On the Threshold of a Fresh, Mysterious Year
by Pastor Gene
Greetings highly-favored people of God (Matthew 13:16-17)!
The new year is upon us with all its blessings and challenges and, well, mystery. None of us knows what danger lurks around the next corner (cue dramatic music), but we do know this: (1) The Lord is with us in the journey (Matthew 28:20b) and (2) His Word is more than sufficient to guide us, instruct us and correct our path along the way (2 Timothy 3:16-16). My desire is to live for Jesus above all else in this new year and to glorify Him in all that I say and do. I know I’ll do that imperfectly, but, with the Holy Spirit’s help (and with yours), I want to try!
Today’s blog is a gleaning of sorts. I’ve put together the better part of two fine articles to help us frame the days behind, the days ahead, and the days between. The first part, adapted from Paul David Tripp’s, New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional, sets the perfect tone for those who want to follow Jesus more closely in 2019. The second part is a list of 10 Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year by Donald S. Whitney, author of Praying the Bible. These are followed by 21 more consider-your-ways questions for the true spiritual adventurers among us.
Together, I think these strike the perfect note for us standing as we are on the threshold of this fresh, exciting, and mysterious new year with God!
All good things,
The Bottom Line (Paul David Tripp)
Here’s the bottom line. The Christian life, the church, our faith are not about us, they’re about him—his plan, his kingdom, his glory.
It really is the struggle of struggles. It is counterintuitive for us all. It is the thing that makes our lives messy and our relationships conflictual. It is what sidetracks our thoughts and kidnaps our desires … It is the one battle that one never escapes. It is the one place where ten out of ten of us need rescue. It is the fight that God wages on our behalf to help us to remember that life is simply not about us. It is about God—his plan, his kingdom, and his glory.
This is precisely why the first four words of the Bible may be its most important words: “In the beginning, God . . .” These are four thunderously important words. They really do change everything, from the way that you think about your identity, meaning, and purpose to the way that you approach even the most incidental of human duties.
Everything that was created was made by God and for God. All the glories of the created world were designed to point to his glory. The universe is his, designed to function according to his purpose and plan.
That includes you and me. We were not made to live independent, self-directed lives. We were not meant to exist according to our own little self-oriented plans, living for our own moments of glory. No, we were created to live for him.
Where is this Godward living meant to find expression? It is meant to be expressed not just in the religious dimension of our lives, but in every aspect of our existence. I love how Paul captures this in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” When Paul thinks of the call to live for the glory of God, he doesn’t first think of the big, life-changing, self-consciously spiritual moments of life. No, he thinks of something as mundane and repetitive as eating and drinking.
Even the most regular, seemingly unimportant tasks of my life must be shaped and directed by a heartfelt desire for the glory of God. Now, I don’t know about you, but in the busyness of life I lose sight of God’s existence, let alone his glory!
Let’s start the new year by admitting that there is nothing less natural for us than to live for the glory of another.
This admission is the doorway not to despair, but to hope. God knew that in your sin you would never live this way, so he sent his Son to live the life you couldn’t, to die on your behalf, and to rise again, conquering sin and death.
He did this so that you would not only be forgiven for your allegiance to your own glory, but have every grace you need to live for his. When you admit your need for help, you connect yourself to the rescue he has already provided in his Son, Jesus.
Reach out for hope by reaching out for the rescue again today.
10 Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year (Donald S. Whitney)
Consider the Direction of Your Life. Once, when the people of God had become careless in their relationship with him, the Lord rebuked them through the prophet Haggai. “Consider your ways!” (Haggai 1:5) he declared, urging them to reflect on some of the things happening to them, and to evaluate their slipshod spirituality in light of what God had told them.
Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It’s so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we’re going and where we should be going.
The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.
- What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
- What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
- What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
- In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
- What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
- What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
- For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
- What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?
- What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
- What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?
In addition to these ten questions, here are twenty-one more to help you “Consider your ways.” Think on the entire list at one sitting, or answer one question each day for a month.
- What’s the most important decision you need to make this year?
- What area of your life most needs simplifying, and what’s one way you could simplify in that area?
- What’s the most important need you feel burdened to meet this year?
- What habit would you most like to establish this year?
- Who is the person you most want to encourage this year?
- What is your most important financial goal this year, and what is the most important step you can take toward achieving it?
- What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your work life this year?
- What’s one new way you could be a blessing to your pastor (or to another who ministers to you) this year?
- What’s one thing you could do this year to enrich the spiritual legacy you will leave to your children and grandchildren?
- What book, in addition to the Bible, do you most want to read this year?
- What one thing do you most regret about last year, and what will you do about it this year?
- What single blessing from God do you want to seek most earnestly this year?
- In what area of your life do you most need growth, and what will you do about it this year?
- What’s the most important trip you want to take this year?
- What skill do you most want to learn or improve this year?
- To what need or ministry will you try to give an unprecedented amount this year?
- What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your commute this year?
- What one biblical doctrine do you most want to understand better this year, and what will you do about it?
- If those who know you best gave you one piece of advice, what would they say? Would they be right? What will you do about it?
- What’s the most important new item you want to buy this year?
- In what area of your life do you most need change, and what will you do about it this year?
The value of many of these questions is not in their profundity, but in the simple fact that they bring an issue or commitment into focus. For example, just by articulating which person you most want to encourage this year is more likely to help you remember to encourage that person than if you hadn’t considered the question.
If you’ve found these questions helpful, you might want to put them someplace … where you can review them more frequently than once a year.
So, let’s evaluate our lives, make plans and goals, and live this new year with biblical diligence, remembering that, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage” (Proverbs 21:5).
But in all things let’s also remember our dependence on our King who said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
February 23, 2020
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