You’ve seen it on television . . . people on South Pacific islands celebrating the new year  first, then Australia, then New Zealand, and finally the big ball dropping in Times Square in New York City with thousands of people shouting the countdown from the number 10.  What really changes for YOU at that pivotal moment in time—at 12:01 a.m., January 1st?  Are you magically a brand-new person with all sorts of new dreams and plans for your future?  Do you suddenly change overnight?  Do some instant changes really happen inside you that make you a completely new person?  Do you go to bed after midnight hoping that you’ll dramatically awaken in a brand-new year full of hope and bright promises?  In some cases, that really happens . . . to a relatively few people.  But for most of us such changes in our lives occur very slowly over our lifetimes.

 

Choices and Decisions

 

          Yes, throughout each of our lifetimes changes usually come when we make small and large choices and decisions moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day, week by week, month by month, and year by year.  Most meaningful and lasting changes occur first in our spirits, then in our core beliefs and thoughts, then in our attitudes, and then in our behavior.  Meaningful and lasting changes begin on the inside of each of us and then work their way out into our outward actions and behavior.  Beware of anyone who tells you to change your behavior first and then change will work its way inside you.  Nope!  It doesn’t work that way.  Never has.  Never will.  And, of course, the best way to make such inner changes is by the power of God’s Holy Spirit Who lives inside us.  He is Jesus in his unbodied other form.  It’s a rare person who can make genuine, lasting changes in himself or herself without the inner power of God’s Holy Spirit.

 

Consequences

 

          I don’t want to insult your intelligence, but you do know, don’t you, that every decision and choice you make in life has consequences? The consequences may be good or bad, negative or positive, but there are consequences.  What types of choices and decisions have you already made at the very gateway of 2013?  They always . . . always . . . always . . . always have consequences.  Guaranteed.  A famous leader and army General named Joshua who lived about 3,500 years ago was faced with some tough decisions and choices at one point in his life.  Almost all the people he led and commanded seemed to be making wrong  choices to worship and serve dead gods and idols; Joshua knew what the dire consequences of such decisions would be.  He talked things over with his family and then proclaimed:  “As for me and my family, today we choose to serve only the one true and living God!”

 

 

          He was saying he and his family would not choose to serve dead gods and idols, they would not choose to follow what seemed to be the “popular” religious trends of that era.  They chose to love and serve God.  They chose to have an intimate relationship with the true and living God.  How about you—here at the beginning of 2013? Are you choosing to serve only yourself?  Are you choosing yourself, your family, your friends, your money, your “toys”?   Or are you making quality decisions to serve and love God foremost during 2013?

 

 

          Are you serving a “dead” religion or church?  Are you trying to impress God with how good you are?  Are you choosing to be one of those “holier-than-thou” religious hypocrites people around you talk about?  If so, you’re not fooling anyone but yourself; everyone around you knows what you’re really like.  It’s a matter of your choices and decisions . . . and their consequences.  You decide.  You choose. Realize every choice and decision you make throughout 2013 will have good or bad, positive or negative, consequences!

 

Who Is My Neighbor?

 

          Here we are in early 2013. Christmas is over and you don’t have even a dime left to give yourself even one gift. But you won’t need money for the gifts I’m writing about.  Jesus instructed us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Who are our neighbors?  Are they simply the people who live next door to us?  Or across the street?  The Bible defines “neighbor” as “someone who is close to me.” So . . . my neighbor is anyone who is close to me:  geographically, physically, spiritually, or relationally.  No, a neighbor is not necessarily the person who lives next door—but it can be.  A neighbor can even be someone who lives far away geographically, but close relationally.  For example, we have some close “neighbors” who live half a world and continent away in China and New York City.  A neighbor can be a family member, a friend far away, someone next door, a brother or sister anywhere in God’s worldwide family:  anyone who fits the Bible’s definition of “someone close to me.”

 

 

          Actually my point here is not so much who my neighbor is.  My point is we’re not to love our neighbors in place of ourselves, or instead of ourselves.  We’re to love them as we love ourselves—in the same manner and to the same degree we love ourselves.  Stop trying to avoid facing your self and not loving your self by attempting to love others in place of your self.  Until you honestly love and accept your self, any love you devote to others is diminished and even wasted sometimes.  Of course, you can love yourself only when you understand that God loves you with all his love, all his favor, all his grace just as you are—the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Your greatest gift you can give yourself in 2013 is to love and accept yourself in the same manner and to the same degree God loves you.  Love yourself “as is,” knowing you are a work in progress by God to fully restore you into his image over time.

 

The Image of God

 

          God’s image means you are a visible representation of the invisible God. Sin has marred and blurred and smudged God’s image in you, but He is in the lifelong process of restoring you into his clear image.  So . . . accept yourself just as God does.  Be easy on yourself.  Accept the mistakes you will make in 2013 as merely being stepping stones to future successes.  You’re not a failure.  Sure, you’ll fail many times in 2013, but you’re not a failure.

 

You Will Not Be A Failure in 2013

 

          People are not failures; failures are events which occur in our lives. No, we are not failures! Lighten up in 2013. Live a little. Laugh a little. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Give yourself the gift of loving yourself.  Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying: “Most people are just about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”  Also, why not try to learn once and for all in 2013 that God doesn’t depend on you alone to “defend” Him or defend the truth.  You are not his sole spokesperson on planet earth.  You’re not his only “defender of the faith.”  You’re not his only witness running around frantically trying to convince people to receive Jesus into their lives.

 

 

          Believe it or not, there are almost 8 billion people on planet earth who don’t even know you exist.  Yuh can’t win ‘em all!  God and Jesus are perfectly capable of drawing people into a vital relationship with themselves without you.  True, in Jesus, God has selected you to accomplish certain portions of his plans and purposes for all humankind, but you, personally, are not the savior of humankind, nor of your friends, nor of your family, nor of your neighbors.  God is the sole Savior of humankind through Jesus!  Take some walks this year.  Spend time with your family.  Skip a rock across a lake.  Hold a cat on your lap and pet it for a few moments.  Join hands and skip through a park with someone.  Another tip:  if you’re too busy as you enter 2013, unbusy yourself.  You cannot say “Yes” to God, to life, to your church, to your family, to your work, until you learn to say “No” to the unessentials. Always be careful not to be significantly engaged in that which is not significant!

 

 

          Learn to live in 2013 on a “choose to” or “want to” basic rather than on a “have to” basis.  You may engage in many good things, but remember the good is always the enemy of the best!  Turn your life around in 2013.  You have the inner power of the Holy Spirit to change key areas of your life.  Become a victor instead of a victim in 2013.  Be a power-full self-changer in 2013.

 

Change and Transformation in 2013

 

          Don’t make the mistake of expecting 2013 to have all the qualities of God in it, though. Learn to recognize the differences between God and life on this planet. Life is life. God is God. Don’t confuse the two. Life will not always be fair. Life will not always be good. Life will always be changing. Life will always be full of a certain amount of dis-stress.  But God is fair.  God is good.  God never changes.  God is serene and free of stress.  Learn to tap into God in 2013.  Learn to see that God filters all the events of your life through His love and grace for you.  Speaking of some of God’s qualities, try to learn once and for all during 2013 that, although God is always and ever good, not all the people He has created are good.  Yes, He has created us humans in his image, but some humans grossly distort that image.

 

 

          During 2013 learn that God’s goodness is often overshadowed by our own self-centered badness.  You can’t change the badness in others, but you can change it in you with the inner power of the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes it’s just our own mental and spiritual laziness that holds us back.  If you are created in God’s image (and you are!), and if you are “in Jesus” (and you are!), then you have tremendous inner power to change for the good in 2013.  Frankly, I grow weary of people who tell me they keep praying and praying for God to change them.  You’re wasting your time.  You need to change yourself with the inner power of the Holy Spirit.

 

          That’s why God has forgiven all your sin.  That’s why God has forgotten your old pre-Jesus life.  That’s why He has given you a new life in Jesus.  That’s why He lives inside you in the power of the Holy Spirit.  That’s why He has given you power to change yourself—the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is inside you right this moment as you enter 2013!  Yes, for 2013 give yourself a gift of a changed and transformed you.  You can’t change and transform yourself without the inner power of the Holy Spirit.  You’ll be doomed to disappointment without relying on his inner power.  Remember, that inner power comes from the Holy Spirit—the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead!

 

 

          If you will learn to rely upon the inner power of the Holy Spirit as you attempt to make changes in your life, I predict that 2013 will be the most successful and prosperous year of your life thus far.  Remember, the Bible defines “success” as “steadily and consistently moving toward accomplishing God’s plans and purposes for my life.  It is a journey, not a destination.”  “Prosperity” is “for me to have enough for my journey.”   Everything in all creation is always absolutely simultaneous to God.  Therefore, He has already “been” in all of 2013.  And He is there “now.”  Stay focused on God and build your relationship with Him as you make your journey through 2013.

 

 

          "I know what I’m doing.  I have 2013 all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.  When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.  When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.  Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.  I’ll turn things around for you in 2013.”    --God, Jeremiah 19: 11 – 14, paraphrased

 

 

To think about this month:

 

 

                   “I pray that the best I’ve experienced in my life during 2012 will be the worst I will experience throughout 2013!”

 

 

Bill Boylan

Life Enrichment Services, Inc

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