Happy New Year! Are you ready to learn from the lessons of 2016 as you enter 2017? As the calendar turns, everyone is invited to put away past negativity while embracing new blessings. Let’s prepare ourselves for a spectacular new year of challenges and opportunities. Think ahead to this time next year and decide now if you’d like to be a different type of person or in a better situation. Now’s the time to plan for where you’re going and how’d you like to get there.
The exercise we’ve prepared for this morning’s service is intended to help everyone start the New Year with a clean, white slate. In today’s Sunday bulletin is a special folded paper. On one side of that paper is powerful wording, “God is the love that will enhance your life.” This is followed by our renewal equation, “God+You=Renew.” The gist is that any of us can become the person that God wants us to be, first and foremost new creatures in Christ, members of the faith family who are redeemed, renewed, and forgiven. We accept God’s gift of transformation or else we’ll never live life to its fullest.
On the other side of the paper is a left column with the heading “What to Leave in 2016” followed by three, numbered lines. Notice the right side column with the corresponding heading “What I claim in 2017,” again followed by three consecutive lines. Our task is to first prayerfully consider what we need to let go of and put behind us so that we don’t carry filth into 2017. Choose at least three attitudes, behavior, habits, or situations that were harmful, unhelpful, or in some way not loving or life-enhancing. For the right-hand column, jot at least three new attitudes, behaviors, or situations desired for 2017. These represent the goals that we seek so that we can live the great life we need and deserve.
Let’s back-up a bit to our church formula of renewal, “God+You=Renew.” Don’t be put-off by its clever, rhyming aspect. The goal is heavy-duty and legit, namely to help each person attain and live the best possible life. The two key players are you and God, which when in the proper relationship produces renewal. Who doesn’t want this for the New Year? Contrary to the curmudgeon view, there’s nothing wrong using marketing savvy to help people. In fact, failure to gain attention through positive creativity may result in people not noticing their God-given potential. As a church, part of our mission is outreach, which is more than simple charity. We the people of God have a clear and inescapable mandate, which is to share the Gospel, the tremendous good news that God loves us and that we can be renewed. With so many aspects of modern life vying for our attention, the church needs to grow-up and get real, becoming more relevant to the people we’re responsible to assist. The God+You=Renew formula is a simple, effective summary of these core truths. As we internalize the renewal process we’ll reap wondrous blessings which we can then share with the world.
In renewal, the spectrum of God’s blessings can be yours if only you manage your life better by recognizing your spiritual nature and then to live and think through love’s power. Why settle for a monochromatic life when you can enjoy multi-colored blessings? When you place yourself next to God (as the God+You=Renew formula illustrates) then you’re in royal company. This means that we’re in a right relationship with God, that we are sensitive to the presence of the Almighty and willing to place love above all else.
An authentic spiritual life arises from properly managed attitudes and actions. The old saw about talk being cheap applies here. Changing who and what we are isn’t for the faint of heart. Life is tough. Habit, coercion, apathy and just plain laziness can pressure us to just “sign on the dotted line” and leave our souls in the hands of bureaucratic religions and even government programs. Not so in God’s kingdom, where we live the most authentic spiritual life as we embrace God directly. We must resist the seduction to subcontract our renewal to any third-party. As we receive God’s love and truth, we accept primary responsibility for receiving and sharing the greatest power in the universe: love.
Up to now I’ve avoided the word “resolution,” as in “New Year’s resolution.” Yet we need a determination to be the person God wants us to be. Be resolved to do the right thing. Be resolved to overcome all challenges. Be resolved that no one, no thing, no illness, no addiction will hold you back. Uncertainties? Sure. There are many hanging over our wounded nation. We face internal and external threats to our peace and prosperity. But don’t let politics, terrorism, or economic ups and downs rob you of your peace. Life teaches us that in addition to the known threats we’ll also encounter unexpected challenges and opportunities. Through both good and bad, God will help us grow stronger and overcome obstacles.
We must seek God’s ever-present indwelling Spirit, which is love (God’s essence). If you’re only willing to make one resolution then for goodness sake be resolved to grow closer with God and then to share that love. If you strive for God and God’s love then you’ll be rewarded with a renewal not otherwise possible. Claim the power of Jesus as you partner with God to create a superb 2017. Hunger and thirst for God and you will have that full-filled life. And don’t play the blame game because the only person who can hold you back is yourself; don’t get in your own way. Set aside fear, ignorance and anger. Don’t bring the garbage of 2016 only to bring it into 2017. You are a new, beautiful creation. You’re ready for a fresh start and now it’s up to you to act and think like it. God bless you in 2017.