Having been born on December 31st has always made New Years doubly significant. It is very personally the start of a new year for me. That being the case, I’ve made it a point to use this time to reflect on the past and refocus for the future. I say refocus because my goals essentially remain the same from year to year, but I find that this is a good time to reevaluate where I am at in relation to those goals and make the necessary adjustments. So what are the adjustments I’m making as I move into 2015?
Well, as always, I want to go deeper in my relationship with Jesus, through His Word and prayer. An ever-present obstacle to that is busyness, so I’m going to be making adjustments to my schedule to make room for more time in both of these vital spiritual disciplines. I’m also planning to read through the Bible using a different version than usual to challenge myself to be more attentive in my devotions. I think after decades of using the same translation, you can grow so accustomed to the text, that you can read over it without thinking too much about it. A new translation forces you to have to concentrate a bit harder, which will lend to fresh insights and perspectives from the Word. I’m already reading through the Gospels in the NLT, so I’m thinking the ESV will be my new version for my next read through the whole Bible. As for prayer: running and praying still seem to be a good combination for me, so I’m going to keep that up, but I also want to add a few more prayer meetings to my week. Prayer is the most effective agent for change in the world—it changes us, and it changes those things that seem impossible to change. God help me to pray!
Apart from our relationship with God, the next most important thing in the world is our relationships with people. So in this new year, by the grace of God, I want to be a better husband, father, grandfather, son, brother, uncle, friend, etc. Even as I write this, I’m sitting at home surrounded by my kids and grandkids and so thankful for the treasure that each one of them are to me. (Among them is the newest addition to the family, Evelyn June, who was born with a heart defect, had open-heart surgery before she was a week old, and is as healthy as a baby can be as she approaches six months. Oh, how thankful we are for God’s faithfulness to Char, Grace, and Evelyn. She is a precious treasure indeed.) Yet as much as we treasure family and friends, we can sometimes neglect those relationships, putting other trivial things before them. In this new year, I want to try to do less of that, and be more intentional in cultivating those relationships God has so graciously allowed me to share in.
When it comes to ministry, I want to be a faithful shepherd to the people God has allowed me to oversee. I was just recently reminded again while reading through the Acts of the Apostles of the priority for those who are pastors to “give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word.” Having spent much of this past year involved in necessary administrative tasks, I’m looking forward this year to digging deeper into the Scriptures in preparation for teaching and preaching.
One of the things that all those who minister the Word have to be regularly engaged in is reading. Last year was probably my worst year for the number of books read in more than a decade. Consequently, I have a very large stack of books on my desk awaiting me as I come into 2015. The good thing is I’m ready to reengage and can’t wait to jump in with both feet!
Finally, as I’ve been thinking about the year ahead, I can’t help but think of the past. Not just the events of this past year, but past visions and promises that have only begun to come to pass. Probably the two most significant events for me last year were (1) transitioning into the role of senior pastor at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, and (2) the unexpected death of my close friend and partner in ministry, Phil Pechonis. Both of these past events are speaking to me about the future. Becoming the pastor at Calvary Chapel was the fulfillment of promise that God gave me many years ago, but along with that specific promise, there were many others attached, promises that pertain to things the Lord is yet to do in the future. So on that note, I’m sensing a need to keep moving forward by faith into all the Lord wants to do and not to settle into complacency or to assume we’ve arrived. God is working, and I want to stay in step with what He’s doing.
The unexpected passing of Phil is a reminder to me of this absolute truth: There’s only one life, it will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.
These are obviously some of my own personal thoughts and convictions, but perhaps they will resonate with some of you as well. Above all, may we all grow in the grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ in 2015.