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New Year, New You

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That time has rolled around again, New Year’s. This time of year almost always has everyone thinking about all the new things they’re going to do or try. We’re all professing these audacious goals of learning a new language or eating clean/healthier, exercising or traveling more, quit smoking (cold turkey), spend more time with loved ones or even reading more etc, etc, ect. I know I’m definitely guilty of several of these resolutions. I’ll probably get a couple weeks into January and then, boom, I quit. Life happens, and I get distracted and allow those tiny setbacks to hold me back from what I had set out to do in the upcoming year. So many of us go through this very cycle, but rarely do we do the deep dive to examine what is truly at the root of us not accomplishing our goals. 

Perhaps the is the problem right there. We are trying to accomplish “Our” goals. Where is God in this process? Very seldom are our resolutions ones that include God. I’m not saying that there is something wrong with having goals; just that we shouldn’t lose sight of who our source is and where we ought to go to draw our strength from which will ultimately allow us to actually realize those goals. Psalm 28:8 reads “The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for is anointed one.” NIV. I believe we should always have a plan for every aspect of our life if we plan on being successful in that area. I’m sure you’ve heard of the saying “Failure to plan, is a plan to fail.” I would venture to say that we should take it a step further and write down our goals. Habukuk 2:2 read in part “…Write the vision, and make it plain upon tablets, that he may run who readth it.” KJV.

We all have been put here on earth for a purpose. The main purpose is to Glorify the One and True Living God. Practically, we do that by the way we chose to live our life daily. Sometimes we try to plan out our whole lives and then get frustrated when things aren’t going according to our timetable. Have we lost sight of what God said in Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,“ declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” NIV. Now, granted this was a message was sent to the elders and priests who were exiled from Jerusalem through the prophet, Jeremiah. Nonetheless, I believe that just as God had a plan for them, He has a plan for us.

When we set resolutions, I think another oversight on our part is that it isn’t enough to just say and write down what we want to achieve for the New Year. We must actually DO IT. There’s a level of sacrifice that it’s going to be necessary to obtain/realize what we want. We can’t remain the same if we want new life experiences. We have to be willing to give up those old habits in order to make room for the new ones. Surrendering ourselves as a living sacrifice is how we’ll be able to get there. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we read, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!” As you’ve heard before, “Old habits die hard”. It’s true, however, it’s unrealistic for us to think that we can have/maintain the new things in our lives while operating under the old distorted mindsets and wicked ways we once had.

The great news is that Jesus is the way to a new, joyous and prosperous life. He is the answer to all of life’s questions. Putting God first is the key to true success and fulfillment. Refer to Matthew 6:33, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” I thank God for sending His son, Jesus who chose to lay down is life as a sacrifice for you and me. Without him, I was destined to spend eternity without him. I invited Him into my life to transform me and you can do the same. The gift of salvation can only come from accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior. My suggestion for this New Year is to get those priorities in line and become a new creation in Christ, like Paul in Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ live in me. The life in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 

Be blessed, may this upcoming New Year be brighter than the last and most importantly may the love of Jesus Christ lead you into becoming a New You.

'Tis the Season

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It’s that time of year again.  The Christmas season is upon us and the big day is drawing near.   At this point, you can’t go down a street without seeing homes lit up and inflatable reindeer on front lawns.  Neighborhood streets are crowded with Amazon delivery trucks as far as the eye can see.  But what does this season mean for us as the church?  As we are in the season of Advent, it is important for us as believers to reflect on the miracle of the birth of Christ in context.  We must ask ourselves a simple question…Why did Christ come?  

One of my favorite worship songs has always been In Christ Alone.  The lyrics are theologically rich and God-honoring.  The hymn has understandably become a staple in many churches across the world.  In 2013 though, there was some controversy surrounding the song.  The Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (PCUSA), seeing how popular the hymn was, desired to include it in their hymnal.  There was one problem, they wanted to change the lyrics.  The second verse included the line, “Til on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.”  The PCUSA Hymnal Committee decided that they would only include the hymn if they would be able to change the lyrics to “Til on that cross as Jesus died, the love of God was magnified.”  (Original lyrics below)

"In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
'Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live, I live"

Thankfully the writers of the song, Stuart Townend and Keith Getty, denied the request and kept the original lyrics thus keeping the hymn out of the PCUSA Hymnal.  It begs the question though…Why would PCUSA want the lyrics changed?  The culture in which we live shutters at the thought of “wrath”.  It’s an abrasive term that connotes pain and suffering.  It doesn’t mingle well with the concept of a socially accepting, tolerant, and “loving” God who allows people to wantonly live out their base desires.  Sadly, even churches, in hopes of being inclusive, have given into this way of thinking.  

We must hold fast to the truth.  It was God’s perfect holiness (1 Sam 2:2) and wrath (Rom 1:18), in harmony with His love (John 3:16) that deemed the incarnation of Christ necessary.  Christ came, that to the glory of God, He would be our substitute.  He and only He, could satisfy the wrath of a Holy God and impute to us His righteousness.  This Advent season, we should know that the Word became flesh for a reason…and it wasn’t for bellies full of ham and hanging mistletoe.  May we celebrate the birth of our Lord in the fullness of this rich understanding.

Posted by Shawn Thomas

THIS is Who You Are…

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So many of us go through this life wondering who we really are and what our identity is. This may take place in different stages of life. As kids, we have big and colorful imaginations where we would say. If we were asked as a child “What you do want to be?”, we probably said a superhero, or a princess, or cowboy, or pretty much anything that was bigger than life. Why? Because we BELIEVED we could be ANYTHING. This phase is before the influences of the world has a chance to affect our thoughts and perceptions of ourselves.

As adolescents, we perhaps have more realistic views and thoughts of who /what we want to be. Our answers to that question is more likely to be a basketball player or some sort of an athlete or even a baker. We might even say want to do whatever our parent’s profession is. Or nowadays, a gamer or a youtuber…lol. We begin to identify or gravitate towards more towards our interests/hobbies.

As preteens and teens, we’re questioning everything. The world’s influences have more of an impact on us and how we see ourselves. The doubt creeps in and we begin to realize that the world doesn’t really revolve around us, despite what mom says.  We have television and social media, for example, that is constantly promoting their portrayal of what’s acceptable. We must be careful with what we watch and with what we listen to. The bible talks about protecting our eye and ear gates. What or who we listen to (as well as what/who we watch) makes an impression on us, whether we realize it or not. It affects how we think, it affects how we act and what we say. Most importantly, it affects our heart.

This is why it is imperative that we stay rooted in God’s Word. Refer to Proverbs 4:20-23 “My son, pay attention to what I say: turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart: for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

This world is controlled by the enemy and functions contrary to the Kingdom of God. So we mustn't allow ourselves to be fooled by what we see here to be our standard of living. We must remember Who we are to Whom we belong. There is no need to go search the world for you to discover who you are. I'm here to remind you that: 

YOU ARE A CHILD OF GOD. See verses 1 John 3:1, Romans 8:16,Galatians 3:26, John 1:12, Romans 8:14, 2 Corinthians 6:18, Ephesians 1:5 just to name a few.  YOU ARE LOVED, See verses John 3:16, Romans 5:8, Romans 8:35-39, Psalms 36:5-7, Ephesians 2:4-5, Romans 5:5 just to name a few.  YOU WERE MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD. See Genesis 1:26-27 How wonderful is that? That the creator of the universe, the one who created all things seen and unseen; made us in His own image. We all know that God created the whole world by  speaking it all into existence. In the first chapter in Genesis you will see repeatedly where it says "And God said", "Let there be..." "And it was so". Whatever God wanted there to be, it was, because He spoke it.

Now if you look at the next 2nd chapter in Genesis verse 7, you'll see it reads " Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being." God spoke the whole world into existence, but took his time to form you and breath life into you. Do you not see how profound that is? His spirit is within us. He wants us to be and have a connection with Him. Why? Because He loves us, because he's a good Father.

So be confident in knowing, you are loved, you are purposed to be here, you are child of the Almighty God and that He formed you in His own image. THIS is who you are. There isn't ANYTHING that this world can offer you that is more powerful than that.

 God bless you :-)