Take a Look Back, So You Can See a Clearer New Year

I can’t believe it. Christmas is over. The season has come and gone so quickly.  It seems like we were just ordering gifts, waiting for boxes, decorating and planning for everything to happen.  And now it is over and even in the midst of all the hustle and bustle it really was a joy-filled season. 

So, how was your Christmas? Was it peaceful? Joyous? Stressful? Tiring? Energizing? We go through so many emotions during this time of year. And I don’t know about you, but it’s nice to finally sit back, take a break, and breathe…for a minute!

But only for a minute. Because you know what time it is, right? It’s time for setting New Year’s resolutions! What’s it going to be this year? Lose 10 pounds? Exercise more regularly? Watch less?  I think we should pause a moment and think about this for a minute.  We want to start thinking about and enthusiastically begin these new ventures for the new year, but do we even know what God did in our lives and the life of our church last year? Maybe we should slow down for a minute and review the past year.

You might be thinking now that you just want to get started on next year because 2022 is already going to be over.  Why should I take the time to slow down and review my year? I get those thoughts and I want to get going too.  But, as I began to think about slowing down a little and thinking about the past year I began to realize that it is good to look back and…

Celebrate our wins

Learn from our missteps

Remember God’s faithfulness

Thank God for His goodness

Reviewing our past year will help us to remember all that God has done and is doing. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but time is moving forward, and it is not slowing down. Time is our most precious commodity. We have to take advantage of every moment God gives us. Each moment we have is a gift from God. These gifts turn into precious memories that are soon forgotten unless we take the time to think on them and remember.

Just think about the Israelites for just a moment. At one point, when they were at war with the Philistines, the Israelites saw them advancing toward their position, and they were frightened. Samuel called on the Israelites to return to the Lord with all of their hearts, throw out their false gods, and obey God alone. He encouraged them to call out to the Lord to deliver them from the Philistines. And on that day, the Israelites defeated the Philistines.

So, what did the Israelites do next? Did they plow forward with their plans? Did they move on with their lives? Watch what Samuel does.

“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpath and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, ‘Till now the Lord has helped us.’” 1 Samuel 7:12

Why do you think Samuel did this? He did it because he knew the importance of remembering. He knew that if they remembered what the Lord had done, it would encourage and motivate the Israelites to believe God in difficult times for the future, not only in their lives, but in the lives of generations to come.

I hope this encourages you to take the time to review this past year and celebrate all that God has done and is doing in your life and the life of our church. I hope that by remembering God’s goodness and faithfulness, you will have the confidence and the faith to run with endurance the race that God has set before you (Hebrews 12:1).

Thanksgiving Greetings

A New Heights Nazarene Thanksgiving Greetings!

I wanted to take a moment to send you a note during this special time of the year to let you know that I am very thankful for all of you here at New Heights Nazarene.  The prayers, sacrifice and love you have shown me during this past year and especially since I have been diagnosed with cancer has been such a comforting blessing of assurance that God is at work, and for that I thank each and everyone one of you.  When writing to the Thessalonian Church, Paul said these words:   

 “We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers.” 1 Thessalonians. 1:2

As we all are going to begin to get ready for the “Christmas rush” and all that goes along with it, it seems that in God’s foresight, he has placed a season of Thanksgiving before all this business happens and all that the Christmas season brings along with it. I believe that Thanksgiving should be more than a “one day a year” holiday recognition where we eat too much then settle down for some football on television (as much as I enjoy that)…or whatever happens to be the Thanksgiving tradition in your particular family. As Christians we should have a spirit of thankfulness on a daily basis throughout the year and if we stop and think about what                the Lord has done for us, it should not be too difficult to do. 

Someone once said: “Thanksgiving, to be truly thanksgiving, is first thanks, then giving.” How true.

Abraham Lincoln, in the Thanksgiving proclamation of 1863 said: “It has seemed to me fit and proper that [the gifts of God] should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens . . . to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”

I again, wanted to let you know during this season of Thanksgiving how thankful I am for each and everyone one of you.  The Lord has blessed me, and surrounded  me, with people who love the Lord and want to serve Him to the best of their ability.  Each of your lives in some way has touched me more than you will ever possibly know and have blessed me beyond measure.  I thank God for each you and the privilege to serve you as your Pastor.

May God add His richest blessings to your life during this Thanksgiving season as you continue to look to Him as the source of all blessings.

Blessings in Christ,

Pastor Don


Where is My Hope

Do you ever have those times in your life where it seems like the dam has broken in your life and it keeps flooding you with things and it never seems to stop?  Where you wonder if there will ever be an end to troubles that seem to constantly come our way?  Maybe you are feeling that now or sooner or later it will come your way because of the messed up world we live in.

Many times the troubles are not anything that we have caused, but just seem to find us.  We look at our life at we seem to be trying our best to do everything we are supposed to.  We work hard, we read our Bible faithfully, we attend church and serve faithfully where needed.  Why do these things keep coming our way even though we are as faithful as we can be?

Well, many times in life, God waits while a situation goes from bad to worse so that you and I say, “There is no way now for this ever to work out.”  But that is the point when the omnipotent God intervenes in our hopelessness and says, “Oh, really?  Watch this…!

Hope is one of the most powerful things that you will ever have access to. Hope allows you to stop focusing on your present troubles and believe for a better tomorrow. Hope allows you to continue believing that God has something better for you than the things that you’re dealing with in the moment. However, hope is often easily snatched away, overshadowed by the adversity, hardships, trials, and tribulations that are a natural part of daily life. In those moments, it’s up to you to find hope, even in hopeless situations.

Life is often a painful, confusing, tiresome experience. Even when things are going relatively well, we can still usually point to a few areas of our lives that just aren’t where we want them to be. It’s not uncommon to evaluate where you are at in relation to these hardships and start asking questions. Why do I have to deal with suffering? Why do I constantly battle against depression and anxiety? Why do I have to wake up every morning, put on a fake smile, and muddle through life while I’m trying to find hope?

In those moments, it’s your responsibility to find hope. Yes, God will put hope in front of you, but during seasons of intense hopelessness, it’s up to us to find hope. That’s not to say that God somehow dangles hope in front of us, putting it behind hardships, and expecting us to dig it out. Instead, it means that there are times that we have to go against our own human nature and find hope.

In Psalm 34:17-20 it reminds us that…

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.

One of the most powerful things about hope is that it serves as a sort of binder. When everything in your life feels like it is falling apart, and going in a million different directions, hope wraps us up like a warm hug from a loved one, and helps hold us together.

However, hope can only do that if we look to the true Source of hope. What do you look for when you need something to hold you together? Many people look to their own personal success and the things that they’ve acquired. Sadly, those sources are temporary. Some people look to relationships with others to hold them together. While it’s important to have a trusted support system, people are prone to let us down. When that happens, we’re left in a state of disarray. Instead, we need to look to Christ as the true source of our hope.

Allow God to hold you together in moments of hopelessness. When you find yourself completely wrapped up in His provision and goodness, hope is a natural byproduct.

Trust the Process

Have you ever had trouble trusting God through a process?  You know, when you think things should go in a certain direction, or a certain way and they don’t.  When you have been praying for direction, but it seems that the direction you are getting does not make sense.  Well, there is a story in the Old Testament about Naaman who went through something similar in his own life. 

In 2 Kings chapter 5 tells of a story of Naaman who was a commander of the army of the king of Syria.  He was a known as a “mighty man of valor,” but he was a leper, who wanted to be healed.  But, through the words of an Israelite servant that was in the service of his wife, Naaman heard about the prophet Elisha and was told that Elisha would cleanse his leprosy.

So Naaman got a letter from his king as well as his blessing and he sets off for Israel to seek healing. The letter does not reveal that Naaman is looking for Elisha, it just states that he is seeking to be clean.  Naaman arrives in Israel and hands the king the letter. The king of Israel is greatly distressed, tearing his own clothes he says,

2 Kings 5:7

As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!”

Fortunately for the king, Elisha catches word of what has happened. Elisha instructs the king to send Naaman to the prophets house. Now, Naaman expects to be healed by Elisha himself.
Imagine yourself in this situation. You’ve had a crippling disease for your entire life. You’ve finally arrived at the place where you know you can find healing! All you need is for the prophet to come speak it over you.  Your excitement builds as you anxiously await the prophets arrival.  There’s noise on the other side of Elisha’s door. Your moment to meet the man of God has come! Good health is about to be yours.  And what happens next? The prophet is a no-show! The person standing before you is the messenger of Elisha. He does not bring word that the prophet will be arriving soon. No, he brings instructions.

2  Kings 5:10

Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

 So Namaan became angry! The Jordan is a dirty river; the waters of his own home are much cleaner than it. If all Naaman wanted was to be clean, he could have just as easily stayed home and bathed. In a rage, Naaman starts to turn away, unwilling to heed the words of the messenger. Fortunately, Naaman’s servants spoke boldly to their master. They encouraged him to follow the messenger’s instructions, and so he did.

2 Kings 5:13-14

Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” 14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.

 Naaman had certain expectations of how this story was going to begin, continue, and end.  He probably thought that it would be pretty simple: head to Israel, see the prophet, get healed, return to Syria in time for dinner.  But God’s process was quite different. Instead of sending Naaman to the prophet, God sends him to the king, who sends him to Elisha, who sends the messenger in his place, who sends instructions.  And even then, the instructions were not what Naaman expected.

 But look at how the story still ends: with Naaman being healed. I would suppose that Naaman would have died a leper had he not been obedient to wash himself in the Jordan.  God’s purpose was brought about by God’s process. Oftentimes, God’s process looks much differently than we expect.  So, wherever you are at today in the process, trust God.  It may not look like the right direction to you, but God in His own way will get you to where He wants you to be.  Trust the process. 

It’s Not Where You are that Matters

In my reading last week I came upon an article about the value of a bottle of water.  The author compared how much a bottle of water was worth based on where it was located.  In a grocery store the bottle of water would cost about one dollar.  In a convenience store the same bottle of water could cost three dollars.  At a ballgame it could cost five dollars.  And at an airport it could cost seven dollars for the same exact bottle of water that was only a dollar at the grocery store.  The value of the water had nothing to do with the water itself but where it was located.

I got thinking about this and how it pertains to us and how God loves us no matter who we are, what we have done and where we are at…He still loves us and cares for us.  The value that God places on you has nothing to do with where you are at.  You could be far from God today caught up in things you know you should not be doing.  You could be doubting God because you have been praying for something and have not receive an answer from Him.  You could be someone who has never really given your life to God.  It does not matter to God because He still loves you and wants so much to care for you.  In Ephesians 2:4-9 it reminds us…

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, …

Where are you at in your own life today?  Are you feeling lost or discouraged?  Please know that God wants to get you out of that place you are at right now and bring you to Him, but the choice is yours.  His grace, mercy and forgiveness are available to us wherever we are at.  All we have to do is to call on Him and have faith.

How would it feel to always be encouraged just when you need encouragement?  How would it feel to be given wisdom and strength to make the right decisions in your life?  How would it feel to have someone know exactly how you feel right now, and will walk with you and help you in any situation?  How would it feel to be loved when sometimes we don’t?  This is what Jesus can do because of his love for you.  Will you choose Jesus today, because He has already chosen you.