The Best New Year’s Resolution

by Sandra Kay Chambers

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Joshua 1:8 NIV

Many people make New Year’s Resolutions, hoping to change their lives for the better in the coming year. However, according to research, while as many as 45 percent of Americans make resolutions, only 8 percent are successful in achieving their goals. The problem? Success or failure usually rests on self-will and self-discipline, which do not tend to get us very far.

In ancient times, New Year’s resolutions were about pleasing the gods. The ancient Babylonians are said to have been the first people to make New Year’s resolutions some 4,000 years ago. A similar practice occurred in ancient Rome where people made sacrifices to the deity Janus, with promises of good conduct for the coming year.

For early Christians, the first day of the new year became an occasion for thinking about one’s past mistakes and resolving to do and be better in the future. In 1740, the English clergyman John Wesley, founder of Methodism, created the Covenant Renewal Service, most commonly held on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. Also known as watch night services, they included readings from Scriptures and hymn singing, and served as a spiritual alternative to the raucous celebrations normally held to celebrate the coming of the new year. *

Whatever our perspective is on making New Year’s Resolutions, there’s really only one path to guarantee success in the coming year, and that is found in God’s Word. Joshua 1:8 outlines three commands toward that end.

Keep God’s Law on your lips. God’s Word is our daily food, and like the manna God provided for His people in the desert, it needs to be consumed daily. Whatever we speak or write needs to be grounded in God’s Truth, for only His Truth will minister to others and grant us success in the ministry He has entrusted to us. “I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread” (Job 23:12 NIV).

Meditate day and night on God’s Word. God’s Word is alive and active and breathes life into us each and every time we read and ponder it. As we come to God’s Word daily, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to teach us, encourage us, correct us, and guide us. “But His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law. He meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2 ESV).

Be careful to do everything that is written in it. Most of God’s promises in the Old Testament were conditional—if His people obeyed and did what He asked, then they received what was promised. This was a part of the covenant He had with them. As a nation, they were assured blessing when they were faithful to Him. “…Because you listen to these judgments and keep and do them, that the Lord your God will keep with you His covenant and His lovingkindness which He swore to your forefathers…You shall be blessed above all peoples…” (Deuteronomy 7:12, 14 NASB).

As individuals, keeping our hearts and minds centered on the Lord and His Word will enable us to ask within His will and in turn receive great blessing. Only through continual reliance upon the Holy Spirit —and not in our own determination and self-will—can we succeed in being faithful in the coming year. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”  John 15:7 NASB

*Info on the history of New Year’s resolutions by Sarah Pruitt, History in the Headlines (2015).

This article brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Helping Christians develop a creative and joyful prayer life is Sandra’s passion. She has served as Prayer Coordinator at two churches, leads small group Bible studies, speaks on the topic of  prayer, and teaches an online class at https://BeADisciple.com based on her book, Lord, It’s Boring in My Prayer Closet (How to Revitalize Your Prayer Life)available at Amazon athttps://a.co/iEkd8s0. You can follow Sandra on her author website at https://SandraKayChambers.com  and her prayer blog at https://PrayWaves.com.

Join the conversation: How important is God’s Word in your life?

God, Grace, and Gratitude

by Nancy Kay Grace

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7 NIV

A small, wooden plaque on my office shelf contains three words: God, Grace, and Gratitude.

When I saw it in the store, the simplicity of the message spoke to my heart. The three words remind me of the blessings God has freely given and guides my response to them. Let’s look at the interesting connection between those three words.

God. The “God of all grace” is one of the names given to God in scripture (1 Peter 5:10). God is the author of grace, freely given though we are undeserving. God’s greatest gift is the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. The blessings in daily life like family, sustenance, or even the next breath we take are also gifts given out of grace. I praise God for this amazing salvation and the daily outpouring of his grace gifts.

Grace. The word for grace in Greek is charis, meaning goodwill or favor. This is also the root word for charity, which is generosity and helpfulness shown especially toward the needy.

Charity is a free gift. We are in need of God’s free gift. Every day, I need connection with the Lord. God, the author of grace, generously gives us his favor as a free gift, not from anything you or I do.

Gratitude. It is interesting to note that the Greek word for gratitude is also charis. Our response to receiving grace from the Giver of grace is gratitude. The difference is that one charis (grace) flows from the Giver and the other charis (gratitude) is the response of the receiver. Grace flows from God to us; his blessings flow to us. We receive them with gratitude, the counterpart to grace.

God, grace, and gratitude are related words that spill into our lives. No matter what season in life you are experiencing, whether it’s a time of great blessing when things are going right or a time of distress when life overwhelms you, the God of all grace is present.

Thanksgiving is more than a season. When we begin and end every day with thankfulness, we gain a better perspective. Simple ways to live with overflowing thankfulness are to make a gratitude list and refer to it often, to thank others for their impact on you, and to thank God for the small and large grace-gifts in your life. Cultivating a heart of gratitude lifts our eyes to the expansive gift of God’s grace.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Nancy Kay Grace is the speaker and award-winning author of The Grace Impact, a devotional about God’s grace. Her website, blog, and GraceNotes newsletter sign-up are found at www.nancykaygrace.com. As a cancer survivor, she writes about hope, perseverance, and God’s grace. Nancy enjoys hugs from grandchildren, playing worship songs on piano, hiking, and travel.

Join the conversation: How does gratitude help your perspective?

How to Receive God’s Blessings

by Sheri Schofield

Last week, while scouting the mountains for new flowers, I spotted white irises growing in the middle of a wetland. Dressed in shorts, a summer shirt, and flip-flops, I’d come prepared to explore and take photos. So I parked the car and headed into the meadow. There was a stream running through the grass. I stepped into it and sank further than I’d expected. I suddenly found myself splashed liberally to the waist with muddy water that looked suspiciously like it was laced with cow manure. Hmm. Oh well, I thought. I have a plastic grocery bag. I can sit on it in the car until I’m finished hunting flowers. Why, I’m just getting started!

Interesting fact: Did you know that cow manure, if not removed from the skin in a timely manner, can cause a rash?

Let me tell you about a group of people who were liberally splashed with a form of spiritual manure which they did not wash off. It was the people of Israel after Moses rescued them from slavery in Egypt. God rescued them from Pharaoh through a spectacular demonstration of his power, sending plagues on Egypt until they released Israel from bondage. Shortly after their release, Pharaoh chased after them with his army, corralling them at the Red Sea.

The Israelis were terrified. “Moses! Why did you bring us out here to die? We could have stayed in Egypt and lived!” they complained.

But God had a plan. He divided the Red Sea, dried the earth with a wind, and had Moses lead them across to safety. When Pharaoh’s army chased after them, God brought the waters down on the Egyptian warriors in a spectacular crash and destroyed them.

You would think this would make a seriously gigantic impression on the Israelites! It did. For three whole days. Then they came to water in the desert, only to find it was bitter. Again, they whined and complained against Moses. Moses said, “You are complaining against God, not me.” God used Moses to miraculously fix the water, so they could drink it.

But the complaining was not over. It lasted forty days, all the way to Canaan, the land God had promised them. Moses sent spies into the land, and they came back with reports of great abundance. But there were also giants in the land, and they advised Israel not to try to enter; all except Caleb and Joshua, the spies who called on Israel to believe God.

Response? The Israelis tried to stone Moses and Aaron! God responded to their refusal to trust Him by making Israel wander in the wilderness for forty years until every adult from that generation, except for Caleb and Joshua were dead.*

Paul wrote, “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:19-23 NIV).

“Dissensions” and “factions” are synonyms for complaining, both against God and each other. A complaining spirit is a pollutant, like cow manure. It is a spirit of slavery. A spirit of trust will bring God’s blessings to our lives and wellness to our souls.

Hold onto the wonderful gifts God gives through the Holy Spirit! We must guard our hearts against complaining, and take a warning from Israel’s failure. Hold onto God’s joy!

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. Psalm 28:7 NIV

*These stories can be found in Exodus 4-15 and Numbers 13 & 14.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

sheri schofield

About the author: Award-winning author, illustrator, and Bible teacher Sheri Schofield ministers to children and their families through her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids. After serving Jesus through children’s ministries and personal evangelism for many years, she understands how to communicate God’s plan of salvation clearly to those who are seeking God.

Her first book on salvation, “The Prince and the Plan”, was designed specifically for children. But during COVID, Sheri sensed the need to also provide help for adults. Her new book for adults, “God? Where Are You?,” tells tells who God is, how we became separated from him, and what he is doing to bring us back to himself through Jesus. At the end of each chapter is a section called “Food For Thought”, which answers questions many unbelievers have, such as—If God is good, why do terrible things happen?—Is anyone too “bad” for God to want to rescue them from sin? This biblically based book is short and easy to read. 

Join the conversation: What spiritual pollutant do you need to wash off?