CATHERINE DONOVAN, CONTRIBUTOR FOR TODAY’S BLOG POST
As I approached the New Year, I caught myself reminiscing about the days when I approached each New Year with a studied analysis of what I had achieved the previous year and properly assessed resolutions. It became apparent that I had somehow lost the ability to make resolutions and plans and surrendered myself to a life of free fall. Whilst my excuse was in fact that I trusted God for every day and what it embraced, the quote by Benjamin Franklin “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” came to mind.
What underpinned the earlier years of very considered yearly resolutions was an absolute trust that God had a wonderful plan for me (Jeremiah 29:11); a lot of prayer, as I attended overnight prayer times seeking God about the year ahead; and a commitment to daily prayer and studying the Bible. The words of Henri J.M. Nouwen in his book “The Return of the Prodigal Son” expounded why perhaps I was less likely to make resolutions now for fear of failure:
“The further I run away from the place where God dwells, the less I am able to hear the voice that calls me Beloved, and the less I hear that voice, the more entangled I become in the manipulations and power games of the world”.
So this year, I am resolving to guard, purpose and timetable my “me and God time”. Whilst I recognize that I am incapable of achieving this in my own strength, I am thankful for the grace of God which Titus 2:12 says “teaches me to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age”. There is great comfort in knowing that God knows whatever is going on in our present lives. He knows it all.
I don’t know what your new year resolutions are or if you have any, but I encourage you to have what Franklin Covey refers to as “winning the daily private victory” by meditating and reading God’s word.
Hannah Spruijt, contributor of today’s post
I’ll be honest, I am not a big fan of this time of the year. The endless grey dreariness gets me down, and I don’t much like going out in the cold. The bright twinkly lights of Christmas feel far in the past, despite January having only just begun! However, it struck me this week, that despite my ‘poor me’ feelings, the message of Christmas is still well and truly here if I would just focus my heart on it.
As I was reading Titus 2, verse 11 stood out to me; “For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people” (NLT). My first thought was Christmas! Jesus, our salvation bringer, revealed to us by piercing the darkness of a cold night in Bethlehem. The Christmas message that warms my heart as I ponder on it through December, is STILL there to be found in gloomy January!
We are reading through the New Testament in a year with our life group this year; one chapter a day. Yesterday whilst reading Matthew 2, verse 10 spoke to my heart. “When they (the Magi) saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (ESV). The Magi, who had travelled SO far and for SO long must have indeed been thrilled by the sight of the star leading them to their final destination. And yet they didn’t even know the full story that we know now… How that baby-King would one day die a cruel death on a cross, bearing the punishment of the sins of all people in order to bring them back into a right relationship with the Father God. How that baby-King would triumph over death, making the hope of eternity with him a possibility for those who would believe and trust in him. And how that baby-King will one day come again, not as a baby but as majestic Ruler of All, bringing justice and ushering in his kingdom. But WE KNOW! As Paul said to Titus, the grace of God has been REVEALED! It has been enough to make my heart rejoice all over again. And when I am tempted to (or give in to) despair and gloom, I have made it my arrow-prayer to say “Father I choose to rejoice right now that…” and fill the blank with truths like:
You have revealed Jesus to us
Jesus has brought salvation to messed-up me
I am loved by the Creator of the universe
I am redeemed
I am being sanctified (made holy)
I will one day be with you forever…
Titus is full of truths I am able to use to fight back against the gloom! I pray that you too will be able to rejoice in the amazing truth that Titus 2:11 shows us; the grace of God has been revealed! Choose to fix your eyes on Jesus, our salvation-bringer, today and every day.
This prayer from Billy Graham, written for The Saturday Evening Post in 2008, is just as relevant more than a decade later.
Our Father and our God, as we stand at the beginning of this new year we confess our need of Your presence and Your guidance as we face the future.
We each have our hopes and expectations for the year that is ahead of us—but You alone know what it holds for us, and only You can give us the strength and the wisdom we will need to meet its challenges. So help us to humbly put our hands into Your hand, and to trust You and to seek Your will for our lives during this coming year.
In the midst of life’s uncertainties in the days ahead, assure us of the certainty of Your unchanging love.
In the midst of life’s inevitable disappointments and heartaches, help us to turn to You for the stability and comfort we will need.
In the midst of life’s temptations and the pull of our stubborn self-will, help us not to lose our way but to have the courage to do what is right in Your sight, regardless of the cost.
And in the midst of our daily preoccupations and pursuits, open our eyes to the sorrows and injustices of our hurting world, and help us to respond with compassion and sacrifice to those who are friendless and in need. May our constant prayer be that of the ancient Psalmist: “Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end” (Psalm 119:33).
We pray for our nation and its leaders during these difficult times, and for all those who are seeking to bring peace and justice to our dangerous and troubled world. We pray especially for Your protection on all those who serve in our armed forces, and we thank You for their commitment to defend our freedoms, even at the cost of their own lives. Be with their families also, and assure them of Your love and concern for them.
Bring our divided nation together, and give us a greater vision of what You would have us to be. Your Word reminds us that “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12).
As we look back over this past year we thank You for Your goodness to us—far beyond what we have deserved. May we never presume on Your past goodness or forget all Your mercies to us, but may they instead lead us to repentance, and to a new commitment to make You the foundation and center of our lives this year.
And so, our Father, we thank You for the promise and hope of this new year, and we look forward to it with expectancy and faith. This I ask in the name of our Lord and Savior, who by His death and resurrection has given us hope both for this world and the world to come.
© 2008 Saturday Evening Post Society. Reprinted with permission.