Everyone likes new beginnings, but are new beginnings really the answer we need?
In my life I've witnessed my own new beginnings. Many times they became a pile of disappointing yesterdays. Why? Is this the fault of others? Is it the fault of the cosmos or some uncontrollable force that is always against me? Am I walking through life with a target on my chest inviting the flaming arrows of the devil? Why do all my new beginnings end up as failed attempts at renewal?
Because, the answer isn't in the "new beginning" as you and I understand newness. The issue is me.
People often talk about what they will be.
"When I move to this new location, everything will change."
"When I get that raise, everything will get better."
"When I remove this person from my life, I'll be at peace."
"When I add a boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse to my life, everything will be better."
"If I just had ____________ my life would be on track."
Or, people refer to themselves in regards to their past.
"I used to have a higher paying job, but now that's all over."
"I once was happy until _____________ happened."
"I was fine until this enormous error happened."
"When so-and-so came into my life everything turned for the worse."
What about Now?
Not "I will be" and not "I once was" but rather "I am..." What about "I am..."?
Until your NOW gets healed and remade by the transforming power of God, your WILL BE's will be controlled by the principles of your "ONCE WERE's".
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
(2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV84)
Has the NEW come to you in the NOW. The new in the now is the answer for the new that awaits you on the horizon. When the clock strikes midnight tonight and 2016 gives way to 2017, nothing will be new if you are not new. Things change but they will only change deeply for you if you are transformed. A New YOU brings CHRIST into the NOW moments of your life.
May the God of new beginnings grant you true transformation in this very moment, and in every moment of your present consciousness. May Jesus Christ continue the healing work of your past so that you wil not be controlled by the principles of your yesterdays. May the power and presence of the Holy Spirit guide you into green pastures and near still waters for the restoration of your being so that your moments are guided by Him, not by your past. AMEN.
One defiled. Can these two forces co-exist?
Do you think that the devil and God share living quarters, talking about their differences of opinion? Do you think they share conversation about how they "agree to disagree" regarding their lifestyle choices? No. They are in opposition to eachother. They are not equals, God is far superior. God is Creator and the devil is created. They will not both exist ad infinitum for God will throw the devil and hell into the lake of fire. Light will prevail, darkness will die. Holiness will triumph and evil will vanish.
This is why Jesus says to His people:
"This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous."
(Matthew 13:49 NIV84) But what is righteousness? It is following Jesus. What is following Jesus?
Following Jesus means that you enter into two separation agreements.
Agreement #1: Separated FOR Holiness.
Whatever is "Yes" and "Amen" in Jesus is now "Yes" and "Amen" in you. Everything in Jesus is holy in all matters of the heart, the mind, the thinking, behavior, attitude, affection, desire, action, language, inclination, etc. Perfected in purity and holiness. Jesus in the exact representation of the Father, and we are to be the exact representation of Christ. The beauty of this is that all power needed to be separated for Jesus comes from the gift of the Holy Spirit. Holiness is power and power and holiness. Love is holiness and holiness is love. To be Christian without holiness is not Christianity at all. To be in Jesus without being entirely separated apart for Him is to not be in Him at all. Jesus and the Father are one. When we are one with Jesus we are one in the same way, or not in any way.
Agreement #2: Separated FROM Sin and the World.
Jesus never participated in sin although He conversed with sinners. His purpose was to show Light in the darkness and holiness in the midst of worldliness. Being in the presence of the messiness of sin while maintaining a separation from participating in the mess is the essence of Jesus. Holiness in the midst of the darkness is what Jesus is all about and if we are in Him, it must be what we are all about as well. Separated out from the world's ways even while we are yet in the world.
Do you follow Jesus?
Have you signed agreement #1 to be set apart commpletely for Christ and Christ Alone? Is everything in you in alignment with the Yes and Amen of Jesus?
Have you signed agreement #2 to be separate from the world's ways? Have you shunned sin and all of its devastating effects?
Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
(Hebrews 12:14 NIV84)
Hey... What did you get for Christmas? Did you get what you wanted?
A couple of years ago I got new coffee maker, and, at the time, I was very excited to get it. Today, for Christmas I got a new one and I set the old one near the door to go out with the trash. The old one that once was so great, is now yesterday's news. At some point the new one I received today will also give way to wear-and-tear, and also find it's way into the trash. That is true for material things... they are displaced from our affection... they can't bring us lasting joy.
You may have received many things for Christmas, but what will you keep?
God's gift of Jesus is so valuable; so life-giving; so extravagant; so transforming; so freeing; so cleansing; so redeeming, that most people give everything they have and celebrate to do so because they see the worth is Jesus as being greater than anything else they have.
Jesus is the only gift you'll keep for all eternity.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
(Matthew 6:19-21 NIV84)
"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
(Matthew 13:44 NIV84)
You see, it's not about what you get for Christmas, it's what you keep.
The event of Christmas can bring temporary joy that is fleeting, but the presence of Jesus in your life can bring true and lasting joy. Jesus doesn't wear out, go out of style.
I'd like to wish you the eternal presence of Jesus through His Holy Spirit to be with you always. It's what you keep when Christmas is over that really matters. Jesus is not meant to emerge on December 25th, then go back into hiding until next year. The baby born in the manger grows. When He is born anew in you, the growth never stops.
May you experience the ever-growing presence of Christ in your life now and always. AMEN.
Christmas time is here, and, as it always does, Christmas intersects with our everyday lives. You don't schedule Christmas, it arrives no matter what is happening. Remember when you were a kid and played "hide-and-seek?" After the countdown, the person who was "it" would call out, ready or not, here I come!
Well, Jesus did that very thing when He was birthed into His very own created humanity over 2000 years ago. Whether we were ready or not, there He was... and there He IS today. The arrival of Christmas creates a crossroads in our lives. Whatever we are experiencing (good or bad, joyful or traumatic) Christmas comes. Jesus comes. Here are some very typical crossroads people deal with at this time of year:
1: At the Crossroads of Hope and Disappointment:
An unwanted medical diagnosis, the destruction of a relationship through broken trust, the loss of a career, the death of a loved one, and other similar life events don't reschedule themselves for Christmas. How can one experience hope when life seems so disappointing? Jesus creates hope first and foremost because of who He is, not what He does. Jesus IS hope, Jesus does not just dispense hope.
The hard truth is that hope is hard to experience during disappointment. We may cry out to Jesus like Mary and Martha did "If you had been here, this wouldn't have happened." Jesus will weep with us because He empathizes in our condition.
2: At the Crossroads of Joy and Depression:
If you are a person who suffers with depression, Christmas has the potential to deepen the darkness. The increased light only reveals the severity of your own darkness. Am I right? If you experience shame because of the depression, then highlighting the depression only deepens the shame, and a whirlpool of destruction begins that wants to suck you under into even deeper depths of pain. Like Peter, who began to sink when he took his eyes off Jesus while walking on water, we must keep our eyes on Jesus while we're in our most fragile places. Just take Jesus' hand. He's not going to shame you more for feeling depression and shame. He will take your hand and lift you up.
3: At the Crossroads of Anxiety and Peace:
Panic attacks and anxiety are the polar opposite of peace. One is chaos and the other is the absence of chaos. But, for those who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, the worst advice you can hear is, "Just stop that." Seriously? People would stop it in a moment if they could, but the solution is never that easy. It is good news that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He is the Ruler that can remove the chaos. We need an on-going process of taking our chaos captive and submitting it to the Lordship of Jesus. Cast your cares on Him this Christmas, because He cares for you.
4: At the Crossroads of Exclusion and Inclusion:
People shun one another. We do this for various reasons. We view them as untouchable because of sin, behavior, actions, choices, language, disagreement, status, you name it. Are you getting shunned this Christmas in any way, shape or form? If you are, then you can't stand the images of whole families gathered or friends embracing over exchanging perfect gifts. You likely can't even stomach the pasted-on smiles of those who are not interested in your pain. Jesus includes. People exclude. If you are excluded for any reason this Christmas, reach upward and outward to Jesus. If you're fortunate, you'll find a person who knows Jesus who is willing to include you with no strings attached. You will also save yourself much pain and heartache by forgiving those who shunned you and freeing yourself to be healed.
5: At the Crossroads of Illness and Healing:
Why am I sick at Christmas!? Why am I going through this chronic illness? Why? Illness, sickness and disease are part of the human condition. There was plenty of it when Jesus was born. There is plenty of it today. Jesus is all about restoration based on His presence, not just His miracles. Jesus has already provided for your eternity while in the midst of this temporary, broken body. Christmas is a time to stare into eternity, even while in the midst of our temporary. Our bodies grow weak, suffer, hurt, break, and ultimately die. Jesus is LIFE. It's already provided for. Earthly illness may disrupt your earthly celebration, but the eternal healing of Jesus will present you to the Father spotless and whole in eternity. Amen!
Ready or not, here comes Christmas...
Let the disappointed find hope;
Let the depressed find joy;
Let the anxious find peace;
Let the excuded find inclusion;
Let the ill find wholeness.
In the powerful name of Christ Jesus who lives and reigns in heaven now and forever more. AMEN.
Brett Heintzman is passionate about the spiritual formation of God's people. These writings are designed to draw us close to God and to help us live out of the riches of His presence. It's all about being in the world but not of the world.
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