RESOLUTIONS

It’s the beginning of the new year and traditionally this is a time when many of us make new year’s resolutions and set goals that we hope to achieve within the next 12 months. As Christians we should constantly be growing and maturing. Part of becoming a mature Christian entails recognizing our sins and shortcomings and making a vow to change. Over the years I have made many resolutions and set goals to improve my life. Unfortunately, many of these have failed. Often within the first week or two of the new year.

Life is a battle of good versus evil or being the best versus just being mediocre. There is a constant war going on in our lives to do right or ignore what we know we should do and be comfortable. Satan helps us by making it much easier to do wrong than to do right. After all it seems so simple to hit the snooze alarm instead of getting up early enough to have time for devotions. It is much easier to grab something at a fast food drive thru than it is to take the time to prepare a healthy lunch at home. Staying home from Church Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday will often seem like a better idea than fighting the schedule, the children, and the weather. But when we make the choice to do right in spite of the circumstances God always blesses and the rewards are amazing.

This lesson is about setting goals that will help us to grow and be more effective for the work of the Lord. We will look at the following three topics: 1. Why we should have goals. 2. How to set a goal that is achievable. 3. Winning the battle over Satan to cross the finish line. My goal in writing this is that we all would be inspired to work harder, get back on track, and become the women that God created us to be.

1. Why we should have goals. Paul tells us in Philipians 3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. As Christians we have a high calling from our Lord and Savior to strive to be perfect and walk in His steps. Our creator knows that we will never be perfect He only asks that we keep trying to do better.

In Philipians Paul is comparing the Christian life to running a race. An athlete who aspires to compete in the Olympics doesn’t get to the Olympic village by wandering aimlessly around a track. He will start by setting small goals of running maybe a mile in a certain time. When he can do that well, then he pushes himself farther and faster. Even if he sometimes fails or has a bad day, he doesn’t quit or make excuses. No, he just keeps trying until he reaches that goal.

The point is that God gave his only son to save us for all eternity. Once we are saved God calls us to serve Him. In order to serve Him we must be developing the gifts that He has given us so that we will glorify Him while we are on this earth.

If we truly are serious about desiring to please the Lord and glorify Him, then we must take the time to sit down by ourselves and take an honest inventory of our life. This means that we would say as David said in Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Before we can truly improve our lives we have to allow God to point out sinful attitudes and actions that are keeping us from growing and moving forward.

As we are convicted of wrong attitudes or actions then we need to immediately confess them and ask the Lord to help us to change (I John 1:9). Having a desire to change is where resolutions or goals start.

2. How to set a goal that is achievable. Having a desire to improve is admirable. Unfortunately, we often know we need to do something but we go about it in the wrong way so that we are almost defeated before we start. If we truly want to have success, we must do it God’s way.

While you are still sitting and listening to the prompting of the Lordstart writing. Make a list of areas that you know needs to improve or change. That list will vary with each person. Let God show you what area or areas He wants you to concentrate on this year. Keep in mind this is your personal list not your neighbor’s, your best friend’s or your sister’s list. You are not responsible for the shortcomings of someone else. God will only hold you accountable for your actions and reactions.

Now it’s time to pray and ask God to give you the wisdom to implement these goals and actually see victories this year. James 1:5 says If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

Remember, God made us just the way we are and He wants to help us. All we have to do is ask.

I believe that we often fail in our resolutions because they are made in the flesh for the wrong reasons and we don’t bother to ask the Lord for His direction and assistance. For instance, there is nothing wrong with having a desire to lose weight and get in shape because you want to have more energy to serve the Lord and be a better testimony to the world of living a balanced Christian life. But if your motivation is to look like some model or to emulate someone that you have envied for years then you are doomed to failure. It is hard to overcome years of poor habits when you are trying to do it all in the flesh. Once you are sure what goals the Lord wants you to strive for, make a new list. This time write down the end goal.

Remember your creator knows you and He will help you to recognize what areas you need to concentrate on during this year.  Such as lose 50 pounds, have daily devotions, exercise regularly, develop a positive attitude.  You get the idea.  Don’t try to change yourself entirely in one year.  That is a recipe for failure!  That doesn’t mean that you ignore obvious areas of sin because it is not on your list.  When you are convicted of something your must confess and work at getting rid of that sin.

The next step is to break down the yearly goals into monthly or weekly goals.  If you want to lose weight such as 50 pounds then divide that by 12 and you will write down “lose 4.16 pounds per month.”  When you break a goal down like that it is seems much more achievable.  To tell yourself that you will lose 50 pounds sounds impossible but 4-5 pounds doesn’t seem nearly as hard.

Do you have a desire to become more organized in the coming year?  That is definitely a worthwhile goal; but, don’t write down “organize the whole house”.  Set deadlines for cleaning and purging.  Such as “Clean out basement by February 28, finish the garage by end of April, and closet makeovers completed by July 1.”  Once you have done this, don’t hide the list!  In fact it might be good to make notes on your calendar to remind yourself to get moving a couple of weeks before the deadline.  These deadlines should be as firm in your mind as if your boss at work had issued them and was coming to your house to check your progress.  Remember God is watching and checking your progress on a daily basis.

If your resolution pertains to something spiritual or an attitude, you can’t break it down but you can write down the steps you will take to win over sin.  For instance, let’s say that you want to learn to be more positive in your outlook.  The first step might be to do a Bible study on attitudes.  Next you could memorize scripture on thoughts and attitudes.  Then work on songs that remind you to rejoice.

The point of all these steps is not to waste ink and paper but to help you visualize a plan to change your life.  Many plans can look impossible when we  only look at the end goal.  I can remember when I was in college and teachers would assign all the papers and projects for the entire semester on the first day of classes.  I would spend the next few days griping and worrying convincing myself that this was impossible and there was no way I would live through the next few months!  If only I had learned to break each project down to achievable goals my college days would not have been nearly as stressful!  Unfortunately, back then  I was a world-class procrastinator and worrier! I hate to admit this, it has been more than 30 years since I graduated and I will still catch myself dithering about my lack of time to complete a project when I feel overwhelmed.  I can waste more time complaining about all that I have to do than I would have used simply attacking the problem and putting it behind me.

3. Winning the battle over Satan so that we can cross the finish line victoriously. The devil will not be happy when we try to get rid of sin and improve ourselves so that we can serve the Lord better and win souls for eternity. We must arm ourselves because when we make vows to God we are also drawing a line in the sand daring Satan to battle against us. We must remember that Satan’s goal is to defeat us so that others will look at us and say “She’s no different from me. Why would I need God and church?”.

First we must remember that when we prayed and asked God for help we were making a vow to our Lord and Master that we would change. The Bible has much to say to us about the promises that we make to God. Deuteronomy 23:21 says When thou shalt vow a vow unto the Lord thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the Lord thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee. That’s pretty plain—if we do not keep our vows to God we will be sinning. The psalmist says in Psalm 50:14-15 Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. God repeats his command to honor our vows in Ecclesiastes 5:4 When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.

Did you notice what the Lord said about those that did not keep their promises? They are fools! Ouch, that is rather harsh. But God’s word never lies. If the truth hurts then we need to take the steps necessary to make sure that we defeat the devil’s attacks and keep our vows.

Secondly, we must realize that we are not in this battle alone. When we ask God to help, He will be there every step of the way unless we choose to ignore Him. God told the children of Israel in

II Chronicles 20:15b Thus saith the Lord unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not your’s but God’s. We must remember that once we have made a vow to God to improve our lives He steps in to fight our battles. It is not up to us to lead the fight, it is our job to follow our Heavenly Commander’s orders. When we do that we will find ourself doing as it says in Job 37:14 Hearken unto this, O Job: stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God. If we are truly following God’s leadership, we will be amazed at what He can do to change our lives.

The last thing we need to win the battle is persistence. As I said earlier Satan will throw at you every excuse and diversion that he can think of. If one method fails, he will devise another one. You must decide that you are in this fight for the duration. Believe me it is far better to stay in the battle and keep your vows then to become an AWOL soldier that God would call a fool.

In order to defeat the devil you must learn to prepare for the disasters he will throw at you. For instance, if you promised you would make it the church every time the door is open, you must plan ahead for the lost shoes, last minute phone calls, and whatever else happens to make you late. In other words prepare ahead of time and start early.

Let’s say your new year’s resolution was to get more physically fit. The first thing to do is get all the food out of the house that is tempting but not good for you then replace it with healthy snacks. If you simply cannot make yourself exercise alone then ask someone to go with you so that you must do it regularly or let the other person down.

Maybe you promised to quit watching bad movies or TV or to give up music that did not glorify God. The first thing to do is throw out books, videos, DVD’s and CD’s that you know are not good. But you cannot leave a void in your life. Read Ephesians chapter 4 where Paul is explaining to the new Christians in Ephesus how their lives need to change once they are saved. The apostle Paul knew that we humans cannot put away things that are bad without replacing them with something good.

The point of all this is plan ahead and then never, never, never quit. If you fail, get up, dust yourself off and start again. Remembering that God will help you to be victorious.

But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. I Corinthians 15:57-58

A CLEAN CALENDAR

I first published this last December.  A year has passed and this is just as appropriate for this year.

Last week my boss gave me a new desk calendar.  I unwrapped it and put it on my desk ready to write my schedule and appointments on it.  As I looked at it I thought how nice it looks, no stains, markings, or cross outs.  Each day is clean, white & empty.

Then it came to my mind that this is what the Lord gives us in a new year. The year 2012 will soon be over with all it’s victories, failures, disappointments, good & bad memories.  When we turn the calendar in a few days to January we have a new opportunity to make our hours and days count for the Lord.  Paul put it very well in Philippians 3:13 – 14, Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this on thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Let me encourage you to set some goals that you can keep with God’s help.  Determine that you will put the past behind you.  It cannot be changed except by God’s grace.  If you have asked God to forgive you for any known sins, he has.  Now it is up to you to move forward in the grace of God using your time to show the world what a forgiven sinner can accomplish with God’s help.

I pray that when each of us gets to the end of 2013 we can look back and say that by the grace of God I used my time wisely.  I met some of my goals and changed others to align with what God wanted me to do.  Would you make a commitment with me to study God’s word more and allow Him to work in your life that we may each become a vessel useful for the Master?

I wish you a Blessed New Year loaded with spiritual victories and good memories.

THREE SCORE YEARS

Originally Published 12/22/12

On December 10, 2012 I reached the age of 60.  I have never cared about age, it was only a number. But turning 60 does make me stop and think about how the time has flown and what I have accomplished with my life.  When I was a teenager I remember hearing older people talk about how time flies.  At the time that seemed to be such a dumb statement!  Time did not fly, it crawled.  I couldn’t wait to finish school, have a career and get married yet it seemed like it would be an eternity for any of that to happen. 🙂   Today I feel like I have blinked a few times and gained 4 decades!  How did that happen?

The Bible tells us in James 4:14 “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow.  For what is your life?  It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away.”  When we are young that verse does not make alot of sense.  Our days seem to drag like a child waiting for Christmas morning.  Those of you that have passed 5 decades or more understand that you look back and wonder where all the time has gone.

Our Creator does not tell us how many years He has given us to work for Him on this earth.  What He does tell us is that life is brief and that we should use each minute that we are awake profitably.  God tells us in Ephesians 5:16 and Colossians 4:5 that we should be redeeming or making the best use of our time.  When we think of these commands it should inspire us to look at our schedule and ask ourselves where our priorities are.

Has your life been spent serving the Lord?  When you look at your accomplishments can you honestly say that you have attempted to put God first in your schedule?  December is a great month to ask this question because so many of us in America get so caught up in the gift buying & giving, the decorating, the partying, and the family rituals that we forget that Christmas is supposed to be about God coming to earth in the form of a child to save us from our sins.  How does your December schedule look?  Have you put Christ first and foremost or is he last on the list?

Let me challenge you, wherever you are in your life cycle, to look at your remaining years and make a commitment.  Ask the Lord to show you how He wants you to spend your time that it might be redeemed for all eternity.