29 December 2013

New Year's Resolutions

Green Parakeet

{Photos of birds today, for no particular reason, except perhaps that I haven't had a chance to share them yet.  And birds just don't seem to forget--they don't resolve to wake up singing to their Master more often, or plan months in advance to migrate a week earlier.  They just do these things, on time, daily, yearly, always in a good rhythm...the sort of good daily rhythm my New Year's resolutions are usually geared to help me find.}

I had forgotten, until I picked up my Bible this morning and began studying the last Egyptian plague, the Passover, and that final moment of escape, that before the time of the Exodus, Israel and all his children counted the beginning of their years from a different month.

God told the people to eat the Passover supper dressed to the shoes, ready to get up and follow His lead out of the land of their bondage.  They couldn't possibly see what exactly deliverance held for them, but they needed to be ready for it nonetheless.

Their deliverance would forever be the new starting point in time for them, both personally and nationally as the people of God, always a reminder not of their own accomplishes or purposes, but of God's.  

His messages through Moses and Aaron.  His protection from plagues that fell only on Egyptians but not on God's people.  His mercy on their first born sons.  His miracles from the Red Sea to the manna to the water from the rock.  His laws to guide and govern their lives in place of Egyptian slave drivers.
Green Parakeets

Reading all these familiar things right before the beginning of a new year, a sort of meaningless and modern division of time where we nonetheless tend to take stalk of our lives and move in new directions, I began to see how my resolutions for 2014 need to take shape.

Rather than putting my focus on a cleaner kitchen, trying new recipes, honing in on making a better schedule for myself, or being more intentional about taking time for refreshing, which all put my focus on myself and my own efforts, my eyes need to look higher, to Jesus.

If I look back from this turning point we call the beginning of 2014, I need to look for Jesus--what He accomplished in my life leading me here, to what I experience now.

Were there blessings?  Were there clear points of guidance?  Were there miracles of changed hearts (my own, or others')?  Were there trials?  Did I grow in those trials?  Could I have grown even more in those trials?  Was Jesus with me during all the journeys of my life, my year?

I stand at the end of a year, at the brink of another one, and answer all those questions with a resounding YES. 

It makes me want to start the new year by documenting the things Jesus has done in the year prior, and all the years prior, facing every unknown of my future with the confidence built day by day, year by year, as I've watched Jesus take the trials and perplexities of my life and turn them to glory.

As much as my heart is encouraged by the memories of God's hand leading my life during 2013, I think there's a bigger picture, a wider plan in the whole history of the world, than just looking at what God has done for me personally.

Because I think this evening about God's people through history, delivered from Egypt, eventually led into Babylonian captivity, where Daniel both interpreted dreams and saw visions of his own.  

I think about Daniel 2, where Nebuchadnezzar sees a great image, starting with himself as the head of gold and moving down through the silver of Medo-Persia, the brass or bronze of Greece, the iron of Rome, the feet part of iron and part of clay, and the rock cut out without hands that breaks all the kingdoms of earth down to dust.  (See also Daniel 7 with the four beasts, and Daniel 8, which hones in more closely on Medo-Persia and Greece.)

I think of God's people returning to their own land, rebuilding Jerusalem and its temple, then backsliding once more until they sink to the level where they not only fail to recognize their longed-for Redeemer, but crucify Him.

I think of the early church, its zeal as well as its persecution, then the darkness of the middle ages where the common people were not allowed to have Bibles of their own.  After that, the light of the reformation shining on the pages of God's Word, when people began again to study its pages for themselves--and not to study it only, but to apply its truths to their individual and congregational lives.

It looks to me like we are right in the very edge of those feet, part of iron and part of clay, right on the edge of time before Jesus comes again and His kingdom--the rock cut out without hands--is the only and eternal kingdom.
We are not far from the last great events of the Bible, when Jesus will come to claim His faithful children.  My biggest desire for this new year is to live not only with a stronger faith in what God can do for me personally, but also with that great world-wide second coming informing my days and my choices.

On the night of Passover, the details of Israel's flight and future were yet unknown to them.  They simply clung to the promise of deliverance, wearing their traveling clothes in faith.

I can't look through 2014 knowing what trials and triumphs will come to me.  All I can do is look ahead, clinging to the promise of deliverance, seeking first His kingdom instead of my small and earth-sized goals, shoes on and ready to move at exactly the moment my Lord bids me to walk forward in faith.

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