Burn Your New Year’s Resolutions

Just stop.

You won’t keep them anyway. You’re wasting your time.

You know it. I know it. So just stop, all right.

Newness

I love newness. I cherish rebirth.

This time of year speaks of newness, of rebirth.

Like a Monday on steroids, the imminent new year beckons. I can scarcely imagine all that the Lord will accomplish.

He will change a life. He will save a soul. He will heal. He will make something ugly beautiful. He will use someone unworthy. He will turn something wicked into good. He will change a heart, mend a relationship, free someone from addiction.

How do I know these things. Because this is what He does.

The Bible states it; reality affirms it. I’ve seen it…in my own life and the lives of others. His sovereign hand moves in every facet of existence, constantly working all things according to the counsel of His good will.

My Resolutions

I’ve kept exactly two resolutions in my entire life.

In January 2005, I resolved to quit chewing tobacco.

As a can-a-day Copenhagen dipper for over 14 years, I became aware at some point that it was going to kill me. I began to have crusty white spots on my gums which I learned were likely leukoplakia, a precancerous condition.

I also began to have stomach issues.

I’d have a big ‘ol fatty in and then suddenly, I’d have to spit it out or I’d puke. Some kind of reaction with my stomach. Envision driving down the road, spitting into a coke bottle, and then having to get it out as quick as possibly, into the coke bottle with the narrow opening, without spilling it, without getting it on you, trying not to puke, and also, not to hit the car in front of you.

I’d throw in another immediately, as soon as my stomach settled.

As my quit date approached, I became depressed at the thought of life without Copenhagen. How could I live?

But I set it down, for good. January 7th, 2005. My wife quit smoking after 14 years the week prior. We both went cold turkey and we both stuck with it. It was hell, but we made it. And 13 years later, I’m still alive. It hasn’t killed me…yet, anyway.

That same year, my wife and I resolved to go to church.

I hadn’t been to church in my entire adult life, having fled the institution almost immediately after leaving home. Our oldest daughter had begun to drift a bit and we wanted the church to ‘fix’ her. Some good old fashioned church morality was just what she needed.

God had a much different plan.

We are still in church.

Some Guidance

You have anxiety, yes?

Maybe it’s not clinical yet, but you worry. You fret.

How are you going to pay your bills? Where will the money come from? Will your wife or your husband walk away? Will your children have it better than you? Will your car get you to work tomorrow without breaking down?

Will you ever have peace?

Right in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, the most famous sermon ever preached, in a section on anxiety, Jesus utters these words, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) Three times, He exhorts, “Do not be anxious.” Do not be anxious. Do not be anxious. Don’t worry about your life. Don’t worry about food or drink. Do not worry about what you will wear.

Tomorrow will have enough worry of its own and God already knows what you need…

…but seek first the kingdom of God.

Jesus well informs our priorities.

Our Priorities

Priorities drive resource allocation.

All of us have an internal set of priorities from which we apply our time, our money, our thoughts, our work, our emotional and intellectual energy. In fact, our resource allocation will often betray our publicly stated priorities.

Claim what you will, but where you spend your time and your money speaks volumes about your priorities.

New Year’s resolutions are an attempt on our behalf to realign our priorities in a manner that we deem to be more suitable. I’ve made the same ones as you.

I am going to get ripped, I mean really hit the gym hard this year.

I’m not going to eat any junk food or fast food.

I’m going to go home and throw away everything with sugar in it.

The whole 30!

I’m going to get out of debt.

I’m going to spend more time with my kids.

I’m going to read more.

I’m going to be happy.

I’m going to focus on me.

Maybe these are good things but you know what happens. Three weeks later, you’re sitting in front of YouTube one evening, watching stupid cat videos, scarfing an entire can of Pringles as quietly as possible so your kids won’t hit you up, while the t.v. puts them to sleep in the next room.

Wait, crap. That’s me.

Back to You

Let’s get back to you.

Get ripped, but does it matter? Maybe you’ll see an ab or two. Maybe you’ll hit a PR on a lift. Maybe you’ll finally look how you feel you ought to look in your favorite pair of jeans but does it matter? Does it have eternal significance?

Eat better. By all means, take better care of your body. Feed your children better food. Pursue health but understand the reality.

No matter how hard we try, our bodies will one day fail. Steadily we march to the grave, to our predetermined date with the Maker. We may arrive in better condition, but arrive we will.

Don’t be misled. We ought to be good stewards of our bodies as the temple of the Spirit. Our bodies carry our mouths that we might proclaim, our hands that we might work, but to what end?

Our money, our time, our resources: it all belongs to Him. We can accumulate. We can redistribute. We can save and save or spend and spend. Either way, though we may temporarily possess some things, they will all rust and decay and become as if they never existed.

Again I ask, to what end?

The harshest reality is this…no matter what you do, the second you die, the instant you are in the ground, the world will begin the process of forgetting all about you. Don’t believe me? Who was the richest man in your town forty years ago? Thirty years? The most popular? The most successful?

They are long since forgotten, erased from memory, a specter from the past.

A Worthy Resolution

But the kingdom of God, that is forever. That is eternity.

The King, King Jesus, He is forever. As is His grace, His mercy, His love.

As He ascended into Heaven and took His seat at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, He inaugurated His kingdom, assuming the throne over all things. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to Him, but all things are in subjection to Him.

His kingdom, the invisible kingdom of His majesty, advances across the world. It cannot be stopped. It will not be hindered. God’s purposes will be accomplished.

And one day, He will return in power and glory, visibly and it will be the most recognizable event in the history of the world. No man will doubt what has occurred. It will unmistakable, undeniable, both terrifying and awesome.

At that point, He will consummate His kingdom as He sets all things right and His people will rule with Him into eternity.

Won’t you seek after this, the kingdom.

Allow me to invite you.

Burn your New Year’s resolutions. Yes. Burn them. Write them down and then rip them to shreds and set them on fire.

This year, let us resolve boldly. Let us resolve to seek first the kingdom of God and really, to seek first the King, King Jesus.

Let us seek Him, pursue Him, strive after Him. Let us meditate on Him, dwell upon Him, think about Him. Let us preach and teach about Him. Let us study about Him, prayerfully, through the word of God that reveals to us the Word of God. Let us magnify Him. Let us worship Him. Let us praise Him. Let us know Him and let us follow Him.

Let us be resolute in this regard.

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford’s third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

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This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

FOLLOW THE 413!

An Easter Reflection: So Close to the Cross…So Far from the Christ

“Who do you say that I am?” – the most important question ever asked – Jesus inquired of his disciples after this query, “Who do people say that the Son of Man [Jesus] is?” He is John the Baptist or Elijah or Jeremiah or a prophet, all good answers, but remarkably insufficient. (Matthew 16:13-15) People flocked to Jesus. They sat and listened to him teach. They were healed by His very touch, yet so many missed the reality of who He was. They were like so many today, as I once was, so close to the cross…so far from the Christ.

I had a Pacman watch once. It was sweet and I know I’m dating myself but you do know who Pacman is, right? Well, happy as I could be, I’d sit alongside my parents in church every Sunday playing my Pacman watch, making sure to have the volume off, and I’m sure I set more than a few high scores.

I consider the eternal implications of what was taking place. A pastor with a right heart, I’m assuming, was in the pulpit exhorting the people with all he had, seeking to impress upon them the eternal realities of the risen Christ and here sat young Brad, oblivious and happy, consumed by the digital. So close to the cross…so far from the Christ.

Nearly two thousand years ago, at the behest of the religious authorities, Roman soldiers dragged a man to his death. Following a beating and a scourging, they forced this man to bear his own cross on a dreadful procession to a place called Golgotha where the soldiers nailed Him to a cross, and lifted Him up between two thieves. (Matthew 27:32-38)

After crucifying Jesus, the soldiers took his clothes – contrary to popular depictions, Jesus was likely crucified in the shame of his nakedness as was common to crucifixion – and divided them up into four parts, one for each soldier. But his tunic, an undergarment, was seamless and could not be divided so they said, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” (John 19:23-24a)

These four men, spattered with the Savior’s blood, sat in the shadow of the cross and gambled for the undergarment of the dying God-man. As God poured out His righteous fury and anger against the sin of men upon the Suffering Servant, as Jesus gasped His final breath and declared in finality, “It is finished,” He accomplished what had been promised so long ago. (Genesis 3:15) These soldiers sat nearby, oblivious and happy, consumed by consumption. So close to the cross…so far from the Christ.

On Ash Wednesday, February 25th, 2004, The Passion of the Christ opened in American theaters taking in over $80 million in one weekend. Depicting in shocking detail the violent final hours of Jesus’ dreadful march to the cross, the film went on to become the highest grossing R-rated movie ever. When it finally made it to the dollar theater, Ami and I decided to see what the fuss was all about.

So, one Saturday evening we shared the dank theater with literally one other person to view Mel Gibson’s epic drama. It was every bit as violent as we had heard. I’d read about the purported anti-Semitic themes and could see where they came from and after it was over, we literally sat there for a few minutes, quietly. I felt…absolutely nothing.

I knew, in my heart of hearts, I knew that I should feel something – sorrow, sadness, something – but I didn’t. I just sat there, numb, waiting for a feeling that never came. After a few minutes, Ami and I got up and quietly left. The notion of Jesus paying for the sin of anyone simply meant nothing to me…at that time.

Fast forward a decade and I can scarcely get through the opening scene without welling up and by the end of the film, if I make it that far, I’m an absolute wreck. What has changed? Why do the mere words of the old hymns stir my heart so deeply? Why can I scarcely sing, “He who was and is and is to come,” before being overcome? How has my survey of the cross turned to contemplation of the Christ?

I am what has changed or rather, what has been changed. The Holy Spirit quickened my heart that I might believe and believe I did. Now, as I stand in the shadow of the cross, as I ponder the crucified Lord, I may declare alongside Peter in response to the query,

“Who do you say that I am?”

“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

As the Christ, the Messiah, Jesus came as the Anointed One to set free the captives, to liberate the oppressed, to proclaim good news to the poor. (Luke 4) Previously, I viewed the cross from the chains of bondage. Though Christ had paid it all, I had not yet believed, and as such, His sacrifice had not yet been credited to my account. No matter how close I passed by the cross, it meant nothing.

Now though, the knowledge of the Holy, that the Author of all salvation had condescended to the flesh to die on my behalf, that I might be forgiven and set free from the law of sin and death, this knowledge consumes me. I could never again sit in the shadow of the cross and not acknowledge the Christ, the Son of the living God.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So many dwell in the shadow of the cross, maybe even gamble for the garments of the Christ, toying with religion, oblivious to the gravity of it all. So many shuffle aimlessly between distractions, lifelessly squandering precious time, ignoring the reality of a risen Savior.

Would you turn to Him today and believe and declare alongside all the saints, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” You’ll never see the cross the same again. This I promise.

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

FOLLOW THE 413!

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