It’s that time of year again.

The most wonderful time of the year has drawn to a close and we’re left looking into the blank space of 2016, wondering what will be. Yet into the unknown, some of us have brought tools to ‘help’ us as we move ahead. We call those tools resolutions.

From getting fit to reading the Bible more; from watching less TV to growing in holiness. We carry the resolution tools on our own shoulders, hoping that with our own good intentions, we will experience change in the year ahead.

Yet so often – usually in the third week in January – our resolutions begin to weigh us down; we begin to feel guilty when we haven’t reached the mark, or in the busyness of our lives, we simply can’t find the time to experience change. I’m not saying that resolutions are in and of themselves bad, but I am saying that true and lasting change requires much more than good intentions.

In John 15, we find Jesus teaching his disciples that abiding in him creates growth and development. His activity and our abiding leads to the flourishing of fruit that reflects the King and His kingdom. Jesus desires that we go and bear fruit, but he calls for a specific kind of fruit to flourish – fruit that lasts.

This kind of fruit, long-lasting, kingdom fruit, doesn’t grow through good intentions or resolutions that call it a day after three weeks. Fruit that lasts requires something more.

For generations, the Church has engaged in sacred rhythms and practices that have led to spiritual formation and deep personal change. The intentional pursuit of rhythms and habits have helped carve out environments of abiding in Jesus, and from the richness of his presence we are able to experience growth and change in him.

The intentional pursuit of spiritual rhythms and habits has consistently produced fruit that lasts.

When it comes to resolutions, so often they are pursued individually; we are the only ones that know we’re carrying the weight of our own resolutions. It’s all down to us. Alone.

This marks the difference between resolutions that lead to failed expectations, and habits that grow fruit that lasts: the intentional pursuit of spiritual rhythms and habits require others.

The intentional pursuit of spiritual rhythms and habits has consistently been experienced in family.

As our alarms ring at silly o’clock and as we cycle, walk or drive through the quiet streets of South Belfast towards the embankment, we’re all thinking the same thing: “It’s far too early. Where’s the coffee?”

It’s Tuesday. It’s 7.15am. We’re gathering together again.

For the past six months, our missional community in the south of our city has gathered together every Tuesday morning in Tom and Matt’s living room. We do the same thing every week as we intentionally pursue spiritual rhythms and habits together, as family. Opening with a Psalm and a few moments of silent invitation, we open the scriptures and engage in the sacred practice of Lectio Divina, to ask what the Father may be saying to us all through His word. Someone may bring a short piece of teaching as we seek to disciple each other, and following that we pray for our city, our church and our missional family, before praying the Northumbria Community’s morning prayer over each other.

While 7.15am on a Tuesday morning is far from easy, it has become a sacred environment for us. We are tasting the richness of Jesus’ empowering presence, growing in him and experiencing transformation in our lives. And we’re doing it all together as a family. Choosing to pursue this rhythm together has changed us and is equipping us to partner with Jesus in establishing change in our city.

It doesn’t need to be 7.15am on Tuesdays, but we can all intentionally pursue sacred environments, tap into the richness of our spiritual inheritance, gather with family and pray, worship, open the Bible, encourage, provoke and see the fruitfulness that comes from abiding in Jesus grow and grow and grow.

At the start of this New Year, may we choose habits over resolutions. The intentional pursuit of sacred rhythms and habits in family create sacred environments of change and produces the kind of fruit that lasts.

Written by Stu Bothwell // Follow Stu on  Twitter

Stuart is married to Emma. Together, they live in East Belfast and are passionate about seeking the flourishing of the city. Stuart has recently joined the team at EA and helps co-ordinate threads. There’s little Stuart loves more than sharing meals with friends both old and new.

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