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resolved

person-woman-sitting-old

How many of us actually expect to keep them? I think the success rate, at least according to the internet (and everything out here is true), is roughly around 8%. Yet every time a New Year rolls around we find our selves resolving to be better. Whether it is kicking a bad habit, losing weight, becoming more healthy, etc., it is almost a rite of passage into a new year to resolve to augment our behavior in some way that will make us better. Somehow the idea of a fresh start is just the spark we need to radically alter who we were just yesterday…kind of sounds silly in print. And yet I find myself wanting to be a part of the crowd when it comes to self-improvement. But one resolution has always plagued me a bit.  It goes like this; “I resolve to draw closer to God.”

Now at face value this is a great resolution. Who wouldn’t want to draw closer to God? I know I do. I think the problem is how we go about it. We think somehow that drawing closer to God is something that is achieved on an individual level. As if he can only be encountered in my resolve to be personally accountable to His presence. And although I realize that we need time alone with God I believe that if we want to draw closer to God it looks a little different. Frank Weston, the one time Bishop of Zanzibar in the Anglican church wrote the following more than a hundred years ago:

You cannot claim to worship Jesus in the tabernacle if you do not pity Jesus in the slum. … It is folly, it is madness, to suppose that you can worship Jesus in the Sacrament and Jesus on the throne of glory, when you are sweating Him in the bodies and souls of His children. . . . You have your Mass, you have your altars, you have begun to get your tabernacles. Now go out into the highways and hedges, and look for Jesus in the ragged and the naked, in the oppressed and the sweated, in those who have lost hope, and in those who are struggling to make good. Look for Jesus in them; and, when you have found Him, gird yourself with His towel of fellowship and wash His feet in the person of His brethren.

Here is what I think I am trying to say. If you really want to resolve to draw closer to God this year then resolve to draw closer to the people He died for. By sharing God’s love and life with others we find a way to encounter God like never before. Jesus himself put it this way in Matthew 25:38-40 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’.” So by all means resolve to draw closer to God this year. It could be the greatest resolution you make. But be certain, it can never be done within the walls of your own safety and security. Rather it is only through reaching out in Christ’ love to those who haven’t been encountered yet for the Kingdom. Here you will truly draw closer to God.

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overload

Once upon a time it was just the newspaper. Then with the advent of radio everything changed. A few decades after that technology gave rise to the television. As the digital age grew we found ourselves with email, social media and the birth of the 24/7 inundation of headlines and bulletins from every corner of the globe in the ongoing pursuit of information and the need to stay currently aware. And all of a sudden we find ourselves in the thick of an ongoing exhaustive media stream and we have become overwhelmed. At any moment of any given day we can open our smart phones, computers, tablets, etc. and find some sort of an article, bulletin, or blog post that is sure to arouse feelings of anger, frustration, fear, paranoia, hatred, anxiety, etc. and leave us feeling overloaded. There is so much wrong in the world and we just want/need to set it right…

As Jesus was preparing to leave his disciples in the latter part of the book of John He gave them some last words of comfort. He knew that they were about to be overwhelmed by all that would take place in the next few days and so he issued a promise to them of the presence of the Holy Spirit and before He prayed over them He said this, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33. The Greek root behind the word for trouble in this passage is best defined as ‘pressing’ or ‘pressure’. Jesus was saying to His disciples and ultimately to us that this world will weigh in on you, pressing you, overloading you, overwhelming you…but take heart. I am leaving you with this promise of the presence of my Spirit so that you may have peace, harmony, in the midst of the overload. The last phrase in this passage refers to Jesus being Lord (overcome) over the kosmos. And although we translate that as world, it literally refers to everything there is.

So if you are like me during this turbulent time of knowing everything that happens in every corner of the planet thirty seconds after it happens you are probably feeling a little overwhelmed, overloaded. How can I make a difference in this world that is so chaotic? Do something with me for a moment. Take a deep breath…go ahead, I’ll wait. You feel that? It’s a gift from God. God has given you this moment. Maybe you can take it to hug a family member. Maybe you can use it to engage in conversation with a stranger. Maybe you might use it in intentional service to someone who is less fortunate than you. But however you use it may you take comfort in the fact that Jesus has given you His peace through the power of the Holy Spirit and we don’t have to give into the pressure that comes from the exhaustive amount of media that comes our way. God has called you to be His disciple right where you are. Now go, breathe deep in The Spirit and see how God will use you to bring the Kingdom of God in your own backyard.


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