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New Beginnings

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Genesis 1:2

Before Christmas I was listening to an episode of White Horse Inn, a podcast by reformed theologians and pastors.  The episode, titled O’ Holy Night, focused on the beauty and glory of what happened that first Christmas night.  They started by explaining how Mary was, in effect, barren, empty.  God used her barrenness like He did the universe to create something new, something out of nothing.  It was the reason a virgin was selected to show how God is the great Creator.  

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”  The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.  Luke 1:34-35

Each time I hear or read of a connection that weaves through the Bible from the beginning to the middle and to the end I find myself having an “ah, ha moment.”  Barring heading off to theology school and learning about all these connections in a short time span,  I hope to keep hearing about the Grand Story and all its connectedness throughout my days.  It’s like coming upon a complete sand dollar at the beach or a beautiful, out of place flower in an otherwise barren landscape.  You, at first can’t believe your eyes; then you stoop down to look closer.  And then you pop up looking around to tell someone – because it might not be true unless you can verify it.   You want to share the moment, the beauty, the awesomeness of it all.  Meanwhile others pass by seemingly uninterested or unseeing.

About a month ago I had the opportunity to attend a weekend workshop by Nancy Guthrie on biblical theology.  For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s taking a theme found in the Bible and tracing its path from Creation to Consummation (typically Revelation).  It helps us to see the Grand Story of God and all the tiny threads that create one massive character profile of our Creator.  And how all stories lead us to Jesus.

I decided for this next series to take up the challenge Mrs. Guthrie gave us that weekend.  To start looking at chapters in this thousands-year old story as one through various themes.  And who could resist starting the new year with the theme of New Beginnings?  

We live out our own lives through a long series of new beginnings.  From the creation of our very being to our entry into society and from there taking on new challenges whether school or jobs, a marriage or even a marriage to the church we look toward tomorrow for that new step.  

If we are blessed to live a long life, we will find ourselves with new beginnings in our families and as we reach retirement.  And for some, new beginnings may be what it takes to remove ourselves from addiction, abusive relationships, broken marriages, and even criminal behavior.

In the next few months, we will walk through a number of new beginnings found in the Bible.  Beginnings, like Noah that needed just one small family to see the entire Earth be reborn.  Beginnings like Rahab’s that started out of selfish need and God turned to good.  And beginnings like Jonah who ran as fast as he could from starting new but God, when He selects you for change won’t let go.  And quiet new beginnings like that of Onesimus who sits in the background of the letter by Paul to Philemon.

We will see how the character of God shows up each time – from beginning to middle and end.  How He keeps His promise to never leave us, to never forsake us even when we feel so alone.  And we will see how His will is always done and it is good.

"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds;" Ephesians 4:22-23

My friend, you might be right on the cusp of a new beginning.  It might look terrifying.  It might look exciting.  You might not even realize it at all until you are in the thick of it.  Some of you are longing for a new beginning.  I can promise you this, God’s plan is at work.   He’s right there watching and guiding.  So as this new year begins let’s say a prayer to the Creator.  To help us hear and see what new things He wants of us.  And what old things He wants cast off.  He has a story to tell with you.  Let’s help Him publish it for all the world to see.

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And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. Luke 1:35

Dear God,

I wanted to write to you today and thank you for the amazing gift you gave me and all of humanity.  It was so thoughtful of you to think of us!  I really wasn’t expecting something so wonderful and life giving!  

I am of course, writing to thank you for Jesus.  For that little baby you breathed into Mary thousands of years ago.  For that little child who grew to be a powerful yet quiet man.  God clothed in skin who experienced all the hardships, joys, temptations, love, frustrations and miracles you have blessed this world with.  

I’m so sorry, however, that your Son had to also experience the pain of our sin.  When I think of His last days it brings me so much sadness.  Your gift to us was so beautiful and we destroyed it with a vengeance.  And yet you still love us.  So much so you raised up that gift of Jesus for awhile to teach us a few more lessons before He went home to you.

Heavenly Father, we are entering into a season that should be all about the gift of your Son, Jesus.   Help us, through your Holy Spirit, to remember that little baby, that man, who gave so much in order to cleanse us of our sins.  

Today, oh God, I’m so thankful for the salvation your Son brought to those of us who pronounce Him King of our lives.  Your gracious and mercy-filled gift to us is all we ever need.  I know this small note of thankfulness can never repay you for your kindness.  I look forward to seeing you one day so that I can thank you in person.

Your loving servant,


I hope you have enjoyed these 30 Days of Thankfulness! I’m taking some time off from the blog to enjoy this most wonderful time of the year! God bless and Merry Christmas!

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A Rescue From Fear

Do Not Fear

Easier said than done, right? If you have never been fear stricken with a perilous drive through a blizzard or holding a sick child with a fever of 104 or coming to the end of a bad week at work convinced that it will surely end with your firing, then you have not stepped foot in the world.

If you have never been afraid, terrified and red-face flushed with flop sweat because your mind has created a horrible, painful and untimely demise for you. Then you are a liar.

For those brave souls who attempt to climb Mt. Everest, they follow a well established route which has a safety line for most of the ascent. The climbers clip in and follow that line in order to keep clear of dangerous ravines and precipices. Without being connected to this line they can soon find themselves alone on a snow covered abyss. And the fear most certainly would set in.

Our human minds quickly and efficiently calculate all of the potential outcomes for every tense and treacherous situation and quickly arrive at the worst-case scenario. “That’s it, I’m doomed, it’s all over! I’m broke, everybody hates me! I’ll probably be dead soon”–yaddah, yaddah, yaddah. We’ve all done it. But we don’t have to. There is a safety line, a fail-safe connection if we can stay connected- -Jesus.

When Jesus was born in the city of Bethlehem, there was an immediate pronouncement, a declaration and a promise made to all of us who believe. It was an angel, an Angel of the Lord proclaiming to the lowly shepherds. Things were about to change.

Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good 
tidings of great joy, which shall be to 
all people. For unto you is born this 
day in the city of David a Saviour, 
which is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:10-11 

From that first day of Jesus’ birth, through the Old Testament, New Testament and continuing today and beyond, the promises of God were announced, proclaimed and delivered. The book of Isaiah is full of powerful safety lines of, “Do Not Fear.” Eight different times the author accounts the promises of God. My favorite is this passage:

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am 
your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous 
right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

When I’m in one of those battles of runaway mind scenarios, creating a vicious downward cycle of worst-cases, that verse snaps me out of it and locks me back into the lifeline of hope and promise. 

Do Not Fear

I Am With You

I Am Your God

I Will Strengthen You

I Will Help You

I Will Uphold You

Done. I’m Good! Back on solid footing, clipped in to God’s safety line.

Let’s call it what it is. Fear is lack of faith. An absence of belief that God will come through for us. So we let go and attempt to create our own route up our mountains. Fear consumes, but Jesus revives and replenishes. And we need to grasp firmly a hold of that promise.

Fear can be that fence that you are told not to cross. It’s there for a reason, it’s a barrier, a boundary. Separation between protection and the unknown. Which can be good, right? Nothing wrong with a little healthy fear to keep you on your toes.  But when it consumes and sucks all of the life and oxygen out of it you, then it turns to evil really quick.

The answer to that careful balance is love. God’s love for us can be found in every situation. Good times, bad times, dark times and light-filled days of joy and peace. A safety harness that’s always there. All we need to do is clip in and buckle in place.

On the day of the birth of Jesus, the angel’s announcement, that proclamation to the sheepherders, was the promise we needed. The promise of salvation delivered to earth to keep the fear in check and prepare us for a life of abundance. Isn’t that much better than a life filled with our worst fears and imaginations?

There is no fear in love. 
But perfect love drives out fear, 
because fear has to with punishment. 
The one who fears is not made 
perfect in love.
1 John 4:18

Fear not. Grab hold of His safety line, because Jesus was born to bring salvation, peace and love to every one of us.