STEP TWO: Think about Others.
Once you have identified some measurable goals in the spiritual column, you are ready to look at your relationships. After God, people come first – before profits, before self, and so on. If you are a married person, your spouse is your top consideration. Have you asked your spouse what resolutions they think you should consider making? “Honey, as you live with me and see every part of my life, what are some areas in which I could be more like Jesus?” You could have a conversation about some resolutions as a couple and resolutions specifically related to your marriage. In the New Year, we want to travel together on a mission trip. We want to learn something about each other every day this year. We want to read these books together. We want to tackle (or finally complete) this project together. We want to put the other spouse first every day by asking the question, “Can I do anything to serve you today?” How different would your marriage be at the end of the coming year if you were to put these ideas into your own context?
If you are not married, look at the relationships in your life – whether you are involved with someone or are happily single. Which relationships make your relationship with Christ easier and which make it more challenging? Is there anyone in your life who draws you away from Christ? Are you in a position to disciple that person? Are you likely to give in to them rather than move them toward Christ? There may be some relationships you are not supposed to bring into the New Year. Let them go tear someone else down. If they are not going to change, you can give them over to the Lord. Certainly, I am not talking about walking out of a marriage. I am someone who does not believe that divorce fits God’s intentions for the permanence of the marriage covenant. But people who are bad influences on you, if they are not going to change, should be marginalized in your life, so that you can soar with Christ in the new year.
The important thing here is that you are obeying Philippians 2:4, "Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others." Of course, if you are your family's breadwinner, you will have to earn an income, but that is part of what you do to love and serve your family and glorify God as a provider. The previous verse (Philippians 2:3) begins, "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition." So many times, our resolution making begins and ends with self and self alone. A biblical approach begins with God, then thinks about others, and puts self dead last.
STEP ONE: Start with Prayer.
Instead of sitting down with a pen and blank sheet of paper, and instead of settling into a super-relaxing yoga pose to dream big about the new year’s possibilities, begin with prayer. Start with asking God what He would have you to do in the New Year. What are His goals for you? The biblical basis for this comes, for one example, from Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” As a believer, your top priority is to bring glory to God. If you fill your schedule and goals with extras, no matter how good they may be, you risk not having time for the things of God – the things that are most important.
You may want to think back over the previous year. What were some areas where you experienced personal spiritual growth? If you cannot think of any, pick an area of focus in the New Year. Since all the Law hinges on the two great commandments – loving God and loving your neighbor, take a brief inventory. How did you do last year with loving God? How did you do with loving your neighbor? Regarding loving God – did you get back to in-person worship following the pandemic? Have you used the many crises with which our world is dealing to share your faith and give others hope? Have you set aside time each day to spend in personal worship with the Lord? With regard to loving your neighbors, were you more generous this past year than the year before? When opportunities to bless others came along, did you seize them? Do you put yourself last? The answers to these and other questions will bring you to a place of greater clarity where you can identify some measurable steps that you can take toward growth in these areas. You might resolve to share your Christian faith once a month, once a week, once a day. You might resolve to memorize a verse of Scripture a month. You might resolve to go on a short-term mission trip this coming year. What kingdom-building activities will you “seek first” in the New Year? You may ask your church leaders what you can do to serve within the church. Church leaders always have many suggestions for ways that you can show your community the love of Jesus.
Start here – before your physical fitness goals, before you financial and wealth-building goals, before your relationship and social goals, start here.
Step Two: Click here.
Step Three: Click here.
Luke 1:26-38 describes a scene where the angel Gabriel appeared to the virgin Mary and made the well-known announcement that she had been selected by God to be the mother of the Christ. The Christmas season is the most common time that we see depictions of angels everywhere - on Christmas cards, ornaments, decorations, and more. While we never want to go to the extreme of worshiping angels (Colossians 2:18), it can be helpful to assimilate what God has revealed in His Word about them to perfect our understanding of Scripture's message. I have always understood Gabriel's role as being the messenger of God, but studying the occurrences of his name in Scripture this year brought that understanding more into focus. The nature of his messages each time he is named in Scripture has to do with Messiah and His mission. Let's review these together.
There are four times the angel Gabriel is named in Scripture: Daniel 8:16, Daniel 9:21, Luke 1:19, and Luke 1:26.
Daniel 8:16. In the passage that follows this verse, the angel Gabriel makes the prophet Daniel to understand an end time vision. Antichrist will be mighty but not by his own power, and he will come against the Prince of princes (the Lord Jesus Christ). "Yet he will be broken — not by human hands." (CSB) This relates to Messiah's end-time mission in defeating the Antichrist and setting up His millennial kingdom.
Daniel 9:21. Daniel 9 is the famous chapter where we find the 70 weeks prophecy. Interestingly, Daniel was greatly loved by God such that God chose to reveal end times visions to him through His messenger Gabriel another time. As a sidebar, there does appear to be a strong connection between those who draw near to God (Daniel was known for his prayer habits) and God's self-revelation. Gabriel is explaining here the exact time that Messiah will be cut off. Interestingly, the timing of Jesus's death on the cross lines up precisely with this centuries-old prophecy. Once again, Gabriel's message pertains to Messiah and His salvation mission from start to finish.
Luke 1:19. Here, Gabriel appears to Zacharias the priest. Zacharias learns that he and his wife Elizabeth will be blessed to bear a son. Despite being past the age of child-bearing and having a long history of barrenness, this miracle would fulfill prophecy. Isaiah 40:3 says, "Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God." This son whom Elizabeth and Zacharias would bear would be named "John," and John the Baptist would fulfill this prophecy of Isaiah to be the forerunner of Messiah. Again, we see Gabriel's message pertaining to Messiah and His mission. Zacharias asks for a sign since he has his doubts about the truth of Gabriel's message. As a result, we are told in verse 19: "And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. “But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.” This underscores the role of Gabriel, his relation to God, and some of his delegated power and authority.
Luke 1:26. The last place we find Gabriel named is when he appears to Mary. Mary is surprised and wonders what kind of greeting this is. Gabriel lets Mary know that she has been selected to bear the Messiah in fulfillment of prophecy. Mary does not doubt or ask for a sign, yet she is given a sign. Her question is more of a logistical nature: "How can this be, since I do not know a man?” (verse 34). Gabriel provides Mary with the sign that her relative Elizabeth who had been barren is now with child. Here again, we see Gabriel's message pertaining to the first advent of Christ - his birth and earthly ministry. Gabriel instructs Mary to name the child Jesus.
So Gabriel is only named four times in Scripture, but each time he is more than a mere messenger of God. His messages relate specifically to Messiah's forerunner, Messiah's birth, Messiah's death, Messiah's conquering of Antichrist, and setting up a kingdom of which there will be no end. Gabriel's appearances in Scripture tell the full story of Messiah and His mission.
Some people have the impression that when you are right with God you will be flush with cash, have all you could hope for and then some, and that wealth and prosperity are valid indicators that a person is in good standing with God. Some ministry leaders and Bible teachers maintain this viewpoint and spread it, often tying the miraculous blessing of God to your generosity in donating to their own ministry or cause. What does the Bible actually say? Is there a guarantee of wealth for those who get on God's good side?
Probably all of us have, at one time or another, wrestled with questions related to our self-worth. We have pondered what our value is to certain others - our work, our family, our extended family - and even ourselves. At times, we may have wondered what our worth is to God. People throw around phrases, "I got mad at myself," "I hate myself," and "I hate my life" - phrases that all connect in some way to our self-concept. So here's a question for you. On what is your self-concept based? Is your sense of self-worth based on things that change such as circumstances and the behaviors of others, or is it based on unchanging things such as fixed realities described in the Word of God? You can immediately see the benefit of having your self-concept be based on and derived from these unchanging truths rather than the shifting sands of your circumstances, many of which are outside your control. So what are these unchanging biblical truths that relate to your own self-worth? Here is a list that it not at all exhaustive.
Pastor Billy Shaw
As a believer, how can I know whether I will meet with God’s approval in the next life?
Gaining God’s approval has concerned people since the beginning. Genesis Chapter 4 tells the story of the jealousy that arose within Cain’s heart, when God had respect for his brother Abel’s offering but not his own offering. This jealousy drove Cain to commit the first and probably best-known murder.
The first step toward meeting with God’s approval in this life and the next is to accept Christ as your personal Savior. The question above begins “as a believer,” which assumes that you have already trusted Christ. Scripture is very clear that “no one comes unto the Father but by [Christ]” (John 14:6). It is through God’s saving grace and the redemption we have through the blood of Jesus that “He has made us accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). As a believer, it’s not like you would meet with God’s disapproval in the next life. Your eternity is secure. There is no such place as purgatory. God doesn’t love you less when you sin (Romans 5:8).
Having trusted the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross for payment for your sin, you may still wonder whether God will approve of your life. Here are some insights from the Bible to guide your thoughts on this.
Pastor Billy Shaw
You may wonder why churches and pastors emphasize the importance of belonging to a local church so much. Are they just interested in self-promotion? Do they have ulterior, or even deceptive motives? Can’t you just be a happy Christian and please God without belonging to a local congregation?
These are all wonderful questions, for which the Bible (as always) has the answers.
Pastor Billy Shaw
Meet Phil Goode. Phil has a good feeling about his salvation. He “feels” saved. He has the same amount of stress as the general population, and he would never claim that his life is perfect. But, in any case, Phil has a general sense that he himself is on his way to Heaven.
Then something happens, and Phil’s feelings change.
Our Lead Pastor is the writer behind this blog. We pray it ministers to you for the glory of Christ.