With 2018 now behind us and a whole new year ahead, many of us will spend at least a few hours jotting down goals and resolutions that we intend on keeping at least until the end of the week. Whether it’s about weight-loss or new career perspectives, relationship building or new hobbies, our desire is to find ourselves, hopefully, better off at the end of the year than at the beginning.
In light of that, I’d like to offer you a few ideas that, while they might not help you shed those extra pounds or help you perfect your Mongolian throat chanting, they should help you gain a deeper and more intimate relationship with Christ simply by doing things a little differently.
As a Christ-follower, reading the Bible should be a foundational part of our relationship with Him. It’s how we learn and grow and better understand who He has called us to be. But for some, scripture reading can prove to be a little bit of a chore and at times, even become a little monotonous or frustrating even.
If that’s the case for you, or you’re just looking to shake things up a tad, try reading your Bible a little differently. Here’s some ideas:
- Try a different translation. No, I don’t mean a different language, but rather a different translation of the Bible- something a little different than the norm. If you’re an NIV reader, try out the NASB, ESV or CEV versions for something similar but still a little different. Maybe if you’re used to some heavy study that’s been a little dry lately, try out something like The Message or a New-Living Translation. Perhaps a chronological translation or New Testament Parallel will help you see things a little differently.
- Use an app. Modern technology opens the Bible in ways never before thought possible. Using a Bible app such as YouVersion or BibleGateway provides a myriad of tools and resources at the swipe of a finger. Additionally, these apps provide devotional resources that you can read by yourself or with others when you create group reading plans.
- Change your reading environment. Most of us probably read our Bibles in the same place every time. Whether that’s at a desk, or the kitchen table, or our favorite comfy chair, these familiar places, while comfortable and convenient, can sometimes lead to easy distraction. Shake things up a bit by changing the environment you’re reading in by reading outside, or by candle-light, or at a coffee shop. Perhaps you could try to match your reading environment with the passage you’re reading to bring scripture alive more.
A person’s prayer life is one of those things that I find people either say is on fire or it’s not. For those of you who would consider yourself prayer warriors, keep up the good work and pray for those who aren’t. For those whose prayer life may be struggling a bit or your looking to step it up a few notches, perhaps a small change is in order.
- Lectio Divina. An ancient practice that is parts prayer and reading and parts meditation can help to provide a significant amount of depth to your prayer and draw you closer to the Lord in fantastic ways. I won’t go into the details of the practice here, because it would take too long, so if you’re interested in learning more, check out these links here, here, and here (YouTube video) to read more.
- Change your position. Kind of like changing your reading environment, try changing up your prayer posture as well. If you’re a hands-folded-eyes-closed person, then try walking around and praying out loud. If you typically sit when you talk to God, then try kneeling or even lying down. If you’re prayer time is always in the morning, try doing it in the evening. The great thing about prayer is that you can do it anytime and anywhere–while walking, working, doing chores, running, driving–anywhere!
- Journaling. Journaling can be another one of those useful ways of seeing how God has worked in your life. By keeping a frequent record of your prayers, whether that’s a list or full paragraphs, journaling might be that practice you need as a way of seeing how God has been working in your life over a period of time. Get a notebook and a new pen and challenge yourself to simply writing down just three sentences a day as a prayer to God. I’m sure that once you get used to it, you’ll find yourself writing down much more and it will be a blessing to see how God uses those words to change your life.
The first question everyone asks about worship is, “what is worship?” Really, it’s nothing mystical or complicated, though we may make it out to be at times. Worship is simply using the gifts God has given us in a way that brings Him glory and honor. I think that one of the biggest reasons why our relationship with Him can sometimes grow stale is simply because we don’t use those gifts the way God wants us to or because we assume that the use of those gifts is tied directly to a specific role or vocation. Luckily, they don’t have to be.
Ask yourself a few questions:
- What gifts has God given me that can be used for His glory?
- How might my interests, skills, talents, and passions align with what God is doing around me?
- What whispers, or perhaps yelling, from the spirit have I been ignoring lately? Ie. Is there a direction God has been trying to move me in lately that I’ve been resistant to?
- How will I stop being resistant to God’s changing in my life so that I can start worshipping Him the way He desires me to?
For some, taking your relationship with the Lord to that ‘next level’ might require a little discomfort and change. It might mean having to do things differently and take on some responsibilities that may not be at the top of your list. It might mean getting involved in an area that you wouldn’t normally think would be suited for you. Worship is all about sacrifice though (Romans 12:1-2) and being willing to be used of God, even when it doesn’t make sense or it makes you feel uncomfortable.
God has given you something or something’s that He wants to see developed and used to build His kingdom but it’s going to require you to be willing, ready, and able to be used by Him.
Money can be a touchy subject for many people. Giving, or tithing, to the local church can be even touchier. It shouldn’t be. If it is, it’s probably because there’s something about the way you give that the Lord is chipping away at. I get it, there are churches that abuse their finances and use the hard-earned tithes and offerings of its congregants to line the pockets of its leaders and/or do other things that are unbiblical or even unethical or illegal. Because of that you might be jaded or apprehensive to give. But, I’m sorry, that’s just an excuse you’re using to not follow through what scripture commands us to do here, here, here, and here. And, even if those unfortunate circumstances are true, that doesn’t mean that God gives you a pass to not give.
Now, let me just say that if you ever feel like the church you attend, whether that’s SCC or elsewhere is mishandling its finances, then please, PLEASE be a voice in the wilderness and say something. Call your leaders to account and see to it that they are held accountable for the stewardship they’ve been entrusted with. Why? Because as a Christ-follower, it’s your/our responsibility to do so.
So, why should you give of your finances to the local church? God calls us to give of our finances to the local church so that they can be used as a catalyst for God-honoring change both at home and around the world. We should give because we want to see the gospel message spread through activities and outreach and benevolence and a myriad of other ways, but that can’t happen when God’s people fail to give.
What you give and how you give is between you and God and no one, at least not at SCC, is going to come knocking on your door with their hand out. However, what you give and how you give reflects your relationship with God and demonstrates your faith in His ability to work and do amazing things to spread the gospel of salvation. I challenge you in 2019 to give differently as a way of stepping up your faith and expectation that God is going to do amazing things. He will and He wants you to be a part of it.
Make a mental list of all the people you would consider to be your close friends. People you see regularly. People you share conversation with that moves beyond ‘hi, how are ya’. Now, take that list and challenge yourself in 2019 to make it longer by spending time with people you might not normally spend time with.
I think one of the best ways we can grow in our relationship with God is by stepping beyond our familiar relationships and fellowshipping differently and with different people. When we begin to close ranks we also begin to miss out on new experiences and knowledge that can only be found by broadening our concentric circles. I’m not saying you should walk up to the first stranger and bare your soul to them immediately after telling them your name, but I am saying that perhaps it might be good to meet some new faces.
If you attend church here at SCC, here’s a few practical ways you can be doing that:
- Attend a different service. We’re blessed to run two services on a Sunday morning–one at 9am and another at 10:45a. They are both amazing opportunities to worship God alongside other Christ-followers. Rather than going to the same service every week, try shaking things up a bit and attend a different one. And for those of you that notice a new face at the service, don’t be afraid to say hi, even if after the introduction you both realize you’ve been coming to SCC for the past 10 years.
- Join a Community Group. This is one of the best ways to develop new relationships with people in an atmosphere that promotes discipleship, accountability, and growth. We currently have one group meeting on Saturday evenings at 4:30p and we’ll be launching two more at the end of January. A community group is a great place to grow and develop your relationship with God alongside other people who have the same desire to do so. Yeah, it might be a little intimidating at first but once someone breaks out the brownies all the fears melt away. If you want to learn more, click here for more information
- Get involved. There are lots of opportunities at SCC to get involved in ministry and be a part of something bigger than yourself. Not sure exactly where to plug in, then just ask someone. Sure, you might not have the voice of an angel or any experience teaching the Bible to kids. Maybe you aren’t a very good table-decorating-party-planner or your green-thumb has lost its color. Who cares!! Getting involved in ministry isn’t about being the best, it’s about being willing. Willing to be used of God in ways you hadn’t previously expected. Willing to see Him grow others because of your influence and involvement in their lives. Willing to place yourself in a position that says “here I am God. Use me.” Getting involved in a ministry at church is a great way of learning new things and experiencing God in fresh ways. So, take a step out and see how God can use you.
I for one am looking forward to seeing how God is going to work and move and bless in the year to come. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous because I think there are areas of my own life where He wants me to be doing things a tad differently than normal but I know that when I do, He’s going to use them in ways I never thought possible.
Got any ideas of how to do things differently or perhaps want to share with everyone else how you plan on doing things differently this year? Then let us know in the comments below and become an inspiration to someone else.