What’s your plan?

What’s your hope for 2011? Are you hoping that it will be a year of you growing? One thing is certain – you’ll grow older! But wouldn’t you like it to be a year where you grow in character and grow in God too? For that to happen, you need a plan. So my question is this – what’s your plan?

I remember hearing Bill Hybels a few years ago talking about the need to plan to grow in leadership – to do things like read books, attend conferences, get a mentor and so on. The same is true of growing in the Christian life – you need a plan. So what’s your plan? Things like reading God’s word (see my previous post on reading through the Bible), praying, being part of a small group where you’re accountable to one another are all great helps. Let me encourage you – get before God to pray about it, get a plan and then ask God to help you implement it. Let’s make 2011 a year of growing in God and all He has for us.

Is anything blocking the river?

I preached yesterday from Ezekiel 47 about the River of God. The image of a river or flowing water is often used in scripture as a picture of the Holy Spirit or the Presence of God. The passage in Ezekiel reminds us that God’s presence brings life, that He wants us to experience His presence and that His Kingdom is an ever-increasing Kingdom.

But we also looked at potential blockages to the river of God in our lives. Just like this waterfall which I saw on a recent walk, stuff can get into out lives which blocks what God wants to do. Four things came to mind particularly, but I am sure there are more. These are:

  1. Unbelief
  2. Cynicism
  3. Lack of faith
  4. Sin

Unbelief is OK if it’s your starting point and you don’t stay there! A man who brought his son to Jesus to have Jesus heal him, exclaimed in Mark 9:24, “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief.” God loves to help us overcome our unbelief.

If unbelief is not dealt with, it can lead to cynicism. Cynicism is dangerous – it says things like, “I’ve seen it all before”, “Yea, yea, I’ve heard it all before…”. Cynicism can quickly become a mindset and rather than it being the blockage to what God wants to do, you become the blockage. If you’re prone to cynicism, repent of it and ask God to give you faith and to help you overcome your unbelieving cynicism.

On one occasion, Jesus rebuked His disciples for their lack of faith (Mark 16:14). We should be people full of faith and those who are growing in faith.

Finally, sin can block what God wants to do in our lives, particularly if it’s persistent and habitual. God loves to forgive and offer a new start, so if you’ve got caught up in sin, turn to God, confess it to Him and repent of it and ask Him to make His river flow in your life once again.

The river that started as a trickle became a deep river that no-one could cross. Let’s be asking God to make that true of His work in our lives.

Reading through the Bible

Man with open BibleSome of you will know that I have decided to read through the Bible this year. I have done it before (it took me a bit longer than a year!) and I felt it would be good to do it again. Now, announcing to the world that one intends to read through the Bible this year may sound slightly pompous and self promoting, but my motivation in doing so is far from that. I am hoping that it will increase the number of people who will hold me accountable to this goal and help me along the way.

To help my reading I am following a plan from www.youversion.com that breaks the Bible up into 365 segments, one for each day. I am also using their iPhone app so that I can easily keep track of my reading and see where I’m up to as well as read on the move.

I want to encourage you – if you’ve never read through the whole Bible, why not do it this year? If you’ve done it before, why not do it again? There are a variety of reading plans available online (I’m using the Canonical Plan) and by using technology you can give yourself the best chance of completing it. In a year that is the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Version of the Bible, why not make it a year of reading through the Bible (though I would probably suggest a more modern translation such as the NIV or ESV).

“…He restores my soul.”

My fellow Elder, John Batten brought a great word at our Jubilee Celebration last Sunday morning. He felt God prompt him to read out Psalm 23. Now this is probably one of the most well-known Psalms, but he brought it with real conviction and faith that God was going to be speaking to people afresh through it. I know God did, because I was one of those people!

The phrase I’ve been thinking about a great deal this week is verse 3, “… he restores my soul.” Particularly, I’ve been meditating on the word, “restore”. What does it mean that God restores? The image that came to mind was of a master craftsman, working on an ancient artefact and restoring it to its original beauty. In fact, when gifted craftsman work on such things, you often cannot tell that restoration work has taken place – they are that good at their work! And the same is true of God’s work in us. When the Bible says that He restores, it doesn’t mean that He just patches up, tapes over and hopes for the best. God is the ultimate master craftsman, carefully working on us, His children; painstakingly and lovingly restoring that which is damaged, broken or cracked. God loves us in our damaged state, but He doesn’t leave us like that.

For me, I am waiting on God to restore me physically after a short season of ill health. For you, you may be asking God to restore other areas of your life. Whatever it is, be encouraged that we have a God who loves to restore, make whole and make new. The Lord is your shepherd – He restores your soul.