Week of January 7

Choose to Be Weak this Year

Read: Genesis 1-2; Luke 1
“And God blessed them. And God said to them,
‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it,
and have dominion over the fish of the sea
and over the birds of the heavens
and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”
Genesis 1:28 (ESV)


Here’s my New Year’s counsel: You need to understand your life-map before you begin to goal-set. A life map is a timeline that draws upon key moments in your past, and it enables you to gain a wider perspective on the goals that you set and seek to achieve. Life-mapping means that each of us will answer the all-important questions (cf. The Transforming Life): Who am I? Where am I? What’s wrong? and What’s the remedy? Answering these questions is vital because they require us to consider how we got here on planet earth, our identity, our moral finitude and failures, and how we may overcome this brokenness and flourish.
I, of course, advocate for a life-map grounded in a biblical worldview. God’s word helps us to answer life’s big questions and provides us with a path to flourishing; hence, “Pathway Devotional Ministry” (Proverbs 3:5-6). These Pathway daily devotionals require year-long stamina, but your life will blossom as you develop a deep and rich understanding of God’s world and your place in it. To use an athletic analogy, we all need to develop “spiritual muscle memory,” and this requires the regular study of God’s word (Psalm 1; Hebrews 5:11-14; 1 Peter 2:2-3).

The Meaning of the Text

Accept your weakness this year because it is essential to a healthy life. This shocking declaration on the first day of a brand-new year comes before we have even had enough time to clearly formulate our New Year’s resolutions that we will surely break by early spring! Doesn’t exposing our frailty this soon in the new year seem to be counterproductive to our success? Not according to Genesis 1. Our assigned chapters in Genesis teach us key principles to incorporate into our lives. I could write devotionals on Genesis 1-2 for an entire year and not even scratch the surface of the depth in these opening pages in God’s word. I suggest we choose to build our lives upon three important principles found in chapter one. (There are others, but we will focus on three of them.)
Life-mapping principles
First, accept the fact that you are finite (Genesis 1:1)! The simple opening words of Scripture help us to see this truth. “In the beginning” establishes the opening of earthly time and foresees a future “end” to human history and the universe. In fact, the word used for beginning is most often paired with the word “end” in the scriptures. God declares in this creation story that He “knows and controls” the end from the beginning (cf. Isaiah 46:10; NAC). Your life story has a beginning and an end. Sadly, too many people make the mistake of living their entire lives without ever planning for its end!
Secondly, Elohim (the word used for God in chapter one) transcends creation and His word is all-powerful, so we are to worship Him exclusively (cf. Exodus 20:1-3). The name “Elohim” indicates “honor and majesty” and commands our special reverence. Friends, I am extraordinarily careful how I use the name of God in my daily conversation, and I encourage you to do the same. These chapters also teach me that, since He speaks and creates out of nothing “all there is,” I am never to make anything from “all there is” into an idol (see vv. 3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26, and 28). From the first day of the year, we should covenant to honor Him as being “First” of all and worthy of our worship.
Thirdly, our good God creates all that is good and “blesses all that He has made” (see vv. 22 and 28). I do not want to oversimplify the text, but the blessing encompasses all that God has made and refers to posterity (“Be fruitful and increase in number”; EBC). My challenge this new year is not to make it only about singular you! Please seek to be a blessing to God’s creation, to your family and friends, and even enemies! We have gated our lives behind a facade of self-sufficiency. Truly, we need each other, and this requires community lived beneath the beneficent covering of God’s sovereignty. “Happy New Year,” I say. “Live weakly in the strength of God’s might!”

The Message for Our Hearts

Shawna and I attended a Christmas Eve service this year at a neighboring church. We sang traditional Christmas carols, which is always meaningful to me. The worship leader, at one point, invited only the women to sing one of the verses in a hymn. They lifted their voices in praise to the Savior who had come into the world. A dear, saintly, elderly woman, who was seated several rows behind us, began to sing with great fervor, even though she was considerably off key! My first thought was to chuckle, but in the length of time it takes an angel to respond to God’s command, I realized that she was giving every bit of her weakness to the Lord. He received her praise and greatly magnified His name! How do I know? With a lump of emotion welling up inside my throat, I instantly found myself joining that faith community in full-voiced worship. That precious soul modeled how we all may flourish in 2024. Offer your weakness to the Lord in full dependence upon Him, and He will cause your life to blossom.

For Thought and Action

1. Take time to create your life map making sure to plot on the map the points in your life where you answered the four big life questions. Make a point to mark this moment in time on your map. Offer your commitment to live your life in worship to the Lord throughout this year. Strategically incorporate the three principles into your daily life and journal the ways that God causes your life to blossom throughout the year. If you are so inclined, place a note in your journal to send me an email at the end of the coming year that describes the ways God has caused you to flourish.
2. For Families: Gather your dear ones around your kitchen table this week to talk about how you can map out your year with some strategic goals. Ask each family member to think about what they want to do or accomplish: one goal for themselves, one for the family, and one for God.

Draw a map of your family from the time you parents established your home together, marking the years, dates, births of children and other important life moments. Then list the family goals at the far end of the family map. Covenant together that you will help each other reach your goals, and commit your year, as a family, to God.

Then hang this map on the back of the kitchen pantry or a closet door, where you can see it often. Every month or so, check up on each member of the family to see how they are making progress to reach their goals.

May your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock