The Winter Holiday season is rich with family traditions and rituals. Putting up the Christmas tree, Secret Santa parties, cake baking, house decorating, holiday movies, and traveling back to hometowns are things that many do without fail every year. My wife and I have a holiday tradition that may be a tad unusual. I respect and value the holiday Kwanza, but to date my wife and I haven’t celebrated it. While some families celebrate and ponder on deep principles like Umoja (unity), Ujima (community), and Imani (faith) my wife and I display our “charas-maniac consciousness” from December 26th thru January 1th by going back and forth trying to predict cheesy New Year’s slogans that ministries will use to stir up the pews! I’ve known my wife since 2005 so we are approaching a decade worth of New Year’s slogans. We’ve decided to release a “Best of New Years Slogans” decade collection in 2015 but in the “meantime between time” we’re releasing a free preview in this blog. 😉 Enjoy!
In 2005 I’m coming alive!!
It’s 2006 and I’m going to tear satan to bits!!
In 2007 I’m walking in the prosperity of Heaven!
“Haters gone hate” in 2008 cause my life’s going to be GREAT!!
In 2009 the blessings are MINE!!
2010 is the year I WIN!!
In 2011 I’m walking in the prosperity of Heaven (a repeat)
I declare that in 2012 I ain’t goin thru no mo hell!!
It’s my SEASON in 2013….eyes haven’t seen!
(*cues drum roll*) And for this year……
TWO THOUSAND, ONE, FOUR is the YEAR of “THE MORE”!!!
Said with the right amount of passion and swagger, the right lighting, and the right mood-altering church music; these slogans can cause major adrenaline rushes of hope or hype. (You decide which) People will be roused in watch night services across the country tonight by stuff like this and I totally understand why. I can’t even “front”. When you’ve been through a few season of hopelessness you are more susceptible to phony promises of change. The only problem is that these sweeping statements run the risk of doing exactly what the prophet Jeremiah said the false prophets of his time were doing.
Promises of newness are very captivating in a fallen world where we all experience the “same ole” brokenness. Something about a New Year (which by the way is nothing more than a change of dates in a man-made calendar) seems to heighten our sense of longing for change. More than half of all Americans make New Year resolutions. Some of the most popular resolutions are “losing weight (Getting in shape), spending more time with family, spending less and saving more money, and making bold career moves.” But the stats show that most of our self-made, self-willed, self centered, self-improvement resolutions SELF DESTRUCT within a month or two. One study showed that only 8% of the people that make resolutions are successful in achieving them.
The fact is that our brokenness and bent towards self-sabotage is too profound for a shallow slogan to carry us into change. It’s like putting a band-aide on a gunshot wound. It’s like putting perfume on a rotting corpse. Getting 100s of folks riled up about the “great year” ahead of them with no nuances or caveats like God’s sovereignty over life’s seasons, repentance, obedience, etc is just plain wrong! I distinctly remember talking to a well meaning man right after a new year’s service who was certain that God told him that that year was going to be a drama free, pain free, season of unprecedented temporal blessings for he and his family. Within a month two family members died unexpectedly and he lost his job. Was God still with him? Absolutely! Was the ultimate blessing of His presence still available to him? Yes! Could God work all those pains for this man’s ultimate and eternal good? Yes! But those blessings would have to be received in the midst of the very pain and drama that he thought the new year would rid him of. We’ve got to understand that no amount of naming, claiming, decreeing, declaring, and “positive confession” can remove some of the “cups we must drink” and crosses we must carry. Ask Jesus.
So what do we do? Do we just succumb to pessimism? Do we stop believing God for change? No, no, and no! I believe that we pray and hope for God’s best in the new year understanding that His best does not always line up with our ideas of “best”.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Do we just throw out the whole idea of resolutions? No, I don’t think so. However our resolutions must be preceded by, grounded on, and fueled by something greater than the “change” itself. Otherwise we are in danger of allowing “change” to be our God instead of worshipping the God who brings the change. Most of my life I’ve heard Proverbs 29:18 quoted from the King James Version. It says, “without a vision the people perish”. But a more accurate translation of that verse is “without a revelation, the people cast off restraint”. Think about that as it relates to resolutions. We can resolve to do this, that, and the third but this verse tells us that minus a REVELATION we will “cast off restraint”, jump ship, abandon the plans, and FAIL!
So I challenge you this year to first and first and foremost seek a fresh revelation of who Jesus is! Before you picture yourself achieving some personal goal why not first ask God the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of your heart that you may have deeper VISION of Christ Himself. Instead of getting engrossed in the idea of our personal stories changing why not first be enamored by the Story of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and enthronement! Our resolutions will be a distant memory in mid February if they are not fueled by a revelation of Jesus. If Jesus is not at the center we run the risk of making a list of resolutions that “glorify ourselves” or flat out push us off the path of Gods will for our lives. Many professing Christians get more excited about how Jesus will benefit them personally than they do about using their “benefits” to serve those who don’t know Him or who are in need. How did we go from “If I die let me die in the army of the Lord” to “If I can’t get my American Dream compliments of Jesus I’ll enlist elsewhere”. It seems our faith has been hijacked by American values that don’t always line up with the Kingdom Agenda. What’s the solution? Again, we need to see Jesus afresh!!
If we are not frequently encountering Jesus through the scriptures we run the risk of “reshaping Him into our own image”. An unfiltered look at Him in the Gospel(s) shows us he is “no tame lion”! He’s tender and tough, comforting and confrontational, loving and just, a uniter and a divider, a servant and a warrior. He preaches soul jarring hard truths but still cries tears of solidarity and empathy in our weakness and pain.
A revelation of Jesus will empower us to grow into the people the Father wants us to be in 2014. Our resolutions will expand beyond important but incomplete goals like weight loss, financial stewardship, and career moves. We’ll see our calling to be “others-focused” with fresh clarity. The importance of being agents of hope, healing, redemption, and restoration in a dying world that is primed for the newness that only Jesus can bring will trump lesser goals. We are all broken people living in a broken world. The only message adequate enough to address this brokenness is the Gospel of Jesus. We have the privilege of going deeper into this revelation and bearing witness to it in word and in works this year!
Let’s walk confident that no matter what 2014 brings our way, Jesus will work it for our good and His glory if we truly love Him and are dedicated to His purposes!
May the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit…..NOW!