A New Years Resolution

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Standard;1 Sam 7:3 - “And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.

This is the time of the year when many people make resolutions for the New Year. What is it that prompts a resolution? Isn't it looking back on the year and noticing things about your lifestyle that you would like to change? You put on some pounds you resolve to go on a diet. You bounced a few checks, you resolve to take better care of your finances, and so on.

As I was reading today's Portals of Prayer, I was struck by this verse in Samuel and thought it would make a great New Years resolution for all of us. “I resolve (with the help of the Lord) to return to the Lord with all of my heart.”

(By the way, I encourage you as part of that process, to start using your Portals of Prayer as a disciplined time of daily devotion and prayer. Don't fall into the trap of just reading the devotional thought, make sure you read the selected texts before you read the devotional thought and let God speak to you personally, then get the author's viewpoint.)

Okay, back to the resolution from Samuel. If we were honest with ourselves as we looked back on this past year, we would have to say that our devotion to the Lord was not what it should be. We would have to agree that there is room for improvement. But why bother? After all, this past year wasn't so bad was it?

We have co-existed with the world rather nicely haven't we? Well, God hasn't called us to “co-exist” with the world. James 4:4 says, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the  world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

And 1 Jn 2:15, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

This resolution found in Samuel is all about getting things back into their proper order. God first, with all your heart, and all these other things shall be added unto you. If we have them in reverse order, then we are in reality in the hands of the Philistines, who can be seen here as a type of the devils henchmen or demons.

Go ahead, find your comfort in things other than God. Go ahead find your peace in placebos. Get your kicks on route 666. (The number of man without God) Verily, verily I say to you, you have your reward, and on that final Day you will be delivered to the one who has duped you into being his slave.

No, my friend, this year, resolve with the help of God to return to Him with your whole heart, “and He will deliver you out of the hands of the Philistines.”

How do you do that? You must put away, sweep the things of the world off the pedestal on which you have them, all the things that you look to for comfort, peace, and joy. Whatever they are, let go of them and give God first place in your life.

Now I find it interesting that this passage also mentions the goddess Ashtaroth. I mean isn't it enough to to say “put away the foreign gods?” Why bring her into it? Why does she get special mention here? Well, she was the goddess of fertility, she was the playmate of the month if you will, the queen of the attention diverter, the one who could turn your head, the one who could draw you deeper and deeper into the world and farther and farther away from God.

What is it in this world that is the queen of diversion in your life? Money? Relationships? Sports? Television? Material goods? Busyness? Self-importance? What is it that gets its hooks into you and pulls you away from God?  Seek to identify it, and ask God's help in pulling it down. Ask God to show you what's behind the surface attraction to these things. Let Him show you how temporary and fleeting they really are.

Bottom line for all these gods is they seek to satisfy the cravings of your flesh, and this passage from Samuel is calling us to stop seeking to serve our flesh and to seek to serve God. Forget your sensual appetite and seek to satisfy your spiritual appetite.

As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount.

“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (the needs of the flesh) will be added to you.” Get the horse before the cart. Seek Christ and His right way of doing things and God will take care of the rest AND deliver you from the chains of the Philistines.

As you struggle with letting go of your Ashtaroth, remember this and believe it. God does not seek to eliminate comfort, peace, joy, and happiness in your life. He only asks that you allow it to come to you through Him, and not some lifeless playmate of the month.

And hey, why not allow it to pass through His hands? From Him it is eternal, any other source is fleeting.

Let this be our resolve this year at Living Word. “Lord, with Your help and by Your grace, I resolve to return to You with my whole heart.”

And as we come to the Lord's table later this evening, let us take comfort in these words from 2 Chr 30:18,19 “May the good Lord pardon everyone who sets his heart to seek God.”

What a great way to start 2009, “Pardoned and with a heart redirected fully toward God!