12/26/07

Celebrate a Fresh Start

New Year’s Day is the first day of the year in the Gregorian calendar, but there’s nothing mystical about January 1st. Actually, the date of New Year’s celebrations has fluctuated, but New Year’s is the oldest of all holidays, first observed by the ancient Babylonians in a festival that lasted eleven days.

In 2004, as I considered potential New Year’s resolutions, I remembered resolutions from previous years. My heart broke as I realized that the great majority of them were related to the physical world—losing weight, spending less money, writing more letters, etc. My resolutions were seldom spiritual, and even when they were, they sprang from unspiritual motives.

Since then, I’ve discovered that there’s nothing inherently biblical about making “New Year’s Resolutions,” but the Bible does teach that the Lord is to be the center-point of everything that goes on in the Christian’s life. So, if we do choose to make resolutions, they need to be Christ-centered and biblical. In an effort to change my perspective, I studied Jonathan Edwards’ 70 “Resolutions for Godly Living.” The great preacher recognized that only God can enable Christians to keep commitments. (I encourage you to download Edwards’ resolutions at: Revive Our Hearts.)

The truth is, there is no power in a resolution; there is only power in God and His Word. The value in New Year’s resolutions for the believer is that each resolution is an opportunity to contemplate change, and that contemplation is best done in the presence of God in prayer, asking Him for insight and wisdom.

Someday the One who sits upon the throne will say, “Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5). In that day, there will be no more resolutions—but for now, enjoy the fireworks, contemplate spiritual goals, and celebrate the dawning of another year.

12/19/07

Three C’s at Christmas

I have a huge lighted Nativity display in my front yard. The neighbors all see it as they dead-end from one street into the cross street at my front yard. It is a clear testimony to our neighborhood that we believe in Jesus, and many neighbors and strangers have stopped by to comment that the scene is special to them, too.

But I’ve often thought that another scene would be an even better representation of the Christ of Christmas. Christmas is really only the first chapter in the three-chapter story of Christ’s life. The first chapter is God’s birth announcement to the world, represented by a cradle. When we celebrate Christmas, we shout to the world: “It’s a boy! It’s God’s own Son!” This is what we normally see at Christmas—baby Jesus in the manger (Luke 2:16).

The second chapter is Christ’s sacrifice for the sins of the world, represented by a cross. We normally see the cross on Good Friday and Easter, but the seeds of that cross are found in the Nativity cradle. I Timothy 1:15 says, “…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners….” The cross was the purpose of the cradle. The third chapter is the risen and returning King of Kings. He is the conquering sovereign, represented by a crown (Hebrews 2:7, 9).

If I created that scene on my front lawn—a lowly “Silent Night” cradle in blue lights, rising to a simple cross in red lights, and ending up high with a brilliant golden crown—can you imagine the questions I’d get? But imagine, too, the opportunities to share the full truth about Christ, including the amazing Gospel of grace (I Corinthians 15:3-4).

I’ll probably never create that display, but I plan to share the story of the three “C’s” this Christmas. I hope you will, too.

12/12/07

Candy Canes for Cravings

The holiday season—from Thanksgiving through New Year’s—is a time of love, joy, and parties, but it’s also a time for caution when it comes to stuffing our faces. (In my mind right now, I’m hearing the TV show refrain, “Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!”) The holidays don’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition, however. Food is everywhere, but you can make some smart choices.

I receive a periodic newsletter from hungrygirl.com that encourages me in my weekly weight goals, especially during the holidays. One recent holiday tip-sheet suggested that I think before I chew, drinking lots of water, and … I love this … eat candy canes! Studies suggest that keeping mini candy canes nearby is a helpful trick to overcome cake/cookie/chocolate cravings during the holidays. (Three mini candy canes have roughly 70 fat-free calories.) This is an especially helpful tip for those who snack at the office. I’ve placed a pretty jar of candy canes on my desk—and some healthy snacks in the side drawer.

In the same way, it is easier to overcome spiritual temptations when some biblical alternatives are “nearby.” God says that He will make “a way of escape” for us (I Corinthians 10:13), and we need to be alert to that provision. But we also can prepare our hearts and minds to face any fleshly “cravings”—anything that would displease God and harm our walk with Him. We can, for example, place scripture verses in conspicuous places, fill our minds and hearts with His Word, create “signals” to remind us to pray, and substitute healthy, biblical activities for those that draw us away from God. We need to be proactive in dealing with temptation, and “make no provision for the flesh” (Romans 13:14).

Choose something today that will help you reduce or eliminate unworthy cravings. And buy some candy canes.

12/5/07

Our Anchor of Hope

The Word of God and the character of God are our greatest resources of hope. Christian hope is not a “hope so” matter. It is our confident expectation in the Lord. Though God is the source of hope, our choices of faith and action will help us keep our sense of God’s hope alive!

When early Christians buried their dead, they decorated some sarcophagi with an anchor, symbolizing their sure hope in the resurrection. A scripture that is often tied to this concept is Hebrews 6:19, which says, “Hold fast the hope set before us, which we have as the anchor for the soul.” An anchor is a picture of something held securely.

Believers are anchored in the scriptures (Titus 1:9), but also in God Himself (Psalm 71:5; 130:7; 119:81). The Jews looked forward to their Messiah, which Paul called “the hope of Israel”(Acts 28:20). Our hope of salvation is in Christ’s sacrifice for our sin (I Peter 1:21). He is our “hope of glory” (I Timothy 1:1; Colossians 1:27) and we look to His return as our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13). Many scriptures reveal that our hope in God is also instrumental in healing, helping, and comforting us. Hope lifts our spirit (Psalm 42:5, 11) and strengthens our heart (Psalm 31:24).

Do these great truths encourage you as much as they encourage me? Why, then, do we keep this great anchor of hope to ourselves when the world is full of people who desperately need the grounding and stability that Christ secures? As I look toward Christmas, my prayer is that God will make me alert to those who need God’s hope, and that I will make the courageous choice to share and explain His hope clearly and with conviction. If you know Him, spread the message: Christ is our hope for salvation and for every need.