autumn resolutions

I’ll let Pastor John say it better than I could:

“God approves of New Year’s resolutions. And mid-year, and three-quarters-year, and monthly, and weekly, and daily resolutions. Any and all resolutions for good have God’s approval—if we resolve by faith in Jesus.

I would like to encourage you to make some autumn resolutions. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Well, theexamined life is not worth living either if the examination produces no resolutions. What examination and experience teach us is that the unplanned life settles into fruitless routine. The drifting life—the coasting, que-sera-sera, unreflective life—tends to be a wasted life.

The opposite of this is self-examination—life-examination, routine-examination, schedule-examination, heart-examination—followed by “resolves for good.” That’s what I encourage you to do. Here’s why I think God will be pleased when you do this by faith in Jesus.

Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12,

“To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

I find this extremely encouraging. Paul prays for us—and I pray for you even as I write this—that God will “fulfill every resolve for good” that we have. This means that it is good to have resolves. God approves of it. It also means that our resolving is important, but that God’s enabling us to “fulfill” the resolves is crucial. Paul wouldn’t pray if God’s help weren’t needed. “The heart of manplans [resolves!] his way, but the Lord establishes [fulfills!] his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

But it matters how we resolve. When Paul says, “every resolve for good and every work of faith,” he is not describing two different acts. He is describing one act in two ways. It is a “resolve for good” because we will it. It is a “work of faith” because we depend on Jesus to give us power to fulfill it. That’show we resolve—by faith in Jesus.

So Paul says that the fulfilling of the resolve is “by his power.” That’s what we are depending on. That’s what we are looking for when we resolve. We are looking to Jesus who promised to be with us and help us. “I know that through . . . the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance” (Philippians 1:19).

This explains the words “so that” in Paul’s prayer: “…so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you.” When you resolve something good and trust in the power of Jesus to help you do it, then “the name of our Lord Jesus is glorified.” If you depend on your willpower, your name will be glorified.

So Christian resolutions are different from the world’s resolutions. We believe that by grace alone we have been “called”—that is, captured by the truth and beauty of Christ. We resolve things not to make God be for us, but because he is already for us—that’s what his call makes plain. He opens our eyes to see and trust Christ. He shows us, in the cross, that he is totally for us. All our resolves are to walk more worthily of this calling.

They are faith resolves—faith that we are loved and called and justified. And faith that therefore Jesus will help us do what we resolve to do. When we resolve like that, the name of our Lord Jesus is magnified.

So pause sometime soon. Pause and examine your life this autumn. Examine what is missing that should be there. What is there that should be removed? What new dreams for ministry might you venture? What new habits do you want to build into your Fall schedule?

Remember: God will be pleased with new resolves for good if you resolve by faith in Jesus. I am praying for you “that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power.'”

Are you making any resolutions this fall?  I’ll leave mine in the comments.

gospel in ten words or less

Demian, over at Fallen and Flawed (great blog, by the way), asked 12 bloggers, including me, to summarize the Gospel in 10 words or less.

It was a tough one for me, but here’s my response:

“Jesus’ blood calls, converts, cleanses, cures, carries the once condemned.”

How would you summarize the greatest story ever told if you only had 10 words to do it?  One of the bloggers, Kevin DeYoung, did it in three words.  Whoa.  Go over to the original post to see how he did it (and who he was quoting)!

I found it to be a great exercise.  Thinking about the Gospel (and talking about the Gospel and writing about the Gospel, etc) is the most important thing I do each day.  I am never not in need of the Gospel.  It’s the Gospel that’s brought me through the last couple weeks and is bringing me through today and will one day carry me home.

So take this opportunity to meditate on the big stuff of the Gospel.  And leave your summary in 10 words or less in the comments.

the bread of blogging

Recently at my church’s MOMS group someone was reading from Proverbs 31.  

A common occurrence.  One that can frequently cause cringing.  Which I believe happens because we all think we’re supposed to be a replica of that woman.  I could write an entire piece here on why I think that is not (entirely) true.  And why I think it’s ok if we aren’t seeking wool and flax and planting a vineyard.  

I’ll save that for another day, suffice it to say that the woman in Proverbs 31 was one example of godliness.  Not every example.  

So, back to the point.  We were (rightly) exhorted through Proverbs 31:27  not to “eat the bread of idleness.”  And I’ve heard women express their desire to be productive and busy at home coupled with their conviction that online time is not part of “looking well to the ways of their household.”  I don’t want to discourage them from this conviction.  If the Lord is showing this to them, it is probably a problem.

On the other hand, I have also sensed some shame or embarrassment among women who read blogs or are on facebook.  Usually this is how the conversation goes:

Me:  “Are you on facebook?”

other Mom : “Oh, yes, (initial excitement) it is so much fun to connect with people.  I found my old friend from HS and have been able to chat with her!  But I know it can be addicting (embarrassment sets in).  I’m actually not on it very often.  I try to limit my time.”

Or like this,

other Mom: “(whispering) I read your blog the other day.”

Me: “Oh, really?  Thanks.  I hope you enjoyed it.”

other Mom: “Yes, I really like the piece about ‘x’.  (more expounding on finer points of agreement and disagreement, fruitful and thoughtful conversation ensues).  

other Mom: “Have you ever read ‘blank person’s’ blog?  It’s really good, also I like “x” blog.  

Me: “No, I haven’t.  Those sound great!”  

other Mom: (embarrassed) Well, I try not to spend too much time doing that.  I only check like… once a week or so… at the most.”

I share these conversations to make a point.  Online time is not bad or good in and of itself.  It can be bad or good.  You might do your devotions and Bible-reading online.  Or you might waste hours playing a video game.  

I’m praying that this blog falls more in line with the former example.  I want this to be a place to come and be refreshed by another Christian.  The act of blogging is spiritually refreshing and beneficial for me.  So I hope the act of reading it will be something similar for you.  

I don’t want my readers to feel guilty for the 5-10 minutes they might spend here everyday or every couple days.  I want it to be a place of receiving gracious words “like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body,” or where we “discover good” together by giving “thought to a matter.” (Proverbs 16:24 & 20)

But, lest I get too lofty, I also hope it is simply a breath of fresh air, perhaps a laugh, or a moment to pause.

Welcome to your guilt-free blog zone.