As this new year begins, when you look in the mirror, who do you see? In many ways, the person you see in the mirror is the person you are in the process of becoming.
Do you see someone who is a friend and has friends, or do you see a person who keeps others at a distance out of the fear of rejection?
Do you see someone who is happy and content, or someone who is dissatisfied and joyless?
Do you see someone who is loving and caring, or do you see someone who is disagreeable and apathetic?
Do you see someone who thrives on challenges, or do see someone who is afraid of taking risks?
Do you see someone who leads others in a positive way, or do you see someone who is unwilling to take up the responsibility of leading others in any way?
Do you see someone who sacrificially serves others, or do you see someone who selfishly serves themselves?
Do you see someone who is generous in giving, or do you see someone who is interested in taking and really expects others to do the giving?
Do you see someone whose life is focused on becoming more like Jesus, or do you see someone who is more focused on themselves?
Who do you want to be when you look in the mirror in 2023?
What spiritual practice are you embracing to deepen in your faith in this new year? There are lots of options. I want to share with you what I’m doing as an example (though I hope you’ll discover whatever spiritual practice is meaningful to you.)
I’m engaging in journaling through scripture, focusing specifically on all the words Jesus said in the gospel of John. I’m using the YouVersion Bible app that has the words of Jesus in red in the Common English Bible and the New International Version.
The first words John records Jesus saying form a question (that, in itself, I find intriguing—Jesus’ first words aren’t telling people what they should do but ask an exploring question.) The question Jesus asked was: What do you want? (John 1:38)
When I journal, I read over a passage again and again, seeking to pray over it and to be spiritually sensitive to what the Holy Spirit may want me to “get” from the scripture.
Here’s what I wrote in my scripture journal about these first words of Jesus:
What could be the reason Jesus asks this question? Doesn’t Jesus already know what I want? What could be the purpose of the question? Is it to get me to think about what I truly want? Want from Jesus? Want from others? Want from myself?
Does Jesus ask me this question so I might come to grips with what’s most important in my life? With what are the idols in my life? How is it that I even decide what I want?
What do I really want first and foremost from Jesus? I know this much. Jesus, I want you as the Lord of my life to lead me in life because without you I am lost.
I then use the interlinear function of the online Blue Letter Bible (https://www.blueletterbible.org/) that shows the meaning of the Greek words in the New Testament (the good news is that you don’t have to know Greek to use this tool!)
I found there that to “want” means to “seek in order to find” or to “desire”. That leads to more pondering on my part about what it is I really am seeking to find and about what do I truly desire, and then I journal some more.
This gives you an idea of one kind of spiritual practice. I encourage you to consider others. But I do have one hope. I hope everyone in our Journey Church community of faith will read through the gospel of John in 2023 with one goal—to get to know Jesus more and more—who he is and how he lived and what he taught. Then I hope we’ll apply that to our lives.
I had the privilege to serve with a team of Journey youth this past weekend at the Bland Ministry Center. Our youth gave out grocery boxes in freezing temperatures and snow, encountered more chicken juice and moldy produce than they probably cared for, but most importantly they made a huge difference in the lives of hundreds of folks in the Bland area and in the lives of the volunteers who work tirelessly at the Bland Ministry Center. Through it all, the youth served with big smiles, an incredible work ethic, and a willingness to do ANYthing that would be a help to the people there.
Saturday morning our team packed 200 boxes of groceries to be given out to people in need. After lunch, we packed another hundred boxes of groceries, this time with fresh veggies, chicken, and eggs. Cars started lining up for the free groceries before the 2:00p start time. We gave out grocery boxes and packs of Gatorade as the snow and temperature continued to fall.
On Sunday our team worked in the clothing closet sorting through donations and prepped items to be given away through that ministry. We sorted, folded, and rolled linens into sets. We sorted and hung up clothing by gender and sizes. We even sorted through and labeled greeting cards, making it easier for the staff to find what they need. Our youth truly were ready to do anything the staff wanted.
I talked with the staff at the ministry center, and they explained they serve people from Virginia, West Virginia, and even Kentucky. The median age of their volunteers is 75. The staff was overjoyed that our youth would come and help their ministry and their volunteers. As we were leaving Monday morning, we said goodbye to the staff and were able to meet some of their volunteers. They expressed genuine gratitude at all the work we were able to complete in such a short time.
Each night we spent time reflecting on our serving. Here is some of what they learned:
“Many hands make light work.”
“I work better on a team than I thought.”
“I can deal with the cold.”
“Sometimes serving can be painful, bending over, lifting heavy boxes, but it’s nice to see the people you’re helping and to see the smile on their faces. It makes the pain worth it.”
“We are a good team and work well together.”
“Serving is rewarding. It’s really enjoyable to know you are helping others. It’s worth standing outside in the cold and snow.”
“Serving with friends made the work more enjoyable.”
“God can use anyone. Don’t let your weakness or struggles keep you from serving others.”
“It doesn’t matter what the weather or your body throws at you, if you have the right spirit of giving (serving others like you’re serving Jesus), then it doesn’t matter what comes your way. It is worth it.”
“You never know what you’ll see!”
“It feels good to help others.”
“I was getting fatigued while lifting all the Gatorade boxes, I mean they were heavy. But knowing the cause of what we were doing, being God’s hands and feet, it kinda renewed my strength.”
“Small things matter. It doesn’t have to be this monumental thing. Small things matter. They help and are really appreciated.”
Thank you for supporting Journey’s youth ministry. Truly you are making a difference in their hearts and lives. The youth are already talking about their next mission trip!
Do you have regrets? I do. But I can say that my relationship with Jesus helps me deal more gracefully and redemptively with my regrets. How about you?
If you’re wondering why you might experience regret, here are some of the common reasons for regret that the artificial intelligence ChatGPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) generated:
1. Not spending enough time with loved ones
2. Not taking care of your physical and mental health
3. Staying in toxic or unhappy relationships
4. Not saying "I love you" or "I'm sorry" to important people in your life
5. Wasting time on things that didn't matter
6. Not giving back to your community or making a positive impact in the world
7. Not forgiving others or holding grudges
8. Not standing up for what you believe in
9. Not being grateful for the good things in your life
10. Not being there for your family and friends when they needed support
11. Not learning from your mistakes and growing as a person
12. Not saving for your future or preparing for the unexpected
13. Not taking the time to cultivate meaningful relationships
14. Not being courageous enough to pursue your goals and dreams
15. Not being a good role model or mentor to others
16. Not being more patient or understanding with others
17. Not having more meaningful conversations with others
Why do so many people talk about Jesus but not read the Bible? It’s a question put forth by Shane Pruitt.
He says that we’ve all heard people say things like: “I love Jesus, but I don’t like the Bible. I have a deep respect for Jesus, but I don’t agree with the Bible.”
Is the main reason we don’t have an issue with Jesus because it’s a Jesus that we’ve created by our own imagination? We shape and mold Jesus to be what we want Him to be, but the very moment that Jesus no longer appeases us, we create a different Jesus more to our liking. When we do this, we are not worshipping the Jesus of the Bible, but a “Jesus” that we’ve created in our minds.
The Jesus of the Bible will regularly disrupt our lives, call us to difficult things, stand in opposition to our personal preferences. He often does the opposite of what we think he should.
Let’s be honest. His demand to deny ourselves and His commandment to love others can get pretty annoying in our pursuit of happiness.
The Jesus of the Bible challenges our indulgences. He contests the egoistic fine art of “looking out for No. 1.” So, our inclination is to shape Jesus into something more palatable to our personal opinion and preferences.
We want Him to be created in our image. We want to be in control. We want to shape and mold our god to care about what we care about. We want Him to be passionate about what we’re passionate about. We want Him to be angry about what we’re angry about. We think He should tolerate what we tolerate.
If this idea of Jesus is what comes to mind when we worship, pray, give, serve, live—ultimately that is idolatry. It is the worship of a created idol—a misrepresentation of the God of the Bible—one to whom we’ve simply attached the name “Jesus.”
If we truly love the Jesus of the Bible, then we’ll also love the Bible that tells us about Him. An accurate view of Him is necessary to authentic worship. Let’s dive into Scripture to discover who Jesus is so we’ll view things the way he views things. We’ll live how He lives.
Faith in the real Jesus will absolutely change who we are. Are we ready for that?