Okay, take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back. You’ve just made it through one of the most difficult times of the year for your church, music department, and family. The Christmas concerts and productions are over. You probably had some sort of prayer service or watch night service to ring in the New Year. Meanwhile, in the midst of all of the holiday craziness, you found some time to celebrate the holidays with your family.
Now that you have some time to reflect on 2015, what are some things that stick out to you? Really think about all of your triumphs and shortcomings. Think of the goals that you achieved and some others that you possibly never got around to. Are there things still lingering on the to-do list? Is there anything that you really regret not getting to? Perhaps, some things that may have been relatively easy, but somehow still eluded you?
When the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2016, millions of people saw this time as a starting point for many of their New Year’s Resolutions. Some people made a commitment to lose weight, while others made a commitment to pray or fast more. These commitments are made in the mindset of a fresh start. We see a new year as a new time. We look at time in the finite; something that is broken down into minutes, hours, days, months, years, and so on. By using this thought process, we are able to set attainable goals and deadlines. We say, “I only have to fast for the next three days” or “I have until this time to lose this amount of weight.” While using this form of thinking gives us motivation, we often forget that not everything in our lives are bound by the same boundaries of time that we are. With time, humans change. The older you get, the more knowledge you may gain or the more forgetful you may become. The older you get, the more wrinkles you get and the more salted your hair becomes. Humans are bound by the confines of time, but we serve a God that is not.
The Bible states that God is the same “yesterday, today, and forever.” He is a God that never changes. When you take this thought and apply it to a new year, you see that, even though we are a year older, God is still the same. Although we are living in a new year and a new era, God is still the same that he has always been. He is still a healer and deliverer. He is still saving the lost and still mending the broken hearted. He is exactly the same.
When we read the book of Acts and think about the things that happened during the times of the early church, we must keep it in our minds that He still the same. So what’s changed? Where is the life altering disconnect? With each passing generation, there’s some that want to draw closer to him and others that tend to drift away. Such has been since the beginning of time. With those that draw closer, we can see the mighty power of God being manifested in their lives. With those that drift away, we see that distance made evident by their works.
So, where do you fall in this conversation? Has this past year been a year of increased devotion or a slight dip in commitment? No matter where you fall in these discussions, you have a new beginning waiting on you. Seeing that we are finite beings that serve an infinite God, we need to make sure that our finite actions, those bound by time, carry infinite consequences. We need to make these actions and attainable goal that we can reach. Something that can be broken down into minutes and hours, but still carry over into the infinite. Time is a precious commodity and we must use it wisely. It has also been said that time is a currency. If this is the case, are you spending it wisely or are you spending it frivolously?
With making the commitment in a new year to draw closer, here are a few things that you can possibly use for a foundation.
Prayer is something that many people struggle with in their daily lives. We are living in a world that grows more fast-paced with each passing day. Everything that we do costs us time. This includes our jobs, our leisure activities, our family time, etc. All of these things have a cost, time being the currency. I read an article in which a man who is highly active laid out his entire day. His day looked as follows:
14 hours working
2 hours working out
3 hours of family time
5 hours sleeping
This highly motivated man was wildly successful by today’s standards. He spent the vast majority of his time working. This dedication led to his success. To my knowledge, this man wasn’t religious, but how he spent his time showed where his heart is. What we do with our time says the same thing about us. Are we committed to God the way that we should be, or are we satisfied with the same old mediocre relationship that we’ve attempted to maintain in the past? Do we really want to see the promises of God, or are we just so busy that it doesn’t matter to us anymore? Remember, we are finite beings that inhabit a finite world, but our actions in it can carry over to the infinite. So, does our current actions here on earth carry over to the infinite or are they shallow and selfish actions that aim only to please an earthly desire or pleasure? We must attempt to see beyond the now and think of what our actions do to our future.
The benefits of prayer carry both an earthly benefit and an infinite benefit. Prayer has the power to draw us closer to God. Its aim is to build a relationship that goes beyond the walls of the finite and reach into a realm not seen with human eyes. The prayers of a man or woman that is in covenant relationship with God carries weight. It moves mountains and causes blinded eyes to see. It allows for the things of the Spirit to be made manifest on the earth. The power of prayer extends beyond a time period and goes on to touch future generations. Prayer should never be neglected or written off as an unused and forgotten relic of the previous generation. It should be maintained and practiced daily and revered as a foundational life principle that every Christian can’t live without. In this new year, while striving to be closer to God, use prayer as a primary method. Challenge yourself daily. Your reward will be seen both in this life and the life to come.
This is a self-explanatory. Without the reading of God’s word, the knowledge of the holy can never be obtained. We can attempt to live a Godly life, but to do so without the word is like trying to be a surgeon without ever attending one day at a university. This person would not be equipped for the tasks that lie ahead. Likewise, neither would the Christian that doesn’t read the word. If you’ve been around the apostolic faith for any lengthy amount of time, you will always run the risk of taking certain things for granted. You may take the oneness doctrine for granted without proper and thorough study. You may take the plan of salvation as laid out in the book of Acts chapter 2 for granted without proper study. A lack of study may lead to an atrophy of the spirit. How do we know what God has for us or what God can do for us unless we read the Word? Having the knowledge of God’s word creates a believer that is unashamed of the gospel and a christian that isn’t shaken by the shifting sands of the world. If you want to be better equipped for a life in ministry, you must be well-versed in the Scripture.
Maybe you read everyday, but do you challenge yourself to study the word in-depth? Reading and studying differ much like hearing and listening. You can hear what someone is saying and completely miss the meaning behind their words. If you listen intently, you recognize their tone and inflection, and the true meaning behind the words is revealed. This is the same with the Word of God. How many scriptures have you read over, but never taken the time to study out? I bet everyone can say that they have done this a few times in their life. The scriptures from the bible take on new life when you take the time to truly study what the writer was saying in that moment. Spend some of your currency (time) on this and you will certainly see the benefits in your life!
Okay, as a food lover, this is something that makes me slightly sad inside. Fasting is somewhat of a lost art in my generation. A few months ago, as I talked with my Father-in-law, a great man of God, he told to me about some of the fasts that he had conducted in the past. One of them, if I remember correctly, lasted close to 30 days. We then began to discuss the benefits of fasting. Fasting is yet another thing that is done in the finite but carries rewards far beyond what earthly eyes can see. Some things only come through prayer and fasting. Some healings only take place after a fast. Some chains can only be broken through a fast. More importantly, and directly related to ministry, a Godly anointing only comes with some fasting. Anointing is what separates the apostolic church from the rest of the world. There are amazing singers and wonderful orators in the Christian world in general, but the anointing makes all of the difference in the apostolic church. You can sing or preach and move people’s emotions, but only the anointing connects with them on a spiritual level. It’s at this level that a true change takes place.
As Christians, we must strive for the anointing to be ever present in our lives. I want to walk on my job being anointed. I want to conduct daily errands and be anointed. We need not separate our natural lives from that of the Spirit. When we do so, it can allow a vein of carnality to enter. Walking in the Spirit takes effort and discipline of the mind and body of the believer, but doing so carries a reward that extends beyond today. We must use fasting as a means of separating ourselves from the world and entering a place in the Spirit where a true anointing from God can be received. A friend of mine once said, speaking of fasting, “When I sat down to eat the first meal since I started my fast, I felt the anointing resting on me.” God honors fasting. He honors the sacrifice. A fast that is conducted with spiritual goals always reaps a reward.
With all of the things that I have mentioned, I haven’t mentioned music in particular. I did this on purpose. These principles are used to draw closer to God and to go to a deeper level in the Spirit. With these things as the direct goals of the spiritual disciplines, an anointed ministry will follow close behind. We may be serving the kingdom in the capacity of Minister of Music, Worship Leader, or Multimedia Director, but with these callings in the ministry there first has to be an obedience to the Word and a commitment to the call to follow after him. We as believers, no matter what our position may be, should always strive to maintain a life that is conducive to spiritual growth. When we pray, read, and fast, we are making good on our commitment to follow Christ. When we are mindful of the things of God, we are drawn deeper into the infinite. As stated previously, although our physical lives are finite and broken down into minutes, hours, and days, the things we do here can carry a far greater and eternal importance.
At the beginning we talked about an unchanging God. The factor of change is human existence. What we do with our time matters. What we commit to do in our hearts matters. What we set out to do each day matters. We should strive to maintain our spiritual lives in an attempt to be a better leader. If we want revival in our departments, and churches as a whole, we should let the revival first start in us.
I started this year by praying a very specific prayer for myself, my family, and my church. This prayer was for revival and growth. When I would repeat this prayer, I felt God speaking to my spirit the same resounding answer: This is the year of HIS people.
This is our year. This is a year of growth and revival, the likes of which the earth has never seen. However, this promise is contingent upon our reaction to it. It has been said a million times over, “I’m stepping into God’s promises.” This hasn’t meant much to me until recent years. To step into the promises of God means to push deeper, past the shallowness of our current relationship and into the deeper things that God has for His people. I firmly believe that if we will make it a priority to pray daily, study the word daily, and fast often, we will see the things He has promised us. It takes a sacrifice on our part to do so.