In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them,“Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.- Luke 2:8–14 (more…)
What is Advent?
The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” The focus of the entire season is:
• the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent.
• the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent.
Advent is much more than simply marking a 2,000 year old event in history. Advent is a season of preparation. Not only is Advent about preparing to celebrate the first coming of Christ as a baby, but it’s also about preparing for Christ’s second coming as judge. In Advent we are reminded that the Christmas story began thousands of years before the birth of Jesus, with the people of Israel. In Advent we are reminded that the Christmas story is not over; Jesus will return. (more…)
A New Year’s Resolution
is a tradition, most common in the Western Hemisphere but also found in the Eastern Hemisphere, in which a person resolves to change an undesired trait or behavior.
Did you make a New Year Resolution? The statistics say about 45% of us made a New Year Resolution.
What did we resolve?
The top 5 are:
- Lose weight
- Get organized
- Save more and spend less
- Enjoy life to the fullest
- Stay fit and healthy
And the good news is that 75% of us keep the resolutions we make! Well, at least we will for the first week, and mostly for the second week, but we do start to fail rapidly after that. By the end of the year only about 8% will still be resolute in our resolutions.
That begs the question, if so few of us are successful why do we make them to start with?
Where did New Year Resolutions get their start?
Let’s take a look back in history to answer that question. Most of the historians believe the idea of New Year Resolutions started with the ancient Babylonians. It seems that their resolutions tended to revolve around paying off their debts and then returning what they had “borrowed”. Actually these would not be bad resolutions even today. Then later the Romans picked up the idea of new resolutions each year and began counting the beginning of the year as January 1. Since their New Year’s party was a celebration honoring the god Janus and involved a lot of heavy drinking, the early Christians shied away from those celebrations. So, for a while in history the Christians didn’t make New Year resolutions and associated the practice with paganism.
During Judaism’s New Year, Rosh Hashanah, through the High Holidays and culminating in Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), one is to reflect upon their wrongdoings over the past year and both seek and offer forgiveness.
By the 18th century here in the US the Puritans also thought the New Year partying was too much and they encouraged instead taking time to reflect on the previous year and contemplate what would make the next year better. This of course led to making new resolutions to do things better or differently in the new year.
Later, at Watch-night services, many Christians prepared for the year ahead by praying and making resolutions.
Why do we make resolutions?
Well, if you are a Christian and take a little time to reflect on your walk with the Lord and your relationship with people around you, it is likely you see a few things you wish were different. We all do. Life is busy and we get distracted by all of the craziness of the every day. In the struggle to live we can easily fall into routines that may help us survive the day, but they don’t help us grow spiritually strong month by month. Making resolutions is a great way to keep things on track and to re-direct areas where we have drifted. Unfortunately simply making resolutions and having good intentions doesn’t insure these things will happen.
5 Steps to Making Resolutions More Effective
Putting action points in place is a great place to begin. A pretty good exercise for all of us would be to rest, reflect, re-evaluate, review and resolve to make a change when necessary. All of this should be done prayerfully, always asking God to show you what He wants you see.
Stop. Set aside a time to cease striving, relax, and breathe deep. Find a place, not just once a year but maybe once a month, turn off the noise of this world and listen to the silence.
Ask yourself the following questions.
What happened last year, or last month, or even last week?
What happened in your relationship with God?
What happened in your relationship with the people God has placed in your life?
What could you do to improve those relationships?
Every week review your resolutions. It is easier to make small frequent directional changes than it is to make large annual u-turns.
Determine ahead of time to make a change when necessary. Make up your mind to make a difference in your daily life that will make a difference in the way you love God and love people.
Wrapping it up
Personally I believe there are two key resolutions that everyone needs to make. These two shape all of the rest and shape our entire lives.
Study the Bible.
Do what it says.
For many people Bible study can be intimidating. Questions like “Where do I start?”, or “How often do I read it?” often come to mind. For years David and I were on staff with Precept Ministries, they exist to establish people in the Word of God. I would highly recommend their studies to help take the struggle out of Bible study. Precept Bible studies are designed to guide your Bible study step by step. Click here to check out their website.
This year make just two resolutions
Study the Bible & Do what it says!
Remember playing hide and seek as a kid? The games could go on for hours. You didn’t want to be found, at least right away, but you wanted them looking for you. It was “Look for me! Look for me! But, don’t find me too quickly.”
Sometimes people think God is like that. They see Him as the cosmic hide and seek master, and Jeremiah 29:13 as His mantra “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”
If we try really really hard, maybe we will find Him and connect with Him in some way. But, that is not the way the God behaves!
But, in the context of Jeremiah 29:13 (the immediate context starts back in verse 10 and goes through 14) God is saying that at the end of the 70 years of captivity in Babylon you will seek after Me and I will reveal myself to you. In other words, I will turn your hearts to seek Me and I will make certain you find Me.
God is the God who refuses to hide Himself
God wants you to know Him. From the beginning of human history He has been revealing Himself. Before Adam and Eve sinned God walked with them in the garden (Genesis 3:8-11). Now, you would expect this, they were after all His creation. But, what happens next in the story is what makes me stop and wonder. God refused to hide Himself from them AFTER they sinned. Adam and Eve only had one rule, one law to obey in the garden and they broke it. But, even after they sinned God sought them out. And He has been revealing Himself ever since.
With Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob the name was God Almighty. He revealed Himself as the almighty God, the protector and sustainer (Exodus 6:2-3). He was a shield to Abraham (Genesis 15:1). He was the promise keeper and interpreter of dreams to Joseph. He was the one present with Joseph, Joshua, and Samuel, and David.
God is always revealing Himself to us
He revealed Himself in a burning bush to Moses and told him to challenge Pharaoh. In Exodus 6 we catch just glance of the intensity with which God reveals Himself.
God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel,
‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. (Exodus 6:6-7)
God said He revealed Himself as God Almighty to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but to Moses and the nation of Israel He is going to reveal Himself by His personal name, Yahweh or Yhwh, the word we translate as LORD.
How is He going to reveal Himself? He will deliver them from their bondage (Exodus 6:6-7). Their freedom is how they will know that He is God. God’s deliverance becomes the revelation to the people of Israel. In the story of the Exodus God declares at least 13 more times in the next six chapters that the miracles or plagues He brings on Egypt are for one reason only – so that Egypt, Israel, the rest of the world would know that the LORD alone is God.
This is important. The plagues were not because God needed to convince Pharaoh to let Israel go. God did not need Pharaoh’s permission. God is capable of accomplishing His will without the okay of any king. God’s purpose was to reveal Himself.
God’s actions revealed His existence and His character! Who God is was seen in what God did!
I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea that as Christians we should discover who we were created to be. We will never understand who we are aside from understanding Who created us. And, the good news is that God is always in the business of revealing Himself. He refuses to be hidden.
What steps can you take to understand the God who refuses to be hidden?
Study the Word of God.
This sounds terribly simple, but the Bible is the Word of God. It is His revelation of Himself to us. By reading and studying the Scriptures you will see the revelation of God Himself to you.
Mark references to God in your Bible.
As you are reading draw a triangle around each reference to God and shade it yellow. The symbol and color are just a suggestion, but marking God as you read the Bible is a personal charge from me to you. Marking as you read slows you down and makes you pay close attention to the text. The results are amazing. You will see things you have never noticed before and ponder things you had only breezed by.
In a journal keep a list of what you are learning about God from your study or reading. There is no need to list every little detail, just list some of the things you see. God will guide you as write.
In your journal keep a very specific list of the things you see God in your life and the world around you. Over and over in Scripture the actions of God prove the character of God. Watch for His actions in your life. Note, what God did, when and where He did it. The journal will become a testimony for you, your children, and your grandchildren to the faithfulness of God.
Every few months review your notes. Take time to remember an enjoy what God has done in your life.
God is the God who refuses to be hidden. Watch for His hand at work in your life. He is working everywhere, but sometimes our eyes are too blind to see, our ears too dull hear Him. But taking time and being intentional you will be amazed at the revelation going on all around you.
I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining.
I believe in love even when I don’t feel it.
I believe in God even when He is silent.
These three lines were scratched into the wall of a German concentration camp during World War two. In the midst of the horror, someone declared their faith in the God that did not answer the way they thought He would.
How do you believe in something you can’t see or experience?
- I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining because I have already seen its light and felt its warmth.
- I believe in love even when I don’t feel it because I have already been embraced by its light and felt its warmth.
- I believe in God even when He is silent because I have already seen the light and knelt in His presence.
Where do you turn in the silence?
When life is easy we all find it easy to rest in the Lord. I can easily trust in the God of comfort and ease. But when life is challenging many of us find ourselves challenging God. “Why have you treated me this way God?”
In those times resting in the Lord becomes, wrestling with the Lord. What is the answer? Where do we turn in the dark coldness of silence? We turn to the same place we found light and warmth in the past, we turn to His Word.
How is it possible to rest in the Lord?
Resting in the Lord requires knowing the Lord intimately, personally. It means I know the Lord as I would know my spouse or my best friend, or perhaps knowing Him even better.
But I will only know Him intimately as I study His Word. This is the hard part about spiritual growth, it requires actual Bible study. The temptation for most of us believers is to listen to great sermons or teachers, read books written by good people, sing our favorite songs, talk to our friends about God and go to the best church in town instead of spending time reading our Bibles. But, listen to me – there is no substitute for actually reading the Bible itself!
Remember, in order to REST I must trust. To trust fully, most of the time and for most of us, I must know the one I am trusting in well.
Rest in His Word
Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. – Palm 119:105
The passage is so familiar I am afraid that we breeze too quickly by it without pausing to think about the implications.
The Psalmist is not referring to just any word, but the Word of God, the Bible. The Psalmist wants us to be very sure we understand exactly what he is talking about. This is not a statement about the latest Christian book or worship song, but a statement, or a promise if you will, concerning the Word of God, the Bible.
“is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
The Bible lights my path. In the darkness of silence (I only need a lamp or a light when I am in the darkness) the Bible is my light. In those times when God does not answer as I think He should, in those times when the heavens seem silent, I can trust the Word of God to show me the way.
Even when heaven is silent, the Word of God speaks.
The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple. Psalm 119:130
The Word of God studied or unfolded, gives light and understanding.
One of the problems we all face with God’s silence in the face of our pain or suffering is that innate human desire for an explanation. The great “Why?” dominates our thinking in times of stress, silence, and darkness.
The unfolding of Scripture gives understanding, or to put it another way, it answers the “why?” Sometimes the answer is hard to hear, and sometimes it is not an answer we like, but the Word of God gives understanding of our circumstances and of the God of our circumstances.
On more than one occasion when God was silent I found myself drawn to Romans 8:28.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28
In the cold silence I found warmth in the light of His Word.
In this world we will have tribulation, and in our tribulation God is sometimes silent in that He doesn’t seem to answer our prayers the way we believe He should. In those moments what do we do? We rest in the Word. The Word, not our feelings, is the light for our path. Our “Why?” is answered in His Scriptures not in our logic or reasoning.
To rest in the Word is to relax knowing the Word of God and the God of the Word are both true. Rest, read, and refresh your spirit with the words of your Creator.