We don't always know how the resolutions we make may one day guard our hearts—or even our bodies—as I discovered at the Israel in the Garden" celebration in San Francisco.
It is amazing how many ways people can make their displeasure known when you are handing out gospel tracts in public, and after some 30 years of experience I thought I had seen or heard it all. But I was wrong…
A bit of background: every year Jewish people from around the Bay Area come to a fair to celebrate Israel's independence. It is a time to visit artisans' booths, eat falafel, listen to Israeli music, hear speakers and basically revel in one's Jewishness. Approximately 12,000 people, mostly Jewish, came to the Israel fair this year. I was happy to be there along with all of the missionaries from our San Francisco branch to hand out broadsides and to witness. Now admittedly, many were less than overjoyed to see us, and some made comments that I can't repeat. But there are always some who are seeking, and we are there for them. Several gave us their names and contact information, but I want to tell you about one who didn't.
A man wearing a kippah had brought his dog—his very large dog of approximately 70-80 pounds. He (the man) gave me one of those "if looks could kill" stares and then, pointing at me, he commanded his canine companion, "Get her!" The dog looked at him, then looked at me and stood as still as a statue. I smiled and said, "Dogs like me. He is not going to attack."
You see, although I am a committed urban dweller whose only pet has ever been a goldfish, I resolved something a long time ago. While I would never own a dog, I decided that I would like dogs and always be kind to them. So while there's never been a Fido, Spot or Lassie in the Perlman family, I believe that dogs can sense my resolve. They don't bother me, chase me, snarl at me or bite me. Resolutions—at least this one—have kept me in good stead. How about you?
Okay, so my resolution may be a bit of a "shaggy dog" story. But I do have something to say about resolutions. That is, if we don't resolve to do certain things or act in certain ways on the basis of belonging to Y'shua, we will be more vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy, as well as much further away from becoming the people that God wants us to be.
Most people make resolutions to mark the solar New Year. But I propose that, as Jewish believers, we think about Rosh Hashanah resolutions that can be meaningful to us, our families, the community of Jewish believers and the larger body of Messiah. I've put together a list of such resolutions in the form of promises to Y'shua. I'm prayerfully considering one or two of these for my own life in the coming year. Maybe one or two will resonate with you for the Jewish New Year, as well, and you'll pray about making them your own.
- I resolve to put You first, Y'shua, to order my life in a way that says I want to please and honor You in all that I do.
- I need and desire to grow in my faith and my love for others; I recognize that this is best achieved by studying the Word of God, praying and witnessing. I therefore resolve to make these three things my priorities.
- I resolve to make my home a place where Your Word is reflected and given a place of true honor. And I will, together with my spouse, instill in my children the importance of trusting in You as well as maintaining our Jewish identity.
- I resolve to show my family the love and concern that You have graciously shown to me. This means I will do whatever I can to maintain relationships with unbelieving Jewish family members even if they shun my approaches. I resolve to persist in prayer and to take whatever opportunity You provide to make Your messiahship an unavoidable issue for them to consider.
- I resolve to be at peace, as much as is possible, with all in the Jewish believing community. I resolve not to be a party to ungodly dissension, but to respect views that differ from my own in matters such as forms of worship and what constitutes Jewish lifestyle.
- I resolve to speak up if I hear the Scripture compromised. I want to affirm its utter truthfulness, authority and power to accomplish Your purposes.
- I resolve to affirm what You have joined together as Your Body, showing respect to all who are part of our circle of faith in the family of God, be they Jews or Gentiles. I pledge to uphold brothers and sisters whose culture differs from mine, remembering that, though our traditions may not be the same, we are one in Your Spirit.
- I resolve that Israel is my homeland, and wherever I live in the diaspora, I will always look to Israel as a spiritual place. I resolve to uphold my brothers and sisters in Israel; praying for the peace of Jerusalem, sharing my funds and my energy that our homeland might be strengthened as a place of safety for all Jews everywhere, whether or not they share my faith in You.
- I resolve faithfully to make You known to others—to speak out when it is easier to be silent, to stand up when I can hide in a crowd, to do my best to communicate my love for You in such a way that Jews and Gentiles alike know You. In particular, it is my desire that my Jewish relatives and friends who have not heard the gospel, hear it from my lips in this year so that their names, too, might be inscribed in the Book of Life.
Perhaps you will either adopt one or more of these Rosh Hashanah resolutions—or else use the Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to formulate and reflect on your own resolutions. We need godly resolve to face whatever joys and sorrows this next year holds.
Resolutions that honor Y'shua help to guard our hearts because they determine how we will act in unexpected circumstances. Sometimes we find ourselves in challenging situations where we might be tempted to react in a negative way. Resolutions enable us to respond in godly ways, according to decisions we've already made and asked God to support.
Of course, resolutions won't do us much good unless we take time to measure how we're doing. To that end, it's good to let someone else know about your resolutions. They can help you to rejoice where you are succeeding and to pray with you for God's help where you're struggling—and gratefully receive God's forgiveness and restoration for the rest.