My Favorite New Year’s Lists

Have you made your list of New Year’s Resolutions yet?

Here’s my list: To consume massive quantities of potato chips and junk food. To eliminate physical activity altogether. To watch at least 40 hours of TV a week, concentrating on professional wrestling. Please do not try these things at home – they’re best left to experts like me.

The death list

One list I find interesting is the list of celebrities and notable people who died the past year. Here is a list of some well-known people who died in 2007. A couple of these people might only be of interest to former rock stars like me. A few were well-known Christians. But all stepped into eternity in 2007.

January 8 – Yvonne De Carlo, actress (Lily, the mother on the “Munsters”). I loved this show as a kid.
Jan 19 – Denny Doherty, founding member and lead singer of The Mamas and the Papas. They had great harmonies.
Feb 13 – Bruce Metzger, Bible scholar and translator who supervised the 1990 New Revised Standard Version of the Bible
March 9 – Brad Delp, lead singer of band Boston (“More Than a Feeling”)
March 31 – Liz Claiborne, fashion designer
April 23 – Boris Yeltsin, former Russian President
May 15 – Rev. Jerry Falwell, Founder and Chancellor of Liberty University
May 17 – Lloyd Alexander, writer of fantasy novels “The Chronicles of Prydain”
June 14 – Ruth Graham, wife of Rev. Billy Graham
June 21 – Bob Evans, founder of Bob Evans Restaurant chain
July 11 – Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson, former First Lady of the United States 1963-1969
July 20 – Tammy Faye (Bakker) Messner, fomer wife of TV preacher Jim Bakker
July 30 – Bill Walsh, coach of the San Francisco 49ers
August 12 – Merv Griffin, talk show host, creator of TV game shows “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune”
September 6 – Luciano Pavoratti, Italian tenor
September 6 – Madeleine L’Engle, author of children’s fiction, notably, A Wrinkle in Time
September 22 – Marcel Marceau, well-known mime
November 27 – Sean Taylor, safety for the Washington Redskins, age 24
November 30 – Evil Knievel, famous motorcycle daredevil
December 12 – Ike Turner, former husband of Tina Turner, who sang “Proud Mary” with her

Jonathan Edwards’ list

Jonathan Edwards made a list of 70 resolutions. They are worth reading. Here’s one of them:

Resolution #9. Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.

You may be thinking, Hey, what’s up with all the talk about dying? Happy New Year to you too, Mark. Can we think about something less morbid? Actually, the Bible tells us it’s good to think about dying.

Psalm 90:12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Contemplating our finiteness produces wisdom and humility. Psalm 90 contrasts puny man to the Infinite Ageless One. How can we not be humbled when we compare ourselves who are like grass of the field to the Timeless One, to whom a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years like a day?

A list of things you’d like people to say about you at your funeral

Contemplating our death brings into sharp focus what is truly important in life. I once read that when setting goals for your life you should write a list of things you’d like people to say about you at your funeral. Now that’s a good list. I’ve written that list from time to time. What would I like my wife Kristi to say about me at my funeral? What do I hope my children will say? What would I want my Christian brothers and sisters to say?

I have a list of about 20 things I hope my family and friends will say about me at my funeral party. I hope they celebrate, because I’ll be celebrating before the throne of my Savior! Anyway, my list does NOT include anything about what I accomplished in life or any talents I had. I don’t want my kids to say, “My dad sure was successful” (I don’t think that’s likely) or Kristi to say, “Mark was incredible at home maintenance” (no chance of that). I hope my kids will say things like, “My dad really loved Jesus.” Or, “My dad sure was a lot of fun.” I hope Kristi can say things like, “Mark was a humble man.” I hope.

When you think about dying, it helps you focus on what’s truly important. What really matters is glorifying God. I encourage you to write your own list of things you’d like people to say about you at your funeral. May it stir you to godliness. Happy New Year!

Changes to The Blazing Center

This is a public service announcement, informing you of several changes to The Blazing Center.

_Our web address has officially been changed to www.theblazingcenter.com. For those of you who have linked to us using our old address of http://blazingcenter.blogspot.com, DO NOT BE ALARMED. The old link will work as well.

_We’ve added a Blazing Center highlight reel to our sidebar. Each week the highlight reel will feature five past posts. This will allow you to find older posts that might encourage you in your faith.

Thank you for your time. This has been a public service announcement.

How To Make New Year’s Resolutions

Well folks, it’s about that time of year when we start making our New Year’s resolutions. We promise ourselves that this is the year that we’re going to start exercising, quit eating junk food, watch less TV, read more, eat more fruit, get in shape, run a marathon, write a book, get our pilot’s license, learn German, stop eating salami at 2 a.m., and learn how to play the tuba. Or, on a deeper level, we vow to read our Bible more, pray more, and memorize at least fifty scripture verses. But we all know how these resolutions go. On January 1st we’re going strong, starting off the day with a brisk run and a long devotional time. On January second we run sort of briskly and have a semi-distracted devotional time. On January 3rd we walk once around the block and don’t have any time for devotions because we slept in. Why did we sleep in? Salami at 2 a.m.

So how do we make and keep New Year’s resolutions? More importantly, how do we make and keep New Year’s resolutions in a way that pleases God? Here’s a few ways:

1. Make Them Prayerfully

If we’re going to change for the glory of God, it must be by the power of God. Without God’s supernatural power at work within us, all change will be superficial and pointless. We need God to help us identify the areas where change is necessary, and then give us the power to change. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God has prepared good works for us to walk in. Let’s ask Him to lead us into these good works this year.

2. Check Your Motives

1 Corinthians 10:35 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” The ultimate goal of all New Year’s resolutions should be the glory of God. When considering areas of change, ask yourself, “Why do I want to change in this area?” When I was younger I wanted to learn how to play the guitar. Was it so I could serve the church by leading worship? Nope. So I could be in a kickin’ rock band and be adored by hordes of screaming fans who desperately wanted my autograph. You might say my motives weren’t 100% pure. If we’re to please God, our New Year’s resolutions must be made for His glory.

3. Involve Others

God-honoring growth happens in the context of community. Hebrews 3:13 says, “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” If we’re going to grow spiritually we need others to exhort and encourage us. Get other people involved in your New Year’s resolutions. Ask those close to you to point out the areas you need to grow, and then have them hold you accountable in those areas. Growth is a community project.

4. Remember The Savior

Our spiritual growth contributes absolutely nothing to our salvation. We are saved once and for all by the perfect life and sacrificial death of Christ. God won’t love me any more if I memorize 100 scriptures or share the gospel with all my neighbors. I am secure in the love of God because Jesus Christ died in my place. Deserving has nothing to do with it. As you make your New Year’s resolutions, remember Jesus Christ.

This list is by no means exhaustive. If you have any more thoughts on how to make New Year’s resolutions for the glory of God, please share them.

You May be Surprised

Who knows what surprises a year may hold?

I just reviewed my journals from this past year and I could never have imagined some of the things God did in my life in 2007. At the end of 2006 I had no inkling of the blessings and challenges 2007 would hold for me. Here are a few of the surprises God sprang on me:

My first grandchild, Charis was born on September 4. I sure didn’t expect to become a grandpa this past year! This would have been blessing enough, but God did more:

Sovereign Grace Music unexpectedly blessed my son Stephen and me by having us record a CD of our songs. I suppose Sovereign Grace figured that if Bob Dylan could make it with his voice, maybe there was hope for me.

God connected me with a friend I hadn’t seen in 20 years. My friend told me he’d been battling cancer and had begun reading the Bible. This year he gave his life to the Lord and is now running hard after Christ. I had the privilege of baptizing him earlier this month.

God gave me the opportunity to pray with the brother of one of our secretaries to receive the Lord on his deathbed.

The Lord had me meet a graduate student from Japan in a local coffeeshop. He knew little about Christ, but was interested in meeting weekly to read through the gospel of John together. We’ve met 4 times so far.

These are just a few ways God surprised me in 2007. There were also some unexpected sad and painful trials too. But in both sunshine and rain, God has been faithful and good to me.

Who knows what a year may hold? God does.

I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ (Isaiah 46:9-10)

God knows the end from the beginning. From ancient times he knew what he would accomplish in 2007. He knows what he has in store for his children this coming year. Nothing surprises him, for he is working all of history and all the details of our lives for his glory. God will use both blessings and trials to make us more like Christ.

No one can thwart God’s good plans for us. No one can throw our Heavenly Father a curve ball. His counsel will stand and he will accomplish all he has purposed.

Christ has many wonderful surprises in store for us. He has bags and bags of grace he’s waiting to lavish upon us. We should look forward to 2008 with anticipation. If God wills and we live, we have another year to get to know Christ more, to taste and see his goodness. Another year to serve, bless, and encourage others. Another year to seek to advance the gospel. Another year to bear fruit and become more like Christ.

And should this be the year the Lord calls us home, what could be better than being with him and seeing him face to face?

Praise God who holds 2008 in his hands!

photo by Beth Altrogge

Altrogge Family Christmas

What happens during the Altrogge family Christmas? Here’s the inside scoop, including exclusive photos. We’ll start on Christmas Eve and make our way to Christmas day.

Christmas Eve

_Jen and I woke up at the leisurely hour of 8:00 am. I, of course, immediately began making industrial strength coffee.

_While drinking our coffee, we read Psalm 103 together, which helped us to remember God’s extraordinary kindness to us. We then spent time thanking God for all the ways He’s blessed us.

_After devotional time was Boggle time. Jen and I love playing Boggle against each other on the computer. In one 3 minute round I set a world record, finding 48 words. I’m considering going pro. If you would like to sponsor me please email me.

_At one o’clock in the afternoon we went and saw a movie with my family, which is a longstanding Altrogge tradition. We saw the movie ‘National Treasure 2: The Book of Secrets’. If you liked the first one, you might like this one, because they’re exactly the same. Nicholas Cage solves more historical puzzles, gets chased by more blood-thirsty bad-guys, finds another really big treasure, and delivers his lines with all the personality of a piece of bark.

_Christmas Eve dinner was at my parents house, and let me say, it was one for the ages. We went a little non-traditional this year and had steak. Best decision my parents ever made. It might have been my favorite Christmas Eve dinner ever (except for the one we ate at McDonald’s)

_Presents were exchanged between Altrogge family members. Jen and I made out like bandits. Highlight of the night: when my younger brother Jonny gave us his really nice digital camera.

Christmas Day:

_Woke at 8 am, made coffee. Instead of filling each other’s stockings with candy, Jen and I gave each other letters this year.

_After the letters we moved in on the presents. Jen gave me a suh-weet hat that has lumberjack written all over it. She also gave me a book, a small accessory for my XBox, and a beautiful calendar filled with pictures she had taken of our family over the past year. I gave her some slippers, a Starbuck’s mug, a new bag, and a Willow Tree figure. It was a great Christmas.

_We went over to Jen’s parents for a fantabulous (a word meaning both fantastic and fabulous simultaneously) Christmas lunch, and some more wonderful gifts from her parents. Both of us have such generous parents!

All in all, it was a wonderful Christmas. Here’s some pictures: