Being "forced" to stay inside with my family has proven to be a meaningful and highly educational experiences. Seriously, we did great, considering. I bonded with my kids on a whole new level -- a much needed level. I also spent massive amounts of time in God's Word, soaking in His goodness. Sometimes, I think God says, "Enough!" HE wants us to slow down and rest in Him.
When you can't leave your home, well, you start to focus on what's important. If not, you might go a bit whacko, or as we jokingly say "get cabin fever." So, I'll admit, I got a teeny weeny stir crazy today. But, I think I'll be able to drive my car tomorrow. It's been buried under about five feet of banked snow.
As the New Year fast approaches, most of us are looking ahead and planning for a better more fruitful 2009. I'd like to share a previously published article about that very topic. I hope it helps you prepare for your New Year, New Beginning.
New Beginnings -- Written by Carol Van Atta
Amazingly, it’s that time. A New Year is approaching right on schedule — again. This is the time of year so many of us start making resolutions to change a certain area, or multiple areas in our lives. Maybe we have some extra pounds to shed. Possibly, we are committed to changing a specific, harmful behavior. Our infamous New Year’s resolutions range from simple desires to seemingly full-proof-plans for extensive life change. What we all have in common is the hope that something will change, and life will be different (and better) in the year ahead.
Do you have a resolution this year? Or are you like so many people who have done away with their hopes for lasting, life change? Every year, women ring in the New Year with goals to live life differently on some level. However, a few short weeks later, many of these very same well-wishers end up discouraged and filled with shame and remorse over their failed attempts to make New Year’s resolutions come to pass. Who knows? This may be the second, third, fourth, or fifteenth year someone has tried to “kick the habit.” After so many misguided attempts, why would they even want to try again?
That’s a good question. First consider a few additional questions…
- What if every spring, the flowers just gave up on blooming?
- What if the local birds that have migrated to some faraway place just decided to stay put on that tropical island?
- What if the sun chose to hide behind the clouds all summer long?
Worse yet…what if Christ had not come to earth as a baby or hadn’t risen from the dead?
I don’t know about you, but I sure love fragrant flowers, sweet singing birds are pretty nice, and, oh, how I love that summer sun smiling down on me, but the thought of a Christ, who didn’t defeat death, is downright terrifying. Without His resurrection power, we really would have no hope for permanent life change — ever.
However, He was born. He died. And He most definitely did rise again.
That means this year, this month, today, or even this moment, is filled with hope for a better future…in Him. We don’t have to white-knuckle it anymore. Whatever your “it” might be, you too can turn from your sin, and release it into the capable hands of the ultimate Life-Changer.
When we desire change, we have the perfect example to follow – Jesus Christ. When we are ready to implement change, we have the perfect guide book – His Word. Finally, we have the perfect power source to strengthen our resolve – His Spirit.
As we pursue change God’s way, hope for a better future is no longer a dream; it becomes our reality. We truly can experience freedom in our lives today, tomorrow, and forever. In fact, with Christ, we don’t have to wait for another New Year to roll around, or for the big glittery ball to drop in Times Square. His mercy is new every morning. We can pursue our own new beginning right now.
It is my hope the following acronym for the word FREEDOM will assist you as you start your New Beginning-journey. For it is in our relationship with a loving, redeeming God, where we will find the freedom we so desperately yearn for.
F: Follow Him forward
Romans 15:5 (NIV)–May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus…
We are to follow Christ. As we pursue Him and seek to imitate His ways, we move forward in our process of change. No more slip-sliding backwards. When we truly follow Jesus we are on the path that moves forward and upward one step and a prayer at a time.
R: Repent readily
Jeremiah 18:9 (MSG)–But if they repent of their wicked lives, I will think twice and start over with them.
What a great translation! When we repent, God will think again and start over with us. Start over. A New Beginning…exactly what we are seeking. When we admit and repent of our shortcomings, and sinfulness, God is faithful to forgive and make us white like snow. Clean. Fresh. New. Don’t wait another moment – repent
E: Earnestly Pray
Ephesians 6:18 (NLT) Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.
Prayers are incredibly powerful. They are the foundation for any life change we desire. As we earnestly pray, we will find ourselves empowered by the One true Power Source. There is no better time to pray than right now. Let us pray persistently, remaining alert, and consider our Christian brothers and sisters everywhere, after all, we are on this journey together.
E: Enjoy the journey
1 Samuel 2:1 (NLT) Then Hannah prayed:“My heart rejoices in the LORD! Oh, how the LORD has blessed me! Now I have an answer for my enemies, as I delight in your deliverance.
As we travel down the road of renewal, receiving answers from God along the way, we will have a number of reasons to rejoice. Many times we are so focused on the destination; we forget to enjoy the journey. When we take a road trip, even though the driving might be daunting, dangerous, or just plain boring at times, if we take the time to truly see the unique beauty of the surrounding landscape, we may discover the journey can be enjoyed almost as much as the destination. Enjoy God’s journey. He has planned a perfect path just for you.
D: Devour His Word
Hebrews 4:12 (NIV) For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
God’s Word is the ultimate food for our thoughts, nourishment for our souls, and the map we must follow on our journey down the path of New Beginnings. We know when our stomach growls, it is a signal for us to nourish our body with food. So it is when our spirits “growl;” we need to dive into God’s truth and devour His words like the sustaining substance they were created to be.
O: Open your heart and mind to His truth
Proverbs 3:5 (KJV) Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In order to grasp God’s truth, we need to pray for an open heart, and an open mind, to better receive the truth, know the truth, and obey the truth when we hear it. Be prepared to hear the Lord speak. He will.
M: Make new friends and move mountains
Colossians 3:12-13 (KJV) Put on therefore the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
As we walk in godly love for one another, by forgiving, encouraging, and helping, we will find the strength to do what one person alone could never, ever accomplish. Friends, we need the power of the Spirit, and the power of each another. Together, we can move mountains! Often, our New Beginning and long sought after freedom rests just on the other side of the highest peek. But together, we can make it through the roughest terrain. We were never met to “go it” alone. Jesus had 12 disciples. He knew the value of loving and supporting relationships. Let us learn from His example.
As we’ve discovered, change can be challenging, but this New Year, as we journey together down the road to freedom, let’s stay focused on the one guiding us…Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Happy New Beginnings!
You are not in this alone. Jesus promised the abundant and fruitful life as the result of being filled (directed and empowered) by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit-filled life is the Christ-directed life by which Christ lives His life in and through us in the power of the Holy Spirit (John 15). You can pray a prayer like this to be filled with the Holy Spirit today:
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for a New Year, a time of new beginnings and a hope for freedom and renewal in our lives. No matter how many times we may have fallen short of our goals in the past, may we be reminded you are a God of tomorrows. You have a plan to prosper us, and to give us a hope and a future. With You all things are truly possible. May we trust You to do what You do best…love us. I ask that you would instill deep inside every one of Your children a new hope and greater level of trust as we take those first baby steps forward toward our future.
I acknowledge that I have been directing my own life and that, as a result, I have sinned against You. I thank You that You have forgiven my sins through Christ’s death on the cross for me. I now invite Christ to again take His place on the throne of my life. Fill me with the Holy Spirit as You commanded me to be filled, and as You promised in Your Word that You would do if I asked in faith.
I now thank You for directing my life and for filling me with the Holy Spirit.Help us to resist temptation and to rise above our difficulties as we work together to serve You, to serve others, and to find freedom at last. In Your name we pray, amen.