Here’s a news flash for you.
NOTHING is really about us.
Oh yeah. I know. We live in these bodies. See through these eyes. Think with these brains.
So it feels like it’s about us, doesn’t it?
It’s natural enough to orient our lives around ourselves. Our goals. Our wishes. Our dreams.
But in all truth, the inclination to make it about us would be like the moon saying, “Move over, sun. I’m the head honcho now.”
As the new year approaches, I find myself once more drawn to making necessary changes to get it right. To re-orient the direction of my life.
Or as the GPS voice would say, “Re-calculating.”
Why We Need to Re-Calibrate
I don’t know about you, but I’m always amazed when I see how far off track I can get in a relatively short amount of time. And my number one reason for getting off course? Self takes over.
That’s the problem with living sacrifices. We have the tendency to crawl off the altar.
While that is certainly never my intention, it happens anyway. And it explains why I often find myself needing to re-calibrate.
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”
Setting Our Compasses to True North
A compass which has lost its ability to point to true north is worthless.
If our ability to find true north is out of whack, so is everything else. Nothing can or will be right.
Instead, we’ll be like the guy who reaches the top of the ladder of success, only to find that he had his ladder leaned against the wrong wall!
As the handiwork of a Divine Creator, we were never intended to set our own course.
God has a better way.
In a nutshell, we either give God His rightful place on the throne of our lives, or we put self and its desire there instead. (AKA idolatry)
When God delivered the young nation of Israel, He set up a model for right living that is still applicable to us today.
In Numbers 2 (yes, really), He gave very specific instructions for how their camp was to be laid out around the Tabernacle and His Presence. And whether they camped or marched, the arrangement was the same, with God at the center.
Problems always arise when we relegate the Lord of our lives to the fringes of our lives. That is true of us as individuals, as churches, as communities, and as nations.
And sadly, this is just as much a problem with believers as it is unbelievers. As a whole, humans have a tendency toward self-absorption. No wonder we’re so confused and off track most of the time.
I know it might be a bit over-simplified, but the following graphic shows the confusion of the self-centered life versus the peace and stability of God-centered living.
“…in the American dream, where self reigns as king (or queen), we have a dangerous tendency to misunderstand, minimize, and even manipulate the gospel in order to accommodate our assumptions and desires.” -David Platt, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream
So What Does God-Centered Living Look Like?
In all honesty, it looks just like what it looked like back then.
Though there are numerous examples of folks in the Bible who centered their lives around God, I purposely chose the example of the somewhat-obscure King Asa.
To give a little background reminder, the nation of Israel divided after the death of King Solomon. While both sides had their share of bad kings, there were a few shining examples of good kings in Judah. Asa was one of those.
“Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God.” ~2 Chronicles 14:2
And how would you like to have the following for your epitaph?
“Asa’s heart was fully committed to the LORD all his life.” ~2 Chronicles 15:17
Exactly what did King Asa do?
- He refused to let anything usurp God’s rightful place by destroying places of idolatry (2 Chronicles 14:3).
- He led the people of Judah to seek the Lord and be obedient to Him (14:4).
- He recognized that centering their lives on the Lord brought blessing (14:7).
- He prayed, showing his dependence on God as the source of divine power and strength (14:11).
- He initiated reform, repair, repentance, and revival (15:8-12).
- He removed evil, including his own grandmother (15:16).
What was the result of allowing God His rightful place in their lives?
- God gave them peace and security (2 Chronicles 14:1, 5).
- They enjoyed rest and prosperity (14:6-7).
- The Lord gave them victory over those who fought against them (14:12-15).
- They experienced the Lord’s presence with rejoicing (15:15).
In short, their desire and effort to put God front and center brought blessing after blessing, in spite of hardship.
Anyone else here want some of that? Sign me up!
(If my life had a theme song, HEART’S CRY by Steven Curtis Chapman would be it!)
First Steps to God-Centered Living
It’s the same process today.
Seeking God and being obedient to Him is critical.
Notice that I didn’t say it was easy.
Dying to self never is.
But nothing is more important.
Just like Asa, we need to seek the Lord in prayer.
And in today’s fast-paced, blazing hair-on-fire pace, that is easier said than done.
For me, it means waking up early to get that critical alone time with God.
Your struggles with developing your prayer life may be far different than mine, but the enemy uses distractions and my tendency to get in a rut to stifle my prayer life. I’m so grateful for the Lord’s Spirit within me, uttering “groanings too deep for words” and bringing my heart’s focus back to the right place.
One thing I want to do better this year is to keep a prayer journal.
It’s been several years ago now, but I distinctly remember walking into a friend’s house to see a giant piece of butcher paper attached to a door in her kitchen. On it were listed multiple prayer requests, along with how and when God answered those prayers.
Since I also want to be more grateful to the Lord, I can think of no better way to remember gratitude in response to how He answers us. (And my old lady brain can certainly use the reminder.)
One prayer goal I highly recommend is praying for the world. I’ve done this for a couple of years. The process reminded me that prayer isn’t only about changing the world. It also changes us!
Use this link to sign up for reminders and details of prayer requests from every country in the world: http://www.operationworld.org/join-prayer-movement
Time in God’s Word. All of it.
I know there is a case to be made for studying God’s Word in depth to better grasp its meaning. But there is also a need among believers to read it from cover to cover.
Because our world is increasingly hostile to God and His Word. They take obscure verses and twist them to mean what they want them to mean, and then throw it in the faces of believers, demanding an explanation.
Only if we have read those verses in context, both historically and Biblically, can we point them to the accurate picture of Who God truly is.
Besides that, we need to understand the Bible as a whole. That’s the only way to get the overall message that Jesus was always God’s one and only plan to save the world. All the Bible points to Jesus!
Bible Reading Plans
There are soooo many Bible reading plans out there. Rather than type one up for readers like I have in the past, I’ve opted to point you to other resources below:
- New/Old Testament, Psalms, Proverbs – This is the plan I intend to use this year. I like that it includes reading from both testaments as well as Psalms and Proverbs. It’s also in PDF format to download to your computer or print out.
- Old and New Testament – Here’s another PDF version, this time from Heartlight.org, with daily readings from both the Old and New Testaments.
- Different Old and New Testament – Here’s another Old and New Testament plan, but it’s a bit different.
- 60-Day Overview – This one doesn’t cover all the Bible, but it is in PDF format.
- Survey of the Bible in 61 Days – From BibleGateway.com, this plan goes through all the books, but only hits the highlights.
- Chronological Survey of the Bible in 61 Days – Again from BibleGateway.com, this plan only hits the highlights, but does it in chronological order.
- 90-Day Overview of of the Bible – This plan from Zondervan goes into a little more depth than the 60-day version and is in PDF format.
- Biographical 121-Day Reading Plan – I think this plan from BibleGateway.com sounds fun! It would be particularly relevant for those who didn’t grow up in Sunday School, where the literature was biographical in nature. It covers the main historical figures in the Bible.
- 180-Day Overview – Obviously this PDF plan will go into more detail than the 60- or 90-day plans. It also comes from Zondervan, and it includes at least one passage from each book of the Bible.
- Genre-Related Plan – Okay, true confession. As an author, I LOVE the idea of reading the Bible by genre!!! In fact, I will probably try this plan at some point in the future. Each day of the week has a different genre heading: Gospels, Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy, and Epistles. This is in PDF format from IntoThyWord.org.
- Chronological Order – Read the Bible as it happened in history. I’ve followed this plan in prior years, and it really helped me understand the Bible as it relates to the history of world events. This is in PDF format.
- Order of Authorship – This plan is similar to chronological order, but follows the order of when the books were written. It is also in PDF format.
- 30-Day Reading Plan for New Christians – I love this! Reading the Bible can be a challenge for even the most mature Christian, so I can only imagine how overwhelming it would be for new Christians. This PDF plan covers topics like the fall of humanity, how Jesus fulfilled the law and prophets, and the promise of eternity. Be sure to recommend this one to the new Christians you know! What a great way to succinctly wrap up the heart of God’s Word.
- 30-Day Plan on the Life of Jesus – On a similar note, what better way to follow Jesus than to spend a month immersed in His life and teachings (PDF format).
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Create a Personal Mission Statement
I recently re-read The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren (a book I highly recommend). The book reminded me about the helpfulness of creating a personal mission statement.
I’ve had a mission statement for years. It’s been a great way of focusing in on what’s truly important during my life on this planet.
Honestly, my mission statement hasn’t changed much. Every year I revisit it, and every year it helps me re-calibrate.
Mine is worded as a prayer, but yours doesn’t have to be unless you so choose. And the last phrase of mine — To know You and make You known — continues to be the overall goal of my life.
This is one of those posts that is probably way too long, but all of it was too important to leave out on this New Year’s post about re-calibrating.
My prayer is that you will find at least one thing in this post that is helpful to you.
Rather than focusing on resolutions that are: A) not truly important, and B) never kept, I intend to use this time for re-calibration instead.
May the Lord bless you greatly in 2019 as we seek Him first and foremost!