Friday, January 06, 2012

Resolutions

Jasper Speaks:

As we enter into a New Year we will soon be hearing people ask the familiar question, “What is your New Year Resolution?” That question always make me cringe a bit. There are so many things I can think I need to resolve to do or not do. If I sat down and wrote out each of these things I could probably fill a notebook. It would certainly take a long time to list out all the ways I could be different.

In the past, like many of you I am sure, I have resolved to eat less, exercise more, watch less television, and have a day of rest each week, among a plethora of other good intentions. I may start strong on January 1 but by February 1, most of my good intentions have remained just that --- intentions.

The New Year always seems to bring renewed hope. It is like we get a fresh start as the calendar changes from December to January. With the full rotation of the Earth, comes a chance to begin again. Unfortunately, what we often find is that the same things that plagued us on December 30th are still plaguing us on January 2nd. Our struggles are still there hounding us. Our bills are not suddenly reduced back to zero. Our illnesses do not magically go away. The New Year brings hope but it does not always bring change.

As Christians, however, we have a greater hope. We can embrace the hope of second chances and new beginnings. The best part is we do not have to wait for a New Year to experience them. Lamentations 3:22-24 tells us that we receive new beginnings more than just once a year. It says:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
   his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
The LORD is my portion," says my soul,
    "therefore I will hope in him."

We don’t need to wait to make a resolution at the changing of a calendar. Our new beginnings come with each day. Every day provides an opportunity to allow the Lord to show himself in our lives in a new way. Even when our lives seem darkest, he remains the only light we need. He comes in many ways, offering a new mercy to us every day.

This year I challenge you to only resolve one thing --- seek out God’s new mercies every morning. Test Him and see that if you truly put you hope in His mercies, they are endless. Make your resolution for 2012 to become someone who changes your heart by holding strong to the steadfast love and mercy of our Heavenly Father and appreciating it every day.

Resolutions are not all bad but the hope we can have in the Lord to be our portion, provider and Father is not something that will cease when we are not faithful. His new and glorious mercies will follow you through this year and for the years to come.

Therefore, I ask, “What is your New Year’s Resolution?”
Hard or Impossible?

Jasper Speaks:

Do you ever feel like living the Christian life is just plain hard? I would say that if you have never felt that way, you are not really living out your faith.
The truth is living the Christian life isn’t hard ---it is IMPOSSIBLE! We can’t do it on our own. We have to stop working and striving to do things and let Jesus live the life for us. A verse that sticks out to me when I think about this is Galatians 2:20. It says: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me”. Not only do I think that this verse tells us to live a life that is surrendered to God’s plan and not our own, I think it tells us to let God take care of everything in our lives. I think it tells us to lean on God during times that are hard.
How do we do that? Everyday you face challenges and you have to react to them. Maybe your friends or family don’t understand your faith. Maybe you are going through a time of loneliness. Maybe you feel like there is so much going on in your life that you can not keep up. Maybe you just feel like the day to day struggles in your life are too much to bear. Let Christ do the living then.
I think the first thing you need to do in order to let Christ do the living is give yourself a relationship check up. Think about your relationship with Christ. How vital is it? Are you really taking time to spend in His word? Are you communicating with Him about your life regularly? Are you living out the life that the Bible requires of you?
Spending time with God is essential to letting Him live for you. Reading His word (the Bible) is a daily reminder of all He has done for us and the promises He makes to us. I love the passage in The Message version of the Bible in Lamentations 3 that says:
 “I'll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I've swallowed. I remember it all—oh, how well I remember— the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there's one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: God's loyal love couldn't have run out, his merciful love couldn't have dried up. They're created new every morning. How great your faithfulness!”

So, each day you can sit down with God’s Word and find new things that will remind you that God is in control and wants to live the life for you! I talked a little about that last month when we were reminded that the New Year isn’t a magic change. If you live your life believing that God is going to do something new every day, and get excited about that, then it will become easier to let Christ do the living. His plan is real and it is for your best and dying to our own wants gives way to allowing Him to work in us.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 says simply, “Pray continually”. Being in communication with God throughout your day will greatly increase your ability to let Him do the living for you. If you are approaching a difficult time, pray. Sounds simple but it is amazing the way God can change your attitude or give you courage if you just take a moment and ask Him to help. Prayer is vital in the struggle to let go and let God live for you.
Finally, how you live out your life everyday is essential in the battle to let God live for you. In short --- practice what you preach. St. Francis of Assisi may have stated this best when he said, “Preach the gospel everywhere. Use words when necessary”. Put action to what you believe. Stand firm in your commitments. It may not always be easy but step three is made more simple when you have step one (Spending time with God) and Step Two (prayer) down.

Hard times will come and for many of us, they are here everyday. Still, God says, “Don’t sweat it. Let me take control”. I am praying that you would let God do that in your life!