Websters College Dictionary defines "resolution" as "a resolve or determination" or "the act of resolving or determining upon a course of action, method, procedure, etc."
At the beginning of this new year, thousands upon thousands of people are setting goals for themselves and establishing resolutions. Memes flash across the web saying "new year new me" and depicting the previous year as trash. "Good riddance it's over," cries culture. "Twenty-Eighteen will be NOTHING like '17. THIS YEAR, we'll get it right. Things will be better this year. 2018 will be BETTER than 2017."
What will they be saying 12:01 AM January 1st, 2019? Hands up if you think we'll call 2018 a warm bath we're just emerging from and not a frying pan. Hands up if you think 2019 won't be the fire.
My family (blood, church, and Church) has had a super tough year. It has been marked by calamity and stress and defeat and hardship. But what cut deepest was growth. I can attest to this, that I and my church family have grown so much in the dozen months of 2017. I do not recall a year in which and through which we needed God's hand and presence and peace more constantly and presently - yet I cannot name a greater time of growth and unity with church and God for myself and the church.
Last year someone in our church prayed prophetically (ooh scary word) that 2017 would be a year through which we would have to "fight for joy." Nothing could have been more true. Satan did his best to make it difficult. But boy did we fight - and, with God on our side, what can stand against?
This is my prayer for this year. That fear would not stop us. That we would grow through every hardship. That we would step forth into the fire and be unafraid of that which refines, in faith and resilience. In Isaiah 51:12 (ESV) God says, "I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass?" We have no right to be afraid!
Our Lord "stirs up the sea so that its waves roar" (Isa. 51:15)! Our God created the universe and breathed life into every living being. He who is eternal can carry us through another 365 days.
This year, let us rest upon God's strength and be assured of his greatness. And let us above all step into the great plans he has for us. We have the opportunity to turn 2018 into a year of amazing growth. In 2018, let us become towers with the Lord of Hosts as our rock.
In 2018, let us become towers. I implore us all to pray this.
“God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1 ESV)
When Eve believed the lies of the serpent and ate the forbidden fruit, her decision brought sin into the world, and she condemned generation to generation to separation from God. But God was not content with such tragedy befalling his children eternally. Although Eve's experiment in living of not trusting and disobeying God led to horrible consequences, God met this mistake with grace that such a mistake could not ask for, and, under this grace, justice as would be required.
Such a sin as Adam and Eve committed – distrusting God and desiring to be like him (in a bad way) – deserved, as God ordained, death. And, eventually, they would taste it. Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden forever, and could no longer walk with God. They could not eat of the fruit of the tree of life, to which they had access before their sin. Outside of the garden they experienced pain (for Adam, in working the ground, and, for Eve, in bearing children). And sin was allowed to continue on earth, making similes of the words “consequences” and “punishment.” But Adam and Eve were not the only ones worthy of punishment.
Matthew 18:6 says “whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” The serpent who lied to and tempted Eve was most definitely guilty of this. When God divvies out punishments (Genesis 3:14-19), the serpent was not forgotten. “Because you have done this,” said God, “cursed are you above all livestock” (Genesis 3:14). But that is not all. In verse 15 of this chapter, a promise is made. A promise we would do well to recognize. It is a promise of for us - and judgement for the serpent.
Not only did God promise grace, but immediately displayed it to Adam and Eve. First of all, He didn’t smite them where they stood. He probably wanted to, as he wanted to in the case of the flood (and did, save for Noah’s family) and the case of Moses and the golden calf (and didn’t). But, as in both of these cases, He showed mercy. To Adam and Eve he gave clothes to cover themselves with. And, when Cain murdered Abel, God gave Adam and Eve another son, Seth, to take Abel’s place. And this ties into a much larger dealing of grace.
What was the promise in verse 15 of chapter 3 that we ought to recognize? In this verse God rebukes the serpent and says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). Many theologians take the term “her offspring” to mean Jesus, whose lineage is traced back to Seth, Abel’s replacement. This is the promise; though we messed up horribly, God provided for us the atonement we could not hope for on our own.
God met Adam and Eve’s experiment in living with not only justice, but exceptional grace. Though Eve’s choice to disobey God, made in pride and an attitude of rebellion, introduced evil into the world, God would not abandon us, his chosen, to death, even if it was a consequence of our actions. Our God loves us far too much for that.
If You Have Eyes
If you have eyes...
Why would you want to hide them?
Designed to be Different
When first you look at someone, the first feature you focus upon is that someone's eyes. God has designed eyes to be set apart from the mouth, nose, and ears.
Eyes are also things we find difficult to stare into for any amount of time with someone with whom you are even slightly uncomfortable with. I find nothing difficult in staring at my friend's ears, but if my eyes fall upon theirs - suddenly my eyes are wandering all about the room, as if hit by a magnet of the same polarity. Obviously eyes are more than marbles rolling around in our heads.
Designed to be Beautiful
No one can deny that eyes are gleaming with beauty. Even those eyes which are deformed or faded. At my church there is this young girl who is mostly blind and most often uses a cane to walk. But her eyes are some of the most beautiful eyes I have taken note of. They are wide. They are living. However cliché this may sound, her eyes are an ocean. Even those eyes which are not considered well are wholly wonderful.
Stare at this picture. Nothing is comparatively remarkable about this eye. In a way it is dry and ordinary.
But who can look at that and say "eww that's gross"?
Even in an eye which is typical and not extraordinary there is a wealth of beauty.
Designed to be Deep
William Shakespeare said "the Eyes are the window to your soul." By looking into the eyes of someone you love there is something more you see, and understanding comes a lot more quickly. The eye often accomplishes what the tongue cannot.
"Your eyes are a well" - how many movies have used this saying in a scene with two lovers? While I admit that the movie Trolls is not the foremost authority on some (most) (all) subjects, I will quote it on this: in the scene where Lady Glitter Sparkles (Bridget) is trying to win the heart of Prince Gristles, Lady Glitter Sparkles quoths to her heart's desire, "Your eyes - they're like two pools so deep I fear that if I dive in, I might never come up for air." If eyes are so deep - even "bergen" eyes in an animated movie about dolls from the 90's - surely they must be boundless in this three dimensional world which God made for us.
Through the Looking Glass
Your eyes are the peephole into the place in which is your soul. To quote the Bible, the foremost authority on some (most) (all) subjects, "The lamp of the body is the eye, if, therefore, thine eye may be perfect, all thy body shall be enlightened" (Matthew 6:22, YTL98). In the ESV, this same verse reads "The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light."
So, according to Him who created them, eyes are the lamps which show your soul to be full of light. With your eyes you paint for the world your perfection in Christ. But, indeed, they serve a double purpose. What can shine as a lighthouse upon the world can also be a hole - in which is darkness.
If we read on in Matthew, we find that the eye can also emanate darkness. "But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!" (Matthew 6:22 ESV). So then your eyes are by what may be seen the darkness of a soul.
Just as every member may be used for both good and evil, the eye can serve one of two masters: God or Satan. If eyes are more than marbles, we ought to know what ours are, and what light they radiate, and we must be careful that the light they shine is true.
Eyes are separate from your other members. Eyes are marvelously beautiful. Eyes are wells of your waters. And eyes are the lamps of your soul. Again I ask...
If you have eyes - why would you want to hide them?
I challenge you to remove your sunglasses for the next week. Unless you are driving down the highway straight into the sun and sunglasses are a measure of safety, please place your sunglasses beside you and walk with your eyes open and shining. If you do choose to cover your eyes, ask yourself why you are concealing the lamp of your body and two of the most beautiful things you shall ever come across.