In just a few days we will be entering into the year 2016. Did you ever think that you would see 2016?  I remember growing up wondering if we would even see the year 2000, but obviously we did and now we find ourselves staring at the start of 2016.


For some the year 2015 was nothing less than a terrible year for a variety of reasons. Some faced economic collapse, others have had to deal with serious or catastrophic medical issues, and for others either broken relationships or the loss of loved ones.  For others 2015 was a great year.  Maybe they experienced significant career advancements, new additions to their family, or any one of many other exciting things one can imagine.  In either case, the year 2015 is coming to a close, and with that the hope of a better year in 2016 awaits them.


Was 2015 a rough year for you, or was it one of much excitement and joy? No matter what, there is a hope in the hearts and minds of many that 2016 will be better than the previous.  Whenever we approach a new year people envision themselves in one way or another turning over a new leaf.  We hear it in those infamous “New Year’s Resolutions” that seem to return each year because they were forgotten shortly after the start of the previous year.  Are you looking forward to any New Year’s Resolutions going into 2016?  Are any of them repeats from previous years, or are they new ones originating from the experiences of 2015?


In either case, the year 2016 will be a year to be watched. Outside of the usual excitement and expectations of a new year, 2016 has the potential of being one of the best and worst years on record for mankind.  Whether it is the best or worst for you will depend on your perspective and where you place your hope.  In recent years we have seen the fulfillment of Bible end-time prophesy monopolize the news almost everywhere we look.  As we look forward we can even see things coming our way in the very near future which the Bible tells us will take place in the tribulation period.  If your perspective and hope is centered on Christ, then 2016 has the potential of being the most exciting year ever for you knowing that this could be the year Jesus returns for His bride, the church.  If your perspective and hope is centered on anything or anyone else, then 2016 could potentially be the worst year ever for you if Jesus returns and you are left behind to deal with what will come in the tribulation period.


If your life is focused and centered around Jesus, then the excitement comes from the fact you would be caught up to be with Him forever in Heaven. If your life is not focused and centered around Jesus, then what awaits you is a time of extreme trials and tribulations, a time that will be very difficult to live through to say the least.


If 2016 is the year that Jesus returns, you do not want to be left behind because things will get far worse than you can ever imagine. If you haven’t given your life to Jesus, to live and die for Him alone, then this is the time to change that.  Jesus needs to be your all-in-all, and not just an acquaintance that you turn to when things get tough.  Jesus needs to be more important to you than anything or anyone else in your life, including yourself.  After all, you mean enough to Him that He would give His all for you on a cross so you could spend eternity with Him in Heaven, a place far more grand and spectacular than anything else you could ever imagine in a million years.  If you haven’t given your life to Jesus, then I strongly encourage you to do so ASAP.  A life lived for Jesus is a life far better than anything else this world can give.  It’s all an issue of where your perspective and hope rests upon that will determine what 2016 will hold for you.


John Johansson

What’s In Your Heart?

Two men have been lost and walking through the woods for a number of days.  They’ve run out of food a few days ago and they drank the last of their water 18 hours ago.  Both men are tired from the ordeal wondering if they will ever find their way back or at least get rescued.  Having gone so long without water all the while traipsing up and down the hills has made both of them really thirsty.  As they try to get their bearings and figure out where they need to go they stumble upon an old hunters shack nestled among the trees along the side of a hill.  They hurry inside hoping to find some food and water only to find an old gallon jar ¾ full of water.  One man is very excited because they now have some water to drink that could help sustain them a couple more days, but the other man doesn’t see it the same way.  He finds himself wondering how stale the water is, whether or not there is any bacteria in it that could cause them to get sick, and concerned that it’s not full.


For one man, he just naturally sees the positive in the situation and rejoices in it, recognizing the big blessing this ¾ full jar is, not thinking about how it could be bad.  The second man realizes the water is a blessing, but he’s more concerned about how that water could negatively impact them if they drink it.  One man is excited that his life can be sustained a little longer as they try to get back to home base, but the second man is more concerned that his life might be shortened if he drinks the only thing that could possibly sustain them.  Two men in exactly the same predicament, but two men with vastly different ways of viewing their situation and life itself.


I think about the Christians in the early church and the persecution they had to endure for the sake of Jesus, persecution that at times inflicted great pain to them physically and often times even cost them their lives.  I wonder how they looked at their situations.  Did they look at them the way the first man in our story did, or did they look at them the way the second man did?  Personally, I think the second man would have had a very hard time going through that persecution because his focus was more on the “what if’s”.  The first person would probably be stronger because he focused on the positives, knowing that as Christ suffered for us he would consider it an honor to suffer for Him, and also because he would know that in a short while he would finally be with Jesus.


Christians have been persecuted for their faith ever since its inception on the Day of Pentecost.  This is nothing new, though it may be new for us in America where we once were known as a Christian nation.  Even Jesus was persecuted for the message He brought to humanity, a message of hope, love, grace, forgiveness and life eternal.  As we see our country distancing itself more and more from Biblical Christianity, and even becoming more and more hostile towards Christians and the Biblical standards we seek to adhere to, Christians are coming under fire here unlike any other time in this nation’s history.  As Christians we are faced with a situation where our response is very important, and our perception to these times will play a significant part in how we deal with them.  Are we concerned about how people will view us or what they may do?  Are we focusing on how others may take advantage of us or turn what we think is good into something that will end up being bad for us?  Or do we trust God that He has us covered and will take care of us no matter what may or may not happen?


As we watch and prepare for the very soon return of Christ for the Church, we need to be mindful of what way in which we view the situations in our life and the world around us.  While we may know that things are only going to get worse until the tribulation period comes to an end, we need to make sure our perception of things and how we respond to them will strengthen us and not sap us of our strength and energy.  One way of knowing the condition of your heart is to ask yourself what your initial response to the above story was, not the response after your initial response.  It’s important to note your initial responses to situations as that often times reveals what is truly in your heart.  A lot of times we can have our initial response within ourselves only to quickly change that once our mind engages and takes another look at things, but what is in our heart is usually seen in our initial responses.


If you find that your initial responses tend to be more like the second man in our story than the first man, then you really need to ask God to help change your heart more into what the first man in our story portrays.  In fact, you’ll find that life is much more relaxed and enjoyable when you do than if your heart and initial responses are like the second man.  The second man is caught up in “what if’s”, worry and doubt, bound up such that he will miss the blessings and joys of life God is trying to bless him with.  God doesn’t want you to be like the second man, so He’s more than willing and able to help change that in your heart, if you will allow Him to and follow His lead no matter what that might entail.


There’s a popular commercial on TV that asks a simple question, “what’s in your wallet?”  Similar to this question I have to ask you this, “what’s in your heart?”  It’s a simple question that packs quite a punch when carefully and honestly considered.


John Johansson

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