A Fresh Start
Let’s face it, there is nothing uniquely spiritual about New Year’s Day. The only mention of a new year in the Bible comes at the Passover in Exodus 12, when God is leading his people out of slavery in Egypt. When we translate from the lunar calendar used back then to the Gregorian calendar used today, Passover happens in March or April, in the week that leads up to our celebration of Easter. January 1 never appears in the Bible.
That said, the start of the new year can be a symbolic moment for us. It signals the passing of the old and the beginning of the new. That’s why new year’s resolutions are a common theme at this time of year. Maybe, for example, this will be the year when we finally get in shape. Not surprisingly, we see memberships and attendance at our rec center increase every January!
Perhaps this new year is a symbolic moment to renew or deepen the vitality of our spiritual life. The good news is that God stands ready to draw us close anytime we open ourselves to him, but January is as good a time as any. So, if you find yourself at a place of spiritual apathy or if you are longing for a deeper sense of God’s presence, here are two things you can do to start this new year in a new direction.
1. Designate a time, a place & a plan for spending time with god.
First, carve out some time for a regular devotional practice. This doesn’t require long hours of intense Bible study or elaborate rituals. A few moments of intentional reading and reflection may be all it takes to jump start your connection with God. There are numerous devotional books that offer daily reflections, as well as apps for your phone that can help you track your quiet time. Here at the church we have a couple of Bible reading plans available to help guide your engagement with Scripture. One is called 5X5X5, which will guide you to read through the New Testament in a year by reading only 5 minutes a day for 5 days a week, with 5 ways to engage the text and dig deeper. The other is a guided plan to read through the entire Bible in a year. Copies of both plans are available at InfoCenters throughout the church.
In the end, what matters is not the specifics of the plan you use. God wants us to be devoted to him, and not to an app or a workbook from the Christian bookstore. Think of any of these resources as tools. A tool is useful only to the extent that it helps you accomplish something important. What is important is setting aside a few moments of our day to make God the center of our thoughts and desires and to begin to hear what he has to say to us.
2. Make intentional community a priority.
The second thing we can do is either join or renew our commitment to a Sunday School class. Sunday School is a vital component of our church’s spiritual health. For one thing, it is the most focused environment available to us for continuous, systematic study of God’s word. It is a chance to dig in and go deeper and find application of what God reveals in Scripture. Just as importantly, that digging is done in an environment that fosters long term relationships with a smaller group of friends. These relationships will carry us forward through the ups and downs of the year to come and will provide a place where we experience a more transforming kind of community with each other.
One of the key objectives of our strategic plan is to know God and others. The kind of growth we want can’t happen in the absence of meaningful relationships. That begins with an active relationship with God that is nurtured through regular prayer and devotion, but it also includes meaningful engagement with other people who can support us, encourage us, and hold us accountable.
In the end, we should all remember that this church will only be as spiritually healthy as the people who are a part of her. If we are going to accomplish our mission together, we have to be individually committed to growing ourselves spiritually. Isaiah 55:6 implores us to “seek the Lord while he may be found.” The new year is upon us. Maybe now is the time to do exactly what the prophet said!