Encouragement From The Word

Resolutions or Rule?

Happy new year!  I hope your Christmas and New Year celebrations were deep and rich.

When it comes to the new year, there seem to be two kinds of people:  folks who make resolutions, and folks who don’t.  Fitness facilities everywhere rely on the former, at least for the first few weeks of the year!

It’s one thing to make a resolution, but it’s another thing to create a habit.  This is why I prefer to consider a rule of life rather than resolutions.

What do I mean by a rule of life?

In one sense, you can think of a rule of life as a series of new year’s resolutions that you actually keep, that are integrated into your lifestyle.  A rule of life is a plan that you set out for yourself, prayerfully, that you can achieve, that will enhance your life and your walk with God.

It can involve things you will undertake daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly.  So, for example, you might want to make reading the Bible and praying for half an hour, and going for a 2 kilometre walk while listening to an edifying podcast, part of your rule for each day.  A regular day of rest and a date with your spouse or significant other could be part of your weekly rule.  Monthly, you could vow to read a solid work of theology and take a long hike (though perhaps not at the same time!).  Yearly, you could set out to make a retreat, guided or alone, to build your relationship with the Lord, and ensure you take at least two weeks of vacation.

These are just examples, but if you set your mind to them, and seek the grace of God to fulfill them, these are achievable goals.  And if, for example, you miss a day in your Bible reading and prayer, instead of abandoning the idea altogether, you get up and carry on the next day, because you know it’s the right thing to do.

A rule of life can also be shared with fellow Christians who are close to you, as they can help you evaluate the achievability and appropriateness of your chosen rule.

And the good news is that it’s never too late to create a rule of life.  We may be a few days into the new year, but you can start prayerfully discerning your rule of life today!

Here’s more good news:  when you keep a rule of life that strengthens your walk with God, you’re not the only beneficiary: your small group is enriched, your church is enriched, and the Kingdom of God is enriched, because you are growing as a disciple of Jesus.

Give it a try!

To encourage you, here’s a rule of life that the apostle Paul gave to the church in Rome (even though he didn’t call it that):

 Be sincere in your love for others. Hate everything that is evil and hold tight to everything that is good.  Love each other as brothers and sisters and honor others more than you do yourself.  Never give up. Eagerly follow the Holy Spirit and serve the Lord.  Let your hope make you glad. Be patient in time of trouble and never stop praying.  Take care of God’s needy people and welcome strangers into your home.

 Ask God to bless everyone who mistreats you. Ask him to bless them and not to curse them.  When others are happy, be happy with them, and when they are sad, be sad.  Be friendly with everyone. Don’t be proud and feel that you are smarter than others. Make friends with ordinary people.  Don’t mistreat someone who has mistreated you. But try to earn the respect of others,  and do your best to live at peace with everyone.”  (Romans 12.9-18, CEV).

 

Biblical Messages

One Intentional Day

We had some technical glitches with the recording of this morning’s service, but the message is so important, I wanted to find a way to make it work anyway, so you can try watching it from here.  I’d be interested to know from you if you found it worked.  Make sure the sound is turned on.  You *shouldn’t* need a Facebook account to watch this, but I’d be curious to know if you can.  Apologies for the challenge.  The Scripture focus is from James 4.1-17, and the video I show early in the message can be viewed here.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fjeff.loach%2Fvideos%2F10220359477594203%2F&show_text=0&width=560

Encouragement From The Word

Resolve, Together

Happy new year!  Did you make any resolutions?

New Year’s resolutions have gone from being notions for self-improvement and have become key factors in western economies.  Think of it:  were it not for New Year’s resolutions, where would fitness facilities make all their money?  As one person tweeted last week, “This is the last week that the gym won’t be crowded for a while.”  Why is that?  Because people make resolutions about their physical fitness, buy gym memberships, use them for a while, and break their resolutions.  The same is true with weight-loss programs and other self-help regimes that we think will make a difference.

I’ve never been one for resolutions, but goals are another thing.  When we set goals for ourselves – specific, measurable goals – we have a much better chance of attaining them.  What’s more, when we write down our goals, and give ourselves realistic deadlines to meet them, we have an even better chance of meeting them.  What can help us even more is to share our goals with others, particularly if those other people are interested in working with us to attain our goals.

Community matters.  For example, if I join a gym on my own, and go on my own, I have no outside influences to encourage me to keep going.  However, if I join a hockey team, the rest of the team will notice if I’m not there (especially if I’m the goaltender!).  When we are part of a team, our participation is not just a private matter, but a team matter.

The same is true in our life of faith.  If we want to deepen our walk with the Lord, it can be very hard to do on our own, but if we are part of a community, we share that journey together.  I want to encourage you to make your spiritual development a priority this year.  However, it won’t be much different than the gym membership that gets used for a couple of months and left to languish if we try to do it all by ourselves.  Consider involving a friend, or a few friends!  Join a small group for deeper fellowship and study. If you’ve not been part of a church community for a while, ask a friend to come with you when you check out a church.  Be involved together.  Share your journey.  Ask questions of each other, and ask questions together.

And furthermore, ask God to be present with you as you undertake this venture.  God understands the value of community, because in one sense, God is community!  God is One, and God is Triune:  one God, three Persons.  If we ask the Lord to be another partner with us in our journey, we will find that it becomes easier, because God will pour out his grace upon us.  He will welcome our desire to know him better.

Though one may be overpowered, 
two can defend themselves.  
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4.12, NIV).

Have a great year in the Lord!