Memorial Day is often considered the unofficial start of summer. Even if we technically still have a few weeks before summer starts, it already feels like summer here, with temperatures (and humidity!) reaching well into the 90â€™s.
As the weather warms up, school lets out (yes, even for homeschoolers!), ministries, and other activities often slow down, or take a break. But, summer can still be busy (maybe even busier than the school year!). This summer, our family is looking forward to (multiple) homeschool conventions, 2 weddings, Bible studies, fellowships, and a church family picnicâ€¦and thatâ€™s just in the next few weeks! But, even with the busyness that it can bring, summer affords many people a change of pace from their regular schedules and routines for a little while.
3 months. Or, 12 weeks. Or, 90 days. (Well, 92 days, to be exact.)
Ask any student (or teacher), and they will probably tell you that 3 months is not a very long time. But, I have heard it said that it only takes 30 days to create a habit. If that is the case, just imagine what you could do with 90 days!
What would happen if you committed yourself to focus on something, some area of personal enrichment for those 90 days? What would it be? Maybe a sugar fast, a new workout routine, practicing (or learning) an instrument, or reading a classic work of literature? You would probably see some pretty amazing results in your physical health, your appearance, your ability, or your academic knowledge.
And, all of those things are great. But…
â€œâ€¦for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.â€ ~1 Timothy 4:8 (ESV)
But, what if, instead of (or at the very least, in addition to) a pursuit that really only holds value in this life, you spent the next three months committed to working something that will also â€œhold promise in the life to comeâ€? Can you imagine the change that you would seeâ€¦in your own relationship with the Lord, your knowledge of Scripture, your prayer lifeâ€¦in your marriage, your family, your relationships with your childrenâ€¦in your church?!
So, here is my challenge to you… Prayerfully consider, and choose one area of spiritual growth to focus on this summer, for the next 3 months. It can be anything…any area you want to work on, or grow in… The only restriction is that it must be something that pertains to your spiritual life.
But if you need ideas, here are a few to get you started:
- Do an in depth study of a book of the Bible (or study a specific passage, topic, or word)
- Read a commentary
- Memorize Scripture
- If youâ€™re new to memorization, Janet Popeâ€™s book, His Word in My Heart, would be a great place to startâ€¦Then, pick one verse to memorize each week (Check out Fighter Verses). And, one verse a week is only 12 verses.
- Or, make it a little more of a challenge, and memorize a chapter, or a whole book.
– Philemon, 2 John, 3 John, and Jude are only one chapter.
– 2 Thessalonians, Titus, and 2 Peter are only 3 chaptersâ€¦thatâ€™s only one chapter a month!
- Read the entire Bible. (Yes. Really.)
- Several years ago, I used this plan to read through the entire Bible in one summer. It was a little like sprinting through a marathonâ€¦but, well worth it. (You know, using this plan, you could theoretically read through the entire Bible 4 times a year!)
- Study an area of Doctrine or Theology:
- Calvinism vs. Arminianism
- Covenantal vs. Dispensational
- End Times
- Spiritual Gifts
- The Attributes of God
- Read the biography of a great hero of the faith.
- J.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone, by Iain Murray
- A Chance to Die, by Elisabeth Elliot
- My Heart in His Hands: Ann Judson of Burma, by Sharon James
- Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas
- Newton on the Christian Life, by Tony Reinke
- Feminine Threads, by Diana Severance
- Read a classic spiritual work:
- Pilgrimâ€™s Progress, by John Bunyan
- Institutes of the Christian Religion, by John Calvin
- The Existence and Attributes of God, by Stephen Charnock
- Religious Affections, by Jonathan Edwards
- The Christian in Complete Armour, by William Gurnall (There are 3 volumesâ€¦maybe try to read one a month?)
- Holiness, by J.C. Ryle
- Read a book that will challenge and stretch you in your spiritual walk:
- The Joy of the Word-Filled Family, by John Barnett
- Crazy Busy, by Kevin DeYoung
- Missional Motherhood, by Gloria Furman
- Hospitality, by Pat Ennis
- Slave, by John MacArthur
- Humility, by CJ Mahaney
- Future Grace, by John Piper
- The Race Set Before Us, by Thomas Schreiner and Ardel Caneday (This is a very theological book. If it seems a bit too daunting, Run to Win the Prize is a shorter, more user-friendly version, also by Thomas Schreiner.)
- The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women, by John and Janie Street
- Commit to doing (or, maybe first, starting?) family devotions.
- Commit to regular, consistent church attendance. (Yes. Even in the summer.)
- Commit yourself to a time of daily, consistent prayerâ€¦for your marriage, your children, your church, your country…
- If this is a discipline that you have struggled with, again, start small. Start with 5 minutes a day. Add 5 minutes each weekâ€¦and after 12 weeks, by the end of the summer, you will find yourself praying for a whole hour!
Now, some of these ideas are definitely a little bit more ambitious than others. Remember, the intent is not to try to accomplish the same thing as someone else. The purpose is your spiritual growth, and change. This isn’t a competition. There is no one to impress. That’s not the point.
Start small if you need to, thatâ€™s okay. Most runners donâ€™t start with a marathon. Weight lifters donâ€™t bench press 500 pounds on their first try. But, at the same time, make it a challenge. Stretch yourself. Push a little bit beyond your comfort zone.
This might mean giving something up. It might mean cutting back on â€œmore funâ€ activities. Maybe it will mean putting down your phone. Maybe it will necessitate turning off the TV (or Netflix). It might mean disciplining yourself to get up earlier, or to go to bed later to allow time for whatever you have chosen.
â€œLook carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.â€ ~Ephesians 5:15-16 (ESV)
Over the next few days, take some time to consider, and pray about an area in your spiritual life where you need to grow, or to be challenged. And, letâ€™s make the best use of the time we have been given this summer!
â€œAnd let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.â€ ~Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)
Because these types of endeavors start with all sorts of enthusiasm and good intentions, and often fizzle out partway through (New Yearâ€™s Resolutions, anyone?), letâ€™s also commit to hold each other accountable, and encourage one another in this.
Stay tuned for details…and a Facebook group devoted to this purpose!