Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Thoughts for the New Year - 3 things we should do better in 2014

A new year is upon us, and so it should begin with taking stock of where we have been in the old and where we want to go in the new.   

Over the  years, I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions, as I found I too easily break them, and usually not to long after the 1st. Usually it’s because I wasn’t really committed to my weight loss resolution, my exercise resolution or whatever other resolution I had made. Something tells I’m not alone in this. 

Some of these things, in particular weight loss and exercise, changed for me in 2013. It wasn’t out of resolution but necessity to live healthier after another bout with cancer. Sometimes God has to get our attention the hard way. But I end 2013 in the best shape I’ve been in for years and about to head to the gym for a year-end workout. 

Why do we usually fail in our resolutions? I suggest it’s because my focus was on “me,” and your resolution was on you. “Self” tends to be our worst enemy, right? We can take solace in the fact that even the Apostle Paul struggled with “self” but we should not wallow there. Instead, if we can look to God’s Word as our guide for rightful living, when we read it with how we are relate to others. 

Much of what God does have to tell is not about how we can personally have the “best life now,” personally prosper – spiritually, emotionally, financially – or achieve great things for God. Rather, God’s Word instructs us more so in how to live for Him by living for other. When we do we actually find the most blessed life now. 

With that in mind, as we start 2014, I want to offer just three things we should do or start doing better in the New Year, especially as Christ followers. This isn’t a complete list, of course, but just three major points I’m considering for 2014 and I welcome your additions and thoughts.

1. Be humble and consider others first. 

How necessary is this today in our American culture? The church needs to start to do humility much better and put others before ourselves. We live in a society that is rife with vitriol and hatred for other people’s ideas, as if our positions are really most important. In Christ, we really have nothing we can lose so we don’t need to push our way to front of our culture.  That’s not my idea, put Paul’s and therefore God’s, so it’s good advice for everyone.  The Message puts it like this: 

“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” Philippians 2:1-4 

2. Think before you post so as to build others up

In our social media reality of the early 21st Century, compounded by our sound-bite culture, multiplied by our lack of humility, we need to do much better in what we post on Facebook, Tweet, and how we respond on blogs. I know I’ve been guilty of some rash comments in the past. It’s easy to get angry and tear people down, even with logical and well reasoned arguments. Just visit any religious or political blog on any given day to witness some of the vilest of behavior, on both sides of the political isle and even among Christians of differing theological perspectives.  Paul puts it like this however: 

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29

What people need more than anything is Jesus but they can't see him if we know him aren't seeking to build them up, regardless of how they are acting or what they believe.

3. Honor others above ourselves 

When you consider what Americans think of as important, it’s a safe bet based on antidotal evidence alone that we think of ourselves above others, often including other Christians. It's something innate about the American way, which is foreign to many other cultures. Today, we have a prevailing lack of respect for others in our culture, be they of political, religious, ideological or some other difference. This respect deficit has now morphed into a sick “game” called “knockout,” where young people, showing no respect all all for humanity, assault innocent people as they pass-by, for no other reason then "sport." Americans needed a campaign like “I am second” to raise awareness to life’s proper priorities - God first, we’re second was the idea. But even that, as wonderful a campaign as it is, didn’t go far enough for as Paul put it simply: 

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10 (emphasis mine)

Of course, we should want to love God better and should want to love others better. But in fact, we can’t love God without loving others (1 John 2:9, 4:20) and we can’t love others without humility, wholesome talk and honoring them. It's not sufficient to simply talk about these three things but we need to live them.

Sure, I could probably make a top 10 list for things we could do better in the New Year but I'd probably just end up with another resolution list I didn't follow. If we as Christ-follower, however, do these three things better in 2014, I believer we would do well and it would make a big difference in our nation, in our lives and the knowledge of God's glory in Christ. Therefore, I resolve to do better. 

That's my New Year's resolution. What's your?

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