“If you want something you’ve never had before, you have to do something you’ve never done before.”
Maybe that sounds obvious, but this challenging quote from Dr. Jim Tillotson at a Montana pastor’s conference last September grabbed my attention. I do want different results than I’m getting now in some areas. That means I need to change. I believe even small changes can bring good results.
The beginning of a new year is a great time to refresh ourselves, analyse some things, and figure out a new approach. God has brought some helpful resources into my path recently that can help me make changes. Maybe some of them would help you too.
Refresh Your Health
The top two New Year’s resolutions people make today are (1) to stay fit and healthy and (2) to lose weight. Maybe, like me, you’ve decided that if you lost X number of pounds (kilos) and kept them off, you might have better health and mobility for the next 20 or 30 years. Maybe you’ve even decided on a diet and exercise plan. Now you just have to stick to it.
“I Deserve a Donut” includes an app, blog, and Bible study that shares these helps for dieters: Lies that make you eat, emotions that make you eat, questions to ask yourself when you’re tempted to break your diet plan, and Bible verses to encourage you to think Biblically when temptation arises. This is new to me but I can see how it could be a great help to the dieting Christian.
You can find help here:
Refresh Your Spirit
Godly music can soothe the spirit while you sit and meditate or even while you go about your daily tasks. Just recently I’ve found some music that settles my soul. While I don’t know a lot about Ben Everson (Everson begins with an e as in “eat” not “etch”), I know he went to Northland Baptist Bible College at the same time as my son-in-law. I consider his music to be fresh and conservative at the same time. He specializes in his acappella style which he calls a “one-man vocal orchestra.”
I especially like the song, “You Are My Refuge.” We bought two cd’s for Christmas: “I Am Free” and “Acappella Refuge.”
Refresh your Body
We all need time off to refresh our bodies. Last year, during our furlough, we took time off to visit the Ark Encounter in Northern Kentucky. This life-sized replica of Noah’s Ark is fascinating! Hours in the ark will help you imagine how Noah’s family lived during their year in the ark. You’ll walk away with renewed confidence in God’s Word, clearly seeing that this story, which many skeptics doubt, makes perfect sense. I highly recommend this attraction.
Refresh Your Ministry
This past furlough we’ve heard very positive things about Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny, Iowa. Many pastors have also told us that the highlight of their year is the Refresh Conference for pastors and wives at Faith. This year’s conference is scheduled for January 30-February 2. The theme is: “Down but Not Out: Ministering With Disappointment.” Since we’re back in New Zealand now we won’t be able to go, but we strongly recommend it for ministry couples who can.
Refresh Your Relationship with God
As important as it is to refresh and renew ourselves in all these areas, our relationship with God is more important than all the others. Loving God is the first and most important commandment. Constant renewal in our relationship with him is vital to a growing Christian life. A daily quiet time with God is a discipline well-worth exercising, but even that doesn’t guarantee a close relationship with him.
I’ve been a Christian now for 58 years. My husband and I have been in fulltime ministry for nearly 40. I’ve heard Bible stories all my life and taught them over and over. I probably know hundreds of hymns very well. I don’t know how many times I’ve read the Bible through.
I treasure the wealth these experiences bring, but they also present a danger. Familiarity in these pursuits can hinder the freshness of my relationship with God. It’s so easy for my eyes to skim over familiar scriptures. Playing the piano doesn’t allow me to focus on the meaning of the words of hymns. During the sermon I can be distracted by whether or not the nursery (crèche) worker took the kids out, or what family came in late, or who I need to talk to most after the service.
I need to refocus on the amazing aspects of the familiar, renew my mind, and refresh my relationship with God during my quiet time each day. Here are some practical ways that I have used and plan to use again. I hope some of these tips may help you as well.
- Write in a journal. I haven’t done this in the past, but I’m beginning to do it now. Each day I write at least one thing that I’ve learned from the Bible reading that day that I can apply to my life. Writing out the words forces me to put the thoughts into words and focus on the message.
- Refresh my prayer list. I use blank greeting cards to gather similar prayer requests into groups. I write specific prayer requests under each listing. I’ve just updated things I’ve been praying for. After visiting someone I haven’t seen for a while, I try to end the conversation with this question, “How can I pray for you?” Then I add that request to my list.
- Meditate on hymns. If your church has some old hymnals they’re no longer using, ask if you can borrow one for a while. Choose certain days to find a meaningful hymn which is theologically rich and study it.
- Memorize and/or meditate on one of the great passages about Christ in the Bible. Memorization makes the passage available to you to think about wherever you go. Or consider reading one passage every day for a week or a month and study the various truths in it. “One chapter studied is worth more than a hundred chapters read.” (A.W. Pink) What can you learn about Christ in these passages? John 1:1-14; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:13-22, 2:9-10, 2:13-15; Hebrews 1 and 2.
- Read a challenging book along with your devotions. Right now I’m reading “God is More Than Enough” by Jim Berg. It is an excellent guide on how to quiet your soul in the midst of uncertainty, discouragement, frustration, and other threats to daily peace. I strongly recommend it.
- Give back to God. “During your devotions give something to God even if you don’t get something from him.” (Joan Tillotson)
You may have other ways of refreshing yourself and renewing your relationship with God. That’s good. But remember, our relationship with God should be the most important thing in our lives. Don’t neglect it. Find ways to keep it alive and growing.
What do you do to refresh yourself?