When Voices Of Hope Evangelistic Team is ministering in Word and Song, their Fire Choir will sing several songs and then lead the Congregation in singing.   Since that isn't possible, please click here and may you be blessed by singing along with "This is the Day that the Lord has Made."

It’s a New Year!
Isaiah 43:18-19 

Good Morning and Happy New Year to all of God’s People from the Voices Of Hope Evangelistic Team!   It’s such a blessing to be able to worship with you today wherever you are!  I thank God for the opportunity to serve Him and to share His message with the world through today’s technology!   

The title of today's Message is “It’s a New Year!”  Our scripture comes from the Old Testament Book of Isaiah, Chapter 43, verses 18 through 19 (NKJV) which says: 18 “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old.  19 Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth;  shall you not know it?  I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. 

Let’s Pray:
Heavenly Father, I thank You for each person who is ready to worship You today.  Thank You for the power that You give us through Your Holy Spirit, to live the way You desire. 

Each new day that You give us is so important; how we treat others, how well we do the tasks at hand, how we use the spiritual gifts which You have given to us in the ways that You intend and the image we portray as Your children living in this world.  Help us to encourage others each day. Let us glorify You and be in Your will at all times. 

I pray that You will open each heart to receive the message the Holy Spirit has for us today.  In Jesus' name, Amen. 

Today marks the start of a new year. Today signifies the passing away of 2022 and the grand entrance of 2023. Today is the first day of the rest of our life and we have just received a new beginning. 

Last year may have brought some very difficult times for some…
• Some have lost loved ones
• Some have had to endure great sickness
• Some have lost jobs
• Some have lost friends through death or betrayal
• Some have had financial setbacks 

Those who have had to endure these things look forward to this New Year, and they are more than happy to close out the Old Year and send it to the history books. 

In today’s scripture, God tells us to do just that. God is more interested in our future than He is with our past. The future is where we’re going to spend the rest of our lives. It doesn’t matter what kind of failure we've had in the past; it may have been a financial failure, or a relationship failure, or a moral failure. We may feel we have really blown it and may have made some decisions we really regret. All of that is in the past and with God, a new beginning is possible.  God says, “Forget about your past. Forget about the former things. Don’t think about it. Look at the new thing I’m going to do.”   So let go of the past and embrace this new beginning. God has great plans for us through Jesus Christ. I am truly excited about what God is preparing to do in this New Year and I am praying for His purpose to be revealed in each of us.  

Many of us may be resolving to have a closer relationship with God than we did last year and the 
Bible tells us how that can be accomplished and He places the first step of responsibility on us. 

James 4:8. says, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you...” 

That is the wisest thing we can do with these 365 days this year; we should all “draw nigh” to God. 

Why should we all draw nigh to God?
1. Because of the brevity of life.
2. Because of the uncertainty of time of death.
3. Because of Jesus’ imminent return.
4. Because the Bible commands us to. 

Let’s look at some ways to help us draw closer to God. 

1.  Pray
Prayer is one of the most important things a Christian must do.  Someone once said that prayer should be the key of the morning and the bolt at night. 

In I Thessalonians 5:17, Paul said: "Pray without ceasing."  This has to do with an attitude of prayer. This probably doesn’t mean that we are to stay on our knees all the time. But it means to pray regularly and to be constantly in the attitude of prayer. 

And verse 18 follows with: ”In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 

Jesus told the church at Ephesus that "Thou hast left thy first love."
How did that happen…first and foremost, by a lack of communing with God.  When we ignore our prayer time and take it for granted, it becomes second, third or fourth place in our lives; it can do nothing but go downhill from there.  Then we wonder, "Where is God when I need Him? Where has He gone?" 

Some people pray and think that's all there is to the Christian life, but there's more! 

2.  Preparation
One of the biggest keys to proper preparation is to make sure that what we are planning is according to God's sovereign will.  We put the cart before the horse when we prepare or plan without making sure that what we are doing is okay with God. 

Acts 1:21-26 – Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. 23 And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, 25 That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. 26 And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. 

They knew that Jesus had told them that the Holy Spirit was going to come upon them and they were waiting for that to happen. But in the meantime, they also knew that there was work to be done. Work that could only be done by them. They had to prepare themselves as best they could in order to carry out Christ's mission properly. 

We can't run a Sunday School class, a sermon, a business meeting or anything else for that matter without proper preparation. Pastors can't preach without preparation; teachers can't teach without preparation. 

We have to prepare for success. And by the way, we also have to prepare for failure too! Not everything we do is going to be a success. We are going to fail sometimes.  If everything went perfectly all the time, we, as human beings, would get a head that no hat would ever fit.  Sometimes God has to take us down to build us up. 

Once all the praying and preparation is done, then it is time to: 

3. Perform
Acts 2:4 says: “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” 

Now look at verse 14, "But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:” 

Notice how that when they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, they immediately started performing what God had commanded them to do.  Not one time do you read in the Bible that any of the disciples said, "Well, I'm a new Christian so I better wait to do anything for God." NO! Immediately they started serving God. 

Zechariah 4:6 reminds us: “You will not succeed by your own strength or power but by My Spirit, says the Lord.” 

Everyone, men, women, boys and girls are called to perform once they get saved.  So, don't use the excuse to not serve God in some capacity because you are a "new Christian."  When you serve God, serve with all your heart, soul and mind. Give it all you've got. Do whatever it takes to get it done. 

And if you do all this, what are the results? Look in Acts 2:41, "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” Three thousand souls added to the church in one day! 

In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus told us: “19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” 

Because of our relationship with Jesus Christ, we need to showcase Him in our lives and point people to Jesus!  When through God’s grace we share the Gospel, resist temptation, remain patient, offer a smile, bless a child, meet a need, sing a hymn, repeat a scripture, praise the Father, work faithfully, feed the starving, help a neighbor, we make God happy. 

In this New Year, may we realize that whatever is going on in our lives right now – guess what – it’s not about us, it’s about God wanting to break into our lives; into our homes; into our hearts. God has a purpose for us. God has a purpose for what we are going through – He wants to be in the middle of our lives. He doesn’t want our problems to be the center of our lives. He doesn’t want our circumstances to be the center of our lives. He doesn’t want our situations to be the center of our lives. God - Himself - wants to be the center of our lives. 

None of us know what this year will hold for us. I sincerely hope it will be one of the many more wonderful years of our life. But we do not know what this year holds for us.
• Perhaps there is a car waiting for us to get into and it will be the last car we will ever get into.
• Perhaps there is a curve on the highway somewhere waiting for us to arrive but we will not make it around it.
• Perhaps there is a hill for us to drive up but it will be the last hill we will ever top.
• Perhaps we will walk out of our home for the last time this year.
• None of us know what this coming year holds for us. 

Whatever the future holds for us, we want to have that close relationship with the Lord Jesus.  He has done everything He can to have a close relationship with you. Now it is up to you!!! 

I want to encourage you if you haven't done so already to invite Jesus to come into your heart and life. 

John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” 

And I John 5:13 tells us: “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” 

Jesus has provided the gift of salvation to us which gives us not only hope for today, but hope for eternity.  Have you believed on Him from your heart? Have you acknowledged Him as your Lord and Savior this morning?  If you’ve never accepted Christ into your life, then this is your opportunity. You can receive God’s grace and begin a relationship with Jesus today.  

In Romans 10:9, we are told that “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” 

We receive salvation when we:
(1) Repent of our sins.
(2) Trust Jesus Christ as our Savior.
(3) Confess Jesus Christ as Lord.
If you haven’t accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, invite Him into your life right now. 

Or maybe there are those who are far away from Jesus.  Have you allowed your comfortable, personally focused desires to act as an eclipse between you and God?  Is Jesus obscured or completely blacked out of your life? Do you miss him? 

All it takes is to open yourself and say "I want things to be different. I know things need to be different. I know what’s wrong, what doesn’t belong and I invite You, Jesus, to come and change me. I want you back." 

When we turn back to Jesus in repentance, when we ask for forgiveness, intending to live a godly life, God’s mercy reaches out to us with a message of love.   God is a God of mercy, of redemption, of restoration and of renewal. Just come by faith to the throne of grace to receive it. He is waiting for you with open arms.   Repent all over again and get back to fulfilling God’s plan in and through your life. 

I’ll close with this story from Henry Tolbert’s October 3, 2011 sermon titled “A New Beginning.” 

“Jesus Christ is the epitome of what our lives should be. He is our perfect example and our perfect sacrifice. Jesus came that we might have life. The greatest thing about light is the fact that it brings clarity to dark places. When we allow the light of Christ to shine in our lives, we really come to see who we are. All at once, the divinity of Christ exposes our past failures and our promising futures. 

I can remember being a junior in high school and I was given my first car. It was a red 1998 Chevrolet Beretta. The wheels were dirty, you could only enter through the passenger door, and the suspension was squeaky. As happy as I was to have a car of my own, I was embarrassed. 

Then one day a student from one of the local colleges came to visit and coincidentally he was driving a 1998 Chevrolet Beretta. It was sparkling gold with new rims, a fresh paint job, and it hummed as he rode by. Needless to say, it put my version to shame. As I looked at his version of my car, I realized that although our cars looked different on the outside, they were the exact same model. My car had the POTENTIAL to look just like his. 

Even though your life might seem bruised, battered, and in need of an extreme makeover, you must remember Jesus is the picture of what you could someday be. You have a promising future in Jesus Christ.” 

If God should be so gracious as to let us live another year, how do you plan living those 365 days? 

Let us pray: Thank You, Father, for being a perfect Heavenly Father for us, for sending us Your Son to save us from our sins, and for putting Your Holy Spirit into each one of us so that we are never without Your presence. Help us to depend on You, to trust in Your truth, and to serve like You.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.