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Summary: In his letter to the Phillipians, Paul invites us to join him as he strives for Christian perfection. This is a good New Year Resolution for us. This sermon and its invitation launches a new sermon series exploring our ’postmodern’ times & how we can st

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Happy New Year! Only 4 hours and __minutes to go. I’m sure that most of us will be happy to see 2001 go and hope that 2002 will be a better year.

There has been some talk about New Year resolutions around the office these last days before the new year. I guess the talk of these new resolutions has been on my mind lately. Perhaps there is a stronger urge to make commitments to improve our personal lives and situations at times like these. I do believe many of us are looking forward to, may I even say yearn for, a new beginning this new year - 2002.

Maybe you haven’t been thinking of New Year resolutions at all. I hope when our time together comes to a close, I have gotten you to reconsider the idea. If you are thinking of making some New Year resolutions, I have found some information interesting for us to consider. Barna Research Corporation has summarized some of the year’s most intriguing findings. I believe these findings have some bearing on the changes (commitments) we intent to make for our life in the upcoming year. George Barna has identified them as the most Revealing, Controversial, Surprising, Challenging statistical results for 2001:

* Although Americans do not believe it is OK to engage in illegal activities of immoral and controversial content, Americans are comfortable legalizing activities of immoral and controversial content.

* Religious teaching or values minimally affect people’s moral choices. The major influences on decisions are expected outcomes of personal choices, minimizing conflict over the choices made, and parental values we have been taught.

* Among adults who have been married, Christians and non-Christians have essentially the same probability of divorce.

* At least three out of ten adults who identify themselves as Christians say that cohabitation, breaking the speed-limit or engaging in sexually-explicit material or actions are morally acceptable behaviors.

*Adults under the age of 35 were the least likely to have a biblical perspective or understanding of basic faith practices and biblical beliefs.

* 41% of adults who attend church services have not embraced Christ as their savior.

* Church membership is on the decline.

* Very few Christians are likely to read the Bible during the week.

* By the end of the decade, 50 million Americans will seek to have their spiritual experiences solely through the Internet rather than at a church. Upwards of 100 million Americans will rely upon the Internet to deliver some aspects of their religious experience.

* Although 0ne-third of all Church members claim to tithe their income, only 12% actually do so.

* Financial support of churches dropped substantially between 1998 and 2000- and will likely decline again this year, as a result of changed giving patterns related to the

9-11 attacks.

*Just half of all home schooling parents identify themselves as Christians.

* Less than 5% of the nation’s churches have youth groups that attract 100 or more teenagers.

* Although attending church as a child increases the likelihood of a person attending as an adult, that affect is declining substantially.

* After the 9-11 attacks, religious activity surged, but within two months, virtually every spiritual indicator available suggested that things were back to pre-attack levels.

Barna comments on these findings:

“One of the greatest values of research is that it can identify myths we hold on to that often prevent us from seizing opportunities, or prevent us from responding appropriately to the world around us. The difficulty we sometimes have is coming to grips with a world that is rapidly changing and does not conform to the rules we believed were firmly entrenched.

“American culture as well as people’s faith is constantly changing. Assumptions need to be continually re-examined to asses their validity.

“Our society offers people a plethora of choices. Faith is just one component in people’s lives that helps them to interpret and cope with reality.”

I find these results and comments by Barna both sobering and alarming. It alarms me to believe people actually perceive faith as only ONE component in making serious life decisions. Yet I know that it is true. There is evidence of it surrounding me every day.

Craig Miller and Lia Icaza-Willett have this to say about the world we live in:

“As we enter the twenty-first century, we see a number of changes in our culture. Whether it has to do with family or the way we work, each culture shift affects our perspective and understanding of life.

“Change is a fact of live. Life itself is change. But what happens when a whole society undergoes a series of massive shifts?”

Its a question we could ask in examining our Bible lesson this evening. Paul certainly came from a world of massive shifts, personally, within his society and within his world.

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