Peace on Earth

–December of 2005

Peace on Earth

The Advent season summons the Church away from its normal activity to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Christian pilgrims from around the world will descend upon the ancient town of Bethlehem.  Manger square will be filled with the sounds of Christmas carols, the reverent tones of public prayers, and the glow of a thousand candles.

Most of us in America will celebrate Christmas watching our children parade timidly in front of church congregations, re-enacting the Christmas story.  We will all smile proudly, nod our affirmation vigorously, and join with these little ones as they sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men”  (Luke 2:14).

The words “peace on earth” will slip by most of us without notice.  Yet the cynic, as well as the serious saint, will recognize that the world has not found the formula for peace.  The god of war continues to stalk up and down the earth, threatening men and nations with bloodshed and destruction.  Terrorism has robbed law abiding people of any sense of security.  The Middle East is a boiling cauldron of tension, spilling over in outbreaks of violence.  Here in America broken-hearted families will stare at empty chairs this Christmas because of loved ones who lost their lives in the war in Iraq.

The god of this world also goes about seeking whom he may devour.  He has wrought havoc in a world now haunted by demons, disease, and death.  Sin has ruined men by violence and squalor, misery and hatred. Stress and tension fill our homes and destroy our health.  The piercing words of the prophet, “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked,” are painfully accurate.

Is there any hope for meaningful peace in our world?  Can men find calm in the midst of such chaos?  Oh yes!  The Prince of Peace has offered it and millions of souls have found it. But it can be realized only in obedience to the divine formula for peace.  The divine formula is expressed in the form of a cross.  Paul said, “He has made peace through the blood of His cross.”  The cross of Christ has made inner peace possible now.  It can bring about an end to the inner warfare and outward misery of any man’s life.

The prospects of world peace look dim to those who gaze with a temporal eye.  But the Savior who came as a babe in Bethlehem’s manger will one day return as a conquering King.  He will put all enemies under His feet and bring to pass a reign of “peace on earth, good will toward men.”

The Light Still Shines

–December of 2004

The Light Still Shines

“The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness could not extinguish it.” (John 1:5)

In a great piece of music, the composer often begins by stating the themes which he is going to elaborate in the course of the work.  That is what John does in the opening of his gospel.  Light is one of the great words upon which John builds his testimony of Jesus.  John describes Jesus as a light that has come into the world to light the life of every man.  Another one of John’s key words is darkness.  John saw a darkness in the world that was very real and very hostile to the light.  This darkness represents evil.  Sinning man loves the darkness and hates the light, because the light exposes their wickedness.   John takes these two themes and shows their natural opposition.  He portrays a universal battleground where the forces of dark and light are arrayed in an eternal conflict.   The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot extinguish it.  The darkness seeks to eliminate the light of Christ—to banish it from life, but the light will not go out!

This conflict is played out in the pages of sacred history.  The Old Testament lets us witness everything from individual struggles with evil to heavenly warfare for the soul of a Nation.  In the New Testament this conflict emerges with intensity around the cradle of the incarnate Christ as the forces of darkness unleash Herod’s sword in a futile attempt to eliminate the light.  The ultimate battle, however, was staged on the Cross of Christ.  The rulers of this age and the powers of darkness thought if they could only nail Christ to the cross that darkness would win once and for all.  They thought the crucifixion of Christ would be the ultimate defeat and their final triumph.  In fact, it proved to be just the reverse.  Out of the darkness of his death came the blinding light of His resurrection victory.  The light of this good news exploded out of the confines of Palestine and across the known world like a quickly spreading flame until, in a few decades, the gospel had impacted every major population center of the Roman world.

The powers of darkness responded with persecution and torture.  But wild beasts and boiling oil couldn’t put out the light and the blood of the martyrs only fueled the flame.  When persecution from without did not succeed, the forces of darkness turned inward and awful darkness settled down over the church.  But out of the heart of that darkness, reformation fires began to burn and the light prevailed.  Every counter move by the forces of darkness to extinguish the light only brought revival fires that would break out and save lives, transform nations, and change the course of history.

The darkness has used all sorts of political ideologies, human philosophies, and false religions to advance its cause.  But the light always breaks through to enlighten the mind and hearts of men.  Alumnus Rick Hutchison told recently of standing in the front yard of Nikita Khrushchev’s summer home and holding Easter morning services.  As the sound of Christian hymns lifted toward heaven, Rick couldn’t help but think of the irony of the situation.  He was preaching the gospel in the front yard of the atheist dictator who declared he would bury Christian America without a shot.  Another alumnus, Rodney Jackson, e-mailed me the story of how he was able to give a Bible to an Iraqi woman while he was serving in Iraq.  He watched the tears of joy run down her cheeks as she expressed appreciation to her American liberators, but he knew that what he had given her would bring a greater liberation and drive the darkness and despair from her empty eyes.

As you gather with friends this Christmas season, light a candle and lift your voice in praise for light has come into the world and the darkness has not and will not overcome it!

“We Didn’t Know Who You Were”

–December of 2003

“We Didn’t Know Who You Were”

The early American spiritual, “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” has a profound insight running through its lyrics.  The writer appropriately reflects the world’s failure to recognize the incarnate Son of God when He says: “We didn’t know who You were.”  The third verse proves to be even more remarkable. “The world treats you mean, Lord, treats me mean too, but that’s how things are down here. We don’t know who you are.”  The writer deliberately shifts from a historical ignorance to a present-day failure to recognize the Son of God.

I’ve spent the last several months studying the gospel of John for the specific purpose of learning how to model the life of Christ in my own life.  The revelations have been startling.  As I looked for Jesus in John’s narrative, the first thing I learned was that it’s very easy to miss Him because of looking for the wrong thing.

The world completely missed Him on that first Christmas (John 1:5, 10).  Their kings were born surrounded by pomp and circumstance.  But Jesus came silently, in a stable, with only a few shepherds to pay him homage.  Their kings lived in palaces, dressed in splendor, dined with heads of state, and traveled in gold plated chariots pulled by majestic steeds.  Their vision of a king was one to be served, feared and honored from a distance.  Jesus wore the garb of common men, had no place to lay his head, traveled by foot, rubbed shoulders with the poor and diseased, held children on his lap and first revealed His glory at the wedding of a poor village girl.  The very thought of a king, dying on a cross to redeem his people and establish His kingdom, was to the world foolishness.

His own people missed him (John 1:11).  The Jews were looking for a conquering warlord that would throw off the yoke of Rome, liberate their country and return them to the golden age of Solomon.  But Jesus said His kingdom was not of this world, spoke of going the second mile, turning the other cheek, and loving your enemies.  The Jews watched in complete horror as He healed a Roman’s Centurion’s servant, talked to a Samaritan adulteress, stayed in the home of a tax collector and spent most of His time with a group of ignorant fisherman.  For their Messiah to be crucified on a Roman cross as God’s perfect sacrifice, proved to be a huge stumbling block.

His disciples had problems recognizing who He was.  Peter, speaking for the twelve, announced at Caesarea Philippi that, “Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God.”  Jesus’ response to that was to explain that being the Christ involved a cross.   To which Peter replied, “Not so Lord.”  When Jesus washed the disciple’s feet, Peter’s paradigm of the Messiah came out again, and it was not one of self-sacrificing servanthood.  Even after three years, His disciples saw His death and resurrection as the ultimate end rather than the consummate victory.

You don’t have to miss Him.  Those who were in tune to God’s redemptive plan and activity recognized Jesus right away.  Simeon and Anna recognized Him as God’s means of salvation when He was still a babe in His mother’s arms.  The wise men worshipped Him, John the Baptist announced Him as the “Lamb of God,” and the woman of Samaria said to her friends, “Is not this the Christ?”

Even a Roman Centurion who witnessed His crucifixion said, “Truly this was the Son of God.”

If Jesus were reincarnated among us today, would we be prepared to recognize Him?  Or have we created a Jesus so much to our own liking that we would never know the one walking through the pages of our New Testament?  This Christmas season, go back to the gospels and look for Him.  You will be awed by what you find.

The Grace of Gratitude

–November of 2003

The Grace of Gratitude

According to a medieval legend, two angels were once sent down to earth, one to gather up petitions and the other to collect thanksgivings.  The first angel found petitions everywhere.  He soon returned to heaven with a huge load of them on his back and a bundle in each hand.  The second angel had no such easy time.  He had to search diligently to find even a mere handful to take back to heaven.

Admittedly, legends can be farfetched and unrealistic or they can be painfully accurate.  This one, however, is much too accurate for comfort.  We would all have to admit that the high-stakes scramble for more of this world’s good has robbed the church of her voice of thanksgiving.  Our long period of materialistic comfort has made us easy in Zion and unaccustomed to the exercise of humble gratitude.

The Apostle Paul knew the importance of gratitude to the Christian as well as the subtle danger of ingratitude.  Listen to the music of gratitude that plays through his epistle to the Colossians:

Chapter one, verse 3:  “We give thanks to God the Father of our Lord Jesus.”

Chapter one, verse 12:  “…giving thanks unto the Father.”

Chapter two, verse 7:  “…abounding…with thanksgiving.”

Chapter three, verse 17:  “…giving thanks unto God and the Father by Him.”

Chapter four, verse 17:  “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.”

Paul’s hymnody of thanks seems to center in chapter three, verse 15 when he says, “And be ye thankful.”

Paul’s strong imperative to “wear a garment of gratitude” is anchored to three firm convictions in the Apostle’s life.

Paul saw gratitude as a required grace.  Not a luxury but a necessity, not an option but a conviction.  Paul placed it among the required rather than the elective classes in the school of Christian experience.  I have a debt to be grateful!

I owe it to God to be grateful.  He has given me life, eternal life and the opportunity to do something with it.

I owe it to others to be grateful.  A sour, complaining spirit spreads gloom.  However, a joyful, cheerful spirit brings sunshine and smiles wherever it goes.

I owe it to myself.  Your physician will tell you that a mean, bitter, thankless spirit harms our health and robs us of life.  But of greater concern is what ingratitude does to us spiritually.  Of the thirteen plagues that came upon the children of Israel in their wilderness journey, eleven of those were punishment for murmuring against God.  In Romans chapter one, Paul charts the awful journey from godliness to godlessness.  He says in verse 21 that part of the root cause for such deviation is a spirit of ingratitude, “Neither were they thankful.”

Gratitude is also a ripening grace.  A more literal translation of Paul’s words would be, “and become ye thankful.”  We must seek the grace of gratitude and cultivate the grace of gratitude until we are “abounding with thanksgiving.”  This is not an easy task.  None will ever overflow with thanksgiving until they see that gratitude is an inner disposition towards life that must be worked at.  Life has its mix of good and bad – of the difficult and the delightful; but it’s up to us as to how we respond to that mix.  Some people in examining a bush unhappily see only the thorns; others rejoice in the fragrance of its roses.  The lens through which we view life is so important.  Jacob saw his days as “few and evil.”  He described the loss of Joseph and the famine that reunited them with these words, “all these things be against me.”  However Joseph looked at life through the lens of gratitude and described the same time period with a different set of words completely.  Joseph said, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”  We see exactly what we discipline ourselves to see in life, and looking through the lens of thanksgiving will ripen us.

If it often said among Christians that our reward is in the world to come.  However, gratitude is a rewarding grace.  It has its own reward for us right now.

Gratitude exalts God.  Very few things honor and glorify God more than the sweet fragrance of a thankful soul.  It expels gloom and ushers in sweet peace and blessed hope.  More than once the child of God has used thanksgiving to drive back the clouds of sorrow and gloom.  Gratitude encourages graciousness.  It gives us the politeness of soul and graciousness of spirit that can’t be purchased for any amount of money.

Let’s declare war on whimpering and complaining!  Let’s put away from us forever the grumbling and fault-finding that is such a blight on the church today!  Reach into the closet of God’s grace and adorn yourself with the garment of gratitude!  It will make a difference!

New Year’s Resolutions Anyone? – Part II

–Winter 2003

New Year’s Resolutions Anyone?

Part II

In last year’s winter issue I shared my list of New Year’s Resolutions and pledged to write an article on each one.  Though each resolve was given personal attention, they never found their way into the article I promised.  So with pen in hand and a little mud on my face, here is my insight on three of those resolutions.

Resolution #1

To Gain an Understanding of Corporate Worship

I’ve spent the past year combing through books, articles and listening to tapes about worship.  I’ve talked it over with the scholars and traced it in the lives of simple saints.  Some I talked with had all the answers on worship, while others didn’t seem to have a clue.  But every time I reached for my pen to write, I became frustrated with either the breadth of the subject or the narrowness of my own experience, and laid my pen aside deferring to the greater mind and the larger soul.

I also hesitated to write for the timid reason that there are certain subjects within the church that people have real strong feelings about and will fight over at the drop of a hat (with some willing to drop the hat).  Worship is one of those subjects.  Worship wars have divided denominations and split churches.  In an endeavor to keep the peace, some churches have offered a menu of services with varying worship styles.  This, of course, hasn’t aided true worship in the least, but has pandered to self-centered seekers wanting to “do church” in a way that is entertaining and exciting, or kept entrenched a style traditionally safe but totally missing the mark.

My readership is mostly conservative and mostly within the Methodist holiness tradition.  This group, for the most part, hasn’t bowed the knee at the altar of “Christian consumerism,” though I have witnessed some alarming extremes.  Everything from services so dead they felt like a “funeral for the Almighty” to services so free spirited and casual that they were nothing more than chatty conversations of God talk, similar to a pep rally where we all shouted “hurrah for Jesus!” on cue.

In between these extremes are those who are truly serious about worship but are not always sure of how to go about it.  They remind me of the puzzled partygoer who asked, “Are we having fun yet?”  They try hard to worship but feel like asking, “Are we worshiping yet?”  I did witness services where I felt like the congregation was truly worshiping and the pastor knew how to lead them in worship, but for the most part I agree with Tozer that worship has become the missing jewel of the church.

What’s Wrong?

Without going into great detail, let me offer you my findings.

  1.  We don’t see worship as the main enterprise of the church.

The church seems to have gone through stages of what it thinks is the most important thing for it to be doing.  At times the church has emphasized separation.  Other times it was evangelistic outreach, foreign missions, or just biblical instruction.  Each one or a mixture of the four, taking their turn being the hallmark of what church is really about.  When in all reality each of these must be a product of worship or they will become another gimmick to motivate the saints, or a slick PR front to sell the church.

  1. We lack a balance between a God that is majestic and transcendent and one that is imminent and lovingly near us.

Most holiness churches have unduly stressed feeling and experiencing God to the neglect of worshiping and glorifying God for the pure joy of magnifying the one whom alone is worthy.  Jesus taught us to worship in spirit and in truth.  Worship must have both heart and head.  Worship must engage emotions and thought.  Truth without emotion produces dead orthodoxy and a church full of artificial admirers.  On the other hand, emotion without truth produces empty frenzy and cultivates shallow people who refuse the discipline of rigorous thought.  Strong affections for God rooted in truth are the bone and marrow of biblical worship.  Many in a sincere attempt to feel God near have lost this balance and have opened the door to a fleshly humanism and called it worship.

  1. We have forgotten that only those who are spiritually alive can worship.

When Jesus said, “we must worship the Father in spirit…” He meant that true worship could only come from spirits made alive and sensitive by the quickening power of the Holy Spirit of God.  John Piper says it like this; “The fuel of worship is a true vision of the greatness and glory of God, but the fire that makes the fuel burn white hot is the quickening of the Holy Spirit.”

  1. We have allowed worship to become something we do for our spiritual benefit rather than something we give to God.

This twist in focus has turned church into a performance event where we are the recipients.  We want the songs to bless us, the prayers to comfort us, and the sermon to help us feel better about our condition.  True worship is not self-centered, but God-centered.  Robert Coleman says it like this; “Worship is the adoring response of the creature to the infinite majesty of God.  While it presupposes submission to Him, to worship, in the highest sense, is not supplication for needs, or even thanksgiving for blessings, but the occupation of the soul with God Himself.”

  1. We have made worship a Sunday morning event rather than a lifestyle.

Worship has to do with real life.  It is not a mythical interlude in a week of reality.  We cannot honor God with our lips on Sunday while our hearts are far from Him during the week.

Tinkering or Transformation?

The holiness movement is going through a transition.  There is a lot of tinkering with things and some will be for our help while others will be for our harm.  But when it comes to worship, we need a transformation by the Spirit of God.  Pastors need to be leading the way, teaching their people how to worship God in spirit and in truth.  In order to do this, they must find a biblical paradigm for worship.

As I have sought to develop a biblical view of worship, I have developed for myself five basic facets that must be involved.

  1. The first facet is dispositional.  I mean by this that worship is an attitude of the heart and soul.  There is nothing casual about worship, nor can be done by simply parroting phrases.  It blends our heart and soul and mind like nothing else that we will ever do.  To me this disposition rests on four character traits.

Reverence.  We cannot worship unless there is a reverence and esteem for Almighty God.  We must see Him as majestic and transcendent, the One before who even angels veil their faces.

Love.  We must truly love Him with all of our hearts.  You cannot worship a God you do not truly love.

Humility.  The humble soul is the one who understands that He is the Creator and I am the creature, and I can do nothing without Him.  That sense of humility frees us from self-aggrandizement and enables us to lift Him up.

Gratitude.  Romans chapter 1 tells us it was the sin of ingratitude that prevented man from worshiping God even when they knew Him as God.  Gratitude paves the way for real worship.

  1. The second facet is gestural.  Biblical worship involves some kind of outward act.  The very word in Hebrew means to bow down.  So, worship is bowing, lifting hands, praying, singing, reciting, preaching, etc.  It is absolutely impossible to sit like a monument and worship the Almighty.
  1. The third facet is vocal.  We may worship in silence but not all of worship is silent.  Worship involves appropriate vocal expression of praise and affirmation.  Worship by its very nature requires a personal and/or a congregational response.  The biblical pattern runs the scale of everything from a quiet amen to the jubilant shout of hallelujah!  Vocal expressions, though, should never be a mindless parroting of worship language.  Worship must never be divorced from the mind and the will.  This doesn’t mean worship cannot be spontaneous or even at times rapturous, but it does mean that it will never be a mindless, out of control, experience.
  1. The fourth aspect is liturgical.  I was taught to be suspicious of anything that involved liturgy, only to my surprise to discover that every church follows a liturgy, either a good one or a bad one, written or unwritten.  They all have form.  A biblical view of worship always entails order and form.
  1. The fifth facet is spiritual.  Let me quote from John Piper again.  “The fuel of worship is the truth of God, the furnace of worship is the spirit of man, and the heat of worship is the vital affections of reverence, contrition, trust, gratitude and joy.  But the fire of worship is the Holy Spirit, and until the Holy Spirit quickens our spirit with the flame of life, our spirit is so dead and unresponsive it does not even quality as a spirit.  True worship can only come from spirits made alive and sensitive by the quickening power of the Holy Spirit of God.”

I’ve not written this article as a critic or counselor.  It is simply an article that allows you to look over my shoulder into the private journaling of my journey toward better worship.  Fortunately God accepts our imperfect worship while we are learning how to offer that which is more acceptable.  He is worthy of our very best!

If you are interested in further help, email me at president@gbs.edu and I will send you a list of my study resources.

The Word Became Flesh

–December of 2002

The Word Became Flesh

At the close of the First World War, Prince Edward of Britain visited a hospital that was caring for thirty-six of Britain’s greatest war heroes.  The Prince was taken first to a ward of twenty-four men.  Before leaving, he asked, “Are there are no others?”  The nurse responded in the affirmative, but she has questioned whether or not the Prince wanted to see those who were more seriously wounded.  Demanding to see them all, he was taken to another room of eleven men.  The Prince was stunned at the awful condition of these noble defenders of the Crown.  He was moved to tears as he offered each man his deepest appreciation for his noble service.

Again upon leaving the room, the Prince remarked that if he had counted right, there was still one more.  The nurse remonstrated rather strongly about seeing the last one since that veteran was in isolation and his condition was so critical.  The Prince demanded a visit.  The nurse protested that the situation of the man mighty truly be unbearable to the royal visitor.  Edward would not be dissuaded and was soon standing by the bedside of the dying hero.  He was not prepared, however, for what he saw.  The brave soldier had taken the worst of a fiery explosion.  Much of his body had been either blown or burned away.  His face was disfigured beyond recognition.  The stench of death lay heavy in the room.  The Prince shuddered as a wave of horror swept over his soul from what he saw.  After a moment to regain himself, the Prince leaned over the bed, and calling the soldier’s name, told him who he was.  The old warrior’s eyes twitched, and the stub of an arm on the right side of his body jumped in an effort to salute.  Prince Edward stooped down and in the most tender tones poured out the deepest thanks on behalf of his country.  Then stooping lower, he kissed the disfigured brow of the dying solder.  This was a condescending moment for the noble Prince of the English throne.

There is One who has stooped far lower to plant the kiss of redemption upon the wretched brow of lost humanity.  No human story, however noble, compares with our Savior’s condescension.  The King of Glory came down!  The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.  The Lord of eternal glory and splendor wrapped Himself in the fading garment of our humanity and pitched his fleshly tent on a bed of straw, in a lowly stable, under a brilliant star.

Why did he come?  He came to save!  How would he save?  By identifying completely with our humanity, yet remaining the sinless Son of God.  By taking our sin upon Himself and dying—the just for the unjust.

Why become flesh?  God had created man but he had never been a man.  He had watched men toil, but He had never blistered his own hands with a carpenter’s tool.  He had never felt the onslaught of the tempter, or had his soul pierced with the sorrows of life.  He had seen men sink into the hopeless depths of the grave, but He had never felt the cold grip of death or spread His omnipotent shoulders on the bottom of a sepulcher.  Only through His incarnation could he take our place and be crucified.  Only through assuming a human body could he suffer the sting of death, break the bars of the grave and make it possible for us all to shout, “O death where is thy sting?  O grave where is thy victory?”

Why did Christ come down in human flesh?  He came down that His mysterious incarnation might reunite us to God; that His atoning death might purchase our justification and become the spring of our eternal life; that His resurrection would be the pledge of our glory, and His ascension the triumph of our souls!

New Year’s Resolutions, Anyone?

–Winter of 2002

New Year’s Resolutions, Anyone?

How long has it been since you’ve heard anyone talk about New Year’s resolutions?  It has been years since I’ve actually penned a list of resolves that I wanted to give special attention to throughout the New Year.  This year, I’ve decided to dust off this time-honored tradition and join my fellow pilgrims who will take up the challenge of change as the calendar year rolls over to 2002.

To insure that my resolutions do not melt away with February’s final snow, I’m putting them in print for all the Revivalist family to read.  Furthermore, I’m going to pledge to you an article on each one of these areas in the coming Revivalist year.

 RESOLVED: To gain an understanding of corporate worship

My holiness tradition has taught me much.  Yet, somehow, I missed the all important matter of worship.  Since coming to GBS, I have had more opportunity to experience church from a pew rather than from a pulpit.  To be honest, that has not been an altogether pleasant experience.  In saying that, I do not blame the church, but myself.  I have approached church far too often with the spirit of a discriminating consumer (what’s this doing for me?), rather than a grateful creature seeking to praise his Creator.  As a preacher, I have found myself being more of a sermon critic than a truth consumer.  I have left church thinking, “I don’t believe I got anything out of this service,” rather than wondering, “Was God pleased with my worship of Him today?”  I fear that I’m not alone.  The single-most complaint I hear about church is the inability to worship while there.  I believe the church at large has lost the art of worship.  As for me, I want to know how to worship God corporately in a way that truly honors Him.

 RESOLVED: To enlarge my understanding of spiritual authenticity

A question that has probed my thinking for years is, “What does it really mean to be spiritual?”  In the holiness tradition, spiritual experience is given a prominent place.  So much so that we have found it easy to think that a personal momentary religious incident that leaves us ecstatic or astonished is far more genuine and satisfying than the hard work of developing spirituality.  This thinking has produced Christians who are easily destabilized if removed from spiritual feelings and emotions.  The conversion of the soul does happen in the miracle of a moment, but the making of a saint is the work of a lifetime.  Spiritual experience can be found in shallow, fickle people, but spirituality is only found in the unshakable saint who makes God’s Word and the pursuit of godliness the passion of their life.

 RESOLVED: To invest more in the relationships that matter most

Ruth and I have shared so much life in the past 23 years of marriage.  We have experienced an abundance of love and happiness.  We brought two boys into the world and parented them into fine young men.  Together we have poured an unbelievable amount of our lives into them and plan to continue doing so until God calls us home.  Together we have pastored, promoted and presided over various aspects of God’s work.  We have shared sorrows, stress and misunderstandings.  We haven’t always agreed, but we have always been committed to loving on and going on.  Ruth has allowed me to invest a huge amount of myself and time in others without complaint.  Yet, I’ve been convicted over the need to invest more of myself in her —  more encouragement, counsel and love —  more prayer and time — more of my energy and effort to build her up emotionally and spiritually.  Our relationship matters, and I want my commitment to it to reflect its importance.

 RESOLVED: To live a better balanced life

I’ve never been afraid of hard work and time-consuming jobs.  As a matter of fact, I’ve thrived on being busy.  But a well-balanced life also makes time for physical and emotional renewal.  I need to laugh more.  Laughter is medicine for the soul and body.  It can relieve tension and restore perspective to life.  I need to exercise more.  My work taxes me emotionally, spiritually and mentally— but it doesn’t keep my muscles pounded into shape!  I need to exercise more on a regular basis.  Exercise relieves stress, stimulates the mind, and reduces the body’s need for rest.  A strong body and a stress-free mind make for a more effective ministry and longer usefulness.

Sharing my New Year’s resolutions with you is one way to encourage you to make some new resolves of your own.  Our journey to Heaven must be punctuated with times of fresh wind and fresh resolve.  Why don’t you resolve right now to strengthen some resolves in your life?