This blog grows out of my conviction that every aspect of our lives is sacred and is to be nurtured and celebrated as a good gift of God. Most of the posts will be the sorts of things you would expect from a historian and worldview teacher, but some are likely to be a bit surprising. Since God created all things good, including all aspects of human life, everything is interesting and important from the perspective of a biblical worldview. Everything under the Sun and under Heaven is thus fair game here. I hope you find it interesting and enjoyable.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Priorities for the New Year

As we are looking to the New Year, how should we set our priorities?

Jesus said that the greatest commandment is, “‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Mark 12:29-31)

What does this tell us about priorities? First, the most important thing in our lives from God’s perspective is our relationships with Him and with each other. Everything He expects from us is built on the quality of our relationships.

Second, the kind of love that Jesus is talking about here isn’t primarily emotional. It isn’t even a feeling, it’s an action. Jesus tells us that if we love him, we will obey him (John 14:15, 21): love is demonstrated in the concrete actions we do to please and serve the one we love. Similarly, John tells us that if we do not take practical steps to help others in need we don’t love them (1 Jn. 3:17), and if we don’t love them, we don’t love God (1 Jn. 4:20). Even self-love is defined by Paul in terms of taking care of our own needs (Eph. 5:28-29).

As a starting point, I suggest some self-assessment: how well are we doing in loving God with our whole being as measured by our obedience to Him? How are we doing in loving our neighbors as measured by our service to them, starting with our families and working outward from there?

As I noted in the "New Year's Resolutions" post, if you try to change everything at once, you will fail. What is one specific thing you can do to improve in each of these areas? Maybe there’s a specific sin in your life that you need to overcome. Maybe you need to be more consistent in your Bible reading or prayer life. Maybe you can do something each day to help your spouse around the house. Pick something that you can make a daily habit, write it down, and work on it consistently for one month. At the end of the month reassess yourself and see if you are ready to make another change. Repeat this process each month. If you do this consistently all year, you will find that you’ve grown considerably in obeying these two commandments.

In addition to these areas, however, personal development is also important. If we are going to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we should also seek to grow in all these areas. We’ll look at some ideas about how to do this in the next post.