The New Year is the time when many people make New Year Resolutions in which they hope to stick with the rest of the year. Some resolve to loss weight or exercise more frequently. But I think it would be important to note the resolutions made by Jonathan Edwards, an outstanding preacher and man of God. Not only should we look at these resolutions but we would also do well if we apply some of these to our life.
Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), from the Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 1:
“Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God's help, I do humble entreat Him, by His grace, to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ's sake. [I will] remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.
Resolved, That I will do whatsoever I think to be most to the glory of God, 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 most for the good and advantage of mankind in general.
Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.
Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.
Resolved, Never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.
Resolved, Never to do anything out of revenge.
Resolved, Never to speak evil of any one, so that it shall tend to his dishonour, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.
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.
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.
Resolved, To ask myself, at the end of every day, week, month, and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better.
Resolved, Never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.
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.
Resolved, Always to do that which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it. Let there be something of benevolence in all that I speak.”
A Father’s Letter
Paul Brand is a brilliant medical doctor who did pioneering work in the treatment of leprosy. He has received the Albert Lasker Award, been made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by the Queen, served as the only Westerner on the Mahatma Ghandi foundation, and had medical procedures named after him.
Brand grew up in India, where his parents were missionaries. At the age of nine he was sent to boarding school in England. Five years later, while a 14 year old student there, he received a telegram informing him that his beloved father had died of blackwater fever. Brand cherished fond memories of his father, a man who had a great love for people and a great love for the natural world around him.
A short time after he received news of his father’s death Paul Brand received a letter from his father. It had been posted prior to his father’s death but took some time to reach Brand as it came by ship. It’s words impacted deeply upon the young son. Paul’s father described the hills around their home and then finished with these words: “God means us to delight in his world. It isn’t necessary to know botany or zoology or biology in order to enjoy the manifold life of nature. Just observe. And remember. And compare. And be always looking to God with thankfulness and worship for having placed you in such a delightful corner of the universe as the planet Earth.”
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 100)
Danger of Isolation
The suicide of Robin Williams was a tragic event but hopefully it will spur redemptive conversation about the issue of depression. Based upon averages, Williams was joined by 59 other men who took their own life the day he ended his.
Approximately 60 men commit suicide each day in America. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and is more common than homicide. Experts say situations like Williams can be all the more challenging because of what they call "masked" or "male-type" depression. The symptoms are not as obvious and are often hidden from others.
Mental illness issues are complex and have no easy remedies, but we can at least try to stem the tide by making sure people don't fall into isolation. Taking the time to notice people and tangibly care about them won't solve the problem, but it may give hope and help to someone who is desperately masking deep internal pain and most of that internal pain comes from hopelessness.
Christianity has a message of hope and where hope resides peace is sure to follow. So help give someone a message of hope this month. Help give them the peace that can only come from Christ.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27
Looks Can Fool You
Aptly described as a "cross between Britney Spears and Thor," Collette Nelson is a champion, female body builder. With bulging biceps and chiseled abs--all shimmering with contour enhancing oils and the orange glow of that notoriously fake, spray-on tan that has become the trademark of the sport--she is the epitome of the ideal female body builder.
Even if you don't appreciate the aesthetics of her iron woman physique, you can certainly appreciate her commitment to ultimate fitness, right? I mean, what could be healthier or more ideal than a person pumped up to their prime?
Well, it seems that all is not as ideal as it appears.
"You're the most unhealthy the day of a show," says Collette. "You're dehydrated. You've eaten limited food. You've been over trained. You're taking some type of diuretic, whether it be natural or not. That day of the show, I've gotta tell you, you look like perfection, but inside you're just, you're barely hangin' on."
Isn't it true that we are our most unhealthy at those times when we're trying hardest to impress others? Well no.
When we look to others for the approval we should be seeking from God, we become spiritually dehydrated and malnourished. We may look like perfection on the outside, but inside we're just barely hanging on. As Collette put it, "You're the most unhealthy the day of a show!"
"Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them" (John 7:37-38).
Japan's 'Anti-Loneliness' Cafe
Frances Cha published an article for CNN on May 15, 2014 entitled “Japan’s ‘anti-loneliness’ café goes viral”, here is part of that article:
“Hate to dine alone? Many people do. No worries. If you don't have a date for dinner, you can now dine with a Moomin.
Wait, a what?!
Moomins, are a family of white, anime, hippo-like characters created by Finnish illustrator and writer Tove Jansson. They've been around for decades, and have increased in popularity around the world, especially in anime-obsessed Japan, where Moomin House Cafes are catering to the solitary diner.
In a nod to the growing isolation of Japan's workaholic labor force, giant, plush-toy Moomins are brought to the tables of solo diners in an effort to spare them the "awkward perils" of dining alone.
The original Moomin cafe opened in 2001, but pictures of diners ‘enjoying’ the company of Moomins have recently gone viral, creating a huge surge in the cafe's popularity. There are now three locations, with more on the horizon if their "anti-loneliness" concept proves to be more than a passing fad.”
They are cute, but it seems a stretch to suggest they could suppress the "awkward perils" of loneliness.
Ever felt alone in a crowd? The truth is, even real people aren't able to satisfy our deepest need to be perfectly loved and fully accepted. For that we must seek the companionship of the only person who is able to make such a relationship possible. Accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and you will never have to fear the "awkward perils" of loneliness again!
"For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him" (Psalm 62:5).
"Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. God settles the solitary in a home …" (Psalm 68:5-6).
Check Point Ahead, Turn Now!
On June 16, 2014, Cleveland.com published this news article:
PARMA, Ohio- Doug 'Deo' Odolecki stood on a street corner Friday night with sign warning drivers about an upcoming drunken-driving checkpoint, but two words on the sign cost him a citation and an upcoming trial.
The sign written on a piece of white poster board simply read, "Check point ahead! Turn now!"
Police had no problem with the sign itself advising of the upcoming checkpoint. In fact, Ohio law requires that the police advise the public of the exact location, date and even start and stop times of an upcoming checkpoint at least one week in advance, and then again a few hours prior.
Their problem was with the sign's instruction to "Turn now!" That, they said, was interference with police business and resulted in Odolecki receiving a violation.
Isn't that what our world finds so objectionable about the Gospel? It isn't so much the caution but the specific instructions to "Turn now!" Generic talk about God is fine, but don't get so specific as to bring up one's need to turn and follow Jesus.
Obliviously, the world is heading to God's final checkpoint. For those of us who know what's coming I have one question: Where's your white poster board, maybe not a literal poster board but are you warning people of the coming “check point”?
If you are as bold as Mr. Odolecki, don't be surprised when you encounter hostility. After all, you are interfering with the world's business.
"Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 3:2).
Study Finds Fathers Instill Hope and Persistence
ABC News reports, "A new study published in the Journal of Early Adolescence found that dads are in a unique position to instill persistence and hope in their children, particularly in the pre-teen and teen years." The study analyzed the parenting styles of over 300 fathers with children between the ages of 11 to 14.
"Fathers who practiced authoritative parenting, defined as providing feelings of love, granting autonomy and emphasizing accountability to a child, were more likely to have kids who developed the art of persistence, which led to better outcomes in school and lower instances of misbehavior.
"The study differentiated between fathers with authoritative vs. authoritarian parenting styles. Authoritarian fathers--those who "ruled with an iron fist"--had a less positive impact on their children.
"'Fathers have a direct impact on how children perceive persistence and hope, and how they implement that into their lives,' said Randall Day, professor in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University and co-author of the study. 'It's important to say that moms can do this, too, but it turns out that when fathers use authoritative parenting, they have an impact on how their adolescents perceive themselves and how persistent they are in their lives.'
“Day calls these types of dads 'heart beat fathers' because of their consistent presence in the ordinary day-to-day interactions with their kids. ...Our study suggests fathers who are most effective are those who listen to their children, have a close relationship, set appropriate rules, but also grant appropriate freedoms,' said Laura Padilla-Walker, co-author of the study."
It shouldn't surprise us that the "most effective" fathers are those who mimic the parenting style of God our Father Himself.
1. A "most effective father" listens to His children. (Psalm 34:15; 1 John 5:14)
2. A "most effective father" has a close relationship with his children. (1 John 3:1; Psalm 103:11-14; Romans 8:38-39)
3. A "most effective father" sets appropriate rules. " (1 John 5:3)
4. A "most effective father" grants appropriate freedom. (Galatians 5:1; Romans 8:2)
In his book, Moments for Mothers, Robert Strand wrote about the conflicts of a family in Glasgow, Scotland. After years of rebellion, the daughter finally rejected her parents, their values, and their faith. She set out on her own to enjoy a life without restraints, but soon became enslaved to her liberated choices.
Years of misery followed as she lived on the streets, sold herself for pennies, and depended on rescue missions for survival. Because of her self-imposed detachment from family, she didn’t know her father died, or that her mother never quit looking for her.
One day she saw a picture that her mom had posted in each of the city’s homeless shelters. Scrawled across the photo of her mother were the words, “I love you still... come home!” In wonder and disbelief she set out for her home in hopes that she was indeed still loved.
By the time she arrived it was the middle of the night. Her heart raced as she stood on the porch and prepared to knock, but her countenance suddenly changed when she tapped on the door and it crept opened. She ran to her mother’s bedroom in fear that someone had broken in and harmed her. She desperately reached for her mom and the woman awoke quickly to embrace her wayward daughter. When the young woman explained her fears about the open door, her mother replied, “No dear. From the day you left, that door has never been locked.”
Just as the door was never closed at the mother’s home the door is never closed at our heavenly Father’s home. If we have strayed away we can always come back home.
“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-none righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7)
Joy and Prayer In Suffering
The fact that God chooses to love the unworthy should move us to loud praise frequently.
Margaret Sangster Phippen wrote that in the mid-1950’s her father, British minister W.E. Sangster, began to notice some uneasiness in his throat and a dragging in his leg. When he went to the doctor, he found that he had an incurable disease that cased progressive
muscular atrophy. His muscles would gradually waste away, his voice would fail, and his throat would soon become unable to swallow.
Sangster threw himself into his work in the British home missions, figuring he could still write and he would have even more time for
prayer. "Let me stay in the struggle Lord," he pleaded. "I don’t mind if I can no longer be a general, but give me just a regiment to lead." He wrote articles and books, and helped organize prayer cells throughout England. "I’m only in the kindergarten of suffering," he told people who pitied him. Gradually Sangsters’s legs became useless. His voice went completely. But he could still hold a pen, shakily.
On Easter morning, just a few weeks before he died, he wrote a letter to his daughter. In it, he said, "It is terrible to wake up on Easter morning and have no voice to shout, "He is risen!" -- but it would be still more terrible to have a voice and not want to shout."
“He is risen!” should be some of the sweetest words we have every heard and will ever speak. Within these three words we find hope, strength, and encouragement. Oh, how devastating it would be to overlook the importance and significance of these three small but powerful words.
In the classic business book, Fish!, the authors creatively mix fact and fiction as they tell a parable based on the world-famous Pike Place Fish market in Seattle, Washington. The central fictitious character, Mary Jane, gains insight and wisdom from her interactions with Lonnie, who works at the market.
While trying to get her make-believe office personnel to improve their work environment, she had a perfect opportunity to dispel the myth that people can’t control their attitude. Steve protested that if he got cut off in traffic he would get angry and honk or make an obscene gesture. He said that since something was done to him he wouldn’t have any choice about attitude or response.
Mary Jane countered by asking, “If you were in a tough part of town, would you have used that gesture?” Steve replied, “No way! You can get hurt doing that.” She then posed the question, “So you can choose your response in a tough part of town, but you have no choice in the suburbs?”
Often times I don’t think it comes down to not having enough self-control but rather not having enough “want-to.” We can have an extraordinary amount of self-control when we want to.
When the Alaskan Pipeline was being built, there were many Texans who went to Alaska and found work on the pipeline. The Texans could only work a few hours in the frigid weather, yet the Eskimos, the native Alaskans, could work indefinitely in the cold.
They decided to do a study to find out why the Eskimos could withstand the weather. After much study they found that there were no physiological differences between the Eskimos and the Texans. There was nothing in skin thickness, blood, or any other thing physically that would explain the differences in the ability to withstand the temperatures. The solution came when they did a psychological study. The difference was the Eskimo said, "He knows it was cold but there was a job to be done." In other words, his focus was on the job and obtaining results rather than on the weather. The Texan focused on the weather and this kept him from focusing on the job at hand.
You and I will focus on one of two things this coming month. We will either focus on how bad things are, the trials, and temptations or we will focus on Christ and His Word. Godly faith can help us to face and overcome the world we live. Whatever our troubles are: with family, loneliness, things that seem impossible, dealing with death, sin or whatever it is, we can overcome as long as we stay focused on Christ.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witness, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9; 16-18)
Every year people come up with New Year’s resolutions they want to keep. It could be trying to loss ten pounds or reading my Bible and praying on a daily basis. These are good things but one thing we really need to focus on is learning to be more grateful in the coming years.
Psychologist Dr. David DeSteno makes some interesting observations about gratitude. “When life's got you down, gratitude can seem like a chore. Sure, you'll go through the motions and say the right things… But you might not truly feel grateful in your heart. It can be like saying 'I'm happy for you' to someone who just got the job you wanted. The words and the feelings often don't match.”
The mismatch, he suggests, comes from looking at gratitude the wrong way—looking only to the past for the things we’re grateful for, rather than looking to the future.
When life gets you down, does gratitude seem like a chore? Could it be that you are looking at gratitude the wrong way? As Dr. DeSteno concludes, "On the deepest, unconscious level, gratitude is really about being grateful for the actions that are yet to come."
Remember that it's God's eternal promises that are intended to bring you joy and peace in believing, no matter what your current circumstances might be. The true power of gratitude is in looking forward. So this coming year make a conscientious effort to look forward to the things that are to come.
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope" (Romans 15:13, ESV).