Should we have New Year's Resolutions?
For many, January marks the start of something new, the chance to become something better which often results in a resolution being made as the clock strikes twelve. We wake up on January first with great ambition, excited by a new month and a new year to resolve to become a new and improved you. Something that the local gyms thrive on. While our intentions are good, usually by the first week in February we have lost interest, gotten discouraged, or are simply too busy doing other things and have forgotten our resolutions.
This experience, yes, I too have made several resolutions only to have them fizzle out in a few weeks or maybe a month, leaves me wondering if it is even worth making a resolution. What is the purpose of resolving to do something if we will only quit? As often the case, it made me curious, so I decided to look up the definition of the word, "resolve" which is:
"a firm decision to do or not to do something."
As I read this definition my mind went to the hymn, “I am Resolved”, here are the three stanzas:
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.
I am resolved To go to the savior Leaving my sin and strife
He is the true one He is the just one He has the words of life.
I am resolved To follow my savior Faithful and true each day
Heed what he sayeth Do what he willeth He is the living way
Should we have a New Years resolution?
I believe new years resolutions are a good thing but the reason behind it is what really matters. What is our goal when we set a resolution?
So what should our resolutions look like? I believe we can gain some insight by going back to those lyrics of that old hymn. They are powerful lines that challenge us in almost every area. I want to use them as a suggestion for some new year resolutions.
Three New Year's Resolutions1. I am resolved - I have made a firm decision to - no longer linger, charmed by the world’s delight. Think about that for a moment. When we are charmed by something, it has captured our attention, we are enamoured by it. Satan does his best to make the world a charming, captivating place, he wants us to stay focused on it, to linger. An unproductive Christian is exactly what Satan wants. We must be resolved to leave the world behind us, to press toward the mark, to set our mind on things above, things that are higher, nobler, to let them allure our sight. Allure means to powerfully attract, the things of God should be our only attraction. It should capture our sight completely and be our sole focus.
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3
2. I am resolved - I have made the firm decision to - go to the Savior, to be in His presence. What a privilege it is for us to come boldly to His throne, to make our requests known, to share all our fears and cares, to lay them all at His feet and be assured that He hears and sees them all. We can go the Savior and received everything we need to face the day, overcome every temptation, and be refreshed. But to go to something means we leave something else, we leave our sin and our strife. Neither of these can abide in the presence of our Savior. How do we conquer our sin? We go to the Savior, we spend time with Him in His word, stilling our soul so that we can know Him. He who is the true One, He who is the just One, and He who has the words of life.
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16
3. I am resolved - I have made the firm decision to - follow the Savior. For those who use Instagram, you know what a follower is, it how you stay connected with someone and learn about their daily life. Can we say that we follow the Savior in the same way? Do we want to stay connected to Him, to know more about Him and what He values, likes, dislikes, brings Him pleasure? To follow someone means you pay close attention to them, are we paying close attention to our Savior? The One who is our example for everything? It is also important to remember that we are being watched by others, especially those younger than us, they are paying attention to the things we say and do.
In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul tells the believers:
Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
Paul understood the importance of being a follower of Christ because it is the only way we can be a positive influence on those who may be following us. The choices we make matter, especially when it comes to the things we pursue or follow.
The remaining words of the final stanza give us insight into how we are to do this. Faithful and true each day. Heed what He sayeth, do what He willeth, He is the living way. We follow Christ today, right now, each day we need to follow Him, paying attention to the things He whispers to our hearts and meditate on His written words. Don’t worry about what you will do tomorrow, today is right now, this moment when we must heed what He sayeth, do what He willieth, why? Because He is the living way, the way that leads to eternal life.
Will you make a firm decision?
Should we make a new year’s resolution? My answer is yes, but I believe it should not just be ones that are about making ourselves physically better though they are worthy goals. We should make it our main goal, our firm decision, to seek to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is important that we resolve to become more like Christ, choosing to remove all the weights that would easily beset us, to firmly decide to spend that essential time alone in God’s word, saturating our hearts and minds so that our focus remains solely on Him.
As we prepare to welcome a new year, can I challenge you to set aside some time over the next few days to write down some resolutions for yourself, some firm decisions? Maybe it is choosing a word that describes what you want to cultivate in your life like meditation or memorization. Maybe it is resolving to get up 30 minutes earlier each day to read God’s Word and journal a few thoughts. Maybe it is firmly deciding to limit your time on social media or even take a step away from it for the month of January using that time to memorize some scripture instead?
Our life is short, it is but a vapor, we are not promised tomorrow, we only have today to prepare for eternity. May we be a people resolved, having made a firm decision to no longer linger in this fleeting world, charmed by its temporary and empty delights, resolved to pursue and follow our Savior, the One who is the way, the truth, and the life.
Years ago I went to the dollar store, one of my favorite places next to Goodwill and decided to take a quick look at their DVD’s. I know that most of us would agree that the dollar store is not the best place to grab a well done film, the shelves are usually full of movies that failed to make it big, are older than dirt, or the most boring documentaries. This time, however, a title caught my eye and made me get excited as I quickly grabbed it, it was called, "Paper Dream". This was a film that just weeks earlier, I had seen the trailer for and wanted to see it so for a dollar I thought I couldn't go wrong. It turns out that this would be one of the best dollars I ever spent.
I have to admit that I watched that film as soon as I could and it did not disappoint, in fact I almost or I think I did cry at the end because the message was so powerful and unexpected. Who knew that a short, forty- five, low-budget film could make such an impact. I want to share some, okay, most of the film with you but I promise I won't spoil the ending for you.
A Little Girl's Dream
The film opens with a young girl standing in front of her class holding a piece of paper on which she had drawn, in simple childish art, what she wanted to be when she grew up. There was a little house, a fence, a man and a woman surrounded by three children. The girl proudly announces that when she grows up she wants to be a wife, a mother, and live in a beautiful house. As she shares her paper dream with the class, the scene shifts to show us the real version of a grown woman, her husband, a lovely home in the background and three children. Gears shift again as the camera pulls back and you see a van getting ready to pull out of the driveway and hear the conversation between the woman and the another woman in the passenger seat as they talk about her babysitting the children. You see, the children the woman held were not hers but her sisters. She was happy to babysit her nieces and nephews again, but underneath her smile there was the familiar look of one whose dream was still that, a mere dream.
A Chance to Dream
I have to say that was a pretty startling opening to the movie, I wasn't quite prepared for it to take that direction but it was also good. You soon learn that Christy, the little girl all grown up, and her husband Matt, have not been able to have children though try as they might. They have sought help through various doctors but nothing has changed, they are still without a child and without answers. Christy struggles with the fact that her paper dream, one that is good, has yet to be completely realized.
At this point in the story Christy also finds out that her sister is expecting her fourth child, not the easiest news in the world, in fact her sister hesitated to tell her. In the end, however, like a good sister, Christy still rejoices with her sister. Matt and Christy decide that adoption is something they both want to pursue and they begin their journey nervous but excited at the possibilities. After going through all the necessary procedures, they finally receive the news that there is a young girl who has chosen them to be the parents of her child who is due in about five months. They go home ecstatic and begin the wonderful task of preparing their home to receive their blessing.
Books are bought and read on the topic of newborns. Clothes, toys, furniture, and necessities are purchased. Soon the nursery is completely decorated in all things blue and sports since they had just learned their baby was a boy, meaning they could officially settle on a name, Levi. To their great joy, they were given a copy of his ultrasound picture, a perfect profile shot of their little love. Shortly after they receive a call from the adoption agency asking them to come by the office. When they arrive they are informed as gently as possible that the mother had chosen another option for her child, though not uttered, it is implied that she chose to have an abortion instead. Your heart breaks for this young couple as they go home in hurting and stunned silence.
Days later Christy, in near anger cries out Why? A question many of us have asked during times of difficulty. Why would God allow this to happen? Why should someone who doesn’t want a child be given one while someone who desperately wants one more than anything else be denied? Her husband bravely makes the comment, "Maybe that’s your problem." Christy doesn't understand his statement so he asks if she remembers how they first met? He was pulling into the church parking lot and she was outside doing craft time with some children and covered in purple paint. He shares that he fell in love with that purple girl because he saw the joy and passion she had teaching those young children about God and His Word. Her husband then says something that was both powerful and stunning, "I miss that", meaning the girl who loved God more than anything else.
Later when Christy sees that Matt still has the ultrasound picture of little Levi tucked inside his Bible, she asks that while they know God is good and in control how can he look at it and believe. His response was amazing "How can you not, I don’t know why this had to happen but it shouldn’t change anything. He is still God” At that climatic moment, their phone goes off and they learn that Christy’s brother in law Steve, married to her very pregnant sister, was in an accident. They rush to the hospital to find that he died. Christy rushes to find her sister who is sitting on the floor of the hospital bathroom and she utters the same word Christy had earlier, "Why?".
As she hears her sister utter her own thoughts out loud, she comes to a moving conclusion, one that touched me greatly by the simplicity of that message. "God doesn’t own us an explanation about anything He’s God. He never promised us we’d get the life we always wanted but He does promise to be with us. No matter what happens."
At the funeral, after Steve has been buried, Christy notices her niece sitting on a nearby bench. She walks over and sees that she has drawn a picture and pays her a compliment. Her niece says that she misses her dad and her Aunt offers her some profound words of wisdom. “Sometimes life doesn’t turn out the way we pictured it, so we have to give our picture over to God and let Him draw us a new one.” The little girl asks how they can know He is going to draw something good. To which Christy responds, "Because God is good. I don’t know why He lets bad things happen but I know He loves us and He will never leave us. I guess we just have to trust Him."
Remember, I said I wouldn't spoil the film for you but if you want to watch it, I was able to find a link to a place where you can watch it for free.
What is your Paper Dream?
Every one of us had a dream, a picture, of what our life would be and I think I can safely say most of us are living a life far from the one we dreamed. When a young Christy shared her paper dream with her class, I immediately related because that was me. When I was little, people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I always said a wife and a mother. I longed to have a family of my own, to care for and nurture, and love. To make memories in the kitchen baking cookies, to have adventures in the backyard, and tuck my children in at night after reading them a bedtime story, my shelves are full of children’s books. But that is not my life. I want to be fully transparent with you because I believe there is someone out there who needs me to be, it’s hard. To have lived all your life holding on to that paper dream, one that is a good one, and see others receive what you have longed for is not easy.
My life, though filled with many blessings, is not at all what I pictured when I was a little girl. I had a deep longing to see my paper dream fulfilled and wanted it more than anything else which is one reason Matt's words struck me so deep. More than anything else. Those words pierced my soul because it was the hard truth of what I had allowed that paper dream to become and I had to ask myself some difficult questions.
I believe this story is such a beautiful illustration, which is one of the reasons it has stayed with me all these years. I a little side note that I would like to point out, the fact that Christy said God would make us a new one. This grabbed my attention as well because many of us feel as if our paper dreams are gone because of the many mistakes we have made, that we blew our chance at having such a dream. I know that I have many regrets of choices I made, but I also know a wonderful truth about my God. He is One who loves to give second chances. He is the One who can restore and make all things new, all you have to do is give Him your picture. This is another truth about God, He will never demand or rip anything from your hand, He just patiently waits until we are ready to let go, to come to Him and release whats in our hands so He can fill it with something new. Most times, we are like the little girl, afraid to let go of our drawing out of fear that His will not be good, but remember, He is good, that is Who He is and He cannot change. We can completely trust Him and release our dreams knowing that His are so much better than any we could draw.
What are you going to do?
We have a choice to make, to hold onto our dreams even as we watch the chance for them to come true slip away or we can let go and place them in the hands of a loving God. Let me say that I understand this is not as easy as it sounds, we are emotionally invested in our paper dream. Tears are to be expected not ones of anger or bitterness but grief and a sense of loss will be felt, so let them fall. For the single girl who needs to release her paper dream of being married, its okay to cry. For the wife who needs to release her paper dream of having children, its okay to cry. For the woman who lost her parent, spouse, or child, its okay to cry. Tears are a gift, they are part of the process of letting go and are necessary. I'm afraid that the idea of being a strong woman has been pounded into us so much that we feel bad when we cry, that it is a sign of weakness, but that is another lie. Please, don’t be afraid to cry.
I make to make a little point, that while tears are a step in the process they are not a state to reside in. Take the time to cry, just be sure you don't stay there. Some other helpful tools can be:
I would like to challenge us, myself included, to examine our hearts and see if there is anything there that has taken first place over God. Remember that we can trust God with our everything including our dreams because His are always better. How can we be sure? Because He is good. He is our Heavenly Father and incapable of being anything but good. His intentions are always for good and we can trust Him one hundred precent.
It is not an easy thing to do, trust me, I know from experience but the rewards are a heart that is filled with a peace that passes all understanding because it knows all is well. Don’t ever be afraid to give your paper dreams to God, He loves you more than anyone else and knows you like no one else which means He understands your needs. Sometimes when we finally let go of our paper dreams God draws us a new one that looks similar to the old one, I have heard countless stories of just such an incident. Sometimes, though, He doesn’t and that is okay because He is good, I pray you don’t ever forget that truth, God is always good, believe it and rest in it.
How thoughts become your destiny.
The daughters of Lot, some may wonder what lessons these two girls can teach us since their story is so small in Genesis but they would actually play a significant part in history and tie into one of my favorite characters in the Bible.
Their story, like most children, begins with their parents choice of direction. Let me just say that it is usually the parents who build the foundation of their children’s life, they give them the building blocks for their future. Now it is true that children can choose to go a different path, and there are multiple examples in the Bible and in history of children who chose to be different from their parents but more often than not, what parents plant in their children will be what their children grow in the end. This is why it is so important that parents plant good seeds in their children and watch over them as they grow and teach them to know God while they are young.
A fateful decision
Lot chose to move his whole family to Sodom unaware of the tragedy that would unfold because of this decision. We don’t know how many years have gone by but now some of his daughters are married and they all have settled into a routine life in the wicked city of Sodom. God’s judgment has been issued and the sentence passed, both Sodom and Gomorah would cease to exist. In His great mercy, God sends two angels to fetch out Lot and his family. Before any plans can be made, all the men, both young and old, have gathered around Lot’s home and demand these strangers be brought out to them and their intentions are not to merely introduce themselves with a friendly handshake.
In this culture, when a guest has been welcomed into your home, it is the duty of the host to protect them from harm. In keeping with this, Lot goes out to reason with these men and makes an offering that has horrified many to this day. He tells the men to not do this great wickedness but instead to take his two daughters that have not known man. Lot specifically tells the men, “do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing:” Gen 19:8 That is a hard verse for anyone to read but what about the two girls inside? Those words were in reference to them, and put their lives at risk. I don’t even want to think about how frightened they must have felt to hear their own father offer to throw them out to a mob of perverse men who didn’t even know what the word “honor” meant.
Failure to protect
Lot failed as a father to protect his daughters, the fear and sting of abandonment must have been felt by both of them. What is interesting is that, when a man had physically wronged a woman, it was the father who demanded it be righted either through marriage or money. Yet here was Lot offering his daughters without hesitation into something far worse and there was even the possibility that it could have been fatal. If you remember this is not the only time something like this takes place, a concubine in the book of Judges was also offered to an angry mob and she died, so this was a dangerous offer that Lot made.
Even though Lot failed to give his daughters the protection they needed, God did not. The two heavenly messengers intervened and struck the men with blindness preventing anything further from taking place. This is the first truth I want to give you today, there will be many times when those who should have protected us will fail in their responsibility. I know there are countless daughters who have experienced the hurt of abandonment, and that hurt goes deep. There may be some of you right now that are still struggling to heal from that hurt but can I tell you something? There is One who has never abandoned you. In fact He has been looking for you, He wants to wrap His arms around you, take away the hurt and give you the healing you need. God sent His only Son, to die for you, to pay the price of your sin so that you could have eternal life and have a personal relationship with Him. He has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us and when God promises something, we can bank on it. If you want to know more about how you can know God follow this link, I promise you will find all the answers you need.
Just the beginning
As they leave the city that is doomed for destruction their mother makes the fateful decision to look back and she turns into a pillar of salt. Now motherless they follow their father to their new home, a cave on a mountain. Lot was afraid to live in the nearby city of Zoar so he settled for a dank cave that was no doubt as gloomy as the atmosphere between the residents. Things go from bad to worse as the older daughter has an idea, she believes that this is the end, there is no hope that either of them will get married since, as she puts it, “there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth:” Gen 19:31. Now does this statement sound at all familiar to you? Well, it might since many girls have uttered something very similar...I will never get a husband, there is no one left, Cinderella took the last good man.” It can be easy to look around and say that but that is limiting God. His hand is not short but for these girls who were sitting in a damp cave, I am sure they felt they were the only ones left on earth.
Sadly they concoct a plan that would have lasting consequences and confrontations in the years to come. They get their father drunk, so drunk that he doesn’t realize what takes place and the following night it happens again. Both girls got exactly what they wanted, each bore a son, the oldest named hers Moab, father of the Moabites and the younger Benammi, father of the Ammonites. These names may ring a bell since they will become enemies of their cousin Isaac’s descendants. Something interesting to note is the fact that some of Israel's enemies, Ishmael, Moab and Ammon, were all born out of sin. Sin usually has a far reaching consequence and touches more than just ourselves. This is why it is so important to guard against sin, it will always cost you more than you realize.
Is a virgin the same as not knowing a man?
Now I also want to unpack something else about these girls, remember when Lot offered his two daughters to the lustful mob of men? He said that they had not known man, this term, “know” has the idea of seeing, as if to say that these girls did not know man by seeing them in an intimate way, or by experience. They did not know men since they had not been with them. When I read this verse I assumed that it implied they were virgins but that assumption was questioned when I read the account of another woman, Rebekah. In Genesis 24:16 Rebekah was described as “very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her:” That last phrase caught my attention. Aren’t they the same thing? Apparently they are not.
Rebekah was a young woman who had not been with a man intimately and she was also a virgin which carries the idea of being separate. This got my wheels turning as I thought back to the story of Lot’s daughters. Neither of them had physically known a man, but what about their mind? Living in Sodom was not the best place to grow up in, especially if you wanted to keep your mind pure and sadly I believe these girls had allowed the corruption of the city to take root in their mind. Without going into detail, I just want to make a quick point that these girls knew enough information to get pregnant by their father. I am not sure that a girl who had kept her mind and body pure would have been as capable, but this is just my personal opinion. If you have any thoughts on this topic I am open for discussion.
The main point I want to drive home is the importance of keeping our minds pure, it is not just enough to keep our body pure, because the mind is where it all begins. Proverbs 4:23 tells us to “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Our biggest battle will be with the mind, once certain paths have been formed they can be hard to get off of and many times even though we have stepped away from them, they are still there. I heard a pastor say that sexual sin is the only one we are told to flee not withstand. And it is always linked with death. The strange woman in proverbs is usually paired with death, proverbs chapter 7 verse 27 says "Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.” It is so important to guard our heart and mind, to keep them both pure. Joseph is a great example of this, he was sold into a wicked and perverse land yet he kept his body and mind pure. Corruption is everywhere but if we keep our eyes on the Lord we can stay pure.
Realm of Influence
On a side note here, it was the oldest daughter's idea, the one who should have used her influence for good, led her younger sister into sin. We all have a realm of influence but especially within our family and we need to be careful how we wield it. How would this story have turned out had the older sister spoken words of encouragement, telling her younger sister that God would provide for all their needs including a husband. What if she would have said that they would trust God with their future whatever it might be? Instead, both girls would choose to make their own path and bring two nations into the world that would not follow after God but gain an ill reputation with their cousins. There was, however, a silver lining in this cloud, as corrupt as these descendants of Lot would become there was one who came out of their country and played a part in the salvation of the world. A person who would change the preconceived prejudices of an entire town and earn the title of Virtuous woman, her name was Ruth. Ruth was from the country of Moab but she turned her back on it all and was grafted into the lineage of Christ. This is a sweet reminder that your past does not determine your future, you can choose to break away and start fresh. Our God is One who can make all things new.
So remember that God is always with you, even when you have been abandoned by so many and you feel alone, remember just how much God loves you and that He has promised to walk with you each step of the way.
Second, each action will have a reaction. Our choices will produce results and it is important that we lean on God’s understanding and wisdom instead of our own. Trust in God’s timing and plans for you. Lot’s daughters allowed their bleak circumstances to dictate their choices and it led them down a path of shame. God is not limited by our circumstances, we just need to trust Him with our future and focus on deepening our relationship with Him.
Third, we need to guard our hearts and minds. I love this little saying that goes.
Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.
Lot's daughters received a terrible destiny because they did not first watch their thoughts. What destiny will your thoughts lead you?
Last, please consider who is in your realm of influence and be mindful of how you are impacting them. We all touch someone's life and leave an impression for good or bad. May we help to cultivate ground that is fertile and ready to receive the truth of God’s word. Who has God placed in your life? Are you helping them grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ?
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I am just an ordinary girl who is loved by an extraordinary God and I seek to love others the same way. I love to bake, read, do puzzles, watch Hallmark movies, and go shopping with my mom! This blog was created as a place where I could share some thoughts that the Lord has shown me and to be an encouragement to others who desire to know Him in a deeper way. My prayer is to learn to sit still and trust God with my future.