VIDEO The Train of Life – Love Your God

Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the first and great commandment. Matthew 22:37-38

A study in 2016 found that 41 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, but by the end of the year only 9 percent claimed success in keeping their resolutions. Reasons for failure to keep resolutions abound: unrealistic goals, poor record-keeping, forgetfulness, and an unreasonable number of resolutions.[1]

When it comes to making New Year’s resolutions for the coming year, perhaps we should follow the counsel of the fourth-century Church father, Augustine of Hippo: “Once and for all, I give you this one short command: love, and do what you will.” That advice comes from a series of sermons Augustine preached on love as discussed in the letter of 1 John. He also expressed the corollary: “But to have love and be a bad person is impossible.” We could blend Augustine’s words with Jesus’ words and say, “Love God and do what you will.”

Consider one resolution for the coming year: Love God with all you have and are—then do what you will. That should be the first and greatest resolution we make and keep. 

Love, and do what you will.  Augustine

The Train of Life (with Susan Boyle singing Auld Lang Syne)

Finishing StrongBible in a Year:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

At the age of 103, a woman named Man Kaur competed as India’s oldest female athlete during the 2019 World Masters Athletic Championship in Poland. Remarkably, Kaur won gold in four events (javelin throw, shot put, 60-meter dash, and 200-meter run). But most astounding was that she ran faster than she ran in the 2017 championship. A great-grandmother running into her second century, Kaur showed how to finish strong.

The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, a younger disciple, of how he’d entered his concluding years. “The time for my departure is near,” Paul wrote (2 Timothy 4:6). Reflecting on his life, he confidently believed he was finishing strong. “I have fought the good fight,” Paul said. “I have finished the race” (v. 7). He wasn’t confident because he’d calculated his impressive accomplishments or surveyed his vast impact (though they were immense). Rather, he knew he’d “kept the faith” (v. 7). The apostle had remained loyal to Jesus. Through sorrows and joys, he’d followed the One who’d rescued him from ruin. And he knew that Jesus stood ready with a “crown of righteousness,” the joyful finale to his faithful life (v. 8).

Paul insists that this crown isn’t for an elite few but for “all who have longed for [Christ’s] appearing” (v. 8). As we head into a new year, let’s remember that Jesus stands eager to crown all who’ve loved Him, and may we live to finish strong.

By:  Winn Collier

Reflect & Pray

What would it look like for you to finish strong? Who has been an example of finishing well?

God, I want to finish well. Help me to love You more than anything or anyone else.

For further study, read Finishing Well: Gracefully Living with Life’s Changes.

Let the Spirit Control Your Mind

Our toughest battles are fought with the person we face in the mirror. Luke 15:11-19

How we think determines how we will behave, so we must learn to think of ourselves the way God does—as new creations no longer under sin’s mastery. We can be “more than conquerors” regardless of our previous sins (Rom. 8:37 NIV).

We also need to recognize the enemy’s lies and fight back with God’s truth that declares Christ’s Spirit is greater than Satan (1 John 4:4). We’re to focus our mind on things that matter spiritually (Philippians 4:8) so we’ll learn to distinguish between what fits us as believers and what does not. Finally, we must choose what is suitable and reject what is ungodly. The longer we are Spirit-led, the more sensitive we’ll become to His warnings about temptation. Not only that, but we’ll be better prepared to win the battle for our thought life.

The Spirit-filled life starts with the gift of the Holy Spirit to all who receive Christ as Savior. As we choose to place ourselves under the Spirit’s control, His divine power is released into our life. For our part, diligence is needed to resist temptation and maintain our surrendered state. So trade in your “independent mind,” and experience the victories God gives to those who are Spirit-filled. 

Glorifying God Through Praise

“Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.” (Psalm 50:23)

The great summarizing commandment of the apostle Paul was, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). That is, every aspect of our lives should be so ordered as to glorify God in whatever we say and do.

This is a difficult rule to follow, for how do we determine whether such and such an action glorifies God or not? Nevertheless, there is one thing we can do that we can be absolutely certain does glorify Him—that is, offering to Him our praise and our thanks. We should offer praise for His person and work in general, thanks for what He is and does for us in particular. “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me!”

This is His assurance and our incentive to praise Him in all things. “In every thing give thanks,” says the apostle, “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

On this last day of the year, especially, praise and thanks should pour from our hearts and lips if we would “ordereth our conversation aright.” “Bless the LORD, O my soul,” says the psalmist, “and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2). Most of us all too commonly tend to forget all His benefits and fret over our troubles and burdens.

If we desire to glorify God, on the other hand, we should recount all our blessings and leave our burdens with Him. In the words of the old hymn: “Count your many blessings, see what God hath done!” Then will “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) fill our hearts and minds, enabling the indwelling Holy Spirit to “shew the salvation of God” not only to us, but in us and through us to others. HMM

If Worse Comes to Worst

The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children.Psalm 103:17

If the world’s foundations crumble we still have God, and in Him we have everything essential to our ransomed beings forever.

We [also] have Christ, who…died for us and who now sits at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens making constant and effective intercession for us.

We have the Scriptures, which can never fail.

We have the Holy Spirit to interpret the Scriptures to our inner lives and to be to us a Guide and a Comforter.

We have prayer and we have faith, and these bring heaven to earth and turn even bitter Marah sweet.

And if worse comes to worst here below, we have our Father’s house and our Father’s welcome. TWP025

“The man of the year” cannot impress those men and women who are making their plans for that long eternity when days and years have passed away and time is no more. NCA009

Commending Our Savior

At that time those who feared the Lord spoke to one another.Malachi 3:16

It is vital to share Christ with others: experience and expression are the alternate beats of the Christian heart. And if these two things are not in operation, the Christian heart ceases to beat. Then what happens? We settle down to dead forms, dead attitudes, and dead prayers.

This matter of sharing, however, must not be limited only to evangelism. It applies also to sharing with other Christians the things God has shared with us.

If God has shown you something today from His Word, then it is imperative that you share it with another Christian. As we have been saying, nothing is really ours until we share it—the expression will deepen the impression. So in seeking to stay spiritually fresh, discipline yourself to share appropriate issues with your Christian and non-Christian friends. Many do not do this. They are disciplined in their quiet time or their study of the Scriptures, but they have never disciplined themselves to share. Someone has defined a Christian as one who says by word or deed: “Let me commend my Savior to you.” There is no better definition.

I saw a cartoon in a newspaper which showed a woman putting a garment around the shivering body of a little girl. Behind the woman stood Christ throwing a cloak around her shoulders. The title of the cartoon was this: “A proven assembly line.” It is indeed. Give out to others, and it will be given to you—pressed down and running over. Especially running over.


Father, I reach up to You with one hand and reach out to those in need with the other. Give me some word or message to pass on to a non-Christian or one of my Christian brothers or sisters this day. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Further Study

Jr 20:1-9; Ac 4:20; 2Co 4:13

What was Jeremiah’s confession?

What does believing produce?

It Is Finished!

When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” Then bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.John 19:30

God always finishes what He begins (Phil. 1:6). God never speaks a word without ensuring that it comes to pass (Isa. 55:11). Christ is both the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end (Rev. 1:8, 17). Christ is as much at the end of His work as He is at its beginning.

Jesus was given an enormous mandate. He was to live a sinless life, remaining absolutely obedient to His Father. Even the manner of His death was to fulfill numerous prophecies that had been foretold in Scripture (Matt. 26:24, 31, 54, 56; 27:9, 35, 46; John 19:28, 36–37). Yet, despite the extremely complex assignment Jesus received from His Father, He could shout triumphantly from the cross, “It is finished!”

Christ now resides within each believer. His assignment today is to complete God’s will in each Christian. He is just as determined to do this in us as He was to complete God’s will for Himself. You will have to resist Christ in order to remain out of the will of God. What is it God wants to do in you? Have you allowed Him to complete what He has begun? He will not force you to receive all that He has for your life. If God’s work has not been brought to fruition in you, it is not that Christ has not been diligently working toward that end. Rather, you may need to release areas of your life to Him and be as determined to see God’s work in you completed as Christ is. Review the things God has said to you over this last year. Are there promises God has made to you that you have refused to allow Him to complete? If so, commit to yield your will to God today.

VIDEO Prepare for 2023

For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel. Ezra 7:10

The end of December is often a time of preparation for the coming year. Resolutions are made. Closets are organized. Calendars are synced. The beginning of a new year is a natural time for putting life back in order after the busyness of the Christmas season.

This is a time when many decide to get their spiritual life back on track as well. Just as we need to prepare our home and schedule for what’s ahead, we need to prepare our heart too. In these days before 2023 begins, take time not only to prepare your calendar but also to prepare your heart for what the new year holds. Spend time reflecting on what God has done for you in 2022 and asking for wisdom as you begin 2023. Determine to spend time in God’s Word each day, to obey Him, and to share the Good News with others. Follow the example of Ezra and prepare your heart to seek the Lord first!

There is nothing that will enrich our lives more than a deeper and clearer perception of God’s presence in the routine of daily living. William O. Paulsell

Sermon: “The Hand of God” on Ezra 7:1-10 | Pastor Colin Smith

Grace Amid the Chaos

They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. Psalm 107:30

I was drifting off into an impromptu nap when it hit me. From the basement, my son ripped a chord on his electric guitar. The walls reverberated. No peace. No quiet. No nap. Moments later, competing music greeted my ears: my daughter playing “Amazing Grace” on the piano.

Normally, I love my son’s guitar playing. But in that moment, it jarred and unsettled me. Just as quickly, the familiar notes of John Newton’s hymn reminded me that grace thrives amid the chaos. No matter how loud, unwanted, or disorienting the storms of life might be, God’s notes of grace ring clear and true, reminding us of His watchful care over us.  

We see that reality in Scripture. In Psalm 107:23–32, sailors struggle mightily against a maelstrom that could easily devour them. “In their peril, their courage melted away” (v. 26). Still, they didn’t despair but “cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress” (v. 28). Finally, we read: “They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven” (v. 30).

In chaotic moments, whether they’re life-threatening or merely sleep-threatening, the barrage of noise and fear can storm our souls. But as we trust God and pray to Him, we experience the grace of His presence and provision—the haven of His steadfast love.

By:  Adam Holz

Reflect & Pray

When have you experienced God’s haven of peace in other people? To whom might you offer similar encouragement?  

Father, help me to remember to call out to You when the waters of life are rising, and help me to offer hope to others.

For further study, read Navigating the Storms of Life.

No Unimportant Work

God sees and rewards every act of obedience, no matter how small it may seem

Colossians 4:7-18

At first glance, the final verses of Colossians seem to have little theological impact. Most of the people listed here, with the exception of Luke and Mark, are unfamiliar. We could easily dismiss these verses, skipping over them to delve into 1 Thessalonians. But these verses carry the subtle message that no ministry is unimportant. 

For instance, Tychicus, the first mentioned, played an incredible role—wherever he appears in Scripture, he is running errands for Paul (Acts 20:4Ephesians 6:212 Timothy 4:12). Thanks to this man, the Colossian epistle traveled over 1,300 miles to its destination, then moved from church to church to be read repeatedly and copied. Without Paul’s conscientious assistant, modern believers might not have this valuable letter. 

We tend to judge types of service as important or unimportant. Too often pride inhibits our approval of a particular ministry. We want a big, impressive job to prove to everyone how much we love God. However, what the Lord desires is the exact opposite: He wants our love to motivate us to do anything He asks, no matter how insignificant or unnoticeable it may seem. 

What is God asking you to do that you are resisting? Repent of your pride and humble yourself to do all that He desires. None of God’s work is unimportant.