Encouragement From The Word

Standing at the gate

Part of Minnie Louise Haskins’ poem, made famous by King George VI in his address to the Commonwealth in December 1939, reads thus:

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ 
And he replied: 
‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.’ 
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

Here we stand at the gate of the year once again.  By God’s grace, we survived 2021.

We had higher hopes for it than were produced, in terms of the pandemic, though each of us surely had some highlight that made the year worth living.  Personally, I could make a list of things that made 2021 worth living!

That said, we are, shall we say, cautious about our entry through the gate of the year.

There’s been a cartoon floating around social media lately, showing a group of people hiding around a corner while one of them reaches with a broom handle and gently pushes open a door labelled “2022”.  It’s pretty apt; most of us are wondering what could possibly come next.  (The next letter in the Greek alphabet is pi, though they’ve skipped over a few before…if there’s a pi variant, I hope it’s blueberry.)

But seriously, many of us are crossing the threshold of the new year with caution.  But Haskins’ poem is an apt reminder for us:  we must go out into the darkness, and put our hand into the hand of God.  We are, after all, a people of faith.

Our faith is a specific faith, a faith that believes Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for our sins, and rose from the dead to pave the way to eternal life for all believers.  But it is also a more general faith, in which simply lying down to sleep at night is an act of faith that we will rise the next day.  That is more than placing our hand in the hand of God: it is placing our entire being in the care of God.  And at that each of us is well-rehearsed.

So walk boldly into the surprise that will be 2022, knowing that for the One in whose hand we place ours, it will be no surprise at all.

because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan” (Ephesians 1.11, NLT).

Happy new year!

Encouragement From The Word returns on January 14.

Encouragement From The Word

A Year-end exam

As we round out 2019, I thought I’d reprise an Encouragement from a few years ago at this time.  Happy new year!

One of the great spiritual practices of the ancients that is being revived in these days among Christians is the notion of the examination of conscience and consciousness.  Normally, this is a daily undertaking, whereby we consider the day that has passed, and ask the Lord to help us see both where we have sinned (that we may confess and be forgiven) and where we have seen God at work (that we may rejoice).

This can also be an annual practice, however.  As we sit at the end of the year, let me encourage you to spend some time before God today or tomorrow, asking him to help you review your year, particularly to highlight areas where you have seen his hand at work in your life.  Take some time to sit with that and praise the Lord for his faithfulness.

There’s no formula for it; we can see God’s beauty in a flower growing by the roadside in summer, or in a snowdrift in winter; we can see God’s hand at work in a ministry we undertake or in the lives of our children as they grow in Christ.  God’s fingerprints are all over so much!  The challenge for us is to take time to notice them, and to praise the Lord for his activity in our lives.

At the same time, take time to ask God’s blessing on the year to come.  If it helps, use these words from hymn writer Frances Ridley Havergal:

Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be

In working or in waiting, another year with Thee.

Another year of progress, another year of praise,

Another year of proving Thy presence all the days.

 

Another year of mercies, of faithfulness and grace,

Another year of gladness in the shining of Thy face;

Another year of leaning upon Thy loving breast;

Another year of trusting, of quiet, happy rest.

 

Another year of service, of witness for Thy love,

Another year of training for holier work above.

Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be

On earth, or else in Heaven, another year for Thee.

May the Lord bless you with more grace as you look for where he has been active this year, and as you pray for him to be active in the year to come!

 

Encouragement From The Word

Looking back, looking ahead…with God

One of the great spiritual practices of the ancients that is being revived in these days among Christians is the notion of the examination of conscience and consciousness.  Normally, this is a daily undertaking, whereby we consider the day that has passed, and ask the Lord to help us see both where we have sinned (that we may confess and be forgiven) and where we have seen God at work (that we may rejoice).

This can also be an annual practice, however.  As we sit at the end of 2016, let me encourage you to spend some time before God today or tomorrow, asking him to help you review your year, particularly to highlight areas where you have seen his hand at work in your life.  Take some time to sit with that and praise the Lord for his faithfulness.

There’s no formula for it; we can see God’s beauty in a flower growing by the roadside in summer, or in a snowdrift in winter; we can see God’s hand at work in a ministry we undertake or in the lives of our children as they grow in Christ.  God’s fingerprints are all over so much!  The challenge for us is to take time to notice them, and to praise the Lord for his activity in our lives.

At the same time, take time to ask God’s blessing on the year to come.  If it helps, use these words from hymn writer Frances Ridley Havergal:

Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be

In working or in waiting, another year with Thee.

Another year of progress, another year of praise,

Another year of proving Thy presence all the days.

 

Another year of mercies, of faithfulness and grace,

Another year of gladness in the shining of Thy face;

Another year of leaning upon Thy loving breast;

Another year of trusting, of quiet, happy rest.

 

Another year of service, of witness for Thy love,

Another year of training for holier work above.

Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be

On earth, or else in Heaven, another year for Thee.

 

May the Lord bless you with more grace as you look for where he has been active in 2016, and as you pray for him to be active in 2017!

Encouragement From the Word is taking a week off and will be back on January 13.