We stand on the brink of a New Year, with all of the possibilities of a fresh start and the opportunity for yet another new beginning. This is the time of year when we are inclined to make resolutions about what we plan/hope/wish to do in the year ahead, most of which fade as quickly as the fireworks in the sky on New Year’s Eve.
For that reason I will not suggest any new “New Year’s resolutions,” but I will recommend a few choices. We all have decisions before us as to what we will do and who we will be in the year ahead, and those choices will be grounded in the real-life priorities that shape our lives.
As we look back a year from now and evaluate the lives we lived in 2012–assuming of course, that the Mayans were as good at prophecy as they were at maintaining their civilization, and we are still around–whether we will have succeeded or failed will largely be determined by the choices we made. Let’s make good choices, to live our lives according to God’s will.
Specifically in regard to our church, I am excited and encouraged about what God is doing in the life of our fellowship. There is a fresh wind blowing, no doubt, and I believe God has great things in store for us in the year ahead as we serve Him together. Howeve, we are reminded that “our church” collectively is made up of a bunch of individuals, all of whom have our own choices to make.
With that in mind, I wanted to specifically encourage each of you and your family to commit yourselves to do at least these five things in the New Year:
- Pray diligently. Our church will only be as strong as our prayer lives, as we seek God’s direction and His moving in our ministry. We can do what we can do, or we can ask God to do what He does. I prefer the latter. So…let us pray.
- Attend faithfully.Every member of this body needs every other member, both as we gather together for worship on Sundays and as we connect with one another in community in our small groups. So, “let us not forsake assembling ourselves together.”
- Serve selflessly. Like Jesus, we’re called to serve, more than to be served. Ask God to give you a servant’s heart, and then open your eyes for opportunities to use it. See how you can give your life away in the year ahead.
- Reach out compassionately.It is time we regain our passion for seeing lost people saved. They need hope. We have it. Share it.
- Walk humbly with God.Ultimately, that’s God’s will for all of us, all the time. (Micah 6:8)
Happy New Year to each of you! May the Lord bless you and your family abundantly in the year ahead. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday as we kick off 2012 with a great day of worship together.
“I want to live again, I want to live again,” George Bailey cried out as he stood on the snow-covered bridge in Bedford Falls, the river dark and swirling below. With the help of Clarence Oddbody, Angel Second Class, George had discovered, to his horror, what life would have been like had he never been born.
No doubt you recognize that’s the pivotal scene of the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,”which makes its annual appearance on television this time of year (and is also showing this week at the Alabama Theater). Of all the Christmas classics, I would have to say that one is my favorite. Clarence the angel sums up the compelling theme of the movie so well in his words: “Each man’s life touches to many other lives, and when he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole.”
With that in mind, I ask a different question this Christmas Eve eve, one that we should ask annually this time of year, as we remember and celebrate the birth of our Savior. What if Jesus had never been born?What difference would it have made in history or in our daily lives if a Bethlehem stable had not served as a makeshift delivery room for the promised Christ-child a little more than 2,000 years ago?
Dr. D. James Kennedy wrote a book with that very title–“What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?”–several years back, in which he gave persuasive evidence that people inspired by Jesus are responsible for everything from mass education, modern science, representative democracy, the elevation of women, the end of slavery, respect for life, and the creation of universities and hospitals. “Jesus Christ, the greatest man who ever lived, has changed virtually every aspect of human life–and most people don’t know it.” the author asserted. His truly was a wonderful life!
I doubt anyone would argue that the birth and life of Christ has not had a radical impact on world history. But my question for you today gets a little more personal.
What difference does His birth (and life, and death on the cross, and resurrection) make in yourdaily life? Is the promised “peace on earth” the angels sang about evident in your life, even in this stressed-out season? Does the hope of the coming of the promised Messiah sustain you in difficult times? Do the “glad tidings of great joy for all the people” show in the way you life your life?
If we celebrate only the birth and life of a historical figure from the 1st century without realizing His impact on our daily lives personally in the 21st century, then I believe we have missed the meaning of Christmas. He came to give us life, and peace, and hope and “great joy,” not just in December but all the year round. I hope and pray, especially this holiday season, you have experienced those gifts of Christmas He came to bring.
So, from my family to yours, may you have a most blessed Christmas. I hope to see you Sunday at Shelby Crossings as we gather in His name to worship our Savior and King.
It’s been sixteen years since a somewhat obscure singer named Joan Osborne released her hit song “One of Us.” The song earned seven Grammy nominations, and made a virtually unknown singer an overnight sensation.
If you remember the song, you’ll recall it was a song of spiritual questioning, about conceiving of God in a modern age. It ruffled the feathers of many conservative Christian groups because of its irreverence and complete disgregard for faith in the God of the Bible. Here’s an example of one of the verses to the song:
If God had a name, what would it be,
and would you call it to his face,
if you were faced with him,
in all his glory,
what would you ask if you had just one question?
It was the chorus of the song that seemed to bother people the most. I remember being very uncomfortable with the words then, as I am now.
What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us?
Just a stranger on a bus,
trying to make his way home.
I will admit, I know very little about Joan Osbourne, then or now, and I have no idea of her motives behind that song. I suspect she knew she was pushing a few hot buttons, and probably relished in the attention she received because of it. But even in her irreverence, she asked some very real questions.
The central question–the song title, “What if God was one of us?”–could very well be the most important question ever asked this side of heaven. The answer to that question, if it were known, would do no less than change every conceivable aspect of life for people on this planet. And it’s a question that needs to be asked, no matter who asks it.
The good news is, we have the answer to that life-alterning “what if” question. He wasone of us–that’s what the incarnation of Christmas is all about: “Immanuel…’God with us'” (Matt. 1:23). Or, as the apostle John wrote, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14). God did come among us, and He did have a name. His name was Jesus.
Sometimes the thought of a “one of us” Jesus, with all of its implications, makes us as uncomfortable as the lyrics to Ms. Osbourne’s song. But we mustn’t work so hard to worship His divinity that we miss His humanity. God really did become a real baby–and lived as a real man in a real world. He was one of us in every way, except, as Hebrews 4:15 reminds us, without sin. Even still, He who knew no sin would go to the cross to “become sin for us, so that we could become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21)
My prayer for each of you this Christmas is that you will be able to cut through the clutter of Christmas to relate to the one who became one of us so He could relate to us. May His presence be the best “present” you receive this December.
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday as we celebrate the present of His presence together.