What's in store for 2017

It is healthy, beneficial, advisable to mark the end of one thing and the beginning of another. To celebrate and anticipate. That's what ceremonies for graduations and weddings do for us. Even funerals are the opportunity to grieve the end and to hope for the reunion on That Day.

God instructed the Israelites to do this many times in the Old Testament, to set up markers as reminders of His marvelous works, to enable one generation to tell the next of His faithfulness, to offer encouragement of more to come.

Too often we miss the point of celebrations and expend our energy solely on temporal things like decorations, food, gifts...partying for the sake of partying. We should indeed celebrate - in fact Christians should outdo everyone else in how to celebrate - but we are much more advantaged if those props are the aids to our celebrations and not the reason.

We just ended a year. The new one is beginning.
Instead of just passing from one day to the next, turning the page of the calendar robotically, let's be purposeful.

Find a few moments (I know that may sound more improbable than the literal existence of the Tooth Fairy but work with me here). Look back over 2016 and note things that have happened in your life. All sorts of things. Physical things like moving to a new house or adding a baby or losing someone. Achievements like completing a college degree or a promotion or starting a business. Spiritual milestones like baptism or reading through the Bible or accomplishing forgiveness of a long standing hurt. Whatever the Holy Spirit brings to mind.
Note them. Write them down. If appropriate, share them with your family or a close friend. (BTW I'd love to hear from you!!!  My email address is chamfam@bellsouth.net)
Celebrate the commemorative ones...grieve the painful ones. But mark them.

Then assign them to 2016.

And ask God to help you look forward to 2017.

Ask Him for a verse or set of verses that He wants to impress on your heart for this coming year.

Here's what He has given me:

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus  Philippians 3:12-14

Fitting verse for the New Year.  My goal for 2017.

Unpack it with me for a few moments...

First, what is the Apostle Paul referring to in verses 12 and 13 when he says "this" and "it"? What has he not already obtained nor made his own?

We need to consult the previous couple of verses to decipher that.

10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

So what Paul aspires to is to know Him. Not just to know about Him or even to know justification from sin but rather to know Him experientially, intimately, deeply. Progressing in that knowledge that will finally be complete when we see Him face to face.
Paul is acknowledging in verse 12 that he has not achieved this yet but his goal is to get there.

And as this passage explains Paul's intention, it instructs me how to make it my own.

I see at least three things I must do in order for this to be my goal

1. because Jesus Christ has made me His own
Knowing Him fully begins with knowing Him initially.  Well, aren't I Captain Obvious! But it needs to be totally clear that we have to be made His first. And that this relationship is His idea to begin with! And that the same grace that saves us is what enables us to walk with Him from then on. We cannot come to Him, pursue Him, or know Him apart from the work of His Spirit in our hearts.
So that's the first thing - being His and being cognizant of the Truth that it is He who works in me to accomplish His good pleasure.

2. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus 
Paul sees it as "one thing" but I think that conveys his singlemindedness, his singular focus. SO I  split this part into two to simplify things for myself. After my acknowledgment of Jesus working in me to make me not only His own but also to be like Him, I need to forget what lies behind.
To lay aside 2016.
Those things you and I made note of in those few alone moments we were able to conjure up.
Those things worthy of celebration and those things fitting for grief.
"Forgetting" does not mean "not remembering". That would not only be impossible but also unwise. If you had a baby in 2016, I highly recommend that you remember that!
So what is this passage instructing us to do?

Not to be absorbed or controlled.

Those  good things in 2016 that make us want to hang our hats on? Rejoice over them. thank God for them, and hold them with an open hand, asking God how He wants to use them for His glory.
But camping out in the successes, thinking those accomplishments define us, basking in the praise - nope. Forget them instead. We must not let our victories be the source of our joy or our identity. We must not delude ourselves into thinking we have finished the race just because we ran last year's lap well. 
That distracts us from focusing on the finish line. That keeps us from running our present race victoriously.
Do not be absorbed or controlled by good things..."forget them".

Maybe more important that forgetting the good things is the necessity of forgetting the bad. Those things that wounded us, grieved us, caused us to fail. The default reaction to pain is to retell the story, to reopen the wound, to relive the hurt or guilt or sorrow.  We then become absorbed by it...and that allows it to control us.
And when something negative controls us, it produces more negativity. More hurt, more guilt, more sorrow. We cannot move on to victory because we are mired in past defeat.
The point is not to cease remembering - the point is to untie ourselves from the things of the past...that is forgetting.
So those failures or losses or wounds from 2016? Forget them...move on.

3. straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus 
I love that Paul uses the word "straining" here. It connotes hard work and that is just exactly what is called for. It's hard work to loose ourselves from the good and the bad of the past...and it is definitely hard work to press forward to what lies ahead. We are much more inclined to relax a little (if we've experienced recent successes) or to give up (if our mindset is one of defeat because of recent failures). Paul explains that we have to strain, to press, to exert some energy and purpose.

Indeed, it is hard work.

But make no mistake about it - the prize is worth it.
Jesus has called us to know Him, to be transformed into His likeness and conformed to His image. To come into His presence and receive His rewards. To reign with Him and enjoy Him forever.

The prize of His call upward. Worth more than anything here. Worth every bit of straining and pressing and striving.

That's my goal for this year.
I purpose to "forget" 2016- to not be absorbed or controlled by the happy memories or the successes or the hurts. But rather to be singularly focused on directing my energy and purpose and resources towards knowing Him.

I'd love to hear what you hope for 2017.