This is going to be a bit more of a personal blog—but one with a purpose—sharing some of my own life experience in the hope that perhaps it may benefit someone else. It is part of a practice that I’ve been doing for about 5 years now. Perhaps you would consider doing something similar or maybe get some ideas or inspiration for your own yearly review or resolutions or goal setting. I firmly believe we don’t stumble into maturity, or fall into sanctification nor does one trip over wisdom. We must be intentional about these pursuits. Proverbs 4 tells us to pursue wisdom, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.” (Prov. 4:7) Too many times we think these things will just happen. But growth into authentic, God glorifying, Christ-exalting, sin-killing, mission-minded, Kingdom-building, joy-exploding, disciplined maturity in Biblical manhood (or womanhood) must be a continual and intentional devotion.
I’ve had this custom now every year end to do both a review of the past year and goals and resolutions for the coming year as a way to self-assess. It is something I got started on with a suggestion by my dad a few years ago, and it has really benefited me in being intentional about the progress and growth which I want to see, and also to be aware of the various failures and short comings I need to work on. I start off every year by writing a list of goals for myself which are roughly categorized into goals for Spiritual Development, Professional, Study, Ministry/Evangelism/Missions, Arts, Physical, Relationships, Time Management and Travel/Leisure. I usually structure them as a series of resolutions (á la Jonathan Edwards) and reflections. Every now and then throughout the year I’ll go back and read them over to see how I’m doing and remind myself of what should be my focus.
2015 Brief Review
This year was a very busy and long year for me! So much happened, and I am grateful to God for all that He has blessed me with.
It has been an adventurous year: I visited 12 cities, travelled to 3 countries and went on my first longer-term (2 months) mission trip in Brasil. I was able to scratch hang-gliding in Rio de Janeiro off my bucket list as well as visiting Belo Horizonte and finally meeting some online friends for the first time. I continued to snowboard, started playing in an indoor soccer (futbol) league, played trampoline dodgeball and archery tag, hiked, MC’d a concert, preached and shared the gospel in a few different opportunities, started working out regularly, sang, danced and limed a lot!
It has been a productive year: I continued my second year of Seminary and finally bought LOGOS Bible Software (yes, this is a big deal for me… lol). Finished all my Greek courses (but still contemplating auditing some more actually—as crazy as it sounds I really loved it despite the long hours of work). I started a theology blog and wrote over 172,171 words of researched and well-cited theology & apologetics articles, book reviews and exegetical Bible study materials for my blog, not counting 24 as yet unpublished unedited articles and in addition to over 55,017 words of teaching material on a variety of topics related to apologetics and theology (how much of that material was actually read by anyone though, I’m not sure—haha—but I pray somewhere in that mess people find some source of encouragement in Christ). I’ve continued to teach in the 3D Game Design program at a design college here and seen some of my students succeed and continue to excel in their studies and pursuit of their design careers. I also started interning at Harvest Toronto West as a ministry intern, which has been amazing! Learning a lot about setting up ministries and what goes into running and developing a new church plant behind the scenes. While I’m still not sure exactly what the future holds for me after I’m done seminary, I think I at least have some better direction on where I see the Lord using me.
It has been an emotional year: I met a lot of people and made some new friends (approximately 288 according to Facebook – haha) and maybe lost a few or at least contact with them, I went on dates, I got rejected, I laughed and cried (not because of the dates – lol). I saw many heart aches and painful stories of people and children in situations of risk, and the destruction that sin brings. I also saw the hope that the gospel brings, and the self-sacrificing love of those who actually get what it means to follow Jesus and be salt & light. I’ve found more accountability in amazing godly men that the Lord has put into my life, to rebuke and instruct me in what it means to be a man. I’ve grown more to love the church community which is my adopted family away from home, and continue to thank the Lord for the unity of the bond of love we share in Christ.
It has been a year of many trials and joys, failures and successes, pain and delight—but through it all God has been faithful.
A reoccurring goal on my list of “reading the Bible more and getting closer to God” also was a good influence on this year’s progress. I definitely feel like this has been a huge year of spiritual growth for me, and also in theological understanding. I still have a long way to go, and so many more questions and things I want to learn—but I definitely do feel an increased passion for His word, curiosity to study it, and drive to live it. I am always concerned with becoming a theological egghead, a man with a big head and hollow chest—my study of His word should always lead to increased affections for the Lord and desire to joyfully serve. I’ve also learned a lot more about the Reformed faith and Church History—both of which have been huge in continuing to shape and deepen my walk of faith. I feel like a theme for this year that I kept on coming back to is humility and moment by moment dependence on God. If I had to choose a theme verse for this year it would be Colossians 2:6-7—“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving”—it has been a frequently reoccurring focus of my devotional life.
Continuing to learn how to navigate ministry life and being in a somewhat fulltime service. Being in seminary definitely can have the pull toward becoming prideful or impatient with others who have not researched as much into theological topics. Sometimes I do have to remind myself that I can’t take for granted that none of us has wrestled through every aspect of our theology—and as such we should be gracious as we dialogue over issues of disagreement. Also to continue to be teachable and open to learn from other sources, even if I disagree with them. No one is 100% wrong on everything—and you can learn a lot from people who even hold slightly different theological positions than you do (not withstanding that there are issues that do divide—but those are over matters of primary gospel importance). I want to continue to develop and practice integrity in all that I write and respond to—especially of a theological position—that if I am interacting with or debating a topic of theology, to accurately represent the opposing view and also deal with its best arguments and not just knock down strawmen. With this last year of seminary, I want to finish strong—though it does get rough and the long hours take their toll, I don’t want them to take a toll on my joy—which must be an intentional struggle and pursuit. In this regard, the resolutions of Jonathan Edwards has continued to be a constant encouragement.
Work and professional life are good. I enjoy teaching at Sheridan immensely and it feels great to invest in students. I was able to assess my first year teaching my two courses (3D Character Development and Modeling & Animation for Games)—and make some changes and improvements to them. Hopefully it has been for the better, I’ll have to reassess this fully at the end of the academic year. In terms of financially, I’m definitely not where I thought I’d be a few years ago when I was working fulltime in the games industry—but my salary is also a fraction of what it used to be. It has definitely been an adjustment living with not as much disposable income as before. I am content though, and the Lord has blessed me so much in other ways and continues to provide bountifully for my needs. I’ve learnt that I can be contented with a lot less, and actually prefer the simpler life. In this regard, 1 Timothy 6:6-11 speaks to me a lot;
“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.”
Although I could be worried that I am unable at this time to save up a lot or invest, I am certain the Lord would continue to provide as He has done already. I do not believe my financial situation is due to irresponsibility or laziness. I’ve also seen the Lord provide for my needs as I seek to serve in the Kingdom—He provided a freelance job for me just in time for when I needed to raise funds for Brasil (although this was a lot of hard work managing school, teaching and freelance—it meant I didn’t have to be a burden to anyone for my trip). Going forward, with the potential of fulltime ministry on the mission field as a prospect, I guess this could be good training for the future.
I’ve learnt a lot in service and ministry, especially since starting interning at Harvest Toronto West. Also, the mission trip to Brasil, working with ABBA opened up my eyes and heart to a lot of the need there and how the Lord may use me. I was blessed to serve alongside and learn from some amazing missionaries there! I fell in love with the kids from the slums and I can’t wait to see and hug them again. I’ve had a few opportunities for sharing the gospel and teaching/preaching. However, I think I’ve dropped the ball somewhat during some portions of this year—losing focus on evangelism. I don’t want to lose that fire for seeking to share the gospel proactively and not just passively waiting for opportunities to come along. In terms of sanctification, the Lord has shown me a lot of my own sin and idols that I continually set up—John Calvin was right, the human heart is a perpetual factory of idols. Being involved with co-leading a small group at Heart Resurgence (my church’s course focusing on sanctification and struggles with sin, idols and addiction) has been greatly beneficial to me. I’m looking forward to what new opportunities 2016 would hold, especially with the prospect of being involved in starting up a “Sceptic’s Group” at Harvest TW. I’d love to also be able to teach a course or maybe do a small group study on various topics of apologetics and theology, or even just an exegetical study of a NT book.
“Find a wife” continues to remain on my yearly list. Haha! This year wasn’t that year to check it off, but the Lord is good and I am content. Though I still desire to marry, I think this year I have learned a lot about how real a danger it is that we set up relationships and even marriage as a functional saviour in our hearts. I think I tried my best to continue to be intentional and clear about my romantic pursuits—though I may have failed at some points—I want to continue to be direct and not lay claim to anyone’s heart without a commitment. I have however been able to be a part of an enjoy one of my favourite families in the world (other than my own), who are like my own family—and from whom I gained god-children. I love them dearly, and they teach me a lot about family life and make me excited for the day I’ll have my own, God willing.
Time management has been good this year. I continue to live without a TV or watching any sitcoms or TV series—I don’t miss it at all and it gives me a lot more time for reading and doing social things. I have been able to budget my time effectively, make schedules which are realistic and balance school, work, social, leisure and ministry times. However, I could do better in putting aside more time for devotional life and prayer. I realize that if I can discipline myself to wake up early even on the days I don’t have to go into work or school in the morning, I can get more time for devotions. I’d also like to get through some more books that are on my personal reading list apart from books for school. I think although I did well this year on time management, there is still room for improvement in redeeming the time and numbering my days. “Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.” (Jonathan Edwards – resolution #5)
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17 ESV)
“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12 KJV)
Some other areas of assessment; Artistically, I think I have failed in my goals from last year. This year, due to the priority of other areas of life, I just have not been able to grow much artistically—or even to do much (or any) personal art! I had to put off a lot of the sculpt and creative project ideas I had for 2015. This is sad indeed. I hope that 2016 would be better. I also did not do much photography this year. I was not able to travel to Europe—I sacrificed that for the Brasil mission trip—but I don’t regret that for a moment! I was able through that though to scratch off one of my bucket list items. I was able also to start a fitness regimen and stick to it, fairly well (more or less). I’m happy that a lot of the goals I set for this year I was able, by the grace of God, to accomplish. I definitely hit the “make more awesome memories” goal hard. 🙂
2016 – New Resolutions
In addition to my resolutions from previous years, these are what I would like to add. I think my primary resolution, however, will continue to be borrowed from Edwards, “Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad’s of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.” (Jonathan Edwards, Resolution #1)
Resolved, to continually seek to open myself up to be transparent to godly persons more mature than me and learn from their instruction and rebuke. To confess my sins and struggles to accountability partners and not keep them hidden. To continue to see sanctification as a community project, and not purely an individual pursuit.
Resolved, to intentionally seek out older male role models and mentors. To seek to learn from their experiences and ask them as far as they are willing to share, of the wisdom that years have given. To continue to learn from godly married men and fathers on what it means to be a man who fears the Lord, loves his wife and rears his kids. To learn more about what is meant to love ‘as Christ loved the church and gave his life for her.’
Resolved, to commit to discipling at least 2 more people this year. To actively seek to fulfil the Great Commission—to make disciples, not just ‘converts.’
Resolved, to proactively seek gospel opportunities with boldness, and should a week go by without an intentional effort to share the gospel—to promptly remember my first love, repent and do the first works. To never be ashamed of the gospel.
Resolved, to more frequently inquire of myself where I have been negligent in that day or week—what sin I have committed and what good work I have omitted. To examine where I have wasted time or been unproductive. To ask myself wherein I could have done better and resolve to do better the next day.
Resolved, to act and do as I would wish I had, should that day been my last. To live a life of which old persons would talk about having wished they have lived. To never pass up an opportunity which I will have regretted not taking later on. To always keep in mind that, only one life we have, and only that which is done for the Lord will last.
Resolved to love people well, unconditionally, freely, and lavishly. To seek the Lord to change my hearts towards those ‘unloveable’ or unkindly to me. To never react out of revenge or irrational and emotional response.
Resolved, to hold both my tongue and pen until I can respond in truth and grace at a situation or question which stirs my emotions.
Resolved, to inquire of myself every month, on how I might have better used my finances and time for the glory of God and building up of His Kingdom and not my own.
Resolved, to continue to try to give persons the benefit of the doubt and attempt to seek understanding the other side in conflict. To always keep in mind that you too were once desperately wicked and lost in sin, and also that you too will one day be wrong and desire mercy. To argue and stand up for truth in a way that I would like to be corrected.
Resolved, to examine myself often and carefully to seek whether I am truly in the faith. To seek that I bear fruit in keeping with repentance, and to make my calling and election sure by walking in the Spirit. To not take for granted the grace of God nor use it as a license for sin. To be quick to repent when I do stumble, and to likewise encourage others—all the while understanding that even in this, God is responsible for my persevering in the faith and therefore I have hope.
Resolved, to try to increasingly make my first response to anything—good or bad—to be prayer. To never take a step or make a plan without committing it in prayer. To do and seek that which will more acutely show me my need and insufficiency so that I would rely more fully, through prayer, on His strength and not my own. To inquire of the Lord on anything I have doubt of… For everything that does not proceed from faith is sin (Rom. 14:23).
Resolved, to love my family better. To try to be intentionally more involved in the lives of my siblings and parents. To pray for them daily and actively encourage them in righteousness and godliness.
Resolved, to continue to keep lists of those to whom I have shared the gospel—or of whom I wish to have the opportunity to share the gospel—and pray for them as often as comes to mind or I look at the lists. To seek to never rely on my own power or wit to save anyone, but constantly remind myself that salvation is of the Lord.
Resolved, to never back away from service which may make me uncomfortable or inconvenience me if it serves the Kingdom, and builds godly character in me.
Resolved, to remind myself frequently of how great a sinner I am, and how great a salvation I have been given in Christ so as to continually walk in humility and thankfulness.
Resolved, to never compartmentalize my Christianity into sacred and secular spheres—but live in light of the fact that Jesus is Lord of all. As such, all that I own is not my own and I steward all my resources—even my time—for my Master.
Resolved, to frequently check my heart for idols. To also frequently seek that which would lead me to treasure Christ more fully.
Resolved, to never lay claim to a lady’s heart without a commitment. To always seek to clarify if there is ambiguity in a relationship. To pursue with intentionality and clarity.
Resolved, to act in accordance to the truth of God’s word and discipline of duty not feelings and emotions. To seek to have a plan of action which aligns with Biblical concepts prior to finding myself in difficult situations so that the decisions are already made and I’m not making impulsive reactions.
Resolved, as my daily duty upon rising from slumber, to make my heart glad in the Lord as of primary and first importance to starting the day.
Resolved, to neither glory in the praise or cower in the fear of men—but that my glory would be in the Lord, and my fear be only before Him.
Resolved, to live the heck out of life! To live joyfully, passionately and heartily unto the Lord—realizing that joyless service is unneeded service. To seek that joy which is eternally more satisfying than fleeting pleasures. To value leisure time and adequate time for rest and retreat.
In addition to my continued goals from 2015, these are what else I’d like to accomplish this year…
- I’d like to return to the mission in Brasil again this year, hopefully for a longer period of time during the summer—maybe 3 or 4 months. I’ll need to do some fund raising to make this possible.
- Finish off the rest of my seminary core courses and come up with a thesis topic.
- To personally see at least one person, be saved and become integrated into the church and actively be discipled.
- Continue to learn more about Islam and start to intentionally reach out more to Muslims which I am in contact with.
- Invest in at least one more gospel-centered charity or mission.
- Start learning Hebrew.
- Read at least 5 of the books on my personal to-read list.
- Research some more on eschatology and develop a more complete stance.
- Memorize the book of Philippians.
- Spend more time in prayer.
- Memorize more scripture and vocabulary in Greek.
- Make at least 10 new friends.
- Welcome at least 10 new people into circles and introduce them to friends.
- Look for opportunities to instruct and disciple younger men.
- Finish promo videos for ABBA (mission in Brasil).
- Record my spoken word video.
- Start doing some short theology vlogs.
- To publish more blog articles for my site than last year.
- To start a series of short Apologetics -101 questions articles.
- Improve on my writing for my blog, in making resources which are better understood, readable and useful to the Body.
- Start an informal theology/bible study group.
- Move back to Etobicoke and get my own place—possibly a roommate.
- Travel to Europe and visit Toby.
- Find a girlfriend (lol—this has been on this list way too long!).
- Maintain my A average in seminary.
- Find another older male mentor.
- Scratch another item off my bucket list.
- Travel to a country I haven’t been to yet.
- Purchase a dot com for my blog.
- Finish at least 2 personal sculpts.
- Start keeping a sketch book again.
- Sell my old stuff, and buy a new guitar—learn some new chords and skills.
- Maybe start back playing table tennis and training casually.
- Go to the gym at least 3 times a week – cuz, dem gainz bruh.
- Continue playing a sport (futbol, volleyball, table tennis, swimming, snowboarding, whatever) at all times throughout the year.
- Learn to cook 2 new dishes.
- Explore more of Ontario.
- Read and learn more church history—and specifically about the Reformation this year.
These are my resolutions and goals. I will check back on them frequently throughout the year, and again at the end of the year to see how I have done.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV)