2018 New Year’s Resolutions

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions because I don’t keep them. That does not mean I don’t need to make changes. I am not perfect. Although I have not set official New Year’s resolutions for several years, I am always setting goals for myself. Maybe this year I should turn those goals into resolutions and invite you to join me. Our goals (a.k.a. New Year’s Resolutions) for 2017 will look something like this:

  • I resolve to thank God often for making me a new creation through Jesus.
    (2 Corinthians 5:17)
    Christ came so that we could become new and improved.
  • I resolve to put off my old ways and to put on my new self—to act like the new creation I am.
    (Ephesians 4:22-24)
    This is not something that is forced upon us. We must resolve to put off our old selves and to put on a new self created in the likeness of God’s righteousness and holiness—the new and improved self. We must choose—resolve—to become new. This is the most important resolution we will ever make. I might want to lose weight, but until I choose to do it the weight won’t come off. I have to resolve to do it.
  • I resolve to embrace the new heart and new spirit God gave me.
    (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
    Our new God-given heart and spirit will help us to desire, recognize, and follow His Spirit. Just as a personal trainer helps me stay focused on my fitness goals, the Spirit of God within us will help us keep our resolution to put on a new self.
  • I resolve to follow God’s new command to love others.
    (John 13:34-35)
    Under this new covenant the commandments are thrown into a hat and stirred around; then, God puts in his hand and draws out a single word to summarize their essence—LOVE. We are commanded to have a deeper level of love in our lives as new creations. A love that will cause people to recognize the influence of Christ.
  • I resolve to keep my eyes focused on the new heaven and new earth where Righteousness Himself dwells.
    (2 Peter 3:13)
    Whenever we become frustrated or feel hope slipping away, we are to turn our eyes to eternity and refocus on what will be—a new heaven and a new earth where Righteousness lives.
  • I resolve to seek daily renewal in knowledge so that my life may reflect my Creator, in strength so that I may soar even during difficult times, and in mind so that I may discern God’s will.
    (2 Corinthians 4:16)
    Just as silver will tarnish if it is not polished every day, our newness can become dulled by life if we do not renew ourselves daily. This daily renewal can take several forms. First, our knowledge of the Creator is being continually renewed as we study and meditate on His word. (Colossians 3:9-10) And this knowledge reflects to others the image of the Creator. We need to daily grow in our knowledge of God in order to accurately reflect His image. Second, when we are waiting on (serving) the Lord, our strength for each day will also be renewed. (Isaiah 40:28-31) Finally, another area where we experience renewal is our minds. (Romans 12:2) As we put off our old selves and put on the new, we are transformed—our minds are renewed. We can think clearly—looking at God’s will with new eyes.
  • I resolve to testify to what God has done by singing the new song He placed in my heart.
    (Psalm 40:2-3)
    When we leave our old selves behind, we have a lot to sing about! You had better believe that if I reach my fitness goals, I will be singing the praises of my trainer. How much more should we sing the praises of Him who helps us become new creations? When we sing praises to God, others will see what He has done—our new song is a witness or testimony to God. God gives us a reason to sing. We need to sing our new song so others can see Him.

These resolutions are great, but they are only attainable because of Jesus. Something new has a price tag attached. The price of our newness was the blood of Christ. We prefer new over used in every other area of our lives. Why settle for anything less than the newness purchased as a gift by Christ? Why not join me in reaching for these 2017 New Year’s Resolutions?

 

Father,
Thank you for making us new creations through Jesus. Help us, Lord, in our resolve to put on our new selves—to act like the new creations you have made us. Thank you for the new heart and spirit you have placed within us. Father, when life wears us down, help us focus our eyes on the promise of a new heaven and a new earth where Your Righteousness lives. Renew us in knowledge as we daily meditate upon your word so that our lives reflect Your image. During difficult times, renew our strength so that we may soar above our circumstances. Renew our minds each day to recognize You and Your will. And, Lord, as we go through our days, may we each love others deeply, and may we each sing our new songs so that others will see You. Lord, thank You for making us new in Christ Jesus.
Amen.

The Gift

You know what I’m talking about. The gift you spent days looking for. When you found it you knew it was just right. You made your purchase and took it home. You got just the right paper and wrapped it up, put a ribbon on it, and placed it under the tree. You spent the remaining days until Christmas anticipating the excited reaction when it was unwrapped.

The day arrived. You placed your perfectly chosen and perfectly wrapped gift into the hands of your loved one. With eyes glowing they ripped off the wrapping paper and opened the box. With a look of disappointment, they pulled out your perfect gift. They thanked you politely and set it aside. Then, with excitement shining in their eyes, they reached for the box.

The perfect gift. They shoved it aside to play with the box.

I wonder if this is what God sees at Christmas. He has carefully prepared and presented His Gift–His Son. He’s placed Him within our reach, and we carelessly shove Him aside. We reach for the meaningless things of this world.

As Christmas approaches I challenge each one of us to hold on tightly to the gift itself. To remember, appreciate, and thank the Giver. To remember that all those trappings of the season–all those boxes under the tree–are worth nothing compared to that carefully chosen Gift. JESUS.

Tell Your Story.
Praise God.

There are parts of my story (like the what I share here) that I tell frequently because I’ve met many women who struggle with the same issues.

Over the past several weeks we met individuals who shared their God stories. As we did, I was struck by the similarities. In each case

→Someone had an encounter with Jesus causing a change in their circumstances, forgiveness of their sins, or hope for the future.

→They went (or were commanded to go) home. Their immediate concern was the people who knew them and would be able to see the change in their life. And, as with Legion telling his story among the ten cities, they even shared beyond their hometown.

→They told (and sometimes were specifically told to tell) what God had done for them. They were transparent enough to allow others to see where they were without Jesus and the difference He had made. They intentionally shared their stories. (If you need help with your story refer back to “How to Tell Your Story” by Cindy Stevens or my post, “Storytelling Rules” .)

→The result of telling their stories was amazement, questions about Jesus, praise to God, and more changed lives.

As our Tell Your Story series comes to a close, we’d love to hear from you.

•What impacted you the most from this series?
•Have you had an opportunity to share your story (formally or informally) with someone else?
•Has your story ever caused others to ask questions about Jesus, praise God, lead them to change, or offer them hope?

Unless you take up your story and give God credit for what He did for you and how He forgave you, the people you meet may never have the opportunity to be amazed by what God did, meet Him for themselves, or praise Him. Share your story!

First post in series: Tell Your Story.
Previous post in series: “I’m not going anywhere” -jesus

Go Home. Tell Your Story.

What would you do if Jesus saved you but wouldn’t let you travel with him or study at his feet?

Legion’s Encounter with Jesus

A legion was a Roman army unit containing several thousand soldiers. Legion had earn his nickname because he was possessed by so many demons that when Jesus sent them into a herd of pigs, the entire herd (about 2,000 pigs) rushed toward a lake and drowned. (Mark 5:1-20)

When the story of this miracle reached the surrounding area, people went to see for themselves if it was true. When they discovered a perfectly normal Legion sitting and talking with Jesus, “they were afraid” (Mark 5:15) and “began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.” (Mark 5:17) But Legion “begged to go with him.” (Mark 5:18)

The Command

As interesting as Legion’s story is, I am intrigued by what Jesus told him to do and how the people reacted when he did as he was told.

Jesus told Legion, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:19) After healing Legion—saving him—Jesus instructed him to return to where he lived before demon possession had caused him to live among the tombs AND to tell his family, former friends, and acquaintances—everyone back home—what Jesus had done for him and the mercy shown to him.

Obedience

Legion didn’t just return home to tell his story, he “began to tell in the Decapolis [the Ten Cities] how much Jesus had done for him.” (Mark 5:20)

Legion didn’t spend all his days studying about Jesus. All he knew was that Jesus had saved him. He didn’t just return home and sit in his living room sharing his story with those who happened to visit or attend Sunday worship services. He traveled the area surrounding his hometown and told whoever would listen what Jesus had done for him and about the saving mercy He had shown.

Jesus did not let Legion travel with Him, but He did give Legion something to do–go home and tell his story. He was to share what God had done. It can be much easier to study God’s Word than it is to share our stories, but telling others what God has done for us will help them see Him.

It can be much easier to study God’s Word than it is to share our stories, but telling others what God has done for us will help them see Him.

Amazed

Here’s the fascinating part: “And all the people were amazed.” (Mark 5:20) This man’s obedience in going and telling his story caused the people to be amazed. Our obedience to tell our stories has the potential to cause people to be amazed by God.

The Greek word used here for amazed is thaumázō.  It means to “…wonder at, be amazed… astonished out of one’s senses; awestruck… to regard with amazement, and with a suggestion of beginning to speculate on the matter.”[i]

By sharing his story Legion caused the people to be so struck with wonder that they couldn’t think straight. Amazed by the change in this man’s life, they began to speculate about the cause—about Jesus. Our stories can cause people to begin to think about Jesus.

Tell Your Story

Regardless of who God is asking us to go to, in order to accomplish the task, we must take that first step. We must go and tell our story—to cause people to sit up and take notice of the amazing change in our lives so they will wonder about Jesus.

Being transparent enough to tell our stories is difficult. We don’t want people to know our weaknesses, do we? But it is seeing God’s mercy through those weaknesses that will cause those around us amazement. Our stories are what cause people to wonder about Jesus. Like Legion, we need to go and tell others our stories, so they will notice God in us and be amazed by Him.

(As we explore how to Tell Your Story, each contributor will share a part of their God story with us. Trisha’s Story is here.)

Think about:

  • What has God done for you that would cause others to wonder about Jesus?
  • Where—to whom—should you personally go?
  • How can you share your story with that person or persons?
  • Do you spend so much time learning at the feet of Jesus that you do not tell others your story?

 

First post in series: Tell Your Story
Previous post in series: Who Touched Me?
Next post in series: Because of What You Say

 


[i]HELPS <http://biblesuite.com/greek/2296.htm>

Get Up. Take Your Mat.
Go Home.

When Jesus enters your story, you can’t keep quiet. Something within refuses to be still. Telling your story is a necessary part of your journey.

There once was a paralytic who received healing and forgiveness at the hands of Jesus, and he just couldn’t keep the good news to himself. Read his story in Luke 5:17-26.

The Paralytic’s Story

The crowd listening to Jesus and hoping for healing that day was so thick that a paralyzed man’s friends had to make a hole in the roof and lower their friend through it just so he could reach Jesus. Swaying on his mat as it was lowered to the ground, the paralyzed man was most certainly hoping for healing. He wanted to walk again. As his mat had come to rest directly in front of Jesus, his hopes must have been high.

Instead of healing the man, Jesus told him his sins were forgiven. As soon as those words were out of Jesus’ mouth, the Pharisees and teachers of the Law began to grumble among themselves, accusing Jesus of blasphemy–of claiming to be God–because only God can forgive sins. Jesus knew their thoughts and addressed their whispered accusations by saying (in essence), “I want you to know that I have the authority to forgive sins, so I’ll heal this man.”

So Jesus told the man lying there waiting for physical healing to get up, take his mat, and return home. Immediately, the man did as he was told. And he praised God on his way! As he headed home he told the people he met what Jesus had done for him–how Jesus had healed him AND forgiven his sins.

Reaction to the Story

This man’s story was witnessed by a crowd so large that his friends had been unable to carry him through the doors to see Jesus. The witnesses to this miracle AND the people this man told his story to were amazed by what Jesus had done. “Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe…” (Luke 5:26)

Telling Our Story

Our stories of what God has done for us and of how He has forgiven us have the potential to amaze people.

Our stories of what God has done for us and of how He has forgiven us have the potential to amaze people. Our stories can result in awe and praise directed to God. How?

Get Up – When the man got up, he was accepting the healing and forgiveness Jesus offered. Have you?

Take Your Mat – The mat he carried was the story of where he was before he met Jesus. Like this formerly paralyzed man, you need to take up your mat–the story of where you were without Jesus.

Go Home – Home represents the place you reside–your daily routine and the people who know you. Take your story with you every day and be prepared to share it.

Praise God – Share the story of where you were without Jesus and what He did for you as you walk through your daily routine. Give God the credit and honor He deserves.

Unless you take up your story and give God credit for what He did for you and how He forgave you, the people you meet will never have the opportunity to be amazed by your story and give praise to God. Give people the opportunity to be filled with awe. Share your story!

(As we explore how to Tell Your Story, each contributor will share a part of their God story with us. Here is Trisha’s Story.)

Think about it:

  • Get up! Have you accepted what Jesus did for you?
  • What is your mat (the place you were without Jesus)?
  • Where should you take your story?
  • How can you praise God as you carry your story along life’s way?

 

First post in series: Tell Your Story
Previous post in series: Storytelling Rules
Next post in series: Who Touched Me?

 

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.  www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™]

Always Be Prepared

 

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Storytelling Rules

Have you written your story, yet?

Do you know how? Do you know where to begin? Do you ever wish that someone would just tell you what to say or give you a format to follow?

If you don’t even know how to start, let me introduce you to a few of Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling. These rule were tweeted some time ago by Emma Coats, one of Pixar’s Story Artists.

One rule in particular is helpful as we explore ways to tell our story. Rule #4:

“Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.”

An example of using this to tell our God story would be:
Once I was living a destructive lifestyle. Every day I did the same sinful thing. One day someone told me the story of how they overcame the very same issue. Because of that I started to ask them questions about God. Because of that I began to go to church (or attend a Bible study). Until finally I accepted Jesus as my Savior (or God’s help to change). Praise God!

Getting started on writing out your God story is as easy as that. Can you see how your story could fit into the Pixar format? Of course this will be the bare bones version, an outline of sorts. Once you have that in place, you can add the details that make the story uniquely yours.

Some of Pixar’s other storytelling rules might also be helpful. Here are just a few:

Rule #5: “Simplify. Focus…Hop over detours.”

Rule #8: “Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect.”

Rule #14: “Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.”

There are many ways to tell your story. If you don’t know where to begin, this is a simple format to get started. Why don’t you spend some time this week thinking about your experiences with God and see if they fit into Pixar’s pattern of storytelling? You might be surprised by how many stories of God’s work in your life will fit into this format.

Anyone want to share their Pixar Rule #4 story lines? Don’t worry. You’ll be given the opportunity to share more details in a few weeks.

I’ll start:
There was a time when I was over-committed at church. Every time someone needed help, I was there. One day I burned out. Because of that, I began to struggle with questions about God. Because of that, I began to struggle with depression. Until finally, I shared with a friend who prayed for me. Then I gradually found healing, answers, and strength through the power of God. (To see the expanded version go to Trisha’s Story.)

Regardless of whether or not you are ready to share your story, I’d love to here your answer to Rule #14: “Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of?”

One caution: Remember to use “transparency with modesty” whenever you are deciding which details to share. While the person you are sharing with needs enough details to be able to understand your story, there is still the danger of “too much information.”

 

First post in series: Tell Your Story
Previous post in series: How to Tell Your Story
Next post in series: Get Up. Take Your Mat. Go Home.

 

To see Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling: https://www.aerogrammestudio.com/2013/03/07/pixars-22-rules-of-storytelling/

Tell Your Story

The entire Bible is the story of what God has done for us. The story of our need and of His mercy. The story of our salvation and the promise of a future hope. The truly amazing story of God.

If God uses the Bible to show himself to us, maybe we should consider using our stories to show Him to others.

I’ve asked some dear friends to help me explore the idea that our stories are what cause people to see Jesus and to wonder about Him. My friends and I will take turns for the next several weeks sharing stories from the Bible of people who met Jesus and sharing portions of our own stories.

Before we complete our series, Tell Your Story, we will help you discover how to tell your own story and give you an opportunity to share at least a part of it with us.

As you join us on this journey, begin to think about your personal God Story. I’m not talking about the story of your personal salvation moment, although that is certainly part of your story and may be what God wants you to tell. I’m talking about the parts of your life story that will show others what God has done for you. Maybe God helped you walk through a difficult time or illness. Maybe God provided for a particular need in an amazing way. The possibilities are just as many as there are people.

If you have walked with God for any length of time, you probably have many stories of God’s presence and work in your life. Which one does He want you to focus on during the next 6 weeks? Which one is He asking you to share during this process?

Every person has a story to tell. Our stories help people understand truths about God. Let’s share some stories!

 

Storytelling is not something we do. Storytelling is who we are, and there’s a storyteller in each of us. Your story can change the world. Let it out.

The Storyteller’s Secret, Carmine Gallo*

 

Next post in series: How to Tell Your Story

*Gallo, Carmine. The Storyteller’s Secret. St. Martin’s Press, New York. 2016,  229