I am not a person who makes “resolutions” for the new year; however, I do have/make spiritual goals. These goals can occur at any time in the year and range between three and six months. The reason I call my goals “spiritual” is because the outcome will bring me closer to God and to other people. When I feel like God is stirring/nudging me to make something a goal, I acknowledge that I cannot attain this without His help. I know that I am absolutely unable to change myself with any lasting results! I know that I need God’s accountability, strength and motivation. I need God’s help to embrace the monotony of consistency. I also confess that if I am not willing to partner with God, He will not nor is He under any obligation to help me meet this goal!
How this works is that I write my goal(s) on an index card. Sometimes I use Bible verses to support the goal, sometimes I write a prayer, other times I just write down the goal itself; then I place the notecard in my Bible. At first I read the card every day. As the goal seeps more into my brain the less I read it and the more I live it out. There are some goals that I have continued longer than three or six months. Some I am still working on!
Father God, thank You again for the gift of new beginnings! Father God, I ask that You help us to make, keep and achieve realistic goals that bring You glory rather than goals that elevate ourselves, status, position, possessions. Father, if Satan tried to tempt/test Jesus with power, prestige and possessions it is only logical that he would do the same to Your people. Lord God, refine our characters and help us to be more like Jesus. Thank You Father, for all that You have done, are doing and will do. Thank You Lord for this reader! In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.
Father God, thank You Lord for the gift of this New Year! Lord God, prepare this reader for 2019 and 2019 for this reader! Lord, we thank You for the gift of new beginnings. Thank You Lord for being with us. Lord, I ask that You will guide this reader through this New Year and month. Lord, may this reader seek You and Your wisdom continuously. Lord God, thank You for Your grace and mercy. Lord, be VERY present with this reader and may they come to know how deeply loved and cared for they are. Father, I ask that You will give comfort to those who are hurting; I ask that You will give peace to those who do not know what to do. Father, I ask for Your light to shine in all the dark areas and places that surround this reader. Lord, for those who are seeking reconciliation with yourself and/or others, I pray this will be the year in which it happens. Thank You Father, that spring always follows winter both literally and figuratively. Father, in all things may we seek Your face, may we learn more of Your holiness and may we continue to give You all glory, honor and praise. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.
For the last ten years I have spent my New Year’s Eve looking back/reflecting on the year as a whole. (Please know this is NOT a form of condemnation or guilt, this is honest self-reflection, it is NOT chastisement or self-flagellation). I reflect on how I have seen God work in my life and the lives of others. I reflect on missed opportunities, areas I gave into my negative emotions and areas where I have hurt people or have been hurt. I reflect on how I could have done things differently as well as reflecting on the ways God has grown and stretched my character. From there I start praying and asking God to prepare me for the New Year and the New Year for me.
Memory, remembering, remembrance are concepts found in both the Old and New Testaments. This is not just cognitive/mental recall. Remembering in the Bible implies that we act in accordance with what we are remembering. Looking back on what God has done is the greatest reminder of trust and faith that we have. Remembering what God has done moves us closer to Him. While memories can be sad and painful, knowing that we are in the Lord and that He is in us will help us process what we have been through. When I look back and see what God has done (even the difficult and painful things) it cultivates in me a spirit of gratitude, thankfulness and an excitement to keep pressing on in and with the Lord.
When we take communion, we reflect on three things: the past in which we look back to Jesus’s work on the cross; the present as we reflect on what He is currently doing in our lives and the future as we reflect/look forward in anticipation to His return. Reflecting allows us to see God for who He is and what He has done. Reflecting on what God has done fills us with confidence that God will continue working out His plan in and through us (Rom 8:28-30). God remembers His promises to His people and He prepares His people to receive His promises. His Holy Spirit enables us to remember Him, be prepared by Him and live for and with Him daily.
God desires for His people to be prepared. Peter tells us to always be prepared to give a reason for the faith/hope that we have in Christ (1 Peter 3:15), we should be prepared to stand firm against the enemy, lies and temptations that come our way (Ephesians 6:10-20). We are to be prepared (or look for ways) to encourage other believers (Heb 10:24). Everything that we go through in this life prepares us for eternity with Christ.
May you take some time to reflect on God and His promises, reflect on what He has done in your life this past year and as you do, I pray that you will allow God to prepare you for this coming year. May 2019 be your BEST year in the Lord yet! Dear reader, I am so thankful for you and for the time that you have given me this past year! Thank you!
Father God, help us to look back and see ALL that You have done for us this past year! Lord God, thank You for ALL the ways that You have grown and stretched us! Lord, I ask that You will prepare us for 2019 and 2019 for us! Lord God, this world is changing rapidly. Prepare us to face the storms and trials that are coming, prepare us to stand for Truth even when it costs us something. Lord God, may we look back on the lives of those who have gone before us and to use them as examples of how to live for You now. Lord God, prepare this reader for the joys, triumphs and difficulties this year may hold for them. Lord God, new beginnings can be scary and exciting. For those who have enjoyed 2018 and do not want to see it end, may You comfort them. For those who are eagerly awaiting 2019 and new beginnings, Lord, make Yourself known to them. Lord, prepare us, prepare Your people for the work You have for us and that work for us. Lord, may You not just prepare us, but prepare people, environments and circumstances for us. Lord God, thank You for being with this reader regardless of how they feel. Lord, each one of us is individually created to bring You glory, may You prepare us to do just that, in Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.
Father God, thank You Lord for the birth of Your Son. Jesus, Happy Birthday to You! Holy Spirit, thank You for always pointing us to Jesus. Lord Jesus, may we reflect on ALL that You have done for us today. May we be reminded that it is not about us, but about You. Lord God, thank You for the gift of new life and new opportunities. Father God, may we respond to Your Good News with a come and see mentality. May we invite others to come and see Jesus. Thank You Jesus, that You are Immanuel, thank You that You are with us regardless of what we feel. Thank You that You do not have favorites. Lord God, thank You Jesus for what You have done for us. May we celebrate You not just today, but every day. I ask Lord, that You will continue meeting people right where they are just like You did 2000 years ago. Thank You Jesus, that You are our Lord and our Savior and it is in Your Name I pray, Amen.
I will never forget reading in the NLT Life Application Bible the commentary note on Matthew 2:3, “Divine guidance comes only to prepared hearts.” How true this is!
Divine guidance filled Joseph’s heart to flee with Mary and Jesus to Egypt so that Jesus would not be killed by Herod (2:1-9; 13-18).
Divine guidance filled the hearts of the Magi that when the star “came to rest over the place where the Child was…they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (vv. 9-10 ESV). Entering the house and seeing Mary and Jesus the Magi prostrated themselves before Him in worship. Divine guidance also came to the Magi in a dream warning them to return to their home country by another route (v. 12).
Divine guidance prepares us for worship and worship prepares us for divine guidance. May you allow God to prepare your heart for Christmas. May you be filled with love, awe and worship as you sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. May the Holy Spirit prepare you to worship Jesus, celebrating His birthday with family and friends. May Divine guidance fill you with peace and assurance as you respond to what He has revealed to you.
Father God, prepare our hearts for Your Divine guidance this Christmas! Prepare us Father to respond to You and Your direction. Prepare our hearts to obey and worship You! Thank You Holy Spirit, for preparing our hearts for Jesus. Thank You Jesus, that Your birth, death, resurrection and ascension are preparing people’s hearts to receive Your salvation. It is not about us Lord but about You. Lord, prepare this reader’s heart for Your Divine guidance. Prepare them to respond to whatever it is that You have for them. The worst thing any believer can be is unprepared. Lord God, may we prepare room in our hearts for You and Your guidance so that we may glorify You not just at Christmas, but daily. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.
The lyrics from Chris Tomlin’s “Joy to the World (Unspeakable Joy)” keep replaying over and over again in my mind. I cannot help but to wonder, what does “unspeakable joy” look like? What does it look like to have joy year round and not just at Christmas?
The Bible tells us to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4 see also 1 Thes 5:16). When great and exciting things are happening in our lives, we are to rejoice and sing songs of praise to God (Jas 5:13b). Jesus, Paul, James and Peter exhort us to rejoice while undergoing trials, sicknesses, weaknesses, hardships, troubles, persecutions (Matt 5:12; Rom 5:3-5; 2 Cor 12:8-10; Jas 1:2-4; 1 Pet 1:6-9). We are to have “unspeakable joy” even when life is falling apart, run down and/or shattered. I know, I know easier said than done!
Joy, unspeakable and overflowing joy comes from God and God alone. Joy is produced in our lives by God’s Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). While I am not “bah humbug” when it comes to Christmas this year, I am fully aware that what the world sells as “joy” is fleeting and temporary at best, lies and destruction at worst. The joy and peace that come from God are lasting and happen even in life’s difficulties. When you ask Your Heavenly Father for joy, wisdom, peace anything that aligns with His character, He will give to you! Precious reader, I ask that you keep your eyes and ears open to our brothers, sisters and neighbors who are hurting. As we all know, this can be an isolating and lonely time of year for people, may we not neglect them. May they not only see our joy that comes from God, may they experience that joy as well. God NEVER teaches us anything for us to keep it to ourselves. He blesses us so that we may be a blessing to others. The last thing this world needs is another jovial believer in name only. Jesus has told us who He is and what He is done so that our joy in Him may be full/complete (John 15:11).
Father God, thank You that You are Joy and that Joy comes from You! Thank You Lord, that we when we ask for anything that aligns with Your Name, character and will, You will give and do for us. Lord God, help us to be sensitive to those we encounter in this season. Lord, prepare our hearts for Christmas. Help us to have unspeakable and overflowing joy that results in our singing songs of praise to You. Thank You Father for the gift of salvation. Thank You for Jesus, thank You Jesus for entering this messy world to reconcile us to God. Lord, may we be known for our love and for our joy. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.
I confess, I can let my emotions rule me in some VERY negative ways; thus, making it VERY difficult for me to live in peace with others. This is completely counter to what Paul states in Colossians 3:15, “let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace.”
The word “rule” is translated “umpire” in the Greek. Christ’s peace needs to be the umpire of each and every decision that believers make. The heart in both the Old and New Testament meant the core of one’s being. The heart was the seat of a person’s will or decision making. This means that my heart and each individual believer’s heart (will, decisions) needs to be at peace for the corporate body to be at peace. Oh, how this is easier said than done!
Where is Christ (judging/umpiring) calling balls and strikes in your relationships? When I lack peace in relationships, I am reminded that I cannot change the other person; however, God most certainly can and will change me (if I allow Him). When I have a disquieted spirit (lack of peace) in my relationships, I know that is when I should be the most still. That is when I should be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19). Oh how often I get that wrong! I am the opposite! I flail and flounder. I get ridiculously angry and hostile. My tongue becomes an agent of death rather than an agent of life.
I want Christ’s peace more than anything in this world. The world truly cannot give the peace that Christ gives. When I do not have Christ’s peace, I (and my relationships and thus the Body as whole) do not do well! This is a process and ALL processes take time. The more I/we allow Christ’s peace to call balls, strikes and outs, the more at peace we will live with Him and each other. Only a peaceful person can be patient! The one thing the Christmas season is not short on is decision making and patience. May Christ’s peace rule in our individual hearts as we live in community with others.
Father God, thank You for Jesus! Jesus, thank You for leaving Your peace with us! Thank You Holy Spirit for helping us to live out that peace and for the peace that You produce in and through us. Thank You Holy Trinity that Your Peace is what umpires each decision we make! Father, forgive us for the times we try to find peace in our own strength. Lord God, I ask that the peace of Your presence be upon this reader today! In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.