We are all on a journey. The undiscovered country awaits. And as we prepare to celebrate another New Year we need to reflect on where our journey has brought us and how we can navigate the journey ahead. What have you learnt from your journey so far and what preparations now need to be made? And this blog is my preparation for that journey ahead. As fellow travellers it is those preparations I want to share with you.
2015 has been an unsettling year in many ways and for me personally it has been challenging and tough as well but as I look back I see the hand of my Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus, protecting, providing, rescuing and guiding me. But as I look back I believe I could have been better prepared by being a better listener to his voice. (John 10:4). So as I prepare for a new year, not knowing what lay ahead, I believe I need to make better preparations in learning to hear His voice.
The sixteenth century was a time of great exploration as new worlds were discovered. But as well as many heroes there was a great cost as many lives were lost. During this time one of most precious treasures of the explorers was a ‘rutter’. A small book that contained all the notes, navigational routes and dangers that returning, successful explorers had recorded. The equivalent of these for the Christian on their journey are ‘the great cloud of witnesses’ (Heb 12:1). We have the ‘rutters’ of those biblical witnesses come to us with the divine voice and authority of scripture and we also have the ‘rutters’ of those who have followed the biblical witness and recorded there own experiences. I believe that as we surround ourselves with ‘cloud of witnesses’ we can avoid many of the dangers and catastrophes that lie hidden ready to pounce and learn to hear the voice of the good shepherd who is directing us.
For my preparations for the year ahead during the month of January I am going to use two ‘rutters’ to grow deeper into God so I can hear his voice better. The first are the Psalms of Ascent (Psalm 120-134). These 15 Psalms were used by Hebrew Pilgrims as they ascended to Jerusalem. But as Eugene Peterson comments ‘the ascent was not only literal, it was also a metaphor: the trip to Jerusalem acted out a life lived upward to God, an existence that advanced from one level to another in developing maturity. What Paul described as ‘the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”. During January I will be preaching on three of them but will be reflecting on them all. Join me.
My second rutter is Richard Foster’s celebration of discipline. In this book Foster discusses the ‘classical spiritual disciplines’. He calls them classical not because they are ancient but because ‘they are central to experiential Christianity’ as rooted in scripture and ‘God has given us the Disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving his grace’ that is of receiving direction, protection, provision and restoration. In his introduction he lays out seven pitfalls of the disciplines, ‘the seventh pitfall is the most dangerous. It is the temptation to study the Disciplines without experiencing them’. Therefore this blog will contain my observations of experiencing them.
So as fellow travellers I invite you to become my companion over January. Let us share our thoughts and experiences. Let us encourage one another. Let us prepare ourselves for the journey ahead by learning to recognise, listen and obey the voice of Jesus as we allow the Psalms of Ascent and Spiritual disciplines to be our ‘rutter’.