HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL OUR READERS!
THIS MONTH WE VERY MUCH WELCOME REV. MO SURREY AS OUR GUEST WRITER WHO IS GIVING US HER CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE AND RESPONSES TO OUR CHALLENGING AND SPIRITUAL QUESTIONS
Photo: Brett Gordon – Pexels.com
We’ve all seen the adverts. New resolutions. New diet. New exercise regime. New outlook on life. New husband/wife/partner? Well, most of us don’t go that far – but you get the drift!!
What we don’t often hear about is New You in religious terms. When we’re baptized, our parents or carers are aiming to ensure that the child or person involved is being welcomed into God’s spiritual world on earth. This is often followed-up a few years later by the Confirmation when the person agrees to accept the church’s doctrines by trying to live a Christian life.
John the Baptist was one of the earliest religious leaders who tried to cleanse and renew the souls of some of his contemporaries in the name of God. Throughout the ages, Christians have believed there has been a battle between good and evil. When we look at what’s going on around the world, and particularly in our own country, we can wonder whether evil has triumphed although, as Christians, we have faith that God will overcome the world’s ills.
Mo – What do you think we should do to be renewed in our faith? Does the bible say anything about spiritual renewal?
I have been going to church all my life and have always believed in God. I would attend church every Sunday and had books of children’s prayers. My Confirmation was a very memorable occasion even at the age of 11. But in those days there was no further nurture and, although I still believed and called myself a Christian, it was very much just a compartment of my life. Then in 1981 I began to question this ‘relationship’ with God. I prayed, quite simply, to know Him more. From that time on it was as if God was no longer distant or on the side-lines but became a real part of my life. It made me question at first what had happened at my Baptism and Confirmation but it was as if I was starting over again. A friend told me that this was called being ‘Born Again’ and another said I was now ‘Filled with the Spirit’. Both of these are scriptural. (John 3, Acts 2, Acts 19:1-7)
If I had known beforehand that it was called being Born Again I probably would have been concerned because the words made me think of religious zealots but in reality it was as if it opened my eyes to a new understanding of who God is and, in particular, what He had done for me through Jesus. Bible readings and sermons came alive and I was hungry to know more. I could not understand why I had been in the church so long and didn’t know I could have a very personal relationship with God.
So I began asking questions as you do here. At first I resisted bible study groups thinking, wrongly, that they were only for people who knew the bible. But gradually I did join and it has been an adventure of discovery ever since. I find that the more I learn about God the more there is to learn.
God longs for us to have this relationship with Him. He searches us out. Jesus has opened the way for us to have this relationship with the amazing God of love. It is sheer delight to learn how to connect with Him in prayer. This is what is learnt on retreats and quiet days – how to pray the scriptures – how to integrate prayer and everyday life – how to know in the centre of our being that we are loved unconditionally.
As we spend intentional time in God’s presence each day and on retreat, we find that He grows His fruit within us, transforming our lives. As we grow in the knowledge and love of God, we will want to share this with others and to love others as He has loved us. The gratitude we feel towards God should spill over into our service to others. This can be like ripples flowing outward from a pebble dropped in water and Christians can be a real force for good in a sad world by bringing hope and love. Christians do not have a monopoly on goodness. There are many good people who are not Christians. But many of the institutions for positive change have been started by Christians, including the hospice movement, the abolition of slavery and work with the homeless and disadvantaged. It is the outworking of the truth within us of the God who cares so much that He entered our world.
It all starts with the renewal of our hearts by the love of Jesus.
Today there are many ways for us to grow spiritually. Daily bible reading notes from United Christian Broadcasters or the Our Daily Bread booklets. House groups held by local churches. Groups for those with questions about faith such as Alpha or Discovering Christianity. Whatever helps you to connect with the Living God. Carol has put some other suggestions below.
I pray for everyone reading this that you may be renewed in faith and love and indeed grow in the knowledge and love of God in 2023
OTHER SUGGESTIONS FOR NEW YEAR RENEWAL
To help yourself feel spiritually refreshed and renewed on a daily basis, why not try some or all of the following:
1. Go on a retreat.
2. Be of service.
3. Immerse yourself in nature.
4. Start a new morning ritual.
5. Observe a Sabbath.
6. Read a daily spiritual text.
7. Find a teacher/mentor.
8. Eat a clean diet and refrain or cut down on drinking alcohol.
9. Take a new class.
10.Journal your gratitude.