What three words will guide you in the new year? We asked this on our facebook page and got these responses:
Jesus – Mercy – Grace
Pray – Love Sing
Passion – Courage – Faith
Seek God First
Know God Better
All of these are good ones and I want to encourage you to think about this question and ask God to give you 3 words for this year. I also want to offer three words from an ancient story, the story of the Magi or wisemen who visited Jesus after his birth. Their story is in Matthew 2:1-12.
While our first word isn’t actually found in Matthew, it is the word that started the entire journey of the Magi -LOOK. Are we willing to look up and consider all that God is doing in the world and in our lives and are we willing to look around at the people God has placed in our lives to see what we can learn from them and how God might be calling us to make our journey in life and faith with them. That is the story of the Magi. They looked up into the sky and when they saw a new star they began to ask themselves, what is God doing. Why has God placed a start there – what does this mean? The Magi observed the world around them. Some scholars believe they were astrologers which in those days would have been a combination astronomer or scientist and philosopher. So they looked up to the heavens and saw the bigger picture of their world and life and thought about what God was doing.
They looked up and probably the most important thing we can do in the New Year is look up – look up to God so that we can see not just who He is but what he is doing in our world and in our lives. God is still moving and if we will take the time to look for him – we will find him. My hope is that this year we will look at what God is doing not just here but around the world. I hope we will consider what God is doing in Sierra Leone and Penn State and Faith Church and see how we can part of God’s plan to bring all those resources and needs together. My hope is we will look to see how God is moving in our community so we can help offer healing and hope to those in need. For example, if you have been looking at Allegheny Street recently you might have noticed a new food bank going in and the Faith Centre expanding. Maybe God is calling you to be part of helping this ministry and begin doing some new things.
Starting next week we will also be looking to God in hopes of discovering God’s will for our own lives. What is God’s message for me? Does God have 3 unique words for us this year and how can those words and God’s word lead and guide us into God’s will. I’ll leave that for next month – but let’s just say that January will be a time for us to be looking up to God.
The Magi didn’t just look up, they also looked around. They looked at each other and asked themselves, what does this mean? They turned to each other for help and guidance and support in their journey and we need to learn the importance of looking around at those God has placed in our lives. God does not call us to take this journey in life alone and so we need to identify those who can help us and love us along the way. Who do you need to look at and work on building a better relationship with? Maybe it is your spouse, or your children – if it is then please find ways to look at them, to really look at them and see who they are, their longing and needs and desires. Maybe you need to look at the people you work with or the people in your small group of Bible study and see if there are ways God can accomplish more of his will by building stronger and more faith centered relationships. We all need to look around at the people God has placed in our lives and not just appreciate them but work on strengthening our relationships with them.
So looking at God and the people God has placed in our lives is a great place to start, but it is not enough to just LOOK we also have to MOVE. The Magi moved. They physically moved making a trip to Jerusalem and then to Bethlehem. The moved on what they learned about the star and what they felt God was doing in their lives. They learned about the new king to be born, knew he would be powerful so moved to find him and worship him. To experience what God wants for us in life then we also need to move, both physically and mentally.
Physically, God has created us to move. We were created to walk and run and stretch so it is important for us to do these things in the New Year. One of the words many people use to guide them at the beginning of each year is the word exercise. People commit to getting healthy by starting a running or walking plan, joining the Y or buying the latest exercise craze that you see all over TV right now. It’s good to move and I’m glad to hear that our healthy steps group is going to be meeting each week to walk around the halls before their meeting time. If we will move a little bit more every day – we will feel better physically and emotionally. When I started running I noticed that I not only felt better physically by losing some weight and getting stronger – but I felt better emotionally. It’s why I continue to run, because I haven’t found anything that relieves stress as well as running.
So we need to move physically as we are able to, but we also need to move mentally and by that I mean we need to move our brain and study and learn new things and explore new areas of interests. The Magi did this, they didn’t just look up and see a star, they studied and consulted their books to learn about this new king that star pointed to. Not a bad idea for us in the New Year. Maybe we need to move our brains and study this book (Bible) so we can learn about our king (Jesus).
As we begin the New Year can we begin a reading plan for God’s word? And it’s ok to start slow – don’t commit to reading the Bible through in a year, commit to reading one of the gospels and the go from there. Since we started with Matthew 2 today, maybe we should just keep reading through the gospel of Matthew. Our Men’s Bible study has been studying Matthew and I think I can say for all of us – it has been an exciting experience because we have been learning new things and learning them together. And that is a key word – together.
We will move better physically and mentally if we will move together. We will exercise more if we will do it with others and we will study more and learn more if we will move our brains and learn together. The Magi moved together. They didn’t send one man to check out this new king, they travelled together and there is value when we travel in life and faith together. In fact, God created us to travel in life and faith together which is why we need to look at those God has put around us.
There is something specific I hope that we as Faith Church will study this year and that is the country, people and church of Sierra Leone. I hope we will study and learn about the people and community of Pa Loko and their needs and how we can best help them. I hope will invite people from Sierra Leone, maybe students at PSU, to come and share about their nation and customs and history. I hope we will learn what they eat, how they live, what they celebrate and what their homes and families are like. I hope this will be an exciting journey of faith and knowledge that we will move in together.
So the Magi looked up and around and they moved physically and mentally and this all led them to Jesus. They found the child in Bethlehem and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh and then it says theyreturned to their country by another route. They went home a different way – they changed course and that is our third word for the New Year – CHANGE. The Magi were changed by their visit with Jesus. Their experience with Jesus changed their hearts and it changed their lives. Are we willing to have our hearts and lives changed by Jesus? If we are then there are two things we can do to help change take place and the first is to worship God.
The Magi worshipped Jesus. They didn’t just gave him gifts it says they worshipped him and it was this worship, this bowing of their hearts and lives to Jesus that changed them. The best place for us to change our hearts is in worship. When we worship Jesus, we not only bow our hearts but our will to his and when we give Jesus the gifts of our hands and lives, we are changed. Worship changes us because it is during worship that we surrender our lives to God and ask him to shape us. The prophet Isaiah said,O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter (Isaiah 64:8). So God shapes us and molds our hearts but he can only do that if we are willing to be the clay in God’s hands. When we surrender ourselves to God in worship – God is able to change us and mold us into who and what he wants us to be.
So God changes our hearts during worship and he changes our lives when we are willing to serve God and others in a real hands-on way. In my own life, it has been serving God and people that has done the most to change me. During seminary it wasn’t sitting in any class learning things that changed me, it was going to serve in a church and a nursing home and the elderly poor in Durham. Those times changed me and sent me in the new direction of being a local pastor. In Altoona what changed us as a church was serving the needs of the children God sent our way, in Lewisburg what changed us was serving college students at Bucknell.
My hope is that what will change us as a church in the New Year will be all the different ways we will serve both individually and corporately. God will change us as we serve at the new food bank and reach out to those who have needs in our community. God will change us as together we seek to serve the people of Sierra Leone by building working relationships with people around the world who will partner with us. God will change us as we serve the children, youth and families that God brings into our church family each year and as we strengthen our efforts to serve the seniors at home and in care facilities. Through worship and service God changes us and I hope we will allow this word to guide us in the New Year.
It’s amazing to me how an ancient story can provide three words that can still guide and direct us into this year.
Look up to God and look around at the people God has placed in your life. Move physically to get healthy and move mentally to learn and grow. Change your heart through worship and your life through service. If this can be our focus in 2014 – it will be a happy, healthy, faithful and faith-filled new year.
3 Words for the New Year
What words will guide you in 2014?
Here are 3 words to consider from the Magi’s story found in Matthew 2:1-12.
1. LOOK up to God and around at others.
• Read the Bible each day of 2014.
• Take 5 minutes each day to pray.
• Attend worship in January to Discover God’s Will.
• Identify 1 person to give thanks for. Now tell them.
• Identify 1 person who needs you. Go support them.
• Identify a team to grow in life and faith. Invite them.
2. MOVE Physically and Mentally.
• Commit to walking, running, biking or yoga in 2014.
• Create an exercise plan and find a partner to join you.
• Set aside time to study, read and learn new things.
• Choose 3 books/topics you want to learn more about and invite someone to learn with you.
• Learn about Sierra Leone with Faith Church.
3. CHANGE your heart and your life.
• Surrender to God in worship each week of 2014.
• Take part in one service project each month.
• Share your experiences with others.