Heading into the election year, I wrote some suggestions for 2016 that I hoped would be beneficial. I reviewed those suggestions in a blog post. I’ll comment on some of those suggestions and offer new ones for 2017.
Reflections on 2016
Last year, I suggested that we, “[f]lee from any partisanship that would sow division within the church. Your common identity in Christ is more important than your party affiliation.” This was a fail. Trump won. Many people made fools of themselves. Our religious institutions are held in low esteem.
I hate seeing political divisions strain families, churches, and relationships. It’s just not worth it. Are you really going to break off a friendship over a fight you had on immigration policy? Your mother isn’t a horrible racist because she voted for Trump. Your daughter doesn’t hate babies because she voted for Clinton.
While I enjoy discussing and debating political issues with friends and family members, we must realize that such debates are merely for entertainment. It’s akin to arguing over who should play in the college football playoff. Practically speaking, my views on political questions are next to irrelevant. President Trump is not going to seek out my advice or your counsel.
I also suggested that we use our leisure time well. This one continues to be a struggle for me and could be for you as well. I know how to work hard. I enjoy fulfilling obligations and meeting expectations. I do not yet know how to use leisure time well. This blog has been helpful. I’ve been reading more, and I like the practice of reading, thinking, and writing.
Awe, wonder, and joy should fill my heart when I have free time, but they do not. This is the result of sin. The blessings and beauty of the earth should be more than sufficient to fascinate us.
The last suggestion from last year that I want to cover is “[a]void making your earthly family into an idol.” I wrote that suggestion with a much different expectation for how things would go this year. This suggestion is even more important when dreams are deferred. I must now guard against violating the tenth commandment as well as the second.
The church is a great moderating force here because it helps us see beyond our circumstances. As a part of the body, I am responsible for the well-being of my brothers and sisters, including the covenant kids of our congregation. This is a non-negotiable part of the Christian life. Praise God.
Suggestions for 2017
I offer these suggestions for myself, but I hope that you may find something helpful here.
Be an advocate for others. This is so difficult in our age. We’re taught to press our advantage and to be advocates for ourselves and our children. How radical would it be to lobby for someone else’s kid, and not your own, to take the starting point guard spot? How radical would it be to argue that your co-worker should get the promotion instead of you? Yet, isn’t that exactly what the Lord requires of us? “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28 (NIV). See also Luke 14:7-11.
Trim the fat. No, I don’t mean that fat, but getting into better physical shape is certainly worthwhile. One persistent lie our culture tells our kids is that they can have everything. From a young age, we’re told that we don’t have to sacrifice our careers for a family. The cold truth is that it just isn’t possible to be an exceptional professional, church leader, golfer, friend, homemaker, and father all at the same time. You can’t have everything. For me, 2017 is a time for choosing.
Read a classic novel. I recently finished Thomas Kidd’s God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution. I am currently reading Van Til’s The Defense of the Faith. I love reading works of history, theology, and philosophy, but I have neglected the great works of fiction. My wife just finished Anna Karenina and was moved by it. I need to follow her example this year by reading a classic novel. War and Peace?
Memorize the Heidelberg Catechism. When I was young, my family left the CRC for an Evangelical Covenant Church. While there is much to be said about that, the end result is that I never memorized the Heidelberg Catechism.
This is an ambitious suggestion, but I’m going for it. Over the last month, I’ve managed to memorize through Lord’s Day 4. At my current pace, I can memorize the entire catechism this year.
I’m saddened by the fact that so many Reformed churches neglect catechetical training.
404 Q. Why do we neglect the Three Forms of Unity? A. We have a natural tendency to reject the good gifts of God while pursuing shiny objects that are objectively inferior, transient, and occasionally heretical. [NOT AN ACTUAL PART OF THE CATECHISM]
Sell, donate, or recycle stuff. I have accumulated way too much stuff. My wife and I moved into our house over three years ago. We have boxes in our attic that haven’t been unpacked. That should tell you how important and necessary that stuff is. It is embarrassing.
Two years ago, I purchased an Xbox One in a fit of impulsive spending. I’ve played it for about 20 hours total. Modern video games have passed me by. Give me some Mario Cart or Madden 96, and I’m happy. I have no interest in investing hours into a game. Where is the play now option? We don’t need things like lightly used video game consoles. The best thing that I can do now is to put it to productive use.
I think those five suggestions are enough for 2017. I plan to post updates throughout the year to hold myself accountable. Lord willing, I’ll be able to reflect on the successes of 2017.