What is God’s Theme for your New Year?

What is God's theme for your New Year?

During these days before another year begins, I imagine most of us are dong a bit of reflecting as well as a bit of looking ahead. Looking back has some value if we are looking at God’s faithfulness to give us encouragement for what’s ahead. But I believe God wants us to mostly be looking forward. In fact, Isaiah tells us this:

This is what the Lord says — who makes a way in the sea, and a path through surging waters, “Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old. Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:16, 18-19 HCSB)

Hey, that’s good news! God is about to do something new in our lives! Our past doesn’t define us, nor does it define what God wants to do in us and in our lives going forward. Our enemy is an accuser, and the only things he can accuse us of is stuff in the past. Because Jesus’ righteousness covers those of us who believe in Him, God doesn’t even see those past things when He looks at us. He sees only the purity of His Son Jesus. So we can be sure if we are feeling condemnation or shame regarding past sins or mistakes, those feelings are coming from our enemy, not our loving Heavenly Father.

So no matter what the last year held, nor the years before it, this new year is a brand new slate. It is a new beginning! Will the choices we made in the past affect us this coming year? Perhaps. But only as those consequences are sifted through the hands of our Heavenly Father who only allows that which can be used for good. We can be sure that God is the One who determines the outcome of our choices, no matter what they were. And in that redemptiveness that defines the God we serve, we can rest at peace, knowing that He does all things well and out of a heart of such deep love for us that we can’t humanly comprehend.

Living in the love of our Heavenly Father

Can we trust that love so much that we look forward to the new year with total peace and joyful anticipation?

Each year I sense the Lord giving me a theme for the new year. Last year it was humility. I initially felt a little fear. “In what ways will God humiliate you?” was the thought the enemy whispered in my ear. But I quickly remembered that God is for me, not against me. Humiliation is not what He wants to give me. Rather, He wants to give me more of Himself — a deeper and broader awareness of who He is. A realization that He is far above anyone or anything else, especially me! A recognition of the amazing and abundant grace He is pouring into my life so that I extend it — no matter what another says or does against me — to everyone I encounter.

Bible reading

Because I wanted to get a firmer grasp of Who He is, I read through the Bible in chronological order in a little over three months using Reading God’s Story: A Chronological Daily Bible. Each day I read a total of four days’ readings in this book and did a lot of speed reading or skimming. But the purpose was to get an overall view in a short period of time, not do an in depth reading or study during the next three months.

I loved the Big Picture view I got of the Bible reading it all in that short period of time! What stood out to be in a new way was how much pleasure God receives when His people simply trust Him! He delights in those who trust Him enough to follow Him without question, and who believe that He is for them, not against them.

If you would like to read through the Bible in a short period of time, here are a couple more sources for a 90-day schedule:

Also, you can sign up here for the daily Bible readings by email from Purposeful Singleness based on another Chronological Bible Reading Plan to read through the Bible in a year.

The new Bible Reading page lists other Bible reading schedules and resources, if you would like to choose a different reading plan.

Remember that reading our Bibles is simply a tool in our relationship with God. Reading and studying our Bibles is not something God demands of us, but rather something He offers us because He wants us to know Him better. Let your relationship with Him so deepen that you feel compelled to read His love letter to you, not obligated to read it. The Christian life is all about a relationship with God, not obligation.

This Year’s Theme

Eight Little Words

This year I sense the Lord giving me a theme of Fruitfulness. I see a number of things I’ve been working on coming to a place of fruition, which is exciting and fulfilling! I’ll mention two of them here:

One is a book of my father’s memoirs, based mainly on his single adult years. My niece, Alyssa Reitz, have written this book together based on his diaries and memories and is currently in the editing stage. Our hope is that Eight Little Words will be published in 2017!

Living Our Purpose LLC

The second is a company my cousin Shari Baer and I have just launched, called Living Our Purpose. I’ve written much over the years about living purposefully here at Purposeful Singleness, and especially in the last year or so after Shari helped me write my Life Purpose Statement and coached me in moving forward in living it. It’s been an exciting process! As a result I’ve also been trained as a life coach and together with a team of several other coaches we are offering Purpose Coaching services to others. If you are interested in discovering your Life Purpose and moving forward in living it, I encourage you to check out Living Our Purpose and sign up for one of the packages we are offering. If you use the coupon code PURPOSE-2017 you will recieve 50% off through January 31, 2017!

So, how about you? What do you sense God is wanting to emphasize in your life in the New Year?

Happy New Year

May God bless your New Year with the abundant life Jesus came to give you as you consecrate yourself fully to Him!

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Opening Our Hearts To Joy

Open Hearts to Joy

I don’t know what your specific circumstances are, and whether this feels like a joyous time of year to you or not. I do know that many, many different circumstances can threaten to steal our joy – not just during the holidays, but every single day of the year. A holiday that is supposed to be joyous can make the lack of joy in our hearts stand out even more.

Our human tendency is to want to blame other people or our circumstances for our lack of joy. Our singleness or childlessness, perhaps. A wayward child. A disgruntled family member. Our finances. The loss of a loved one. Having to work on Christmas. Not being near family. Our concern for someone dear to us. The state of our world. Our own doubts and fears.

Relationship with our Heavenly Father

But that’s why Christ came! He came to a hopeless world and to hopeless souls like you and me. He came because He knew our lives and world aren’t perfect, and He came to give us hope – a close relationship through Him to our Heavenly Father during our earthly life, and an eternity with Him ever after. He came to give this life that is full of so much pain and drudgery, purpose and meaning.

Jesus told His disciples that “A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy.” We’ve all experienced that. Satan will use whatever he can to steal, kill and destroy our relationships, our sense of purpose, and most of all, our joy. But there is hope! Jesus said that He came “so that [we] may have life and have it in abundance” (John 10:10)!

Open hand to receive God's love and joy

While that abundant life may seem elusive at times, it truly is just at our finger tips. Receiving it is so simple, but oh so very difficult at times. The simple part is just opening up our clenched fists to Him so we can receive it. The difficult part is needing to lay down our resentment, our hurts, our anger, our pride, our insistence on having our own way. It means being open to what He wants to give us. It may be different than what we think we want, but I can promise you without any hesitation, that what He has for us will meet our deepest desires in ways we could not have imagined!

Choosing Joy!

Don’t be afraid to open up to someone close to you if your joy is lacking. Share the pain and the hurt and the sadness with someone you can trust to not only listen, but to help you find joy again in Jesus. Most of all, in the quietness of your own time alone with Him, open up your heart to receive the joy He wants so much to give you! He loves you more than you can imagine!

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A Single’s Guide to Thriving at Christmas

Single Christian's guide to thriving at Christmas

I started to write this blog post thinking it would be a guide to surviving Christmas as singles. So many of us – not just singles – think of the holidays from the perspective of just getting through them.

I don’t know exactly what it is about the holidays, but they seem to create unrealistic expectations which instigate a general sense of discontent, cause us to compare ourselves with each other, and bring out the worst in relationships. As a result it becomes easier to adopt a cynical outlook rather than a celebratory one as we approach this “most wonderful time of the year.”

But my purpose in life is to thrive, not just to survive, and as I thought on these things my thoughts started to change. How can I thrive this Christmas, and how can I encourage you to thrive, too? Once my thoughts started going down this more positive track, I quickly jotted down several ways we can glean the most from the true meaning of Christmas.

Celebrate Reality

Think about the reality of the first Christmas: a young couple, the woman about to give birth, traveling by foot at the mandate of the government to a town that had no room for them to stay indoors. Deeply devoted Jews, they were suffering the embarrassment and stigma of having a child out of wedlock. There were no doting grandparents along to coach the new young mother as she endured the pain and fear of childbirth for the first time, nor to welcome their grandchild into the world.

Accept Reality

Yes, they were treasuring in their hearts the messages they’d both received from God that this was no ordinary child – that in fact He would be the Messiah their people had long been waiting for. What all this meant they had no idea, but they knew something amazing was happening. By faith they knew this. But the present reality was not pretty.

It’s the same for us. The reality and messiness of our present circumstances is not the whole picture of what God is doing in our lives. God is always up to something bigger and broader than what we can see. And just as Mary treasured and pondered those kinds of matters in her heart while trusting her Heavenly Father for what was to come, so we need to also.

Know Our Identity

Just as our present circumstances do not define the bigger picture of our lives, neither do they define our identity. Whether you’re spending Christmas with a great big noisy family, a few close friends, or at home alone, the fact is that you are a much-loved child of God. He uniquely designed and created you with the personality, abilities, and appearance only you have. He chose the specific time in history for you to be born, and to the parents He hand-picked for you. These things may not always seem like good things to you, but in the grand scheme of things we can trust that they are and that He has  a purpose and plan for our lives for good. He loves us, more than we can ever imagine.

Accept the Greatest Gift

Gift of Grace

The greatest gift ever is the gift of grace – the free and unmerited favor of God that came through Jesus. When we recognize Jesus as our Savior, God transfers all of Jesus’ goodness and righteousness to us, and all our strivings to be right and good need to cease. God has said that any efforts on our part to make ourselves good will never be good enough, and that those efforts are as pitiful as trying to clothe ourselves with filthy rags. Jesus came to give us His pure robe of righteousness, so that when God looks at us, He sees Jesus’ goodness, not our futile efforts.

You may have been a Christian for a long time,  yet not fully realized it isn’t up to you to be good enough for God. You can’t, no matter how hard you try. What you can do, and what He asks of you, is to consecrate yourself to Him. Surrender everything – who you are, your wants and desires, your struggles to be something – in exchange for His grace. And then watch and see what God does in and through your life. I can assure you it will be amazing!

Worship with Abandon

We know that on the night Jesus was born there were shepherds in the fields surrounding Bethlehem making sure their sheep were safe through the night. Can you imagine what it must have been like for them, settled in for another uncomfortable night away from their soft beds, to have the sky light up brighter than day, and an angel stand before them? The angel’s announcement that the Messiah they as a Jewish people had been waiting for had been born not far from them that very night must have been incredible to them! The angel told them they would know this was true if they found the baby in Bethlehem, wrapped snuggly in cloth and laying in a feeding trough. They made no delay in going to find this child, and find Him they did! Their response? Glorifying and praise God for all they had seen and heard, and that it was just as the angel had told them it would be!

Worship with abandon

I, too, want to be so filled with awe and wonder at the coming of Jesus and all that means to me in this life and for eternity, that my spontaneous response is to praise God with abandon. The shepherds didn’t seem worried about what others thought. Surely it must have seemed to their families and friends that their long nights in the fields had gotten the best of their senses! But the shepherds knew without question what they had seen and heard, and couldn’t help but be filled with praise and joy! Their lives must have changed forever that night. May our lives also be changed and overflow with worship as we encounter Jesus and all His coming means for us!

Look Beyond the Festivity and Glitter

So much of the customs, traditions, decorations, and partying surrounding Christmas has nothing to do with Christ’s coming. More often than not they distract us from seeing and experiencing the depth of the true meaning of Christmas. If your expectations of a wonderful and festive Christmas are not being fulfilled for whatever reason – consider that may be a blessing in disguise, freeing you to focus on and experience the real reason Jesus came. Take advantage of the freedom you have as a single – likely more free from the entrapments of family activities than most – to bask in the real meaning and wonder of Jesus the Messiah!

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas as you worship and celebrate Jesus, who came to live within us and among us. May His presence be constant and comforting to you, not just at Christmas, but every day of the year!

Wondering what your purpose is?

Visit our Finding Your Purpose page to learn more.

 

For Further Reading …

 

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How Jesus Defeated the Grinch

How Jesus Defeated the Grinch for Singles

The signs that Christmas is coming soon are all around us now. Christmas music follows us everywhere we go, decorations line the streets and cover homes and lawns, people are scurrying around in stores agonizing over what gifts to buy, and the mail carrier is getting later every day as the volume of  Christmas mail grows more abundant. You may find yourself groaning, celebrating, trying to ignore it all, or becoming depressed.

The Grinch

Sometimes I’m not sure what to feel, and so I just wait, ignoring all the Christmas activity for awhile. I hate getting caught up in the frenzy, some of it rather meaningless or just time-consuming. Depending on the year my initial response to the Christmas activity ranges from being simply annoyed to slightly depressed.

But sooner or later the Christ of Christmas breaks through my grinch-like attitude as He reminds me Who He is and why He came.

Isaiah gave a glimpse of Who this Messiah would be when he wrote, “For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6 HCSB)

It was more than a prophecy about the birth of the Messiah. It was a promise of Who this Child named Jesus would be for those who believe in Him for milleniums to come, which includes us. He is our wonderful Counselor, our all-powerful God, our Father forever, and the Prince who brings peace in every situation. He can give us the wisdom and insight we need for perplexing and complex situations. He is sovereign as God over our lives, determining the outcome regardless of our poor choices. He is a Father we can completely rely and lean on. And He gives us peace that is beyond our understanding to fill our hearts no matter what storm is going on in our lives.

Whether struggling to deal with life alone, conflicts with others, difficulties at work, or the complexities of church life, we can turn to Him to be all these things for us. To me the most wonderful part is that He’s available when no one else is: in the middle of the night, in the midst of a difficult conversation and at our wit’s end, and when it seems no one fully understands.

But that’s not all. Because Jesus came and died for us making us God’s children, we have an eternal inheritance.

“When the time came to completion, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:4-7 HCSB)

Christmas and the Christian single

Jesus left the warmth of His Father’s Home to come to earth to experience all that we do: physical needs and discomforts, human desires and disappointments, rejection from others, and disloyalty from those closest to Him. He did this so we could also become children of His Father and eventually join Him in the warmth and joy of His Father’s House in heaven. There we will receive our ultimate inheritance with Jesus.

But for now we can experience part of it, which includes full access at any time to our Heavenly Father and to His Son, Who is our Wonderful Counselor, our Mighty God, our Eternal Father, and our Prince of Peace. We don’t have to feel like the Grinch at Christmas simply because of our circumstances. No matter what they are, or even if we spend Christmas alone, He is all these things to us.

Do you find Him to be these things to you? Is it easier or more difficult to experience them during the Christmas season?

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