Summary: Communion Meditation for January 1, 2006

Well, it’s New Years Day 2006. Isn’t it hard to believe that six years have now passed since we welcomed the year 2000 and wondered if our computer systems were going to crash because of Y2K? But here we are, by God’s grace and love, entering another new year.

What kind of a year do you want 2006 to be for you? What kind of a year do you want 2006 to be for your family and friends? What kind of a year do you want it to be for your church?

A year ago, we began 2005 with a series on experiencing spiritual breakthroughs and I trust that you had some important spiritual breakthroughs in your life this past year. Not because I did a sermon series but because you sought God and can now look back and see progress and growth and change that has come from the Lord.

This year we begin our time together with a series that I pray will truly help each one of us grow in our faith and relationship with the Lord and in our relationships with others as well as with ourselves.

It is a Bible based (and I want to make that clear upfront) series using the 12 Steps, developed by Alcoholics Anonymous, as a set of guides for dealing with the ‘ruts’ in our lives. I am calling the series, ’12 Steps to a Better Life.’ Now (and I will remind us again next week) this is not a series about addiction to any one thing, but about how the pain, frustration, and powerlessness in those ‘ruts’ we all deal with from time to time can be dealt with through the power of God in our lives.

This morning, however, I want to prepare us for communion by reviewing our main text, which will also be a part of next week’s sermon. But first, some interesting items related to New Year’s resolutions.

Kimberly and Albrecht Powell recently listed the following top ten New Year’s resolutions on the website (Overhead 1)

Spend More Time with Family & Friends

Fit in Fitness

Tame the Bulge

Quit Smoking

Enjoy Life More

Quit Drinking

Get Out of Debt

Learn Something New

Help Others

Get Organized

Then at the website, (I’m serious! There is a website by that name!) there is this list of the following New Year’s Resolutions: (Overhead 2)

1. Lose weight

2. Stop smoking

3. Stick to a budget

4. Save or earn more money

5. Find a better job

6. Become more organized

7. Exercise more

8. Be more patient at work/with others

9. Eat better

10. Become a better person

Did you notice some similarities between the two lists?

Heath issues are present on both – weight loss, giving up smoking, etc.

Financial issues as well – debt reduction, budgeting one’s money

Personal enrichment also appears on both lists – become a better person, be more patient, help others, and learn something new.

These are great goals for 2006. In achieving them life can be better! Ah, the work of achievement – now there’s a challenge to our resolutions and the resolve to achieve our resolutions. I also found out some interesting things on the web about the resolve to achieve our New Year’s resolutions.

On the American Psychological Association website, an article by Sadie Dingfelder, in the January 2004 issue of the APA publication, Monitor, addresses the work of Dr. John Norcross from the University of Scranton, regarding the issue of what people do to successfully achieve New Year’s Resolutions and here are a few excerpts from the article of Norcross’ findings:

(I have to read the opening paragraph, first) ‘Lose weight, quit smoking and exercise regularly--these are America’s top three New Year’s resolutions, accounting for nearly three-fourths of the goals adults undertake Jan. 1, according to University of Scranton psychology professor John Norcross, PhD. "However, ’Get along with my mother-in-law’ comes up more often than you would expect," he muses.’

The study goes onto say, ‘While type of resolution, age and gender did not predict success, the successful resolution-makers employed strategies such as stimulus control--for example, avoiding a smoky bar after resolving to quit smoking--and reinforcement, or behaviorally contingent rewards. Unsuccessful participants tended to use what Norcross terms "consciousness-raising strategies." Some, for example, might have taped pictures of tar-blackened lungs to their office walls in an effort to kick the smoking habit. Additionally, Norcross found that self-efficacy, or the belief that one can effect and maintain change, also predicted resolution success.

So what have you resolved to do differently this year? Is it an achievable goal? Does it deal with character issues? Does it deal with spiritual issues?

Our main text for this morning may seem at first glance a downer of a text for New Year’s Day, but the human condition is the same this year as it was at 11:59:59 last night.

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