I spent New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in a most unorthodox way: smack dab in the middle of a Rocky movie marathon. This wasn’t planned, and there wasn’t one on TV you missed somewhere along the way. No. This happened because my husband (after almost 19 years of marriage) found out I had never seen any of the Rocky movies.
According to him, that was sacrilegious. Un-American. (Can you see the eye-roll here?)
So, I agreed to watch, not having a single idea what to expect. We watched all 6 movies, starting with Rocky and ending with Rocky Balboa. And you know what? I really enjoyed them. The Rocky movies were so much more than movies about boxing. They told stories of family, of competitors turned friends, of love, and of redemption.
Somewhere towards the beginning of Rocky 4, a conversation between Rocky and Apollo Creed resonated deeply with me. After asking his one-time competitor and now friend if he would stand by him, Apollo says:
“Maybe you think you're changing...but you can't change what you really are. Forget all this money and stuff around you. It don't change a thing. You and me don't even have a choice. We're born with a killer instinct you can't turn off and on like a radio.”
In that specific moment, Apollo is talking about their love of the fight, their innate need to be in the ring. But that one line spoke so much deeper to me, because it is the fear that I believe many of us have. We want to change. We know we need to change. But, we fear we can’t.
Health. Relationships. Personal goals. Education. Jobs. The list goes on and on of things we want to change.
This movie marathon reminded me that those things that seem insurmountable to change alone are very much doable with others by our side. Maybe it’s an accountability partner, maybe a spouse, maybe a friend. But even as beneficial as they are, and having someone with you helps tremendously, we are not alone even without them.
The best news of all is that we never have to attempt a change alone; we have the power of God beside us, with us, guiding each and every one of our steps. Hebrews 4:13 tells us, “There is no creature hidden from His sight but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do."
When we admit the things we know we need to change, acknowledge that nothing is hidden from God, and approach Him with honesty, faith, and trust, His grace is given freely.
It is through God’s grace we are redeemed, and through His grace we are changed. Grace transforms us. As 2nd Corinthians reminds us, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come (5:17)."
Let 2016 be a year you are transformed. Change isn’t easy but it happens; little by little, day by day, we make changes in our lives. Even Rocky recognized that by the end of the movie:
“What I'm trying to say is...
Written by Marisa
Resolutions. Some people start the new year with them, but a lot of people think they are ridiculous. This is because most of of their resolutions are hopeful and they never really follow through with them - like buying a gym membership in January but then never going again. Though they start with good intentions, their resolutions are often never completed.
Contradictory to what I said, this year there are some things that I hope I can follow through with and complete. And I'm not just saying I am going to finish it, but actually do it. Also many people start off and then feel like they have to finish, but they should finish because they want to. If you are devoted enough, you can accomplish and reach your goal, even if it’s a silly New Years resolution.
This year I really want to read my bible everyday. If I start my day off with 10-20 minutes of quiet time, I feel that my day would be better than those days without this time. Earlier in the fall semester I tried this, but I got caught up in school, studying and social things. Also, I was progressively getting more and more tired.
But recently I have discovered that praying and spending even just a little bit of time with God in the morning before I start my day or in the evening at the end of my day will make my day better or turn it around. I’ve found that when you read the Bible, you can become more insightful on your outlook on life. Usually when I read my Bible it can help me with something I’m struggling with.
I know that this is will take some discipline because even if it’s something you really want for yourself, it’s easy to slip up and forget about it. I have to be able to create a new habit and hope that I won’t fail before I even start. It reminds me of this verse:
Pray, and keep praying. Be alert and thankful when you pray. Pray that God would open doors and windows and minds and eyes and hearts for the word so we can go on telling the mystery of the Anointed.
The first part of this verse rings true because not only does it say “pray”, but it says “keep praying." It’s not a one time thing, it’s continuous, and you have to be persistent, especially with your new resolutions.
So this year I going to attempt to just carve out a little more time because it's worth it and usually it can calm me down from my school work. I imagine that if i read my Bible everyday, I’ll grow, learn and be closer to God.
What about you? Is there anything that you can pick up that can make a difference in your life?
Written by Sarah
I know we all have in mind new things we are going to do and accomplish this year. The list of our perceived imperfections is long: out of shape, unorganized, not enough savings, and the list goes on. I myself have resolved to learn guitar the last 3 years in a row and remain unsuccessful in my goal. Yes, there is always a way that we can improve ourselves, but before that happens, let’s look and see what Christ has already done for us.
The very short version is that Christ lived a perfect life, which he sacrificed for us. He satisfied the debt of God by taking on all of our sin and punishment at the cross. But he didn’t stay dead – after 3 days he rose from the grave and ascended to heaven – and that is great news for you and me!
If you are in Christ Jesus, then you are a new creation.
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
The most important New Year’s resolution you could possibly accomplish has happened. Now what? Now you strive to follow Jesus as the imperfect person you are.
This is hard…. it personally took a couple times of hearing the gospel before it changed my own heart and actions. But my salvation story is one of an immediate change.
I went on a Young Life trip to Florida during spring break my sophomore year of college, and the speaker that week was the Senior Pastor at the Austin Stone church. He spoke about how there is nothing in our life that we’ve done that is bad enough to separate us from Jesus. He continued telling us that Jesus knows everything we have done and will ever do, and he still died on the cross for us. Even more, if you or I were the only person alive, Jesus would still die on the cross for us. That’s pretty amazing!
Driving back from Florida I was a new person. And it was definitely not of my own doing. So before you beat yourself up over what you haven’t accomplished, let’s remember Jesus and all that he has already accomplished for us. Because of his sacrifice, we get to spend eternity in Heaven, which definitely beats losing 10 pounds. Thanks, Jesus!
Written by Alexa, a guest contributor
Even though I have long considered myself a Christian, I can’t discount how my parents helped me to become one. Perhaps they had an early understanding that their daughter usually rejected the “hard sell.” Perhaps they merely knew of no other parenting technique to follow. Whatever the reason, they introduced me to God early and thoroughly by taking me to worship service and sending me to Sunday school, church choir, church camp, and Vacation Bible School.
However, they never told me I had to believe in God. They created opportunities for me to “notice and experience” Christianity through their behavior and the behaviors of my church leaders.
Thus, later, as a young adult, when my life was in tatters, I knew I had choices, and I knew where to turn for help. Without knowledge of these options, I wonder what may have happened to me.
I admire Christians who discover and follow Christ without the help of family or friends. To me, it shows an impressive level of character strength. Sadly, I was more of a “does someone have to paint you a picture” kind of girl. Although Christians surrounded me, and I was a church member, I developed a true commitment to Christ only after I repeated a mistake for what seemed to be the thousandth time.
Finally weary of the predictable results, I asked God to do whatever it required to change me, and He did. It took about two years. It took a lot of challenging work and sacrifice on my part, but He kept me moving forward to accomplish the goal I desired. Not surprisingly, several of my Christian friends helped me.
Now, because of my own experience, I know that people can change with God’s help.
One of the best outcomes of my commitment to Christ is the peace in my daily life. Problems arise, but I am quiet and happy inside. Of course, we all have issues that upset us, but, most often, I am able to place them in perspective and appreciate my blessings more quickly than if God were absent from my heart. I also find that I am much more productive in every aspect of my life than if I were continually upset.
The downside of this inner calm is a tendency to get complacent about my beliefs and my status with God. I catch myself thinking, “I’ve done my work to be a real Christian. I can sit back and enjoy life.” Wrong. Before I know it, I am making poor choices, judging others, and behaving selfishly, which is definitely not what God wants for me.
Thus, I guess the best way for me…and maybe for others…to reaffirm my relationship with Christ is to follow the opportunity my parents created and spend plenty of time with other Christians who care enough to work to maintain their relationships with the Lord. Seeing other people with other problems strive to live as Christ would wish inspires me to believe and behave in the same way.
Written by Becky
My Sunday school class once merged with another for a short time during some construction. This guy named Jack told us he had heard some guy on the radio say that this tribe of Native Americans believed we each have two spirits inside of us: a good wolf and an evil wolf. The wolf we feed is the one that takes over and we become. Well, I chose my wolf…He’s actually more like a Lion.
Remember that golf game I mentioned back in September? It all started back in Denver, where I had completed the transformation into the man that God never intended me to be. Looking back on the events in my life, I can now see God’s hands in it all.
After Denver I detoured through Nashville to Houston to find myself in Katy, Texas. I picked up a wife along the way and a mighty-fine golf swing if you ask me. This is key: ask me, not the guys that I played with regularly on Sunday mornings. That’s right, Sunday mornings!
The moment I found this great Sunday school teacher that taught about the God of the Bible things began to happen in my life that I resisted. Jesus may not have been causing them, but He sure was using them to draw me in.
And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.
But the old me didn’t go down without a fight. I held on to that Sunday round of golf for as long as I could. The final straw was the worst round EVER! Nothing was working that morning except for my mind, and it was running. Why am I out here? Why did I skip Sunday school again? What kind of supposed Christian man am I being? Am I kidding myself?
If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also…
Then it happened…the dreaded tee shot that barely went past the ladies tees. The others didn’t think twice, driving in front of me as I walked up and pulled out my 3 wood.
Maybe I hit the ground too hard. Or maybe the club was already damaged. Regardless, when I swung that 3 wood, the club head went whirling through the air at 100 mph right over my buddy's head, missing him by inches.
Utterly distraught, I had a revelation on the golf course that Sunday morning: the old me was fighting a losing battle because the new me wanted to be a true follower of Jesus. I dropped golf that day as if I had never played and did it joyfully. I then developed a thirst and a hunger for God and His words, which I read and meditate on daily, and no round of golf - no pleasure this world has to offer - could ever make me regret it!
Written by Harry
The 12:12 Project is sponsored by Katy First United Methodist Church.