Saturday, December 28, 2019

Ready or Not

by Tim Howard
Are you prepared for 2020? Ready or not, it will be here in a few days! For me, the New Year will give birth to a new season of life as I officially retire on December 31, 2019.
As my career concludes after 46 years of ministry as a Pastor, I now have the privilege of serving God and people in a different capacity.
Preparing for the future can be overwhelming unless you have set goals and know what you are reaching for.
Listen to a paraphrase of what the Apostle Paul said as he spoke to the Philippian people and prepared himself for his future.
I want to know Christ in a very real way. I’m on the right path but haven’t arrived yet – far from it!  There is a goal that I am pressing on to obtain and that goal is to live a lifestyle honoring God. I am focusing on what is ahead and letting go of that which is behind. I encourage all of you to do the same. 
Please notice the three specific things Paul did: He declared his goals, shared his goals and documented them for us! If you aim at nothing you will hit it! That’s right: You will hit nothing! What do you really want to accomplish in 2020? Speak it out. Write it down. Share it with someone. Paul did and it’s important for us as well.

It’s also imperative to let go of the past! You won’t be able to embrace tomorrow if you are still holding onto yesterday.

Here are three things you should leave behind as you exit 2019 and enter 2020.

1. Guilt

Remorse, regret and guilt grow when we focus on our mistakes, failures, inadequacies and sins. When you have received the gift of forgiveness from Jesus through confession of your sins, however, your guilt gives way to God’s goodness and your past gives way to freedom!

2. Grudges

We’ve all been hurt: It may have come from disappointments or failing miserably. Maybe someone abused us in some way or we made some terrible decisions on our own. Even though we’ve experienced pain, we don’t have to ‘hold a grudge.’ You can turn it over to God. It’s a better solution than blaming yourself or others for your current status. It’s amazing how much lighter and brighter you feel when you let a grudge go.

3. Grief

Jesus came to help us with our grief. In this world you will have trouble, the Bible says but Jesus said: “take heart! I have overcome the world.” According to Isaiah the prophet, Jesus came to help us find the gold in the midst of the dirt we find ourselves mired in at times. He can help us praise instead of grieve.

Last of all, to be ready for 2020 you must change your focus. Paul said: I press on – I focus on what is ahead and commit myself to reaching the goal. What is your goal? What do you need to do in order to become a better mom or a better dad in 2020? What do you need to do in order to be a better friend – a better employee? Focus on that and go full steam ahead.

The New Year is full of opportunities and challenges. Ready or not, here it comes!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

What If?

by Tim Howard 

Since Christmas is only four days away, I’m sure you’ve heard those two well-known words within the past few weeks: Merry Christmas! Some folks like to use the phrase Happy Holidays, which suggests it’s a time to celebrate for a variety of reasons. 

I like the phrase Merry Christmas because it keeps the name of Christ prominent and helps me remember that He is the central reason for all our festivities and frivolity. After all, it is His birthday we are celebrating. 

A Doctor by the name of Luke reminds us of the reason behind our celebration in his book, recorded in the Bible. He explains: The angel of the Lord said to some Shepherds…Listen closely, I bring you good news, the most joyous news the world has ever heard and it is for everyone everywhere! For today in Bethlehem, there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’ 

That’s not only good news, that’s great news! The very fact that God decided to live among us reveals His great love and gives us a reason to celebrate. He came to help us be victorious and not victims, to defeat evil rather than be defeated by evil, to empower us to love rather than hate and treat others the way we want to be treated… His love for us is incomprehensible and beyond comparison.

Why do we celebrate Christmas? Because God is with us! His presence among us brings hope and joy and is good news to the ears of those who will believe. By the way, did you notice that Luke said: “Jesus came for everyone and not just a few?”

Unfortunately, many have lost sight of the real purpose behind the Christmas celebration. Too often it becomes a burden to endure rather than a blessing to be experienced. 

Here are a few ‘WHAT IF’ questions I‘ve been asking myself as I walk through this Christmas season. 

What would happen if people returned to the real meaning of Christmas?
What if we put more emphasis on His presence in our midst rather than presents under the tree?
What if God and others became our highest priority rather than ourselves?
What if we loved people the way God loves us?
What if we gave more of ourselves and invested our time in others rather than spending more money and going into debt?   
Maybe we would make a greater difference in the lives of those we touch.
Maybe we would have more money in our pockets and more life in our hearts at the end of the season. Maybe, just maybe we would see more peace on earth and goodwill toward mankind.
At the very least we would genuinely have a ‘Merry Christmas”.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Can You Just Wait?

by Candace Cortez

 Guess what everyone? Today is my birthday! By the time anyone will be reading this, the day will have passed. But the day that I am writing this article, I am also celebrating the day God decided would be the best time for me to be born. I have discovered that I am basically a child because I could not fall asleep last night in anticipation of today. I know that my husband and I will be doing a list of fun birthday things today and in response, I saw every hour on the clock until my alarm went off.

The blessing to my unexpected fatigue is a reminder of a crucial element of being people of faith: anticipation. While watching the clock tick by, I was reminded of a couple of different waiting seasons for all people in our faith history.

The first waiting season was the night before the People of Israel were to be freed from Egypt. They had been held captive as slaves, forced to labor for a ruler who did not care for them. God worked it out through Moses for them to be freed, but at a great cost for the Egyptians. That evening, God gave them specific instructions before they were to leave. He commanded them to eat a feast with unleavened bread and with their clothes and shoes on, ready to go. The process for making leavened bread was time-consuming, and during this evening of anticipation, what they wore and even what they ate was poured into the process of waiting. In this situation, God’s people waited for their lives and freedom. How they waited could have cost them both.

The 2nd waiting season was the time leading up to the birth of Jesus. People knew a Savior was coming, but they did not have all of the details of His arrival. A specific group of people, Matthew calls them wise men, arrived after they noticed a change in the heavens. They followed a star that was foretold in prophecies from generations earlier. Scholars believe that these men were connected to the men who served the king alongside Daniel (Daniel and the lions Den-Daniel!) and had been watching the heavens for generations.  As soon as they witnessed the sign, they brought gifts of worship. They had a message of how to anticipate the coming Savior, and with patience and dedication, they waited.

The waiting season of the wise men reminds me of the last waiting season: you and me today. We have been given directions from Jesus that He will return again. He lets us know that the hour is unknown, and there is work to be done in the meantime. If we give up waiting for Him and refuse to wait according to His instructions, we may miss it. Jesus’ return is not the only place of anticipation. We can also expect the promises of a full life when we live it with Jesus. 

I do this thing with my children when if the event is too big or awesome, I do not tell them about it because they get so excited. Handling excitement over long periods is not their strength, and so I let certain things be last-minute surprises. Even with this workaround, I find myself saying the phrase, “can you just wait” regularly. Today, I ask myself this same question. Can I just wait for Jesus? Will I be wearing righteousness like the Israelites were wearing sandals? Will I be watching, or will I be distracted by life? Can I just wait? Or will I give up the honor of anticipating His promises for an easier quick fix? I pray we would wait well today, tomorrow, and however long it takes.