Well we’ve reached that stage in a new year, when if I were to ask the question ‘so who’s still sticking to their new year’s resolutions?’ I wouldn’t expect many positive responses.

However, two particular places in scripture have provided the rootedness for my own personal challenges, as we move into 2018:

‘Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.’ Proverbs 4:23

‘But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself in this way.’ Daniel 1:8

I’ve already had various encounters with different people when these words have come back to me and provided an encouragement to keep on, keeping on in the direction God has been leading me. So far this has meant:

  • Pushing forwards with something I’m tempted to give up on because it seems too much hard work for any apparent results, or even encouragement.
  • Not becoming distracted by the ‘good’, in favour of God’s ‘great’, bigger picture.
  • Keeping my eyes fixed upon Jesus, rather than the temptation to look elsewhere, for apparent quicker results.

In most cases it’s been during a conversation when I’ve simply become aware of my new year ‘resolve’. Previously, I would have anticipated the relevance of these verses to arise when encountering difficulty, sadness and loss, but they’ve been highlighted so far, for me, in situations when the temptation has been to believe someone else’s ‘press’ about me, which has been positive and affirming. I don’t think I’m guilty of avoiding reality, but I have been very conscious that we can wander off-track just as easily when we’re on the mountain tops, as we can in the valleys.

The ‘resolve’ word has also arisen because I’m looking to try out the course of the same name. Resolve is ‘a four-week course exploring what it means to enact positive change in your life’ and is produced by The Ugly Duckling Company. Resolve is one part of the legacy of my good friend, Paul Griffiths, who died last year.

The Resolve course is produced by http://www.theuglyducklingcompany.com and I commend it to you to try out with a group of other people. Paul was the founder and inspiration behind various products all designed to connect with people, as yet, not followers of Jesus Christ.

I shall miss my meetings with Paul. They were always stimulating and always revolved around how to reach people today with the good news of Jesus. Paul focused his energies on providing resources to equip people in conversation and relationship with those who barely had God on their radar, if at all. He always talked of the need to connect with people ‘pre-pre-pre- Alpha’.

The reality for every one of us is that most people we’ll spend time with this year will be in the ‘pre-pre-pre-Alpha’ location, as Paul would identify them, using the Engel scale as a guide.

Daniel is a good source of inspiration and encouragement for how to thrive in a strange land. In this sense he embodies the twin challenges we face as Christians across the Church in the UK today:

How do I follow Jesus Christ in order to reflect, authentically, his character in my shoes?

How do I engage with other people, authentically, and remain true to the purposes of God in my life?

Or put another way:

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’ Matthew 22:37-40.

We want to hear your stories … get in touch with how you are sustaining, engaging in a strange land!

THANK YOU … for engaging in Practising for Christmas 2017. We’d like to hear from you … how did God surprise you during Advent? Also, what other resources have you found helpful during this particular season? We want to be ready for Christmas!

Please tell us what you’ve found helpful in helping you pursue the mission of God in and through your life, so we can pass it on to others.-two will have a stand presence during Spring Harvest, at both the Harrogate and Minehead venues. This always produces many conversations with people who are seeking God’s purposes more clearly and we are keen to signpost them along helpful routes for training and equipping. We need one another, especially in today’s climate, which is increasingly hostile towards Christian’s not keeping quiet.

HOPE 2018 … it’s here and now! Check out the website.

 

Nigel Coles

Nigel is Regional Team Leader of the West of England Baptist Association. He facilitates the life of the WEBA network team and oversees the missional strategy for the region. He also works to develop missional strategy over a wider geographical area with our partner Associations and Baptists Together. Nigel believes that when Jesus sent out seventy-two others, he meant everyone who was there, and this passion to help everyone find their way in the mission of God is what inspired the development of Seventy-two.