THE YEAR GOD HAS MADE
All the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.
2 Corinthians 1:20
Today's a day like any other — the sun comes up and goes down, and time clicks along at its usual speed. But with our calendars and in our minds, today marks a new beginning, a chance to press the restart button of life. In His grace, God gives us a new day every twenty-four hours and a new year every 365 days. He's the Lord of new beginnings and the King of fresh hope.
Think of it this way. Without Christ, we're like passengers on a doomed ship, sailing into the night, fearing the storms ahead and hoping there's enough entertainment on board to distract us from our forebodings. But with Him in our hearts, we're sailing under a heavenly flag with the Captain of our salvation at the helm. We know this will be a good voyage — a great year — even if there are choppy waters along the way.
We can face the future without fear, for "all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God." This is the year that the Lord has made! We will rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24).
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To Thee our prayers addressing, still ask Thee for Thy blessing: Grant us a joyful year.
PAUL EBER, THE LUTHERAN HYMNAL
THE VOICE OF THE SPIRIT
The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things.
It has become increasingly difficult in this day and age for us to hear our own thoughts and feelings. In order to keep up with life, it seems we must travel at the speed of society, never stopping to take a deep breath and listen to the Holy Spirit's leading. As frustrating as this may be, it is not a new challenge.
When Jesus walked the earth, He was constantly surrounded by a multitude of people; but He knew that the most important relationship He could invest in was with His Father, for it was His Father's voice that would lead and guide Him. Therefore, He spent a large amount of time in prayer and conversation with God.
A woman was once asked how she knew the voice of the Spirit. She answered, "How do you know your husband's step and your child's cry from the steps and cries of all others?" For her, the voice of the Spirit was as familiar as the unique sounds of her husband and child.
In order for us to be sensitive to the Spirit's leading, we must spend time getting to know His voice, because the more intimately we know Him, the easier it will be to hear His voice above all others.
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Father, quiet my heart and mind so I may hear the leading of Your Spirit in my life.
WHO'S SERVING WHOM?
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
Matthew 6: 24
Pretend you are given a bank account that receives a fresh deposit of $86,400 every day. You are free to spend the money any way you want, but the unspent balance is not carried forward to the next day. Regardless of what you've spent by the end of the day, the balance is reset daily at $86,400. What would you do with such a bank account?
Now consider the fact that each dollar represents the number of seconds in one day: 24 hours per day x 60 minutes per hour x 60 seconds per minute = 86,400 seconds. Once they are "spent," they disappear, and the balance is reset at 12:00:01 a.m. every day. Some people become slaves of what they have; they live frantic lives, trying to spend time, talent, and treasure before they lose those things. In so doing, they become servants of things that are supposed to serve them. Jesus said we cannot serve both God and money (things of this world). And the only way to keep our priorities straight is to have a wise, godly plan: today I'm going to glorify God this way with my time, talent, and treasure. Do you have such a plan?
To have a plan and not follow it is the same as having no plan at all.
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We view all of life as a sacred trust to be used wisely. MORAVIAN COVENANT FOR CHRISTIAN LIVING
IT TAKES A LIFETIME
Solid food belongs to those who are of full age ... those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
It has been said that the new birth takes but a moment; spiritual maturity takes a lifetime.
Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than in the Parable of the Sower, in which Jesus warns His disciples about the many different ways God's Word will be received. He says that when some people receive the Word, it is snatched away by the devil as soon as it enters their hearts. Others receive the Word with joy but fall away during a time of temptation. Still others hear the Word yet remain entangled in the cares of the world, making it impossible for them to bring any spiritual fruit to maturity. Finally, Jesus tells of the ones who, "having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience" (Luke 8:11-15).
Spiritual maturity is the result of a continual process of growth that takes time and patience. If we remain rooted in the Word and nourished through prayer and fellowship with the Lord, we will surely see our faith grow as never before.
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Christians should move on to spiritual maturity. We must feast on the meat of God's Word and put into practice the lessons we have learned. It's the only way to grow up. HADDON W. ROBINSON
REMEMBERING AND RESPONDING
I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.
Which is easier — to make your bed in the morning or leave it unmade? To volunteer for a community project or to watch TV all weekend? To vacuum, wash, and wax your car or to leave it dirty? The easiest choices reflect the Second Law of Thermodynamics: all work processes tend toward a greater state of disorder over time without fresh injections of new energy.
This law applies both physically and spiritually. Leave your car parked in a field, and it will rust and fall apart. The same will happen in your spiritual life. Forget to maintain the spiritual disciplines you have learned, and in time, your life will take on increasing signs of disorder. That's what happened to the Israelites when they returned to Jerusalem from captivity. They started out obeying God, but in time they lost their energy. They stopped giving Him the first and best from their lives, and the prophet Malachi called them to account (Malachi 3:7-9). If you can see disorder creeping into your life, make sure you are still giving your first and best to God.
Remembering and responding to God's will takes new energy every day. That's just the way it is this side of heaven.
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People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed. SAMUEL JOHNSON
Take careful heed to yourselves, that you love the Lord your God.
When James E. Carter was pastor of University Baptist Church of Fort Worth, he shared an experience from younger days that he called "the greatest tithing testimony I ever observed." He said that one day as he waited to see the manager of a grocery store, a widow came in to cash her old-age-assistance check for $55. The grocer asked how the woman wanted it, and she replied, "It doesn't make any difference, just so I have a five-dollar bill and a fifty-cent piece."
As the owner gave her the money, Carter noticed that she tucked the coin into the bill, folded it up, and placed it in a corner of her purse. "This is my tithe," she explained. "I put it separate so I won't spend it." It was a scene Carter never forgot, and it later influenced his own faithfulness in the area of tithes and offerings.
That elderly woman didn't have much, yet she honored God with her substance and with the first part of all her income. Stewardship is not merely a matter of obligation; it's a matter of love. When you love someone, you want to express your gratitude and affection.
Our stewardship should be faithfully accomplished and lovingly practiced. Are we as wise as that wise, old widow?
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You have to start tithing when you have little if you are going to tithe when you have much. JAMES E. CARTER
VERSES OR CHAPTERS?
Your word I have hidden in my heart.
Michael Billester visited eastern Poland during the late 1930s and gave a Bible to one of the villagers while there. The villager read it, was converted, and passed the book to two hundred others, who were all saved by reading it. When Billester returned in 1940, the group gathered for a worship service, and he suggested they all recite a few Bible verses they had memorized. A man stood up and said, "Perhaps we have misunderstood. Did you mean verses or chapters?" Billester was astonished to learn that the people had memorized whole chapters of the Bible. In fact, together, the two hundred villagers knew almost the entire Bible by heart.
We need to view committing Scripture to memory to be as important as the Polish villagers did. Value its power and effectiveness in our lives as much as Jesus did when He used it to defend Himself against Satan's temptations.
Remember the true purpose for memorizing Scripture —"that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil" (Ephesians 6:11) — and make it a priority to spend some time etching the Word of God into your heart and mind.
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Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; the Book widens and deepens with our years. CHARLES HADDON SPURGEON