A Look Back; A Look Forward

I hope everyone had a delightfully merry Christmas (and happy Boxing Day!)! I’m grateful that the days are creeping by before the New Year actually begins, but (somewhat frighteningly) the next Parakaleo post will be a good two weeks into 2013, so I’m starting my end-of-year reflections now.

Meeting new people and starting something new can help you learn a lot about yourself. I’ve become aware of a good deal of my previously unnoticed mannerisms through the loving laughs and comments of my cohort. Striking out even more on my own than in undergrad was also very revealing of my relationship with Christ. I believe, however, that we don’t necessarily have to go through huge life changes to learn more about ourselves, and this time of days off of work and (hopefully at least a little) holiday rest is an excellent one for taking a step back.

I keep a draft in my email where I copy and paste Bible passages that jump out at me as I read them. It’s handy because then I can access them easily at other times and here at the end of the year, I can look back at which of God’s words really spoke to me during this time in my life, why they did so, and how that is going to impact my later actions and relationship with Him.  Here’s a little selection (and it’s not cleaned up, but rather demonstrative of the hodge-podge way in which it is entered and marked up):

 

2 Timothy 4:2-5

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

 Titus 3:3-8, 14 NIV84

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.

Hebrews 4:13-16 NIV84

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

1 Peter 2:11-12, 15-16 NIV84

Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover‑up for evil; live as servants of God.

1 Peter 2:17 (I feel like the part in bold is extraordinarily epic in a Latin motto kind of way.)

Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.

 

It’s always interesting to see a) how much of the Bible I have covered in recent months- even small amounts of time add up! and b) how many things I noted that I haven’t noticed before. There are passages that I anticipate (like my constantly-quoted Philippians 3 and Psalm 73), but I love stumbling across “old” passages that take on new meanings as I learn more about myself and the world around me, and consequently, about my God.

This New Year, I pray that these verses grow closer to my heart and that God’s love as demonstrated in His words shows clearly through my words and actions. I look forward to growing closer to the people that God has blessed me with both many years ago and recently and to seeing how He will use me in coming days. Really, this is my constant prayer and isn’t just for the end of the year, but it certainly applies now, as well!

Happy New Year, everyone! May God bless and use you for His glory in this coming year and many to come!

People Get Ready

As much as I enjoy being a student, it’s a little disappointing to be caught off guard when learning that Christmas is in 13 days. I feel completely emotionally unprepared. I’ve realized that this is largely due to the fact that there is NOT a Christmas tree in the home in which I am currently residing, which is quite upsetting, but not necessary, and I have not had time to deck out my office or bedroom with wreaths and ribbon. But more important than all of the physical things that are going to pass away anyway is the importance of preparing my heart for Christmas!

Technically this is something that I do year-round as I grow in my relationship with Christ. One of my friends recently celebrated her birthday and I got extremely excited and enjoyed telling her how much I love and miss her and wished her all the best on the anniversary of her birth. I didn’t decide the day or week before that, “Hey, Carrie’s pretty cool. I guess I should get pumped up for a day to celebrate her.” It was instead a natural outpouring of how blessed I have been by her friendship and how deeply I appreciate her. And how much more Christ has done for me!

Regardless of whether or not December 25 is the actual anniversary of the day He came to earth, it’s the day that we celebrate that occurrence and all that has taken place since.

So here’s my master plan:

1.) Look back.

November isn’t the only time of year for looking back at how God has blessed me! I went through a pretty exciting life change in graduating from undergrad and beginning graduate school in a completely different location within a matter of months this year and God’s provision through all of that was amazing.

2.) Look wayyy back.

Have you ever read the book of Habakkuk? Check out its opening lines:

“The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw.

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not hear?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?

Why do you make me see iniquity,
and why do you idly look at wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise. 

So the law is paralyzed,
and justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
so justice goes forth perverted.”

Suffice it to say, everything was not peachy. BUT the section after that is titled, in the ESV, “The LORD’s Answer.” It reads, “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.”

Jesus’ coming is woven all throughout the Old Testament. We can relate to the desperate cries of the Old Testament prophets and people as we wait for Him to come again, but we can also rejoice that He came to pave a way for us to look forward to His return. We don’t’ need to be ambivalent or fearful of what the God of all creation has in mind for the true end of our world when we are covered in His righteousness. This knowledge and confidence in itself is a tremendous gift.

3.) Look around.

Seeking out the needs of the people around me is something that I try to work on year-round, but it can be especially important around the holidays. Not everyone looks forward to them. Some people gather in incredibly broken homes. Others have no homes to return to at all. Still others have wonderful homes, but cannot get home to them for a variety of reasons. I want part of my worship of God to be serving those around me and remembering to keep a humble and aware mindset that Christmas and the holiday season are not the same experience for everyone.

4.) Sing praise!

I’ve been jamming out to Christmas music since October (partially as a coping mechanism for a much less-preferred holiday that takes place during that month), but I have historically had two separate lists in my iTunes. One is titled “Holiday.” The other- “Christmas.” The “Holiday” playlist has all of my favorite winter holiday jams from hymns to Michael Buble singing “Let It Snow.” “Christmas,” however, is a blend. It has hymns and other Christ-focused songs, and then it has some non-seasonal worship music- “Prince of Peace” and “Blessed Be Your Name” are just two examples. I am a big proponent of celebrations including singing and I know God enjoys our genuine worship, so I think this is an important part of getting ready for Christmas!

How are you preparing your heart for Christmas? I’d love to hear what you do to celebrate the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. =) And have a merry, merry Christmas wherever you are!

p.s. Please enjoy the fact that this is the only 12/12/12 we’re going to experience in our lifetime! How’s that for perspective? =)