By Cheri Cowell –
Statistics tell us 90% of Americans will make New Year’s resolutions. Sadly, 50% of us will have abandoned our goals by the end of January. Of those still holding on to hope, only 50% will be realized. So, why do we continue this tortuous ritual?
Perhaps it is the hope that this year we will make better choices. This year, we tell ourselves, will finally be the year we turn that corner, flip over the new leaf, and begin again.
In another ritual, during ancient days, the standard or flag was carried into battle by one sworn to uphold all that the emblem signified, even to the point of wrapping his body in the banner before the fatal blow should the safety of the symbol no longer be secured.
In the same way, Christ was God’s standard-bearer to the world. His standard is the measure by which we are called to live.
Are the goals you’ve set for 2013 based upon His standard or someone else’s? Are God’s goals part and parcel of your own goals? Are serving the poor and disadvantaged part of your goals? Is time in God’s Word scheduled into your calendar? If you’re not sure, you may want to make one of your goals to spend some time getting to know your Standard-Bearer better.
When we know His ways, we’ll know our way.
PRAYER: God, I declare today that You alone are my Standard-Bearer. Help me to align my goals and priorities in 2013 so they reflect Your standard, Your goals, Your heartbeat.
“He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak. According to what they have done, so will he repay wrath to his enemies and retribution to his foes; he will repay the islands their due. From the west, people will fear the name of the LORD, and from the rising of the sun, they will revere his glory. For he will come like a pent-up flood that the breath of the LORD drives along” (Isaiah 59:16-19 NIV).
By Susan Dollyhigh –
The young woman’s body shook and her tears flowed. Kathy* had just moved into the homeless shelter, and she was in the early stages of drug and alcohol withdrawal. When Kathy learned we were having Bible study, she ran from the room, came right back, Bible in hand and tears still flowing.
Having just celebrated the New Year, we talked about resolutions and how they are changes we want to make in our lives. We talked about the Potter and the clay, and how our Father is in the continual process of molding and changing our lives to shape us into the beautiful vessels that He wants us to become.
As we made a list of our resolutions for the New Year, Kathy shared that she had already made hers. She had been saved through faith in Christ just a month earlier. Ever since that time, Kathy had planned for the next day to be her last day to drink and get high. Kathy had truly encountered Christ, but she was afraid of being sober. Yet over the past month, while praying and studying God’s Word, He had given her the power to finally say “no more.”
Another resident then encouraged Kathy as she shared how God had helped her survive a similar experience. This woman was so very kind and loving and supportive and she assured Kathy she would be there to help her. She then closed her eyes, lifted her face toward heaven and sang “What a Day That Will Be.” As she sang to her Lord, all of her worries seemed to melt from her face.
This woman laid aside her own problems to minister to Kathy. Are we able to and put aside our problems and minister to others in need? Do we truly encounter our Father when we close our eyes and lift our faces toward heaven? We will if only we have faith as great as this precious homeless woman.
Prayer: Father, please help us to be flexible, soft, clay. Help us to allow You to mold us into the beautiful vessels that You want us to become.
“Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64:8 NIV).
By Charlotte Riegel –
This past year took my husband and I through major life changes. Stress became my middle name. Thankfully our marriage of 44 years has survived renovating a large house in preparation for selling it. We then moved into a much older house ⅓ the size of the one we occupied for the past 17 years which necessitated a great deal of downsizing, and more renovations.
On the days when I thought I could not go on, I was reminded of Isaiah 40:31 and asked God for my strength to be renewed so that I could run through the events of my day without being weary. When I arrived at the end of those days feeling energized, I recognized my prayer had been answered and much had been accomplished.
Now, settling into my new home, on many days I still feel frazzled. I dislike these feelings of running off the rails and could not understand why I was struggling to cope. The Holy Spirit reminded me of a recent sermon I heard based on Mark 10:51. Jesus often healed people after they answered His question to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” I am hearing God ask me that same question. It’s not enough for me to simply call out “Help!” I need to become specific. I need to know what I desire God to do for me and then ask Him for it.
PRAYER: Lord, my need today is for sunshine. Please send some sunshine to brighten my days.
(This prayer was said after two weeks of fog and very grey, dull, wet, cold weather. I wrestle with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and two days later I woke to a cloudless sky and bright sunshine. I bounded out of bed and felt more energized and alive than I had in days. Thank you, Lord.)
“’What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked him. The blind man said, ‘Rabbi, I want to see’” (Mark 10:54 NIV)
By Mollie Bond –
Rubbing my hands, I cried in my idling car. Clinging to the dentist chair hurt my hands, and, coupled with the extra two hours for a cavity filling, I was ready for a good cry. The dentist had to re-do the same tooth three times because the filling kept popping off. Closing my eyes, I tried to dream of a far away place, and not think of the metallic taste and the “pinch” of more Novocain. Eventually, the dentist skipped the Novocain for lack of time, and the “pinch” became a sharp pain I felt in my gut.
No one likes to cry after visiting the dentist. I’ve had my share of poor experiences. The oral surgeon waited to remove my wisdom teeth because I couldn’t stop crying when they gave me the “knock-out” gas. I have what’s been deemed “slick teeth,” and it makes filling cavities fun. As fun as sitting for hours in an uncomfortable chair next to a jack-hammer in a construction zone. That’s the way it is. I have a problematic mouth.
My friend, Tina Crown, also has a problematic mouth. For years, she had one cavity. One little, teeny, tiny cavity. Not a big deal; no real problems. Tina and her husband, Todd, went to a new dentist. Neither felt surprised by the two root canals Todd needed. He often has work to be done. She went in next, expecting to hear glowing reports of her dental hygiene for the tenth year in a row. Instead, the dentist said, “Mrs. Crown, you also need a root canal.” The new dentist found a cavity under the old filling. The original cavity wasn’t completely removed and had festered for years, while she assumed her mouth was clean. Add one more crown to the Crowns’ dental budget.
What in life is problematic? What has been covered, and needs a deep cleaning? Let the Heavenly Dentist take a look around, even in those places that might hurt.
PRAYER: God, I think things are hunky-dory with my fillings, but I’m ready for a checkup. Does a hole exist underneath? Do I need to refine my daily cleaning routine? Will you take a look around? I’m ready for a root canal, even if it hurts. Thank You for wanting to help me be healthy and holy.
“My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes” (Jeremiah 16:17 NIV).
By Cheri Cowell –
Most of us have some form of health goals for the New Year. It seems that every other commercial on television is about losing weight or getting healthy. I’m told that gym memberships increase by over 60% the first six weeks of the year, but decline to their normal numbers after that. Just this week I heard a fitness expert say we need to spend at least three hours each week on some form of physical exercise, and double that if we want to lose weight. He said that for most people, simply walking more is a good place to start in order to create an exercise habit that will stay with us throughout our lives.
How many of us have similar goals for our spiritual exercise? The goal of living longer, being healthier, and possibly looking better this time next year propels us towards making these lifestyle changes. But what image or goal is going to drive us to make the commitments needed for our spiritual exercise?
Each of us has the job of discovering how we can labor and strive for the kingdom of God. Some of us will labor this year by working on a particular area of weakness, some by surrendering an area of life to God, and still others by seeking more of God’s face and less of His hand.
And what will we get when we do this? We will experience the hope of the Living God, who will give us the desires of our hearts. Strive and labor on God’s workout equipment and He will provide the “body” in Christ you are looking for.
PRAYER: God, thank You for never allowing my work to go unnoticed or unheralded. Help me exercise more consistently on Your workout equipment so I may be all You need me to be in the body of Christ.
“But reject those myths fit only for the godless and gullible, and train yourself for godliness. For “physical exercise has some value, but godliness is valuable in every way. It holds promise for the present life and for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8 NET).