Happy New Year – 2018

As we begin a new year, many folks make New Year’s resolutions to be a better person by doing certain things (lose weight, eat healthier, exercise more, have a positive attitude, you get the idea).  Often, the resolution lasts about a week (two at the most), and then it’s gone, with the winter blues coming to replace them.

For the past several years, as I explained last year, my thought process is a bit different, with the results being both rewarding and fruitful.  Instead of making “resolutions”, I ask the Lord for a “theme” for the year.  What is the common thread that should weave its way throughout my life in the next twelve months?

I also ask the Lord for a Bible verse to go along with the theme.  Sometimes the verse comes first, sometimes the theme comes first, but they eventually come together as a cohesive unit.

This process of discerning a theme and verse takes time.  It’s not a “sit down and knock it out in twenty minutes” exercise.  Often, it’s intentionally carving out time to remove distractions, quiet my heart, read Scriptures, and pray.  Only then can I sense what the Lord is speaking to my heart – not audibly, but in His quiet way, when you just know.

For 2016, the phrase was “pay attention“, both in my external world as well as my internal world.  Here is the verse that went with last year’s theme:

Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
(Galatians 5:25 NLT)

For 2018, the theme is not a phrase, but a single word:

With.

This theme actually started out of my Advent study and prayer, with Jesus’ name of Emmanuel, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

The focus in 2018 is on my internal world, on the “be” part of my life more than the “do” part.  There will be plenty of “do’s”, but those are not the center or focus.

Here’s this year’s Scripture passage to accompany the “With” theme:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
(Colossians 3:1-4 NIV, underlines mine)

Our life – hidden with Christ (v. 3).

Not only is He with us, but we are with Him!

A wise man once told his young friend, “The most important thing in your life is not what you do; it’s who you become.  That’s what you will take into eternity.  You are an unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe.”
(Dallas Willard to John Ortberg, recorded in John’s book, Soul Keeping, p. 23).

I have no idea how 2018 will work itself out, or what the year holds.  I do sense that prayer will be an important factor, as will carving out time to just be with the Lord, reading His word, and interacting with other like-minded Christ followers.  The rest is mystery and adventure waiting to unfold.

All I know is that He holds the present and the future, and I can rest and work in Him.

With Him,
~kevin

Beginning the New Year

As we launch into a new year, many people make a New Year’s resolution to be or do a certain thing.  Often, the resolution lasts about a week or two, and then it’s broken, never to be picked up again until the following year.

My thought process is a bit different.  Instead of making a “resolution”, I ask the Lord for a “theme” for the year.  What is the common thread that should weave its way throughout my life in the next twelve months?

I also ask the Lord for a Bible verse to go along with the theme.  Sometimes the verse comes first, sometimes the theme comes first, but they eventually come together as a cohesive unit.

This process of discerning a theme and verse takes time.  It’s not a “sit down and hammer it out in twenty minutes” exercise.  Often, it’s intentionally carving out time to remove distractions, quiet my heart, read Scriptures, and pray.  Only then can I sense what the Lord is laying on my heart.

This year, the phrase that continues to pop up is “pay attention“.  This comes in two parts:

  • Pay attention to what’s going on around me – the external.  As an analytical, that’s the easy part – taking in all the events and people and emotions that go with them.  Sometimes the fire hose of external information coming in can be a bit overwhelming, but I still get the “big picture” of what’s going on.
  • Pay attention to what’s going on within me – the internal.  This assignment is tougher.  It’s not so much that I am a guy, and like most guys, tend to ignore my feelings.  The Lord has shown me that I need to listen to what’s going on in my heart and soul.  The challenge this year is deeper – to pay attention to what’s happening in my mind, my heart, and my soul as I observe and process the events of the world around me.
    • Do I “take every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5) as I process the events of the day or moment?
    • When something good happens, do I stop and thank the Lord for His goodness and Providence in my life?  Or do I forget the Lord is the source of all good and claim the victory as “good luck”, or worse, of my own doing in my own power?
    • When something not-so-good (aka “bad”) happens, what does that do to my “abiding” in Christ (John 15:1-17)?  Do I remain steadfast in His love, or do I let the event or person temporarily derail my walk with the Lord?

Here’s the verse that goes along with this theme of “pay attention”:

25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
(Galatians 5:25 NIV)

Here’s another version that expresses Paul’s thought well:

25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
(Galatians 5:25 NLT)

Abiding in Christ means learning to walk in step with His Holy Spirit that lives inside me – not running ahead, not lagging behind.  As a follower of Jesus, I am as close as I will ever be (or can be) to Him this side of eternity.  My challenge is to listen to His “still, small voice” as I walk along life’s road each day and each moment of every day.

That’s my theme and verse for 2017.

What about you?  Have you taken the time to hear what the Lord is laying on your heart?  Feel free to share if you’re so inclined.  Not sure yet?  That’s OK as well – will be my privilege to pray for you.

Blessings,
~kevin

A Prayer for the New Year – 2017

Happy New Year, everyone!

Billy Graham wrote this prayer for the Saturday Evening Post in 2008.
I felt it is as relevant today as it was then.

While this prayer was written with America in mind, I sense that it is true for every nation.  May this be our prayer this day and this year.

“Our Father and our God, as we stand at the beginning of this new year we confess our need of Your presence and Your guidance as we face the future.

We each have our hopes and expectations for the year that is ahead of us—but You alone know what it holds for us, and only You can give us the strength and the wisdom we will need to meet its challenges. So help us to humbly put our hands into Your hand, and to trust You and to seek Your will for our lives during this coming year.

In the midst of life’s uncertainties in the days ahead, assure us of the certainty of Your unchanging love.

In the midst of life’s inevitable disappointments and heartaches, help us to turn to You for the stability and comfort we will need.

In the midst of life’s temptations and the pull of our stubborn self-will, help us not to lose our way but to have the courage to do what is right in Your sight, regardless of the cost.

And in the midst of our daily preoccupations and pursuits, open our eyes to the sorrows and injustices of our hurting world, and help us to respond with compassion and sacrifice to those who are friendless and in need. May our constant prayer be that of the ancient Psalmist: “Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end” (Psalm 119:33).

We pray for our nation and its leaders during these difficult times, and for all those who are seeking to bring peace and justice to our dangerous and troubled world. We pray especially for Your protection on all those who serve in our armed forces, and we thank You for their commitment to defend our freedoms, even at the cost of their own lives. Be with their families also, and assure them of Your love and concern for them.

Bring our divided nation together, and give us a greater vision of what You would have us to be. Your Word reminds us that “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12).

As we look back over this past year we thank You for Your goodness to us—far beyond what we have deserved. May we never presume on Your past goodness or forget all Your mercies to us, but may they instead lead us to repentance, and to a new commitment to make You the foundation and center of our lives this year.

And so, our Father, we thank You for the promise and hope of this new year, and we look forward to it with expectancy and faith. This I ask in the name of our Lord and Savior, who by His death and resurrection has given us hope both for this world and the world to come.

Amen”

Source:  https://billygraham.org/story/billy-grahams-prayer-for-the-new-year-4/

 

Blessings for today and the new year,
~kevin