Summary: In this new year, we need to focus on: 1. Personal development. 2. Building relationships. 3. A life of service.

One of the positive effects of the recent tragedy our country experienced is that people appear to be shifting their priorities. People are centering their lives more on home and family rather than jobs and careers. We are looking again at the value of relationships, and even our relationship with God. We are thinking more about the big picture. Many are spending more time with their loved ones, according to a recent Gallup poll. There is hope that we are becoming less materialistic an self-absorbed. It is one of the good things that has come out of a very bad situation.

It is always interesting to hear what people are making resolutions about as the new year begins. Ann Landers has made some good suggestions in her column. She writes, “Call up a forgotten friend. Drop an old grudge, and replace it with some pleasant memories. . . . Free yourself of envy. . . . Resolve to stop magnifying small problems and shooting from the lip. . . . Lighten up. When you feel like blowing your top, ask yourself, ‘Will it matter in a week from today?’ Be optimistic. . . . Read something uplifting. Deep-six the trash. . . . Walk tall, and smile more. . . . Don’t be afraid to say, ‘I love you.’”

Some other resolutions I read are a little less serious. “I have resolved not to do drugs anymore, because I get the same effect just standing up really fast.” “I have resolved to live in my own little world, because at least they know me here.” “I have resolved to stay married, because it is so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.” “I have resolved to not make any resolutions, because nobody is perfect. I’m a nobody, therefore I’m perfect.”

I even ran across a place on the Internet where you can make your new year’s resolutions online, and they will email you a monthly reminder of what your resolutions were — as if anybody wanted to know after the first month. It is called But what I found interesting was seeing what resolutions people were making for 2002. Not surprisingly, exercise and dieting toped the list. Also near the top were things like becoming a better person and a better spouse. But the one that caught my attention was the one that said, “Find Dreams.” People have dreams and they want to live them out. You might interpret that as wanting to live in a fantasy world, but I believe people have real dreams and it is important to reach for them. The problem is that dreams don’t just happen — you make them happen — and it takes work and sacrifice.

How can we move beyond just making resolutions and begin creating solutions for our lives? We do it by working on the core issues of our lives instead of just making cosmetic changes. We have to go to beyond the symptoms to the source of our problems. Losing weight may only be a symptom of the core issue of a lack of self-control in your life — around which there may be many other symptoms. Perhaps you are using food to sedate yourself. Controlling your drinking may only be a symptom of the fact that you are looking for something to deaden the pain and disappointment in your life, instead of finding your comfort and strength in God. Controlling your anger may only be a symptom of a deeper need you have to control life and the people in it with your rage. We focus on the core issues rather than the presenting problem.

This morning I would suggest three areas on which to place our focus. The first is: We focus on personal development. I am talking about something more here than running out and getting yourself a new ab exerciser so you can get ribbed. You can be the perfect weight and have a perfect body, and still miss the point of what it means to be a human being. You can read all the self-improvement books on the shelves of Barnes and Noble, and still be out of control. You can be the best educated person in the world, and still be clueless about how to live life. You might know a lot about a broad range of subjects, and still be ignorant when it comes to things that are ultimately and eternally important. You may have all the right investments and be set for life financially, but be bankrupt spiritually. On the other hand, you might be broke, out of shape, unattractive, in poor health and lucky to have graduated from the sixth grade, but you are in touch with things that have ultimate meaning. You are investing your life in eternity. You have joy because you understand your importance to God. You have accepted life for what it is and stopped demanding it be something different. You have learned to forgive. You have learned how to love imperfect people and live in an imperfect world. You have grown in your knowledge of God through reading his Word. You talk to him on a daily basis. There is joy in your life, and a peace that the circumstances of the world cannot take away, because your life is inseparably linked to the eternal God who holds your life in his hands. You trust him. You are conscious of his presence through the day. You want to do his will because of a love for him that has possessed your heart.

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Ray Pickett

commented on Dec 8, 2009

The story behind the hymn "Amazing Grace" - insightful and inspiring.

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