Abi May (also credited as Chris Hunt) is a former contributor to Activated from Great Britain.
The New Year is a great time to take stock of the past year and set goals for the next. Here’s a spiritual exercise to that end. (You will need one large candle and one small one.)
Begin by lighting the large candle, which represents Jesus, the light of the world. Read and think about these verses from the Bible:
The Bible is a rich storehouse of spiritual and practical advice, and examples of strong relationships are one of the recurrent themes. In fact, Martin Luther commented that the entire Christian life consists of relating to people around us.1
So what can we learn from the Bible about how to succeed with people?
If there is anything that Easter reminds us, it is that “salvation”—God’s wonderful gift of peace with Him in this life and in the life to come—is not something we achieve by what we do. It’s something that has already been done for us. Jesus died on the cross for our sins; He rose again on the third day. He did it, not us.
Happiness is made up of many things: it is a smile of a child, the golden glows of a sunrise, the warm hug of a loved one, health after sickness. But such happiness is also transitory: a child does not always smile, the sunrise may be overshadowed with dark clouds, a loved one may leave, sickness may not pass. There is another happiness, that is deeper and everlasting, and that is the happiness that comes into your soul when you realise the depth, breadth, and height of God’s love for you, a love embodied in His Son, Jesus.
On one of those glorious spring days that make your heart sing, our family went on a day’s outing to Bodnant, a famous botanical garden in North Wales. We spent hours exploring 80 acres of lawns and terraces; bathing in a cascade of color and fragrance as we walked amongst the rhododendrons, tulips, and lilies; admiring the specimen trees lurching up to touch the blue sky, framed in the distance by the mountains of Snowdonia.
Again [Jesus] began to teach by the sea. And a great multitude was gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole multitude was on the land facing the sea. Then He taught them many things by parables.––Mark 4:1–2
January is often when people look for a new job—as many as two in five people are actively job hunting in the first month of the year. For some, this might be a sideways shift into a similar role; others might consider a radical career change.
The path of the past year is ending. We can look back at what has passed and recall the happy moments, the unanticipated joys, the good news that arrived like refreshing waters to a thirsty soul.1 Then again, we may also heave a sigh of relief that the troubles of the past year have finally come to an end.2 In between those high and low points, there were the average days when nothing out of the ordinary happened.
The well-known motivational author Norman Vincent Peale wrote, “Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” This quote evokes pictures of a roaring fire in a hearth, with colorful stockings hanging from the mantelshelf; an evergreen tree laden with baubles and tinsel, surrounded by a pile of cheerfully wrapped presents; a happy family sitting comfortably on a sofa, reading stories to their children while they sip hot chocolate. Through the window, we see snowflakes gently falling upon the white ground, sparkling in the moonlight. Is that the soft and beautiful world he imagined?
“Answer me speedily, O Lord; my spirit fails! … I look to the Lord for help. I wait confidently for God to save me, and my God will certainly hear me.”—Psalm 143:7; Micah 7:7 NLT
“The straw that breaks the camel’s back” is the final item in a collection of burdens or troubles, perhaps even a seemingly small thing that threatens to take you beyond the point of endurance. The strain has been building up for a while, and finally you sense that you are about to crumble. You can’t stand it any longer.