Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Journey Into 2019

Dear Friends,

Please don’t feel bad if you’ve already broken the New Year’s Resolutions you made only a few days ago! A Gallup poll revealed that 71% of people who make resolutions keep them for less than two weeks. And only 8% will actually keep them for a full year. The same poll also listed the most common resolutions that people make. Number one was to lose weight and number two was to exercise more. No surprise there. But the third most popular resolution people make was to “be a better person” and the sixth most popular one was to “get closer to God.” Those two stood out for me because they go hand in hand. The way to be a better person is to get closer to God. That’s because the more of God we have in our life, the more like Christ we become and the changes in our thoughts, words and behaviors take place without effort on our part. The Holy Spirit is the One doing the “work” on us. 

We end every service at the assisted living home by singing “Day By Day.” That’s an 18th century Anglican prayer put to music for the musical “Godspell” and goes: Day by Day.. Day by Day.. Oh dear Lord, Three things I pray. To see Thee more clearly. Love Thee more dearly. Follow Thee more nearly. Day by Day! That’s how we get closer to God; that’s the “resolution” that is guaranteed for you to keep, because that’s been God’s desire for you from the time that He hand-formed you in your mother’s womb. Mark 12:30; John 14:23; Psalm 139:13 And my prayer for all who made a resolution to get closer to God is that they will yield to the calling of the Holy Spirit who will enable and empower them to love God more and become more like Him in this new year than ever before.

On this journey toward knowing God, loving Him more than ever and following Him more closely, there may be things He wants us to leave behind. Things that may “sinful” and things that may not be sins but are just not helpful for us. 1 Corinthians 6:12 And that can change our whole idea of what a “New Years Resolution” should be. Resolutions are our commitment to change. We have a new year. New opportunities. New possibilities. A new season. There is a freshness of new beginnings. God wants to do new things in your life and so we say “yes and amen” and resolve to do better and then...nothing changes. We’re still stuck in the sameness and the problem is not God. 

The problem is that we’re holding onto the old so tightly that we don’t have room in our lives for anything new. Perhaps the secret to bringing about the changes we desire is not what we resolve to do but more about what we resolve to stop doing. It is so often our human tendency to cling to our past that prevents us from stepping out into our future, and yet it’s what we leave behind that will result in a changed life. 

This is exactly what God was telling the Israelites when they were in captivity. “Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing..!” Isaiah 43:18-19 The people of Israel were at their lowest point. Israel is focused on their past transgressions; they are possessed by those failures. God gave them the Temple and instead of worshiping God, the faithless Israelites worshiped idols. God gave them commandments and they lived as if they were optional suggestions. God gave them Himself and they rejected Him over and over again. And God in His goodness, says to them, “Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. Forget about your mess-ups. Don't obsess about your past mistakes and poor decisions, I am giving you an opportunity to start over. I will do a new thing..”

We speak of our Christian faith as “walking with Jesus.” We don’t talk about “standing around with Jesus.” Standing means we're still. Stagnant. Not moving. Walking means a forward motion. Walking with Jesus means moving forward with Him on the journey we call “life.” But Jesus gave us a warning about following Him. Jesus and His disciples were walking down the road when someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62 Jesus was saying that to follow Him we need to let go of the things that anchor us to our past and instead we must focus fully on Him. We need to be looking ahead at the One we are following.

Life is a journey and every new year God gives us a fresh start – a new beginning. His promise to the Israelites and Jesus’ warning to the disciple, applies to you and me because God is still the Creator of all things new and all things good. He is unchanging – the same yesterday, today and forever. If your resolution this year is to become a better person by being closer to God, “To see Thee more clearly. Love Thee more dearly. Follow Thee more nearly” here’s how that works. God is sovereign (all-powerful) and He can do anything He wants, but He has given us willpower and allows us to make choices. That means that you can’t do it without God and He won’t do it without you. 

Before God will do something new in your relationship with Him is there something(s) you must choose to give up? Something that comes between you and Him? Priorities? Habits? Lifestyles? People tell me they have no time to read the Bible or pray and I have to watch their discomfort when I ask them how many hours they watch TV or spend on Facebook. What are the things that distance you from God? Are you willing to let go of those things?

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