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Summary: BETTER BEGINNINGS for New Year help build our lives on better foundations, resulting in better endings. 1:RECOGNIZE GOD AS CREATOR (In beginning God..); 2: RESPECT GOD W. REVERENCE (Fear of God=beginning of wisdom) ; 3: RECEIVE CHRIST FOR NEW BEGINNINGS.

“BETTER BEGINNINGS” by REV. BILL BOWDLE

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Retired United Methodist Pastor - Liberty Township, Ohio,

Delivered this message at a nearby UMC during it's pastor's vacation on 01/07/2018

Genesis 1:1, Proverbs 9:10; John 1:1-4,12

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INTRODUCTION

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Can you believe we have begun a new year already? We’re 7 days into January and I’ll bet some of you have ripped up new year’s resolutions already!

If you’re a resolutions warrior, who tries to keep your promises, you may love a comedian’s humorous excuse for giving up on your resolutions. He said, “Instead giving up CHOCOLATE for Lent this February just give up your RESOLUTIONS.” If resolutions are not your thing, it’s still healthy to consider directions you’ll go in 2018.

I remember a time as a child when choosing directions was fun. Our farm family enjoyed a few unique Sunday outings. Dad & Mom loaded our station wagon with most of us 8 brothers & sisters for a random ride into the countryside.. The children could choose a repeating pattern for which way to turn at each intersection. We might turn left, then right, two lefts, then right, repeating the pattern wherever it led us. The next trip we'd choose a different plan.

But I learned a very simple truth. The pattern you choose at the beginning determines the destination you reach at the end. I want to help us choose January beginnings ......that help us reach good destinations!!

I searched the Bible for Better Beginnings. Three of them grabbed my attention. They are found in ...Genesis 1, Proverbs 9, John 1. I’ll share the scriptures as we get to each Better Beginning.

The first one is completely familiar but is dramatically important....

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth

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This beginning calls us to:

1. RECOGNIZE GOD AS CREATOR

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Recognizing God as Creator sets foundation for all that is to follow in the scripture. Accepting this truth builds our lives on a better beginning, a stronger foundation.

The question of creation came up 5 Sundays ago at our Sunday School, from a 2nd grade girl.

In children’s Sunday School, my wife and I directed a small Christmas drama about Christ's birth. I was the Bethlehem Innkeeper. I sent Mary & Joseph away to the stable where Jesus was born. A second grade girl raised her hand & asked a question about baby Jesus I've never heard before. She asked: "Did Jesus create Mary & Joseph?"

How would you answer that Question? In case she was a child prodigy theological genius, I said more than a simple “Yes.” I told her that Jesus was always with God in heaven as the Son of God ...... before Jesus was born to Mary on earth. The Bible tells us (e.g. John 1:3) Jesus did help create the world. He did so together with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, because Jesus is also divine. So yes, indirectly Jesus helped create Mary & Joseph.

Then this bright girl asked a second classic question. "Who made God?" The simple astounding answer: Nobody created God. God was always here. I told her; Some people may believe NATURE came first and later in time people invented the idea of God. I told her: Christians believe God was ALWAYS here. God created the natural universe, but nobody created God.

Christians believe that an eternal, intelligent all-knowing, all powerful God is the best explanation of beginnings. One critic ridiculed this doctrine of creation as a primitive myth by a gullible wandering Hebrew sheep herder.

But some of the finest minds in the world, even some who started as atheistic, have been driven to the conclusion God is the ultimate answer to the mysterious fact of the existence of the universe.

Now for any of you who are keenly interested in physics, the big bang, philosophy of origins, quantum theory, multiple universe theory, string theories, etc. & the fine tuning of planet earth making it habitable for life, I’m aware of those discussions. I’ve read about scientists with theories of how this universe lifted itself from empty non-existence and made itself exist from nothing as a prelude to the big bang. But every non-theological theory of origins I read still points back to some structure of reality or operational principle that it cannot explain that was here before our expanding universe.

The first verse in the Bible doesn’t dance around the issue. It answers the mystery. It announces God as the “forever factor” who created the universe of space, time and matter from nothing.

This is good news that means nature’s design has a designer. You are here on purpose. We are not alone. Heaven’s throne is not empty. It means God is who God is, and God is not a buffet salad bar God whom we can build to our own taste.

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