Resolutions For The New Year

While I’m posting newsletter article reprints, here is one I wrote for the church January 2003 newsletter.  (Okay, I wrote half of it.  Palmer Hartsough wrote the other half.) -tom

Many people have given up on the idea of New Year’s resolutions because they have such great difficulty keeping them.  Others continue the practice of resolving certain things at the beginning of a new year only to quickly forget and fall back into the old habits they were trying to avoid.  Believe it or not, there are actually some people who plan carefully to make changes in their life and keep the resolutions they make.

As I considered the idea of what you and I should resolve to do for the coming year, the words of an old hymn came to mind.  I would like to share these words with you as worthy of our consideration.  May we make these resolutions and keep them throughout our life.

I Am Resolved
(words by Palmer Hartsough, public domain)

  1. “I am resolved no longer to linger, Charmed by the world’s delight; Things that are higher, things that are nobler, These have allured my sight.”
     
  2. “I am resolved to go to the Savior, Leaving my sin and strife; He is the true One, He is the just One, He hath the words of life.”
     
  3. “I am resolved to follow the Savior, Faithful and true each day; Heed what He sayeth, do what He willeth, He is the living way.”
     
  4. “I am resolved to enter the kingdom, Leaving the paths of sin; Friends may oppose me, foes may beset me, Still I will enter in.”

“I will hasten to Him, Hasten so glad and free; Jesus, Greatest, Highest, I will come to Thee.”

May Jesus find you faithful when He returns.

Resolved to serving Christ,

Tom

Work That Counts!

I wrote the following as a church newsletter article in March 2002 and previously posted it as “Work That Really Pays!”  The verse is today’s text in our “View From The Top: What Does God Say?” study, so I’ve just copied my old writing here as a reminder.  -tom   

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”  1 Corinthians 15:58

Does your work make a difference?  Do you ever end the day feeling that all of your efforts were a waste of time?  How often do you wonder what you are really accomplishing in life?

The Bible gives a simply stated solution to living a life that counts.  We find it in many places, including the verse above.  The problem, as in many Biblical truths, comes in the application.  It is easy enough to read a command, “always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord”, but it is a completely different thing to actually live it out each and every day.  We read along in our Bibles and see the word “always” and assume that this must only apply to those who work in full time professional ministry.  However, the context of this verse indicates it is meant for all believers who have the hope and assurance of a ressurection of the dead.  That is the “therefore” part of the verse.  Since death has been defeated and we have the assurance of life eternal with Jesus, we know our work is never in vain when it is the work of the Lord being done.

Teaching, serving, giving, sharing, cleaning, etc., are all things that are very necessary to the work of the Lord continuing within the local church.  The work of the Lord is also done wherever you are when you take seriously the Lord’s command to make disciples.  When you devote your life to making disciples, you truly “lay up for yourself treasure in heaven”.  As you live a life committed to sharing the gospel of Jesus, you will have found work that really pays

May God bless your work for Him.

Where Are You Dwelling?

Castle RuinsIt is often interesting to learn why a person lives where they do.  Although each story is unique, there are several themes that are often repeated.  Work related issues, educational opportunities, love for family and relatives, and climate are common reasons many have for living in a certain area.

Christmas is a story about choosing a place to live.  Isn’t that what John writes about in John 1:14:

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

God became human and lived among us.  God chose a time and place that He, as Jesus, could live among the people He loved so much.  Just as we have reasons for why we live where we do, Jesus had reasons for living where He did.  He had work to do.  Jesus knew from the beginning that His work on earth would be accomplished through His death and resurrection.  Jesus came to teach and train followers who would take the good news of His life to the world.  Jesus dwelt among us — His creation, those He had chosen to adopt as children of God.  And in all of this, the climate was right.  Not the weather, but the timing.  In the fullness of time, Christ was born.  When His time had come, Jesus was lifted up to be crucified.  His dwelling among us had purpose.  The church today exists because Jesus was willing to live and die at the right time, at the right place, and for the right reason.

Will you allow the Word to become flesh in your life?  As you dwell among the world, is Jesus being seen in you?  Has Jesus become flesh and dwelt in your community because He lives through you?  I believe that God has placed His Spirit in each of His children so that as He lives among us, we and the lost around us would see the glory of the Father.

Where are you dwelling?

Are You Thankful?

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Where did November go?  Christmas is just around the corner.  Excitement fills the air as the temperature grows colder and stores fill their aisles with the sights and sounds of Christmas.  Attention is drawn toward decorating and gifts.  But wait.  . . . Could this be true?  . . . My calendar would indicate that  Christmas is still two months away.  Yes, it is true!  I haven’t lost November after all.  All of this Christmas decoration that has been going on for weeks in October has had me confused.  You see, I believe that the commercialization of Christmas has caused us to overlook another holiday of great  importance, Thanksgiving.

The Thanksgiving holiday can give us a chance to reflect on our year and our life and recall the many reasons we have to be thankful.  As we apply the Word of God to our life, Thanksgiving reminds us to put into practice the verses above.  Thanksgiving isn’t simply about being thankful for the things in life that have gone our way, but being thankful in all circumstances.  Many Christians spend great amounts of time and effort to try to determine God’s will for their life, yet they fail to put into practice specific items that God directly says is His will for us.

How about you?  Are you a thankful person?  Would your spouse, parent, child, or another person close to you say that you are a thankful person? 

I pray that you do not overlook Thanksgiving this year and that you determine to be a thankful person each and every day that God gives to you.  As God’s people live thankful lives, the joy and enthusiasm of being a Christian spreads to those around us.

Thankfully serving Christ,

Tom

Why Not?

Why?

If you are around young children very long, chances are that you will hear this one word question more often than you would like.  A child’s curiosity makes them want to know how things work and why things happen the way they do.  Everything is questioned to the extent that many parents and teachers begin to dread hearing the word, “why?”, and they long for the day that it is no longer used with such frequency.

Sure enough, the day arrives when “why?” is no longer the question of choice.  The age of self-discovery has come.  Much to the dismay of many a parent, the question changes to a constant “Why not?”.  An explanation of the way things are is no longer good enough.  A reason is demanded for why things can’t be different.  As irritating as the constant questioning might be, it is good to be reminded that it is through this process that discoveries are made that can bring about much of the growth and positive changes that we enjoy.

As individuals and as congregations of Christians, we need to ask why.  Why are we here?  Simply put, we exist to bring glory and honor to God and to do so in such a way that we bring others into complete relationship with Him also.  When we understand the why, then we can begin thinking and dreaming of ways to do that more effectively.  When we grasp the “why”, we begin to grow into the “why not” stage.  Churches and ministries often do that as organizations.  “Why not add new and multiple worship services?”  “Why not have events and programming focused on teens, children, seniors, college students, or other specific group?”  “Why not reach out as a congregation to people in the community that have needs?”  “Why not . . .?”  While these and other “why not” questions often get asked by churches and groups, what about individually asking, “why not? “.

Individually, why not be more involved?  Why not give more of my time and money to ministry?  Why not serve others?  Why not teach a children’s class, a teen class, a small group, or other class?  Why not pray for my neighbor, co-worker, family member, etc., and talk to them about my relationship with Jesus every opportunity that I have?  Why not . . .?

Why not?

What Are You Craving?

“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.  Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”  1 Peter 2:1-3

Have you ever had a craving for a meal or particular food item that just can’t be satisfied short of giving in and enjoying the thing you crave?

I would guess that we’ve all been there, I know I have.  For me, it’s often a steak, Skyline Chili, shrimp, or just plain ice cream.  There are times that I will go to great lengths to satisfy these cravings.  I let nothing stand in the way of my obtaining that which I crave.

In the verses above, we are told to crave pure spiritual milk.  Newborn babies crave milk in such a way that they simply will not be satisfied until they get it.  No peace and contentment exists for them nor those around them until the milk is provided and consumed with great delight and enthusiasm.

So, are you craving the pure spiritual milk of the Word of God with this same intensity?  Has your craving for the things of God caused you to rid your life of things that cause hurt and division among people?  It is interesting that the list of things Peter tells us to get rid of in connection with our spiritual craving, are things that are most damaging in relationships with others.  Malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander are all things that cause great hurt when harbored in individual lives and within the church.

The next time you crave that food item that you just can’t resist, think about how you’re doing in craving the things of God.

Who Will Go? . . . Do? . . . Serve? . . .?

“And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’  Then I said, ‘Here am I!  Send me.'”  Isaiah 6:8

I love to read the words God gives to us through Isaiah.  Chapter six always jumps out at me and grabs my attention because of Isaiah’s quick and bold response in verse eight.  It makes me think about what caused this rapid, positive answer.  Also, what would it take for you and me to consistently have a similar response to the commands of God?

The reasons for us seeing a willing Isaiah are found in the preceding seven verses.  First, Isaiah saw God for who He is.  He saw the Lord seated on a throne being worshipped by angelic beings.  They were singing of His holiness.  He saw God high and lifted up.  God was established in such splendor and glory that there was no mistaking just how powerful and holy this God was.

Secondly, the absolute holiness of God brought Isaiah to the point of noticing himself for who he was.  He saw a sinful man who could not exist in the presence of the holiness of God.  His companions and surroundings did not fit with what he was observing.  The brightness of the throne room revealed just how drab and dirty Isaiah’s world was.

Then finally, he experienced complete forgiveness.  His sin was taken away.  It was out of this sense of joy, and even relief, that Isaiah volunteered to do whatever was asked of him.  It is not until after he volunteers that he receives the instructions for the task he was being called to do.

If we would daily recognize these same three things, perhaps our lives would be more fully devoted to God.  When we acknowledge our unworthiness to even gaze upon the holiness of God, and realize He paid the price to take away our sin, our response to serve Him should come just as quickly and boldly as Isaiah’s did.

I pray that God would give you and me the courage and boldness to always serve Him faithfully.