Out With the Old, In With the New
Every year about this time, people are taken with sorting through the events of their lives and year and beginning to plan for a new season and a new year. Although it is just a date on the calendar, we live by this rhythm and plan accordingly.
I thought I might give a few insights on how to cooperate with God and focus on His plans for this year.
Plan on Relationship, More than Goals
The first tip might seem counter intuitive. It is not that I am saying goals are unimportant, but in truth, there is one relationship that super-cedes goals and everything else in life: your relationship with God. You might say, "I know, I know" it is very important. But let this year be the year it really anchors your life; all else is meaningless without it. You were made to know God. Listen to Paul as he listed his priorities in life:
"But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead" Philippians 3:7-11 ESV
"He knew God and God knew him" is what I want inscribed on my tombstone. It wasn't always that way. Many of you have heard of the story about my then friendship with a young coed, named Janice VandenBosch. We would meet for tea every Tuesday evening at the local VandeKamps restaurant. We would talk life, what we were learning about, especially theology. I used to love these conversations, theoretical, impersonal, solely based on knowledge acquired. One night as I stopped talking long enough to take a sip of tea, Janice leaned in thoughtfully and said words which have changed the trajectory of my life ever since. "You know", she started, "you know a lot about God, but you don't really
I felt like someone had punched me in the solar plexus. I was stunned and couldn't talk for several pauses. After a minute or so, which seemed like an eternity, I leaned back into the booth where I was sitting and acknowledged that she was right. I remember heading home that night and determining that I must, above all things, above all the knowledge that I had clearly hidden behind, begin to press in to know Him.
Each year, I evaluate where I have been and where I am going in this relationship and I breathe a simple but profound little prayer: "Lord, I want to know You more".
Get a Word From God
This one is a little more abstract. I review prophecies that have been given to me during my life and especially in the last year and I ask the Lord to begin to hone in on a directional word for the year. Some years they have come as late as the day of the new year, others in the weeks and days leading up to it.
Words from the Lord help anchor you in stormy seasons and ground you in high flying ones.
This year, with some of the physical challenges I have been going through, I have been really careful to evaluate the prophecies given to me. I find that I have to be like Timothy, who Paul encouraged, "This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience." 1 Timothy 1:18,19a ESV
No matter what I face, I know that the Lord has a word for me to endure and excel in the next year. If you don't have a word, I suggest you talk with Kathy Hendrickson and her team for a prophetic session, or come up to our prayer teams and ask for a word after service one Sunday!
Ground Yourself In Scripture
There are few greater things you can do than commit to being in the scriptures daily in this next year. I have been reading the Bible daily following the Life Journal Bible Reading plan for over twenty years. Each year I traverse very familiar territory in the Scriptures, and daily I am reading things that even thought I have poured over them through the years, they seem fresh and brand new to me, as if I had never encountered them before.
For me, being in the scriptures daily sets my mind and heart, especially when I meet God in them first thing in the morning! More than even planning my day in my daily calendar and todo list, I can predict the kind of day I encounter by being in the Bible and meeting the Lord through its pages. The plan that I am on has me read through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice in a year. It is a healthy chunk of scripture, but I find that I need that to settle my mind, heart and spirit.
I have to do it daily or else I become uncalibrated in my heart and it shows. Years ago, the famous musician Padaresky talked about his discipline with scales. He said, "If I don't do my exercises (scales) one day, I notice. If I don't do them two days, my teachers notice. If I don't do them three days, the whole world notices."
If I go without for a day or two, I notice a sluggishness to respond to God. No one else does, except Janice, but I know. I have to be in the scriptures daily. Now, I also study other portions, including what I will speak on, but nothing is better than a daily time in the word.
A Wing and a Prayer
Prayer has been in my life both discipline and delight, dreary and dreamful. I am just like you. There are times when my prayer life is a torrid burst of passion, and other times a grind, not because He isn't wonderful and easy to connect with, but because I can become dull at points. I am grateful that He never leaves me alone and pulls me into His reality. Each year, I reset myself to prayer and on going communication with Him.
Prayer will be the vehicle upon which you enter the new year in connecting with Him relationally and meeting Him in the scriptures. It will begin to be the thought whereby you breathe prayers to Him in every and all situations, no longer content to figure things out, but to lean into His wisdom. "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes;fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones." Proverbs 3:5-8 ESV
This kind of true is only cultivated through prayer, daily two way conversation with God. When I was a younger man, my feelings would be pretty locked up tight. It took conversation with my wife to begin to untangle all of that. I learned to pray more through talking with my wife. I began to talk to God about things that came up in our conversations. Now, it is not unusual for me to wake up in the middle of a conversation with God that is happening in my subconscious. Prayer is like breathing now.
Well, What About Goals?
Years ago there was a lifetime study at Harvard that they did with their students. An often discussed 1979 Harvard survey* of a class of MBA program students asked, “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?”
Here’s what the study revealed then:
3% in the class had written goals and plans
13% had unwritten goals
84% had no goals at all
Ten years later 3% of individuals with written goals had a higher net worth than the other 97% combined! To be exact, the 13% with unwritten goals earned twice as much as the 84% with no goals. Even more incredible, the 3% with written goals and plans earned ten times as much as all the others put together.
You see goals are important, especially written goals that are reviewed daily and weekly. But if your life is not in alignment with God, all of your achievement will amount to zero. Jesus Himself said, "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." Hear from God first before you permanently commit to your goals for this year. This may include your business, family and personal goals, seek the Lord on them, write them in pencil first and then when you get peace on them, write them down. Knowing the direction of your days will save you tremendous amounts of time. Ephesians 5:16 says, "making the best use of the time, because the days are evil."
It is said that you can save 3 hours of execution for every hour you plan. What would that amount be if you planned with prayer?
Most of All - Enter with Wonder and Joy
The truth is for us, every day is a "new year" since His mercies are new every morning! So, enter into this new year with joy and wonder. Look for where God has already been. Find His grace and reflect it back to Him with thanksgiving. Get declarations and repeat them out loud all the time! This year is a gift from God, what will you discover within it? It will be glorious and wonderful!