Tuesday, December 31, 2019

New Year's Eve Message - New Year and New Life

Each new year brings with it hope and the desire to make things better or to improve. Most of us will make resolutions and work to keep them throughout the new year. Studies show that only twenty-five percent of people stay committed to their resolutions past thirty days. Only eight percent actually accomplish their resolutions. In short, a vast majority start out with a bang and fizzle rather quickly in just a few weeks. 

We all start out with the resolve to do something that we have been meaning to do for a long time. But, for whatever reason, we have pushed those desires to improve to the backburners of our lives. Most of us share the same reasons for not improving ourselves. We don’t have the time or it’s not the right moment. Maybe it isn’t the time. It could be our resolve. Is it that we tend to procrastinate and avoid the difficult things we need to do to reach our goals? We know that we need to improve, but, for whatever reason, we just push it aside and wish that we could be better.

When we make resolutions, we often don’t qualify them. We just leave things in broad, undefined tasks we need to do. For example, many will make resolutions to lose weight. But, there are no set specifics to accomplish. If you set a goal of exercising three times a week for fifteen minutes and cut three mocha lattes a week from your diet, you now have something to accomplish. If you exercise more and eat less, you will lose weight. By setting a goal of acting on specific tasks that are measurable, you have a plan to achieve not only those things but also the added benefit of accomplishing the thing you want most.

Our spiritual lives are the same way. Many Christians will make resolutions to read the scriptures daily. Within just a few days, our Bibles remain closed and our resolutions fall by the wayside. If, however, you begin a reading plan that is guided with the goal of learning rather than just reading words, you will soon find yourself growing spiritually. Instead of plowing through the Bible, set aside time to read the scriptures and to think and pray over what you just read. 

As a minister, I don’t set aside time to just read scripture. My focus remains on what the Lord is saying to me through His word. I sometimes read just one verse in a book or chapter and spend days and even weeks praying over it and listening to God as He speaks to me through the Holy Spirit. There have been countless times when I have read a scripture over and over only to realize that there was a deeper message for me. When I stop and take the time to understand the deeper and, often, more personal message, I then feel that something significantly changed in my life.

When that impactful change has occurred, I know that God has given me a very special gift to share with others. My prayers become more focused on God and looking for His will and plan in my life. With just one verse or chapter, my life has changed for the better. For me, my goal is easy and very simple, but it is the hardest to do. I ask the Lord for that one lesson for the year. My wife describes her goal as “God’s One Word” for her. God gives her one word that becomes the focus of her daily walk with the Lord. 

For me, I look for the lesson for the year. It is that profound moment when I realize that I had been missing something big in my life. Sometimes it takes most of the new year for me to see and understand the lesson. Other times, it is obvious, but it requires that I work very hard to truly understand its meaning. In either case, for me it starts with prayer.

In the fifty-first Psalm, the author writes, “Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you.

I ask God to clean my heart and prepare it for the lesson He has for me. When I have truly gained a full and complete understanding of it and apply it to my life, I ask God for the opportunity to share that lesson with others in order to help them grow spiritually.

The next step is for me to cleanse my mind of the thoughts of this world. I work to keep my mind clear of its darkness and ugliness and concentrate on the light and beauty. Listening to hymns helps to clear my mind and become more receptive to the thoughts that He wants me to have.

In chapter twelve of his letter to the Romans, Paul writes, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

When you allow the world to encroach into your time and relationship with the Lord, it is so very easy to fall in line with its chaos and darkness. When you listen to, read or watch things that pull you back into this world, your mind, heart and soul will be cluttered with the wrong things. As a Christian, your goal is to seek God’s will in your life which is good, pleasing and perfect to the Father.

Once your heart, soul and mind are cleansed, look for God’s will in your life. Study the scriptures with the desire to seek knowledge and understanding rather than just reading words. Be in prayer as each word works its way not only into your mind but also your heart and soul. Spend time alone thinking about the scriptures and how they apply to you and can help you to be better in your daily walk with the Lord. When you take time to do more than just read, you will soon find that you have grown spiritually.

As you approach not only a new year but also a new decade, dedicate yourself to more than just reading words in the Bible. Do more to be more. By studying, praying and learning, you are able to be what God desires for you to be and are able to stand firm in His grace.   

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

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