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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...




New Year’s Revolution: God and You in 2011

Beyond your resolutions, you can experience real change

By Scott Harrup
Dec. 26, 2010

There was no falling ball in Times Square or rousing chorus of “Auld Lang Syne.” Clocks had yet to be invented, and midnight was a fuzzy concept. It was not even Dec. 31, but sometime in March or April. Still, it was one of the biggest New Year’s bashes in history.

More than 3,000 years ago, the Children of Israel celebrated their new year as they marched away from centuries of oppression in Egypt. By some estimates, 3 million slaves began new lives of freedom. It was the Exodus, and you can read all about it in the biblical book of the same name.

In delivering His people from Egypt, God established Passover as the opening celebration of the year. “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year,” God told Moses and Aaron (Exodus 12:2, NIV).

Since Israel would be following a lunar calendar, the celebration would not fall on the same date each year. The focus, however, was consistent and all-important no matter when Passover was celebrated. God had freed His people, and He invited them to enjoy their new lives in covenant relationship with Him.

New Year’s Day is a wonderful time to remember God’s invitation. It’s great to set personal goals for a new year, but all of our “clean slate” and self-improvement thinking can only take us so far. Our Heavenly Father wants to see us reach our greatest potential in Him.

A healthier and wealthier year
After the holidays’ festivities, it’s not hard to place diet and exercise near the top of a resolutions list. According to one poll, about 48 percent of American adults were likely to make New Year’s resolutions. The top three goals listed among poll participants were to lose weight, quit smoking and exercise more.

When you study Exodus and the other Mosaic books, you quickly discover God valued His people’s health. Beyond the Law’s spiritual significance, its guidelines promoted regular rest, high standards of cleanliness, and healthy eating. God was caring for His people physically even as He was guiding their worship.

As you set your sights on improving your health in 2011, do more than count your calories or renew your health club membership. Catch a larger vision of how God views your health. “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31). “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

The holidays also have a way of revealing our limited financial resources. After pulling out all the stops to give children and loved ones a special Christmas, we dread the credit card bills coming in the mail, not to mention the dawn of new tax deadlines.

God showed the Israelites He could shower them with wealth. When the Israelites left Egypt, their former masters urged them to accept gifts in order to hurry them on their way. “The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. ‘For otherwise,’ they said, ‘we will all die!’ ... The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians” (Exodus 12:33,35,36).

There was no shortage of treasure in the Israelite camp, but God wanted His people to learn to trust Him to meet their needs. As they journeyed through the wilderness, He provided their rations each day. “He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you” (Deuteronomy 8:16).

You may be enjoying a season of plenty. You may be enduring a job loss and financial reversal. Whatever your situation, commit your finances to God in 2011. Honestly evaluate how obedient you have been with the monies He has already provided. Prayerfully dedicate all that you possess to the Kingdom, and watch as God comes through in your behalf. “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it’” (Malachi 3:10).

A more loving year
For many of us, New Year’s means taking stock of our relationships. Why else would “Auld Lang Syne” begin, “Should old acquaintance be forgot ...”? Perhaps the past year saw strain in a marriage, tension between a parent and child, or the breakdown of a friendship.

The Israelites carried their share of emotional baggage. Slavery and oppression had been their lot for generations. Traveling to Canaan on foot, the rigors of the journey would only aggravate the tendency to complain or become embittered. Scripture records plenty of instances when discouragement, anger and rebellion took root in the camp.

But God had a different plan for how His people were to live. Regardless of daily challenges, He wanted them to demonstrate His love among themselves and even to strangers. “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:18). “The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34).

In the New Testament, Jesus clearly connected loving God with loving others (Matthew 22:37-39). He pointed back to the very guidelines for life God had established during Israel’s wilderness journey. If you see some cracks in your network of human relationships and are determined to mend them, make your relationship with God your first priority this coming year.

A holier year
During the Israelites’ years of slavery, the people were oppressed spiritually as well as physically. Egypt was an idolatrous nation, and much of the idolatry that would plague God’s people throughout their history could be traced back to their years of servitude. A generation after Moses, Joshua would exhort the people who were settling in Canaan: “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14).

Most of us, particularly in Western cultures, aren’t tempted to bow down to an idol. But there are plenty of lesser idols that can get in the way just as soon as we determine to follow God more closely. If your resolution is to study your Bible every day, count on an array of interruptions and diversions to vie for that time slot. The same holds true if you really believe 2011 needs to be a year of increased prayer or faithful church attendance and ministry participation.

But don’t let the challenges stop you from making those resolutions. Yes, you’ll miss your target time and time again. Keep pursuing those goals. And here’s a wonderful truth: Your resolutions don’t need to depend on you alone. God has a plan for you this coming year. He wants to make that plan a reality if you will open your life to Him.

Jesus makes it possible
God’s Son, Jesus Christ, is the crux of the divine plan for anyone who desires a life-changing relationship with their Creator. Interestingly, it was another “new year,” another Passover, when Jesus gave His life so we could come to God in faith and experience complete renewal.

The Israelites ate their unleavened bread that first Passover anticipating freedom from their Egyptian masters and the promise of a new home in Canaan. As the writer of Hebrews later expressed it: “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:39,40).

As Jesus shared the Passover meal with His disciples, He explained that He was doing more than bringing freedom in this life. He was preparing for a day when all children of God will be joined with Him for eternity.

“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom’” (Matthew 26:26-29).

Thanks to Jesus, the seeds of that future eternal life can begin for you today. Thanks to Jesus, you can come to God in faith and allow Him to make 2011 the best year of your life.

Will you take that step?


SCOTT HARRUP is managing editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

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