Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Making This Year Count for Christ

Matthew 6:33 “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.”

As with so many around the world, we begin a new year with new goals and resolutions. Weight/health goals, financial/material goals, relational goals, career/education goals. I want to weight X amount, earn X amount, get a new car, develop a deeper relationship with my spouse/significant other/children/family member, get a promotion, get my degree… All these things are good, and important, and we should start off the fresh pages of 2008 with clear goals and specific, targeted steps for the journey ahead to achieve those goals.

How about spiritual goals? Have we thought about that? Oh, yeah, I’ll read the Bible this year, and try to get to church more often, maybe teach a Sunday school class or volunteer for vacation Bible school this summer. Again, all good things to accomplish this year.

But… have we invited the Lord into our goal-setting process this year? Have we laid out our dreams and desires before Him in prayer and asked Him what He wants for our life in 2008? All those goals mentioned above – have we placed them before Him and asked if that’s what He wants us to accomplish?

Before we consider any goals, consider what Andrew Murray wrote in the January 1st devotional of the book, “The Andrew Murray 365 Day Devotional”:

Many Christians… have never really grasped the secret that the Lord Jesus in Heaven will continue His work in them every day, but only on one condition: every soul must give Him time each day to impart His love and His grace. Time alone with the Lord Jesus each day is the indispensable condition of growth and power. Bow before Him, tell Him that you long for Him and His love, and He will let His love rest on you… learn the lesson of spending time each day, without exception, in fellowship with your Lord.

When we think about our lives and what is ahead for us this year, above all else, we must give our hearts and lives afresh to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. When we ask Christ into our lives, to forgive our sins and cleanse us, we become Christians – Christ-followers. We are forgiven, and begin a new life with Him. We, too, are called to grow up into strong, mature believers (a lifelong process). This requires daily time with the Lord – as important as the air we breathe and the food we eat.

First and foremost as we sit down to write out our new goals, we must place time each day to meet with Jesus through prayer and Bible study. Not because it’s one more ritual that will make God love us more (He loves us that much now, no matter what), but because we want to develop our love relationship with Him, to get to know Him better, and become more like Him. As with any relationship with someone we love, our desire is to spend time with that person, just be in their presence, learn all about them, please them, share our hopes and dreams, love them more and more. It’s just the same with our relationship with God. That should be our top goal, our top priority this year… because we love Him.

Then take all the rest, lay them out before Him, ask Him what He thinks, ask Him for guidance and wisdom so we can know that everything we are shooting for this year in His will and on His path. May this year be for all of us the best year ever in making our lives count for Christ - for being a mirror of His love and righteousness and purity - for a life more abundant in joy and growth than any year before, because we have put Him first.

Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Second Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart… inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

1 Chronicles 22:19a Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God…

Joshua 1:7 (Message) Give it everything you have, heart and soul. Make sure you carry out… every bit of it. Don't get off track, either left or right, so as to make sure you get to where you're going.

Philippians 3:13-14 I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: forgetting the past… I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to Heaven. (Living Bible)

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in His grace until His task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns. (Living Bible)

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 …run your race to win. To win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best. (Living Bible)

Hebrews 12:1-2 Let us strip off anything that slows us down or holds us back, and especially those sins that wrap themselves so tightly around our feet and trip us up; and let us run with patience/perseverence the particular race that God has set before us. Keep your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. (Living Bible/NIV)

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