“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” -- (1 Thessalonians 5:18). As we reflect back on 2016, let's remember the oft-repeated biblical injunction to give thanks. For many of you, I know 2016 was rough. To be honest, it was a sweet year for my family and me. But however things went down, we need to be grateful. God blessed you in profound ways over the past twelve months. Not only did He keep you alive, hold onto you as a beloved son or daughter, and forgive every offense, He also provided good things for your enjoyment and comfort. You reveled in the taste of good food. There are people who care about you. You laughed. You were safe. You experienced warmth and friendship and love. He is a good Father, and He cares for you. On the other hand, if 2016 was great, remember to thank Him. All the blessings that made it so are gifts to you from Him. Receive them as such. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17).
If giving thanks is an essential discipline for us, another habit we surely most cultivate is trusting prayer. A new year is upon us. 2017 will have its share of challenges and blessings, and our Father wants us to meet each with faith and hope. We can trust Him. I am challenged to pray bold prayers for the coming season. To "expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God," as William Carey admonished almost three centuries ago. I am praying big prayers over the Merchant, and for Micah & Sarah and Paul & Debbie as they lead us forward in our ministry to the margins. I'm praying significant fruit to come out of our trip to Uganda. I'm praying for Reynosa. I'm asking the Father for each of us to be closer to Jesus and more courageous and true witnesses for Him. I'm praying for our marriages and our parenting and our friendships and our work. For those who are struggling, I am praying for a lift -- and I believe He will provide it. I'm asking Him to help us as a church family to continue to love one another well and to be really good at inviting and welcoming others -- especially those in need, those who are alone, those who are "without hope and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:12). I'm praying for our city, that the Holy Spirit would draw many into the Father's family, and that His Kingdom would come.
Can I challenge you with something? Can you take a few moments and ask the Lord to put a big prayer in your heart as we begin 2017? What comes to your mind when you consider that? I want to ask you to make that your prayer. If it seems impossible, that's ok. If you find it really hard to believe such a prayer is even worth uttering, all the better. If it feels foolish, you may be on the right track. Ask the Father, and believe. Believe His goodness and His power. Trust in His deep and affectionate love for you, and believe that He delights to give you the desires of your heart. One prayer. One audacious request. One Jesus-glorifying, Kingdom-manifesting, life-giving petition. Don't give up on it. Be patiently persistent in your asking.
“May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.” -- Psalm 20:4
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” -- Matthew 7:11
“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” -- Matthew 21:22
“You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” -- John 14:14
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” -- John 15:16
“Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” -- John 16:23-24
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.