Saturday, December 28, 2002

Living Free in 2003

I can’t believe it. It was there, I turned around and now it’s gone. People tell me it didn’t evaporate, but it sure feels like it. They tell me I can’t ever get it back but that I can get a new one if I’ll just wait.

It’s not as if this is the first time this has happened. Seems like it happens all the time. It’s just that it is happening more often these days.

Other people tell me they lose them, too. And that there is nothing we can do to stop it from happening more and more. In fact, those that are older say it happens more quickly to them. That is if they can remember it.

I’ve had a bunch of them – all of which are gone now. Some of them I used, some I wasted, most were a combination of the two. I really want to cherish the next one, the one that people tell me is coming.

WHAT IN THE WORLD IS HERB TALKING ABOUT? The past year. Is the description above true for you? The older I get, the faster it appears to go. When I was six it felt like forever between birthdays and Christmas days. Now I ignore birthdays. I have been in a holding pattern at 29 for some time. It’s getting harder to hold on to that now that Andrew is 20. Hey, I was a very young groom! Christmas feels like it repeats every couple months. And it feels like someone inserted an extra Sunday into every week. What in the world is going on?

Days are not getting shorter, hours are not moving faster. It is simply that the older we get, a year is a smaller percentage of our total existence. When I was six, a year was about a quarter of the life I could remember. At, ahem, 29, (or 45) a year is a very small slice. I’m not losing my mind; it just seems so much shorter.

“Well, Herb,” you’re thinking, “that is some of the least helpful information I’ve heard.” Hang on. Since there is nothing we can do to make the next year feel longer, we must live it with intentionality to prevent it from slipping through our fingers. Again. To live the coming year with hope and confidence. Let me make some suggestions.

We must intentionally pay attention to DIVINE ENCOUNTERS. Did you know that God is the God of divine encounters – those times when He invades our lives with His Presence and work? God reached into the magi’s circumstances to point them to Jesus. We don’t know how He did it and it doesn’t matter. The point is not the how but the fact. And it changed their lives.
You might think that God reaches into others’ lives, but not yours. Wrong! To say that is to call God a liar. The Bible says that God reaches into each person’s life every day. Most come in the routine, in small ways that might go unnoticed. A call, card or word from a person that brings encouragement. An “aha” moment of direction at just the right moment. A song that touches your soul and connects you to God. Just pay attention; God is intersecting your life all the time. He is the God of divine encounters.

We must intentionally accept God’s SECOND CHANCES. Did you know that God is the God of second chances – reaching into our lives to pick us up, forgive us, brush us off and offer another shot? What were the magi thinking when they went to Herod? They had followed the star for some 2 years, and then when they got close they followed common sense. A king will be born in a palace, right? We would never do that, would we? Of course. We do it all the time. But instead of getting tired of us and taking us out, God offers us second chances.

The Bible is full of people who didn’t deserve even one second chance, but who received a barrel full of them. Your church if full of the same kind of people. So’s your family. In fact, if you look in the mirror you’ll see someone to whom God wants to give second chances in 2003. Trust me, you’ll need them.

The devil tries to paralyze us by convincing us that our failure removes us from God and the work He wants to do through us. But God is the God of second chances.

We must intentionally seize NEW OPPORTUNITIES. Did you know that God is the God of new opportunities – opening doors to serve Him and others in ways that bring meaning to our lives? After the magi left Herod, followed the star to Jesus, worshipped Him and presented their gifts, God gave them a new opportunity to serve by covertly leaving the area instead of returning to tell Herod of Jesus’ location.

December 31 and January 1 are days to think about new opportunities. The world calls them New Year’s resolutions. God calls them new opportunities. What do they look like? Serving and giving in ways that brings meaning to life. Opportunities to grow, to step out in faith, to serve, to sacrifice, to share good news, to suffer, to be a friend, to care, to help, to use what God has given for a purpose higher than ourselves. It’s not about us, but about God and much bigger than us. And when we seize an opportunity our obedience provides another one. They build on one another and are oh, so satisfying. God is the God of new opportunities.

2003 is on its way and 2002 is on its way out. Before you know it, 2003 will be over. Here’s how we can make it a year to remember. Every day look for divine encounters, second chances and new opportunities. When we sight them, let’s write them down and tell a friend about them. Simple, easy, powerful.

Maybe I won’t lose this one.

"Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working."" John 5:17 (NIV)

"I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. " Rev 3:8a (NIV)

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