In the beginning

There is nothing like new beginnings.  A new job.  A new address.  A new friendship.  A new possibility.  A new opportunity.  A new vision.  A new goal.  A new year.  And that is exactly where this month’s message finds each one of us: Standing at the threshold of yet another new year.  An old year has run its course and a brand new year is calling us forward.  Are you ready to make this year your best year ever?
For far too many, disappointments from the past year carry over into the new year, casting a shadow over all that God is calling them to do for His glory.  Does this resonate with you?  When you look back over the past twelve months, are your memories littered with disappointments?  If we are honest, we can all look back and see portions of our lives that did not turn out as we planned.  We see the times we stopped short of the finish line.  We see the times we failed.  Because this is simply a fact of life for broken people living in a broken world, we must keep the gospel before us each and every day.  The truth of the gospel frees us from our past, regardless of how broken it is.  “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me” (Psalm 138:7).  The gospel frees us to fight, fall, and even fail, because the God of the Gospel is for us and forgives us.
Jesus did not raise you from death to life to live a perfect life.  He raised you from death to life to live a promised life: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).  You see, Jesus has promised to get you home, safely and securely, regardless of how many mistakes you make along the way.  The past was never meant to define your present and it has no power in determining your ultimate destiny.  Only those who give power to their past and allow it to imprison them find themselves being defined by it.  But this is not for you!
The truth of the gospel will encourage, equip, and empower you to live your Christian life “on earth as it is in heaven” in 2011.  Let me challenge you to think about the first four words in the Bible: “In the beginning God…” and keep that thought before you throughout this year.  Because God is a God of new beginnings, you are not only beginning a new year, but this is the beginning of a new life for you.
But this will not just happen!  God is calling you to plan and proactively participate in your plan in order to produce a new life.  I never met anyone who planned to fail, but I have met far too many who have failed to plan.  So what’s your game plan for this new year and a new you?  Remember, insanity has been  defined as, “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”  I’m sure that resonates a bit with all of us!
The Psalms provides many keys to putting together an effective and eternal game plan that will change your life and the lives of all those you impact this new year.  

Key #1 ~ Seek God with all your heart
“With my whole heart I seek you” (Psalm 119:10).  Not a quarter of a heart.  Not a half of a heart.  Not three quarters of a heart.  But seek the Lord with your whole heart.      

Key #2 ~ Store up the word of God in your heart
“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).  If you had a sickness and the medicine to cure it, would you take it?  Of course you would!  Well, we all have the same sickness (sinful, self-centered, and self-absorbed hearts) and we all have the medicine to cure our sickness.  The more we get into the word of God, the more the word of God gets into us.  And the more we are filled with the word of God, the less we are full of ourselves.    

Key #3 ~ Serve God
“Deal bountifully with your servant” (Psalm 119:17).  The psalmist asked for blessings from God because he was a servant of God.  We cannot expect God’s blessings when we are busily engaged in serving ourselves and satisfying our own selfish ambitions.
So at the outset of this new year, as you get prepared to hit the ground running, remember the three keys to putting together an effective eternal game plan: Seek God, Store Up His Word, and Serve Him only.  
This is God’s plan for your new year.  This is the grace for your race.  NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!      

Rev. Tommy Boland is the men’s minister and sports minister at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. He also teaches adult Sunday school. For more information, including Bible study resource materials, please e-mail  [email protected] or visit www.tommyboland.com.
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