Resolution or the Opposite?

Every January first, thousands of us resolve to make some changes. We’re gonna do it RIGHT this year, yes sir. Haven’t up until now, but this year will be different! Armed with steely determination, we throw ourselves wholly into the new project, goal, or dream, certain that this year will be the year.

So how long does your resolve usually last? Have you given up by tax day? Valentine’s Day? January 2?

The problem with resolutions is that we have no fuel for them. We are trying to drive to Alaska on a half tank of gas. Willpower. Determination. Disgust. Shame. Guilt. Whatever fuel we are using, it burns out long before we want it to. With a sigh of defeat, we go back to our comfort zone and hope for next year. I stopped making resolutions years ago when I learned how weak my own resolve can be. 

So then how do we make those important life changes? The answer is opposite of what we think. Our natural approach is to grab hold of that goal and go after it with gusto. We make it our focus, think about it, plan for it, and obsess over it. Until we wear out and shuffle back to the old habits.
That approach is backward.

The more we focus on something, the less likely we are to see the results we want. That goal becomes our new god, in a sense. We think about it, sacrifice for it, plan around it, and serve it. Making something or someone our god never works out well. We must come face to face with our own weakness and limitations. When we stop believing that we have the strength and goodness to fix ourselves we are starting to get closer to it.

As long as we hang on to an issue, it still belongs to us. A past littered with broken resolutions proves our inability to accomplish what we desire. A resolution assumes that we will draw on some inner reserve that may or may not be there. Rather than grab that goal and resolve, we have to let go of it. When we scoop up that desire, goal, dream, or plan and hand it completely over to God, it is no longer ours to control. It is no longer our right to do or not do as we please. It is His now.

If every January first you resolve to lose weight and you have little to show for it, the issue may be that you are trying too hard. You may be thinking about it too much and sabotaging your own success. When you hand control of your entire body to the lordship of Jesus, weight is no longer the focus. Glorifying God and worshiping Him become the focus. When you truly surrender your body as His holy temple, you view it differently. If He really controls it, He gets to decide what goes into it--or what goes on it. 

Rather than obsess over the way you look, you will ask yourself: Is my Master glorified with these 100 extra pounds? With the way I dress? Talk? Entertain myself? Does my life reflect the self-control of the Holy Spirit?

So think about your life for a moment: Does your weight, your habit, or your addiction indicate that something other than God is mastering you?

When we realize we are allowing someone or something besides God to control us, we must surrender it. To refuse to do so is idolatry. Victory does not come from trying harder. It comes from surrendering more.

Success may require many hours on your knees, times of fasting, and increased saturation in His word. But as we allow the power of the Holy Spirit to peel from us all the things have mastered us, we find that we are walking in victory without even trying. Food is not your enemy. That relationship is not your enemy. Satan is your enemy and he will use whatever entices you to try to control you.

Resolutions only entrench us deeper in shame and defeat. We don't have what it takes to walk in victory, but God does. Try fully surrendering those areas you want to change and see what He does this year.


The Real Star

The undisputed star of the Christmas story is the Son of God. From the moment the angel Gabriel announced the news to Mary, God’s plan to redeem sinful man was set in motion. But Jesus did not begin as a baby in Mary’s womb. He existed as God before time began (John 1:1-3, 17:5).  He agreed to humble Himself, to set aside His rights as God to be worshiped and obeyed, and take on the form of frail humanity. As God, He already knew what this would cost Him; yet, He chose to be the final sacrifice so that our sins could be forgiven.

Imagine the humiliation of God becoming a baby, parented by the very people He created! Jesus was raised in a blue-collar home, by imperfect people. He had brothers and sisters, chores, and homework. He had to go to school, learn carpentry, and rediscover truths that He and the Father had spoken into existence before the world began. The One who had commanded angels and placed the planets in the universe would now be limited by space and time. As a human, He stubbed His toe, held His tongue, and suffered rejection, mockery, pain, and sorrow. As great as Mary’s sacrifice was to bring Him into the world, His was greater by agreeing to come. That baby in the manger has reigned forever as the King of Kings. It is only because God became human that we can become the children of God.

Are you tempted to think of Baby Jesus as merely an infant in the nativity? Have you considered that He has always existed or that He is the same God who now reigns from Heaven. The scripture says that Baby Jesus will one day judge those who refuse to accept His sacrifice. Will you meet Him one day as Savior or Judge?

Stars of Christmas--Shepherds

A dozen eyes blinked at the night sky long after it had grown silent. Had they really seen that? Heard that? Angles? They pulled their gaze from the sky to stare at each other. Nothing had changed. They were still dirty, rough, uneducated. They were still just shepherds. 

But the angel’s words echoed in their hearts: “Unto you is born this day…” “Unto you…” Unto us? Everyone knew the stories about a Messiah coming one day, but wouldn't he come to the palace? Wouldn't Herod and the leaders be the first to know?  Unto us a child is born? Something stirred within the shepherds' hearts. God had come, the angels said. God was here and He had told them first.

How fast they must have run to see if this was true. It was. God was here, in the flesh, in a cow trough with a couple of peasants to guard him. The Messiah had come and it was nothing like they had imagined it would be. It was better. He had come for them, for dirty, rough, uneducated shepherds. They could do nothing but fall to their knees and worship this God-Who-Came-To-Earth. 

And in bowing, they changed. They bowed before Him as unworthy shepherds, but rose from their knees with a new identity. They were no longer “just shepherds;” they were God’s messengers. They had been chosen by Him to spread the good news, and they would never be the same.

Have you heard the angels’ words: “Unto you a child is born?” Have you bowed to worship him? We bow before Him as unworthy—just a mom, just a truck driver, just a lawyer—but we rise to our feet changed. We are given a new identity: God’s messengers. Have you recognized that He came for you? The invitation to come and see still stands. When we bow before Him, we are never the same.


Stars of Christmas--King Herod

Every story has a bad guy. 

In the Christmas story, the bad guy was King Herod. We can easily write him off as total evil—a jealous baby-killer. But we should take a closer look. We all have a little Herod in us. 

Herod heard that his position was about to be threatened. Someone was about to rock his world and he panicked. Fear and self-protection became his only focus. He had no idea the part he was playing in God’s story. He could only think of himself and protecting what was his. In that frame of mind, he could excuse the inexcusable. Aren't we all like that at times?

How many mistakes have you made because you panicked? How many decisions were made from self-interest and self-protection? Only in hindsight did you realize the consequences of those choices. If Herod had consulted God’s word, sought the will of God, and made his decisions based upon wisdom rather than selfish desire, his part in this story would be drastically different. But like us, he didn’t. He chose to act from self-interest and what seemed right to him at the time. The results were tragic.

How well can you identify with Herod? Have you ever made decisions based on self-protection, jealousy, or greed? Have your poor decisions cost others? Wisdom comes when we are honest with ourselves about our own selfish desires. 

God can help us overcome those selfish motives and make decisions that honor Him.


Stars of Christmas--Joseph

We don't know much about the man who was chosen to raise the Son of God. Scripture is silent for a reason, because regardless of their crucial roles, this was not about Mary and Joseph. 

Joseph appears to have understood that. From the start, he gracefully embraced the role God had for him. In a culture where virtue was highly valued, he chose to marry a woman who was pregnant with a child that was not his. He chose to raise a son he did not create, and face gossip, scorn, and criticism from those who knew them. He accepted God’s plan to be the protector and provider for Jesus, even though he would not see the end of the story from this side of heaven. He chose to allow his reputation to be tarnished, his character defamed, and his future altered in order to obey God’s higher call. He had to trust that his reward would come from God. 

Obedience to God is often costly. Faith is obeying God even when we don’t understand our part in His story. Are you willing to take allow your life to be altered in order to obey God? 

What might total obedience cost you?


Stars of Christmas--Mary

Some have called her a liar, others have called her a goddess. 
Some have denied she existed, while others have treated her as a queen. 
So what's the truth about Mary, the mother of Jesus, 
               and what does God want us to learn from her life?

By historical accounts, Mary was very young, 13 or 14 years old, when the angel appeared to her. She already had a solid faith in the Lord God of Israel and expected, along with everyone else, that the Messiah would come soon. Mary was only a fallible human like us. What set her apart was her attitude of submission to God and her willingness to cooperate with whatever God chose for her.

Every young girl in Israel hoped she might be chosen to bear the Messiah, but the way God’s plan unfolded was nothing like anyone had expected. Instead of instant stardom and honor, God’s plan for Mary required sacrifice, pain, and rejection. Mary knew that she would have to let go of her own dreams in order to fulfill God’s purpose for her. Her response to the angel Gabriel models for us the obedience God desires when he speaks to us: "Truly I am the Lord's servant. Let everything you have said happen to me"(Luke 1:38).  God chose Mary not because she was perfect, but because he knew her heart. She was “highly favored” by God because she wanted to please Him no matter what it cost her personally. That attitude of surrender was the reason God could trust her with His most precious gift.

Can God trust you? When He calls your name, what is your response? Do you resist? Make excuses? Or blatantly disobey? We have a choice. We can cling to our own plans, or we can answer as Mary did: “I am Your servant. Let it be as you have said.” When we respond as Mary did, God can then do great things through our lives.