A new year and a fresh start

Published 9:45 pm Friday, January 15, 2016

By Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr.

As we settle into a New Year, now is the time to take stock of where we are and where we would like to be. It’s a time to evaluate what is and envision what could be and should be.

Most people don’t utilize the beginning of a New Year as an opportunity to think deeply about changes they would like to make. They treat it as just another date on the calendar. Perhaps they are mindful of past New Year’s resolutions that have failed.

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But when it comes to improving our lives, I would argue that failing to try is the biggest failure of all. The beginning of a new year offers the opportunity to hit the reset button and work on being the people God created us to be.

If you are a Christian, you should never approach a new year with cynicism or apathy. After all, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14)

That Scripture was a powerful word of encouragement for my heart this very morning. And why did I happen to see it? Because I took the time to pick up my Bible and read it.

I don’t know your life situation, but this I do know, and I know it with every fiber of my being: If you will begin taking about 10 minutes a day to read your Bible, and then think and pray over what you have read, the Spirit of the living God will begin forming and shaping you in ways you never imagined.

Yes, it is my job to study Scripture and prepare to teach it. But I have found that in addition to what I am studying in my sermon preparation, it is life-changing to simply pick up my Bible each morning and let God’s Spirit speak to me as I read His Word.

There are many ways to read through the Bible, but this is what I am doing this year: I’m reading through books of the Bible, taking about ten minutes to read (usually three to five chapters a day). That is more than enough to read the whole Bible in a year.

As I read, I underline verses that especially speak to me. Then I get out my laptop and write a brief journal meditation or prayer about that verse or verses.

Finally, I try to chew on that passage during the day, praying about it and letting God’s Spirit encourage me with it.

This is incredibly simple. But the simple things are often the best things. If you do begin reading the Bible, here are a few tips:

First, be consistent. For our minds to be renewed and our lives transformed, we need daily exposure to the Word of God. If you have to miss a day, don’t beat yourself up. Just get back to it.

Second, underline and take notes. Don’t worry about messing up your Bible. A Bible that is falling apart usually has an owner whose life is not falling apart.

Third, think and pray about what you have read. You don’t want the Word to be like water running through a pipe. You want it to be like a tea bag, steeping in your mind and heart and permeating your life.

Go for it in 2016.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.