Archives For New Year

200255412-001HEARTLAND | Meredith Flynn

I got stuck in a shopping center right before Christmas. My ride wasn’t coming for another hour, and I had already been in every store. I pulled out my phone, hit the round button and…nothing. Dead battery.

Without anything else to do, and almost an hour of free time stretching out in front of me, I decided to think.

For 45 whole minutes. (It took me 15 minutes to decide to think in the first place.)

It was an idea that had been percolating for a few weeks. In my work, and probably every other job, good ideas are essential. Creativity is key. And I had been out of both for a while. Maybe if I think – just think – for a few minutes, I’ll have some good ideas, I thought.

So I did. And as I thought – in my case, going through the next issue of our newspaper page by page – thinking quickly turned into praying:

What feature story should go on page 11?

Which columnists should we use on page 5?

What headline will catch people’s attention on page 1?

When my husband pulled into the parking lot, I didn’t have any big answers. But I did have some ideas. And I felt calmer after having turned over some of my concerns to God, who understands the value of creativity.

That’s why one of my New Year’s resolutions is to think. For at least half an hour every day. I admit, I’ve already failed; it will be a difficult discipline for me. But its value extends to areas outside of work too. If I thought a little more – about how I could give more generously, speak more lovingly, or live more joyously – I’m sure God will be faithful to show me how.

I know what you’re thinking – this is less about thinking than it is about praying. It’s basically a resolution to pray more, which lots of Christians probably make every year. All true. But I find that resolving to pray more often ends up in me staring at the ceiling, thinking about all I need to do.

I’m a list maker. Maybe you are too. As the lists get longer of everything I need to do, I can get too busy to think or pray about what I’m doing. But what if I resolved to take seriously the charge in Philippians 4:6? “…Through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”

So, I’ll think in 2014. My prayer life depends on it.

Be it (still) resolved

Meredith Flynn —  January 1, 2014

Scott_Kelly_blogCOMMENTARY | Scott Kelly

At this time of year, it’s likely that someone may ask us this question: “Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?” And when asked, we usually answer: “Lose weight,” or “Read the Bible more,” or something like that. Our culture’s common thinking on resolutions tends to be individualized thinking about our own personal goals. That’s normal, right?

Not if you’re an Illinois Baptist. Our family of churches makes resolutions together. We make these resolutions not as individuals, but as a gathering of Christians from hundreds of Illinois Baptist churches. And we make these large-group resolutions at a strange time, in early-to-middle November, not on January 1. These resolutions are part of our Annual Meeting every year.

My dear Illinois Baptist family, now that the New Year has come, I must gently ask: Do we even remember our resolutions from our annual meeting this past November? The messengers from our churches enthusiastically approved resolutions about marriage, religious freedom, human trafficking, and state-sponsored gambling. As we gather in our churches for our first prayer meetings of 2014, let’s remember our resolutions and keep praying about these things that we were so resolved about on those days in November.

I left our annual meeting very encouraged by what God is doing through our Great Commission work in Illinois. As I boarded the last Amtrak train out of Springfield a few hours after our last meeting session had ended, I was still affected by the last-minute resolution that one of our brothers proposed regarding repentance and evangelism.

The wording of the resolution was both convicting and inspiring – and repentant. We resolved we should “repent of our unfaithfulness to God and beg for His mercy, grace and forgiveness because at times we have all failed to faithfully and regularly share the Gospel.”

Furthermore, we said, “All members of Illinois Baptist State Association churches are encouraged to regularly pray for God to give His people the ability to speak HIS message with boldness and clarity by the power of the Holy Spirit, and regularly pray for all to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.”

Illinois Baptists, let’s keep repenting and sharing the Gospel in 2014, so that we may truly grow as churches together advancing the Gospel.

And may God receive all the glory!

Scott Kelly is pastor at Evanston Baptist Church and director of the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at Northwestern University.

calendar_blog copyThe web is bursting today with lists that highlight the year’s biggest stories, like this one compiled by the Religion Newswriters Association. The group chose the selection of Pope Francis as the top religion news story of 2013, followed by Pope Benedict’s resignation as #2.

Also on the list: The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (#3), the death of Nelson Mandela (#6), and controversial action taken by the Boy Scouts of America (#9). Rounding out the top 10: Muslims and other people of faith react to the Boston Marathon bombings.

And check out these lists:

NEWS

  • The staff of the Illinois Baptist has published our list of the year’s biggest stories, led by the debate over same-sex marriage in Illinois. For the full list, go to ibonline.IBSA.org, click on Archives and search for December 16.
  • The Christian Post introduced its list of most-read stories with a sad disclaimer: “A year of heartbreaking personal tragedies suffered by Christian leaders appeared all too often as the main news at The Christian Post and the Church & Ministry section in 2013.” The website’s most read story was about the suicide of Matthew Warren, son of Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren.

MINISTRY

CULTURE

What are your favorite year-end lists so far? What stories and trends would you add to these?

pull quote_MIGLIORATTIHEARTLAND | Phil Miglioratti

Our Father in heaven, we glorify you name,
For You are God, Savior, Redeemer.
For You are holy, righteous, pure and perfect in all Your ways.

This year, 2013, reveal to us Your Kingdom,
Your priorities and Your plans for our lives and our ministries.

Reveal to us Your will,
Your assignments for our lives and our minsitries.

Give us bread, today and every day,
The resources we need to meet all our needs of body, soul and spirit,
The opportunities that prompt us to look beyond ourselves to serve others as good stewards of the gifts You grant to us,

Forgive us our sins
By first convicting us by Your Spirit of all that is within us that hurts You and harms Your message,
By granting us genuine contrition that we may go beyond confession to change, transformed by the renewing of our minds.

And help us forgive those who have sinned against us,
Which frees us from anger, resentment and chronic hurt, and enables us to pray for those who have acted as our enemies.

Lead us Lord,
Away from those habits, appetites, strong desires and terrible temptations that enslave us to selfish decisions and sinful actions.

Deliver us Lord,
From evil and the evil one, your enemy from the beginning who seeks to steal, kills and destroy our testimonies and our minsitries.

We declare into the heavens and throughout the earth, these belong to You and You alone.
The rule and reign of Christ’s Kingdom here now and into forever.
The power to give life, endless and limitless life, by and in and with Christ.
The glory of Christ, who will be worshiped by all and loved by those who know Him…forever.

Phil Miglioratti is IBSA’s prayer ministries consultant.