What’s New?

www.bible.com/1713/isa.43.19.csb

So what are you bringing into the New Year? Are you bringing joy and hope with you? Are you bringing new opportunities and exciting potential to grow in your faith? I hope so.

Because if you are bringing old baggage from 2019, despair and hopelessness, I got bad news for you: 2020 probably isn’t going to be much better.

But this is what a new year and new opportunities offer. And let me tell you something else. You are not alone. You may have tried to tackle 2019 alone, but 2020 doesn’t have to be a solo mission. It can be a team. God is working in you. He wants you to succeed in His mission. Whatever that may be for you may be the question you need to answer in this coming year, but it is a question the Almighty God wants you to answer.

May I suggest first looking in His word. Make each day a commitment to reading His word. The more you read, the better you can hear His voice. The more you pray the better you get at listening.

And you are not alone in this. I too need to work on all of these things in order to make 2020 a better year to see what God wants from me. So may we find together God’s work in us to work out His will for His good.

May God bless you today and everyday. Amen.

A God-Shaped Hole

www.bible.com/1713/ecc.3.11.csb

There it is. This is why we are never content. This is why we keep looking for the next thing. This is why without God we are never happy. Paul once said “godliness with contentment is great gain.” Why? Because few there are that find it. Without God Life is just a great black hole sucking joy out of all things. God designed with an eternity-shaped hope, a hole only He can fill of we will let Him.

Solomon in his vast wisdom knew this. But this book of his isn’t finished until the end of his life, after he’s made his mistakes. He realizes now towards the end of his life that he really has nothing without God. The world itself cannot fill the vacuum of our heart. And Solomon could certainly have explored every avenue and venture there was in His time. Every pleasure and lust he could invent were his to explore. He did everything there was to do. And he still recognized that none of it was enough. He still felt the god-shaped hole in all of us.

As we come to the close of another year, perhaps you are feeling the same thing. You’ve done everything you can do to fill that hole. You’ve dumped everything you can think of into it and you still feel empty. You’ve tried everything to be happy, and you come to this time of self-reflection and see nothing but dread for the new year.

You have a god-shaped hole in you. You can’t fill it. Nothing you do or experience will ever satisfy that deep hunger for something more until you accept Jesus as your Savior. It may sound like cliche, but Jesus is the only One that can fill your heart because your were designed for Him. That hole is there because He built you that way.

There are places in your life that only your parents can fill, good or bad. The same goes for children. We know how these feel when suddenly these holes are empty. We know the grief and the loss after losing a loved one. We are familiar with these kinds of holes. So it is with this God-shaped void in us.

I urge you today. Don’t turn to a bottle or a syringe to fill that hole. Don’t rely on friends or even family to fill it, because they are not enough. Decide today that you will accept Jesus as your Savior, and be filled.

May God bless you as you go into your new year!

That New Baby Smell

www.bible.com/1713/2co.5.17.csb

Have you ever picked up a baby and smelled the top of his head? You know the smell I’m talking about. It’s like hope and potential all wrapped up into one tiny package. That small child is capable of so many different things in that moment, you can hardly bear it. Because it reminds you of all the potential you once had. You used to be like that small child, seeing the world for the first time, eyes filled with wonder and amazement. Oh all the places we’d go.

Yeah, now that I think about it, its kind of depressing, isn’t it? When you first start a new project, your mind is filled with the potential of all the things you will accomplish, the accolades you will receive, the joy at a job well done. By the end, you just want it over with. You have to finish it before you can get to the next, better thing that lies ahead. We come upon this cycle of accomplishment that just doesn’t end like we thought it would, and we come upon disappointment. So it is with New Year’s.

Only this new year isn’t just a new year, but a new decade. It reminds us that we need to review not just the last year, but the last ten years. Are you where you’d thought you’d be ten years ago?

Ten years ago I was pastoring a church in Illinois called First Christian Church. I thought ten years ago that that would be a good place to retire. Going to Kentucky and living in Morehead was never on the radar, ten years ago. I would have laughed if you talked about moving to Kentucky. Yet here we are. Ten years on and living here for the last 7+ years. I had no thought at that time that I would be a Chaplain. I always thought I would be in ministry in a local church. But God always has other plans.

With the lessons I’ve learned about people I’d go back in a heartbeat believing myself more capable or ministry than I ever had been, and I should be. I should be more mature and have better skills today than I did ten years ago. But who knows what the next ten years have in store for me? In ten years, I will be in my late fifties. My youngest will have graduated high school, and I may even have grandchildren by then. I may also have to face the death of my parents, as they are both in their seventies. These next ten years may make the last ten look pretty good. I suppose that’s true for a lot of us.

But this is the hope offered by the verse above, isn’t it? In Christ, we are new? In Christ we put aside the old and put on the newness He offers? We don’t have to wait for the calendar but even today can put on the new.

Have you been making New Year’s resolutions to get back into your Bible or buffing up your prayer life? May I suggest that you not wait until January 1st. Start today. His mercies are new every morning. For this morning, I offer you this verse, the old has gone, the new has come. Make today the start of something new. Leave off regrets of the life you could have had and make the best of your life now. God has steered you in this direction for a purpose. Find it and do your best to fulfill it. God cannot and will not move you until you’ve accomplished His purposes here.

May God bless you and have a great Monday!

The Best Way to Spread Christmas Cheer

www.bible.com/1713/mat.5.16.csb

If you’ve seen “Elf” around this time of year, you probably know the response to the title above. Will Ferrell’s Elf recommends that the best way to spread Christmas cheer is to sing loud for all to hear. That works until you realize you can’t carry a tune in a bucket.

May I recommend another way? This one involves more than your singing voice. This one is your whole life. Let your light shine before men, so that they may see it and give glory to God. Sounds radical, I know. The light that changed your life is now also expected to illuminate others through you. That is not only Christmas cheer, but Christian cheer.

The spirit of Christmas, feeling of warmth, joy and generosity, where does that go December 26th? Why do most only have any of that feeling for the first 25 days of December if then? For then New Years Day is almost an afterthought, a hope that next year will be better than the last. But if that cheer and joy doesn’t follow us into the new year, what then? Doesn’t next year end up being just as sorry as the year before?

The best way to save that cheer is to remember it throughout the year, not by celebrating Christmas, but Christ Himself. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Let us worship Him by sharing His joy with all who will hear. May your January be merry and bright. Your February full of hope and promise. Your March be joyful and so on. There is really no reason not to carry this joy with you throughout the year. If you need to keep your tree up as a reminder, it’s a small price to pay for joy. It reminds us of the tree used as a tool to buy our redemption with His precious blood.

Take and hold on to this Christmas cheer for the One who has brought you joy. Merry Christmas and a very joyful New Year.

Have Thine Own Way Lord

bible.com/72/pro.16.9.hcsb

So now that we are in a new year, we turn the calendar over into January. Yay! Ok. Back to our routines everyone. We get this brief respite on this Tuesday to realign our priorities, get that first of 365 days of resolutions satisfied, but mostly just to recover from everything we did to celebrate then end of last year.

So we make plans.

But the Lord determines our steps.

So where will you go this year?

Might I suggest a few things?

You might make a commitment to reading your bible every day this year. Find a good bible app, like Youversion, that has plenty of excellent reading plans that practically do everything but open the app for you.

If you are making a commitment to pray more, I might also suggest PrayerMate. This app allows you to set up prayers for everyone you care about, and include scriptures of prayer that get you going. You just swipe through till you are done. You can be in prayer for several minutes this way and it will help get you to that resolution.

Going to church every week may be a challenge for you to. I can’t tell you about any apps that can get you to church, but there are several that make themselves available online, such as my own, Better Life Church in Morehead, KY. They carry their services online Facebook at 9:30 and 11:30. They also have an app available on the AppStore in case you are looking for more information.

Just a few suggestions for getting you started in this new year. God bless you all and Happy Nee Year!

Happy New You

bible.com/72/2co.5.17.hcsb

Turning over the calendar often inspires us to think in new directions, commit ourselves to new projects and so on. But try as we might, decisions and habits we made in the old year still haunt us into the new.

It is not unlike our new life in Christ. When we make that decision to take on the mantle of faith and commit ourselves to the Lord Jesus, the “old man” of sin and doubt gives way to the “new man” and we commit to going to church and reading our bible and prayer. But like the old year, the old man has a way of haunting us with past sins and pleasures that derail us from our new life in Christ.

As Pail writes in Romans 7, “wretched man that I am, who will save me from this body of death?” Thankfully, God did not leave us alone, for we have gained a new ability in this new life, and He is more than an ability, but the presence of God in the Holy Spirit. Your might have forgotten that the promise is to you as a child of God that when you are baptized, your heart is made pure by the blood of Jesus, so that the Holy Spirit may move in in power and take up residence in our heart. God makes His home with us in that moment. So that while we continue to dwell in this flesh, we have been given more than our own will to deal with temptation. We have the holiness of the Living God.

As you prepare to go into the New Year Christian, remember that God has made you new. You are no longer beholden to past temptations. You don’t have to sin, because God has freed you from sin. Instead, God calls you to holiness, and that is far more liberating. Happy New You!

God bless you all and have a Happy New Year!

Penciling In

Another year has come and gone, and we are faced with a new year, complete with new challenges and new opportunities. There is something about opening a new calendar, and putting away an old one. The scent of fresh paper, the sound of crinkled plastic, and the bright and playful colors of the approaching year’s pictures. But, just as soon as the new calendar is opened and hung, it becomes filled. Without fail, it becomes a battlefield, with armies of meetings and programs threatening the placid surface of the page. The old calendar bears silent witness to the war between your time, and the time claimed by everyone else, your job, your children, and your spouse.

I can’t speak to all of your other commitments, but I can guarantee at least one hour a week well worth the investment of your time. That hour is the hour you spend with God and His people. Many of you may not have been to church in recent months. I want to formally invite you to revisit God’s house, where His name is worshipped and His word is read and examined. That hour, and you can put this in your calendar, is the hour you spend with Jesus. Jesus won’t monopolize your time; it must be freely given. But for the cost, it is the most profitable 60 minutes of your week. For what you give, you get peace of mind, and of heart. There is joy here, and love. There is also hope. For here is a Savior, and a forgiver of sin. If you want the rest of your 167 hours to be meaningful, I ask you to spend 1 with Jesus.

Why should Sunday occupy an important part of our time? Examine the following:

It is the day on which God created light. (Genesis 1:3)

It is the day on which our Lord was resurrected and on which He appeared to His Disciples. (John 20:19, 26)

It is the day on which the 120 believers received the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. (Leviticus 23:15-16; Acts 2:1-4)

It is the day when the Apostle John was given his revelation of the glorified Christ. (Revelation 1:10)

It is the day on which the early Christians gathered to worship (Acts 20:7); to hear the Word (Acts 20:6-7): and to make their contributions for God’s work. (1 Corinthians 16:2)

The first day of the week, Sunday, is the foundation for the remaining six days. If the foundation is holy, so will the rest be holy. But if the foundation is full of holes, the rest of the week cannot stand.

Please pencil Him in.