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New, Not Improved

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    We will use any edge we can to market our “stuff” these days. Two merely cosmetic techniques are widely practiced. One technique is to change the packaging to make the product look nicer, different, and better without making any changes at all in the product itself — “Packaging is everything” the old adage goes. The other technique is really a labeling ploy and not much of a change. Make a small insignificant change in the product, and then market it as “new and improved.”

    We can easily get caught up in a similar shell game in our spiritual lives. We make a few cosmetic changes, and then talk about our new insight that has revolutionized everything about our spiritual walk. A friend sent me an e-mail recently and compared it to a “remodeled” café in his area. The owners had painted the place, gotten new menus, and even claimed to have a different manager. Everything was “new and improved.” The problem was, the cook was the same, the items listed in the new menus were the same, and the food was as bad as ever.

    When we first come to the Lord, we are blessed with a new life! Phrases like “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) and “born anew” (John 3:3-7) and “live a new life” (Romans 6:3-4) are used to describe our walk with God. But what happens when we’ve been in the trenches of Kingdom warfare awhile? Where is that newness that we first knew? Where is the excitement and anticipation with each new day? Does it have to go away? Can we keep it from fading?

Life can be new for us each day!
    No, our freshness in the Lord doesn’t have to fade! Life can be new for us each day! Sure, we will face some very difficult times. Life makes sure of that because we are flawed people who love flawed people and because we are all mortal. But if the Great Lamenter could say, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning...” (Lamentations 3:22-24) while in the midst of devastation and horror, I believe we can find newness in each new day as well.

    To experience God’s newness, we’re going to have resist the quick fixes and realize that only an encounter with the Lord can give us this newness. Sticking “new and improved” on lifeless predictability isn’t going to make it spiritual renewal. Changing the menu without changing the cook is not going to leave us with anything other than a prettier environment to eat the same old stuff. The Lord wants us to have genuine freshness in our lives. So instead of distracting ourselves by changing cosmetically, let’s really pursue an encounter with the Living God!

    How do we do that?

    We seek him! We yearn for him! We pray for him to enter our lives! We offer ourselves to be used by him! We minister in his name, sharing and sacrificing to bring him glory.

    But rather than me listing a quick little Phil-formula for you to try, why don’t you join me in opening up the Word of God each day between now and the end of the year. Let’s look for the Lord’s will to enter our world, encounter us in special ways, and make us new. Get a special colored marker or pen, and start marking the verses you find for those days when life does seem old and stale. Ask the Lord to help you find him in your search through his Word! I’m confident that if you will do this, you will find his that mercies are “new every morning,” because of his great faithfulness.

    Here are a few to get you started:

    Psalm 23:1-4 — The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

    Isaiah 57:15 — For this is what the high and lofty One says — he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

    Matthew 18:20 — For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.

    Matthew 28:18-20 — All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

    John 14:20 — Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.

    2 Timothy 4:17-18 — the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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Today's Verse - 2 Cor. 5:17

About the Author...
Phil Ware is minister of the Word at Westover Hills Church of Christ in Austin, Texas. For the past 4 years, he has also been co-editor of HEARTLIGHT Magazine. For more details, click here.

Title: "New, Not Improved"
Author: Phil Ware
Publication Date: October 16, 2000



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