Monthly Archives: December 2009

New Year’s Day: A Time for Change?

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be remembered or come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17).

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:1-2).

These two passages are among the recommended readings for tonight from the Book of Common Prayer. These verses seem quite appropriate for an evening when the world focuses on transition.

Revelation 21 speaks of a time of transition in the cosmos. The world as we know it is superceded—perhaps overthrown—by the eternal millennial reign of Christ. Granted, that is a much more drastic transition than the one we celebrate tonight. For me, New Year’s Day is a day to change calendars; in the days to come, I look forward to remembering to write the correct year on checks. But, except for the last two numbers of the date, there is little substantial difference between December 31, 2009 and January 1, 2010.

However, we tend to make a big deal about New Year’s Day. People are willing to stand out in the freezing cold in Times Square (in a crushing throng, with little access to restrooms or other comforts) just to watch a ball drop. Every media outlet seems to have its “year in review” presentation. There will be a big change when Christ returns, but many of us seek to make a big deal when the clock strikes midnight tonight.

The greatest hope for real change on New Year’s Day is something that can become so trite, I have virtually given up on it: New Year’s resolutions. The change of calendars reminds us to reflect on our lives, see which direction we have been heading in, and change the course of our life where necessary. Personally, I have stopped making New Year’s resolutions. They simply become a reason for self-criticism by December 31. I cannot think of a New Year’s resolution that I have successfully accomplished. The closest I have come has been those years when I resolved not to make any New Year’s resolutions.

However, all the hype about New Year’s Day has forced me to look back at the last year. It has been a milestone year, when my family went through many changes. My son Daniel got married, and he and his wife Tanielle gave birth to my grandson, James. The family has grown. Some family has moved away. 2009 is a year that I will not soon forget.

Spiritually, it has been a time of transition as well. My involvement in the Brotherhood of St. Joseph has compelled me to a deeper commitment to prayer and to serving God by ministering to others. My relationship with Jesus Christ has taken on a new level of stability and consistency.

Now, if only my financial situation would improve as well! At least I have developed a new level of contentment.

I hope and pray that my spiritual life grows further in the coming year. I have enjoyed growth, but spiritual growth always seems to reveal areas in our lives that demand greater attention. The more you allow God’s light to shine on your life, the more hidden junk comes to your attention.

I can think of ways that my personal relationships can change in the coming year. I have some ideas for ways that I would like to eat better, or exercise more, or spend more quality time with my wife, or build relationships with my friends. As always, I want to devote more time to writing. I cannot merely look back at the past year, pat myself on the back for any improvements I see, and forget about it. There is still room to grow.

However, these are all things I have thought about throughout the year, and will have to actively pursue in the future. Most people blow their New Year’s resolutions by the end of January, and then make the same ones the following December.

Lasting change only comes when we make a daily commitment to it. Speaking of the hope of Christ’s return, St. John wrote, “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3). January 1, 2010 will arrive about two-and-a-half hours after I post this online, and will dissolve into history 24 hours later. The hope of eternity with Christ lasts forever, and provides a lasting incentive for real transformation in our lives. I hope and trust that, as I yield my life more to His Lordship, He will mold me to be the man he wants me to be.

Categories: Bible meditations, Spiritual reflections | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Reflections on the Feast of St. Stephen

It is a little odd that the church calendar has the Feast of St. Stephen on December 26, immediately after Christmas Day. One day, we celebrate the birth of our Savior; it has become THE fun day on the church calendar, especially in terms of how we celebrate it in our society.

The very next day, the church commemorates its first martyr. Talk about contrast: birth, immediately followed by death; shepherds rejoicing in the Good News, followed immediately by religious leaders violently rejecting it.

St. Stephen appears very briefly in the Bible. He is introduced in Acts 6, where he is listed among the first seven deacons of the church. By the end of chapter 7, he is gone: killed by a barrage of stones hurled by an angry mob. This is not the sort of life that we usually celebrate in our society. Modern society would view him as a failure and a loser. In God’s eyes, though, Stephen is a hero of the faith. He is a role model for all believers.

As I read through the account about Stephen, I noticed a few key traits that are ascribed to him:

  • He was “of good repute” (one of the requirements for the office of deacon; Acts 6:3)
  • He was “full of the Spirit.” The Bible actually describes him this way three times (Acts 6:3, 5; 7:55).
  • He was “full of wisdom” (6:3)
  • He was “full of faith” (6:5)
  • He was “full of grace” (6:8 and 7:60)
  • He was “full of power” (6:8); the Bible mentions that he performed “great wonders and signs” among the people. He had the gifting to perform miracles (perhaps healing). It seems as though he had all the skills, gifts, and qualities necessary to be one of the 12 apostles, but not the same office as them.
  • He was a man of incredible boldness. Read Acts 7:1-53 to see how a man should preach the Gospel to an angry crowd. He did not mince words or beat around the bush. He said what people needed to hear, not what they wanted to hear.

I am especially impressed with three other observations about this man.

First, we see no greater example of him being “full of grace” than his dying words. His last words in this world were, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60). With his dying breath, he forgave his killers, just as Jesus had done previously.

Second, the Bible mentions, in passing, that “Saul approved of (Stephen’s) execution” (Acts 8:1). As we read further in Acts, we find this man Saul spearheading a persecution program designed to snuff out the church. Saul eventually converted to Christianity, and he is better known to us as St. Paul, writer of nearly half of the New Testament, the apostle to the Gentiles. I cannot help but wonder what impact Stephen’s dying proclamation of forgiveness had on Saul.

Finally, just before he was executed, he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55). Just a little observation: Elsewhere, we read that Jesus is seated, not standing, at the right hand of God. I read a devotional that suggests that Jesus sat at the right hand of God, but stood up to welcome Stephen into heaven [Northumbria Community, Celtic Daily Prayer (HarperCollins, New York, 2002)].

I admit that I am in no rush to be executed. However, I hope and pray that I can develop more of the character that St. Stephen exhibited. In terms of pages in the Bible, he is a minor character. Yet, his impact is significant. Likewise, even though most of us will never be the subject of an hourlong episode of A&E’s Biography, we can still make a major impact on our community.

Categories: Bible meditations | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Hello world!

ProfileI have decided to move my blogging and online publishing work to WordPress. It seems to be one of the better blog sites, in terms of visibility and all that jazz.

In the weeks to come, I will begin posting my thoughts about a number of things: particularly, what is going on in the world, and what I believe God is revealing to me as I pray and meditate on His Word. For the latter, I am inviting my friends and others to join me on my spiritual journey.

Keep coming back and share your thoughts with me. Take care and may God bless.

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