Happy New Year!
Here we are… just rounding the corner with 2016 in full view… are you ready? How many of you have already made plans to start something new come January 1st? Or, are you putting that new idea off until January 2nd… or better yet, Monday, January 4… For those of you who have gym memberships… you will be seeing an increase in exercisers these first couple of weeks in the New Year. New diets will start… Better practices will begin… “I’m turning over a new leaf” or, “This is my New Year’s resolution…” may be heard throughout. Yet, most of us have just thrown those comments out the window by now, and we’ll just do the best we can.
We still have a ton of junk food hanging around the kitchen counter top. I told Leslie the other day that I was bringing a bunch of the stuff we really don’t need… to the office. If you are looking for snacks, chocolate, goodies… and you don’t have any… drop on in sometime… we have it here on the 3rd floor. Of course, no one will be here on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.
I’m not sure why… but it seems that every year as we approach the New Year, the mornings grow colder and colder. No need to reply to my wonder… I already know that this is winter. But, MY WORD! It was 27 degrees this morning when I went running. That is way too cold. I’m now ready for summer!
ENCOURAGEMENT: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here. (II Corinthians 5:17) When I was growing up in boarding schools… especially the one in the jungle town of Pucallpa, Peru… every morning, following breakfast we were called together to memorize scripture. Of course, wayyyy back then, all of the verses were memorized in the KJV. This verse happens to be one of many that I remember. And you know how it is… once we learn things the first time… it’s hard to see things differently. The verse above is in the NIV… and I like it, however, read what is written in the KJV: Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” What a great and powerful verse. As a kid, memorizing that verse… several words pop out at me.
The first word I love is “creature”. Do you know what little kids think of when they hear the word “creature”? I know for one… this kid thought of monsters… creepy things… scary images… and, you know… I was kind of happy with the way I looked. I really didn’t want to become a creature. I wanted to be seen as a big boy… one who made good choices. Well… looks like the modern translations understood what I had felt and changed the word from “creature” to “creation”.
The second word I especially appreciate in this verse is the tiny two letter word “in”. Such a powerful word. Jesus spoke often on this one word. Read John 15 sometime. The “in thing” is Christ! As I close out the 2015 year and welcome in the New Year… I want more than anything to be IN CHRIST… and Him in me. Sometimes we lose focus and try to blend into the ways of the world… but I am reminded that as a Christ follower… I am different… and different is good. I am in Christ.
The third word I really, really love is this word “new”. In fact, the Apostle Paul liked it so much, he chose to use it twice in this one verse. “New creation” and “new is here”. There are lots of people who enjoy restoring old things. Old cars… old furniture… old rugs… old houses, and more. Even I did a restoration project 24 years ago, when I landed this old flat bottom boat. This gentleman in this church I was pastoring had heard numerous stories from the jungle and quickly understood my appreciation and joy I had found in boats. He came up to me one afternoon and said, “Pastor Greg, I have felt a need to help you find a boat.” Well, I got excited, and wondered what this all meant. A few weeks later he drove over to the house and said, “Can you come with me because I found your boat.” I dropped everything and went over to see what it was he had discovered.
Oh my word! As we rounded the corner, he pointed, saying, “There it is.” He saw something that I couldn’t see. He saw a boat… a beautiful shiny, water ready boat. I saw a beat up, dilapidated piece of junk with dirt and weeds growing all in it. There was no outboard on it, and it had more holes in it than most of our highways in SoCal. I saw a mess!
You see, I like new things. The smell of a NEW car. It’s fun to enter a brand NEW house. I’ve enjoyed going to boat shows and taking a look around at NEW boats.
We spent an hour or two digging out the dirt from that boat and tossing the plants aside. He had told me that he had spoken to the owner and found that if we dragged it off of his property… we could have it for FREE. No kidding! For the next year, I cleaned, patched, and learned to work with bondo and fiberglass, as I began the engine work on an Evinrude 40HP outboard… And, what this wonderful brother of mine could see early on, was developing right before my eyes. I built a boat trailer and he helped me with the welding of parts. I then took that homemade trailer to the DMV for inspection and received my tags. Another brother from the church had an auto body shop to which I took the boat and had it painted. When all was said and done… I looked at this masterpiece that simply blew my mind. This boat was used as a fishing boat… but especially as a small ski boat… and we had more fun with it for many years. The old… had become new…
Don’t you just love the way the Lord takes the old and does a complete restoration? I do. He’s done it in my life and I know that He’s done it in yours as well. And for now, we prepare to say “good-bye” to the old year as we welcome the new. In Peru there is the custom that many neighborhoods participate in together. They will block off the street the day after Christmas and build a giant figure of a man. It may stand 20 to 30 feet tall… made out of cane poles, sacks, old clothes, rags, shrubs… whatever they can get their hands on. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, just as the New Year enters… the Old Man is lit on fire and burned to bring in the new.
May the Lord bless you and guide you as you welcome in the New Year! May those old things… habits, practices, addictions, problems… whatever they might be… may they be destroyed so that you can fully be consecrated to Christ! I want to be in Christ as I close out this 2015 year and usher in the New Year. To God be the glory!
CHURCH MINISTRIES ACROSS THE DISTRICT: I was blessed to be in two different churches this past week. Again, I thank the Lord for all He is doing everywhere I go.
· Newhall: What a joy it was for me to return home for Christmas Eve and lead in the 5:30 Christmas Eve Candlelight Service. With a near full house, we worshiped together and celebrated in the greatest birth of all. Jesus Christ… born in Bethlehem, God’s gift to us. Thank you NewNaz Staff and Board for your leadership during this time of transition.
· Fillmore: On Sunday, I was able to share in the service where Pastor Carol Taylor is leading this wonderful church group. Afterwards, we enjoyed a great time of food, fellowship and fun as we opened a few gifts that were brought for our time together.
30 DAYS WITH WESLEY: A reminder for all pastors… as we enter the New Year of 2016, our plan is to journey together through the prayer book you received at the Christmas Dinner. If you have not received your booklet, we still have copies here in the office. I hope that we call can participate in this devotional and prayer journey together. Will you begin each day, in January, along with me… whatever time you roll out of bed. And then, will you close out your day, along with me… by reading the evening section from the book. Here are a few prayer requests:
· The Lord’s presence in every one of our churches on the district for 2016
· A heart for winning the lost to Jesus
· Strategic planning to start new works across the district
I do pray that you will experience God’s grace and peace… These are such good days to be working together for Him. Jesus loves you and so do I. I look forward to seeing you in 2016. Have a wonderful and Happy New Year!