Need Your Soul Revived? I Recommend A Reading Plan 

iStock_000021072677Bible Reading

Conquering the Distaste for Reading

I used to hate reading. I would have rather done anything in the world than sit down and read a book. The idea of devoting focused time on some sort of reading material seemed so boring. I would think,

“Give me a video game or a movie, some music or a football, but please don’t hand me a book!”

Of course, this negative attitude toward reading made some classes in high school rather tricky because I was often required to write papers on certain books that I had “read.”

To circumvent my displeasure of reading, I skillfully learned the art of interviewing my friends about the details of a book before a paper was due, and then writing the paper from content I collected in my interviews (not a habit I would recommend to my kids!).

Now I LOVE to read. If I had my choice of any leisure activity, it would most certainly involve time invested in a book (probably on a beach, and most-definitely with my wife and kids close beside me).

Question: So, what in the world changed my point of view?

Answer: I met Jesus – that is to say he revealed himself to me – and the night I met Him I discovered that He had authored a Book (2 Timothy 3:16).

I can still vividly remember opening a copy of my pocket New Testament shortly after I was converted. I began reading in Matthew, voraciously soaking in every word and underlining words-of-life in red ink like a ravenous scavenger.

Though my conversion sparked a love for all kinds of reading, there is One Book that has remained constant in my daily life: The Bible.

Since the day of my conversion, I have never stopped reading it. It’s hard to believe that this upcoming year I will be making my way through the entire Old and New Testaments for the 17th time, and it has never grown old. (Note: Pocket New Testaments fall apart when carried in your pocket daily – poor design if you ask me!)

Looking at the copy of that tattered and taped-up pocket New Testament always reminds me of the miracle of my conversion. It also reminds me of the value of Scripture.

What’s So Special About the Bible, and Why Should We Read It Regularly?

Simply put, Scripture teaches and our experience confirms that God’s Word is not like any other book in the world: it is a living book, breathed out by God Himself (Heb. 4:12-13). The Word of God is inspired, inerrant, infallible, authoritative and sufficient for life and godliness (Psalm 12:6; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3-4). God’s word is necessary for us to understand the way of salvation. Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:14;17), and God promises to accompany His Word with saving and sanctifying power (Isaiah 55:10-11; John 17:17).

So reading is a form of feasting for the Christian soul. If you need your soul revived this year (as I know I do!), hear again the psalmist’s declaration:

“the law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.” (Psalm 19:7).

Whatever your sentiment has been in the past on the topic of reading, I want to encourage you to make it your prayer and earnest pursuit that in the present, this year will be one in which you are devoted to the Word of God.

Scripture teaches that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4, emphasis mine). Since our souls are nourished by every word of Scripture, and we are to live by every word of Scripture, why not make a plan for reading every word of the Bible?

Simple Plans for Simple People

There are many Bible reading plans available to help us with this goal, and it’s never too early or too late to start.

My personal favorite plan is The One Year Bible which guides you daily (and quite manageably) through an Old Testament and New Testament reading, as well as a reading from the Psalms and Proverbs. I have found with this plan that if you devote 15-20 minutes a day, you will very easily read through the entire Bible in one year (our 10-year-old daughter is beginning her 3rd trip through the entire Bible using this plan, so I know anyone can do it!).

We want to be people of The Book. This year, may we all give ourselves to soaking in the Word of God.

As a result, may our souls be revived by God’s Word and may we continue to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18)!

5 Benefits of Running with Faster Friends

Running with Faster Friends

I have the privilege of working with some amazing people at Provisions Group. It’s an incredible environment. My colleagues work hard, and they run hard. Literally.

One of my co-workers has completed 5 marathons. Another is a very accomplished, officially sponsored triathlete. (Chad Nikazy writes in his spare-time about “The Gentle Art of Balancing Marriage, Parenting, and Triathlon. He has over 4,600 subscribers to his blog, trifatherhood.com).

The owners of our company are excellent athletes and continue to compete in races around the area. Several of my co-workers completed a 50k trail run last year and there are a few here with Iron-Man competitions under their belts (hint: a 50k trail run is longer than a marathon). Needless to say, it’s an energetic atmosphere and you can always find someone ready to run or work out with you.

My Internal Dilemma When It Comes to Running

It’s difficult to keep up with guys who have been running for so long when I’m just getting started (In fact, I think it would be difficult to keep up with them even if I had been running for years).

So, I have a choice to make each week, and with each new invitation to join them for a run. I can either bow out, or I can man up. I can shrink back, or I can stretch myself.

I’ve always been glad that I’ve joined them – once we get back to the office. On one of my runs, as I was struggling to catch up, I identified what I am calling “5 Benefits of Running With Faster Friends.” This is what I have to remind myself of as I tie my shoelaces on the way out the door.

5 Benefits of Running with Faster Friends

1. The Challenge.

As a novice runner, it’s very challenging to hit the road with very experienced runners. The pace is much faster than if I had set out for a run on my own. I have to push myself, and it’s hard. But I know that running with faster friends has a sharpening effect on me. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Prov. 27:17). The benefits I gain from embracing the challenge are worth all the effort involved.

2. The Camaraderie

There’s nothing quite like a band of brothers attacking a challenge together. On one of my first runs with my friend, LJ, the final stretch was filled with his encouragement: “COOPERS AREN’T QUITTERS! COOPER’S AREN’T QUITTERS! COOPERS AREN’T QUITTERS!” I was breathless, but with every one of his proclamations, I rose to the challenge and finished the course. There’s a bond created from running with faster friends. When I’m faced with difficulties, I want to hear LJ’s voice in my head and keep pressing on.

3. The Refreshment

Even in the cold months, running outside through downtown Franklin has a refreshing effect on my body and, in turn, has a positive effect on my soul. I think of a very helpful quote from Charles Spurgeon:

“He who forgets the humming of the bees among the heather, the cooing of the wood-pigeons in the forest, the song of birds in the woods, the rippling of rills among the rushes, and the sighing of the wind among the pines, needs not wonder if his heart forgets to sing and his soul grows heavy. A day’s breathing of fresh air upon the hills, or a few hours’ ramble in the beech woods’ umbrageous calm, would sweep the cobwebs out of the brain of scores of our toiling ministers who are now but half alive. A mouthful of sea air, or a stiff walk in the wind’s face, would not give grace to the soul, but it would yield oxygen to the body, which is the next best.” Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, p. 158

It’s good for the body and the soul to get outside, even if that means running with faster friends.

4. The Humbling Effect

Because I’m running with faster friends, I’m usually bringing up the rear on all our outings. That’s humbling for me! I think it’s also good for me. I’m reminded when we run that I don’t always have to be out in front, leading the pack. Instead of bemoaning my own weaknesses, I can acknowledge the strengths of others, and I can seek to learn from my faster friends. It’s the only way to grow, which leads me to my final point.

5. The Growth

Unless you are Usain Bolt, there’s always someone faster. And unless you are King Solomon, there’s always someone wiser. Proverbs 13:20 says “He who walks with the wise, grows wise.” It’s wise to walk with the wise because when you walk with the wise, you grow wise.

Maybe it accelerates our growth even more if we run with them. At least, this is what I am going to continue to tell myself the next time I tie my shoelaces and head out the door for another run with my faster friends.

What thoughts inspire you to keep running with faster friends?

First time reading my posts? Thanks for stopping by! I would love to connect with you on LinkedIN. Here’s a link to some information about me and I hope you will stop by revivingthesoul.com for more encouragement, as well.

The Real You Meeting the Real God Means Real Grace

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Come Messy

We don’t have to clean ourselves up or get our acts completely together before we can approach God. Jesus invites us to come just as we are.

And Jesus knows we are messy.

That’s why he came.

When the scribes of the Pharisees saw Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors, they challenged him. And when he heard it, he said to them,

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).

Jesus came into our messy world. He spent time with messy people, and he ultimately gave his life as a ransom for messy sinners (Mark 10:45).

He came for the unclean. He came for the sick. He came for the broken. He came for sinners, like you and me.

Connecting With God in a Distracting World

This morning, I am heading Paul Miller’s counsel:

“The real you has to meet the real God.”

Miller’s book, A Praying Life: Connecting With God In a Distracting World: has been serving my soul this past week. It’s giving me hope in the midst of the mundane messiness of my everyday life. Here are a few very helpful quotes:

“God also cheers when we come to him with our wobbling, unsteady prayers. Jesus does not say, ‘Come to me, all you who have learned how to concentrate in prayer, whose minds no longer wander, and I will give you rest.’ No, Jesus opens his arms to his needy children and says, ‘Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28, NASB). The criteria for coming to Jesus is weariness. Come overwhelmed with life. Come with your wandering mind. Come messy.”

“Your heart could be, and often is, askew. That’s okay. You have to begin with what is real. Jesus didn’t come for the righteous. He came for sinners. All of us qualify. The very things we try to get rid of — our weariness, our distractedness, our messiness — are what get us in the front door! That’s how the gospel works. That’s how prayer works.”

“In bringing your real self to Jesus, you give him the opportunity to work on the real you, and you will slowly change.” (p. 31-32; 33).

Bring the real you to the real God and you will receive real grace. That’s really good news for messy people.

Yes, You CAN Change!

iStock_000008202629Small.Under Construction

Lately, my daily commute to our office in downtown Franklin has left me meandering my way slowly through orange construction cones and dodging yellow bulldozers as Hillsboro Road is currently under construction.

Besides the challenge of accurately timing a commute, it is growing increasingly difficult to keep my Honda Pilot clean in all the dust.

Yet, I know that I will be very grateful as the road widens, the construction concludes, and I drive swiftly along the newly paved pathway.

Sometimes kicking up a lot of dust is necessary if there is to be any change.

In a similar way, our lives can feel pretty dusty at times.

Christ Enters Our Dusty Lives

It seems my life is always Under Construction.

I don’t know about you, but I can yearn for the finished product and the day change is no longer necessary. I long to be perfected in God’s sight.

It’s amazing now to think that by God’s grace this day IS coming for all who are in Christ Jesus. In heaven there will be no more sin, no more suffering, no more sorrow, no more pain — AND no more need to change… anything.

Amazing.

What About Now?

In the meantime, if I am honest, I will admit that I often struggle with the thought, “Will I ever change?”

That’s when I need to remember the gospel and the promises of God. The gospel is the best news in the world for people who are under construction.

The gospel tells me that Jesus Christ lived a perfect life which he credits to all who put their faith in him, he died a substitutionary death on the cross of Calvary, and he rose from the grave, triumphing over sin and death so that sinners can be forgiven of their sins.

Faith For Change

The gospel tells me that Christ accepts me just as I am, but he doesn’t leave me as I am. God’s plan for my future should give me faith to change in the present.

Just as construction is a normal part of daily commutes in everyday life, so change is part of God’s will for us as his children. One day we will be glorified. In the meantime, we are being sanctified (growing in Christlikeness).

In a recent sermon, Ray Ortlund, Jr. said, “The real Jesus offers both acceptance and change, and in that order always.” First acceptance, and then change.

The good news is that you don’t have to get your life completely in order before Christ will accept you. In fact, you can’t. The only way any of us are accepted by Christ is by God’s grace. Christ’s acceptance is a blood-bought gift from Calvary.

But we must never forget that Christ both forgives and gives power to change. We are not alone in this construction project. The Holy Spirit is with us, and God is empowering us daily for change.

Here’s what encourages my faith for the continual construction I’m going through spiritually in this life:

1 Thessalonians 4:3 “It is God’s will that you be sanctified.”

1 John 5:14-15 “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”

My change is a part of His plan. It’s God’s will that I grow in Christlikeness, and I can be confident that if I approach God in prayer and ask anything according to his will, he hears me, and if he hears me, I know I will have the request I ask of him.

O God, according to your Word and your will, help me grow. Help me change, by Your grace, and for Your glory!