It’s January 8 and I’ve already failed.

So how’s those New Year Resolutions coming along?

Me? I plead with Paul:

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want (like start exercising), but I do the very thing I hate (eat more donuts) . . . For I do not do the good I want (like pray more), but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing (like watching too much tv) . . . wrecthed man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death (that is prone to such weakness)? Romans 7:15b-19

Therefore, I take great comfort in what Tullian Tchividjian posted regarding an illustration of what it means to never stop trying to do better. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) journals his fight against sloth and to get up early in the morning to pray:

1738: He wrote, “Oh Lord, enable me to redeem the time which I have spent in sloth.”

1757: (19 years later) “Oh mighty God, enable me to shake off sloth and redeem the time misspent in idleness and sin by diligent application of the days yet remaining.”

1759: (2 years later) “Enable me to shake off idleness and sloth.”

1761: “I have resolved until I have resolved that I am afraid to resolve again.”

1764: “My indolence since my last reception of the sacrament has sunk into grossest sluggishness. My purpose is from this time to avoid idleness and to rise early.”

1764: (5 months later) He resolves to rise early, “not later than 6 if I can.”

1765: “I purpose to rise at 8 because, though, I shall not rise early it will be much earlier than I now rise for I often lie until 2.”

1769: “I am not yet in a state to form any resolutions. I purpose and hope to rise early in the morning, by 8, and by degrees, at 6.”

1775: “When I look back upon resolution of improvement and amendments which have, year after year, been made and broken, why do I yet try to resolve again? I try because reformation is necessary and despair is criminal.” He resolves again to rise at 8.

1781: (3 years before his death) “I will not despair, help me, help me, oh my God.” He resolves to rise at 8 or sooner to avoid idleness.

So Don’t give up. Tomorrow is January 9!

“Dear Church, Meet With Me,” – Jesus.

Kevin DeYoung is a pastor and author of whom I appreciate on various levels. Here is one of his most recent posts to his own church family. I too plead the same sentiment. He calls it, “The Scandal of the Semi-Churched.After I read this it seemed as if I could hear our Shepherd say, “Dear Church, Meet with me.”

“This is one of those posts I’ve wanted to write for awhile, but I wasn’t sure how to say what I think needs to be said. The danger of legalism and false guilt is very real. But so is the danger of disobedience and self-deception.

I want to talk about church members who attend their home church with great irregularity. These aren’t unchurched folks, or de-churched, or under-churched. They are semi-churched. They show up some of the time, but not every week. They are on again/off again, in and out, here on Sunday and gone for two. That’s the scandal of the semi-churched. In fact, Thom Rainer argues that the number one reason for the decline in church attendance is that church members don’t go to church as often as they used to.

We’ve had Christmas and Easter Christians for probably as long as we’ve had Christmas and Easter. Some people will always be intermittent with their church attendance. I’m not talking about nominal Christians who wander into church once or twice a year. I’m talking about people who went through the trouble of joining a church, like their church, have no particular beef with the church, and still only darken its doors once or twice a month. If there are churches with membership rolls much larger than their average Sunday attendance, they have either under-shepherds derelict in their duties, members faithless in theirs, or both.

I know we are the church and don’t go to church (blah, blah, blah), but being persnickety about our language doesn’t change the exhortation of Hebrews 10:25. We should not neglect to meet together, as some are in the habit of doing. Gathering every Lord’s Day with our church family is one of the pillars of mature Christianity.

So ask yourself a few questions.

1. Have you established church going as an inviolable habit in your family?You know how you wake up in the morning and think “maybe I’ll go on a run today” or “maybe I’ll make french toast this morning”? That’s not what church attendance should be like. It shouldn’t be an “if the mood feels right” proposition. I will always be thankful that my parents treated church attendance (morning and evening) as an immovable pattern. It wasn’t up for discussion. It wasn’t based on extenuating circumstances. It was never a maybe. We went to church. That’s what we did. That made the decision every Sunday a simple one, because their was no real decision. Except for desperate illness, we were going to show up. Giving your family the same kind of habit is a gift they won’t appreciate now, but will usually thank you for later.

2. Do you plan ahead on Saturday so you can make church a priority on Sunday? We are all busy people, so it can be hard to get to church, especially with a house full of kids. We will never make the most of our Sundays unless we prepare for them on Saturday. That likely means finishing homework, getting to bed on time, and foregoing some football. If church is an afterthought, you won’t think of it until after it’s too late.

3. Do you order your travel plans so as to minimize being gone from your church on Sunday? I don’t want to be legalistic with this question. I’ve traveled on Sunday before (though I try to avoid it). I take vacation and study leave and miss 8 or 9 Sundays at URC per year. I understand we live in a mobile culture. I understand people want to visit their kids and grandkids on the weekend (and boy am I thankful when ours come and visit). Gone are the days when people would be in town 50-52 weeks a year. Travel is too easy. Our families are too dispersed. But listen, this doesn’t mean we can’t make a real effort to be around on Sunday. You might want to take Friday off to go visit the kids so you can be back on Saturday night. You might want to think twice about investing in a second home that will draw you away from your church a dozen weekends every year. You might want to re-evaluate your assumption that Friday evening through Sunday evening are yours to do whatever you want wherever you want. It’s almost impossible to grow in love for your church and minister effectively in your church if you are regularly not there.

4. Are you willing to make sacrifices to gather with God’s people for worship every Sunday? “But you don’t expect me to cancel my plans for Saturday night, do you? I can’t possibly rearrange my work schedule. This job requires me to work every Sunday–I’d have to get a new job if I wanted to be regular at church. Sundays are my day to rewind. I won’t get all the yard work done if I go to church every week. My kids won’t be able to play soccer if we don’t go to Sunday games. If my homework is going to be done by Sunday, I won’t be able to chill out Friday night and all day Saturday. Surely God wouldn’t want me to sacrifice too much just so I can show up at church!” Not exactly the way of the cross, is it?

5. Have you considered that you may not be a Christian? Who knows how many people God saves “as through fire” (1 Cor. 3:15). Does going to church every week make you a Christian? Absolutely not. Does missing church 35 Sundays a year make you a non-Christian? It does beg the question. God’s people love to be with God’s people. They love to sing praises. They love to feast at the Table. They love to be fed from the Scriptures. Infrequent church attendance–I mean not going anywhere at all–is a sign of immaturity at best and unbelief at worst. For whenever God calls people out of darkness he calls them into the church. If the Sunday worship service is the community of the redeemed, what does your weekly pattern suggest to God about where you truly belong?

Have you entered the storehouses of the snow?


This is one of the questions that is posed by God to Job (38:22-23). Like the other questions, it is not given to send us to the lab and discover scientific data about snow. It is given to build trust in our hearts for God. Job did not understand the ways of God and thought that God was mishandling his life. When you suffer, you question – it’s natural to wonder what God is up to when you are hurting. You want to trust but it’s difficult when pain and loneliness is all you know.

Here is the full question:

“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow . . . which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war?”

God asks, “Job, are you capable of discerning all the ways that snow makes life hard . . . all the ways that snow has a threat upon the life of a man? Can you tell me how deep snow gets at the poles of the earth? Can you tell me how snow can break down a forest? Can you describe the solitude and suspension that snow can force upon an army, a city? How much snow can you gather up in your hand to cause an avalanche? Are you able to do as you please in a snowstorm? Do you not feel vulnerable and humbled by such majesty?”

God continues his strange comfort to suffering Job and to you (40:2ff),

“Dear Job, if you cannot fathom the mystery of snow then how can you possibly sit in judgment against me – The SnowMaker? I am just and good in all my ways. You are not suffering for no reason. You are not suffering because of your sin. You are not suffering because I am bored, or angry, or capricious. You are suffering because I am preparing something that only stress and hardship can produce – and you will see that it will be worth it. I have your future joy in mind as I am sending my very one and only to suffer in your place, so that your peace is forever secured. Job, trust me. Believe that the purpose of your suffering is complex, too wonderful for you (42:3), yet, strangely revealing my love for you. Believe that if I can send an avalanche of suffering upon my innocent Son to raise up unspeakable joy, then I know what I am doing with your life. Consider the snow . . . and trust me to use suffering in your life to produce eternal, astonishing fascination in your heart for my Son.”

Let’s Pray:

Heavenly Father, give peace and comfort to our hearts as we look to Jesus Christ who suffered on Calvary’s hill, who bled and died and was raised that we may come to know the God whose power and beauty is seen in snow. Instill a deep sense of awe and wonder as we quietly, silently, sit and wait for our final release from sin and death. As gently as you cover the earth with snow, spread your arms today over the hurting and the lonely, and make known the riches of Christ in many hearts. O gracious Father, make hearts as white as snow as you bestow the gift of repentance – cleansing them from sins. And keep us in perfect rest as we receive our daily supply of grace and mercies from your righteous and steady hand.

In Jesus’ name we gratefully pray, Amen.

Jesus’s New Year Resolution: To be the Same as He was Last Year

Unlike the cartoon, Jesus never needs to change. But like the cartoon, too often that is me. But to say that Jesus never changes can be both comforting and disconcerting. Comforting because you need Jesus to remain faithful to his promises; disconcerting because you feel that he let you down and you want him to step it up and do a little better this year. However you feel about Jesus’s character, scripture teaches that he is trustworthy, and that he does not improve as time goes by. Notice the context of that famous verse:

“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them” (Hebrews 13:7-9).

What surrounds the affirmation of Jesus’s consistency is faithful teaching of God’s Word by pastors who shepherd the flock with a faith that is worth imitating, and the heart’s wayward leaning into various teachings, appetites of the flesh, that draw you away from Christ. Jesus cannot be re-packaged into a new mold to accommodate your new desires. If you are resolved this year to become a wealthier person, and you think that Jesus died to make you wealthier just because a Sunday morning preacher on TV said so, think again. The book of Hebrews shows Christians getting poorer and poorer by the minute for following Christ and they are commended for their faith and encouraged to keep it up because it’s going to get worse, not better (10:32-39, chapter 11, and 13:3).

But if you are resolved this year to trust Christ even more than you did last year, because you found him faithful and true to his promises to never leave you nor forsake you (13:5-6), then you will not be wasting your time and effort. Go for it! – “It is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace . . . and not by _____________.”

Three Things:

1. What would you put on that empty line that too often was your source of strength last year? Foods. Sports. More Money. Revenge/Justice. A Healthy Body. Marriage. Pregnancy. What was it that was more of a refuge for your heart than Jesus? For some of the Hebrews, they were mixing Jesus into their dietary rules and rituals to feel good about their walk with the Lord and their lives, abstaining from one kind of food and indulging in another. But “comfort food” does not comfort/benefit the heart. It only makes you gain more weight and then leaves you feeling guilty for indulging, or prideful for abstaining. This year, press forward to make Jesus more and more your place of strength and not food.

2. Surround yourself with a pastor(s), and other believers, whose lives have a consistency in God’s Word. Watch them, listen to them . . . then imitate their walk of faith as much as it applies to your life. And keep in mind, someone is watching you too.

3. Jesus promises that if you take comfort in the fact that he will be the same for you this coming year, you will not be disappointed. The sermon to the Hebrews is about a pilgrimage to “the city whose builder and maker is God.” It is about a life of faith that perseveres to the end, strengthened in the heart by a High Priest, Jesus, that will preserve the heart’s loyalty to Christ until the day comes that you are “made perfect”  in the presence of Christ (11:40). Jesus is as reliable as the day is long. And some days in 2014 are going to be very long. Jesus will stay with you at your side every second of the way. Don’t quit. Look to Jesus – the founder and perfecter of your faith. You’re almost there. You’re almost home. Compared to eternity, this whole year is just a few more strides around the bend and you’ll cross the finish line, having given your all. By grace, you can do this!