He Makes All Things New

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

Today, as I was driving down the street, it was trash day and of course after Christmas I see all the empty boxes, gift wrapping, etc. that were left from the holiday. Along with that I see tree after tree set out on the curbs for trash. It reminded me of a childhood memory.

Coming from a low income family as a child, I remember a tradition we had. After Christmas on days like this, we would pile in the car and go shopping for a Christmas tree for the following year (You heard right!) My brother and I didn’t know any better and we were excited to be able to pick out what we considered the best tree. When we chose just the right one, we would take the discarded tree, pile it on our car, and happily take it home to hang it upside down in the garage. It would stay there till the next December and it was just as exciting to get it down and decorate it at the appropriate time. It was like new for us.

It kind of reminds me of how throughout the bible God takes the Discarded, the Useless, the Broken and Marred, the Outcast and makes them new. Some synonyms of these words that we might better relate to are: Rejected, Abandoned, Neglected, Good for nothing, Worthless, Stupid, Hopeless, Hurt, Scarred, Friendless, Not accepted, or Unwanted. What one considered worthless, was precious to another, and so it is with Christ. Jesus hung on a different kind of tree with us on His mind and that’s how precious we are to him. Max Lucado quotes, “Our Savior kneels down and gazes upon the darkest acts of our lives. But rather than recoil in horror, he reaches out in kindness and says, ‘I can clean that if you want” and from the basin of his grace, he scoops a palm full of mercy and washes away our sins.” Forgiveness, justification, and new birth are all available by grace, thru faith, the gift of God.

The word “new” in the key verse is the Greek word, Kainos. This word means fresh or new in form and quality, a completely different nature than before. Are you feeling worthless, or hopeless? Hurt, or rejected? Has someone called you stupid, or good for nothing? Although as a child, the old discarded tree seemed fresh to us, but in reality it was dry and dead. Are you feeling spiritually dry or dead? Ask Jesus to pick you up, fill you with His Spirit, and make you brand new. How amazing that there isn’t anything, or anyone, but only Jesus who can regenerate us and give us a fresh and new start.

Zelda D.

Change Doesn’t Scare Me!

As 2014 begins, we will come to realize that a new year often brings change. Few people enjoy change. Change in our lives can bring worry, fear, anxiety or concern; it can be unsettling because we don’t know what to expect. A manager I had years ago had a favorite saying. It was “the only thing that is constant, is change”. Every time she said this, I would cringe because I knew that my job was going to go through some sort of change again, and it wasn’t always good. On the other hand, there are also great changes that affect our lives and we should look at them as opportunities that God blesses us with. If we look for it, we will find that each day brings a new gift such as a wedding, retirement, or a new baby in the family (wink, wink). Change is essential if we are going to grow. Every new thing we learn, every new idea or new piece of information changes us in some way.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17 NIV

Our first gift of this year is my husband starting his retirement after thirty-four years with the phone company. While this change is going to be exciting, it solidifies something the Lord has spoken to both of us in the last couple of years. As empty nesters in a pretty large home, we’ve both been seriously contemplating scaling down to a smaller home and now that he is retired, it just seems to make sense. Even when we are going through good changes in our lives, we can and always should go to God. God is constant, He is unchanging. In Malachi 3:6 NKJV, God says, “For I am the Lord, I do not change.” I find comfort in that. No matter what change this move will mean to us, He will not change and neither will His love for us. We need Him to help us get through whatever may come our way. Some days we may shout “Praise the Lord” and other times we may be crying out “We need a miracle!” Whatever the day may bring, changes are going to come and we need to have a godly mindset in order to handle them.

I should mention that when change happens, it should be followed by trust. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5 NKJV Trusting God is a conscious dependence on God. When we get to know Him, we will find out over and over again that He goes before us and smoothes the way.

So let the changes come…Trust God with all the changes and know that He is more than able to help us and He even has plans to bless us.

Patti S.

Resolved To Seeking Him

Proverbs 8:17, “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently will find me.”

Being a child of a single parent, on a fixed income I learned the importance of being thrifty. My clothes were hand-me-downs from friends and family or hand-me-downs purchased at the local thrift store. Although, I appreciated everything I was given and the clothes served the purpose they were intended for, they didn’t compare to a new garment that was intended personally for me.

Today many believers are satisfied with a hand-me-down biblical message prepared by their pastor. They settle for God’s Word revealed to someone else instead of reading The Word for themselves. Of course those that teach us and pass along their understanding of God’s Word should be appreciated, but it shouldn’t replace our own desire to read and hear from the Word of God ourselves. Instead it should encourage us, stir us up and ignite a desire for us to spend intimate time with our Savior. We should all crave a message from God’s Word that has our name on it, a message that is designed to give us personal direction and guidance.

Perhaps you’re under the impression that God has a select group of believers he speaks to. Honestly speaking, they may hear Him in a way we do not, but if they do it isn’t because they are unique and special. It is because they have the discipline to do what any one of us can do. They seek Him; they open their ears to hear Him and are willing to obey Him.

One of the rights and privileges we have as followers of our Lord is to hear His voice. He has something special He wants to tell you. It’s been designed to minister to you individually. So, whether you sit in the pew or speak from the pulpit; teach bible study to young children or minister to the women at your church; whether your mission field is across the street or across the world, He can and will speak to you if you seek Him. He doesn’t play favorites. As His children we have the privilege of experiencing a personal relationship with the Father.

Often at the beginning of a new year we resolve to make changes in our lives. Perhaps your resolution was to get organized, to exercise, or to start taking vitamins, maybe you’d want to start saving for the future, begin sending thank you cards, or complete regular acts of kindness. All of those resolutions come with benefits; however I’d like to encourage you to do the “MOST IMPORTANT THING.” Read the Word, spend time with Jesus, sit at His feet, and never replace intimate time with Jesus for a second hand message. When He speaks to you listen and obey. You’ll discover that there is nothing like a garment fashioned especially for you from the Word of God.

Micah E

New Year’s Resolution

There is something wonderful about a New Year. It’s like a clean slate, a fresh start and it’s full of possibilities. Many of us start out the new year with resolutions of things that we want to accomplish in the coming year. I think I have resolutions every year and its not far into February that I start feeling like I failed. (Am I the only one?)

This year I’m taking a different approach. I’ve decided not to have resolutions, no expectations or limitations. I want all that God wants for me. I don’t want to restrict His blessing by placing my own expectations on what my year should be like. So instead I will surrender my will for His will and pursue God fervently this year.

Resolutions are not a bad thing. They can actually be great motivators, they just aren’t for me. I tend to hyper focus on the goals and I forget why I’m doing them in the first place. Whether you have a list of resolutions this year or you’re like me and opted out, remember who you serve.  Do all things as if you are working for the Lord, because it is The Lord that you are serving. He deserves all honor, glory and praise in our lives. Make that your goal this year to serve, honor and obey the Lord like never before.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,  since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Colossians 3:23-24

Blessing in 2014

-Kim

I Have Chosen You

You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, And called from its farthest regions, And said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not cast you away:  Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ Isa 41:9-10 NKJV

I was reminded of these verses at the Christmas brunch a couple of weeks ago. These two verses in Isaiah are such a source of comfort and peace to me. In some of my most difficult trials God has comforted me with these words. God is so good and so faithful to uplift our hearts when we are weak. We can seek comfort and redemption from many things; work, home, people, self help books. But there is only one that can complete us make us whole and give us true comfort and hope that’s Jesus. If we look to Him in our times of trouble He will help us and not just tell us what we want to hear but what we desperately need to hear.

Isaiah 41 tell us that God has chosen us, we are special to Him, we are God’s Choice! He has not cast us away. We are also told  not to fear because God is with us. God is on our side He is with us through good and bad He never leaves us. Not only is He with us but He says that He will strengthen us, help us and uphold us by His righteous right hand.

We serve a great big God! Whatever trouble, trial or temptation you are facing call upon His name and He will be there to strengthen, help and uphold you.

-Kim S.

May Your Christmas Be Blessed

When I think of Christmas, I picture how it may have been when Jesus was actually born. My first child was born a week before Christmas and I can relate to Mary in difficulty of childbirth because my delivery was also without any medications to help with the pain. The pain was horrific, but well worth it in the end. I’m sure both Mary and Joseph felt so blessed and excited when their baby boy finally arrived.

I also imagine the wise men, how they anticipated and searched for the newborn King of the Jews that they might worship him. The bible says in Matthew 2:10-11, When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

Can we say we are searching and seeking God the way the wise men were? Are we rejoicing with exceedingly great joy over what Jesus has done for us? If not, we are missing out.

I can imagine these grand men as they approach Jesus, falling humbly to their knees and worshiping Him. They knew something then that many today are still sadly missing. They recognized Jesus is worthy to be worshiped.

I also picture how absolutely amazing it would have been to see the angels rejoicing as they announced Christ birth to the shepherds.

Luke 2:10-14 says, Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Then the shepherds so eagerly and quickly went to find Jesus. Are we like the shepherds? Are we eager to spend time with the Lord and obedient to share of the great things He has done? I hope so.

Psalm 95:6 “O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker;”

This Christmas season I ask you, “How are you approaching Jesus?” Are you humbled by His gift of salvation or missing the reason for the season altogether?

My prayer is that we would humbly come to Jesus, receive the fullness of what He did for us through His birth, death and resurrection, and gladly worship Him for who He is, Immanuel.

May your Christmas be blessed experiencing the joy only found in Jesus Christ.

-Jeanine B

Are you a Martha or Mary?

Whenever I heard the story about Martha and Mary I always thought I was a Mary, until I lost my job. The Lord has recently showed me that I am a Martha, always busy, I can always find something to do, which isn’t always good because it can take my eyes off of the important things like spending quality time with the Lord.

Luke 10:38-42 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. “But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Martha liked serving and working hard for Jesus, which was good. Her problem was that she became distracted with much serving. She was distracted from Jesus.

Pastor David Guzik writes this, “ There are many people who become crabby and irritable in their service for the Lord like Martha. It is easy to look at all we do and to criticize those who aren’t doing as much. But Martha’s real problem wasn’t Mary; it was Martha. She had become distracted and had taken her eyes off Jesus.”

Us Martha’s like to serve and keep ourselves busy, keep the house cleaned, we can’t leave dirty dishes in the sink at night they have to be done, but it’s not that we want a clean kitchen it is we are possessed with perfectionist. I know this is totally me I love going to bed with a clean kitchen so when I get up in the morning it’s all nice and clean. Which which isn’t in itself bad, but when we let it become a barrier between us and spending time with the Lord, that is when it becomes a problem.

Mary chose to sit at the feet of Jesus to hear his word, she had learned to wait, and she was able to bring her burdens to the Lord. The Lord said He would not take that from her.

The word of God became a retreat to Mary, it became a refreshing moment, and she took refuge in it. May we learn from Mary and come to Jesus and be refreshed and take refuge in his word that we may hear from Jesus and may it strengthen and comfort us.

So as Christmas is coming up let’s not get caught up into being too busy and put Jesus aside, let’s stop like Mary did and take the time to sit at his feet and hear what he wants to say to us Martha’s.

Cherie C.

Surely I am coming quickly

About 10 years ago Krystal and I had an opportunity to participate in a Seder dinner at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. During the Seder dinner, there were 5 cups to drink from during the ceremony. Each cup represented parts of redemption for the Jewish nation. The fifth cup is the fifth expression of redemption which is called the “Cup of Elijah.” During the 5th cup, a door is opened to signify that Elijah will come to announce the coming of the Messiah. This month we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah that came to save man. He died on the cross for our sins so we could have everlasting life and be reunited with the Father. When Jesus was dying on the cross for us He said “it is finished” the Messiah died for our redemption.

But now we wait and look at the signs when the Messiah will return for us and take us home; the year 2013 is coming to a close with news of the United States lifting economic sanctions against Iran, with this news many Christian Pastors and commentators have criticized the President’s actions. Yet my mind wonders is the Messiah coming back soon? Will 2014 be the year of the rapture? Revelation 22: 20 says “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! So my heart says yes Lord come quickly, but then I hesitate and say “no wait” there so many who need to hear about your loving redemption. There is urgency in my heart to share my faith, not hide it but to be that light of the world. Matt. 5: 16 says Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. So sisters shine for the Lord, share your faith and eagerly look for His return.

Elsa D

Worshiping our King

“But the time is coming–indeed it’s here now–when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way.” John4:23

When we worship on earth, we are in tune with what is happening in heaven. The Book of Revelation gives us this description of worship in heaven: “And they sang in a mighty chorus: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered—to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing’ Revelation 5:12.
When we worship, it helps us to get things into perspective.

I love that we can worship the Lord, anytime and everywhere. We are given examples by many different men and women in the bible of what worshipping our Lord looks like. We see that they worshipped Him, in the highs and lows of life. Just a few examples are of Miriam Exodus 15:20 &21. David II Samuel 6:14. Melchizedek- Gen 14:18-20, Moses- Exodus 15:1-2, Ezra- Nehemiah 8:6, Zechariah- Luke 1: 67-68, The Shepherds- Luke 2:20, Simeon- Luke 2:28, The disciples Luke 19:37.

Sometimes we don’t understand why things are the way they are. But when we come and worship, when we hear the Word of God, it helps us gain perspective. Worship has a way of refreshing us as His people. It gives us strength and courage to keep going in the midst of trials and it fills us with joy that surpasses anything that we may be experiencing. It gives us hope. To some people it may appear that our faith is strong. But actually it may be weak, but it’s the Lord who gives us strength. There are times when we need to just surrender in worship. We need His word. We need God’s people. We need fellowship. We simply need Jesus.

Another comforting thing is to be surrounded by God’s people. We know that we are being prayed for. It helps us to gain perspective and see God for who He is and see our problems for what they are. Sometimes we have big problems because we have a small God. But if we have a big God, then we will see, comparatively speaking, that we have small problems.
When we are praising the Lord on earth, we are joining the chorus of heaven. And God is looking for people to worship Him in spirit and in truth until we meet with Him again.

-Rose H.

Are you ready for Christmas?

It seems every year I get asked this question earlier and earlier from many people and even basic strangers. Now, anyone who knows me knows I am a total enthusiast for the Christmas season. I tend to go all out with decorations, will plan an impromptu gathering at the drop of a hat, and love to honor my Hispanic heritage by continuing the season celebrations into January with “Dia de Reyes”. I love to hear the music of the season and must admit I love the corny “Lifetime” movies with the same theme over and over with just the basic names of the characters and towns being altered.

I especially love the fact that it is one time of year when even non-believers are “okay” with hearing some of the gospel message about the season. While they may not be ready to receive the greatest gift ever given to us; (“For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given…” Isaiah 9:6) they will unknowingly be tangled up in the very joy of what all of this means. As a believer, I see this as a great opportunity to at least plant seeds with others. Share with them about this greatest gift ever given; how in comparison to that gift, our own gifts to others are truly small.

It provides an avenue to renew in those who have backslidden or suffered loss and disillusion through the year, the story of hope and expectation that Christ alone has given. It is a time where we can remind others what this gift represents and how our celebrations need to continue throughout the year. I love being able to take the theme and doing random acts of “Christmas in July” or any other month for that matter. Again, Christmas is the vehicle to draw our eyes to Him.

Sometimes we tend to get sadden by the holidays what with the economy, broken families, loss of loved ones and other heartaches. We mourn the happier times, we mourn the changes. As a believer, I can feel encouraged by these times because, again, it provides an opportunity to share God’s peace (Philippians 4:7) “which is far beyond human understanding.”

So when we get asked the question, “are you ready for Christmas?” don’t get bothered and upset thinking the sales person is just trying to sell more wares, take it as a moment to reflect, are you ready to share the greatest gift of all with those around you?

Merry Christmas

Alex B.