#12 Resolution

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The new year is only days old – how are your resolutions holding up?

You might be persisting, but chances are you’ve let your goals slip a little already. You ate that extra treat you were denying yourself, you decided to skip running yesterday, you missed a quiet time. And the chances are even greater that by month’s end, all of your resolutions will be wholly out the window.

When we do according to our own power based on decisions out of our own wisdom, the end result is often failure. Think about what a resolution is – it is you saying, “I resolve to” do something. Those are bold words, ones that are difficult to live up to.

But what if we flip the narrative this year. Instead of willfully resolving to do something of our own power, we just let go. Instead of employing inner strength, we humbly submit; instead of forcefully applying, we step aside; and instead of moving forward, we bend downward, asking for a greater power to move in our lives for his glory, instead of promising that we’ll do something for our own good.

If you approach in this way, out of selflessness and humility, you might find that a year from now something has changed in 2016 – and that “something” is you.

Explore [for non-Christians/new believers]

God tells us that he’ll continue the good work that he began in us (Philippians 1:6) and that our lives can and will be transformed (Romans 12:1-2). But it all begins with submission to God. The realization that we are sinners who cannot save ourselves, but have already been redeemed by Christ, should humble us – and from that humility, we might begin to see change as we cling to God.

This January, consider reading through the book of John. It’s relatively short, but still, it’s best to read through slowly, taking a chapter or passage a day. Find a Christian friend/Tumblr buddy to ask questions to as make your way through.

Apply [for Christians]

Make a list of the things you’d like to change about yourself in 2016. You may already have that list, crafted on New Year’s Eve. Go item by item, asking yourself are you doing this for you or for God? Submit the godly items to the LORD in prayer, asking for him to transform you more into Christ’s image this new year, with a godly hope that he can and will work in you for his glory. As for the rest of your resolutions? Let them go, or ask God how (and if) these resolutions can be made to glorify Him rather than you.

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#11 Gifted to Change

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For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

– John 3:16, NASB

All journeys are made for a reason. We usually begin one to achieve or earn some item, some recognition, some reward of value – a treasure.

But what if the treasure came at the beginning of your journey, given without being earned first? Would you then disregard your travels, having already received the award, or would you be motivated even further by this gracious gift?

Grace, itself, is a gift – a little idea with such consuming power that it can transform hate into love, anger into joy, and enemies into friends. It is a present that requires nothing of us, but because of its worth, its immeasurable value, its beauty – it becomes the reason for the journey and that which sparks us forward, not out of duty of hope for gain, but out of something more pure: gratitude.

Pray | Ask that you’ll respond to God’ grace in a transformative way

Read | Meditate on these verses this week: Jeremiah 29:11 / Romans 6:1-2 / 2 Corinthians 5:17 / Romans 12:2 / James 2:14-26

Act | Think about Christ’s sacrifice and do loving action in light of it

#10 The Long Road

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And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

– Romans 12:2 (NASB)

Like a book, film, or play, journeys have a beginning and end, but often neither is as important as the middle – the road itself. This in-between, the meat of the tale, could be long and arduous.

Upon introspection, we might find ourselves lacking as we travel the road, perceiving our many faults, and we may feel discouraged.

But remember that we all are in the midst of our travels; we’re in the middle of our story. There is a long ways to go, and step by step, we move forward and grow. Setbacks will come, but by keeping our eyes on the truth, we’ll become more and more like that which we hope to be – partially through this long road, and fully, one day, at its end.

Pray | Ask that you’ll be encouraged to grow even when the road seems long

Read | Meditate on these verses this week: 1 John 1:7-9 / 1 Cor 13:11-12 / Psalms 51:10 / Romans 12:1-2 / Ephesians 4:20-24

Act | Purposely and prayerfully put aside a way you once acted and put on the new way of Christ

#9 Wandering

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For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.

– Hebrews 13:14 (ESV)

Have you ever had that stirring in your soul, that need to experience something, to move beyond and journey toward the unknown, to start an adventure? Perhaps it’s ingrained in the human spirit for us all to be wanderers.

And at the center of such sojourning spirit is a question: what are we looking for?

No matter where we go, whether it’s as a child exploring the cavernous trenches of a backyard swing set or a cosmonaut riding a rocket rushing toward the stars, we all seek meaning, purpose. The void tells us that there really is no meaning, nothing beyond what we can sense. But truth tells us otherwise – there’s much more than all we can ask or imagine.

Pray | Ask that our hearts are set on what is meaningful and true

Read | Meditate on these verses this week: Psalm 16:9-11 / Psalm 143:5-6 / Rev 4:11 / Psalm 73:26  / Matt 5:13-16

Act | Make a change in your life that bends it away from self and toward something more significant

#8 Solo Journey Together

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Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

– Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Have you ever undertaken an arduous trek? Perhaps it was a difficult hike, a challenging run, or long walk in the city. Did you go it alone?

Oftentimes, our journeys are made solo – but that doesn’t mean we take them alone. We carry items with us that can make these mini-adventures more bearable – fun, even. Our mobile devices, comfortable shoes, a utility tool – these are the weapons of our trade that help us make it through.

A life in the spirit is very much the same. What (or rather who) we take with us on our way can help mightily – a church body for support; strong leadership for accountability; loving friends for encouragement. A life in the spirit may be our own – but it was never meant to be lived alone.

Pray | Ask about your friendships and ask for spiritual accountability

Read | Meditate on these verses this week: Heb 10:24-25 / 1 Cor 12:21-26 / Gal 6:1-5 / Heb 13:17 / 1 Thess 5:9-11

Act | Build further accountability in your walk with Christ for yourself and/or others (ex. consider finding an accountability partner)

#7 Gust of Freedom

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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.

– Matthew 11:29-30

It seems counter-intuitive to think that a windy day may be the best kind for a runner. Though fighting against strong gusts slows the runner down, making her push harder for less result, it’s not disappointment that she feels. Instead, the runner is exhilarated, cooled by breezy blasts that make the punishment of running into a task that’s enjoyable.

A life lived according to scripture sometimes feel the same. Weighed down by laws, demands, rules, and morals, the “word of God” could seem stifling, like the words of a tyrant that are outdated, out of touch, and unwelcome.

When lived out legalistically, scripture can indeed be all that, like a hot blast in an already burning heat. But when one comprehends the meaning of grace, running that life becomes the opposite experience, like that of a runner basking in a cool breeze blowing in her face. This, she notes in breathless wonder, is freedom. And that unfettered, brisk, refreshing existence lies in wait for us, too.

Pray | Ask to understand with your heart, if not also with your head, the freedom that grace can bring

Read | Meditate on these verses this week: James 2:8-11 / Romans 6:11-14 / Hebrews 10:1-4 / Galatians 2:15-16 / James 2:12-13

Act | Think of the moral rules you live and/or judge others by and contemplating how grace meets us when we’re unable to live by those same rules

Journeys

The concept of a journey speaks to us all.  It crosses cultural, ethnic, national, and all other kinds of boundaries.  Even children understand the idea that a journey is more than a trip from point A to point B. There’s meaning in the destination – but there’s also meaning in the journey itself.

In Christianity, the phrase “walking with God” if often used, and even there we see movement, the steps taking one on a sojourn with the Creator. Along and in between, we go off on many tangents, but perhaps taken as a whole, we can see a map detailing our momentous adventure with God.

Join us in the coming weeks as we move one from our last theme, love, and explore our new one, journeys.

#6 One True Love

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So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.

– Genesis 19:20

It may be far-fetched, but the fanciful thought that “one true love” exists for each of us is certainly appealing. Television, movies, and anime tell us that perhaps there is such a thing, and in our heart of hearts, we may believe it, too.

We all desire a fulfilling love. Some of us know this inclination intimately, as our thoughts and actions frequently stray toward seeking affection. Others may already have devoted support and not even comprehend that they’ll feel incomplete if they lost such affection.

We are designed to love – to give it and to receive it. Our relationships, imperfect as they are, demonstrate as much. They also suggest something splendid: although the love we experience is faulty, a perfect, pure, and never-failing love lies in wait for us.  It’s all ours – we only need surrender to it.

Pray | Ask to experience God’s love, either more fully, if you’re a believer, or in some shape or manner, if you are not

Read | Meditate on these verses this week: John 15:9-17Matthew 6:24 / 1 John 3:18 / Proverbs 17:17 / Psalms 63:3

Act | Reflect on the role that the desire for love plays in your life, and how that relates to your relationship with God

#5 Break Up

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But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

– Romans 5:8

Break-ups can be devastating. They take time and support to get through, and in all honesty, there are some relationships we never get over.

And as with grieving, we might pass through emotional stages after a split, including guilt.  Why did she dump me?  What did I do?  What’s wrong with me?

Those feelings speak to something dreadfully honest within us – that we feel something is wrong.  Our exes, who knew us as well as anyone, saw into our very hearts, and they ran away.

There’s someone else, too, that sees our hearts – that knows them better than any boyfriend, better than we even know our own hearts.  He sees all of our faults, insecurities, and selfishness, and still speaks this to us: “I’m never leaving you.”

This the one to whom we can always turn – who will never leave or “break up” with us. There’s no better lover.

Pray | Ask God to reveal his forgiving and loving character to you

Read | Meditate on these verses this week: Jeremiah 17:9 / Romans 5:6-8 / Jeremiah 7:21-26 / Romans 5:20-21 / Ephesians 2:8-9

Act | Purposely reach out to someone who may have hurt you, understanding that you, too, own many faults

#4 Fiery Passion

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Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”

– Hebrews 12:28-29

I have a burning desire for herThere’s a real spark between usHe’s so hot.  Words related to heat seem to perfectly describe the passion of relationships. What other concept can better relate the way two people feel when they are on fire for each other?  Imagine a love so intense that everything seems to burn up in their flames for one another.

As good as these feelings are, they’re mainly superficial, dealing with the laws of attraction and chemistry.  But what if there was intense fire in a relationship that was more than skin deep, that seared our very souls?

When we respond to grace, opening the doors for relationship, we find that God doesn’t walk in meekly.  He arrives in full force, a fire so hot that it burns us to a crisp – it eats away our pains, ills, sin, and guilt.  It carbonizes our old selves, and out of those ashes rises someone reinvented, someone sublime.  From the heat of this perfect love, we discover this – we’ve become someone more lovely than we ever thought we could be.

Pray | Ask God to “burn you up” with a desire for him, or if you don’t feel a need for such passion, instead ask God to show you what it is he wants out of your relationship with him

Read | Meditate on these verses this week: 1 Peter 1:3-9 / Job 23:10 / Ezekiel 18:31 / 2 Corinthians 5:17 / Zechariah 13:9

Act | Develop a list of those things in you that you would like to change and spend time reflecting both on why you haven’t changed and how you might approach changes in these areas