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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Take 'er easy, there!

Mae West once said, "An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises."  We often find ourselves making all kinds of promises to ourselves, others, and even God as we enter into a new year.  These promises are filled with all kinds of grand schemes about how things will be different for us this year - complete with the plans to actually see them fulfilled in one manner or another.  Problems will rise though, obstacles will come - and these promises will blow away like chaff in the wind.  Why?  We lack the wherewithal to fulfill them ourselves. At best, we can give an "ounce of performance" and hope for God to take that "ounce of performance" and turn it into "pounds of progress"!

God cannot tell lies! And so his promises and vows are two things that can never be changed. We have run to God for safety. Now his promises should greatly encourage us to take hold of the hope that is right in front of us. (Hebrews 6:18 CEV)

We each have purpose in God's family - some of us might not fully appreciate what value we have yet, but nonetheless, we do have significant value in God's family.  That value is not determined by what we think we possess that will help us "be more valuable" in God's economy.  In fact, none of us can add value to our lives, for the most supreme value has been applied to our lives simply by the presence of Christ within!  Many of us think we must perform to obtain value - the opposite is quite true - value is declared and given by the actions of Christ on our behalf.  So, lest we think we cannot ever measure up to what we believe to be what makes us valuable or "worthy" in God's kingdom, think again.  

Now, let's get some things straight about these new year's promises or resolutions:

- At best, a promise we make is based on what we can do to fulfill that promise.  For example, if we promise to be home by 5 p.m. to meet with the child's teacher at 5:30 p.m., we are subject to a whole lot of things outside of our control.  The traffic and weather will influence our arrival time.  The readiness of the kids to be off to the sitter will also influence the ability of us to leave home in sufficient time to arrive at the teacher's classroom by the decided time.  There are things outside of our control impacting our ability to fulfill our promise to be there at the decided time.  At best, we can "manage" for the unknowns.  We can leave a little earlier, giving ourselves a little buffer of time.  We can avoid the "known" heavy traffic spots, detouring carefully to minimize delays.  We cannot count on the kids not having to use the restroom one last time before they are ready to go!  We cannot even count on finding a parking spot in the lot at the school, but we can build in "buffers" to come as close as possible to keeping the promise of arrival time.  "Buffers" are just those things we "build into" the equation to minimize the impact of things "crashing in upon themselves". Now, I don't know about you, but I don't think God wants us to build in buffers when it comes to our relationship with him.  In fact, he doesn't want anything to be "in the middle" of the connection we can make with him.  If we are to fulfill our promises to God, there needs to be nothing between those promises and his connection - in so doing, we ensure the ability to see those promises fulfilled.

- It is easy to make promises, but quite a different matter to keep them.  It is this simple truth which I think is declared in the scriptural warnings to beware of making vows to God which you neither possess the ability or the "stamina" to keep.  In other words, don't be too grandiose in your promises or intentions.  God is happy with "baby steps" in our obedience. He isn't looking for us to bound skyscrapers in a single leap here!  He is looking for us to point ourselves in the right direction and then begin taking steps.  I like to think of this as "integrated movement" toward obedience.  It is like adding one Lego block to another until we have a fully formed structure.  The pile of blocks remains until the last one is in place - but all along the way, the structure is being established which will support the adding of each block until the thing created is a thing of beauty.  This is how it is with obedience - it is a messy thing until it all comes together!  Yet, each "step" serves a purpose - you just may not realize it until you see the finished product!

So, as we leave behind one year and move toward the next, let us keep in mind the magnitude of our promises and the simplicity of trusting the one who has already made a way of fulfilling all promises through the presence of his Son with us on the journey.  We will be more willing to step forward if we allow him to draw us into his presence.  We will be more successful in our steps if we take them in a "measured" way.  Follow his plan and allow him to work it in you - there is no hurry in God's plan - for each step is ordered and purposeful!  Just sayin!