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(posted January 2, 2017)

A NEW YEAR’S READING LIST

Hello everyone,

Welcome to 2017! The “old” year seemed to pass on more quickly than ever before, and we’re looking out over a new set of 365 unpredictable calendar days ahead. Many of us are probably sighing with relief that 2016 is but a memory now. As we enjoy this last holiday of the Christmas season, did you have a good Christmas? Make any new year’s resolutions? Did they seem oddly familiar? Contemplating this day here at work, I read over last year’s January 1 post and I see some common themes emerging. There are so many ways we can approach the end of a year and the beginning of the next, and the chance for a “reset” is always welcome. But what do you consider your biggest accomplishment of 2016? Was it reaching some personal or financial goal, or did you experience some real growth in your walk with God? Last year I talked about relationships taking priority over resolutions; what about the most important relationship of all, that which we have with our Creator?

IN THE BEGINNING GOD…..(Genesis 1:1)

…”SURELY I AM COMING QUICKLY.” AMEN. EVEN SO, COME, LORD JESUS! THE GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST BE WITH YOU ALL. AMEN. (Revelation 22:20-21)

Those sentences bracket the text of the greatest story ever told, a perpetual bestselling book, in fact the most widely sold and distributed book of all time. Estimates range between 2.5 and 6 billion copies have been placed in circulation since the 1800’s, with millions more added each year, alongside electronic book versions and apps such as YouVersion (itself establishing a record of over 200 million downloads). It’s actually 66 books in one, written by over 40 different authors over the course of some 1600 years. You’ve probably heard all that before. Impressive statistics, aren’t they?

But — so what? What difference does it make?

You’ve probably got one, or two or five, printed copies of various translations at home along with apps on your phone, tablet, and computer (or desktop shortcuts to BibleGateway.com and BlueLetterBible.org). And there is virtually no end to the commentaries, devotionals and study guides we can easily reference with little effort at all. Despite these advantages, here in the United States we live among the most biblically illiterate population this nation has ever seen. There’s only one cure for this condition: We have to actually read our Bibles.

Just 2 days ago I finished walking through the complete Bible for the 4th time since becoming a Christian. The version I used (above) has 1268 pages, which is a daunting prospect no matter how avid a reader you are. Here’s the thing: It actually took me 2 years to read this “Bible in a Year.” Fact is, that’s been fairly typical for me. I have plenty of devos, Christian books on lots of topics, and other edifying publications on hand, but using a daily reading format (chronologically going through daily Old Testament, Psalms, Proverbs, and New Testament passages) I usually bog down for the first time in Leviticus or Numbers. It’s hard to get going again, and then other distractions arise, and discouragement usually follows. But you just have to keep at it. Choose a different translation to liven things up; I chose the NCV and I attest to the fact that it gave me new perspective on particular books like Job and the prophets. I really enjoyed it again toward the end!

So as you set about to start your new year — for most of us it begins in earnest tomorrow — I encourage you to add this worthy goal to your list. No matter what your daily time with God looks like, delve into the riches of the full counsel of His Word. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you, read it cover to cover (Genesis to Maps!). That’s the means He has provided to get to know Him. “Let the man who would hear God speak, read Holy Scriptures” said Martin Luther.

Stay close to your Lord and Savior — the Word Himself, from John 1 — this year. No matter what lies ahead, you’re going to need His counsel, grace, and forgiveness. We all will. But all the treasure worth pursuing in life in found in His presence alone. Start reading now!

In His grace,

~Matt

 

(posted December 20, 2016)

JOY TO THE WORLD

Hello everyone!

Yes, it has been months since I posted anything here. It might seem that our riding season came to a rather abrupt end, or at least trickled off into hiatus without explanation… and that would be correct! Some of you were aware that my personal season ended back in mid-September with successful knee replacement surgery, leading into a long and somewhat painful period of recovery and rehab. So for perhaps the first time ever, I’ve been largely a spectator instead of a participant in the changing of the seasons, as summer led to picture-perfect autumn and now stands on the brink of (“official”) winter. I’ve only recently regained enough knee strength, flexibility and function to be able to handle things like snow removal and careful winter driving. But my bike long ago went into seasonal storage, as most of yours have too, looking forward to next spring when we’ll once again gather and ride together. Especially when shivering as the temperature dances around the below-zero end of the scale, it’s certainly nice to think about the fresh springtime days and warm summer evenings to come.

But do you ever think we spend too much time looking ahead? It’s a natural tendency, that mix of optimism and impatience, that has us thinking about summer during winter and vice versa. Fortunately, our annual solar once-around happens one day, one season at a time, in orderly succession, with no effort on our part, being the natural cycle our loving God built into this world by design. So no matter what time of year you might prefer over others, you get to experience them all. We cannot hit a cosmic pause button any more than we could a fast-forward button. Time as structured in this universe doesn’t work that way.

I say all that because you may feel the same about Christmas. Too much stress, frustration, emotional pain, and perhaps the devastating memories associated with loss may have you wishing you could just bypass it all. Or maybe you really enjoy “the most wonderful time of the year” as the old song goes, and would like to rest here awhile or at least slow things down to enjoy them more. Both perspectives are natural, understandable, and you may even feel the tension between the two in moments when both are present. Christmas to me seems to come around faster, and the season passes more quickly, with each successive year. And as the sun sets on this next-to-next-to-shortest day of the year, I can sense the beauty of its transition through the heavens along with anticipation of longer days to come. Like I said, all by His perfect design. Nothing stays static in God’s world. Nor should we expect, or ask it to.

So as Christmas and all its associated fun, frivolity, kinetic energy and borderline madness swings rapidly into view (counting down the last calendar week to the 25th) — with all the various personal meaning and connotation we associate with it — I pray you won’t miss it. Jesus is the reason for the season, the rhyme goes, but that’s both the mystery and the staggering truth: God came to save us by being born — to die for our sins — into the world He Himself created. Hear the beauty of His incarnation in all the hymns and carols of Christmas. And among the many gifts you anticipate giving and receiving soon, give yourself one by first giving yourself to God. Take a look here at 10 Ways to Prepare Your Heart for Christmas, for some simple ways to rediscover the magic and profound spiritual impact of this season. Whether you prefer winter’s solitude or the frenetic pace of modern holiday life as the best way to celebrate Christ’s birth, make time to breathe it in fully and deeply. What you’ll find more than anything else is the heart of God, which is love. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

From the cradle to the cross, He came to save you so there could be joy in the world, your world. It’s yours for the having. Enjoy, and Merry Christmas.

~Matt

 

(posted January 1, 2016)

NEW YEAR’S Blessings, my friends.

The sun is already going down on the first day of the year (granted, the days are still exceptionally short this time of year), the “newness” of it already beginning to slide into the past, one swift moment at a time… what will the next 365 days bring?  (Yes, we get an “extra” day this February 29!)  During this holiday season, did you find time, or take time, or “make” time, to take stock of the last 12 months and set a course for the next 12?   Make any “resolutions?”  Or did you carry over the ones you didn’t achieve or just weren’t able to get to in 2015?

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Of course, ignoring the calendar, we get a “new year’s day” every morning, blessed by the promise found in Lamentations 3:22-23: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning (NLT).  But I think we all love the idea of new beginnings that each January 1st brings with it…. of planning projects and travel and setting goals and making plans and crossing things off of a never-ending to-do list.  As you move through the year,  what will you use to measure your progress?  When you’re setting out to accomplish something, are you always able to tell when it’s done?  What about some of the more intangible objectives, like spiritual growth — is there a reliable way to know whether you’re actually growing in relationship with God?

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Among the many things we can choose to set our sights on to do in the year ahead, what do you think will matter the most?  My pastor, Ken Ortize, answered that last Sunday by emphasizing Relationships over Resolutions.  Any goal worthy of pursuit will require effort and determination to reach, and there are many things in our lives the simply need to be done, but when you’re setting an agenda and making choices this year, I hope you will set relationships ahead of all else.  Building, maintaining, repairing, celebrating, and enjoying relationships with those around you will outlast every other accomplishment you could ever achieve.  Relationships are delicate things that need care and nurturing to thrive, and it’s within those relationships that we truly live.  But many are not easy, and we will find it difficult to maintain good ones on our own.  Fortunately, God has give us everything we need here too:  “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5: 22-23).  I can promise you, “cultivate” that spiritual fruit and your relationships will not only thrive, but clearly demonstrate Christ in you to everyone in your life.

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Acknowledging that relationships are fundamental to who we are — created in the image of God — it follows that we should pursue our relationship with Him above all else.  You’re heard it before, but the way to grow in relationship with the Lord is by discovering who He is, and we do that by reading His word.  Therefore, I urge each of you to make this the year you read through the Bible — every chapter and verse — and thereby avail yourself of the whole counsel of God.  Most published Bibles have a reading plan printed somewhere within them; you can also find specific “Bible in a Year” versions that will typically walk you through easy daily readings from the Old Testament, Psalms, Proverbs, and New Testament.  And for the more digitally inclined, the YouVersion Bible app many of you have on your mobile phone or iPad has a myriad of reading plans with different topics of emphasis.  Don’t be overwhelmed by the choices… pick one and get started.  And yes, you have an extra day this year to catch up if you get behind!

And don’t forget to pray…. yes, pray for God to give you a greater hunger for His word… I promise that’s a prayer He loves to answer.  As you grow in relationship with the Father and Son, the Holy Spirit will guide you into greater insight and wisdom in all your other relationships, and your love will abound to greater and greater depth as you yield to His leading.  “[S]eek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” Jesus said, “and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33, NKJV).  And when the end of 2016 comes swiftly into view, regardless of what happens this year or whatever else you may do, you will find yourself much closer to God than you are today.

May God bless you and keep you —

In His grace,

Matt

(posted May 25, 2015)

PUTTING THE “MEMORIAL” BACK INTO MEMORIAL DAY

Memorial: …created or done to honor a person who has died or to remind people of an event in which many people died

(adj) 1. Serving to preserve remembrance; commemorative 2. Of or relating to memory

(n.) 1. Something that keeps remembrance alive: as (a.) monument; (b.) something (as a speech or ceremony) that commemorates

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Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends

(John 15:13, NKJV)

Tom Doyle was the first. Not quite three years after our graduation, news of my Air Force Academy classmate’s death in an F-16 accident in Germany stunned me. Tom was an outstanding pilot, living his dream of flying fighters and defending the nation he loved. As a soaring instructor pilot at the Academy, he had taught me on several glider flights and even signed off on my initial solo. He was just setting out on the adventure the rest of his life was going to be; he was too young to die. Why Tom? Things like that weren’t supposed to happen to people I know.

Sadly but inevitably, others losses followed as my military career spanned most of the next two decades. As a nation we faced many armed conflicts during that time, both small and large; there was Grenada, Panama, Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Bosnia, Kosovo, and finally the Post-9/11 “war on terror” battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many smaller, unheralded battles and special missions around the world claimed additional lives, as did the demands of training and combat readiness that never cease for a nation guarding its liberty. There was Randy, Steve, Phil, John, Tammy, Bobby, Dave… and so many more, my friends and colleagues, my brothers and sisters-in-arms, who paid the ultimate price in sudden and tragic losses. Freedom is never free. Their simply marked graves, from Arlington National Cemetery to the quiet hills of northern California, attest to the price we are willing to pay as a nation to preserve that freedom, but can never quite capture the full essence of the lives they lived, their devotion to duty, or the heartbreak of the families who laid them to rest.

Memorial Day traditionally marks the start of summer and is a wonderful opportunity for family gatherings, picnics, and big sales on what seems like just about everything. But to say “Happy Memorial Day” is not just inappropriate, it’s a huge contradiction. Much more than a day of festivity and recreation that a “holiday” typically represents, this last Monday in May is an important day of remembrance. And it can be a day of profound sorrow for those touched personally by its intended purpose.

Established by Congress in 1971 to remember the men and women of the Armed Forces who lost their lives while serving their country, its origins date back to the post-Civil War period when it was called “Decoration Day,” a day to honor deceased veterans by marking their final resting place with “the choicest flowers of springtime.” In 1868, General John A. Logan’s orders for his post to decorate graves urged, “we should guard their graves with a sacred vigilance; let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners; let not neglect nor ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

Today it’s traditional to decorate the graves of the fallen with American flags, and people will gather to observe solemnities and military honors in special ceremonies at memorials or cemeteries all across the land. While enjoying a degree of freedom unparalleled anywhere in the world, we cannot forget those who have preserved it with their lives during our nearly 239 years of existence as a nation. Each generation is called upon to carry that torch and keep it burning. Since 2001, Memorial Day has taken on new meaning for nearly 7000 families who have lost loved ones in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other theaters of operation in the global war on terror. Spokane lost another of its native sons just a week ago, and with his family, my family too knows all too well the personal cost that preserving our freedom entails. While service members make the sacrifice, it’s the entire family and community as well as their comrades-in-arms that must now bear the burden of carrying on without them. In that burden is a heartache that never goes away.

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This Memorial Day, what can we, as Christians, do? First and foremost, we can help remember. The greatest fear of any veteran isn’t necessarily that they will die in battle, but that their sacrifice will be forgotten. So in public ceremonies or private prayer time, keep the families of our fallen close at heart. God knows the path of grief they must travel; you can help by prayerfully sharing that burden. Join in those gatherings and special observances – you can bet the families of those lost will be there.

Second, do something practical. Make a meal or treat to share. Thank them for their sacrifice, and ask about their loved one. Then listen. They’ll be glad to tell you what their son or daughter, husband or wife, brother or sister, or father or mother was like. Sharing keeps their memory alive. It’s bittersweet, to be sure, but far better than suffering the heartache in silence or alone. Invite them over and let them know you care. “Mourn with those who mourn,” wrote the Apostle Paul (Romans 12:15). And to the Galatians he wrote, “Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you fulfill the law of Christ. “ (Galatians 6:2)

Many words will be spoken today about fallen heroes. G.K. Chesterton reminds us of the choice these heroes had to make, a choice that defined their true character. “Courage is almost a contradiction in terms; it means a strong desire to live, taking the form of readiness to die.” In light of that truth, this may sound unusual, but it’s critical to remember that military members aren’t necessarily heroes because they died, but because they lived. They answered the call when, in the words of Isaiah, our nation asked the question: “’Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” (Isaiah 6:8)

Heroes usually aren’t defined by a single heroic act or deed. A hero, in the words of Joseph Campbell, is simply someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself. By that definition, heroes are all around us. Heroes are known for living lives of service. Some chose to wear the uniform of our Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard, and some died while wearing that uniform; this day in particular is about them. But for those who knew and loved them, every day is Memorial Day. Remember.

(posted April 3, 2015)

THE FINAL WORD

God's love to people

TETELESTAI!

A Dying Man’s Final Words

Only one person in history never left behind any unfinished business. His name is Jesus Christ. He is the only person who could come to the end of his life and say—with absolute and total truthfulness—”I have finished everything I set out to do.”

It is Friday in Jerusalem and a huge crowd has gathered at the place called Skull Hill. It was on the north side of the city, just outside the Damascus Gate, and located by the side of a well-traveled road. The Romans liked to hold their crucifixions in public places. Killing people in public had a salutary effect on the masses.

This particular crucifixion started at 9 A.M. For three hours everything proceeded normally. Then at exactly 12 noon, the sky went black. Not overcast, but pitch black, so black that you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. It wasn’t anything normal like an eclipse. The darkness seemed to pulse and throb, almost like the darkness was a living thing, an evil mutant creature escaped from some science fiction movie.

Only this was no movie. What happened was real. For three hours darkness fell across the city of Jerusalem. There were screams, hideous cries, moans, and other unidentifiable sounds. Then, just as suddenly as it started, the darkness lifted, disappeared, vanished, and sanity returned to the earth.

One glance at the middle cross made it clear that this man Jesus would not last much longer. He looked dead already. His body quivered uncontrollably, his chest heaving with every tortured breath. The soldiers knew from long experience that he wouldn’t make it to sundown.

Then it happened. He shouted something—”My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Someone in the crowd shouted back to him. Moments passed, death drew near, then a hoarse whisper, “I thirst.” The soldiers put some sour vinegar on a sponge and lifted it to his lips with a stalk of hyssop. He moistened his lips and took a deep breath. If you listened you could hear the death rattle in his throat. He had less than a minute to live.

Then he spoke again. It was a quick shout. Just one word. If you weren’t paying attention, you missed it in all the confusion. Then he breathed out another sentence. Then he was dead.

What was that shout? In Greek it is only one word … Tetelestai … “It is finished.”

Was, Is And Always Will Be

Tetelestai comes from the verb teleo, which means “to bring to an end, to complete, to accomplish.” It’s a crucial word because it signifies the successful end to a particular course of action. It’s the word you would use when you climb to the peak of Mt. Everest; it’s the word you would use when you turn in the final copy of your dissertation; it’s the word you would use when you make the final payment on your new car; it’s the word you use when you cross the finish line of your first 10K run. The word means more than just “I survived.” It means “I did exactly what I set out to do.”

But there’s more here than the verb itself. Tetelestai is in the perfect tense in Greek. That’s significant because the perfect tense speaks of an action which has been completed in the past with results continuing into the present. It’s different from the past tense which looks back to an event and says, “This happened.” The perfect tense adds the idea that “This happened and it is still in effect today.”

When Jesus cried out “It is finished,” he meant “It was finished in the past, it is still finished in the present and it will remain finished in the future.”

Note one other fact. He did not say, “I am finished,” for that would imply that he died defeated and exhausted. Rather, he cried out “It is finished,” meaning “I successfully completed the work I came to do.”

Tetelestai, then, is the Savior’s final cry of victory. When he died, he left no unfinished business behind. When he said, “It is finished,” he was speaking the truth.

What Was Finished?

When you read these words of Jesus, only one question grips the mind—What was finished?

Matthew Henry, who lived and wrote over 300 years ago, in his remarks on this saying of Jesus (volume 5, p. 1201), he lists 8 things that were finished or completed when Jesus cried out “It is finished.”

1. The malice of his enemies was finished. By nailing him to the cross, they had done their worst. There was nothing more they could do to the Son of God.

2. The sufferings ordained by God were finished. Many times during his ministry, Jesus spoke of “the work” he was sent to do and of the “hour” of trouble that was coming. He once spoke of a “baptism” of suffering he must undergo. All those things were ordained by God. None of them happened by chance. Even the evil plans of the Jews fit somehow into God’s greater plan to save the world through the death of his Son (Acts 2:23). But those sufferings were now at an end.

3. All the Old Testament types and prophecies were fulfilled. Matthew Henry lists a number of examples—He had been given vinegar to drink (Psalm 69:21), he had been sold for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12), his hands and feet had been pierced (Psalm 22:16), his garments had been divided (Psalm 22:18), and his side was pierced (Zechariah 12:10). There are many other prophesies surrounding his death. All those had been or very soon would be fulfilled.

4. The ceremonial law was abolished. As Romans 10:4 puts it, Christ is “the end of the law.” It finds its completion and fulfillment in him. Therefore, all the Old Testament rules concerning animal sacrifices are set aside. And the rules and regulations concerning the priesthood are out of date since the Greater Priest has now laid down his life for his people. Those laws pointed to the cross. But once Jesus died, they were no longer needed. “The Mosaic economy is dissolved, to make way for a better hope.”

5. The price of sin was paid in full. Do you remember the words of John the Baptist when he saw Jesus? He called him “The lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) That “taking away” of sin was accomplishment by the death of our Lord.

6. His physical sufferings were at an end. “The storm is over, the worst is past; all his pains and agonies are at an end, and he is just going to paradise, entering upon the joy set before him.”

7. His life was now finished. When Jesus cried out “It is finished,” he had only a few seconds to live. All that he had come to do had been fully accomplished. His life and his mission came to an end at exactly the same moment.

8. The work of redemption was now complete. This is undoubtedly the major meaning. Matthew Henry expands on what Christ’s death accomplished in four statements, each one beginning with the letter F. The death of Christ provided a …
Full satisfaction for sin
Fatal blow to Satan
Fountain of grace opened that will flow forever
Foundation of peace laid that will last forever

Paid In Full

But there is more to the meaning of tetelestai. It means all of the above, but it especially applies to the price paid for the sins of the world. Merrill Tenney (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, IX, 185) notes that the verb was used in the first and second centuries in the sense of “fulfilling” or “paying” a debt and often appeared in receipts. “It is finished” (Tetelestai) could be interpreted as “Paid in full.”

“Paid in full” means that once a thing is paid for, you never have to pay for it again. In fact, “paid in full” means that once a thing is paid for, it is foolish to try to pay for it again.

So let me ask you a personal question. What sin is keeping you from God today? Is it anger? Is it lust? Is it a hard heart of unbelief? Is it alcohol abuse? Is it an uncontrollable temper? Is it cheating? Is it stealing? Is it adultery? Is it abortion? Is it pride? Is it greed?

Let me tell you the best news you’ve ever heard. It doesn’t matter what “your” sin is. It doesn’t matter how many sins you’ve piled up in your life. It doesn’t matter how guilty you think you are. It doesn’t matter what you’ve been doing this week. It doesn’t matter how bad you’ve been. It doesn’t matter how many skeletons rattle around in your closet. IT IS FINISHED!! Paid in full.

 

(posted January 1, 2015)

HAPPY NEW YEAR!  A new year… what a gift.  A chance to begin again, to reset, to let go of the old and embrace the new… the first day of a do-over perhaps.  The beginning of a new [calendar] year is also an ending, of the one before… and a good time to pause, reflect on the past, take stock of the present, and ponder the future.  I say “ponder” rather than plan because planning for the future, while necessary and somewhat useful, can also be a trap if you invest too heavily in what you think is going to happen, rather than allowing for what actually will transpire.  Which, much to our chagrin, we can never know for sure.  (See James 4: 13-17)

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SUNRISE.  After all he excitement and reverie of last night, the stillness of the winter morning, this morning, seemed especially profound, a marked hush covering the entire city.  It’s as if nature was holding its breath in expectation, not yet willing to disturb the peace that settled in after the noisy midnight transition to this new year.  But let me ask, is such a distinct change really possible?  Fireworks and noisemakers aside, is the difference between 11:59 PM on December 31 and 12:00 AM on January 1 really any different from that same, momentary transition on any other day?

Friends, not only does every new day mark the beginning of a new year, infused with endless possibilities and potential; every moment holds that same, mystical quality about it… the chance to begin anew.  “The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease,” says Lamentations 3:22-23.  “Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning” (NLT).  But since we measure time in days, months and years, those become our reference guide, which shapes our perspective on life.  “The year of our Lord” 2015 is now upon us.  Given the enormity of the blank slate, the blank canvas before you, what will you do with the 365 days?

I’m sure many of you already have a list of resolutions, goals and objectives prepared to pursue in the coming days, and you’re probably eager to get started.  Addressing issues of your health, wellness, finances, relationships, and professional endeavors are all good things, and all give you a chance to shine the light of Christ into others’ lives.  But I have one suggestion, one recommendation to add to those worthy pursuits, which I hope you’ll be willing to accommodate.  I urge you to make the first and highest priority of your life this coming year to draw closer to God and get to know Him better.

On a personal note, 2014 was a year unlike any other in my 51+ years of circling the sun.  It was bracketed at the beginning and the end with profound personal loss, the kind of heartbreak and sorrow that redefines everything you thought you knew about life.  Along the way my family and I also experienced breathtaking change in every conceivable aspect of life.  All previous expectations of the way I thought things were going to go were completely annihilated, and instead I found myself wandering in a new, very foreign, and very intimidating season of life.  The only light shining in that utter darkness was my relationship with Jesus Christ, whom I clung to desperately.  Some of you may be able to relate to such a sudden and disorienting change of circumstance, the kind that follows in the wake of tragedy of immeasurable scope.  Looking back now, I can only thank God that He had prepared me for 13 years to face a spiritual challenge of this magnitude.  Even then, it is only by His grace — extended and ministered through the love, support and prayer of our family and friends — that I can look back now and trace His hand, His provision, and His compassion through the blur that this past year became.

To face the trials in this world that we were promised would come (see John 16:33), you’ve got to trust your Master.  And to trust Him, you’ve got to know Him.  Private and corporate prayer, fellowship, worship, devotions, Bible teaching and every other aspect of the dynamic Christian life all take you into deeper relationship with the Triune God, and I hope you will commit to those with renewed vigor.  But the key to knowing Christ is to know His Word.  And knowing it, to then carry it out in obedience.

So, let me humbly suggest, don’t just read a few good books this year; why not read 66 books, all conveniently packaged within one handy cover.  If you’ve never read through the entire Bible — or even if you have! — why not start now, today, and commit to reading it through this year.  (There are many ways to accomplish this.  You can start here: https://www.biblegateway.com/reading-plans/)  Now, I’ll confess that my first attempt at this goal actually took closer to 2 years, although my last two journeys from Genesis to Revelation (or Maps) took more like 15 months.  The actual time spent doesn’t matter; finishing does.  The point is, God provided all the tools we need to grow in relationship with Him, but it’s up to us to use them.

And when you draw nearer to Him, the Bible promises He will draw near to you (James 4:8).  Then let Him shape your character.  At the end of 2015, you’ll be able to look back and see how faithfully Jesus has walked with you, and if you’ve followed His lead, how much more closely you’ll resemble Him.  For Christians everywhere, that should be our highest priority, and the only “resolution” that really matters.  Remember, your time on this planet is temporary.  Let’s agree in Christ to use it as wisely as we can.

In His grace,

Matt

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