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IN THE CARPENTER’S WORKSHOP: A Christian new year

As a Christian pastor, it is hard for me to separate the call to new life for the individual from the call to new life for the church.  They are one and the same.  So as we take a look at the new year from a Christian perspective, we will see twin aims which apply to both.

Mark Twain, after looking around at the world for quite a while, wrote, “Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it.”  This certainly applies to the people who run our country, but also to us as people who are a part of the Christian faith, the greatest force in all of history.

Jesus calls us to leave our nets and follow him.  “He who puts his hand to the plow and looks back,” he says, “is not fit for the kingdom of God.”  Period.

So the call for the twins at the cusp of the new year is to look forward, onward and upward.  There are mountains to be climbed, miracles ready to happen, and new worlds to build.  This does not happen by looking back, whether things were good or bad in the past year.

Look not back on yesterday
So full of failure and regret
Look ahead and seek God’s way
All sin confessed you must forget. ~ Dennis DeHaan

It is also key for us that the focus of the near should be spiritual.  The physical always runs short, never fully satisfies.  “The object of a New Year,” writes G.K. Chesterton, “is not that we should have a new year.  It is that we should have a new soul.”

Here is the focus for those who are in charge and those who are at large.  God deeply desires for his people to grow in spiritual ways, for then they connect to him.  It didn’t work with Adam and Eve, but with Jesus it is possible.

Listen to the story an unnamed African Pastor nailed to his bedroom wall.

I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed.  I have Holy Spirit power.  The die has been cast.  I have stepped over the line.  The decision has been made.  I’m a disciple of His.  I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away or be still. 

My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure.  I’m finished with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colourless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap living and dwarfed goals. 

I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity.  I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded or rewarded.  I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, lift by prayer and labour by power. 

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way rough, my companions few, my guide reliable, my mission clear.  I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed.  I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. 

I won’t give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, preached up for the cause of Christ.  I am a disciple of Jesus.  I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops me.  And when He comes for His own, He will have no problems recognizing me — my banner will be clear.”

What a testimony!  What an inspiration for the new year and for all of life.  Pick one or two goals from his wall and put them on yours.  Better yet, write them on your heart.

Finally, dear twins, God wants us to recognize that the future has yet to be written, and that He wants to make history with us.  Together we shall write the words that others will read, as we speak for Jesus, live as today’s disciples and carry out the great commission of the church.  

“We will open the book,” says Edith Pierce.  “Its pages are blank.  We are going to put words on them ourselves.  The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”

We should close with a prayer, as all good times of worship do.  Jim Elliot says it well, as the church and her people walk confidently into the new year.

“I pray that the Lord might crown this year with His goodness and in the coming one give you a hallowed dare-devil spirit in lifting the biting sword of Truth, consuming you with a passion that is called by the cultured citizen of Christendom ‘fanaticism’, but known to God as that saintly madness that led His Son through bloody sweat and hot tears to agony on a rude Cross---and Glory!” 

To the cross!  And to Glory one day in heaven as well!