Do you feel the anticipation of something coming or maybe it is a little anxiety creeping up?  Do you hear the subtle ticking as if the clock is running out?  Is there an incessant tick that never seems to be satisfied no matter what you do?  My friend time is short, and the end is indeed near.  The end of the year 2019 is winding down and will soon be over in just nine more days.  How do you handle the news of an ending coming so quickly?  Are you in a party mode and anxious to get out there and celebrate the end of the year or do you prefer to sit back, relax with a warm beverage, a warm comforter and just reflect on all that happened this year?  Is this a time to make new resolutions and start a new beginning or are you resolved to keep things the way they are as if there isn’t much thought involved?  Are you reduced to just living each day without ever looking forward to what may lie ahead?

 Each year I like to take a moment to reflect on what happened during the year, how I responded to each challenge or moment of joy, and where I stand at the present time.  I used to waste so much time in my past by de-cluttering my apartment (at the last minute) and then planning every little detail for what I expected to happen in the New Year.  I lived for the planning stage, not for it to happen; I dreamed about it, not actively trying to bring it to fruition; thus, in short, I wasted time.  I lived in the here and now and kept an eye on what could happen but stopped short in being prepared for when it did.  I simply suggest that you put away the planner and set aside the dreams for just a moment.  Instead let’s take a short journey together and explore a new way to get ready for the New Year.  Yes, let’s change it up a bit.

 We all get a do-over – a chance to start again.  This is not determined by a date on the calendar, but rather by the grace given so richly to us from God.  Once we set our mind on searching for Him, we will find Him.  When we accept Him and receive Him, we are new again.  As pointed out in Romans 6:4 our very lives change when we come to Christ.  “For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism.  And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.”  In short, our old lives fall away because we chose to accept Him and follow Him.  The old dies, but the new starts – the new life begins when He takes over for us and we surrender who we once were to Him.

 Some may be reading this and feel a little confused or some may be alarmed.  Let me try to explain it this way:  I am a sinner who lives in a sinful world.  I mostly have chosen to do what pleases me and for my benefit.  I focused on myself and not on others.  I was never satiated.  I always wanted more and sought it, yet deep down I was empty and not sure as to why.  One day I decided to search for more meaning.  I began to look for God and proof of His existence.  I read His Word, I searched, and I found Him.  I believed His Word and I repented of my past sins.  I willingly chose God over everything else and I surrendered myself to Him.  When I accepted Him, I received His Holy Spirit which indwells in those who are transformed by Him.  My old ways died, and I was reborn.  To be reborn one must die (to his former ways) and asks Christ to live within him.  The old is gone and the new begins.  We all have free will and we all have a choice to make.  It is when we choose Christ that we have the new start.

 A fresh or new start is freeing.  Once we accept Christ, we have no need to go back to our old way of life.  It is useless to do so as pointed out in Luke 5:36-38 when Jesus explains the benefits of living anew as opposed to our former lifestyle.  “Then Jesus gave them this illustration: ‘No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and uses it to patch an old garment.  For then the new garment would be ruined, and the new patch wouldn’t even match the old garment.’  ‘And no one puts new wine into old wineskins.  For the new wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins.  New wine must be stored in new wineskins.’”  When we find Jesus, we need to press on and move forward with Him.  When we cling to our past and old ways and think that if we just alter them somehow, they will work fine, then we are fooling only ourselves.  We need to not resist change, look forward with eyes on Jesus and walk down a new path as a Christian who loves and serves Christ.  The old is useless and the new will bring life – a new start.

 Making this choice offers us as a Christian hope.  Hope is something to trust in, to look forward to and to wait for.  The Bible shows us many examples of hope, but mainly the New Testament attests to the reason why we are hopeful.  In 1 Peter 1:3-6 we learn about a living hope.  “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is by His great mercy that we have all been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead.  Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance – an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.  And through your faith, God is protecting you by His power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.  So be truly glad.  There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.”  Wow!  What a powerful image and a testament to what hope means for the Christian!  Our hope is the gift of eternal life through salvation.  It is a gift because man cannot earn it, does not deserve it, may long for it, but must act on it by searching and finding God, willingly accept it and then receive it.  It is worth whatever trials we must go through (and each year the trials seem to appear more frequently and are more challenging), but His promise is that He will walk with us, get us through the trial and then gift us with eternal life.  Do you desire to sign up for a re-start and receive Jesus in your heart?

 Once we make the decision to change and then receive the precious hope from our change, we then can find peace of mind that we can cling to throughout our daily lives.  Peace can come and live amongst us if we truly seek Him out.  Let me point out a few verses that will drive this home and make it clearer for you to understand.

 To me peace of mind is living day to day without worry or fear.  Living in harmony with one another and loving everyone regardless.  It is not centered nor should be focused on judgment, but rather it is empathizing with one another during their struggles or challenges and loving them.  We need to listen and hear each other as we speak.  Keep in mind though that honesty must go hand in hand with this concept as well.  I, for one, cannot live peaceably with someone if I cannot be honest with them.  My hand is not to point a finger at or accuse, but rather in truth tell them what His Word says and love them no matter what.  I focus on honesty because your views and mine may differ, but I cannot alter His Word to give you some peace of mind on something His Word is not aligned with.  This is not a judgment call, but my view on the importance of His Word and how it is prioritized in my life.  Once again, He commands us to love one another, but He also instructs us what He deems right or wrong in His Word and He is the only judge in that matter.  So why is peace so important?

 First, we are called to peace as stated in Colossians 3:15. “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.  For as members of one body you are called to live in peace.  And always be thankful.”  A Christian is meant to get along with one another, not to order the other about or sow discord, but to rely on that peace He has set in our hearts.

 Peace is something we seek and pursue as stated in 1 Peter 3:11. “Turn away from evil and do good.  Search for peace, and work to maintain it.”  It is a top priority and it is important to work on maintaining it once found.  We are called to it and we are instructed to preserve it once we find it.

 It is important to God and it is one of the fruits of the Spirit we receive when we come to God.  Galatians 5:22 tells us this.  “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness.”  We never would have been gifted peace if we were never meant to live in it or extend it towards others.

 Peace reaps its own reward as James 3:18 tells us.  “And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.”  God rewards the peacemakers for standing up and doing what is right in the name of peace.  How blessed are we?  Accept the gift of peace and as Romans 12:18 says:  Promote it.  “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”  Sounds like good advice to me.

 As this year starts to wind down, and before you jump into something without thinking, take a moment and assess where you are right now.  Are you happy, content or at peace?  Are you miserable, at war with someone, unable to rest and feel restored?  Do you have an emptiness or void deep down inside that just cannot be filled?  Ponder all of this and then open The Bible and see what our Wondrous Lord is instructing us, guiding us towards, and learn about the promises of fullness of His Word.  Search Him out, listen to Him, and really hear and apply the wisdom patiently offered, and then once you are “filled up” on His Word, ask Him into your life.  You do get a second (and sometimes a third) chance, so take it and start a new path today that will enlighten you, encourage you, shape you and free you from the bondage of our former selves.  He gives us all a new start, a reason to hope and a peace to carry on until He calls each of us home.  It is your call to make or to avoid.  I had to make the call for I needed a Savior and I wanted to live a life worth living:  A life serving Christ.   It changed my whole outlook on each year I have been blessed to enjoy and grow from.  2020 can be that year for you.  It can be the year you found Christ and started a new beginning.