December 31, 2017


              Today is the last day of the year.  It is the last day we have to reflect on all we have done, and not done, this past year, before we charge headfirst into a new year.   What would we have done differently?  What do we regret not doing?  Unfortunately, despite advances in scientific study, even great minds like Sheldon Cooper, um I mean Stephen Hawking, have not discovered a way to travel back in time.  Mr. Peabody (anyone remember him?) can’t set the WABAC (The Wormhole Activating and Bridging Automatic Computer) machine to Jan. 1, 2017, and let you relive the year, doing what you wish you had done but didn’t, and not doing the things you did, but wish you hadn’t.  

          I’m quite sure that as soon as Adam and Eve fully realized the consequences of what they had done when they ate the forbidden fruit, they wished they could go back and never take that first bite.  But they had forever lost their innocence, as well as their home in the Garden of Eden.  And their error in judgment, and direct violation of God’s command, affected every human being ever born from that point on.  That is an enormous load of guilt to bear. 

          What about us?  What about those angry words you wish you could take back, but despite apologies, will be forever etched into the memory of the person you said them to.    What about the nurse who accidentally gave the wrong medication to a patient who then suffered a seizure, or the dog owner who forgot to latch the gate and whose dearly beloved pet met the front bumper of a speeding car.  Or that time you drove after ‘just a couple of drinks’ but ended up with a DUI on your record, or drove while texting and got into an accident.  We all have words and actions that we regret. 

          And we all have things we know we should have done, but didn’t.  People we should have visited more often, people we could have helped but didn’t, causes we should have supported, things we should have stood up for, promises we made but didn’t fulfill, and for some, the most important thing of all, repenting of our sin and asking Jesus to be our Savior and Lord.

          But self-pity isn’t going to go back and change any of it.  Beating ourselves up over our unintentional mistakes isn’t going to help.  And calling a sin a mistake doesn’t make it any less a sin.  Steven Denn said, “You can never make the same mistake twice because the second time you make it, it's not a mistake, it's a choice.”  And yet, so often it is easier to choose to sin, than to choose not to sin.  But in 2018, let’s make the choice not to sin.  And let’s learn from the mistakes we made in 2017.  And if you’re still putting off that decision for Christ, now is the time!  So let’s do what we need to do to change our lives for the better! 

          Change?  I’m certain if there was a Methodist dictionary, they would have figured out a way to spell that word with four letters.  I realize there are some folks who like to shake things up and make changes just for the sake of making changes, and I am not advocating change merely for the sake of change.  But there are others who refuse to change even the tiniest thing about their lives, and cling to the past with a tenacity that literally puts a stranglehold on their lives.  Romans 12:9 tells us to hate what is wrong and hold tightly to what is good.  Of course, it takes a degree of discernment to know what is wrong and what is good.  Listen to what Jesus said to the Pharisees (yes, I do love to pick on those snooty hypocritical religious leaders of that time).  In Mark chapter 7 we read, “One day some Pharisees and teachers of religious law arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They noticed that some of his disciples failed to follow the Jewish ritual of hand washing before eating. (The Jews, especially the Pharisees, do not eat until they have poured water over their cupped hands, as required by their ancient traditions. Similarly, they don’t eat anything from the market until they immerse their hands in water. This is but one of many traditions they have clung to—such as their ceremonial washing of cups, pitchers, and kettles.) So the Pharisees and teachers of religious law asked him, “Why don’t your disciples follow our age-old tradition? They eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony.” Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’  For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.”  And what is God’s law? Jesus said, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other” (John 13:34) and the apostle Paul reiterated that “Love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:14).

          So take a hard look at the past year.  What in your life needs to be changed?  What doesn’t?  What is good, what is not?  Pray and ask God to reveal the answers to those questions to you, and then listen to the Holy Spirit. 

          And once you have the answers, are you afraid to move forward and make changes, even if you know that they will benefit you and others?  As I said, the law of love is the one that supersedes all others, and the Bible says that “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18).  Therefore let the love of Christ that is within you drive out that fear of change.  Of course, if you do not have the love of Christ within you, if you have never been born again, born of the Spirit, then real change is impossible until you have true repentance in your heart and come to Jesus in faith, asking Him to save you from your sins and be your Savior and Lord.

          So, in conclusion, once you have reviewed 2017, prayed, and made the determination to follow God’s leading in your life no matter how much, or how little, He is calling you to change, take down the 2017 calendar and throw it away.  Put up that brand new 2018 calendar.  And yes, I mean that in a greater sense as well.  Keep these words of Isaiah in your heart and mind going forward, “Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new…”  (Isaiah 43:18-19a).  And may 2018 be a year we make things better, for ourselves, for our church, for the community, and for the world!  Amen.


         Another year will soon be over…     

         Does that thought make you sad?   

         Or are you happy to see it go,

         And starting over makes you glad?

         How could you make the new year better,

         For yourself and for others?

         By following God with all your heart,

         And loving your sisters and brothers!