Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Hope in 2018

  I’ve been thinking about the New Year we’re all about to face. I know for many of you 2017 was a difficult year. I can relate as I went through a some battles of my own.  If it were not for the strength of the Lord, my family and friends, I don’t know what I would have done.

     Well, that is all behind me now and I am looking forward to 2018.  As we face going into a new year I’d like to encourage you to allow the Lord to do some new things in your life. Some of you might be comfortable with you life. To that I say, the Lord loves us too much to allow us to remain as we are. We need to always be growing in some area of our life. Others of you may be fed up with life, disillusioned, even fearful.  For some of you there’s been a dream that you’ve held in your heart for years but you just don’t see it happening. Hold on, you might be delayed, but you are still destined!
     Now let’s look at some new possibilities for 2018.
New Pursuits: “There are many plans in a man's heart, nevertheless the LORD'S counsel-- that will stand in  nevertheless the LORD'S counsel.”  - Proverbs 19:21
     God might lead you to a new job position. He might send you back to school for some more training. Ask the Lord what he wants to do with your life.  If you’re a Christian maybe he’s calling you into ministry or to go on a mission trip. Be open to new ideas in the New Year. Get your steel-toed shoes ready…. It might be that you need to change some of your relationships that are leading you down a wrong path. In the bible it says, “Don't be fooled by those who say such things, for "bad company corrupts good character."  1 Corinthians 15:33 NLT - You have more worth than you realize. Don’t let yourself be dragged down by those who are on a destructive path in life.
New Reputation
"Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore.” Isaiah 54:4
     Perhaps you’ve failed in some area of your life.  Have you done something that brought you shame? Or maybe it wasn’t something of your own doing, but the false words of others against you. It can all be made new when you call upon the Lord. I could share some stories with you about how God has turned some things around in my life! 
New Heart
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3
     Has your heart been wounded, broken and shattered? Maybe your heart has been so hardened that you feel you just can’t reach out to others or allow people to reach out to you. If you will ask the Lord, he will give you a new heart.  Look at this scripture – “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” - Ezekiel 36:26
New Beginnings
 “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” Col 3:10
     If you life has been full of pain, abuse, addictions and failure, whatever – God wants to give you a new life, a new beginning. I can testify to the reality of having my life taken out of the gutter and being made brand new. My life was such a mess at one time that I am in awe that the Lord has changed my life as he has.
     Friend, if you have tried everything else and it hasn’t worked, perhaps it’s time to give things over to the Lord. I know he will help you live in a new way. He will give you hope. If you will just surrender to him, he has a good plan for your life.  “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
     Once again I must share with you one of my favorite scriptures –  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”  2 Corinthians 5:17

     Until next time, keep your eyes on Jesus because He never fails!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Abiding in the Rush

     When most people read John 15:1-14 they usually end up talking about bearing fruit for the kingdom of God.  That is an important principle for us to live by.  If we’re true disciples of Jesus Christ we should desire to bear much fruit for the sake of the Gospel.
However, as I read this recently I had a different perspective on it.
      In this passage in John 15 two verses, in particular, stood out to me. The first is in verse 5, which says, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” As I read this I thought about how we all are in the “rush mode” getting ready for Christmas. The Lord spoke to my heart through this and reminded me that we must keep our focus on God, His Word, and his son, Jesus -the reason for the season.  Maintaining this focus will help us be less stressed with more opportunity to bear fruit for the Lord.
     Understanding that in this passage Jesus is the Vine we’re to abide in, let’s see what we can learn about abiding in the Vine. I have made an acrostic of the word “abide” from which we can glean five principles of abiding. Apply Build Involve Deny Examine.

Apply – “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15KJV - If we’re going to walk in tune with the Lord, we’re going to have to know his word. I don’t mean that you have to be a scholar or read twenty-five chapters a day. Just be consistent to read something from the bible every day.
Build – 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Galatians  5:22-23   Ask the Lord to help you build these qualities in your life. They will certainly be helpful in the crowded stores! (smile)
Involve – 46And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:46-47NAS  The believers in the early church stayed in close contact encouraging each other and they were committed to involvement in their local church.
Deny – “Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”  Matthew 16:24 Again, if we keep Jesus first in our life, and think of others more than ourselves, we’ll be less apt to growl back at another tired shopper.
Examine –“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?-- unless indeed you are disqualified.”  2 Corinthians 13:5 We must regularly take inventory of our lives to make sure that we’re living in righteousness.
     Earlier I mentioned two verses that stood out in John 15. We looked at verse 5. Now let’s look at verse 11.   John 15:11 - "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”  “These things” refer to the scriptures Jesus just share in verses 1- 10. So, what Jesus is saying to us is that if we abide in him we will have JOY.  What a promise to hold on to for the rest of this month and next! The stress of shopping, the pain of being alone, missing a loved one, financial strain, etc.  As we abide in Jesus in the midst of it all we can still have joy in our heart.
Be encouraged, my friend.  Even in the stresses of life, even in the rush of the holiday, we can call on the grace of God to strengthen us as we abide in him. If you are struggling, pray the following: “Lord, I am hurting, I am tired, I feel so alone. Please send your Spirit, the comforter to come alongside me. Help me to focus on You so that I may have joy in this season of celebrating the birth of your Son.  In Jesus name, amen.”
     Until next time, I pray that you are filled to overflowing with the joy and love of the Lord!