As the end of another year approaches – it provides me with a new opportunity for reflection and examination. This is a grace infused exercise meant to help me grow, as a disciple and as a leader. It’s not a guilt trip or a legalistic ‘to do’ list to breed shame or pride.
Here is a list that I designed for myself – and some of the questions/issues you might fond helpful too:
What can I celebrate?
What do I need to bring closure to?
What keeps tripping me up?
Who do I want to become?
Who do I want to influence?
What is my plan?
what disciplines do I need to adopt?
how can I master my diary?
who/what should I be reading & listening to?
who do I need to talk to?
how does my accountability look like?
Pauls’ leadership encouragement to Timothy is a helpful reminder here:
2 Timothy 2:3-6 (NLT): 3 Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. 5 And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. 6 And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor.
Communion (or however your particular ‘tribe’ calls it) is such an amazing opportunity. Yet, like all good things in life, it can be taken for granted so easily. Another danger is that we come glibly and carelessly to His table. A legalistic approach that seems to only stress the preparation leading to the first Sunday of the month seems to miss the point and simply engages in a one off ritualistic awareness of the meaning of communion.
The Apostle Paul seems to address a whole host of dangers and problems when he writes with almost tweetable brevity: 1 Corinthians 11:28: “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”
Here are some questions that could be useful as we examine ourselves in preparation:
– Have I understood and experienced the Good News of God’s redemptive love demonstrated at the Cross? – Do I recognise and admit my attitudes and actions that are the remaining relics of my sinful nature? – Do I have a repentant desire to move away from sin to grace-led freedom and victory? – Do I still stand/bow in awe of God’s lavish grace being made available for me day by day? – Do I forgive as I am forgiven – living as a debtor that has been set free, to set others free? – Do I embrace the resurrection power of Christ that enables me to live fully his kingdom in my world?
O MY SAVIOUR, Help me. I am so slow to learn, so prone to forget, so weak to climb; I am in the foothills when I should be on the heights; I am pained by my graceless heart, my prayerless days, my poverty of love, my sloth in the heavenly race, my sullied conscience, my wasted hours, my unspent opportunities. I am blind while light shines around me: take the scales from my eyes, grind to dust the evil heart of unbelief. Make it my chiefest joy to study thee, meditate on thee, gaze on thee, sit like Mary at thy feet, lean like John on thy breast, appeal like Peter to thy love, count like Paul all things dung. Give me increase and progress in grace so that there may be more decision in my character, more vigour in my purposes, more elevation in my life, more fervour in my devotion, more constancy in my zeal. Valley of Vision
There is plenty of talk about revival in the church – which betrays a genuine longing for God’s kingdom to break out in ever increasing influence. On the other hand, you have a perennial lottery like mentality – if we keep predicting it and talking about it – it might come true. The danger with that is the ‘cry wolf’ syndrome that creates a cynicism towards the subject.
J. I. Packer is helpful in the essay: “The Glory of God and the Reviving of Religion” in A God-Entranced Vision of All Things (pp. 100-104):
Revival is God touching minds and hearts in an arresting, devastating, exalting way, to draw them to himself through working from the inside out rather than from the outside in. It is God accelerating, intensifying, and extending the work of grace that goes on in every Christian’s life, but is sometimes overshadowed and somewhat smothered by the impact of other forces. It is the near presence of God giving new power to the gospel of sin and grace. It is the Holy Spirit sensitising souls to divine realities and so generating deep-level responses to God in the form of faith and repentance, praise and prayer, love and joy, works of benevolence and service and initiatives of outreach and sharing.
What would a revived/renewed community of Christ followers look like, then?
divinely supernatural community – this cannot happen by just working harder and dreaming bigger – it is a sovereign surprising act of God’s kindness and power
emotionally healthy community who displays visible signs of an encounter with God’s goodness
redemptively authentic and transparent community – where sin is not hidden in shame but exposed and redeemed by the extravagant grace and powerful Spirit
outward focused relational & missional community – that overflows with the streams of living water that come from Christ Himself
humble and anonymous spotlight-giving community in which Christ is the Star and we are the grateful and privileged best-supporting acts
Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Psalm 85:6