Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Years Resolutions are so 2014, or, why you fail at improving yourself

We love to make new commitments to some sort of new "us-es" every year about this time.  Standing of the precipice of a fresh start there is this compulsion to say, "This year will be different."  Yet, all the studies about these well intentioned resolutions(citation needed) seem to indicate that we pretty much break them all by the time the first week has rolled by. 

Try going to the gym on January 2nd(not the first because the "resolutioners" will be hung over on the 1st) and see how packed it is.  Compare that to the 22nd of January.  You will notice something very interesting.  The gym is very sparsely populated in comparison.  If you are a regular gym goer to-er you hate the first week of a new year because a bunch of knuckleheads will be horning in on your space not knowing how to properly use any of the equipment, nor will they re-rack what they use. 

People quit on their resolutions so easily because; 1) They set unrealistic goals for themselves(never ran since 8th grade gym, this year...MARATHON), 2) It is nice to admit to having a problem that you should fix without actually doing anything(because, hey, knowing is half the battle and just admitting to it makes me a better person....right??) and most importantly, 3) Each time we fail we accept that we are failures and so stop trying lest we get reminded of our failures.

This final one is the most important one to understand.  Our fear of failing, of feeling worthless and unworthy, makes it easier to just quit.  If we quit, we never failed.....or something like that..... How many times have you told yourself, or, heard from others;

I could lose the weight if I tried, but I am fine like this.....

It was a silly idea anyways, I don't have time for that......

I have better things to do.....

At the bottom of each of those statements when it relates to our put aside resolutions is a heart that is desperately worried about being perceived as a failure.  Each time we don't achieve IMMEDIATE success or results we believe that we CAN'T do it.  And in fear of confirming it, we drop it. 

Our broken hearts cry out for affirmation and encouragement.  But the world, and our perception of failures, cause us to shut down. 

Did you know that after each night a fresh morning awaits?  No matter how far you fell yesterday, today is now, and tomorrow is gone.  In Lamentations 3:22-23 we are told, "The Steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are NEW EVERY MORNING"  And in 1 Corinthians 6:11 we are reminded, "And that is what some of you WERE.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of Jesus" 

As you face this upcoming year...get ready to fail.  Maybe tonight.  Most likely before the end of the first weekend of January.  But here is the promise.  It doesn't matter.  Your failures, your sins, your mistakes, those were what you WERE.  Each fresh day is a reminder that the faithfulness of the Lord is great, that his mercies are FRESH every morning. 

Don't miss that....FRESH EVERY MORNING.  There is no qualifier attached to that.  It isn't, "Fresh every long as you did pretty good yesterday."  The hope of the Gospel is that in Christ we are no longer our failures, even the ones that just occurred.  New mercies are here, and new hope has sprung forth. 

So in 2015, don't make a New Years resolution.  Because you will fail.  Make a resolution each moment to keep going even when you fail, because each moment you are standing on the precipice of something wonderful and new. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Jesus, the Demon

My son has a pretty arbitrary standard for whether or not he likes you....Do you do what HE wants.....  He is a very opinionated and strong willed child(clearly from his mother...) and he has little patience for things that aren't exactly what he wants.  Everything that goes in opposition to his desires creates the most dramatic responses. 

If he does not get what he wants he will go to the nuclear option immediately.  Phrases that he uses way too often are, "You're the worst", or, "I don't want you as a daddy anymore".  While we work on correcting this behavior, it is a very insightful look into our own hearts. 

I know that you probably don't tell people they are the worst if they won't give you a piece of candy....but you do get angry and reject people who do not live up to your arbitrary standards.  We view the worth of a person by the degree to which they please us.  When we honestly examine our emotional responses to people, negative and positive, they are deeply interwoven with how we perceive their actions and their affects on us. 

Ultimately, this heart attitude is a defining characteristic of our response to God, the Bible and Christ.  We ask ourselves, "How does this make me FEEL?"  When we perceive something being in contradiction to how we feel, or, what we want, we become belligerent towards God.  Or, we just ignore Him all together.  While we generally like the concept of a Holy Deity who loves us and has a plan for us, we want that love and plan to be shaped by our desires.  And when it conflicts with those self-centered priorities we say, "you're the worst".

Often the core issue for people's rejection of the claims of Christ and the reliability of Scripture comes from a place of strong personal disagreement and rejection of Truth claims that are in opposition to personal preferences.  I can't count the number of times I have heard the argument against God and the Bible based upon a personal disagreement on "this" issue.  Never is there a willingness to engage in the possibility that a finite, subjective and personal preference is potentially incorrect and mistaken in contrast to the possibility of a perfect and Holy creator King of all the universe. 

My son doesn't yet concede the possibility that it is likely NOT a good thing for him to have MORE candy.  He wants what he wants, and I am his enemy(even though briefly) for being an obstacle to him obtaining his selfish desires. 

In John 8 Jesus finally throws down the gauntlet.  First, he has spent the last few days telling everyone that all their hyper-religious behavior is of no real value, then he calls them children of the devil, and finally, strike three, he claims to be the great, "I AM".  And at this point they decided that it was time to kill this offensive fellow.(vs 58-59) 

As Jesus is doing and saying all of this they respond by saying that Jesus is clearly demon possessed.(v 48)  They don't like what they hear, they don't appreciate that he calls them on their behavior that they are selfishly convinced is the "right" and "righteous" way to behave.  So they become antagonistic towards him.  Their rejection is based upon a purely emotional response to being told that what they like and what they want isn't "ok".  Who is he, they think, to tell us that there is a right way to come to God, and that OUR way is not it??

Either Jesus is who He claims to be(The Great I AM) or he is not.  If He is, we need to humble ourselves, because no matter how firmly we hold onto our preferences and beliefs we are standing in opposition to the Most High.  You might REALLLLY want that piece of candy right now, but at what cost?

Reality; we are like toddlers who are told "no".