But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.” II Peter 3:18
January is well underway and the holidays seem long behind us.
Did you make any resolutions for the New Year? How are you doing on them so far? There have been some years that I didn’t even bother to make any resolutions because I knew I wouldn’t keep them. They were too grandiose. Too much pie-in-the-sky.
But this year, it’s not so much about resolving to do certain things. It’s more about being who I really am, being my authentic self, who God made to be. It’s about facing my fears of inadequacy and doubts that I can succeed in the new ventures I’m pursuing this year.
First of all, I have set up a schedule for all the things I need to do each week. Just seeing all the stuff I plan to do written down on my calendar is very helpful and freeing. When it’s 3:30 on Tuesday afternoon, I can just go to what’s next on my schedule and get started.
So, this year I’m focusing more on specific goals that I have set for the year. For example, I’m working on a book about prayer. I’ve been talking about this idea for years and started and stopped working on it several times, but I actually set myself a realistic schedule to get it done. And I’m doing it. That feels pretty good!
But with all this planning for what I expect to accomplish this year, I got to thinking about what my spiritual goals are. In the verse from II Peter quoted above, we are reminded that we need to grow in grace. Faith is not a stagnant thing, but should be a living, growing force in our lives.
Here are a few of my spiritual goals for 2018.
First, I commit to more time to actually pray for specific people and situations instead of just generic prayer. In one of the weekly Bible study programs I subscribe to there are various citations on a given topic each week. I have been fairly consistent at reading and studying these Bible lessons over many years. And that may be a bit of the problem. After all those years of Bible study in this program and others, it seems like they go over the same territory, the same ideas, using the same Bible stories to illustrate a point.
I need more than just reading the same Scriptures over and over again. So . . . starting the 1st of January I have a new approach. This particular Bible study is usually divided into 5 or 6 sections, with a few verses or stories in each one. My plan is now to take each passage and use it to pray for something very specific. For example on Monday, if there are seven selections to read, I write down in my handy dandy and very old-school spiral notebook seven things that I feel need to be addressed through prayer that day.
When I read the first selection, I use it as a basis for my prayer for the first item on my list. Then I write down a brief summary of that prayer. At the end of the day or the week, I go back and read them all again to reaffirm the power of God to heal.
On Tuesday, I look at how many references there are to read in the second section and make a list of prayer topics. And so for each day and section.
I always include myself and my family. Sometimes there’s something going on at church I put on the list. Sometimes there is some national or international problem I put on the list for the day. There is so much in the world that needs our prayers, it’s hard to know what to put on my prayer list for the day. But when I am quiet and ask God what I should pray about that day, an idea usually comes quickly.
This has brought deep new insights into the power of the Bible to heal or resolve any situation. What amazes me most sometimes is that almost any Bible verse can apply to almost any problem.
Here’s a recent example of how this works. One of the Bible verses last week was Philippians 4:19, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” When I write out my list of things to pray for each day, I do not look to see what Bible verse they will match up with. So it was a delight when I got to this verse and saw that it matched up with one of my daughters who recently left her job to look for work that was a better fit for her skills and interests.
One of the issues of leaving a job is having enough money to live on until you find the next one. So this verse was perfect as a springboard for my prayer for her. Here’s the prayer I wrote down in my prayer journal. “God is supplying all her needs right now through the riches of His glory. Her real needs are to hear His voice and follow His direction, to glorify Him and know her relationship with Him, to love her neighbor as herself. Her real job is to glorify God and bless mankind. She can and is already doing this. God will guide her in the way to do it even better.”
Now I wasn’t just saying these words. I really felt the power of God’s presence as I was praying.
I ended up texting her these ideas and she found them very helpful.
My second spiritual goal for the year is to be more alert to opportunities to include others in community, spiritual community. It’s one thing to study the Bible and pray by yourself, but it’s another thing altogether to have a spiritual support community. I already have this to some degree at church and my prison ministry, but it’s time to grow my sense of spiritual community. I don’t know what this is going to look like yet, but I am earnestly praying and watching for those who may be in need of spiritual support in or out of church, my church, any church, or no church. I’m not trying to twist someone’s arm to come to my church. I just want to help those who are ready for it, to understand their relationship with God better.
Another one of my spiritual goals for 2018 is to post something on this blog every week. When I first began The Bible Speaks to You, I posted once a month. That was about all I could handle at the time with all the demands of kids and family and you name it. But life is not so much racing around for me now. I hope you will not mind hearing from me more often. You are always free to unsubscribe, but I would hate to see you go.
My goal is to share ideas that have been helpful and inspiring as I try to look at the Bible with fresh and curious eyes and not just repeat what the man-made doctrines and dogmas of yesteryear insist on. I try to let the Bible challenge me with its deeper meaning and pass that along to you. I have been gratified by your many comments on various blog posts over the years how a particular idea has been helpful to you.
What are your spiritual goals for the New Year?
We all need to grow in grace. I encourage you to take an honest look at yourself in your spiritual mirror and choose an area of your life that needs more spirituality this year. Is it the way you interact with your family or people at work? Do you need a fresh approach to your Bible study? Or do you need to close the Bible sometimes and put into practice what you’ve already learned? Or is it simply the way you see and treat yourself?
Is there something you’ve been avoiding for a while, perhaps for years, that you’ve almost given up on dealing with? How about starting with that? I know, it’s easy to go with the little stuff. But I encourage you to take on that big whopper of a problem that you’ve neglected and tackle it prayerfully with a fresh commitment to face up to whatever it is God is demanding of you and how He is expecting you to grow in grace.
I’d love to hear from you. If there’s any way I can be of help let me know. I care deeply about your spiritual progress and your growth in grace.
All blessings for the New Year,