Time for New Year’s Resolutions?

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Party hats, noise makers, confetti and streamers
- and New Year’s resolutions ready? You only have until next Tuesday,
September 2, to get all set! At least that’s when Charles Osgood suggests
you should be thinking about New Year’s Day.

Several years ago I heard Charles Osgood on CBS Sunday Morning
the Sunday before Labor Day. He offered his wry and poetic comments on Labor
Day as the “real” New Year’s Day. Tuesday after Labor Day, he said, is the
functional beginning of the new year for many of us. And, he said, this is
the time for making New Year’s resolutions. Osgood contends that resolutions
and new beginnings make more sense now, rather than in the warm afterglow of
Christmas. Even though current calendars have had school in session for
awhile, most of us finally accept after Labor Day that familiar routines of
life have closed in upon us. For many people, whatever we have put off
during the heat and vacation time of summer now demands attention.
Commitments and responsibilities of school and work and family life face us
with new urgency after Labor Day. “This year I’ll do better,” we tell
ourselves. “This year will be different.” And we take up our tools and books
to meet the challenges of this new cycle of life. If you accept Osgood’s
contentions, will you make New Year’s resolutions next week?

Any natural point of new beginnings is a good time to resolve to
walk in closer step with Jesus. In one of the earliest letters Paul wrote to
the churches he had planted, he encourages the believers in Thessalonica: ”
we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call
and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith, {12} so
that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him,
according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2
Thessalonians 1:11-12 NRSV) Notice that Paul does not counsel the early
Christians to launch some self-improvement program. He does not say that
they can do anything they convince themselves they might do. He locates for
them the true source of power to accomplish what they resolve. Their
resolutions made in keeping with God’s purposes in Christ Jesus will be
accomplished by God’s power at work within them. Often our resolutions made
January 1 falter before the college football bowl games are over because
they center on our desires and our strength alone. Maybe New Year’s
resolutions made now, at this time of new beginning, can escape the
egocentric habits often plaguing those January resolutions, focusing instead
on making renewed commitments to serve God and others in the name of Christ.

You surely know the resolutions that make the most sense for
your life and correspond most closely to God’s urging as you follow Jesus.
Nevertheless, here are some all-purpose resolutions any of us would do well
to make for the after-Labor Day New Year:

• You were missed by your community of faith when you were
traveling, on vacation, or taking a weekend off. Resolve to maintain at
least a 75% average attendance in Bible study/Sunday School and worship
services for the year. Mark your calendar, write in down in your journal, or
keep some other actual personal log of your participation to see how well
you can meet that challenge.

• Your spiritual gifts_- the God-given ability to meet someone’s
need in a way that only you can – are needed for the body of Christ to be
fully functional. Resolve to identify your spiritual gifts more clearly and
to employ them through the numerous, varied ministries of your congregation,
other group of Christians, or community service organization – also
resolving that “if you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready
to explain it. (1 Peter 3:15b NLT)

• The traditional holiday season
(Thanksgiving-Advent-Christmas-New Year) will arrive in the blink of an eye,
and people all around will yearn for a spiritual home in which to celebrate.
Resolve to invest yourself in genuine relationship with someone, invite them
to accompany you in fellowship for Bible study and worship, and introduce
them to Jesus and his family of followers. No other time of year offers
greater culturally-conditioned opportunities for feeding people who are
spiritually hungering than the remaining months of 2014.

• God takes care of our needs abundantly and graciously. Resolve
to show your gratitude to God by giving generously to support the spread of
the gospel in your community and around the world. If you are a tither,
resolve to give special support to ministries that are dear to your heart.
If you have not tithed, resolve to increase your giving by ½% this year and
each year until you reach the biblical guideline of 10%.

• Jesus’ summons to you is unchanging and always marks a new
beginning. Resolve to follow Jesus more closely, consciously practicing
awareness of Jesus in everyday life. I have a recommendation for a Labor Day
New Year’s Day hymn to express renewed resolve to follow Christ, the old
standard, “I Am Resolved:”

I am resolved no longer to linger, Charmed by the world’s delight,
Things that are higher, things that are nobler, These have allured my sight.
I will hasten to Him, hasten so glad and free;
Jesus, greatest, highest, I will come to Thee.

I am resolved to go to the Savior, Leaving my sin and strife;
He is the true One, He is the just One, He hath the words of life.

I am resolved to follow the Savior, Faithful and true each day;
Heed what He sayeth, do what He willeth, He is the living Way.

I am resolved, and who will go with me? Come, friends, without delay,
Taught by the Bible, led by the Spirit, We’ll walk the heavenly way.

(“I Am Resolved,” Palmer Hartsough, 1896, verses 1, 2, 3, 5)

So, HAPPY NEW YEAR next Tuesday! Better get started making those New Year’s
resolutions!

- J. Edward Culpepper

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