Christianity 201

January 3, 2014

Devotions for a New Year

Today, two devotions from the Presbyterian Church in Canada devotional page. Click each title to read at source.  (Devotions at the site are archived going back to 1996.)

The first, by Lisa McLaughlin-Kent is titled Rituals.

Ephesians 3:20 – Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us. (KJV)

Exceeding abundantly? Above all that I ask? Beyond what I can even imagine? How can that be? These are questions I asked.

Each year end, I used to take some time to reflect on the closing year, to take stock of accomplishments, review my goals and objectives, and put a check in the box for complete items and perhaps bring forward some items into the following year. It was like an annual report card for myself, by myself. But my rituals became stale and stunk. My goals and objectives took on the appearance of some corporate document, rigid in form, impersonal, and lacking in any real worth.

A few years ago, while praying for some guidance, I was compelled to re-think this calendar-like event. If I were on track, would my goals and objectives change every January first? How important were my goals and objectives if I reviewed them only on an annual basis? How could I grow in my relationships with Christ, my husband, my children, friends, and co-workers if my goals and objectives didn’t even include them?

Feeling very hesitant and skeptical, I prayed that God would take the lead role and help me craft my plans for the year ahead. With great trepidation, I abandoned my old format and procedure and replaced it with opening my heart to the daily devotional and a commitment to memorize Psalm 8. Surprisingly, the insights I gathered from the daily devotionals were sometimes put to immediate use within the same day. At other times, it was later in the week or month, when I least expected it. Psalm 8 took a bit longer. To start, I read the psalm daily; each day I let it sink deeper into my heart, then I wrote it out daily, until writing was no longer required. I put words to music and sang it out to the Lord on my way to work each morning. Soon, I was singing it out in my mind throughout the day. “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:1 NIV) God was closer to me and I to Him than ever before in my life.

With joy and excitement, I began to share with family and friends how God had provided answers to everyday situations and prayers, because of insights that He had planted in my heart from a devotional I had read in the morning or the previous week, and which had stuck with me.

Since this change in my initial ritual, the memory work has changed several times, and each change is not tied to a calendar, nor do I give myself a check in the box. I praise God for His faithfulness and wait on Him.

Do you have rituals that need revisiting? Are you tied to a calendar, or to our amazing Lord?

Psalm 27:14 – Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord. (KJV)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray and trust that You will show us if we have rituals and habits that we need to change. Draw near to us and fill us with Your holy presence. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Our second reading is by Parise Arakelian titled A New Beginning

Proverbs 16:3 – Depend on the Lord in whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. (NCV)

The table is set in the dining room of the seniors’ assisted care facility where I reside. Three of us ladies share this table each day. After the meal one day, we got into a conversation noting that there were several in our community who present themselves with a downcast countenance. “I could see where they could be depressed, especially if they were limited in what they can do,” one of the ladies offered. “Maybe they might even want to die,” was another response.

As I considered these comments, the realization came to me that seniors need to be encouraged to lead productive lives. Why not take advantage of the clean slate the new year provides and set some goals to work toward?

  • Physical: Start a walking routine. Add a brisk walk to encourage the function of the brain. Decrease eating tasty morsels which can add pounds.
  • Mental: Increase activities like word search, word play, and crossword puzzles.
  • Spiritual: Draw strength by reading the Scriptures and/or study with others in a structured setting. Pray — it is a source of power. Take time to relax.
  • Emotional/relationship: Decide to give the gift of forgiveness for an old hurt. Practice patience where historically we have been impatient.

Each of us can live a life of fulfillment. Look at the life of Job. When the book opens, he was probably seventy years old. The book ends on a note of contentment and peace:

Job 42:16-17 – Job lived on another 140 years, living to see his children and grandchildren — four generations of them! Then he died — an old man, a full life. (MSG)

How do we plan to live out our days?

Prayer: Lord, thank You for this new year. We depend on and trust You as You guide and strengthen us each day. Thank You for the many blessings You will give us as we lead meaningful lives for You. This we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

January 1, 2014

Your Best Year, Spiritually

This is from Clay Smith at the website of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter, South Carolina and appeared there as This Could Be Your Best Year Ever, If…:

blank calendarHow will you make [this] your best year ever?

Maybe you will make an impressive list of resolutions, detailing plans for self improvement in finances, health, and relationships. Reality check: how did those resolutions work for you last year? The truth is about 92% of those resolutions won’t be kept. Why?

We don’t keep resolutions because we assume we have enough will-power to overcome our problems. We think if we just try harder we can do it. We make our problems harder because we try to tackle all our troubles at once. By the second week of January (sometimes the second day) our will power is overloaded. In a moment of stress we make an exception. That exception becomes a breach in the dike of resolve. We’re back to the same old patterns with the same old results in a matter of days – or hours.

There is a different way. Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Another translation would be, “Put God in charge and follow His way of thinking, and He will take care of everything else.”

Stovall Weems expresses it like this: “This can be your best year ever if it is your best year spiritually.”

Decide to make this your best year spiritually. Talk to God about what this year could look like. Ask God for His input.

God might tell you to read the Bible through in a year – it’s a doable challenge. God might tell you go on an adventure – it may be a mission trip or it might to lead the group next door. God might tell you to experience true generosity for the first time – giving not out of guilt but out of joy!

Here’s the challenge to you and to me: Let’s make 2012 our best year spiritually – and it will be our best year ever.

Grace and Happy New Year

Go deeper with an article by Jack Wellman at Christian Crier, 5 Christian New Year’s Resolutions for 2014. The article will encourage you to:

  1. Set the Alarm Clock 10 Minutes Earlier
  2. Memorize One Bible Verse per Week
  3. Create a Prayer Journal
  4. Share the Gospel Daily With at Least One Person
  5. End Each Day with Prayer and Bible Reading