Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

New Year Special

Volume 5 No. 255 January 1, 2015

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A New Creation in Christ- Maia's Baptism - Dec 24 2014 Austin TX
New Year - A New Creation

Rev. Fr. Dr. Zachariah Varghese MD crowning Maia Marie after her baptism during the 2014 Christmas Services in Austin, Texas. Dr. Shila Mathew, MD, the Godmother, is holding the "new creation."

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. - 2 Corinthians 5:17

Photo by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Happy New Year

Card Courtesy of Chev. Shibu Mathew, Pullolickal

Malankara World Wishes You and Yours A Happy New Year

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
(John 14:27)

1. Inspiration For Today

2. Looking for a Fresh New Start?

Are you looking for change, a fresh new start? Isn't it wonderful to know as you begin this New Year that you have God's Spirit with you, His Spirit carrying you, leading you, and guiding you? Do you realize that this New Year can be a year in which you can serve God with a fresh new excitement? As you're walking with Him and being obedient to Him, you will feel the sense of His pleasure in your life. ...

3. How to Have Joy All Year Long

As we come to another new year, once again we find ourselves in a world filled with problems, doubts, worries, and fears. We sing "Joy to the world," but there is not as much joy as we would like. Too many unhappy people walk our city streets. People today aren't as cheerful as they ought to be. ...

4. The Redemptive Value of New Year's Resolutions

Thinking about New Years and what resolutions I want to make this year. I, for one, see God's grace in the close of one year and the dawn of another. This yearly cycle gives us the opportunity to take inventory of where we stand in relation to our Creator; are we seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33)? The New Year can be a time for "forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead," to recommit ourselves to "setting our minds on things above" (Colossians 3:1-4). ...

5. Why New Year's Resolutions Don't Work

According to research, 80 percent of those who make resolutions on January 1 have given up by Valentine's Day. Nutrition experts say that two-thirds of dieters regain any weight lost within a year, and more than 70 percent of people who undergo coronary bypass surgery fall back into unhealthy habits within two years of their surgery. ...

6. A New Year without Fear

In spite of what we hear daily in the news and read in headlines, face this new year by squaring your shoulders, lifting your head, and saying "The Lord is my helper, I will not fear." ...

7. How to Make Resolutions That Actually Work

The secret to making resolutions that actually work is also the secret to making a hit movie. So let me teach you how to make a hit movie. ...

8. Health: 3 Essential Ingredients for Your New Year's Healthy Resolution

Regardless of the specific goal, people establishing resolutions to improve their health need to start with a foundation. A nutritional foundation is required for anyone who is setting out to improve his or her 'health'," says Dr. John Young, M.D., a physician specializing in the treatment of chronic illnesses through biochemical, physiological and neutraceutical technologies. ...

9. About Malankara World

Inspiration For Today

Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

- H. Jackson Brown Jr. - Author

Looking for a Fresh New Start?

by Kay Arthur

Are you looking for change, a fresh new start? Isn't it wonderful to know as you begin this New Year that you have God's Spirit with you, His Spirit carrying you, leading you, and guiding you? Do you realize that this New Year can be a year in which you can serve God with a fresh new excitement? As you're walking with Him and being obedient to Him, you will feel the sense of His pleasure in your life.

Pleasure doesn't come in the pursuit of happiness, but in the pursuit of holiness. Far too many miss God's divine plan for their lives as they're bent on pursuing all the things in this world, hoping to find some sense of joy.

As you set new goals, new priorities for the days ahead, check out where God is in your plans, in your decision-making. What's on your calendar for today, this week, this month, this year that will make any difference for the Kingdom?

Oh, Beloved, wouldn't you like to know that at the end of your life…not to mention the end of this day, the end of this year…you could declare, as the apostle Paul did, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7)?

Wouldn't you like to be assured that you could experience all the difficult situations Paul faced and say in total sincerity and truth, without one drop of egotism, Follow me, be an imitator of me, even as I am of Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 3:17)?

Can you imagine having such confidence?

How can you stand with such confidence as Paul did when you're wrestling today with all the uncertainties of life, all the struggles, all the challenges that seem to keep coming your way? My friend, no matter what changes are occurring with your job, in your family, in our nation, there is only one stabilizing factor upon which you can rest: your
God. He is the immovable Rock. You can hide in Him.

One thing will always remain: God. And because He is immutable - unchanging - He will always be the same, and He will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). He is always there with arms opened wide, your everlasting Father God. With this New Year, cling to the fact that He will never change.

Are you troubled, is fear lurking in the shadows of your consciousness? Do you feel insecure about anything at all? Run to your protector, the One who stands waiting for you to come bury yourself in the security of all He is.

Remember, "The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe" (Proverbs 18:10). In this New Year, where will you run? Will it be to food, alcohol, drugs, shopping, another man? When the hounds of trouble, worry, and fear pursue you; when the dogs of temptation, corruption, and evil seek to overtake you; when your energy is spent; when weakness saps you; when you feel you cannot run any longer, where do you turn? Who is your refuge?

If you desire a fresh new start, determine He will be the One you will run to. Run to Him and bury yourself in the security of all He is.

The goal of Paul's life was "that I may know Him" (Philippians 3:10). What goals do you have this year? Do you make New Year's resolutions but never keep them? I pray the goal of your life will be as Paul's that "you know Him."

What's going to keep you from knowing Christ? What's keeping you from going deeper in His Word? There's so much to learn in the Word of God, and yet we want all these frivolous other things around us, instead of paying the price to spend time studying the Bible.

What is it that keeps you from paying the price? Is it the love of things? Is it the demand of things? Start keeping a running log for the next few days and look at how much time you're spending in the Word of God. I'm not talking about reading and having your three minutes a day. But I'm talking about getting to know the Word of God, studying it precept upon precept.

Start today, keep a log and record your study time. Keep a pad beside your bed or keep it by a chair or wherever you're going to study. Write down how much time you've spent each day for a week and then check yourself and add up that time. Then add up the number of hours in the day and subtract how many hours you need to sleep. And then look at the hours that you have left. What portion of your day do you give to the Lord?

What portion of your time does He have? How much television are you watching? How much sports are you playing? What are you doing with your time? Stop and evaluate it, because someday, Beloved, you're going to give an account to the One that said we are to redeem the time.

We're not to let things control our life; rather we are to control the things in our life. We are to redeem the time.

"Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:15-16).

O Beloved, get on your knees this week, start this New Year right. Ask God to show you what you may need to change to spend more time with Him. He has given you a fresh new start!

Begin your New Year with daily Bible Study. Learn more about the many resources available by visiting Precept Ministries e-store.

Source: Precepts For Life

How to Have Joy All Year Long

by Dr. Ray Pritchard

Scripture: Philippians 4:1-9

As we come to another new year, once again we find ourselves in a world filled with problems, doubts, worries, and fears. We sing "Joy to the world," but there is not as much joy as we would like. Too many unhappy people walk our city streets. People today aren't as cheerful as they ought to be. If we ask a dozen people "Why aren't you more cheerful?" the answers we get are liable to be some form of "Bah, humbug!"

  • "You don't know what I'm going through."
  • "How can I can be cheerful when my marriage is falling apart?"
  • "God seems so far away."
  • "If you lived with my husband (or my wife), you wouldn't be so happy either."
  • "My kids drive me nuts."
  • "I've got cancer. How can I rejoice?"
  • "I'm stuck and I can't change."
  • "People have mistreated me and I'm not going to be happy until I get even."
  • "If I had more money, I'd be happy."

Those answers offer a revealing peek inside what people are thinking and feeling. And they lead us to a crucial insight: What we do depends on what we believe. Action is controlled by conviction. Whatever is on the inside will show up on the outside sooner or later. People who are perpetually miserable generally have made a series of choices that led them to that sad condition. You're not what you think you are, but what you think, you are. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7 KJV).

With this message we come to the final chapter of Paul's short letter to the Philippians. Like the letters we write, this one ends with a variety of short notes on various subjects. The first nine verses of chapter 4 deal with six topics that might be loosely called "Christian attitudes." If you find yourself limping toward the finish line in the new year, these inspired words can make next year a truly good year.

I. Stand Firm (v 1)

"Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!" (4:1).

The call to "stand firm" refers to a soldier staying faithfully at his post no matter what happens around him. Let the enemy attack as he will, the soldier's orders are clear: Stand firm! This command was often repeated by the Apostle Paul:

  • 1 Corinthians 15:58, "Stand firm. Let nothing move you."
  • 1 Corinthians 16:13, "Stand firm in the faith."
  • Galatians 5:1, "Stand firm … and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."
  • Ephesians 6:11, "Take your stand against the devil's schemes."
  • Ephesians 6:13, "Having done everything, to stand."
  • Ephesians 6:14, "Stand firm … with the belt of truth buckled around your waist."
  • Philippians 1:27, "Stand firm in one spirit."
  • Colossians 4:12, "Stand firm in all the will of God."
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:15, "Stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you."

Why this repeated emphasis on standing firm? I think Paul had a healthy respect for the devil's attempts to discourage and distract the children of God. He knew that we would be sorely tempted to leave our post when the bullets of temptation start whizzing by our heads. So he repeats it again and again: Stand firm!

Stay in the Traces

Are you familiar with the term "Stay in the traces?" The phrase comes from the colonial period of American history when few roads were paved and people traveled by horse-drawn wagons. Over time the wagon wheels dug deep ruts that hardened until they were called "traces." A good driver would make sure his wagon wheels were firmly in the traces, and then he let the horses pull the wagon to the destination.

Down South there is a famous national parkway called the "Natchez Trace." It's a lovely drive that starts in Nashville, Tennessee, and ends at Natchez, Mississippi on the banks of the Mississippi River. In the old days people who wanted to go to Texas would follow the "trace" from Nashville to Natchez. In a few places the old roadbed can still be seen - with the deep trace marks still evident after 150 years. To travel the road, you simply put your wagon in the traces in Nashville and just "stayed in the traces" until you got to Natchez - a few hundred miles down the road.

This is a parable of the spiritual life. Most days nothing exciting happens. Ninety-nine percent of life is ordinary. You get up, eat breakfast, go to work (or take care of the children), come home, eat supper, go to bed, get up the next day and do it all over again. And the day after that and the day after that. Day in and day out - this is life for most of us.

What is the will of God for you and for me? It is to get up each day and do what you have to do - cheerfully if you can, grumpily if you must. But do it nonetheless. Doing God's will means staying in the traces of life day after day after day. Just do what God has given you to do. If you like it, that's great. If you don't like it, do it anyway. If you wish you were doing something else, grit your teeth and do it anyway. God blesses those people who do what they have to do each day - and do it even though they might prefer to do something else.

All of us are tempted to "jump the traces" from time to time. After 20 years as a pastor, I can testify that I have never yet met a man or a woman who prospered after "jumping the traces." You end up trading one rut for another plus you have guilt inside and broken hearts all around. If you "stay in the traces," you may be bored tomorrow morning but at least you won't be embarrassed or ashamed of the choices you made.

Stand firm! This is where a happy new year begins. Husbands, stand firm! Wives, stand firm! Parents, stand firm! Children, stand firm! Students, stand firm! Singles, stand firm! Whoever you are and wherever you are and whatever you are doing, if you name the name of Jesus, in 1999 if you don't do anything else, do this: Stand firm!

II. Settle Your Differences (v. 2-3)

Paul next deals with a difficult and delicate problem inside the Philippian church. It seems that two leading women couldn't get along with each other. One was named "Euodia" (meaning "sweet smell") and the other was named "Syntyche" (meaning "friendly"). We don't know much about these women or the precise nature of their dispute. They were evidently well-known leaders in the church who had a serious falling out. For whatever reason, "Sweet smell" and "Friendly" weren't very sweet or very friendly to each other.

I wonder how these two women felt when they heard their names read in public. Two thousand years later they stand for women who couldn't stand each other. I find it instructive that Paul doesn't give us very many details. We can't tell from his words the background of the problem, and nothing he says lets us know who was right and who was wrong. Instead of taking sides, he simply exhorts these two Christian women to settle their differences. That's a useful principle to remember because in most disputes it usually doesn't matter who started it. Once animosity builds up, there is generally plenty of blame on every hand.

We do know this much. Paul regards these women as genuine believers (their names are written in the Book of Life, v. 3). They are evidently personal friends of his who worked with him in founding the church at Philippi. The word "contended" in verse 2 means to engage in competition and indicates that these women were strong, determined, hard-working, and probably opinionated. They had their own views of how things should be done. With that background, it's easy to see how a rift might develop.

Instead of focusing on the causes, Paul exhorts these two women to "agree" - which literally means to come to one mind. It doesn't mean seeing eye to eye on every detail; instead it indicates a personal choice to focus on the things that united them in Christ.

As we ponder this short section of Scripture, here are six principles for handling our interpersonal problems:

A. Separate convictions from opinions

B. Be willing to ask forgiveness

C. Look for opportunities to show kindness in small ways

D. Pray for the success of the other person

E. Ask God to remove bitterness from your heart

F. Ask a friend to hold you accountable in this area

In his book 'What They Never Told Us About How to Get Along With One Another', Judson Edwards lists six rules for healthy relationships:

A. Agree more … Argue less

B. Listen more … Talk Less

C. Produce more … Advertise less

D. Confess more … Accuse less

E. Laugh more … Fret less

F. Give more … Receive less

These are all good words we need to take to heart. I exhort all my readers to consider the state of your relationships. Don't enter 1999 without making a sincere effort to settle your disagreements. If you can't settle them completely, you can at least make an effort in that direction.

III. Resolve to Rejoice (v. 4)

Paul's third command is quite simple: "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (4:4). Though short, this command may be the most difficult one to obey consistently. Perhaps you have seen the cartoon that pictures a middle-aged man, pot-bellied, with a frown on his face, wearing a T-shirt that reads "Please don't ask me to have a nice day." Or you may identify with W. C. Fields who said, "I start off each day with a smile, and get it over with."

Note that the command to rejoice is the only one that is repeated. Why is that? I think it's because we tend to forget this one in the midst of dealing with difficult people and the upsetting problems of life. When Paul says, "Rejoice always," he's not talking about giddiness or a positive mental attitude. This is not "put on a happy face" or "look for the silver lining." The rejoicing he has in mind is not based on outward circumstances. That's crucial because very often our circumstances are quite depressing. Where was Paul when he wrote these words? In a Roman prison chained to Roman guards 24 hours a day. He was on trial for his life with no certain hope of release. I take it that Paul didn't "enjoy" being in prison but he found reasons to rejoice even in that difficult circumstance.

On Christmas Day CNN broadcast Larry King's recent interview with Dr. Billy Graham who is now 80 years old. The last several years Dr. Graham has had a number of major health problems. He has undergone several difficult operations and now suffers from Parkinson's Disease. How does Billy Graham feel about the prospect of his own death? "Oh, I'm not afraid to die. In fact, I'm looking forward to it. I wish that day would hurry up and get here." And what does he expect will happen when he dies? "When I die, an angel is going to take me by the hand and lead me into the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ." When Larry King asked him how he felt about having Parkinson's Disease, Dr. Graham replied, "I feel great about it. It's been a wonderful experience. I believe the Lord has many lessons to teach me through this disease." Surely this is what it means to "Rejoice in the Lord always."

May I give you a bit of homework as a practical way to apply this message? Sometime this week, take a sheet of paper and write at the top Reasons to Rejoice Today. Then give yourself five or ten minutes and list as many reasons as you can think of to rejoice in the Lord. I did that recently and here's the list I came up with in about five minutes:

1) My sins are forgiven

2) I have a Savior

3) Many Christian friends

4) A good church fellowship

5) The Word of God to guide me

6) The Holy Spirit to lead me

7) A wife who loves me

8) Three fine sons

9) Good health

10) Enough money to pay my bills

11) Three new sweaters

12) Three good books to read

13) Many answered prayers

14) People who pray for me

15) Worthwhile projects for the future

16) New year means a new start

17) When I die, things get better not worse

IV. Ask God for a Gentle Spirit. (v. 5)

"Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near" (4:5). Greek scholars tell us that the word translated "gentleness" is a hard one to precisely translate into English. Other possibilities include "moderation," "forbearance," "mildness," and "fair-mindedness." One writer calls it the quality of "inner calmness." Listen to the way Eugene Peterson (The Message) translates this verse: "Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you're on their side, working with them and not against them."

This quality of "inner calmness" is especially needed in two situations: 1) When you are dealing with someone who is driving you nuts, and 2) When you feel yourself about to blow your top. (Those two situations are often one and the same.) In that moment - when you feel the mercury rising and you know that very soon you will say or do something you will regret later - that's when you need to ask God for a gentle spirit.

This "inner calmness" should be seen by all who know us. Often the holidays bring out the very opposite. There is something about this time of the year that offers ample proof of human depravity. Many of us have endured some painful moments as our family and friends gathered to celebrate the birth of Jesus. This week someone I don't know sent me a note about "road rage" - a term that refers to losing your temper when another driver gets in your way. It's a real and frightening problem that we don't talk about very much.

Here's a simple question: Would the people who know you best consider you a gentle person? Would that word even pop into their minds when they think about you? Or to make the question harder: Would the people you like least consider you a gentle person? That's the real test. Anyone can be gentle around nice people, but only the spirit of Jesus can enable you to respond gently to people who mistreat you.

V. Pray about Everything (v. 6-7)

This famous passage begins with the phrase "Do not be anxious about anything." I actually prefer the King James rendering: "Be anxious for nothing." Don't be anxious. Don't worry about anything. To which I respond, You gotta be kidding!

But it's very good advice. Did you know that most of the time you spend worrying is basically wasted emotional energy? Some years ago a professor at a leading American university studied the things people worry about. His research yielded the following results: 40% never happen, 30% concern the past, 12% are needless worries about health, and 10% are about petty issues. Only 8% are legitimate concerns. That means that 92% of your "worry time" is wasted energy.

Worry is stewing without doing. Worry is wrong because it assumes that God can't take care of you. He promised to care for you, but when you worry, you are saying, "Lord, I don't believe you can take care of me so I'm going to take matters into my own hands."

As we enter the new year, we all have our own concerns that trouble us. It may be health issues, or financial pressures, or a big decision you need to make. It could be family problems or marital struggles or issues at school or on the job. Here's my question to you: Do you know for certain what will happen next year? The answer of course is no. Can your worrying about the future change the course of events? No. Then why bother worrying at all? The past is done for, the future is not yet, why let worry ruin the present - the only moment we have?

Worry and prayer are opposites - like water and fire. You can worry or you can pray but you can't do both at the same time.

Paul has three pieces of advice for worriers:

A. Pray about everything - "in everything by prayer"

B. Pray with thanksgiving - "with thanksgiving"

C. Pray with expectation - "present your requests to God"

An old hymn says it this way:

Thou art coming to a king
Large petitions with thee bring
For his grace and power are such
None can ever ask too much.

When you take your burdens to the Lord, he replaces your worries with something much greater: the peace that passes all human understanding. Verse 7 says that peace will "guard" your heart. That's a military metaphor for soldiers guarding the city gate from the inside. When you pray, God's peace becomes a guard on your heart, protecting you from the cares of the world that could otherwise destroy you.

VI. Think Holy Thoughts (v. 8-9)

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things" (4:8)

Our passage closes with an exhortation to think holy thoughts. Did you know that the average person has 10,000 separate thoughts each day? That works out to 3.5 million thoughts a year. If you live to be 75, you will have over 26 million different thoughts. Already most of you have had over 2,000 separate thoughts since you got out of bed this morning. You'll probably have another 8,000 before you hit the sack tonight. Then you'll start all over again tomorrow.

The principle behind Paul's words is simple: Sin always begins in the mind and so does holiness. When Paul says "think about such things," the command is in the present tense: "Keep on thinking about these things." Find what is true and think about it. Find the lovely and think about it. Find the virtuous and think about it. Do it and verse 9 says "the God of peace will be with you."

You Have the Power!

If you are a Christian, you have within you the power to obey every command in this passage. You can literally change your mind if you want to. How? By remembering that all that is best is embodied in a Person! I am speaking of Jesus Christ. If you link yourself with him, you are joined with the highest moral power in the universe. He is the embodiment of everything Paul has commanded us to do. It's all in Jesus. All virtue, all beauty, all holiness, all truth, all that is good and right is found in him. This is not some abstract philosophy but a call to a personal relationship.

My exhortation is simple. Hold on to Jesus! Think about him! Rest in him! Live in him! When Jesus Christ reigns in your heart, you will …

  • Stand Firm
  • Settle Your Differences
  • Resolve to Rejoice
  • Ask God for a Gentle Spirit
  • Pray About Everything
  • Think Holy Thoughts

How does he do it? He does it by the magnetic power of his transforming life. As you hold on to Jesus, he pulls you up from the muck and mire of the old life. He pulls you up from bitterness, up from futility, up from resentment, up from anger, up from compromise, up from impurity, up from dishonesty, up from selfishness, up from greed, up from pessimism, and up from despair.

We stand at the brink of a new year - the final year of this century looms before us and a new millennium is only 12 months away. The year 1999 is filled with great possibilities. What will it mean for you?

If you want my advice, here it is: Lay hold of Jesus by faith. Walk with him. Talk with him. Learn of him. Hold on and don't let go. Do that and your life will never be the same.

© Keep Believing Ministries

The Redemptive Value of New Year's Resolutions

by Mike Pohlman

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
-- Philippians 3:13-14

Thinking about New Years and what resolutions I want to make this year. I, for one, see God's grace in the close of one year and the dawn of another. This yearly cycle gives us the opportunity to take inventory of where we stand in relation to our Creator; are we seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33)? The New Year can be a time for "forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead," to recommit ourselves to "setting our minds on things above" (Colossians 3:1-4).

To help me in this endeavor I've enlisted Steven Lawson and his fine book on Jonathan Edwards: 'The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards'. Jonathan Edwards, of course, is probably best known for his sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." But there is far more to appreciate about this eighteenth century pastor. Benjamin Warfield referred to Edwards as a "figure of real greatness in the intellectual life of colonial America." And Edwards scholar George Marsden considers him 'the most acute American philosopher.' But perhaps the Englishman Martyn Lloyd-Jones said it best: "I am tempted, perhaps foolish, to compare the Puritans to the Alps, Luther and Calvin to the Himalayas, and Jonathan Edwards to Mount Everest! He has always seemed to me the man most like the Apostle Paul."

Lawson's aim with his book is "to challenge a new generation of believers to pursue holiness in their daily lives" by focusing on Edwards' seventy "Resolutions" (Amazingly, Edwards wrote these resolutions in 1722 and 1723 when he was just eighteen and nineteen-years-old).

Lawson chose to focus on Edwards' "Resolutions" given how well they demonstrate the towering virtue of his life, namely, his piety. "In short, though Edwards was intellectually brilliant and theologically commanding, his true greatness lay in his indefatigable zeal for the glory of God."

Consider Resolution #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 myriads of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty, and the most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great so ever.

Edwards was resolved, regardless of the difficulty, to live for the glory of God, his own pleasure (in God) and the good of mankind generally. Profound and convicting.

Now, notice what this puritan - this relic of centuries ago - says in Resolution #2:

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

We don’t usually associate Jonathan Edwards with "innovation" or 'cutting edge thinking.' And yet, here he is resolved to continually dream up ways to advance the glory of God.

I want to do that this year. I want to be resolved to live for the glory of God, to find my pleasure in Him and the good of mankind generally. And I want to do this with a determined, vigorous and biblically-wise analysis of ways I can do it better.

Intersecting Faith & Life:

What new ways can you think of to advance the glory of God, your pleasure in Him and the good of mankind? And don’t just think innovation. Perhaps what is "old" should become new again.

Further Reading

The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards (Steven Lawson)

Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different (Tullian Tchividjian)

Source: Crosswalk.com - The Devotional

Why New Year's Resolutions Don't Work

by Justin Holcomb

Willpower Is Weak

If you're considering making some New Year's resolutions this year, consider this: like other exercises of raw willpower, most New Year's resolutions fail miserably.

According to research, 80 percent of those who make resolutions on January 1 have given up by Valentine's Day. Nutrition experts say that two-thirds of dieters regain any weight lost within a year, and more than 70 percent of people who undergo coronary bypass surgery fall back into unhealthy habits within two years of their surgery.

"Most of us think that we can change our lives if we just summon the willpower and try even harder this time around," says Alan Deutschman, the former executive director of Unboundary, a firm that counsels corporations on how to navigate change. "It's exceptionally hard to make life changes, and our efforts are usually doomed to failure when we try to do it on our own."

As we think about New Year's resolutions, it's important to realize something about human nature: people do what they want to do. The Reformation theologian Thomas Cranmer held this view of human nature (as summarized by Anglican historian Ashley Null):

"What the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies. The mind doesn't direct the will. The mind is actually captive to what the will wants, and the will itself, in turn, is captive to what the heart wants."

So making a resolution and summoning up all your willpower does little good if, ultimately, your heart isn't in it. Does this mean you should abandon any hope of change? Not at all. If you're going to make a New Year's resolution, here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Is It A Good Resolution?

Try to determine if the resolution is actually good. Are you planning on working out more? If so, is it because you want to be a good steward of the body God gave you or is it vanity? In reality, it is probably some of both. But what is the driving desire? Is it a good one?

2. Just Do It

If your resolution is actually a good one, just do it. Go ahead and work out more, smoke or drink less, read your Bible more, pay down your debt and save more for retirement, focus on your marriage, spend more time with your children. Every once in a while, people start a New Year's resolution and it sticks. But most don't. That's because (1) you are sinner and (2) your heart is an idol factory.

3. Grace Actually Works

The reality is that your resolution is likely needed because, like everyone else except for Jesus, you are not loving God with your entire being and not loving your neighbor as yourself. These two failures lead to havoc, discord, pain, and destruction. Jesus gave us the basic requirement: "‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 22:40).

That basic failure is why we need the gospel: Jesus' life, death, and resurrection deal with the guilt and the stain of sin. It's also why we so often fail at our attempts to improve ourselves.

But Jesus also gave us the Holy Spirit, who can change our desires and empower us to love God and neighbor. As Paul tells us, "it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). With us and our willpower, Jesus says, change is impossible, "but with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26).

God Gives Grace to Change

As Cranmer realized, our wills are captive to what our hearts love, and we are powerless to change ourselves without the work of God's Spirit changing our desires. When you think through New Year's resolutions, here's a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer as you ask God to work on your heart:

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

About The Author:

Justin Holcomb is an Episcopal priest and teaches theology at Reformed Theological Seminary and Knox Theological Seminary. Justin wrote 'On the Grace of God' and co-authored with his wife Lindsey Rid of 'My Disgrace' and 'Save Me from Violence'. He is also the editor of Christian Theologies of Scripture.

Source: Christianity.com Daily Update

A New Year without Fear

by Adrian Rogers

"Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip." Hebrews 2:1

Our lives are like an ocean…a trackless ocean with winds, currents and waves. During our time on earth, we'll meet ships we never knew were on that ocean and we'll have all kinds of opportunities, heartaches, tears and fears as we sail into a new year on an uncharted sea.

Scholars tell us Hebrews 2:1 refers to the sea - the writer is using a nautical term. He must have spent time at sea, because the phrase "giving more earnest heed" and the word "slip" refer to bringing a ship into the harbor, a difficult and sometimes dangerous task. A ship never just "drifts" into the harbor. The most skillful part of being a sea pilot is bringing the ship safely into harbor. "Let them slip" literally means drift away. You must be careful when you enter a harbor that you don't end up on the rocks or drift past the harbor.

The Danger of Drifting

The worst thing that could happen to us this year is that we just drift through it - live an aimless life - letting this year "happen" to us rather than charting a course and getting into God's appointed harbor. The winds of worldliness, the tides of circumstance, and the currents of the old nature are determined to cause you to drift.

And you will drift unless you decide not to drift. You must have an anchor. You need a fixed direction. It's important, because drifting is one of the easiest things in the world to do. And the next easiest is to fear.

The Lord Will Be My Helper - I Will Not Fear

Back in 1929 when the stock market crashed, there were men who literally jumped out of skyscrapers, committing suicide. Why? Because the things they were trying to satisfy their heart with, they lost. That's where their security was. We must have our security, sufficiency and satisfaction in something that can't be tampered with - not just in these uncertain times, but in every time.

I heard of some men years ago who were on a leaky old ship in the middle of a rough and stormy sea, fearful for their lives. They didn't know whether they were going to sink or not. So one of them went to see the captain and said, "Captain, are we safe?" He answered, "Well, I'll put it to you this way. The boilers on this ship are very weak and may explode at any moment. Also, the ship is very old and she's taking on water. To be honest with you, we may have an explosion or we may sink. We may go up or we may go down. But," he continued, "at any rate, we're going on."

And that's the way we are, as we face this new year. Jesus may come - we may go up. We may die - we'll go down and then go up. But at any rate, we're going on...even though we don't know what it's going to bring.

But we do know Who is coming alongside us to walk through it with us. "…for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. (Hebrews 13:5). This passage in Hebrews goes on to say, "So that we may boldly say, "The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me" (v. 6).

In spite of what we hear daily in the news and read in headlines, face this new year by squaring your shoulders, lifting your head, and saying "The Lord is my helper, I will not fear."

The Christians in the book of Hebrews faced heartaches and trials. They had opposition from family, friends and foes alike. They faced mockery and brutality. Yet they could boldly say, "The Lord is my helper." If you are going to face this year with steadfast resolve, you must find your contentment, your companionship, and your confidence in Christ. Then you'll find your comfort in Christ, from whence you may boldly say, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear what man shall do unto me."

I'm not telling you that life is going to be all honey and no bees. No. This coming year may be difficult for you. But you can stand upon the promises of the Word of God.

Jesus Meets Our Heart's Deepest Need

When he was in prison, Paul wrote, "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere, and in all things, I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need" (Philippians 4:11-12).

Paul was a man who could face the future. And his was an uncertain one - from one jail to the next, under the threat of a possible death sentence in the Roman Empire. But he said, "I've learned to be content."

The word "content" literally means "self-contained." Our temptation today is to run about wringing our hands - the opposite of content, contained, and Spirit-controlled.

Then in the very next verse he says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." That literally means, "I can do all things through Christ who is pouring His life into me." Throughout 2014, we need to learn to live a life of contentment, the contentment of His provision - Christ Himself. The deepest need of our hearts can be met in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our Security Is In the Lord Jesus Christ

As we face the coming year, if the stock market goes down, what we have in Jesus Christ - eternal security, salvation, a relationship with the King of kings - is worth multiplied billions and more. Today some of you find that you are abased. You're saying, "I can hardly make it until the next paycheck." Some of you are abounding. You have more than you ever thought or dreamed you'd have. If you have that, I'm happy for you. See it as a gift from God and enjoy it, for the Bible says, "God takes pleasure in the prosperity of his servants." It is the Lord who gives you the ability to get wealth. Thank God for it.

But from his prison cell Paul says, "In Christ, I have a self-contained life. All that I need is in the Lord Jesus Christ. I don't have to go outside of Him for contentment."

If you have Jesus, friend, you have something wonderful. You are rich, regardless of what you may or may not have in the bank.

Starting from That Secure Position

How will you best face the future and have your heart's deepest need met?

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." Acts 16:31

If you're not saved, your first step in this new year must be giving your heart and life to the Lord Jesus Christ. If I had a thousand lives to live, I'd give Him every one of them. I really would.

I came to Jesus Christ as a teen. If I had understood it sooner, I would have come sooner. I don't care how young you are or how old you are, if you are reading this, you can be saved. I don't care how good you are or how bad you are, there's no one so good they don't need to be saved and no one so bad they can't be saved.

The Bible says, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." That doesn't mean mere intellectual belief or just accepting some facts about Him. It means trust. You can believe an airplane can fly; you don't trust it until you get on it. If you come to Jesus, I promise you, on the authority of the Word of God, He will save you instantly. He will be with you continually. He will keep your eternally.

The greatest thing you could do, if you have not done it yet, would be to give your heart to Jesus Christ. This would be the beginning of a brand new life. This can be the first day of an eternal life.

Commit your life to Jesus. Believe on Him. Trust Him and a transformation will take place. He will save you. He will satisfy you. He will secure you if you trust Him.

We don't know what the coming year will bring - sickness, heartache, or trouble. But I do know that you can boldly say, "The Lord will be my helper. I will not fear what man shall do to me." Find your contentment, your companionship, and your confidence in Jesus. In Him you will find your comfort and your courage.

Source: Love Worth Finding with Adrian Rogers

How to Make Resolutions That Actually Work

By Oliver Emberton

"Change is a matter of choice, not calendar" - Dan Kennedy

The secret to making resolutions that actually work is also the secret to making a hit movie. So let me teach you how to make a hit movie.

At the start, our hero lives their ordinary life. We wouldn't care to watch that for long, but fortunately all good stories push our hero through a door.

The door is something irreversible; once you walk through, you can never go back. For The Matrix, it's Neo choosing the red pill. For Gravity, it's having your shuttle sliced to ribbons. In Shawshank Redemption, an innocent man is sentenced to life.

The door is where the story begins. It puts our hero on a path they cannot escape, and the tension compels us to watch.

Near the end of the story, our hero must pass through a second door. Again, the door is one-way. But this door demands a resolution. To pass through it guarantees a conclusion, whatever that may be. Our hero must fight their nemesis to the death, or chase their love to the airport, or stand before disapproving parents and dance for their hopes and dreams.

It's the formula of nearly every story ever told, because it works. Once you pass through a door, you can never go back.

Now let me tell you what isn't a good movie.

Our unhappy hero wakes up one late December morning and stares at the mirror. "Oh god" he sighs, at his portly reflection. "In the new year, I swear – I'm going to lose weight!"

And then he updates his Facebook status, buys a copy of Runners World, and goes to the gym three times. The End.

If you want to make a resolution – a real resolution – you're gonna have to walk through a door. The smart, resolute part of yourself might be in control now, but you know that's not who will stop you. The lazy, stupid, reflexive part of yourself will be in control later, when the air is cold and you feel sort-of-ill-ish-I-think, and if you haven't got something to drag that screaming brat out of bed you will fail.

You do this already, by the way. School, for example, is a door you can't well choose not to pass through, which is why you attended it so successfully. Your job works in the same way, as does marriage and children. Doors are irreversible and non-optional, and our society is predicated on them.

So you really want to start your own business? Try quitting your job; that'll take care of motivation. Want to lose weight? Sign up for a marathon in 9 months in an exciting foreign country, and book the non-refundable flights now. Or if that's more than you can handle, start a scheduled team activity where if someone misses out, it hurts the others. Guilt will carry you when willpower fails.

Don't jump on Facebook to announce your new resolution. It gives you a short term ego buzz now ("Look at me! I'm so awesome!") but does zip to regulate your behavior (few friends will remember your promise, or be so crude as to call you on it). By all means involve friends, but make your pressures real.

Most of all, don't make the mistake of thinking wishful words alone will get you there. Nearly everyone fails their new year's resolutions, which should be about as surprising as learning that the words "avada kedavra" don't actually kill people. Just saying words doesn't make a thing happen. Walk through a door instead.

[Ed Note: Oliver started his business when he was 21, and had no money, experience, or clue what he was doing. He spent 10 years building it into a successful digital agency that he realized he didn't want. And finally he gambled everything on reinventing that company to follow his passions in software, and flourished.]

Source: ETR

Health Tip: 3 Essential Ingredients for Your New Year's Healthy Resolution
Every New Year inspires a wave of self-improvement, which for many people includes improving their overall health.

Unfortunately, a recent study from the University of Scranton's Journal of Clinical Phycology says only 8 percent of those who make a New Year's resolution see their goals come to fruition.

Regardless of the specific goal, people establishing resolutions to improve their health need to start with a foundation. A nutritional foundation is required for anyone who is setting out to improve his or her 'health'," says Dr. John Young, M.D., a physician specializing in the treatment of chronic illnesses through biochemical, physiological and nutraceutical technologies, and the author of "Beyond Treatment: Discover how to build a cellular foundation to achieve optimal health," (www.YoungHealth.com).

"Many of us want to lose weight, gain muscle and improve our cardiovascular endurance, but those goals cannot be accomplished without addressing the body's fundamental needs. A healthy body begins with a healthy cellular foundation, and a healthy cellular foundation begins with what we're putting in our bodies."

A protein shake is a common way some people like to supplement their health plans, but Dr. Young says those health drinks are usually missing one or more essential components. He lists them and explains why they're so important.

1. Whey protein: Can be a great option for protein supplementation assuming it's of the highest possible quality. Look for protein powder that is cold processed (non-denatured), meaning it's never heated to temperatures above 130 degrees. Also makes sure it's made with milk from cows that haven't been pumped full of hormones and that have been grazed on pesticide-free, chemical-free, natural grass pastures. Make sure the protein is completely free of chemicals, artificial flavors and artificial sweeteners.

2. Omega oils: Because of their molecular makeup, Flax Seed oil and Cod Liver oil are two of the most important oils you can consume. They supply a number of important nutrients for nearly all systems of the body, including the heart and immune system as well as the brain. In order for these oils to be effectively incorporated by the body, they need to be "hidden", or emulsified into a protein so they aren't destroyed during the digestive processes. This is a huge key that most people completely miss.

3. pH stabilization: pH is a measurement of the acidity or alkalinity in your body and ranges from zero on the acidity end to 14 on the alkaline end. Evidence suggests that a healthy balance in pH increases strength in muscle and bone, improves brain function and decreases the risk of chronic disease. Because our diets are so acidic these days, I use a pH balancing formula in my practice to help keep my patients in the stable pH range.

Along with the three pillars of Dr. Young's approach to healthy protein shakes, he recommends appropriate amounts of fruits and vegetables and an overall balanced diet.

About Dr. John Young, M.D.

Dr. John Young is a medical doctor with more than 15 years' experience working in emergency rooms and pediatric burn units. He's the Medical Director of Young Foundational Health Center, specializing in treating patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes by addressing the physiological issues. He's also the Medical Director of Young Health Products, a company that produces nutritional products. Dr. Young is the author of "Beyond Treatment."

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