Today is the first of many “Monday Memes!”  So often we see these in our social media.  They make us laugh, point out ironies, speak to politics, and much, much, more.  I want to take some time in each Monday to do the same.  Except we are going to discuss these memes in terms of God’s holy word.  Since it is the beginning of a new year, let’s start with a meme about the new year!  Seems reasonable, right?

The World in Chaos

Wow, this meme speaks volumes.  No matter how you believe, what your opinions are, what your lifestyle is… you probably feel like the first character.  This world is MESSED UP!  And you would be right!  Ironically, this is probably the one thing that we can ALL agree on!  We might differ on what the problem is, but we all agree that things just aren’t right.

As Christians, we know that this is the way of the world.  It is sinful, we are sinful, and it will get worse the closer we get to Jesus’ return.  So how do we deal with this?  Many protest, others yell/scream, some attack others, many are brought to silence, almost all are fearful, and it seems as if no one is making any constructive progress.

Yet we, as Christians, need to take on the persona of the second character.  This character isn’t even focused on the mess.  It is devoting its entire attention onto planting seeds.  This character wants to see flowers in the coming year, so it is preparing accordingly.

In Matthew, Jesus tells us of the birds and the flowers and how God cares for them. Wouldn’t the Creator take even more care of us?  So why are we worried? “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble,” He says.

In John, he says,  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Even in the Old Testament, believers were told not to worry. God tells Joshua, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Over and over in the Bible, believers are told to not be afraid and to not worry.  Yet, as we look at the world, that is often the first thing we do.  We fret.  So much is out of our control and not going the way we want.

But what we need to remember is that none of it is out of God’s control.  Not one bit.

In John, as Jesus is preparing the disciples for His death and resurrection, He tells them, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

All we need to do is focus on Him.

In Hebrews, we are told, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

I love this verse! Especially in the paraphrase of the Message (check it out!).  Don’t quit! Jesus didn’t! He kept His eyes on the goal and kept moving forward.  No matter what was going on around Him, He did the will of the Father. 

What was going on around Him, you may ask?  Let’s talk about that.  Most of us already know that people were running Jesus out of towns because they didn’t like what He had to say and that many in the higher echelons of Judaism were plotting His death.  But what was the world around Him like?

Remember Cleopatra and Mark Anthony?  The assassinations, suicides, and political upheaval that revolved around that love affair?  If you’ve studied history, you may remember all the battles and conquering that Rome did? All that happened right before Jesus was born.  During that period, Rome also stopped being a republic with a senate and became an empire; moving from decentralized government to an emperor who, later on, would be pronounced to be a god. Many places were then annexed to the Empire, to include Judea (now Israel).

Before and during Jesus’ life, there were wars all over Europe and Asia as Rome expanded its boundaries.  Civil wars erupted in Egypt due to many power struggles. Dynasties were being toppled in Asia. Assassinations were prevalent in almost all governments across the known world.  Normal everyday people were being conquered, laws were changing, people were fighting for their survival…chaos. The world was in chaos.

But Jesus stayed focused.  Despite the chaos, despite the struggles, and despite knowing His mission on earth was to die a horrible death. He continued to plant seeds. Seeds of hope, seeds of growth, and seeds of salvation.

As many of us look to the new year and the changes we want to make, we need to approach those with the eyes of God.

In Proverbs we are told that if we keep our eyes on God, He will make our paths straight.  Paraphrased by the Message,

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he’s the one who will keep you on track.”
Just as Jesus focused on God’s will, so should we.  We know that God will keep us on track if we are searching for Him.  But what are we to be doing?  What seeds are we to be planting?  These are good questions and the Bible has answers!
Romans 12 is a great place to start! “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
In other words, set yourself apart. Choose, with your mind, to dedicate your life to be about God and what He wants.  By choosing to pray, read the Bible, and be in relationship with Jesus, your mind will start working differently. You will start thinking differently than everyone else in the world.  This changing of your mind will help you in discerning what God wants for your life.
All believers endeavoring in these things will work together for God’s glory and purpose.  And you may not even realize it.  Your efforts, and those of others (even those on the other side of the globe), will be working in concert (even though they don’t know what each other is doing), in order to achieve God’s purpose!  Whoa!
So what are we to be about while we are setting ourselves apart?

“Let love be genuine.  Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.  Love one another with brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor.  Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.  Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”

And while you are doing those things, bless everyone, even those who persecute you.  Be humble, not prideful.  Never seek vengeance, as God will do that for you.
Sounds like a great place to start this new year! Let this new year be about setting ourselves apart from the world, not fretting, staying focused on God and planting His seeds.

Will everything work the way we want it to?  No.  That’s not life.  But God leaves believers with the promise that all things, even the bad things, will be worked to our good (Romans 8:28).

And we need to understand that if we aren’t planting the seeds now, the results will not happen later.

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