The Resistance to Christmas

1208573_69660271The other night in family devotions we read from John Piper’s Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent, published by Desiring God.  The reading focused on the theme of resistance to Jesus and highlighted two demonstrations of resistance in the Christmas story as narrated in Matthew 2.  King Herod embodies the first kind of resistance that demonstrates itself in violent opposition to Jesus.  Herod sought to kill the Christ Child and put an end to any potential rival.  The chief priests and scribes embody the other kind of resistance in their amazing indifference to the birth announcement delivered by the magi from the East.  Though the scribes were biblical experts and able to quickly identify the prophesied birthplace of the Messiah, and though the priests were in charge of the religious life of Israel, all of which anticipated their coming Redeemer, neither of these groups showed any interest in the reported birth in Bethlehem, and neither investigated the report any further.

As we sat around our dinner table, we talked about these two forms of resistance, observing that in our particular situation, the resistance we most often face is that of indifference to Jesus Christ.  While not facing life-threatening opposition to Jesus, we do find ourselves surrounded by a general sense of carelessness regarding him.  Jesus just doesn’t matter to many people.  It’s not that they don’t think he existed or is important, it’s just that he’s not much different from the multitude of heroic figures from television and movies that fill the minds of a media-saturated culture.  Though Jesus is a major player in the religious world, he is little more than a mental icon tucked away in the religious compartment of peoples’ personal lives only to be brought out when convenient. Indifference is a tough barrier to break through: people who know about Jesus, even true things about Jesus, claim to admire him, but beyond that are indifferent to him.  I wonder if one reason churches across our land are having such an insignificant spiritual impact is because of the number of priests and scribes sitting in the pews. Indifference to Jesus is a subtle form of resistance, but resistance just the same.

As we continued to talk after dinner about the resistance present in the Christmas story, we remembered the fact that though we are not confronted with it, the resistance of outright opposition to Jesus exists in many places in our world.  In that sense King Herod is alive and well embodied in those who will to go to any lengths to prevent the name of Jesus Christ from being spoken and to stop the spread of the his gospel.  CAR Trip 299 (2)I showed my family this picture of a follower of Jesus Christ named Doui.  He was a pastor in the Central African Republic who recently was killed by those who oppose Christianity and would like to rid their region of Christians.  I met Doui five years ago when I was in that country and had the opportunity to preach and teach God’s Word to Central African pastors for two weeks.  Doui was among that number of brothers in Christ who sat in the classroom for hours diligently taking notes.  Since he was one of the better English speakers in the class, he helped with some of the translating for other students, and he and I were able to personally interact more easily because there was no language barrier.  Doui worked hard to support his family in addition to shepherding a church.  Opposition to Christ ended his earthly life, but ushered him into the presence of his Savior.  I include his picture as a tribute to his faithfulness to the Lord and to the care of his congregation, as well as to serve as a reminder that violent opposition to Christ still exists.

King Herod, the chief priests, and the scribes are still around this Christmas.  There is still an active and open Christmas resistance.  Don’t get hung up on the resistance to December 25th traditions and slogans.  See it for what it really is: “Light came into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).  Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).  The encouraging thing to remember in the face of resistance is that light overcomes darkness.  The Child in the manger was stronger than the king on the throne and wiser than the religious authorities of his day.  He will win!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s Your Number, Pastor?

numbersThere it was in an email I had received.  I predicted out loud to my wife on our way home from church that another one was slipping away.  My mind raced to figure out what I could do to tighten my grip so I could hang on a little longer though I was fairly certain there was nothing I could do. I’d been there before, and every time it was disappointing.  But I’m ahead of myself.

I like the movie The Guardian. It is the story of two Coast Guard rescue swimmers Jake Fischer and Chief Ben Randall. Jake arrives at the Coast Guard Academy a cocky, yet determined, recruit who is driven by an inner need for absolution. Randall is ready to retire from the Guard but answers one last assignment to train this incoming class of recruits. Trying to prove himself, Fischer is determined to break all the swimming records at the academy, especially when he learns that the records belong to Randall. He succeeds, but there is one record that especially interests him: his chief’s number, that is, the number of people Randall had rescued. Unlike the other swimming records, that number wasn’t posted anywhere. Later in the movie after Fischer and Randall have worked through some important issues and are serving together on rescue operations, Fischer puts the question to his chief.

Fischer:  “What your real number?”
Randall:  “22.”
Fischer:  “22?  That’s not bad.  It’s not 200 but …”
Randall:  “22 is the number of people I lost, Jake.  The only number I kept track of.”

That dialogue haunts me and here’s why. When asked what “their number” is, pastors like me tend to gravitate to the number of members in the church, the number of attenders at worship services and special events, the number of people who walked the aisle, or even the number on the bottom line of the budget. In other words “our number” is a success number; a number that somehow validates us as leaders. I get it because I’m prone to do it.

When Jesus talks about a pastor and church He uses the language of shepherding a flock of sheep. That is what the term “pastor” means, shepherd. A local church is a flock of sheep under a shepherd’s care, the assignment to which is made by the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

As I read the New Testament I come to the unmistakable impression that it is really important to watch over the flock so as not to lose one. Losing sheep is undesirable, whether the loss is due to a wolf, a thief, or a sheep’s own wandering away.  If the shepherd owned the flock, he was protecting his own property and livelihood.  If he didn’t own the flock, he was accountable to the real owner to care for the owner’s flock and responsible to not lose any of the owner’s sheep.  So important was it to not lose any sheep that Jesus told a parable about a shepherd who left ninety-nine safe, healthy, protected sheep to go look for one lost sheep.  He told that parable because that’s the kind of shepherd Jesus is.

As I read the Old Testament I come to the same conclusion regarding a shepherd’s care of the flock.  When Ezekiel chastened the leaders of his day, one of his indictments was that the shepherds had not gone after the stray sheep (Ezekiel 34).  In the Old Testament context, the sheep were the people of Israel and the shepherds were Israel’s leaders.  The parallels to pastoral responsibility are clear and the language too similar to ignore.  Listen to the indictments:

  • “The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought.” (v. 4)
  • “My sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep.” (v. 8)
  • “For thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out.’” (v. 11)

It’s easy to lose sheep.  Wandering comes naturally to them.  There are greener pastures, calmer streams, more shade, and better defenses elsewhere.  And yes, the temptations of the world that capture the imaginations of sheep never stop drawing some away.  Depending on the size of the flock it’s easy to overlook the stray.  The incessant demands of ministry responsibilities make it hard to find time to go out on search and rescue missions.  The endless difficulties in people’s lives can leave a pastor wondering if it’s worth the time and can change a careless shepherd into a less caring one.  Yet, to be like our Shepherd Jesus means caring enough to go searching.  Remember what happened when Adam and Eve strayed?  It was God who called out, “Where are you?  Why are you hiding? What’s happened?”

Some think you ought not to obsess about such things as lost members because it can be too discouraging and thus counter-productive to pastoral ministry.  To keep that number in your mind seems to sacrifice too much attention to failure which can be defeating for a pastor.  I respond by saying that I don’t obsess over lost sheep but I do remember. I don’t remember them all by name, so I don’t have a fixed number in my head, but I do know there is a number, and for certain, the Chief Shepherd knows what it is. Thank God for a gracious Chief.

I know I won’t be 100% successful in finding and recovering all the strays. Not all the sheep of our earthly flocks belong to God’s flock which means the pursuit of straying sheep who think they’re in God’s flock but aren’t will usually be in vain. Not truly belonging to Christ, they don’t hear His voice and thus they don’t follow Him (John 10:27), and if they don’t hear the Chief Shepherd’s voice they won’t hear the under-shepherd’s voice either. Not only that, the shepherds of the flocks are not perfect like the Great Shepherd and they disappoint their sheep.  Sometimes disappointed sheep look for greener pastures, healthier flocks, and better shepherds, and they won’t have to look far to find what they’re looking for.  In spite of all of this, it is good to know that we have a Shepherd who will not lose one of His own sheep (John 18:9)!

I rejoice in every sheep the Lord brings into the flock under my care and I want to give them my undivided attention.  But there is a part of me that remains regretfully aware of the ones I’ve lost. I don’ t think there is anything to be gained by keeping a number, but lest any of us pastors become too enamored with “our numbers,” it’s not a number to ignore, because every soul matters to God.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Knowledge of Good and Evil

forbidden_fruit_small_500px“What God says doesn’t matter! What God declares to be off-limits isn’t really off-limits if you don’t want it to be off-limits.  You have just as much right to decide good and evil for yourself as God does.  If you want to listen to him, that’s totally up to you, but you don’t have to.  You can decide for yourself.” That’s what the serpent told Eve in Genesis 3:4-5. And she believed him.  And so she took that piece of delicious-looking, freedom-offering, God-forbidden fruit and sunk her perfect teeth into it.  “Hey Adam, you gotta try this!”  And he did.

The immediate result of their decision was anything but the liberating self-awakening they had been promised. Instead a tidal wave of negative self-consciousness, fear, and shame swept over them.  The nakedness the man and woman had experienced without shame in Genesis 2:25 gave way to nakedness accompanied by shame in Genesis 3:10.  This new feeling was not caused by God but by the actions of Adam and Eve.  They were already stitching together the fig leaves and hiding out in the bushes before God ever came looking for them.  When they chose a good and an evil that were contrary to what God had said, they were immediately filled with shame and it was their shame that created the fear and it was their fear that caused them to hide.  All of that happened before God ever called out to Adam, “Where are you?”  If it’s true that they had the right to choose good and evil for themselves regardless of what God said, then why were they ashamed, fearful, and hiding from God instead of cavorting in their new-found freedom?  “Hey God, look at us!”

God is a startling reality check!

It didn’t take long for the initial shame of sin to subside and for humanity’s discovered freedom of choice to accelerate at full-throttle.  In Genesis 4 an older brother murders his younger brother, and a man marries two wives.  In Genesis 6:3 God accuses humanity of striving against Him at every turn.  No shame.  No restraint.  Just self-indulgence; man choosing good and evil for himself regardless of any threatened consequences (Gen. 6:5).

Fast-forward a couple thousand years to the apostle Paul’s written explanation of the lost condition of humanity in Romans 1:18-32.  What he describes is the result of the choice Adam and Eve made back in Genesis 3.  The results of their freedom of choice are listed by Paul, not comprehensively, but quite specifically.  Some of those results include: a denial of reality, glorifying everything but God, futile thinking, darkened understanding, believing lies, and lifestyles contrary to naturenature being defined as that which God created and ordered. By the time you arrive at the end of Paul’s litany of indictments, the shame evidenced by the first sinners in Genesis 3 is nowhere to be seen in Romans 1, for the ones guilty of living by their own God-defying rules aren’t hiding in shame but are actively encouraging others to do the same (Rom. 1:32).  It’s as if they’ve come out of hiding, torn off the fig leaves and are cavorting shamelessly, defying God to do anything about it.

The choices men and women make regarding good and evil do not nullify the enduring laws of God that define what is good and evil.  Man cannot write laws that overturn God’s laws. Man can either write laws that correspond to and cooperate with God’s moral laws or man can write laws the compete with or contest God’s laws.  Man cannot nullify God’s laws.

A philosopher has observed that if a real tree is in the middle of a real road and you are driving a real car and run into the real tree, you will feel its real impact even if you denied all along that the tree was ever there. Denying the existence of something that is real does not make it unreal.  Our nation continues to ignore God’s laws.  Our culture is pushing the gas pedal to the floor acting as if the tree we’re heading straight toward at 90 mph isn’t really there.  But it is.

The Congress can pass any law it pleases; the President can sign any bill he chooses; the Supreme Court can render any judgment it wants; the electorate can support any of these they decide to support.  All of the preceding can treat God and His laws as imaginary.  But if man’s laws ignore God’s, there will be a collision, and when the smoke from the fiery crash dissipates, you will find man’s laws a total wreck and God’s laws unmoved.

God is a startling and a sobering reality.

I’m sure glad He’s gracious and merciful toward lawbreakers like me!

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Prayer for the Ohio House of Representatives

04.30.13_RoegnerPrayer4Earlier this year I was invited by Rep. Kristina Roegner, State Representative for Ohio’s 37th House District (standing to my immediate left, in this picture, along with the Speaker of the Ohio House, Rep. William G. Batchelder), to offer the opening prayer for a session of the House.  That invitation became reality on Tuesday April 30, 2013. My wife and I journeyed down to the Statehouse in Columbus and enjoyed a tour of that historic building prior to making our way to the House chamber later in the morning.  It was the official picture day for the the 130th General Assembly of the House of Representatives, and many school groups were visiting, so the chamber was full.

It was an honor to serve the Lord in this manner while also being afforded the privilege of ministering to that legislative body.  It was pleasure also to become acquainted with Rep. Roegner who serves as the representative for the district in which I live and serve.  She is an ardent advocate of continuing the practice of opening these sessions with prayer.  You may view a recording of this session by going to this link and then clicking on the session for April 30.  The following is the prayer I prayed that morning.

Lord God in Heaven,

May Your name be glorified because of Your faithful love, and because of Your truth.  May Your name be held in honor and be esteemed above all, for You are God above all, and we are your servants.

We confess, Lord God, that we are prone to love ourselves, to be wise in our own eyes, to lean on our own understanding instead of trusting in You, and asking from You that which we need.  Forgive us.

Thank You for these Your ministers who serve the citizens if this great state.  Thank You for their willingness to bear the heavy responsibilities of governance.  On behalf of them, we draw near to Your sovereign throne of grace, that we may receive Your mercy and Your grace to help us in our need.

You, Lord God, have ordained government to be Your servant for the good of its citizens. God, grant them wisdom to know the good they must do as they serve in this distinguished legislature.

You have said, “If anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”  Lord, we want wisdom; we ask for that wisdom which is from above, a wisdom that is pure, peaceful, gentle, reasonable, impartial, sincere, and brings with it all the good fruits that ripen in this wisdom.

As these, Your servants, minister today in the business before them, help them to see what they do not see and understand what they may not now understand; enable them to wisely test everything, so that they may hold fast what is good.  Grant them success in all their endeavors to improve civil conduct, to suppress that which is vile and profane, and to support religion and the promotion of virtue.  Heal the divisions, and repair the breaches.  Grant, we pray, the safe and righteous continuation of our state government.  Let Your gracious blessing attend to that which they do, that peace, and truth, and righteousness may be established in our days and secured for our future generations.  Guard us from the pursuit of short-sighted victories that yield long-term consequences of greater hardship.

May You, Lord God, help us to order our affairs with discretion and to behave wisely; may these who serve give attention to the way that is blameless, and walk with integrity of heart as individuals, and together as a governing body.

As they minister before You, may they faithfully fulfill the responsibilities to which they were elected by the people and to which they were ordained by You.

Thank You.  This prayer I offer to You, Lord God, in the name of and upon the merits of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Rep. Roegner repeatedly asked me to pray for those who serve in the state legislature.  Perhaps after you read this post you might want to pause and pray for your own state and national leaders “to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation” (1 Timothy 2:2-3, The Message).

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A Peg in a Hole

A Peg in a Hole.  I continue to try to get my wife’s writings out there to be read; so, I pass this one along for your enjoyment and encouragement.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Good Moms and Bad Days

Good Moms and Bad Days.  Since I haven’t had time to write recently, I thought I’d post this for Mother’s Day, written by my wife.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dishes and Doilies

The latest blog from my wife. Enjoy.

Ponderings from the Parsonage

I recently enjoyed a relaxing evening with friends watching the newly-released movie, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”    While there were many scenes and sayings in the movie that caught my attention, one dialogue in particular has stayed with me since that time.   The conversation takes place in Bilbo Baggins’ hobbit hole as Gandalf challenges him with the opportunity to go on an adventure.

In this scene, following a dwarf invasion of his home, Bilbo states to Gandalf, I’ll be alright. Just let me sit quietly for a moment.”  Gandalf dryly replies, You’ve been sitting quietly for far too long. Tell me, when did doilies and your mother’s dishes become so important to you? I remember a young hobbit who was always running off in search of Elves, in the woods. He’d stay out late, come home, after dark, trailing mud and twigs and fireflies.  A young hobbit who…

View original post 628 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Driven to Be Post-Modern

Without getting all philosophical and all, this post-modern age (this era that has emerged from the modern age that gave us the affluent, technological, media-driven, high-production, successful lifestyles we enjoy) is rooted in all kinds of things, a major one of which is personal disconnectedness. We are alone, un-rooted, migrants, cut off from traditions and families with no sense of belonging. We’re pretty much on our own. In the words of David Wells, its the age of homelessness (not literally for most but figuratively for nearly all). It is the age of the autonomous self. It’s all about the individual and it plays out in virtually all arenas of life. But where did this autonomous self come from?

1327383_64930133My personal answer is that is came from trying to get some service for my phone and internet. My land-line phone wasn’t working today and neither was my internet for a while. I found that out when I tried to log on to our provider’s site and update some information. I couldn’t log in. Then I tried to call, but my call got cut off. So I pulled out my cell phone and dialed my way through the menu but never talked with anyone personally. Just when I was getting close to being able to talk to an actual person I was told that I would incur a service charge if I did talk with a real, live person. I hung up because that sounded ridiculous. Determined that I had to figure out what was wrong, I called again and forged my way through the labyrinth of menu options and finally got a live, human voice who told me it was not a billing problem because my bill was current.  She transferred me to technical support and I once again got a live voice, not from around here, but from somewhere out there. They knew me only by my account number and name on their computer screen. Their personal touch was to call me “Mr. Mark” in a dialect I had difficulty understanding. This person wasn’t able to fix my problem but gave me a phone number to call since my problem seemed to be a local connection issue. I called that number and got the same recorded voice and menu I had gone to previously. I was back at the beginning. So, I tried again to trace my way through the menu maze pushing button after button and option after option, running upstairs in between button-pushing to check on our other phone as instructed by the impersonal voice, and dutifully entering each number I was asked for. I am pretty sure that when everything was said and done I ended up making an appointment for a service technician later today. I think I know what time. I have no idea if I’m going to be charged for a service call. A service ticket has been produced somewhere out there for a nameless technician, and now I guess I’ll wait and see if anyone shows up. I think they are but I never actually talked with anyone to confirm it.  Talk about frustrating. Talk about feeling powerless.  Talk about wanting to drop this provider and go look for another one. I made the passing comment to my wife, “It’s stuff like this that makes post-moderns.”

Sometimes it seems there is no one to stand up for you, no one ready and willing to help you. You’re left on your own, alone, until you’ve had enough, and you rise up for yourself to fend for yourself, to assert yourself, to not be treated this way any more, to refuse to be a nameless number, to get some attention. It’s time to assert self.

Welcome to the world of post-modernism.

By the way, asserting self, in the long run, won’t work unless you’ve got a big mouth, a lot of money or a big army (the need for which will depend on the size of the problem)! I have none of the above. Honestly, I don’t need any of the above because I know that there is a God who is real, who is bigger than me, smarter than any bureaucracy, more powerful than any army, and who, for reasons known only to him, actually cares about me!

Him or me? As I see it, He is probably all that keeps me from plunging into the lostness of myself in this post-modern age!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Resurrection of Jesus: the Greatest Moment in History

empty-tombI have been challenged to spend the next 40 days writing reflectively on the resurrection of Jesus.  That’s how many days there were between his resurrection and his ascension (Acts 1:3).  It won’t be daily, but I am going to accept the challenge and continue to contemplate the meaning of what we celebrated yesterday on Easter Sunday, something deserving far more than one day or even one week of careful attention.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest moment in history. Out of curiosity I did an unscientific survey using Google to see what others deemed to be the most important events in history. As you might expect the answers were all over the place including world-wars, inventions, and revolutions.  Several mentioned Jesus’ birth and death.  I didn’t find any that specified His resurrection.  Many believe that the life of Jesus Christ was world-impacting. But the life of Jesus alone isn’t the most important moment in history. His resurrection is.

By his resurrection Jesus proved that he was who he claimed to be – God.  If He didn’t rise from the dead, then he isn’t God because if he didn’t rise from the dead he either had an over-inflated view of himself and his ability or he outright lied about what he could do. God doesn’t overstate his case and he certainly does not lie. If Jesus said he would rise from the dead but didn’t then he is morally inferior to God and thus not God.

If he didn’t rise from the dead then Death was greater than Jesus.  Nothing and no one is greater than God.  If Death is stronger than Jesus, then Jesus isn’t God.

If Jesus isn’t God, then he isn’t the world’s Messiah-Redeemer. He may have been a good man who brought hope to his people and set an example for the world. But death is universal and if it got him and held him, then it still reigns as our ultimate finality.  If Jesus isn’t the world’s Messiah-Redeemer, then we’re still waiting for him or her or it to come.  We’re still looking.  We’re still trying to figure out how this messed-up world can be fixed, perhaps even wondering if it can be fixed.

But Jesus did rise from the dead.  The world’s Redeemer-Messiah has come.

For three days his beaten, bloodied, pierced corpse lay in a cold, dark tomb.  No signs of life.  No breath.  No heartbeat. No movement.  Just an icy-cold body lying in icy-cold silence.

But suddenly the closed eyes of Jesus opened.  His body that was one moment a lifeless icy-cold corpse got up, pulsating with life.  Leaving the grave clothes behind he came out of the tomb.  He presented himself to those who knew him best (hundreds of eyewitness according to 1 Corinthians 15:5-8).  Jesus was alive.  Having gone head-to-head with Death he came out on top.  He swallowed up Death in victory.

Since the resurrection of Jesus has made possible man’s reconciliation to his Creator now and forever, and since his resurrection brought the guarantee of everlasting life, and since his resurrection opened the way on the other side of the grave to heaven, there can be nothing more important in history. The resurrection of Jesus means the hope of Christians does not rest in the legacy of a dead man’s teachings but in their spiritual participation in his actual resurrection.

When the eyes of Jesus that were closed in death awakened in life, that was the greatest moment in history.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

It’s Time for “New” Again

222139_10151224985749055_1714936635_nIt’s the time of year for new beginnings and new starts.  The need for such newness is highlighted by the glut of advertisements that are targeted at overweight, balding, skin-blemished, and in-debt people.  It’s the promise of something better dangled in front of the discontentedly needy; a seemingly win-win combination.  New beginnings 2013.  Of course this is a follow-up to new beginnings 2012 and new beginnings 2011, and, new beginnings 2010, and, well, you get the point.  I heard a news report today that said 40% of Americans make resolutions each year, and one-third of those resolutions are broken before the end of January.

We joke that New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken.  I guess we joke about it because the only other alternative is to  feel guilty about resolutions not kept and who needs that?  I’m sure that many of these resolutions are sincerely made.  The beginning of a new year seems a natural time to make these new-beginnings resolutions, as if the movement of the second-hand from 11:59:59 PM, December 31 to 12:00:00 AM, January 1 resets life for the next twelve months.  It’s a chance to try again with fingers crossed, hoping that this time it will all work out.

Why do we keep doing it – making resolutions we don’t keep?  Why do we act as if January 1 is a reset button?  I think part of it is that we have a keen sense that we haven’t become everything we want to be or are meant to be.  We know there are still areas of our lives that need improvement physically, relationally, financially, vocationally, and spiritually.  We know we can do better and be better and at the beginning of a new year we seem to want it enough to make resolutions to do something about it.  Additionally, I think we sense there is something more to be experienced in or accomplished through our lives.  We know it’s not time to retire from life.

I wonder what God thinks of it all.  I don’t know and won’t claim I do.  But since God is timeless existing in an eternal present, I’m inclined to believe that the annual transition from New Year’s Eve to New Year’s Day is irrelevant to Him. I can’t help but think that with God our annual resolution-making must be sort of like a 6-year old promising every morning to be a better boy or girl that day but to no avail by bedtime.

Do we just give up then?  Of course not.  It is true that there is more for us to know, to experience, and to become; we haven’t arrived.  It’s also true that we have some personal responsibility for our progress in the journey of life that requires our resolve.  But the answer isn’t a new beginning every January 1 that proves to be another false start.  Changed lives do not come through man-made resolutions but by divine regeneration.  I’m not saying people don’t experience change apart from God.  I am saying that the change that most needs to happen won’t happen apart from the regenerating power of God.  And that change is unleashed through the cross of Jesus Christ.  Real change comes through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  If you want to see change in your life this year, perhaps you should revisit again the wonder of what Jesus has already done through the sacrificial death of his own Son and his resurrection to new life.

In his book The Cross-Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing, C.J. Mahaney writes:

If there’s anything in life that we should be passionate about, it’s the gospel. And I don’t mean passionate only about sharing it with others. I mean passionate in thinking about it, dwelling on it, rejoicing in it, allowing it to color the way we look at the world. Only one thing can be of first importance to each of us. And only the gospel ought to be.

That’s how change happens.  It’s not so much through new resolutions as it is a return to what’s 471235_69107547already been done.  The truth is there is only one time in a person’s life when a reset button is pushed and that is the day a person trusts in Christ for salvation for when that happens, that person becomes a new creation in Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 15:57).  That is a real new beginning, a real new start in a real new life.  More than making wishes that we conceal as New Year’s resolutions, what we need is the life-giving and life-changing power of Jesus flowing through us by His grace.  More of that is what I need.  More of that is what I want.  To that end and for that purpose and in that power let the resolutions begin!

I invite your feedback on making resolutions for the New Year.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment