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It’s so hard to fathom – 2012 is upon us. Where has the past year gone? How quickly the pages of the calendar turn. Given life’s brevity, here are some thoughts on what our focus should be as we enter into a new year and, hopefully, a new season.

My son was born just yesterday. Not literally, but figuratively. He’s 23 now – grown, mature, and independent. But it seems like just a second ago that I held him for the first time and smelled the newness of life. As joyous as it has been, my time with him has quickly vanished. But, if you think about it, all of our lives are rapidly disappearing – just like a mist. The years have sped by and picked up steam as they have progressed.

That is what James is referring to in the 4th chapter of his epistle to the scattered believers of the 1st century:

“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins” (James 4: 13-17).

The word for mist in this passage is a picture of when we breathe out on a cold winter day. There is a vapor that forms but speedily dissipates and vanishes. Right before our eyes – it is there and then it is gone. Once we exhale this mist, it forms and evaporates before we can get our hands around it. Such is life – fleeting, temporal, and picking up its pace. It is here today and gone tomorrow and we never seem to quite catch up to it before it has left us behind. Subconsciously, we want to believe that this life will go on forever but, in reality, we know that our existence on this earth is quickly moving toward its final scene. Suddenly, we are more than half way through our life expectancy (if we should even consider such a thing) and we begin to ask some very serious questions. To name but a few:

  • Is this all there is to life?
  • Is this but a dress rehearsal for eternity?
  • What will we be able to present to our Lord when we do meet Him?
  • Has our life been spent (wasted) on the trivial and temporal?
  • Have we pursued our own earthly pleasure and comfort above eternal rewards?

The conclusions we reach can be quite sobering. Thus James gives us great insight as to how we are to live in these fleeting days of our lives. He says:

  • Don’t plan based upon what we want but, instead, be led by God’s plan.
  • Don’t let money dictate what we choose to do and be in this life.
  • Only God knows our earthly future and we must trust Him in all things.
  • This life passes with such rapidity that we must have our eyes focused on eternity.
  • With eternity in mind, we must always do the right thing and not the most comfortable or convenient thing.

And, by the way, the correct answers have little to do with “us” having “purpose” in our life but they have everything to do with finding pleasure in Him and glorifying Him. Finding Him as the end and not just the means is the only suitable paradigm for those who want to have meaningful and true answers to these compelling questions. The real issue, in view of the magnitude of eternity, is not wasting this life given to us by and for Him. Paul says:

“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:15-18).

That is why, given this critical issue, I’m drawn to the words of Jesus, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35). May we all be compelled to lose ourselves and our vanishing life here for His sake. May we surrender to storing up treasures in Heaven for His glory. An eternity of joy awaits those who do. Let’s choose this now – before this life is gone and we face the Savior who laid down His life for us. That meeting will be here before we know it.

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“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:9-14).

As Paul writes to the Colossian church, although he didn’t know them all that well, he had heard of their faith and love (Colossians 1:3-8). This compelled him to pray nonstop for them. He desired spiritual maturity for these fellow believers and this is my prayer for all of us for 2010. I beseech God that we:

  • are “filled with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (v. 9). The Greek word for “knowledge” in this passage is epignosis and it signifies practical, personal and experiential understanding and not just academic or intellectual knowledge. I desire that we all become imitators of Jesus (Ephesians 5:1-2) and thus spread the sweet fragrance of His beauty (2 Corinthians 2:14). How do we do this? “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2).
  • live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way (v. 10). The  Lord we serve, and the calling we have received, is certainly a worthy one! In Ephesians 4:1 Paul considers himself to be a slave to the Lord and this worthy calling. In a similar vein, Paul writing to the church at Thessalonica says, “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12).
  • are bearing fruit in every good work (v. 10). Not just “one” or “some”, but “every” good work.  What sort of good works? Empowered by the Holy Spirit we demonstrate His fruit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-25). These attitudes and attributes should permeate our every effort to please God.
  • are growing in the knowledge of God (v, 10). We need to grow in the knowledge of God Himself, not just His will. Knowing Him is man’s highest pursuit and the essence of seeking after Him as our greatest treasure. Paul said, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death(Philippians 3:10). These are the desires of those so in love with their Lord that they are obsessed with knowing Him (in the most intimate sense) and all about Him. As Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34).
  • are being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might (v. 11). It is God’s desire that we demonstrate His strength in our living for Him. There is indescribable supernatural power available to the Christian. By trusting in Him and reliance upon the Holy Spirit Paul says we can “…be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:10).
  • may have great endurance and patience, with joy (v. 11)  Paul captures the essence of joy and patience in enduring for Christ when he says “Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses;  in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love (2 Corinthians 6:45-6). Endurance with patience and joy is the mark of those that are “in Christ”.
  • are joyfully giving thanks to the Father (v.12). The Psalmist captures this so beautifully: “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.  Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.  Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations (Psalm 100:1-5).

And why can we receive all of these marvelous requests? Because God “has qualified [us] to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.” (v. 12). Because our Savior “has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (v. 13). And, most importantly, because “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (v. 14).  Furthermore, how can we have the full experience of this New Year’s prayer?  Abiding in Him and His Word – “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7).


“Count off seven sabbaths of years–seven times seven years–so that the seven sabbaths of years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan.  The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields. In this Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to his own property” (Leviticus 25:8-13).

This is but a section of the Old Testament passage on God’s plan for His people to celebrate this special year – the Year of Jubilee. It was to take place every fifty years and it was announced with a special trumpet. In the Hebrew language the word translated “jubilee” literally means blowing a ram’s horn.  This horn is called a “shofar” and is still used in Hebrew worship today.  This sabbatical year was to benefit every inhabitant of the land. The Year of Jubilee was like a national holiday that lasted for 365 days! And symbolically it was to commence as the horn blew on the sacred Day of Atonement. Ironically, there is no evidence that the Hebrews ever celebrated the Year of Jubilee. This may have been due to their disobedience or the Babylonian captivity but, from all indications, over 30 possible occurrences of the Jubilee year passed without its observation. That is until the coming of Jesus. And maybe this was God’s sovereign plan. After all, it was Christ’s atonement that ushered in the spiritual reality of the true meaning of this celebration.

Jesus Himself claimed that he was the fulfillment of this Year of Jubilee (called the year of the Lord’s favor):

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:18-21).

There are at least four lessons in the Year of Jubilee that foreshadow the ultimate fulfillment of its benefits as found in Christ. These are:

  • A revocation of debt. The Israelites were relieved of their financial debt and through faith in the finished work of Christ we are absolved of our sin-debt (see Romans 6:23) before a righteousness demanding God. As Paul explained, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
  • A release from slavery. On this 50th year all slaves were to be released from their bondage and prisoners set free. We, too, through the power of Jesus and the indwelling of His Holy Spirit are released from the fetters of our sinful nature. “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin” (Romans 6:6). Paul mentions this idea in Romans 7:5 and 8:9 as well.
  • A return home: all land was to return to its original family/owner during the Year of Jubilee. This reminds us of the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-24). The loving arms of his father were extended to his wandering son and their reunion instigated the child’s complete restoration and a great celebration of joy. We, too, through Jesus are, in a sense, spiritually re-united with God the Father.
  • A renewal and rest. During this celebration no one was to plant or harvest crops; the children of Israel were to live off God’s special extra provisions from the previous year; and the land was to rest so it could be renewed. In a similar sense being “in Christ” we experience eternal renewal and rest as we trust in His supernatural provision. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew11:28).

As we look to the New Year may we see it as our Year of Jubilee. And how can we do this? By focusing on Jesus and His spiritual provision. For He alone has revoked our sin-debt, released us from the slavery of the law and the power of sin, allowed us to find our home in Him, and causes us to be renewed by the refreshment that comes from resting in Him. As we bid adieu to 2009 and stride boldly into 2010 may we be ever mindful of this word from God: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

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