There is really nothing that is worth saying about this new year that we have just entered. The world is in a sorry state of affairs. Pick a country and its government is out of synch with its people and is failing to secure their futures. There is no peace to be found in the regions of the globe, and the level of terror that is coming from our warlike bent is increasing to levels that have seldom been seen in history. Across the face of the earth there are people who are needlessly starving, being taken down by preventable illness, and are homeless, and this does not even consider the millions of others who have been made into refugees due to the animosity of others and as a result of our humanity’s unchecked violence toward itself. This planet was not born into this harsh and troubled state, but its nurture under the influence of evil has taken it down this degenerative path so that by this point in its story it is very hard to see the light of hope on the horizon of the coming days.

 

Yet, this is not how God sees us or the way that He views the world where we live. He is made very sad by the way that we have taken the beautiful perfection of His creation and twisted and tortured it into the tangled mess that it is today, but that does not change the Lord’s view of what His hands crafted, and it does not cause Him to abandon His unceasing hope for our redemption. In fact, God has taken action to change it all, for He was not surprised or set back by the way that we turned away from Him in order to seek after our own way of travel through life. The need for Jesus’ sacrificial work of redemption was known by God from a point in time that precedes all of the history of our world. God’s plan for effecting our return to Him and into His righteousness was set in motion before our first ancestors were devised and created. Now each of us is called to enter into that hope for ourselves and for our world. We are invited to join with Christ in seeing this new day and the future through God’s eyes, and we are led by Christ into acting upon that hope as He desires for us to do.

 

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 10: 23

 

As followers of Christ we are led by Him to love people in a manner that sacrifices all for the sake of others. We are implored to set aside violence as our answer to differences and to seek to know and to understand those who we believe are opposed to us and to our beliefs. The Gospel of Jesus Christ directs His people to seek after the restoration to relationship with God and with ourselves of everyone without regard to any internal or external concerns or issues that we may hold or have. This means that we need to be the ones who step across the barriers and boundaries of our world and reach out in peace and reconciliation to these people, cultures, and nations with whom we are at odds. As we hold fast to our confession of Christ, we are trusting in Him for the protection, courage, strength, and wisdom that this course of travel requires. In so doing, we set aside our own natural tendencies and understandings so that the greater truth of God’s way of living can prevail. There is, in fact, hope in the air as this new year begins; however, it does not come from looking to political solutions or leaders, it is not found in the news of the day, and hope is not grounded in the skills and the technology of our culture. Rather, hope is found and is given expression as we look fully and singularly on Christ. Hope is given expression as we follow His way and renounce the ways of this world. Hope is tendered as we join our Lord in sacrificing all for the sake of the redemption of others.

Blessings for this New Year.

 

 

 

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Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you.

1 Thessalonians 5: 1

 

On this first day of a new year, people tend to engage in goal setting and the making of resolutions regarding behaviors and actions that will support those goals. This is a time when reflection on the past leads to sober consideration of the things that went well and especially on those aspects of life that did not turn out as desired. Generally there are no off limit topics for review and examination. Weight, finances, employment, and relationships may all involve some serious concerns and looking closely at them may cause us to desire deep and often profound change. Still, these are not the most significant or even the most personal of all issues to place before us as we set out these goal-based resolutions.

 

At this point, I would like to encourage you to read the rest of Paul’s thoughts as expressed in the first eleven verses of 1 Thessalonians 5. He says it far better than I can. Although God knows about, cares for, and is involved in all of the issues and contemplations of our lives, He is most deeply engaged with the way that we live as His children within His kingdom of light. As followers of Christ we are already residents of a new economy. We do not exist as creatures that are owned and controlled by the lusts and the fears of this world’s darkness. Now, we can and should purpose to truly dwell in this new land.

 

As I see it, dwelling is very different from merely living. When we move to a new home, we bring our possessions into it, have items such as mail sent there, and eat and sleep under the roof. As we change things by painting walls, positioning that furniture, and establishing our routines within the walls, we begin to truly dwell there. The landscape is changed due to the touch of our hands upon it. This is what God wants us to resolve to do in our world. He desires that His people would dwell here. He calls upon us to make living out fearless love and righteous justice our primary concern and our foundational goal. At the beginning of this new year, we are the laborers in this very ripe harvest field. Those of us who are disciples of the living Christ are tasked by Him to stand together and to work to reshape this world in the hope of the future one where Christ reigns as King.

Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5: 11

Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.

Psalm 33: 3

Let me start this off by wishing all of Happy Akitu! If you are not familiar with this one, you are not alone. First off, it is not one of the new holidays that reflect various cultural influences that we have been adding to calendars over the past few years. Actually, it is much older than all of the holidays that we typically do celebrate. Akitu is the Babylonian New Year’s celebration from over 4,000 years ago. It was held in the equivalent of our March, on the Spring Equinox, and it did involve the making of promises in the form of resolutions. It would seem that we people have a very long history of seeing a need for change in our lives and for pledging or committing to do something about accomplishing the change. However, I would guess that the Babylonians were, in fact, not much better than us in actually keeping their resolutions.

So, here is a suggestion for a very simple resolution. Whatever it is that is of concern; whether it is health, finances, family, relationships, the job, or any of the many things that tend to land on New Year’s lists; lay it out before God. A natural response for some things might be to say that God can’t possibly be concerned about something as trivial as my – whatever it is. This thinking misses the essential nature of who God is and of how He interacts with us. With great deliberation and purpose God put Himself into our lives. Christ did not need to come into our world, live with us, and be sacrificed for the sake of God’s position, authority, or rule. He did all of this, and the Holy Spirit remains with us for our sakes. It seems to me that God came into our world and into my life in order to bring about a form of transformative change in us that is profoundly deep and effects us from our foundations. That means, among other things, that God cares about everything that we do.

Thus, my suggestion is that instead of creating lists of desired outcomes and commitments to work toward them, the quality of life in our new year would be better impacted by entering into a spiritual quest with God. We can set out our desires and concerns before God, allow Him to reveal to us His perspective on who we are and on what He is calling us to do. Follow that process of revealing by searching God’s Word for passages that relate to the issues at hand; then, pray about it regularly and take the time to listen to how God responds. Additionally, it is always good to find a partner for this journey who will, in turn, allow you into their quest. The New Year is a great time to enter into this process of surrendering our most basic wants, needs, and desires to God. This is a wonderful occasion to begin to sing that new song of praise, grief, repentance, and rejoicing. We can shout it all out with voices bold or still and know that our God will listen and respond.