By Eva Marie Everson, Crosswalk.com
Recently, I shared a bit of music trivia with my husband—something I do fairly often, to be honest. “How do you know all this stuff?” he always asks.
My answer is always the same: When I don’t know about something I hear about, I look it up.
This is the way my brain works. I hear something or see something that sparks a wondering, and I go from there. Once upon a time, I had to look things up at the local library or in our train of home encyclopedias. Now I go to the ever-expanding internet. Not that I believe everything I read there, but it is, most often, my first stop.
So, it was this past New Year's Day. I wondered why we celebrate the first day of our calendar year by making resolutions (or, as I call them, revolutions, because they keep coming back around). Here’s what I learned and how it led me to wonder if I was giving 100% of my attention, my praise, my worship, and my work to the Lord.
The celebration of a new calendar year began 4,000 years ago with the Babylonians. Their “first day” was in March (because of the spring of the year), in which they threw a 12-day religious festival known as akitu. During this time, they made promises to their gods, declaring that they would 1) pay their debts and 2) return anything they’d borrowed but failed to return to the rightful owner (cups of milk and sugar notwithstanding, I suppose). This was critical because they believed that if they broke those promises or failed to return said borrowed items, the gods would not be happy. Nothing like an unhappy Babylonian god.
Fast forward a few millennia to the time of Julius Caesar who moved the new year to January 1 in honor of the two-faced god, Janus. Now don’t misunderstand. Janus was not two-faced in that you couldn’t tell him a secret for fear of his spilling the beans. No. Janus actually had two faces—one for seeing the past and the other for spying into the future. The Romans offered sacrifices to this “all-seeing” god and made promises to be good little citizens during the upcoming year.
The Early Christians
With the Church Age came a new look at an old custom; our earliest fathers and mothers of the faith took the opportunity on January 1 to review past mistakes with a promise to do better. Then in 1790, John Wesley created the Covenant Renewal Service, which was held either on New Years Eve or New Years Day. During this service, Christians read the Holy Scriptures, sang hymns, and prayed together.
And Then There’s Us
Today, instead of sacrificing to gods or even to God, and, too often, instead of reading the Word of God, singing hymns, and praying, we make promises to ourselves. I know, I’ve done it too. In the past few years alone, I’ve promised to learn a new language, start a serious exercise program, lose 20 pounds, and be nicer. And how has that turned out? Well, I can say a few words in about ten languages, I’ve had an off-again/on-again love affair with exercise programs, and if I’d actually lost all those 20 pounds, I’d be able to turn sideways and disappear.
I’ll say nothing about becoming nicer. God and I work on that daily, thank you. Todah rabah. Merci beaucoup. Gracias. Danke.
A New Type of Resolution
A lot of believers today use January 1 to determine a “Scripture Verse of the Year” or a “Word of the Year.” Seeing that my resolutions had become revolutions, I decided to do the same. For example, in 2021, my Verse of the Year had to do with rest (because I was, quite frankly, worn out).
I kept the end of the verse to serve as a warning that if I didn’t slow down, God would slow me down. I want the hand of the Lord upon me . . . but I’d prefer He is not upset with me at the time.
In 2022, I decided to go for a mantra or mantras.
*Just because you know the answer, doesn’t mean you have to give the answer.
*Just because you think it doesn’t mean you have to say it.
*If it’s not your horse, it’s not your rodeo.
Let me share with you that my 2022 was wonderful. Truly.
Then Came 2023
Since 2017, I have studied the questions God asks in the Bible. This exercise led to my book, The Third Path, and to my leading workshops and retreats with the same theme. So, as January 1, 2023, rolled around, I asked the Lord to show me a verse of Scripture for the year . . . and if it happened to have a question from Him within the lines, all the better.
Almost immediately I heard: Malachi.
“Malachi?” I said out loud. “You mean that little book at the end of the Old Testament?”
So, I opened the Book to the first chapter of the ancient text and read:
“A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord Almighty. “It is you priests who show contempt for my name. But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’
“By offering defiled food on my altar. But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’
“By saying that the Lord’s table is contemptible. When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty (Malachi 1:6-8).
The words hit me and hit me hard.
If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me? … When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong?
I immediately made a list, dividing my life into parts. Who am I in the Lord, I asked myself. I’m a child of God, a wife, a mother, a grandmother. I’m the CEO of Word Weavers International and the director of Florida Christian Writers Conference. I’m a writer and speaker. Somewhere in the middle of all this, I’m a neighbor, friend, and confidante. Sometimes I’m a “stranger on a plane” or a “kind person in the grocery store.” (Remember, God is working on me when it comes to being nice.)
And while I admitted that I somehow managed to get it all done and always with the hopes of it all being for His glory, I had to ask myself, do I do all as an offering to the Lord . . . and when I do, is it 100%. Or did I give less than I could? When a friend or family member calls, needing my ear, am I also looking over emails? Am I sifting through bills and laundry?
I took myself back to that year of rest and the following year of being a little more deliberate with myself and my words to realize that I cannot do what God has called me to do—not at 100%—unless I commit to it. Anything less is a blind animal, lame or diseased.
We Are All Called
We’ve all been called to do something for God, whether in the home, in the workplace, or in the world. Each of us is called not just to work, but to Kingdom Work. Whatever we do, wherever we do it, it must be done 100%.
The apostle Peter wrote: Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms (4:10, emphasis mine). This is a worthy commission that will only succeed if we give 100%.
After all, God gave 100% (and beyond) when He gave His Son as a once-and-for-all sacrifice. Should we do any less with whatever He has asked of us?
What about you? Who are you, and what has He called you to? What has He called you to do? (Take a moment to make your own list.) Are you ready to do it and to do it 100%? Or will you bring a blind, lame, or diseased animal to the altar?
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Suwaree Tangbovornpichet
Eva Marie Everson is the multiple award-winning author of both fiction and nonfiction titles. Her latest work, The Third Path, winner of the 2023 AWSA Book of the Year, takes a look at 26 of the questions God asked in the Bible, laid out to bring the reader to a more intimate walk with Him. Eva Marie is the president of Word Weavers International and the director of the Florida Christian Writers Conference. She has served as a mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild and an adjunct professor at Taylor University. She is a graduate of Andersonville Theological Seminary and The Tzemach Institute. She and her husband make their home in Central Florida, where they enjoy their children and grandchildren. To connect with Eva Marie, go to EvaMarieEversonAuthor.com.
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