10 to the End Day 10: CELEBRATE!

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It’s January 1 and you’ve made it to a New Year! We’ve spent time reflecting on what was and planning for what will be. Now, in this moment, whatever moment you have while reading this, take a moment to celebrate. No, we’re not simply celebrating what God did for us in 2017. We’re not just celebrating the fact that we’ve made it to a new year. We’re celebrating everything that God has for us in the coming year. Things we can’t even see yet, we’re celebrating them because we trust that God will bring them to pass.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

I don’t know how 2017 treated you but my prayer is that you’ve released that from your mind, body and soul so that you can fully embrace what’s to come.In 2018 let’s keep the above verse from Jeremiah as a reminder that no matter what happens in the coming year, regardless of how tough things could get, no matter how many unexpected things could possibly come our way, the goal is not for God to harm us but for God to use every single thing in our lives to give us hope and a prosperous future. We are celebrating God’s love for us that goes ahead of us in every situation to make sure that we are able to find some way for everything that comes our way to benefit us.

We have released what has passed.

We are living in and making the best of what is present.

We are celebrating everything that is to come.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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10 to the End Day 9: Call it What it Will Be

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In our battle with relinquishing control to God, there is good news for us! Although we have chosen to give God the ultimate power over our lives, God has chosen to give us access to the same power God has, simply because we have committed to a life of faith.As you’re preparing your plans for 2018 don’t forget the power you have that is given to us by God to manifest the vision we’ve been given in our lives, by the faith we have already claimed to have in God.

It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak…

2 Corinthians 4:12-13

In the bible, from the creation story, to the story of Jesus calming the storm, we are shown God’s ability to create, bring forth life, command an outcome by speaking. And because we believe, we must also recognize our access to the power to do the same. With this in mind, in the new year, we have to make it a habit to speak to ourselves and to our plans in a way that affirms this power. Whatever your plans are, as you are confident you have God’s blessing to pursue them, make sure that your speech, your prayers over them are positive affirmations. No more, “I hope,” “I wish,” “ifs,” and “I want.” Modify those to definitive statements based in your confidence in God and the power you have as a result of that.

Don’t speak things as though you hope for them to become, speak to your plans, your attitudes, your intentions, your daily struggles with the authority to call them what they will be, before you’ve ever seen any evidence of change.

Task:

  1. Write down the things you would like to accomplish in the most important areas of your life i.e. your professional life, your family life, your faith, your social life etc.
  2. look at what you’ve written down. Are there words of uncertainty? Have you included “I hope” “I wish”?
  3. Make each accomplishment into a powerful affirmation. (ex: Instead of “I hope to improve my financial stability,” say, “I will improve my financial stability.”)
  4. Post your affirmations in a place that you will have to see them each day. Read them aloud and believe them as you work toward the steps to bring them to fruition.

 

 

 

 

10 to the End Day 3: Proverbs and Priorities

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If there’s anything a Type A person is serious about, it’s our time. There never seems to be enough of it to accomplish all of our plans AND rest. There’s always a task that demands much of our time and attention and many of us struggle with balancing things of importance and prioritizing things that don’t bring us immediate results. So here’s a question, in 2017 what got the majority of your time and attention? Did you procrastinate? Did you neglect one area of your life to prioritize another? Was there anything you rushed toward in this last year that could have waited?

There is a proverb that says,

The plans of people who work hard succeed. You can be just as sure that those in a hurry will become poor.

Proverbs 21:5

There you have it, a scripture praising work ethic. But there is much more to explore here that can help us wrap up 2017 with honest evaluation. The scripture says those who work hard succeed, it doesn’t say that only people who work hard on things that are good will be successful. Some of us, myself included, worked very hard toward some things in this past year that did not end up serving us well. We spent much too much time working toward some activities, or relationships that were not in God’s plans for us simply because they seemed to make sense to us or because they were what we wanted. And that work was successful at something, but not at elevating us closer to our purpose in the body of Christ and in our relationship with God.

We must be careful next year where we spend our time and energy being mindful of the results it my yield us. Too much time at work will lead to success in your respective field but could also lead to unsuccessful personal relationships if you’re not careful. Spending big chunks of time with friends or a significant other may lead to success in those relationships but could you be neglecting time with family or on school or work? Spending too much time obsessing over something that is out of your control, or dedicating too much energy to negative feelings will make you successful at keeping yourself in a constant negative state of mind. And in all of these things, are we spending enough time growing our relationship with God?

Rushing toward the plans we’ve made for ourselves while overlooking the need to prioritize other areas of our lives, including our relationship with God can certainly leave us poor in the areas we neglect. So in the coming year, let’s make sure we are creating balance. Try setting alarms for prayer times, designating a day/time per week for strictly family activities (if your schedule allows such), using phone apps to make to do lists and hold yourself accountable to putting them in order of priority and holding yourself accountable to that. We are only one person so we sometimes can’t be perfect in our priorities, but recognizing that as a need, is important to being well-rounded and being focused on our calling.

Priorities Activity:

Write down the answers to these questions for consideration:

  1. How did you spend most of your time this year?
  2. What got most of your attention?
  3. What needs more of your attention?
  4. Where did you fit in relationship building time with God?
  5. What can you do to make better use of your time in the coming year?

If any of your interpersonal relationships suffered this past year as a result of time management, try asking the people in your life what they would like to see from you and reaching a compromise. This often lets people know they are important to you. 

 

10 to the End Day 6: Comfort & Assistance

Gratitude (2)

We’ve spent the last 5 devotionals reflecting on 2017 and bringing it to a close. As we continue on our 10 to the end posts, we transition into bringing forth what’s to come in the future.

We are just days away from walking into a new year. We get a brand new start, 365 days of a clean slate. By now, we should all have at least 1 plan for the next year. There is something we need to start, continue, or finish in the next year that is going to take some time and some careful consideration. We’re going into a new year with new things on our hearts and a determination to see them through. Some of us may have some plans that really don’t make any sense to us right now. Maybe God has given you a vision that you don’t currently have the resources to bring to fruition. Maybe God is sending you somewhere you’ve never been and you’re nervous about how you’ll be received. Maybe you’re trying something again that you’ve failed at in the past and you’re beginning to wonder if it’s even worth it anymore.

Today’s devotional is a simple reminder that, sprinkled throughout the bible, there are promises God made to us through those who wrote down their stories. God made us promises that have lasted thousands of years and if you believe God is honest, they are helpful when encouraging yourself as you walk into 2018.

My favorite Promise God made is found in Isaiah

For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

Isaiah 41:13

It seems so simple, but it really gives me a feeling of tenderness from God. Too often we are encouraged to think of God as high in the sky and eager to judge. This verse reminds me, that God is personal enough to hold my hand and to tell me not to be afraid because God is going to actually help me.

Whatever it is that God has placed on your heart for the coming year, even if you’re not quite sure yet what God is doing in your life in 2018, we can all rest assured that we won’t be forced to do it alone. The very same God who has power over everything, understands that what you’re tasked with in the coming year can be overwhelming and has already promised you comfort and assistance.

Bible Study Tools has complied a list of 50 of God’s promises found in the bible. Go through it and pick out the ones that resonate with you most going into 2018 and display them somewhere that will help encourage you in the coming year. Approach your 2018 plans with purpose, bravery, and peace knowing you’re not doing this alone.

 

 

10 to the End Day 5: Love Was the Motive

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On this day each year, we observe the coming of Christ as the ultimate display of God’s love for us. From the beginning of time, God knew we wouldn’t be able to fully achieve the relationship God desired with us. We are imperfect and incapable of being clean enough to stand in God’s presence. God knew that and could have just shrugged it off, after all, it’s our own fault. But instead, God loved us all, past, present, and future, and wanted to give us the opportunity to have a full live and whole relationship with God. So, he sent a piece of himself in the flesh to liberate us from all the things that could have kept us out of his presence and now we have the privilege to talk to God and spend time with God in full freedom.

As we prepare for the coming year, remember that our entire story as Christians begins with love; not condemnation, not judgement, not shame. It was God’s deepest desire to have us as close as possible in the now and the forever. Remember that when you make mistakes. Remember that when you’re overwhelmed and feel like you have no one to talk to. Remember that when you feel like you’ve failed God beyond repair. God already knew we’d feel this way and made provisions for us in the form of a baby that would eventually grow to be a living, breathing, and eventually a dying example of the lengths God would go to give us the best parts of him. Love was the motive the entire time.

God bless you all on this holiday. I pray that you are surrounded by love, peace and comfort. And if you are able to surround yourself with it, I pray that God is able to bring it forth from inside you.

Merry Christmas!

10 to the End Day 4: Who was God?

Gratitude

As we’re having our moments of introspection to close out our 2017, it’s important that as we’re looking at ourselves, we also look to God. We have all, at some point, asked God to be head of our lives but surrendering to God is not a 1 time activity. We need to challenge ourselves to continuously surrender our fear of not having control to God.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

Revelation 3:20

We have already expressed we’d like a relationship with God and to know God is to know that you will never be totally left to your own devices. However, Christ does not force His way into our lives. God is always who God is, but we have still have to invite God to be who God is personally to us.

So, very simply, who has God been to you this year? Was God your go to consultant when you needed to make heavy decisions? or was God your back up plan when what you planned to do did not work? Did you trust God to be your provider this year? Or were you constantly stressing about how the things you need would materialize? Who were you to God? Were you a close friend or a distant relative?

Before we truly move forward into a new year with God being examples of Christ’s love, we have to be honest with ourselves and with God about where we are in our relationship with one another. Some of us may be able to celebrate immense growth in our spiritual lives, while others of us may notice the points in our lives where we used God instead of loved God. Some of us may be able to celebrate and challenge ourselves to do better at the same time.

Ultimately, as we move forward, it’s important we recognize who we are moving forward with.

Who is God activity:

  1. Make a list of who you allowed God to be for you this year? What areas of your life did you willingly invite God into?
  2. Next, make a list of who you needed God to be for you this year? Where didn’t you allow God to take full control that you need to reevaluate for the coming year?
  3. Look at both of these lists and take time to envision how you will merge the two in the coming year.

10 to the End: Day 2 Learn and Let Go.

For many of us who seek to be in control of every aspect of our lives, acknowledging our shortcomings either comes with immense guilt and shame, or we don’t acknowledge them at all. We’re either beating ourselves up for allowing ourselves space and opportunity to make such mistakes, or we’re refusing to address a shortcoming at all hoping we can just forget it and move on. Neither is a very healthy way to deal with disappointment or failure.

If you’ve had a year like mine, maybe you may have set some goals for yourself and fallen short of where you imagined you’d by at this point in the year. Whether this was a career expectation, a vision for your personal life, or just simply a goal to be a different kind of person by now. The first thing we should do is to acknowledge that. It is obedient for us to acknowledge our shortcomings. Even if there were other factors that lead to you being thrown off course, you can only take responsibility for your piece of that puzzle. If you could have been more diligent, if you shouldn’t have revisited a door that God already previously closed, if you just simply lost sight of the goal altogether, we can use that as our starting point.

Once we’ve identified the places in our lives where we could improve, before you decide to gather the broken pieces and attempt to move on, it’s important to take into consideration that these shortcomings will not be your demise. As long as you desire to be in God’s will, God is able and willing to use those very mistakes to continue elevating you to exactly the place you were intended to be in the first place. If you recall in a previous devotion Chasing After You, we discussed and rejoiced in the fact that God is not surprised by our ability to fall of course. In fact, God already anticipated that and already set a plan in motion to chase you down and redirect you.

Psalms 119: 71 says, “It was good for me to be humbled so that I could learn your justifications.”

Although we strive each day not to make decisions that are not good for us and our journey with Christ, we must also acknowledge the lessons we are able to learn from our mistakes. It is true that some of the lessons we learn through our mistakes could have been avoided, but let’s not spend the time we could be using to gather lessons, on wishing that things were different. What is done is done and God is still who God always is; and that is a God who is capable of taking our wrongs and using them to elevate us and to glorify God.

Picking up the Pieces Exercise

Before moving on, let’s spend time reminding ourselves of what God is capable of doing with our mistakes with a short exercise.

  1. When you think of the words “failure” or “Shortcoming” what comes to mind for you this year? Write them down without censoring yourself.
  2. What were some of the repercussions of those failures or shortcomings? Write those down.
  3. Try to think of some of the lessons you can recover from these instances. What do you believe you should have learned from making these mistakes. Write those down on a seperate piece of paper. (Some of these lessons may not be evident to you at the moment and that is ok. God will reveal them in time).
  4. Isaiah 43:25 says “I, yes, I alone — will blot out your sins for my own sake and never think of them again.” God doesn’t hold our failures over our heads which is our permission to release the guilt and shame from our lives as well. This could be a long process but as a symbol that we recognize we don’t have to live victimized by our mistakes,  find a way to destroy the paper listing your failures or shortcomings from this year. Try tearing the paper, burnin the paper etc. Anything that makes it impossible for you to revisit on paper.
  5. Display the paper listing the lessons you should have learned from your mistakes somewhere visible to you. You don’t need to make these public. Truly make an effort to remind yourself of the lessons and NOT the failures.
  6. Pray a prayer for forgiveness from God and for yourself. Invite forgiveness into your own heart so that you can continue living and working toward your goals without crippling regret.

10 to the End Day 1: Gratitude

Gratitude

As the year comes to a close, it is every Type A person’s instinct is to begin planning for what’s to come. Many of us have already began planning since the 4th quarter of 2017 began. We have big plans and small plans and back up plans and everything in between. Some of us had a great year, others of us are barely hanging on and are seemingly being dragged into the next season. But no matter what kind of year you’ve had, no matter what kinds of plans you have for the next, one thing we cannot forget to do is to reflect.

Reflection, for me, begins with gratitude and celebration. It is so easy, as people who desire control to put our blinders on and always be looking for what’s next. We often overlook what has already happened to rush toward what’s to come. But if we are seeking to be obedient, it’s imperative that we spend time during our preparation for what’s next to fully close this chapter being thankful for something.

This is especially important for those of us who have had a rough year. Maybe this year was supposed to turn out totally differently but it all just fell apart and you could barely hold it together.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.”

Therefore, in obedience, we should spend time in our preparation for what’s next to thank God for something. ANYTHING. From your biggest wins, to the fact that you are still breathing and have a chance to recover after your greatest failure. We cannot fully prepare for what’s to come if we have not, first acknowledged God’s faithfulness to us in what has passed.

Philippians 4:12-13 is a great reminder to be grateful. It says,

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.”

Whatever it is you were able to accomplish this year, it was through the strength given to you. Whatever hardships you had to endure this year, you made it out because of the faithfulness of God. There is always something to be grateful for. So before you lift your pen to write your goals, before you place your fingers on your keyboard to plan out all of next year’s accomplishments, before you listen to your favorite moguls advice for how to make next year your year, take some time to tell God thank you. If you’re looking for further biblical inspiration for gratitude, check out this list from echurch that includes 20 bible verses on gratitude and thanksgiving.

Gratitude Activity:

  1. Make a list of everything you’ve been through this year that was important. Don’t worry about whether it was good or bad. Just write down anything that comes to mind that stood out to you this year.
  2. Go through the list and write at least 1 thing you can be grateful for in each of those instances.
  3. Pause and say a prayer of gratitude that includes each thing on the list. Make sure this is a prayer that doesn’t make any requests. This is strictly a thank you. Spend time meditating on what you’re thanking God for so that you can really inspire the feelings of gratitude to match your prayer.
  4. Post your gratitude list somewhere visible (to you. Doesn’t have to be made public) as a reminder to yourself to remain grateful. Add things periodically as you remember them.