By Jim Denison

Resolving to be less this New Year

Why are New Year's predictions so popular? Because they give us the illusion of control over our lives. But clearly, we can neither decipher nor determine the future.

Spiritual control

I just finished reading Empire of the Summer Moon, S. C. Gwynne's starkly realistic history of the Indian wars on the American frontier. Gwynne centers on the Comanches, widely known as "lords of the plains," and their most famous leader, Quanah Parker.

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According to Gwynne, "The Comanches lived in a world alive with magic and taboo; spirits lived everywhere, in rocks, trees, and in animals. The main idea of their religion was to find a way to harness the powers of these spirits."

They were not the first or the last to believe that they could control spiritual forces for their personal agendas.

The primordial temptation is still the only temptation we face today: "You will be like God" (Genesis 3:5). Every sin is a variation on this theme, an attempt to be our own God as we rule our own kingdom.

Consider the Star Wars franchise, the most recent of which was the biggest movie of 2017. Every film in the series has one element in common: a belief in "the Force."

As Obi-Wan Kenobi told young Luke Skywalker, "The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It is an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together."

Though C. S. Lewis obviously never saw Star Wars (he died in 1963), this observation in Miracles seems as though he did: "An 'impersonal God'—well and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads—better still. A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap—best of all. But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband—that is quite another matter."

Who is the captain of your soul?

Our great temptation is to make God less than He is so we can be more than we are. This "zero-sum game" is deadly.

Imagine trying it with your surgeon during your operation, limiting her ability to use her expertise so you can take charge of your procedure. Or with your attorney during your trial, or a mechanic fixing your car, or a financial expert after you've been audited by the IRS.

The more you are, the less they are. And the less you will be.

By contrast, what do these giants of the faith have in common?

Noah "did all that God commanded him" (Genesis 6:22).

"Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going" (Hebrews 11:8).

"Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth" (Numbers 12:3, NIV).

Peter said to Jesus, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord" (Luke 5:8).

Paul called himself the "foremost" of all sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).

When John met the risen Christ on Patmos, he "fell at his feet as though dead" (Revelation_1:17).

You can step into this unpredictable year by claiming our culture's mantra, "I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul." Or you can say of Jesus, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).

The more you make of God in your life, the more He can make of you.

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