New Year’s Resolution?
A trip to any grocery store or warehouse club tells us a new year has begun. year. In December, shelves loaded with Christmas candy and holiday baking items greeted us. Now, a towering display of protein bars, vitamins and muscle-building shake mixes fills the front of the store. And almost every aisle boasts nutritious snacks, diet drinks and other items designed to appeal to those in New Year’s resolution mode.
Social media now allows us to share our once-private pledges with the world. Declarations like “I’ll work out twice a day,” “I’ll lose 50 pounds,” or even “I won’t touch fats or carbs” fill my news feed along with pictures of the lifters, squatters, runners and dieters on my list of friends and followers.
Christians, of course, are just as likely as others to post these year-opening promises and to make others that sound more spiritual: “I’ll read the Bible through four times this year” or “I’ll memorize 15 Bible verses every week.”
But what about service? Where does it fit on our resolutions list? Deuteronomy encourages us to give God the firstfruit offering. For many believers, this means at least a tithe of our income belongs to God. But couldn’t we extend the idea of firstfruits to our ministry to others as well?
Instead of waiting for pleading letters or posts from your favorite nonprofit or other service organization, calendar some activities now. Does the local homeless shelter or food bank need people to serve or pack meals? Such ministries typically have many offers of help in November and December but few after the feel-good holiday season has passed. Local schools are back in session and (after appropriate background checks) often welcome volunteers. And what about summer mission trips? Committing to one now instead of later will give you plenty of time to gather both needed funds and prayer support.
If you’re a teen or have teens, I want to take a moment to recommend two student mission-sending organizations. My family and I have served with both. Awe Star Ministries designs its mission trips around the rite of passage concept in which students take a definite step into adulthood. The trips place an equal emphasis on evangelism and discipleship. During the trips, small groups of students work through materials designed to help them walk out what it means to be a man or woman of God. Awe Star offers spring break, Christmas and summer mission trips ranging from 10 to 35 days in length. Summer teams, ranging in size from 20 to 30 students, depart from Dallas after four days of training. Each serves in a different country (this year, teams will travel to Mexico, Peru, Panama, and Suriname) and team leadership largely consists of young adults who have grown up under the ministry’s principles. Learn more about the ministry at their website or by calling them at 1-800-AWE-STAR (293-7827).
Never the Same Missions also offers student mission trips but with a slightly different emphasis. Both groups use a pantomime drama as a tool to share the gospel, and both include service ministries as a part of their ministry. Awe Star has its rite of passage focus, while Never the Same seeks to combine the experience of a mission trip, youth camp and a revival meeting. Teams go out for ministry during the day, return in the afternoon for a time of relaxation (their teams stay in resort hotels) and spend their evenings in a large-group worship service. Never the Same takes several teams (usually 20-30 students and adults each) to one country each summer for two weeks (this year, it’s Haiti) after training in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with extended trip options available. Find more information at their website.
As for those resolutions? Revitalize your commitment to God by giving of yourself in 2016. After all, a New Year’s resolution may change your life, but a service revolution? That can change the world.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is a revision/expansion of “New Year’s Resolution–or Not,” which appeared on the Munce MTL blog last Friday.
ALSO: I neglected to announce the winner of the Christmas drawing of several weeks ago. Margaret Nelson will receive my review copy of Dan Walsh’s book, Keeping Christmas, along with a few more surprises. Thanks to all!