Want a New Start in 2015?

Every new year is like turning a corner. It's a new adventure. And this year we have the opportunity for something speciala fresh encounter with God.

I am delighted to share this encouraging message from Kathy Howard who is skilled in inspiring women to pursue God. Kathy and a mutual friend, Julie Sanders, are introducing a special one-month focus on holiness today that will begin January 5th. Other bloggers and I will be part of it. It's called: 

From Kathy:

I love the “undo” button on my laptop. You know the one - that little arrow that curves to the left. When you click it, the last thing you did magically disappears.

Sometimes I wish life had an “undo” button. I could click it to magically erase the unkind words I blurted. Or wipe out my selfish behavior. Or eliminate that wrong decision. To “undo” all those things that brought unwanted consequences or now weigh heavy on my conscience.

Yep. In fact, sometimes it would be great to start over all together. To get a clean slate. To get a complete do-over.

Guess what? If you’re a Christian, that’s exactly what you got when you entered into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. And sister, if things have gotten a bit off track since then, it’s not too late to undo and start new. In fact, now is a great time for a NEW START.

If you’d like to “undo” a few things or even start new on a bigger scale, consider joining me for New Start 15. 

During January, a few friends and I will be leading a month-long journey into holiness. Together we’ll explore what it looks like to become a “new creation in Christ,” to practically live out the set-apart, holy life to which God calls us.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!  
 2 Corinthians 2:17, NIV

TheOLDlife looks like the world around us. And it’s burdened with the weight and consequences of worldly living.  

But the NEW life is radically different from the world, holy and set apart to God. 

     There is glorious freedom and joy in living a life of holiness.
     Freedom from the weight and consequences of sin.   
     And joy in a deeper intimacy with our holy God.

Do you like the sound of freedom and joy? The chance for a New Start? 
Our God is the God of second chances, clean slates and do-overs.
Participation in New Start 15 is simple. Here are a few ways you can get involved:
  • Use the New Start 15 Bible Reading Plan in your personal quite time January 5 – 23. (Free download)
  • Like the New Start 15 Facebook group to keep up with daily devotional blog posts, get words of encouragement, and share thoughts from your own journey. (You can also download the New Start 15 bloggers list and schedule.) 
  • Follow the New Start 15 “blog hop” January 5-23 (weekdays only) as the New Start 15 team blogs about living the new, holy life in Christ. 
  • Check out the New Start 15 Resources List for books, Bible studies, blog posts, printables and more to help you on your journey. (Free Download) 
  • Invite your friends to join you in the New Start 15 journey by sending them the link to this post.
Do you long for deep intimacy with God? Do you desire for your life to please and glorify Him? Do you want your life to point others to Jesus? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then New Start 15 is for you! Join us in January as we dig into God’s Word to find out what He says about living the new, holy life in Christ.

Are you ready for a New Start? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. Simply let me know you’re in! 

Happy New Year!


My New Word Focus in 2015: Holiness

I’m ready for a new word focus for 2015.

Throughout 2014, I focused on the word “wonder” in relation to God—awe and wonder over who our Lord is and how our reverence for Him can affect our worship, worth, wisdom, walk, work, words, wealth and witness.

In the process, God spoke to my heart about personal holiness. One verse in particular drove my thoughts: ". . . You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16, ESV).

The Lord reminded me that I am His, and as His child, I need to resemble Him in love, kindness, patience, so many things. And yes, especially in holiness. God is working in my life to make me more like Jesus (sanctifying me, setting me apart—John 17:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:23), but I must cooperate with Him and pursue holiness as well. 

In 2014, I became part of a conversation with a group of women who discussed their dismay over so  many Christian women who compromise in regard to holiness—sometimes by what they watch on television or at the theater, sometimes in the books they devour. Like them, I was heartbroken by the state of much of the American church.

"You shall be holy, for I am holy."
I wanted to be sure I understood what “holy” means in the mind of God, so I looked up scriptures on the topic; and then I started reading books.

I read The Pursuit of Holiness (Jerry Bridges), Humility: The Beauty of Holiness (Andrew Murray), and, for the third time, Seeking Him (Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Tim Grissom). I re-read Kathy Howard’s Before His Throne, which has a strong emphasis on God’s holy nature and love and how He purifies those who “fear” Him. I am currently reading Rediscovering Holiness (J.I. Packer), a book that reminds me how timely this focus is.

I’m beginning a year-long journey with the Lord, asking the Spirit of God to be my teacher regarding holiness.

I don’t want this to be about legalism or lists, but rather a longing to “be holy” in my heart. I want to be more like Jesus. I want to please my Heavenly Father. To be holy as an expression of gratitude for all He has done for me.

I’ve been blessed to be a part of a revival ministry for many years (off and on since the early 70s) and “seasons of refreshing” have come. But I’ve discovered an important truth:

No matter our position in life, God keeps on calling us to holiness. More holiness. Deeper holiness. A heart overflowing with holiness. And we respond—with fluctuating passion—at different stages of our walk with Him.
I'm asking God for more passion to be holy. Will you join me?
I’m beginning my journey with a concentrated effort throughout January.
More about that tomorrow . . . . 

Wonder and Our Witness

You'd think that wonder of God's greatness would naturally lead to a strong testimony in the world. Unfortunately, that's not always the case.

Say the word "witnessing" to most Christians and you'll either get (1) a guilty expression, (2) a list of why he or she doesn't share the Gospel, or (3) a negative reaction like, "It's just too hard!"

Certainly, knowing how to share the scripture truth about why Jesus came is important, but I believe there's something more central—more motivating to our testimony—than a list of scriptures and witnessing techniques. Too many of us get hung up there.

John Piper's book, Let the Nations Be Glad! The Supremacy of God in Missions,* changed how I view evangelism.  

Though Piper mentioned missionaries, his words are for all of us, because we are all sent oneswe are all ambassadors for Christ, ministers of reconciliation (John 20:21; 2 Corinthians 5:18, 20).

Piper said, "What message would missionaries rather take than the message:

Be glad in God! Rejoice in God! Sing for joy in God! 
For God is more glorified in you when you are 
most satisfied in him! 
God loves to exalt himself by showing mercy to sinners. ... 
God's glory is most reflected in us when we are most delighted in him."

Focusing on the glory of God was a new thought for me as I considered sharing with my neighbors. I believed God would open opportunities to share the Good News of the death and resurrection of Christ; but I shared the Gospel with a new attitude: an attitude of wonder and delight in God.

"Winning souls" wasn't up to me; that was God's work. My responsibility was to faithfully share the truth of salvation, but to do so with the desire to praise and glorify the Father.

"The ultimate goal of God in all of history," Piper said, "is to uphold and display his glory for the enjoyment of the redeemed from every tribe and tongue and people and nation."

Is evangelism a duty? It's so much more!
The duty of evangelism fades away as delight in God and His work increases in our heart. 
"Delight is a higher tribute than duty," Piper said. "The chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy his glory for ever. ... The greatest news in all the world is that God's ultimate aim to be glorified and man's aim to be satisfied are not at odds."

This is the message the world is missing from sour-faced, duty-driven Christians. 

When believers are captivated by the wonder of God's glory and the desire to magnify His name throughout the earth, the Spirit of  God can use our joy to trigger questions and draw people to the Lord. They will ask for the joyful "hope" they see displayed in us (1 Peter 3:15).

Read through Ephesians 1:3-14 and you'll be struck by a phrase that occurs three times. Paul says God is doing all his saving work "to the praise of his glory" (vv. 6, 14). We are destined in love to be God's children through Jesus and to praise Him and live for His glory alone (vv. 11-12). 

And it's not just for His grace. We are to glorify God for His mercy (Romans 15:9). God exalts himself, Isaiah says, "to show mercy" (30:18).

Do you see it? What might have once been drudgery in witness becomes delight and great joy! We proclaim the wondrous mercy and grace of our wondrous God!

Do you struggle with witnessing? Do you see how a fresh view of the wonder of God and appreciation for His grace and mercy can encourage you to live for "the praise of His glory"?

* John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad! The Supremacy of God in Missions 
(Baker Books, 1993), pp. 33, 219, 30-31.
Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


The Wonder of the Incarnation

This December, I asked the Lord to revive the wonder of Christmas in my heart. I didn't exactly want to see it like a wide-eyed child, but rather, to understand more about the Incarnation of Christ.

The Lord answered my prayer with a book I purchased on Kindle titled Found in Him: The Joy of the
Incarnation and Our Union with Christ by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick.

"We will never know how found, loved, welcomed and reconciled we are until we see how he (Jesus) has forever taken our nature to himself and has bound us to himself in enduring oneness," Fitzpatrick wrote (pp. 18-19). "God is one with man in Jesus Christ and we are one with him. . . .We are not alone. He is Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23)." 

The first wonder of the Incarnation is God with us. "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). 

C.S. Lewis wrote (Miracles, Chapter 14), "The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation . . . He (Jesus) comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity . . . But He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him."

God came to dwell among man in Christ, and He still dwells with us through the Holy Spirit. We are never alone. The promise of His constant presence reassures us, encourage us, comforts us and empowers us.

The second wonder of the Incarnation is God in us. Christ came to bring us hope of life and eternal glory.

"And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son . . . In him was life, and the life was the light of men" (1 John 5:11; John 1:4). The mystery of God's grace is "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27).

In Christ, "the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily"(Colossians 2:9). In Christ, we are truly blessed with a new identity, absolute security, and God-given dignity - we have "every spiritual blessing" (Ephesians 1:3-4).

The third wonder of the Incarnation is God for us. God "is not shocked or surprised by your weakness or sin," Fitzpatrick wrote (p. 30). "He saw it all before you were ever born and yet purposed to come to you with his gracenot in judgment, but in lavish grace. . . . Our sin didn't paint him into a corner or leave him scrambling to try to fix the big mess we had made. We were chosen "in him before the foundation of the world" (Ephesians 1:4).

God is for you!

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:31-32).

The fourth wonder of the Incarnation is God through us. The angels told the shepherds, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy . . . there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10-11).

Fitzpatrick wrote, "How long has it been since this story was good news of great joy for you?" 

When we lose the wonder over the Gospel,  
we will likely lose our enthusiasm to share its truth.

God has both commissioned and empowered us to share the "Good News" of why Jesus came (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8). The more our wonder over the Incarnation grows, the more likely we will want to share the gospel story with others!

In a great carol of Christmas, "Joy to the World," we are reminded of "the wonders of His love." God so loved the world, he gave His Son to redeem sinful man (John 3:16-17).

The wonder of God's love compels usas Christ's ambassadors and ministers of reconciliationto share the truth about Jesus' incarnation, death and resurrection  (2 Cor. 5:14-15, 18, 20).

In Christ, God is with us, in us, for us and aims to reach the world through us. May we be humble, prepared, eager, wonder-filled servants of the Lord.

Which of these four wonders most speaks to you this Christmas?