Happy New Year

Revelation 21:5

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”

Happy New Year! And why shouldn’t we celebrate the beginning of a new year? Surely the last two years have been unique with their challenge, but each year holds the promise of new beginnings. I am reminded of a newly minted penny. Though it is the smallest of all denominations, worth the least monetarily, it outshines all other minted coins in its radiance as it heralds its entrance into the world. No other coin, regardless of its engravings or monetary value captures the attention and imagination like a new penny. And that is how I think of the New Year; shiny and glistening in its newness.

I like the beginning of a new year because of the hope and promise it brings. Equally important is its lack of history. The new year has only two days of history. It only has the history we ascribe to it. Largely, then, the joy of the New Year is a matter of perspective and attitude. As adults, of course, we bring some history forward with the new year. We probably have the same job we did in December 2021, and some pending to do’s as well as a host of other responsibilities. However, the beginning of the new year is a time when we can give ourselves license to adopt new opportunities and perhaps decide others no longer fit our needs. It is a time to stop and reflect on our course. The promise of the new year is that we can begin again. I believe that those who will stop their forward momentum, just for a moment, and reflect on their path will gain a clean perspective and, perhaps, a new vision. Sometimes, we are in such a hurry, rushing down the path, that we fail to notice that we were in need of a course correction several miles back. Pause long enough to take a deep breath and recover your equilibrium. Actually take the time to consider your course. Listen. God wants to do great things with you this year. I believe that from the bottom of my heart. You get to choose, today, if you will run with God or if you will stumble through another year. Lift your head and look at the stars. There is a universe of potential out there for you. Stop, breathe, listen, consider. What do you see with the eyes of your heart? What do you want?

I wish for you a year full of adventure. I pray the challenges you find are the kind which bring joy and growth. My hope is that you will stop and consider what you want from this new year. What star would you grab if you believed it within your reach? What is it that you are afraid to hope for but really want? May the blessing of a new year warm you with the hope of its possibilities.

It Ain’t Over Yet!

Genesis 37: 5

Then Joseph had a dream.

When God gives you a dream, you have to hold on to it with both fists. In truth, when God speaks to us, or shows us a dream or a vision, we expect to see it begin to unfold immediately. Why does he give us a vision of our future or a promise of prosperity and a good life without immediately putting the plan into action? I think the answer goes back to Jeremiah 29: 11, “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for prosperity and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

The emphasis should be placed on the word, “hope.” Joseph had several dreams in which God communicated Joseph’s purpose. He saw himself being elevated above his brothers and even above his father. The dreams were clear and they encouraged and excited Joseph. You have had one of those dreams too, or a word from God. The very next thing that seems to happen is that you are flung down into a pit.

You know the story of Joseph. From the pit he went into slavery. However, the blessing was on him and he prospered his master. Although he found favor with his master, the next thing Joseph knows, he is in prison. From the pit, to slavery, to prison Joseph must have been wondering about the great promises from God. “Did God lie to me? Was He wrong? Have I done something wrong and frustrated the purpose of God in my life?” These are all the same questions we have asked when the vision from God looks nothing like our life.

The story of Joseph is good reading, but it is not in the Bible just to make a good Bible story. It is there to encourage us when our lives are in the pits. I am sure Joseph had his moments of doubt, but he hung onto the promise of God and believed despite his circumstances.

The facts don’t count. When we are in bondage, bowed down with the weight of life, we need to hold fast to the dream God has given us. There may be days of doubt, but we need to remind ourselves that God is not a man that He can lie. He will deliver us to the promised land. When you are feeling like life is the pits, and you wonder where God has gotten off to, remember Joseph. God fulfilled every dream and saved the nation of Israel through Joseph. He became the second most powerful man in Egypt behind Pharaoh. Not bad for a slave boy.

Don’t give up! The story isn’t over yet!

Get in the Game

Jeremiah 29: 11

“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans for prosperity and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Writing yesterday’s Word of the Day caused me to think of this verse. To know God’s plans for us is to know goodness and hope. No matter where you are in your life, regardless of past failures or even accomplishments, there is a new horizon out there for you. God has a good plan for you right now. No matter how young or old you are, our Father has a future for you. He has not put you on the bench.

This can be the revelation for which you have been waiting. Perhaps you think you messed up too badly in your last outing. Maybe you think your opportunities have passed you by. Let me assure you, that is not what Yahweh, our God and Father, is thinking about you. He has a plan for you right now. He wants to get you back in the game. He has hope to give you. He has a plan for you and He has your future. So, drink your Gatorade, lace up your shoes and get in the game.

Step one is to go talk with your coach and find out the game plan. You cannot execute until you know the plan. Second, do not be afraid of a little training. Come on, every great athlete or anyone who has succeeded at anything has had to put in some practice. Make it fun. You’ve got the best coach in the world, in the universe for that matter. Enjoy the time of preparation. When it’s go time, you will be bolstered by the time spent in practice. Now, go have some fun.

Help and Hope

Psalm 124: 8

Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

One would almost think I chose this psalm today, but you know we have been going through them, sequentially, every Monday. One must admit, it is a psalm for our times.

I am reminded, today, that psalms are actually songs. As we think about this as music, there is a tendency, perhaps, to try to categorize the psalms generally but also this one specifically. One wouldn’t likely call it a ditty, maybe a lament instead. Would you expect this to set to a blues rhythm? Maybe you would set it to a tune like an old hymn. However you feel about this verse in your heart, you are right. Because we read them rather than hear them set to music, we can set them however seems right to the mood within us. What’s more, you can listen to the tune inside you and simply begin to sing these words. Music is a stimulating medium. It can be soothing or invigorating. These words may make you pensive, meditative. Whatever form they take within you, is just the right medicine.

I cannot imagine that anyone will look back on the year 2020 and say it was an easy year. Everything has seemed to work against us. I feel compassion for those who do not know the Lord because they do not know where their hope lies. Thus, they have little to know hope. We know where help resides. It is in our Lord and He is at your side at this very moment. You are not forgotten nor has your Father abandoned you. He has His eye upon you, and He is the answer we need in this time. No matter how things look or feel right now, He is with you and is your help and hope.

Gloom, Despair, Agony

Psalm 88: 13 – 18

I cry out to you for help, O Lord, and in the morning my prayer will come into your presence. Why do you reject my soul, O Lord? Why do you hide your face from me? Ever since I was young, I have been suffering and near death. I have endured your terrors, and now I am in despair. Your burning anger has swept over me. Your terrors have destroyed me. They swirl around me all day long like water. They surround me on all sides. You have taken my loved ones and friends far away from me. Darkness is my only friend!

Woe is me!! This is the cry of desperation. And yet . . .?

The writer cries out to the Lord which I find interesting, perhaps even amusing because it is the Lord whom he blames for his troubles. Why then, complain to the Lord? Why importune Him for relief? It is because in our heart of hearts, we know that the Lord, our God, did not send us down to the pit. We know He is our salvation, not our tormentor.

The author, for all his despair, has not lost hope and in that we, too, draw encouragement. There has never been a moment in all of history which was without hope, nor shall there ever be, because we have a benevolent God and we know that He is always within reach. His ear is always listening for our prayer.

The heart of human beings knows, instinctively, that God is our hope and our salvation. Our very DNA cries out to Him because our DNA is made of Him. Though we accuse God and cry out against Him; though we blame Him for the ills of the world, in the darkest hour, when it seems darkness is our only friend, our spirits cry out and yearn for the one we know can and will save us from the pain. We have a deep and abiding knowledge coursing through our cells, that our God is our breath and that He is saving grace. He is the hope that is that one little speck of light when darkness threatens to overwhelm us. God is good. He loves us and He is listening for the call of all of His children.

God of Hope

Romans 15: 13

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We never have to be without hope because God sent us the Holy Spirit through whom we always have hope. And in hope we can be continuously filled with joy and peace. When you let go of hope you will find that joy and peace leave as well. But we can always abide with all three because wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is hope.

I know the situation looks bleak. I know that the people involved in your crisis do not appear in the least cooperative but don’t forget God. He is able to work out the most contrary and difficult conditions. There is no such thing as hopelessness in God. So, if you are feeling hopeless you just need to press into God and let Him minister hope to your heart. No matter what we say, feel or think, there is always an element that must be figured in. That is the power of the living God. Regardless of the appearance of things He is able to trump all and turn a bad situation around to your good. Don’t give up. Hang in there until the end. Don’t quit believing and hoping. In the end, you will see God’s deliverance.

Hope Too

Romans 5: 5

And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given.

Don’t lose hope because, just like love, hope does not fail. Even though the horizon may look troublesome, do not give in to fear and hopelessness. Your hope is in the Lord Jesus, our Father and the Holy Spirit who they sent to us. The love that was poured out to us is the anchor of our hope because that love can never fail. It is pure, secure and determined. That love brought Jesus into the world for the reconciliation and redemption of us all. How can you give up hope when the God of the universe is the one who sent you His own love in order to secure you? Look up. Look upon that horizon with renewed faith and confidence. It may look like storm clouds, but it is really your victory on its way to you. Just don’t give up before it reaches you. Through the love of God, your hope will have its satisfaction.