Tag Archives: grace

New Year’s Resolution or Grace Revolution?

There is a pretty easy explanation as to why the vast majority of New Year’s resolutions don’t make it past the fifth of January. It’s because for most of them, they are unrealistic goals motivated by a desire for radical change in one’s life. And while radical change is not necessarily a bad thing, it becomes impossible when you are trying to fit that change into a one second window between 11:59:59 on December 31st and midnight on January 1st.

The typical New Year’s battle cry, things like “I’m going to lose 50 pounds this year” or “I’m going to be a better person this year” are indeed admirable goals and I am not saying for a second that we should not set them and move toward them. What usually happens though is that at the first sign of an obstacle moving towards these goals, most people fold up like a cheap tent and say “to heck with it!” We expect ourselves to change behaviors and positions that have probably been with us for many years and we literally expect it overnight. With the deck stacked so heavily and unfairly against us, it’s no wonder why the average New Year’s resolution does not last for more than a fortnight.

The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 6:14 that “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” The “law” under the Mosaic covenant, was and is a very unforgiving thing. Paul further talks about not knowing what sin is, if it had not been for the law itself. The same is true for us today.

There are two types of citizens in our world. Simply put, there are law-abiding citizens and non-law-abiding citizens – who we like to call, criminals. In order for a person to remain a law-abiding citizen, they must, well, obey all the laws. In order to become a criminal, one only needs to break the law. So when we apply the “law” to the treatment of our New Year’s Resolutions, we are already setting ourselves up for failure. The Law is pass/fail.

You will make mistakes, hence the Grace.

Instead, we should approach January 1st from a different perspective. Yes, it’s a new year, new calendar and, it is as good a time as any to start fresh in many aspects of our lives. We should also realize that many of the bad habits we have did not develop overnight and to expect them to right themselves with the click of a clock is simply unrealistic.

Again the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 12:2, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The objective is to be transformed – past tense – but the process is by the renewing – present tense – of our minds. We will always to be in the process of renewal, less about a destination and more about destiny.

With this is mind, I call on all of you to trade in the New Year’s Resolution for the Grace Revolution. The Grace Revolution is based on a complete turning over (revolution) from one state to another, but through grace, not law. It means that we need to realize going in that we will make mistakes. Expect to fall off the wagon, if fact, plan on it; and don’t just plan on it, plan FOR it.

I have taught the Dave Ramsey “Financial Peace University” course over a dozen times and one of the many things I like about it is that he makes you budget for your mistakes. He calls it “blow” money – for when you blow it. This is the grace mentality.

It’s probably no wonder why budgets and diets perish early in our list of resolutions. We don’t budget for our failures, perhaps because they have such a stigma attached to them. Yet when you look at truly successful people, you will realize that they all hold the “2,000 ways not to make a light bulb” philosophy close to them. This tenacious spirit will invariably lead to success.

So, plan for your mismanaging of the budget. Cut yourself some slack when your temperature rises a few times in traffic. Allow for habits to develop. Schedule your feasts!

Aim low and short, take baby steps and realize that some of those will be backwards. If you do this day by day, perhaps hour by hour, you will have the privilege of looking up one fine day and realizing that those distant goals that seemed so far off are within arm’s reach after all.

All children skin their knees, some of us more than others. Regardless, they all have one thing in common – they grow. That growing cannot be rushed, only time will cultivate your harvest. So, instead of being frustrated over what you may see as a lack of progress, enjoy the journey and, I bet by this time next year, many of those seemingly insurmountable mountains will have indeed been removed and cast into the sea!

To all: Happy New Year.

Turn Away from Ungratefulness Toward Prosperity

An ungrateful heart leads to bitterness and failure. Our Founding Fathers understood this.  They also understood that America and the hope she offers were no accident.  They believed that Divine Providence was responsible for the formation of a country where freedom and individual responsibility were valued and rewarded above all else.  In the very first Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation, President George Washington declared Americans must give thanks “That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks – for his kind care and protection of the People of this country” and also “that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions”

In his Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863, the first of a now unbroken string of Presidential Proclamations, Abraham Lincoln said: “And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged.”

Both of these great men understood the importance of a grateful heart.  It is gratefulness that allows us to acknowledge the blessings around us.  It is gratefulness that encourages us to stop for a moment and take account of the grace and blessings that have been bestowed upon us by our Almighty Creator.  It is gratefulness that prevents our hearts from turning to stone and rendering us incapable of compassion and progress.  Our ancestors felt so strongly about this that they saw fit to declare a national day of thanks, when we as citizens would join in one voice and sentiment to express gratefulness. However, these great men did not believe giving thanks as a nation was enough in and of itself. They felt  along with thanksgiving should come repentance.  Both Lincoln and Washington recognized that thanksgiving without self-examination was useless.  They called for national repentance as well. For those of you who don’t quite understand what repentance is, Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines it as “repent” as “to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life; to feel regret or contrition; to change one’s mind”.  Lincoln and Washington had both just led the nation through revolutionary and civil war.  They understood the importance of being grateful for the fine nation that resulted in both wars, but they also knew that much pain had been wrought upon the American people throughout.  They knew that in order to move forward not only did Americans need to thank, they also needed to forgive.

As we approach another Thanksgiving in this great country I wonder if we have forgotten how to be thankful as a nation.  Our cities are currently being overrun by the most ungrateful of citizens.  Unlike the tea party protests, Occupiers across the nation have not publicly declared one second of gratefulness or appreciation for all America has offered and continues to offer by way of comfort and security.  Their ungratefulness has exposed the hardest of hearts among these protesters. We have seen violent deaths, sexual assaults, batteries, cursing, yelling, vandalism, throwing of bodily fluids and a complete disregard for the welfare of average, working Americans and their property.  We have managed to raise an entire generation of ungrateful children and our nation is paying dearly for that.  Our children are throwing a temper tantrum.  Their ungrateful hearts (and many of ours) have turned to stone and the rest of us are witnessing the results, not only in their protests, but in the economy and general welfare of the country.  Perhaps its time to step back on this most uniquely American holiday and reflect on our hearts.  We have our troubles but we sill have so much to be thankful for when we look at the rest of the world.   We are free, and despite our many problems that is a special gift.  But we cannot end there.  Alongside our thankfulness this season let us remember the divisions that have always plagued us, and let us repent.  Let us recognize that we are all sinners; we have all hurt someone at some point.  We have wandered from our founding principles and God-given mandates.  We have come to believe we deserve all of our blessings.  We must turn away from that sense of entitlement, recognize it for the sin that it is, and move forward with grateful hearts.

I am no fool.  I know that there are many (far too many) Americans who see nothing wrong with wanting more while giving nothing.  There are many reading this right now who scoff at the idea that they need to apologize or ask forgiveness for anything.  But for those of us who see value in the idea of thankful repentance, our Founding Fathers saw fit to establish a national day of Thanksgiving.  They saw fit to give us the choice to be heard as a nation, to stand together, if only for one day.  Lets not waste that day and what it represents.  This Thanksgiving lets make the choice, as a nation, to turn  and say thank you; turn to our neighbors and say forgive me; turn to our God and say we repent – we turn away from ungratefulness of the past and toward the bounty of a thankful America.