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New Years Resolutions

The practice of making New Year’s resolutions can be traced back to 2nd Century B.C Rome. Today, the most common resolutions include quitting smoking, losing weight, and getting physically fit.

Puritan Jonathan Edwards made resolutions throughout his life that are still remembered and admired today, three centuries later. If you are still in search of resolutions for 2009, try some of Edwards on for size:

1. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

2. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, but what tends to the glory of God.

3. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

4. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

5. Resolved, never to do any thing out of revenge.

6. Resolved, never to speak evil of anyone.

7. Resolved, that I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.

Christmas is about Christ

Christmas is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the world. Christmas crosses over religious and cultural barriers. Retail advertisers promote images about what they say Christmas is: A time for family, togetherness, and giving. All of these things are great, but they are not what Christmas is about. Jesus is what Christmas is about.

Christmas commemorates a divine event and a divine person—the miraculous birth of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Unlike most of our holidays, Christmas is not a celebration of an event strictly from human history that commemorates a human achievement or recognizes a national milestone. An authentic celebration of Christmas honors the most wonderful of divine accomplishments. It recognizes that the eternal, sovereign God came to earth as a human being to live a righteous life among His people and then to die as a perfect sacrifice to deliver from the wrath of God all who repent and believe. (From: God in the Manger by John MacArthur)

It has been said that Christmas is the “Most wonderful time of the year.” This may be true if it points us to the other most wonderful day in history, the day that an empty tomb defeated death.

Christmas is about Christ

Christmas is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the world. Christmas crosses over religious and cultural barriers. Retail advertisers promote images about what they say Christmas is: A time for family, togetherness, and giving. All of these things are great, but they are not what Christmas is about. Jesus is what Christmas is about.

Christmas commemorates a divine event and a divine person—the miraculous birth of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Unlike most of our holidays, Christmas is not a celebration of an event strictly from human history that commemorates a human achievement or recognizes a national milestone. An authentic celebration of Christmas honors the most wonderful of divine accomplishments. It recognizes that the eternal, sovereign God came to earth as a human being to live a righteous life among His people and then to die as a perfect sacrifice to deliver from the wrath of God all who repent and believe. (From: God in the Manger by John MacArthur)

It has been said that Christmas is the “Most wonderful time of the year.” This may be true if it points us to the other most wonderful day in history, the day that an empty tomb defeated death.

God’s enduring love

Psalm 136 begins and ends with virtually identical verses:

1Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

26Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.(ESV)

In the 24 verses in between there are reminders of all that God has done to be thankful for: from creating the world, to bringing Israel out of slavery in Egypt, to leading them into the wilderness, to giving them victory over their enemies as they came into the Promised Land, all of these blessings mentioned in the Psalm are followed by the phrase, “His steadfast love endures forever.” The strong implication of this Psalm is that God shows his love by what he has done. For further evidence of this, see John 3;16.

The Hebrew word Hesed, is the word that the ESV derives “steadfast love” from. It occurs in each and every verse in Psalm 136. 26 separate times. It declares a fact that we can be eternally thankful for. God’s love is a constant we can depend on. Hesed-Steadfast love is:

Not merely love, but loyal love; not merely kindness, but dependable kindness; not merely affection, but affection that has committed itself … love gives itself in covenant and gladly promises devoted love in that covenant; the covenant partner then rests in the security of that promise and may appeal to it’ (Dale Ralph Davis, I Samuel, p. 207)

Serving others is a hassle. (But worth it).

One of the most striking things about studying the ministry of Jesus in the Gospels, is the fact that Jesus deeply cared for building relationships and serving others. Early in the Gospel of John, we see one of countless examples of this fact. Two disciples of John the Baptist decide to follow Jesus, based on the testimony of John the Baptist. When they ask Jesus where he is staying, Jesus tells Andrew and John to “come and you will see. So they came and they stayed with him that day.” John 1:39. Jesus took the time to get to know them, and hang out with them.

Jesus repeats this pattern many times in His earthly ministry. He did not have to do it this way. He had the authority to proclaim truth to people and keep a safe distance between Himself and their problems. Christ’s example in serving and investing in the lives of people is one Christians should follow today. We live in a time where people want to know that you care about them before they listen to what you have to say. This is not always easy or comfortable, but well worth the investment.

For most of us, the primary cost of reaching others is that it entangles us in the concerns and activities of their lives it encroaches upon our independence. It adds details to our overloaded schedules. Simply stated, it complicates our already complicated lives.

But so does getting married. And having children. And buying a house. And for that matter, becoming a Christian. Think about it. All of these areas require time, effort, learning, some risk and, without question, a fair share of money. Most of the things that are important complicate our lives. But are they worth it? Of course they are!

Ask any new mother whether her baby requires time and energy, and she’ll probably dare you to try to keeping pace with her for just one day and night. When she’s not feeding, holding, or bathing her baby, you’ll probably find her reading books about parenting, because the learning process never ends. And don’t even bring up the subject of money! She will drag out bills to show you the high cost of everything from formula, to pajamas with feet, to Pampers.

But then inquire whether; in light of all of these costs, she regrets having the baby. “Are you crazy?” she’d ask. “Having this baby has been one of the highlights of my life.”(From Becoming a Contagious Chirstian, by Bill Hybels, page 37-38.)

Passionate Faith

Somewhere along the road of Christian history, it seems to me, many people have equated Christian faith with the suppression of passion. Maybe I am the only one who thinks this. The subtle message that many people come to advocate is that “proper” worship of God should be very careful and reserved. Our lives should be marked by a certain degree of stoicism.

Being passionate is not a bad thing. It is how we are wired. We are driven and inspired by passion. We need to fight the urge to settle into a type “spiritual despondency,” or apathy. The secret is not to eliminate passion, but to be passionate about the things that God is passionate about. Only then can our passions bring joy to our lives. Here is an excerpt from an awesome book, I have bee reading.

The goal of the Christian journey cannot be the elimination of desire and passion since the Scriptures teach that God created us in His image and likeness, and a part of this reflection of God is a heart designed for passionate living. It has never been God’s intention to move us toward apathetic living. He desires that we live passionate lives in Him. Rather than eliminate our passions, He intends to overwhelm them with new passions. The furnace of our passions is our character, and while evil character burns hot for destructive passions that consume and destroy, the character of God ignites passion for what is good and true. Our quest is to have God’s character formed in us so that His passions might burn in us. (Erwin McManus Uprising. A Revolution of the Soul.)

Whose tradition? Whose Music?

Something to ponder. Does God value the worship music style of a particular time in a particular culture over all other expressions of worship from all other societies throughout time? If we express our praises to God through a poem or song today, is it really less acceptable to God than expressions of praise from a time gone by, simply because it is new and our own expression?

A loved one could express their love for us through a Shakespearean sonnet, but would we reject their own words because of Shakespeare’s amazing way with words? Or would we simply value their sincere words even though they are new and their own?


WHOSE TRADITION? WHOSE MUSIC?
Any proponent of “historic” corporate worship will have to answer the question, “Whose history?” Much of what is called “traditional” worship is very rooted in northern European culture. Strict historic worship advocates may bind it(worship) too heavily to a past culture.
Do we really want to assume that the sixteenth-century northern European approach to emotional expression and music (incarnate in the Reformation tradition) was completely biblically informed and must be preserved?

—Timothy J. Keller, “Reformed Worship in the Global City,” chapter four of WORSHIP BY THE BOOK, edited by D. A. Carson. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002, p. 196. ISBN 0-310-21625-7.