What do you need more of this year? Let me venture to say that whatever your situation is, the solution to your challenges is having more of God in your life and not less. He is the solution, and the challenge is determining what you need to remove in order to make more room for him.
In January people traditionally make New Year’s resolutions, and these resolutions often consist of little more than hitting the gym more and the desserts less. These resolutions usually focus on superficial changes, and we want to challenge each of us to go deeper in our relationship with Christ.
This January we are doing a series on Romans a 7 and 8 called Alive to the Spirit and Dead to the Flesh. We will see that saying yes to the Spirit means saying no to the flesh. We want to challenge everyone to focus on the Lord more, and that means saying no to things that might keep us from that. Think about what area of your life you might devote more time and attention to so that you can grow closer to God.
Here is a list of key Christian disciplines that believers should be devoted to (Acts 2:42). Take time to consider how you are doing in these, what is keeping you from them, and how a new approach to them could draw you closer to God.
- Personal Bible Reading.
- Attending Church every Sunday.
- Participating in a small group.
- Focusing on issues you need to deal with.
- Leading others.
Here is a little more info on each of these and how you might make a plan to grow in them.
- Reading the Bible is a key way to grow in your walk with the Lord. Here are a few practical tips. First, pick a time and time frame that you want to do this regularly. Maybe you wake up a little bit earlier to spend time in the word, or perhaps you turn the television off at night and have quiet time to read and pray. Second, have a plan on what to read. People often get stagnated because they don't know what to read. There are some great reading plans and even apps that help you know where to go. One of my favorite apps is Reading Plan (by James H Price). It’s nothing fancy and allows you to pick if you want to read the bible straight through, chronologically, or book by book, (there are other options but these are often best to start with). Each day it gives passages to read and check off as you do them. If you miss a day you just pick up where you left off. No condemnation! I like this app because it doesn't have a lot of extras (devotionals, images, etc) that distract me from getting into the word in the morning. Third, read with a pen in hand. Underline passages or words that stand out. Make a note of things that you want to remember or might want to share with others, or what you didn’t understand. Review your notes every so often so you can remember what you have read and see progress. If you are new to the Bible then consider starting out by reading one of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John). Fourth set a goal of what to read. If you haven't read through the Bible seek to do that, or set a goal to have time in it each day, or read one chapter. Push yourself and have something to target.
- Make a commitment to church. Throughout Scripture we see that church is to be a habit or way of life (Luke 4:16 , Heb 10:25). We are to be committed to the gathering of believers, and that leads to building ourselves and others up. Make a commitment to be there and or find a way to go deeper when you are there. Find a way to serve in the church and use the gifts God has given you. This takes commitment but but remember the body of Christ needs to depend on its members (1 Cor 12:26). You might also consider your commitment to tithing and how that might push you to grow and change (Mal 3:10).
- Participate in a small group. God created us for community and small groups are a great way to experience it. Connecting with other believers to focus on the Word and prayer is a powerful way to grow and change. Get connected with a group or another person or two that you can read the word, pray, and relate with. If you want to connect with a group or need a guidebook let us know and we would be glad to get you what you need.
- Focusing on an issue to deal with can take you much deeper in your understanding of yourself and what God calls you to do. We all have things we need to grow in, and picking one can lead to a lot of growth in many areas. Determine where you want to grow and change and take time to read the Bible to learn about the issue. What does the Bible say is the root cause, the sin, or the right attitude to have, and the hope for change. If your issue is anger then make a note of people in the Bible who were angry, what God said to them, why they became angry, etc. Write down the verses that you can tell yourself when you get cut off in traffic! Even write down ways you see anger affecting your life. Take time to pray about it and the verses you are reading (Psalm 139:23). Make sure to note when you responded differently and taste a little victory!
- Leading others. Jesus gave a commission to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19). Followers of Christ are called to help others follow Christ. Consider how you might take a step in being a better leader and example. Pray about someone you might get to know better, have lunch with, invite to Bible study, or ask if they want to go to church with you, or let someone know you are praying for them and ask how you can be praying for them. Also, consider talking to church leadership about opportunities to grow in leadership.
These are some essential Christian disciplines and you may feel very challenged to take a step in them, but we also believe that as you do that you will experience more of God in your life. We want to encourage you to pray about committing to one of these. Commit to it and step out in faith where you may need to make changes in your life to allow time for it. Be sure to involve others in your reflection and discussion so as to get more encouragment, advice, and accountability. If you dont know who to talk to ask one of the church pastors or leaders.
We pray that as you do this challenge you will grow stronger in your faith and knowledge of God.