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.

Friendship

Last week the Father was speaking to me about how quickly I leave church on Sundays instead of staying back to fellowship. In my mind I rationalize why I need to leave quickly. However, I find myself murmuring that I have no “real” friends at church. I make excuses such as “I’m not like everyone else,” “I’m too old,” “everyone has friends already,” and “everyone is too busy.” Always giving excuses about why I don’t have friendships at church.

But these are only excuses, so I searched for an example of a friendship in the Bible and found the example of Ruth and Naomi.

Proverbs 17:17 says “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (NKJV)

Ruth loved Naomi so much that she was willing to leave her country, the gods of her country and follow Naomi back to Bethlehem in Judah. Ruth said, “And your people shall be my people, and your God, my God” (Ruth 1:16). Even when Naomi said call me Mara (bitter) because her husband and sons died and possibly feeling abandoned by God, Ruth did not leave Naomi. Naomi counseled Ruth to stay close to the women in the field belonging to Boaz because he was her Kinsman Redeemer. Naomi instructed Ruth on how to prepare and meet her Kinsman Redeemer. Through Naomi’s love and counsel she led Ruth to her Kinsman Redeemer and Naomi was blessed too because she was redeemed when Ruth bore a son.

As women we need those friendships with sisters who will point us to the Kinsman Redeemer with Godly counsel. And as Ruth did we should heed the counsel. During times of hardship when we feel like a Mara, we need those friendships to encourage, pray and sharpen one another with iron. Just as Naomi and Ruth’s love and relationship was based on their love for the God of Israel, so too our friendships need to being with the bond of love for our Kinsman Redeemer. So pray and ask the Father to provide a Naomi or Ruth in your life.

-Elsa

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