New Life in the New Year

I watched in wonder as snow sifted like sugar from the January sky and transformed my backyard and the fields beyond. All day long it continued forming huge marshmallows of white fluff on my deck table and railings and blanketing my vista in a pristine white. My heart grew lighter and my steps more energetic.

It’s as if the Lord were reminding me, “I make all things new.”

Sometimes we need to remember that God makes all things new, including our lives–if we are willing. Check out for yourself some of those new things he offers:

  • New Life. When we become Christians, we become new persons. We are “not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun” (2 Corinthians 5:17*).
  • New Nature. God gives us “a brand-new nature that is continually being renewed as [we] learn more and more about Christ, who created this new nature within [us]” (Colossians 3:10*).
  • New Courage. He refreshes the humble and gives “new courage to those with repentant hearts” (Isaiah 57:15*).
  • New Heart. He gives us “a new heart with new and right desires” (Ezekiel 36:26*).
  • New Relationship. “So now we can rejoice in our wonderful relationship with God–all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us in making us friends of God” Romans 5:1*).

And in the future, God will give his children new bodies that will never get sick or die (I Corinthians 15:5). He will create a new heavens and a new earth that are so wonderful we’ll never again think about the old ones (Isaiah 65:17. We will live in a place without death, sorrow, crying or pain (Revelation 21:4).

As we begin this New Year, we can move into much more than the days to come. We can decide to move into the unfailing certainty of what our God assures us.

Focus: “Look, I am making all thing new!” ~ Revelation 21:5, New Living Translation.

How about you? Are you ready to step into the all things new the Lord God Almighty is offering you? If not, what’s holding you back from this newness of life? He’s waiting with arms opened wide.

*  All scriptures from the New living Translation of the Holy Bible.

Advertisements

Following His Star

After Jesus was born, wise men arrived in Judea on a mission. Having seen a special star, they followed it to Jerusalem. They went to King Herod and asked where they could find the newborn king of of Jews.

Herod and his people were deeply disturbed. He told the religious leaders to consult Scripture, and they told the foreigners to look for this new king in Bethlehem. The wise men quickly went on their way.

As soon as they left the city, the star appeared again. They were overjoyed as it guided them to the exact place in Bethlehem where they could find the child Jesus.

God obviously used this star to guide those wise men to Jesus.

But what about looking to the stars to guide us? Should we be checking daily horoscopes to help us make choices and life decisions? Our loving God has something important to say about that.

“Call out the demon hordes you have worshiped all these years. Ask them to help you … [Do you hear the mocking in God’s voice?] You have more than enough advisers, astrologers, and stargazers. Let them stand up and save you from what the future holds. But … they cannot even save themselves!” (Isaiah 47:12-14, New Living Translation).

Does it surprise you to see God group astrologers with “demon hordes”? If anyone should know the source of so-called wisdom in horoscopes, it would be God.

To save us from such deception, he invites us to the safety of seeking wisdom from him. “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good and leads you along the paths you should follow” (Isaiah 48:17-18, New Living Translation).

Do you want to follow a star? God has a star for you to follow. “I, Jesus, … am … the bright Morning Star” (Revelation 22:16, New International Version).

God news! We don’t have to look anywhere else for the wisdom we need. We have had the right star all along–our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

Focus: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” ~ James 1:5, New International Version.

How about you? Where do you go to find the wisdom you need? Does it surprise you to know God is more than willing to give you wisdom?

Hope for the Future

Snow fell gently out of the evening sky as Jim and I walked up the steps with his family. Inside the chapel, fragrant pine garlands and lighted candles inspired a quiet reverence while we settled in the pew to await the Christmas Eve service.

I glanced at Jim, smiling shyly at my husband of two-and-a -half months. My heart filled with love for him and the child I carried beneath my heart–our first child, God’s promise of hope for our future.

No one but Jim, the doctor, and I knew. After all, our baby wasn’t due for another six-and-a-half months. But I will never forget how totally wrapped in God’s love I felt that special Christmas Eve. I couldn’t help wondering if that was how Mary felt on that first Christmas Eve as she carried Jesus beneath her heart.

Jesus–God’s promise of hope for our future. Out of his great love for us, he came willingly to earth to die on the cross in our place and pay the penalty for our sins. He came so that we might have hope for a good future.

No wonder then, that no matter what we face is this life, we can refuse to be discouraged. Instead, we can lift up our hearts and look to Jesus, the Source of our hope for a good future.

Focus: “I pray that God who gives you hope will keep you happy and full of peace as you believe in him. May you overflow with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit” ~Romans 15:13, The Living Bible.

How about you? What fills you with hope? What keeps you happy and full of peace? Have you yet found the ultimate Source of hope for a good future?

 

 

Fear not!

Talk abut fear! On the night Jesus was born, shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem trembled with fear. From what I hear, we would, too, if we saw these magnificent beings.

But to go on with the story …

A mighty angel suddenly appeared–bright against the night sky–to deliver the joyful news that the promised Savior had been born nearby. But first he had to assure the quaking shepherds. “Fear not!” (Luke 2:10, New King James Version). Soon the shepherds were on their way to find this newborn baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Just as the angel from the Lord had told them.

Fear not! During his lifetime on earth, Jesus repeated those words again and again. And they are as much for us today as they were for people long ago.

Yet, I’ll never forget waking in the wee hours one night. A suffocating cloud of fear descended on me. After a few moments of panic, I remembered Jesus’ words to fear not. “Lord,” I said, “I give this fear to you.” Then I quoted aloud every Scripture verse I could recall to deal with that fear.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (1 Timothy 1:7). “Perfect love [that’s God!] casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). On and on I went until the fear dissolved, and I drifted back into a restful sleep.

Here’s the truth. We are not at the mercy f fear–whether it is fear of the unknown or the challenges that life throws at us. We have a God who is bigger than all our fear. We have a God whose tender compassion compel him to come along side us the moment we cry out to him. We have a God who has given us his Word so that  we can speak his truth and be comforted. We have a God who drives away whatever fear we place in his hands with childlike trust.

It’s his promise.

Focus: “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you” ~ Isaiah 26:3 (New Living Translation).

How about you? What fear are you dealing with today? What might happen if you trust your faithful God to deliver you from it?

Christmas Lights in the Darkness

With winter drawing near, days grow shorter and driving home means picking my way down our long, dark country road in the snow. Familiar houses become shadows. Trees and bushes blur into misshapen patches of black.

Until something magical takes place …

Our neighborhood gets busy decorating. Christmas lights appear on bushes and trees, around windows and within wreaths on doors. More lights festoon the eaves of our houses. Some neighbors include outdoor creches where baby Jesus is looked on adoringly by Mary and Joseph.

What a difference a wonderland of lights makes as I turn onto our road after dark! Lighting the darkness, it cheers my heart and points the way home.

Unfortunately, as with the recent attacks in Paris, our world grows darker, and we wish we knew a light to point the way to safety. The good news is that God sent that Light into the world more than two thousand years ago. We’re told that his “light shines through the darkness (John 1:5, NLT), and his name is Jesus. Whatever the darkness troubling our hearts, he is the Light we desperately need.

This Christmas season, we can dispel darkness by inviting him into our lives and letting him show us his good way. “Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in to stay. Reveal your ways to me, forgive me of my wrong-doing, and light the way to your Father’s house in heaven as I travel the days of my life here on earth. Thank you. Amen.

Having done this, hope crests in our hearts, and we find joy in the prophet Isaiah’s encouraging words.

Focus: “Rise, shine for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you!” ~ Isaiah 60:1 (NKJV).

How about you? Have you invited Jesus into your life? Do you know the joy of his eternal Light dispelling your darkness? How did it happen for you?

Thanksgiving Living

On Thanksgiving Day in 1942, Dorothy was a beautiful, twenty-four-year-old bride. Over the years that followed, she and her husband raised seven children. They’s didn’t have much money, but they provided a home filled with faith in God.

Every Sunday they took their children to church. Every school year, they made room in their budget to send those children to Christian school. Every evening her children could find her on her knees at her bedside, bringing their needs to God in prayer.

During the early years, Dorothy cleaned, cooked, canned, and sewed to stretch each dollar to provide her family with the best her talents could offer. As the older children entered school, she added a part-time job as a waitress in family restaurants. None of her children lacked for love or care. Neither did her church family. Both she and her husband supported their church with their tithes and their talents.

Fifty years passed quickly. Surrounded by family and friends, Dorothy and her bridegroom of long ago celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary, including the renewing their vows before God in church. Eighteen months later–again in the company of family and friends–she laid her husband to rest.

This year Dorothy celebrated her ninety-seventh birthday. In a world consumed with the threat of an unstable economy, how does a ninety-seven-year-old widow on social security and a small pension manage? Who cares for her?

God cares for her! He not only provides for her needs but delights her heart through her children’s loving care. He surprises her with unexpected gifts, gives her the health to enjoy living in her small apartment in a lovely retirement community, and answers the prayers of her grateful heart. Surrounded by her loved ones, Dorothy lives quite well as she always has–by her faith in the Lord God whom she serves daily with thanksgiving.

Focus: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 4:6-7, New International Version.

How about you? How have you seen God provide for your needs in surprising ways as you walk in thanksgiving living?

Wounds In the Storms of Life

I loved the graceful, old maple tree that stood in our back yard. Its green leaves like layers of lace would rise and fall majestically in a mild October wind. Restless, they knew their time was short. Soon they would change color and fall to the ground.

That tree fascinated me. I’d marvel at its beauty and recall the time when lightening ripped it nearly in half. The wound stretched long and visible, one side of the tree stripped bare of branches.

On the advise of a tree surgeon, my husband painted the wound with black sealant. Over the years that wound not only healed but became almost invisible. As promised, branches grew and covered the naked side, restoring the tree to its former beauty.

In the storms of life, we also suffer wounds. Some lay our lives so wide open that we feel naked to the world. We wonder if we will ever recover, if we will ever know beauty again.

But from the very moment we are wounded, God is at work, and over the years, he heals and restores us. We do become whole again. What seems impossible to us is always possible with God. His loving-kindness is ever at work in the lives of those who earnestly seek him and put their hope in him. To those, he makes a promise.

Focus: “Behold, I make all things new.” ~ Revelation 21:5, New International Version.

What about you? What gaping wound have you suffered in life and then found God faithful to heal it?