Looking Forward to a New Year

"This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.  The old life is gone; a new life has begun!  And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ.  And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him"  2 Corinthians 5:17-18

As we start into 2014 we are reminded that with Christ, people are continually becoming new.  Regardless of date or time or any of those things we gauge our existence by, we see in Jesus a fresh beginning each and every day.  What an awesome new year we have because any year, month, day or moment is exceptional and amazing as long as we are in Christ and He in us!  I hope and pray that during this year you'll see the potential to touch as many lives as possible in bringing the hope and love of Christ to a hurting and lost world!  He is blessing us so we can bless others - a never ending stream of Grace that is continually poured into us so we can in turn pour into the lives of others.

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Slow Down and Celebrate the Light!

As I write this article we are a week away from what used to be the beginning of the holiday season.  Can you still remember when Christmas decorations weren't put out until after Thanksgiving?  Now Halloween has to compete with the beginning of the shopping season.  Before you know it July 4th will be the beginning of the Christmas season.  Oh yeah, they're already doing that.  Why is there such a rush?  What's happened to just enjoying the particular season we're in instead of ushering in the next one way too soon?  Are we that consumed with getting things under way that we've lost the ability to just live in the moment?

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We are fast approaching cooler temperatures, and fall will soon become winter.  It reminds me of a time in my life when something else marked this time of year, Deer Season!  More specifically Gun Deer Season!  It was a family tradition that during the fall season those of us who hunt would gather at my grandmother's house, called the Pink House, to carry on what we and those before had done for several years.  My uncle referred to it as thinning the herd down, and as a farmer he appreciated the help as we tried to fill our freezers with venison.  My Daddy and his brothers and my brother and cousins and nephews and aunts and others in the family would converge on those acres of woods and fields of crops to take part.  It was early mornings and sometimes late nights when we shared stories of the ones we got and the ones that got away.  We helped each other track and clean and advise on where to go and not go.  It's what we did and it was a tradition that we shared for several years.

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Don't Be Deceived

We just had master illusionist Harris III visit our community to perform at school assemblies and an evening event for everyone.  His message to the students and adults was clear, "Don't be deceived!"  He reminded us of how we are bombarded with over 4000 messages a day via several avenues telling us we'll be happy and complete if we do this or wear that or drive their car or look this way.  His illusions were, as he told us, tricks of diverting your attention or tricks on your senses, and he was very good at it.  He was very honest that what he was doing were tricks and that he had no special powers and could not read minds.  Harris was skilled at his craft but he knew that there is an ultimate truth that sets us free.

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I recently watched a video of Ashton Kutchar's acceptance speech at the Teen Choice Awards.  It was somewhat of a surprise to see and hear that over the years he has learned that life is a gift.  It may have been his recent work on the movie about Steve Jobs life or maybe it's just who he has always been but afraid to share.  Whatever the reason, I believe that the advice he gave to those watching was good advice, but he left out one major component.  God was never mentioned, even though all that he said were principles that God has given us.  I'm not hating on Ashton, or Chris as he revealed was his name for 19 years of his life before acting became his new and full time profession.

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Lord, I Need You!

Matt Maher has a song out by the title "Lord, I Need You" that I really like.  There's a vimeo video with lyrics that we've shown during worship here too.  I love these songs that speak to the depths of our being.  It's part of how we're made I think.  Some music makes you want to dance, "Cray Button" by Family Force Five is fresh on my mind as well as the minds of some lucky middle school students who can show you a dance that goes with it.  Or maybe you've heard the popularity of Skillet who recently bridged the gap into the top of Billboards charts as they continue to gain popularity in the heavy metal section of music.  And then there's the pop sounds of Mandisa and Britt Nicole, and the Hip Hop and Rap of Lecrae and Toby Mac, and the southern soft rock of Third Day, Rhett Walker Band and MercyMe.  I guess I could go on and on about how different types of music influence us and help us through different times of life.

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God is Good All the Time

We hear this phrase a lot don't we?  God is good all the time, and all the time God is good!  You have heard me say it almost every Sunday, but I want to challenge you and me to think and consider this, "Is my perception of God and His goodness based on my situations and circumstances?"

In Chip Ingram's book "God: As He Longs for You to See Him" he states, "What you think about God shapes your whole relationship with him.  In addition, what you believe God thinks about you determines how close you will grow toward him."  So what is your perception of God?  Do you believe that He is for you?  Do you know that He knew you before you were ever born?  Do you know that He has made you for a purpose and that purpose is to do good?  Don't believe me?  Ephesians 2: 8-10 says, "8 God saved you by his grace when you believed.  And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.  10 For we are God's masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago."  So that clears that up doesn't it?

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