Preparations for the New Year: Evaluation

Romans 12:3

“For by the grace given to me I say to every one of you not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, but to think with sober discernment, as God has distributed to each of you a measure of faith.”

Each year typically most people have some form of a goal or resolution for the new year.  Sometimes we do not want to utter it out loud, lest we fail again.  But we all can benefit by looking over the past year and assessing what worked and what didn’t.  Even as tough as it might seem, it is actually quite liberating.  Come on in and let’s get started.

In the past few days I have explored the preparation of our mind, heart and bodies for God in the coming year.  Now to the practical application.  Knowledge gained is not as effective as knowledge applied.  Today’s blog is a lot more practical, but I pray beneficial, in your planning for the new year.

I came across a wonderful blog that is very beneficial for the “how” and “why” of successful planning – “6 Steps to Crush Your Goals in 2015” – found at: http://timemanagementninja.com/2014/12/6-steps-to-crush-your-goals-in-2015/?utm_content=buffereed4b&utm_medium=social&utm_source=linkedin.com&utm_campaign=buffer .  I worked through the steps the author suggested and then used an application called “Trello” to itemize, categorize, strategize and quantify my goals with due dates.  I also used Word to place the goals all on one page, answering the questions contained in the blog.  It was a time of investment of one to two hours and will require maintenance and consistency, in order to be effective.  Therein lies my challenge.  It is highly probable that I will not achieve all of the goals on my list, but that is not holding me back.  Planning means more will be achieved than not planning at all.  God bless you all in the new year!  May we achieve more than we dreamed possible all for Christ’s glory.

May God grant us wisdom and grace in planning and may we seek His will in all aspects of our lives!  Carpe Diem!

Preparations for the New Year Begin with the Heart

Photo Credits wau.org

Photo Credits
wau.org

Psalm 26:2

“Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind.”

Matthew 6:21

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” 

Proverbs 3:5
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”  
Psalm 51:10
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
Psalm 73:26
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Psalm 37:4

“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” 

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As I begin to contemplate what goals the LORD would have me set in this coming year, there is not just the battle of the mind, but the battle of the heart.  What we think about matters to God.  What our heart longs for does, too.  Our hearts can be drawn to many worthwhile and unworthy passions.  What we desire, we will often succumb to, unless our minds are girded with the word of God and our flesh saturated with God’s perspective.

Although the mind and the heart have many similarities, when I refer to the heart, I am referring to the strong emotions which affect our will and thoughts.  Catching myself craving something that might not be in accordance with God’s will can be difficult to discern.  I confess that I struggle with disciplining my flesh when it comes to exercise and food.  My thoughts can be well intended regarding both of these important aspects of life, but my emotions, my heart, can deceive me.  I wake up excited to run on my treadmill (ok, maybe excited is a stretch, but motivated, nonetheless).  I overcome the mental block inhibiting me, then my heart comes in and tempts me with the Lazyboy recliner and a cup of joe.  I begin to think on it and I am ashamed to say that my heart usually defeats my mind when it comes to food and exercise.

The rationalization might be dressed in righteousness.  Time with God, ministering to my family or friends.  But physical training is of some value.  Around and around the battle goes.  So, how do we cultivate and foster a heart towards righteousness?  How do we crave what pleases God?  What we meditate on in the mind is paramount, but when our heart feeds our mind, we can call out to God to help us walk after the spirit and not the flesh.

Disciplining the mind and heart is not all drudgery, though.  One of my favorite verses is Psalm 37:4, which contains a precious promise of God granting us the desires of our heart.  What precedes this promise of God is our delight in Him.  Turning our heart toward craving the things of God instead of the things in this world is possible.  Christ being our joy is also far more rewarding than any other occupation or endeavor this world has to offer.

As we plan for the coming year, may we consider our heart and lay it bare before our Maker.  He knows what is best and what I desire must be checked by the Holy Spirit and submitted to my God, my King.  Retraining our heart to run after the things of God will feel unnatural at first.  That’s ok.  Practice makes perfect.  Despite our failures, there is great hope: God is our strength and our portion forever.  He really is all we need.

Preparations for the New Year Begin with the Mind

Romans 12:2

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

2 Corinthians 3:18

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

Proverbs 4:23

“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.”

“Just Do It”, the famous Nike slogan is a manifesto to exert our will and make the necessary change to better health.  The problem is, our flesh is strong and often our wills are weak, and we fall short of our goals.  Recognizing that the source of our struggle and of our motivation is in our minds can be the key to victorious planning and living.

It is on my heart to take the days leading up to 2015 and lay a foundation for the inevitable resolutions and plans that are being formed.  How will we use our time in the coming year?  What goals will we set?  What changes do we need to make spiritually, emotionally, physically, or in our relationships?  Since we cannot control circumstances or those around us, let us begin with ourselves.

God is so merciful to give us new days, new seasons and new years.  Another year approaching is an opportunity to take inventory from the past year and take an honest assessment of what went well and what needs to change.  Of course changes are not easy to make and habits not easily undone or formed.  The insanity of it all is that year after year we can try to make some of the same changes and fall short each time.  Does that mean we should cease attempting to change?  No.  The battle lies in the mind.

Beginning with the One who was perfect in how He lived and fulfilled His plan is a great place to start.  The only truly sane mind is that of Christ’s.  Basking our minds in His word is the first step toward a godly perspective in our lives.  Our minds infused with God’s word helps us to see clearly and to rid ourselves of obstacles which impede our progress.  Christ quoted Scripture when He was tempted, demonstrating how the Word of God is our source of strength in time of need.  Perhaps we need to put God’s Word in front of us when being oppressed and lay down the mental baggage that has been plaguing us.

If only it were as simple as knowing and understanding God’s Word to be able to accomplish our plans.  Our minds become cluttered with many things.  Being aware of the distractions is a first step, but overcoming them is another.  Others around us can either help us achieve our goals or impede them.  Mental turmoil via manipulation, guilt, expectations or controlling can wield a devastating blow to being inspired to live the abundant life that God has called us to, but it does not have to.  The choice is ours.  Do we believe that?  We do not have to be held hostage by another person’s perception of us – just God’s view of us matters.

It will take a significant amount of effort to form plans and fulfill them, but as we submit them to God we find that He gives our plans back to us altered.  It is not about us, after all.  Those things I wish I could change about myself I leave in the Master’s hands and surrender to Him to make the changes.  In dependence and trust I yield to His ways and take each day, each breath, each moment as another opportunity to invest for God’s glory.  My plans might lay in ruins if they were of the flesh, but if they are for and by Him, they will last forever.

LORD, help us to seek You and the plans You have for our lives in the coming year and to walk in obedience and discipline to Your Word.  May we not grow discouraged but focus on your truth and know that ultimately, it is Your work in our lives, not us, and You will complete the work You have begun in us.  Amen.