Yesterday – a walk down memory lane. A rare opportunity to visit an old family home, the old family church. To see the pew that we would always sit in, the church hall where we went to Sunday School. To the see the house – my old bedroom, the back garden. Memories flooding back, of laughter and fun, good times.
As we walk forward into this New Year with resolutions and plans, hope and dreams, it is sometimes useful to cast our eyes over the years past. Not in a yearning for the good days gone or in grief over the bad, but in a realisation of the times when God’s hand upon our lives is visible. When you realise that God had prepared you for what you were to face with Scriptures or prophetic words, with the people that He placed around you. When you are reminded of the prayers answered, of the breakthroughs received.
Looking back and seeing the hand of God on our lives gives encouragement and strength for today and hope for the future. It’s a reminder that even when at the time we don’t notice, God is always working on our behalf, for our benefit, for our good.
“I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.” (Psalm 77:11)
I can think of no better way to start the New Year than borrowing words from my father’s New Year’s Day preach….
“As we gather together this New Year’s Day, in the Presence of God to worship Him and give thanks for the year that has passed and petition Him for the year that is to come, I want to underline for you this wonderful, hopeful, promise filled truth, that – Our God is a God who rejoices in offering us a new beginning – not just for now, not just for today, or tomorrow, or this year, but for life and forever.
No matter what has shattered and battered us in the past – long ago or just recently – No matter how badly we have failed and messed up our lives and others – our God, at this very moment stretches out His hand to pick us up, dust us down, wipe away our tears, heal our wounds, clean us up, and set us on our feet again.”
Happy New Year Everyone!
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
I’m not making New Year’s resolutions this year. Yes I have plenty of good habits that I need to start and certainly bad habits to stop that would serve as noble and admirable resolutions. But somehow as we enter this year I have decided on a different approach. Instead of focusing of what I need working on, I want to focus instead on the promises of God. To focus on God not on what needs working on. To enter the year full of expectation and trust in God. It means instead of a list of resolutions, having a list of God’s promises for my life.
No matter how I feel about what lies ahead of me. No matter how apprehensive I may be, I know that God has good plans for the year ahead.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
No matter how I feel about how I am doing or what I am achieving (or not achieving), God loves me and cares for me.
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)
“But God shows His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Focusing on God and what He says about me gives me much confidence for 2016!
Toasting marshmallows over an open fire, fireworks and sparklers, standing on the deck looking out over the bay at boat lights and more fireworks, hearing the shouts of Happy New Year from across the water. Celebrating the start of the New Year with extended family. Going on the hunt the next morning for coffee (success!) and then sitting down to a cooked brunch of bacon & eggs. Enjoying the serenity of a quiet bay and the deliciousness of fejoia sorbet. It was a great start to the New Year.
I love the promise and potential that a New Year holds. Fresh and new beginnings. A chance to open the blank pages of a diary and fill it with dreams and hopes, and then to see them outwork in reality as the year progresses. A New Year is pregnant with promise. Standing at midnight, whispering your resolutions and dreams into the night, all is full of hope and expectation.
But when the holiday is over and the reality of daily life begins – the work commute, the laundry, the bills – we somehow need to keep that magic of New Year’s in our hearts. That hope, those dreams need to be fed and nurtured, protected from the knocks of life. And that means surrendering them into the loving hands of God. It means not worrying about having everything figured out, but in the small and daily steps of life, saying YES to Him.
If there is one thing I have learnt, striving to fulfil my resolutions in my own strength is tough and sometimes ensures failure. But with God, all things are possible. Surrendering to Him and His wonderful grace is always my best ever resolution. Kris Vallotton says it better – “I need a new years revelation not another resolution! The more I see Him, the more I become like Him. Trying to resolve my life issue with disciplines just never works for me.”
When I reach the end of 2015 and stand ready to see in 2016, if I am more like Jesus, if I have grown in attitude and action, in character and in life to reflect Him better, I will definitely be celebrating!
How often do our New Year’s Resolutions feel like echoes from years past? That instead of walking down life’s road we find ourselves stuck on a treadmill, expending just as much effort, but nonetheless going nowhere. What is it that causes our New Year resolutions to falter and any change to be unsustainable?
The key to this lies in viewing the action required as more than just change but rather transformation. Essentially change is something that can return to how it was before. Take ice, it’s cold, hard and frozen. Yet it can be melted to become water. This water can be boiled to become steam, which after evaporation becomes rain. The rain comes down and we have water again which we can drink, freeze or boil. Transformation on the other hand is more like a bunch of grapes. We can stomp on them for a long time; keep the juice for a while before we finally have wine. This wine can never become grapes again. That is transformation. It cannot be undone.
Paul the Apostle encourages us not to “be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind .“(Romans 12:2) We are not to be “of” the world, conforming to its mould by taking on worldly rationale and values. To see our lives transformed, we must change our thinking to effect change in our actions. What thoughts we allow to take root in our mind is a choice and will determine our actions and ultimately our destiny. “As a man thinks in his heart so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7)
“When you sow a thought you reap an action, sow an action you reap a habit, sow a habit you reap a character, sow a character you reap a destiny.” (anon)
Words and thoughts are the fuel that the brain uses to reproduce. However successful or unsuccessful we will be is undeniably linked to the words and beliefs we tell ourselves. William James, a psychologist said, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitude of mind.” Our mind is a powerful thing and needs to work for us and not against us.
So I guess, I’m adding watching about my thinking to my Resolution list this year!