Happy New Year! Have you ever set some resolutions as you start a new year, only to have them fizzle out by February? I know I have. So why bother? Yes, January 1 is just another day in the calendar but as a marker in time it is positioned as a starting point or to get a fresh start or to maybe do some things differently in a way that would lead to a better life.
Rather than use the term resolutions, I like the terminology “rule of life”. A rule of life are a set of guidelines and practices I want to see in my life that I can experience life in the kingdom of God more fully. Dallas Willard uses a different term for rule of life, he uses “Curriculum for Christlikeness” (C4C). Dallas says the C4C should have two primary purposes:
- learning to dearly love and constantly delighting in that “heavenly Father” manifested in Jesus
- removing our automatic responses that keep us in bondage.
I love this description. Starting with my own life, learning to love and be loved by my heavenly Father and then living from that inside place of love outward toward others starting with my family, church, and beyond.
One of our assignments with the Renovaré Institute was to create a rule of life or Curriculum for Christlikeness. A Rule of Life is different for every person. We may use or share many of the same thoughts or ideas, but they become our own personal plan as we spend time with God and see where He may lead us in crafting our plan. Some people are very creative and may capture their plan on a poster or painting. I read of one person who wrote his on a baseball! Whatever works for you. The point of the Rule of Life is it allows us to be intentional in being active in the kingdom of God in a way where we feel God leading us. It is not a weapon to beat yourself up with if you miss some things or fall short. It is a gentle reminder to help encourage you to grow in your love for God and to be transformed from the inside out to love others.
My Rule of Life Framework
My church, Kingsland Baptist Church in Katy TX, has defined 4 domains where a disciple lives out their lives for Jesus in the kingdom of God. I am developing my initial Rule of Life around these four domains (strategies):
- Heart (Rest): It starts with our heart, experiencing the love of God. A key practice is rest. So I will have several items in my curriculum which will target the heart so that I can “dearly love and constantly delight in the Heavenly Father.” As I pay attention to my heart, then I am in a better place to work through the remaining domains of the disciple.
- Home (Bless): the first place where I should put my faith into action is in the home. A great word to cover what I want to do is to bless. The home is the true place where I really begin to flesh out my faith and put my heart to the test. There is no more important training ground for my discipleship and how I learn to follow Jesus. It is here, more than anywhere else, that I can learn to remove the automatic negative reactions and begin to love selflessly.
- Church (Gather): Discipleship must be done in community. This domain is the place where I can continue to grow in my faith and participate in spirit-led community.
- Beyond (Go): This domain focuses on taking my discipleship beyond my home and church into my neighborhood, workplace, city, nation, and beyond.
Since our focus so far in this semester at Renovaré has been on the heart, my Rule of Life is more focused so far on the “heart” domain. As we continue through the Institute I hope to continue to evaluate and see how God wants to round out this plan.
I want to make sure that I can identify what is really important without making it too long that it becomes a burden. Below is what I am going to start out 2020 as my rule of life.
My Rule of Life
- Daily observe “fixed hour of prayer” at morning and evening, striving to also have one at midday
- Daily take 30 minute walks with my dog, observing creation in mostly solitude and silence
- Daily read the Gospels with the goal of reading through all the gospels 4 times this year
- Daily voice the prayer of St Clare at the beginning and ending of each day: “Lord God, blessed be thou for having created me!”
- Practice the Presence of God: using Brother Lawrence as a model, acknowledging the presence of God and the Holy Spirit living in me at various times throughout the day
- Nightly Examen: reviewing my day and what “automatic” responses might have kicked in during the trials and events of the day. Asking the Holy Spirit to help me identify what might be the source and ask for healing and forgiveness
- Weekly, observe Sabbath Rest
- Weekly, meet with my Men’s small group for prayer, study, and fellowship
- Monthly, meet with my Spiritual Director
- Quarterly, take a day for prayer and solitude
- Nightly “tea time” conversations with Wendy
- Weekly date nights with Wendy
- Communicate throughout each week with the kids to encourage and bless them
- Pray daily for my wife, kids, son-in-law, and granddaughter
- Attend Church to worship and fellowship with our community group
- Teach Sunday School once/month incorporating growing in discipleship in the kingdom of God
- Provide counsel and spiritual direction twice a week to church members
- Regularly prayer walk our neighborhood during dog walking time
- Be intentional to engage with neighbors and share Gods love with them
- Pray for my co-workers and clients and look for ways to encourage and bless them
- Weekly, write a blog post for my website on spiritual formation
- Quarterly, participate in community outreach
- Bi-annually, participate in mission outside the US
The thing about resolutions, rules of life, or curriculums in Christlikeness is they are supposed to be for our good and not to discourage us or make us feel like we are not good enough! If the thought of doing something like this feels overwhelming or potentially discouraging, a good place to start is to spend some time alone with God. Maybe that is your one rule of life to start the year. Not a bad place to begin.
Or maybe you are an experienced and disciplined rule creator and follower and maybe over time some of these “rules” have become more like regulations or obligations. Maybe you might start the year laying all of that aside and spend some quiet time with God.
There is no contest to create the perfect plan. This is between you and your heavenly Father who loves and delights in you. Ask Him to show you some things that would be good to incorporate in a rule of life. In my own personal experience, when I try to create a plan without spending time with God, I tend to load it down with lots of stuff to do. All of it good, but lots of stuff. That is my performance driven broken self that gets in the way. When I get alone with God, He normally focuses on just a few things, things that help me experience Him in a deeper way and help me see where I still broken and in need of healing and freedom. He also lays on my heart those things He wants me to do as I live out my life in His kingdom. In these moments, I find it true that His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30).
As you create your plan, share it with a trusted friend so they can encourage you and hold you accountable to following where you know the Lord is leading you. Happy New Year. I will be praying for you as you seek to create a rule of life that helps you experience the love of God in a deeper way, where you experience freedom and healing from brokenness, and with a heart that is more free you can offer your life to others that demonstrates the love of God in the world around you. God bless you!