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Pros, cons of faith-based resolutions

Jan. 1 resolutions are made and ready to meet their maker. Many resolutions involve fitness or a healthier lifestyle, but where does a person's faith fall? Should a faith-based resolution be at the top of the list or the bottom?

A resolution is defined as "a firm decision to do or not to do something." Often Christians will make resolutions to read their Bible more, pray more or go to church more often. Sometimes those resolutions can be more explicit in that a Christian wants to read the Bible within a year, pray for an hour or so a day or go to church every single Sunday. And what's typical about resolutions is that more often than not they are broken and aren't followed through.

Brandon Johnson, pastor of First Christian Church, believes faith-based resolutions are healthy for Christians to make but there can be a shadowy side to them.

"I think where they become dangerous is when it starts to incite shame or guilt," Johnson said. "I think it's perfectly OK for a Christian to sit down on Jan. 1 and say, 'You know what, I'm going to try to read the Bible in a year,' or 'I'm going to make sure to pray every day' or 'I'm going to make sure to go to church.' And, of course, I would love that.

"But when it becomes rote or when you don't do it and it becomes shame-inducing, where all of a sudden you feel like you're this incomplete, horrible human being because you didn't make it through the Bible this year or you didn't make it to church this week and therefore you're a bad person, I think that's bad. That's not what a discipline of faith is supposed to be about. It's not supposed to be about making you feel bad about who you are. Or it's not supposed to make you feel bad about your relationship with God."

Johnson makes resolutions himself, and his resolutions this year are for him to have a Sabbath day once a week where he focuses on himself and his personal relationship with God. He also wants to develop a consistent running regiment and drink less Pepsi. He uses running as a model for his faith life. He wouldn't start out running 30 miles, he would start small and build his mileage  starting will small, incremental goals and working toward his resolution.

"So say, if you want to read the Bible in a year, don't sit down tomorrow and read the entire book of Genesis, because then you're just going to close it and not open it again for weeks," Johnson said. "You have to incrementally build up. ... And that for me has always been running. If I want to get to a marathon or a half marathon, I have to train for six months. And I think reading or the practice faith is the same way. You're not going to turn around tomorrow and be able to do it all."

So when making those faith-based resolutions, Christians tend to put them at the top of their list. It's ingrained that Jesus comes first above everything else. But Pastor Jason Weikle of Grace Fellowship Church wants his congregation to take a different approach to resolutions with his upcoming sermon series, "Don't Put Jesus First This Year." The two-part series will encourage people not to put Jesus at the top of their resolutions list, questioning whether that's the best way to make a faith-based resolution or resolutions in general.

Weikle said often a resolutions list looks like this: spend more time with Jesus, my family, friends and get healthy. So with Jesus at the top of the list, does that mean everything else is neglected? And most of the time those faith-based resolutions tend to slip due to the other demands of life.

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