The ads on TV are offering better tasting nicotine gum, tastier diet food, bargains on exercise equipment. More joggers are on “the ol’ loggin’ road” and the parking lot at the swim center is fuller.
‘Tis the season after the season.
Brenda asked me if I am making any new year’s resolutions. I told her I didn’t want to say. Puzzled and bemused, she let me keep my little secret (though she bought us some diet pills).
But here, in this semiprivate/sort of anonymous yet ultra public forum of my blog, I don’t mind sharing.
There is the usual stuff. I think I should lose some weight (about 10%). That means better diet, more exercise. I should probably lay off the ice cream at bedtime.
But there are more important things than my physical health. I’m concerned about my spiritual health.
For the past year or so I've a growing concern about the prayer life of our church. It seems we could be doing a lot better.
A few of us have been getting together every Friday morn to discuss and pray about making prayer a central part of what we do as a church.
One of us sent out this interesting comment:
...I have something for you to prayerfully consider. As we prayed last Friday morning I was stuck by this thought/growing conviction – that as we come together to pray on Friday mornings we should pray for “our” repentance, our renewal, the continuing work of God’s Spirit in our lives as opposed for praying for this & that to happen to “our church” or “people in our church.” Our prayers need to be transparent & personal. I recently read Rick McKinley’s book Beautiful Mess, founding pastor of Imago Dei in Portland. He shares about how the beginning core group of the church met on Wednesday nights to pray for their repentance for 6 months. Out of this, slowly but surely, God began to change “them” & from them came the ministry of Image Dei in Portland. Up to now I think our prayers have been too “safe.” It’s easier to pray for others than for ourselves, easier to confess the sins of others rather than our own. It’s so easy to fall into a subtle form of spiritual pride as if the changes needed need to come in others instead of in us...
Now there’s some thoughts about resolutions!
It is pretty easy to look at one’s church and wonder why folks don’t do this or don’t do that.
Perhaps it doesn’t matter what I think others should do. I can leverage folks to sign up for prayer slots, whip up enthusiasm for this or that prayer event. But all of that is a little like resolving not to eat ice cream at bedtime. Good idea, but it really doesn’t solve the bigger problem.
A friend of mine has been considering James 4:1-10:
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
Now there is some good advice for new year resolutions.
The problems which face churches stem from the same source as the problems which face all of our ills. Our sin. Our selfishness, our self-centeredness.
How do we address such issues?
We stop putting so much value in the things which are designed for simply pleasing ourselves. We stop with the pride and me-first mindset which is the source for so many problems, so much grief.
We start with... scratch that... Let me restart this last part.
We don’t start with that at all. I start with that. Enough of planning what others should be doing! What do I need to do? What can I do to grow, to change, to become something just a little more obedient, a little more grateful for the gifts which He has given me?
I start with admitting what my sins are. As Polonius (ironically) said, “To thine own self be true.”
I am a sinful person who seeks honors and praise and comforts and all sorts of things which are really about putting myself first. So, let me start with that.
I start by admitting where I am weak, where I need to grow. I start with being faithful to consistent daily prayer times, daily scripture reading. As James wrote, I must turn my laughter into grieving... grieving that I put myself first, that I find things other than my obedience to Him as more important. I need to grieve over what has made me laugh.
I start with keeping in mind that I am by nature going to seek my own way and that I need to refocus my attention on Him. If I am serious about my faith, I will remind myself that I’m not “all that.”
So... my resolutions... I resolve to be obedient.
Pretty simple (to say).
I know I am going to fail. But at each time I fail, I resolve to honestly look at what I have done and take it to Him. This is the sort of resolution which will cause me to take better care of my spiritual health as well as my physical.
I guess that means I’ll probably have to give up the ice cream at bedtime as well.