A new year always brings with it a renewed sense of starting anew. It is a clean, blank, page ready to be filled in with fun and excitement. I think that it is a part of our design. When we find our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ we are said to be ‘reborn.’ The Bible assures us that we are loved the way we are, and we are given new mercies every morning.
For over 20 years I was privileged to regularly partner with the local Phoenix branch of a national ministry called Teen Challenge. Teen Challenge was started by David Wilkerson in the late 50’s when he realized the need to reach out with compassion to his local New York neighborhood after he had read an article in Life Magazine. He believed that God told him to “go and help those boys.” David responded and now Teen Challenge has hundreds of locations across the nation serving both men and women. My introduction to Teen Challenge was through a radio fundraiser, a share-a-thon, for the local chapter. The Rev. Snow Peabody, a warm and kind man, brought a number of young men to the radio station to give their testimonies on-air. Now let me say right off that Snow did not strike me as someone to be hanging out with drug and alcohol addicts; far from it. Rev. Peabody is quiet and soft spoken, gentle in his manner. The respect he received from the young men gathered around my broadcast microphone was impressive. As I was to learn, many of these young men were refugees from a hard life on the streets. My eyes were opened to the realities of life on the street as they told me stories of begging, stealing, and worse to get their next ‘hit.’ A few of the testimonies were completely different. One young man had been raised in a Christian home. Another came from a prominent and wealthy family. From this diversity of their circumstances, I quickly realized the truth of “but for the grace of God go I.” I was blessed to talk with men that were at every stage of the treatment schedule. Some were just a few weeks into the program, others had graduated, and many were in between. Some were shy to tell their story, and some were bold and joyful, but all of them had a light in their eyes. Every one of them knew, unashamedly, that they had been saved from certain death by their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Although I have heard hundreds of stories over the years, one of my very favorite ones to tell comes from that first broadcast. A man that had a debilitating heroin addiction had gone completely through the Teen Challenge program and returned to help others find their way to freedom in Christ. His story sticks in my memory because of a shared entrepreneurial bent. Joe (not his real name) had just started a business and he was so excited! “Heels on Wheels” was a mobile shoe repair business and it was already seeing success. I in fact called him up later that year on behalf of a co-worker needing his services. Joe embodied Galatians 5:13 (NASB) “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Service with a smile. Joe could not wait to share his testimony with me and share the joy he had sharing the Gospel with almost everyone he met. Joe had been given a fresh start and he was making the most of it.
When I say that this fresh start phenomenon is a part of our design and is God’s gift to us, I do so in part because the deceiver works so hard to make us think that we are relegated to the failures of our past. The devil hates every good thing from the Father, and he does not want us to live in the love and freedom available to us in Christ. When we hold onto our past failures, hurts, and angers, we are making it easy for the deceiver to keep us from experiencing the love available to each one of us. Now I realize that we are all different in our personalities and persuasions. For instance, Monday is my favorite day of the week. I am a morning person; I love to get up early and see what God has for me today. However, my wife is retired, and the days are not so different from each other now. What’s more is that she is NOT a morning person. So, this ‘blank page’ may be different for you depending on how God knitted you together. But God HAS given you a new day, a new year, to live in His grace and mercy. He has given you a fresh start. Step out boldly in the freedom He wants for you.
You can reach Tom via email at [email protected] with any questions or comments or if you would like to join with him to Read the Bible Through in 202Won.