True New Year Renewal

Somehow, as a family of five (with a steady stream of houseguests), we’ve managed to live in a house with only one bathroom for over sixteen years. In 2018 we decided to change that. It wasn’t really a resolution for the new year, but it was a goal of ours to transform a dingy basement closet into a full bathroom. A plumber (Ben), an electrician (Caleb), and a carpenter (Mike) worked diligently for about a month to turn a tiny storage closet with gigantic, seventy year old cast iron pipes and rotting wood into a beautiful new space. We were in awe of their skill.

Our basement closet has no window and was much scarier than this!

Prior to this, most of our family was scared to even walk past that dark, old closet. Now, everyone fights to take their morning shower there. It was a miraculous transformation, and many a jaw has dropped upon seeing the renewal of that seemingly hopeless, useless space.

Transformation. Renewal. Fresh Starts. Clean Spaces. Seems like we never consider those things more than at the beginning of a new year. The apostle Paul created his own word for this idea. It is translated by the English word renewal, but he borrows derivatives of two Greek words for a new word that communicates the newness that is possible in Christ: anakainoō

ana – new

kainoo – recently made, fresh, unused, unworn

…and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Colossians 3:10

…to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.  Ephesians 4: 22-24

The word is found nowhere else in Scripture, and it is interesting to note where the renewal first takes place: in the mind of the believer.

This transformation from old self to new self is one of knowledge taking place in the spirit of our mind.

So, how do we go about this attaining this renewal? Here are three ideas:

  1. Read the Word.

  2. Think about the Word.

  3. Write the Word.

I know it seems obvious and maybe you’ve heard it all before, but consider numbers two and three especially. Do you think about God’s Word after you’ve read it? Have you ever endeavored to write down what you’ve read?

As a former public school teacher and retired homeschool mother, I perfected the skill of reading out loud to my students (with tone and emphasis, no less) while simultaneously creating a mental grocery list and strategizing upcoming appointments and athletic events. Needless to say, I wasn’t really tracking with what I was reading, let alone applying any new truths or knowledge to my life. (Hopefully my pupils were.) Unfortunately, I often go about my Bible reading like this, and then wonder why my heart and mind languish in the same old thought patterns and behaviors.

Take a look at how the Kings of Israel were to be constantly renewed and refined as leaders:

And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel. Deuteronomy 17: 18-20

Not only was each King was to read from God’s law (the first five books of our Bible) every day, but he was also to write it down for Himself. Any king in Israel was to act as his own scribe until he had his own handwritten copy of God’s Word.

And what were the results of this tedious practice?

Deuteronomy is clear: Increasing reverence for God, desire and ability to follow God’s commands, humility, wisdom, and a longevity of leadership and positive influence in the land.

Sounds like a good list of New Year’s resolutions to me.

Want real transformation in 2019? Desire to be rid of dark and rusty thoughts and behaviors? Long to be remodeled into the image of Christ Himself? Read the Word, yes. Think about the Word, of course. And then how about adding some copywork into your daily devotions? God, through His powerful Word will be your plumber, your electrician, and your carpenter making you new – renovated and remodeled for His glory and your own benefit. You will be in awe of His skill.

Follow Ezra’s (a priest AND a scribe) example:

For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel. Ezra 7:10

Heed Solomon’s wisdom:

He who gives attention to the word will find good,
And blessed is he who trusts in the Lord. Proverbs 16:20

Adopt the perspective of the Psalmist:

Your testimonies are wonderful;
Therefore my soul observes them.
The unfolding of Your words gives light;
It gives understanding to the simple. Psalm 119: 129-130

And as you write the Word (if you decide to give that method a try), think about it, too. Take note of what you are writing. Notice patterns and repeated words. Take on the perspective of the author and consider his purposes and intentions (i.e. God’s purposes and intentions). Pray about what you are reading and writing rather than planning your weekly menu while you mindlessly read and copy the Word. Our multitasking abilities actually work against renewal in this case.

A pen and paper is all you really need for this exercise, but I’ve also found a few helpful tools for writing, typing, or note-taking on the Word. Here they are:

ESV Scripture Journals: Robert turned me on to these about a year ago, and now I’m addicted. I just think they are such a fun way to really observe the Word. You can copy verses, mark up the text with your own notes, underline, and easily see structures and patterns.

Write the Word Journals: I’ve never used these, but each journal focuses on a different topic, and you write passages of Scripture that pertain to that topic. The verses are chosen for you, and there’s plenty of space to copy it for yourself.

Scripture Typer: This one might be cheating, because you are typing instead of writing, but you still have to think and copy down Scripture word for word. I have this App on my phone (and their website on my laptop) and have used it when I was trying to memorize a passage of Scripture. It will even test your memory with increasing difficulty by leaving out words of a passage that you then have to remember and type.

BibleMinded: I haven’t used this one yet, but it is also an App and offers a lot of the same features as ScriptureTyper above – topical passages to memorize by typing, tests of increasing difficulty, and reminders regarding which verses you haven’t written and rehearsed in a while.

(Updated: My dear friend, Kelly, just read this post and sent me this link to a calendar for copying a verse a day on a different topic every month. So great!)

While there a a few other Apps for typing and memorizing Scripture, I really think a Bible with real paper pages, your favorite pen, and a notebook or journal are your best bet for writing the Word as part of your Bible study time. I’d also advocate for writing an entire book of the Bible rather than just topical verses, though that can be helpful. It’s just that context is so important and reading, writing, and meditating on an entire book of the Bible lends to proper interpretation and meaning.

I’m starting with the bite-sized, four-chapter book of Colossians if anyone wants to join me. Starting also with these prayers from Psalm 119:

Open my eyes, that I may behold
Wonderful things from Your law. v. 18

Sustain me according to Your word, that I may live;
And do not let me be ashamed of my hope. v. 116 

May He establish our footsteps in His Word this year, so that we’ll no longer be ruled by sin and our old self. (v. 133) May we be truly renewed and transformed this year by God’s Word.

Melanie Krumrey is a pastor’s wife, serves as the women’s ministry leader at MERCYhouse church in Amherst, MA, and blogs at www.dwellabideadorn.com.