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God is a Creator. In the beginning, He created, and He continues to create to this moment. Every day He is creating new opportunities for His followers to spread His message. He is never caught off guard or without a plan. Instead of reacting to the freewill decisions of His creation, He instead is spinning new avenues to provide an entirely new way for His plan to be accomplished. He isn’t discouraged by our lack of cooperation or frustrated by our failures.

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I see Him moving in constant fluidity, constantly creating throughout history, and never losing sight of the mission at hand. In contrast, we tend to be a reactive people. Instead of collaborating with Him in creating something new, we busy ourselves reacting to what has already been created. If we want to be more like Christ, we’re going to need to stop living a reactive life.

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Recently I’ve had the frustrating experience of trying to get three of the largest churches in my city to come around a family in need. The situation at hand is a low-income single mother with six children, whose minivan was recently involved in an accident and totaled. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured. One church never responded, one said they get too many requests to be able to help but did ask what my own church was doing about the situation, and the final church – the one I attend and have been financially supporting – responded they only helped with rent and utility bills and would not be able to contribute towards purchasing a vehicle for the family.

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Being a preacher’s kid, I understand the inner workings and dynamics of a church better than most, but I was still left flabbergasted by the lack of assistance these local churches were willing to extend.

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I was recently wondering what it would look like if I reoriented my life around the rhythms of the calendar. If you’re anything like me, you don’t take much time to celebrate or even breathe. In the Old Testament, God gave His people festivals and Sabbaths to observe. I don’t believe God does anything on a whim or without purpose, so I know He had a reason for these events. Could it be, as our Creator, He understood we need these times to refocus and re-center?

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Working with this knowledge, it makes sense to orient our lives today around similar rhythms. I’m not advocating we observe each of the Jewish holiday’s if you aren’t Jewish. They won’t have the same beauty or effect without being immersed in the tradition and history. But we can all build an effective and even joyful cadence for our lives based on the calendar of our own culture.

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We all worship something. It’s how we were created. Whether we realize it or not, we are worshippers. The only question is what, or who, is it we are worshipping? Saying we worship something or someone other than God is an uncomfortable admission. We don’t want to believe we worship unworthy objects.

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Many people and things will demand our worship, but only God is worthy of it. In fact, he demands we worship only Him. This goes all the way back to the Ten Commandments. Somehow, thousands of years later, we still haven’t been able to honor what He requires.

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Who is it you want to be? More importantly, who is it God wants you to be? If the answers to both questions are not aligned, you are setting yourself up for a life of frustration and emptiness. No matter how far you advance on your dream of becoming who you want to be, if it isn’t the person God wants you to be, there will always be a gnawing hole inside. There will be an ache none of your success can fill.

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We were designed and created to serve and love God, to live in relationship with Him. Our thoughts were meant to be as His thoughts, our actions and motivations the same as His. Until we reconcile who God wants us to be, we will never become who we truly desire to be.

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In his book, “Together is Better”, Simon Sinek writes, “We can start a revolution when we know what we stand against. To create change that lasts, however, we need to know what we stand for.” (emphasis mine) This advice is great for our lives as disciples. It’s easy to tell the world what we’re against. Doing so may even gain us a following of sorts. But if we look at the way Jesus lived, He spent His time demonstrating what He was for.

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In doing so, he caused a change so radical it split time in two. We now refer to dates based on those before Jesus came (B.C.), and after His birth (A.D.). The followers of Jesus in first century Israel were looking to Him to denounce all the Roman Empire was doing. They were looking for a revolution. Jesus brought something better. He brought a glorious change to their lives and to our world.

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There is no quicker path to destruction than to take your eyes off Jesus. Let your focus waver for even a minute and you will be heading down a path you never intended and have no interest in following. It’s troubling how we can spend hours on our knees with God, and seconds later lose our focus and find ourselves in a dark place. It comes down to discipline, but focus is taxing of our energy, so we often tire and give up.

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Still, if we are serious about living a life worthy of Christ, we’ve got to get better at keeping our focus on Him. One slip can cause years of damage. As you approach this day, this hour, this moment, let me ask you: “Where is your focus?”

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The Bible talks a lot about bringing God your “firstfruits”. To bring your firstfruits means to give God the best of your efforts. In terms of finances, it means you give back to God before spending anything on yourself. In Scripture, it amounted to dedicating the first growth of your crops, or the first born from your flocks and herds, and even your family.

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You give back to God first, and the remainder is for your blessing. These days, we don’t often give God our firstfruits. More likely we give Him our leftovers and expect Him to bless us abundantly in return.  This is embarrassing at best, but I must admit my own guilt in this area.

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There is a time thief lurking in all of our lives. Time is our most precious asset. You cannot acquire more than you’ve been given. We each have a finite amount that dwindles by the second. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Yet so many of us treat time as if there is a never ending supply. We spend our time foolishly on the nonsensical and irrelevant.

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What if we spent our money the same way we spent our time? It would be the equivalent of throwing cash out the window every second of our day. If we are not intentional about our time, a time thief will steal away what God has entrusted to us. We all have a time thief; what’s yours?

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As a year wilts away behind us, another blossoms on the path ahead. There’s something beautiful and fragrant about new beginnings. A new year heralds an opportunity for a fresh start. What was is no longer, and what will be is largely up to the choices we will make. This is our chance to shape what lies ahead in ways totally honoring to God. My theme for this year is “Move the Needle”, and nowhere will this be more important than in my walk with God.

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Everything revolves around and springs from my relationship with Him. Moving forward into a deeper knowledge of God necessitates doing something different than we’ve done before. If this is your desire for the new year as well, there is one thing I know. If we want to move the needle in our connection with and understanding of God, we can’t stay here.

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