Happy New Year???

My mind was all over the place in preparation for writing the first post of the new year. I went back and looked at old posts to see what I’ve written about – optimism, goal setting, new beginnings and the like. It just didn’t feel right for 2021. We all agree that this year HAS to be better than 2020 but if anything taught us to be pessimistic, it was 2020. No matter what corner we turned, another twist came. I normally would have said “another shoe would drop” but it seemed to be raining shoes last year.  There is no reason to believe that we shouldn’t be filled with hope as we start this new year but 2020 was like an anchor.

So, let’s start 2021 with a reminder that we are free! We celebrated the birth of a Savior in the last 10 days and right now is the time to celebrate the birth of our freedom through faith. We should toss the shackles of 2020, break the chains of pessimism and celebrate the things we have right in front of us; we are no longer bound by our sins. While many of us will make (and break) New Year’s resolutions to improve something in our lives; start this new year knowing that you are free from sin. What do you mean, you ask? This is all best explained in St Paul’s letter to the Galatians. The verses prior to these explain the meaning of and importance of God’s Laws.

23 “Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

26So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:23-29

Knowing this, you can be confident in yourself as you boldly go into 2021 and all that it will offer. Be sure to celebrate all the small victories, accomplishments and the good days. You are not being punished for your sins, you are being protected by God’s love, grace and mercy; your sins are forgiven! Have a Happy New Year!

It’s not about you

I hope this isn’t the way of the New Year – late posts. I can no longer brag about my record of posting. Good thing this ends 2018 and is not the start of 2019. For me, the week after Christmas is filled with mixed emotions – Christmas excitement let down and the excitement of starting a new year. Many of us will proclaim “Resolutions” for change in the coming year, while others look at the new year with dread. So many people are unsure of what is coming in the new year or are disappointed in what transpired in the past year, that they simply dread the reminder of a new calendar year. This holiday is a great time to be reminded that each day, month and year that passes, is part of God’s plan. Rick Warren in his book “Purpose Driven Life”, starts the book reminding the reader that it (life) is not about you.

We are so focused on ourselves that we lose focus on what is part of God’s plan or that God is in control. We should be asking God for clarity on what He wants us to know or do in the coming year. Setting resolutions is about doing things for yourself or staying focused on what you want to get done but we never seem to ask God what He wants us to accomplish. Resolutions and dread for a new year are a result of things of this world. Try focusing on a relationship with God and seeking to understand what He is doing in your life will make hanging up a new calendar much easier.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

I hope that this verse kick-starts your new year by helping you refocus on what is really important. If you create any resolutions, resolve to grow in your faith and understanding of God’s will in your life. God has laid the path, from the day you were born to your final day; He is in control. Do not let this world get to you. Everywhere we turn, we see signs of terrible patterns of this world.

Turn away from them and renew your mind. These words written more than 2000 years ago still have meaning today – as if St. Paul was present today. God keeps His promises, it is us who fail to see them or open our hearts and minds to them. We expect things given to us of this world and when God doesn’t deliver, we feel let down. I’d suggest that perhaps, God was at work teaching and not punishing us. I hope that you begin 2019 with an open mind, an open heart and the understanding that “it’s not about you”, it’s about God. Happy New Year!

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.