It is cold, very cold (well cold for Texas). When I woke up today, it was a freezing 19 degrees. They say a polar vortex is the cause, which sounds like something dreadful that I need to avoid! As I wandered outside to experience this cold, I noticed the dead leaves gathered on the ground, plants wilting beneath the bitterness of winter, tree branches soberly bare and the stinging cold biting my face. Even though I grew up in Missouri and do not always mind the cold, I don’t enjoy the “deadness” of winter. It can feel drab, bleak, and monotonous.
It is paradoxical; the New Year, with plans of hope, change and renewal, falls during the deadness of winter. To me it is a reminder, by faith, that God brings life from death. God is our only hope to change and renew that, which is broken. Only His ransom brings us restored life and a ransom for the world, and the people we know. In the dead cold of life, I want things to be different–full of life and meaning. Don’t we want our days to count? There are three things I want apart of my year that I think will give it life and meaning.
1. A year of giving
What if I measured things I did by whether it was a “giving” or a “taking” thing? Am I doing it for myself and for a good impression, or for the love of God and the love of the other person? Sometimes this is not easy to measure, and often are motives are mixed, but I want to grow in being a giver, not a taker. Gifting others blesses and encourages. Taking, puts my needs first and “what I can get out of it” (feel better about myself, be liked or thought well of).
“For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”- 2Corinthians 5:14-15
I reminded continually: life in Christ gives life a new goal and purpose–to live for Him and be like Him. Even the smallest things I do can be an offering and gift—the prayers I pray, the words I say, the thoughts I think. The gifts He has given me, both financially and personally, are a gift to others.
I also want to give the message of life, the ransomed life of Christ, and not just take it for myself. Unfortunately, one minute my heart feels soft towards others and sees the need, and the next, I forget– forgetting our desperate situation and other’s need for Christ also. When I become the center of my world, my world becomes smaller and soon I lose perspective. I want to grow to be like Christ and see people as He sees them, and offer His hope of forgiveness and eternal life.
Last year at this exact time, I was introduced to a friend’s sister over email. Her sister, from a very restrictive and closed country, was visiting a relative in Europe. While there, she was asking questions about Jesus and Christianity. As I prayed for her and corresponded, God intervened in unusual ways: one being, I was able to introduce her to my sister’s friend who was living there. My sister’s friend, quickly cared for her, shared meals with her, and took her to a church in her own language (which was amazing in itself.) Quickly, she saw and wanted the life Christ offered. She and her sister had felt their country was oppressive, dark and restrictive–finding Christ was finding light and life. After connecting her to a website in her language she wrote this to me:
“I was reading the website and bible and trying to understand them. In this website I read that: God loves you and he has the best plan for your life. I think God really loves me and I think this is true because he put you in my way to know Jesus Christ.”
What a joy to interact with her and see her go from darkness to light. It is a life worth living for and giving to others. I don’t want to forget this. I want to be a giver of what He has given me this year.
2. A year of “eternal” living
As I read God’s word, and classic works of people through the ages who had real, lasting impact, I am convinced I want to live for eternal things this year– things that God says last. I can live this out in many ways: like in my money choices, in my goals, in the small everyday moments of life and in the way I spend my time. I may make difficult choices that seem even ridiculous to some. It is walking by faith and stepping out in faith even when I can’t see clearly the next step ahead.
Before my senior year in college I had one of those “a-ha” moments as I read, “set your mind on things above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2). This moment cemented in my heart a desire for my time and my goals to be things that lived beyond me–eternal things. Unfortunately, I can be like one of those small little chameleons I find in my yard. I too can change with my surrounding and circumstances. The “they” invades my life, and twists and turns what is truly important and significant. “What did they do? They say, “this” is best. I want to do what they do.”
“…while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2Corinthians 4:16-18.
The “they” are not my compass, but my compass is God and His word.
3. A year of living in His word
George Muller was a man of extraordinary impact–building orphan homes in England in the 1800’s during a time when there was an epidemic of orphans. He believed by faith: God is a living God, He loves us and He provides for us. Only by asking God, and not people, he saw God provide financially and build the orphan homes over many years. A thing that helped him to trust God, step out in faith and ask Him for big things was his deliberate time of reading and dwelling on the word of God.
“…for the frequent reading of the Scriptures creates a delight in them, so that the more we read them, the more we desire to do so.” (from The Believers School of Prayer by Andrew Murray)
He had been a believer for 4 years, but it wasn’t until he encountered the sweetness of God’s word did he really begin to step out in faith. He said that this discovery ushered in a new era in his life. The more he read it the more he desired it, prayed and walked by faith.
These are the three things I want woven through my year: learning to be a giver of life, living for eternal things, and living in God’s word. These will give life to this year. I may be experiencing the polar vortex, but even God can make even this winter turn one day into Spring. Life will come again. This year I want to live for things that live on.
Overflow: allowing God’s ways to touch our lives and then our lives to pour out to others
Who are you been praying for, that they would have life in Christ? Start the year offering them life, sharing more about Christ’s love and ransom for them. What would cause you to put if off?
What decisions do you need to make, that need to be made in light of eternity? Are there daily ways of living you are being prompted to change?
Is God’s word sweet to you? How can trust God with your time and take time to just read it and make it your daily “treat?”