Sunday, January 4, 2009

Resolutions for a New Year

Hebrews 11:1-3, 39-40; 12:1-3 “1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the men of old gained approval. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. 39 And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect. 12: 1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Usain Bolt (born 21 August 1986) is a Jamaican sprinter. Bolt holds the Olympic and world records for the 100 metres at 9.69 seconds, the 200 metres at 19.30 seconds and, along with his teammates, the 4x100 metres relay at 37.10 seconds, all set at the 2008 Summer Olympics. Bolt became the first man to win all three events at a single Olympics since Carl Lewis in 1984, and the first man in history to set world records in all three at a single Olympics. His name and achievements in sprinting have earned him the media nickname "'Lightning' Bolt".

When you watch the Olympic s and you see these guys sprinting, they get settled down on the track, making little divots to push off from. They may be looking down, but as soon as that starter’s pistol fires they have one focus. It’s not the person on either side of them, it’s not their family or friends in the stand, it’s not the cameras that are following them; it is the finish line, the mark. Philippians 3:12-14 puts it this way: “12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

The analogy here is that the Christian "walk" is like the runner in a race. I’ve seen runners pull up short because of an injury. I’ve seen runners wipe out by a misstep or an obstruction. I have seen runners fall because other runners fell into their path. If you ever saw the movie Chariots of Fire that portrayed the life of Eric Liddell, you saw him fall at one point, then get up and end up not just finishing the race but winning it. For you and me, what is that mark that we are looking at on the finish line? What is that focus to which we are running? It is expressed in different ways. Matthew 22 talks about Loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind; and your neighbour as yourself! Matthew 28 talks about making disciples as you go into the world. Paul in Philippians talks about spending our time thinking about things of excellence. John said that we ought to walk and live as Jesus did! As you sit down and think about the year to come, though, I want to leave some practical challenges to help with your focus. Many of us will make New Years resolutions, personal challenges to lead us into a better life or in being a better person. Consider what I have to share.

In Luke 2:52 we read the following, “and Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” As I read this verse, I am reminded that there are at least 4 areas of our life we can grow in: wisdom (mental), stature (physical), favour with God (spiritual), and favour with man (social). Let me leave you with 4 challenges for this year.

1) Wisdom – Find ways to expand your mind. One of the best and cheapest ways to do this is to read. Read a book a week, or 2 a month. Choose a variety of genres so you are exposed to different words. I got 2 anthologies of short stories for Bonnie at Christmas. One was a collection of Alice Munroe stories, and the other was Penguin’s collection of Canadian short stories. Find some good Christian fiction – browse through Parables and see what they have. Get a non-fiction that interests you. I had to pick up a birthday present for a friend of Ben’s and we got her a book. I saw one I was interested in so I got that as well. Mind you, it had a lot of big pictures and not so much writing, but it was interesting. Read a newspaper once a week from start to finish. Do a hard crossword once a week, or take up Sudoku. When I was young my paternal grandfather came to live with us. I was not old enough to know the why’s and all that, but my memory is of him sitting in his favourite chair by the front window watching the world go by while he sang or hummed songs to himself. He let his mind go slack, and he eventually lost the use of it. I realize that there are many medical issues involved in that process, but I always wondered if his outcome would have been different if he had exercised his mind even a bit.

2) Physical – Do something active. Start walking after supper every day. If it is too cold out, try an alternative like a walk at the mall. Just leave your wallet at home. Start something that involves discipline, something regular, and strive hard to make it a habit. If you are out doing shovelling, shovel an extra driveway. If you can’t get out much, try some isometrics – those are exercises where you put one muscle against another. Crunches, where you do a partial sit-up, is a kind of isometric exercise. When body builders are on stage and flexing all their muscles, they are doing isometric exercises to do it. If you have to sit for long periods, get one of those ab-trainers things or a flab busters doo-hickeys or sit on one of those exercise balls so you can take short breaks without leaving your seat, get a small workout, and improve your core. An alternative would be to take up a craft or hobby, where you work with fine motor control. There is a wood guild in the city that meets monthly and could be a source of encouragement. Just get your body moving somehow on a regular basis.

3) Spiritual – Spend quality time with God, getting to know Him better. Use a Bible reading program and read through the New Testament this year. In Acts we read about people who searched the Scriptures daily to see the veracity of what Paul was preaching. The Psalmist says, “Thy Word I have hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.” This Book is all about God. Spend some time in it and you will find God, you will grow, and He will do a wonderful work in your life. Read it with an expectation of God showing you something. Spend some time meditating on a verse, allowing questions to come along with answers. Learn to be quiet and hear the voice of God speaking to you. You could even try memorizing a verse a week. Just find some way to get into the Word, and let the Word get into you.

4) Social – Connect with people better this year. Write a thank-you to one person a day. The Bible says “in everything give thanks”. Does this mean we say the white little lie of “Thank-you Aunt Ruth for these pink bunny slippers. I really like them!” Not at all, but you should be thankful that Aunt Ruth thought to get you a gift; and for that you should be thankful. We work hard to teach Ben and Heather to use their manners, but I also want to make sure that the thanks is not for the stuff, but for the thought behind it. The best way to do this challenge is a hand written note. You may also do an Email, but it has to be written. Part of the idea is to give the person something substantial so they can remember your thanks – so a phone call is not enough. Our culture is losing the art of hand written notes, but there is something special when it happens. So, who do you thank? Well, you can thank me for giving you such a great idea. Thank the person who gave you a meal (even if it was at a restaurant – leave a little note for the waiter to pass on to the chef/cook). Take some time and think over your life – who haven’t you thanked that you should or could. One a day is 365, and you are already 2 days behind, so get on it.

So there is my challenge – write down 4 things and pursue them. Let someone else know what you are doing to help hold you accountable. Even better, would be to have someone do those things with you. Instead of just a book, do a book club once a month. Instead of just a walk, grab a neighbour and ask if they would like to join you. Instead of just reading through the New Testament by yourself, commit to phone someone once a week to see how they did and let them know how you did. Instead of just writing thank-you notes, keep a scrap book of them (photocopy them) and add replies from the people as you receive them. This place here is just a big meeting room; you and I live out there in the world, in the big outdoors. Take control of your faith and your life and live it fully!


Anonymous said...

Hey, I didn't know you were a Pastor, although apparently George did. And I didn't know you had a blog either! Which needs a little lift. :) Maybe have Bonnie enter on your behalf. :) I'll be coming back to read some of this a little later!

Steve G said...

Thanks for stopping by, Ashley. Yes, I will be calling for an update at some point...
Enjoy your browsing!