Like usual, New Years Day for me is a day to take time for reflection and renewal. The latter is both a physical and spiritual experience.  It is so good to be home after the Christmas activity just to rest and prepare for the journey ahead.  I am feeling a deep sense of gratitude for God’s grace and goodness for the year that has passed.  Regarding the past, I am grateful for the grace of God’s forgiveness for the many ways in which I have failed.  It is good to know that the sacrifice of His life and the blood that was poured out for us, covers all of my failures and sins.  I am still alive physically only by virtue of His great mercy.  Psalm 32 comes to mind as a summary of my sense of blessing in view of His forgiveness.  I live each day as a man who is free from the condemnation of generic and personal sin and as one who has traded moral corruption for the eternal pure life of God himself.  Known sins have been confessed and have been traded for His righteousness (1 John 1:9).  It is wonderful to live each day and to rest each night with a clear conscience.  There is nothing like it!

Of course I am grateful too for the many personal blessings I have enjoyed over this past year.  I am thinking here of health, marriage, family, a wonderful place to live, our home, and the privilege of serving God with the gifts He has given.  This year I survived significant surgery of a benign growth on my auditory nerve.  I lost my hearing in that ear in the process, but I was able to avoid more serious problems by having this foreign visitor removed.  It was an experience that made me grateful for God’s presence and peace, as well as the knowledge and wisdom He gave for this medical procedure to be successful.  I have been given additional time to live life with vigour and a sense of meaning.  I have the privilege of enjoying more time with our children and grand-children, and I have the opportunity to do more for the sake of God’s kingdom. What could be better than that?

This morning, God spoke to me from Psalm 29 and Mark 9 in my regular reading. Psalm 29 is a commentary on the power of the voice of the Lord.  (It is amazing to think about all that happens when God speaks.  I have had a new appreciation of this fact through this Christmas season as I have thought about all the ways God spoke in the process of the incarnation of His Son.)  In Mark 4, the glory of Jesus is revealed in a special way to three of the disciples on a mountain, and a voice from heaven says, “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.”  The speaking God stresses the importance of listening to His Son.  Later, in the same passage, significantly Jesus comments on the lack of belief among His disciples.

In considering the significance of these passages for me today, I realize that amidst all the noise of the world, including the religious world, it is so important to listen for the voice of God.  I need to be quiet long enough to hear that voice.  He is still the speaking God He has always been — if we’re willing to listen.  Listening for God requires spending time with Him in His Word, in prayer, and in consciously cultivating the presence of His Spirit.  Listening for God requires the gift of discernment to distinguish His voice from all the other voices out there.  His voice is not always obvious or loud.  Usually, I’ve discovered, His voice is discerned best in quietness and contemplation.

This year I want to listen more closely that I might grow in faith and genuine belief — since this was a deficit in the lives of the disciples (according to what I read about them this morning).  I pray that I will learn to trust God’s Word more implicitly, more simply, more like a child.  I pray I will be willing to cast fears aside in order to move forward in obedience and accomplishments for His glory.

We are contemplating some kind of move this year.  But I’m not sure exactly where, or what this will entail, or how it will all happen.  Through a move at this time in our lives, I hope to achieve a good balance between time for recreation, for family, and for meaningful spiritual service toward others.  I want to spend more time with our children and grand-children.  I want to enjoy various recreational opportunities in our beautiful world including travel, hiking, and perhaps squash, skiing, and golf.  And I want to be available to serve others through personal counsel, mentoring, speaking, writing, and teaching.  It’s not so important that the latter be remunerative though that would be an added blessing.  But I do want to be used by God to bless and encourage others in accord with His Word.  And I want to do all of this while being a blessing to my wife and growing in our marriage.

My prayer for the year could easily be summed up by the words of the child, Samuel (1 Samuel 3:10): “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”

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