"Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown!"
And he replied:
"Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way."
So, I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night
And He led me toward the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.
May I take a few moments of your time on this New Year's Eve and share what is on my heart?
I am now 83 years of age. God has blessed me with a long life. It is in part the fulfillment of the first of the 10 Commandments with a promise which is actually the fifth commandment. It reads like this:
"Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you" (Exodus 20:12, NIV).
My parents taught me to honor and respect the Sabbath Day, which we, who are Christians, believe it is Sunday. I have good friends who think it is Saturday. Whatever day you keep, God will honor you. Those who honor God, He will honor and bless.
My parents taught me to go to Sunday school and church. The only time we ever missed, as I recall, was when we were sick. That was rare, and our attendance at church each Sunday was expected and required. I have always loved to go to church, except for a brief time when I was a young Marine I thought I didn't have to go, no one was watching me, and I was no longer under the authority of my parents. That attitude and mindset didn't last long.
A young Methodist Navy chaplain assigned to the Marine Corps at Quantico got out of his office and visited us where were were. His ministry of presence with the cross of his uniform reminded me that God was watching--the God to Whom I gave my heart and life to at the age of six, and I had a choice to make. I remembered what Joshua said to the Children of Israel, He told them they had a choice to make: "Choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" (Joshua 24:15, KJV).
I chose God and I stood on the side of Joshua the servant of the Lord and the leader who followed Moses.
I do not understand why some Christians can choose not to attend church. It is beyond my thinking and understanding.
I need God every moment of every day. I need to be with the people of God who come to Sunday school to study the Word of God, and to pray together and for one another. I need to learn how other Christians are living their lives for Jesus. I need their encouragement and their testimony of faith in God.
Then, I need to worship, to sing the hymns and spiritual songs of the church, and the songs that are being written and put to music by younger people. I need to join in and learn those songs too. When I do, my spirit is bolstered and I experience the presence of God in a special way as I sit next to Melvine, my wife of over 55 years.
I need to hear our pastor preach. I take notes on what he says, and it helps me keep my focus on the message God has given him for us. It is wonderful thing to realize that God has called young men and women to preach. I thank God for my new pastor, Brad Cooper, who prepares to preach, and he seeks the Mind of God for what He wants us to hear. My soul is satisfied, and I think about what my pastor preaches all week. I am grateful, too, that the Holy Spirit applies in my life the Word I received from God's servant my pastor.
My role now is to be present, say Amen, as the pastor preaches. I remember well how the Amen's helped me to preach. I want to be the pastor's best friend. I am not there to tell him what he should or not do. He is to follow the Lord and do what He directs him to do.
I know that 2016 will be the best year of my life. I have placed my hand into the Hand of Jesus, and wherever He leads me I want to hold His hand. I need balance, stability, and His presence in my life. He comforts me and leads me in paths of righteousness for His Name Sake.
Let me close with the benediction that Jude, a half brother of Jesus, gives in his brief book in the New Testament, the book just before the Book of Revelation:
Jude 24, 25
"To Him Who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy-- 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen."
Who will you choose in 2016?