Thinking ahead to 2018, with all of the “resolutions” flying about, there are 5 non-negotiable categories I want to prioritize before I do anything else. The Unflappable Five are in this order: 1) Prayer (to my Heavenly Father), 2) Bible Reading (His Revelation to us), 3) Immediate Family (my primary mission field), 4) Church Family (the eternal Body & Bride of Christ), and 5) Outreach to Others (to bring them into our “Forever Family”).
Having these out of the order that God designed may result in chaos within the structure, and idolatry at the very least. We are created and sustained by Him, and designed to live out our lives best when we follow the manual, though there’s often Grace (and repairs) when we’ve found ourselves astray. Yet even in that, there is often damage to undo, from not living up to the potential for which we’re created.
Without the guilt-trip, let me talk briefly about #1, then 2. Prayer & Scripture Reading are intended to go hand-in-hand, I’d even go so far as to say that this IS two-way communication. Heartfelt, God-seeking prayer prior to scripture, enriches the time spent in the Word. Reading and meditating on the Bible informs and improves the depths of our prayer. Those who claim to speak to God and hear from Him, yet make no effort to know Him through His revealed Word, are just fooling themselves. 1 John 2:4 "The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him." (The same goes for pastors/preachers who don’t allow God’s Word to be THE authority in their messages!) I believe the Holy Spirit works through scriptures committed to memory and heart, and He brings His Word to the forefront at the most important of times: when I’m desperately seeking Him, and when I’m running from Him!
Neither are we to be maintaining this relationship with God by ourselves. We may think we know ourselves best of all, but the truth is, we all have blinders on, and can get “blindsided” by those things in our blind spots! As fellow fallibles, we recognize that we are here to encourage one another in our walk with Christ (Hebrews 10:24-25), we love God by loving each other (Matthew 25:34-40, 1 Peter 1:22, 3:8, 1 John 3:14-16), and speak truth to each other (Zechariah 8:16), and remind each other of the hope that we have (Ephesians 1:18). There is truly “strength in numbers”, particularly under times of difficulty. The problem of “Christianity” in our culture is that so many try to “go it alone”, and keep their faith private, so that when times get tough, they have no fellowship in which to turn!
Is this accomplished through a once-a-week, hour-long service? No…that is the catalyst, or spring board, which reminds us of our priorities. As Paul told Timothy in 1 Tim 4:13 "Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching." Our time together is informational! It is also experiential, remembering Him together through the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:23-34) It is a place where we confess sins and pray for each other! (James 5:16) Even prayer meetings are partially there for our benefit and growth! There is no time too late to start learning how to pray with others!
In the midst of Paul’s discourse to the Corinthians on speaking in tongues, he reminds them of the primary reason for spiritual gifts given to us: “Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church” (1 Cor 14:12, 26). We are given the beautiful analogy of us as the body, with Christ as the Head, to emphasize the importance of Christians supporting one another: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:15-16).
Of course, God’s primary institutions of marriage and family are in place as a personal support to our walk with God, as they indeed know us personally like no other, except God! This verse is on our wall at church to inspire us: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42)
Even the 5th priority, evangelism, is usually best done with other believers, as Jesus sent out his groups two by two (Luke 10:1-9). I believe the group mentality is implied in Jesus’ command in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20. Paul even made this his practice when possible as well, throughout the book of Acts.
So, where do we start in 2018? I invite you to join us in going through a portion of the Bible together! Beginning January 8th, we will begin in Genesis and make it through Ruth before Easter, sharing insights, encouragements, and impacts during our 2nd hour time. I’ve heard that it takes 21 days to form a habit, but in reality, that depends on the habit. More realistically, the average length it takes before a behavior becomes a habit is 66 days, according to certain studies. And what better habit to acquire than corporate communication with our Creator. We’re in it together, for the growth of not just ourselves, but His eternal Kingdom.
Join us in it!