THE CHALLENGE OF THE NEW YEAR by Harold Sala

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Then Jesus took his disciples up the mountain and gathered them around him. He taught them saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are they that mourn. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are they that thirst for justice. Blessed are you when you suffer. Be glad and rejoice for your reward is in heaven.“

Then Simon Peter said, “Are we supposed to remember this?” And Andrew, his brother, asked, “Do we have to write this down?” And James said, “Are we going to have a test on this?” And Phillip said, “I haven’t got anything to write on.” And Bartholomew said, “Are we going to have to turn this in?” And John said, “The other disciples didn’t have to learn this,” and Matthew said, “I have to go to the bathroom!” Then one of the Pharisees who was present asked to see Jesus’ lesson plan and inquired of Jesus, ‘Where is your anticipatory set and your objectives in the cognitive domain?’” And Jesus wept.

While every teacher can relate to those responses, theologians are quick to note that the text of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 isn’t exactly the same as I gave it to you. But what the humor does point out is the fact that appropriating what we really know is tough at best.

Today we stand on the threshold of a new year. What seemed so remote only a short while ago is now history. For the next few days, we’ll continue to pinch ourselves saying, “Is this really another year?”

Question: What have you really learned from this past year? It is always valid to reflect on the past, both our failures and our victories. A careful analysis of the Old Testament points out the fact that often God reminded His people of their history. Feasts, celebrations, and special days were important, establishing a clear link with the events of the past and their forebears.

One of the sad things about life today is that we seemingly neither learn lessons from the mistakes of parents and forebears nor have any sense of connection with history. Like a rowboat that has drifted loose from its moorings and is being buffeted by the wind, a lot of us have either cut ties with family or else don’t have any.

What can you do to insure that you don’t end up asking the Lord the same rather irresponsible, somewhat stupid questions as those someone credited to the disciples?

Guideline #1: Take inventory of your life. The question is not whether you are better off financially than you were a year ago. Include family, your relationship with God, your personal goals, and your purpose in life. Are you on target, sidetracked, or dead in the water?

Guideline #2: Rethink your purpose in life. The person who has nowhere to go, gets there, but he or she wastes a lot of energy and time in the process. Get out a paper and pencil and make three columns. Label them, “Life as it was last year. Life as I want it next year, and the most important of all: How shall I get there?

Guideline #3: Make God your senior partner in life. Jesus put it, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). I am convinced that most of our failures are because we missed God’s voice, drowned out by the din of TV, the noise of our ambition, the refusal to stop and hear Him say, “Hey, this is the path you need to walk.”

When a person is in Christ, he or she becomes a new person. The old passes away. The new changes your life and destiny. That’s what the grace of God is all about.

Resource Reading: 2 Corinthians 5

Text: When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same any more. A new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17, Living Bible

GUIDELINES with Harold Sala – December 28, 2017