I long ago dispensed with New Year’s resolutions. My success rate was downright depressing, and it seemed that the resolutions were the same each year, and of the most cliché variety – I’m going to lose weight, or workout three times a week and so on. You know the drill. By February even the memory of the resolution was gone. It seemed to be such a meaningless exercise for me.
My current annual tradition is to write out a prayer that reviews the year that was and sets forth my prayers for the year to come. This practice has proven to be fruitful and encouraging; I can look back on my prayer throughout the year or at the end and see how the Lord has answered or transformed it. Ending one year and opening the other with praise and thanksgiving to the Lord for His goodness cannot be beat! However, with all that happened in the last few months, I haven’t taken the time to really focus myself and think through my prayer for 2013. So, I shall spend the last few hours of 2012 doing just that.
One thing I know for sure: This year’s prayer is going to be a bit different from years past. It seems each year I do this, it transforms itself into something different. When I first started I would make lists of specific things I wanted to do or accomplish before the end of the year. And while there will be some of that in this year’s prayer as well, the focus of the prayer will be less on what I’m and doing and more on who I am becoming.
The Word tells us we are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29; cf. Colossians 3:10). As we walk with Christ, our desire is to become more and more like Him. As I think about writing this prayer, I am more desirous of moving closer to the Lord and letting Him shape my heart, for as my heart is renewed and refocused, so will my goals, desires, ambitions and motivations. I must start with who I am and move from there to what I do.
There is one thing I would like to “do” more of in 2013 – write! Prayerfully, I will explore this idea (among other things) on this blog as the year progresses.
I wish you all a very happy and blessed New Year!
Grace and peace…
Okay, so the “tomorrow” from my previous post ended up being 2 days. Life got a little busy there, and I didn’t have time to work through the thoughts generated from my last entry. I’m actually glad that happened, because in the Lord’s providence, some of the things that were talked about today at church have helped me pull the pieces together to complete my thought. Much of what I will share in this post is owed in large measure to what was shared this morning in Sunday School class.
In my last post I went on a sort of tirade about all the questions that began to swarm through my mind when I first began to seriously read and study the Bible. Much of the teaching I sat under in my early years as a believer started to sound suspect. What was most disconcerting to me was that so much of what I was reading and listening to was about me. A famous Bible teacher has a series called “It’s Not About Me”, and yet the majority of her teaching are about us. About our self-worth, self-esteem – of course in the context of our relationship with Christ. But what it really is when you boil it down is the same self-help advice packaged in Christian jargon. It’s nothing new or different from what the world was offering me, and that hadn’t worked one bit. Certainly there was something more, something else.
Here’s where this “random” thought stream meets my passionate appeal to read through the Bible. Because it is in that practice that I begin to see it. The glory of God’s divine story. It is His story, not mine – and it is not about me. It is about Him and His work in redeeming His creation. Certainly, I have a role to play in that story, but it is a role He gives me, a “supporting role” if you will to bring glory to Him. It is not about uplifting myself, or discovering my destiny, or any other catch phrase that floats around American Christianity these days. It is not even about “taking back what is mine”, because I never really had anything to begin with…it’s all the Lord’s.
There is no doubt that things are not as they are supposed to be; our world is broken, fallen, corrupted by sin. But in His glorious grace, God has come to restore all things. We just celebrated His coming in the Person of Jesus Christ, God with us, to dwell with us, die for us, and rise for us that we may live. He is the King and Savior that has conquered sin and death, and will come again to consummate His Kingdom. He is Lord and King – and this story is about Him – not about what we can do, but what He has done. As you read through the Bible, you see the rich tapestry of this story, from beginning to end, with all its splendor. Our little stories begin to have meaning and purpose within the context of this grand story of love and redemption. The flourish and fanfare that we try to add onto the story is not needed – God’s story doesn’t need our help, but He calls us to participate with Him.
How great is our God!
More later. Until then…grace and peace…and Happy New Year!
How’s that for a topic switch?! I’ll get back to the politics stuff soon…I need a serious break from that subject.
Well, the end of the year is upon us. Only 16 days left in 2011 – can you believe that?! I must be getting old, because these years are passing by way too fast for me. I feel like I just finished celebrating 2011 and now it’s time to say hello to a new year again.
We all know the standard New Year’s process – make a list of resolutions that you will likely not keep through January. Not being a pessimist here – call me a realist. It is what it is. Many a resolution has been written in my journal only to go down in flames on or before January 31. I’m sure I have lots of company in that camp. I have long ceased the practice of “New Year’s resolutions” for that very reason.
I do set goals for myself, however, and at the end of each year review those goals to adjust them/add to them for the next year. I find this exercise to be very rewarding, and always an opportunity to sing praises to the Lord. He always does abundantly more than I could ever think to ask. It is a wonderful way to end a year, and start a new one. Even if the year I’m leaving hasn’t been all that great, I can still thank God as I remember all He has done. This gives me courage and strength to walk into the new year.
One goal that remains perpetually on my list is reading through the Bible. Each year I want to work through some sort of Bible reading plan. It is a practice that I would highly recommend for a number of reasons.
The Bible is the Word of God. Let’s just state the obvious first. The Bible is indeed the Word of God. It is “God-breathed”, inspired by Him. It is a divine book. But God used human means to bring forth his written Word. He used human language, human personality, and the circumstance of individual human lives to produce what we now call the Bible. You could say He used ordinary means to bring forth an extraordinary message. He condescended to communicate to us in a way that we can understand. This is what makes the Bible glorious and beautiful.
Reading through the Bible helps you see the big picture of Scripture. There are 66 books in the Bible, all with their own purpose and plotline. But the smaller stories that make up the books of the Bible contribute to the larger story that sweep across the Bible. The diversity of authors, genres and events all unify to tell the one story of how God is reconciling all things to Himself through His Son. Creation, fall and the redemption of a people for Himself - and in our redemption the redemption of all of creation. This is the story of the Bible, and it all centers on one Person – Christ. Reading through the Bible gives you the benefit of seeing how the smaller parts fit into that larger story.
Reading through the Bible guards you from strange winds of doctrine. One of the first articles I read as a young Christian was Never Read a Bible Verse by Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason Ministries. At first blush that title sounds a bit odd, but the main point he is making is that reading Bible verses in isolation of their context is a dangerous practice. All sorts of misunderstandings and erroneous doctrines come forth from that practice. The phrase “every text has a context” is the rule of thumb. The context of a verse is the paragraph in which it is found; that paragraph’s context is the chapter; that chapter’s context is the book; and that book’s context is the whole of Scripture. If we view – and read – the Bible as a whole, we will see more clearly what the Bible is all about.
Reading the Bible gives you hope. It goes without saying that this world is a mess. We don’t have to look very far to see the consequences of sin, in our lives and in our world. But in Christ, there is hope. And it is a hope that does not disappoint, because all that God has promised He will bring to pass. Reading through the Bible reminds us of all that God has done in history to bring about His purposes; seeing the faithfulness of God plants thanksgiving and hope in our hearts.
The Word of God is our spiritual food. I pray you would consider feasting on His Word throughout this new year. Tomorrow I’ll share some of my favorite tools that I use when I read through the Bible.
Until then…grace and peace…