Monthly Archives: December 2011

Why New Year’s Resolutions are a Good Idea

Christmas is over.  The gifts have been unwrapped, the songs have been sung, the food has been eaten and egg nog will soon be out of the grocery stores entirely (hallelujah!).  There are still some planned festivities for tomorrow night (New Year’s Eve), then we’ll eat some black-eyed peas and watch some more football on New Year’s Day, but then what?  Normalcy and routine set it once again.  After a solid month of hustle and bustle, there may be no better time to set some goals for yourself.

I know there are people who are down on New Year’s resolutions for various reasons, but I am of the opinion that they can be a huge help to us as we strive to become more like Jesus in the different aspects of our lives.  Here are some reasons why I think this (with regard to spiritual resolutions in particular).

1)      You’re probably not doing as well as you think – The Bible tells us that our hearts are deceitful and Satan, our enemy who tempts us, is called the deceiver of the whole world (Jeremiah 17:9; Revelation 12:9).  Therefore, if you are simply floating along in life without any glaring sins that others will point out, you probably think you’re something of a model Christian.  So, it’s a good idea to set goals for ourselves to help us measure our spiritual growth.  Not that our achievement of goals will tell us everything about our spiritual progress, but it can help.

2)      We digress easily – Making New Year’s resolutions is essentially scheduling a recurring time for setting personal goals.  Why don’t we just set goals for ourselves when we enter into adulthood and leave it at that?  Because we understand that it’s part of our nature to get comfortable and lazy and stop pushing ourselves to do better.  William Wilberforce understood this about himself so much that on multiple occasions throughout the year (birthday, New Year, and anniversaries of various kinds) he took time to measure his spiritual progress (Murray Andrew Pura, Vital Christianity, p. 61).

3)      Resolutions give wings to discipline – Paul told Timothy, “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7), but Paul was not saying this as some mountaintop guru who intended Timothy to figure out what that meant on his own.  No, instead, Paul gave Timothy specific goals to meet with the discipline he commanded – “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (4:12); “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching” (4:16).  Without goals discipline will fizzle in time because, like a runner without a finish line, discipline without aim is just exertion.

4)      Resolutions are tangible criteria for accountability – Goals work best in the context of community.  We have a way of redefining and bending our goals so that we don’t have to work as hard to accomplish them, but if we establish the meaning and practice of our goals with a fellow Christian, that person can help us maintain a faithful pursuit of them.

5)      Jesus is always worth more – In Revelation 5:13 we see every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, and in the sea saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”  If Jesus deserves blessing and honor forever and ever, then anything we are doing to worship and serve Jesus now should be more than it is.  Not in an “earning favor with God” sense or a “paying God back” sense, but simply in a “praising him and saying ‘thank you’” sense.  Resolutions help push us to do more for our King.  Anyone who doesn’t make spiritual goals for himself is a person who does not understand the glory of who Jesus is and what he has done for us.

Word of caution: Resolutions should not be done in one’s own strength or for one’s own esteem, but rather by God’s grace and for God’s glory.

 

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Looking Forward to Together for the Gospel 2012

Now that Christmas is over, I am officially looking forward to the Together for the Gospel conference this April.  The theme is The Underestimated Gospel and the speakers are Mark Dever, Al Mohler, C.J. Mahaney, Ligon Duncan, John Piper, Matt Chandler, Thabiti Anyabwile, Kevin DeYoung, and David Platt.

You can get the conference information here, and here is a video of Matt Chandler praying for the conference with the rest of the speakers.

Matt Chandler Prays for T4G 2012 from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.

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Bible Reading for 2012

If you are looking to the new year for a fresh start on spending time with God in his word, here is a list of several different Bible reading plans brought together by Ligonier’s Nathan W. Bingham, and here is a post written by Dan Phillips on why we should use a reading plan instead of floating through our quiet times willy-nilly.

 

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Jonathan Edwards’ 70 Resolutions Broken Down into Categories

Hey folks, I’m still down in Houston with family and finding it hard to get away and write blog posts, so please enjoy this list of Jonathan Edwards’ 70 resolutions categorized by Desiring God’s Matt Perman for increased accessibility.  Challenge: Choose three for the new year.

 

Overall Life Mission

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad’s of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.

2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new invention and contrivance to promote the aforementioned things.

3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.

4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.

6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

22. Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power; might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.

62. Resolved, never to do anything but duty; and then according to Eph. 6:6-8, do it willingly and cheerfully as unto the Lord, and not to man; “knowing that whatever good thing any man doth, the same shall he receive of the Lord.” June 25 and July 13, 1723.

Good Works

11. Resolved, when I think of any theorem in divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can towards solving it, if circumstances don’t hinder.

13. Resolved, to be endeavoring to find out fit objects of charity and liberality.

69. Resolved, always to do that, which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it. Aug. 11, 1723.

Time Management

5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

17. Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.

18. Resolved, to live so at all times, as I think is best in my devout frames, and when I have clearest notions of things of the gospel, and another world.

19. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trump.

37. Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent, what sin I have committed, and wherein I have denied myself: also at the end of every week, month and year. Dec.22 and 26, 1722.

40. Resolved, to inquire every night, before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to eating and drinking.Jan. 7, 1723.

41. Resolved, to ask myself at the end of every day, week, month and year, wherein I could possibly in any respect have done better. Jan. 11, 1723.

50.Resolved, I will act so as I think I shall judge would have been best, and most prudent, when I come into the future world. July 5, 1723.

51.Resolved, that I will act so, in every respect, as I think I shall wish I had done, if I should at last be damned. July 8, 1723.

52. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age. July 8, 1723.

55. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as I can think I should do, if I had already seen the happiness of heaven, and hell torments. July 8, 1723.

61. Resolved, that I will not give way to that listlessness which I find unbends and relaxes my mind from being fully and fixedly set on religion, whatever excuse I may have for it-that what my listlessness inclines me to do, is best to be done, etc. May 21, and July 13, 1723.

Relationships

14. Resolved, never to do anything out of revenge.

15. Resolved, never to suffer the least motions of anger to irrational beings.

16. Resolved, never to speak evil of anyone, so that it shall tend to his dishonor, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.

31. Resolved, never to say anything at all against anybody, but when it is perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of Christian honor, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule; often, when I have said anything against anyone, to bring it to, and try it strictly by the test of this Resolution.

33. Resolved, always to do what I can towards making, maintaining, establishing and preserving peace, when it can be without over-balancing detriment in other respects. Dec.26, 1722.

34. Resolved, in narration’s never to speak anything but the pure and simple verity.

36. Resolved, never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call for it. Dec. 19, 1722.

46. Resolved, never to allow the least measure of any fretting uneasiness at my father or mother. Resolved to suffer no effects of it, so much as in the least alteration of speech, or motion of my eve: and to be especially careful of it, with respect to any of our family.

58. Resolved, not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness and benignity. May27, and July 13, 1723.

59. Resolved, when I am most conscious of provocations to ill nature and anger, that I will strive most to feel and act good-naturedly; yea, at such times, to manifest good nature, though I think that in other respects it would be disadvantageous, and so as would be imprudent at other times.May 12, July ii, and July 13.

66. Resolved, that I will endeavor always to keep a benign aspect, and air of acting and speaking in all places, and in all companies, except it should so happen that duty requires otherwise.

70. Let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak.

Suffering

9. Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.

10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.

67. Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.

57. Resolved, when I fear misfortunes and adversities, to examine whether ~ have done my duty, and resolve to do it; and let it be just as providence orders it, I will as far as I can, be concerned about nothing but my duty and my sin. June 9, and July 13 1723.

Character

8. Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God.

12. Resolved, if I take delight in it as a gratification of pride, or vanity, or on any such account, immediately to throw it by.

21. Resolved, never to do anything, which if I should see in another, I should count a just occasion to despise him for, or to think any way the more meanly of him.

32. Resolved, to be strictly and firmly faithful to my trust, that that in Prov. 20:6, “A faithful man who can find?” may not be partly fulfilled in me.

47. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to deny whatever is not most agreeable to a good, and universally sweet and benevolent, quiet, peaceable, contented, easy, compassionate, generous, humble, meek, modest, submissive, obliging, diligent and industrious, charitable, even, patient, moderate, forgiving, sincere temper; and to do at all times what such a temper would lead me to. Examine strictly every week, whether I have done so. Sabbath morning. May 5,1723.

54. Whenever I hear anything spoken in conversation of any person, if I think it would be praiseworthy in me, Resolved to endeavor to imitate it.July 8, 1723.

63. On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true luster, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: Resolved, to act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time. Jan.14′ and July ’3′ 1723.

27. Resolved, never willfully to omit anything, except the omission be for the glory of God; and frequently to examine my omissions.

39. Resolved, never to do anything that I so much question the lawfulness of, as that I intend, at the same time, to consider and examine afterwards, whether it be lawful or no; except I as much question the lawfulness of the omission.

20. Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.

Spiritual Life

Assurance

25. Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.

26. Resolved, to cast away such things, as I find do abate my assurance.

48. Resolved, constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or no; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of. May 26, 1723.

49. Resolved, that this never shall be, if I can help it.

The Scriptures

28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

Prayer

29. Resolved, never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession, which I cannot hope God will accept.

64. Resolved, when I find those “groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom. 8:26), of which the Apostle speaks, and those “breakings of soul for the longing it hath,” of which the Psalmist speaks, Psalm 119:20that I will promote them to the utmost of my power, and that I will not be wear’, of earnestly endeavoring to vent my desires, nor of the repetitions of such earnestness. July 23, and August 10, 1723.

The Lord’s Day

38. Resolved, never to speak anything that is ridiculous, sportive, or matter of laughter on the Lord’s day. Sabbath evening, Dec. 23, 1722.

Vivification of Righteousness

30. Resolved, to strive to my utmost every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.

42. Resolved, frequently to renew the dedication of myself to God, which was made at my baptism; which I solemnly renewed, when I was received into the communion of the church; and which I have solemnly re-made this twelfth day of January, 1722-23.

43. Resolved, never henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God’s, agreeable to what is to be found inSaturday, January 12. Jan.12, 1723.

44- Resolved, that no other end but religion, shall have any influence at all on any of my actions; and that no action shall be, in the least circumstance, any otherwise than the religious end will carry it. Jan.12, 1723.

45. Resolved, never to allow any pleasure or grief, joy or sorrow, nor any affection at all, nor any degree of affection, nor any circumstance relating to it, but what helps religion. Jan.12 and 13.1723.

Mortification of Sin and Self Examination

23. Resolved, frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God’s glory, to repute it as a breach of the 4th Resolution.

24. Resolved, whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then both carefully endeavor to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.

35. Resolved, whenever I so much question whether I have done my duty, as that my quiet and calm is thereby disturbed, to set it down, and also how the question was resolved. Dec. 18, 1722.

60. Resolved, whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination.July 4, and 13, 1723.

68. Resolved, to confess frankly to myself all that which I find in myself, either infirmity or sin; and, if it be what concerns religion, also to confess the whole case to God, and implore needed help. July 23, and August 10, 1723.

56. Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.

Communion with God

53. Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer. July 8, 1723.

65. Resolved, very much to exercise myself in this all my life long, viz. with the greatest openness I am capable of, to declare my ways to God, and lay open my soul to him: all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires, and every thing, and every circumstance; according to Dr. Manton’s 27th Sermon on Psalm 119. July 26, and Aug.10 1723.

Aug. 17, 1723

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Church, We Have THE Answer!

I woke up this morning thinking about this video from the TV Show ER that I used in a Sunday school class a couple of years ago.  This man is asking the right questions, and all the uncertainties of post-modernism give him no hope at all.  Praise the Lord, he has given us THE answer that gives the world THE hope of true salvation.

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A Little-Known Christmas Hymn

Until this morning I had never heard of the French Christmas hymn, Thou Who Wast Rich Beyond All Splendor, but I think it has some of the most beautifully poetic and truth-filled lyrics of all the songs we sing this time of year.  Here some background to its writing:

This hymn was written at a particularly difficult time in the history of the missions to China. Missionaries had been captured by the communist Red Army and released in poor health after over a year of suffering. Others had been captured never to be heard from again. In 1934 the young missionaries John and Betty Stam were captured in Anhwei and beheaded . The news of these sorrows had reached the mission’s headquarters in Shanghai. Though this was a very dangerous time for both the Chinese Christians and the foreign missionaries, Frank Houghton decided he needed to begin a tour through the country to visit various missionary outposts. While traveling over the mountains of Szechwan, the powerful and comforting words of 2 Corinthians 8:9, “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor,” were transformed into this beautiful Christmas hymn.

And here are the lyrics.  I tried to find a good recording of the hymn, but came up empty handed.  May you be blessed with His remembrance, Merry Christmas!

Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love’s sake becamest poor;
Thrones for a manger didst surrender,
Sapphire-paved courts for stable floor.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love’s sake becomes poor.

Thou who art God beyond all praising,
All for love’s sake becamest man;
Stooping so low, but sinners raising
Heavenwards by thine eternal plan.
Thou who art God beyond all praising,
All for love’s sake becamest man.

Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Saviour and King, we worship thee.
Emmanuel, within us dwelling,
Make us what thou wouldst have us be.
Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Saviour and King, we worship thee.

 

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Getting Presents You Don’t Like: How to Show Happiness Without Being Fake

The day is almost here.  The day when you will sit around the Christmas tree with your family and stare at each other awkwardly while you open up presents.  The pressure is on as you untie the ribbon and tear the paper… will you have to force a kind reaction because you don’t like what you got, or, at your relief, will it come naturally because the present is exactly what you wanted? 

We’ve all been put in that situation where we care for the individual whose gift we’re opening and we want to communicate happiness as they behold the look on our face, but we don’t want to be a fake or a liar by saying something like “It’s just what I wanted” when we didn’t care much for their present.  How can we communicate genuine happiness without being fake even when a present is obviously something we plan on re-gifting?     

First, plan on using honest words.  I’m not saying that you have to straight-up ask the person if they have the receipt in order to be honest (this is an opportunity to exercise some discretion), but their are things you should refrain from saying that would be deceitful.  With eyes fixed on you in anticipation of your reaction, I know it will be difficult, but don’t say you like it when you don’t.

Second, use words of gratefulness instead.  You don’t have to like something to be thankful for it, so say “thank you”, I really appreciate it”, and “this is very kind of you”. 

Third, if you are going to say that you are thankful, you should actually be thankful.  So, spend some time before Christmas day cultivating gratefulness in your heart.  Here are some things to do to help you with this:

    • Pray and ask God to humble you by helping you remember what you deserve because of your sin.  Anything that is not hell is grace to us.  When you recall the justice you should receive, all of the sudden an unwanted Christmas present is transformed into an evidence of God’s love for you.
    • Remind yourself that the person who is giving you this gift took time, energy, and money to bring it into your possession.  In short, this person sacrificed for you because they care.  The gift you are opening is more than a gift, it’s a memorial of sorts that says, “God has put people in your life who want good to come to you.”
    • Remind yourself that it is not this person’s job to satisfy you with the gift they’re giving.  We can put too much weight on people and their gifts to us, as if our happiness rests upon whatever is underneath that wrapping paper.  Let us remember that our hearts find true joy in Jesus Christ.  Because he came from heaven to earth to the cross, our search for fulfillment is over.  The presents you will open this week and the people who have given them do not have the strength to satisfy you; they will instantaneously buckle under that kind of pressure.  But we can keep loading up Jesus with our hope for happiness and he’ll stand up under all of it!

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