Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Hope and Change - The Real Way

Everywhere one looks these days, people are giving their commentary on 2010 and preparing for a new year. The significance of the events of 2010 vary depending upon who is talking and what they consider important about the quickly fading installment in time we call 2010. I know you think I'm about to jump on that bandwagon, but not so. There is little any of us can do about the past, but there are ample opportunities to construct for oursleves, our families, and our God a future that will be far superior to our past.

Among all the outcomes of 2010 over which you had control, what outcome displeases you most? What would you change about 2010 if you could? Once you have identified your life's displeasures, you have a starting point to begin to fashion a new outcome for 2011. The adage is true: "If you do what you've always done, you will get what you've always got!" If that's what you want, don't change a thing. If that's what you want for your church, don't lift a finger. But I suspect you are not totally satisfied with your life or the life of your church and would love to make constructive changes. You have not made these changes in 2010 either because you thought they were too difficult or because  you lacked the personal commitment to make the change. Now, if you are ready to do things differently, I have a few suggestions that will make you a better person,  a better citizen, and a more effective Christian. Whoa, you say? You think I'm meddling in your personal life, huh? Not like you think. I just want to motivate you to improve mentally, physically, and spiritually. All of us need to do all of those things, so stay with me. You have nothing to lose but a few minutes of a has-been year that will soon be gone anyway!
  1. First, take time for yourself and your family. Block out the time on your calendar, iPhone, Android, or whatever if you need to. Stress is mental before it is physical, so take time to relax and renew yourself regularly in 2011.
  2. Second, do something regularly to exercise your mind: puzzles, reading, thinking, and discussing what's going on in the world. You stay sharp and have enjoyable, relaxing interaction with family and /or friends. A side benefit here is that those of us who know very little about what's going on in the world will become better informed on many topics.
  3. Third, be active. Scripture says the body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit, but most of us are guilty of treating our bodies more like a dump than a Temple. Some of us work out regularly, while others wish we could motivate ourselves to work out at all. You say, "I lost my job and can't afford the gym or YMCA." Walk! Get a cheap pedometer and walk, setting whatever goal challenges you and then pushing to meet that goal. Too cold? Walk at the mall. Too far? Walk around your house! Your fitness for duty in the kingdom is directly proportional to the degree to which you take care of your mental and physical well being.
  4. Prepare yourself to grow spiritually. There are many things we all can do to improve our spiritual fitness and connectedness with our Lord and his church. Those listed here are a but few of the important ones.
    • Find a daily devotional such as The Upper Room or Our Daily Bread and read it every day.
    • Take time to read scripture every day. Read it in conjunction with your daily devotional or follow one of the many Bible reading plans you can find online. I'm not an advocate for just reading the Bible through from cover to cover, but rather reading the scripture with the prayerful expectation that God will give you a fresh word from a verse you may have read many times before.
    • Pray. Pray to stay connected with God, so you are always sensitive to God's leading in your life. God knows your needs and is working out his plan if you are connected. Patience. Things happen in God's time. And remember, there are no coincidences - just situations in which God chooses to remain anonymous. Pray for others. Pray for forgiveness. Pray for your church, its leaders, and its ministries every day. Check this for more on prayer.
    • Join at least one small group for study and/or fellowship. Whether it is a weekly Bible study or a knitting group, being with others who share your interests is stimulating anf fulfilling.
    • Find ways to serve the needs of others who need your help. It is more difficult to get depressed or self-centered when you are focused on serving others.
    • Give your resources to God through the church of your choice. God established the church on earth as the instrument through which needs would be met and people would come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. He requires the first one-tenth as our tithe to him. Our 'offering' is the amount by which we exceed our tithe. What? You cannot afford to tithe? You tithe and more to the waiter/waitress at the restaurant. Is God not more important? Friend, you cannot afford NOT to tithe. Try giving God the first ten percent for the next two months, and see what happens. Don't wait until YOU think you can afford it. That day will never come. But if you give on faith, God will honor that gift, blessing you and the ministry to which you give. Besides, ALL of it is God's anyway, so get out of the way.
    • Find a place to serve God in the church. Regardless of your passion, there is likely a fulfilling and needed place for your gifts and abilities in God's church. Not sure? ASK! "Well, they did this survey, and I volunteered; but no one ever called me." Don't wait for someone to invite you. God already did! He tells us all to "GO and make disciples." Call the church office. Find a way to get involved in 2011. What? You don't have time? You have as much time as anyone else - 168 hours every week - and YOU decide how to use them all. Try using your time more efficiently, and see how much God can do through you.
    • Share your excitement about what is going well in your life and the life of the church where you are, and go light on the criticism, unless you have a solution or wish to be a part of the solution. Remember, most of the workers in any church are volunteers, and all of us make mistakes. So find the grace to overlook the failings of others just as you hope they will when you come up a bit short. 
These thoughts are NOT resolutions. Resolutions routinely fail because we view them as rules or imperatives and not as a chosen better way of living that we WANT for ourselves and others. We do what we want; we spend what we want; and we find time for what we want. The best guage of your faithfulness is your calendar and your check register. They reveal your real priorities. If you view the above list as a set of rules for 2011, you will end up like the Pharissees whom Jesus condemned. The rules will be a burden. You are looking for new hope, strength, and joy found in totally serving the Lord who created you, saved you, and sustains you. Find peace and rest in God, and then serve the One who is the best with your very best. You will be surprised at the change that can happen in you and in the church through which you serve if you can live consistently a life that honors God in 2011. Have a Happy and Blessed New Year!!

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