Saturday, January 1, 2011

I Love New Year's



I love New Year’s. I really do. Probably much more than people realize. It’s not because of the family gatherings, though those are wonderful and I treasure them. It's not because of the times of joyful celebration and fellowship, though I have many great memories with special friends. It's not because of all the yummy food either, though we all love to live it up before that January diet begins, don't we?!

No, I love New Year’s because of what it means to me personally. You see, 13 years ago on New Year’s Eve, I celebrated in ways that were not pleasing to God. I was running away from Him. Running hard. And I was far. Deep down, I knew that Jesus was the only answer. But I still wanted to do things my way. Yet, in His love and mercy, the Lord ran harder after me, and the following year, I found myself in church, worshipping Him, loving Him. I will never forget that New Year’s. December 31, 1998. One year, my celebration grieved the Holy Spirit, the next year, my celebration pleased Him. I was so overwhelmed at how God had totally transformed my life in such a short time. Radically. Sure it hadn’t been easy (still isn't), sure I still had a lot to learn (I still have a lot to learn), and sure there were hard times to come (and there still are); but nothing could take away what Jesus had done in ME. I knew the magnitude of the grossness of my heart. I was far, but not too far for God. In His great love, He pursued me, forgave me, and welcomed me into His presence.

So for the last 12 years, New Year’s has been a special time of private reflection and worship; looking back at God’s faithfulness and rejoicing in how He’s kept me another 365 days. Sort of a spiritual birthday, if you will. Being reminded of how sufficient His grace really is. It’s amazing. Truly amazing.

Like most of you, I have things I'm praying about; desires in my heart and goals for the future. Those things are real and important and God cares about them. We should all want to grow and be sharper. But more than all of that, I want to love God more. I never want to lose sight of how great that love is. I want to be compelled by His love to do great things for Him and His people. It’s so simple, yet, in the busyness of life, it’s so easy to lose sight of. New Year’s is a perfect time to go back to basics and remember what it’s all about. Jesus. His love. His grace. His mercy. And truly, nothing compares. It is real. I pray that the love of Jesus be made real to each one of you in a very special, intimate way. He loves you with an everlasting love.

Happy New Year!

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If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. [2 Corinthians 5:13-21]

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Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. [1 John 4:7-19]
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One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” [Mark 12:28-31]

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For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. [John 3:16-17]
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“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other. [John 15:9-17]

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If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. [1 Corinthians]



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