Tag Archives: New Year

10 Biblical Directives for a Better New Year

 

AllThingsNew

Here are ten Biblical directives
to make 2018 better than 2017:

1) PUT GOD FIRST IN ALL THINGS. PERIOD.

In Exodus 20:3, God commands, “You must not have any other god but me.”

Anything we put before God becomes our god, INCLUDING OUR POLITICS. Enough with politicizing everything! Don’t put Caesar before God, or even render Caesar equal to God.

2) READ THE BIBLE.

This may sound cliché from a pastor, but seriously we must read the Bible. Did you know that a majority of Christians are Biblically illiterate? Reading the Bible is a vital spiritual discipline.

3) DON’T JUST READ, BUT SEARCH, STUDY, LIVE.

Reading the Bible, alone, is not enough. Just because you read the Bible, and just because we can quote memory verses, does not mean we understand what we know. Just because we have read the Bible does not mean we are its interpreter-in-chief. There are lots of things that go into understanding what the Bible says in our times. Join a Bible Study, or Christian Education class, to grow in understanding of what the Bible says and the context it was written in. Also, we must be humble and not use Scripture to judge; rather, utilize it to shape our own lives. (James 1:22)

4) SHHHH. BE QUICK TO LISTEN.

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters,” James writes in James 1:19, “You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” In this age of social media, everyone is screaming over the other to get THEIR OWN message out on top. CHRISTIANS BEWARE…this is not just or godly behavior, but sinful and unjust. WE MUST STOP IT, PLEASE.

5) BE COOL.

Stop living in fear (2 Timothy 1:7). Stop worrying about things, and stop sweating the small stuff! Seriously. We as Christians are free in Christ to do anything …so long as we are bringing glory to God. So, live and let God handle the details. BE COOL, because the last thing the world needs are religious hot heads. The Apostle Paul wrote, “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love…But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.” (Galatians 5:13, 15)

6) LIVE BY MICAH’S MAXIM: LIVE JUSTLY.

In Micah 6:8, the passage starts off telling us that God wants us to seek justice. This doesn’t mean vengeance or retribution. Rather seek justice in our own lives…or, to put it in better words, to LIVE JUSTLY, to allow justice to guide your own life and how you live in relationship with other humans.

7) LIVE BY MICAH’S MAXIM: LOVE MERCY.

In Micah 6:8, the passage goes on to tell us to LOVE MERCY. Rather than seeking an eye for an eye, we ought to be seeking reconciliation and strengthened relationships. We are called, by God, to BE MERCIFUL…just as God is merciful toward us. We are also called by Jesus to LOVE OUR ENEMIES.

8) LIVE BY MICAH’S MAXIM: WALK HUMBLY.

In Micah 6:8, we are called to walk humbly with our God. What is humility? It is knowing our place. It means knowing that we, too, are sinners, and that we are in NO PLACE to judge others. Those who walk humbly will LOVE MERCY, for they know they’ve received much mercy. Those who walk humbly with their will seek justice and live justly for God is JUST and to walk with God is to walk side-by-side with justice.

9) DO NOT JUDGE.

This one seems to be a real doozy for people, let alone Christians, to follow. We judge others to puff ourselves up…to make us feel better about the sinners we are, because at least “we aren’t that person over there.” Yet, by virtue of judging we are worse than the sinner “over there” because the very act of judging puts us above God…who is the ONLY WORTHY JUDGE.  (Matthew 7:1-2)

10) LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.

The Scriptures are explicit. GOD IS LOVE (1 John 4:7-8), and those who know God will not only know LOVE, but will be transformed by it. Jesus summed up all the Law and the Prophets in a four-lettered word: LOVE.

These are the 10 Biblical nuggets of wisdom that will help make us, and those around us, have a more joyful 2018 than 2017. Let us grow in faith together as we come to understand God’s love for us more deeply. Happy New Year to you all.

PastorTodd

LoveServeGrow

A LOOK BACK: Bilbo’s Pity

2016-new-year“It is the New Year and all through my mind,
Came the need for a holiday and some time to unwind.
I have written so many devotions with love and care
In hopes that you’ll discover the Christ that I share.”

While I have taken some time off of writing for the holidays, here’s a look back at a devotion that is no doubt as relevant today as it was when I wrote it. Click here to view today’s devotion.

Happy New Year!

A LOOK BACK: The New Year’s Challenge

2016-new-year“It is the week of this Christmas and all through my mind,
Came the need for a holiday and some time to unwind.
I have written so many devotions with love and care
In hopes that you’ll discover the Christ that I share.”

While I have taken some time off of writing for the holidays, here’s a look back at a devotion that is no doubt as relevant today as it was when I wrote it. Click here to view today’s devotion.

Happy New Year!

15 Ailments of the Church #3: Becoming Spiritually and Mentally Hardened

Read John 11:30-45

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.” (Matthew 14:14 NRSV)

compassionateHandsHappy New Year everyone! Today is New Year’s Eve and we are less than a day away (depending on where in the world you are) from the ball dropping and the partying stopping. Out with the old, in with the new. People will, no doubt, lament about how terrible this past year was and they will, no doubt, being cheering on the advent of 2015 with high hopes and expectations. Of course, they will do the same next year just like the did the same last year. Well, rather than raising a toast to triviality, I thought it would be good to look at Pope Francis’ third of fifteen ailments of his curio. As I have stated, I think it is a prudent exercise to expand the ailments to the universal church, which I have taken the liberty of doing.

Ailment # 3: Becoming Spiritually and Mentally Hardened. The church is called to be the body of Christ. It is called to be the representatives of Christ and Christ’s mission in the world. One of the key words that most, if not all, people would use to describe Jesus Christ, is compassion. In the Christian Scriptures, it refers to Jesus “having compassion” on people at least eight times depending on the translation (Matt. 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 20:34; Mark 6:34; 8:2; Luke 7:13; 15:20 NRSV). With that said, there is evidence of Jesus’ compassion even beyond the use of the word compassion. Jesus wept for his beloved Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37; Luke 19:41) and he also wept at the loss of his friend Lazarus and had compassion on Lazarus’ sisters, friends and family (John 11:35). He had compassion on the sick, the dying, the demon possessed, the sinners, the differently abled, and even on those who opposed him. Yes, Jesus was compassionate.

With that said and out there, why does Christ’s church fail to live into the compassion of their Lord? If we are the body of Christ, why aren’t we filled with the compassion of Christ? Too many times I have witnessed, and sadly been a part of, an incompassionate church. The infighting, the politics, the gossip, the judgmentalism and the slander within churches bear witness to a corrupt and lost organization rather than a living and life-giving organism. Are we the body of Christ, or are we organized Christianity? Are we organic, able to adapt with change and circumstance. Able to feel emotion and be moved with compassion, or are we organizational and bound by unbending rules and regulations?

The church as a whole has become too much like the world. We have grown numb and have lost our ability to feel. We look at the poor with disdain. We look at “criminals” with eyes of judgment. We separate ourselves from “sinners” and treat them as unworthy of God’s grace. We look at each other with contempt as we compete to be the best and the biggest and the most loved and the most followed. We position ourselves in ways that falsely elevate us to the right and left hand side of God, all the while turning a cold shoulder and a blind eye to the “least of these” our brothers and sisters.

Today’s challenge is for us to regain our compassion. You are not great, you are not good, you are not more special than anyone else. In fact, apart from God, you are nothing. Each week, we Christians praise God for being our savior and for having compassion on us sinners. If we are to truly be grateful for God having compassion on us, should we not have compassion on others? Christ is calling us to warm up, to have heart, and to weep for those who are in need. In fact, don’t just weep…but turn your tears into positive and constructive action. Pray for the church, yourself included, that we may begin to heal from this aliment of being Spiritually and Mentally hardened.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Compassion is more than just an emotion; rather, it is an inner reaction to circumstance that results in an outward action for change.”

PRAYER
Lord, fill me with your love so that I may be moved to be a person of compassion. Amen.

The New Year’s Challenge

Read Psalm 119:101-105

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

The American Bible Challenge hosted by Jeff FoxworthyIn the late summer of 2012, Jeff Foxworthy hosted a game show show called “The Great American Bible Challenge.” The premise of the show was to quiz people with questions centered on the Bible to see how Biblically literate they were. The contestants were not actually competing to win money for themselves, but would represent a specific charity and the winners would donate their winnings to that charity.

The show, which first premiered on the Game Show Network August 23, 2012, debuted as the network’s highest rated program of all time, bringing in 2.3 million total viewers on its first night. That was the largest amount of viewers in the network’s seventeen year history, proving that the Bible is still very much a marketable venture for entertainment companies to pursue.

Yet, when you look at Biblical literacy in America, the statistics are astounding. According to a Gallup Poll, 16 % of Americans say that they read the Bible daily, 21 % read the Bible on a weekly basis, 12% say they read at least once a month, and 41% say they rarely, if ever, pick up a Bible. Readership of the Bible has declined from 73% to 59% from the 1980’s to our present time. Those numbers are staggering.

I have often heard people say that they find that the Bible is boring, that they don’t understand it, that they don’t have time to read it, and a host of other excuses. Yet, people clearly have an hour to watch a Bible Quiz Show, or ten hours to watch a Bible miniseries. People don’t seem to find the Bible boring when they are Hollywood-ized versions of the Bible and they flock by the millions to soak it all up.

The problem is that Hollywood tells the stories usually from a very narrow perspective. By nature, they need to be told that way; however, the Bible is so much more exciting when read and studied, particularly in a group setting, then when it is being fed to us via a television show. If you like steamy, scandalous romance, check out Samson and Delilah (Judges 16) or David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). If action and adventure suits you, check out the Exodus led by Moses (all of Exodus). God knows there is plenty of horror in the Bible (Judges 19, Daniel 5, Mark 1:23-26, Revelation 13, etc.). If you like drama, check out a book like Esther who rises up over her circumstances.

The challenge to you for this new year is to not become a statistic! Pick up your Bible and read it. Actually read it! There are plenty of things in there that will catch your fancy. If you come across something that doesn’t make sense or grab your interest, move on to something else; however, read your Bible. In fact, join a Bible Study. Join one that will look broadly at the Scriptures and encourage the kinds of open-ended questions that promote learning, understanding and growth. It is my prayer for you, in this new year, that you will find the depth and relevance that the Bible has to offer you in your life. It is my prayer that you will find it to be an life changing, and illuminating, resource in your life. It is my prayer that it will indeed become a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.” – President Theodore Roosevelt

PRAYER

Lord, I pray that you inspire and motivate me to engage scripture and that, through such engagement, I may grow from who I am to who you want me to be. Amen.

The Key to a Peaceful New Year

Read Philippians 4:11-13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

diceWell, it is officially a New Year. The holidays are past, the festivities are over and the beginning of another twelve month period has officially began. This year it seems that we will be visited by a monster snow storm to kick us off for the new year. Uh oh! Is this an omen? Is this a sign of an ominous and troubled year?

Have you ever noticed that each New Year’s Eve and, subsequently, each New Year people celebrate the waning of the previous year and the dawning of the new year as if the last year was the absolute worst year ever? This year was certainly no different. “Good riddance 2013” I saw signs and people exclaiming on television during the new year celebrations going on. “Hello 2014! You’re going to rock!”

But did 2013 stink and will 2014 rock? Or will we, by this time next year, be exclaiming “Good riddance 2014!”, while completely forgetting how excited we were to usher it in. Are we ever satisfied with anything, or is every year absolutely the worst year EVER? Have you ever stopped to notice how negative we are of where we are, and absolutely how giddy we are at the prospect of getting what we want in the future.

But the reality is that, more than likely, we will not get everything we WANT. The reality is that there will be things that WILL go wrong and against what we planned. The reality is that life will continue to be challenging and that growth will continue to have its moments of pain. That is just life. If you’ve ever watched the first five minutes of up, then you’ve seen the summary of life in a nutshell. Things happen, time keeps moving, we age and then, no matter what year it is, at some point we will end up dying. That is the cycle of life and we all go through it.

The question is, just as it was in the movie UP, what are you going to while your time is still here on this earth. Are you going to lock yourself up in your house and sulk over time gone by. Are you going to relentlessly wish the coming of every new year only to hastily usher in that year’s end when things aren’t going your way? Are you you going to be childish in your approach to life, throwing temper tantrums and conniption fits when you don’t get your way? Or are you going to take a deep breath, realize that you DO NOT NEED all of the things you REALLY WANT and be content with what you have.

The apostle Paul knew what contentment was. He stated that whether he was sick or healthy, beaten or loved, imprisoned or free, hungry or full, he was content in all situations. Paul was a person who was filled with the PEACE that God has to offer us. I am sure he would have rather not been in prison, and starving, and poor, and beaten; however, many of those things were outside of his control and he trusted that, no matter what, God would provide for him what he NEEDED. And that trust…that faith…gave him PEACE.

The challenge for you today, and for every day, is to be content. If a bad situation occurs, certainly try to work your way out of it…even seeking help if need be…so that you can move forward and grow; however, don’t lament and sulk over your situation. That does absolutely no good. Don’t be selfish and shallow like the people on New Year’s Eve wishing for the new year to bring them THEIR WAY. Rather, EXPECT the new year to bring you GOD’s WAY and you will NEVER be disappointed; rather, you will be content and will have God’s PEACE.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“[People fall] from the pursuit of the ideal of plan living and high thinking the moment [they] want to multiply [their] daily wants. [People’s] happiness really lies in contentment.” – Mahatma Gandhi

PRAYER
Lord, help me to be content in all things, this year and all of the years to come. Amen.