin. And there will be no pain to remind us that we still don't know if we'll ever get better. 

Tom Petty was right when he said that the waiting is the hardest part. Waiting for heaven, for eternity with Christ, is indeed the hardest part of life, no matter what your physical condition. But remember, this life is a vapor (James 4:14), and before you know it, it will be over. Don't miss a single opportunity to glorify God while you are here, especially as you wait.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Serve Anyway

For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. –Hebrews 6:10-12

Many of us who suffer with pain or disability think back with sadness about the days when we were able to do more to serve the Lord. We may remember cooking meals for families in trial; helping with cleaning projects at the church; or working in the nursery, walking and rocking crying babies so their mamas could enjoy the church service. Now, we're just not able to do as much as we could, and the temptation is to become sad (and maybe even bitter) about our limitations and how they keep us from serving the Lord.

But wait! Is there not more than one way to serve? Just because you can't do the things you once did, does that mean you can do nothing? Sometimes, as we struggle against our flesh, we may use our pain as an excuse to withdraw from the Body of Christ and stop serving. The passage above speaks against this attitude. God has not forgotten how we ministered to the saints, but He expects us to continue to do so. This is clear because of that little phrase, “and do minister.” While this passage is not speaking to people who have become disabled, it is clear that the expectation is that, as believers, we will continue to minister to one another. No exception is listed here, or anywhere else in Scripture that I can find.

Have you become sluggish? I know that you are tired. Pain and physical disability are wearisome companions. But, if you love the Lord, you are surely eager to serve Him! Making phone calls to shut-ins; writing and mailing greeting cards for birthdays that would otherwise be forgotten; and offering a listening ear to a struggling sister over coffee—these are all ways that we can serve with very little physical effort. Even more powerful and effective are your prayers! Your prayers are more valuable and useful than anything that even an able-bodied person can do! Never doubt the power of prayer. Here are a few verses to get you started in meditating on the power of prayer: Psalm 107:28-30; Mark 9:29; Acts 9:40; James 5:14-16; Philippians 4:6-7. Read and meditate on these whenever you feel discouraged in this area.

As life goes on and our pain continues, we will be tempted to get lazy in our service to others. But we must remember that what God requires of us is no different from what He required when we were more physically capable: To serve Him with all our heart. Just in case you're still not convinced, here are a few more passages (italics added) to encourage you in serving, in whatever way you are able.

Galatians 5:13: You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

Romans 12:1: Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.

And finally,

Romans 12:11: Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

Friend, what does “never” mean? I looked it up, just in case there was any doubt. Webster says that ‘never’ means, not ever; at no time; not at all; absolutely not; to no extent or degree. Do you see any loopholes there? I don’t. We are commanded to serve as long as we are here in this body. If we keep our spiritual fervor, we will inherit the promise, just as others down through the ages have done. Think of Moses, Joseph, Noah, Isaiah, and even Christ Himself! Diligence, patience, and faith kept them from becoming sluggish, and these same gifts from God will sustain us, too.

One of the biggest contributors to depression in people who struggle with physical disability is the feeling that they cannot contribute or do anything to help anyone. But, as believers, we need not succumb to this feeling. As long as we can pray, we can serve! What can you do today to serve someone? Do it now!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

In Christ Alone

Where is your hope today, friend? Most of us know the right answer to that question. Our hope is in Christ. But what does that look like, in a practical sense? As you wake up each morning, how does that hope encourage you?

When I ask the question, “Where is your hope?” in a counseling session, most of my counselees are quick to affirm that their hope is in Christ. But when I ask them how they are practically putting their hope in Christ, they often say that they are hoping in Christ that their situation will improve. That the Lord will bring their husband back home, heal their child’s illness, or bring their rebellious loved one back into the fold. There is nothing wrong with believing that Christ can do all these things. He most certainly can. But this is not what we should mean when we say our hope is in Christ.

Let me explain. These things we hope for may not happen. If divorce papers are filed, we may decide that our hope was misplaced. We might become disappointed in God, and grow cold toward Him. If our child is not healed, we may begin to doubt God’s power. If that estranged relative dies in his sin, we may become angry at God because He did not fulfill our hope. Many people have their hope in Christ tied to a circumstance they are begging Him to change. When he doesn’t change it, their faith unravels.

So, what does it mean to place your hope in Christ? There is a hymn called “In Christ Alone” That makes my point beautifully. Listen to it here before you continue reading.

With these words in mind, consider these thoughts:

1-Our hope is in Christ because He has established us in Him. He is our cornerstone, our solid ground, who tethers us to Himself through every storm of life.  Nothing can ever shake us as long as we depend on Him. We don’t have to fear any circumstance, because we know that everything that happens is under His divine control (Psalm 135:6; Job 42:2; Ephesians 3:20; Isaiah 43:13), and that He will use it for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). We have hope because the Sovereign Creator of the Universe has given us life and will use that life for the purposes He chooses, based on His love.

2-Our hope is in Christ because He has given us true freedom. We may think we are in bondage to our circumstances, but that is a lie from the pit of hell! No matter what earthly thing is happening in your life right now, you are free: Free from the power of sin; free from the bondage of Satan and even your own flesh. Free from the fear of man, and what people can do to you. In Christ, we can see our circumstances as a gift (James 1:17) from Him. In His hands, even the worst of our troubles can glorify Him when we respond in faith, trusting in Him to comfort and sustain us.

3-Our hope is in Christ because He has made our future secure. This life is a vapor (James 4:14)! When you come to the moment of your death, this trial you are facing right now will seem tiny compared to the vastness of eternity. The only thing that will matter in that moment is that you are about to meet the One who was with you from your first cry to your final breath (Psalm 139). You will understand that He has commanded every moment, including your eternal destiny. Dear friend, please don’t wait till that moment to fall into the arms of Christ! Surrender now! Give Him all your fear, all your chains, and all your heart. He is faithful, trustworthy, and very real.

Where is your hope today? Is your hope in Christ? If you answer yes, examine yourself to see if that hope is also tied to the outcome of your current problem. If it is, ask the Lord to untie it. He will gently and lovingly pull just the right strings to separate your hope from this world, and tie it eternally, only to Him. Hallelujah! What a hope! What a Savior!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Answered Prayer, Part 2: What If?

Last week, I posted about the healing that the Lord has granted me recently. If you read that post, you know that I have had great success with a recent therapy technique, and am feeling much better than I have in years. But, as I mentioned in that post, there is always the nagging fear in the back of my mind that the pain and dysfunction may return as time passes. What if it comes back? Will I lose hope again, and end up back where I was before I surrendered this issue to the Lord?

The answer to these questions depends on whether I remember the lessons I have learned: It is not physical therapy, or medications or surgeries or anything else of this world that heals us. It is the Lord. Job 5:18 says, “For He wounds, but He also binds up; He injures, but His hands also heal.” You may not always know His reasons for your wounds, but you can be sure that he is fully sovereign over them. Sometimes we do discover, as we go through difficulties, that they are for the purpose of chastening, as this passage in Job instructs us. I never did really figure out the reason for my suffering, other than the general purpose of God’s glory. Maybe it was discipline from the Lord, and maybe it wasn’t. But I do know for sure that it was His hand that wounded; His hand that now has healed; and His hand that will sustain me, regardless of how long my improvement lasts.

It is vital to our faith that we remind ourselves constantly about the sovereignty of God over all aspects of our lives. Are you suffering? God knows, and He will sustain you until the day of your healing, whether that is here in this world, or when you meet Him face to face. Does your physical disability make it difficult for you to earn a living? Fear not, my friend! God knows your needs (Matthew 6: 25-34). We often slip into a pattern of thinking that we are providing our own material needs. But, in reality, it is God who provides. So, no matter what is happening in this world, the same One who has provided for us all our lives will continue to do so. It may be through different means, but the same Provider will faithfully continue to come through. His presence and provision are seamless.

Are you grieving a loss? Job 1:21 tells us that the same Lord who gave us whatever was so precious to us, has also taken it away. Maybe you have lost your ability to walk. Maybe you can no longer use your hands. Perhaps your vision is failing. God knows your heartache. He gave you that strength or skill or vision in the first place, and He knows how painful it is for you to lose it now. If it was the best thing for you, he would heal you right now, as you read these words. But if He doesn’t heal your physical body, He has promised to heal your heart. Psalm 147:3 says that He “…heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Ps 147:3).  

This brings me back to my original question: What if the results of this therapy are not permanent, and my pain and dysfunction return? Well, if that happens, it is of the Lord, and the same principles will apply. Whether I lose hope again really depends on how I think about it. If I become self-focused and self-pitying, then I will end up back where I was before. But, if I consider it through the lens of God’s sovereignty, I will be grateful. Grateful that He gave me even a moment of pain relief. He did not have to do even that. Grateful for His grace that has sustained me all these years and will continue to sustain me, regardless of what happens. And grateful for all that He is teaching me in this precious pain.

My sovereign God loves me, and His desire is to make me like Him. Is He your God, too? Your healer? Your sustainer? Then trust in Him for your “what if”.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Answered Prayer!

I have written a lot here on the blog about coping with pain and suffering, trusting God in trials, and persevering in a body that doesn't work the way I’d like it to. Maybe, in reading all these posts, you’ve come to the conclusion that I've given up on the possibility that God may one day heal me. I want you to know today that that is most certainly not the case. Through all my striving to live a life that is pleasing to God in this body that doesn't work the way He intended, I have never stopped asking Him to heal me. I know with 100% certainty that He is able to do it, and I have never had any doubt that, if He thought that it was the best thing for me, He would heal me.

There have been many times over the years that I have tried various medical options to improve my situation: Minor and major surgery; physical therapy; joint supplements; injections; painful massage techniques, topical and oral medications, acupuncture, and the list goes on and on. I have had many people praying for me, and sought wisdom as I decided whether to try each of these things that offered me some hope of relief. Each time, I have hoped that whatever I was trying would work, and each time I was disappointed. Some treatments even made me worse.

So, I stopped trying. After the last failed attempt to fix this, I dusted off my white flag of surrender and waved it at God. I told Him that, if I could be of better use to Him in this condition, then I was willing to live out the rest of my life this way. I cried out my complaint to Him, just to make sure He knew how much I still didn't like this new normal. I grieved the loss of my mobility and comfort, and then I told Him that I was ready to “cease striving” and acknowledge that He is God and He knows what is best for me. I had reached a point of contentment in my heart. I truly sensed a new kind of peace that I had never known before. My dear Friend and Father desired to occupy this broken body, and it was a grace and a privilege that He would abide in me.

And then He sent something new. I wrote about it in another post a while back, as I was debating whether or not to try this new modality that I’d heard about. I wanted to make sure that my surrender had not waned, and that I was prepared to press on if the therapy didn’t work, or even if it caused a setback. I wrestled, prayed, sought advice from many friends, and did a lot of research on the technique before I decided to take the plunge and try it. The Lord led me to a wonderful physical therapist who respected my limits, and truly seemed to desire to help me. I know that this was of God because I was never fearful or anxious about her work on me, and I was able to trust in Him completely.

This therapy was bathed in much prayer, and today I very joyfully share with you that the pain and disability I have suffered for the last 5 years has been remarkably lessened! The anatomical problems created by the surgery are still there, but the pain is very significantly reduced. I really cannot believe how much better I feel, and I am so very thankful for my dear loving Father, who waited until just the right time to bring me some relief. Perhaps He was waiting for me to be content only in Him. I really don’t know His reasons for allowing me to feel so much better. I only know that there is a purpose in His timing, just as there is a purpose in my suffering.

So, now what? I’m not 100% healed, and there will still be some things I cannot do, but the pain, which was the hardest thing to bear, has eased. Now that the therapy has ended, many questions come to my mind: What if it slowly goes back to the way it was? What if the pain begins to creep back? What if I have to go back to the limitations that were so difficult to live with? How will I cope? How will I not lose heart?

I believe I have good answers to these questions, and I will share those with you in my next post. But, for now, won’t you rejoice with me in this miracle? The Lord has seen fit to answer my prayers for pain relief and for a more functional body. How about you? Are you asking God for healing, or have you given up? Do you still believe that He can heal you? I know it is hard to keep believing and asking when all signs say you've been denied, but I want to encourage you today, friend, to persevere in prayer:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Great is His Faithfulness

There was a beautiful sunrise this morning. Several of my friends posted photos of it from their homes, and each was different from the others. As I gazed on the beauty of this miracle, I was filled with wonder at the goodness and love of God. After all, He didn’t have to give us sunrises. In His infinite power and wisdom, He could have formed the world with no beauty at all, or he could have created us without sight (Exodus 4:11) so that we would never enjoy gazing on any such magnificent scene. He certainly didn’t need beauty and awe and wonder in His life, for He Himself is beauty and awe and wonder! Yet, here we have something beautiful to behold! Why has He given us such pleasure?

I believe the answer is the same as the answer to these questions:
 “Why must we suffer?”
“Why don’t You heal?”
“Why does this affliction go on and on?”

The answer to all these questions is: For the glory of God!

It’s easy to see God’s glory in a magnificent sunrise, a beautiful snowfall, and many other wonders of His world. Such things naturally inspire praise in a child of God. But how can we see glory in suffering, pain, and affliction? I believe the glory God receives in these things is not in the trials themselves, but in the believer’s response to them. God takes no pleasure in our suffering. Many of the Psalms portray the compassion of God for His suffering children (Psalm 56:8; Psalm 103:8; Psalm 116:5, Psalm 119:156).   

But God does take great pleasure in our right response to suffering. So what is the right response to suffering? According to the Bible, the right response includes trusting God, persevering in faith, and proclaiming God’s love in the midst of it.  

When we trust God in our suffering, not accusing Him of doing wrong or complaining about our trial, He is glorified. I’m not saying we have to like the trial, or even that we can’t tell Him we don’t like it. Biblical complaint is certainly legitimate, and we are welcomed by God to pour out our hearts before Him (Psalm 62:8). But after the complaint, we press on in trust and faith, believing what God’s Word says about Him and His character. A. W. Pink has written an excellent book entitled, The Attributes of God. If you’re having trouble trusting Him in your trial, I suggest you read it.

How do we persevere in faith? The same way the saints down through the ages did it. I could describe that here, but you’d be better served to just go read Hebrews 11. There is no greater demonstration of faith than the actions of the people in that chapter. As you trust and persevere, the final step will come naturally. You will not be able to keep the evidences of God’s faithfulness to yourself. You will proclaim His love to others just as naturally as you used to complain about your trial! When God demonstrates His faithfulness to you, you won’t be able to hold back your joy and satisfaction in Him.

So, my believing friend, when you wake up tomorrow morning, and the sun rises over your town, remember God’s faithfulness to you. If you are tempted to ask why you must suffer, remember that the reason is the same as the reason the sun rises. For the glory of God! Amen?

Monday, January 5, 2015

First Things First

What did you read today? Was it something about your health issues? Did you spend some time on Web MD searching for answers for your pain? Maybe you read a self-help book about living with chronic pain, or making the most of your life as it is. While this kind of reading may sometimes be helpful, I have an idea for a change in your reading habits, and mine too.

I’d like to propose that we make a commitment, right now, that every day we will read God’s Word before we read anything else. This will usually mean that Bible reading is one of the first things that will happen each day. Before Facebook, before the newspaper, before anything else, we will get into God’s Word and meditate on what we find there. There are at least three reasons for you to consider this change, and I hope that after I present my case, you will see the benefit.

Godward Focus

First, reading God’s Word before anything else sets our minds toward Christ from the very beginning of the day. Before we have a chance to covet our Facebook friends’ happy lives, or worry and fret about the evil depicted in the daily news, we will have a moment to reflect on the goodness and mercy of God. We will be reminded of His love for us and His incredible grace in our lives. This will remind us to be grateful for all that we have, rather than focusing on what we don’t have.

Note to self

Another benefit of first-thing Bible reading is that it sets our self-talk in the right direction. Did you know that you talk to yourself all day long? Every thought of your heart is a conversation with yourself. Either you will believe your self-talk or you will combat it with biblical thought. I don’t know about you, but if I let my conversations with myself go unchecked, they usually tend toward the negative. If I’m not careful, they will circle the drain until they lead me to despair. But when I bathe my heart and mind in the Word of God first thing in the morning, that default setting is reset to a more godly thought pattern.


Finally, when I read the Word of God first thing in the morning, I gain eternal perspective on the other things I will read throughout the day. When I carry with me that assurance of hope from my morning reading, I am less likely to worry and fret about the headlines or the lab results or the Web MD diagnosis. God’s Word is different from anything else you can read. By the power of the Holy Spirit, It penetrates the heart and mind (Hebrews 4:12), and stays with you throughout your day, as you walk with the Lord.

There are lots of reading plans with charts and check boxes, accountability suggestions, and systems for completing the Bible in a year. I’m not against these. They can be good for forming a reading habit if you have not already done so, and I believe every Christian should be able to honestly say they have read the whole Bible. After all, how can you be ready to defend the truth of God’s Word if you haven’t read it?

But my challenge goes a little deeper. I want you to meditate on the Word of God. Even if it means that you read only one verse or a short passage each day, I want you to stay there until it sinks into your heart and mind. Pick a book, and read until you come to a verse that really speaks to you somehow. Write that verse out in a journal, and think carefully about each word. Ask the Lord to show you how you can apply it in your life today, and write down what you learn. By the end of the year, you will be amazed at what you have learned, and how you have grown. What do you think? Will you accept my challenge? Leave me a comment if you like, and we’ll head in to 2015 with a plan!