2020 has shown us that no matter how well you plan for the future, things don’t always go according to plan. I had to laugh as I read about a prediction made back in 1967, when experts predicted that by the turn of the century technology would have taken over so much of the work we do that the average American work week would be only 22 hours long, and they stated that we would work only 27 weeks a year. As a result, one of our biggest problems would be in deciding what to do with all our leisure time. Wow! I don’t know about you, but that prediction certainly missed the mark as far as my life is concerned! In fact, most of us seem to be overly busy. We’re always in a hurry. We walk fast, and talk fast, and eat fast. Then after we eat, all too often, we stand up and say, "Excuse me. I’ve gotta run."
Well, it’s that time of the year again when we start thinking about New Year’s resolutions and setting goals for a new year. Only thing is, things often don’t turn out as we planned because most people aren’t so good at following through on their goals for very long. So what should we do? In one survey by psychologists at the University of Washington, the researchers found that most people keep the promise they put at the top of their list, at least for a while. But the most interesting result of the survey found that people are more willing to do something they know is right than give up something they know is wrong: 84% of those surveyed vowed to start doing something like exercising, but only 14% vowed to give up something. In a 2003 article by Bryan Eisenberg that still makes a lot of sense, he offers these tips for keeping at your New Year’s goals:
- Make only one or two resolutions.
- Choose resolutions you’ve been thinking about for a while.
- Adopt a new good behavior rather than trying to shake an engrained bad habit.
- Choose realistic goals you feel confident you can meet.
- If you don’t succeed, determine the barriers that blocked you, and try again.
So here we are at the end of 2020 moving into 2021. I wonder how we’ll do this year? Will we be busy? Will we make better use of our time? In 362 days, when this year is over, will we look back with joy or with regret? Will we look to the future with anticipation or with dread? I want to add one more recommendation to the tips listed above as you consider goals for a new year. Ephesians 5:15-17 tells us: "Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is."
Let’s get intentional about our spiritual life this year, reading and studying the Bible as we commit to worshipping together as Community Christian Church. It will help you “understand what the Lord’s will is” for you.
Celebrating 2021 with you,
Here's a little thought (because little thoughts are all I have) from Tyler as we enter into a New Year. Happy New Year and may God bless you some way somehow!
From his beginnings as a humble carpenter to his all-important role as the earthly father of Jesus, Joseph’s place in the nativity story is sometimes overlooked. We’re quite familiar with Mary’s role in the Christmas story, and we speak often about her in the retelling of the birth of Christ, but Joseph? Not so much. Yet Joseph’s life contains valuable lessons for all of us. His courageous actions were crucial to the birth of Christ and God’s salvation plan for humanity. Through the life and stories that Jesus told, it becomes apparent that Joseph intentionally taught and modeled for Jesus who God is and what God’s will was for his life.
In his book, Faithful, Adam Hamilton asks: When Jesus told the parable of the prodigal son—likening God to the patient and merciful father who took back his son even after the boy had demanded his inheritance in advance and then squandered everything on wild living—had Jesus seen this kind of love and forgiveness by Joseph in response to one or more of his brothers? When Jesus spoke about the importance of telling the truth, might he have been describing what he had learned by watching Joseph? When Jesus taught his disciples that true greatness is found in humble service, might he have been describing what he had seen in his carpenter father every single day?” Those are good questions for us to reflect on as we celebrate the birth of Jesus this Christmas season.
There are many things we can learn from Joseph who, no doubt, had a huge part in shaping the life of Jesus. I am looking forward to preaching a Christmas message series that looks more closely into the life of Joseph, one that seeks to see Christmas through his eyes. For many people this year, COVID-19 is making it more difficult to enjoy the Christmas season. Maybe they have lost a job. Maybe they have lost a loved one or a close friend. Maybe they are tired of shut-downs and the stress of being cooped up with family at home. Maybe they are missing their friends at school or at college. Maybe they are missing getting together with family and friends during the holidays.
As difficult as it may be for you to find the joy of Christmas this year, let’s all remember that Christmas wasn’t easy for Joseph either. God asked him to endure the stigma of marrying a woman who was pregnant with a child not his own… having gotten pregnant while they were engaged to get married. Then later God asked Joseph to protect that child by quitting his job, packing up everything and moving to another country, because the government was coming after Jesus in an attempt to kill him. And then, can you imagine, how do you yell at a child who messes up (Did Jesus ever mess up?), knowing that he is God? I don’t think I would want to be Jesus’ earthly parent, I’m just sayin.’ God asked Joseph to raise the Messiah.
None of us has been asked to do what Joseph did in raising the Messiah. But every mother, father, step-parent, grandparent, aunt and uncle, church leader and Sunday school teacher has been asked to raise children of God, to show them a picture of God’s love and mercy, and to teach them intentionally what it means to be God’s children. When we do that, we follow the example of a righteous man named Joseph.
Celebrating the Christ of Christmas with you,
Is it possible to be thankful in a worldwide pandemic? Many of us have felt the weight of additional stress and uncertainty in our daily lives. Whether we are conscious of it or not, these feelings can unknowingly pass on to family, friends, and co-workers as they sense our fear and feelings of worry. But in this season of Thanksgiving, what if rather than watching the national news or discussing headlines in the social media, what if we took time to be grateful for the little things in our life daily that make life worth living? What if we pause to appreciate the opportunity we’ve been granted to re-establish old traditions, start new traditions, recognize what’s truly valuable, and spend more time together?
Over the past few months, jigsaw puzzles, bikes, free weights, and board games have sold out of stores as people have taken time to work on personal fitness, create, and explore together. Rather than rushing off to baseball games and work meetings, we cooked dinner together, tried new dessert recipes, and enjoyed movie nights with our families. We’re coloring more, sprucing up our spaces, enjoying hobbies again, and developing new talents. In this season of COVID-19 we are taking more walks, reconnecting with our neighbors, and reading books. We’re learning how to use Zoom, FaceTime, and Facebook Live. We are figuring out how to maintain our close relationships while staying safely apart.
Gratitude helps us develop a spirit of grit that gets us through difficult times. Gratitude helps us to keep thinking rightly, to keep being positive and constructive when we’d rather just give in. Gratitude is choosing to be appreciative for what we receive, whether in easy times or in hard times. Gratitude acknowledges the goodness in our life and helps us to remember that every good thing we have comes from God. Gratitude helps keep us connected to our Lord Jesus Christ who journeys with us on the road leading toward Heaven. Gratitude reminds us of the importance of family cookouts, birthday parties, graduation events, school programs, weddings, and worship at church.
The Apostle Paul had a grit that kept him grateful and that kept him going in difficult times. What he did can help us, too. In Philippians 4:4-9 he writes: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Each night in November at dinner as you discuss the events of the day with family and friends, take a moment for each person at the table to share one aspect of the day he or she is grateful for. You will be surprised how much there is to be grateful for, even in the midst of a pandemic. And, who knows, maybe this will become a habit that stays with you even after this season is over.
Grateful even now,