More Than Enough

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What do you do with leftovers?  You know, after you’ve eaten a meal, you’re full, but there is still food left over?  What do you do with it?

Well, I can remember a time when my metabolism was still in “teenager mode” and there weren’t any leftovers because I would eat all the food we prepared.  However, something has changed in those years since those days…for some reason, these days if I act like a human garbage disposal, the consequences seem to weigh heavily upon me!  So, instead, we now plan more carefully.

First, we try to estimate portions better when cooking or ordering out.  But sometimes we plan to cook more than we need and then put the extra portions in containers to freeze until needed.  Then we plan to use those extra servings at a meal later in the week.  It is great to have those extra meals ready to re-heat and serve!

Did you know that Jesus’ disciples had to deal with leftovers too?  For them it was a blessing and a lesson in faith.  You see, Jesus had headed across the Sea of Galilee after a particularly tough day.  But when He got to the other side He found a crowd waiting for Him to help them.  His heart was moved with compassion by their needs, so He healed those who were sick.

As evening approached, the disciples told Jesus that He should send the people away so they could go buy food, so they wouldn’t starve.  Jesus tells them that they should feed the crowd.  But they replied that they only had 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.  They realized that the 5 loaves wouldn’t go very far in feeding 5000 men, plus women & children.  But Jesus asked for the fish & bread, thanked God for them, broke the bread and began giving the disciples pieces of the food to hand out to the people.  The people all ate, Matthew says, and WERE SATISFIED (Matt. 14:20).  Then, just in case we wouldn’t believe that all had eaten until full, Matthew records that they gathered up the leftovers:  12 full baskets of leftovers!

What are the needs in your life today?  If you have given your life fully to God, He has promised to care for you!  Surrender your needs and resources to His will and you will find that He is the God of “more than enough!”  You too can be blessed by God’s “leftovers!”

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Being the Best

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From top 10 lists to award shows to the annual richest people in the world magazine issues, not to mention the “vote off everyone but the winner” TV shows, it would seem that the world is focused on trying to figure out who’s the best.  Of course, there are lots of ways to evaluate who’s in the lead:  the wealthiest, the most powerful, the best singer, the best performer, the one who loses the most weight, the one who survives challenges and the intrigue of personal relationships and alliances or the one who creates and successfully finishes the best project or event.  Apparently, if you believe the mavens of media, these are the most highly prized abilities in the world.

Jostling for rank and position is not a new thing (in case you hadn’t noticed!).  Did you know that even Jesus’ disciples dealt with this?  One day on the road to Capernaum, they argued about who was the greatest (Mk. 9:33-34).  Later, James & John ask Jesus to have the top spots in His coming Kingdom, which angers the other disciples, who probably had their eyes on those spots too (Mk 10:35-41)!

But Jesus threw out all the common criteria for deciding who the best is.  Jesus said that in His Kingdom, it is not about wealth, power, position or performance.  It is about humility and service.  In His kingdom, wanting to lord it over others, puts you last.  Instead, to be superior, you need to serve.  This is a challenge to our way of looking at the world.  But Jesus shows us a new way to live:  the way He did!  “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  So, to follow Him, we are called to give our lives in service.  Jesus’ life reveals that this kind of life is not the easiest, but it is the best!  Whom will you serve today?

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Good News!

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Have you, or someone you know, ever wondered if God really cared about you?  Have you ever faced something so bad or difficult that you found it hard to believe that God was paying attention to you?  Have you ever considered giving up on God because it seemed that He had given up on you?  Well, if you’ve ever been there, don’t give up on God, because He has a message for you:  the Message of Easter!

The Message of Easter is Good News!  At its core, the meaning of Easter is that God has not given up on you or forgotten you.  In fact, His Son, Jesus Christ, willingly sacrificed His life to save yours!  God went to EXTRAORDINARY lengths to make sure that the problems you are facing are not the last word!  Jesus planted the seed that will grow into ultimate victory for you and me!  His death and resurrection have set in motion a redemptive process that will, one day, transform the whole world!

The only thing that is unclear is whether or not we will share in this transformation.  The reason it is unclear is that the choice is left up to us.  Will we admit that we need to be rescued from the devastation of our sinful world and from the results of our own sinful choices?  Will we accept Jesus’ free gift of forgiveness for our sins?  Will we choose to follow Him?  I have.  Will you?

The message of Easter is Good News!  The God of the universe has not abandoned us in a broken world.  Instead, He is dying to save us from it, and then He overcame death so that we could too!  Help us share the story this Easter!  It’s Good News!

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On the Journey

“Are we there yet?”  Do you remember that question?  I remember asking that question as a child and hearing it as a parent.  I recall that my Dad often planned to travel at night when we headed out for a long trip…probably to avoid hearing that question!

We all, individually and as a church, are on a journey.  Often we get impatient and want to be at our destination already.  The trip can be tiring and we may encounter obstacles or problems.  However, I have found that the journey itself can be beneficial.  We can learn, grow and gain strength along the way.  We will encounter amazing places and wonderful people.  We will encounter God on our journey also.

Thousands of years ago a man named Zerubbabel led a group of the Jews from their Babylonian exile to return to the Promised Land to rebuild a temple that had been burned and broken down.  This was 70 years after the previous temple had been destroyed.  (You can read about this in the Bible books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Haggai.)  They encountered challenges and difficulties, but also saw the Lord work on their behalf in miraculous ways as their temple was completed!

In February we met with representatives of our Design/Build team, including our Architect.  We are still “on the journey” of working on our Master Site Plan and the design of our Phase One building.  We hope to be able to present concept drawings of these plans sometime this Spring.  After that stage we will present the plan for funding this exciting project.  So please pray with us that God will continue to guide us so that we can make the best use of the blessings God has given and will give us!  We want to be faithful to “Reach the World and Teach the Word with Passion for Christ and Compassion for All!”

On what journey are you traveling?  What obstacles or problems have you encountered?  How has God been with you on the journey?  Let me encourage you to seek to follow Him and He will guide you to your destination…eventually!  But remember the journey itself will be worth the effort!  Join us on the journey!

What is Love?

How much ink has been spilled trying to define “love?”  Our culture tells us that love is all about feelings, which ebb and flow.  The problem is that kind of love is not dependable!  Is that the kind of love we want or need?

The Hebrew people of the Old Testament had a word for love, hesed, which scholars say could be more accurately translated as “covenantal loyalty.”  That is, the word traditionally translated “love” in the Old Testament actually means that a person is acting in keeping with the covenant that he or she has made to another.  Perhaps it is not surprising that there has been a recent trend to create “Covenant Marriages” in various states around the country.  Many people have become disillusioned with the flippant way that marriage vows are treated these days.  The “Covenant Marriage” movement is an attempt to recover the original meaning of marriage: a sacred, life-long covenant pledged between a man and a woman under the blessing of God and the church.  Such a marriage is not one entered into out of convenience or as a selfish attempt to get one’s own needs met.  A marriage covenant is a sacred, life-long pledge to seek the good of the other above your own needs, wants and desires.

This kind of love, Paul said, looks like Jesus:  “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” (Eph. 5:25)

Husbands and wives, are you being faithful to the covenant you have made with your spouse before God and the church?  This month, as Valentine’s Day approaches, reaffirm your “covenantal loyalty” to your spouse through faithful, unselfish, caring actions.  I suspect that your feelings will enjoy a corresponding renewal!

The Appointed Time

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.”  Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NASB)


Can you believe that we are starting the 2nd decade of the 21st Century?  It seems just yesterday that we were hearing all the talk about Y2K.  Now that’s over 10 years ago!  As we begin a New Year and decade, many folk will take time to evaluate what they have accomplished in the past year.  I believe that is a great discipline that will help us stay focused on the mission God has given us.

However, let me suggest an additional way to look at your New Year review:  Take time to consider, in addition to what you have accomplished, what God has accomplished in your life in the past year or beyond.  If we begin this new decade with a renewed appreciation for what God is doing in our lives, I suspect that we will be more likely to make choices that will align us with God’s purposes in the future.

So, let me suggest that you pick a morning, afternoon or evening, (or a whole day if you dare) and have a Yearly Review.  Take time to review not only what you have accomplished, but also what God has done (remembering that much of what we want to take credit for would have been out of reach without God’s help, wisdom and strength)!  Then ask God for wisdom in setting your priorities for the New Year.  Consider writing down the action steps that will help move you toward the fulfillment of your God-given priorities.  Then plan goals for each month of the coming year.  I suspect you will be amazed at how God helps you fulfill His purposes as you seek to fill His appointed time for you with His appointed tasks!

“…make the most of every opportunity.” Colossians 4:5 (CEV)

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The Word of Christmas

Have you ever looked at how the story of Jesus is told in the Bible?  The writers of the Gospels all start their accounts differently.  Matthew starts with Jesus’ genealogy beginning with Abraham.  Mark just jumps into the story of Jesus’ ministry, starting with John the Baptist’s introducing Jesus.  Luke gives us the most details of the story of Jesus’ birth starting with the announcement of the coming birth of John the Baptist.

The Apostle John, however, begins his account in what might be an unexpected way to many.  He starts with Creation.  John’s Gospel reminds us that Jesus is the Divine Son of God who pre-existed his coming on that first Christmas.  He is the Divine “Word” of God who spoke the world into existence.  John appears to be speaking to the Greek audience in his time.  The Greek philosophers had postulated that life itself must have some underlying, foundational core of logic upon which the whole world rested.  They called this the “Logos” (that’s Greek for “word”).  John says that Jesus is that “Word.”  He is life itself.  He is the light of humanity.

John tells us of Jesus’ birth, but does so in one sentence:  “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14a).  That one statement says a lot!  John says that the pre-existent Son of God took on humanity.  He came to us in a human body and took up residence among us.  John identifies this God/man as Jesus, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

This Christmas when you look at the manger scene, remember what you are seeing:  the Divine Word who spoke the world into existence has humbled Himself (cf. Phil. 2:5-11), taking on the form of a helpless baby, so that He can take away your sins!  Now that is truly a gift beyond compare!

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Giving Thanks

Many families will gather around a table filled with food this Thanksgiving, and will pause to give thanks before they begin eating.  Did you know that apparently Jesus made a habit of giving thanks to the Father before a meal?  Several times the New Testament records instances Jesus giving thanks before a meal:  Matthew 14:19, 15:36, 26:26-27 and parallel passages in the other Gospels.  Also, it is recorded that the Apostle Paul offered thanks before a meal as well (Acts 27:35).

Why is this tradition of giving thanks to God for our food important for us to continue?  Let me suggest some reasons:

1) Giving thanks reminds us that every good thing comes from God (James 1:17).

2) It reminds us that we need more than physical food to live:  we are kept alive by God’s Word (Matthew 4:4).

3) We need to be reminded to follow Jesus in everything we say & do (1 Corinthians 11:1).

4) We cannot reach personal & spiritual maturity without developing the attribute of thankfulness (Colossians 2:6-7).

5) Actively giving thanks defeats the temptation to complain (Philippians 2:14).

So as you gather with others for a Thanksgiving meal, remember that you are joining in a soul-shaping tradition with other Christians and with Christ Himself…and be thankful!

The Potter and the Play Doh

Do you remember playing with Play-Doh as a child?  I remember that my brother and I had a selection of Play-Doh of various colors, plus a “presser” that allowed you to raise a handle, insert a ball of Play-Doh and press down on the handle to extrude a “rope” of Play-Doh in various shapes, depending upon the type of pattern you had selected.  We had great fun with it…until we forgot to close the Play-Doh container lids tightly!  The Play-Doh dried out and hardened into a lump of colored rock!  Hardened Play-Doh is no fun to a child who isn’t allowed to throw rocks!


I was reminded of my childhood experience with Play-Doh when I read from Isaiah, chapter 64 and verse 8, “We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” 


Isaiah says that God is the potter and we are clay.  The potter is able to shape the clay only if it is pliable.  My response to Isaiah’s words is to consider whether I am pliable clay or an unusable lump.  I suspect that the difference rests in my attitude toward God.  Am I willing to let God change me or do I resist His work in my life?  Am I willing to listen to what God is saying to me and am I willing to do what He tells me to do?  If so, then God is able to create something amazing in my life.  If not, I condemn myself to being an unusable lump. 


Being shaped by God is not always comfortable…often He stretches us out of our comfort zone!   But for us to resist God’s work in our live makes as much sense as clay complaining about the potter’s craftsmanship.  So decide today to entrust your life to the hands of the Master Potter!  You will be amazed at what He will create in you!

The Test for True Life: Love

Would life be meaningful to you if there was no such thing as love? According to the Apostle John, life without love is…, well, death. “Anyone who does not love remains in death” (I John 3:14b). John says that the way we know that we have received life from God is that we are able to love our brothers. “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers” (1 John 3:14a).

So, what does it mean to love others?

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16).

John reveals here what this life of love is like.  It is like the life of Jesus. Loving like Jesus means that we are willing to sacrifice our lives for the sake of others. Jesus did this for us on the cross.

Loving like Jesus means that we will help those in need (cf. 1 John 3:17). We respond with compassion to help those around us who are in need. We are to respond to them as Jesus did.

Loving like Jesus means that we will not just talk about loving, serving and helping;
we will actually do it. When our loving actions give evidence of the values of Christ we profess, we are seeing the proof of a heart that has been changed by Christ. This evidence of Christ’s love living in us gives us confidence to stand before God (cf. v. 21).

So, according to John, if you really want to live, now and eternally, you need to
receive and then share the love of Christ with those around you. True love means living like Jesus did. That’s true life!

A Christmas Apart

(Click here to listen to the podcast recording)

This Christmas many military families will have to deal with celebrating Christmas with a loved one deployed somewhere around the world. For many military families these holidays and family celebrations are very difficult. There seems to be a nagging sense that things aren’t quite as they should be with a family member gone. There is the ongoing worry about the safety of their family member who is in a war zone. There is sometimes even a sense of guilt if the holiday is enjoyed while their loved one is facing difficulties abroad. These families are sacrificing for our safety in ways that many of us will never fully understand.

This reminded me that the first Christmas marked the first time that God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son were separated in any way. At that point Jesus’ separation was due to his becoming a baby, becoming limited to communicating just through cries and babbling. His separation was due to his willing submission to our human limitations, our need to learn and grow. He surrendered the glories of heaven, yielded to necessary limitations on his divine powers, and even endured what was no doubt a drastic, but temporary change in His ability to communicate fully with the Father & Spirit as He grew from a baby to manhood.

The first Christmas brought about a great sacrifice for the Father, Son & Holy Spirit. Their “family circle” was drastically disrupted. But the disruption was temporary in order to bring about a greater benefit for the whole human race. So as we remember God’s “indescribable gift” this Christmas, let’s also remember the tremendous sacrifice it required. And, don’t forget, the many military families who are also sacrificing so that you can celebrate Christ’s birth while enjoying “peace on earth!”

Thirty-six Communities

Luke 10 begins with the account of Jesus appointing 72 followers and sending them out 2 by 2 to every town and place that He was planning to visit. This implies that Jesus sent out 36 pairs of followers to at least 36 communities, maybe more. Jesus goes on to ask His followers to ask the “Lord of the harvest” (His Father) to send out workers into the “harvest field” because the workers are few. This implies that Jesus wanted to reach more communities than was possible with the 36 pairs of workers He had.

This passage raises some questions for me. Were the 72 trained? I think the answer is yes. Verses 2 through 16 capture some of what Jesus taught them in preparation for their assignment. Also, it is interesting that the number sent out is divisible by 12. Could it be that each of the 12 disciples were to train 6 others (12×6=72), half the number of the 12 disciples that Jesus Himself was training? What could happen in churches today if each pastor set a goal to disciple and train 12 who were then challenged to disciple and train 6 who were expected to do the same and so on?

Another question came to mind: Could we find ways to reach 36 “towns” or communities? In our country we tend to cluster people in cities, towns, unincorporated communities, and subdivisions. What if our church attempted to reach at least 36 subdivisions or communities in our local area or county? Jesus’ 36 teams were not given a budget or supplies (v. 4). They were to avoid distractions (v. 4b) that would delay the fulfillment of their mission. They were to bless the people of that community, offering peace to them, and letting them know that God had taken notice of them and had invited them to join His Kingdom. They were to pray for people to be healed. They were to get to know the people, to sit and eat with them; whatever the people ate, they were to eat. They were commissioned as agents of Christ and His Father. If they were rejected, they were not to take it personally. Their commissioning gave them authority even over Satan, since his destiny is downfall. They were not to look at their accomplishments with pride, but were to rejoice instead that their names were written in heaven.

What if we could do this kind of ministry? What could happen if we set out, 2 by 2, to look for at least one family in each of 36 subdivisions who would welcome a message of peace? What would happen if we sat down with them to eat with them, pray for God’s peace to rest on them, for God to bring healing to their lives, for God to break the chains that Satan has on them? It is interesting that immediately after the account of the 72 and their ministry we find the story of the Good Samaritan, a man who, while going along the road, meets someone in need and stops to help. What if we ask God to show us communities, subdivisions and families in need that we should “adopt?” What if we drove through the subdivision, or better yet, walked, and asked God to show us the family He wants us to meet and serve?

I guess it starts with each of us. Am I willing to “adopt” my community, my subdivision, to look for those who need the Lord’s peace (after all, we all need God’s peace, don’t we?)?

Then, as a church, perhaps we need to pray that God will send out workers: 12 people who will agree to be trained to start with 6 subdivisions. Ultimately these 12 will pray and look for 6 people they can train to send as pairs to 3 more subdivisions. Are you willing to be one of the Lord’s workers? Let me know if you want to impact your community!

The Journey to Spiritual Victory

In the years to come historians will comb through the actions, inactions and over-reactions to the current war in Iraq. They will analyze what was done, what could have been done, and what perhaps should have been done. Their goal will be to describe what was done and why. Military planners will also perform an analysis to determine what can be learned about how to defeat an insurgency or to prevent one from developing. Their goal will be to learn lessons so that in the future we can avoid conflicts, or if they are unavoidable, how to be victorious!

James, a disciple of Jesus Christ, writes in his letter in the New Testament about the need for spiritual victory in our lives. He reveals to us that we face a conflict and that we must choose sides. We will choose to be either a friend of the “world” (which is under the control of Satan) or a friend of God. The word “world” here is not used in the sense of our “planet,” but is used to represent a mindset which rejects God and focuses chiefly on the physical instead of the spiritual.

James then gives us directions in chapter 4 to guide us on our journey to spiritual victory. First, we must be willing to submit our selfish desires to God. Selfishness is what leads to conflict in your life, so he instructs us to turn it over to God.

Second, we must choose to pursue God rather than trying to fit into the mindset of the culture around us. If wefit in with the values of everyone around us, we will end up fighting against God! Instead, we must choose to follow God. Let Him guide us, coach us, instruct us in every part of our life. Read His message to us, the Bible, and do what He instructs us to do.

Third: Reject temptations! You will be tempted! Plan now to defeat them, instead of letting them defeat you! The best way to defeat temptations is to avoid them, if you can. We can’t avoid every temptation, but we can refuse to put ourselves into situations where we know we will be tempted. As Martin Luther is quoted as saying, “We can’t keep the birds from flying over our heads, but we can keep them from building a nest in our hair!” When we reject temptations, the devil won’t stick around! But be prepared, he’ll be back!

Fourth, turn instead to God. Find ways to get closer to Him. This can include what I’ve already mentioned, reading your Bible, plus using spiritual growth tools such as prayer, meditation, silence, simplicity, helping others, spiritual growth groups, worship, fasting, confession, spiritual coaching, and celebration. (For more on this read Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster.) James reminds us that when we draw near to God, He will draw near to you.

Fifth, James calls us to wash our hands of sin (cf. 4:7). We are to choose to live lives of purity. We must therefore ask God’s forgiveness for the sins which we have already committed. Then we must choose to live clean!

Sixth, we are to seek purity of heart. James reminds us here that in the final analysis, sin is a matter of the heart. If your heart is still set on sin, asking for forgiveness of what you have already done will not produce a change in your patterns of behavior. To see true change take place, you need to have a change of heart. James calls us “double-minded” and says we need to purify our hearts. Many people say they want a great relationship with God, but they aren’t willing to quit doing the things that break God’s heart! Try that approach with your spouse and see how it works for you! We will need God’s help to purify our hearts. Pray the prayer that King David prayed, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

These steps are not easy to take. They call us to set aside our selfishness and focus instead on God and His purposes for us. But God’s response will make it worthwhile. As James puts it, “Humble yourself before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” That sounds like victory to me!

I’ve Met Jesus’ Sister, and so have You!

Did you know that Jesus had a sister?  You know, I really hadn’t thought about it much.  However, in the last year with the controversy that Dan Brown’s book The DaVinci Code sparked, folks have actually taken a look at such things.  Well, what do we know about Jesus’ family?

The story of Jesus’ birth told in the New Testament reveals that Jesus’ birth was a miracle.  Mary was chosen by God and called by an angel to carry a child conceived by the Holy Spirit.  Joseph, realizing that he was not the father, was going to cancel his engagement to Mary quietly.  An angel appeared to him and convinced him to marry Mary anyway.

From here the details of the story are more sketchy.  So, what do we know?  We know that Mary had more children, sons at least, and that we don’t see any other evidence of Joseph beyond that.  The assumption is that, after the birth of Jesus, Mary & Joseph had several other sons and then at some point, probably prior to Jesus’ public ministry, Joseph died.

Mary shows up in the Gospels on several occasions, most notably at Cana of Galilee when Jesus performed a miracle at her request and at Jesus’ crucifixion.  But, there is another reference to Jesus’ family that includes a reference to Jesus’ sister, however. 

In the opening chapters of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is shown beginning His ministry of teaching, healing and delivering those possessed by demons.  Crowds of people flocked to him from all over the area.  Then Jesus’ mother and brothers also show up.  Jesus is in a building, probably a home, teaching a group of people crowded around him.  His family, unable to enter the building, are left standing outside.  Someone conveys to Jesus the message, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you” (Mark 3:32 NIV). 

Jesus said, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”  Then He looked at those seated around Him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!  Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:33-35 NIV)

Now this doesn’t mean that Jesus didn’t respect his family.  We see that Jesus, later, while He was being crucified, specifically made sure that His mother, Mary, would be cared for after His death and resurrection.  The point that Jesus is making is that you and I can be part of His family!  Anyone who chooses to follow God’s purposes, which includes accepting Jesus as God’s Son and our Savior, is Jesus’ brother, sister or mother.

So, do you know someone who is pursuing God’s purposes in her or his life?  That person is Jesus’ sister or brother!  Chances are, you know Jesus’ brother and probably His sister too!

But a more important question is:  Are you doing God’s will?  If you are, guys, you are Jesus’ brother!  Ladies, if you are, you are Jesus’ sister! 

(Maybe the next topic I write about should be “The need for humility!”)

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A New Beginning (with a History)!

We are beginning a new year, 2008! Millions of folk have celebrated the new year in Times Square and around the world. Everyone likes to think that each year we get a new lease on life. A chance to start over, to start fresh! They are right! A new year is a gracious gift, a hopeful promise! Of course, there is no guarantee that we will get to live to see the end of the year, or that we will make good use of the time we will be given. But “here’s hoping!”

What many people forget is that this new year has a foundation: all the years before. What this year will become is not limited to, but is dependent upon what came before. I saw an example of this in Mark chapter 1, verses 1-2. Marks begins his Gospel by saying, “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the son of God.” Wow! That’s a loaded title! It marks a new beginning! He says this is “gospel,” which means, “good news!” This good news is about Jesus who is the Christ, or the Messiah, the Savior promised by the Jewish prophets. Some ancient manuscripts record Mark as testifying that this Jesus is the “Son of God!” A divine savior who fulfills the promises of the ancient Jewish prophets…now that’s a new beginning with a history! But this new beginning, built upon a foundation of history, was not limited to that history. Jesus himself said that he came not to abolish the law or the prophets (what had been built before), but to fulfill them (cf. Matt. 5:17).

Mark follows verse 1 with quotations from Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3, who are Old Testament prophets. Mark shows that this new “beginning” has a history.

So, what does that mean for us?

Often we try to get away from our past, but find ourselves tied to it. Many folk find themselves repeating the past, despite their feverish attempts to distance themselves from it! How do we move beyond the past?

First, Mark’s words show me that I can never move beyond my history until I face it. As we start this new year, it may be helpful for us, hard as it may be, to review our life to this point. Ask yourself, what lessons have I learned thus far in my life? What lessons should I have learned from my mistakes? Honestly assess where you are, where you have failed and where you have succeeded.

Second, Mark’s words show me that even if I have a past, I can, with God’s help, have a new beginning! In fact, another apostle, John, quotes Jesus as saying, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10b). We are not defined by our past. We need not suffer an eternal curse because of our history. In fact, Peter is quoted in Acts 10:43 as saying about Jesus that “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” What an amazing gift that Christmas has given us! A Savior who is willing to forgive us of our sins! The writer of the book of Hebrews (10:17) reminds us of the promise of Jeremiah 31:34 “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” In God’s eyes, our history is wiped clean!

Third, Mark’s words show me that my future has its meaning in Jesus Christ. If I want to make a new beginning in my life, it needs to be about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He is the center of history. The numbering of our year, 2008, is tied to His birth. His birth was the watershed event of history. If I want my life to be meaningful, it must be connected to the One who gives meaning to life! Ask Jesus to come into your life, bringing forgiveness for your past sins, helping you to learn from the past, becoming a companion to bring you joy in each day, and providing guidance and purpose for your future.

Now that’s a New Beginning with a divine history!

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