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  • Writer's pictureRalph Felzer

Strong Faith Has Deep Roots


"Waybread" is food designed to strengthen travelers on a long journey. This little weekly column is intended to offer reflections that will strengthen and encourage you in your own long journey in following Christ.


STRONG FAITH HAS DEEP ROOTS


Happy New Year, everybody!


Well, almost. Now, don't go getting all angry because I leapt right past Christmas–I haven't, actually. This coming Sunday, Dec. 3, is the first Sunday of Advent and also the first day of the new Christian year. Over the years I've found real spiritual stability and focus by paying more attention to the Christian year (basically Advent, the Christmas season, Epiphany, Lent, the Easter season, and Ordinary Time–there's more to it, but that's a start!).


I don't know a single Christian who is satisfied with their prayer life, who doesn't at least wish their prayer life were deeper or more consistent or that they heard God more clearly, or even that they were just motivated to pray more. We'll focus on prayer specifically sometime soon, but for this week I want to focus on the most basic foundation for a strongly-rooted prayer life: Scripture.

For this week I want to focus on the most basic foundation for a strongly-rooted prayer life: Scripture.

Our founding pastor, Larry Evans, used to say that we need to continually come back to worship and the Word because through the week we "leak." We leave worship Sunday morning and by the time we get home for lunch we're already losing touch with the presence of God. Now we need to be careful not to judge our spiritual state by our feelings or sensing of God's presence alone, but nevertheless it's true, isn't it, that the cares of the world choke out the life of Christ (remember the Parable of the Sower in Mt. 13?).


Yes, yes, we've all heard how important it is to read the Bible faithfully, and I hope you do. But if you're like many believers today, this is a struggle for you, a real struggle that leads to real discouragement. You may even burden yourself with thoughts like: "I must be a pretty sorry excuse for a Christian if I can't even work up enough motivation or enthusiasm to read the Bible a few minutes a day." Don't buy it, friend–remember, you have a friend in Jesus, but you also have an Enemy who will shout in your face or whisper in your ear to get you to believe thoughts like this.


One of our biggest practical problems, and it used to be one for me too, is knowing where to start and what exactly to read every day. Sure, you can start with Genesis and work your way to Revelation (and some people do), but I've lost track of how many people I know who get bogged down by the time they hit Leviticus or Numbers! And even if you manage to persevere, before you know it you're mired in the minor prophets–yikes!


What we need is a plan. But the problem with plans is that they sometimes feel so rigid and structured that they become confining instead of liberating. We feel like we're falling into a dead routine instead of reveling in God's living Word. So what we need is not just a plan, but a plan that's suited to us, that will help us thrive spiritually instead of die on the vine.


So let me share a few options with you. I'll start with the plan I use because it's what I know best, but by all means look around; I'll show you several other options you can explore in a little bit. For about 30 years (I can't believe it's been that long!) I've been using the Book of Common Prayer (1979) for my daily reading. The first thing I like is that the Daily Lectionary in the back (fancy language for "reading plan"!) follows the Christian year, as I talked about above, so I'm reading about the Incarnation at Christmas, the resurrection at Easter, etc. It also takes me through the whole Bible in two years, and prevents me from focusing only on the parts of the Bible I like or am familiar with. Before long, you actually start seeing the Scriptures as one whole story rather than a silly collection of perky sayings wrenched out of context in order to give you happy, inspirational thoughts to post on social media. The other thing I like is that every day I'm reading short passages from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the New Testament letters, and the Gospels. All four readings will take about 15 minutes (if I don't slow down to re-read some verses or write down some thoughts in my journal). I get up early enough to make sure I have about 30 minutes for this, but on days when my schedule doesn't require me to get going right away, I love to just linger over a passage or an idea that a passage stimulated in me.


So, as you begin to look for a plan that can help you, keep a few principles in mind. First, find one that gets you through the whole Bible, no matter how long it takes. Second, find one that gets you in more than one part of the Bible every day (like adding a psalm or gospel reading in addition to your Old Testament reading. And third, a little bit of Bible is better than no Bible at all, so persevere no matter where you find yourself–read a little in the morning when you get up, or a little right before bed, or listen in the car as you drive. Be creative! (Honestly, not my strong suit–I've been following the same plan for decades!)


Here are a couple simple suggestions:

Try reading through just the New Testament in a year. There are 260 chapters in the NT (you do the math, don't make me do all the work! Lol!).


Look online for a plan of Advent, Christmas, Lent, or Easter readings. (Fun fact: Did you know that historically, Christmas is not a day but a season?! The "twelve days of Christmas" is a thing! They start on Christmas Eve and last until Epiphany on Jan. 6–look it up!)


And don't get frustrated by interruptions or "failures." Just start where you are and … read! You might even find it helpful to listen to the Word on audiobooks. (I would recommend, though, that if you want to try this, you should follow along in a Bible of your own–the same translation you're listening to, of course.)

Don't ever lose sight of the fact that soaking in the Word is a way to deepen your relationship with God, to understand better who He is and how He relates to us, so that your understanding is rooted in Truth and not just your own moods, feelings, and circumstances.

Don't ever lose sight of the fact that soaking in the Word is a way to deepen your relationship with God, to understand better who He is and how He relates to us, so that your understanding is rooted in Truth and not just your own moods, feelings, and circumstances. When we're well-rooted in God's Word it's easier for us to rise above these rather than letting them define us or our experiences. So many people today, Christians included, begin with their moods, feelings, and experiences and let them shape our understanding of who God is–bad idea.


Lastly, here are links to a couple places online with a variety of plans and approaches to consider (hint: I kind of like the 5 x 5 x 5 idea you'll see here):



Start in God's Word. Sending your roots deep down into the Word of God is the only way you'll find the stability and maturity you're hoping for in your life of faith. Let Him lead you into a new way of thinking about yourself, your life, your relationships, your dreams, and your goals. Let Him lead you into a new way of thinking about Him!


Be encouraged, friend, for God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, who spoke all worlds into being, is both with you and for you.


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