Sparkling hats, crazy eye glasses, and hundreds, if not thousands, of people crammed into Times Square in the bitter cold. Why do people make such a big deal of the new year? I know some will take any opportunity as an excuse to celebrate, but the revelry of a new year appears to be universal. Perhaps it’s the thought of something new, something different, the anticipation of what the new year will bring. For many, I’m sure it’s also the idea that they have a chance at a new beginning, an opportunity for a fresh start.
We all like second chances. Or thirds, or fourths. It’s not easy getting things right the first time, and many times we make such a mess of things, the only solution is to start over from the beginning. But does a new year really alter anything? Is making resolutions and perhaps changing our behavior truly making us different? We can change our actions and methods of living, but we’re still the same people. We can’t really create anything new. Turning over a new leaf may display different words, but it’s still the same book.
Fortunately, there is one who can truly make a difference in us, one who can recreate us and give us that second chance. The Bible says in II Corinthians 5:17 that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” When you receive the free gift of salvation from Christ, He comes into your life and recreates you. Yes, you may look the same on the outside, and for a time, you may have some of the same habits and problems that you’ve always had. But you are no longer the person you were at the core of your being. And because of this, with His strength, you can change those habits and problems. You not only turn over a new leaf, you begin operating from a whole new book.
The Bible also tells us of another time, a time somewhere in the future, when all things will change and become new. Revelation 21:5 says, “Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’” New heavens and a new earth. What a day that will be! Receive His gift of a second chance. Let Him change you from the inside out and begin making you new today. Then you’ll be ready for that ultimate New Year.
Front pages all across our nation are carrying the same story this morning. Once again we are mourning the loss of innocence as some warped individual decided to act out a crazed fantasy or lost control of his faculties and lashed out at his view of reality. Television networks will bring in their experts for days on end to speculate and give their opinions as to the possible motive behind the man’s actions and to offer some vague idea of how people are supposed to cope with such tragedy. Politicians will rant and rave about how terrible it is that something like this could happen and offer to pass new laws which they say will prevent such things from happening, as though what happened wasn’t against the law already.
So many voices and so many opinions, but no one wants to speak of the truth. The truth of the matter is that this tragedy could not have been nor can be prevented. Evil exists in this world. If a wicked person chooses to do an evil deed, he will find a way to do it. Unless he gives some warning beforehand, all we can do is respond, however quickly, after the fact. Certainly we can use wisdom and good sense to enact measures to make it more difficult for these situations to happen, but we can never completely prevent their occurrence. All we can do is hope to hinder them as much as possible, to stop them from becoming as horrible as they could be, and to deal with the aftermath.
People will ask, what do we do now; how do we handle what has happened? We can spout about how we must do what we can and move on, or learn to put such things behind us, or find some reason behind the madness which will allow us to cope. But the truth here is that we cannot. We can patch up our physical hurts and attempt to ease our minds, but the scars and memories will be there forever. We can study and speculate and analyze, but in the end we’ll never know for sure the exact reason behind such actions. Besides, knowing and even understanding the reason will not make the hurt go away. On our own, we don’t have the capabilities to handle this or any tragedy. Fortunately, there is One who does, and He is the embodiment of truth.
Tragedies such as this one never catch Him by surprise because He sees them before they happen, and in His infinite wisdom and sovereignty, He allows them to take place. He can do this because He is able to see into the deepest heart of not only the one who causes such pain, but also the ones who must endure it. He offers to walk through these storms with us, a constant guide and companion, so we never have to be or even feel alone with our hurt. And even though He could give us the reasons and wherefores behind our trouble, He gives us peace instead for He is the Prince of Peace.
I pray in the days and weeks and months ahead that our Heavenly Father will pour out His comfort on those hurting and grant them the peace that can come only from Him.
Election was yesterday. Barack Obama was re-elected. God have mercy on us.
Perhaps that is the point; we’ve put our faith in man and not in Him. We may indeed have passed beyond the point of avoiding judgement. As a nation, we’ve thumbed our noses at God and refused to repent. As His people, we’ve failed to follow Him and His leading and have become fat, lazy, and cold hearted toward others. He said, “If My people will turn from their wicked ways…” We did not.
So much could be said about the election, but in the end it does not matter. I should have been so focused on Him that who runs the country is irrelevent. Besides being a principle, the fact is obvious. When life is over here, there is only Him. That is the way with all men.
I cannot change the past, but I can decide how to face the future. I choose to live each day as it comes, with my eyes on Him.
I use the social network site Facebook to keep up with family and friends. It’s nice to see what’s going on in folk’s lives, to see if they have joys to relate or problems that need prayer. It’s also a good way to find out people’s opinions on topics of the day.
Because the people I have “friend-ed” on the site are, for the most part, actual friends, I usually agree with most of the opinions and ideas that I read. But a few days ago, I came across something that disturbed me as a person and especially as a Christian.
To make a long story short, the recent hurricane which went up the east coast dumped a lot of rain in north eastern states. People were caught by surprise when their homes and businesses flooded, and unfortunately, one of those businesses was a pet store. Sadly, many of the animals in the store perished before they could be rescued.
Some among my “friends” made disparaging remarks about the incident, especially in regards to how the tragedy was ever allowed to happen in the first place, how negligent the owners of the business were, and how the whole episode was a moral outrage. Others produced an entire “page” in response to the situation which allowed multiple comments. Some of the cleaner ideas dealt with the apparent ineptitude of the owners and operators while one expressed the sentiment that those responsible should “rot in hell” for what happened.
Now, I love animals as much as anyone. And I also understand how people will say and post things they don’t really mean in the heat of the moment or when they allow their emotions to run wild. But what I saw and read in the responses to the tragedy was, in my opinion, shameful and disgraceful.
Yes, mistakes were made. But upon learning the facts of the situation, I don’t see how much of what happened could have been avoided. Flooding in that area was not expected, and when the operators learned of the situation, they were prevented from reaching the animals by authorities who were busy trying to rescue people. When they were allowed to return to the store they did what they could. It was a terrible tragedy, but, praise the Lord, no people were lost to my knowledge.
What has happened to us? Have we been bombarded for so long by such trivial flotsam that we can no longer discern what is important in this world? Or have we truly allowed our hearts to grow hard toward those around us? What does it say about Christians who lose their temper and use profane language over an accident involving animals? What does it say about a society that goes berserk when little puppies and kittens are killed, but doesn’t even acknowledge when innocent children are murdered daily for convenience?
Priorities can be changed. Cold hearts are another matter.
The people of Judah reached a very disturbing place. They tried God’s patience for hundreds of years, and now they had reached the end. God declared judgment on them; a judgment from which He would not relent.
15:1 – Then the LORD said to me, “Even if Moses and Samuel stood before Me, My mind would not be favorable toward this people. Cast them out of My sight, and let them go forth.
Both Moses and Samuel were great prophets of Israel. Many times they not only proclaimed God’s word to the people, but also stood between the people and God’s wrath. In times past, when God had declared judgment, He had allowed His prophets to intercede on the people’s behalf in order to demonstrate His mercy. But not this time. No one would be allowed to persuade God from what He had decided to do. Jeremiah actually tried to intercede a few times, but God said no. The people would be allowed to continue down their path to destruction.
15:2 – And it shall be, if they say to you, “Where should we go?” then you shall tell them, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for the captivity, to the captivity.’”
Jeremiah’s message from God was for the people to continue doing whatever they were doing; to let them go in the direction they were going. If any of the people actually listened to the message and happened to ask what that destination was, Jeremiah was to lay it out for them in no uncertain terms; the destination was either death or captivity.
Death would occur either by sickness, by sword, or by famine. Those who survived all of those would be taken away captive by an invading army. In any event, they had lost the privilege of living in the land of Israel. God was fulfilling the word He spoke to Moses regarding the consequences of not obeying Him.
15:3 – “And I will appoint over them four forms of destruction,” says the LORD: “the sword to slay, the dogs to drag, the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy.”
God goes into more gruesome detail regarding the means of death. Whether the people were slain by the invading army, or died as a result of sickness or famine, or were attacked by wild beasts, no one would be around to bury them. Their bodies would be food for dogs, scavenger birds, and other wild animals.
The Bible tells us that God is very gracious and full of mercy in His dealings with His people. He does this because He loves us and wants what is best for us. But God is also holy and completely righteous. His patience has limits for He cannot abide evil.
Don’t make the mistake of the ancient Israelites. Keep your focus on Him to reap the benefits of His blessings and not the consequences of His wrath.
We’ve looked at our need for salvation and God’s plan for our salvation. Finally, we’ll look at God’s fulfillment of our salvation which is through Jesus Christ.
We know that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for us. Because He was fully man, He could die in our place. And because He was also fully God, . . . → Read More: Salvation: The Fulfillment
We know the story of Jonah and the big fish. God told Jonah to go preach to the people of Nineveh, but Jonah didn’t like that idea. The citizens of Nineveh were known for their cruelty, and Jonah was angry God would choose to offer them mercy. He decided to rebel and hopped a boat . . . → Read More: Dangerous Comfort
Jim Yoder is a young waist gunner on a B-24 Liberator, doing his part for the war effort. Following a bomb run over northern Germany, he accidentally falls from his plane while trying to dislodge a bomb with a failed release. Finding himself deep behind enemy lines, he must attempt to navigate across Germany into . . . → Read More: Gunner’s Run by Rick Barry