VIDEO Are You Ready for a New Year? New Year’s Restoration

So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten. Joel 2:25

After the disruptions of the past two years, many people feel stuck in a rut. Habit patterns shifted. Many people began watching church services online while sitting in their recliners at home. Small groups struggled to stay together. We autotomized our giving. We began working from our kitchen tables. Many parents tended to their children all day, trying to help them with online learning. We wondered if we would ever feel normal again.

The people in Joel’s day suffered a pestilence of locust, but God promised to restore them—and to restore the losses they had sustained. Ask Him to do the same for you. The Lord Jesus is a master at restoring and reviving His people. One pastor simply prayed, “Lord, I need a fresh anointing!” 

Why not ask God for a fresh start in 2022? Ask Him to restore your soul and to give you a fresh burden for the new year. Ask Him to make up for what’s been lost.

He can and will restore joy and productivity to your life!

Like a watch, the human spirit can just run down….God has the power and willingness to breathe a new breath of life into one who has lost. Charles Allen

Joel 1-3

Life by Death

When I see the blood, I will pass over you. Exodus 12:13

Carl was battling cancer and needed a double lung transplant. He asked God for new lungs but felt odd doing so. He confessed it’s a strange thing to pray, because “someone has to die so I might live.”  

Carl’s dilemma highlights a basic truth of Scripture: God uses death to bring life. We see this in the story of the exodus. Born into slavery, the Israelites languished under the oppressive hands of the Egyptians. Pharaoh wouldn’t release his grip until God made it personal. Every eldest son would die unless the family killed a spotless lamb and slathered its blood across their doorposts (Exodus 12:6–7, 12–13).

Today, you and I have been born into the bondage of sin. Satan wouldn’t release his grip on us until God made it personal, sacrificing His perfect Son on the blood-spattered arms of the cross.

Jesus calls us to join Him there. Paul explained, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). When we put our faith in God’s spotless Lamb, we commit to daily dying with Him—dying to our sin so we might rise with Him to new life (Romans 6:4–5). We express this faith every time we say no to the shackles of sin and yes to the freedom of Christ. We’re never more alive than when we die with Jesus.

By:  Mike Wittmer

Reflect & Pray

Why is death the only path to life? How have you shown that you’ve received Jesus’ death on your behalf?

Jesus, Your death brings me life. Help me die to sin today and live my life through You.

Learning Spiritual Discernment

Spiritual discernment develops over time as we study the Word and put into practice what we learn

Hebrews 5:11-14

Yesterday we learned spiritual discernment develops progressively over time. The Lord doesn’t simply pour knowledge into our head after we’re saved. It’s important to regularly seek His will and study the Word in order to know Him better. We should also ask the Holy Spirit to help us understand Scripture and obey what it says. 

The church is another avenue of instruction. As the Bible is taught and explained, we gain a foundation of truth on which to build our life. But let’s not be satisfied with simply knowing the basics of the faith. By digging deeply into the Word and wrestling with more weighty issues, we’ll gain a vaster understanding of what the Lord desires and expects. 

But no matter how much information we accumulate, discernment is produced only by putting into practice what we’ve learned. It does no good to sit in church week after week without ever applying the scriptural principles taught there.  

Spiritual maturity is measured not by what we know but by how faithful we are to apply what we know. It’s through our obedience that God trains us to discern good and evil—then we can live wisely and righteously.

Abraham’s Separation Test

“Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac. And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son.” (Genesis 21:10-11)

After Isaac had been weaned, Sarah noticed Ishmael mocking her and Isaac (Genesis 21:9). During the years since Hagar had given birth to Ishmael (at the insistence of Sarah), Abraham had grown to love Ishmael and had no doubt treated him and Hagar with respect. Now this sudden banishment was demanded under terms that were both harsh and apparently arbitrary.

Nonetheless, God approved because Hagar and Ishmael had become the specific illustration of a distinction between the “flesh” and the “heir” (Genesis 21:12). Although God would take care of Ishmael for Abraham’s sake, Abraham must separate himself and his family from that which would never become part of the Messianic line (Galatians 4:23-31).

The contrast of the two sons is a major teaching in Scripture. Galatians 3:16-29 provides most of the main biblical information. The promise was made to “the seed” (as singular) and the focus is on Christ, not Isaac. All people are under sin and are given the promise by faith. When we believe, we become children of God, in vivid contrast to the “son of the bondwoman.”

That faith is outside of physical relationships, and we become heirs according to the promise. That sacred relationship has been verified by God Himself (Hebrews 6:17-20), making us nothing less than joint-heirs with Jesus Christ (Romans 8:17-21). Thus, all who are heirs can never be connected to the “bondwoman” (Galatians 4:30-31). HMM III

Finding Refuge

I have taken refuge in the Lord. How can you say to me, “Escape to the mountain like a bird! The Lord is in His holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven. His eyes watch; He examines everyone. For the Lord is righteous; He loves righteous deeds. The upright will see His face (Psalm 11 vv. 1, 4, 7).

David’s friends advised him to flee to a mountain cave for safety. He was being pursued—perhaps by Saul or by Absalom. But instead of giving in to panic, he placed his faith in the Lord as his refuge.

I’m a peacemaker. I’ll go to any lengths to avoid conflict and as a result experience much distress in interpersonal relationships. I’m not alone—people today flee pain and stress through the misuse of work (even the Lord’s work), sex, drugs, and alcohol.

The Lord is in residence, not in flight. He is always there as a refuge and shelter for his people. His city has foundations; his temple is secure. Instead of wallowing in fear, David exercised faith and found a complete and satisfying security in the righteousness and justice of God.

When I feel trapped, I must trust God and believe in the freedom that comes from his truth (John 8:31-32). Because of his just rule, the wicked will go down in judgment and ruin, but I will behold him face-to-face. The child of God always has a happy ending to look forward to.

Personal Prayer

O Lord, as I live in the middle of a rootlessness and complexity of modern life, may I find my refuge and shelter in you.

A Gospel Song Lyric

A Shelter in the Time of Storm

The Lord’s our Rock, in Him we hide,

A Shelter in the time of storm;

Secure whatever ill betide,

A Shelter in the time of storm.

O Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,

A weary land, a weary land;

O Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,

A Shelter in the time of storm.

O Rock divine, O Refuge dear,

A Shelter in the time of storm;

Be Thou our helper ever near,

A Shelter in the time of storm.

Words by Vernon J. Charlesworth. Music by Ira D. Sankey.

The Example of Jacob

If God will … watch over me … and if I return safely … then the Lord will be my God.—Genesis 28:20-21

One of the things we discover about ourselves when we look deep into our hearts is a spirit of demandingness. We demand that people treat us in the way we believe they should. We demand that people support us in times of trouble. We demand that no one comes close to hurting us in the way that we might have been hurt in childhood. Wedged tightly in the recesses of our heart is this ugly splinter that, if not removed, will produce a poison that will infect every part of our lives.

Let there be no mistaking this issue—if we are to pursue God wholeheartedly, then the spirit of demandingness that resides in every human heart must be identified and removed.

Jacob is probably one of the clearest biblical illustrations of a demanding spirit. He insisted on having his father’s blessing for himself and took advantage of his brother’s hunger, buying his birthright for a plate of stew. Later, Jacob went through a kind of half conversion, making God his God and giving Him a tenth and so on, but deep in his heart there was still residing this spirit of demandingness.

It shows itself again at Paddan-aram where, after marrying Rachel, he worked out a scheme to make himself rich at his father-in-law’s expense (Gn 30:41-43). He was still Jacob—the man who demanded to have his own way. He had talked about himself in terms of honesty—”my honesty will testify for me” (Gn 30:33)—but it was nothing more than above-the-waterline honesty. His mind was changed, but not his heart.


O Father, I am so grateful that You have recorded in Scripture so many illustrations of the truths You want me to know. I see so much of myself in Jacob. Help me from this day forward to be less and less like him in this. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Further Study

Lk 15:11-32; Mt 20:1-16

How did the prodigal’s brother display demandingness?

How did Jesus illustrate it?

Interpreting the Scriptures

2 Peter 1:19-21

What are the guiding principles by which we interpret the Scriptures? How shall we know that what we believe is true? A sound foundational method is needed, and I contend that our own Wesleyan heritage provides that method for us with what is termed the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. As the name suggests, it identifies four keys for establishing Christian truth and doctrine: the Bible first, and then the interpretation of the Bible by tradition, reason and experience.

John Wesley held that Scripture has the first and ultimate authority, as the Reformers had taught before him. However, people interpret Scripture from various perspectives, and Wesley believed that the three major perspectives should be tradition, reason and experience.

The tradition of the church is of vital importance in determining theological truth. We need to look not only to our own church history, and not only to Wesleyan history. We must look to the tradition and teaching of the historic, orthodox Church and learn from that tradition.

Reason is also of utmost importance. People are mistaken when they pit experience against reason, as though we can serve God with our hearts but not with our minds. God is the creator of our minds as well as our feelings. He has given us the capacity to reason, and our minds are redeemed at the moment of salvation just as much as any other aspect of us. Full intention of the Scriptures will never be realized without careful study and thoughtful interpretation.

Finally, our experience has a contribution to make. Not the primary contribution. Too often Christian people make experience the chief means by which they interpret the Bible, their touchstone of theology. In experience there is both a danger and glory. The danger is that our experiences and feelings come and go. They can beget all kinds of strange and wonderful thoughts, as well as strange interpretations of biblical texts.

The glory is that God works through our feelings and emotions and accepts them as part of the way we understand Him. He has implanted in us a heart with which to worship, a mouth to praise Him, hands to clap, feet to dance and imagination to create in rejoicing in God our Savior. We rejoice in our experiences when we recognize their place in our lives. However, we recognize that there is no sustaining power in experience without Scripture, tradition and reason.

Roger J. Green, The War Cry