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15 minutes that can change your life

People cheer as the Times Square New Year's Eve ball is lit and raised (Credit: Ian Wallace) Tonight, a 1,200-pound ball clad in Waterford crystal with 30,000 watts of light-emitting diodes will descend in New York's Times Square at midnight Eastern time.  Its ancestor was a five-foot iron globe studded with 216 electric lamps that was commissioned by The New York Times in 1907 and fell from a 70-foot flagpole.

New Year's celebrations and resolutions began 4,000 years ago with the Babylonians.  They marked the new year by paying off debts and returning borrowed farm equipment.  If I borrowed your tractor, I promise to return it some time in 2014.

Unfortunately, nine out of 10 people who make New Year's resolutions fail to keep them.  Psychologists know why: most of us set goals that focus on weaknesses rather than strengths.  When we behave in positive ways that reflect our personal values, we are much more likely to commit to such behavior over time.

For instance, by taking time to read this Cultural Commentary, you show that you value your relationship with God.  You want to know Christ and make him known.  You know that loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30) is vital to finding the "abundant life" Jesus wants for you (John 10:10).  Now, what New Year's resolution could most strengthen your spiritual life?

Most of us attend worship services and Bible studies each week.  We give our time and money to the cause of Christ.  But many of us struggle with personal worship during the week.  We know that we should spend time alone with the Father, but we're not sure how.

Here are some simple guidelines. 

First, make an appointment with the Lord early in the morning.  We start the day with God because we cannot give him hours we've already spent.  President Reagan once asked the Air Force One pilot why he tried to land so close to the beginning of the runway.  The pilot grinned and explained, "Mr. President, all pilots know you can't use the runway that's behind you."

Second, use this time for personal worship.  We "enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise" (Psalm 100:4).  When we glorify God, his Spirit draws us into his presence.

How?  Tomorrow, our ministry is launching First15, a daily resource that will help you spend 15 minutes alone with your Father.  You'll be led through worship, biblical reflection, and personal prayer.  Our team is praying that this strategy will help thousands of Christians around the world encounter God more intimately and passionately.  Tomorrow's Cultural Commentary will introduce you to this initiative.

At the beginning of his ministry, our Lord set an example for us: "Early in the morning, Jesus got up, left the house while it was still dark outside, and went to a deserted place to pray" (Mark 1:35).  Will you emulate your Master today?

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