It’s that time of year when a lot of folks make promises they can’t keep. We call them New Year’s “resolutions,” because we are supposedly resolved in our hearts to change our ways, and improve ourselves as the fresh start of a new year approaches.
Or, you may be one of the many who have finally given up on making resolutions. I read this week that only 37% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions any more, and that means that almost two out of three people are either satisfied with the way they are or don’t want to fail again in 2010.
Of those who do make resolutions, they are usually pretty predictable. The number one resolution people make is to get control of their money. Next is to stop smoking, followed by losing weight and exercising more regularly.
It’s not hard to figure out the general theme of all those typical resolutions–discipline. And perhaps that’s why 63% of us don’t resolve to do anything different, because we realize it requires discipline.
May I make a suggestion for a good New Year’s resolution for 2010. Choose to take seriously the Scriptural call to “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” (1 Tim. 4:7, NAS). Or, as the NIV translates that verse, “train yourself to be godly.” In other words, make up your mind and resolve in your heart that by God’s grace you will make the effort to get your spiritual life under control in 2010. I have a feeling that the other areas of your life will follow if you do.
It all comes down to getting your life in order, beginning with the priority of your relationship with God. That’s the kind of resolution that can cause a revolution in every area of your life, and in the life of your family.
I pray that you’ll make a renewed commitment to follow Jesus in the year ahead, and then follow through as you walk with Him day by day.
Have a safe and blessed New Year. I’ll see you Sunday.
On February 24, 1948, one of the most unusual operations in medical history took place in Ohio State University’s department of research surgery. A stony sheath was removed from around the heart of a 30-year old man named Harry Besharra.
As a child, he had been shot accidentally by a playmate with a 22-caliber rifle. The bullet had lodged in his heart but had not caused his death. However, a lime deposit had begun to form over the protective covering of the heart adn gradually was strangling it.
The operation was a delicate one, separating the ribs and moving the left lung to one side. Then the stony coating was lifted from the heart much in the same way as an orange is peeled. Immediately the pressure of the heart was reduced, and it responded by expanding and pumping normally. “I feel a thousand percent better already,” said the patient soon after the operation.
There is a parable of life here. It is so easy for our hearts to develop a hard protective coating because of accidents and incidents and injuries in our life. They are coated by the deposits of a thousand deceits and disappointments, hardened by the pressures and problems of circumstance. Inevitably, they become smothered and insensitive, choked out even to things divine.
Ever so gradually we find it easier to sneer than to pray. It becomes simpler to work than to worship. Self-satisfied, proud, often cynical, our hearts need a spiritual operation that only something so refreshing as Christmas can perform when we dare to surrender our hearts’ burden before the cradle of Bethlehem. There’s something about meeting the innocent babe in the manger that softens our hearts.
I am reminded of the story ofHow the Grinch Stole Christmas, the Dr. Seuss cartoon story which we’ve been watching since 1966. Why the Grinch was such a “mean one” and hated Christmas was up for much speculation in Whoville, if you will recall. It could have been that his head wasn’t screwed on just right. It could have been that his shoes were too tight. But we knew that the most likely reason of all must have been that his heart was two sizes too small.
For all of us, in this busy and stressful time of year, we can miss the wonder of Christmas if we allow the trappings of the season to make our hearts hard, or even to shrink a few sizes too small. Here’s hoping you have a big-hearted, joy-filled Christmas this year, with plenty of opportunities to be a cheerful giver and share the hope of our Savior with the world around you.
“And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round them; and they were sore afraid.”(Luke 2:9, KJV)
Have you ever been so fearful that it made you sore? I’m not sure if that’s what the King James translation of that familiar verse about the Christian shepherds really means, but I do understand about being afraid. Perhaps you do too.
One particularly dark and stormy night, a mother was tucking her small son into bed. She was about to turn the light off when he asked in a trembling voice, “Mommy, will you stay with me all night?” Smiling, the mother gave him a warm, reassuring hug and said tenderly, “I can’t dear. I have to sleep in Daddy’s room.” A long silence followed. At last it was broken by a shaky voice saying, “That big sissy!”
We all know what it’s like to be fearful. Psychologists now list several hundred fears that officially qualify as “phobias.” These include claustrophobia, the fear of closed places; acrophobia, the fear of heights; hydrophobia, the fear of water; peladophobia, the fear of baldness; and porphyrophobia, the fear of the color purple.
If this little exercise in psychological definitions bothers you, you may be suffering from calyprophobia, the fear of obscure meanings. Or maybe you’re afraid of being afraid. In that case, you may have phobophobia, the fear of fear itself. (Apparently that was a weakness of FDR.)
The Bible is full of people who, like us, were afraid. Afraid of death, persecution, failure, embarrassment…or in the case of the shepherds, afraid of glowing angels appearing in the midst of their sleepy sheep in the middle of the night. All through the story of the “first Christmas” it seems, there were fearful people. And to each, the message was simple: Fear not.
To those shepherds, the angels proclaimed God’s great cure for fear: the Gospel. “Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”
Good news! That was the point of Jesus’ coming, you know. A Savior was born, Christ the Lord. And because we now have our Immanuel–“God with us”–we never have to be afraid again. Joy to the world!
I must say this Christmas season that I count it such a joy to be your pastor. I pray that you and your family have a blessed Christmas, and a wonderful New Year. I hope to see you on Sunday.