It’s that time of year again: New Year, New You! We will turn the page to a new calendar year in just a few days. I love the excitement of a new year and a fresh start. Perhaps you are over the hype, but I’m a pretty high-drive personality, so the idea of goals and metrics tend to excite me. I’ve got a few physical goals and, of course, spiritual ones as well. A plan is vital to success. I’m sure you’ve heard it said: a failure to plan is a plan to fail.
A Quick Look at Last Year
There are several things I could point to in terms of my spiritual growth plan from 2023. Every two years I read through the bible in a year. In 2023, I completed the M’Cheyne Bible Read plan along with both companion devotionals by D.A. Carson – “For The Love of God.” Some knock bible in a year plans, but I think the good of them far outweigh the bad. In short, it’s not legalism to read your bible every day or systematically, nor does it foster legalism. Frankly, the idea of such a notion saddens me.
Secondly, there is incredible value in tightening our grasp of the biblical narrative. I know of no better way to grow in this than reading the bible all the way through. I alternate between the M’Cheyne plan and the Bible Eater Plan by Trent Hunter. Both are fantastic plans. I also rotate bible translations each year. This helps me read with fresh eyes and usually brings new insight to the biblical text. In 2023, I read using the New English Translation (NET).
I also read through Paul Tripp's New Morning Mercies. It is a great daily devotional. Get it, read it! I also read through the “The Gospel For Disordered Lives” by Jones, Kellen, and Green. Another great read! These were all a part of my personal devotion and weekly growth plan. I also read several other books throughout the year, mostly in the realm of biblical counseling.
You may look at that and think, that sounds like a lot. I would say you are correct. It was a lot to manage, but I also wanted to challenge myself to read daily in this way. So, that said, I’m looking forward to 2024, and I will scale back and simplify in several ways. I plan to return to three tried and true methods for spiritual growth.
1. Open Bible and Personal Reflection
First, I plan to scale back on the amount of reading in my personal devotion and dive deeper into the heart, my own heart. I won’t be reading through the entire bible. I also won’t use a digital version of the bible (I typically read on Logos Bible Software). Instead, I will be using a bound edition of the scripture. It’s hard to explain, but there is something about holding the biblical text in your hands as you read. Yes, the words are just as inspired in a digital version, but what a gift to hold God’s word in your lap as you read. I’ve found a greater weightiness and intimacy in reading from a physical copy of the scripture.
I also plan to slow down enough to reflect on the biblical text through journaling personal reflections and prayers. These likely won’t be extremely long but will be devotional and practical. It’s an excellent way to internalize and make applications of scripture reading. Scaling back the amount I’m reading will afford me time to think and write more. I hope to work slowly through only two books in 2024, Isaiah and the Psalms.
Secondly, I intend to make a more concentrated effort to pray throughout the day. Yes, I pray as a part of my personal time with the Lord. I also try to pray without ceasing (1 Thessa 5:17). Yet, I want to begin practicing more intentional prayer times throughout the day. To help me with this, I plan to use Joe Thorn’s reading plan through the Valley of Vision. This plan incorporates scheduled times throughout the day to read a section from the Valley of Vision as a way to encourage personal prayer. I did this about five years ago, and it was a tremendously rich practice.
Note: The Valley of Vision is a collection of Puritan Prayers and a great resource! Joe Thorn’s reading plan is a little difficult to find now, but if you need help locating it, I’m happy to send you a copy.
3. Scripture Memory
Lastly, I intend to return to the practice of scripture memory. It’s been a few years since I’ve committed myself to the weekly discipline of memorizing scripture, but the practice is incredibly rewarding. I was discipled and brought to faith by memorizing the word of God. God used the practice of meditating on the word to convict me of sin and also lead me to repentance and faith in Christ. Because of this, scripture memory has always been dear to my heart. It’s something that tends to come relatively easy for me. At least it has in the past; I’m getting older now! I dusted off the trusty Fighter Verses Memorization System and will begin in Set 4 on January 1. Fighter Verses has a mobile app with several bible translations available. It also has songs, quizzes, devotionals, and other resources to help aid you in scripture memorization.
I mention this plan and resources to hopefully encourage you in some small way. Check them out. Make a plan and jump in. You’ll grow in 2024 the same way you did in 2023, imperfectly. If you miss a day, give yourself grace. You are only human. Don’t let that discourage you from picking up where you left off and jumping in again!
What are you planning to use to help you grow in 2024?