2018: Your Year of New Beginnings and Discovering the ‘8th Option’

I’ve never spent much time thinking about Biblical numerology. But this year is different.

As we enter into 2018, I find myself thinking about the number “8” – God’s number of resurrection and new beginnings.

If you want a detailed explanation, I suggest a Google search. But here are a few simple observations:

  • Since 7 is God’s number of completion, 8 starts a new cycle of things.
  • Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, which was the 8th day from the start of the week He was crucified.
  • Noah was the 8th person to enter the ark, an event marking a whole new beginning for humankind.
  • Even apart from Biblical events, the world recognizes 8 as a number signifying a fresh start. For example, a week contains 7 days, so the 8th day is always the beginning of a new week. Likewise, musical octaves (from Latin octavus, meaning eighth) go from A to G (7 steps) before starting again at 8.

Perhaps you’re not very interested in Biblical numerology, but here’s a message that can be life-changing:

For many of us, 2018 could end up becoming “The Year of the 8th Option.”

Let me explain, using the story in 1 Samuel 16 of how David was selected among 7 other options …

The chapter begins with the Lord telling the prophet Samuel to visit Jesse’s house to anoint one of his sons as the next king. Seeing Jesse’s oldest son, Eliab, Samuel immediately assumed this was the one he should anoint as king.

You and I might have jumped to the same conclusion, assuming that the first option was the best option. However, if we’re wise, we will heed the Lord’s warning to Samuel:

Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

Let’s be honest: We’ve all failed this test at one time or another. We’ve looked at the “outward appearance” of things instead of discerning God’s choice and matters of the heart. We’ve been so eager to resolve a matter that we didn’t wait for the best option to appear.

In many ways, this was how the previous king had been selected. Saul was tall and handsome, coming from a good family and seeming to have a servant’s heart. Yet the choice turned out to be disastrous. This time Samuel wanted to make sure they got things right, so he intently listened to God’s instructions.

One by one, Jesse paraded his sons before Samuel. After Eliab came Abinadab, Shammah, and 7 sons in all. He must have been shocked when the prophet informed him after seeing the first 7 options, “The Lord has not chosen these” (v. 10).

Perhaps this is exactly where you find yourself as we enter 2018. You applied for jobs that seemed promising, but the door was always closed. You dated someone you had hopes of marrying, but things fell through. You found a publisher you wanted to handle your book, but they turned you down. You and your spouse had hopes of being pregnant by now, but somehow it still hasn’t happened.

In the case of Samuel, 7 very promising options appeared, yet the Lord refused to bless any of them. What could the problem be?

As the story unfolds, we see that God turned down the first 7 options for a very good reason: He had something BETTER in mind!   

Samuel probably felt some frustration at this point. He had attempted to meticulously follow God’s instructions, only to reach an apparent dead end. Can you relate?

“Are ALL the young men here?”  he finally asked Jesse.

Jesse replied that, yes indeed, there was an 8th option: “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep” (v. 11).

Don’t you love how Jesse says this? “There remains…” another option. Even when you feel like you’ve already exhausted all the options, it’s good to know that God isn’t done yet!

However, Jesse played down the qualifications of his son David. After all, he was the youngest of the sons, consigned to take care of the sheep while the older brothers were invited to attend Samuel’s prestigious gathering.

In the same way, perhaps there’s an option you’ve overlooked. Maybe there’s someone who’s not even on your radar screen right now, but they are called to be a vital part of your life or your team. Perhaps they’re an afterthought, not even invited to the party.

After Samuel took oil and anointed David in the presence of his very surprised brothers, “the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward” (v. 13).

Notice that something changed  for David that day. Although he probably was already a godly young man, no one seemed to recognize any special gifts or spiritual empowerment until Samuel anointed him. This day was a new beginning for David – and ultimately for the entire nation of Israel.

As we head into 2018, I hear many of you saying to yourself, “I feel like I’m running out of options.”  That could be a FANTASTIC place to be!

Remember: Only after Samuel ran out of visible options did he discover the 8th option – GOD’S option. And David not only was the last  option…he also was the best  option.

I’m praying for you today. Although you may be growing weary of “hope deferred”  (Proverbs 13:12), the answer to your hopes and dreams may be right around the corner.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

New Births & New Beginnings

skipping

On January 25, 1969, I experienced the miracle of the new birth when I asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life.

If you’ve never been born again, the experience Jesus described to the religious leader Nicodemus in John 3:1-8, you’re really missing out—not just in this life, but in eternity as well. There’s no other way to become a “new creation,” where “old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

However, lately I’ve been meeting lots of people who’ve already experienced the new birth, yet now they need something else: a new beginning.

You’ve probably met these folks too. They tell you something like, “I got saved back in 1995, and everything changed.” However, the more you get to know these well-meaning believers, the more apparent it becomes that something’s drastically missing. Maybe Jesus forgave their sins and stamped their ticket to heaven many years ago, but now they seem stuck in a dreary, unappealing religiosity.

Other religious folks eagerly tell you about the day they got “filled with the Holy Ghost.” But although that may have been a glorious day, now you can’t help but wonder if their filling with the Holy Ghost somehow leaked over the years. The love, joy, peace, and other fruit that’s evidence of being filled with the Spirit is nowhere to be found in their life anymore (see Galatians 5:22-23). Perhaps it’s time for a Holy Spirit “refill.”

I’m not trying to be mean. But these observations are unmistakable and troubling.

The reality is that we all need new beginnings at various points in our lives. The Bible is filled with stories of mighty heroes of the faith who needed a fresh start at one point or another:

  • Abraham was 100 and Sarah 90 when everything changed for them at the birth of their child Isaac (Genesis 21:5, 17:17).
  • Jacob experienced a new beginning when he saw a ladder reaching to an open heaven (Genesis 28:10-22), and then his life was transformed even more when he wrestled all night with God (Genesis 32:24-32).
  • Joseph suddenly went from the prison to the palace and became the Prime Minister over all of Egypt (Genesis 41:14).
  • Moses’ life was radically changed at age 80 when God spoke to him from the burning bush in the backside of the desert (Exodus 3:1-22).
  • Gideon was living in fear and self-preservation right before the Angel of the Lord appeared and commissioned him as a “mighty man of valor” to defeat the Midianites (Judges 6:11:24).
  • David desperately needed a new beginning after his adultery and murder were exposed (2 Samuel 12, Psalm 51).
  • Elijah was weary, depressed, and practically suicidal before God gave him a new purpose in life: mentoring the next generation (1 Kings 19:1-21).
  • Paul’s experience on the Damascus Road would surely be considered a new birth. But he later experienced several new beginnings too: when Barnabas got him involved in the church at Antioch (Acts 11:25-26) and when the Holy Spirit commissioned him and Barnabas to plant churches across the Roman Empire (Acts 13:1-4).

This is just a small sampling of the Bible’s stories about people who experienced a new beginning. If the Lord was willing to give these people a fresh start, don’t you think He’s able to give YOU one as well?

In the Gospels, Jesus triggered new beginnings everywhere He went. The list includes the woman at the well (John 4:1-30), the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:3-11), Lazarus raised from the dead (John 11:1-44), Jesus’ discouraged disciples receiving new hope after cowering behind locked doors in the wake of His cross (John 20:19-23)—and many more.

Do you see the message here? Even though I’m thrilled if you’ve experienced the new birth, it may be time for a new beginning as well. The good news is that God gladly offers to provide one when we ask Him (Isaiah 42:9, 43:19).

That means you don’t need to live a purposeless life or remain stuck in quicksand. Nor do you have to flounder in a sea of frustration and hopelessness.

But let me be clear: New beginnings aren’t always easy and pain-free. You could be required to make a geographical relocation and leave friends and loved ones behind (Genesis 12:1-4). You may need to wrestle with God until your hip is out of joint, or He could totally reroute your life by speaking to you from a burning bush.

You shouldn’t t be surprised if you have to strip off some graveclothes, as happened with Lazarus (John 11:44). And don’t forget about Elijah if your new beginning starts in a cloud of depression while you’re having a “personal retreat” in a dark, damp cave.

Finally, let me ask: Has God already given you some instructions for launching your new beginning? If so, this is no time to procrastinate or be bound by fear.

You see… the best way to get a fresh start is to get started!  Even if you don’t know where the path will lead, today you could take a step of faith that dramatically impacts your future.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Starting Over…at Any Age

I’ve been thinking a lot about the book of Ruth lately and the subject of “starting over.” The story describes two women, one old and one young, and both of them needed a new beginning.

Naomi and Ruth had experienced traumatic losses when their husbands died, and sometimes traumas like that can leave people “stuck” and emotionally paralyzed.

But Naomi makes a radical decision—she will return to Bethlehem, the place she and her husband originally lived before a famine led them to relocate to Moab. Ruth made a radical decision too—she would accompany her mother-in-law Naomi back to Bethlehem.

One of the intriguing things about this story is that Naomi received a fresh start by returning to her roots, but Ruth received a fresh start by going somewhere she had never been before.

I encourage you to take a moment and ask yourself what kind of new beginning you need today, whether in your health, your finances, your family, or perhaps even your relationship with God.

The next question is whether your fresh start will come from returning to your roots or through taking a bold new venture to do something you’ve never done before. Are you willing to listen to God’s instructions on this?

After Naomi lost her husband and sons, she would have thought you’re crazy to suggest that the rest of her life could truly be the best of her life—but it was. Not just for Naomi, but for Ruth as well.

Read the story for yourself sometime. You’re never too old or too young to get a fresh start.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

4 Steps to Getting Unstuck

The longer I live, the more convinced I am that most people are paralyzed or imprisoned in some way. No wonder the Bible tells so many stories about those who got healed of paralysis or set free from bondage and imprisonment.

When we read such Bible stories today, it’s easy to miss how these events apply to our lives. If we’ve never been physically paralyzed or lame, we can struggle to relate to the paralyzed man in Mark 2:1-12 or the lame man in Acts 3:1-12. And if we’ve never done jail time, we can assume there’s not much we can learn from Joseph’s release from an Egyptian dungeon (Genesis 39-40) or the supernatural prison breaks of Peter (Acts 12:1-19) and Paul and Silas (Acts 16:16-40).

But, you see, the imprisonment most people face today is emotional and spiritual rather than physical. They’ve been traumatized by their journey through life, whether through the consequences of their own bad decisions or through the unkind actions of others.

In John 20:19-29 Jesus’ disciples were locked in a self-imposed prison after experiencing the trauma of their Master’s unjust arrest, brutal beating, and horrific crucifixion. Today we sometimes call those events “Good Friday,” but there seemed nothing “good” about the cross of Calvary at the time. The disciples were understandably devastated, gathered together behind locked doors because of fear of the Jewish leaders.

Suddenly Jesus appeared to these shell-shocked men. Although preachers sometimes say, based on Revelation 3:20, that Jesus always knocks before entering our situation, that’s simply not true. This time He just came right on in, bypassing every defense mechanism in order to release these traumatized followers from their emotional bondage.

This is one of the most pivotal scenes in the entire Bible. It’s not an overstatement to say that the whole fate of the church and the expansion of God’s kingdom rested on what would happen in the lives of these shattered men.

The disciples had left everything to follow Jesus, believing that their lives would ultimately change the world. Now their dreams seemed to have reached a cruel dead end. Dazed and confused, they were very unlikely candidates for any kind of heroic, world-changing mission.

So how did Jesus turn the worst of times into the best of times for these emotionally damaged followers? He addressed four different snares that were holding these men in spiritual captivity:

  1. FEAR – Not just once, but twice, Jesus told them, “Peace be with you.” And when they “saw the Lord,” their fear and anguish were replaced with great joy. If you are feeling “stuck” in some area of your life today, it’s likely that fear is one of the things holding you back. Just as He did for the disciples, Jesus wants to penetrate your closed doors and replace your fear with faith, and your anxiety with His peace and joy.
  2. PURPOSELESSNESS – These men who had taken such bold steps to leave their careers and families in order to change the world with Jesus were now left without a purpose or a vision. They had abandoned and denied their Savior in His hour of need, and now their traumatized condition seemed to disqualify them from any significant usefulness in His plan. Nevertheless, Jesus re-commissioned and affirmed them with fresh vision and purpose: As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”What an encouraging story for us today. Even when we feel like failures, unusable by God, He can reaffirm our calling and give us a new commission to impact the world.
  3. WEAKNESS – In addition to a lack of purpose, Jesus’ disciples were suffering from a lack of power. A new commission would have fallen on deaf ears unless they also received new empowerment. Recognizing their need, Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” In their own strength, they never would have been able to fulfill His majestic plan for their lives—nor can you or I. But, empowered by the Spirit, we can transform the world (Acts 1:8, Philippians 4:13).
  4. FORGIVENESS ISSUES – Jesus showed them His wounds, proof that they had been forgiven by His shed blood. But then He talked to them about their calling to extend His forgiveness to OTHERS. If you are in some kind of spiritual prison today, there’s a good chance that forgiveness is one of the keys needed to set you free. Perhaps you need to RECEIVE God’s full forgiveness of your past, releasing you from any guilt, shame, or condemnation. Or maybe you are still locked in emotional bondage because you’ve not yet forgiven someone who has hurt you. Either way, forgiveness is an indispensable key to your spiritual and emotional freedom.

I encourage you to read this list again, asking God to show you which of these four keys are needed to help you get unstuck and ready to fulfill your destiny as a follower of Christ.

Perhaps you’ve been hiding out behind closed doors for a long time now, traumatized by some experience that has been hard to shake. But if Jesus could take these distraught men from the shadow of the cross to the glory of resurrection life, surely He can transform your life and give you a new beginning.

Like Jesus’ disciples, you may seem like an unlikely world-changer today. But once He has freed you from fear, given you fresh vision, empowered you by His Spirit, and dealt with your forgiveness issues, your life can be amazing. You don’t have to wait any longer!


OHIO FRIENDS: I would love to have you join me at Judah Christian Community in Columbus as I preach there Sunday, May 31, at 10 a.m. The church is located at 972 Beechwood Road, and we will meet for lunch at the Whitehall MCL Cafeteria afterward for lunch. Don’t miss it! My message will help you see your past, present, and future in a whole new light!

 

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter