Will You Join the 2020 Challenge?

January is not yet over, so it’s not too late. Really! Several weeks ago, you were pondering them. How are you doing on your big aims? Are you still full of gusto? Maybe you are still trying, but you’re running out of energy. Or perhaps you’re still pretty cynical?

Down deep, underneath 2020’s road of resolutions, many of us traffic in tremendous cynicism. We secretly think: “Yeah, right! New Year, New You. What a joke!” Truth be told, who can really know what the New Year brings, whether we will soar high or miserably crash in our best endeavors? And many of us are already saying: “Just as I suspected, 2020 is proving to be more of the same!” Some of us were eager to drive a new road and be so done with last year. But deep down you wonder if something can possibly feel—and truly be—wonderfully new in a life-giving, glorious sense. Even if last year was pretty good overall, you likely set some aspirations for 2020 that still seem daunting. Three weeks into the year is a great point to revisit the pondering.

Know this: All your best aspirations for 2020, if they are growth-oriented and Christ-honoring, are amazing and motivating. Author and speaker Andy Andrews says: “Every good thing that has happened in your life happened because something changed.” Maybe 2020 is your year to

Start a new endeavor.

Read more.

Exercise more. Eat less.

Kick a bad habit. Start a good one.

Go back to school.

Drink more water. Drink less mood-altering, wisdom-killing elixirs.

Invest in new friendships.

Plan to ____________ (fill in your own noble aim!).

It’s all very good! But what about progress in new character, the kind of personal development that can propel your momentum in all your good aims for 2020? How about starting the year with a passionate focus on substantive virtues flowing from a renewed and growing faith? Such focus will inform and embolden all your other new efforts.

The aged sage, Saint Peter, winsomely encourages us in his second letter:

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.  (2 Peter 1:3-4, NLT)

You already have everything you need. Now go for it!

Here is encouragement that’s grounded in Christ-focused motivation. Peter says we do indeed have everything we need to live up to our full potential of living a godly life. Our source is Christ Jesus himself. We receive such divine power, not of our human effort, but by his grace. And notice how we access such power and the resulting character virtues. We plug into his power and promises, so we can participate in the divine nature—his character and actions. Jesus’ power and promises can propel us into holy, unique ways to rise above the world’s corrupt and debilitating influences. Peter continues:

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8, NLT)

With Christ’s power and promises, growing disciples build with Peter’s eight subsequent character-building blocks. We intentionally grow in knowing our Lord Jesus Christ. Such knowledge is much more than an intellectual road trip. Yes, it involves gathering right truth. Absolutely! But this robust knowledge is a deeply personal, experiential knowledge. Here is winsome know-how born of tangible, deliberate practice. It’s like learning to drive an automobile. You study your state’s driving manual, the laws of the land, as well as the technical details for maneuverability. But you also really need to get behind a steering wheel and try it out (preferably on a back-country road, a safe distance from the rest of us). God’s knowledge is holistic, a blend of knowing information and skillfully using it.

So you learn greater facts about Jesus’ manner of love as you explore the Gospel accounts, and then you practice his love in selfless, sacrificial ways by serving others. You learn greater facts about Jesus’ manner of pure, holy, faithful living, and then you practice it by making good, wholesome choices in your everyday entertainment and social interactions. You learn more information about sharing Jesus and the life-changing Good News of his kingdom, and you practice proclaiming it with family, friends, and coworkers.

Will you take the 2020 challenge?

I am personally moved by the power of 20s for the big year ahead. I am making a list of 20 good, stretching, growth-oriented endeavors and aims. My 20 include character development, habits that involve discipline, relational cultivation, as well as skills and abilities to hone. Some of my 20 are already regular rhythms of my life that need continued practice, but 7 to 10 represent new—and yes, even difficult—vistas of life development. And I am realizing that in order to make progress in all 20, I am utterly in need of knowing Christ more and more.

Will you join me in taking the 2020 challenge? What’s on your list? Go ahead and make your own list of 20.

Will you apply yourself 20 minutes at a time?

Here’s something you might find shocking. Life experience demonstrates that at least 7 to 10 of your good endeavors can be achieved through just 20 minutes a day. Yes, just 20 minutes a day. You can learn a new musical instrument by committing yourself to practice for 20 minutes a day. You can read a bunch of books this year by reading one at a time, just 20 minutes a day. You can pour into your middle schooler by more intentionally talking—all devices put down—with a starting point of 20 minutes a day over a meal or on a car ride. The list goes on and on. Certainly, one can argue that it takes longer in certain life areas in order to wonderfully excel. But the point is to aim for greater intentionality. In Live in Grace, Walk in Love, Bob Goff encourages us: “We never regret following through on the commitments we’re passionate about and the activities that last. Figure those out and let the rest fall away.” A lot can happen toward conquering and achieving your list of 20 when you commit to the discipline of applying yourself for 20 minutes.

How about 2020 related to God’s Word?

So many Christians say they want the New Year to be their year to really get to know Christ Jesus through truly being in the Word of God every day. This is a marvelous aim! How about dedicating yourself to reading 20 chapters in the Gospels every week? An average reader can read approximately 4 chapters each day across 5 days of each week. Start in Matthew. Read in Matthew all of January. Spend February in Mark’s Gospel, March in Luke, and April in John. By Holy Week and Easter, you will have journeyed many miles with Jesus in his story.

The aim is to truly, deeply, and practically know Christ more. As you read each day, ponder these two questions and jot down your responses:

Q1: What do I learn of Christ, his heart, his history, his real-life example, and his teachings?

Q2: How will I seek today to follow Jesus’ heart, to love others, to work with excellence, and to live out Christ’s powerful new life in my everyday endeavors?

Your responses to each of these questions can be turned into prayers of praise, gratitude, resolve, and commitment. And of course, the big key is making commitments and following through based on Christ’s power and motivation in you.

Okay, I confess. I am still a bit cynical about stereotypical resolutions and where 2020 will take us. But I am also hopeful about 2020 in light of this reality. In Christ, we already have everything we need!

January is not yet over. It’s not too late.

Will you join me in taking the 2020 challenge?

 

 

 

 

Busyness and a Missio Christmas

Christmas Cards

It was in my mailbox again this year—a marvelously mysterious Christmas card from a remarkable businessperson. “But why?” I wonder every year.

Most of us feel the strenuous stress, the tug and the tension of these days. This year is no different. You have extra product to push out the door, additional tasks to conquer, reconnections to make with long-term clients, and hopefully a pleasant handful of new relationships to foster. You also have a wish list a mile long, still to conquer, plus the wrapping, maybe a batch of baking, school concerts, the extra-special church services (queue the child-shepherds, clad in bathrobes), as well as the parties to attend (and possibly one or two to host!), and—well, you know, on and on, ad infinitum. As of this morning, there are just nine days ‘til Christmas—so sorry to scare you.

I am still shaking my head over the card. “Where does she find the time to send it?”

We all have a lot to cram into the upcoming hours, and this thought arrests my psyche this morning. If I do not make the time, in all the busyness of my business, I might miss the fuller significance, the blessed connections, and the real joy. I’m struck again: What was the origin, the purpose—the deeper significance, the real business of Christmas?

A dusty Latin phrase sums it up. Missio dei. The mission of God.[1] The babe of Christmas came and lived in light of his Father’s busy business. Whereas God certainly knows how to pause, to rest and reflect, he also seems very at-home with busyness. We first meet God in his story as an uber-creative, hard-working character (AKA, Creator, see Genesis, chapters 1-2). Across God’s story, he is constantly, intentionally planning and tangibly working out his redemptive plans. He’s busy. When he was a middle school kid, Jesus’ parents lost him in Jerusalem. (Yes, I know, how do you lose Jesus? A deep question to ask Mary and Joe, someday.) They finally found him, several days later, talking it up with the leaders in the Temple. Jesus’ response at his parents’ what were you thinking? is profound with intentionality. He replied, “Didn’t you know I would be busy with my Father’s business?” (my paraphrase; but see Luke 2:49, NKJV) When confronted about his Sabbath work, Jesus said, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” (John 5:17 NLT) Years later, one of Jesus’ followers, an early leader in the movement, Saint John, penned these words. “The Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.” (1 John 4:14 NIV) These words capture the Father’s intentional planning, the busyness of his business, and the full push of the missio dei.

Our mystery card comes from Renae, a phenomenal realtor in Marion, Iowa. She sold our first house for us in 1999, when we were trying to move back to the east coast for a new endeavor. I chuckle now. Renae made a grand windfall of a few hundred dollars on the deal, and she treated us like we were million dollar clients. Every year, we receive the hand-written, personalized Christmas card, and I shake my head in amazement. Call it smart real estate business (you never know whom I might refer her way). Yes, AND we should call it smart mission. She has not forgotten that God’s business places precious, life-changing connections with people right at the forefront!

So, I am compelled to slow down, breathe deep, and remember the WHY behind all of the busyness. I am struck with fresh gratitude for people with whom I can connect, the energy for creativity to produce, and the joyous opportunities to join God in his mission this season and into the New Year.

I pray you make the time to pause and remember the why of this season—and have a very missio Christmas!

 

 


[1]C. Neal Johnson, Business As Mission: A Comprehensive Guide to Theory and Practice (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2009), 28 and 49.