The New Year

Goodbye 2018…Hello 2019! Whether you like it or not 2018 is coming to close and 2019 is knocking at the door. Wow! This year has absolutely flown by. It seems like yesterday I was back in the same setting I am right now trying to decide if I would have the energy or motivation to stay up until midnight or simply go to bed knowing that the new year was coming whether I was up or not. The new year can bring a mix of emotions. We often reconsider what all has happened in the past year and we make resolutions for the next year.
 
Speaking of resolutions, 2019 has a whole new list of top resolutions for this year. The resolution of losing weight and exercising more is not as popular as it has been in years past. While it is still number one on the list only 38% of people are committing to losing weight and exercising more. That is down from 41% the year before. Interestingly, the resolution to save money and pay off debt is higher on the list than ever before. 37% of people are committing to this resolution which is up 6% from the year before. Others will commit to making new friends, getting a new job or hobby, and 7% to new relationships.
 
The flip side to this is reflecting on the past year. Almost every single one of us has had something happen to us in this past year that caused us grief. The loss of a loved one, the ending of a relationship, financial changes, job losses, the list could go on and on. I think that in some situations those hardships from the past year sometimes help us shape our new year resolutions whether good or bad. But whatever you do at midnight on Monday evening we all can turn our eyes to God and see what He has to say to us in this next year.
 
In the book of Revelations 21 the New Jerusalem is being described. In this scripture (verse 5a) it says, “And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!”” What a fantastic blessing we have as Christ followers. While this verse is not speaking of new years or new situations in our life there is a confidence we have as the Children of God that God is making all things new! The new year is a new beginning. What has happened in the 2018 year has been done. We can accept things as they are and move to a better situation in this next year.It won’t be long and the trees and plants will begin to blossom. The grass will turn green again and the birds will be chirping. This time of year, we have so many new beginnings and new chances. What in your own life, your relationship with the Lord, needs to be rekindled? Relationships? Your job? Finances? Health? Personal time and hobbies? Church attendance? Your own personal time of spiritual growth? What in your Christian walk needs to have a resolution to do better in? I believe the Lord is whispering to you, “I am making all things new!” You have a chance right now to commit to deepening your relationship and rekindling your love for our Savior. So, whatever your new year resolution is I pray that you are successful in your resolutions and your relationship with the Lord will grow deeper and stronger! Rely on Him for your success! He is making all things new, are you allowing Him to work in your life to make you new?


Dreams?

Dreams. Each of us have them from time to time. Often times our dreams at night are shaped and played out as we recall the past day or weeks events. For instance, I can remember having dreams about deer hunting as the deer season approaches. Of course, in those dreams I am always finding the biggest Buck I can find and dropping him just a few yards from my stand! As a kid I had a recurring dream that my father had left my brother and I at home while he went to work. I had gotten up but fell back asleep on the couch and when I woke there was pizza sauce all over the walls! I am not certain why I always had that dream, but it happened on more than occasion…no, not the pizza sauce on the wall. Just the dream!
 
People throughout Scripture had dreams on numerous occasions. In almost every situation their dream meant something. God was speaking to them through their dreams. God spoke to Abimelech (Genesis 20:1-7) in a dream. God did so to spare Abimelech from sinning. Jacob received a blessing from God through a dream (Genesis 37:1-11). Solomon was asked by God in a dream to ask anything to be given. Solomon chose wisdom (1 Kings 3:5). And even in numerous other situations God spoke through dreams.
 
Today, I do not mean just dreams that occur while we sleep. We each have dreams. Maybe it is to retire early. Reach more people through good works. Tell more people of the Gospel. Perhaps, it something as simple as financial stability. I have dreams. I want to see my kids be successful in life. I want to do something that is beneficial to the church in a big way! I love business. Perhaps it is through a business transaction or something like that. I want to travel to areas over sea and get to know the other side of the world. And, one day, I want to own a farm. Paul had dreams. He tells us in Romans 15 that he had dreams of seeing the people of Rome. He didn’t know how he was going to get there or when he would go. He had a plan to go to Spain and he mentions that maybe while he is traveling to Spain he can make a detour to Rome. Some scholars would say that trip never happened as he was imprisoned in Jerusalem.
 
What really captivates me in this verse is his closing in regard to traveling on this journey. He says in Romans 15:29 (NLT) “And I am sure that when I come, Christ will richly bless our time together.” This captivates me because it makes me realize that my dreams need to be dreams that advance the Kingdom. This was the sole purpose of this trip for Paul. He wanted to go to Rome to equip the saints to be the hands and feet of Jesus. What if our dreams were so in lined with the Kingdom that Christ would richly bless them? In all honesty, I don’t think owning a farm is that important. Traveling to the other side of the world is just a pleasure-seeking trip. I am not certain that I can ask Christ in good faith to ‘richly bless it.’ But I can ask in good faith, and know it will be given, to richly bless the dreams I have for this church in Newton. Or the ministry I will do in the years to come. In closing I ask, ‘Are your dreams in line with the will of God?’


Linear or Curved?

I was visiting with someone last week in what was a non-planned meeting. I was waiting for someone else to show up and while they never came someone sat down with me, a friend, and we began to share of some past stories to which we each had a relationship with. While sharing, a statement came out of their mouth, one I knew, but was a good reminder. They said, ‘God’s plan is not always linear.’

I remember when I was in Boy Scouts and the Army we did a lot of compass work with maps. The reason you use a compass is simple. If you know your bearings, you will never get lost. For instance, if you look on a map and it tells you your destination is 32 degrees of north you can set your compass to 32 degrees to north and you will walk right to that destination. If you are in a field or an open environment with no obstacles it is easy to walk a straight line.

But what happens if you are in the forest? Or, perhaps a place with hills and valleys? You always keep your compass at your destination unless a change in the path is needed, or, another destination is sought. See, it doesn’t matter which direction you face, your compass will always be pointing to 32 degrees.

Isn’t that a bit like life? We get a destination in mind. It could be a career, family, a home, a place we would like to settle. But isn’t life filled with hills and valleys? Sometimes, we feel like those hills and valleys can completely derail our destination and we feel as if we will never reach that goal. What if those thoughts and feelings are due to the fact that we have not checked our compass for a while?

Or, what if our compass was set on 32 degrees but it is not a straight journey? God is not a linear God. He does not see one way, nor does he always see the easiest way. Nothing is impossible, and nothing is out of reach. The destination, while it may seem hard to reach it is not with God. Should the valleys come, and the hills stand in our way if our compass is always fixed on God we will always reach our destination.

What is the destination God is leading you on today? What degree is your compass fixed on? Is it aligned with God? Is it on your own bearing? When trials and difficulties come do you try to change the destination or do you keep it where it should be and simply find a way through or around. We have the option and we have the resources. God is our compass. His path is not always straight, but it is always true.


Easter…is it over?

Just a week ago the biggest celebration of the year happened. That is, if you are a Christian. If you are not perhaps the biggest event of the year is New Years, the Super Bowl, the Masters, your own birthday, your wedding anniversary…you get the idea, the list could go on and on.

But Easter for the Christian is the largest event of year. Jesus Christ did for us what no one else could do or has ever done. He willingly gave himself for the sake of the Kingdom that we may all come into a lasting relationship with our Father. Our sins are forgiven! Hallelujah! But is that where it stops? Easter is over, He is resurrected, the tomb is empty!

See, we live in a world where we celebrate, go home, do it again another day kind of people. Take for instance the Super Bowl. Hours and hours of work go into producing commercials and getting the stadiums and fields ready. Millions of dollars go into producing commercials, paying players and staff, and…you guessed it…buying tickets. But once the event is over, we relive the memories. We watch the ‘best of’ commercials on Youtube the next day. But that is it. We remember the event and anticipate the next one.

Has that become Easter? Do we anticipate the event, the day, the meals, the celebrations, only to pack up our items, go home, and do it all again next year?

For me, Easter is not a one-time event. We do not celebrate the resurrection one time and anticipate it next year. Every single day, as a Christ follower, you can celebrate the resurrection! You can anticipate every second of every day the love, mercy, and grace that Jesus is showing be available and present for every single one of us! We are spending time in our church going through the last two chapter of the Gospel of John as we attempt to understand that the resurrection wasn’t it. Christ stayed and appeared to the apostles and others for 40 days after his resurrection. And, the same is still happening for us today. We are doubters from time to time, but Christ is revealing himself to us. Jesus is blessing us by leading us just as he did to his disciples who were fishing and not catching anything. (By the way, as fishing season approaches I hope the Lord will do the same for me as He did them!). And he is delivering us from our past mistakes and failures just as he did for Peter.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to make Easter a one time a year event. Every single day is a celebration of the resurrection and the love and mercy Christ shows to us. Today, claim the resurrection as your own! All our sermons from church are uploaded to our website. Just click on the following link to find them! (https://www.nfcog.com/sermons) We try our best to have this done Monday by noon! God bless, Pastor Clint.