Spiritual Resolutions for the New Year
About the Guest
For Christians, a popular New Year's resolution often involves reading through the Bible in a year. Instead of just reading the Bible as fast as you can, what if you made it your goal to get to know God's word better-to know your heavenly Father better? Dennis Rainey, Bob Lepine, Jen Wilkin, Barbara Rainey, and Don Whitney share their resolutions and offer some coaching on effective ways to dig into God's word.
New Year’s resolution: Read through the Bible in a year. Dennis Rainey, Bob Lepine, Jen Wilkin, Barbara Rainey, and Don Whitney offer some coaching on effective ways to dig into God’s word.
Michelle: Just how well do you know your Bible?
[Survey taken by Michelle]
Okay; so we’re putting together a show just about how well we know our Bible. How many times have you read through the Bible?
Participant 1: From cover to cover, I would say maybe—yes; I don’t know.
Michelle: How many times have you read through your Bible?
Participant 2: I’ve started about nine times.
Michelle: So, how far did you get those nine times?
Participant 2: Genesis 1:5? [Laughter]
Michelle: Like where would you usually stop?
Participant 1: Leviticus, probably.
Participant 3: Probably around Numbers.
Michelle: So you know the Ten Commandments; right?
Participant 3: Oh, yes; sure; absolutely.
Michelle: So if you made it through Leviticus, you know the Ten Commandments; right?
Participant 4: Yes.
Michelle: Do you know the Ten Commandments?
Participant 5: Of course! Yes; I know them.
Michelle: What is number nine?
Participant 6: Don’t know.
Michelle: So what’s number nine? “Thou shalt not—
Participant 7: Do something. [Laughter]
Michelle: Comes after stealing—
Participant 8: Like maybe—
Michelle: “Thou shalt not bear false witness.”
Okay; so I’m going to start a verse, and you finish it: “In the beginning….”
Participant 9: “…there was the word.
Michelle: Wow; Bible scholar; aren’t you?
Participant 9: I told you! [Laughter]
Michelle: So now: “God helps those…”
Participant 10: “…who helps themselves.”
Participant 11: —“help themselves”?
Michelle: Can I tell you something?
Participant 10: Okay.
Michelle: That’s really not in the Bible. That’s not in the Bible. [Laughter]
Participant 11: No way! Really?
Participant 10: I thought it was. [Laughter]
Michelle: Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. Happy New Year! I think there needs to be a noise maker; I forgot my noise maker at home. Oh, 2020 is finally over; it’s in the books. We’ve wrapped it up, and now we’re moving on to 2021. We’re all holding our breaths, and we’re praying this year is going to be different. You know what? It will be; it’s 2021!
It’s the beginning of a new year, and that means New Year’s resolutions: “I’m going to exercise daily,” “I don’t know; maybe, cook six nights a week—no; make that four nights,” “Have to lose the ten pounds that I gained over Christmas,” “Read five biographies; read ten non-fiction books.” [Repetition of resolutions with greater speed] Do you ever do this?—make lists at New Year’s?
Well, we call these New Year’s resolutions. They are supposed to make us better; every year we go through this. In fact, Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine had a very similar conversation when FamilyLife Today® was brand-new. Guess who got a hold of that conversation; here they are.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Bob: Welcome to FamilyLife Today. I remember, as a school student this time of year, I always looked forward to this day when I could say to my friends, “See you next year”; all that meant was I’d see you the next day; because here we are on New Year’s Eve, 1992. If I had come to you [Dennis] a year ago and said, “You know, we’ll be on the radio in two dozen cities around the country by this time next year,” you’d have probably laughed at me.
Dennis: I would have. I don’t know that I would have believed you at that point. We’ve been so long in the planning of this that it wasn’t until March of ’93 that we were supposed to finally throw the switch. Some circumstances occurred that enabled us to start in 1992; we’re thrilled we finished out the year in such a flurry.
Bob: It’s been exciting, for the last several weeks, as we’ve been able to come and spend time with you [the listener]each day; and we have really enjoyed it. Here on New Year’s Eve, we want to talk a little bit about what has become a ritual in the American culture; and that is the making of resolutions.
I was thinking, as we came into the studio to talk about this today, about my/probably, my most failed resolution. Like most Christians, I decided one year to start, on
January 1st, reading through the Bible. I picked out a good guide to do that, and I sat down. [Laughter] I remember getting to Genesis 12. That must have been day four or five in the new year; I kind of bogged down there. [Laughter]
Now, there is good news that came out of that; because I was so fascinated with the story of Abraham, as it started in Genesis 12, that I did spend the next six months in a little group Bible study, investigating the life of Abraham;—
Dennis: Well, good for you. [Laughter]
Bob: —but I never made it through Malachi or much less Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Dennis: Well, maybe, you’re going to start a new ministry called Walk through the Bible in a Decade or something. [Laughter]
Michelle: Yes, that is Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine with some of our antique audio from the FamilyLife Today vault. It aired on December 31, 1992; so it’s almost a quarter of a century old.
Hey, a while back—actually, it was back in the mid-18th century—there was a young man; he was a teenager at the time. He wrote a series of thoughts and practices to help him in his walk with God; he read through these every week. That young man was Jonathan Edwards, and those thoughts of his were 70 resolutions. Here are just a few:
Resolved: never to do anything, whether physically or spiritually, except what glorifies God.
Resolved: never to do anything which I would be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.
You know, maybe what you want to do is do a little fact checking for yourself on Jonathan Edwards. This is the man God used to spark one of the greatest revivals in American history.
If I’m going to be resolved to grow in my knowledge and love for God this year, I should probably start with studying my Bible; right? Maybe, you should too?
Jen Wilkin sat down with Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine a while back and talked about how we should study our Bible. Jen is the women’s ministry director at the Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas. She is married and has four children. She’s written the book entitled Women of the Word. Jen says to be effective studiers of the Bible, we need to keep in mind five P’s. The first one is “Purpose.”
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Jen: Our purpose should be to see what God’s purpose is in giving the Bible to us. That would be to make sure that we have a grasp on what the big story of the Bible is anytime that we sit down to read. It’s expressed in different ways by different people; the way that I talk about it in the book is: “The Bible is trying to tell us about creation, fall, redemption, restoration. We’re learning something about the nature and character of God just knowing what that big story or, as some people call it, the metanarrative is.”
Dennis: What’s the next “P,” and how does it fit into this process that we’re going through here?
Jen: Okay; “Study with Perspective” is what comes next. Picture us sort of zooming in; we’re getting closer and closer. We started with the big story of the metanarrative; now, I’m saying, “Studying with perspective for an individual book of the Bible.” Before we begin to study something, we’re going to say: “Who wrote it? When was it written? To whom was it written? What are the major themes of the book?”—those kinds of questions that nail down for us just a general historical and cultural context.
The Pentateuch—the first five books of the Bible; those books, just as an example—they are written to give the nation of Israel a sense of its history and a sense of its future. Understanding that that’s why they were written, and to those people at that time in the history of the Bible; and also, we have to place them within the history of the world: “What was going on in human civilization at that time in these parts of the world?”
Bob: It’s also important to understand that not every part of the Bible is the same as every other part of the Bible.
Bob: A psalm is different than epistle, and that’s different than a history; and that’s different—
Bob: —than an apocalyptic allegory; right?
Jen: Yes; that’s part of this idea of getting perspective—is you have to ask: “In what style was the book written?”
Dennis: Okay; let’s move onto the third “P,” “Patience.”
Jen: We generally have a fast-food culture mentality. When we come to the Bible, we need to understand that the Bible is not to be treated as a debit account, where each morning I get up, and I put my card in, and I withdrawal my little bit that I need for the day. The Bible is more properly viewed as a savings account, where I may read for
15 minutes, and I may not take away a nugget for my day; but I can trust that it is all going somewhere and pointing to something that is ultimately going to reap a reward.
People always say, “What’s a/what should I study when I’m in crisis?” I’m thinking, “Who studies when they are in crisis?! You are hanging on for dear life!” Those are examples of times where we draw on that savings account. If the Word of God has dwelt in us richly—if we have meditated on it/if it has been in our hearts and then overflowed onto our lips—then, when we hit those times [crises], we are able to now draw on that savings account.
Dennis: Yes; you don’t build a roof in the middle of the storm.
Dennis: You build it over a period of time when the sun is out;—
Dennis: —so when it does rain, you are protected.
The fourth “P” is “Process.”
Jen: “Study with Process.”
Dennis: I love this one, because it ends with satisfying the vitamin “A” deficiency that we all lack when we come to studying the Bible.
Jen: Yes, yes; to grasp what a passage has to say to us. We start with comprehension; that’s just asking, “What does it say?” That means that, after you’ve read through the account—the creation account, say, in Genesis 1—that you should be able to tell me what God created on each of the six days of creation. It’s the repetitive reading; it’s the annotating; it’s the making notes in the margin; it’s me trying to get inside what the words are just saying; it’s the paraphrasing—all those things.
After we’ve spent time on comprehension, we move on to interpretation. Interpretation—if I’m looking at the creation account again—interpretation is where I begin to ask the question: “What does it mean?” I’m looking at the creation account; I know that God created in six days. When I begin to look at it, I recognize that what it is wanting to tell me are a couple of key things: the first is that it is God who created and that He did so in an orderly way.
Then you move—once you feel like you’re moving towards a sound interpretation—it’s finally time to start asking that application question, which is: “How should it change me?” But when we get there, we don’t just say, “Okay; enough about You, now, let’s talk about me.’ I have to frame up that application piece in light of what I’ve seen to be true about God.
Dennis: The thing that helps application is the last “P,” which is “Prayer.”
Jen: “Prayer.” In the book, I encourage women, when they begin to study, that they should pray as they are beginning; and they should pray in the midst of their study; and they should pray when they conclude.
Now, I’m a realist; I know how busy life is, particularly for, say, a young mom. Depending on your life stage, you may not have a lot of time to give to this. The idea is not that we have some rigid set about praying before, during, and after a study. It’s that we see that as a good and beautiful thing. As we have the time and opportunity, we do imbue it into all parts of our study; but if we don’t, some days/there are days you sit down and you say, “Lord, give me ears to hear”; and you dive in.
Michelle: Over the last few years, I have learned so much from Jen Wilkin. She has a unique way of teaching women just how to dig into God’s Word. You can hear her entire interview with Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine by going to our website, FamilyLifeThisWeek.com; that’s FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
We’re going to take a break; but when we come back, we’re going to continue talking about these resolutions. We’ll be right back.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. It’s a new year, and it’s a time to think forward/a time to think through: “What do you want out of 2021?”
You know, one thing I have heard—which is what Bob said—“Resolved: I am going to read the Bible from cover to cover this year.” Then it comes to the 1st of February, and you are reading Leviticus, and it’s just not so fun; or maybe, it’s the end of February, and you’re reading Numbers, and you’re stuck. Our forward emotions starts
A while back, I had a chat with Barbara Rainey about the importance of spiritual disciplines in our lives. Now, this conversation was actually part of Passport2Identity®, which is a resource that FamilyLife® has created to help moms and daughters and fathers and sons get away and work on their identity in Christ. Barbara says there are some things that we need to keep in mind as we grow in our walk with God. This is more than just for teenage girls; this applies across the board to all of us.
Barbara: Spiritual disciplines are incredibly important; and yet, what I want to say first is that spiritual disciplines are difficult. Setting yourself up to perfectly keep a system of having a quiet time or a system of memorizing verses is probably going to fail. It’s not because it can’t be done; it’s because we are broken people.
One of the things that I discovered about myself over the years—but this was years ago when I finally understood this—is that I hoped that I would be able to set up some habits that I could keep flawlessly. I’m not a super-structured person. Kind of the way I operate—I’ll get tired of it after a while, and I need a new system, just because it feels boring—and I get bored. That’s one reason that they fail.
Another reason is that there were just a lot of interruptions in my life. In my early years of marriage, when we started having children, maintaining spiritual disciplines was really difficult; because of waking up in the middle of the night and little kids. I struggled for a long time with a sense of failure, because I was unable to maintain what I thought I needed to maintain. What I was subtly doing was feeling like my value to God depended on my performance for Him by having a quiet time, and going through a prayer list, and whatever it was.
Now, in this season of my life, I’m so much more relaxed about that. I don’t think I’m too relaxed, but I think I’m relaxed enough that I know that my relationship with Christ is secure. Now, I want to spend time with Him reading the Bible. I’m starting, actually, to memorize a psalm. I haven’t done any Bible memory in a long time, because it was always a challenge for me; so I decided, rather than try to memorize verses, I just wouldn’t. Then I wouldn’t fail. [Laughter] But I’m trying to memorize Psalm 139 because it’s been such an encouragement to me recently. [Child reading excerpt from
Psalm 139] I thought, “I can do that; I can memorize that just by reading it over and over again.”
I think it’s crucial to know all of the Bible. It’s important to have the context of the Old Testament, and it’s important to know the whole story. It’s like, when we meet someone for the first time, and all you know is what you know about them today; then going forward, what you know about them tomorrow. If you don’t know more about your friend’s childhood, and you don’t know your friend’s parents, you don’t know where this new friend lives, then you are only getting a little, tiny sliver of that person’s life.
The Bible is like that; if you just read some portions of the New Testament, but you don’t ever go back and get the history of where this all came from, then you’re just getting such a narrow, narrow slice of what it’s really all about. You don’t get the big picture; you don’t get the context. It’s important to know both Testaments: the Old and the New. I’ve made a commitment to myself that I will be in Bible study until I breathe my last breath; because as long as I’m in God’s Word, and I’m studying what He said, I’m going to get to know Him better. The more I get to know Him; the more I love Him; and the more I am in awe of what He did for me.
To me, that’s the basis of spiritual disciplines. It’s not the structure; it’s not that you are doing five things on your list of being a Christian. There is not a checklist; it is all about getting to know Him. The more you know Him, the more you love Him; and then you’re more motivated to want to please Him.
Michelle: That’s Barbara Rainey with a great reminder about growing in our love for God; it’s about spending time with Him, and reading His Word, and memorizing His Word.
Remember, especially as we hit the doldrums of winter, what was once a great resolution tends to somewhat get pushed aside. Oh, wait; you wouldn’t do that; would you? Okay; maybe, it is me who would do that. Okay; but I have a tool for you so that you can fight against those doldrums, and it’s something that will help your prayer life remain vital all year long. Here is Don Whitney teaching us about this technique. Actually, as you listen to Don teach about the Psalms, you’re probably going to say, “Wait; I think I already knew that.” It’s really that simple. Here is Don.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Don: Every book of the Bible is equally inspired, but the Psalms were inspired for a unique purpose. It’s the only book of the Bible inspired by God for the very purpose of being reflected to God. The Book of Psalms—in Hebrew, it means a book of praises—so the Psalms were songs to God, inspired by God. We get the Psalms from God, but they were intended to be sung back to God. It’s the only book of the Bible for that purpose. The Psalms, I believe, constitute, therefore, the easiest place in Scripture from which to pray Scripture. We take these words that have come from God; we cause them to be the wings of our prayers back to God. We take words that have already originated in the heart and mind of God and circulate them, through our hearts and minds, to God.
For example, the 23rd Psalm, which most of your listeners would be familiar with it. If I were going to do this, maybe, I’ve already done my daily Bible reading; and I say, “Now, I’m going to pray; and I’m going pray, using one of the Psalms. Today, I picked the
23rd Psalm.” I read the first line: “The Lord is my shepherd.” I may say something like, “Lord, thank You that You are my shepherd. You are a good shepherd, and You have shepherded me all of my life; but O Great Shepherd, would You shepherd me in this decision I have to make about my future? Do I make that change, or do I not?” “Do I make that move or not?” “I pray You would shepherd my family today; guide them into the ways of God. Guard them from the ways of the world. Lead them not into temptation; deliver them from evil, and cause them—cause my children/my grandchildren—to love You as their shepherd, to cause them to be Your sheep as I am,” “I pray for under-shepherds at the church. Please shepherd them as they shepherd us.”
Then, when nothing else comes to mind, you look at the next line: “I shall not want.” Maybe, you are in want about something, and you pray about that; or you know someone who is in want; or you say, “Lord, I thank You I’ve never really been in want. I haven’t missed many meals; but I know it pleases You to bring my desires to You. Would You provide those finances we need for those bills?” “…for the car?”
Then, when you can’t think of anything else, you look down and whatever comes to mind from the next line. Maybe, nothing comes to mind—fine; skip it—go to the next line. Maybe, you don’t understand it—fine—go to the next verse. Maybe, you understand that one perfectly; but nothing comes to mind to pray about—fine—go on to the next one. You really can’t mess it up, because the Bible teaches us to pray about everything; so everything that comes to mind from the text is something we ought to pray about.
I want to hasten to add: I’m not encouraging people to misuse the Bible/read something into the Bible. If we were preaching or teaching that/we are interpreting the Bible—that would be incorrect—but that’s not what we’re doing. What we’re doing is praying, primarily; and we’re praying as we glance at the Scripture. I’m saying that, whatever comes to mind, you turn that God-ward. Since we are to pray about everything, everything that comes to mind is worthy of prayer. I think, if people will do that, their prayers would be far more biblical than they ever would be making up their own prayers.
Bob: When the disciples asked Jesus about how to pray—
Bob: —He gave us a model prayer.
Bob: Is that not what we ought to be following instead of just going to any passage in Scripture?
Don: No; we should be following that, but we know that it wasn’t intended to be the only way to pray; because we see other prayers, later in the New Testament, by the apostles. None of them simply repeat the model prayer. I believe, if you will pray the Bible, you will consistently pray the elements in the model prayer. You might not pray about every one of them every day—Psalm 150, if you pray that one, that’s mostly just praise—
Don: —not confession of sin, for example; but generally speaking, if you pray the Bible very consistently, day in and day out, you will pray all of the elements of the model prayer.
Michelle: Simple; right?—it’s just what I told you. That was Don Whitney, teaching us the important connection between Scripture and prayer. Don is a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He is author of several books, including one on the resolutions of Jonathan Edwards. You know, you might want to go to our website; because there is information there on Don Whitney and a link to his entire interview on FamilyLife Today. Go to our website, FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
You know, folks, there is a new disorder out there; and quite frankly, it’s a scary one. It’s one that will attack your child’s mind and their soul; and it just might change their whole being. Arlene Pellicane is going to join me next week, and we’re going to take a serious look at how screens are affecting your children and, really, the adults of our society. It’s a show that you don’t want to miss. I hope you can join us for that.
Hey, thanks for listening! I want to thank the president of FamilyLife, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” today to our engineer today, Keith Lynch. Thanks to our producer, Marques Holt. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator.
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