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New Beginnings

It's the beginning of a new year! I hope your celebrations were all you had hoped they would be. So, let me ask you this: along with the fireworks and noisemakers, any resolutions ringing in your ears?

I know, I know. We get asked this question every year. But before your mind automatically goes to those few extra pounds gained, or those dreaded bills anticipated, let me offer a different resolution. How about resolving for the next month to read in the Bible the book of Matthew? It's not that long, only 28 chapters (and some of them are pretty short!). When you do, I think you might be pleasantly surprised.

While Matthew starts with a genealogy of Jesus (don't give up on me yet!), you don't get very far into it before discovering something astounding. Actually it's more than astounding. It's relieving. And I like it. Matthew goes out of his way to show us that Jesus' very human family tree was made up of very dysfunctional people. It included several less-than-honest, self-centered, or just plain old desperate men and women. Just look at a couple of the women...

First, there is Rahab, the harlot. Yes, a prostitute. She's the one who protected the two Hebrew spies in Jericho in return for her own guarantee of safety. After coming to know and trust the God of the Hebrews, she later married a Hebrew man. Rahab gave birth to a son whose name was Boaz. And yes, this is the same Boaz who we know was the great-grandfather of King David. Rahab's full story is found in Joshua, chapter 2.

Another limb on Jesus' family tree was the "wife of Uriah" (that's how she's noted!). As I read that, I wondered why Matthew would refer to her in that way? To simply call her Bathsheba would have been enough. But I believe that God wanted to remind us that even someone like Bathsheba, a wife fallen in adultery, could be forgiven. And not only forgiven, but placed in a position of importance. You see, this forgiven adulterer was to become one vital link in a chain of imperfect people. The chain that would introduce Perfection to the world.

What I love about these stories is the beautiful simplicity of grace. God, Himself, reached into each sin-stained situation and brought gentle healing. Healing not only to the innocent victims of selfishness, but also to the self-inflicted pain of His wayward children.

But first they had to acknowledge their need of Him.

It's like the time our three-year-old son tipped onto the floor a large, freshly-made pitcher of red Kool-Aid. Eric stood in the middle of his scarlet lake, stunned. He didn't move a muscle. He waited in his soggy socks for someone, anyone, to come and lift him out. Completely helpless, Eric didn't know how to get out of his mess, much less clean it up. He needed help.

But isn't that the place where we all need to begin? We need to stop trying to put the Kool-Aid back into the pitcher and just stand still. Like a child with his arms outstretched for help, we need to let God lift us out of the middle of our mess, carefully peel away our sin-soaked socks, and give us a clean start. That is what He did for Rahab, Bathsheba, and countless others. And that is exactly what He wants to do for us. But first we have to acknowledge our need for Him.

I believe that by detailing these very imperfect people in the historical genealogy of Jesus, Almighty God is telling us something. Perhaps He wants us to realize that no matter what our past, there is Hope. And Hope has a name. His name is Jesus.

As we take our eyes off of the red stain of our Kool-Aid mess and put them on the red flow of the Cross, we realize something. The work has already been done. We just need to accept it. Because of Jesus, out of our sin can come sinlessness. Out of our brokenness can come restoration. Out of our shame can come redemption. All because of the Baby whose birth we just celebrated. All because of what He did for us on the Cross. All because He knows what we need most... is a new beginning.

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God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
- James1:12 NLT
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Dear God, sometimes my "testing" season seems so long. Please give me courage to endure until the end. Help me not to bail! You said you would bless me for hanging in there - I will not give up on you or your promises. You are with me and will see me through this trial.