by Dale Reeves
This past Sunday in our worship experiences at Christ’s Church I preached about having a 20/20 vision for the new year and the new decade. If you missed that message, you can check it out here . . .
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdrLMLvO-k0&feature=emb_err_watch_on_yt [message begins at the 37:22 mark.]
I talked about the need for us to fix our eyes on Jesus as we set our course for our personal lives, for our homes, for our jobs, our relationships, and our church in the new year. Some of the things that will happen in our lives this year we cannot control, but other things we can control.
My wife and I have made some travel plans for this coming year, and for a few of those trips we had to put some money down to reserve our spot. Last Sunday I joked about the need for us to buy “second coming insurance.” What if Jesus were to come back to Earth in 2020 to take his people back to Heaven? Would I get my money back from those companies if we didn’t get to vacation in Florida or go on an Alaska cruise this year? Obviously, I’m joking, as our current monetary system would mean absolutely nothing on the other side of eternity (you really can’t take the green stuff with you!). And, I’m sure the scenery and wildlife on this planet—as breathtaking as it might be—can’t hold a candle to what awaits us in our eternal home in Heaven.
Writing in Pencil
Every January we hear people making all kinds of plans for the coming year. Some people call them “resolutions,” some call them “plans,” some call them “goals” for the year. I returned to the office yesterday along with other members of our church staff, and spent some time writing things on my calendar that I have already committed to for this year, as well as planned vacation days out of the office. I am still old school enough to enjoy writing these commitments down in pencil, though I do have lots of reminders that pop up on my smartphone and laptop. A few of my younger compadres make fun of me for carrying a paper calendar, but I love looking at each brand-new week at a glance throughout the year, planning and executing the things that are on my to-do list. But, more than anything I love when God breaks into my routine and brings into my life some “divine disruptions”—things that I didn’t schedule, but things that I definitely see God’s hand in. And, that is why I write my appointments and commitments in my calendar in pencil.
One of the brothers of Jesus, James, says this in his letter to God followers everywhere: “Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.’ Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil” (James 4:13-16, NLT).
You may have heard these Bible verses before, but have you ever thought about the fact that James says that our “own pretentious plans” amount to “evil”? Evil is a strong word. Why does James say that planning things without submitting them to God’s will is evil? Because it usurps the place of God. When we do so, we are essentially saying, “I can get along without him. I can make my own plans.” It is one thing to forget to involve God in our planning but it is another thing to act as if he does not exist in making those plans. It is one thing to take God off the throne and it is another to put yourself on the throne.
The God of New Things
Long-time church staff member and my former administrative assistant, Carol Comer, used to say, “We will do this or that if ‘The good Lord is willing and the creek don’t rise.’” That statement is God-centered rather than self-centered, recognizing that every capability we have for doing something ultimately comes from him. What if you got up every day and looked at your calendar and rather than just looking at your scheduled appointments or priorities for the day, you just uttered the phrase “whatever God’s will is for this day”? How would that change your outlook at work, at home, in your leisure time?
I love January, not because I love taking down Christmas decorations, not because I love sleet, and not because of the fluctuation in Cincinnati temperatures that contributes to lots of sickness, but because this month gives us an object lesson we can’t miss—our God is a God of new beginnings. What would happen this year if you would decide to fix your eyes on Jesus first, and focus on laying your best-laid plans before him. What would happen in 2020 if you would decide not just to ask God to rubber stamp your plans, but to submit them to his will first and foremost?
No matter how you keep your calendar, whether digitally on your computer or phone, on a big calendar on the side of your refrigerator, or on a paper calendar, I would encourage you to write in pencil. Thank God that he has a big eraser regarding your mistakes and sins, and thank him when he divinely disrupts your plans this year. I am looking forward to the new things God will do in and through us in the next year and next decade, because he is a God of new things!