Monday, December 30, 2013

Searching for the "New" in the Coming Year

I would like to know how many times I have decided that I would become a new person, a better person; more aware, more caring and more capable, that I might make a difference in the world. The hardest part of trying to make oneself into something better is found in the old adage; “Take 2 steps ahead and you find yourself 3 steps back”. It has taken me a lifetime thus far to figure out how to overcome those objects that keep getting in the way and even then I am not always as successful as I would wish to be. I have been accused of seeking power, the spotlight and even putting myself ahead of everyone else, so that I could get ahead. I remember trying so hard to present myself as someone who could help a congregation, only to be told that I was a power monger and that I would only use that church as a stepping stone to some greater potential down the road.

What becomes the hardest to accomplish, is to identify the real problem behind the obstacles that get thrown either in your way, or at times even in your face. Have you ever started out with the greatest and best intentions only to find yourself used, or even used up, by those you wanted to help? It happens. Not all the time, but from time to time. When it becomes a pattern, you really need to stand back and ask the deep questions about life, hope, practice and then faith.

To become new with a purpose takes more effort than most can ever imagine. It seems like it should be so simple just to remake yourself. Ask someone who is trying to lose a few pounds, or change the direction of a deteriorating relationship… or how about those who have, for whatever reason, lost their way and the world has either condemned them or perhaps the judgment they face everyday overwhelms them, before they get to put their best foot forward. To reconstruct a life that has flaws, fallen into decay or to even decide that there must be a better you that can make a difference, can be a most trying and overwhelming task.
I think back over the stories that were read to me as a child. One of those that I found most confusing and challenging was that of one of the judges in the Old Testament… Samson. Have you heard of him before? He was a strange sort of person that God chose to use to portion out His judgment in a manner that most would qualify as extraordinary, if not totally senseless in light of how we expect Him to work His will. Samson did some great stuff, but he lived like there was no tomorrow, like the only thing in life was his own satisfaction. In the end it caused his downfall, but gave him the opportunity for God to show his power in judgment for the wrongs of His people.

In the New Testament is another curious example, when really considered in the fullness of the story, and that is the person of Saul of Tarsus, who became Paul the great missionary and theologian. Saul a devoted Jew was set to exterminate the Christians, but when confronted by Jesus, he changed. You see, here are two examples of characters who struggled with who they had become, what they were and wanted to make a change for the better… One died in the process and the other died because of the process, but both became people used of God, because they died to themselves. This is no easy concept but rings true even in the everyday life of those who want change and are willing to die to themselves, their emotions, their cravings, their mediocrity. They want to step forward with a new perspective, new desire and stand outside of themselves to gain the goal they desire to attain. And the cost is great! No matter the decision made, the cost is always far more than you could have imagined.

It is because of the realization of the enormity of the cost and the inability for some to push through the barriers they face, that so many tend to fail… perhaps we all do far more than we realize, in one way or another. To become new is more often a dream, than a reality for most. Let’s take those New Year’s resolutions that crop up this time of year. Too often we find ourselves unable to continue; wanting to, is so different than the actual stamina needed to carry it off. Maybe resolutions have become fads, that though well intentioned, become just another attempt at keeping up with others. We most often have to internalize these things before we undertake them if we are to succeed.

So I want to become new again. Maybe what I mean is that I want to be renewed. Some time ago I saw and then posted a cartoon that showed the cartoon character Tigger and he was saying; “I want to bounce again!” Maybe that is where I stand in my retirement, though retirement has not made me sedentary and useless. It has given me time to review, regret and try hard to pray through those things that are not the highlights of my life. So, I guess  what I want is to be renewed. The best part of faith is that we serve a wonderful God who not only forgives as we confess those shortcomings (just like he did for David, Peter and Paul from the Scriptures) but who renews and rebuilds for greater paths, greater blessings toward a greater work for Him. Is that too much to bite off, too great a wish to consider, too much for a God who took a Prince of Egypt into the wilderness only to bring him back after 40 years so he could lead His (God’s) people out of captivity and head them towards the Promised Land? I think not.

Maybe some who are reading this, if you have gotten this far, want a renewal in your life too. I have only one message for you today….. You will never succeed on your own strength, will and ability. I have written this before, but it is worth a re-mention. It is only when we die to ourselves, our own natures, wants and personal vision of what should be, that we can actually attain what God wants us to become. Sound hard? You can bet your bottom dollar it is! So why do we fail so often…. Is it just the self that gets in our way? No… it is also satan! He is out there to remind us every day that we can’t do it, even if we have God on our side. All this while he is convincing us that we need to do something altogether different. Lies that influence our hearts, minds and lives come not from a God that tests, but from satan who will use whatever means to break us down and turn us back onto the old track.

So  as you sit down and consider your coming year and those things that you want to remake, redo and renew… consider first where God is in all of that decision making process. I am trying to do that daily. It is not always easy, as I too can crumble under the weight of obligations, natural repercussions of daily sin that may even be committed unknowingly, along with the daily grind of trying to breathe for Him… He breathed the breath of “life” into me… I want to be continually aspirated by the Holy Spirited, so that every breath I take is by His grace and for His blessing.

May your take on the “new” that you have in mind, include what God wants first… it is part of moving toward the edge and my oh my… what a view from there. It may just change your perspective or the outcome you desire. May the Lord richly bless the coming year for you and yours!

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