A New Self for the New Year

We are already five days into 2015 and I’ve maintained my commitment to eat fewer carbs and exercise more – five days down and only 360 to go! I’m feeling pretty optimistic about this year and for no particular reason. I hope that everyone is feeling this way. The start of a new year is generally a renewal of sorts. We have no idea what lies before us – challenge, opportunity, pain or joy. At the end of each year I get a report from the host of the blog site that details where people are viewing this blog from and how many visits I’ve had. There are more people viewing this blog from South America than from North America. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, there are people in Russia, Italy, United Kingdom, Canada and Brazil, to name a few, following this blog. Brazil has more views than any other country. I’m not mentioning this to boast but my point is that we never know who we’ll touch with what we do. I had no idea how many people from outside the U.S. viewed this site. Three years ago on January 12th, I set out to do something that I’d never done before, write devotions. I just decided to write devotions for leaders that would help them and that would connect them to the word of God.  I had no idea what to expect or what I was capable of doing. I wondered if anyone read them. I took a chance to trust God and what He was guiding me to do. When I’m faced with an unknown, I like to say that I closed my eyes and jumped into the deep end. None of us know what 2015 has in store for us. We can look at the new year afraid and unsure or we can view it as an exciting time filled with new adventures and opportunities. We exchange each day of our lives for the things that we will do today. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever and in its place is something that we have left behind. Will you leave something good? Go out and have a great day, great week, great month and a great year!

“Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:24

What makes us new? What is a new self? There are shelves filled with advice in most bookstores to help people answer these questions. This scripture answers them for us. Righteousness is defined as decent; ethical, principled, moral, high-minded, law-abiding, honest, honorable, blameless, irreproachable, and noble. When we read that we should be “like God” it seems a little extreme or nearly impossible to compare ourselves to Him but we can be like Him in righteousness. Every one of us can be decent, ethical, principled, law-abiding and honest; we can be righteous. This is what St. Paul is urging the people of Ephesus to be – righteous. We too can put on a new self, one found in our faith in Jesus Christ who teaches us what righteousness is. We have the perfect leader and teacher in Jesus as told to us through God’s inspired words in the Holy Bible. It’s an awesome combination to help us put on our new selves. What will you exchange the days in your life for and what are you leaving behind? The simple thank you to someone at work, recognizing a job well done, doing a little extra; just because or going out of your way to assist someone in need maybe all that you need to jumpstart your new self.

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Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day in the U.S., so I thought that I’d provide a little history lesson. Three years after the U.S. Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans, the Grand Army of the Republic, established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate, with flowers, the graves of the war dead. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery. Gen. Logan’s order for his posts to decorate graves in 1868 “with the choicest flowers of springtime” he urged: “We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. … Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time; testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.” Several states in the south refused to acknowledge Memorial Day and held their own ceremonies to observe the passing of confederate veterans. There are several U.S. cities that claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, and the debate continued to fester for almost 100 years. It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., the “birthplace” of Memorial Day. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it was often called Decoration Day. It was then placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays. May we never forget the sacrifices that many made to keep us free people.

14Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the LORD.
Hebrews 12:14

If it were not for the civil war, we would not have Memorial Day. The day was expanded to honor all those that made the ultimate sacrifice to keep us free. It is a holiday that I wish we didn’t need but I am thankful for everyone that made it possible for me to post on this blog and live an unencumbered life. We must make every effort to live in peace with all men. This verse does is very specific about who we should be at peace with – ALL MEN. This doesn’t apply only to the countries that the U.S. is friendly with; it applies to us as well. Live in peace and be holy. Sounds simple enough but we know it can be hard. There is no exclusion to whom we must be holy with – I have to be holy with the guy with the annoying dogs behind me! This verse is a great reminder that living in peace and holiness is hard and will require sacrifice. Some sacrificed everything for us to live in peace, we owe them our best to live holy lives; without it no one will see the Lord. We should live our lives as Jesus showed us – gracefully with humility, with love, faithfulness and forgiveness. Enjoy your holiday weekend but remember why we have it. Put a little “memorial” into Memorial Day and give thanks for those that made it possible and then go out and be holy.