2015: Happy New Year

What an opportunity we have! 2015 – a whole year in front of us. 365 days of life, each one a gift from God. As I look back on 2014, there are many blessings; and also many challenges, frustrations, and painful times. Which will I focus upon? Which will I build upon in 2015?

Somehow I’m drawn to the wisdom of Romans chapter 12. Especially verse 2 as Paul writes “do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

You see, I’m a news junkie – I listen to and read about news, especially local, national and world events. Often I find myself frustrated, even depressed, about much of it. Issues of violence, racial division, budget priorities, and political power struggles create inner tension that distract me from blessings, hope, and relationships. The “pattern of this world” seems to be tearing down rather than building up. Even church news can create that kind of response at times.

Why do I put myself through it? Yes, I’d like to understand and maybe make a difference somehow.

But I find myself conforming to a pattern of bitterness and division rather than seeking truth with hope and encouragement. So being “transformed by the renewing of your mind” speaks to me.

What can I expose myself to that renews my mind in the spirit of Christ? How will I begin 2015 with practices that allow God’s Spirit to transform me through renewing my mind, so that I can be a more effective follower of Jesus?

For one thing, starting each day with devotional time – reading the Bible and a regular guide like Upper Room Disciplines, with prayer and reflection. When possible adding some other reading – in 2015 I plan to work through John Wesley’s sermons and another book about his theology. Then during the day I’ll really try to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry” (James 1:19). Not thinking of myself “more highly than [I] ought to think, but to think with sober judgment” (Romans 12:3).

Actually, the New Testament letters and Jesus’ words in the gospels are full of great ideas to renew the mind and keep us hopeful and optimistic. Those of us who are leaders HAVE to keep up such practices that lift our spirits toward God’s purposes. Then, I’ll try not to get distracted or upset by issues that I can’t do anything about – that’s easier said than done.

This New Year provides a great opportunity to strengthen daily practices that transform us by renewing our minds, so that we’re more closely following Jesus.

Then our work and our leadership can be more fruitful in our mission of making disciples to transform the world according to God’s (not the world’s) purposes.

What practices are you planning in 2015 that help keep you focused and your mind renewed, especially in your church leadership?

Let’s seize upon the great opportunities God gives us in the days ahead. Happy New Year!