3 Critical, Formational Activities for 2013

I long ago gave up making resolutions - it's a lost cause and I end up feeling guilty anyway. Besides, many of my resolutions had to do with habits and struggles that would require a full life change to address, not just a bold statement after the turning of a page. Here are three life-change activities that will begin a process of renovation and transformation for you in 2013.

1. Discover the characteristics of Jesus - I've said in many other posts on this blog, the point of the Christian life is not to ensure what happens when you die but to live an eternal life that begins now. If we only focus on the "sweet-by-and-by" we'll miss 90% of the goodness, beauty, and truth God has made us to live out. The practical way of living out the 90% eternal life is to begin to investigate the characteristics of Jesus. I suggest sitting down with the four Gospels and a journal and reading through the events of Jesus' life, writing down the character traits He expresses in each situation. For example, in the story of Jesus sleeping on the boat in the storm Jesus expresses a relaxed and God-trusting character.

After we identify these characteristics, we can begin to ask the question "Which of these is absent from my life right now?" Once identified, we can focus on the means of developing that characteristic within us. Becoming like Jesus is the way we live out the eternal life now, so identifying where we aren't like Him will help us realize where we aren't truly alive.

2. Define our wants and needs - My wife and I have a second-hand TV that we inherited from her parents and we've had it for several years. It sometimes blinks out and comes back on, and we're just waiting for it to die at this point. We've debated buying a new TV but the thought has occurred, "Why would we do that?" For what we use it for, we have what we need.

I cannot think of a more life-renovating statement for 2013 than for us to say: I will live at the level of my needs this year. When we ruthlessly assess exactly what it is that we need and live there rather than pursuing what we want, we will find ourselves living out one of the most basic principles of the Kingdom of God (translated: "life where God gets His way").

"...your heavenly Father knows (what you) need...But seek first His Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these (needs) will be given to you as well." (Matt. 6:32-33, parenthesis added)

When we pursue our needs, we have the clutter of want cleared away and are able to see what it would really look like for God to have His way in our life. Make a wish list of things you currently want in your life (material, emotional, spiritual, relational) and then take two different colored pens or markers and mark the things that are "wants" and the things that are "needs." What do you notice about that list?

3. Pray for God's vision for your life - James Bryan Smith tells the story about going to Brazil for the first time and working with churches and falling in love with the people. One problem - he didn't speak Portuguese and therefore there was a barrier between him and the people. So, he returned home and immediately bought language software and audited a class on Portuguese so that he could communicate with the people he loved.

The point of that story is to convey one very powerful truth: when you have a vision of life being better or different in some way, you have to form the intention to change it and pursue the means of change. Now, apply this in prayer: Is the vision of life that Jesus presents - hopeful, faithful, playful, and joyful even when things are falling apart - compelling enough for me to form an intention and seek the means to live like Him?

If we want to speak Portuguese, we can do that. If you want to become like Jesus, we can do that too. Pray that God would open doors to see the vision of the best life ever - the life of Jesus - and give you the courage and strength through His spirit to go in that direction.