The Doc File

The online journal of Luke Dockery

Tag: New Year’s Resolutions

Spiritual Growth in the New Year

The beginning of a new year is a natural time for people to make goals and resolutions, and I think this is a good and healthy practice. If you are a resolution-making type of person, I hope you have included some spiritual goals in your plans for self-improvement in 2020. Briefly, I wanted to point you to a few resources that I have used or am currently using to help with my own spiritual growth this year.

Bible Reading

Making a habitual practice of reading Scripture is a tried and true method of spiritual growth. Of course, Christians do not read the Bible just for information, but for transformation: God’s Spirit works within us to bring about His fruit in our lives.

This is the Bible Study Plan that we are using in 2020 at the Cloverdale Church of Christ. It only a few minutes of time each day, but by the end of the year, it will take you through the entire New Testament. This plan encourages you to find a partner with whom you will spend time each week discussing and reflecting on what you have read.

The Read Scripture app is another great way to develop the practice of reading your Bible daily. This can all be done on your phone, and in addition to providing a reading plan and the text of Scripture itself, it also includes awesome videos from The Bible Project that help to overview and explain each biblical book as well as other important biblical concepts. This is a really great tool for helping to increase your understanding of Scripture.

Prayer

Prayer is another incredibly important practice for people of faith. Speaking for myself, I struggle with doing as well at prayer as I do reading my Bible, and this is a growth area that I am trying to emphasize in 2020.

Prayer, In Practice is a really good and practical resource that I read through at the end of last year that I am planning to use heavily in the new year. It is a workbook that teaches different ideas and methods of prayer and then has you do those, right then. I highly recommend it.

Biblical Worldview

This last category may sound strange compared to the other two, but the basic point is this: in our current day and age, we are constantly bombarded by messages from TV, social media, print media, and other sources. We are “plugged in” almost all the time. The vast majority of these messages are not from a biblical worldview, and rather than filling us with the peace that passes understanding, they fill us with fear, anxiety, and outrage.

I have become personally convinced that I need to be careful about the content of the messages I am taking in. The reality is that I am not a hermit and cannot cut everything negative out, but I can intentionally take in as much edifying, helpful, and faith-strengthening content that I can. Part of that is accomplished by reading Scripture, but finding helpful things to listen to while I drive or exercise has been a huge blessing for me, and I want to recommend two podcasts that I think you will find interesting and which will certainly help to keep you centered on a biblical worldview.

The Bible Project Podcast has been a game-changer for me. Tim Mackie has become one of my favorite biblical scholars, and I learn so much from the podcasts and videos. The general format of these is that they will tackle a biblical topic in several parts, but will focus specifically on what the Bible teaches, the important cultural and historical contexts of the teaching, and how these teachings affect our lives.

I started listening to the After Class Podcast more recently, but have really enjoyed it so far. Put out by three professors at Great Lakes Christian College (and thus, my Restoration Movement cousins), these guys bring a lot of biblical knowledge, a generous spirit of dialogue, and a lot of playful banter to the table. Their podcast tends to be topical as well, and they generally discuss the different issues from their own scholarly backgrounds (in Hebrew Bible, New Testament, and theology).

It is such a worthwhile practice to reflect on ways we need to improve in our lives and make plans to do so, and this is especially true when it comes to our lives as disciples of Jesus. May 2020 be a year of rich spiritual blessings for you.

What Would Jesus Resolve?

I remember that I was in junior high when the “What Would Jesus Do?” craze swept the nation. It became cool to wear the cloth WWJD bracelets—even at my young age, I remember that I was struck by the fact that a lot of the people wearing the bracelets didn’t actually seem to care too much about applying the answer to the question to their lives! Over the years, I have heard various criticisms of the whole WWJD phenomenon, but at its heart, I think the idea of trying to determine one’s own course of action by considering the character of Jesus is a healthy one.

It is the beginning of a new year, which means that a lot of people are working at keeping resolutions that they made for the year. I have several things I want to work on this year, but a primary focus is my physical health: I am wanting to lower my cholesterol by eating better, and I am also counting calories in an effort to lose a bit a weight.

As I was weighing myself this morning and reflecting on the idea of resolutions, I suddenly thought to myself, “What Would Jesus Resolve?” In some ways, this is perhaps a ridiculous question, as I don’t aim to impose modern notions of New Year’s Resolutions on Jesus (though, according to Wikipedia, Resolutions actually have ancient origins, and a parallel practice is observed at the Jewish New Year, so who knows?). Furthermore, Resolutions generally involve improving ourselves, or correcting some sort of vice or perceived deficiency: as the Perfect Human, what did Jesus need to improve upon?

Still, in another sense, Resolutions are about establishing and ordering priorities: what will we focus on in the New Year? What are the important things that need our attention? In this sense, I think we are on firmer ground, because Jesus’ teachings and actions absolutely reveal his priorities. In Mark 12.29-31, Jesus says that the two greatest commandments are to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

In his own life, Jesus reflected his love for the Father by perfectly following his will and keeping his commandments (cf. John 14.15, 21, 23), and showed his love for others in his healing, his teaching, his service, and ultimately, in his death on behalf of all humanity (cf. John 15.13).

Whether you believe in New Year’s Resolutions or not, if you are a Christian, you should resolve to love God and other people more each and every day. This is the heart of the Christian message. It is what Jesus resolved/intended/purposed to do each day of his life, and it is what his followers should do as well.

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