2018 New Year’s Resolutions

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions because I don’t keep them. That does not mean I don’t need to make changes. I am not perfect. Although I have not set official New Year’s resolutions for several years, I am always setting goals for myself. Maybe this year I should turn those goals into resolutions and invite you to join me. Our goals (a.k.a. New Year’s Resolutions) for 2017 will look something like this:

  • I resolve to thank God often for making me a new creation through Jesus.
    (2 Corinthians 5:17)
    Christ came so that we could become new and improved.
  • I resolve to put off my old ways and to put on my new self—to act like the new creation I am.
    (Ephesians 4:22-24)
    This is not something that is forced upon us. We must resolve to put off our old selves and to put on a new self created in the likeness of God’s righteousness and holiness—the new and improved self. We must choose—resolve—to become new. This is the most important resolution we will ever make. I might want to lose weight, but until I choose to do it the weight won’t come off. I have to resolve to do it.
  • I resolve to embrace the new heart and new spirit God gave me.
    (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
    Our new God-given heart and spirit will help us to desire, recognize, and follow His Spirit. Just as a personal trainer helps me stay focused on my fitness goals, the Spirit of God within us will help us keep our resolution to put on a new self.
  • I resolve to follow God’s new command to love others.
    (John 13:34-35)
    Under this new covenant the commandments are thrown into a hat and stirred around; then, God puts in his hand and draws out a single word to summarize their essence—LOVE. We are commanded to have a deeper level of love in our lives as new creations. A love that will cause people to recognize the influence of Christ.
  • I resolve to keep my eyes focused on the new heaven and new earth where Righteousness Himself dwells.
    (2 Peter 3:13)
    Whenever we become frustrated or feel hope slipping away, we are to turn our eyes to eternity and refocus on what will be—a new heaven and a new earth where Righteousness lives.
  • I resolve to seek daily renewal in knowledge so that my life may reflect my Creator, in strength so that I may soar even during difficult times, and in mind so that I may discern God’s will.
    (2 Corinthians 4:16)
    Just as silver will tarnish if it is not polished every day, our newness can become dulled by life if we do not renew ourselves daily. This daily renewal can take several forms. First, our knowledge of the Creator is being continually renewed as we study and meditate on His word. (Colossians 3:9-10) And this knowledge reflects to others the image of the Creator. We need to daily grow in our knowledge of God in order to accurately reflect His image. Second, when we are waiting on (serving) the Lord, our strength for each day will also be renewed. (Isaiah 40:28-31) Finally, another area where we experience renewal is our minds. (Romans 12:2) As we put off our old selves and put on the new, we are transformed—our minds are renewed. We can think clearly—looking at God’s will with new eyes.
  • I resolve to testify to what God has done by singing the new song He placed in my heart.
    (Psalm 40:2-3)
    When we leave our old selves behind, we have a lot to sing about! You had better believe that if I reach my fitness goals, I will be singing the praises of my trainer. How much more should we sing the praises of Him who helps us become new creations? When we sing praises to God, others will see what He has done—our new song is a witness or testimony to God. God gives us a reason to sing. We need to sing our new song so others can see Him.

These resolutions are great, but they are only attainable because of Jesus. Something new has a price tag attached. The price of our newness was the blood of Christ. We prefer new over used in every other area of our lives. Why settle for anything less than the newness purchased as a gift by Christ? Why not join me in reaching for these 2017 New Year’s Resolutions?

 

Father,
Thank you for making us new creations through Jesus. Help us, Lord, in our resolve to put on our new selves—to act like the new creations you have made us. Thank you for the new heart and spirit you have placed within us. Father, when life wears us down, help us focus our eyes on the promise of a new heaven and a new earth where Your Righteousness lives. Renew us in knowledge as we daily meditate upon your word so that our lives reflect Your image. During difficult times, renew our strength so that we may soar above our circumstances. Renew our minds each day to recognize You and Your will. And, Lord, as we go through our days, may we each love others deeply, and may we each sing our new songs so that others will see You. Lord, thank You for making us new in Christ Jesus.
Amen.

Cobwebs and Conversations

I was down in the basement the other day, getting out my Christmas decorations. For some unexplainable reason I had this surge of energy and thought to myself; “I think I’ll clean up the basement then next year it will be easier to find what I need at Christmas.” Brilliant!

I get that urge ONE day every year, and it usually results in a partially clean office, or closet, or spare room. This year, the basement was about to become the recipient of my good intentions.

I had no idea at the time; God was going to turn my burst of energy into a teaching opportunity.

While I was rooting around in the dust and cobwebs through the bowels of my house, In the back of a closet, I found some old clothes. You have them too, that favorite dress, or  a coat from a time and “size” long gone by.

Now, I try to follow that rule that says, “If you haven’t worn it in a year, then get it out of your house”. Still, when I had the dress folded up and about to go into my donate box, I just couldn’t put it in.  A voice inside was saying “Just because I can’t fit into it now, doesn’t mean I won’t someday”.

It occurred to me that I’d had that conversation with myself before, many times in fact. And since these old favorites were old enough to almost be back in style again, it looked like I had that conversation with myself LOTS of times. So with a sigh, I let go and into the box everything went.

Moses had his God encounter on the top of the mountain and the disciples were in a garden. Me? Well I was climbing the stairs out of the basement with a box of old clothes in my arms.  That’s when I heard that small voice of the Spirit whisper to me.

“There are some things you find very hard to give up on, aren’t’ there?”

I’ve walked with God for a long time, now, so I like to think I recognize his voice. It’s not some bright light. He doesn’t break apart mountains or burn up bushes.  It’s just this firm idea that once I think about it, it won’t go away.  It’s like when your kids “Mom” you over and over and over.

So God and I have been having a conversation for a week now about that box of old clothes. It’s gone something like this:

God: There are some things you find very hard to give up on, aren’t’ there?”

Me: Well, it’s hard to accept you will never be a size six again

God: Six?

Me: Alright, Nine. Are you happy?

God: The real question is, ‘Are YOU happy?’ You hold on so ferociously to something that matters so little, while you let go of important things so easily.

Me: I don’t know what do you mean?

God: Yes, you do.  Why do you miss a couple days reading your Bible and praying, call yourself a failure, and give up all together?

Why do you stumble in a sin, one more time, and then throw in the towel, convinced you are not worthy?

Why do you have a few arguments, and surrender your relationships?

Why do you give up so quickly on becoming who I know you can be?

Aren’t these things much more important than old clothes?

Me: Um…Yes, Sir

God: Don’t give up on us.

2 Corinthians 4:7-9; 16-18 : We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed…Therefore we do not loose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day, for our light an momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes on what is unseen, not on what is seen.  For what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal.

 

Birthday of The King

It’s Jesus’ birthday!!

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which translated means, ‘’God with us.” (Matthew 1:23 – NASB) “And she gave birth to her firstborn Son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7 – NASB)

His birth was foretold throughout the entire Old Testament. It was announced in Matthew and Luke. It has been celebrated ever since. That little bitty baby, born in a manger was the Holy Son of God. He was to be called Immanuel which means God with us. Isn’t that an amazing concept. Jesus, left His heavenly home to be with us. To be with imperfect, sinful humans. Not only that but to also die for us. He paid the price for our salvation. He could’ve told His Father, God, I don’t really want to do this. I like it here in Heaven. Have you seen those humans? Do you really think we want them here for all of eternity? And, um, you want me to go there, be born in a stable and then have them reject me and then after all of that, die for them? Um, are you sure?

Had Jesus questioned God’s plan for Him it would’ve been a much different result. No, Jesus willingly came to the earth to fulfill God’s will for Him and to fulfill all the prophecies written about Him. Jesus is God come to earth for you dear friend. He did this for you.

As you celebrate His earthly birth, reflect on the thought that God did this for you! That night long ago there was absolutely no room in the Inn for the Savior of the world. Do you have room in your heart for Him?

If you’ve never made room for Jesus in your heart but would like to, or have questions, please contact one of us at biblestudyjourney.com. We would love to help you make that room.

Wishing you a wonderfully blessed Christmas. May God pour out His blessings on you in extraordinary ways.

Twas Long Before Christmas

Twas long before Christmas, before you and me.
Before ribbons and boxes were piled under trees.
The stars were hung in the heavens with care
Knowing mankind soon would be there.

The moon in the sky hung her pale head
Wrapped in the night like a blanket in bed.
When God in His Glory, along with the Son,
Planned out the gifts He would give everyone.

We’ll start with a dawn that comes everyday
Chasing the darkness and night away.
With every morning as life starts anew
A reminder to all, my mercies are too.

Fill up the earth with wondrous sights
Mountains that soar, eagles in flight
Children that laugh, and mothers that sing
A world overflowing with every good thing.

Tell me, what Father whose son asks for bread
Would give him a stone or a snake instead?
If we who are evil can give good things
How much more does the Heavenly king?

The Father paused, lost in his thoughts.
Something is missing. Something is lost.
He pondered a time, What did they need?
The Son stepped forward,… I think it’s me.

Ancient eyes turned, looked at the son.
Speaking his names, one by one.
You are Alpha Omega, Beginning and End
Their Savior, Messiah, Redeemer, their Friend.

To the earth you will go, born in a stall
Proclaiming my favor to the great and the small.
So unto us the Son was born,
Laid in a manger, used and worn.

Unto us the Son was given
Light of the World, the Hope of Heaven.
He lives with us. Emanuel,
God himself has come to dwell.

Dressed in humanity from his head to his feet.
His clothes were humble, his home not so sweet.
The beam of the cross would be flung on his back.
The gifts He would bring provide all that we lack.

His wounds give healing; his words give life.
The Spirit he brought gives power and light.
He taught to forgive and be forgiven,
Take joy in our life, and long for heaven.

To care for the poor and defend the weak
Help those in need, and always seek
Joy and peace, New Birth, and Grace,
Hope and Love, for the whole human race.
Wrapped in that infant, ever so slight.
That first Happy Christmas, for all a good night!

The Gift

You know what I’m talking about. The gift you spent days looking for. When you found it you knew it was just right. You made your purchase and took it home. You got just the right paper and wrapped it up, put a ribbon on it, and placed it under the tree. You spent the remaining days until Christmas anticipating the excited reaction when it was unwrapped.

The day arrived. You placed your perfectly chosen and perfectly wrapped gift into the hands of your loved one. With eyes glowing they ripped off the wrapping paper and opened the box. With a look of disappointment, they pulled out your perfect gift. They thanked you politely and set it aside. Then, with excitement shining in their eyes, they reached for the box.

The perfect gift. They shoved it aside to play with the box.

I wonder if this is what God sees at Christmas. He has carefully prepared and presented His Gift–His Son. He’s placed Him within our reach, and we carelessly shove Him aside. We reach for the meaningless things of this world.

As Christmas approaches I challenge each one of us to hold on tightly to the gift itself. To remember, appreciate, and thank the Giver. To remember that all those trappings of the season–all those boxes under the tree–are worth nothing compared to that carefully chosen Gift. JESUS.

Good News of Great Joy

Joy!

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;” (Luke 2:10)

In the 1960 movie Pollyanna, Pollyanna’s missionary parents died, and she was sent to live with her controlling aunt in a town that basically her aunt Polly ran. Aunt Polly would even give the minister his passage for his sermon each week. Pollyana loved playing the glad game. She would look for the positive or glad side of things. At one point Pollyanna ran across Rev. Ford practicing his sermon, shouting and all, in the middle of the field. She told him no one owned the church. She also told him that her dad had told her there are 800 “glad” passages in the Bible. The next day Rev. Ford told the congregation about his encounter with Pollyanna and said she was wrong. There were actually 826, and he knew because he had stayed up all night counting and reading them.

A couple years ago I spent time looking up the word JOY in the Bible. There are pages of references. What this tells us is that God considers joy quite important. Let’s take a look at a few.

In Psalm 63:6-8 we read, “When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, for You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.”

Isaiah 49:13 reads, “Shout for joy, O heavens! And rejoice, O earth! Break forth into joyful shouting, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people and will have compassion on His afflicted.”

Jeremiah 33:9 tells us, “It will be to Me a name of joy, praise and glory before all the nations of the earth which will hear of all the good that I do for them, and they will fear and tremble because of all the good and all the peace that I make for it.”

These are just 3 of the passages that mention joy. In these we see singing for joy after meditating on all the things God has done. We also see joy because of the comfort and compassion He pours out. When we consider all that God has done for us, how can we not sing for joy.

In Luke 2:10 (the verse at the beginning) we see the angels declaring to the shepherds that they brought good news of great Joy. The newborn King had just been born. All of heaven was rejoicing, and now the earth could too.

During this time of year, it’s easy to focus on all that needs to be done, to think about how hard this past year has been, or about the loneliness you feel while the rest of the world is out having parties and fun. Dear friend, I want to encourage you. Take a step back, take a deep breath, and take time to reflect on the Christ of Christmas. Let each of us fix our eyes on Jesus.

Spend time during this season to talk about the things God has brought you through this year. End by thanking God for all He has done and sing songs of joy together.

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy…” (Jude 1:24)

Tell Your Story.
Praise God.

There are parts of my story (like the what I share here) that I tell frequently because I’ve met many women who struggle with the same issues.

Over the past several weeks we met individuals who shared their God stories. As we did, I was struck by the similarities. In each case

→Someone had an encounter with Jesus causing a change in their circumstances, forgiveness of their sins, or hope for the future.

→They went (or were commanded to go) home. Their immediate concern was the people who knew them and would be able to see the change in their life. And, as with Legion telling his story among the ten cities, they even shared beyond their hometown.

→They told (and sometimes were specifically told to tell) what God had done for them. They were transparent enough to allow others to see where they were without Jesus and the difference He had made. They intentionally shared their stories. (If you need help with your story refer back to “How to Tell Your Story” by Cindy Stevens or my post, “Storytelling Rules” .)

→The result of telling their stories was amazement, questions about Jesus, praise to God, and more changed lives.

As our Tell Your Story series comes to a close, we’d love to hear from you.

•What impacted you the most from this series?
•Have you had an opportunity to share your story (formally or informally) with someone else?
•Has your story ever caused others to ask questions about Jesus, praise God, lead them to change, or offer them hope?

Unless you take up your story and give God credit for what He did for you and how He forgave you, the people you meet may never have the opportunity to be amazed by what God did, meet Him for themselves, or praise Him. Share your story!

First post in series: Tell Your Story.
Previous post in series: “I’m not going anywhere” -jesus

“I’m not going anywhere”
-jesus

Have you ever gone from the mountain top of joy to the depths of despair in what feels like the blink of an eye? One moment all is right with the world and the next, it’s a very dark place? That’s how I imagine Mary, the character in this week’s “God Story”, felt.

She likely was part of the Jesus entourage coming into Jerusalem.  She watched as the crowds lined the streets and lay their palm branches before Jesus.  Her voice probably joined theirs crying “Hosanna”.

When you think about it, it’s ironic that they would shout “Hosanna” as Jesus passed. By that time in history it was just an expression like “Hurray” or “Woo Hoo”, but literally translated from Hebrew it means “Save us!” So imagine, crowds of people lining the street calling out to Jesus “Save us!” when a few hours later, these same voices would cry out “crucify him” –Still, underneath all that anger directed at him later, even though the words were different, the crowds were still calling out to Jesus, “save us”.

After coming into the city, things went downhill. Jesus was arrested, tried, crucified, then died, and everything Mary Magdalene had built her new life on was gone in a moment. That’s where our story starts. In that dark place where everything she had pinned her hopes on had disappointed her.

She was alone coming to the tomb early in the morning when it was still dark. She didn’t feel the cold, she probably didn’t feel anything anymore. All her tears were used up, she was empty, like a wrung out rag.  Not having much sleep over the last few days, she was exhausted, going through the motions of what needed to be done. Someone had to take care of the body.

But when she arrived… the stone was already moved and the body was gone. Even though she thought she couldn’t feel anything anymore, this caused her heart to race. Hadn’t these people done enough to this gentle man? They beat him, they tortured him, they killed him, and now they were going to desecrate his body?

Not knowing what else to do, she ran to tell the disciples that Jesus was missing then returned to the garden tomb, alone.

Mary had been so certain there were no tears left. If that was true, why were her cheeks wet? Still, she didn’t care, she just wanted Jesus back.

“Woman, why are you crying?”

The voice startled her. Assuming it was the gardener and not looking she replied, “If you moved him, just tell me where he is and I’ll go get him.”

What she heard next changed everything. One word… “Mary.”

She thought it sounded like… It couldn’t be. – Surly her mind was playing tricks on her… yet – when she looked – it was HIM.

Like an arrow shot from a bow, she flung herself at him.

“Teacher!” she cried, touching his face, his arms his hands. Was this real? She clung to him like a man clings to the edge of cliff. He was real, not a figment of her imagination.

After a while he said. “Mary, You can let go.  I’m not going anywhere yet.”

What an experience Mary had! Many of us, like Mary, have found ourselves in a dark place. Lonely, exhausted, empty, and hopeless. Surprisingly, Christmas can be just that kind of time for many.  We are so consumed by the busyness of the season or painful memories it’s like someone has “moved Jesus” and we “don’t know where they put him.”

I challenge to you this season to, like Mary, “Cling to Jesus” – hold tightly to Him during this season. Listen and believe it when he tells you “I’m not going anywhere”. Read this story for yourself in John 20:1-18.

(As we explore how to Tell Your Story, each contributor will share a part of their God story with us. April’s Story is here.)

Merry Christmas!

We’d love to hear from you. Share with us how you keep Jesus front and center during your holiday season!

 

First post in series: Tell Your Story
Previous post in series: Because of What You Say
Next post in series: Tell Your Story. Praise God.

Because of What You Say

“He told me everything I ever did.” That was it. Her testimony of Jesus. 7 words and yet that was all it took. (John 4:39)

An outcast so disgraced she didn’t even go to the well to get water till all the other woman were gone. Everyone knew her. She had sinned horribly, and no one wanted to hang around her. She probably tried to make as little a splash as possible wherever she went. Suddenly she started going through town telling about this man who knew everything  she had ever done. Wouldn’t you be amazed and perhaps curious about this man? (You can find the Samaritan Woman’s story in John 4:1-42.)

“So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his words.” (John 4:40) These people were amazed by her story. They wanted to see Jesus to try and find out for themselves if what she said was true. Because of this many believed.

Even if what you say isn’t making people believe, just making them curious can be enough to start them down the path to belief.

“They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the savior of the world.’” (John 4:42) The people believed at first because of her unbelievable actions and words. They had to go see this guy; then, they believed for themselves.

When I was younger I trusted my parents so I believed them when they told me about God. As I grew up and realized my parents were fallible, I not only started to doubt them but also God. You see, I believed through my parents’ faith, not my own faith. It took a lot to make me realize this. It took even longer to find my own faith in God. In other words I now believe because I have seen for myself and found that he is indeed the Savior of the world.

It is important that we tell our story but in a way that makes people want to believe for themselves not through us.

(As we explore how to Tell Your Story, each contributor will share a part of their God story with us. Leah’s Story is here.)

What do you think:

How can you interest people and point them toward God?

What is it about your story that would make people curious about Jesus?

Is there anyone in your life who is believing through you?

What can you do to encourage them to believe for themselves?

 

First post in series: Tell Your Story
Previous post in series: Go Home. Tell Your Story.
Next post in series: “I’m not going anywhere” -jesus

 

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