This article was originally published by The Mennonite

How will you handle this year?

As I was preparing for the day ahead of me, I checked on the weather forecast and I found that it was suppose to be windy, cloudy and in the single digits.

I began running my errands early that day and I went to a shopping plaza close to my house. Soon after I got out of my car, I overheard the conversation between two young lads. Their conversation was about the weather condition. One of them was not very happy with it, while the other one seemed to be attentively listening to his co-worker and his response changed my day: “This could be your last day in this world, why don’t you make the best out of it?”

They looked at each other and laughed so hard.

Not even ten seconds have gone by when they began to sing a song to the top of their lungs and danced like they owned the whole world. In the meantime, I stopped and enjoyed their attitude; they seemed optimistic and joyful in spite of the bitter cold!

Their inviting attitude reminded of Psalm 118; this is the day that the Lord has made ‘I will rejoice and I will be glad in it’—my own paraphrase.

Boat Once I finished running my errands for the day, I went home and reflected  about my experience with these two young lads at the parking lot of that shopping plaza. Their attitude reminded me of the mercies of God, they are new every day.

At the same time, I was challenged to pose one question: overall, how would I handle difficulties and challenges this year?  Will I complain and whine, or will I find hope? What kind of attitude will I have when facing adversity? These and many other questions came to mind.

Not only questions emerged that day, certainties also made their way in.                          

I am certain that every single day is a gift and a new opportunity in life to experience God’s love and mercy afresh. In part, my reflection about my attitude for this year comes from Psalms 118:24 and Matthew 13, especially the parables about the kingdom of God.

I see parables as the attempt of using people’s language through the use of common life stories for teaching purposes. Therefore, parables tend to draw people’s attention into a plot by challenging the listener to examine one’s life. Through the plot, the use of similarities between two situations is fairly common; and in Jesus’ lips they became a distinctive way of communication concerning the kingdom of God.

The central teaching of the parables according to Matthew 13 is to proof that the kingdom of God is near and to validate the growth and spread of Jesus’ gospel. In addition, such is the value of this good news, that a person should be willing to give up everything in order to have it.

At times in today’s society, it seems like the more advanced we become, the less we believe in God and the more distant we become from each other, it should be the other way around!

Consequently, how can we present the kingdom of God to an individualistic society that insists in raising barriers-distances with each other claiming the right to have a personal space? No wonder why, the human touch is missing and almost extinct. We as society somehow have managed to live lives like in personal silos.

In spite of that my friends, people need to know that in Jesus, we can have a new life, a new opportunity.
In Jesus, we can be born again; we can start fresh! Jesus is doing new things with those that are willing to listen and to obey the gospel of the cross. In him, humanity can see God and through him we can become the people of God. In addition, it is possible to crumble our societal silos and become a community of believers.

Through the reading of the Gospels one can see how the crowds were in both physical and spiritual needs. People wanted to see God and experience the signs from above! It was not only about the physical; it was also about feeding the soul! This people wanted to hear Jesus, the young prophet that was causing turmoil with these fresh ideas about the kingdom of God through words and signs.

The demonstrations of God’s power can come in many ways and forms too.                    

For some, it might be the hope for a new beginning, for life anew. For others, it might be healing of the body or health insurance or maybe a so much needed provision for sustenance of life. For some people a true miracle is to see and live amid a non racist society or the approval of a comprehensive immigration reform. For others, miracles are the hope for a better tomorrow when human dignity will no longer be the footstool of the powerful, and list goes on. In any case, demonstrations of power have the intention to draw people closer to God, to enter his kingdom and to become his people. Somehow, they also give hope in life.

Often we see crowds following Jesus, wanting to see and to experience God afresh, just as expressed in the parables of the kingdom. I am also challenged to examine my own Christian life and what evidence do I give of my Christian beliefs to those around me. If you are a follower of Christ, then the above questions apply to you as well.

Perhaps our neighbors are in need to see and experience God in fresh ways too!

If so, then it is our challenge as a church to invite them into a relationship with this loving God. In addition, may I suggest allowing God to lead us into this New Year wanting to experience him in ways anew and allowing him to handle life for us!

It is written in 1 Corinthians 4:20 (NRSV) “For the kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power.”

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