Happy New Year!
I hope you had an amazing 2011 full of God’s blessings. I love looking back at the prior year with gratitude and forming intentions for the New Year. As I have been preparing for the New Year an acronym began to form in my mind and a scripture verse came to mind. First, the verse–
For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
2 Timothy 1:6 (NASB)
Five Core Intentions for the New Year
This passage came to mind because I thought of a fitting acronym for five core intentions to hold this year: S.P.A.R.K.
I feel like my spiritual fire has died down a bit over the last year even though I have had some amazing growth in my understanding of the Bible. Two specific activities helped me in this area. First, during the Summer I taught a series called Peoples and Places of the Bible. I gained so much from doing deeper study of the geography and the various groups of the Bible such as, the Philistines, Samaritans, Scribes and Pharisees, etc. Second, I have researched and written my own summaries of the books of the Bible for my Through The Bible in A Year Program (well…okay, I am behind still by about a dozen books but should have them finished within the next couple of weeks).
Getting back to getting fired up…
For a long time I have been envisioning a discipleship program on the basics of faith based upon an acronym SPA–Study, Prayer and Action. In fact, that acronym drives a lot of my choices around posts for The Practical Disciple. I am always trying to share with you concrete actionable ideas around these three basic areas.
Each one feeds a critical part of what it means to be a Christian. Being Christian in part means believing certain doctrines. We grow in our understanding of doctrine through study. Being Christian means having a relationship with God. We feed that relationship and grow in it by communicating with God in prayer. Also, being Christian involves our behavior. We are called to follow Christ. So, the actions we take reveal and strengthen our faithfulness to God.
While just about every aspect of being a Christian can somehow be categorized under study, prayer and action I have felt particularly compelled this last year to become very intentional about Sabbath. Experientially, I have been recognizing the need for Sabbath. Heavy laden with fatigue I am too often incapable of giving God my very best. Biblically, I have also come to recognize just how seriously God takes the Sabbath. It is a command not a suggestion. Coupling those realizations together I have come to a place of knowing that I have to get intentional about Sabbath. Hence the addition of an ‘R’ to my acronym ‘SPA’.
So what about the “K”?
Honestly, at first I just grabbed hold of ‘K’ because I thought spark was a cool acronym and then I started looking for what might fit it. ‘Kindling’ came to mind and I love it. Why? To sustain a fire you always need to be doing adding new material to it.
It’s really easy to get in ruts if you have been a Christian for awhile. When you are new to faith, everything is novel, exciting and engaging. As you grow in faith though you can begin to take things for granted, become complacent, and stagnate. Paul realize this and thats why he encouraged a young man name Timothy penning the verse quoted above. Timothy was young in the faith, but about to be stepping out on his own. Paul new that if he wasn’t intentional about tending the gift, specifically, the Holy Spirit, within him, the fire could die.
The word kindling added to my acronym says to me, “Don’t forget to be intentional about always feeding your fire. Go out, gather fresh wood and add a bit from time to time to keep the fire burning bright. Don’t just do what you have always done in faith. Explore gather and grow.”
So what about that verse?
Once my acronym fell into place, the verse shared above readily leapt to mind. I specifically picked the NASB translation because it best captures the greek. In greek there is a single verb that gets translated in the NASB as “kindle afresh”. Many translations go with something like, “fan into flames.” The idea behind the greek verb is that of stoking back into a life an existing fire that needs attention.
Every 90 days I craft measurable goals. I typically set work, personal and financial goals. Within my personal goals sometimes I will have something specific to my faith development. During this next year I will be SPARKing my faith with goals fitting to each of my five intentions to Study, Pray, Act, Rest, and Kindle.
Consider these questions:
What have you learned in the past 12 months and how has it changed you?
What would you love to learn or understand better as a disciple in 2012?
To learn or understand this what or how would you need to study?
How close do you feel to God? What change could you make in your prayer life to deepen your relationship with God?
What old habit do you need to let go of?
What new habit should you take on in its place?
Are you rested or fatigued? Do you honor the Sabbath?
What new experiences did you have in the past year that helped you grow in faith?
What new experiences would you like to have this next year?
What is something you have always wanted to do as a disciple, but never done?
What are three small actions you could take that would help you step forward in faith?
I will be sharing some of my SPARK goals in the weeks to come. I invite you to share at least one of your intentions in the comments below.
May God bless you with an awesome epic New Year,
The Practical Disciple